A ridiculous fantasy novel about the unluckiest boy who ever existed, who gets roped into saving the world by a murderous unicorn.
Available on Amazon here.
“I do not like the silence that pervades the forest.” Silverstar shook her head, nearly dislodging Ilea who had been snoring against her mane. The wizard sat up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes as she blinked at the gathering dusk.
“Isn’t quiet better than screaming, angry woodnymphs?” Bailey shivered, remembering their pain and wishing that he didn’t.
“No, not this quiet.” Fae glanced at the tops of the trees with a nervous twitch in her gaze. “If the woods are this quiet, then they’re not the place you want to find yourself when night falls.”
Ilea yawned, reaching one arm up into the air as she stretched and slid down from Silverstar’s back, a purple ripple of robes and dark curls. “We probably just scared everything off. Bailey does clunk around like a bundle of tin cans.”
“Hey!” he furrowed his brow at the woman, who giggled, much to his vexation.
“No. We should not have come this way. We have ventured into territory I should not have entered.” Silverstar stopped abruptly and turned, making to walk in the opposite direction, the change of plans apparently not up for a vote.
Ilea rifled around in her robes and pulled out the Trei Oir, which did a great deal of nothing as she stomped around in a circle. She shook it back and forth furiously and a small silver beam arced out of it in the direction that Bailey presumed was the one that they should be following, a direction which Silverstar was currently moving away from. The silver trail fell limply to the ground and disappeared, but Ilea had gotten what she wanted.
“I hate to be contrary, but the Trei Ore says we should head this way! We can’t change course; it took hours to calm it down after our first detour.” Ilea stuffed the artifact back in her pocket, and Bailey stared at the bulge in the fabric as the wizard chased after Silverstar. “We’ll never make it in time to save the world if we keep mucking about in the woods like lumberjacks.”
“We must. We shall have to make do, as I cannot remain in this area. We are in great peril should we be caught within the borders of their territory.” Silverstar moved ever onward, heedless of the pair of women shuffling around her progress, trying to slow her enough to talk.
“Well, perhaps not great peril so much as great inconvenience and the certainty of a severe headache.” She amended, and Bailey tried to recall if he had heard Silverstar be that sarcastic about anything that had come up in conversation before.
“Oh, aye, she isn’t wrong about that first one, eh?”
The voice startled all of them, and they turned to see a creature that was truly, deeply, and profoundly the dumbest looking thing Bailey had ever seen come walking out from the dark shadows between the trees.
It had a long face, with a rounded snout and two gaping nostrils that expelled steaming breath into the cooling night air. Twin oval ears flicked at the top of either side of its skull, and large, round eyes peered at them, slightly off-center from one another, one of them squinted a fraction of an inch. At the base of its curved neck were massive shoulders, then a long body with an impressive girth, perched atop spindly legs with bulbous knees. All of this was covered in coarse, brown fur that clumped in odd places, and it appeared to have moss growing in patches along its back. When it worked the muscles along its leviathan jaw, the lips at the end of its face trembled, like great rubbery hoses cut in half and glued to its face.
The most prominent feature, however, was the horn protruding from the center of its skull. Unlike Silverstar’s horn, which thinned to a point at the top, this one started with a small cylindrical base and then exploded into a disaster of curves and divots. It jutted upward, roughly three feet into the air, and there were seven finger-like protrusions reaching towards the sky while the section pointed towards the ground was smooth and rounded.
Bailey leaned closer to Ilea, lowering his voice to a fierce whisper. “What is that?”
She didn’t get a chance to answer him before Fae paled further than she already was. “Moosicorns.”
“Oh, she knows us, eh. What do you make of this one, Remus?” the way the moosicorn’s lips flapped together as it spoke was mesmerizing, much in the way grape jelly being rubbed between filthy toes was mesmerizing. Bailey’s stomach rolled.
Another of the creatures, this one even droopier than the last, shuffled out of the woods. “Eh? She looks shiny. Shiny lass. Them’s rumblin’ looks.”
The first moosicorn nodded sagely. “Aye. Rumblin’. You stumbled into the wrong neck of the woods, eh?”
Bailey blinked. Several times. “What?”
The moonlight gleamed off its antler as it sneered at him. “Don’t understand rumblin’? Why don’t you ask your filthy monster friend back there, eh? I bet she could tell you all about a good ol’ rumble.” The moosicorn took a threatening step towards him, and Silverstar reared up on her legs and galloped in between them, covering him with her body even as he tried to peek around her to continue gaping at the paragons of dopiness.
“Leave us. We mean you no harm, and only seek to pass.” Silverstar rippled with threat, her thoughts tinged with a fine red mist that spoke of death and danger.
The moosicorns looked at one another, nodding their heads. “Aye, Reginald. Them’s rumblin’ words.”
“Aye, Remus, I think they be.”
“Fools.” Silverstar nearly spat the word, and he could tell by the disdain in her voice that, had she been able to properly roll her eyes as a unicorn, she certainly would have.
“You know, if you’re looking for a confrontation, I’d be happy to oblige.” Ilea sauntered forward, holding her hand up to show them a spiraling cloud of darkness forming in the center of her palm. The moosicorns gasped and recoiled, and Bailey heard the sound echo in the trees behind them, the moonlight catching the movement of countless more of the creatures hiding beyond their vision.
“Oh, aye, leave it to a filthy unicorn to travel with a dark wizard. Shameful, that is, eh?” Remus shook his head, sadly.
“Shame indeed, aye. And she’s askin’ for a rumblin’, no less. Such violence.” Reginald mirrored Remus’ movement, a small beard attached to his chin swaying and dropping thick drool onto the grass below.
Bailey sighed. “Why are we ‘rumbling’ with them at all? Why can’t we just pass through?”
“Oh, aye, he doesn’t ken.” Remus said, grinning. Bailey decided he could go the rest of his life without ever seeing a moosicorn grin again.
Reginald nodded emphatically. “Aye, he doesn’t ken. We can’t let no jumped up horse loose in our woods.”
Remus snapped a row of square, flat teeth together, still smiling. “Aye, wouldn’t be right.”
Silverstar nudged his shoulder, knocking him back behind her further and out of sight of the moosicorns. “They have it in their insipid heads that we are mortal enemies. A unicorn that wanders into their territory rarely returns unscathed, if they return at all.”
“Down with the dark horns!” a moosicorn shouted out from the darkness.
Remus turned back towards the sound, stamping his behooved foot. “Aye, hush now Regina. We’ll take care of this one soon enough, eh?”
Ilea looked from Silverstar to the moosicorns and then back again. “This is very stupid.”
Silverstar tossed her head. “I do not disagree with that assessment.”
“Oh, more rumblin’ words, aye?” Remus took a step forward.
“They’re just a cruisin’ for a bruisin’, Remus.” Reginald followed suit.
As they moved, Bailey’s line of sight towards the trees cleared, and it was then that he spotted her. He would have recognized her anywhere, and he would most certainly have recognized his pigs, which were currently gathered around her feet under the boughs of a nearby tree.
“Tansy.” He ground the name out through clenched teeth, feeling a surge of anger overtake his senses. Before he knew that he was going to do it, he was pushing past Silverstar and marching towards her, his hands balled into fists at his side.
His righteous descent upon the girl that had run off with his pigs and started a flying circus was halted abruptly when Fae grabbed his collar, yanking him backwards and off his feet.
“Yeah, Bailey, buddy. Let’s not run into murderous immortal thingys.” she raised her eyebrow at him.
He squirmed in her grasp, trying to kick her despite the fact that her arm was long enough to keep him well away from making contact. “Let me go. I have a bone to pick with her.”
Fae placed her free hand on her hip. “Who?”
