Thursday, July 30, 2015

WIP Thursday: Thick as Ice, Chapter 2c

On Thursdays I post excerpts from a novel I’m working on. This week, Vorgell asks Madd to explain what just happened between them in bed. Also, I’m away this week—attending GenCon in Indianapolis! Fun and games… literally.


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Thick as Ice, Chapter 2c


Vorgell sighed. Much as it helped to know he had not hurt his friend, Madd’s answer did not ease his heart. “But you didn’t like what I did.”

“You’re right. I didn’t. Now will you stop talking?”

Tears thickened Madd’s voice. The ragged rise and fall of the man’s chest was that of something wounded… or broken.

“I can’t stop talking. Not about this. Not when you’re—”

“I’m not crying!”

Crying had not been the word on Vorgell’s lips. In pain, he had thought to say. He sighed and pressed his lips to Madd’s thick, heavy hair. There were things he could not rest without knowing. “You’re hurting. And I cannot bear it. Just tell me why.”

“Maybe there is no why. Maybe I just don’t like it, all right?” Madd drew a stuttering breath. Vorgell knew the sound of a man fighting for control. The darkness itself wrapped around them. There was no moonlight, nor direct light of any kind, in the alcove now. Madd was visible only because his pale skin caught even glimmers of moonshine and magic. Vorgell stared at the curve of a shoulder until his friend’s breathing grew quiet and Madd spoke again. “You’re the first man to touch me there—shove his finger or anything else up my ass, all right—that I haven’t wanted to kill for it.”

The body in Vorgell’s arms remained tense, a knotted thing. All feelings and pain. Perhaps talking wasn’t the best idea. “You don’t have to tell me.”

“Are you fucking crazy? You’re the only one I have to tell. You’ve wanted to screw me since the day we met.”

That was true. Even now, prompted by the thought…. Vorgell winced and wished he had better control of his cock. Madd surely felt the push of his erection. “I still do. But I would never—”

“Don’t you think I know that?”

How could any man ever know what another man thought? “I hoped you knew.”

“I know. You could overpower me with one hand, hold me down on the damn floor or against a wall, and laugh while doing it. I’d be nothing against your brawn. You scare the hell out of me sometimes. But you never use it against me. Ever. I trust you, you big oaf.” Madd snuffled before he continued. “I trust you more than anyone. I even sleep in the same fucking bed sometimes—don’t I?—if we’re not at home. That’s why I’m so fucked up about this. Tonight I let you do that, and”—Madd drew another heavy breath—“and I don’t even know why, all right? I just knew that I could, and I did. I let you see that.”

What had he seen? Vorgell tried to craft a full meaning from words Madd was speaking in fits and starts. All he had seen was his finger in Madd’s ass. He had also seen Madd’s craving.

“I thought you wanted it.”

“I did. Gods! I hate this!” Madd tried to wrench away but Vorgell locked him closer and did not let him go. He didn’t speak but simply kept his arms around the tight body, arched spine pressed to his chest, legs cradled on his. “Let me go!”

“Never. Not until I know you are no longer in the grip of demons.”

“I’m always in the grip of demons!”

“That’s not true. Not anymore.”

A shudder shook Madd’s slender frame, but his body uncoiled within the arms that caged him. He wiped his face, wet with tears, against Vorgell’s bulging bicep. “I told you I was covered in shit. Bad shit. Flemgu’s fucking shit, all right? I can’t escape what he did, no matter how hard I try.”

“Are you saying that’s why—” Vorgell frowned and knit his brows, a look that would have caused fear in his enemies, though Madd faced away from him and could not see it.

“Hells, yes.”

Though Vorgell heard frustration in Madd’s voice, he also heard reason. For that alone he relaxed his hold. But only a little. It reassured him to hear that soft voice continue speaking.

“Liking men used to be fun, not ugly,” Madd confided. “Screw me, but I began sucking off other boys when I was just a kid, because I liked that and they did, too. And older men as well. Witch men get urges, don’t let them fool you. So when I came to Gurgh, I made coin that way, sucking off fools and stealing their purses. Tagard could probably even tell you how many cocks I sucked by how many coppers I gave him. But I never sold those men my ass… never gave any man the use of me, no matter how many times I might have promised it just to lure them in. I had control and, believe me, it’s better that way.”

Madd gave another great sigh, his body loose now within Vorgell’s embrace. It was best to let him keep talking. Wounds only healed if the festering came out into the open.

“You know how Flemgu got me, right? Killed my Gran and made off with me? Well Flemgu took me that same night and used me hard, and when he was done and I was screaming how much I hated him and would kill him someday, he told me I would learn to like it. He wanted me to like it, wanted that more than anything. He fucked me every night and he did it with skill, I’ll give him that. Remember how I said it became a game? That was the game. He learned me so well, he could make me come every time, and it did feel good… it felt fucking great.” The laugh that came next bore no joy at all. “I didn’t tell him that, of course. I never fucking gave him the satisfaction. But I hated him for making me feel. Hated feeling his filthy cock in my ass… hated that it felt damn good sometimes—and I hated that I couldn’t stop those good feelings from happening. I didn’t want those feelings, but I couldn’t escape… they just happened. And that fucking Flemgu… he laughed and said my body proved me a whore. I came for him, Vorgell. What he did to me… I don’t know how he did it, but sometimes I came on command, like a slave. How could I let him do that to me?”

He wiped fresh tears on Vorgell’s arm. Vorgell already knew he would never speak of them. He pressed another kiss to Madd’s dark hair. “He took away all choice. He wasn’t giving you pleasure. He was taking a privilege you would never have given him. He wasn’t a lover. He was a torturer.”

“I know that. It’s just… I think I could have handled the pain. I could have felt some pride, resisting it. But making me feel pleasure killed me inside.” His voice hardened. “I hated it. I hated it every time. And I let him know it, too. After a while he started giving me to other men, just for the fun of watching them do it too.”

The man had been a monster. Of course Madd knew that already, so Vorgell simply remained silent… though he took great satisfaction in mentally revisiting his last sight of Flemgu, lying on a bloody floor with his head separated from his neck.

“I never liked it.” Madd placed a hand on Vorgell’s encircling arm and pulled it closer. “Not one time. Not ever. Not even just now.”

“I believe you.”

“When I get drunk, sometimes, or in dreams… my body gets confused. It starts wanting that again and I… I can’t seem to make the wanting stop. It’s like I become something else. I become that... that thing. How can my body want something I hate?”

“What you felt… what you feel… it’s not something evil. Our bodies do not understand the world the way our minds do. You showed me a part of yourself you think is ugly because another man used it against you. Maybe you trusted me to see you that way and not think ill.”

“It wasn’t some damn test, Vorgell.”

“Trust is never a test.” He wished he had words to explain what he knew to be true. “Like the time you and I were drinking and I got raging drunk. I wasn’t testing you. I don’t like being drunk. I don’t like the man I become.”

“Drinking? That’s not the same thing, not even close.”

“Isn’t it? Maybe you like how good fucking feels—but you don’t like being fucked.”

“Do we even speak the same language?”

Vorgell pulled Madd tighter into a good snuggle. “You have said enough, and so have I. I think we both know what happened tonight.”

For a long time they lay in silence, though Madd remained subject to sighs that filled Vorgell’s arms. At last Madd turned to him. “What you did to me… for me—it felt good, Vorgell.”

