Chapter 1. The Villain Monologues

“AND NOW, I will tell you of my plans to take over the Kingdom,” the evil wizard and total douchebag Lartin the Dark Leaf said with a cackle.

“Please don’t,” I said. “You really don’t have to.”

Of course he didn’t listen. Villains never do. That’s why they suck. A lot. It didn’t help that my arms and legs were bound with vermilion root. That shit is hardcore. No lie.

“You see, back when I was a child, I always knew that I was different. That I was meant for greater things than what my father had planned for me.” Lartin looked out toward the cave entrance almost wistfully, as if thinking of his childhood days. What a dick. “He always looked down on me with scorn because I never wanted to be an ironsmith. He always said that—”

“Do you think he realizes we don’t care?” Gary asked me. He sounded really bitchy when he said it, but if you were a hornless gay unicorn, you’d be bitchy too. “Like, seriously. Don’t care. At all.”

I shrugged as Lartin looked at us in disbelief. “He has daddy issues.”

“I don’t have daddy issues,” Lartin said, sounding annoyed.

“So that gives him the right to monologue?” Gary snorted. When he did, little pink and purple sparkles shot out his nose. Being a unicorn is awesome like that.

“He’s a villain,” I said. “It’s what they do. They have to broadcast their entire plan when they think they’ve won because no one else will ever listen to them.”

“Lame,” Gary said, glancing at Lartin. “Girl, I really don’t care. Unbind my legs before I scratch your eyes out.”

“You don’t have fingers,” I reminded him. “You can’t scratch anything.”

“He’s lucky I don’t have my horn back yet,” Gary muttered. “There’d be so much goring, it’d be unreal. It’d be like Gore City up in here. These roots are chafing. He should undo them.”

“Are you going to undo them?” I asked Lartin.

“Uh, no?” he said. “You know I captured you and you’re my prisoners, right?

“Did he?” I asked Gary.

“Well, we are tied up,” Gary said. “And not in the fun way.”

“I don’t want to know when you’ve been tied up in the fun way,” I told him.

He rolled his eyes. “Sam, you are such a prude.”

“Guys?” Lartin said. “I have a plan? That I need to tell you about? You need to listen.”

“I am not a prude,” I said to Gary. “Just because I don’t talk about… you know. Sex stuff. That doesn’t make me a prude.”

“Your face just turned red when you stuttered on the word sex,” Gary said. “I almost believed you.”

“I didn’t stutter.”

“You kind of stuttered,” Lartin said. Because he was an asshole who I was totally going to kick in the balls before the day was up. “Can I get back to my story? I really think you’ll appreciate the many facets of my character once you hear it. I’m dynamic and—”

“When were you tied up?” I demanded. “Unicorns aren’t allowed to be whorish. You’re supposed to be all virtuous and pristine!”

“Oh please,” Gary said. “How do you think I was created?”

Huh. “Honestly? I always thought unicorns were made from sunshine and rainbows and good feelings. Like you just appeared one day in a field filled with flowers and a big fat sunbeam falling all around you. And there’d be butterflies or something.” That sounded way pretty. And realistic for unicorn creation.

Gary squinted at me, nostrils flaring. “Seriously? No, you idiot. My parents had hardcore unicorn sex. Like boned for days. They’re very adventurous that way. Up in trees, down by rivers, near graveyards at midnight. There really isn’t anywhere they haven’t spread the love.”

“Oh my goodness,” Lartin whispered. “Is this really happening?”

“Gross,” I said. “That’s just gross.”

“Hey! Unicorn sex is a beautiful thing!”

“Yeah, but that’s your parents you’re talking about. That’s wrong on so many levels. And why haven’t I met them? Or heard about them?”

“They’re touring the Outer Reaches with their swingers group.”

“Swingers?”

“Yeah. Like partner swapping. Maybe orgies. I don’t know.”

I was horrified, and I’m sure it showed on my face. “Dude! What!”

“Prude,” Gary said.

“I’m not a prude! I just don’t see why we have to talk about sex all the time. Or your parents being in orgies!”

“Well, I guess you can’t understand what you’ve never had,” Gary said, a mean little curl to his stupid unicorn lips.

“You’re a virgin?” Lartin said.

“You bitch,” I said to Gary. “And no, I’m not a virgin.”

“You so are,” Gary said, because apparently this morning he’d eaten sass for breakfast. “A twenty-year-old virgin.”

