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 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 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

 

On the Sixth 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, and five gold rings. 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 Sixth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Six members of the Battalion.

Blade stretched his aching muscles before moving to the next bed. Zachariah was way ahead of him. He was already pumping his happy juice into a young girl who had so many broken bones in her leg it would be a miracle if they saved it.

The vampire couldn’t heal, but he could ease her pain, and it was all they had right now.

Staring into her wide blue eyes, his cat pushed against his skin. He wanted out. It wasn’t a surprise, the damn fur-ball had charmed Louise, and she adored Blade’s animal half.

Giving in, Blade shifted. He ignored the grunt from Zachariah and placed his big head on the stretcher, nuzzling Louise’s cheek.

She giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. Blade’s cheetah lapped up the affection, purring into her ear.

The happy sound she made pleased the man, too. Anything to distract her from her injuries.

“We have company,” Logan said, sticking his head into the tent.

With one last nuzzle, Blade left Zachariah to it, and followed his partner out.

In his cat form, Blade had excellent vision, so he spotted their visitors immediately. Of course, he’d have to be an idiot to miss the fact that all eyes were on the sky.

He shifted again, letting out a low whistle. “Woah,” he said, as his suit snapped into place. Gone were the days he had to scrounge up a pair of pants. Thank the gods for elfin magic. “We must be doing something right to deserve a visit from the Battalion.”

Logan flashed a wicked grin. “I don’t know. Some would say we belong on the naughty list.”

His cat huffed at that. “Maybe we have V and Joshua to thank.”

The Battalion were Empyreans finest soldiers. Warrior angels, who were sent in at the start of a war. Blade and Logan had the honour of working beside two such warriors, Joshua and Nevaeh. It was the first time members of the Battalion had taken on a more active role.

Actually. I’m responsible for the reinforcements. It’s customary at this time of year to exchange gifts. Is it not?

Logan growled beside Blade, which meant Orion was in his head, too.

And we’re responsible for cleaning up your mess. Blade said, watching as the Battalion drew nearer. Consider us even.

Does that mean I should send back the rest of my gifts?

“Don’t listen to him,” Logan said, lips quirking. “Besides, I like surprises.”

Blade decided it was a sorry state of affairs when he began to miss Orion’s presence. He’d expected him to show his face the minute he got rid of his cousin, but then, being a silent member of the Collective meant he couldn’t advertise his involvement. Pity that didn’t extend to the voice in their head, because, man did the god love the sound of his own voice.

“That looks like a pretty big surprise,” Zachariah said from behind them.

He was talking about the large container the six members of the Battalion were carrying. The thing was huge, but the angels made it look easy. Each warrior had a modified harness strapped around their chest. It attached to the crate in a way that left their wings free to do all the heavy lifting – so to speak.

“Want to make a wager about what’s inside?” Logan asked, as they moved to intercept.

“I’d win that bet,” Zachariah answered, but didn’t elaborate.

Blade studied the crate. The angels were making slow progress, and appeared to be treating their cargo with a little too much care. Even when they lowered it to the ground, they unburdened themselves with practiced skill, settling the crate on the outer edge of the site without so much as a tremor.

A tall, dark skinned angel, with wings a vibrant turquoise, stepped forward. Her harness dropped away as she moved. “You must be Logan,” she said, inclining her head.

It was the hair that did it. Even in wolf form, Logan’s coat was the purest white. An anomaly within his family, due to the absence of darker tones. In human form, his hair fell in thick waves, making him stand out like snow on a mountain top.

“It’s an honour,” Logan said, rolling his shoulders.

Blade snickered, which earned him a sharp look from his partner. It was just too damn funny to see Logan play the role of ambassador. Sure, his brother had a wicked sense of humour, but he overcompensated for his lack of social skills. Blade preferred Logan’s surly side. At least it was honest.

“I’m Celestia.” The angel flicked a glance at the warriors flanking her. “This is my team. We were told you’re in need of medical assistance.”

No sooner had she spoken the words, the front of the crate fell open.

“Surprise,” Zachariah muttered, making Blade laugh.

It was a surprise. A pleasant one. There were a least five medical personnel, each strapped to a seat, and so many supplies they could cure an army.

“We’re at your disposal,” Celestia said, tucking her glorious wings into her back. “It’s my understanding you want to secure the community.”

Which of course meant that was Orion’s plan. Blade couldn’t fault him, but he doubted they could restore the peace the humans had found here. They were no longer safe in their obscurity.

