Friday, February 26, 2016


Warning - contains mild adult content

Rights is a Shadow Sprawl story by Terri Pray.

Artwork by Samuel Pray using Daz 3d and Photoshop

"We can't keep moving around like this, always running from one place to another," Caine leaned against the trunk of a large tree, relaxing in the shade that the wide spread branches. "You can't keep up, that much is painfully obvious. The birth -it's coming soon, isn't it?" He turned, letting his gaze move over the darkly beautiful form of his mate, lingering on her swollen belly. His child, within her body his child -a son- grew, preparing to enter the world. A boy. It would have to be a boy. Lilith had spoken about a daughter, but he knew better. The life within Lilith was strong, active and it had to be a boy. A son he could teach, protect, and introduce to the world as his heir. The first of their kind...

No, Lilith was the first, and then she made me. She brought me into the darkness, bathed me in blood and remade me, yet I'm still weaker than she is - or so she says. She's wrong - of course - I'm the stronger one out of the pair of us - that's the nature of things, the male is always the stronger of the pair. Yet she insists she is the stronger. Did he believe the lies she told him? No, but that didn't prevent her from repeating them any time he spoke out against them. Stubborn female, after so many years together he had hoped she would begin to accept the truth, yet she still fought him. Well, once the child was born, he'd take a firmer hand with her, or he'd begin to look for another mate. One more willing to bend to his wishes.

He didn't look at Lilith for a moment, the woman always seemed to know what he was thinking - or at least did when it was the least convenient for Caine. Better to hide what he could from the woman, at least until she changed once the child was born. Her focus would be their son and she'd finally allow him to lead their small, but growing, family. The first of his children, but not the last - even if he had to choose a different woman to bring the rest into this world. Would a child born of a turned woman be as strong as one born of Lilith? He frowned at the thought - the only way to be certain was to get another child on Lilith and one on a turned woman so he could watch them grow together. It would be an interesting experiment, one he was quite willing to attempt.

Their son would be different though. Born of their union, a strong son to bring light and joy to their bond. Born with their shared power, brought into the world with all the blessings of their kind, and none of the weaknesses of Adam's children. Their son would rule not just their family, but the world - and there was nothing Adam or his line could do to prevent it.

His jaw clenched at the thought of his father. Still alive and no doubt angry with him for killing Abel. That was an action his parents would never forgive him for - though he'd never been foolish enough to return home and ask them for himself. What would happen if he tried? Was there a chance he'd be accepted, forgiven and welcomed home?

No. What I did... in killing Abel... they'll never forgive me for that.

It didn't matter now, he wasn't like them anymore. Caine swallowed a growl and rolled out his shoulders in an attempt to hide the tension that tightened his back. He'd been marked and changed - and he'd embraced this change with open arms. Their God, their beliefs were no longer a part of his life and forgiveness - no, he wanted nothing from them especially their worthless forgiveness. They had other children, and grandchildren now - perhaps great-grandchildren and more, they didn't need or want him.

If he even attempted to approach the tribes of Adam openly, they'd try to kill him and his new family. Not a risk he could take. Besides, what good would it do him? Their blood - it was weak, lacked taste and although he could live on it - it left him, and those like him, wanting. Those with magic in their blood, however, left him satisfied, but hunting them down wasn't easy.

I will protect them, all of them and I'll find a way to provide for them. Lilith will come to accept my leadership once I prove to her that she can lean on me in all things. He glanced at his wife and smiled. Soon he would smile down at his own child, a son, strong and handsome, ready to take on the world but first he needed to survive the birth.

"Tired," Lilith murmured.

"You can't give birth out here," he frowned. The risk to the child increased if they didn't find a safe place for the arrival. The weight of time pressed down, threatening to consume him until he shook it off. I won't fail, not in this. My child will be safe. Even if it costs me Lilith, my child will survive. He didn't need anything else, now that he had successfully turned a few of Adam's line. Not all of them had survived, but enough that he knew that he could manage without her.

No, I don't want to lose her, not yet at least. She could change, accept me, and then we will be stronger.

Lilith rubbed one hand against the small of her back. Smudges of dirt marred her hands and cheeks, and dirt had buried itself under her fingernails. "Agreed, we need a place to rest, to call home." She offered a small smile marred by deep lines of weariness around her eyes and across her pale brow. "I don't think I can go on without resting. At least, not now."

Was carrying a child really so tiring? Women were designed to carry children, surely this should be a natural process for them. He forced himself to look at her face and acknowledge the changes that had taken place over the past few months. Dirt, shadows and strain that marred her otherwise beautiful features. Lilith didn't let herself get this way, not normally. She bathed, frequently. Kept her head held high and didn't show her weaknesses.

Until now.

"Do you need to feed?" Providing for her, that was one of the things he could, and would, do for her - even if she protested. "I can bring you something." Instincts warred between the need to protect his mate, and the need to find a place for them to rest, to call home for a time. Perhaps something more permanent than a handful of nights?

A home. We need a true home. A place where I can protect the young and the rest of the family. A place where I can establish my rights to lead this family.