“No! There was that one guy! At that thing! With the people!” My argument was sound.

“That didn’t count. He kissed you, and you came in your pants, and then you proceeded to tell him how his hair reminded you of your father.”

“It did. It’s not my fault he had dad hair!”

I’m not even a virgin,” Lartin said, sounding smug. “The ladies all want up on Little Lartin. There is so much sex to be had when I’m around.”

Gary glared at him. “You call your dick Little Lartin? Dude. Wrong.”

“I don’t have time for all the relations and courting and wooing bullshit,” I said. “I’m a wizard. I have quests.”

“Uh, you’re an apprentice,” Gary said. “And you’re sent on errands.”

“You know how you wanted to dye a strip of your mane purple?” I said.

“Yes. Because I’d be beautiful.”

“Well, too fucking bad,” I said savagely. “I’m not going to do it. You’re just going to have keep it white. Forever.”

“You promised!”

“That was before you were a jerk!”

“Oh my gods,” Gary said. “Lartin. Get over here and untie me. I want to kick Sam in the fucking face.”

“No! He’s going to untie me so I can hex the shit out of you. Lartin. Get your ass over here and untie me.”

“Um,” Lartin said. “I don’t know if you guys understand the point of being captured. Like… I captured you? Right? And so—”

“No,” Gary said. “Not right. You caught us off guard because we were looking for wormwood in the Dark Woods, and we just happened to stumble into your camp, and you took advantage of a situation. That doesn’t count as capturing. That counts as being an asshole.”

“When were you tied up?” I asked again.

“You’re still on that?” Gary asked. “Ugh.”

“You brought it up.”

“Fine! It was that centaur we met last year. In the elf realm.”

“You said you were just friends!”

“We were. We were just the kind of friends that tied each other up and pushed our penises together.”

“What was his name again?”

“Octavio,” Gary said with a dreamy sigh. “The hands that half man had.”

“I have hands,” Lartin said. “I’ve tied you up.”

“Is he hitting on me?” Gary whispered loudly.

“Are you hitting on him?” I asked Lartin.

“No! I was just pointing out similarities of the situations.”

“I think he was hitting on you,” I told Gary.

Gary looked back at Lartin and sized him up. Then he did that thing that I swear only unicorns can do. His blue eyes got impossibly big. His eyelashes lengthened as he fluttered them at Lartin. His mane was luminous in the darkened cave, and he purred, “Well aren’t you precious.”

“Ew,” I said. “Seriously.”

Lartin blushed. “Oh, stop it.”

“Does Little Lartin want to come out to play?” Gary asked, batting his eyes.

“I wish I were anywhere else but where I am,” I said to no one in particular

“Maybe,” Lartin said, trying for coy but somehow landing on straight-out creepy.

Gary giggled. He giggled. “Well, maybe I should tell you that my tongue is fifteen inches of the best thing you’ll ever have.”

“Yuck,” I said. “That just sounds excessive.”

“I’ve never done it with a horse,” Lartin said. “Sounds… illuminating.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t have said that,” I told him.

Horse?” Gary snarled. The pretty unicorn act dropped immediately. Red sparks shot from his nose. “Did you just call me a horse? Listen here, you two-legged bag of shit. I’m not a motherfucking horse. I am a unicorn, and I am magic and a beautiful creature made of fucking sunshine and rainbows and good feelings.”

“I knew it,” I whispered.

“Get your ass over here so I can stomp on your face,” Gary said to Lartin. “Untie me, lie down on the ground, and let me stomp your face.”

“You don’t have a horn,” Lartin pointed out.

“That’s just rude,” I said. “I didn’t point out that your nose is really big. Why would you say something like that?”

“Sam,” Gary said tearfully. “He called me a horse.”

“Hey,” I said. “Hey. Look at me.”

He did. His eyes were wet, and I wanted to punch Lartin in the spleen.

“Who is the most beautiful unicorn in all of Verania?”

“Me,” Gary sniffed.

“And who has the prettiest mane?”

“Me.”

“And who is a badass motherfucker who’ll gut a bitch?”

“Me!”

“Damn right.”

“Sam?”

“Yeah?”

“We’ll find my horn, right?”

“I promise,” I said. Because we would. It was important to him so it was important to me. It’d been stolen long ago, years before I’d met him. He couldn’t even look himself in the mirror without cringing. That was unacceptable.

