Writing

Alphabet Spaghetti – A Word Game

The exercise is based on a version of the 7x7x7 writing game. This time, I’ve incorporated seven words beginning with C, each with seven letters, and selected using a random word generator. I tried to keep to the 700 word count, but went over by 86.

The story is a continuation from last week. It includes characters from my fantasy series, The Collective. If it turns into a longer piece of work (and it looks like it’s going that way), in terms of timeline, it comes after book 2. The story takes place during the early stages of a Demonic War and centres around a safe zone known as Grangefield. The characters today are; Cody (a human, who we discovered last week was injured during a mission and broke his leg in three places, Tamaya (a witch), Logan (a changeling wolf), Clayton (a hympe – which is a form of shapeshifter), and twins, Amber and April. The instalment ended with Cody reacting to a scream as he entered the med centre – he dropped his crutches and set off running (injury be damned!)

The incorporated words are; crusade, chapter, certain, costume, ceiling, capital and concert.

Warrior’s Embrace (Part 2)

The instant Cody entered the medical room he stopped dead, right before he fell on his ass. He didn’t have the option of dropping to his knees, what with the giant pot on his leg, and it wasn’t the pain that levelled him. It was the shock of what he saw.

On the bed directly in front of him, right where one of the Dillon twins should be, was what looked to be a cross between a giant chrysalis and a set of mummified remains.

Please don’t let that costume of horror be what I think it is.

Behind him, Tamaya stopped just short of ploughing into him. “Holy shit! What is that?”

He looked to the other occupants of the room, all frozen in place around the bed like they were trapped in some form of suspended animation.

“I’m not certain, but I have a feeling it’s Amber Dillon,” Cody said, fighting a wave of nausea.

The Dillon twins had been rescued just outside the perimeter of Grangefield. After being held captive by a group of rogues, April had somehow escaped with her sister. Barely able to walk, she had dragged Amber on a makeshift slay eight miles through the capital to the closest safe zone. It wasn’t until they were both safe that April had succumbed to the exhaustion. The twins had been in a coma ever since. Until now.

Now, April’s mouth was hanging open in a silent scream, her blue eyes wide with a horror they all felt.

Cody watched as Tamaya walked over to Logan and waved a hand in front of his face, or as close as she could get being that he towered above her. Logan didn’t react, not with his body. His pale blue eyes were a different matter, they followed her hand, slower than normal, but the movement was there. He was fighting whatever compulsion was holding him, and it had to be powerful considering the strength of his mind. It was difficult to control a changeling wolf.

Whatever was going on, Logan had managed to execute a shift before it happened. By some miracle, he wasn’t naked either, which was what usually happened until someone threw clothes in his direction. The closest thread shack, as they were known on the base, was outside the med centre, so it explained the ill-fitting scrub pants. His shock of white hair contrasted against the dark skin of his naked chest. He’d definitely been caught unaware, because Logan rarely changed out of wolf form when he visited. His animal soothed the twins, even as they slept.

“What’s wrong with them?” he asked, glancing at Clayton. The hympe was their resident medic. He was obsessed with healing the twins, a personal crusade since he was the one who found them.

“This has Orion’s signature stamped all over it,” Tamaya said, turning in a slow circle. “But since he’s not here, and I don’t feel his energy in the room, I have no frigging clue.”

She would know, she had the whole chapter and verse going on when it came to the man with the plan. “That’s a shame. We could use a god’s help right now, either that or a Hail Mary.” He tried to get up, his mind racing right along with his heart. Which was when the pain from his flight down the hallway decided to make itself known. It was like a wave of nasty spreading throughout his body. He swore he could hear his pain receptors buzzing like a concert of angry bees in his head.

This time he found himself flat on his back staring at the ceiling as he held in the scream of agony working up his throat.

“What can I do?” Tamaya asked, dropping down beside him.

He took in a slow breath. “Grab my crutches and then help me up. We need to find out what the hell is going on.”

“It’s going to take more than crutches to hold you up.” She pulled the bandanna from her head, setting her curls free. “Here, you might want to bite on this.” It was the only warning she gave him before she shoved the material between his lips and he felt the touch of her magic grab hold of him.

It was one way to get him on his feet, though even with the powerful buffer to coax him upright, he still saw stars.

When the agony finally released him from its painful jaws, he was sitting in a chair, his injured leg stretched in front of him.

“Hang tight, you stubborn mule,” Tamaya said from the doorway, and then she was gone, leaving Cody with his misery and a roomful of crazy.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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Alphabetti Spaghetti – Word Game

This time, the story (based on a version of the 7x7x7 exercise) incorporates seven words beginning with B. They each have seven letters, but I broke the rules a little this week. I went over my 700 word limit by 27. It’s also based on a character from the Collective series, and I will be continuing the story, so my apologies for how it ends. You can find out what happens next week.

The incorporated words are; bargain, brother, battery, banquet, breathe, barrier and bathtub.