Not as good as it felt to have Madd tucked against his body, sharing hard won confidences. He had just been entrusted with a key, a misshapen bit of a man’s soul, which he hoped might someday unlock a treasure. That treasure lay in his arms—a man slightly damp with perspiration, shame, and tears—little by little relaxing toward sleep. Darkness and the close summer heat pulled him toward the same.

“You have only to let me know what you want,” Vorgell promised, “and I will give it to you freely.”

“I know that, you thick-headed oaf.” But he felt Madd’s facial muscles form a smile and if it would have been possible for him to pull his precious witch closer, he would have.

“Sleep,” Vorgell said. He kissed Madd three times. His hair, his cheek, the fetching curve of his right shoulder. He was certain Madd would sleep well now, carried off to dreams by drink, sex, and spent emotions. Of his own rest, Vorgell was less certain.

His heart ached to know his friend was so at odds. Did Madd really see his body as a traitorous vehicle, a thing apart from himself, infested with obscene desires? Such a burden would be terrible. It would break most men. He had carried his own forbidden longings for too long not to know how doing so put a distance between a man and the world. For a long time Vorgell lay on his side and watched shadows, feeling the rise and fall of Madd’s ribcage under his arms.

A light bump on the bed told him Petal had joined them. Vorgell caught a glimmer of scales as the basilisk climbed onto Madd’s shoulder and coiled her sinuous body in the slight space between the two humans. For all her baleful stares at Madd, Petal liked to feel the witch’s heartbeat.

“He’ll feel better tomorrow, but I might not,” Vorgell murmured and looked for a moment into Petal’s eyes before both her head and her outer eyelids lowered. “I just want to kill something.”


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I enjoy feedback and am always happy to discuss readers’ thoughts or answer any questions. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fun and Game Geeks


I married a game geek. In fact, I married into a family of them. That’s not why I go to GenCon (the biggest tabletop gaming convention in North America) every other year—to be honest, I go for the stuff… chain mail, daggers, leather bound journals… to satisfy my role-playing soul—but I do play tabletop games and love to meet the people who create them.

Being married to a game geek means I get to play a lot of games. Games have taken over one room of the house. It’s impossible for my intrepid spouse to see a tabletop game he doesn’t want to play. He funds dozens of games at a time on Kickstarter and it seems that every week some new game or other appears on our doorstep. It didn’t surprise me in the least to learn that we are living in a Golden Age of Tabletop Gaming. Hundreds of great games are available and many of them are simply outstanding.

My favorites are the cooperative games. Competitive games bring out the worst in me. I HATE losing and being targeted by my fellow players can feel personal, which I hate even more. Everyone playing together to defeat a game suits me better and I love helping a team work toward a common goal.

I thought it would be fun to share a few favorite games. Maybe someone is looking for new recommendations or might consider giving a game as a gift. Here are a few the big Italian family and I love to play when sitting around the table on Family Sunday.

Pandemic. (also at top) Possibly the best cooperative game ever created. Fun to play but tough to beat. A lot of teamwork and strategy is needed to play this one! Even when we win, humanity is generally teetering on the brink of extinction. The board game comes with cubes for four virulent diseases and cards for cities around the globe. We like to give the diseases colorful names and have become really well-versed in geography. My husband and I play the app version on the iPad at least a few times a week. Highly recommend you also buy the On the Brink expansion pack for even more characters and new cards to add to the fun.

Tiny Epic Defenders. My husband funded this on Kickstarter and it’s become a great favorite with the family. The game is compact, challenging, and has a different dynamic. Instead of just going around the table one by one, you wait for your card to come out and only then can you leap into action. Lots of characters to choose from. Simple and sweet, can be played in twenty minutes. We prefer it to its sister game, Tiny Epic Kingdoms, and look forward to trying Tiny Epic Galaxy at GenCon.

Batman Love Letter.  A card game for 2-4 people. There are many variations on Love Letter, but we like this Batman one the best. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can easily make this game as long or short as you like. Easy to play and loads of fun. The cute velvet pouch with a Bat-symbol makes it easy to transport. Playable in tight spaces, too, such as on an airplane. Yes, we’ve done that.

Camp Grizzly. Here’s a game you won’t find on Amazon, so I linked to its Facebook page where you can learn more and click to a buy site if you’re interested. We funded this as a Kickstarter game and snagged a first edition. Next thing you know, it has leapfrogged to the top of the Love-to-Play list. The game board is a summer camp with cabins and trails, the players assume the identities of camp counselors in several horror staple roles—including the Scream Queen—and there’s a killer named Otis in the woods. I don’t even like horror movies and I find this game fun. The artwork on the cards is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Forbidden Desert. You’ve crashed your airship in the desert and must defeat the elements, find water, uncover the missing parts of your crashed ship, and shovel a lot of sand to survive. Made by the same people who created Pandemic, so you know it’ll be diabolical. Both box and game are simply beautiful and the gameplay is challenging. Played using shuffled tiles, so you never see the same board twice. I like being the Water Carrier, because I can’t think of anything more helpful than giving dying people water so they can live—though they might prefer an airship mechanic.

Hanabi. Another portable card game. What’s fun about this one is you can see every other player’s hand of cards—but not your own. Players must give each other simple clues about what cards they have so these can be played to the table in such a way as to create a fireworks display and gain points. The mental gymnastics involved in the giving of clues makes for great fun. A wonderful game for 2-4 people.

Oh, and here’s a great resource for anyone who plays board games: Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop. It’s a web series and loads of fun. I linked to the Wikipedia article because it lists all the board games the show has featured. All episodes can be found on You Tube. The shows are a good way to check out other people playing a game to help decide whether you might like it or not.

And yes, for the record, I think some of my characters would be great in a game!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

WIP Thursday: Thick as Ice, 2b

On Thursdays I post excerpts from a novel I’m working on. This week, Vorgell copes with an unexpected turn from Madd... in bed.


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Thick as Ice, 2b


Vorgell whispered into the spell stone to open the door. Spell locks were uncanny things, created from hair and living breath and bits of toenails and skin. Only witches could make them. It had been Vorgell and Madd’s great fortune to be able to prevail upon their skilled witch friend Reannry to weave this one. She remained grateful for their help in rescuing her sister.

Though Vorgell had come to Gurgh carrying a deep distrust of magic and those who used it, he had learned much since. Magic locks were useful to a man who wished to keep both life and gold intact. And any thief who made it past the lock was likely to encounter Petal, as fierce as a dragon when it came to safeguarding her humans and their den. Before Reannry had set the spell lock, the basilisk had turned several would-be burglars to stone. Word must have gotten around because intruders had since become as scarce as rats.

Indeed, Vorgell had only to open the door to spy Petal perched on the broad ledge of the room’s only window. Darkness obscured all but the shape of her scaly head against the night and a glint of moonlight from her eyes. After settling Madd on his bed and closing the door, Vorgell went over to scratch the back of Petal’s crested neck and surveyed his latest home.

Shadows softened the interior but moonlight filled the sleeping alcove with its two beds. Madd had insisted on separate beds and Vorgell had humored him in that the same as he did in nearly everything. Being frugal, he had made his own bed frame by hand, using good wood. He had then paid a woman to stitch a mattress cover, which he had stuffed with the fleece of mountain goats as was the tradition of his nomadic people. Madd’s bed, placed in the same alcove, had previously belonged to a high-hatted lord. One night they’d burgled the fellow of a sword said to have belonged to the great conqueror Adeserre II and that same night had returned for the bed, a very fine piece rather too grand for its current situation.

