Short stories and serials by Alexandra Herakai

A Taste of Rainbow

Coming back to their hometown to visit, Sharra had always claimed these markets, these rows of stalls in this strange town in a strange country, were magical. He’d always thought it was only the sort of hyperbolic claim you made when there was enough of the exotic in the air to make your head spin with wonder, but here, in the midst of it, he was suddenly not so certain anymore. The air smelled of cinnamon and cloves and a dozen other spices he couldn’t name. The merchants offered their wares in voices raised to carry over their neighbors’, a parrot-like cacaphony emphasized by the colorful, embroidered silks they wore.

That all could fall into exotic, addle-your-mind-with-wonder mundanity. But beneath it, carried on the tune of unseen drums and bells and güiros, was that undefinable quality that had made Sharra return again and again, like a whiff of another reality, just barely out of his nose’s reach. He wandered down the dusty, beaten dirt, weaving around the natives going about their business as though he didn’t exist, marveling at the offerings in the crowded-together stalls to either side and fancying he had to look to the locals a little bit like a savage seeing a string of glass beads for the first time.

But no sign of Sharra.

All he could do was follow the not-scent of the magic, hoping that it might lead him to the same thing that had lured her in. It was starting to make the hair on the back of his neck tingle, and sweat was breaking out in his hairline – several times he had to stop and wipe it out of his eyes – as though the haunting tunes that teased him along were working his body into a fever pitch. Tongue dry, he stopped at a stall nearly at random – the woman-he-thought behind it was wrapped in so much silk he could only see a pair of soulful, heavily-lashed sapphire eyes, and the embroidery seemed to depict a forest whose snow-white denizens disappeared out of view if he tried to look straight at them. A strange technique, that; he’d never seen a pattern like that anywhere before.

She handed him a cup that he took for well-polished tin at first, her hands hidden by the long sleeves of her curiously-patterned garment. In it sloshed a liquid slightly thicker than water, whose color seemed to change much like the white creatures on the woman’s clothes moved – whenever his eyes or his mind seemed to settle on one color, it started seeming more like another. Red, orange, yellow. He took a sip, tasting like life and sunlight and warmth, spreading a tingling sense of spring-sun energy through his limbs, all the way to his fingertips. Green, blue, it tasted like nature, like the fields and forests and glittering rivers of the countryside he’d arrived through. Indigo, violet, the flavor of the sky, of night, of the moon and stars.

“Drink up,” the woman urged, and her voice was another harmony to the magic-music, so much stronger now, its scent almost within reach. He couldn’t resist that command, tilting the cup back and tipping a dizzying swirl of colors down his parched throat, feeling them dance through his every fiber.

The natives walked around him without seeming to see him. The woman wearing a forest of secrets smiled, beckoning him closer, and he followed as though in a dream.

She brushed the fabric covering her face aside for just a moment, and her kiss sent star-bright pain lancing into his forehead. The market around him blurred and spun, turning into the same rainbow swirl as he’d swallowed out of her cup, until he could stand it no longer and squeezed his eyes shut, sinking to the ground in front of her stall and finding nobody rushing to his aid. Was this what had happened to Sharra? Had she been poisoned by some strange veiled native woman?

He lay there, and didn’t die. When the bustle of the market died down around him, and he could feel the cool moonlight caress his cheek, he opened his eyes. Gone was the market, leaving not even the traces behind that would have been there in night-time. In its place were trees like the ones he’d seen embroidered, curling and alien like the tapestries of a darker age, but strangely comforting.

He heard water, a singing brook, beyond the nearest stand of trees, and walked towards the sound because it provided him with a direction. The brook was crystal clear and cool, and fed into a pond that reflected the night sky through the latticework of artfully interwoven leaves and branches that leaned over the water. Looking down into its mirror face, the gaze that met his was unfamiliar yet filled him with a sense of triumph.

He’d found the magic, Sharra’s magic. He was the magic.

Covered in fur as white as starlight, with a golden-crystal spiral horn on his forehead and dainty, split ivory hooves, he’d not only found but become this land’s marvelous secret. His long tail had the noble grace of the lion whose characteristics it built upon, and his mane, a fine rainbow silk, was the stuff from which dreams were woven.

He had a long drink of the brook’s water, then started walking. As long as she waited for him, he knew he could find Sharra.