Warrior’s Embrace

Cody looked down at the pot on his leg, then the bannister, and shrugged. What the hell?  Planting his butt on the wooden rail, he handed his crutches to the first person he saw, leaned back and began his ride.

“Holy shit!” he shouted, less than halfway down the stairs. He was beginning to pick up some serious speed.

“What the-?”

The rest of the comment faded away as he shot past the gaping resident, towards the floor below. Okay, so he hadn’t really thought things through but, damn it, he was bored. There was nothing fun to do when you were grounded in a safe zone, except annoy his buddies, and that shit got old fast.

Breathe. You’ve got this.

As he approached the lower level, which held the cafeteria and communal zone, he spotted Tamaya stuffing her face. Perhaps it was his blurry vision, but she appeared to be sitting down to a banquet.

She was on her feet at the sound of his whistle, which would have made him smile if he hadn’t been shitting a brick at the thought of face planting at her feet. Luckily, their resident witch intervened a lot. It helped they were friends.

Cody hit a cushion of air and came to an abrupt stop. It tweaked his leg a little, but he couldn’t complain since Tamaya’s magical barrier was like colliding with a cloud.

“Please tell me you tripped and fell onto the bannister,” she said, her green eyes narrowing. “I swear, if I didn’t think of you as a brother, I’d drop you on your ass. On second thoughts, maybe I will.”

He looked down and realised he was hovering above the floor, caught it a witch’s grip. “Oh, come on, short-stuff. I’m going out of my mind here.”

Tamaya lowered her hands and his body followed suit, not as slowly as he would have liked, but he landed on his good leg gently enough. “You can’t pull that crap, Cody. For gods sake, you broke your leg in three places.”

“Yeah, and you say that like I had a skiing accident.” He’d been thrown against a wall. Again.

When you were in the middle of a war, and your enemies were of the supernatural variety, that kind of thing happened a lot. Though it could have been worse, the demon could have petrified his insides.

“Are you telling me you never broke a bone skiing?”

He grinned at that, because she had a point. He was accident prone. Earlier, he’d almost drowned himself in a makeshift bathtub trying to keep his leg dry. “Well, there was this one time-”

“Ahem.”

Cody barely had time to turn before his crutches were being thrust at him. The young man he’d caught unawares at the top of the stairs walked away without a word.

“Let me make you a deal before you upset anybody else,” Tamaya said, drawing his attention. “If you stay out of trouble for the next few days, I’ll find a workable solution to get you healed up and ready to roll.”

By workable she meant by non-magical means. He was being stubborn, he knew that. The elves had offered to do him a solid and speed up his recovery. But he couldn’t bring himself to go down that route. Not yet.

“Maybe I’ll make a bargain with the great and mighty Oz,” he joked, because seriously, what was a supernatural war without a god or two? He liked to joke Orion Reece was the god behind the curtain.

His wrist communicator bleeped, reminding him to take his medication. The thing ran on body heat or some shit, like he was a giant battery. If that were the case, he needed a little extra juice. “Listen, I need to hit the med centre, so I’ll let you get back to feeding your face.”

“That’s okay. I was just about done.” She bumped her shoulder against his arm. “Come on. I’ll walk with you.”

Cody didn’t argue. Things were never dull with Tamaya around, and he could use the distraction.

They had just reached the medical unit when a piercing scream echoed through the halls. Every cell in Cody’s body resonated with dread, and he shot towards the sound like a rocket. He didn’t even feel the pain when he dropped his crutches and began to run.


Don’t forget to let me know how you get on if you decide to take part, or if you would like me to incorporate words in the next installment.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Taste of home

I hadn’t intended to post anything today, but after reading a beautiful poem written by the Lonely Author, inspiration struck and I couldn’t get the emerging story out of my head. It followed me around until I had to pull out my trusty pad and get it down on paper. It’s a short one for me, only 400 words (I know, shocker, right?).

Taste of home

Joseph stared into the horizon, his eyes burning, not from the sun, but the tears that continued to fill his soul. He was drowning without his Sunita. Every second, every minute, every hour, he ached with the need to see her.

Though his gaze never wavered, he was aware of his luxurious surroundings, the kingdom he had built for her. The soft padded seat beneath his body, the fine thread of the blanket that did nothing to warm him. She was his centre, his heart, his life. It meant nothing without her.

A soft breeze brought with it the scent of apple blossoms, mixed with the fruit he was unable to eat. As it lifted his hair in a soft caress, he imagined it was her fingers, her voice whispering past his ears. What he wouldn’t give for the sweet taste of her lips.

Then, as the sun began to descend, he saw her. The dying embers cast a glow across her pretty face, her body shimmering with his tears so that the blooms in their garden shrouded her in the soft colours of their love.

All at once, time slipped away and Joseph remembered everything; their first kiss, their last. The moment he had made her his and all that came after.

With a sign of relief, he dropped to his knees before her, grateful for all his life had given him, and ready to join his Sunita again. She was his forever kiss.