“Let’s start with healing the sick,” he said, thinking of Louise and so many others who needed help. He met Celestia’s pale green eyes. “You can rest up and then get a lay of the land. It’s good to have you on board.”

He didn’t wait for a response, he moved around the team and went to introduce himself to the medical staff. They had their work cut out for them.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

On the Fifth 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, and four lightning birds. 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 Fifth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Five gold rings.

Maddison drew in a deep breath and prepared herself for trouble. It came in the form of two tall, arrogantly attractive men – the human halves of two lightning birds.

In their feathered form, they were like beautiful, long billed peacocks, shimmering with red and blue. They still reflected those colours, only it wasn’t feathers now, but silky locks that flowed to the shoulder.

Rolling her eyes, she whistled to one of the nearby soldiers on duty. His eyes were rolling too, but for an entirely different reason. The young human soldier was practically salivating.

Maddison gave up waiting for him to come to attention and walked to the table topped with clothes. They weren’t only for the changelings, but right now she needed to get Landon and Lochlan covered up.

“Thanks for the assist,” she said to the twins, throwing them each a pair of pants. “We’ve got it from here.” The last thing she needed was a camp divided. The gods weren’t the only ones prone to games.

Landon donned the pants quickly, his multi-hued hair glinting as he moved. “Mad, you wound us. Where is the love?”

She could have stopped him at any time, but Maddison allowed him to wrap his arms around her and brush his cheek against hers. The twins had saved her hide once, but more than that, she understood their need for acceptance. They didn’t allow her to throw up barriers, and she didn’t allow them to hide behind theirs.

Lochlan’s arms squeezed a little tighter than his brother, and she sensed his need, so she gave him the extra time. Lightning birds could be as private as the elves, and rarely allowed in outsiders. But, like changelings, they needed touch.

“We want to help,” Lochlan said, stepping back. “And we can’t be sure the Ancher twins have had their quota of fun.”

Maddison was about to protest when she felt it, the low vibration under her feet, as though the earth was fighting against the surge of power still being channelled by the elves.

She glanced over to the only structure still standing, a four-storey block of converted flats. It was going to fall, Maddison sensed it more than saw the signs.

If it fell, it would destroy the progress they’d made on the neighbouring properties. Even now she could see the gap they had meticulously uncovered.

So far, eight people had died in the collapse, and they had saved forty-seven. The medical tents were overflowing with injured, all awaiting for safe transport to a medical facility.

That left three. Those people had fought the hardest, and now they were about to be crushed because they had run out of time.

Everything inside Maddison protested. Between them, the rescue party had so much power they shouldn’t have to lose a single person.

Yet, like pawns in a sick game, they were prevented from overstepping the rules.

Screw that. Maddison began to pull rings from her hair as she jogged towards the building. The harmless looking accessories that bound her hair were actually a conduit to her power, and a secret weapon.

She’d only had them a few months, and hadn’t experimented nearly enough, but she didn’t have time to worry about that now.

Tossing them high into the air as she moved, Maddison unleashed her magic. The rings began to expand, spinning furiously as they continued their ascent.

When they were wide enough, she let them drop. Each fell around the building, hovering above the ground as she provided a link deep in the earth.

“Holy hell, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Landon said from beside her. The twins were serious about helping, and she was suddenly grateful they stuck around.

“What we need is a little heat, boys.” She kept her eyes on the building as she spoke. “You see the top ring. I need you to hit it with everything you’ve got.”

They didn’t say a word. One minute they were beside her, the next they were flying up in a blaze of fiery blue. Lightning crackled around them, and though it was taking all of Maddison’s concentration to hold the rings in place, she watched the brothers light up the sky.

In a focused blast, they aimed their power into the highest ring. The energy exploded, creating a polarity effect, which travelled through each of the five rings, and held the building in check.

Maddison was aware of the heightened activity around her, and knew the others had moved in to double their efforts. She ignored them, concentrating on regulating the force field she’d created with the twins’ help.

If it took every drop of her energy, she didn’t care. They would rescue the three remaining survivors, because nobody else was going to die on her watch.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

 

On the Fourth 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, and a hunter or three. 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 Fourth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Four lightning birds.

A sizzle of kinetic energy lit up every nerve ending in Blade’s body. It was followed by a booming crack, a whip of sound and colour across the sky.

“You have got to be shitting me,” Blade said, depositing an unconscious woman onto a nearby stretcher.