With a small groan Lilith eased down onto the ground, her long, dark hair slipping loose from the simple braid. "Yes... thank you. That would help right now. I'm wearier than I ever thought possible." She closed her eyes and rested against the trunk of a large tree. "I never realized that carrying a child would be so tiring, or painful." She winced and pressed one hand against the swollen mound. "I swear this one is ready to kick it's way out."

"Do you need blood or...?" Blood didn't answer all needs, but he presumed that would be the answer. Still, pregnant females were known to make strange choices when it came to food and drink.

"I'll need blood within a day or two, but until then fruit - something sweet and ripe..." Lilith lifted her gaze for a moment before lowering it once more. Dark hair slipped down over her eyes, but it did little to hide the shadows under her eyes or the way her skin pulled tight against her skull. "It should help. At least, I think it will."

Odd, when she'd first turned him, the idea of eating something had repulsed him. The need for blood had consumed him, driving his every movement, but that had passed and now - like Lilith and the few others they had turned - he ate normal food. His need for blood dictated by how hard he worked, or dealing with an injury. He didn't understand entirely how it worked, but had come to accept it - still, her choice was an odd one. "Are you sure?"

She nodded, a loose strand of night dark hair slid down over her left eye at the movement. "Yes, fruit - the child requires fruit."

"Then I'll find some for you," he searched through the trees until one of the males that Lilith had turned, caught his gaze. "Mikel, stay with her."

"Of course," Mikel eased close, his steps near silent despite the heavy fall that littered the forest floor. "I'll keep them safe," he nodded in the direction of Lilith's swollen belly.

"Good." If Mikel failed then he would die, that much was understood between the pair of them. He turned his attention back to Lilith. "I won't be long, wife."

A small twitch, little more than the flicker of a frown combined with the shifting of weight from one foot to the other, was the only sign of disapproval from Mikel. No doubt at the lack of tenderness in Caine's words and tone. Not that the male's approval mattered to Caine, Mikel was, after all, sworn to Lilith because his mate had turned him.

Without another word he turned, moving through the trees at a steady jog. Fruit, his wife wanted fruit, then he would find some and bring it to her. Apples perhaps, or berries of some kind, both should have been easy enough to find at this time of the year. The small wild grape vines were common place in such landscapes. It would be a small thing to bring to his wife but if it helped her through the final stages of her pregnancy, then it was worth a hunt through the forest if only to prove to the others in their small group that he was capable of taking care of his wife.

How long he hunted before he found the strong and heavy vine, Caine couldn't say, but the sight of the small blueish purple fruit hanging in bundles across the length of the vine drew a sigh of relief from his pursed lips. He glanced up through the trees, tracking the passage of the sun across the sky. Foolish, it shouldn't have taken him this long to find food for his wife - now she would have something to complain about when he returned with the grapes. With a low snarl he gathered the grapes, piling them into a make shift sack of cured leather before he bound the top with sinew and straightened up once more.

A sound, little more than a whisper, drew his attention away from the vine.

Long of hair, and longer of limb, the form moved through the trees, her steps light and carefree as she ran. He set the bag down, letting his attention be drawn by the female who ran through the forest, darting first this way and then that, circling a large tree even as she reached out and touched a younger tree with the tips of her fingers.

What is she? Not a daughter of Eve, of that he was certain. The scent, and it grew stronger the closer she came to him, spoke of water, fresh running water and what she wore, which was little enough, rippled and clung to her form, calling to him as his cock hardened, balls tightening to press against the base of his erection.

Nymph? The fresh scent, the ripple, those spoke of fast running water as it moved over rocks and pebbles, dancing and singing in the sunlight.

"Prey," he murmured, his voice low enough that he knew the Nymph wouldn't hear him. Pretty prey that would take the edge off two hungers. Lilith wouldn't like it. She'd complain about the length of time he was gone, would say he was forgetting his duty to her and those he'd left behind - but as long as he brought the grapes back to her then what right did she have to nag him?

Weren't women supposed to be meek, mild and submissive? Wasn't it his right to do as he wished, when he wished, with no woman to tell him when, where and how? His jaw clenched. Lilith refused to accept the rules, fought him every step of the way, and even with the coming birth she'd remained stubbornly set in her ways.

Any thoughts he had about his pregnant mate, and the promise to bring her something to eat, faded as he shifted his weight and slowly moved through the trees until he found a place where he could watch the female. His nostrils flared as he took in her scent, tasting the magic and sex that combined to shroud the beautiful creature.

The woman laughed, the sound carrying through the air as she reached up and caught a low branch of an old, moss covered tree. He didn't move, couldn't move as he watched her. The way she moved, the sway of her hips and the play of her hair as it slid back and forth over her back. Blue, white, dark and light all rolled into one, he'd never seen such a mix of colors in hair, and her skin - dappled light and color rippled across her exposed flesh.

He'd have her, claim her, taste her blood and body both.

With a low growl he stepped out, moving from the shelter of the trees. Desire owned his steps and heat moved through his body as he watched her. She paused, turning toward him, her eyes widening in shock and knowledge. For a moment he assumed she'd run, and he relished the idea of the chase but it vanished in an instant.

