DISCLAIMER: The characters of Bodhi & Gwen and everyone else in this Halloween tale are mine! Mine! All mine!

NOTE: As always, big THANKS to the big kids (Steph and Oz) for letting me build castles in their sandbox.




Del Robertson



"—damn it—" Bodhi punctuated her sentence with a closed fist to the ground. “They’re gone.”

I looked up, my eyes scanning the horizon. The day was growing late. A chill wind was blowing, bringing in roiling, fat clouds. The scent of rain was thick in the air, but thank the spirits, it wasn't thundering or lightning. Yet.  

The road we were on looked like it hadn't been traveled on for seasons. Many, many seasons. As a matter of fact, it had so many dips and ruts in it that it couldn't really be called a road at all. If anything, it was little more than an overgrown footpath. 

A footpath that seemed to lead to nowhere. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing except a sea of thigh-high wheat grass. Not a thatched roof, a grazing sheep, or even a stray hare to be seen anywhere. 

"I've never seen anything like it." Still buckling the leather strap about my waist and settling my quiver of arrows at my hip, I stepped from the grass and onto the path beside Bodhi. "Both horses bolting like that, for no reason."

Bolt, they had, though. Out of the blue, our mares had snorted loudly and whinnied, as if something had spooked them. A heartbeat later, they broke and ran. 

Neither of us had a chance at catching them. I'd been off the path, at a distance of about thirty paces, my skirt pulled up to my waist as I squatted in the tall grass. Bodhi had already relieved herself and was back with the horses. She'd had one boot in the stirrup and was pulling herself up into the saddle when her mare tossed her.

In the blink of an eye, the horses were running away and taking our supplies with them. Supplies such as our blankets that had been rolled and tied behind the saddles. My heart sank as I remembered all the necessities that had been packed into the saddlebags. There'd been changes of clothing, my horsehair brush, that bark Bodhi chews to keep her teeth clean, our extra coins, food...

I huffed loudly as I recalled the yellowish-reddish apple I'd plucked from a tree we'd passed two days ago. I'd been saving that apple, letting it ripen in my saddlebag, threatening Bodhi to within an inch of her life if she so much as laid a finger on it.

Well, there was no use dwelling on it now. That apple was long gone, along with nearly everything else we owned.  

Including my cloak, I thought bitterly, as the increasing wind cut right through the thin cloth of my linen blouse. 

Still, it could have been much worse. We could have been horseless and weaponless. As it was, Bodhi still had her dual swords in the double crisscross harness she wore, along with her long knife sheathed at her waist, and the dagger strapped to her thigh. I'd managed to retain both my bow and my full quiver of arrows. At least we won’t starve. Between the two of us, we'd surely be able to find something to kill.

That was something else. Thank the Spirits only Bodhi's dignity had been wounded. If her boot had caught in the stirrup, she would've been dragged behind her horse. Most likely, for miles, with grass, brambles, and rocks ripping at her clothing and flesh until she worked her foot free or was...

I suppressed a shiver and briskly rubbed my arms. I wouldn't think about that. I couldn't think about that. 

“What will we do now?” I asked Bodhi, needing a distraction from my morbidity. 

“You think you can track our horses?” she asked.

“I can track anything.” It wasn’t a boast. It was a statement of fact. One that I’d proven to Bodhi more than once. I let out a little sigh. “You do, of course, know they aren’t likely to stop running any time soon.”

Bodhi glanced up and down the road in both directions and back again. The deep sigh she released mirrored mine.

“We already know what’s in that direction,” Bodhi pointed at the road behind us. “Possibly, the horses…and very little else. The last town was very nearly a fortnight ago.” She looked past me, toward the North. “We have no idea what lies in that direction. Nor how far away that something might be.”

The wind increased, whipping my skirt about my legs. I turned away, pushing strands of brunette hair and road dust from my eyes. A mournful howl carried on the wind. I stiffened as a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold ran down my spine.

"—Bodhi—" My voice cracked and I couldn’t stop shaking.

She looked up at me from where she sat on the ground.

I ducked my head, hair falling about my face as I stared down at my boots. I didn’t want to meet her gaze, afraid of what I might see there. After all, she was a professional warrior. More than that, she was once a member of the King’s guard. Bodhi wasn’t afraid of anything. Certainly not of anything as silly as the distant baying of an unseen dog.