***

Rebecca rushed across the garden, calling out her grandfather’s name. In her heart she knew what she would find. She’d known the moment she’d seen him fall forward from the chair. He had been waiting for days, his body growing frailer with each passing hour as he’d stared beyond the garden he’d built for her grandmother.

By the time she reached him, her mother was by her side, and together they eased him back into the chair. A chair her grandmother had made and upholstered as she’d joked about a king needing his throne.

She’d grown up with stories of her grandparents’ adventures, and as she looked in her grandfather’s peaceful, smiling face, she knew his wait was over. He was with his Sunita again, about to embark on an entirely different journey.

Bowing her head when her mother confirmed what she already knew, she let the tears fall and allowed her mother’s gentle hands to comfort her.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Badge of Honour – A Maddison Wood Story

As you may know, instead of publishing the first season of the Collective, as I had intended to do, the plan changed. Quite drastically. I will now be publishing several books in the series, starting in February 2017.

So, to satisfy fans of the Fractured, I wrote a companion story featuring Maddison Wood. Badge of Honour is now available on Amazon. I’ve added a sneak preview below.

badge-of-honour

Cover Art by Alfredo Pachicano. Character Sketch by Rebekah Reece. Title Work by Kathryn Jenkins @MagicalDesigns

When the Fractured descend on the mortal realm, and the Demonic War begins, Maddison Wood is the first to sign up. But when she follows her brother into the enemy camp, things go terribly wrong.

What began as a rescue mission, becomes her worst nightmare. Maddison is forced into slavery and stripped of all her power.
Trapped, she finds strength in the relationship she shares with her brothers, Zachariah and Michael. Together, they form an unbreakable, if unorthodox bond. The witch, the elf, and the vampire; a powerhouse of three.
After months in captivity, Maddison is offered a chance to escape. A chance that, for one of her brothers, comes too late. Michael finds his way out of one prison, only to be locked in another – the hell inside his own mind. Now Maddison faces her toughest challenge yet. She must find a way to bring her brother home, before they lose him forever.
Sneak Preview

 

Maddison felt a swell of anticipation as she followed Kian to the large rock face. He touched his hand to the rough surface and the concealment spell dropped away, revealing an enormous door. Above the carved stone and glass entryway sat the family crest. It shone with the aquamarine and dark juniper shade of the house colours.

She couldn’t dredge up her natural armour, or the prickly barb she used as a shield to deflect deep emotion. So she couldn’t distance herself from the awe that encased her heart. This was Michael’s home, and she felt him everywhere. If she hadn’t already accepted their connection, she might have been afraid. The affection she felt made her almost giddy.

She had a hard time processing the softer side to her nature. Only with her family could she drum up the nice. Well, most of the time.

Oh, she could be reticent, and sometimes a total bitch. She had never been very good at all the touchy-feely crap. The vulnerability that came with sharing her innermost thoughts. And her barb could sting.

But Michael was part of her, too, so he evoked the gentleness that was all but choking her. She would give him that. She would give him anything if he came back to them.

It was easier now that she could feel him. So much easier to shake off the guard that usually had people reaching for the nearest weapon, and relax.

Kian paused when he crossed the threshold, as though anticipating her need. And because she wanted to soak in her surroundings, Maddison stopped too. She let her head fall back onto her shoulders, and took in the way the room went up, up, up. So far, she could barely make out the roof.

She couldn’t see with any detail, but she recognised the material. A mixture of glass and stone, infused with the house colours. They lit the space, flooding onto the levels beneath. Floors that wound around and around the room, before coming to a stop about fifteen feet above her.

Maddison righted her head until she was looking at the elegant staircase. Beneath it, a series of corridors led off from where they stood.

“You have a beautiful home,” she said, glancing at Kian.

He smiled. “There is much to explore. Come.”

Maddison followed him down one of the corridors, and into a room on the left. Two alcoves drew her attention. Carved out of the wall on her right, they held a complex series of multifaceted shapes within the stone.

Then her gaze swept left, to the large circular bed, and to Michael in the centre.

He was lying against sheets of emerald green. A colour that should have complimented his honey toned skin. Instead, they accentuated his grey pallor, and Maddison’s chest tightened. She knew the signs. His organs were failing. Again. The first time they were able to slow the process. This was different, and it made her want to scream.

Without conscious thought, she moved. One minute she was in the doorway, the next she was scrambling across the bed. Somehow, she had the foresight to look at Kian, to prepare him for what he might see. “Whatever happens,” she said, untangling her hair. “I would never hurt him.”

Turning back to her friend, her brother of the heart, she positioned herself next to him. Power was already pulsing along her skin, so she released it. Her hair began to seep across Michael’s body. A dark silken blanket that wrapped him up tight. She didn’t stop until he was completely covered. Only his head was visible above the cocoon she created.

Maddison ignored the startled sound Kian made, and instead focused on Michael’s energy. She reached into his mind, followed the echo of him that wanted to pull her under, and let go.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

One the Twelfth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, six members of the Battalion, seven of the Elite, eight greedy goblins, nine brave soldiers, ten borrowed shapeshifters, and eleven Noble Shields. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Twelve Fallen Guardians.