The Nymph turned to face him, pushing her shoulders back, her full breasts pressing against the soft caress of the fabric that barely covered her enticing form. A smile claimed her sensual lips, light dancing in her eyes as she lifted one hand up, beckoning to him.

"Come to me."

Did she think him the prey? If so it would make this moment all the easier for him. It wouldn't be the first time one with magic in their blood had made such a mistake as his kind was still virtually unheard of. Their hunts were done with care, leaving little or no trace behind them, memories wiped, and those who were turned were reminded to never returning to their families.

Beautiful - and mine. Mine by right and there's nothing Lilith can do to stop me this time.

Rights takes place afterRebirth

Friday, February 19, 2016

Serving Thanatos

Artwork by Samuel Pray, using Daz 3rd, Filter Forge and Photoshop.

Tyme RPG setting - Science Fiction/Space Opera.

"Lock it down!"

"Trying to!" Nike growled, her jaw set. She hadn't signed on for this, but she wasn't about to let this one slip through her fingers. Not when she had the best system on the planet to play with and wouldn't be able to use the excuse of not having access to the right tools. "Trace is being bounced all over existence. Every time I think I've got it figured out, it jumps to a new location." She glared at the screen, her fingers dancing over the controls. Every time she came close, the signal fluttered and died, only to resurface somewhere else. Except it wasn't quite what was happening. A jump. A careful move to avoid being trapped. Even with the system, one she'd all but drooled over the first time she'd seen it, at her fingertips, she was barely able to keep up with the target. "Tricky, tricky bastard."

"Try harder." Drake leaned in, his voice pitched low, soft and dangerous. Under different circumstances she might have found Drake interesting, the type of man she'd have given a second, perhaps even third look, before moving onto someone else. But at the end of the day he wasn't her type. "We're relying on you." Oh, she knew what that meant. Fail and her sentence would be increased. Fail and she'd be the one blamed for losing the traitor. Fail and... fuck it, she didn't need this shit. "You're losing him again." Drake rested one hand on her left shoulder.

"Then back off and let me do my damned job." She shrugged off his touch. What did he think touching her would do? Give her super powers so she could track this little shit down? Yeah - no. That wasn't how it worked. "I've got this. Just need a little longer. That's not going to happen with you trying to cop a feel." Easy words to say, harder to do. She wanted to lash out at him, to tell him to do it himself, but her focus had to be on the search. Had to be on the signal. Her eyes narrowed, breath sharp through clenched teeth. "There - shit, almost got him." So close. She hadn't expected that move, though she should have done. Whoever was behind the transmission was both smart and fast.

She chewed on the inside of her lip, her gaze never moving from the information that crawled across her screen.

A low sound, a huff of frustration, and Drake stepped back. "I didn't cop a feel. This is Thanatos, not Ontour." Another three steps and muttered complaints that she didn't quite catch before he spoke clearly again. "I don't pull shit like that."

Fine, maybe that had been unfair but at least it had forced the man to back off.

Damned traitor. Whatever I did, I didn't betray our people. I didn't turn to the Raiders and offer them our secrets. Not that she'd had any secrets like that to sell, but it was the principle of the thing. Whatever Drake continued to mutter about, wasn't something she could afford to focus on. "By Thanatos I'll find that bastard if it's the last thing I do." Anyone who sold out their tech deserved a traitor's death. One who sold it to the damned Raiders needed to die a hundred times over. The Raiders - she'd been through one round of living under the control of those people, never again. It was a feeling she knew was shared across the face of the planet and yet one of her own, one of their people, had sold them out.

"Calm and focus on the job, Nike." His voice calmer now, lacking the edge that had sliced through the air moments before. "You're the best at this, it's why we called you in. Don't think about the others in the room, or what's going on beyond this place, focus only on the target."

"Called me in. Sure. Keep thinking that's how it worked." A slight smile twitched at her lips. The temptation to look back over her shoulder niggled at her, but she ignored it. Dragged her in, out of a warm cot, and a decent dream. Not like she'd been given anything more than a cell like room, with a bed, a door, and - yeah - that was it. No computer, no access, nothing that could be used to break the terms of her sentence. Access to computers, to the system, was strictly monitored and would be long after her sentence was over and done with.

"We have to get this guy, Nike. He's already sold out some of our top military secrets and we're relying on you to put an end to this."

"Yeah, I know." There was nothing like a mountain's weight of pressure pushing down on her shoulders to encourage a girl. She bit back a growl and tried another set of tracking codes. Warnings flashed across the screen and she snorted. Whoever this was - he was good, damned good. Where in the name of Hades had he learned his skills? Not Thanatos, or anywhere in System One, that much she was certain of, but there was something familiar about the way he was keeping himself just out of reach. Something she wasn't quite able to put her finger on. "Sneaky bloody bastard. He's jumping - seems random but..." there was always a pattern. Human, computer, alien, combination, it didn't matter, there was always a pattern. All she had to do was find it. "It's not... I know it's not. Just a little longer - that's all I need." Thanatos save her, if he dropped out of the system before she completed the track then...

No, she wasn't going to think like that.

The job. She had to focus on the job and the traitor. Her sentence had her serving the greater good of Thanatos, that was what the magistrate had said and a part of her even believed it.

A sound. Door opening and closing behind and to the left of her.