“Gwen? Gwen, look at me.” 

No. I can’t. I looked at her. Blue eyes gazed back at me. I was afraid I’d see pity there. Instead, I saw only kindness and tenderness.

“We’ll go get the horses.” Bodhi’s tone was low and soft. 

She stretched out her hand and I took it, feeling the calluses on the palm of her sword hand as I pulled her to her feet. As she stood, a cry of pain was wrenched from between her lips. 

“What is it?” I asked, continuing to hold her hand within mine as my other hand stroked down the length of her back.

“It’s nothing.”

She pulled free from my grasp and took a step down the road. Her leg buckled beneath her and the only thing that saved her from falling was the grip I had about the back of her belt. She stood upright, grimacing, as she attempted another step.

“You’ve hurt yourself in the fall, haven’t you?” Even to my ears, my words sounded accusing. I bent down, running my hand over the leg of her britches.

“I’m fine.” She attempted to brush my hand away. “Let’s go get those damn horses.”

I deliberately pressed my fingers against her ankle. The instant I touched her, Bodhi grunted and I’m almost positive I heard her teeth grinding together. Her hand closed about my shoulder, her fingers gripping talon-like at the material of my peasant blouse.

I locked my hand about her waist and tucked her in close to my side as I turned us about-face.


“You’re hurt, Bodhi,” I cut her off before she could give voice to the token warrior protests. “It’s getting cold and dark and I’m not willing to walk Spirits know how many miles back the way we came in the hopes of finding our horses waiting for us somewhere along the way.”

“We don’t know how far away anything is in this direction,” said Bodhi, even as she draped her hand over my shoulder and allowed me to support at least some of her weight.

“Well, one would presume that if someone is going to take the trouble to build a road, it must lead to somewhere.”

We took all of three steps before I grunted and shifted her weight and readjusted my grip about her waist. I took a few more tentative steps before getting a rhythm. I hunkered down low against the biting wind as I settled us into a steady pace.

We traveled in companionable silence until Bodhi apparently felt the need to comment, “It is a bit brisk out, isn’t it?”

“Bodhi, take your hand off my breast…”


The clouds had long since blotted out the full moon. Forks of lightning streaked from the sky, illuminating the countryside and the path we were on. Thunder rumbled like the sound of incessant drums. Sheets of rain fell horizontally, forcing us to shield our faces with our hands as best we could. Not that it helped any; we were both soaked to the bone.

I was miserable. I was wet, tired, hungry, and cold. I knew, though, that no matter how miserable I was, Bodhi had to be worse off. Not that she had uttered a single word of complaint, other than to protest the removing of her hand from my breast. However, with each passing candlemark, her limping became more pronounced and she leaned more and more heavily upon me.

I was reluctant to do so, but I knew I had to sacrifice two of my arrows. I lifted my skirt and removed my thigh dagger and the leather strap that held it in place. With the dagger, I cut the shafts in equal halves. To save time, I left the arrowheads and feathers attached to the shafts. I placed the pieces of wood on either side of Bodhi’s ankle and buckled the leather strap into place, cinching it tight.

I tucked the dagger into the belt at my waist and gave Bodhi my bow to use as a makeshift walking stick. I didn’t say anything, but I cringed as every step we took put pressure on the wood. Spirits, I just hope we can find her something better to use come daybreak. Injured as Bodhi was, she wouldn’t be able to hunt. Neither could I, if my bow were broken.

“There.” Bodhi spoke loudly, so as to be heard above the storm.

I followed her pointing finger, squinting against the driving rain. In the distance, there appeared to be a solid mass of darkness silhouetted against the rest of the pitch black. I could make out the stack of a chimney and the line of a roof. A flash of lightning illuminated the outline of the building.

“It looks abandoned,” I said, noting how thin the layer of thatching appeared to be.

As soon as the words left my mouth, a light appeared in a window.

“Well, someone’s clearly home. Come on, we’re getting soaked.”

Despite having, at the very least, a sprained ankle, Bodhi tugged me along quite handily and before I knew it, we were standing outside the property line. We paused before a fence that showed signs of wood rot, with several slats hanging haphazardly from their posts. Likewise, the gate hung off its hinges at an awkward angle, the bottom corner buried in mud. Fortunately, it was open far enough that I was able to maneuver both Bodhi and myself through without difficulty.