Alayah followed his gaze, her breath hitching when she spotted them. Two lighting birds, their vibrant red feathers like a flame glowing in the night.

“Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Lo meant when he said we needed light on the situation,” she said.

Blade grinned, despite the crap storm above them. “Hey, you never know. They could be friendly.”

She snorted, and it was one of the sweetest sounds he’d ever heard. Yep, he was pathetic. But it meant she was comfortable with him again. That their friendship wasn’t a lost cause.

Those thoughts vanished when a bolt of lightning hit the ground in front of him.

“Hey, cat-boy.”

Blade turned to see Maddison jogging over to them. “We need to deflect those blasts away from the danger zones. And it appears they’re attracted to you.”

“I’m not sure I can outrun lightning. Why do I have to be target practice?” He would do it, he just liked messing with her. It probably had something to do with the fact his cat had a major crush, and she took his harmless flirtation in her stride.

He frowned, glancing Maddison’s way when she didn’t rise to the bait. She had her eyes closed, her head dipped to the side as though concentrating on something she couldn’t quite hear.

Blade studied her, his gaze dropping to her right hand. It took him a second to understand that the subtle movement of her fingers coincided with the increase in air current. What started as a gentle breeze became a gust of wind that made his hair dance and the dust swirl at his feet. She was creating a distraction.

Tipping back his head, Blade watched the lightning birds circle overhead. They seemed amused by her. Curious even.

“Can’t you guys like…woo them or something?” he asked, smirking when he felt Maddison’s gaze on him.

“If that’s a crack about witches using lightning birds as pets, I’m going to pin you to a lamp post and colour you a sacrifice.”

“Kinky,” he purred, wiggling his brows.

“I wonder if they have a thing for honey.”

Blade looked at Alayah, thrilled when he saw the light of amusement in her eyes. It felt better than the powerful energy crackling in the sky.

“That sounds like an interesting story, and I want to hear all about it,” Maddison said, interrupting. “But now would be a good time to let the cat out. We need a distraction so the others can start moving the injured.”

Blade shifted without another word, his good humour disappearing along with his human skin.

There was a small park bordering the housing estate, so he headed that way – hoping to draw the birds away. It worked. Though Maddison probably helped them along. He felt the blast of air like a hard caress along his fur.

For the next ten minutes, Blade zipped from one end of the park to the other as blast after blast of lightning mapped his progress. His fur got singed a few times, but his cat was enjoying the chase. At least until he took a hit. The burning pain along his right side was enough to slow him down.

“Son of a bitch.”

His words were punctuated by a crack-crack-sizzle. That couldn’t be good.

Blade glanced to his right, following the fiery snap of sound and saw two more of the damn birds, their feathers intertwined with blue. How the hell was he supposed to dodge four of the fuckers?

Drawing in a deep lungful of air, he prepared to bolt as a stream of power tore across the sky in a breath-taking display of dominance. He would have been toast for sure, if they had aimed that power at him. Instead the newcomers were aiming at the two using him for target practice.

He dropped to the ground, shifting as he did so he could lay on his back. The new pair were friendly, perhaps one of Orion’s countermeasures.

The birds went at each other with everything they had. A no holds barred assault that lit the sky like a fierce, fiery storm.

“Go team Orion,” he murmured and tucked his hands behind his head, content to watch the show.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

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

Welcome to day three. This is my take – a slice of fantasy – on the twelve days of Christmas theme. So far we’ve had a god who caused destruction in the mortal realm, and a rescue effort which began with a changeling or two. The story continues.

On the Third Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Three fearless hunters.

Logan waited beside the impromptu command centre, a tent one of the squads had set up to coordinate the rescue effort. He was on guard duty, a necessity considering the shit-storm of surprises they’d had to contend with over the past hour.

He’d already caught several wraiths trying to break through the barrier the elves had erected. Those wraiths hadn’t found the site on their own, but now that they had, they were looking for a quick fix.

Logan knew what they wanted. The people still trapped beneath the rubble were already weak, some barely holding on. Those poor souls would be easy pickings.

A growl built in his chest before he could stop it. His cousin was late. The fact Riley was one of the best hunters he knew, made it worth the wait. At least for a few more minutes.

And right on cue his cousin stepped into view. His timing perfect.

Logan blinked in surprise when he saw his companions. He’d known Riley would come packing, and by that he meant fully armed with his own team, but he hadn’t expected him to bring Maddison Wood.

The dark-haired witch had been out of commission for a while. She’d recently escaped from a war camp, or as the Fractured were calling them, recreational clubs – for the sick and twisted.

