Tags: capricious, julie cox, serialized fiction
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the people are friendly and the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Capricious by Julie Cox follows the adventures of satyr Luke and his fellow myth-folk in a town that borders a whole lot more than Mexico. (Do you need to start at chapter 1?)
“Hey. Hey August. August, wake up. What color are your horse’s eyes normally?”
August growled low in his throat as he slowly opened menacing blue eyes. Luke decided he looked scarier when he was rudely awakened than he did throwing his flaming skull around. He was in Sally’s parents’ bed; beside him, Cormick was still mostly asleep. When August stirred, Cormick pulled the blankets up over his head.
“What the hell?” August snarled.
“Your horse’s eyes changed color from red to green when I went through the gate. We were thinking it might be related to why he ran off.”
The anger turned to confusion. “His eyes are usually green.”
“No, they were red when you got here.”
August pulled himself ever so slightly upright, letting the blanket fall down his chest. OK, Luke had to admit to himself, the ghost was nice looking mostly naked. Behind him, he felt Charlie’s magic paying close attention. Focus, Luke thought, this was no time for lust magic. August muttered something, and Luke shook his head. “What was that?”
“I’m color-blind. I didn’t know they were red. I’ve no idea why they would be.”
Charlie pressed in between Luke and the side table. “We’re thinking the portal may have acted as a filter and removed some magical element that was at work.”
August nodded slowly, mulling this over. “I gotta get a cup of coffee,” he said, “before I think this hard.”
“That’s fair,” Luke said, taking a step back. August swung his legs over the side of the bed and got to his feet. He was wearing black pajama bottoms of a silky fabric that slid over his legs, and his feet were bare. Luke was in the midst of admiring this sight—strictly from an aesthetic point of view, he thought, he still considered August a jerk—when with shocking speed, August darted out his hand, grabbed Luke by one of his horns, and slammed Luke’s head against the solid oak headboard.
Cormick and Charlie shrieked as lights danced in front of Luke’s eyes; the pain was incredible, and he would have a headache for the rest of the day. But he did not, as August so clearly intended, crumple, incapacitated, to the ground. He kicked backward, blindly, and connected with soft tissue and bone. Luke spun like a reining horse and launched himself at the place he imagined August would be. He was only a little off. He grabbed, grappled, and took August enough off balance that they both fell to the floor.
Luke didn’t have a chance against August in a fair fight, not here, away from his land. August was faster and stronger, at least thirty pounds heavier, and formally trained, and when pressed, he had a fiery skull weapon he would most assuredly use. So Luke didn’t fight fair. He locked his legs around August and clung tightly to him; he swung his horns ferociously, clawed and bit. In short, he fought dirty, like the desperate backwoods scrap that he was. Suddenly a thick cloth was over his face. He let go of August, pawed frantically at the cloth—then it was off of him, and he scooted backward on his butt.
He figured out what had happened pretty quickly. Charlie had thrown the comforter from Sally’s parents’ bed over the fighting men, and now both Charlie and Orson were sitting on a comforter-wrapped August. Luke got to his feet, the adrenaline making his limbs tremble like aspen leaves.
“Fear not, you look good in floral,” Charlie called to August over his enraged howls.
“What the hell?” Cormick cried.
“Pretty boy here had some bad juju worked on him,” Luke said. He explained their theory to Cormick, who paled. Luke’s head was beginning to throb painfully; he dropped his head into his hands and made a miserable noise of caprine unhappiness.
“What can we do about it?” Cormick asked.
“Well, we could throw him through the portal,” Orson suggested.
“If you think we can handle fighting the trolls and August,” Cormick said, his usual scowl returning.
“I could try something,” Charlie suggested. All eyes turned to Charlie. He held up his hands. “I haven’t tried this, exactly, but it might be our best option.” Protesting noises came from beneath the blanket.
“Keep talking,” Cormick said.
“This requires some explanation. When I was a young child, I was given the ability to consume the magic of other myth-folk. I haven’t done it in twenty years, but… it’s not exactly the kind of thing you forget. It’s kind of like using a katana to go after a splinter, though.”
There was a horrified silence. Luke expressed the group’s collective thoughts: “Dude.”
“Yeah, I know. There was a good reason at the time.”
“You’re going to have to explain that one further,” Cormick said, “but I don’t know that we have another option at this point. Myth-folk are disappearing fast, and August is a massive liability if he’s on the other side. Let’s do it.”
August shrieked and resumed kicking and struggling. It took Cormick, Luke, and Orson to hold him down, and the noise woke the girls. Allison and Sally took up guard positions at the door and window once they had been filled in, Sally armed with her father’s shotgun and Allison with a machete that had seen recent work as a weedwacker.
Charlie crouched on the floor in front of August, whose eyed now glowed red as his horse’s had done. His black hair, normally slicked back or artfully tossed, now hung in tangled locks around his pale face. He snarled incoherently at his captors; he looked every bit his myth, the mindless ghost, possessed.
“This is going to be disconcerting,” Charlie said. “I have to drop the façade of my human form to do it. It’s not really like what you folk do; I am not two beings at once. I am really and truly one thing only, and it is the cloak of another person’s magic that disguises what I am, that allows me to feel and think and act human. Magic is part of you in a way that it is not part of me. For me to take some of it from you… well, it goes against our very natures.”
“In short,” he said as he moved toward August, “this is going to hurt.”
Julie Cox lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business and teaches yarn spinning. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere. For her full list of published works, see her website at www.lazypifarm.com.