Tag Archives: urban fantasy

Salvage

Hey, I’m excited to announce that my novel-length webserial Glamourhai starts tomorrow at 6pm ET. Stop by and check it out!

ETA: Trigger warnings for transphobia.

Aidohán, formerly Skerrie, was dragged before the new king. He had failed to overcome the young challenger, and lost his throne. Such was the way of the Skul Skerrie. What happened next was not.

The new king–Aidohán never even learned his name–tore Aidohán’s seal skin from him and slashed it to pieces. Trapping him forever in human form. He had expected the king to turn on him next. Instead, the king turned his back, saying, “Leave him for salvage.”

Aidohán screamed then. Screamed and fought with every ounce of strength left to him. But he was old, and injured. The guards were young and hale.

They brought him out of Skul Skerrie and to the human realm. With strong ropes, they tied him to the piling of a pier. As the tide was going out, they left him there. Unless someone salvaged him, when the tide returned, it would cover his head, and he would drown.

Throughout the long day, the tide slowly receded until his feet hung in the air, then crept back in, covering first his feet, then legs, hips, stomach… He listened in silence to the humans walking the pier above his head. He thought of calling for help, shouting loud enough for the humans to hear, and come find him. But he feared being salvage more than he feared death. Or thought he did.

When the sun set, the waves were rolling across his chest. The courage, or foolhardiness, that held him silent through the day ebbed with the light. A clean death, he could have faced unflinchingly. A sword, a shark, a hunter’s harpoon even. But to drown, slowly suffocated by the sea which was Ruler and Mother of them all…He would have called for help then. Begged, pleaded, screamed. But the pier was silent. The humans gone. And what little pride he had left would not allow him to weep. So he closed his eyes and waited.

John stuck to the shadows. Going out at night was a foolish risk, but he needed to get away for a while. Needed to get somewhere he could just relax, be himself. He loved his family, and they tried, they really did. But they didn’t understand. After two damn years, he shouldn’t still be hearing, “Joan—oh, sorry, John, can you— ”

He crossed his arms across his chest, flattening his thankfully-small breasts. Maybe this time the docs would come through for him and he’d be able to start on T. Ya just gotta keep going, he told himself, never give up, cause when you give up the fuckers win. Which didn’t keep him from needing a break sometimes.

Lost in thought, he didn’t see the figures standing in the warehouse door until it was too late.

“Hey, Joanie, here for the party?”

“Fuck off, Ned.” He started walking faster.

John’s ex-boyfriend and his friends swung in beside him. “Aw, don’t be like that, hon. I’m just trying to be friendly.”

“I said, fuck off.”

Ned grabbed his arm. John tried to pull away but couldn’t.

“Let go.”

“Make me.”

John rolled his eyes, “What are you, five years old?”

“What you running away from?” Ned spat on the ground. “Real man doesn’t run away. Guess you’re not a real man, hey Joanie?”

John took a deep breath and carefully didn’t think about the knife tucked in his boot. He started carrying it with him after a bad incident last month…

A police car turned down the street, and they all froze. It slowed as it passed the small group. Ned cursed and dropped John’s arm.

“See you next time, Joanie,” he called as he and his buddie headed back to the warehouse. John nodded to the officer—no one he recognized—and hurried down the street. It was only two more blocks to the pier.

The sea was calm. If it hadn’t been, the waves would have been rolling over his face long since. Instead, the swells passed just under his jaw—if he lifted his chin as high as he could. When Aidohán heard the first steps on the pier, he thought he was dreaming.

“Ho!” The cry was torn from his lips. An unusually large wave washed over his head. He sputtered and spat sea water, gulping for air. Pride tried to rear up, but was strangled by survival. “Under the pier! Help!”

Only silence answered him. Silence and the sound of footsteps, walking away.

John enjoyed visiting the pier at night. It was peaceful and quiet. He could watch the stars and forget about the shit he dealt with everyday. Just be for a while.

He hadn’t gotten halfway across the pier when he heard a voice. He cursed. There went some time alone. But looking around, he didn’t see anyone. He heard the voice again. This time it sounded like it came from below. From under the pier. Shaking his head, he walked off the pier and went looking for the stairs down to the beach. Some fool kid might have gotten stuck down there when the tide came in.

It was pitch black under the pier, and there was nothing to hear but the waves slowly rolling in. John nearly decided he had been imagining thing. Then he heard a sputtering cough. Cursing, John plunged into the waves. “Where are you?” he called.

After a moment, “Here.”

John hurried towards the voice, first wading, then swimming. “Keep calling!” he yelled, then had to spit out sea water.

“I’ll try.” A pause. “Over here.” A pause. “The waves are too high.”

It was the calmest sea John had seen in months, but by then he was close enough to see what looked like a head, leaning against a piling. As he watched a wave rolled over it. When the wave passed the voice cried again, “Here!”

Now that he had a target, John was able to reach the person before another wave passed. “I’m here. Just grab hold of me. I’ll get you to shore.”

“I can’t. I’m tied.” Up close, John could see the face more clearly. Long brown hair floating in the water to matched the beard on the chin held above the waves. For a moment, John couldn’t understand. Then his eyes widened in horror.

Taking a deep breath, he ducked below the waves, feeling in the dark water for whatever had the stranger trapped. It took only a moment. He was cocooned in rope from nipples to knees. Pulling his knife, John went to work on the first coil. The rope and the water both fought him, but he managed to get half way through by the time he needed to go up for air.

As he gasped for breath, the stranger watched him with despairing eyes. “Not enough time.”

John ignored him and dove again. It took him a moment to find the cut, but he managed to finish sawing through the first loop. It uncoiled and fell away. More rope remained.

