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Search & Rescue
I found Laura already in the bedroom, studying the bed. 'Is this what I think it is?' I asked.
'Stake in the middle of the mattress, scorched sheets, unidentified ash -it's pretty damned suggestive, but proving a vamp was murdered here? I'll have to ship a sample to the FBI labs and wait a week for the results. Or I could call you..'
I favoured her with a glare.
'Do I look like a K-9 unit?'
'Not at the moment, but we both know that is subject to change. And the bitch has one advantage over a scent dog, she has you to talk for her.
The bitch, my very own inner predator, a completely independent set of wolfish instincts camping out in my back-brain. I've been in high-maintenance relationships, the bitch has all of them beat.
On the plus side: my strength is as the strength of ten because my soul is furry, and at least once a month I get to eat venison so fresh the blood is still dripping.
I also get a sense of smell to rival any scent-hound.
And sometimes my best friend has been known to take advantage.
My taunt had the desired effect: Meryn snarled and launched his best combination. That attack had taken down a hundred swordsmen, most of them better than me. It had never failed him.
Until now. I stopped the side-cut with a vertical block. He shoved my blade aside and started the inevitable follow-up thrust, but I spun my blade in a wheel-parry that caught it and threw it aside. Meryn was so shocked by his attack's failure that he never even tried to parry the stroke that ended his foul life.
“It's done, Masters,” I said to the half-dozen survivors of the Masters' Council. “I challenged Meryn in his fortress, took his honor and his life before his own people.”
“And the truth-speaker spell?” Master Velku asked.
“Cast on the whole hall,” I answered. “No one will claim Meryn survived to return another day.”
“Well done,” Master Velku replied.
I nodded. Meryn was dead, my brethren were avenged, and I hadn't even been seriously injured. It was a good end to a good mission.
Life would have been much easier if I had been right.
Bimblethrum awoke with a start to discover Mirtmere standing over him. Night had fallen and the Moon was clear of the mountains. Damn. The old swordmaster tutted in disapproval. "Asleep on sentry duty! Two demerits."
Search & Rescue
Bimblethrum crawled forward and peered over the ridge. "Stuff your demerits," he said. "Those days are over. Lie down before someone sees you." Below, standing on the only patch of solid ground amid the fetid marsh, was the decrepit tavern. Yellow lamplight spilled from broken windows, huge shadows moved around inside. Growls and hoots of laughter carried up to the ridge.
"You were my worst pupil," Mirtmere said. The bushes behind him quivered. "Always late. Always tripping over your big feet. Always dropping your sword."
Bimblethrum leapt up as a hobgoblin twice his size charged out of the bushes and swung its broadaxe completely through Mirtmere. Mirtmere spun round, startled. The hobgoblin was no less startled at discovering Mirtmere was a ghost. Bimblethrum thrust his sword into the creature's throat, angling the point upward. The hobgoblin froze, then dropped its broadaxe. Bimblethrum stepped aside smartly as the brute crashed to the ground, dead.
Mirtmere stroked his beard. "Well, now. Looks like your swordplay has improved."
Terrence Tidewater squinted at the newspaper, his attention riveted on a slightly fuzzy, two-column wide photo. He couldn't have cared less about the kid in the picture, or the pony she had won from a local radio station. What caught and held his eye was the young woman standing behind the child. And even though he hadn't seen her in almost ten years, there was no doubt in his mind who she was. One didn't forget a conquest like Kate Larksfoot. Ever.
Terrence had long ago lost count of the co-eds he had taken to his bedmost willingly, a few, like Kate, only after much "persuasion"and the memories ran together like the contents of the term papers he had to read. He considered the sex partial payback for the dreary demands of his tenured position at Hobgood College.
He remembered Kate for her mind rather than her love-making, the latter being impossible to rate since she'd been unconscious, or nearly so, at the time. The thing that haunted him was the chance she might come back and press charges. That sort of thing would mean instant doom for his burgeoning political career.
All story excerpts herein are Copyright © 2007 by the Authors, who retain all rights. The excerpts are uploaded for purposes of critique only, which does not constitute publication.