Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Sixty-One.
Luke drove up to the trail that would lead to the portal, enveloping the car in a cloud of red dust with a hard, sliding brake. He exited in a rush and started up the trail, leaving Charlie behind in the car. He glanced back as he ran, a little nervous about leaving the injured and exhausted Jersey Devil alone, but he had little other choice. He just had to hope Brent was the only baddie left.
The heavy scrub obscured his view until he was almost right on top of the portal. He stopped short of bursting into plain sight, peering through the last scrap of cover for an idea about the situation. The chill day had turned positively cold with the fierce thunderbird storm, the first truly cold day of fall. It was a wind that went right through the meager cotton of his T-shirt, almost alive in its aggression. Luke crossed his arms and searched the skies for Sally.
Up from the canyon beyond, a massive shape rose on feather-thin wings. The sheer size of the airborne predator shook Luke to the core. She dove briefly at something deeper in the canyon, then rose again, her talons empty.
“They’ve reached an impasse,” a voice said, and Luke jumped. August stood, dead still, just inside the forest. It amazed Luke how completely invisible a half-ton horse and rider could be in darkness and cover. The horse’s skin shuddered in anticipation, his ears swiveling like radar dishes to catch everything around him. August caught Luke’s startle and shrugged. “Ghost magic.” He gestured toward the canyon. “The fae is caught between them. Sally can’t go much lower in the canyon without getting to where she can’t go up again. Our mermaid friend is keeping the river too wild to land in, and the canyon widens out to Sally’s advantage on either end. He’s trapped–until Sally makes a mistake. If he can outmaneuver her, he can still get past her, up to the portal.”
Luke nodded. “What can I do?”
“Can you fly?”
“No. What the hell kind of question is that? I’m a satyr.”
“People around here have surprised me before. Does he want anything but to escape?”
Luke thought for a moment. “He’s proud. And he’d like to see me dead.”
August nodded. “Heckle him. Get his attention. Make him reckless. Annoy the shit out of him.” He smirked as he looked down at Luke from, literally, his high horse. “You can do that, can’t you?” He gathered the reins almost imperceptibly tighter and touched his heels to his horse’s ribs. The enormous animal picked his way out of the thicket as if he moved through it every day. Luke looked at the fearsome creature and was glad it was August who was on its back this time. On cue, the horse gave Luke a sideways glance as it passed him and, Luke could have sworn, grinned with great malice. The pair crossed the open dirt between the forest and the portal in three strides, leaped, and disappeared into the portal. The air in the portal rippled as August went through it, like water into which a stone had been thrown. A big, black, snobby stone, Luke thought.
Luke stepped out from cover and hurried across the open ground to the edge of the cliff. The portal loomed large and threatening beside him, a natural stone arch of striated yellow sandstone. He looked down onto Sally’s back and the top of Brent’s flying machine. Below them, the Rio Grande roiled and frothed over its banks. Luke supposed he ought to have been thankful there was no one else around to see the man-sized bird with a wingspan like a pterosaur. He summoned up what he knew about Brent–his supposed friend, coworker, and fellow myth-folk, who had turned out to be far more deadly and treacherous than he could have imagined. Now what, he thought, would rile a man like that?
“Hey Brent!” Luke bellowed above the gusting wind. “You look a little busy down there, but I thought you ought to know–before my girlfriend knocks you out of the sky–what I’m going to do with your place. You know all your tools, your machines and supplies? I’m gonna donate them to the high school. I figure that way the dumb teenagers can use and abuse them, which is a better fate than throwing them all on the junk heap. Cuz that’s really where they belong, I don’t know if the school will even want that shit.”
Brent answered back in a similar bellow, calling him names Luke wasn’t sure were real words. The flying machine turned and pitched at a dangerous angle, nearly colliding with the wind-beaten wall of the canyon. Above him, Sally banked away early; she was big, and she turned more slowly. Having survived his error, Brent suddenly seemed to see the opportunity it had provided him. He braked and swept upward, propellers smoking. He ascended right behind the enormous raptor, who cried out in rage as her prey escaped. She swept up onto the plain with dizzying speed and banked around to come at him above the walls of the canyon.
Luke ducked as the flying machine swept over his head, dangerously close. Brent brought the machine around, heading for either Luke or the portal. Sally wouldn’t be there soon enough to keep him from being mowed down by the propellers if Brent decided to take a pass at him. He closed his eyes against the whirling dust, hoping he would not be a tempting enough target, compared to the portal and escape.
August and his horse leaped out of the portal as Brent closed on it. The horse gave a monstrous scream as he came, and upon his back the headless horseman was a nightmarish specter licked with brilliant green ectoplasm like foxfire. As they landed, August drew back and threw the flaming skull he held in his hand. The fireball hit Brent in the chest as he tried to pull up and swerve away. White fire exploded out from the skull, and the thin canvas webbing upon the flying machine disintegrated with hardly a trace of smoke to mark its passing. Above them, Sally checked her attack, swooped away, and tucked her talons against her soft underbelly.
Brent fell to the ground in a heap of metal and soot and flame. He screamed, writhed, and whipped about, the spines of his machine threatening to impale anyone who ventured too close. The horseman dismounted from his still-galloping horse, rolled his landing, and came up at a run. He grabbed one of the spines of the machine and flung Brent around, grappling for control.
Luke’s mind buckled at the sight of August’s undead form brought to light and flesh right in front of him. He thought he had seen it well enough, thought he was prepared for it, but the power of the headless horseman, the undead hunter of the Germanic forests, lay in the fear he summoned in those around him. Brent screamed, his mind cracking as well at the sight. Luke shook his head. If his rational mind wouldn’t work, he’d have to fall back on instinct. He watched the motion of the fight and didn’t think at all; he waited for his body to react, for two thousand years of fear and combat and rage to kick in.
The wings of the mangled machine swung wide. Luke’s legs were already moving–he darted forward, as quick and sure as a mountain goat. Brent saw him coming and lashed out with an awkward backhanded fist. Luke checked himself for a beat, dodged the swing, grabbed Brent’s arm, and lunged in to smack Brent in the face with all the force he could put into a crushing headbutt. He felt it even through his horns, which were made to absorb an awful lot of force. Brent crumpled to the ground, his hands on his face, blood leaking out between his fingers.
August appeared at Luke’s side, and Luke nearly sucker punched him before August drew back his undead visage and threw up his hands. Luke stopped midair, his adrenaline-addled brain trying to make sense of how the headless ghost now had quite a nice-looking head on it. August dropped to his knees and cuffed Brent, hands and feet, with iron shackles. The tinker fae screamed, and no one gave a damn.
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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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