Petal grumbled and turned her head. When he looked over to Madd, Vorgell saw why. The witch was struggling out of his clothes, his pale limbs flashing in the weak light. Though he wobbled a bit, Madd managed at last to free himself and soon stood before Vorgell in all his naked glory.

A prettier male had never stood in Vorgell’s sight. Though hardly taller than a youth, Madd’s form was graceful and perfect, neither too long of body nor short of leg, his shoulders just broad enough to be masculine and his belly tightly muscled above a fine cock that was every bit as seductive as the rest of him. Just the sight of so much masculine beauty was enough to banish every other thought in Vorgell’s skull.

Madd tilted his head and tipped his chin. “Come here, big guy.”

That was all the prompting Vorgell needed. Whatever game Madd had been playing all night, giving him looks any hot-blooded man or woman would want to answer, the time had come to make good on the offer.

Before his partner could change his mind, Vorgell had stripped off his clothes and unlidded his trusty bedside jar of falu oil, in hope of their fun going in that direction. He’d no sooner turned back around than Madd looped both arms around his neck and they sank, naked and entangled, onto Vorgell’s large bed. The wool-stuffed mattress sagged beneath their combined weight. Vorgell passed his hand over his partner’s quiet face, tracing features even more beguiling when turned to planes and shadows by moonlight.

“Why do you do it?” Madd’s gaze scoured his.

“Do what?” The feel of his partner’s skin sucked at his control.

“Put up with my shit.”

“Because it’s you, and I want to find out what all that shit is hiding.”

“What if it’s just more shit?”

“Then I will help you cleanse it from you, because under all that shit is a man I care about.”

“A man? Fuck me. When did that happen?”

“Before last year. For me, you’ve never been anything other.” Was it possible for his soul to drown in a man’s eyes? He often felt that way when he looked into Madd’s.

“Well I think the gods are getting a few good laughs. A man? I’m pretty sure I was supposed to die in the streets before that ever came to pass.”

“Your gods never anticipated the likes of me.” Seeing Madd smile at his words made Vorgell’s heart leap. He would charge into a den of wizards for this man.

“No one could have anticipated an oaf like you.”

The kiss that followed was demanding, fierce, designed to devour Vorgell’s will. He had precious little of that to start with. Having Madd in his arms like this, all hot silken skin over corded muscle and tight body pressed against his, need to need, threatened to strip away his hard-won equilibrium. He wrestled the urge to toss Madd under him, spread his thighs, and take the plunge.

There was something new about their lovemaking tonight. Something wanton and irresistible and wanting to be pursued. Wherever Vorgell’s hands wandered, they met begging, willing flesh. Madd was generally agreeable in bed—but abandoned? Never. Yet tonight Madd was a wolf bitch in heat, nipping and sucking with provocation, arching his lithe body to be pleasured and lifting his ass for Vorgell to grab and fondle. Surely this was a dream.

Grappling and grinding, they bent and straightened their limbs until they found an arrangement that allowed their cocks to bump together with maddening pleasure. Vorgell’s thighs were now between Madd’s legs, holding them open. Delighted by this unexpected position, Vorgell savored his partner’s wantonness with ardent caresses, enjoying how Madd grunted encouragement with every bump of their cocks and pass of his hands. The novelty thrilled him and he employed even bolder touches, exploring every begging inch of skin. Without thinking, he cupped and delved between Madd’s smooth ass cheeks, and eagerly touched the source of his oft-expressed and never satisfied dreams.

He hesitated, expecting Madd to put a stop to it. Instead, the other man arched his back and pushed back against Vorgell’s fingers. Sensing welcome, Vorgell used just one finger to lightly stroke the puckered spot, teasing it the way Madd so often teased him and hoping the effect was the same. He’d never had much opportunity to be tender and felt uncertain of his technique.

Madd’s breathing changed, became slower and less urgent. Vorgell lifted his head to look at Madd’s face. Eyes closed, jaw clenched. Madd looked like a man in pain. Yet he continued to rock, needful and yearning, against Vorgell’s finger. He clearly wanted more of what Vorgell was doing. The man was open, hot and wanting—but dry and—

Vorgell pulled his hand away and groped for the falu oil he’d set out. He found it and dipped in his finger. The oil made anal teasing better for him and he wanted that same pleasure for his partner. Quickly, before Madd could change his mind or lose interest, Vorgell located Madd’s hole again, put his finger back in place and gave a small push. With a tiny whimper, Madd stiffened. But he didn’t resist the finger Vorgell inserted with short, careful thrusts into his ass.

“If you don’t want this—” Vorgell murmurred.

“Just do it, you oaf.”

The harsh tone confused him. Did Madd want this or not? He had not asked him to stop. But the body in his arms had ceased its wanton undulations. Was he doing something wrong? Fingering a man was not a skill Vorgell had practiced. Men of his tribe buggered boys to shame them, not to bring them pleasure. A warrior might place his cock in an ass, but a finger? What little he knew of pleasing an ass, he had Madd to thank for.

Excited by where this opportunity might lead, Vorgell gave himself wholly to the task.

Taking care not to be rough, he worked tenderly, the way Madd had always done with him. Oil. Push. More oil… lots of oil… then stretch. Once he had all his finger inside and Madd was slippery, he slowed his pace. Madd was hot within. Hot as blood—as life and the womb and the fire the gods had used to create living flesh. The texture of the muscle surrounding his finger surprised him by being slightly ridged yet silken, tight and yielding. For a moment he thought of putting his cock to this hole, of what it might feel like, how it might look to see himself sink between his friend’s pert, muscular buttocks. A groan escaped his lips at the prospect.

His own clamoring need reminded him of another tactic Madd employed. Still working his finger into Madd’s passage, he grasped his partner’s stiff cock in his other hand and began to stroke that heated length also.

“Oh Mother Moon!” Madd’s gasp told Vorgell he was doing something right.

Elation swept through him, though his confusion doubled as he looked upon his partner’s face. Madd didn’t look pleasured. His jaw was clenched, his teeth tight. And though Madd’s eyes had flashed open, he looked scared. But he wasn’t asking Vorgell to stop and his cock was stiff and swollen and—

“Fuck me. Harder.”

“Like this?” Vorgell made rougher motions with his finger.

“Yes.”

Still drawing on his own experience, Vorgell ceased his attention to Madd’s cock and used that hand to fumble for more oil, which he trickled down the crack of Madd’s ass and onto his plunging finger. With more oil, he pulled back and then pushed in again with two fingers, stretching Madd further.

“Oh gods—”

“Do you want me to stop?”

“No.” The word sounded forced, broken. “Stop talking and just… do it.”

What did Madd mean by that? Both their cocks bumped and bounced with every thrust, but Vorgell didn’t think Madd was saying he wanted Vorgell’s cock in his ass. Madd wanted what was already happening and didn’t seem to care about Vorgell’s attempts at finesse. He had an idea and worked his two fingers deeper. Using his partner’s gasps to gauge his success, he sought the bump Madd had described to him. Touching that bump had always given Vorgell pleasure. He was certain Madd would feel pleasure too, if only he could do this the way his writhing partner wanted.

“There!” Madd gasped.

Yes. There it was, barely felt but definitely a bump. Vorgell stroked it again and with his other hand took hold of Madd’s cock, making sure to clasp his own in the same hand. Slick with oil, his big fingers encompassed them both and he stroked their cocks as one conjoined beast. At the same time, Madd’s thighs pumped, ass riding his fingers.