"Any luck?" A female voice this time. Soft, eager and not one she knew. "We need to cut off the flow of information to the Raiders."

"Not yet, but she's getting closer. Nike is the best we have."

Nike snorted. Best they had indeed. Best they had access to was more like it. There were others out there who put her skills to shame, not that she was about to tell them that. And it wasn't like she'd signed up for this crap. Being hauled in front of the magistrate and given a choice of a year of hard labor, or a year service to the Queen hadn't been that difficult a choice to make. Would they throw her onto a ship and send her to the penal colony if she failed to pin down the traitor's location?

No, that wasn't like the Magistrate. Nor would the Queen permit it. At least Nike hoped she wouldn't. There'd be a new hearing and - and what? Her term would be extended? No, she was overthinking this. Just because she'd agreed to the contract it didn't mean they could demand the impossible.

"If she fails there'll be hell to pay. We have to cut off the flow of information to the Raiders."

"Give her a little longer," Drake insisted.

She watched the screen, fingers moving over the controls, her mind filling in the gaps until it fell into place. A fraction of a second before her opponent made their next step, she was on them, locking down the location. "Got you!"

Movement ceased behind her but she didn't look.

"Yes. Yes. Yes." Nike cried out, confirming the information, a grin claiming her face. "Not going to break free of me now!" She jabbed one finger down on the enter key and screamed. "You're mine now!" Only then did she finally look back at the small, but growing group, that watched her every move. "Janos, they're in the university of Janos, station six, language lab, log on information confirmed and the data chip should be ready..." her station spat out the chip, "now." She snatched up the chip and tossed it over her shoulder, not bothering to check to see if someone was ready to catch it. If they didn't, well, she'd hear the scrambling to grab it when it hit the floor.

The tension eased from her shoulders. Her part in the job was over and done with. If luck was with her, she'd be escorted back to the transport and returned to her quarters - behind the thick walls and locked doors of the military compound - within an hour, two at the most.

"We've been trying to track this bastard down for over a month, what makes you think that this - this criminal is capable of doing what we couldn't?"


"The best, yes - you've said. But would the best be truly so easily caught the way she was?" The cold, unfamiliar, female voice inquired. "Such a truly talented hacker would have covered her tracks, no?"

"I. Did." Nike turned away from the screen, her task there completed.

"Then how were you caught?" A tall, dark haired woman, with touches of iron grey in her hair, arched a thin eyebrow.

"I was betrayed." The words threatened to stick in the back of her throat. Nike let her gaze move slowly around the busy room. Six people, two women, four men, apart from herself, were scattered through the room. Drake and the newcomer were the only two standing, the rest worked at terminals and pretended - for the most part - to be busy with their work. She wasn't buying it. This was entertainment for them. "I'm not sloppy enough to get caught any other way."

"So you claim," the woman snorted, her nostrils flaring. "It wouldn't take much digging to find out what really happened - I'm not impressed."

"Commander Lianer, the reports confirm that Nike was turned in. Or rather her arrest was triggered by information received by the cyber-crimes department." Drake explained, his tone firm though a smile pulled at his full lips. "The sister of an ex-lover, I believe." He clasped his hands behind his back, shoulders pushed back, chin lifted slightly. His jet black hair was cropped close to his scalp, drawing attention to the high cheekbones and full lips that clashed with the current stern set to his features.

Idiot, the sister was the ex-lover.

She'd tried explaining that several times, but people heard what they wanted to hear. Not that there was anything wrong with having a same sex lover - not by the laws or customs of Thanatos. She'd never hidden the fact that she fell in love with the person, not the gender. Trouble was, her lover's brother had tried to claim that he'd been the bed mate, not his sister.

The lie had stuck.

"Ah, love - a dangerous thing even if it's nothing more than a shared passion in bed." Commander Lianer smoothed her hands down her black and silver uniform pants. "Not a mistake I plan on making anytime soon."

Because you have no passion to share.

Nike bit down on the urge to yell at the Commander. It wouldn't help.

"We've got eyes on the traitor, security forces are closing in on him now." A male voice, this time from a station to the far back and right of the room. "Shit, he's not going quietly. Armed. Response team hit. Back-up moving in. He's down. Repeat, he's down."

Down? Dead or something else? Not that it mattered these days. Not her problem. Except the man was a traitor. Whatever happened to him, he deserved it. Once they had all of the proof, he'd be executed. Maybe publicly, maybe not. The traitor would die, and anyone working with him would die, Thanatos would have his due and then...

"An interesting show, but I believe I've seen enough. If you're finished with her, you'll release Kiera Nike into my custody." Commander Lianer's words cut through Nike's thoughts. "I have the release forms here, and she'll serve with my unit from this point on."

Nike blinked, her throat drying out before she could speak.

"What? When did this happen?" Drake held his left hand out for the sheet of paper, his fingers closing on the document as soon as it was within reach. He frowned and looked down at the documentation, reading it through twice at least twice before he continued. "This can't be right. You can't just take her and extend her sentence like that. Not without a court ruling."