Her hand still draped over my shoulder, my hand gripping her wrist and my other arm wrapped tightly about her waist, I guided her into the yard. I sidestepped us around an open pen. Thanks to the driving rain, the ground inside the fence was a thick quagmire of mud. Lucky we hadn’t stepped into it by accident. In the front yard beyond the pen, there was a water pump and a trough. Lightning flash revealed long strips of paint peeling off the wall of a free-standing barn.

It was a farm. A run-down, no animals or crops to be seen anywhere desolate, ramshackle farm. I should know. I was raised on a pig farm. Before I struck out on my own. And, somehow ended up with Bodhi, I thought, as I felt her insistent tug on my arm.

I rushed us across the front yard, toward the house. The cottage was a cob and thatch, the walls made of a mixture of clay, gravel, cob and straw. The roof was straw and reed, the thatching a single, thin layer. This time of year, well into the fall harvest, the thatching should have been thicker. Much thicker. Even if the crops had been harvested, a supply should have been set aside for insulating the roof against the coming winter. Thin wisps of smoke, suppressed by the rain, struggled to drift up from the cottage’s lone chimney.

The light in the window burned brighter now, beckoning us inside. I planted my boot on the bottom step. Like a moth to the flame, I was mesmerized. Never taking my eyes off the light, my feet moved as if of their own will up the stairs. As I took another step, I heard an ominous creak, followed by the sound of splintering wood.

My foot broke through the wood, followed by my leg. I screamed. Then, Bodhi’s hand was about my waist, fingers gripping my leather belt. I heard her grunt and mutter curses as her other arm wrapped about me and she pulled me up to solid ground. My legs were shaking so badly that I wrapped my arms about her neck for support.

We stood, breathing heavily, staring into each other’s eyes for long heartbeats. Her tongue darted out, as if moistening too-dry lips. I found myself moistening mine in direct response. 

“Are you injured?” she asked.

I blinked, tearing my gaze away from her mouth. Was I? I did a quick check, shook my head.

“Good. One of us limping around like a wounded ogre is enough.”

“Bodhi, I’ve never called you an ogre. A troll, perhaps, but an ogre, never.”

“You flatter me, fair maiden. Admit it, you find me irresistible.”

I snorted at the very suggestion. Bodhi was cocky, conceited, jaded, and rude. When she wasn’t hobbling on an injured ankle, she had a natural swaggering gait to her walk. She was confident, a braggart, and thought she was the Blessed Mother’s gift to women. And, Spirits help me…no matter how much I tried to deny it, I was inexplicably drawn to her because of it. Perhaps it’s not Bodhi. Perhaps I’m just attracted to dangerous women, I thought, remembering the occurrences in the town of Fairhaven.

If there was one thing Bodhi was, it was undeniably dangerous. Not just because of the double-swords she wielded, nor her dagger and knife she carried. It was the woman herself. Bodhi was tall, broad shouldered, with long, blonde hair and deep blue eyes. Her teeth were bright and white; she claimed it was from the sea salt and willow bark she used daily. As if that wasn’t devastating enough, her deep set dimples when she smiled could charm the breechcloth off any woman within a hundred feet.

I looked up, finding her eyes full of mirth and a roguish smile upon her lips.

Her teasing made me angry. I wrenched myself free, disentangling myself from Bodhi’s arms, leaving her to find her own way up the remaining steps. I carefully picked my way along, watching for any further rotten boards. I heard Bodhi awkwardly hobbling along, then felt her hot breath upon my neck as she came to stop directly behind me on the porch.

I raised my hand and knocked on the wooden door. It swung open, hinges protesting against the movement. 

“Greetings. We saw your light from the road,” I called out to announce our arrival. I quietly waited for a reply. “We’re travelers seeking shelter from the storm. We’ve lost our horses and supplies.” 

Silence. I frowned at the lack of response.

Bodhi wedged herself into the threshold between me and the door. Without hesitating, she brushed past me and limped inside, my bow causing a thunk-thunk-thunk sound with every step she took.  

An unsettling feeling rising in my stomach, I followed her.

The door slammed shut. I jumped.  

“Just the wind,” I said, in a feeble attempt at convincing myself.