“Now! Now… now”—Madd was pleading as if against himself, though it was he who pushed onto Vorgell’s finger as though it was a god’s own gift—“Oh no, gods. Please… please!”

Madd cried out as his whole body quaked. His cock jerked and spilled hot release to fill Vorgell’s hand. A few squeezes of his ass later, Madd drew in a ragged gasp and raised his body, pulling off Vorgell’s hand as if he could not do so quickly enough. He immediately rolled across Vorgell’s body to lie on the mattress, back to him.

Bewildered, Vorgell dispatched his own pounding lust by planting his feet on the floor and pumping his hard cock in a fist slick with oil and come. Only a few strokes were needed to bring him to ejaculation. He attempted to be silent, gulping at the damp still air and only half enjoying his completion. Pure physical release was meager reward.

Nothing about this night’s pairing had centered on him.

Not knowing what else to do, he sat up and sought to pull Madd into his arms. It only surprised him a little to find himself embracing a writhing wildcat. He had expected Madd might resist. He would not have let go if Madd had somehow pulled a knife on him. It took a moment to pull their bodies around until they both lay fully on the bed, Madd facing the wall and Vorgell holding him firmly.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I tried not to hurt you. I’m big and clumsy and—”

A twisted laugh answered. “You didn’t hurt me, you oaf. It wasn’t you.”


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I enjoy feedback and am always happy to discuss readers’ thoughts or answer any questions.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

WIP Thursday: Thick as Ice, 2a

On Thursdays I post excerpts from a novel I’m working on. This week, Vorgell and Madd are back home in Thieves Wart and encounter an amorous fool.


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Chapter 2a


The Moldy Pot tavern was three quarters underground. Its rough-hewn walls presented a handful of openings at ground level to provide ventilation and warning of approaching trouble. Several stone steps led down from the alley to the main room and a rickety wooden stairs behind the plank counter led to the kitchen. Behind the kitchen, another stairs ascended to the second floor and a handful of thoroughly disreputable rooms that could be bought by the sandglass or night. Even for Thieves Wart, the place was the dregs of a fouled barrel.

Madd didn’t care. He wasn’t there to eat the food—the tavern’s name spoke for itself. Neither did he like the other patrons. They were lowlifes of the worst sort, with nothing more on their mind than whom to cheat, knife, or stick with their sorry cocks. The only good thing about the lot was that most of them knew enough by now to leave him alone. As far as Madd was concerned, the Moldy Pot had two advantages and two only: it was underground and therefore cool, and it was within a stone’s throw of the place he and Vorgell called home.

Which explained why he stood at the Pot’s grimy counter nursing his fifth mug of mead. Even watered down mead could find its way to the brain and he gave thanks for the cobwebs taking hold in his. After last night’s successful job and a day spent finding buyers for two of the rubies, he’d decided tonight he would get shit-faced drunk. And the reason for it? That would be the man sitting at a table barely a good spit away, laughing and playing knuckles and pounding the table with his big meaty fist.

Expansive and generous, Vorgell knew how to have fun. The overgrown barbarian attracted people, especially the kind of people who loved to talk about fighting, compare weapons, or play games of chance.

Madd, on the other hand, attracted men like the one standing in front of him, wearing a stupid leer on his face and thinking that, for some bizarre reason—maybe because Madd was no taller than a stripling youth, had nice clothes and clean skin, and didn’t smell like piss—he must be looking for a cock in his ass.

“Go away.” Even half drunk, Madd impressed himself with his restraint. Another mug or two of mead and he would be far less civil.

“Don’t be unfriendly. Give me a smile and I’ll buy your drinks tonight.”

The offer earned him a murderous glare. “Go. Away.” Why was it that when Madd said those two words, men didn’t seem to understand?

Indeed, this man leaned closer. “Come on, love. Just one smile. I know you have a pretty one.”

“Fuck off.”

The lout didn’t understand that either. He placed his lips next to Madd’s ear. “Don’t give me that, now. Fancy man like you, giving eyes. It’s clear as bells what you want tonight—”

Madd’s blade was in his hand and he pressed an edge of thin steel against the wool just south of the idiot’s balls, poised at the big artery to his leg. “I’ll carve you. Do you understand? Go away. I mean leave, before I paint the floor with your blood.”

“Shit!” Balls still intact, the man staggered out of knife range. “Are you crazy? You little cock teasing whore!” He looked around at the other patrons, seeking support. Only shaking heads answered his distress. A few helpful souls gestured to the door. Intent on greater satisfaction, the man groped for his weapon, a short sword.

Knowing how it would play out, Madd rolled his eyes with exasperation. The man’s blade had barely cleared its ratty scabbard before a huge, calloused fist closed around the villain’s wrist with such bone-crunching strength the sword rattled to the floor. With his free hand, Vorgell clenched a handful of the fellow’s clothing tight around his neck and lifted him bodily from the floor.

“Are you threatening my friend?” Vorgell gave the wheezing, choking fool an extra shake for good measure.

“Will you ever let me finish one of my own fights?” Maybe the other fellow couldn’t speak with his throat being squeezed like that, but Madd had plenty to say. “Do you see this knife in my hand? I can handle this.”

“Say the word and he’s a dead man.”

“No.” If propositioning Madd were a crime worthy of death, Thieves Wart’s taverns would have far fewer customers.

“I don’t like the look of him.”

“Neither do I. I believe I was making that very clear—”

“He called you a whore.” Vorgell’s opinion of that offense could not have been clearer. The man somehow managed a piteous squeak.

“Just let him go. Stop making a scene.”

“A beating then?”

“Oh, for the love of—”

“What say you, man turd?” Vorgell addressed his gasping captive, whose flailing legs were too high above the floor to provide much help. “You’ve offended my friend. Believe me when I say I saved you from being gelded. But that will not save you from a beating.”

The man tried to speak but only succeeded in opening and closing his mouth like a fish. 

The tavern keeper thumped for attention. “Not here! Tagard’s men closed us down the last time! Take your business outside!”

“Outside, yes. The river,” said Vorgell. He sported a glint in his eye and a killer’s smile. Dragging the man along, he exited the tavern. Laughter accompanied his departure and then just as quickly faded as the patrons strained their ears. Shouts and loud splashing rewarded them soon after.

Fuck this. Madd sheathed his knife and ordered another cup of mead. When Vorgell returned with water streaks on his clothing and his broad face brimming with satisfaction at having avenged an insult, Madd downed the drink. He then gave the big man a shattering come-hither smile that Vorgell acknowledged with a lifted eyebrow before returning to the gaming table.

Screw him then. Madd never gave any other man that smile. He would have had to kill any idiot who believed it. Giving up, he pounded his empty mug on the battered plank.

“More.”

The burly proprietor hesitated before he raised the pitcher and sloshed the cup full. Although warm and sour, the mead slid like golden honey down Madd’s throat. He didn’t really like the swill, but drink made certain things come easier. Like giving Vorgell those smiles.

After several months of being Vorgell’s partner, he’d been doing a lot of nonsense like that. It was more than just that he found his oversized partner useful and Vorgell’s semen a ready source of magic. Saying he only wanted Vorgell around for the magic felt more like a lie every day. He actually enjoyed the man’s company, and not just when they were working together. He even liked the sex. Something was going on with him, something scary, and the best defense Madd had found against fear was to drown it in magic and mead. It was that, or run away.

It didn’t help that having Vorgell at hand allowed him to behave in ways he might not otherwise have dared.