Surfacing, he saw the waves were getting larger. As the trough of a wave passed, the man, or at least, he presents as a man, and isn’t that a stupid thought to have at a time like this, gasped for breath. “Go.” he said. “Don’t…” another wave cut him off, but John knew what he would have said. A whisper in the back of his mind agreed—it was foolish to risk his life for a stranger. If he got himself tangled in the rope, or a wave bashed his head into the piling, they’d both die. Even more foolish to risk his life pointlessly, for a stranger he had little hope of saving. He heard the whisper, and ignored it.

Never give up. Another dive.

Two dives later, he had cleared the ropes to the strangers waist. He was tiring, losing focus. So at first he didn’t realize that the waves had completely covered the man’s head. Cursing, nearly weeping from exhaustion, he took a breath and grabbed the strangers chin. Leaning down into the water, he pressed his lips against the stranger’s and opened his mouth. Air passed between them. The breath of life, John’s mind conjured the phrase from somewhere.

He dove again. The rope that fell away this time freed the stranger’s hands. The stranger grabbed him. John cursed and kicked—if the guy didn’t let go they would both drown. A hand grabbed his wrist. Another tried to wrench the knife away from him. Unable to fight any longer, praying the guy knew what he was doing, John let go. As soon as he released the knife, the stranger grabbed it, letting John swim for the surface and fresh air.

A single breath and he dove again. The stranger was bent over in the water. Sawing at the remaining ropes. As John came near, he exhaled, a stream of bubbles tickling John’s nose. Desperate, John grabbed him, pressing lip to lip and giving the maniac air. For a moment, they held each other in a desperate embrace. Then John lunged for the surface. Understanding came. He would breathe for both of them, while the stranger cut the last of the ropes.

A few minutes later, the stranger flailed free. For a moment, he just floated in the water. John grabbed his arm, pulling him to the surface. Clinging to eachother, they swam for shore.

Aidohán lay on the sand, desperately dragging air into his abused lungs. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched his salvager sputter beside him. By mutual agreement, they had staggered out of the shadow of the pier before collapsing. Under the water, Aidohán would have sworn he felt small breasts press against him, but in the moonlight it was a man who knelt on the sand and wrung water from the hem of a brightly colored shirt. In the end, he ignored the confusion. The stranger had salvaged him from the sea. That was all that mattered.

And he was delaying.

He forced himself onto his knees. If anyone had asked him that morning, he would have said that lowering himself to kneel before another would be the hardest thing possible. It was ironic to find how hard it was to RAISE himself to his knees. But he managed it. Managed it and bowed his head to the stranger before him. “Thank you… Master.”

His salvager shook his head, spraying water across the sand. “What did you say?”

“I said, thank you, Master.” Remembering the feeling of breasts, Aidohán asked, “Should I say Mistress?”

“I am not a woman!”

Aidohán heard the sea’s rumble, and held up a placating hand. “Master, then. I meant no offence.”

John blinked. “You…you don’t care?” Then realized how stupid he sounded. The poor guy was nearly dead, and probably shocky. How could he have any clue that John was trans?

The guy chuckled. “In one day, I have lost my throne, been left for salvage, and rescued by a human even as the sea stole my breath. Whether my rescuer is a man or woman is not exactly a concern at the moment, Master.”

For one moment, the idea of someone who just accepted John as he was shut his brain down. Then the rest of the guy’s words registered.

“Hold on a bloody moment. Master? Throne? What are you talking about, anyway?”

The stranger looked up at him. His eyes seemed to shine green in the light of the full moon. “I was king in Skul Skerrie. Early this morning I lost a challenge. The new king ordered me brought here and left as salvage. You pulled me from the waves. By the law of the sea, I am yours now.” The words were full of bitterness, but the man took a deep breath and said, “I mean my thanks truly, Master.”

“Oo-kay. I think we need to get you to a doctor.” Did near-drowning cause hallucinations? John thought he remembered something about divers hallucinating if they stayed down too long.

The man looked down and rubbed at the raw patches the rope had left on his skin. He moved like something was wrong with his side, too. Definitely needed to get this guy to a doctor. “If that is your wish, Master.”

John took a deep breath. “Don’t call me that. I’m glad I was there to help, and I’m gonna stick around and make sure you land on your feet, but I’m no ones ‘Master.’ You’re no ‘salvage,’ or whatever you call it, of mine.”

Aidohán gaped. In all his nightmares, in all his worst fears and imagings, never had he imaged this. He would have begged, but pride closed his throat. Head bowed, he crouched on the sand and waited for the end. It came quickly. With a roar the sea reached out and grabbed its stolen prize. He didn’t bother trying to fight the wave that dragged him from the beach and pulled him to the Deep. He was cast off, not even worth claiming as salvage. At least, it would be quick.

John had no warning. One moment, the stranger was staring at him like John had just stuck a knife in him, the next a monster wave knocked him head over heels. He caught a single glimpse of the stranger, an arm flailing in the waves. Then he was gone.

Without stopping to think, John dove after him. Two steps in it was like the sand disappeared under him, and he struggled through a malestrom of water far to deep to be a few feet from the beach. Blind in the dark water, he flailed desperately. Seeking air, seeking the stranger, seeking something to grab hold of. But there was nothing.

Aidohán floated in the dark of the Deep, feeling the burn of his lungs and waiting for the end. The sea cradled him one last time, and with utter hopelessness came a kind of peace. A few minutes more and it would be over.

Suddenly, someone else was there in the deep with him. Even in human form, he could hear the vibrations of their flailing. See them in the phospherescent outline of the plankton they disturbed.

He recognized the shape. The human who rescued him and cast back to the sea. Bitter grief nearly had him turning his back on his might-have-been master. But there was no point in that now. The human probably didn’t know what he had done.