“Lo,” Riley said, flashing his trademark grin. “I hope you don’t mind, but a couple of my friends tagged along. You get three hunters for the price of one.”

Three? He’d expected more. Then again, the two he’d brought were their own army. If the rumours were true.

For some reason, Maddison was wearing and elfin uniform, Logan hadn’t seen anyone besides the Elite wear one of those beauties.

Her gaze travelled down his own suit, which was also elfin in nature, and she smirked as though reading his mind. “So, you’re a member of the exclusive club we’re all hearing about?”

“And you’re the witch who charmed the elves.” It felt odd that he would be recognised as a member of the Collective, but that was the nature of the beast, and his own was far more interested in Maddison Wood.

She laughed. “Zac here does the charming in our family.”

Zachariah Thorne, her adopted brother and partner in crime, stepped forward. “Good to meet you.”

“Thanks for coming.” Logan wanted to kick his own ass for that one. He rolled his shoulders and sucked it up. He still wasn’t comfortable with the position he’d been given, and his welcome speeches usually sucked.

Speaking of which. He was glad to have a vampire on board. Zachariah would be able to regulate the tempers in and around camp. Since they started pulling people out, tensions were running high.

“Riley speaks highly of you,” Zachariah said, shaking his hand.

Logan frowned. It was a nice sentiment, but it was full of crap. Riley didn’t speak highly of anyone. Not if he could help it.

“He’s just playing with you,” Maddison intervened. “We’re both curious about Ry’s family. He’s not exactly a sharer.”

“Now that I can believe.” Logan glanced down the road when he heard the rumble of an approaching vehicle. It had to be the supplies they were expecting.

Movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention and he realised it was Maddison’s hair. It was like the tail of a cat, twitching in frustration.

“What is it?”

It was Zachariah who answered. “Not sure. Whoever is driving that truck reeks of deception. The poor sap is terrified.”

A low growl came from Riley’s throat.

“Easy there, wolf-man,” Maddison said, and Logan watched as her hair snaked out to wrap around his wrist.

He couldn’t decide what shocked him more, that Maddison could soothe his cousin, or that Riley allowed it.

“What do you say we go do our thing, boys?” Maddison said. “I think our new visitor needs to check in.”

She didn’t wait for a response. Releasing Riley, she moved to intercept the truck. Logan didn’t tell her they were expecting the additional supplies he could see piled in the back. Instead, he stayed where he was and watched the three close in as a unit.

A minute later, Riley had the driver pinned up against the cab of the truck, aggression rolling from him in waves.

“Care to tell me what’s going on here?” Logan asked, moving to the group.

“This dipshit just led a shit load of trouble our way,” Riley growled. His eyes flashed when they turned Logan’s way. “It’s time to let the wolf off the leash, cousin. There’s a group of lost souls less than a mile away.”

That explained where the wraiths came from at least. When they conquered a soul, for a time their hosts became animated corpses. Temporary or not, they were strong, and their presence would seriously damage moral. Nobody liked a reminder of what the demons had planned for the mortals who stood in their way.

Logan didn’t even hesitate, he shifted. It appeared his job at welcoming committee wasn’t over just yet.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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

Yesterday, the first day of my Fractured journey, my crazy muse sent to me – a god with an ace up his sleeve. To recap, a god with a penchant for cruelty sent his power into the mortal realm and caused an earthquake. It destroyed a small housing estate, and now humans are trapped beneath the rubble. Orion Reece (the god with the plan) has called in reinforcements.

On the Second Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Two changeling cats.

“Shit, man. How the hell are we supposed to move all this rubble?” Logan asked as he unearthed a large piece of red glass. It looked fragile against his big hand, but then most things did.

Blade studied the curved edges. He’d seen similar treasures before, especially at this time of year. Humans enjoyed their decorations. This one reflected the destruction around them.

The small housing estate was tucked way out into the countryside and had been an overlooked jewel until a god with a hard on for chaos and mischief decided to bring the whole thing down.

“With reinforcements.” Blade nodded to the trucks rolling towards them. “They took their sweet time getting here.” His cat was prowling in his mind. The smell of blood and impending death was driving the cheetah crazy. He could smell the fear of those trapped, hear their cries from underground, and they were running out of time.

Logan rolled his big shoulders, the white of his hair glinting in the moonlight. “We’re going to need a lot more where they came from.”