“And we can dye my mane purple when we get out of here?”

“First thing,” I said. “I already bought the dye before we left the city.”

“You love me,” Gary sighed.

“I do.”

“Okay, I feel better now.”

“Good.”

“So, are we going to finish, or what?” Lartin said.

I rolled my eyes. “Fine. Do your villain thing.”

“This is so stupid,” Gary muttered.

Lartin’s eyes lit up. He posed in front of us again. “So it was my father that—”

“Daddy issues,” Gary coughed.

Lartin glared at him.

“Sorry,” Gary said. He wasn’t sorry. “I had something in my throat.”

“My father said that I would never—”

“We didn’t lose that bag of wormwood, did we?” I asked Gary.

“Nah,” Gary said. “It’s still in the satchel on my back.”

“Good. Morgan would be pissed if we forgot that.”

“He’s going to be pissed already. We were supposed to be back yesterday.”

“We would have,” I said. “If some people hadn’t decided to tie us up in a cave.”

Gary and I stared at Lartin.

“You guys are the worst prisoners ever,” he muttered. Then his eyes went wide. “Did you say Morgan?”

“You shouldn’t eavesdrop,” Gary said. “That’s rude. We weren’t listening to you, so you shouldn’t be listening to us.”

“You’re apprenticed to Morgan?” Lartin squeaked. “Morgan of Shadows?”

I grinned at him. “The one and the same.”

“Oh no,” Lartin moaned. “You’re Sam of Wilds.”

“Such a sexy name,” Gary sighed. “Have I ever told you that?”

“Thank you,” I said, pleased. “It sounds very rugged, doesn’t it?” I’d worked very hard on earning that name. It’d change again when I was a full-on wizard, but it was good enough for now.

Gary laughed. “Yeah, but then people meet you and you’re all skinny and adorable, and they’re all like whaaaa?”

“I think you meant to say muscular and dangerous,” I said. “You got your words confused again.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I got them right. As I always do. To be muscular you have to have muscles.”

“I have muscles!” I tried to flex, but my hands were bound behind me, and it didn’t work out so well. “Okay. Shut up. But I am dangerous.”

“Yeah, okay,” Gary said.

“I am!”

“Honey, you’re pouting. That’s not dangerous. It’s adorable.”

“I’m not pouting,” I said as I pouted.

“Aww,” Gary said.

“Aww,” Lartin said.

“Shut up, Lartin!”

“Okay, so can we leave?” Gary asked.

We both looked at Lartin.

“You’re Sam of Wilds,” he said.

“No shit,” I said.

“Do you know how much you’re worth?”

“Oh, not again,” I groaned.

“I could totally ransom you!” Lartin said excitedly. “It would fund my world domination plans for the next six years!”

“Morgan’s going to be so mad at you,” Gary said to me.

“It’s not my fault!”

“Well, you do get captured a lot.”

“I suppose.”

“And everyone knows your name.”

“Right? How weird is that?”

“Totally weird.”

“So much gold,” Lartin said as he paced back and forth. “Pounds and pounds of gold.

“Hey, Sam?”

“Yes, Gary.”

“Has Morgan ever paid a ransom for you?”

“Nope. Not once.”

“And why is that?”

“He said that if I was dumb enough to get caught, then I’d have to figure my own way out.”

“Ah,” Gary said.

Lartin stopped. “Never paid?”

“Not once,” I told him. “Can you let us go now?”

“No!” he snapped. “I am sick of this! You are going to sit there, I am going to tell you my plan, and then I’m going to get so much gold that I won’t be able to carry it all.”

“Then how are you going to move it?” Gary asked.

“Move what?” Lartin looked perplexed.

“You just said you were going to get so much gold that you weren’t going to be able to carry it,” I said. “So how are you going to move it if you can’t carry it?”

“Oh,” Lartin said. “Well, shit.”

“Wow,” Gary said. “If that’s how well you think things through, I can’t wait to hear your plans for world domination. I’m sure they’ll be positively riveting. And well thought-out.”

“Burn,” I said. “You just got so burned. You’ll have scars from all the burn.”

“I’ll buy a cart!” Lartin exclaimed. “And a horse.” Then he went back to being a complete douche. “Or I’ll just keep the unicorn here and he can pull it for me.”

