Notice the ferocity? That ferocity grabbed my imagination and I ended up writing about this big, scary warrior who turns out to have a heart of pure gold when it comes to one other man: Madd, a dark-haired, cranky witch.
Well, as a gift to myself, I contacted Demacros, the artist who drew that image, and commissioned some character sketches for Thick as Thieves. What I love about his work is that the men are vigorously drawn and richly detailed. I wanted that for my guys. I'm so happy with what he did I'm sharing them with you!
So here's Vorgell looking all studly with an ax. He uses several weapons in the novel, including a ridiculously fearsome mace, but he would like nothing better than to get his hands on a Scurrian war ax.
And a close-up of the big guy:
I love that he looks ready to tear someone's head off.
Ready for an excerpt? Here's an expanded (and not yet edited) scene from Thick as Thieves:
“So what do we do now?” Vorgell elbowed aside a thick-set brute, sparing Madd from a jostle. He didn’t know why he bothered. Madd had just screwed him out of his share of their earnings. “You gave that witch all our coin, which means you can’t eat and I can’t fuck.”
They had left the witches sanctuary behind them and were making their way back along narrow, rutted streets. The afternoon had turned dark, threatening rain. Madd walked at his side, quieter than usual. He kept a tight grip on a hide-wrapped bundle.
“If all you want is a screw, you have only to park your prettified ass on any street corner and women will line up to pop your cork.”
“How many women?” This sounded promising.
Madd’s already thin temper frayed a bit more. “How the fuck do I know? I avoid women like the plague. You’re amazing, you know that? You get hard just from seeing a knot in a tree stump.”
Vorgell grinned. It was true. Ever since partaking of unicorn horn, he got erect with remarkable ease. He was half-hard already, envisioning that tree knot. But Madd’s statement about avoiding women interested him more.
“You truly do prefer men,” he noted.
Madd sighed. “Since birth, I think. I don’t… do women.”
“Not even in the dark? From behind?”
“Were you born an idiot? Do you even have a thought that’s not connected to your cock?”
Just listening to Madd sputter, Vorgell laughed. Needling his new friend had become his favorite entertainment, second only to imagining what Madd might be like in bed. Passionate, he thought, all silken skin and hard cock, hot and slick and tumbled. Damn, if they were not walking the street right now….
“At the moment,” he growled. “I’m thinking we don’t have coin.”
“Not true. I have six gold bits in my boots.”
If that was the case, the scoundrel really had thought ahead. “Well,” Vorgell said, somewhat mollified by this revelation.
“Half of it is yours,” Madd hastened to confirm. “We used the rest to buy the cloak of shadows.”
“So you can sneak into Baron Flemgu’s castle while I stand outside dodging swords and cracking skulls.” Vorgell still did not think much of Madd’s plan. He doubted Madd had ever stormed so much as a barricaded privy.
His question earned him another sigh as Madd steered him behind a pillar. The stench of garbage and filth rose from a nearby alley.
“No, you oaf. It’s so you can sneak in with me.” A rat scurried past and Madd kicked at it, nearly catching the fat vermin with his toe. “Listen, I can conceal myself. I didn’t tell her because she’d ask questions and get all preachy on me, but I have skills—skill enough for that, especially if I avail myself of your… generosity. But I can’t place an invisibility glamor on you because your humungous body nullifies any magic directed at it. All I would accomplish would be to make your clothes invisible, which—believe me—the world does not need to see.”
“There are some who would disagree with you. Ibeena, I think, looked at my cock overlong.” He laughed when he received a venomous look in return. He sensed an answer near. “Just explain to me why this cloak will work.”
“Because the cloak is made of shadows, but it’s still just a cloak, a piece of clothing. The cloak’s magic confounds any who look at it. It confounds them, not you. They don’t see it… it covers you…” Madd looked at him expectantly.
Vorgell grinned. The little guy was cunning after all. He felt bad about not believing in him. Throwing an arm over Madd’s shoulder, he gave him a sturdy shake.
“Fret not, my little witchkin friend. My apologies for doubting you. I would buy you a drink if I had any coin.”
“These boots leave my feet when we get to the room and not a moment sooner.” Madd frowned at the filthy ground.
They set out again into the street. Vorgell pondered that he should feel so comfortable with Madd. The young witch was nothing like the band of Scurrian marauders Vorgell had thrown in with upon his father’s death and his sister’s sacrifice by their tribe’s shaman. That day had been the darkest of his life, and the period that followed had severed him from all he had previously known. His rage at being exiled had found a ready place among big, brawny men much like himself, with oversized lusts, a thirst for battle, and ready laughter. Madd, on the other hand, didn’t laugh a lot. As for lust… that was harder to say. Madd had the temper of a provoked hornet and was as come-hither as a serpent. A treasure house was less well-guarded.
He shrugged. Madd was clean and enjoyable to look at. He also possessed quick wits and a nose for survival. As companions went, Vorgell saw no reason to complain.
He recognized their surroundings when they passed the brothel of painted boys. A few languorous youths still lingered outside, advertisements of the pleasures to be purchased within. Customers stopped to peruse before moving on or entering the establishment. One pretty youth caught Vorgell’s eye and he grinned at the lad, earning a decidedly nervous smile and quick retreat back into the building.
“This is not going to work,” he complained. “I really need to fuck something.”
“Something?” By the way he said it, Madd didn’t think much of the word he’d used. “You know, it might help your cause if you could actually state what it is you want to fuck.”