"Not my call, but I'm not about to turn down the added resources that Nike brings with her." A cold chuckle followed the words. "She's not without talent and those will be put to use in the coming months. This hacker is only the tip of the iceberg, and I'll be coordinating with several off world teams."

A strangled protest that turned into a rapid cough rang out from one of the operators at the far end of the room. A harsh whisper, questions darted back and forth across the room, ignored by the Drake and Lianer for the most part.

Would one of them speak out, say something outside of the room? It was a slender hope but Nike doubted it. Too much of a risk if they wanted a long term career.

Nike swallowed hard and pushed slowly to her feet. "What do you mean, extend my sentence?" It was one thing to listen to the fears, to believe - under stress - that something like this could happen. The reality was another matter entirely. Tension rippled through her body, raising goose flesh in its wake. "I made my agreement. I was to serve one year, that was it. A year." Her heart raced, beating so loud that she was surprised that no one else could hear it. "My time is up in less than two months."

"Her sentence hasn't been extended, exactly. You're right, the courts would have to be the ones to extend your sentence, and that would require new charges." Lianer smirked and nodded to the papers. "If you read that last paragraph it clears everything up. I'm sure, given recent events, you'll understand why you're needed."

"Special circumstances," Drake choked and met her gaze, finally looking away from the paperwork before he passed them to Nike.

She let her fingers close around the sheet even as she fought the urge to scream. Words danced across her vision and it took five attempts before the pieces fell into place. Cold sweat beaded across her brow even as her knees threatened to buckle. No. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction of passing out. At least not in front of witnesses. "I've been... drafted."

"Into the service of Thanatos," Lianer cast a triumphant look around the room, "with full pay and all benefits except one."

The ability to quit...

Friday, February 12, 2016


Art by Samuel Pray, created using Daz, PS, and Filter Forge

Chosen, an Erien setting story

She’s gone.

Wind rippled a path through the trees carrying the news. Branches creaked, adding their own voices to the grief brought by the announcement. The song of the forest changed, bird song stopped and then began again, changing from soft music to the sudden alert calls that brought every creature within hearing range to a sudden stop.

Pain wrapped itself around his heart and tightened into a band.

He scowled, uncertain at first why the band was there. He wasn’t human, wasn’t even mortal, so this shouldn’t happen to him. He looked, slowly, through the trees, listening to the bird calls but only animals and birds remained within range. If there were humans, elves, dwarves, or even dragons, they were well beyond his immediate hunting range.

A flicker of something touched the edge of his senses and he smiled. Dryads. Bound to their trees, beautiful and long lived, they were neither human nor elven kind, not truly of the Fae but something graceful, delicious and his choice when it came to bed mates. Elegant and eager bed mates, even if they tried to entrance him every single time. They knew, of course, that it wouldn’t work but they still tried.

The woman he’d chosen had reminded him of the dryads in some ways – had there been a touch of their blood in her veins? Odd, he hadn’t thought to ask when she’d still lived. Nor had he taken her to his bed. Oh, he’d been tempted and her stubborn defiance had intrigued him but he’d never taken more than a single kiss from her full lips.

She’d fought the kiss, growling at him even as her fists had clenched for a blow she would never land. He’d laughed, caught her hand and warned her not to offer such temptation his way again. She’d listened, she’d learned, and although she’d listened the temptation of her lips and her body had remained, even though he’d restrained himself.

Now he would never know what she would have done if he’d taken more than her lips.

Hazel eyes, flecked with hints of gold. A beautiful smile and a wild nature. Those things had all called to him when she’d first stumbled into his path. Human mixed with elf, a Fae nature with a natural grasp of the way of the hunt.


And now she was dead.

The band around his heart tightened a little more.

“How… strange.” Emotions? Regret? Pain? These were things that weren’t a part of his normal day, at least not like this. Yes, he would miss his chosen, but enough to grieve? To feel such emotions? No, that didn’t make sense to him. The woman, a human woman, had been the first to be called by him, the first one he had chosen as his own, to serve him and now…

Mortals died. He knew that, accepted that, that was a part of their nature. He’d marked her knowing that she would die, knowing that she would be gone before he knew it and yet it hurt. Her lips, he should have done more than take a single taste of her lips. At least then he’d have something to remember. He might even have sired a child on the human – others in the pantheon had done such.

Accept it and move on. She’s gone and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Isn’t that what mortals tried to do? He growled, shook his head, turned and walked deeper into the forest. This is where he belonged. Away from mortals and the problems they brought. One mortal, only one, at any given time would be allowed into his world and even that had been a mistake.

Yes, of course, he’d made a mistake in letting even one human know who he was. Breeding with a mortal would have made matters worse. The first step in splitting his personality like his parents had done before him.

His jaw tightened as he stalked through the trees, drawn by the distant sounds of the dryads at play.

The pantheon. If mortals ever understood what had happened, then chaos would run rampant across the realms of Erien. They didn’t know. Not a single suspicion flickered across their thoughts. He was certain of that because even his parents – the pantheon – didn’t suspect. How could they when…

A soft giggle carried through the trees, dismissing his thoughts of the pantheon – at least for the time being.

He stopped, lifting his gaze as he inhaled deeply. Not dryads – the sound was too childlike in nature. Interesting. He hadn’t heard them this close to his home in a long time. Yet there it was again, the undeniable sound of the sprites. Laughter, innocent and carefree, carried through the air to him, calling him away from the dryads. The sprites weren’t creatures that he would sate his sexual needs with – no, the idea of doing so sickened him. They were innocent, taking on the forms of children in near immortal bodies, but that same innocence offered a chance for his heart to heal.


The name had amused him the first time he’d heard it. Elven children – yes, those had been the ones to name the sprites. The name fit. The sprites giggled, a lot. Practical jokes, mostly harmless in nature, were a part of their lives. He’d watched them, enjoyed their play, and even been on the receiving end of one or two of their jokes.

The laughter spiked, a dozen voices joined as one as he drew closer to the source of the noise.

Movement caught his eyes. Green skinned, childlike forms, dressed in leaves, dirt and scraps of cloth, darted through the trees, tossing a ball of woven weeds back and forth. They darted, their movements random at first but the pattern appeared as he watched. A game of ball toss and laughter.

He lingered in the deepening shadows cast by the ancient trees. They didn’t see him. Couldn’t smell him. He didn’t move any closer to them, content – for now – to watch them play. Like this he could forget, could pretend that the band wasn’t there, he could think about other things instead of the loss of his chosen one.

Soon enough they drifted away, moving through the trees, content with their games and the band returned to press around his heart.

There were others he could reveal himself to. Ones he might be able to trust with his touch, his gift, but wouldn’t they also die? Mortals left this world all too soon and then what? More pain?

Pain, it’s part of the experience, isn’t it? Something the others turn their back on.

Is that why he’d chosen one to know him? To experience the pain, the joy, all of the emotions that were tied into mortal lives.

The pantheon had taken it too far. Each time one of their believers took a different path, they’d split, multiplied again, and what had started out as a god and goddess, his parents, had become – at last count – over a hundred gods and goddesses, each answering to a different call, a sect of dedicated worshippers, fulfilling their needs, hungers and prayers.

He’d watched it, seen the splits, the formation of new personalities, sects, beliefs and more.

They didn’t listen, not even when I told them what was happening. All they cared about was the power.

Power, yes, he’d sensed the power that groups of believers brought to the pantheon. But at what price? Sanity – he’d seen nothing but the occasional glimmer of that in the last millennium or two. The original personalities that he still knew as his parents were the most stable of the pantheon, but that wasn’t saying much.

His sister had come close to making the same mistake – except she’d split into three, each aware of the other, becoming the Three Fold Lady. Those sworn to her knew she was three in one, she understood she was three in one and she had claimed a family line to watch over, one line to focus on even though she listened to the needs of many. She’d found a path to walk, but the rest of the pantheon continued to grow and split as new voices reached out to them.

Did they feel the loss of each and every one of their worshippers, or was it different when they listened to the voices of the many instead of the one?

One. That’s all he needed, one chosen mortal to answer his need and to be his voice out in the world. His chosen, his one, was gone but where there had been one there would be another who would enter the forests to seek him out.

The Master of the Hunt lifted his head and smile, tasting the scents on the air. The grief would remain, but in time it would ease and become a part of him. Each new soul, new chosen one would add to it, teaching him a little more about the world beyond the forests, introducing him to new hunts, new prey but there would only ever be one.

One chosen.

One hunter.

His one.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Image legally purchased from dollarphoto.

Shadow Sprawl Setting - this story takes place after Alpha and can be read as a stand alone.

His gaze narrowed on the small group as they moved through the valley. Dust lifted into the air in the wake of their passage. Soft noises carried on the air to his hiding place, footsteps, the creak of the wagon, a soft female voice mixed with a stronger male one. Six, maybe seven males in total, unless there were more hidden within the wagon? He inhaled deeply, trying to taste the various scents but they were too far away to be certain. The males would be the problem. They’d have to be disabled or killed if the raid was to be a success but it was worth it. There were females of a mateable age amongst the group, perhaps five of them, and that was all that mattered to him.

No, not all. There is so much more to it than taking a mate.

His fingers curled into the dirt, knuckles white as he forced himself to exhale slowly. Yes, okay, this was personal. He could lie to himself and pretend otherwise, but that was the action of a fool. He growled, shaking off the need to strike, to destroy the guards and rip the males apart. The females, they were the important part. He couldn’t start his own pack without the right females in the mix, and the ones with the potential had been rounded up, kept ‘safe’ behind city walls. But these – they hadn’t entered the city yet, they hadn’t been claimed, merely collected ready to find a mate. Where they willing potentials? He neither knew nor cared. Etruscan females, at least that was his guess, and as such they were spoils of war.

Spoils that offered him a chance to add to his pack. Each new member of his small pack would be a victory that his uncle could choke on.

Small, that was one word for it. Three didn’t exactly make a real pack, but it was a start, one he could build on. No, not could – would. Two males had joined him after being cast out of the city, and more would follow soon enough. His jaw tightened at the thought. Any who were unwilling to follow the unreasonable laws set by Romulus and his followers were given two choices. Die before the crowd – a quick and apparently painless death, or leave and never return. Most chose death – as life without the possibility of a mate was simply a slower death. Without a female, without the chance of bringing new wolves into the world, the option of life didn’t appeal to them.