Hell, he could dress like a lord… show himself off in the worst quarter of the city… flirt with strangers he had no intention in the world of bedding. Even offer himself as brazenly as any courtesan. And he could do this because giant, sword-brandishing Vorgell was sitting just feet away with his pals, looking like a battle god come to earth while keeping eye on him with the territorial gaze of a wolf. It was uncanny how the drunker Madd got, the more sober Vorgell seemed to become. Like now, for instance. Vorgell appeared to be damn near clear-headed.

Madd put his mug down for the last time. Another round with his cup might cost him the ability to walk. Being slung over Vorgell’s shoulder for the trip back to their accommodations would be humiliating.

“Let’s go home,” he said.

Vorgell’s companions looked annoyed, but they didn’t try to stop the big man from rising.

“You good to walk?”

“Of course.” Madd proceeded to prove the point. Even with mead in his blood he was more coordinated than most people. Vorgell putting an arm around his shoulder to steady him really wasn’t necessary.

They reached the alley and were immediately wrapped up in shadows and swelter. Gurgh’s rivers made sure of the latter. The thick air was enough to clog a man’s lungs. And the stench… Madd forced his stomach back down his throat. The fetid stink of the river didn’t mix well with the mead sitting in his gut.

“Aw, Madd, you’re not going to puke again, are you?”

He was glad for Vorgell’s arm now, guiding him along and making it easy for him to walk with his eyes closed. He trusted Vorgell to spy any threats. “I don’t puke. I never puke unless I ate something foul. I told you, my Gran taught me a spell against excess drink and, thanks to you, I have all the magic in the world.”

“Yes, well… you’re letting me lead you.”

“Only because drink makes me fuzzy a little. But I won’t puke.” They walked more or less in a straight line down a street half paved with rough stones. In one of the doorways two figures grappled and moaned and bumped loudly enough to have awakened the inhabitants, who shouted for them to cease.

“Whenever you drink, I end up fighting someone.”

“Yes, because you’re an oaf. You always step in before I finish ‘em off.” Madd knew why Vorgell did it, but knowing didn’t make him like it better.

“Tagard put us on notice. I’ve been trying to restrain my urge to battle but when I see men beset you, I am possessed by an urge to crush their skulls. It doesn’t help that when you drink, you flirt just like a man in search of a bounce in bed.”

“I don’t flirt with strangers, only with you. I can’t help it other men mistake my target.”

“Me? Since when?”

“Since… I don’t know. Do you really expect me to be able to answer questions coherently right now? Besides”—Madd’s thoughts swam against the swirl inside his head—“I want you to trust me to fend for myself. I can handle a blade. I always could use a knife, even before you taught me to use a sword and that damn axe you’re so fond of—”

“At which you are terrifying. The only thing you ever killed with it was a head of cabbage.”

True. He’d been aiming for a practice dummy Vorgell had set up in the garden of their most recent abode. Which reminded him…

“I think we can afford a better neighborhood. Tomorrow I’ll fence another ruby and we can buy one of those fancy houses in the Nightingale Quarter. We can get servants and be respectable.”

“That won’t arouse anyone’s suspicions.”

Madd frowned at being reminded they had snatched the ice harpy on the sly and could hardly parade their new wealth around Gurgh. Thieves lived longer when they didn’t advertise their successes—or stay in one place for too long. “We’ll have to pay off Tagard first, of course.” His foot met a loose stone and he stumbled only a little.

Vorgell’s arm tightened to keep him upright. “That’d only be fair. And didn’t we hear today there’s a Borpani fleet on the way, heavy with cargo ripe for the taking?”

“Fine rugs and copper trinkets.”

“We could use a new rug.”

“Our fortunes are made and our creditors have no complaints.” With just one small ruby, Madd had paid off his debts, including his favorite clothier and the man who made his boots.

“We do owe the merchant for the furs I borrowed without his permission.”

“You didn’t pay him? You’re even more of scoundrel than I am.” The drink must be working because the night seemed uncommonly sweet-natured. As they turned the corner there was just enough breeze to make the sultry air almost bearable.

Vorgell’s arm around his shoulders felt companionable. Right. And they were almost home.

Months ago they had come upon a house perfect for men of their profession: a building of ancient and durable stone, formerly grand but now fallen into disrepair. Part of the dwelling’s foundation projected into the river with the other half still settled firmly on land. This desirable residence belonged to a reclusive owner whose gender they had yet to ascertain. The proprietor had rebuffed them at first, announcing a dislike of boarders, thieves, and fools. Their fortunes had turned when Petal had popped her head up over Vorgell’s shoulder. The notion of having a basilisk in residence appealed to the owner, who suffered from two plagues: rats, and common thieves determined to break into the house’s iron-gated garden, which was abundant with rare plants from which she—or he—made pricey potions. A promise of basilisk venom had sealed the deal.

Tonight the moon hung high above Gurgh’s looming ramparts and cast long shadows over Thieves Wart’s narrow streets and dilapidated buildings. Taking advantage of one of the shadows, Madd pressed Vorgell toward a building wall. It was a clumsy move, as much a product of mead as of lust, but he brazened it by cupping his friend’s well-endowed groin. He grinned when what felt like a python moved under his hand.

“You can’t resist me, you know.”

“Never could. And tonight I can’t get you to a bed fast enough. This way.” Vorgell dragged him out of the shadow. As they walked, he kept a watchful glance in every direction. Thieves Wart boasted a surplus of villains.

“It’s better in moonlight.”

“What is?”

“Cock sucking, you oaf. It’s better then. All cocks are pretty in moonlight.”

“I do not think you could be any drunker and still walk on two legs.”

They rounded the last corner of the alley leading to their domicile, a passage redolent of night blooming mothbrights, honey sweet moonflowers, and poisonous sword lilies, and climbed the narrow stair. Or rather Vorgell climbed and Madd stumbled along as best he could.

(to be continued...)

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I enjoy feedback and am always happy to discuss readers’ thoughts or answer any questions. 

Also, a couple people have mentioned the artwork. I commissioned the image and own it, and I have postcards available. If anyone would like a postcard, I would be happy to mail one to you. All I need is for you to EMAIL ME with an address. International postage is okay. Happy to do it. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

WIP Thursday: Thick as Ice, Chapter 1b

On Thursdays I post excerpts from a novel I’m working on. This week, Vorgell and Madd seek to sell a stolen ice harpy, and Vorgell wants sex. But then, he always wants sex. So I’ll stop saying that.



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Thick as Ice, Chapter 1b


The hand off went as well as any they had ever arranged. The mysterious buyer’s agent—a man they knew only as Rat—waited in the shadows of the temple’s fallen pillars. As was the way of his kind, he put effort into being secretive. Moss and debris hung from what little remained of the structure. Every surface was slick with dead, moldering things. Once they had tied the boat, Madd climbed out first with Vorgell, sword unsheathed and at ready, on his heels. Vorgell carried the webbed harpy slung in a net on his back. The creature wasn’t heavy at all, being barely bigger than a child and having a bird’s hollow bones. Carrying the harpy this way left his hands free for fighting. The downside of being a rogue was that it meant dealing with even worse rogues on occasion.

“You have the… merchandise?” Rat’s oily voice matched the man. His thick body and shiny pate gave him the appearance of a prosperous perfume merchant. He even smelled like one despite the odor of decay that surrounded them.

“That depends on if you have the rest of our payment,” said Madd.

