Magic in The Slaughter Chronicles.

Demon Tooth was the first Slaughter Chronicles short story I ever published (originally titled Demon Moon back in 2019) because I wanted to share Squee’s backstory and explore how magic works in my imaginary world.

Usually humans with supernatural abilities can do what they do because they have Void Creature DNA somewhere in their genetic makeup. Even though most Mages look human on the outside because their Void genetics is usually extremely diluted, they are still classified as non-human threats by HADES and Sanctum.

I don’t specifically say it in this story but I hint at one of the characters having a Mage in his family so he himself might have had special talents that helped open the portal.

This story specifically deals with opening a portal into the Void Dimension, something that doesn’t necessarily require a Mage to do. Any normal human can acquire Mage talents and perform feats of “magic” if they have the right tools. Void Creature bones and blood can open portals into the Void dimension and, for example, give a normal squishy human the ability to see the future. Or one version of the future. But there’s a price. There always is.

There aren’t necessarily “spells” or words of power in these universes but there are a lot of rituals that revolve around sacrifice. As the great Terry Pratchett once wrote, “[T]he very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood.” (Hogfather) In order for a non-mage character to perform these rituals or acquire Mage talents, they have to pay for it. Sometimes they can use their own blood, their own life essence, and hope they don’t die in the process. But big rituals, big tasks, require a lot of blood.

Which is why the big rituals rarely get performed and if some idiot tries, they usually don’t do it right. How do I know? The world hasn’t exploded yet…YET.

So, what exactly is Squee?

Squee is a Void Creature that toddled in to our dimension when the four teenage friends in this story opened up a portal into the Void dimension. Now, this story is called Demon Tooth because *spoiler alert* there is a Void Creature artifact that is, yep, you guessed it, a tooth. Is it Squee’s tooth? It was a pretty big tooth in the story and Squee is the size of a soccer ball…was Squee just attracted to the portal and got caught accidentally? Or was Squee the actual creature the four friends were trying to summon and something go horribly wrong?

You’ll have to read the rest of the series to find out. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish more stories for you soon.

I struggle with endings. The beginnings of things are easier to write than endings. One of the things I struggled with for this novella specifically was the note I wanted to end it on. Originally, this was to be published as a solo novella, not included in a bigger collection. So a lot changed during the editing process.

Once upon a time, Tony didn’t hate Regina. Up until literally the week before I scheduled the pre-order for Pulling Teeth, he was not bitter about Atlas bringing Regina home, he was not terrified of what would happen if Thane got his claws into her. And he decided—I thought—that he would want to be supportive and help her adjust to her new life.

I wasn’t mad at this ending, but when I put the final product together I found it was a little slow and had repetitive conversations between the characters. Two of the things I’m working on with my new editor are pacing and repetition.

Moonshine is the sequel to Dead Girl Moon. If you haven’t read either of these, here’s some context:

The setting is a werewolf pack’s compound that doubles as a bar and distillery…and other things too but for info on that, check out my post about HADES.

Tony hates his father. He has emotional trauma he hasn’t worked though. Regina has similar emotional trauma and Tony finds it hard to justify her coping mechanism because they involve the person (his father) who caused his trauma.

I hope that wasn’t too much of a spoiler.

Note: Since this is a deleted scene it has not gone through the entire editing process. There are typos, there are POV shifts, there are clunky sentences. Don’t judge me.


The distillery’s sub-level served as the pack’s medical bay and a series of small, empty concrete rooms Thane called Containment. They were for the newly contaminated, wolves who didn’t know how to be wolves. For wolves who were afraid of what would happen when they turned.

Thane tried to leave her there but when he turned away she latched onto his hand. He tried pulling back, he tried twisting away but she would not let go. He opened his mouth to reprimand her but when he saw her eyes blurry with tears, her lips stretched in that feral, panicked grimace, something inside him squeezed and then softened.

She made Thane promise not to lock her in.

Leaving the door open was easy enough. He knew she already imprinted on Atlas and possibly Vlad as well, Thane trusted her not to run off again. He even gave her one of the field issue sleeping bags so she wouldn’t get cold. And Tony said he didn’t know how to parent.