Bodhi led us deeper into the cottage. She clutched my bow in one hand, continuing to use it as a walking staff. In her other, she carried one of her swords. She held the sword half-raised, on her guard, as if ready to lop off the head of anyone foolhardy enough to attack us. She constantly turned, looking this way and that, taking in every bit of our surroundings with the calculated efficiency of a trained killer.  

Half a dozen candles cast the cottage in dim light and shadow. As my eyes adjusted, I realized that the house was a one-room dwelling. There was a single bed, a thread-bare quilt spread over the pallet. A flat pillow lay atop the quilt. Bits of straw stuck out from the edges of the mattress. In the center of the room, stood a square table, the surface covered in a layer of dust at least an inch thick. There were two chairs; one pushed in at the table and the other pulled out, as if someone had recently sat there.

The scent of cooking food wafted on the stale air. I closed my eyes, inhaling deeply, breathing in the aroma of spices and herbs. My stomach growled ferociously.    

The hearth stood against the far wall, the fire burning low. A stack of wood was piled beside it, an axe leaning blade down against the logs. Bodhi tossed kindling onto the fire, causing the flames to rise higher. She turned and sat on the warming stone, her back toward the wall, her sword balanced across her lap.

I wasted no time in moving closer to the hearth. Instantly, I felt warmth suffuse my cheeks, my flesh tingling as the heat chased away candlemarks of numbing cold. I suppressed a shiver as my wet blouse and skirt clung to my frame like a second skin.

Bodhi’s eyes were upon me. I knew. Even without looking, I knew.

I looked down, taking in the sight of my white blouse, turned transparent from the rain. My full breasts, my hardened nipples were pressed flush against the cloth. Bodhi’s hungry stare was palpable. My throat was dry. I swallowed hard. My entire body was shaking, but I refused to turn and look. Instead, I forced myself to focus on the hearth.  

A large cooking pot was suspended from a wrought-iron tripod over the fire. Fine wisps of smoke drifted up from the cauldron as its contents bubbled and boiled. I spied a thick cloth folded upon the hearthstones. Picking it up, I wrapped the fabric securely about my fingers before retrieving a ladle from the edge of the pot. I dipped the spoon in, stirring deeply before fishing about in the pot and lifting it out, studying its contents.

“Looks like carrots, potatoes, perhaps some turnips. A hare…” I eyed a piece of something brown and textured “…or something else.”

“As long as it’s not mutton stew,” Bodhi said.

“It’s the something else that worries me.” I brought the ladle to my nose, sniffing suspiciously. I dropped the ladle back into the pot. “I don’t like it, Bodhi.”

“You haven’t even tasted it, yet.”

I shot Bodhi a look. She was perched on the warming stone, looking up at me, a seemingly innocent expression on her face. It wasn’t until she grinned that I knew she was jesting with me.

“This. I don’t like this.” My gesture indicated the entire cottage. “It’s not a fit night out for man or beast. So, where is the owner?”

“Out gathering more kindling?”

Both our gazes fell on the axe beside the woodpile. The blade looked sharp…and wet…it was easy to conclude that it had already been used once this night.

“Perhaps a necessary trip to the privy?” Bodhi suggested.

From her expression, I could tell that Bodhi wasn’t entirely accepting of her explanation, either. She grimaced. It was a flash of pain – there – and then gone again in a heartbeat, so fast I’d nearly missed it. I looked her over from head to foot. Her legs were outstretched, the makeshift splint still firmly strapped to her boot. I worried about leaving the boot on and cutting off the circulation. I worried also about removing her shoe. What if her foot swelled so badly that she wasn’t able to put any weight at all on it? Without a horse, I’d never be able to get her to a healer.

“We’re both tired and hungry. Let’s eat. We’ll sleep in shifts in case someone comes home,” Bodhi said.

I reached up, retrieving the lone bowl and spoon from the mantle. I ladled stew into the bowl and sat on the warming stone beside Bodhi and handed her the spoon. Bodhi took the first bite, chewing vigorously before handing the utensil back.

I brought the spoon to my mouth, parted my lips – and stopped. I froze, looking from the spoon to Bodhi.

“You think it’s poisoned?” I asked.