“It’s a start, brother. We need to get this show on the road.” Blade jogged to intercept the first team as they stepped from the armoured vehicle.

His body jolted when his cat picked up a familiar scent. If he’d truly been Logan’s brother he would have howled out his frustration. She was here. The one woman he couldn’t charm, the cat who confused the hell out of his cheetah and made every instinct in the man want to run. Sure, he’d been born to run. But still. It was humiliating.

“Alayah,” he said, taking in her uniform, the confidence in her golden eyes that he’d never seen before. “What are you doing here?”

“Panashe.” Her voice was remote, and it pissed him off. It had always pissed him off when she called him by his birth name, because it was a reminder that his parents had chosen her to be his mate. This, though, the cold way she formed the syllables. It was worse.

“I would think it’s obvious,” she said then. “I’m here to join the rescue effort.”

Logan snorted beside him. “She has you there, bro.” Then the jackass enveloped Alayah in his big arms and hugged her as though they were related. He did it to get a rise out of Blade. It worked.

Blade swallowed, wondering why he was only just noticing how graceful she was, how long her legs were, and how pretty her pale hair shone.

The last time they’d seen each other her supple body had been strung tight with tension. The thought reminded him of why he’d spent the past few years fighting the desire to rip Aaron limb from limb, and he almost growled.

They were friends again. Sort of.  But he hadn’t completely forgiven Aaron for his juvenile prank. And, okay, so they had made a game of it over the years, trying to one up each other. It didn’t change the fact their game had come to a sticky end.

Ha. Sticky. Aaron had tied Blade naked to a tree, and covered his body in honey. It happened to be in the height of mating season, and the cats had swarmed Blade like, well – bees to honey.

Alayah, the shy pretty cheetah who had followed him around since their parents introduced them, had saved him. She had staked her claim in the middle of the damn forest, and dragged him to an abandoned cave to ride out the crazy storm. Not literally. Well, not at first.

Neither of them had wanted the pairing, so Alayah’s bold move had been a way to save his sorry hide. Except they had both underestimated the power of the mating heat, and Alayah had turned into a siren. Her cat had taken full and complete control.

Then, when the heat had drained from her body, and her senses had returned, the old Alayah had stood before him. Awkward and tense. That was the last time he’d seen her.

The anger Blade felt towards Aaron for the stunt had less to do with his humiliation, and more to do with the price he’d had to pay. It had cost Blade his friendship with sweet, gentle Alayah.

Blade blinked, surprised to realise he was still staring. She didn’t look sweet now. She looked pissed. At him.

Logan coughed, probably to cover a laugh. “We’re glad you’re here, Al. With a rescue effort of this size, we need all the help we can get.”

Alayah nodded, glancing at the debris surrounding them. “Then put me to work.” Her eyes never left Logan’s. She appeared hell bent on forgetting Blade even existed.

“I’ll let Blade go over the plan with you,” Logan said, turning to him. “Think you can handle that, bud?”

Oh, he thought he was so funny. He wouldn’t think so when Blade wiped the smirk from his lips.

You know I’ll get you back for this, right? It still felt unfamiliar, the connection he had to Logan in his head. But it was at times like this he was grateful for it.

It’s just too easy, brother.

Blade narrowed his eyes, resisting the urge to bolt when Logan took off. What the hell was wrong with him?

To give himself a minute, he glanced towards the elves who were positioned at strategic points within the site. Strategic to them, at least. They had been chanting for a while, communicating with the earth, or whatever, to stabilise what remained of the crumbling structures.

“Do you remember the cave-in at Durin Mountain when we were kids?” he asked Alayah.

Her pretty gold eyes widened in understanding. “They had to remove the outer layer of debris to assess the damage.”

He nodded. “You turned it into a game for those who had family trapped inside.” Their small group had made it a race, their movements so fast and light they hadn’t compromised the section of fallen tunnel. “Want to play a game with me?”

Alayah shifted uneasily on her feet. He couldn’t decide if she was remembering a different time, or if his forced joviality made her uncomfortable. “If I remember correctly, you run pretty damn fast.”

Yep. Definitely pissed at him. She wasn’t talking about his speed in general, she was talking about the morning he’d made an ass of himself by disappearing when the sun came up. His walk of shame had been a full-on sprint.

“Listen, Alayah-”

“Please let’s not do this. Just forget I said anything.”

His brows shot up. “Now who’s running?” Shit he was going to kick Aaron’s ass the next time he saw him.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.” She gave him a small smile. “Try to keep up.” Then she was off, zipping to the nearest building like a vamp on speed.