Orion sat beneath the large tree in the centre of the newly built site. He studied the tidy structures that were so different to the original design, but sturdier – harder to crumble. Not that he would allow his asinine cousin to make a repeat performance.

His attention was caught by a small group of children racing across the path above him. They were laughing, a sound that felt good and right. It drifted into the night, relieving some of the guilt that still weighed heavily in his gut.

The children couldn’t see him. He’d used a cloak to conceal his presence. It would risk his mission to be seen here, not to mention his reputation for being a cold-hearted bastard. The ice had cracked a long time ago, and the damn thing wouldn’t stop thawing. It was good that his acting skills were as flawless as his complexion.

Orion rose to his feet when he heard a heavy crash, followed by sound of shattering glass. A horrified gasp, had his attention returning to the group.

It took him a few seconds to figure out what happened, and he had to smile. One of the children had been carrying a jug of liquid – that smelled of summer mornings – and had stumbled. The boy had tried so hard to save their treasure as he fell, but the jug had dropped from his grip and now lay shattered on the ground.

Unable to help himself, Orion donned a disguise and dropped his cloak. He watched four sets of eyes widen as they spotted him.

“Shh,” he put a finger to his lips, glancing around to make sure they were alone.

“Are you Santa?” one of them asked, voice so low he barely heard it.

Orion almost laughed out loud as he looked down at the red tunic he was sporting. He’d meant to come across as unassuming, and had chosen an elderly, grandfatherly skin. The white beard did feel rather long, but the effect was purely coincidental.

The thought of all they had been through, stopped him from denying the character they cast him in. He preferred a different kind of magic, but if this was what they needed, then so be it.

He winked, but didn’t say another word. He didn’t need to. The excitement was palpable. How easy they were to please. How wonderfully innocent they were. It made him feel lighter, almost giddy with shared delight.

Taking a step forward he used his power to gather and lift the broken shards. When they were hovering before him, he chanced a glance at the group and saw he had their undivided attention.

He let the glass spin in front of him, faster and faster until it fractured into tiny splinters. They twinkled, like tiny specs of light, and it gave him an idea. Turning, he slowed their progress and blew hard.

Now, almost as fine as sand, they drifted through the air and coated the tree he’d rested against.

A collective gasp rippled through the group as the glass settled, shimmering against the branches.

“Cool,” one of the children murmured, and Orion grinned. He sounded like Blade.

Moving back to the group, he snapped his fingers and a jug appeared in his hand – this one plastic. He handed it to the clumsy child with another wink, and searched his memories for something appropriate to say. Something befitting of the legendary figure.

“Go. Share your drink, and go quickly to your beds,” he whispered, conscious that he felt an adult presence close by. A mother worried for her children.

Before they could respond, Orion disappeared. Or rather her used concealment magic to hide himself from view.

Several hours later, and still firmly cloaked, he watched as the community came out on masse to witness the Christmas miracle. A large, sparkling tree, with a pile of brightly wrapped presents beneath.

“Are you going soft on me?” a voice said beside him, a beat or two before Lucas showed his angelic face. The Guardian, the angel on his shoulder, liked to make an entrance.

“If I am, then you made me this way, brother.” Orion shrugged. “This eases some of the guilt for what happened here.”

“You’re not responsible for your cousin’s actions. And you’ve been acting on that guilt all along. For you, this is overkill.”

“And you always have my back.” Orion smiled when Lucas feigned an innocent look. “Do you think I don’t know about the Fallen?”

“It’s their job to protect,” Lucas countered, as though he hadn’t gathered them to watch over the small community. A temporary assignment or not, they had done more than protect. They had soothed, eased and in some cases healed.

The Fallen were former Guardians. Angels who chose to fall from Empyrean to take a more proactive role. Orion counted twelve among the gathering group. It was their job to blend in, but he saw them. Saw the light shining from each of them. It was almost as strong as his brother’s blinding energy.

“Perhaps we both got a little carried away.” Lucas’ mouth twitched. “Perhaps it’s the spirit of the season.”

“Ho, Ho, Ho,” Orion muttered and transported himself home. Lucas’ laughter followed closely on his heels.

And that concludes my Twelve Days of the Fractured. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Have a wonderful Christmas.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, six members of the Battalion, seven of the Elite, eight greedy goblins, nine brave soldiers, and ten borrowed shapeshifters. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Eleven Noble Shields.

Blade’s eyes narrowed, his cat pushing against his skin as he watched the procession flying across the sky. The Siren Queen was surrounded by her guards, but they couldn’t hide Constance’s power; her shimmering glory. Perhaps it was the wings, so dark they seemed to blot out the landscape, or the blue at the edge of her primaries that blended with the sky. It made her wing span seem endless.

His gaze flickered over the guards. There were thirteen Noble Shields in all. Constance always left two to hold down the fort, and there were ten in the sky, which left one on foot. The one the queen never went anywhere without – her golden boy. So to speak.