“I don’t think someone would poison their own meal, do you?” Bodhi took the spoon from me, pointedly taking another bite. I watched her chew and swallow. “Not hare,” she said, passing the spoon back, “Definitely not hare.”

I dipped out a mouthful and looked at it dubiously before lifting it to my lips and forcing myself to try it. Not too bad. On my next go, I made sure I avoided any floating chunks of meat and tried to stick to just the vegetables.

Bodhi took the wooden utensil from my grasp and shoveled in another spoonful. She spoke around a mouthful. “Maybe you should take that off and let it dry by the fire.” She pointed her spoon at my tunic.

“Bodhi!” I shoved the bowl into Bodhi’s hands and folded my arms over my chest, effectively shielding my bosom from her sight.


I took the first watch. I sat on the warming stone beside the hearth, my bow and quiver of arrows leaning against the woodpile. Bodhi was atop the quilt on the bed. “Less chance of bugs,” she claimed. She’d also tossed the pillow onto the floor, for the same reason, preferring instead to tuck her arm beneath her head. Her dual sword harness was hanging from the bedpost, her weapons within easy reach. She was out almost immediately, soft snores escaping her lips as she fell into a deep sleep.

For long candlemarks, I sat with my back to the hearth, my eyes upon the door, waiting for someone to step across the threshold. Perhaps, like us, the owner of the cottage had been caught out in the storm and he was unable to return home. Or, she. Given the condition of the farm, I imagined that the owner could very well be a widow woman. Perhaps her husband had unexpectedly passed on. Perhaps they’d had no children and now she was left on her own to tend to the place as best she could. It would certainly explain the state of disrepair.

I looked toward the window. It was still the dead of night. Mercifully, though, the rain had stopped beating down. I had been right. The thatching on the roof was much too thin. There were leaks everywhere and water was standing on the floor in various places, with not a single bucket to catch the falling rain. A large pool of water was gathering at the base of the hearth’s stonework. Thankfully, the kindling and the fireplace itself remained dry. As was the bed that Bodhi rested upon. The same, however, could not be said for the table. It was a sodden mess.

Thank the Spirits, one that I won’t be expected to clean up. Memories of home flashed through my mind. It was only natural, I supposed, what with having grown up on a farm and now being forced to spend the night at one. After my older sister, Cathryn, was gone from home, it became my responsibility to see after my two younger siblings. It seemed like I spent all my time doing chore after chore after chore.

No more of that. I banished the memories with a shake of my head. I looked back at the window. The moon was full and shining in, bathing the cottage in moonlight. Somehow, it made the shadows seem not quite so menacing.

A yawn escaped my lips. I blinked and scrubbed a hand across my face. I was warm from the fire. Too warm. My clothes had long since dried, as had my hair. Another yawn. I climbed to my feet. I’ve been sitting for too long. Perhaps if I stretch my legs.

A wave of dizziness washed over me. I reached out, intending to grip the edge of the hearth’s mantle. My fingers brushed against the wooden serving bowl, dislodging it from its perch. It fell, clattering against the stonework of the hearth before hitting the floor. Out of ingrained habit, I bent to pick the bowl up. A fresh bout of dizziness overtook me. I joined the bowl on the floor, striking my temple against the warming stone as I fell.

I lay on the floor. My right shoulder, arm, and hand were lying in the puddle of water at the base of the hearth. I could feel the dampness through my peasant blouse, but was unable to summon the strength to move. I craned my neck, looking about for Bodhi. She hadn’t moved a muscle. She was still upon the bed, her slumber unperturbed. My head lolled to the side. My lids were too heavy to keep my eyes open. Through my dimming vision, I saw the stew pot hanging above the fire.

Not poisoned, I thought, drugged…


I was dreaming that I was being kissed. About my forehead, my eyelids, my cheeks. Hands stole over the fabric of my blouse, moving with deliberate purpose. The top of my blouse was moved aside and lips pressed moist kisses against my throat. My breasts were cupped through the material. Thumbs stroked my nipples, coaxing them awake.

“Bodhi…” My voice came out as a whisper.

My eyes opened and my dream became reality. Moonlight revealed a mass of blonde hair.   

Blue eyes bathed in silver looked into my eyes, meeting and holding my gaze. My blouse was pushed up over my head and tossed aside. Hands and lips and tongue closed about my breasts. My nipples thickened in Bodhi’s mouth. I closed my eyes beneath the sensation of her ravening tongue.