For a while, Regina sat quietly on the concrete floor, wrapped in slick polyester and survival fluff, unable to sleep. She hoped someone would come visit her. Atlas wanted to move her into his house right away but Thane insisted she stay isolated for at least 12 hours, just in case exposure to the Void made her sick again. Thane was confident, since she spent almost four days on the road, any adverse affects from Doctor Gregor’s treatments would have presented themselves by now.

But Regina was surprised to see Tony rapping his bruised knuckles against the open steel door.

“Well don’t throw a parade or anything.” The bruises on his face had mostly faded but there was still a deep, scabby gash across the bridge of his nose from where Atlas hit him. “Are you cold? Do you want a blanket? More food? It’s getting late, are you tired at all?” Tony asked.

“So you do bleed. Real blood,” she turned away from him and burrowed into the folds of the sleeping bag. If he tried to touch her or pick her up she would bite him.

But to her surprise he laughed, “Yeah, I bleed.” The smile he gave her was all teeth and disappointment as he regarded the tiny lump half hiding under the sleeping bag. Her hair straggled out from the opening like a distress flag. “You’ve got Atlas wrapped around your little finger. Thane too, God only knows how.”

“What’s that mean?” slowly, slowly, she turned and peeked out at him. Her golden eyes red-rimmed and suspicious.

“You’ll see, trust me. Since you’re living here now you’re going to have to listen to us and do exactly what we say, when we say it. It’s dangerous out there in the world. And there’s still standing orders to kill us and everyone else here who came from HADES. If they find us we’re all dead and I’ll bet my life if your mother’s people knew you were alive they wouldn’t stop looking until they found you. We need to make sure they don’t. Got it?”

“I don’t know why they’d want me,” Regina allowed herself the smallest nugget of sadness, any more and she’d start crying again and she wouldn’t be able to stop. “But I don’t want them.”

“Well, Atlas wants you. Fucker thinks he can teach you math! You’re going to be homeschooled and everything. That’ll be fun to watch.”

Regina’s nose wrinkled in disgust, “Mother didn’t make me do math.”

“Well you’re not with your mother anymore,” Tony said, then he caught himself, “Damn, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.” He raked a hand through his hair.

“Mother let Michael do everything he wanted,” Regina whispered, not entirely ready to trust him. But there was something in his voice that wasn’t there before, there underneath the pain and resignation. She didn’t know what it was but she wanted to find out, so she kept talking. “He got to learn how to fight because he was strong. Mother said I had to stay inside my tiny room and listen to God because I was weak. But I could never hear him. Or he never talked to me. I don’t know. I wanted to be like my brother but she wouldn’t let me.”

“Your brother was away when your parents died?” Tony’s mask was back in place with a fresh coat of lacquer smoothing over the cracks. “Do you think he’s looking for you?”

By the time Regina was born, Michael was already well into his training. He always picked on her whenever Mother wasn’t looking, teasing her for fumbling her sacraments and tangling her rosary. He always tattled on her. He was probably happy she was gone. The thought didn’t make her sad, really, but she felt a heaviness in her heart like the echo of seeing Dead Daddy dead on the bathroom floor.

After she left the house turned mausoleum, she stayed by the river for a little while. She was smaller then and could disguise herself as a dog. In those days she didn’t pay attention to the time or the weather and wasn’t in her girl-shape much. She was sure Mother would come back from the dead like Lazarus and try to kill her again. But she never did. And no one came looking for her. She drifted farther and farther away from her town. She stopped only when she found a place with unfamiliar smells and no idea where she was or how to get back.

“No,” Regina said. “He doesn’t like me. If he wanted to find me he would have. He was always mad because I got to spend more time with Dead Daddy. He said he couldn’t wait until Mother sent me away and he could have both of them all to himself.”

As soon as the words left her mouth bile churned in her stomach and she felt sick, “He’ll think it’s my fault they’re dead. Everything was always my fault, even when it was his. He always blamed me for everything.” The tears threatened to fall again, stinging her eyes. She fought them, sniffing hard and blinking up at the ceiling.

Tony gave her a sad look, “Kid, I don’t know why families are fucked up. But I do know Sanctum and trust me, it’s best for everyone if they never find out you’re still alive.”

“How do you know? Were you a Sworn Sword too?” she peered cautiously out at him from beneath the tangled fall of her hair.