Blade tensed the moment he felt him. The vampire was a sneaky son of a bitch, but they had known each other too long, too long to think the cat didn’t smell his arrogant stench.

Smiling, Blade allowed his cheetah to take over; exploding in a blur of movement. Before his friend could react, he spun and barrelled into him. Blade took the favoured Shield down with enough force to knock the wind out of him, or maybe that was because he was sitting on his chest.

Come on, Pan. I thought we were over this? Aaron’s mental voice brimmed with good humour, though Blade didn’t miss the hint of confusion. The fact they were now on the same team had softened Blade’s anger a little. But that was before he was reminded of Aaron’s juvenile prank.

No. I still want to chew on your bones. I just hide it better.

Aaron laughed, bending his neck to look behind him as Constance and her guards came to land. They shifted seamlessly into their half forms; downy feathers covering tall, lean bodies – a natural uniform.

“Panashe Rivera,” Constance said in that lilting tone she had. The one that made him want to obey her every command. “What have I told you about trying to snack on my head Shield?”

Blade reined in the cat, shifting as seamlessly as the sirens had done. His own body suit settling into place. “Connie,” he said, grinning when she arched her brows.

She gave an exasperated little sigh, before waving her hand in permission. Blade moved to her, leaning in briefly to rub his face against her inky hair. “Your majesty,” he said, then. “This is a pleasant surprise.”

“I couldn’t talk her out of it,” Aaron grunted, already on his feet. “One of the soldiers you’re treating is a friend.”

That wasn’t a surprise. Of the squad still recovering, all but two were human. The siren in their group had yet to regain consciousness. She had a nasty head injury, and even with her healing capabilities, the prognosis wasn’t good. Not if she didn’t wake up.

“I’ll take you to her.” Blade stepped aside as Aaron took his position beside Constance. Even inside the secure compound, none of the Shields would take chances.

They followed him to the infirmary, and not for the first time, Blade was grateful for the sense of community that had only grown in strength. The shapeshifters had gone all out to boost morale, and it worked like a dream.

Constance and her guards moved directly to the siren in the first bed. All but Aaron. He hung back, standing beside Blade as the others formed a half circle.

The space was filled with a hushed silence. Those who lay recovering, looked on with matching expressions of awe and curiosity.

Then Constance began to sing, her voice so soft, so beautiful, Blade almost staggered on his feet. His cat was purring in his mind, the compulsion in the queen’s gentle tone relaxing his animal like little else could. When the others joined in, Blade thought he could happily bathe in the glorious sound. The safety in it, the pride they were projecting to their fallen comrade.

As her guards took control, Constance leaned forward and put her lips close to the wounded siren’s ear. No matter how much Blade concentrated, he couldn’t hear the words she spoke – not above the lyrical music still filling his ears.

Whatever it was, the siren’s eyes opened. They were a tawny colour, still clouded with prolonged sleep, but she recognised her queen and her smile was radiant. After a few seconds, her lids drooped again, but the smile remained.

Blade glanced at Aaron. That is the coolest damn thing I’ve ever seen.

You always say that. Aaron grinned. But I must admit, Constance is scary good.

Good? She’s extraordinary. My cat his half in love.

Now Aaron rolled his eyes.  I’ve heard that before, too. And you don’t fool me. Your cat is the reserved one.

Yeah. Consider yourself lucky Constance lulled him into sleep.

It is a treat, isn’t it? Smooth and soft…kind of like honey.

Blade laughed and slapped his friend on the back. He could never stay angry with the son of a bitch for long.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

On the Tenth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muze sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, sixe members of the Battalion, seven of the Elite, eight greedy goblins, and nine brave soldiers. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas my Crazy muse sent to me…Ten borrowed Shapeshifters.

It’s a little crazy, this one. I think I have Christmas fever or something 😉

Maddison worked a cloaking spell as she slipped into the large tent assigned to the hympe family. She felt a moment of unease for spying on them. The feeling evaporated when she spotted their visitor.

For a moment, she fought the urge to drop her cloak and berate him for slipping into the site unannounced. But she had a feeling that wouldn’t go down too well. He was the Hympe King after all.

They had never met, not officially, yet she recognised him at once. It was his air of dominance, the way it filled the space. The way he filled the space, with his wide shoulders and long limbs. Tobias Locke, like all hympes, had a haunting kind of beauty. He kept his dark ebony hair long, which strangely fit with his regal appearance, and those damn shirts he wore. Made from the finest silk, they should have looked ridiculous on his large frame. They didn’t.

Okay, Maddy, stop drooling over the monarch.

Backing up, she left the group to their privacy. In her haste, she forgot to drop the spell, and she was glad of it when she collided with one of Tobias’ guards. She knew Marcus, and she didn’t like him very much. The feeling was mutual. Since becoming one of Tobias’ three, his arrogance was off the charts.

“Is that you, witch?” he asked, his voice mocking.

Sighing, Maddison dropped the cloak. “Marcus. It’s a pleasure, as always.”

