Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Twenty-Eight. Listen to the audio version at Nobilis Erotica here!
The path through the gate, through the web of roads leading to all worlds, was more dizzying and terrifying and wonderful than anything Luke had seen in all his many, many lives. Colors he had never seen before, that did not exist in his reality, blazed around him like shattered lightning. He looked into the abyss beyond the light and saw eyes gazing back at him, marking his passing, the great guardians of the chasms.
They went by worlds, entire realities, so fast he had only time to glimpse them before they were on to the next one. It was, he would think later, like running down the aisle of a great library, where the pages of the books opened up as he passed and spilled forth their guts, unfolding and refolding like maps, beautiful and terrible and immense in their breadth. The creature beneath him was no horse at all, but a shimmering dark presence the color of a raven, black as the void until the light hit it and revealed the iridescent green and purple depths within. It flew along the pathways with its feet not striking at all, navigating the cobweb of the cosmos like it was normal, like it was easy. All Luke could do was cling to its neck and try not to scream.
When at last the horse stopped, the air was still, the light pale and weak, in a stone corridor. Luke sat up, shaking, slid out of the saddle, and found his legs didn’t hold him; he collapsed onto the floor and retched. The horse walked past him, huffing as if to say, “Amateur.”
When Luke’s head stopped spinning and his strength returned to him, he pulled himself off the ground and followed the horse into the great stone hall, his lighter trip-trapping footsteps an accent rhythm to the heavy clip-clop of the horse’s hooves. Luke was fully his satyr-self here in the world of the fae, his horns and hooves as real as his olive skin and work-worn callouses. He was naked, as all satyrs inevitably prefer, and surprised himself by thinking nothing odd about it. Here, he realized, he could not manifest a human appearance; he was all satyr, and nothing else.
The enormous stone hall was cold, and still, and held more silence than he had ever heard. When the echoes of their footsteps stopped, there was no sound whatsoever. It was disconcerting, especially in a place that had once been so very alive–Tír na nÓg, the land of youth, the home of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the heroes of many lands. The arched ceiling towered many stories above him, old stonework so tight it would outlast the ages. Many columns supported it, and into them were carved the runic languages of the peoples who had visited the hall–Celtic, Welsh, and many others. One had a great spiral winding around it, intersected with the quick Ogham marks of Pictish. To Luke’s great surprise, he could almost read it. He wondered what long-ago life he had led in Scotland.
“Many blessings upon you,” he said aloud, running his hand over the ancient stone. His voice echoed, its hollow ringing a reminder of just how silent the hall was. “Or… something like that.” He followed the script around, picking out words he understood, until it was too high to make out, though it continued all the way to the ceiling.
“Wonder how they did that,” he said. He walked along the outer wall, eyeballing the many corridors that led off of the great hall. Seeing a light, he went down one corridor to a room filled with a golden glow.
A great, strangely silent fire burned in a central fire pit, the smoke curling up to a chimney-hole high in the ceiling. A circular table ringed the pit, laden with food of every kind–large slabs of meat on the bone, glistening with a honey glaze; clumps of fruit plump and brightly colored, with a hint of sugar crystals sprinkled upon them; crisp-crusted bread still steaming from the oven, with a bowl of whipped butter beside each one. Jugs of wine and mead stood beside heavy ceramic mugs. His head swam from the marvelous mix of aromas, and he could almost taste the fine food, feel the tender texture of it in his mouth.
The horse nudged him hard from behind, and he almost fell over.
“I wasn’t going to taste it,” he said. “I’m not stupid. The first rule of any magical land, especially Faerie, is to take no food or drink.” The horse didn’t look convinced. “Hey,” Luke said, “weren’t your eyes glowing red before? They’re green now. Which, don’t get me wrong, is still creepy. You look like you got the ectoplasm from Ghostbusters floating out of your eyes.” The horse snorted derisively as it turned away from him. Luke gave the table one last sighing look; it might not be real, but it surely was tempting. After lust and pride, a satyr’s favorite sin was gluttony.
He and the horse walked through many more corridors and halls. There were strange suits of armor that would fit no man or beast Luke knew. Of course, he mused, no armor he’d ever seen would fit him, either, with his tail and high joints and cloven hooves. There was a massive spear with many barbs upon its enormous iron head; it was tinged here and there with a black crust that made Luke cringe. Swords, daggers, bows, axes and flails made up the décor; there were no paintings, tapestries, sculptures, or vases for the ancient fae and their human companions. The finest art was a well made weapon.
“I can see why Orson liked it here,” he muttered.
The farthest room was filled knee-deep with bones, with a raised path and a dais in the center. The bones were all wrong; they didn’t seem to go together. He picked out several skulls and realized that the bones were the jumbled skeletons of humans and faeries, mixed with horses and dogs. He walked to the center, where a leather collar lay on the dais. He picked it up; no dust lay upon it. Turning to go, he heard a clink.
In any other place, one tiny sound would not have bothered him. But here, in the vast and eternal silence, that small sound set his hair on edge. He froze and watched the pile of bones. Somewhere, another clink. Then a bone tumbled down the pile to the floor. Luke ran.
He called to the horse, who met him in the center of the stone hall, both skidding to a stop on the stones.
“We’ve got to go,” he said, taking hold of its bridle. “Skeletons–”
The horse’s nostrils flared, and it stepped away from him, its green eyes narrowed and fierce. Luke got the idea as plain as if it had flashed inside his mind–he had not gotten what they came for, a tool to use against the trolls. The horse would not take him back.
“Look,” said Luke, “I got a faerie dog collar. Won’t that do something? No? Crap, I’m not a goddamn faerie, I’m Greek!” He banged his fists against the base of his horns. “What do I know about faeries, what do I know about faeries…. Don’t drink the drink, don’t eat the food, don’t break a promise, don’t give a brownie clothes, don’t insult them, milk curdles before them, changelings are left in place of a fae-stolen baby, someone who’s crazy can be called fae struck, a fae pony will run you all over the moors and drown you, time runs differently, there’s at least two courts, they tangle your hair and make a mess out of stuff, Cuchulainn loved a faerie girl, some blonde chick–” He gasped. “The spear–that’s Cuchulainn’s spear! Gul something! Gul Dukat? No, that’s Star Trek–I dunno. Can I use that? More importantly, could Orson use that?”
Luke broke off his monologue when he heard a clatter behind him. He turned to see a thousand bones spilling out of the doorway, moving as if pulled by strings, awkward and tripping but inevitably shuffling forward. They were assembling themselves–here and there a leg found a hip joint to fit into, fingers scuttled together to form hands, spines snaked forward looking for their skulls, and ribs rattled like bundles of kindling. Luke ran to where the enormous black-crusted spear hung on the wall. He took it down and promptly dropped it to the floor–its weight was far greater than it looked. He picked it up, lugged it onto his shoulders, and turned to run.
A figure was silhouetted in the doorway, a skeleton on a thick-boned horse. Beyond her, a thousand partial skeletons churned up the dust and wavered upon her heels. August’s horse was nowhere to be seen. He was trapped.
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About the author: Julie Cox is the author of Chasing Tail and numerous short stories in Circlet Press erotica anthologies. She 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.
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Satyr Luke’s comfortable routine is thrown into disarray when he becomes the target of enemies who won’t hesitate to hurt his friends to get to him. Struggling to save his town—and to sort out his feelings for his friend Sally—Luke faces the adventure of a lifetime in Julie Cox’s Capricious.
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