Fingers worked at the cinch of the belt about my waist, tugging to free it from my skirt.

Wait…I thought, knowing that couldn’t be right. Bodhi’s hands were still kneading my breasts. I struggled to open my eyes.

My range of vision was filled with high cheekbones, emerald green eyes, and black hair.

My heart beat like a thousand stallions’ hooves. It couldn’t be. The last time I’d seen her…unwanted memories of Fairhaven came flooding back.

“Thorne.” I gasped.

Bodhi’s full weight was upon me. Her head was bent low as she continued pleasuring my breasts. Thorne’s hand stole between our bodies, over my skirt, between my thighs, cupping and pressing. This isn’t real. If Thorne were really here, Bodhi would cut her heart from her chest.

“Stop.” I tried to say more, but Thorne’s mouth was against mine, her tongue brushing along my lips, demanding entry into my mouth.

I struggled, managing to get my arms up, my hands pushing her face aside. I tried to sit up. It was impossible, with their combined weight pressing me down. Thorne leaned in, attempting another kiss. I turned my head to the side. My gaze landed upon the bed across the room. Bodhi was there, her eyes closed, hands and mouth full as a bevy of five women swarmed about and over her, plying her with kisses and caresses.

My mind splintered. Bodhi was there – but she was here – but she was –

Moonlight shone upon the puddle of water I was laying beside. I looked down, seeing my reflection. In the water, I saw images of not my amorous lovers, but of things far more sinister. They were grotesque shades of green and grey. The fingers of their hands were curved into claws, their nails long like talons. Their bodies were covered in warts and lesions. Their eyes were sunk in, the pupils in their sockets an inky black. Matted strands of straggly hair hung from their decaying skulls.

“Bodhi! They’re ghouls!” I frantically struggled, trying to push Bodhi and Thorne off.

Thorne shoved her ghoulish face in mine. As I turned my head, spittle dripped from her fangs, onto my cheek, burning against my flesh. A clawed hand gripped my jaw, forcefully turning my head back. Bottomless black eyes pierced my soul. Talons raked a path across my chest, eliciting a sharp hiss of pain.

“Admit it, Gwen,” the ghoulish Thorne’s voice was coarse and grating. “It feels good when it hurts, doesn’t it? I know it did when you hurt me.”

I froze. When I hurt her—could this somehow be the real Thorne?

I desperately looked for Bodhi. My Bodhi. She was pinned to the bed, two of the ghouls holding her arms down as another straddled her. The fourth was stroking her fingers through Bodhi’s hair as she seemingly whispered intimately in Bodhi’s ear…before she bit it. Bodhi screamed. The fifth ghoul had Bodhi’s dagger and was picking at her nails with the blade. Bodhi struggled frantically, trying to reach her sword harness hanging uselessly from the bedpost.

“Open,” commanded the ghoul-Bodhi. “Unlock your knees, you frigid—”

With both ghouls latched about my waist, I rolled my upper body, reaching, stretching as far as I could. Bodhi chased after me, scrambling up my back. Her nails scratched at my arms and fingers tangled in my hair, pulling hard. Teeth bit at the base of my neck.

Fingers grazed and then closed about the wooden handle of the axe. I grabbed it, turned, and blindly swung. There was the sound of a moist thunk as the blade met with resistance. Reverberations traveled the length of my arms, setting my fingers and hands tingling on pins and needles.

Ghoul-Bodhi fell away, landing motionless on the floor, the axe blade protruding from her half-severed neck. Brackish blood flowed from her throat, pooling with the rain water. I went for the axe, trying to wrench the blade free. It was stuck fast and Thorne was upon me before I knew it.

As I fell face first on the hardwood floor, I looked across the room.

Bodhi was desperately struggling with her own ghouls. Her tunic was ripped and torn, exposing tanned flesh beneath. There were scratches and bites marking her face and arms. Fangs dripping with blood sank into her neck.

She grabbed at the red-headed ghoul straddling her, fingers closing about bare hips. Letting loose a barbaric war-cry, she lifted, extending both arms straight up. The ghoul went flying over Bodhi’s head, crashing against and then through the wall above the bed. The ghoul shrieked and clawed her way back into the cottage.