There should have been no way for the human to enter the Deep, and there was no way out now that he was here. The sea did not easily release what it had claimed.

With powerful strokes, he approached the half-seen shape and grabbed a flailing arm. They were both dead, but they did not need to die alone. The man stilled, and Aidohán pulled him close. The burning in his chest was unbearable. He couldn’t hold his breath any longer. He found the human’s lips, and pressed his against them. As he released his last breath, he felt the man’s lips move.

The feel of bearded lips against his pulled John out of his panic. He didn’t know what had happened. Didn’t really need to. He and the stranger were underwater–again. Even as his lungs screamed, his mind and body reacted. “Salvage, then.” The words bubbled from his lips, lost in the water. He didn’t care, he hooked an arm under the other’s shoulder and started swimming. Didn’t matter where. Didn’t matter that it was hopeless. You never gave up. “Salvage us both, I will.”

Aidohán awoke to the feel of sand under his belly and an arm across his back. Stunned, he sat up slowly and looked around. Next to him, the man who had twice pulled him from the sea coughed weakly.

Not knowing what else to do, Aidohán helped him sit up. The man coughed up a pint of sea water, then looked at him with bleerly eyes.

“The laws of the sea, hey?”

“Yes, Master.” Aidohán shuddered.

“Call me John.” John slowly stood up, and offered Aidohán his hand. “Ah…will that be a problem?” He looked nervously over his shoulder at the now-calm sea.

“Not if it is your wish…John.” Thankfully, the sea stayed quiet.

“Ah…I’m thinking it’s best we stick together for a bit. But there is something you should know.”

John pulled up his shirt, and Aidohán could clearly see that he did, indeed, have breasts. What he couldn’t see was why his salvager thought it mattered. He shrugged. Yes, it was strange for a man to have breasts, but it was no concern of his.

John stared at him a moment then stood and offered him a hand. Aidohán took it, and leveraged himself to his feet. “Let’s get you some clothes, and then I think I should hear about these ‘laws of the sea.’

“Hey, what’s your name?”

John found a tatty pair of sweats someone had tossed in a dumpster. It wasn’t much, but it covered things until they could get Aidohán some actual clothes. They’d need to call the police, but somehow he was pretty sure his ‘salvage’ wasn’t going to turn up on any missing persons list.

Distracted (again) he didn’t realize they were taking the same route home until Ned called out to him from a doorway.

“Hey, Joanie. Where’d you find this weirdo?”

John froze. He couldn’t deal with this right now. He couldn’t…

Aidohán strode forward, still favoring his left side. He grabbed Ned by the front of his shirt and lifted the bigger man into the air. “His name is John.” He waited a moment. Ned kicked and flaied in the air, “Okay, okay, I’m sorry!” Aidohán set Ned back on his feet, gentle as anything, and brushed him off. “I think you have somewhere else to be. Now.”

Ned took off.

John started breathing again. “I can usually handle that myself. And you aren’t in any shape to be picking fights.”

Aidohán ducked his head and chuckled. “You pulled us both from the Deep. I believe you could do anything, if you wished. That doesn’t me you should need to.

“And I fought for my throne for 30 years. If I couldn’t intimidate a fool like that while half-dead, I would have been all dead long ago.”

They walked on in silence. Each, in their own way, thinking that they could get used to the strange twist their lives had taken.

And under the pier, a ripped and tatted seal skin floated on the waves. Lost and waiting to be found.

The Blood Mage’s Sacrifice

Sorry for the long delay, folks. Here you go. This beauty comes with trigger warnings for graphic violence, consent violation and object rape.

Marc stared at the brand on his inner arm. The complex spiral of knotwork and teeth hadn’t been there the day before. He was nearly out of time.

Giving up all his hopes of finding a willing sacrifice, the blood mage reached for his black phone book. He had three days to stop the demon from rising, and he needed a sacrifice now.

So he’d take what was available.

Cat was finishing up dinner when the phone rang. She nearly ignored it in favor of the text book she was studying. Going back for her master’s degree had seemed like a good idea… She had to admit the distraction was welcome.

“Hi, Cat? It’s Marc.”

“Hey Marc, what’s up?” She had fond memories of the play dates they’d shared. Marc was one of the few tops in town who was willing to push her limits, but he seemed to like playing the field. They’d been seeing each other every few months for a year or so. “I wasn’t expecting to hear from you for a few weeks yet.”

“Well, I had an idea for something special. Definitely on the extreme side. If you don’t have anything going on, would you like to come to my place this weekend?”

She closed the text book and glanced at the calendar. “I have a test Monday, but nothing this weekend. Just how extreme did you have in mind?”

“Nothing that would give you an excuse to miss your test, but you’d probably want to wear long sleeves. Basically a bit of role play.”

Cat grimaced, “I am NOT playing doctor with you.”

He laughed, but it was a nervous sound, “How about virgin sacrifice?”

She blinked. “Tell me more.”

The next evening, Cat pulled up in front of Marc’s house. She still wasn’t entirely comfortable with his request for no safeword, but he’d earned enough trust that she was willing to give it a try.

Before she finished unbuckling, Marc was waiting next to the car. She raised an eyebrow at him, and he had the grace to look sheepish. As she climbed out of the car he said, “Any delay and I’m afraid I’ll chicken out. This is… an old dream I’ve never been brave enough to try to make real.”

Well, she could certainly understand that. With a nod, she offered him her arm. He led her, not up the steps to the beautiful Victorian house, but around to the back.

“I probably should have showed you this months ago,” he said, opening the door to the old root cellar, “It’s perfect for a dungeon, if you go for that kind of thing.”