“Oh, bitch, say that to my face, bitch,” Gary snarled. “Come on. I dare you.”

“I wouldn’t say that to his face,” I said. “Even if he dared you.”

But Lartin the Dark Leaf was an idiot. The wizarding clan of the Darks usually were. So it was no surprise when Lartin stepped forward and said, “You’ll pull my cart. Horse.”

That’s when the nine foot half-giant named Tiggy roared and burst into the cave.

“Sam,” he rumbled. “Gary.”

“You’re so dead,” Gary said to Lartin. “You don’t even know. Tiggy! Smash him!”

And since Tiggy loved Gary so, he moved forward to do just that.

“Wait, Tiggy,” I said.

And since Tiggy loved me so, he waited.

Gary looked murderous. “Sam,” he growled. And if you’ve never heard a unicorn growl, let me tell you: it’s delightfully frightening.

“Your angry face is awesome,” I said to him.

He preened. “I’ve been practicing. Watch.” He glared at me, eyes narrowing, teeth bared. “See?”

“I got chills,” I assured him.

“I smash now?” Tiggy asked.

Of course, Lartin tried to mutter off some defensive spell. Little green lights arced around Tiggy before they dissipated.

“You’re not a very good wizard, are you?” I said. “Giant, dude. Their blood is like the antimagic. Come on. You learn that on your first day of wizard training!”

“I smash now.” Tiggy looked very pissed off. He usually was when his two favorite people in the entire world were captured. Come to think of it, maybe it did happen a lot.

“Just hold on, Tiggy,” I said.

“No, don’t hold on,” Gary said. “I want to see his insides on the outside.”

“So bloodthirsty,” I said in awe.

“I would prefer there to not be any smashing,” Lartin said. “If I’m being totally honest.”

But Tiggy was done with the situation, so he smashed Lartin the Dark Leaf. Multiple times. Into a variety of objects. Like rocks. And cave walls. It wasn’t a very pretty sight. What with the blood and stuff. And the brains.

When the smashing was complete, Tiggy came over and snapped the vermilion roots that bound me and my magic. As soon as the roots fell, I felt a surge of green and gold and yellow flow through me. “So much better,” I muttered.

“Always get caught,” Tiggy grumbled as he tended to the roots at Gary’s feet.

“Now that’s not specifically true. I’ll be honest, though. I’ve grown as a person this time around and will pledge to avoid capture in the future.” That was not the complete truth. I would most likely get captured again. It was sort of my thing.

“Who’s my big strong man,” Gary cooed at Tiggy.

Tiggy blushed. “Me.”

“Yes, you are. I knew you’d come and rescue me. I was like a princess waiting for her hero!”

“So pretty,” Tiggy said, running his big hand gently through Gary’s mane. “My pretty princess.”

“Can we leave the cave now?” I asked. “You guys can flirt later.”

“It’s okay, Tiggy,” Gary said. “Sam’s just dealing with some issues. He recently came to the realization that he’s a twenty-year-old virgin prude.”

“I am not!”

“I told him about Octavio,” Gary said. “Sam couldn’t even say the word sex without stuttering.”

“Sam never gonna find a boyfriend,” Tiggy said. “No one gonna take his flower.”

“Don’t talk about my flower!” I snapped at them as I checked the satchel on Gary’s back. The wormwood was still wrapped safely where I’d left it. So at least this wasn’t a complete loss. “And I don’t need a boyfriend. I am an independent man with priorities. I’m going to be the youngest wizard to pass his apprenticeship, and then I’m going to do great things. Big things!”

“Oh?” Gary said. And he grinned evilly. Evil unicorn smiles are the sign of wicked things about to be said. I hated them. “So I suppose a certain knight doesn’t factor into those priorities whatsoever? Like maybe you want to be the youngest full wizard just to impress him?”

“You shut your whore mouth,” I growled, trying to not sigh dreamily at the thought of bright green eyes and a beautiful smile. And wavy blond hair. Like, the waviest. I wanted to touch it with my face. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“Uh-huh,” Gary said.

“You want mouth full of knight,” Tiggy said. “Knight take your flower and eat it.”

“Tiggy!” I shouted, scandalized.

“Such a prude,” Gary muttered.

“I hate you both. So much.”

And to prove my point, I stormed out of the cave.

But they obviously didn’t believe me, because they followed me.

Like I knew they would. I’m lucky that way, I guess.