With a blonde ghoul hanging onto her left arm and two brunettes attempting to hold down her right, Bodhi struggled to sit up. The last ghoul, with a few wisps of grey hair hanging from her peeling scalp, shrieked and plunged the dagger into the bed where Bodhi’s head had been only a scant heartbeat earlier.

Bodhi reached for the knife belted at her waist. A clawed hand struck out, sending it flying from her fingertips. Arms wrapped about her neck, endeavoring to pull her back down. Veins in Bodhi’s hands and forearms were clearly visible as she strained to reach down further. Her face turned crimson as the ghoul on her back cut off her air. Human fingers stretched, fingertips touching her leather boot.

She reached the makeshift splint, tugging the broken arrows free from the leather strap, clutching shafts in both hands. She flung herself backwards. With a yell, she plunged an arrowhead into the chest of the nearest ghoul. The blonde screamed and clawed at her chest, falling in a heap on the floor. Without missing a heartbeat, Bodhi lunged at the grey-haired ghoul. She buried the bolt deep and grabbed her dagger from the dying ghoul’s grasp.

The shrieks of her ghoulish sisters drew Thorne’s attention enough that I was able to kick free from her grasp. I scrambled for the hearth and the woodpile. I snatched up my bow and an arrow from my quiver. Thorne charged at me. I nocked the arrow and set it flying. It hit her in the shoulder. She slowed, but didn’t stop.

I drew another arrow, stringing and nocking it. I plunged the bolt into the hearth. The wood caught and I turned to draw, the arrowhead and shaft aflame. The string released with a thwang. The arrow flew fast, catching Thorne mid-stride. It lodged into her breast, where I judged her heart to be, assuming ghouls had hearts. Her tattered clothes caught fire, followed by her decaying flesh. With an animalistic howl, she tried to take another step. She shrieked with rage as her body betrayed her and she fell to her knees. She clutched at the burning shaft, trying to pull it free even as her rotting flesh burned from her bones.

Across the room, Bodhi was on her back, the red-head once more straddling her. Bodhi’s hands were clutching at the ghoul’s wrists. The red-head was leaning over Bodhi, trying to both kiss and strangle her in the same instant. The final ghoul was busily trying to disentangle one of Bodhi’s swords from the dual harness hanging from the bedpost.

I pulled another arrow—my last—from the quiver. I lit it aflame, took aim, and fired. It struck true, piercing the red-headed ghoul beneath the breast. She clutched at the shaft and fell back on the bed. The flames quickly leapt from her burning flesh to the quilt. Bodhi rapidly scooted up in the bed, kicking the still struggling ghoul in the head with her boots over and over again. She twisted about, flung her dagger at the final ghoul, the blade buried to the hilt in the ghoul’s neck. The ghoul’s hands grabbed herself about the throat, as if trying to staunch the flow of brackish blood pouring from her wound and between her clawed fingers. She staggered and fell across the bed, atop the still-burning corpse of her ghoulish sister. Flames licked and leapt about the new addition, rapidly consuming rotting flesh, quilt, and straw bedding.

Flames licked at the soles of Bodhi’s boots. She rolled herself off the burning bed, landing in a heap upon the floor. The blaze pursued her down the bedcovers.

“Come on, Bodhi. The entire cottage is burning.”

I was at her side, tugging on her arm, urging her to her feet. She grasped at my bow, moving it beneath her arm, using it as a makeshift crutch. She paused just long enough to retrieve her swords from the bedpost, lifting the harness over her head and draping it on her shoulder. I ducked in beneath her arm, grabbing her about the wrist and waist.

We walked; hobbled, limped…whatever got us to the front door. We tugged hard, struggling to get the door open as flames chased us across the floor. We rushed out, slamming the door behind us, and picked our way down the rotten stairs. The bow got caught in a knothole, causing Bodhi to stumble. I reached out, grabbing her, steadying her so we didn’t both fall down the steps. Red embers landed upon the porch and tendrils of smoke curled about our feet.

We passed the water pump and trough. The trough was full of rain water and I was desperately thirsty, but we didn’t stop. I couldn’t have brought myself to drink from the trough, anyway. I was half-expecting a drenched ghoul to lunge at us from the water. Or, come crawling out of the muddy quagmire of the pig pen. We passed through the front gate without incident.