Rat eyed Vorgell with interest. Madd’s small size and light summer clothing pretty much revealed he wasn’t the one carrying a harpy. Vorgell also sported a basilisk on his shoulder. After a moment, Rat reached into his robe and pulled out a velvet purse. He opened it and spilled a dozen deep red jewels into his hand. The gems blazed in the misty hot morning.

Madd looked from the jewels to Vorgell before reaching into the pouch at his belt. Vorgell fought a grin. Trust was not Madd’s strong suit. He watched Madd’s long fingers bring out a flat, smooth stone the color of pewter. One of Madd’s first thefts for his own gain had been the procuring of a genuine alchemist’s stone from the vault of one of the Four Fabled Philosophers of Bence.

One by one, Madd plucked a red jewel and touched it to the stone. A prism of colors appeared on the surface. Vorgell watched Madd examine the arrangement of colors, his gaze ascertaining what he needed to know. Each time Madd finished testing a jewel, he placed it in Vorgell’s outstretched hand. Soon all twelve jewels glittered in Vorgell’s palm.

Madd put the alchemist’s stone back into the belt pouch. He nodded to Rat, who wore an unctuous smile. “You just bought yourself an ice harpy.”

“One moment,” said Vorgell. He moved back a step, out of reach of Rat’s grasping hands. Madd turned on him, already scowling.

“What are you doing?”

“I need to hear again what this man’s mistress plans to do with the harpy.”

“Clients don’t have to explain why they want something.”

Rat’s smile tightened, but he waved his hand to let them know the question did not offend him. “I respect your friend’s concern. This is a living creature. My buyer means it no harm. It will be housed comfortably and used solely to cool a new palace. As you may have noticed, the summer this year is very hot.”

“So hot it’s worth twelve rubies to chill a room?”

“We’re hoping to cool more than that. You see, the palace is very large, and ice harpies are beyond rare. There isn’t another within a month’s hard riding that I know of.”

Vorgell didn’t like Rat’s smug little smile.

“Give him the harpy, Vorgell.”

Madd’s unhappy glare convinced him. That look didn’t bode well for his chances of getting laid. Besides, Rat had paid them as promised—a princely sum. And they’d agreed to this job on the condition no harm would come to the harpy. With a nod, Vorgell pocketed the jewels, sheathed his sword, and nudged Petal to his other shoulder. Unslinging the net with the harpy was easy enough. He held it out to Rat.

“Be careful with this,” he warned. “Once out of that red feathered webbing the creature will get back all its power. Things will get very icy, very fast. And, well, it might want to couple with somebody. I suggest you have women handle it.”

“Your advice is well-taken.” Rat received the balled up harpy as if it were an enormous porcelain vase. He gazed upon it with sheer adoration, proof enough he’d never seen a harpy in action.

Vorgell and Madd stayed where they were while the robed procurer, harpy in hands, hurried to the east corner of the temple. Minutes later they watched an ornate, many-oared barge glide rapidly through the river’s currents toward Gurgh, still swaddled in mist on the other bank.

“He certainly can’t wait to start chilling that palace,” Madd noted. His shaggy black hair hung in sweaty curls around his ears and neck. He turned to Vorgell. “You have his rubies, right?”

He patted his breast pocket and gave Madd a lustful leer. “What shall we do to celebrate?”

“Not here. In case you haven’t noticed, this creepy old temple belongs to the Mournful Goddess of Watery Death. The reason it’s in disrepair is because every time anyone does something to anger the goddess, this part of the damn river floods.”

“Do men enjoying each other’s cocks make her angry?”

“Who the hell knows? Maybe the priests just make that stuff up, but I’m not taking chances.” Madd walked across the slime-covered ruins and jumped catlike into the boat. He looked back at Vorgell. “Are you coming?”

“Apparently not any time soon.” He climbed down into the boat and took a seat at the oars. Pushing the end of one against the crumbling stone of the temple, he moved them back out into the stream. With any luck and some concerted rowing they could cross the river to Gurgh and conduct the rest of their business before the taverns opened.

If he couldn’t find some way to tumble Madd soon, Vorgell would have no choice but to resort to brawling and strong ale.

* * * *

Vorgell had yet to figure out how to make Madd burn with lust. When it came to sex his partner could be ardent, of that he had seen proof enough, but Madd just as often seemed to regard sex the same way most men regarded taking a piss—as an urge to be satisfied but not pursued with abandon. Vorgell, on the other hand, wanted sex at every opportunity and not just because the aphrodisiac nature of unicorn magic made his cock rise at the least provocation.

“You know, the fisherman may be out,” he said as the ramshackle pier came into view.

Madd cocked his head, eyes narrowing. “Are you saying you want to fuck in that falling down old work shed of his?”

“We paid him for the whole day.” That Madd had not nixed his plan so far was promising.

“For the boat, not his shack.”

“He won’t even notice.” Vorgell guided the boat to the dock until it bumped and Madd threw a rope over one of the pilings. He grinned at his partner. “Come now, Madd. You know you want to.”

“I know you’re a sex-crazed oaf.”

His plan required a bit more work. After throwing the bale of furs up onto the pier, he went to check out the shack. The fisherman was not around, removing the greatest cause for concern, though there were others. For one thing, rotting, discarded nets lay piled in one corner. Vorgell dumped the bale of furs on the floor.

“This place is filthy.” Madd stood in the doorway.

“We’ve made do with worse.”

“Are you referring to the time I got you off in the belly of a leaky ship because I was trying to keep it afloat? We were manacled. We needed the magic. This—” He frowned and scuffed at the floor. “Are these bug husks?”

They appeared to be; there were spider webs overhead. Vorgell pulled the top fur—a fine cape made of fox—and dropped it skin side down on another part of the floor to cover any possible offense. One moment more and he’d unbuckled his belt and dropped his trousers. One snap of his loincloth and his cock sprang free like a soldier to battle.

“You know how I feel. I really need you, Madd.” He hoped it didn’t sound too much like a plea.

“I can see that.”

Vorgell watched Madd walk toward him. The stirring in his loins was more than mere lust, though his partaking of unicorn horn had infused his body with enough of that to fuel the whole of Gurgh. No. He wanted Madd in ways he could not even explain. Ways beyond knowing that tapping the magic in his semen was Madd’s favorite means of acquiring power. As much as he desired the pretty male witch as a partner, and as often as Madd accommodated his need, their arrangement was more practical than cozy.

For once his partner didn’t mock his rampant urges. One never knew with Madd. He could be all kisses and surrender one day and the next he would bite off the head of anyone—man or woman—who looked him in the eye. Right now they were both sweat-slick from the heat and their clothing stuck to their bodies, but Vorgell saw no reason to let that get in his way. He pulled Madd hard against him, lowering his head to pursue a kiss. As always, Madd tensed. Though he had been free of the love collar’s tyranny for months, Madd still feared kisses would bring pain. But once Vorgell’s lips found his, Madd’s mouth turned soft and willing, and he opened for Vorgell’s eager tongue.

“We did it,” Vorgell said when they parted for air. It pleased him to see Madd’s lips wet and rosy, like a man well-kissed.

“We’re fucking rich.”

“Yes. And I shall give you your share of the rubies only after you’ve delivered on my reward.” Vorgell canted his pelvis forward, pushing his engorged cock insistently against Madd’s belly.

From where she hunkered on the threshold, Petal huffed and looked away, her nose tilted with disdain. She preferred hunting to watching humans do undignified things to each other.