“No,” he shifted, wincing as he moved, and pulled something out of his back pocket. Another scrap of cloth. It was part of a jacket sleeve and smelled faintly of gun oil. Sewn onto it was a white patch shaped like a cartoon bone and three black dog heads with pointy ears and noses. “As soon as I was old enough to,” he paused, considering his words carefully, “see the truth of the world, Thane put me to work.”

Regina scooted forward, across the empty space in the tiny room. She took the patch from him, ran her fingers over the thick, black embroidery.

“BiscuitsofCerberus,” he continued. “Internal affairs. I hunted down all the hunters who refused to turn themselves in after they’d been contaminated.”

“Did you like doing that?” she asked.

He laughed, “No. But I did it anyway.”

“I’m glad they think I’m dead,” she said bitterly.

“Honestly, we don’t know that for sure. But Atlas and Thane think you are,” Tony said.

Regina reached out and touched the top of his hand. He sat there, staring at her small fingers tracing the shapes of the bruises. He could barely feel her fingers, he was numb and the cold of the basement had nothing to do with it. He was quiet for a long time before he spoke again.

“I want you to put everything Thane told you out of your head for a minute. Pretend you never met him. You can remember it all later if you want. But for right now, just 60 seconds, put it away. Can you pretend for me?”

“I guess so,” she pulled her hand away and when her eyes met his again, his eyes were more emerald than blue and she recognized the edge in his voice. It was fear.

“Alright, thank you,” he sighed and steeled himself. “Just because we’re werewolves here and we’re hiding from the GluttonsofChronos and Sanctum doesn’t mean we’re not still working for HADES.”

“You told me to forget everything,” Regina frowned suspiciously.

“I did. I’m telling you. My words, not his. We’re monsters who hunt down and kill other monsters to protect the people in our territory. My father hunts down other monsters for HADES. Is that the kind of life you want? If you really want to, you can leave with Vlad tomorrow. You’ll have a shot at a normal—well, not exactly normal but more normal than here. If you stay you’ll be helping the people who locked you up. And I can’t promise my father won’t be nicer than Prometheus—your Doctor Gregor.”

“Can I remember what Thane said now?” Regina asked.

Tony let out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding, “Yeah, go ahead.”

“I want to stay here,” she said.

“Can you tell me why?” Tony tilted his head towards the bare ceiling and squeezed his eyes shut against the harsh lights.

“Why don’t you want me here? What did I do to you?” she asked. And there was pain in her voice.

“Look, I don’t want to hurt you,” he said sadly. “I want to throw rocks at you until you run away but I don’t want any of them to hit you.”

“Where else can I go?” she asked. “I don’t have a home.” The white room Mother built just for her floated up from the murky depths of memory. The walls of her tiny corner of the world were illuminated only by a tiny white candle that Mother let her put on the floor because it it was already on the floor it didn’t have anywhere to fall. When she opened the tiny white door it did not lead into the hallway or her old living room but a larger white room. A room with a metal table and the sink where Doctor Gregor washed his hands. The water running through his fingers was red.

“I know,” Tony said. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re weird,” Regina sniffed. “And I don’t like you.”

“Yeah, I know. Thane is too. You need to watch your back around him.”

“I’m going to be his assistant,” she said, the first traces of pride in her voice.

What’s the harm? She’s already fucked up, Tony thought. She wants it, never mind she doesn’t understand. Maybe one day—No. He wouldn’t let her suffer the way he did. If Atlas was going to let this happen and if he really didn’t have a choice, he’d do whatever he could to keep her safe. But not because he cared. He would never allow himself to care about anything, not again.

“Mother didn’t let me do a lot of things,” Regina said, choosing her words carefully. “Michael got to go to camp and learned how to use a sword.”

“If all you want is a sword,” Tony began.

“No,” she stopped him. “I want to be a wolf.”

“I can’t let you do that,” he said, “I can tell you what wolves do, I can even tell you what werewolves do. I can teach you how to control your beast but I can’t let you be one.”

“Thane said I could be a wolf,” she insisted.

He gave her a look that was close to pity then. One of the hunters at Farrowthorn looked at her like that once, when he couldn’t figure out where she fit in the menagerie of predator and prey, human and monster. He was dead because he thought she was weak and defenseless, because she was a little girl on the outside but something very different on the inside.