“We do tonight, apparently.” The cellar was cool and dry. Rough cut stone walls and an uneven dirt floor were illuminated by a single flickering oil lamp hanging on one wall. A doorway led deeper underground. She shivered. “For this role play, you’re right. But let’s not make it a regular thing.”

“No.” His voice sharpened. “Not a regular thing.”

The third and last room of the cellar had the floor dug out enough that it was several feet deeper than the others, and required steps. Compared to the rest of the cellar it blazed with four oil lamps. A length of chain and a pair of cuffs hung from the ceiling, and four stakes had been driven into the floor, perfectly spaced for tying someone spread eagle. Otherwise the room was empty.

“Ready?”

Cat licked her lips and nodded.

“Then strip down, and we’ll get started.”

Her clothes came off quickly and easily, but she wasn’t sure what to do with them. “Give them here,” Marc said, “I’ll put them somewhere they will stay clean.” Then he led her under the chains.

She had to stand on tiptoe for him to put the cuffs on. When she relaxed her feet, rather than settling to the floor, her weight landed on her wrists and she hung just above the ground. She scrambled to get her feet under her, and after a moment stood again, holding herself up by her toes.

Marc grabbed her hair and yanked her head back. “You have been captured by a proscribed cult known for practicing human sacrifice. You do not know how long you have been here, but you know the next time they come in, it will be to torture you to death.”

She nodded. “Alright. I hope they don’t leave me waiting too long.”

He just grinned. Then he went around the small room, blowing out the lamps.
“Marc? Hey! Damnit,I need to see!”

The last lamp went out, and a voice that sounded nothing like her friend replied, “The only thing you have to do, is die.”

Marc moved as quickly as he could, Cat’s curses echoing in his ears and he left the cellar and grabbed a large black duffle bag from the shrubbery. He would get one chance, and only one chance, to pull this off. He put on the ritual robes, white to show the blood more clearly. Gathered his implements, the tools of the sadist he played, and the sacred implements of the mage he was. His athame was clean and untouched. He would sanctify it tonight.

The brand on his arm burned. The door would open tonight, if he couldn’t stop it.
He took a precious few minutes to meditate, to clear his head. Then he shouldered his bag, and re-entered the profane sanctuary.

Cat nearly sobbed for real when she saw the warmth of the flickering oil lamp again. She had never been in such utter blackness before. She would have sworn there had been something there, something watching her. Something hungry.

Marc’s appearance was not nearly as reassuring as the lamp he carried. He was dressed in some strange white robes and carried a familiar duffle bag. But it was his face. The way he looked her over like she was nothing but a slab of meat.

It’s a game, she reminded herself. You’re SUPPOSED to be scared.

“Please.” She whimpered. “Please, why are you doing this?”

He didn’t respond. Didn’t seem to hear her.

“If you let me go, I won’t tell anyone, I promise, I–”

Without warning, he backhanded her across the mouth, stunning her. She tasted blood.
Wide eyed, she watched in silence as he laid out the contents of the bag, many of them familiar to her. Somehow, they were much more sinister here and now, then in the well-lit ‘dungeon’ they normally met at.

She flinched when he finally turned his attention to her. “What are you going to do to me?”

A knife she had never seen before appeared in her hands. It sliced across her breasts. She cried out. It was to fast. To sudden.

“Marc, what the hell!”He grabbed her hair and yanked her head back. It unbalanced her, forcing all of her weight onto her wrists.

“If you speak again, I will gag you.”

She whimpered. She hated gags. He knew she hated gags. She was starting to think she had made a mistake agreeing to this. But if she had, it was far to late to back out.He let go of her hair and knelt on the ground. Using the knife, he began drawing in the dirt, sketching some kind of circle all around the small room.

When he was finished he stood and smiled. It made her shudder, that smile.

“Now, we can begin.”

He started with a cane. Warming her up. With the circle scribed to catch the energy of her pain and suffering, he could relax into his role. The slim wood whistled through the air with each swing, landing on her body with a satisfying ‘thwack!’

He took his time. The precision of neat parallel lines marching down her back pleased him. The way she twisted and turned, trying to evade each blow added to the challenge.
It was hard to hold his tongue. Normally he enjoyed speaking to a bottom, using his voice and words to encourage them, elicit new reactions. But Cat knew that about him, so silence was better. More frightening.

He lost track of how long he used the cane, how many blows. Enough that sections of her back and ass were turning a lovely purple. He regretted that he wouldn’t be able to get pictures of these bruises.

With one hand he grabbed her hair to yank her head back again. Then he placed the cane against her throat and pulled, cutting off her air. She went wild thrashing against him, desperately trying to throw him off. To break free.

When her struggles began to weaken he released her. Her body shook with great racking coughs as her lungs grabbed for air. While she was distracted he retrieved a spreader bar from his tools and strapped her feet in. By the time she was aware enough to try to fight him, it was too late.

He took a moment to examine the cut on her chest. It was still bleeding, but not quickly enough to be dangerous. He nodded to himself and let it be, taking up instead a bag of sharp-toothed clips. Her eyes went wide when she saw them, gleaming in the lamp light. But she bit he lip and didn’t say anything.

Good.

He bent slightly and suckled on her nipple. Delicately and gently drawing it to a tight and hard peak. She moaned and shivered under his mouth.

When she was ready he stood up and placed the first clip on the nipple. A thin trickle of blood oozed out from under the gripping teeth.

She jerked and yelled. Then froze, panting, as his mouth reached for the other nipple.
Two lines down her body, the clips went, converging on her mound. She gasped when he knelt down between her legs. He knees tried to squeeze together, but the spreader bar gave him the access he needed. Slipping a finger along her cleft, he gently teased her inner labia, already swollen and wet.

She tried to jerk her body away.