Blade’s cat perked up at the challenge. Pretty soon the reinforcements would arrive, and everyone would argue about the best way to find a way in. But for now, he could give his animal what it needed the most, a way to help the people trapped. Their fear was beginning to grate along his skin, but as long as he kept moving he didn’t feel so helpless.

Tell me again why you can’t transport these people out of here? He projected to Orion, knowing the god was monitoring their progress.

Because most of them wouldn’t survive. Came the impatient response. Are you giving up so soon, cat?”

Don’t put this on me. It was your crazy cousin who got us into this mess. Sometimes he wondered what the hell he was thinking, putting all his trust in one of the gods.

The same crazy cousin who is watching your every move. Now Orion sounded resigned, and Blade suspected it was the real reason he couldn’t intervene. If the rescue is fair, he’ll allow the humans to live. But this is a game to him, so expect company.

Which I take to mean you’ll be sending in countermeasures? This is sick. You know that, right? We’re talking about innocent-

Just don’t let me down. Darius will pay for this stunt, I can promise you that.

Blade had no response except to do the job he’d signed on for. So, he worked side by side with Alayah, and left the gods to play their crazy ass games.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Feverish Part 3: Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes #9

Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes

This week, Ronovan challenged us to write a story based on the following sentence:

Ticks and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.

To find out more about Ronovan’s challenge click here.

I’m cutting it fine this week, and I have good news and bad news. The good is that I finally managed to finish the story! The not so good is that I couldn’t complete it within the suggested word limit. As it is a suggested limit I don’t feel too bad, although I did double the 500 word target!

As this is the third part, here is a quick summary of the previous installments:

Maddison Wood is a mercenary. She is also a powerful witch, and a member of the Enchanted League. When the Hympe King contracts a virus, and his people begin to get sick, Maddison agrees to help. Her partner in crime, a werewolf named Riley, located the source of the virus – a hympe who imprisoned himself in the shape of a tree (hympe’s are shapeshifters). The Hympe King is the only one who can free the prisoner but, due to an uncontrollable rage brought on by the fever, the team might not be able to contain him long enough for him to focus his power.

Feverish Part 3

Marcus and the siren twins made it in under thirty minutes. All three guards looked exhausted; their expressions grim, their shoulders hunched. Of course, they had the added weight of a king on their shoulders, since they were carrying Tobias – literally.

“We don’t have much time,” Marcus said, and his voice was heavy with fatigue.

Maddison made her way over to the group, with Riley on her heels. The tension was so thick, it was like wading through treacle. Jonas’ words sprang to mind; their commander and chief had a tendency towards the dramatics. Maddison could hear his voice in her head, like an echo of his earlier warning.

Ticks and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.

That mission hadn’t gone so well, and Maddison still remembered the bitter taste of their defeat. But they wouldn’t lose this time. She wouldn’t allow it.

“What’s the plan?” she asked Marcus. “Other than poking the bear and waking his ass up.”

Riley’s low rumble of laughter did nothing to ease the animosity. It was leaking out of Marcus’ pores and, since he ignored her question, Maddison took that as a zero in the ideas department.

By the time they lowered Tobias to the ground, Maddison was out of patience. She didn’t have it in her to argue protocol, or worse, debate over how they would handle Tobias’ condition.

She knelt beside him and focused her power. Her hair shot out, the braid controlled, and as lethal as a snake, her locks wound themselves tight around Tobias’ torso. When she had enough energy focused on her silken trap, she leaned forward to take Tobias’ hand until her fingers brushed the wide band on his finger. Maddison had given the ring to him for protection, to anchor him in the present. It had worked before, and she had to believe it would work again.

“Wake him,” she said to Marcus, and cut off his protest before he could utter a word. “We don’t have time to argue.”

Marcus didn’t like it, she could feel his anxiety, yet she knew he couldn’t deny her connection to his king.

Maddison closed her eyes, pushing out with her mind to find Tobias. ‘How’re you holding up, half-blood?’ she asked. It probably wasn’t a good idea to push his buttons, but it hadn’t stopped her before.

Every muscle in Tobias’ body locked, and she knew he was getting ready to fight the binds. ‘What’s happening?’

He sounded confused, whether from the prolonged sleep or the amount of power she was using, Maddison’ couldn’t be sure. ‘You’re sick, and the virus has put you in a perpetual bad mood, so you need to get a hold on that temper and help us out.’

