Serial: An Heir to Thorns and Steel, 19

An Heir to Thorns and Steel is a serialized fantasy novel updating once a week for free on Tuesdays, and again on Thursdays and Saturdays if tips reach $15 and $20, respectively. Single reviews of existing stories posted to Amazon count for $5 toward the tip total.

An Heir to Thorns and Steel
Blood Ladders, Book 1
M.C.A. Hogarth

Episode 19

The Genet Panacea

      They were tired, the genets, particularly after days of stalking me. Not long after our conversation, Kelu curled herself into a tight ball in front of the fire and fell asleep and Almond insisted on doing the same at my feet. Chester poured us both tea, handed me my cup and said, “What… the bloody… hell.”
      “Don’t ask me,” I said. “I didn’t know they were coming. I didn’t even know they existed.”
      “What are you going to do with them?” he asked.
      “I haven’t the first idea,” I said. I arched a brow at him. “Do you have any suggestions?”
      “None,” he said. “Not even a hint of one.” He shook his head. “My God, Morgan.”
      “I know,” I said. He was disturbed, Chester, to be calling me by my first name. “I don’t suppose you came across any mention of miniature animal slaves in any of your reading.”
      “Nothing. Not a thing. The closest I’ve seen has been the occasional image of a drake here and there.”
      I laughed. “God! Don’t tell me I should expect dragons next.”
      “I should hope not,” Chester said. “Where would we put them?” He drummed his fingers on the table. “Locke–how do you feel?”
      “At a loss, as I’m not exactly the pet-keeping sort,” I said.
      “No.” He shook his head. “I mean, how do you feel? You look… you look right.”
      I glanced at him. With Almond warming my toes and the cup warming my hands, I felt caught between two perfect poles… and my body between them was languid and strong and tranquil. Not a pain in it, not an aching joint, not a twinge.
      I set my cup aside, unnerved. It was the feeling I’d had while holding Almond, but persisting somehow. Persisting and faded out of the forefront… as, I supposed, everyone’s health did.
      When they were healthy.
      “Do you see a difference?” I asked him.
      He nodded. “You look alive.” A lopsided grin. “No offense, chap.”
      He could see it. I could feel it. I looked down at the coil of caramel and white at my feet, at the way the fur separated and bristled as her ribs lifted with every torpid breath. “Now that makes absolutely no sense,” I said. “Perhaps I am having a good day.”
      “Have you ever had a day this good?” Chester asked.
      “No,” I admitted. “Not that I can recall.”
      “So… best day you’ve ever had, arrival of elven constructs,” Chester said, putting out first one hand, than the other, palm up. “Hmm. Could it be… a correlation?”
      “One incident might be coincidence,” I said.
      “And if it’s not?” Chester asked.
      I laughed. “Then I suppose I’ll keep them.”
      He said, “So, no intention of going back with them, eh?”
      “Back with them… where, to elf-land? Where someone has mixed up my identity with some bastard prince’s?” I laughed. “Be reasonable, Chester. It’s a fantasy. And even if it’s not, monarchies are not particularly known for their honest self-portrayals. It’s probably some horrendously despotic country, and to travel there is to ask for deportment, enslavement or something worse. You heard the genets. Humans aren’t well-regarded there.”
      “But… elves!” Chester said. “Think of the research!”
      I laughed. “Keep dreaming, friend.”
      He sighed and opened his ink bottle, drew out a fresh page of notes. “Can’t blame a man for wishing. Mind if I copy out your pendant there?”
      “Not at all.”
      The pendant changed hands. Chester turned it in his fingers. “Would be a hell of a thing if you actually were this second son.”
      “I can’t argue that,” I said, and with Almond sleeping on my toes returned to my own studies.

      The genets did not wake when Chester left, nor when I prepared for bed. I paused, leaning on the door to the sitting room, and looked at them… even having spent the entire day with them nearby, I could not quite believe them. The fur, the delicate little limbs, the extravagant tails, the ridiculous and ominous collars. I went to sleep, not entirely sure they would be there in the morning.
      But they most certainly were. And in fact, they were both in my bed. Their bodies, so much hotter than human ones, had trapped me between them, tails draped over my legs and hips, tiny hands resting on my chest. That perfume, musk and lilacs… and the heat, and the softness… I let my head drop back onto the pillow and sighed.
      The tip of a little tongue scraped against one of my ribs, and so deep was my relaxation that I didn’t flinch. Almond cuddled more tightly against my side, slipping one furred leg around mine. It was like being enrobed in summer sunlight.
      I drifted off again. I thought I could sleep forever thus, outside of pain, warm to the core.
      It was in this state of complacency that I became aware of being licked again along the inside of my arm. It began as a tickle, but the longer the sensation persisted the clearer it became: the rasp of the center of that tiny tongue, the slight prick and drag of the sharp lower teeth, the moist heat of the mouth, the cool damp of the nose. Whiskers brushing against my skin. The flush of warmth and cold as she panted on the slick spots she left behind.
      Disturbingly sensual. I thought to move away—
      —hands seized my arm and held it down and teeth shoved into the meat near my elbow, piercing, bright streaks of pain, the revulsion of skin being violated and then: wet streamers running down my arm, fever-hot. Blood always seemed hotter than polite, than possible.
      I was bleeding.
      I was being drunk.
      I bolted from the sheets, jerking my arm away, tumbling onto the floor in a tangle of cotton and fur and surprised yelps. Almond had fallen beneath me… it was Kelu who was crouched on top of the bed, tail twice its width, claws flexing on the edge of the mattress and lower jaw dripping scarlet. That she never blinked was magnified by my lack of glasses; all I saw were those blots of molten orange, unchanging.




Anyway! We are $15 or 5 reviews away from our Thursday bonus. In which we find out whether Morgan survives Kelu’s predations. *beams*

Mirrored from MCAH Online.

About M.C.A. Hogarth

Genderqueer sci-fantasy writer, animal geek, conlanger, pyrographer, painter, doodler, jewelry artisan, web designer, Kemetic, and musician. Snake-crazy.
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