Fiction: Bright Bad! (2004)

Stretch. Preen. Fidget, half-uncoiled on the smooth cliff ledge newly warmed by slanting rays of the early morning sun. Streeetch wings–ooh, shiny!–and carefully nip off the specks of sand and soil that mar the shiny. Then, lift slender, snake-like head.

Tide sounds wrong.

Sunlight glittering along sleek cerulean scales, rear up, flaring wings for balance. Peer out with albino-pink eyes into the bright–bright hurts–blinkblink and then blink again. Shade eyes with one wing–lose balance and flop onto flank. Titter in annoyance, voice sprightly and bird-like, then simply slither right off the ledge.

Whoosh!–wings open and catch the newborn thermals that rise from the warming sands of the beach below. Whee! More pretty shiny–sun good on skin and wings–warm.

But then, sound of disruption in the waves again. Twist mid-air–change course. Swoop as though trying to dodge the unimpeded sunlight that comes over the ocean’s great, glittering expanse–bright!–dodge–warrrm…–dive towards the beach.

Backwing very quickly, very rapidly, then pool serpentine length onto the heated grains of sand. Rustle of sand against glistening hide–dirty bad–flutterflutter. More sand kicks up because of wing-wind. Sigh. Stop fluttering.

Then, fasten pink eyes onto the hills of white-topped waves come in. Tide still wrong. A greyish-brownish lump–larger by far than the flier–floating lifelessly in. Whassat? Pause. Carcass?

Rear up again–flutterflutter–somehow springboard long body into the air and flap furiously to get high enough to zip forward on a tiny current of air. Bright bad! Zoom over the ocean, into the sun, past the floating thing–then twist and come back. Bright behind–shadow on water–can see now.

Feathered-hunter-landwalker-critter! A Tyce. Floating. Not moving. Dead critter? Pause. Why in water?

Don’t bother to hesitate–zip down and buzz just a hair’s-breadth above the water-soaked, feathered beast. Lumpy. But keen hearing picks up the faint sound of a heartbeat. Critter not dead. Twist–bad bright!!–pass and turn–shadow on water again. Ahh–relieved sigh. Dive–smack the critter’s nose (barely above water) with tailtip. Critter half-dead–annoyance.

Waves carry the Tyce to the shore, slowly pushing at its toned, ocean-cleansed body, shoving it further towards the edge between dry and wet sand.

Flutterflutter. These-type critters friends. Pause–flutter–shadow on wet sand as the wave rolls out again, oh-so-briefly. Friends. Dive–backwing–hover–then carefully land on the big quadruped’s heaving flank. It coughs violently–flutterflutterflutter!–and up into the air again. Yikes! Hover–sun on back–warm.

The half-drowned predator coughs, retches up saltwater, then blearily opens one amber-golden eye. The eye is glazed, but slowly rolls upwards and attempts to focus on the cerulean Budram, hovering above–damp from seaspray with curiosity shining in its serpentine face. No danger.

Friend-critter awake! Zip down, chirruping merrily, and pool length onto dry sand, just a little ways away from the greybrown beastie. Watch avidly with wide, unblinking eyes as the Tyce laboriously pulls itself upwards without fully rising, towards the little flier.

Awake! Awake!

The Tyce lets itself fall once the waves cease to pull at its hind limbs, lupine muzzle creating a little trough in the sand a mere inch from the Budram’s winged form. Not-awake. Sigh. Wait with friend-critter.

The tide begins to roll out.

Fiction: Ghosts In The Machines (Excerpt; 2009-2010)

A low, hooting cry stirred Mechebe from his fretful nap, bringing his half-conscious mind to full awareness in a heartbeat. His eyes flared open as his tufted ears lifted vertical, swiveling to pinpoint the direction of the summoning warble. Sleep had given him no peace of mind, and now waking brought the pivotal announcement into unavoidable proximity. He took a deep breath, released it, and lifted his long, bearded muzzle from his crossed forepaws. His toes were tangled, claws placing sharp curve against sharp curve; the massive talons dangling from his dewtoes were the only ones exempt from his unconscious expression of anxiety.