“My father says a lot of things.”

“I don’t want to be a little girl anymore. I want to run in the forest. I want to be with the moon.”

“But the moon doesn’t have Evil Dead or Atlas or all the other things you love. The moon is a cold, dead rock and you, regardless of what’s happened to you, are still a person. You need to be around people. We all help each other and one day someone is going to need you, not your wolf.”

This excerpt is from a previous version of Dead Girl Moon’s fifth chapter. Dead Girl Moon is written from Regina’s perspective but there were some places where her father’s voice crept in. I had to cut his perspective for the final draft but I wanted to share his parts with you here because I think they’re still pretty fun to read.

So this is a companion scene, really.

If you haven’t read Dead Girl Moon or any of the other Slaughter Chronicles stories, that’s okay. Here’s a little bit of context…

Regina Slaughter is a werewolf who was accidentally turned by her father when she was nine years old.

Both of Regina’s parents work for a religious organization called Sanctum. Sanctum specializes in killing werewolves (and other monsters).

Regina’s mother is WAY more fanatical than her father. And a lot meaner too.


JOSEPH SLAUGHTER:

It was early evening, and Joseph Slaughter was busying himself with cleaning his SIG Sauer and trying to enjoy a beer and ignore the guilt that wouldn’t stop gnawing at him. The plan was to kill time until Catherine went to sleep. Leaving her and Michael would be hard—they’d have to deal with the fallout of him disappearing; the investigations, inquiries, and miscellaneous upheaval that came when a Sworn Sword of Sanctum deserted. But it was either that or risk tearing them to shreds like he almost did Regina the day before.

At least she wasn’t experiencing any negative emotional side effects, so far. She bounced back rather quickly from such a horrible wound. Torn strands of muscle tissue were all that held her arm to her torso and the ball of her shoulder joint was a splintered mess. He’d have to keep a close watch on her over the next few weeks and nip the nightmares in the bud.

The rest of the house was, unlike his roiling thoughts, quiet and calm. Regina was settling down for her evening bath and his wife was sequestered inside what he liked to call her meditation alcove. Everyone was compartmentalized, in their proper place, and everything was going according to plan.

Joseph almost convinced himself everything was going to be fine when he heard Regina screaming from the bathroom. 

When he kicked the door open he found Catherine holding her long sword, pointing it down into the bathwater. He had no illusions about what his wife did for Sanctum but she never took her weapon out of her sanctuary when she was home, not even to show Michael. 

The long, two-handed beidhänder had only one purpose: killing demons.

Joseph stared with growing horror into the water. It was red, sanguine, and just below the surface he saw Regina pinned to the bottom of the cast iron tub, the point of the sword piercing her stomach.

“She’ll drown or bleed out,” Catherine said coldly. “Whichever comes first, it makes no difference to me.”

Joseph fired three rounds into his wife’s chest. The impact set her off balance and she stumbled into the wall, but she didn’t fall. But she took the sword with her and Regina broke the surface of the water with a siren wail scream.

Shrugging the bullet wounds off with a prayer muttered like a curse, Regina’s mother raised her sword. The weapon was plain, the cross-guard was of simple design, and a dull red stone graced the pommel. But as the words left her lips, the red stone began to glow, it pulsed with a fierce inner light and fire burst from the cross-guard and swept up the blade.

Joseph threw his gun to the floor, though he still had a few shots left, and embraced the wolf from the desert.

THE DAY BEFORE (AKA NIFTY TIME JUMP)

REGINA:

Daddy was on his way home from his third deployment in Iraq. Mother took Michael away to Vision of the Light Perpetual, where he trained every summer. While Michael was away at camp and Daddy was on deployment, Regina was locked in the tiny white room. That was how the world worked in Mother’s house. But that summer was special because Regina got to spend three whole days with Daddy before he went away again. No Mother, no Michael, just him and her.

Mother always said Michael was better than her, that he was smarter, stronger. He was going to be a knight when he grew up, just like King Arthur or Saint Michael. Regina wasn’t good for anything except repenting.