“I suggest you hold very still,” he said, “You do not want me to slip.”

She shivered under his hand. He bit his lip and savored the fear. He waited, eager tension building in his middle as she began to pant, little hiccupy-sounds. He looked up at her and smiled when he saw she was facing forwards with her eyes scrunched closed. He reached behind him and grabbed a special toy. A thin dildo covered with narrow spikes, each 1/4 inch long. Glancing up to be sure she still had her eyes closed, bracing herself for what she thought was coming, he slammed the dildo up into her cunt.

Her eyes popped open and she screamed. She kicked her feet, pulled, writhed… and with every movement caused herself more pain, as the spikes scraped and tore at her insides.

“Marc! What the fuck is wrong with you! Let me down! Let me down now!”

He sighed and stood. He’d hoped she’d last longer. Grabbing her hair he yanked her head back again.

“We had a deal. No safewords.”

He went to his bag, ignoring her curses and demands. He grabbed up two lengths of fabric. Yanking her head back yet again, he stuffed one in her mouth, not being particularly gentle. The other, wrapped around her head, secured the first in place.
“Now be silent.”

She screamed against the gag, but it was muffled and no words escaped. Satisfied, he knelt down again and checked for blood. There was none. Relieved–he didn’t actually want to mutilate her–he set the final clip on her labia, trapping the dildo inside.
After that she did her best to remain still. He felt the tightness of her muscles under his hand as he threaded a string through all the clips. Obviously she was trying to prevent the dildo from moving with in her. But if she thought that would help, she was very wrong. The brand on his arm burned, reminding him that her pain was the only thing that could save them both. Them, and every member of his line.

He tugged and twisted the clips. Forcing her to jump. She growled and (presumably) cursed at him through the gag.

After a time he left the clips alone and took out a flogger. A special toy that ended in hard knotted leather. He used it to make her dance.

She was beautiful. Writhing and pulling. Twisted about in her manacles and throwing her head back and forth. Her own cries created the music that she danced to. The leather cut into her, and blood ran down her body in an intricate tapestry of rivulets. And with his inner eye, he saw the ward, gathering up her pain, finally begin to glow.

Every once in a while the strands of the flogger would tangle in the string threading the clips. Then one of the clips would rip off, and with it a bit of skin and blood, to fly across the room.

He worked his way around her until every inch of her body below her neck was red. Until the muffled screams and curses had turned to whimpers and tears trickled in a steady stream down her cheeks.

Now that she was properly warmed up it was time to get serious.

Cat had never been so terrified in her life. She had hurt worse, on occasion. But this time was different. This time someone she trusted had gone much to far. She wept against the gag and prayed that this really was just a game. That Marc didn’t really intend to kill her.

Finally, finally, he put he whip down. She allowed herself to hope it was over. To hope he was done, and he would let her down and they would both have a laugh about how he had managed to scare her. But he didn’t.

She watched as he attached a chain to the spreader bar at her feet, and then got a step ladder to thread it through the ring her chains hung from.

She screamed as he yanked on the chain, pulling her legs out from under her once again. He kept pulling, lifting her legs in the air until her weight hung from her ankles and wrists equally.

He used a carabiner to latch the chain to another ring, set low on the wall. The room seemed to spin and she swallowed back vomit. Terrified of what was to come.

The dirt floor was soaked with blood when he lowered her to the ground nearly an hour later and tied her spread-eagle to the pegs set around the buried altar. Marc ignored the glowing lines that had slowly grown on the far wall. Ignored the laughing voice and its whispered promises of death and destruction. He still had time. He could still pull this off.

Cat was conscious. Her eyes widened as he knelt next to her, athame held high. He removed the gag. She tried to speak, but only a hoarse choke emerged.

He set the point of the knife against her chest and allowed an ancient chant to fill his mind. The outline on the wall was complete–a door leading into a demon’s personal hell.

Marc closed his eyes and slammed the knife down into Cat’s chest. Piercing her heart, and a good bit else besides.

He didn’t stop. Didn’t dare stop to look, to listen, as she choked and gasped behind him. He pulled out the athame and ritually broke the ward, gathering all its stored power to him.

Then he went to stand before the glowing door. Working quickly, gestures practiced for more than half a lifetime traced power through the air. He poured her pain into the ancient ward. Renewing it, rebuilding it. The door began to open even as he set the final seal.

With an other-worldly scream the door slammed shut. The backlash blasted him across the room and tore the athame from his hands. He scrambled to his feet and saw that he had succeeded. The door was sealed for another generation.

But he wasn’t done.

Grabbing the athame he went back to Cat. She had stopped breathing. Seven minutes, the old health classes said. Seven minutes from loss of breath to brain damage.

He used some of her own blood, plentifully available, to scribe the ancient symbols. Six minutes.

Her pain and his terror powered the spell. Five minutes.

And he watched as her body slowly restored itself. Four minutes.

But only her body, magic couldn’t give life. Marc was praying science could.
Three minutes. EMT certification meant he knew exactly how to use the defibrillator he’d hidden in the next room. He raced through the set up, cutting corners with desperate disregard. Two minutes.

She jumped as he pressed the paddles to her chest, electricity coursing through her. A quick check. No pulse. One minute. He tried again, and nearly cried when he felt the pulse under his fingers, saw her chest rise with breath.

Before she woke up, he cast a final spell. To ease her memory of the night. No demons, no magic, no memories of cuts and floggings that left no scars. After wrestling with himself, he left her the memory of violation. Of boundaries crossed and safety ignored. Taking away the memories wouldn’t take away the trauma. Better for her, far better to remember why she felt traumatized.