He looked up, seeking a glimpse of the sky past the evergreen canopy. The shade of blue suggested afternoon, but the bloody tinge to the wispy clouds belied that and told him it was evening already. The sun was fleeing the sky in hopes of rest, much the same way Mechebe had fled the center of the territory in hopes of serenity. He wished the sun better luck than he had found.

“Ready?” came a sharp, light voice behind him. Mechebe didn’t look, pulling his paws apart gently before pushing himself up from his bed of mulch and moss to stand on four strong legs. His luxuriously long tar-black fur kept a few dried leaves as prisoners; he shook off when he heard the tell-tale crinkle-crackle from beneath him.

“I am restless from waiting,” he answered after another deliberate breath failed to bring calm, stretching his legs and flexing his ankles. His tail, long and thick and smooth, hung in a low curve behind his haunches, kept as still as he could manage; the barbed tip alone twitched, made of age-fused spines that grew like a lizard’s rattle-tail.

“You’re worried,” remarked the voice, accompanied by the sound of sniffing.

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Fiction: Not A Dancer (2006)

A forest in the fog.

He wasn’t a dancer. He was not compelled to frantic, ecstatic, possessed movement by the music of the world that so few could hear. He did not work blood magic on hearts that beat as drums; no unearthly tunes whispered past his fangs. He was a Panthera Walker, a hunter clad in leathers and furs, a shadow among shadows in the woods.

He wasn’t a dancer.

The forest was made of huge old oaks and smaller, scruffier, still-green pines. The ground was covered in rotting cones, and the hulls of nuts long since devoured, and brown needles, and dead, withered brambles; the canopy above was a mesh of thick patches of green and long, greyed fingers of bare limbs. The sky was dull and lifeless with the low-hanging clouds that bore neither snow nor rain, the sun a faint glow in the corner as it sank towards a blood-red demise.

He wasn’t a dancer, but as he walked step-step-step through that early winter wood, all he could hear was the pounding of his own heart in his chest. No wind stirred the broken foliage around him or lifted his tangled mane from his eyes, but he could hear it screaming past him all the same, frigid and moist and mockingly close.

The beasts in the forest slept the long sleep. Some would not wake, and their bodies would feed those who did. Tiny bear cubs hid beneath their mothers’ rolls of fat, and squirrels clustered together in the hearts of the grey trees for warmth and safety. The birds did not sing, not even the great winter owls who swooped, silently, to prey on those few rodents that did not take the long sleep.

He wasn’t a dancer, but as he forged past the thorns and the brush, all he could smell was the steam that rose off his own body, the musk of his fur, the metal of his blood. It was cold, even to one of the hardier Walkers like himself, and he wore little clothing to shield himself from the elements. The sheer heat radiating from his own self kept him warm. And the smell of blood was all around, dancing in intangible currents of barely-seen crimson. An aura of scarlet in a grey wood.

The streams were many and fast in the forest, cold and clean and rocky as they plunged down short hills and babbled across uneven beds to some unknown destination. Tiny, hard-scaled silver fish raced the water currents and feasted upon their kindred when the cold bested one and not the rest. They were vicious little things, difficult to entice to bite a hook and more difficult to spear. But the river hawks hunted them as the winter owls hunted the mice and rats that were still awake and about.

He wasn’t a dancer, but as he crossed one such stream, the silverfish were not fish at all but bright white points of light, zipping past in a haze of silver water that glowed with health. His eyes were glazed, he knew–he could feel how unfocused his gaze was and could not, at all, hone in on anything. Drifts of color and light passed him as though he waded through intangible fog, his own body still giving off the wisps of crimson bloodheat. The riverhawks were golden arrows as they dove for the water’s surface, heedless of his presence; the winter owls were black shadows that swept across open glades to seek their prey.

Duskbringer paused in his fog of scarlet and did not need to turn his head to see the fine lace of greens and greys around him–the scarves of living color permeated the very air around him that he breathed, soaked into the back of his skull. “I am not a dancer,” he said to the world, and he could feel the world laugh in its immeasurable silence.Deep beneath the beat of his heart, the drums of the earth and the sky began to play, and the Walker knelt and clutched his chest as the music took him.

Image Credit: Crestock Creative Photos.

Fiction: Demons & Ghosts (2006)


The demons were crying in the twilight, shrieks and howls that sent small children sobbing to their mothers and made grown men shudder and clutch the hilts of their swords. As the sun sank bloodily behind the distant rolling mountains in the west, a lone rider thundered down the forest road, cloak

can you hear them?

whipping in the speed-wind. Its steed beat a brisk, frantic rhythm on the packed dirt of the narrow pathway with oddly-shaped hooves – the cloak obscured the beast’s

they’re getting closer

pelt. No one was along the little-used road to be passed, and so none saw the mount’s fur – a beautiful, swirled mottling of silver, black, and midnight blue. The demon-horse carried its rider swiftly towards

run run run faster

the setting sun. The forest was breached and gave way to gentle plains, and herds of wild horses jerked and scattered defiantly as the rider raced past. The demon-horse never tired, arched neck drenched in sweat, sculpted equine head leveled into the wind of its own passage. What looked like a long, thick plume arched backwards from the back of its skull and coiled

they’re going to catch us if you don’t

like a peacock’s feather, lax. The rider turned a hooded, veiled face to look over its shoulder at the swiftly-receding forest and hissed. “Faster,” it urged in a guttural growl of a voice and

hurry, you know, you’re our last chance to

faced front again. The smoke of a village could be seen now, staining the darkening horizon. The demon-horse ignored the cries of its kindred that erupted, snarling and screaming, from the tall grasses of the plains. It knew

make it back in time

that the jaws snapping at its ankles and fleet hooves would not touch the dark pelt. It knew, watching the world through wild jewel-like eyes, that no mortal creature could catch

hurry please hurry

a demon of such clean limb and enduring speed. With a thunder of long, sharp hooves, the beast lunged over a shadow that growled and aimed white fangs for a blued silver throat. The shadow

almost there

hissed and retreated when it missed and was rewarded with a stabbing kick as the demon-horse fled. The village was within sight now, a few inhabitants visible – tall, grey-furred beasts of men, clutching spears that


more resembled fallen logs with sharp tips than anything meant to be thrown. The rider unwound one four-fingered hand from the base of the steed’s black mane and drew a curving horn from its belt, then pressed the small end to its muzzle. The sound

too close, they’re right behind us and

echoed brassily across the plains, and within seconds, other horns were being blown from within the village. The smoke guttered and the half-beasts they could see disappeared from sight. The rider inhaled and began to

i can smell them, too close–

call again, but an arrow plunging into its shoulder knocked the wind from its lungs. The horn fell to the grasses as the demon-horse crossed an invisible line that defined the edge of the little village. Blood streamed down the rider’s torn cloak and stained its steed’s haunch, but it wheeled the beast about and

…this is the end

watched with hooded eyes as its fellows rose up from the tall grasses and sprang from the sturdy huts. The battle closed as pale, slender figures on white stags flickered into view like a mist – but only the half-beasts and the demons bled red blood. The ghosts they fought never fell.

Fiction: Differences (2009)

He ushered me in hastily. “Let’s go, let’s go,” he said, turning towards a stack of loose papers and thick folders. “I leave soon and need to make sure you know everything I’ve taught you. Mother Repetition and all that.”

I let the door close behind me. “Mother Repetition?”

He shot me an impatient look as he handed me a hide-bound scroll. “Repetition is the mother of learning,” he said. “Surely you’ve heard that before.”

“That’s a human saying,” I gently pointed out, stepping over a spilled pile of small books to take the scroll.

“Yes, well, what are you doing interacting with humans at all if you haven’t studied us enough?” His brows lowered and he looked almost hurt.

“Have you studied my people before interacting with me?” I asked mildly, rerolling the scroll and securing its cord to my shoulder strap.

He flung up a loose-fingered hand, the other reaching for a sheet of paper yellowed with age. “Of course not. I don’t have time for such things. What does that have to do with anything?”

I just looked at him.