Mother and Michael left early in the morning, way before dawn so they could arrive in time for afternoon mass. Mother would be gone for three days. Usually Michael liked to spend summer away from the house because Regina’s screaming permeated the walls and interrupted his sleep, but that time his fourteen-year-old brain was enraged and pouty because he would miss Daddy’s homecoming. Even though Mother promised that she would come for him on the weekend and bring him home so he could spend at least a few days with Daddy before his next mission. Michael was too selfish to stop being upset despite the compromise. At the time, he was more aware than Regina of the fact that Daddy might not come home next time. Or if he did, he—or at least parts of him—would be in a box and very, very dead.

Regina remembered Mother telling Michael not to lose faith before dismissing her back to her room to pray until Daddy got home. Regina knew they were going to be gone for at least five hours. She waited until they left, until she could no longer see the car driving down the street, and then she turned on the TV. They only had a TV because Daddy insisted. Whenever Mother was there it was off, but when she was gone, Regina put on the Sci-Fi channel. She watched Army of Darkness until she heard heavy, booted footsteps tromping across the porch.

JOSEPH:

Joseph Slaughter was disappointed, of course, that his son was away, but his daughter was a balm to his soul—he always told her that. And she was so happy to see him, she was blindingly full of joy. She didn’t care that he had been gone gone for two years or that he would leave again within the month. 

But that day was different from all the other homecomings because he was different. Though he picked her up and spun her around the room, though he cuddled her and praised her progress translating Acts from Greek to Latin without looking at the original for help, there was something in his eyes that wasn’t quite right.

Something happened to him out there in the desert, something he couldn’t make sense of.

He knew “demons” were real, the word wasn’t just a metaphor for evil people. While he carried out the will of the most powerful—and sometimes the most bureaucratic—navy in the word, his wife exterminated vampires and werewolves, aka demons, for a splinter branch of the Catholic Church, known as Sanctum. His wife never talked about her work, just like he didn’t. But he knew what she did and what was out there. He just never thought he’d become the thing she hunted.

On his second day back, when the press of the quiet, white walls of their home became too much, he took her hunting. Every so often he’d go out for big game with his battle buddies if they could take leave at the same time. But his favorite thing to do was wake up ridiculously early, burrow down in the rushes of the nearest lake, and wait for the ducks. He loved small game more for the peace and quiet than the killing. After a fitful night of listless insomnia he was so twisted up inside he needed to get out.

Joseph and his wife rarely argued about anything, but Regina’s exposure to the outside world was a subject Catherine could barely tolerate. She insisted their daughter never left the house as part of her training. Joseph, however, said that living like a hermit before she voluntarily made the choice to take her vows was morbid and inhumane. Catherine always ignored the insinuation that Regina’s commitment to Sanctum was a choice and not a duty. A requirement. But while she was gone, he was in charge, and he’d made the decision long ago that he was going to treat her like a normal kid, not a cog in a fanatical machine.

So, early that the morning, hours before dawn, he bundled up Regina in her neon orange visibility jacket and drove down to his favorite spot. As they waited among the water reeds and Normally, Regina would be lulled to sleep again by the song of dragonfly wings on the air as Daddy whispered to her about the things he saw overseas—how many people he killed, what he killed them with—he couldn’t talk about that stuff with just anyone. Some of his squadmates used the various ship chaplains or therapists to purge. He had his little girl, and while Regina had zero oracular powers and couldn’t hear the Vox Dei to save her life, she could hear Joseph Slaughter just fine. 

BACK TO REGINA:

But that morning was different. Daddy was quiet and twitchy. He stared down the sights of his Model 12 Winchester but wouldn’t shoot anything, and he snarled at everything, even the smallest of noises, noises Regina couldn’t hear. A formation of September Teals crossed the sky right above their heads and he didn’t even blink. But when the whole world was still and tranquil he would shoot a round across the water at nothing. It scared her. And she gripped the stock of her little 20-gauge Remington like a life preserver.

Without warning, he jumped up out of their cover and screamed wordlessly at the sky. His voice tore free from his throat in a howl that shattered the stagnant water. Regina had never seen Daddy unhinged. Even though Mother said hunting demons changed men in strange ways, Regina never believed her daddy would change. He was always so solid, so in control. Nothing that Mother said was supposed to bother him seemed to bother him. 

But now here he was, losing his mind.  