He didn’t answer right away; his gaze was fixed on her suit. She was used to that. Yes, so the elves had gifted her with a uniform, get over it already. “Are you finished ogling?” she asked, and barely held back a laugh when his eyes jerked up.

“Why are you sneaking around?” he demanded.

“Not that it’s any of your business, since you didn’t announce your presence on a secure site, but I’m trying to find a way to make our guests more comfortable.” She sighed, thinking of the Mizon family.

They still knew so little about the group. Jacob, the patriarch, along with his wife and siblings, had found a way to serve their contract in the Hympe Trials together. It wasn’t the only unique thing about them. Jacob had eight siblings, which was rare in their community. Hympe parents tended to avoid big families because they knew what fate awaited them.

“They’re scared, hurting, and waiting for the other shoe to drop, so that might be a tall order,” Marcus said, but his tone held less bite than usual.

“Other shoe to drop?”

“They think they’ll be shipped back to the asshole who bound them for another century.” His lips tipped up. “Tobias is breaking the news that he took care of that little problem.”

Little problem? He called a powerful sorcerer with ties to the Fractured a little problem. Maybe she could grow to like Marcus after all. “How did he manage that?”

“He’s a king.”

That didn’t tell her anything, but it was the only answer she was going to get. “Okay, so they’ll soon have something to celebrate. How can we integrate them into the community? They barely eat, hell, they barely even sleep.”

“Why do you care?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

“Because she knows how it feels to be a prisoner in this war,” said a deep commanding voice behind her.

Maddison turned and came face to face with Tobias Locke.

Shit, should she bow or something? She never felt this intimidated, but with his probing blue eyes and overwhelming presence, she felt trapped.

“Since you were eavesdropping, why don’t you tell us your opinion on the subject?” There went her mouth. She just couldn’t help herself.

Tobias laughed, and even that was appealing. “As a matter of fact.” He flicked a glance to Marcus, then back to her. “The Mizons would like to express their gratitude to their rescuers, and haven’t been able to visit with them since they arrived.”

In fairness, the troop hadn’t been up to visitors. They were all in the makeshift infirmary, and were still in bad shape. “That can be arranged,” she said, bowing her head slightly. See she could show respect. “In fact, there’s a custom in the mortal realm, which suits the time of year. How would they feel about entertaining the troops?”

“You’re joking, right?” Marcus scoffed.

“No. She might be on to something.” Tobias turned slightly, his expression considering. “They’re shapeshifters. What better way to make them feel welcome than to have a little fun?”

Maddison had to agree. If there was ever a time for laughter it was now, and her playful side had kicked into overdrive since hanging around with the damn cat. Blade would eat this up.

She turned to Marcus. “Don’t you have a thing for old black and white movies?”

The growl he gave her rivalled Logan’s. “So, what? You want us to act out the Wizard of Oz.”

“Perfect,” she said, letting her laughter free. “You could be one of the flying monkeys.” Winking at him, she turned back to Tobias. This time her bow was more pronounced. “Your majesty. It’s been a pleasure.”

He smiled. “Before we leave, you must tell me how you know Marcus. I have a feeling that’s a fun story.”

“Oh, it’s a barrel of laughs. Right, Marcus?”

He ignored her, well, except for the glare.

“I’ll look forward to it.” Tobias looked to his guard. “Marcus, do you want to share your excellent idea with the Mizons? There might even be a little role play involved.”

Maddison couldn’t help but smile as she walked away, heading to Blade’s tent. If there was one thing her new friend would appreciate, it was a roomful of shape shifters putting on a show.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

On the Ninth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, six members of the Battalion, seven of the Elite, and eight greedy goblins. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Ninth day of Christmas my Craze Muse sent to me…Nine brave soldiers.

Blade? What the hell?

Logan jumped from the vehicle he’d driven back to the site and stared. The security fence, the mechanicalised gate he’d expected to swing open, was gone. Now there was – nothing. Not the site beyond, or the newly constructed dwellings. Not the tents littering the outer edge. Nothing.

His mind struggled to process exactly what he was looking at; like a visual moratorium . An all-around blind spot.

It was instinct to defer to the wolf, to allow him to prowl closer to the surface, because the animal detected things the man didn’t. The scent registered first, a subtle blend of sophisticated magic. If concealment spells had a flavour – this one would be goblin.

Why are you standing there gawking? Don’t you have a truck full of wounded soldiers?

As though the sarcasm soaked voice in his head was a trigger, the spell dropped and Blade came into view. He was watching Logan from the other side of the open gate, and wearing a ridiculous grin that flashed his own animal.

Logan flipped him off as he climbed behind the wheel again. His brother was right about his precious cargo. He was carrying nine severely wounded soldiers. Brave men and women who had volunteered for a mission nobody else wanted.

It was no secret the Fractured were establishing camps across the realm. Logan refused to refer to them as clubs – recreational or otherwise. The bastards were conducting experiments, and had acquired a family of hympes. Borrowed. That was the term one of the soldiers had used. Because the family had a long history of forced imprisonment. It made Logan sick.