He wished, as he picked her up and carried her into the house, that he’d been brave enough to have been honest. That six months ago he might have shown her some taste of his power, so that tonight he could have asked her honestly to help him. Her or any one of the dozen women he had scened with. But he hadn’t. And he was honest enough to know that she was the one who paid the price for his cowardice.

When she woke up, she fled his home, cursing him. He hoped that she would find a friend to confide in, to lean on. He wished there was someway, anyway, he could make it right.

Marc expected the next play party to be a kind of hell. He nearly didn’t go, but knew he would have to face the music sooner or later. So he dressed up in his usual and headed out. He left the bag at home, though. It would be a long time before he was ready to play again. If ever.

He pulled his car into one of the last parking slots, adjusted his jacket, and headed into the low, out of the way building that was the local dungeon.

Just inside the door a group of the local community leaders were waiting for him. He winced, but braced himself to take what was coming.

“Marc, hey,” Dave smiled, “We wanted to catch you before you went in. Cat’s said some pretty nasty things about you the past month. I’m not sure if she’s just out for attention or has some kind of grudge, but we’ve got your back.”

Marc’s jaw dropped. He knew that there were a few assholes who tended to push boundaries, and yeah, he’d heard rumors of accusations against a few people being swept under the rug, but were they really just going to…

“I mean seriously,” Dave continued, with the rest nodding around him like puppets, “Even if the shit she’s spewing is true, she agreed to go into a scene with out safewords, it’s her own stupid fault if she got hurt.”

Marc couldn’t stand to listen any more. He pushed through the small crowd and into the main building. After several minutes searching he found Cat curled up in a corner, obviously being shunned by almost everyone.

He lost it then. All his careful control, built up over decades and honed to a diamond’s point, fled, as his self-hatred finally found another target.

“You stupid idiots!” His voice echoed off the concrete walls, and everyone in the room turned to stare at him. “What is wrong with all of you. I violated her boundaries, ignored her requests to stop, and fucking hurt her, and you have my back! Since when is no safeword an excuse to do shit like that?”

Looking around the room, he mostly saw incomprehension. “Damn it, I came here tonight expecting to get waled on.” A deep breath. “I figured I owed her that at least. To look her in the eye, admit how much of a bastard I was and give her a chance to get her own back. And I thought all of you would be helping her.”

Lights came on in a few eyes. A few. A few people started moving, hesitantly, to stand by Cat.

“I suppose I should be grateful that you’re too stupid to kick me out on my ass, but what happened to consent? What happened to SSC and RACK and all that shit we talk about?”

Finally he saw traces of some actual embarrassment. And he turned to Cat. “I’m sorry. That doesn’t make it right, doesn’t make it better. But I don’t know what else to do.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I won’t be back for a while, if ever. I need time to get my head on straight. And I think maybe I’m not the only one.” He let his eyes pin a few guys rumors circled about, pretty damn sure at the moment they weren’t rumors. And David. David damn sure needed to figure some shit out, if this was the way he thought a ‘leader’ handled stuff like this.

He didn’t waste his time saying anything else. Didn’t actually expect anything he said to make a difference. But just because he’d done the wrong thing before, didn’t mean he couldn’t do the right thing now.

As he was unlocking his car he heard someone calling his name. Cat was running across the parking lot, dragging someone with her. She pulled up, well outside of grabbing distance. “I don’t want to be alone with you, ever again. I’m not sure I want to ever see you again.” Her turn for a deep breath. “But thank you for that. In there. It doesn’t make it better, but it means something.”

He nodded, but couldn’t meet her gaze again. Looking up at the moon he said, “You realize, they’ll probably just blame you for driving me out.”

She nodded. “Yeah. I guess. I think I’m done with this shit scene anyway. There’s got to be a better way to get beat than putting up with them.”

He opened the door of his car and climbed in. “Try rugby? Or I hear lacrosse is pretty brutal.”

She grinned. It was a small thing, but it was something. It faded quickly. “Don’t ever call me again, Marc.”

“I won’t.” He closed the door and drove home.

 

Author’s thoughts on The Blood Mage’s Sacrifice

I Vant to Suck Your…

Marcus woke unexpectedly, groggy and disoriented. Even before he opened his eyes, he knew he had woken early. Even buried in the basement, he felt the sun’s weight, sapping his strength. A huge man with ebony skin was standing over him, holding a stake to his chest. Apparently, the ancient vampire mused, there were still things in the world he hadn’t seen.

The man met Marcus’ eyes and froze. Marcus would have laughed if he could have moved that much. “Go on, hunter.” Speaking against the weight of the mid-day sun was like rolling boulders up hill, but then nothing came easy. “I couldn’t stop you if I wanted to. And I am not sure I do.”

For a long moment, the hunter just stared at him. Then the sun won, sending Marcus back into darkness.

 

Halogen lights broke the darkness outside the trail-cum-headquarters. Marcus paced the central room muttering under his breath and listening for approaching footsteps. A precise half step from the wall he turned a crisp about-face, and returned the way he had come. Five years earlier, rather than killing him, the vampire hunter he knew only as Chuck had taken him prisoner. He never knew why – maybe the hunter thought killing was too good for a vampire who wanted to die. Either way, Marcus woke up that evening in a tiny room, wearing a home-made electric collar that could take down an elephant. Chuck had used the collar to compel Marcus to obey and assist him.

What Chuck didn’t know, was that Marcus was old enough he could shrug off a lightning bolt. He’d played along for the amusement factor. At first. Totally unexpectedly, the ancient soldier had found a commander who earned his loyalty.

And now that commander had gone missing.

That morning, just before the sun had forced Marcus into his daily slumber, Chuck had set out after a new target. This time, a five hundred year old vampire that was terrorizing co-eds. Cliched, but effective. Marcus didn’t like seeing Chuck go out after the target alone – going by day there shouldn’t have been any danger, Chuck had hunted vampires for nearly a decade in the military before going private. He knew what he was doing. But this lamia was rumored to be sorcerer. Marcus tried to warn the human, but Chuck went out regardless.

When Marcus woke, Chuck hadn’t yet returned. Attempts to reach him by phone went straight to voice mail. Something had gone wrong. If the target had some way of functioning during the day, chances were Chuck was already dead.

After 2000 years of ‘chances were’, Marcus knew the unlikely happened. And he refused to believe the hunter would have gone down easy. Now he had a decision to make. He ran a finger along the collar, feeling how fragile the contraption was. How easy it would be to crush between his fingers.

No, he realized, there was no decision. The collar shattered. In an instant, all its stored power directly into his carotid. If he’d still be alive it would turned his brain to ashes. If he’d been even a century or two younger, it might have seriously injured him. As it was, the jolt knocked him to the floor, locking his muscles and driving a scream of agony from his lips.

As he lay, shivering, on the floor he smiled at his own arrogance. Humans, it seemed, built better lightning bolts than Jupiter these days.

It took a few minutes to dig up Chuck’s plans for the prior day. Then ten minutes cursing the Internet connection when Google maps refused to load. Finally, he opened the door and stepped out into the wider world.

The world was alive with scents and sounds he hadn’t heard in far too long. Most of the past five years had been spent in the trailer, and the scent of fresh blood on the wind tried to seduce him. Old habits let him file the sensation away, to enjoy later, and focus on the task at hand. Stretching his legs for the first time in years, he took off towards Chuck’s target.

Under the circumstances, he wasn’t entirely surprised to find the old Victorian house (another cliches?) engulfed in flames and surrounded by cops and firemen. Obviously neither the target nor the hunter had gone down easily. Flames could be seen flickering through the windows, but most of the walls were still intact.

Strong and near indestructible he might be, one thing Marcus couldn’t do was turn invisible. Luckily, the chaos provided an invisibility of its own, and he was practically walking up the front steps before anyone took notice of him.

Inside the building was an inferno. The floor plan Chuck had hacked included an old cellar. If the hunter still survived he’d be down there, away from the smoke. One more reason to be grateful he didn’t need to breath.

Seeing through the smoke and flames was nearly impossible, and Marcus was badly burned before he found the basement stairs and dropped down to safer territory. While the fire was starting to spread below, it wasn’t as all consuming as the flames above ground. And out of the roar of the inferno, he was able to hear a familiar, pounding heart-beat.

Following the sound led him through ancient furniture and stacks of antiques, around a corner to a tiny hallway that hadn’t been in the plans. As he crept towards the hallway, he was nearly deafened by the roar of a magnum.

“Your gun is almost empty, my friend, and this game grows old.” Smooth, unctuous, seductive, Marcus nearly groaned aloud at the strange voice. Someone had watched too many Dracula movies.

Close enough now to see the speaker. The vampire was a near-twin to Count Orlock. He was flitting back and forth across a doorway, and laughed another gunshot emerged from the room he guarded.

Marcus rolled his eyes, “I’ve a game for you, bastard.” Pitching his voice to carry, Marcus launched himself at the Orlock-look alike. The other vampire whirled to face the unexpected threat, then staggered as Chuck took advantage of that distraction to shoot him in the back. With the target off balance and in pain, Marcus slammed him into the wall and speared a hand into the ribcage.

The other’s eyes widened in shock and horror, his mouth gaped open but nothing came out. Marcus’ hand found the heart and he ripped it out.

The enemy collapsed at his feet, and he froze as he felt the hot muzzle of a gun press against his temple. “Move and I will blow your brains.”

Marcus froze. “Finally ready to be rid of me, Chuck?” The pressure wavered for an instant and Marcus turned, knocking the gun from the hunter’s hand.

Even in the flicking light of the growing flames, Chuck was a mess. Marcus had trouble believing he could still stand.

Chuck blinked at him, then shook his head. “Marcus? What… what the hell are you doing here?”

“Survival first. We need to get out of here without being seen by the officials outside.” Chuck staggered and Marcus managed to grab him before he fell.

“Cellar has a back door,” Chuck said. Marcus followed Chuck’s directions, half supporting the other man. Once there, he carefully cracked the door and peeked out. While not completely unobserved, the back door wasn’t surrounded the way they front was.

Not seeing any other options, especially when Chuck collapsed against him entirely, Marcus picked up the hunter and burst through, running at literally inhuman speed. It drew the attention of far too many people, but none of them had a hope in hell of keeping up with him and none had cameras. And with the fire, all had bigger problems then two strange men who weren’t supposed to be there.

If there was any pursuit, he lost it quickly and returned to the trailer.

Chuck came to at the first aid station in the trailer. Memory took a few minutes to return. When it did, he bolted upright.

Marcus was next to him, preparing bandages. “By Vediovis grace, none of those burns need debriding,” the old vampire said.

Chuck stared, trying to think through the pain. The vamp was collar-less. That certainly checked with his memories. But the vamp was acting like this was no different from any night after a hunt. Why the hell was the monster bandaging him up rather than tearing his throat out? Why the hell that he saved Chuck?!

Well, the vamp was almost acting no different. Chuck had yet to get a good look at the other’s face. When the vampire turned back to the table for more bandages, Chuck finally caught a glimpse, and saw the lengthened incisors. Reflexively he said, “Go get a drink, before you take one out of me.”

Then stared in shock as Marcus grimaced, but obeyed.

Feeling light-headed, Chuck reached up and checked his face. Yup, oxygen mask. Probably necessary after all the smoke inhalation. Plus pain meds. As Marcus finished devouring the bagged blood, Chuck tried to convince himself he was hallucinating. But he was never good at lying to himself.

And sure sure as hell wasn’t hallucinating the burns he saw peaking through Marcus’ clothing. “Sit down.” Chuck pointed at a chair next to the aid station.

“You–”

“Shut up.” If the vamp wanted to pretend everything was normal, then damned it Chuck was going to take any backtalk. “You could have gotten yourself killed saving my ass, you sit the fuck down and let me see those burns.”

And damned if Marcus didn’t obey.

One of the blessings in Chuck’s line of work was that vampires didn’t actually heal all that fast. But Chuck figured out pretty damn quick that seeing the burns was all he’d be able to do. He had to let Marcus bandage himself, because Chuck was going to be good for fuck all for the next several weeks.

He didn’t say anything else until Marcus had gotten himself wrapped up, but damned if he wasn’t going to get some answers. “Now, not that I’m ungrateful, but what the fuck?”

Marcus stood and faced him. There was something about the way he was standing… “When you didn’t come back and didn’t answer your phone, I knew you were in trouble. I wasn’t going to sit back while got yourself killed, so I removed the collar and came after you.”

The cadence of the response, and the ever-so-respectful tone that still managed to convey “You fricking idiot” was as familiar as an old set of fatigues, and Chuck’s reply was damned near Pavlovian.

“That is by god the lamest ass debrief I have ever received. If you make me drag the answers out of you I will frag your ass and use your ashes for war paint!” Chuck was used to insane situations. Every vet was. Of course, this situation was a bit more insane than most.

Marcus barked his reply like an old sweat, “Your collar was worse shit than Pluto’s nail parings. I could have removed it anytime since you brought me here. When I determined you were out of contact I took steps to extract you. Cracking your computer gave me the address of your target. During the extraction the target was eliminated and we both sustained the injuries you are aware of.”

Chucked leaned back and crossed his arms. It suddenly occurred to him that he literally knew nothing of Marcus’ life from before he’d captured the vamp. But obviously, he’d been a solider long enough for the habits to stick with him.

“At ease. If you could have left anytime, why did you stay? Fuck, why didn’t you kill me?”

Marcus grimaced, seeming to search for words. “At first, I stay because it was something different.” The haunted look in his eyes reminded Chuck of the talking corpse that didn’t give a damn if Chuck staked him. Then the vampire shook himself, and the eyes meeting Chuck’s were fiery. “But even after a thousand years alone, I know a centurio worth following when I meet one. Why by the two-faced god should I walk away from that? To go back to the hell I was stuck in when you found me? As for killing you – or saving your meat-head tonight – if I’m lucky you’ll live another 40 years. I’m not so eager to be alone again that I’d stand back and let you get yourself killed off early!”

Chuck’s glare was a thing of beauty – he’d had years to perfect it. But he couldn’t quite make himself meet the vamp’s eyes as he pointed out, “I kill your kind.”

Marcus winced. “The last person I cared for was killed by ‘my kind’ nearly 1,000 years ago, and they nearly killed me as well. I have no kind.”

Chuck blinked, fighting through the growing pain-killer induced fog. That didn’t match anything he knew of vamp behavior. “Why?”

Now it was Marcus who wouldn’t meet his eyes. Chuck growled. “I asked you a question.”

Marcus chuckled, but there was no humor in it. Chuck barely heard his whisper, “Centurio indeed.” Then the vamp took a deep (and damned unnecessary) breath, and said, “Vampires share the hatred of the society they spring from, and medieval Europe hated many things.”

Chuck was really getting loopy. The way Marcus was trying to avoid giving a straight answer flashed him back to standing before the company commander, facing the question that was going to strip him of everything that mattered. What the fuck was so scary a frigging vampire didn’t want to talk about? He nearly told the vamp to forget it, but he had to know. “And?”

“I am a sodomite.”

The bitten off words didn’t make sense. Chuck nearly fell out of the chair as meaning penetrated the drug fog and then he started giggling. The world didn’t fucking change, did it?

The glimpses he got of Marcus’ face between convulsions suggested that he didn’t appreciate the joke, but Chuck couldn’t get control of himself. He managed to choke out, “Did I… Did I ever tell you why I left the army?”

After a moment, Marcus shook his head; confusion replacing anger in his face.

“Twenty years. Twenty goddamn years of service, and it meant nothing to them when I was outed. Marcus, I got kicked under DADT.”

Marcus grabbed a chair and collapsed into it. Apparently the ancient fiend wasn’t blind to modern politics. Or irony. After a few moments, he started chuckling too.

Eventually, the laughter died down. Looking over at Marcus, Chuck admitted to himself that he wouldn’t have kept the vamp around all these years if he didn’t like and trust him. And he wasn’t hard on the eyes, either. “So what now?”

Marcus spread his hands, “If you are willing to trust me, nothing need change. Unless you want it too.” A moments pause. “I wouldn’t object to a fresh meal once in a while.”

Chcuk couldn’t tell if Marcus was being humorous or not. Did he honestly think Chuck was going to sit back and let him- a yawn that nearly split his head open interrupted the thought.

Marcus chuckled, “And if I can make a suggestion, you can decide what to do with me tomorrow. Right now, I’m taking you to bed.”

Chuck jerked away, “Now hold on, just cause I like your company enough to put up with you the past few years doesn’t mean…”

Marcus picked him up, ignoring his protests, and carried Chuck and his oxygen tank towards the bunkroom. “I like my bed partners willing – and awake.”

“And just who’s in command around here?”

“Then consider yourself on medical leave until sunset.”

Chuck settled into bed, still protesting. As the room went dark he swore he’d get back at his erstwhile subordinate – as soon as he could keep his eyes open.