Trousers around his knees, Vorgell mastered a quiver of anticipation when Madd grasped him by the hips and sank down until his knees were on the fox pelt. Drops of arousal swelled from Vorgell’s cock when Madd’s breath warmed his already leaking cock tip.

“Gods, Vorgell. What’s the longest you stay soft? Five minutes?” Madd’s pink tongue flicked out and swiped at the fluid as if it were fine wine being spilled and not pre-come. “It’s your good fortune that magic tastes like the food of the gods.” He tilted a smile at him. “You know why I make you wait, right?”

“Because you like guessing games?” The sweet pressure of Madd’s grip on his cock was killing him.

“No. Because I’d rather use you than let you use me.”

Madd trailed a finger up the line of Vorgell’s shaft and circled the head slowly. Then he bent forward to administer a long, slow lick.

Vorgell bit back a loud moan at the heavenly pressure of Madd’s tongue on his cock. The man possessed a wicked knowledge of cock teasing. “Please, Madd… please, please, please… you’ve had me hard for hours. Rowing that boat while feasting my eyes upon you was torture.”

He was beyond ready. Every nibble, lick, and suck pushed him up to the edge, but never over. His cock throbbed atop aching balls. Madd laid hold of his testicles and rolled them expertly, holding them away from his body with just enough pressure to interrupt his ejaculation. His cock popped from Madd’s mouth, causing him to groan with frustration as the man nuzzled him instead of sucking.

“I know what you want, Vorgell. You want more than this.”

Madd knew him too well. He wanted to be fucked. “I’ll spread more furs.”

“This place is filthy. I don’t fuck in shitholes—”

“Then suck me, Madd. Suck me dry. Do whatever you want. I don’t care what you do, just do it!”

He clasped Madd’s head as the ruddy lips he so loved opened again to take him into moist, hot paradise.  The only thing better than a good suck was getting a stiff cock in the ass. Vorgell felt Madd’s nimble fingers lightly caress his aching balls and the touch unmade him. He strangled a groan, hips bucking as his cock jerked between Madd’s lips, then jerked again. So much! He closed his eyes and surrendered all he had. Sated at last, he looked down to see his partner sucking with dreamy pleasure, inky eyelashes long upon flushed cheeks. When he finally released Vorgell’s softened cock, the young witch rocked back on his heels, looking pleased with himself and licking bits of escaped come from the corners of his lips.

Vorgell sighed, perfectly content. Madd might not always give him exactly what he wanted, but he always managed to give him what he needed.

“I just remembered why I like having you as a partner.” Vorgell tugged up his trousers while Madd got off his knees and back to his feet.

“Remind me again?”

“You give the best suck jobs in Gurgh.”

“Fuck you.”

Vorgell laughed. His fortunes might be chained to the whims of an enticing, dark-haired witch, but he had never been so free.


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Thursday, July 2, 2015

WIP Thursday: Thick as Ice, Chapter 1a

I started Thick as Ice soon after publishing Thick as Thieves. Thieves started life as a Wednesday Brief here on the blog and was never intended to be more than a lark, but readers enjoyed the adventures of Vorgell the barbarian, Madd, and Petal—and they asked for more. I even posted part of the first chapter of Ice on Boy Meets Boy Reviews.

Alas, a tsunami of health issues knocked me off my game in 2014, so I didn’t finish the book. Until now....

Because loyal readers helped me keep up my spirits during my health crisis, I’ve decided that while writing the rest of Thick as Ice, I will post chapters from the book here on my blog. Unlike with Rattletrap, I may not post the entire book. My publisher has the rights to any sequel (and to the characters), so I am limited to how much can be posted at any one time. In other words, I may take down chapters so I can put up new ones, or I may have to pull the book about halfway through. Just giving a heads up about that. You’re still getting an advance peek and, as readers who were on hand during Thieves’ debut might recall, I have my own kind of reward program.

For visitors new to Vorgell and Madd, I’ll set up this story by sharing the blurb for Thick as Thieves:

After Vorgell the barbarian fucks himself with a unicorn horn, he ends up in a cell with Maddog, a pretty young thief. It’s lust at first sight for Vorgell—but honestly, he can’t help it. Unicorn horn is a potent aphrodisiac, and now he can’t stop thinking about sex. Luckily, Madd is one male witch who knows how to put Vorgell’s new magical body to good use when he tricks Vorgell into a kiss that helps them escape.

Vorgell may desire sex in general—and Madd in particular—but Madd has no intention of being screwed by a man twice his size. He has problems of his own, including an enchanted collar that causes him to desire his most hated enemy. He wants that collar off as soon as possible, but that requires stealing a basilisk egg from the castle they just escaped.

Drawn together by lust and magic, the two men join forces and soon find themselves up to their necks in witches, wizards, and trouble. Vorgell and Madd might just be perfect for each other, but first they have to survive long enough to find out.
On! More adventure!

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Thick as Ice, Chapter 1a


The ice harpy looked unhappy. Her flat little eyes fixed on Vorgell and she fluffed her ice-rimmed leg feathers in warning. The temperature in the room plummeted so that his next breath emerged as frost.

Vorgell had never seen a happy ice harpy. Even when not imprisoned like this one was in an enchanted cage at the center of a magical room, ice harpies were miserable creatures. To start with, their magic froze everything around them. The cold air of this room would have reduced him to violent shivers had he not had the forethought to clothe his body with furs in the middle of summer. Even the moonlight pouring through the glazed windows was cold. He glanced toward the other side of the room, where Madd crouched on the floor behind the ice harpy’s back. His partner was also bundled in furs as he worked on the room’s magical perimeter.

Vorgell’s job was to occupy the harpy.

He shrugged out of his heavy fur cloak. The leather jerkin he still wore showcased his broad chest and manly arms. The harpy craned her neck and spread her wings the better to display two very human-looking breasts atop her narrow, bird-like body. As was usual with ice harpies, her breasts were enticing. billowy soft, with pink perky nipples. Vorgell knew better than to fall for such charms. He’d seen ice harpies in action. The moment the lustful harpy succeeded in mounting him—an act he was determined to thwart—her pretty tits would deflate into unsightly bags. Not only were ice harpies miserable, they were devious. His cock, however, responded to the sight of two large firm globes and glorious cleavage by plumping with eager interest, pushing out his trouser front.

He damned the unicorn magic that made him susceptible to sexual lures of every persuasion. That he had fucked a unicorn horn in a moment of weakness left him vulnerable now… and very appealing to the ice harpy. One of the most unsavory of magical beasts, ice harpies needed to mate with human males if they were to breed. This was difficult on two counts: not only were the sexual habits of ice harpies disgusting, but any man who succumbed to their questionable charms ended up freezing to death. Willing males were hard to come by.

No wonder this harpy now eyed Vorgell with anticipation. From across the room, Madd looked up with a scowl and gesticulated that he needed a little more time. Apparently the wizards who had set the wards had been as skilled as was rumored. Madd was now gloveless and working frantically, but at least he still wore several layers of furs. Vorgell was beginning to shiver.

Forcing a grin of nonchalance, Vorgell opened the flap of his trousers, releasing his erect cock into view. Breasts bobbing, the ice harpy danced on her perch. The feathered mound between her plump avian legs opened to reveal a rosy slit already wreathed by mist in the frigid air. It was… terrifying, actually. Vorgell swallowed hard. He waggled his cock and, when he saw the harpy was transfixed by the sight, shot a desperate look at Madd.

Two slender cones of bluish light rose from the floor to each side of the softly chanting, dark-haired male witch. Madd extended his slender hands and touched each blue magical object with a gleaming dragon’s fang. The wards flared and vanished. Madd raised his head, lifted his thumb, and delivered a wide grin of triumph that nearly melted Vorgell on the spot… which was good considering how frozen he was beginning to feel. The little guy’s smile also went straight to Vorgell’s cock, inspiring dreams of how he planned to celebrate.

Emboldened by thoughts of Madd wrapping those bewitching lips around him, Vorgell stepped forward across the now disarmed floor. His approach caused the harpy to lift her wings and squawk with excitement. She pressed herself against the bars, licked her thin little lips and craned toward him. Kneeling below the cage, he removed the water pouch tucked between his belt and belly and trickled a stream into a depression in the floor. It took only a moment for the water in the mold to freeze into a key.  He retrieved it and stood to unlock the door. Unnoticed behind the harpy, Madd crept up with all the stealth of a seasoned cutpurse and thief.

The door swung open. With a shriek of lust, the harpy leaped upon Vorgell. Her thighs gripped his hips and her nauseating breath iced his lips right before Madd tossed a net of blood-hued string and gold-edged red feathers over the creature and the contraption snapped tight around her, binding the harpy into an feathered ball. The room noticeably warmed.

“Quick!” Madd wrapped his fur cloak over the harpy and scooped her up into his arms as he hurried toward the window through which they’d entered.

Vorgell dashed to get his own fur cloak—wolf pelts were costly and he had paid much for the work—and fastened it around his shoulders. He caught up with Madd in a bare few leaps, his long legs eating the distance. Making a stirrup of his hands, he catapulted Madd and their prize up onto the window ledge, then climbed to join him.

They left nothing behind but a puddle from the melted key.

* * * *

“You could take a turn at the oars.”

Vorgell’s arms were getting tired. Though it was only morning and the sun had yet to clear the trees lining the bank, so much sweat streamed down his body, plastering his shirt across his back and his pants to his ass, he might as well have taken a swim in the river. Thanks to his willingness to row through the night, his and Madd’s plank boat had made swift progress downstream. They were now well away from the Serene Prince’s palace and faced little risk of pursuit. The harpy, the crown jewel of the mad aristocrat’s menagerie, rested between Vorgell’s boots.

“You really want me to row?” Madd could take any request and make it sound ridiculous. “I have as much talent for brute work as you have for magic. Let’s start with the obvious: I’m a third your size. Your right arm alone dwarfs my whole body.”

Not quite true, but it was easier for Vorgell to resume rowing than it was to argue the point. The oars bit deep into the dark water as Vorgell pulled with all his might, causing his chest to expand and his mighty muscles to bunch.  Madd’s smile stretched into an appreciative leer. He looked very comfy sitting on the bales of furs that had formerly been their protection from magical cold.

“I’ve been rowing all the way. I could use a break.” Vorgell grunted at the oars.

“I’m enjoying the view.”

Vorgell could say the same. Ever since dawn’s first soft light he had been admiring Madd’s delectable person. His partner had shed the furs and now only a loose tunic and coarsely woven breeches stood between him and Vorgell’s lustful gaze. Even after months of partnership, Vorgell’s blood rose at every flash of his partner’s dark eyes and cutting smile. Were they not in a hurry to pass the harpy off to their mysterious buyer, he would have pounced on the man and risked upsetting the boat.

He turned to look downstream, making sure they weren’t headed toward some hazard. They’d so far avoided fallen trees and sandbars. Now the shapes of Gurgh’s towers stood etched in the misty distance. He lifted the oars from the water and laid them in the bottom of the boat, taking care to avoid the harpy. From the breasthook at the bow, a long-bodied green creature lifted its rosy crest and chittered softly at being disturbed. Vorgell shot Petal a grin.

The basilisk had done her job well, guarding the boat so they could make a clean escape. Two new stone dogs, frozen in mid-bark, now graced the Serene Prince’s waterside garden.

“Keep rowing, why don’t you? I’m not sitting on a Sun prince’s throne back here. I’m downwind of the harpy.” Madd illustrated his complaint by waving his hand. “That thing smells worse than the Back End of Gurgh.”

“I warned you about that.” Vorgell reached for Petal, who scooted up his arm. Their combined movement rocked boat, creating wavelets, and he laughed when Madd clutched at the sides. 

Madd scowled. “Laugh if you want, but the boat leaks and that harpy reeks.”

“You told me the magical web thing would take care of the stench. Other than not sparing our noses, it’s doing a good job. But that net looks uncomfortable. Are you certain the harpy isn’t suffering?”

“You actually care about that?” Madd arched an eyebrow. “You do realize the harpy wanted to fuck you into an icicle. The only reason it didn’t is because I made a perfect throw.”

“Yes, you did.” His partner was nothing if not deft of hand and wit. “I just want to make sure we keep to our rules.”

“Don’t be an oaf. Let’s go through it again, shall we? Is the harpy human?” Madd lifted one finger. “No, it is not. So stealing it doesn’t break that rule. Did we snatch it from—or in any other way offend—a wizard? No. We stole it from the Serene Prince, who is crazy but not a wizard.” Up went a second finger. “Is the Serene Prince poor? I don’t think so. So he won’t be impoverished by this theft. He won’t have to sell his children or do anything to tread upon the rule about not harming those who have enough misery already.” Madd held forth his three fingers. “The harpy fits the rules.”

Vorgell sighed. It wasn’t that he felt particularly agreeable toward the harpy—given the creature’s habits, what man would?—but something about this particular job didn’t sit quite right. The frivolity, perhaps. Supposedly some high lady wished it to cool her palace from this wretched heat. It was just that he had a soft spot for creatures in general.

Petal settled on his right shoulder, where she hunkered down to one of her favorite tasks: giving Madd baleful looks. Madd narrowed his eyes and glared right back.

“She looks terrible. Her skin is dull. I think it’s getting tight again.”

“She can’t help it. She’s growing.”

“Yes. Because you feed her too much! I don’t think basilisks are supposed to eat human food.”

Vorgell stroked Petal’s back, lightly scratching two prominent bumps atop her bony shoulders. Acquiring Petal had been one of his life’s more bizarre turns, yet he could no more regret having released the basilisk from her magical imprisonment than he could regret having fucked himself with a unicorn’s horn. Especially not when the latter adventure had rendered him perpetually horny and ready for action, a state that had led him directly to Madd. All he had to do was look at Madd’s face and….

“Not in the boat,” Madd said, eyeing Vorgell’s erection.

“Sex in a boat could be fun.”

“It could be wet. And I’m not sucking anything but air until I’m back on good earth at the meeting place—which by the way, we will reach much faster if you start rowing again.”

“Didn’t you say you know how to swim?” He’d never actually witnessed Madd using this skill.

“I do well enough. If the boat tips over I won’t drown. But if the harpy falls into the river, the phoenix net would probably be extinguished and I don’t want to find out what would happen then.”

“The river would freeze, I imagine.” Vorgell pondered what he knew about harpies and their magic. The rivers in their native habitat were nearly always frozen.

“Yes. With us in it. Not to mention the mood the harpy would be in.”

With a sigh, Vorgell lifted the oars and put them back into the water. Sex with Madd was worth almost anything except joining a pissed off ice harpy in a body of water. Even Petal’s basilisk stare wouldn’t be of use. Magical creatures had little effect on each other.

Keeping his heated gaze on Madd, he rowed toward the abandoned temple across the river from the city.


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