‘I hurt you.’

Maddison felt her brows draw together, and for a second she thought her brain had scrambled too. Then she remembered he’d drawn blood during their fight; the first indication of the illness. ‘Yes, I still owe you for that one, but we’ll save the rematch for when you’re not feeling so cranky.’

“What’s happening?”

The question came from one of the twins. Maddison didn’t know which one, it took all her effort to hold on when Tobias began to thrash. ‘Stop.’ She directed a blast of power into the ring, and felt it heat beneath her fingers. ‘You need to focus your energy to use your gift.’ When Tobias’ body stilled again, Maddison forged ahead. ‘Your people are sick, Tobias. You have to help them.’

Tobias didn’t reply, but he didn’t move either. So she told him about the hympe who had imprisoned himself in the form of a tree, one of Tobias’ subjects in desperate need for an intervention. She didn’t tell him they were running out of time, or that the hympe was the key to curing him.

She wanted to sag in relief when she felt Tobias’ power dance with her own. He was reaching out, using his entire focus. She didn’t move. Maddison remained locked in place, ignoring the pain in her skull and the exertion of maintaining the connection.

Maddison had no idea that Tobias’ guards were using their skills to strengthen that hold. All three had linked to their king and were helping to ease his growing frustration.

Riley, whose animal half had detected Maddison’s distress, howled in warning. She felt his presence like a comforting hand on her shoulder.

She knew the moment Tobias freed the hympe from his self-induced prison, but there was no pull of relief this time. Maddison didn’t have it in her. Tobias was straining against her, the rage hitting her in great waves as he struggled to regain control. She felt their connection break when he tugged his hand out of hers, and fear ran along her skin.

“Put him out,” Marcus barked, his voice coming from somewhere far away. “We need to get them out of here. Now.”

The second Tobias stilled again, Maddison let go. She didn’t have any choice. She had expelled too much energy and there was nothing left to give. There was nothing left to keep her upright either. If it hadn’t been for Riley, she would have fallen on her face.

Riley’s arms were like steel traps around her, and she leaned into his strength. Maddison even allowed it when he nuzzled his face into her neck. It was a compulsion of the wolf, and a sign of the animal’s affection. Still, she didn’t humour him for long. Her hair flipped out like a cat’s tail and flicked him playfully on the head. Maddison felt his body shudder with a growl of laughter.

“Okay, fur-face, stop slobbering on me and let me up. Our job here is done.”

Riley obliged with a wicked grin. “What about Tobias?” he asked, as she straightened.

“His guards will serve up the cure, and then I’ll serve up an ass kicking for all the shit he’s pulled.”

The rumble of amusement came again, deep from Riley’s chest. “You do know that he’s a king, right. And he happens to rule the League.”

Maddison shrugged. “Somebody has to keep him on his toes.” Then, because she was still feeling a little weak, she rerouted her energy and looked across the clearing. “Let’s get out of here. Make yourself useful and find the nearest portal.”

“Try to keep up,” Riley said in a low taunting voice, and set off at a run.

The burst of challenge was just what Maddison needed. Not to mention the satisfaction of knowing Tobias would be well, and sparring with her again in no time.

***

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

 

Feverish Part 2: Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes #8

Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes

This week, Ronovan challenged us to write a story based on an image (below). To find out more, click here.

boab tree.png

I mentioned last week that my story, Feverish, would be a two part tale, and that I would incorporate the new prompt. I did manage to weave in the tree, but I couldn’t complete the story without going over the word limit I gave myself (1000 words). That means it’s turned into a three part story. Hopefully, next week I can finish it, while incorporating a whole new prompt!

You probably need to read part 1 to follow the story, but here is a summary:

Maddison Wood is a mercenary. She is also a powerful witch, and a member of the Enchanted League. When the Hympe King contracts a virus, and his people begin to get sick, Maddison agrees to help. With her partner in crime, a werewolf named Riley, Maddison is searching for the origin of the virus. Riley drank a potion in order to search out the source. In his wolf form, Riley was able to pick up the trail and is on the hunt.

Feverish Part 2

If it hadn’t been for Fitz and his band of merry cats, Maddison would have lost her friend’s trail. In wolf form, Riley was fast. Too fast. And now he was burning off some seriously bad mojo, given the spell originated from a powerful god.

The wolves held back, keeping to the shadows of the mighty forest. Maddison knew they wouldn’t intervene unless one of their own was in trouble. Until then, they were merely along for the ride.