They had been placed together during the Hympe Trials – a hundred-year contract enforced on the race – and had been tricked into servitude.  The sorcerer who owned the original contract had convinced them to sign over their freedom for another century.

It was a gruesome history, and the soldiers in the back of the truck had risked everything to get them out. Logan was fucking proud to serve beside them.

Blade was waiting for him when he parked the truck. He left enough room for Riley, who was driving the second vehicle.

“How bad?” Blade asked, with no hint of his earlier humour.

“Bad enough.” He pulled back the rear doors and grimaced at the scent of blood and pain.

Zachariah was beside them in a flash, his dark skin pale. As though he were the one bleeding. And perhaps he was, in a way. The vampire could feel them, and had connected with the soldiers’ pain. It was Zachariah’s duty to protect humans, and the compulsion to help everyone at once was riding him hard. He was already fighting off exhaustion.

“Easy, Zac,” Logan said, placing a hand on his shoulder as he moved to enter the truck. “We’ve got this.”

When he felt Zachariah tense under his hand, he knew he wouldn’t see reason. Not without a little help. “Sorry about this, bud.”

Logan let out a low, high-pitched whistle, and right on cue, Maddison ducked her head out of the command centre. She had a connection to her brother, was likely fighting the urge to take his back, and Logan had just given her permission.

The sound was also a call to action. In seconds, he was surrounded by medical personnel, armed with stretches.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

On the Eighth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, six members of the Battalion, and seven of the Elite. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Eight greedy goblins.

Maddison stepped through the portal, and emerged on the other side at the foot of Durin Mountain – home to the dwarves.

She usually avoided their domain. They were a little sensitive – something about her lack of respect. Whatever. So she’d made a mistake and destroyed a priceless weapon. It was time to move on.

Right now, she was on a mission, a mission that included a visit to one of the most manipulative creatures she knew – Levi Levingsworth. He’d made his home at the outer edges of the mountain, the crafty goblin having made a deal for the privilege.

She was about to make a deal, and though not exactly the devil, Levi could be a sneaky son of a bitch. He ran a trading centre of sorts, and gathered merchandise from across the Enchanted realm to entice customers into his lair.

Maddison entered the treasure trove of trickery, senses on full alert for the little minefields she knew were awaiting her. Levi’s kids.

She felt the subtle shift in the air at her back, and almost smiled. The mini manipulators were trying to sneak up on her.

Glancing around the store, at the explosion of colours that dazzled the eye, she waited for the attack. Her hair shot out, winding around a small ankle and securing tight. Then her braid lifted the bundle up into the air, presenting Maddison with a wriggling goblin who was laughing so hard she felt the vibration all the way to her roots.

“Romi,” she said, eyes twinkling. “You almost had me that time.”

His eyes widened, probably because she knew which little terror she held in her grip. Romi was one of three, and each of Levi’s boys were identical. The girls, too. Levi had two sets of triplets.

She didn’t have to wonder where the others were hiding for long. The brood sprang out of their hiding places and charged, their small bodies crashing into hers in a tangle of limbs.

Maddison laughed, and spent a few minutes listening to their excited chatter. They were sweet, and charming. At least on the surface. It was, like the interior of the store, an illusion.

“That’s enough,” Levi said, stepping into view. “I can take it from here.”

The children scarpered. All except Romi, who was still suspended in the air by his ankle. Facing his father, Maddison hid her smile when the boy began to giggle.

“You have something in your hair,” Levi said, playing along.

“I do?” She twirled as her hair unravelled from Romi’s ankle and caught him as he fell. “Well, would you look at that.”

Romi continued to wriggle, brown eyes shining, until she put him down. He darted a glance at his father and then followed after his siblings. Maddison heard the soft lyrical sound of his mother’s voice somewhere close, but Pearl didn’t reveal herself.

“What brings you to our humble store?” Levi asked.

She turned to see the sly grin on his face. It was the only thing that gave away the nature of his beast. His appearance was deceptively benign. With his mousy coloured hair, and soft brown eyes, he could have passed for human.

Maddison didn’t have time to play his games, so she got straight to the point. “I’m here to purchase your particular brand of concealment magic.” She refrained from calling it pixie dust, because she knew how much it pissed him off. Besides, the powder came from another branch of the fay family.

Levi plucked a sturdy green bottle from a shelf, a shelf that hadn’t been there moments ago. No, that wasn’t accurate. It had been there, she just couldn’t see it.

“And what are you willing to pay for this precious gift?”

She fought the urge to roll her eyes. Why couldn’t they barter in cold hard cash like the rest of the sharks who ripped people off for a living. Cynical much? “Why don’t you tell me the price, and I’ll tell you if I’m willing to pay it.”

Levi pretended to consider, though she knew he had been turning over the options in his head the second she stepped in. “For this,” he held up the bottle. “I would need a quarter of dorlac.”

That was it? He wanted a few ounces of the prickly plant that grew on the outer edges of Firmani. Sure, it was dangerous. She’d have to battle a tribe of Lechens to get to it. But that’s what she had Riley for – the wolf ate danger for breakfast.

Holding back the smile, because Levi might be manipulative, but he didn’t know her at all, Maddison took the bottle. “Deal. But you wait until after my current mission, and a quarter is all you’ll get. Nothing more.”

He nodded, and it was just a little too eager. Something more was going on here, and she knew she’d stepped into the middle of it. But she didn’t have time to dig right now. She would find out what kind of deal she’d made soon enough.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

On the Seventh Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, and six members of the Battalion. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Seven of the Elite.

It took every stubborn cell in his body, but Logan managed to stand in place. He didn’t roll his shoulders, didn’t pace or growl when Blade smirked from the front row. The soldiers crowded into the large tent were looking to him to make decision.

“Hilmore is the perfect place to relocate a community of this size,” Riley pointed out. His cousin was lounging against a table; a strategic placement because it put him beside the food. “It’s an established safe zone.”

“I agree, despite the logistical nightmare of transporting all the wounded. But the community have lost enough. They want to stay, so we need to revise the plan.”

“If I may make a suggestion,” a lyrical voice spoke up from the back.

Logan’s attention snapped to the last row, where the elves crowded together, conferring quietly. They were the relief team, seven members of the Elite who had arrived an hour before.

Apparently, Maddison Wood had friends in high places, because these soldiers had offered their services, even knowing the team they replaced were sleeping off their exhaustion. They had pumped so much power into the earth during the rescue effort, Logan swore he could feel the heat burning the soles of his feet.

“Go ahead,” he said, clearing the gruff from his throat.

“We took the assignment on behalf of the House of Gilliford. With the right help, we could transform the site.”

Logan had a feeling the right help meant one seriously sassy witch.

“Maddison is overseeing outer security, but we can pull her in,” Blade supplied helpfully.

“I suppose you’re volunteering to deliver the news?” Logan shook his head. His brother couldn’t resist getting his flirt on, but when he was in full on avoidance mode, his cat was lethal.

I live to serve.

Logan rolled his eyes. You live to goof off. Get out of here.

Blade rose to his feet. “It’s hell being the fastest one in the room,” he said aloud, wiggling his brows in Zachariah’s direction. “But you know I always pull my weight.” He didn’t wait for a response. The soft whoosh of the tent flaps signalled his exit.

Scratch goofing off. The damn cat lived to torment him, and gloating was one of his favourite ways.

Don’t be a grouch. Blade’s voice in his head only proved his point. And keep me updated.

Relaxing now his brother wasn’t around to get under his skin, Logan met the expectant eyes of his team.

An hour later, he was standing at the edge of the site, his wolf at attention as he watched magic flow in every direction.

The team of elves, an Elite group of seven, were subtle in their use of power. They communed with the earth, manipulating its energies with heads bent and expressions pulled tight in concentration.

In contrast, Maddison Wood was standing in the midst of a storm. Her long, dark locks unravelled and flying around her as she worked with the team to rebuild what was broken.

They weren’t alone. Landon and Lochlan had taken to the sky, their own power a vibrant, sizzling current as it streamed down upon the emerging construction below.

I thought only the gods could wield that level of power.

Even in his head Blade’s voice held a ring of awed disbelief. Yeah. She’s no ordinary witch. That’s for sure. He studied her. The elfin suit, the unmistakable glow of her power that shone a midnight blue through the strands of her hair. Maybe she’s part elf. Why else would her energy blend so seamlessly with theirs?

Beats me. But thank the gods that it does. It’s been a while since I saw anything that cool, man.

Logan didn’t know about cool. The earth was white hot. They’d had to move back several feet to avoid the burn. But he had to admit he was impressed. As the group worked together, several structures began to form; the bricks and mortar bending to their will.

Those structures looked nothing like the houses that had once stood in their place, and yet the aesthetic beauty was undeniable. Not only that, the houses blended with the environment, as though the earth now shaped them. A gift to the community who would thrive once more.

Perhaps the most spectacular thing, was the effect the power surge had on the trees and shrubbery littering the site. In the centre, a sapling that had been crushed under the weight of a falling building now stood erect and tall.

Logan remained in place until the group completed their task. He only moved when Maddison teetered on her feet, but Zachariah got there before him. He caught her, slinging an arm around her shoulders and leading her towards a nearby tent.

He was just about to follow when he heard Riley call his name.

“We have a problem,” his cousin said, though his eyes were following Maddison and Zachariah’s progress.

“What kind of problem?”

Riley turned back to him. “We just received a distress signal. A squad about a mile out.”

They began to head back to the command centre. “Do you want to take a team? “

“I thought we could head out together.” Riley smirked. “You’re looking a little tense there, boss. A little action might be just what you need.”

Logan laughed. He was right. His wolf needed out. Needed to run, to feel free for a while. But then Riley knew all about that. “Sounds good to me.” He nodded. “Let’s go.”

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

 

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