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.

Growing Confidence

A nerdy wolf girl starts getting bigger and stronger, and not even her boyfriend can stop her. Explicit.

Stephanie tilted the envelope toward her hand and shook the silver pendant onto her palm.

“Oh, wow," she said. “You didn't have to do this. Dinner was enough."

Her boyfriend, the tiger across the table from her, shrugged. “I thought you could wear it to Pathfinder." Though he was trying to play it casual, he watched Stephanie's reaction, hoping she'd like it.

“Yeah," the white wolf girl said, paying more attention to her present. The pendant itself was about an inch and a half in diameter and made of silver. It was shaped like a disk, with the image of a snarling wolf carved into it, its eyes looking forward and its mane making up the outer part of the disk. Its small steel necklace chain had pooled in her palm underneath.

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.

A Sip of Coffee

Getting a cup of coffee helps a young businesswoman relax into a trendier persona.

Eight bucks was far too much for a cup of coffee. But eight bucks here as compared to five at the place down the road--Tiffany figured she saved the time it took to walk to the parking lot, drive out, park, and drive back. The new gourmet coffee shop was two minutes from the front door of her office as opposed to the ten minute drive to the cheaper place.

Sixteen minutes for three dollars, which came out to about twelve dollars an hour--and she was definitely getting paid more than that, so on the whole, it was worth her time. As long as the coffee was good.

Tiffany took a seat at one of the small tables and set her black brick of a business laptop in front of her. She flipped it open and checked her reflection in the screen before it turned on. Her pale fur, combed; her black hair, pinned back into a bun; her charcoal suit jacket, sitting crooked on her shoulders. She sat up, straightened her jacket, pulled her blouse flat, then swept her charcoal skirt beneath her thighs and sat down again.