They found Riley a few minutes later. He was circling a large tree, a species foreign to Aronmyre and the Enchanted Forest. The base was large and swollen. It gave the strange impression it had split at the seams, considering the large opening at the centre. The upper branches, thick and heavy, reached up toward the sky like an offering.

The tree looked alien, so out of place, Maddison wondered why they hadn’t been drawn to it. It was like a homing beacon of discontent.

She could feel the sadness coming off the tree; it was in the air, in the land beneath their feet. When she glanced around, Maddison saw the others felt it too.

“Hey, wolf-man, what have we got?” she asked Riley as she approached. His responding growl surprised her. “I don’t have time for a wolfy chat,” she said, following his progress as he made another lap of the tree. “So I kind of need my friend back for the next part.”

Riley’s wolf usually recognised her. The animal responded to her voice, to her touch. But not this time. Instead of obliging, she got another low, threatening growl, and a flash of dark amber eyes.

Maddison watched him for a second, and then she grew tired of the show. She dropped to her hands and knees and waited out the next lap until they were face to face. Riley stopped, fur bristling, and lips pulled back in a snarl. She knew when he crouched, he was way past angry and had hit pissed off territory.

She ignored the aggressive posture and gathered power at her core. Maddison felt it build. It travelled up through her lungs and gathered in a pocket of air, which she blew directly in the animal’s direction. Under normal circumstances, it was a risky move. A sure way to get your head bitten off was to blow in the face of a wolf. But this was Riley, and it was no ordinary breath. It contained the same kind of energy she used to purge her system of foreign substances.

A second later Riley appeared in his human form. He moved forward, and touched his forehead to hers. Maddison allowed the gesture for a beat or two, and then sat back to look into his dark eyes. “What have we got?” she asked again.

Riley motioned to the tree. “That’s the origin of the disease.” He glanced at the bulbous base, which was at eye level, and then back. “Want to huff and puff and blow the thing down?”

She grinned as she got to her feet and held out a hand to him. But not before she waved a hand in front of his body and clothed him in a colourful pair of shorts. “Isn’t that my line?” Maddison asked, her attention back on the tree.

If the thing was in fact the origin of the fever, it meant it wasn’t a tree at all. It was a hympe and, despite Riley’s teasing, she had no idea how to return the hympe to its true form.

Maddison pulled one of the gold rings from her hair and threw it into the air. It expanded on descent, so it was a hundred millimetres in diameter by the time it hit the ground. She waved a hand, her lips forming a soft chant until a shaft or circular light appeared. A moment later Maddison was looking at Marcus, head guard to the Hympe King.

Her lips twitched when Marcus sucked in a breath. Not surprising when the glass chamber in front of him became a window to their location. “We found the source,” she said, forgoing the pleasantries.

Marcus’ gaze moved to take in the view. “I’ll be there in thirty minutes. You need to clear out before we arrive. I’ll need Tobias for this, and he’d perform better without an audience right now.”

She wanted to laugh. What Marcus meant was that Tobias was difficult to control in the throes of his fever and he didn’t want to clean up the mess. “So that’s it. We find the main player and we don’t get to enjoy the show?”

“It’s your funeral.” Marcus shrugged. “As long as you’re all aware of the risks and don’t get in our way.”

“That’s what I love about your, Marcus. You’re all heart.” Maddison waved her hand and the connection terminated. She moved to retrieve her ring, before turning to the group. “You heard Marcus. Our role here is done.”

Both packs began to disperse.

“You’re staying aren’t you?” Fitz asked, glancing around the clearing.

Maddison shrugged. “Whether Marcus likes it or not, it’s my job to help him contain the situation. I still work for the League, and Tobias needs me.”

Fitz moved when Maddison held up her hand to him. He pressed his palm against hers and bowed. Then he turned and went after his pack.

“After this is over, I want to discuss your wardrobe choice,” Riley said, frowning down at the yellow shorts. When Maddison shrugged, he turned serious. “What’s going to happen?”

“Tobias is the only one who can coax the hympe out of hiding, given his control over living organisms. Once he does that, he’ll need some of the hympe’s blood for an antidote.” Maddison thought of his rage the last time they met. “But he has no control, so I’m not sure Tobias can tap into the power he needs to pull this off.”

Riley nodded. “Whatever happens, I have your back.”

“Why do you think you’re here fur-face?” Maddison laughed when he snapped his teeth at her. “In the meantime, we might as well take a load off. We’re in for a bit of a wait.”

***

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel