Mane: For Men

TransCo-branded shampoo turns Riley into a beastly male gnoll. Whoops. Explicit.

Riley had run out of shampoo. This wouldn't normally be a problem, but she didn't have enough time before work to go to the supermarket for her usual shampoo. The gas station on the corner only had travel-size bottles of Mane: For Men.

But even shampoo marketed to insecure teenage boys was better than nothing. Riley closed the bathroom door and kicked off her shoes. She tugged her shirt off over her head and shook out her black curls, then bent over and pushed off her pajama pants. She took a glance at the mirror; no surprises there. Fair skin, average figure, and unremarkably cute.

Riley stepped into the shower stall and swung the door shut. At first, she just let the hot water spray over her scalp. Then she rolled her head, soaking her curls and combing her fingers through them until they fell flat against her cheeks. Once she'd thoroughly rinsed, she reached for the bottle and popped the top.

The shampoo's scent ('Gnollspike', which she'd chosen over the alternative, 'Bristleboar') wasn't as bad as she'd feared. The sweet smell of soap was warmed by spices, but it wasn't overpowered and musky. ...At least, not too musky. If she rinsed it out well enough, she would be fine.

She squeezed a splurt onto her hand and slapped it onto her forehead. She spread it back along her hair, then with both hands, she scrubbed the shampoo into her scalp, working it down through her tangled curls.

The shampoo tingled into her hair follicles, like the pleasant burn of popping a cinnamon hard candy into her mouth. If she let it linger, it started to hurt, but feeling it wash across her scalp was invigorating. She leaned into the spray and closed her eyes. The water rolled down her face and hair, carrying the suds down her body. She flicked her wet hair back and squeezed another squort of shampoo into her hands. She wanted to feel that tingle again.


The Curse Deepens

Captured by the Lion Clan, a cursed adventurer struggles to keep his independence. Mature.

The misty forest hung heavy on Circ's whiskers. The droplets of dew weighed each whisker down. The weight of the drops became an unseen hand pushing his head down, telling him to stop, to turn back, or at the very least, to rest. If Circ knew anything about this land, that feeling meant this was the worst possible place to rest.

The young cat pushed on through the mist, clinging to his spear like it would draw him through the woods. His armor creaked softly as he moved, stretching around his slim form. Armor was little help if he was ambushed, though, and he was so slight that only light leather could give him enough mobility to defend himself. His best defense was the small shield buckled to his forearm, followed by the tip of his spear. If anything came at him, the best he could do was put it down quickly before it could get its claws into him.

Minutes crept by and trees emerged from and disappeared into the haze. He had no idea where he was going, but at the very least, he couldn't see any tracks ahead of him, so he wasn't circling around. Every sound of shifting leaves made him turn and squint into the mist. He was almost sure he saw a figure moving or a bit of fleeting motion behind a tree. When he looked again, there was nothing, just the mist playing with his eyes.


Heart's Desire [Illustrated]

Three friends play a fortune-telling game to grant their hearts' desire, but is it really giving them what they want? Explicit.

Cole stood beside the cabinet, like he was presenting it to them. "It's like a fortune telling game, but it's got special rules to it. You play it with a bunch of people, you get one fortune per day, and the first person to get to five 'blessings' wins."

"Wins what?" Tricia asked.

Cole pointed to one of the rules. "Your heart's desire."

Alex made a soft snort. Cole grinned. Tricia was starting to smile too. It was a cheesy old game.

"So, want to give it a shot?" Cole asked.

"That's what we're here for," Alex said. Even if it was silly, it was something they could all play together.

Alex stood up, fished one of the tokens out of the open coin return, and dropped it into the slot. A tinny recording of a sitar played as the cards on display in the booth swirled around and the lights on the outside flashed on and off in a spinning pattern.

A slot in the front spat out a yellowed card. Alex picked it up, then moved to the side. Tricia stood by her after getting her own fortune, and once Cole got his too, they all turned to face each other.


The Snowy Gnoll [Illustrated]

Each time a gnoll comes back to Riska's shop, she's been more and more changed by her adventures. Mature.

Riska stood high on her stool, looking over the small pile of treasure dumped onto her counter.

"And none of this is stolen?" she asked. The gnoll girl across the counter from Riska folded her arms across her chest. Riska felt it was a perfectly valid question to ask. When a gnoll in dark leather with more knives than she's got hands to hold them in walks into your pawn shop, you start thinking that maybe this girl is a bandit. It didn't help that she was skinnier than most gnolls, with a wiry frame that her tight armor accentuated.

"No, it's not," the gnoll said. There was a little huff in her voice. She was probably used to being accused of thievery. People didn't have high opinions of gnolls to begin with. Still, Riska thought, she did look like a thief.


This Mine Of Mine

Instead of bringing education to his fellow kobolds, Thuk discovers the benefits of mining. Explicit.

Thuk was a rare thing: a kobold with an education. He'd been part of a scavenging clan when he was younger, and then one day it just wasn't enough for him any more. He'd spent a year away from home, learning all that he could, and now he was trying to bring that knowledge back to his fellow kobolds. It was about as easy as breaking through a dungeon wall with his head.

The latest kobold settlement Thuk had tracked down was a mine, hidden deep down behind crevasses only the wiry little lizards could slip through and worming its way throughout the depths of the mountain. They mined the ores and gems that hid in the stone, and traded them with the creatures that lived higher up for food and small trinkets.

Thuk slid down to sit beside his bag and pulled out a scuffed and scraped book--a human-made one, for teaching basic math. If he could get these kobolds to think about their mining in terms of math, they could trade more wisely, improve their quality of life, and live more easily.


Fight the Beast

Thrown into the arena, a young lion grows into a tough, brutish gladiator. Explicit.

A blade flowed down with a flourish along the way, aimed directly at him. Milon stumbled back. Cheers clapped his ears, sand twisted his feet, and sun shot through his eyes.

The next stroke was hidden in the glare of the sun. Up, across, stinging, bringing him to his knees. He clutched at his chest. His hands were red. His fur was red. The gash running from his breast to his stomach ached with every motion he made, ached with a pain that was dull and deep, hot and stinging, sticky and trembling and too imperfect to be a dream.

The tip of a sword pointed at his face. The cheers subsided, then roared even more fiercely. Milon's eyes were rooted to the blade. A drop of blood wobbled on the end. He stood still, staring into his life cut into two by the sword.