Archive for March, 2010

Something was dripping nearby. The sound of it filled his ears and demanded attention – in the deep places, a flood was a threat second only to a cave-in. But he couldn’t see. There was no light for his eyes, and iron wrapped around him, blocking his stone-sense, twisting it in on itself.

He felt all around him, felt cold stone under his bare hands; a dead end. The only way out was toward the dripping, one handspan at a time. The sound grew louder, faster; under it rose the sounds of battle, shrieks of agony coming from somewhere above him.


Aaron fumbled with his keys, and barely managed not to drop them onto the hallway floor. It took him three tries to get the key in right way up, his hand was shaking so hard.

What was the big deal? He kind of had to wonder. People did this sort of thing all the time, right?

Well, maybe people did, but he, Aaron, sure didn’t.


For the company he kept, the ermine was surprisingly young. The Broken Blade’s usual clientele were hardened, veteran fighters, devoted clerics, and experienced wizards in their late twenties and up; Tasven was still in his late teens. He was taller than most, but slender, even gangly, and, despite a degree of muscle that was uncommon in his kind, still looked somewhat unfinished.

But he moved with confidence and grace, trading smiles and the odd wave with those he knew, as he sauntered up to the bar, swinging his pack off his shoulders and holding it in one hand while the other arm leaned on the bar. There was something intent about his expression that drew the old lupine bartender over to him.

“Vardeniri,” the wolf greeted. “The usual?”


<< Back to Chapter 8: Lost and Found | On to Chapter 10: Period of Adjustment >>

I was still trying to figure out what the hell to say when a distraction presented itself.

Well, I wasn’t really looking for a distraction. In fact, I tried to ignore it. Sam was the first one who said, “Hey, do you two smell mushrooms?”

“Probably something going past the stairs downstairs,” I said, and kept thinking. How could I forgive someone – two someones – when I was the one who thought I’d screwed up?

But who had screwed up, really?

Even if it was okay in the end, I should’ve asked. But then…

“No, someone’s coming up the stairs,” Sarah said. “And I definitely smell mushrooms now.”


<< Back to Chapter 7: Storm-Tossed | On to Chapter 9: Reconciliation >>

Waking up was an odd experience. A phone was ringing, but it wasn’t my phone – not my cell phone, and not the phone in the townhouse. And at the sound, someone moved just behind me, and a whiff of sandalwood touched my nose.

Even when a voice started speaking, I was muddled enough that it took me a few moments to recognize Ric. I don’t know who else I might have expected it to be; it’s not like I’m used to waking up beside someone. And remembering Ric made me remember what had happened before I slept.

God, it had been nice to be held.


<< Back to Chapter 6: Hook, Line, and Sinker | On to Chapter 8: Lost and Found >>

I should have been more careful, really.

The week had gone well enough; a few more rounds of gaming over the weeknights, good progress on Call of Dreams on Saturday, and Sarah even pronounced that my back was healing well and I could start regular practise the next week.

I even got through the night without any romantic crisis, though once I got home, curiosity and frustration combined to prompt me to enjoy my resumed flexibility. Licking myself off was an odd but good feeling; the taste that followed, well… it wasn’t horribly off-putting, anyway. And that did keep it from getting all over the place.

Anyway… I’d have thought that all the time with them would’ve kept me on my guard. But no, when Dave Carpenter, my manager, stopped by my desk and said, “Tim? Could I see you in my office for a few minutes?” I wasn’t worried. I’d been doing decent work, always showed up on time and never clocked out early, so what did I have to worry about? He probably just wanted to talk about what I should work on next.

So, not wanting to lose track of where I was, I said, “Sure, Dave, I’ll be right there,” and finished that subroutine before following him into his office.

What a damn waste that was.


<< Back to Chapter 5: Into the Deep End | On to Chapter 7: Storm-Tossed >>

“So is there anything interesting going on at your job, Tim?”

It was Wednesday again, and that meant, again, drinks at Casey’s; myself, Sarah, and Sam in a row from left to right, Enrique leaning on the bar opposite us and occasionally dashing off to give one of the more transient customers something to drink.

I wasn’t sure if having Sarah still be right next to me was a good idea – beyond, of course, the fact that I’d have trouble holding a conversation with her if Sam were in between – but it probably was good news; it seemed to suggest she hadn’t been offended by my little display at the pool, anyway.

At any rate, this time I’d actually been looking forward to this sort of question.


<< Back to Chapter 4: The Game’s Afoot | On to Chapter 6: Hook, Line, and Sinker >>

The next Wednesday was another evening of drinks at Casey’s. Sarah continued down her list of sexually-named cocktails, making me blush from the way she said the very first one, but couldn’t make Enrique bat an ear however ha- however much she tried.

God damn it.

Sam didn’t help with his muttered reply of “Just you wait” to a few of the more blatantly named ones, of course.

Eventually, we set out for their place, and I blushed all the way there. It just figured, too, that Sam wanted to get a barbecue meal in before cooking outside became uncomfortable. After that exchange at the bar, anything remotely suggestive – even so passively so as the sausages being cooked up – was getting to me.


<< Back to Chapter 3: Over a Few Drinks | On to Chapter 5: Into the Deep End >>

I almost came to regret that decision. For whatever reason, our teacher, a middle-aged wolf and champion fighter named Jason Yin, had decided to drill the green-belts himself instead of leaving it to one of his senior students, and the regimen was gruelling. As the clock rolled past one, I contemplated calling to let Sam know I wouldn’t be up for a bout.

When break was called, I discovered a hitch in that plan: Sam was already there, a duffel bag over his shoulder, chatting up my teacher. Who, damn it all, looked far too happy to see someone here from a different school and style.