He fought to keep back another growl. Too much noise and he’d alert the males guarding the cart to his presence. Something he wasn’t quite ready for. Bold he might be, stupid – however – was another matter.

He smiled and edged back, away from the lookout he’d taken control of for the time being. He didn’t rush, the wrong move would send a warning sound or lifting of dust into the air. He made his way carefully down from the heights, past exposed rock and small bushes until he reached the high valley with its lusher vegetation. The two males who had sworn to him were waiting, eagerness ripping through them in the small shifts of weight, the looks the shot in the direction of the route their targets used.

He couldn’t blame them. The drive to mate, to claim a female, drove them. He had sated his needs with non-compatible females before now and that had eased his sexual needs, but not the hunger to mate. Children, a future, he needed both and needed to keep them safe. Two, maybe three mates – one alpha perhaps, but the others would be betas. The more females he brought into the pack, the higher the chance of survival.

“How do you know the females are of use to us, Lotu?” The smaller of the males tipped his head, unconsciously exposing his throat. “They could be little more than slaves instead of breeders or worse. Taking the wrong type of female would be…”

“They wouldn’t waste their time bringing in females who couldn’t add to the pack, Acteon.” Lotu forced his voice to remain calm. That the females might be bait had crossed his mind, but he’d dismissed that idea. Too much time and effort had been put into collecting the women. Besides, he’d know for certain when he drew closer to the females. Like his father before him he knew, by scent alone, if a female would offer a new bloodline to the pack.

His father.

Anger rippled through him. Romulus had torn away any chance of Lotu knowing his father in person. He’d cheated, his mother had told him that much, tricked Remus during the fight – it was, after all, the only way that Romulus could have beaten his father. All of the stories, the tales of his father fighting, hunting, and shifting. Remus had been the stronger of the twins, powerful and fast. A man who knew his abilities and not one that a weaker brother should have been able to bring down.

Yet it had happened.

Uncle, you think you killed his line. Destroyed it by killing him. I’ll prove you wrong. I’ll stand over your body as the light leaves your eyes and then I’ll tell you who I am.

One day he would avenge that death in the only way that truly mattered, by killing Romulus and taking the pack for his own. Only then would Romulus realize that the other line, that the line of Remus, hadn’t been wiped out. That his uncle’s plan to be the only one fathering new wolf shifters had failed. One male, that’s all it took, one male and the line continued.

“Will you rescue your sisters one day?” The second male inquired, his head slightly bowed. “Or will you leave them behind the walls?”

“They’re dead, Maris.” Lotu snarled, baring his teeth at Maris. His wolf snarled at the controls that prevented him from breaking free. Blood. His wolf wanted blood, flesh that he could sink his claws and teeth into. Soon, you can have that but you need to wait a little longer. “I don’t need to hear those lies again. He killed both of them when he killed my father.” The stories were lies. He knew it. They knew it. Yet they dared to repeat them in his hearing. Dead. They were both dead. Just as his mother was now dead, and his father. He was the only one left of that line. The true line.

Alpha line.

“I-I’m sorry. I just – Romulu…”

“The Tyrant.” Lotu snapped, taking a half step toward Maris. “He is a tyrant and will be named as such.” Names had power, made his uncle human, perhaps even likable. No, that wasn’t a mistake he would make. “He has punished our people, made them suffer and trapped them behind walls when they should be running free, controlling their pack lands and bringing the others, those not touched by the gods, under their hand. Instead he teaches them to be meek and civilized.”

Wolves hunted. They claimed territory. They didn’t back down to those who threatened their land. Nor did they hide behind walls.

“We know. Sorry, Lotu.” Maris bared his throat but kept his gaze lowered. “You are our Alpha and we’ll follow you as such. Your pack. Your rules.”

At least one of them had learned the rules. Newcomers would have to do the same thing, they’d accept who was in charge, or he’d remove them from the pack.

“We’re wasting time. They’ll reach the stream soon, if we’re not in position, we’ll miss the ambush point.”

Neither male spoke, but instantly fell into place as he turned and silently jogged along the barely there trail to the point he’d picked out two days earlier. Height, they’d have the height to spring the ambush the cart and its guards. They were outnumbered, but he was the better warrior. Even a dozen of his Uncle’s men wouldn’t be enough to defeat him.

They’re weaker, caught in the lies that form behind the walls.

He wanted to believe that, but his instincts said otherwise. No wolf would be easy to take, not even an omega. They would fight. Perhaps in human form, but more likely in half shifted or full wolf form.

“They won’t give up their prizes easily,” Maris pitched his voice low, but didn’t make the mistake of whispering. Any hunter knew that a whisper would carry further than a low voice.

“I know.” He glanced back at Maris. The male had potential as a second, but only time would tell if the male would betray him or truly step up to be the beta that a pack needed. “Silence from here on in.” He glanced back at Acteon to make sure that the third member of the group had heard him.

They settled into the heights long enough that the birds began to sing once more before the cart and guards came into view. Not a single sound of warning called out to alert their target. His focus narrowed. Nothing mattered beyond the cart and the males guarding it.