Regina tried getting up to follow him as he ran away, but she found she couldn’t move. Something paralyzed her, and she didn’t know what it was, but looking back she recognized it as fear. Fear froze her human body in place when the wolf’s howl tore from his throat.

Eventually, her mind overrode her body’s stubbornness and she was able to stand. She could hear noises from deeper in the wood, and she gripped her 20-gauge so hard she couldn’t feel her fingers. Stiffly, slowly, she walked into the shadows, toward noises that sounded like pain and tearing and blood spilling on the ground. She tucked the stock against her shoulder and, despite the tingles running through her hands, she eased her terror-numbed finger on the trigger.

She didn’t have to walk very far before she found the wolf.

The doe hadn’t been fast enough. The wolf chased her down, felling saplings and uprooting brambles as he ran. He tore her head from her body, and her floppy doe ears drooped with the rest of her doe face against the base of a large oak. Her body lay a few feet away, artfully tackled to the ground and ripped wide open from ribs to tail. The wolf growled discontentedly at the doe’s innards as he chomped them down. At her approach, he lifted his nose from the doe’s pulverized heart and sniffed the air.

Regina did not know how she knew the gigantic wolf was Daddy, but she knew. His transformation was a miracle. He was at least fifteen feet long from nose to tail and stood at least seven feet tall from paws to ear tips. His fur was a burnished honey-tan, a black stripe ran vertically up his muzzle to his forehead. His shaggy neck and massive chest were splattered with blood and ichor. His eyes glowed like golden suns in the gloom of the forest. 

His growling rumbled through Regina like thunder as he jumped away from the doe carcass, quick and effortless, toward her. Regina didn’t feel the impact, she didn’t feel his teeth tear through her orange visibility jacket. His jaws clamped down on her shoulder, and he lifted her small body into the air and slammed her into the ground.

Regina had been a very sheltered child, unlike Michael, who came home from Vision of the Light Perpetual with bruised eyes and ribs, and once even a crooked nose from a break that wasn’t set evenly. Skinned knees were a rarity for her. She had no experience, no words to make sense of the horrific pain his teeth brought to her. The only thing that saved her was her surprise. And somehow, with her free hand, she kept her grip on her Remington. 

As her wolf father tried to tear her arm off, she instinctively lifted the shotgun across her blood splattered chest, stabbed the barrel under his chin, and squeezed the trigger. 

The shot deafened her, but she got what she wanted. The wolf dropped her immediately, jerking his head away and shaking vigorously as if he got splashed in the face with water instead of bird shot. 

She let the terror wash over her. Then she remembered she had a voice and began to wail, crying and screaming like a lost kitten. She cried so hard she didn’t see her wolf father transform back into a human. All she knew was one moment she was on the ground and the next moment he wrenched her up and cradled her in his arms. 

She remembered him crying just as hard as she was, “Oh God! What did I do? What did I do?”

And then another miracle happened. Her left arm, reduced to bloody ribbons by his teeth, stitched itself back together. Muscle flowed seamlessly over bone. Blood coagulated, forming a thick, sticky glue that pulled the tatters of torn skin back into place. The pain faded.

“You turned into a wolf, Daddy.” She gulped for air and wheezed in his arms, he was squeezing her so tightly.

He looked down at her then, really looked at her, blood and tears streaking his face. His eyes were brown again, not gold, and his sandy blonde hair, his face, his bare chest were coated in blood. He ripped off her jacket and pressed his hand to wounds that weren’t there anymore. Only pink scratches remained of the massive bite.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, baby.” His face contorted into a mask of grief as he hugged her. Then he shook himself and stood, Regina still in his arms, and walked back to his truck.

“Daddy,” she cried, “Daddy! You’re not wearing pants.”

“No shit!” he laughed.

This is the end of one of the first drafts of the scene where Regina and Theodore Thane first meet. Thane is a formative presence in Regina’s youth and I really struggled getting their first encounter *just right*. This didn’t make it into the final version of Moonshine but I wanted to share this with you because I thought it was an adorable interaction between Regina and Thane where he shows more of his human feelings and she acts like the adorable wolf pup she is.

Enjoy!

Note: This is a deleted scene from the early drafting stage. It is extremely rough and has not gone through the editing process.