He wasn’t even surprised. He’d known about this in advance – Sam must’ve called to be sure showing up mid-session wouldn’t be thought rude.


<< Back to Chapter 2: First Encounters | On to Chapter 4: The Game’s Afoot >>

My dreams over the next week were unusually vivid, and even more unusually sensual. Most of them featured Sarah, of course. A good number had Sam in them too, though a few paired her up with Nicky instead. Wednesday morning, my alarm jolted me out of one that just featured Sam. I spent a few seconds cursing it for waking me up before he got his belt off, and the rest of the day being puzzled by that reaction.

It’s not that I’m any kind of homophobe. The cool crowd tried to tell me I should be, back in high school, but since they harassed me for my lunch money on a semi-regular basis, I wasn’t terribly inclined to respect their opinions. I’d always seen it as sort of a stronger version of, oh, preferring blondes over brunettes – one of those things that some people liked and others, myself included, didn’t.

But that was just it. I’d never been attracted to guys, and I’d known some of all shapes, including some big, muscular ones. I’d never had dreams of a guy before that left me panting with lust when I woke up.


<< Back to Chapter 1: New In Town | On to Chapter 3: Over a Few Drinks >>

Hi Tim,

Sorry to change things on short notice, but we’re going to be running a bit behind tonight. Instead of trying to hash out a new time, how about you swing by our place whenever you’re ready? That way we can all go together as soon as everyone’s set, even if by some miracle we get back on track.

We’re at 115 Daxter. Just send an e-mail when you’re about to head out – one of us WILL be home. If we don’t hear back by 6:15 we’ll call.




On to Chapter 2: First Encounters >>

I don’t know what came over me. I’d done it before, and it had never amounted to anything good. I’d come to the conclusion that I was the sort of guy who just shouldn’t use personal ads.

Yet there I was, logging in to PalNet, clicking my way through page after page of picture-perfect people looking for hot dates, nights of fun and adventure, soul mates, and all that other stuff I’d never been able to provide. It was thoroughly depressing, and yet I kept coming back for more.

I was about to give up and raid the liquor cabinet – again – when one ad at the corner of the screen caught my eye. This one showed a couple – a man and a woman, both striped skunks – and if he was an enviable tower of masculinity and she slimly gorgeous, they were dressed in well-kept, everyday clothes, not the provocative numbers worn by the women(they were all women) in the few other pair pictures. There wasn’t much reference, but going by their builds, I figured him a bit over six feet, her about five nine, to my own five feet, seven inches.

If the picture had hooked my attention, the text reeled it right in:

NEW IN TOWN – Relaxed, easygoing couple seeking a local person to show them around a little. Low-pressure, varied tastes, sure to find something in common to enjoy. Daxter Ave, Pt Hampton. Reply by PalNote.


Everything was perfect.

Eric had been trekking all day to get to this place. He was tired, sore, hungry, parched, and panting from the heat that boiled off of him. But as he looked over his campsite, the otter knew it was all worth it.

He set his pack down, loosening the straps that held his tent against its side. Over there was a spot of flat ground – he swept it with a small broom, and found it to be smooth, clear of rocks, roots, twigs, or other lumps. Unrolling his tent, he also found it to be just the right size.

He convinced his weary body to keep going a little longer, setting up the tent, getting his clothes and other daily supplies into it, and hanging his pack and the food in it safely between two trees. Finally, he turned to the real prize of his labours.

His campsite lay just a short distance away from the foot of a cliff, and a stream spilled over that cliff. It was a short enough drop at this point that the sound of falling water wasn’t thunderous; and there, at the base of the falls, the swirling water had gouged out a pool, with his home for the next few days right beside it.

Overheated as the otter was, that pool was like a piece of heaven brought to earth.


And so it went.

There were many things still to do, many decisions to make. Plans were made to reclaim the mountain caverns, to rebuild a sensible mana font from the ruins of the great one; to dig a great tunnel into the foothills, where travelling would be easier; to turn the caves into a great new city, where people could set questions of race aside and be people, where the old laws could be examined anew, not by a great governing body with all its conflicting interests, but by two people, whose thoughts were very closely-aligned indeed.

Many plans indeed would be needed for it – the city needed to maintain its large tunnels and chambers, larger than the Vhark would normally build, so that all races might be comfortable there. Codes of law from those races would need to be acquired and looked over, that all sources were fairly considered, and that all who came might understand from the start that their thoughts would have merit, so long as they kept to the city’s ideal.

But such things were well in the future. For the twins, the greatest part of their saga came to a conclusion in the place it had begun, in the caverns and tunnels of Druumat; for the Magekin, their adventures ended, even before their brother would hatch, much as they had begun nearly sixteen years before – with an egg, warming in its hearth; the twins equally proud, shimmering with all colours as they gazed upon the blank shell, and their consort, dark as a shadow, curling a wing around each.

“There’s a celebration in your honour,” a voice said. “I’m not sure what surprised me more – that you left it, or that fewer people noticed.”

Mulin looked up; Kralin stirred beside him as he did the same. The one who’d found their quiet getaway was somewhat familiar – a Nightkin female, around twenty, who’d been in their classes on spell-forms, what felt like a lifetime ago. Mulin struggled a few seconds for a name – not because she was unmemorable; she was lithe and graceful, black hide healthy and glossy, shown to advantage by bits of silver jewellery. There was just so much buzzing through his head that it took him uncomfortably long to produce, “Oh, good evening, Srevva. I hope you’ve been well?”

“Well enough, no thanks to your little escapade a week back,” she said dryly. Leaning on the wall, she poked his ankle with her tail-spade. “I was working on a channel rod when that huge storm swept over. Shattered it; one of the shards bounced off my eyepiece. And to think I used to find those goggles a nuisance…”