It took Judas some time to gather the courage to walk up to the church’s doorway; for minutes that dragged on he stood on the sidewalk and merely looked at the white stone building and its painted-black door. Once there, between a pair of discreet square pillars that flanked the entrance, it took him another few minutes to raise his left hand to the door handle. He still clutched his undershirt to his bloodied nose with the other hand, not knowing whether the bleeding had stopped or not during his walk, or when he’d stood hesitating.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Fall of Judas: Wrath

“My name is James; I’m a friend of Mortimer’s.” A pause, not long enough for Judas to respond even if he could place that man just from a first name. “Grouse with a paunch, you, ah, met with him a couple of times.”

Oh. Judas did remember Mortimer. The man had wined and dined him considerably better than he would’ve dared to ask if he’d had a license, much less without, and had insisted on Judas bringing home both their leftovers. He was almost as old as Judas’s father, divorced with two children half Judas’s age if that, and he’d almost, almost, managed to get the polecat to feel like an equal. A good man. One of very few he would’ve even entertained the notion of giving his blessing when asked if he could share his number. So this was the friend he’d had in mind?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Fall of Judas: Envy

Things were no different than any other night, not perceptibly. Judas, as always, could use money or a free meal. The club, as always, had more than enough potential sources of either, if he wasn’t too picky about how he’d come by it. The same way as always; it was a calculated risk every time he went looking to expand his client base. A risk of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, a risk of being asked for a license he didn’t have and couldn’t afford.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Fall of Judas: Greed

Judas closed the textbook he’d been poring over when his phone rang, with barely a glance at the display – he wouldn’t recognize the number anyway – before pressing the button to take the call and lifting it to his ear. He was acutely aware of Ian bent over a sheaf of sheet music a little further over in their shared dorm room, and wasn’t entirely comfortable with the bear’s presence. Not during a call like this. But it wasn’t the first time and if it became the last his time at the university would soon be over, anyway, so he only took care to make sure his side of the conversation was as innocuous as humanly possible.

Read the rest of this entry »

Theft and Virtue

Virtue was named for a quality the Inner Circle deemed her mother to be lacking in, and Faith raised her to live up to that name.

As a child, the filly learned that she was part of the nobility, and that the silver horn on her forehead entitled her to respect and reverence from the common people. Those commoners employed by the Circle proved her lessons correct, bowing their heads as they helped her into her jewel-toned silk gowns and braided gems into her mane. She treated them with respect in turn, the respect the served show the servants.

Read the rest of this entry »

Battle Scars

The blond lay, face-down, on the bed, chin pillowed on his lower arms. His hair, worn longer than that of most people he knew, was white, silky, and lying in a careless sprawl across the sheets and his pale, scar-lined back, and his eyes were half-lidded. The mattress dipped slightly as his partner lay down next to him, ruby-red fur brushing softly against bare skin.

Slowly, the part-raev, part-wyvern ran his fingers up along the human’s spine, his muzzle pressing against the side of the younger man’s neck. “When are you going to talk to me, Roxeen?” His voice was soft, holding as little edge as he could manage.  Sometimes there was no telling what the blond would take as an attack, and he didn’t want to drive him off again.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Fall of Judas: Gluttony

Judas was well camoflaged. There was no other word for it; he was very nearly as out of place as could be, but he’d managed to hide it. Not just that the club wasn’t really his kind of scene, though that certainly was part of it. Judging by the fact that the woman next to him, a blue tiger with quite captivating amber eyes, was offering to buy him a second drink, he was pretty sure it wasn’t just his discomfort with the environment that he’d managed to cover up.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Fall of Judas: Vanity

The polecat adjusted his desk chair, pulled over to Ian’s desk for the occassion, then reached up and tilted the camera perched on top of the monitor a little more. The preview on the screen didn’t show his face, but from collarbones to mid-thighs, the image seemed clearly enough in focus. Enough so that he could make out a hint of ribs through his fur if he brought the preview up larger.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Fall of Judas: Lust

Judas cracked his eyes open and glanced over in the direction of the glowing screen in the other end of the room. His roommate was still sitting there, studio earphones covering the bear’s ears, and he appeared to be nodding in time with the music, ocassionally humming along. Now and then he paused, cocking his head a fraction, and typed a few words’ worth or clicked the mouse; probably adjusting something about the piece he was working on.

Read the rest of this entry »