“Did you live in a cage too?” Regina looked up at him, eyes wide. There was sorrow there but with it was something Thane did not expect. Kinship. When she looked at him she was looking for something familiar, something that transcended blood and humanity. Like a bolt to his brain he realized she was looking at him because she was him. She saw herself in his scarred face, his rage filled, emerald eye.

His own son never looked at him like that.

Thane felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time: a smile. Not a whole one, a small, half-smile that the scar trailing down his lower jaw turned into a grimace. He reached out and rested his hand on her head, tousled her tangled, red hair. She made a noise half way between a purr and a bark and smushed her face into his hand.

He smelled like silver and bitter plant matter, acidic blood and dry, cracked leather.

Reluctantly, he pulled his hand away, “Let’s get you back to the main compound. I don’t want Atlas trashing my lab looking for you.”

“Okay,” she chirped, tucking herself against his leg. She reached out and snagged his hand again, pulling it back onto her head. His fingers curled under his chin. Like a little chick under its mother’s wing, he thought. The small smile faded.

“I’m not your mother,” he said, stepping away from her. “And you are not a pet. Now, I need to get—” before he could finish she darted away from him and when she turned around, her arms were wrapped around his mask. The whole thing was almost as big as her torso and the tip of the curved leather beak almost touched the ground.

“My mask,” he finished. “We’re going to have to do something about your weight. You’re too small for your age. Malnourishment and repeated lymphatic stress have severely degraded you.”

“I’m okay,” Regina said, pushing the mask up toward him. Her arms were like twigs, literal twigs. If she was a tree she wouldn’t make good firewood. If she was a tree he would cut her down and salt the earth she grew out of. Then he would cut down all the other trees in a three mile radius to make sure whatever blight corrupted her didn’t spread to the rest of the forest.

He took the mask from her and fastened it over his face once again. “No, you are not. You need to eat something.”

“I already did,” she beamed. To his horror, she pulled a brown and silver wrapper out of her pocket. “Atlas gave me chocolate.”

“Of course he did. Sure, go ahead and wreck her metabolism you fuckwit,” he said as if actually speaking to the werewolf Alpha. Then he rounded on her, “And you, why would you take candy from a stranger?” Before he could stop himself, he pointed his finger at her, “Never eat candy ever again.” He was shaking his finger now and his detached, objective, scientific ego was having a heart attack.

Regina’s eyes got big, “But it was yummy.”

“I don’t care,” his irritation was muffled by the mask but it was still there. “Never again. Now, we’re going to the galley and you’re going to have real food. Protein. Lots of protein.”

The End!

When I first started writing The Slaughter Chronicles back in 2017 I wanted to make a clear distinction between vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures. For the longest time, I used the generic term “demon” to cover everything that wasn’t a vampire or a werewolf and for a while, it flowed pretty well, especially with Sanctum, my hyper-religious monster-hunting order.

But then, as I put more flesh and definition into my imaginary world, I realized that the secular monster hunters (namely HADES) wouldn’t necessarily use terminology with superstitious or religious connotations. So I had to figure something else out.

This was a problem that stalled my worldbuilding for at least 6 months because I didn’t come up with the character of Theodore Thane or HADES’s Void hunting division until late 2019.

So, I spent 2017-summer 2019 wobbling back and forth between words that were okay but just didn’t feel right and wearing holes in my thesaurus.

Why was Thane (aka Hyperion) so helpful in solving this problem?

Theodore Thane is a “demon” hunter. But he hates organized religion. He’s also extremely analytical and narcissistic. A very thorough researcher, with a heavy science background, Thane has also been around for a few decades longer than most of the other characters so he’s gained a lot of experience and seen a lot of things.

After I built up Thane’s backstory it was very easy to adopt how this one character classified all these other monsters and use his perceptions to categorize the monsters. Using his terminology also works well because Regina, my protagonist, learned pretty much everything about my paranormal world from Thane.

Members of Sanctum still use the word “demon” to talk about every supernatural creature, no matter where they came from.

End Credits and Purchase Links

Pulling Teeth and Other Stories is available for pre-order right now. It will go live on November 24. That’s Tuesday after next!

For 1.99 USD you get two Regina Slaughter backstory novellas, three Slaughter Chronicles short stories and extra worldbuilding content.

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