But, even as we stood in the road, catching our breath, I could swear I heard the howling shrieks of enraged ghouls coming from inside the burning cottage. It was a sound that echoed in my ears every step we took down the road.


I blinked and shielded my eyes against the sunlight. Dawn had found us exhausted beneath a wild apple tree. Several pieces of the fruit had fallen from the tree and lay scattered about on the ground. Bodhi had peeled and cored several apples with her sword, offering me slice after slice until I’d had my fill. Bodhi ate a few slices, but claimed a lack of appetite when I pressed her to eat more. I suspected it was because she was still suffering from the ill-effects of the stew. She had eaten considerably more of it than I had.

Now, I was sitting beneath the tree, my back pressed against the trunk. Bodhi was stretched out on the ground, her head resting in my lap, her bare foot propped up on a convenient rock. Come first light, she’d managed to – finally – remove her boot. Her ankle was swollen, her flesh black and blue around the bone. No doubt about it; we wouldn’t be doing any traveling this day.

Not that either of us seemed to mind. There was a stream nearby; within walking distance, anyway. We had plenty of apples to eat. And, the scenery and weather were pleasant enough. The fact that we were miles and miles from the cottage and the eve before was certainly a plus.

“Bodhi?” I curled my finger around a lock of her hair and traced the line of a scratch across her cheek.

“Hmm?” she asked, without opening her eyes.

“Those ghouls. Do you suppose they’re the reason the horses bolted?”

“Perhaps. Animals are sensitive like that; able to pick up on things us ordinary mortals can’t see.”

“I wonder how long ago the ghouls killed the poor folks that lived there. The farm was in such disrepair.”

“Hard to say.” Blue eyes blinked open and gazed up at me. “Sometimes, ghouls go hunting for a nest. That cottage was right off the road; a perfect place to lure in unsuspecting travelers. Sometimes, they kill outright like wild animals. Other times, they mate with their prey until they die from, well, natural causes.”  

My eyes went wide. I felt my mouth drop open in shock. “Mate with their prey…”

“Until they die,” Bodhi confirmed with a nod. “I hear that’s how it is with sex-ghouls.”

“Sex-ghouls.” I felt my eyebrows rising toward my hairline. “Bodhi, you’re jesting.”

“Guards’ honor.” Bodhi held up two fingers in a sign to mean she was telling the truth. “Didn’t your ghouls look familiar?”

At my lack of response, Bodhi continued, “Legend has it sex-ghouls come to their victims in the forms of past lovers. I, um, I wasn’t in a position to see. Who did your ghouls come to you as?”

I felt heat suffuse my cheeks.

“Gwen?” Blue eyes held a jovial cast to them. Clearly, Bodhi was amused by my embarrassment. “Come, Gwen. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I recognized several of my ghouls. There was Brittany…Heather…Rachel…” She ticked off each name on her fingers, as if proud of her conquests.

“Given your history, Bodhi, I’m thankful we weren’t invaded by an army of ghouls.” I was suddenly angry at Bodhi. We’d almost died; because of our past indiscretions and she was proud—proud!—of each and every one of hers.

“Gwen?” Bodhi sat halfway up, turned and looked at me. Her brow furrowed. “Gwen, how many ghouls came to you?”

“Two.” I held up the appropriate amount of fingers. “Just two. You and…” my voice dropped to a choked whisper, “Thorne.”

This time, her eyebrows went up in surprise and her jaw hung slack. She sat there, as if in stunned silence, as the heartbeats pounded by. At last, she cocked her head to the side and gave me an appraising look.

“You know, Gwen. That just goes to show you.”

“What?” I asked.

“There’s a lesson to be learned here.” She tapped a contemplative finger against her chin.

“What?” I asked again, the single word coming out as a low growl.

“Never kiss a ghoul on the first date.” 

“Bodhi!” I picked up an apple and hurled it at her.

She winked and smiled, her dimples showing. Before I could react, she leaned in and kissed me square on the lips.

The End

Author’s note: If you enjoyed this short Halloween tale featuring Bodhi and Gwen, be sure to pick up a copy of their earlier adventures in ‘My Fair Maiden’ and ‘Malodorous’, both available in eBook and paperback at www.affinietyebooks.com and www.amazon.com

Thanks for reading!