Soft crunching sounds carried through the air before the cart and guards appeared. Hooves that broke through heat crusted dirt. Low voices, conversation exchanged between the males. He frowned, listening – no tension, no hint of concern – too confident. Did they know something that he didn’t? His gaze narrowed, every small movement that his enemies made was taken into account as they drew closer. Two, maybe three of the guards cast glances up into the heights, but the others continued their conversations, their swaggering pace screaming their arrogance with each new step.


As one the three moved, shifting from human to full wolf form within a matter of heartbeats. Rock tumbled down with them, dust kicked up into the air and mingled with the alert cries from birds – but it wouldn’t be enough of a warning to save their enemies.

“Guard the…” the words were cut off by a strangled scream.

Swords cleared leather, bronze catching in the sun light, but only one of the guards thought to shift. Lotu launched himself at the man, hitting him in mid shift, his teeth closing around a throat. Blood filled his mouth, hot and salt heavy it threatened to choke Lotu until his instincts kicked in and he swallowed.


No, not food. Not prey. Enemy.

The wolf snarled but agreed. You didn’t eat pack. You didn’t eat another wolf unless your cubs were starving. Even in this form he knew that, accepted it, and only had to struggle against the taste of the warm blood for a heartbeat. He ripped in, tearing, before he pulled back and released the piece of warm, blood soaked, still quivering flesh. Wolf or not the guard wouldn’t be able to survive that. With a growl he turned, using his back legs to bounce back before he sprang at the next male.

Screams, some male, some female, filled the air. Wolf snarls, growls, warning snaps that told him his companions were still alive, still fighting, merged with the screams. Another guard, then another, fell beneath his teeth until he finally stumbled back and shifted into human form, scanning the area for the next target.

Two enemy males left on their feet, both smeared with blood, limping, moving stiffly, unsteady, swords in hand. One had half shifted, the other hadn’t bothered, Lotu’s focus narrowed on the one who had part shifted. He was the dangerous one. “Look at me,” he snarled, the sound low and dangerous, his weight shifted onto the balls of his feet.

The male bared his teeth but turned slightly, locking his gaze with Lotu. His jaw and teeth had taken on wolf like features, his hands were now claws, and fur covered his body beneath the shredded remains of cloth. “What is it you want…who… you’re not from the city.” The male stumbled over the words, attempting to form them with a mouth not suited for speech.

Lotu grinned. “No, I’m not one of his weak minded pups.”

The male’s shoulders tensed, his body shifting, weight moving forward but although his posture screamed attack, he didn’t take that next step. Not immediately at least. “We are not weak minded. We follow our Alpha, the one chosen to lead us. He is our father, our leader and…”

“Did he sire you?” There weren’t many males who could shift, and now that Lotu could taste their scents, this male was the only one among them who was a true Wolf. The others were only potentials, males who might be able to sire a Wolf if they mated with the right female.

“What? Yes… he sired me.” The male tipped up his chin.

Just as Romulus had sired the two males who had left the city and chosen to stay with Lotu. There were others now, not sired by Romulus, but their mother or father had been of his line. And those young shifters were children, babes not ready to fight to defend their city, or their pack. They weren’t his enemies – not yet at least.

He let his glance flicker to his pack members. A single nod and they moved. Screams, the scent of fresh blood and Lotu was left with only the half shifted male to deal with. “Check the wagon.”

His males grinned and darted for the covered wagon. Female screams this time, but not filled with pain – only fear. That would chance once the females began to realize that they would be safe. Protected by a pack that would never let a stranger touch them again. Spoils of war, yes, but his to protect and claim.

“And you obey him, without question.” Lotu took a step closer to the male as he turned his full attention back to the remaining male.

“He’s my Alpha.” The male snarled the words out. “But you – you don’t smell like – you’re not of his line.”

“No,” Loku looked down at his hands and focused, letting them shift from human form to long fingered, claw tipped half human, half wolf form.

“You – you smell… similar.”

“Family,” Lotu flexed his claws. “And you will tell him that I let you live. You will tell him that the line wasn’t destroyed.” He took a step forward, lashing out with his right hand. The male gasped, struggling even as Lotu closed his hand, his claws, around the male’s throat. “You will tell him that it’s not over – what my father began isn’t over.” He closed his grip a little more, feeling the frantic beat of the male’s pulse under his grip.

“I-I don’t…” the male scrabbled at Lotu’s grip, “understand.” Hazel eyes flecked with amber, widened. “No other… other lines exist.”

“He’ll understand. When you return to him and tell him what happened here. When you tell him that I’ve taken his new females, then he’ll know that the line of Remus survived.” There it was, the flicker of understanding that Lotu had been waiting for. With a sharp laugh he struck, his free hand closing into a fist in the moment before he struck the struggling male sharply in the temple.

A small thing, the claiming of what – he glanced over as his males pulled the women from the cart – five compatible females, but it was the first blow of what would be many before he finally ground his uncle down into the dust. Death – simple death – would be too quick. The destruction and absorption of the line of Romulus, leaving nothing behind but vague tales, would be the only true revenge worthy of his father’s name.

If you want to read Alpha and the connecting RPG information, it can be found as a bundle here.