He sagged with dejection, knowing it was no use to resist the far taller and far stronger woman. He pointed into the tree line where Tansy stood, her head cocked to the side as though she found everything in front of her no more concerning than a moth passing by a fire. Tansy Whitebread, the enterprising entrepreneur that had “found” his pigs, used them to make herself famous, then refused to return them no matter how many letters he had sent her. In fact, the only thing she had returned to him was a great many words that were entirely too rude to be repeated.
Fae looked over her shoulder at Silverstar and Ilea. “Oy, there’s a chick over there with the rumble buddies.”
Ilea stood on her tiptoes, trying to look through the gloom. “A human? Fascinating. What is she, like, the moosicorn queen? Do they have queens?”
“Queen?” Remus blinked at them, his uneven eyelashes sticking together each time. “Them’s rumblin’ words, right there.”
Reginald nodded again. “Oh, aye, rumblin’ words for sure.”
Bailey sighed with enough exasperation to kill an average, mortal moose, though it held no effect on the moosicorns. “Are all words ‘rumbling’ words?”
Reginald squinted at him, which was almost as unsettling as when he had grinned. “What business do you have with Tansy, you angry little cloud o’ gloom?”
Ilea leaned towards Silverstar, speaking out of the side of her mouth. “What’s a ‘Tansy’?”
Bailey pointed an imperious finger at Tansy again, who had crossed her arms over her chest and started glowering at him. “She stole my pigs.”
“Oh, wait, you mean the Tansy? With the pig circus? You know, Furious and Fury-Less reviewed her carnival games and found them…well, infuriating.”
Fae raised an eyebrow, choking on a laugh. “You read their article? Isn’t it just a bunch of dick and fart jokes?”
Ilea sighed, smiling softly as though lost in nostalgia. “I mean, it’s like fifty percent that, fifty percent valuable insights on local culture and social entertainment methods. The dialog can be quite enlightening, if you stick it out.” She glanced at Fae, taking in her dubious expression, and she sighed. “I mean, the dick and fart jokes are at least good ones. Stop judging my sense of humor, I feel very attacked right now.”
Fae raised her hands in acquiescence. “Fair enough.”
“Yeah, can we get back to dealing with the pig thief?” Bailey snapped, barely containing his irritation and caring very little about a column written about tavern games that may or may not have been mostly jokes about genitalia.
He saw the flash of recognition fill Tansy then, and she stomped forward, a throng of moosicorns on her heels. “You’re that Bailey?” she scoffed, cocking her hip to the side as she shook her head. “Geez kid, is a letter not enough anymore? Why you gotta stalk me into the middle of nowhere?”
Bailey felt his jaw drop open as his brain slowly processed the accusation. “Stalk you?” He found himself set back on the ground and he marched up to meet Tansy where she stood, trying to ignore the fact that she was an inch taller than he was as he stared her down…or up, as physics would allow. “I didn’t even remember you until you showed up in the middle of the woods!”
She tipped her head back and laughed, in the way only a self-satisfied, smug pig thief could. “Right, and you just happened to get all the way from your farm at the tail end of civilization and into this forest, purely by chance?”
“Yes! I mean, no. I mean…I am doing a thing!” he stomped his foot and he felt a blush creep along the top of his cheeks at his ineffective wording. “And I wouldn’t have to be doing that thing if you hadn’t stolen my pigs.”
She sneered at him. “I came by them fair and square. It isn’t my fault you let them fly away.”
Bailey pinched the bridge of his nose as a headache reared its ugly head behind his temples. “I didn’t let them fly away. They got loose. That doesn’t give you any right to swoop in and keep them just because they hopped the fence. You’re a thief, and a rude one at that!”
Remus stood behind her, scowling at him. “Oh, aye, those are rumblin’ words for sure. You watch your soddin’ mouth when you talkin’ to our lass.”
A slow chant drifted out of the tree line, initiated by the slobber monster calling himself Reginald and gathering strength as it was picked up by the other moosicorns.
“Rumble! Rumble! Rumble!”
Bailey was ready to answer the challenge.