“That’s the thing. I really just want to fuck.”
“Then you don’t have a problem. Your solution is at hand.”
“No, it isn’t. Because a hand isn’t enough. It’s not really fucking. I want another body involved.”
“At least now you acknowledge you want another body. Warm, I take it?”
Madd was being difficult and Vorgell was hardly in the mood to play. “Yes,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Good. That rules out corpses.”
Thanks to that exchange, Vorgell was no longer hard. Just as well. As they rounded the corner, he looked around, examining shadows and rooftops. He had never liked towns, not really. He liked cities even less. In particular, he disliked this one. Gurgh was made completely of hiding places and populated by the kinds of men who took advantage of them. One particular shadow caught his eye, and he soon noted it was not alone.
“Hold,” he said to Madd and drew him into the concealment provided by a sausage vendor’s cart. “Look closely at that roof.”
The roof in question abutted that of the tavern behind which they housed and provided a fine vantage from which to jump men entering the alley leading to their rented room. One of the chimneys looked too squat and there was a shadow at the end of the alley that should not be there.
“Damn. Someone found us,” said Madd.
“We did make a noteworthy appearance last night. This way,” he said, turning to go back down the street toward the dubious safety of the crowded bazaar. That was when he spied two other men approaching, their black garments rippling over toned muscles. Swords glinted in their hands. He and Madd were armed only with their newly purchased knives.
“They want us alive, or we’d be dead already.” Madd spoke in clipped, cold words. Good. He was thinking, not panicking. “Baron’s orders. If I die, the basilisk in the collar dies, and the basilisk is worth good coin. And you—”
“I know about me. Can you work any magic? Make them itch?”
“No. I haven’t—I can moonblind them, maybe. The moon should be on the horizon at this time of year.” The pale orb was nowhere to be seen, given the cloudy day, but Madd sounded confident. “But you have to make sure you don’t look at it yourself. Just look at me.”
“Do it, then. And be prepared to run.”
The men were moving toward them now. Madd focused, face intent and hands lifted, eyes fixed while his lips spoke a few soft words. Vorgell found it easy to keep his eyes on Madd. An unnatural brightness burst to his right, followed by cries of “What was that?” and “I can’t see!” in several languages.
“Villains!” Vorgell drew his long knife and launched himself at their stunned and now blinded attackers. He heard Madd screaming at him to run, but running had been the plan for his friend, not himself. It made more sense to take out their enemies. Two men were not so many, even if joined by the two from the roof.
He kicked the first man, his size a great advantage as his foot connected with a jaw and dropped his target immediately. Dispatching the second was easier, a simple slash of his knife across the throat. He then stomped on the chest of the first man and looked around to see if anyone was joining the fight. As he’d expected, someone jumped him from one of the roofs. There’d be at least one other. These two weren’t blinded.
His attacker lacked his brawn and Vorgell easily ducked to roll the man off his shoulders, sparing his head and giving him a clear target. Stepping on the fallen man’s knife hand, Vorgell sliced his own blade deep through the back of the leg, cutting his opponent’s tendons. Hearing footsteps behind him, he looked and caught just enough glimpse to deliver a backward kick to that man’s groin. The fellow fell, writhing.
“Let’s go!” Madd grabbed at him. “You don’t have to kill them. The city guards are coming. We can’t stay here!”
Heeding his partner, Vorgell joined him and they fled.
Buildings in this part of the city pressed close to the street and the alleys were narrow. They ran until the crowd thinned and they could no longer hear the shrieks and cries of the still blinded onlookers. Even with that in their favor, they could not return to their room. Enough people had seen them. Fortunately, neither of them owned enough yet to have left any possessions behind.
Barely avoiding the contents of a chamber pot being dumped into the alley, they slowed to a walk and recovered their breath. The sun had dropped low enough a few rays pierced the clouds and cast the alleyway in shadow.
“That was close.” Madd shook his head, his cheeks flushed prettily from exertion. He still clutched the bundle they’d gotten from Ibeena, his fingers curled anxiously into the thick hide. Beads of sweat trickled near his ear. A wild impulse to lick those drops swept through Vorgell and he pushed Madd in one rough movement against the nearest building. Madd looked up at him in alarm.
“Are you all right?” Vorgell bent near to breathe more deeply of the masculine scent of sweat and skin. He could feel Madd’s body casting off heat and he wanted nothing more in the world than to feel his skin slide slick and wet against the other man’s.
“What’s wrong with you? Of course I’m all right. You’re the one who was fighting! I’m surprised you’re not bleeding!”
Madd was still breathing hard, but he didn’t try to struggle out of Vorgell’s grip on his shoulders. Vorgell moved close, only stopped short by his cock—erect again—touching Madd’s belly. He smiled at the glare he received for that trespass. “I’m glad you didn’t run away after all. If you’d run, I might have lost you. I rather like having a partner.”
His words earned him a smirk of triumph. “The moonblind trick worked pretty well, didn’t it?”
Vorgell could barely breathe, he was so ensnared by Madd’s dark eyes, shining and lined with a fringe of thick lashes. The moon, not the sun, glowed in those liquid depths. Everything about the young witch male invited thoughts of bed sheets and night and the tender joys of the flesh. Vorgell was torn between wanting to keep this man safe, and plundering him like a lovesick swain.
“They might still be looking for us,” Madd said. “I suggest we keep moving.”
Coming soon...sketches of Madd. Another excerpt. And news about a basilisk.