Lionel, one of the last Unicorn Valley Gryphons, is forced to choose his mate from among other shifters. What he doesn’t count on is falling in love with the Werebitch Teema, who has a few needs and demands of her own.
Lionel’s foster brother Brolly falls for a shape — and gender — shifting Immortal, and Shadow, the future Unicorn Herd Stallion, loves an Elf.
As if things couldn’t get any stranger, their mercenary Unicorn uncle Jamir is falling in love with both Moontyger and the Dragon Li Chin — at the same time.
Not everyone loves everybody in Unicorn Valley, but they try.
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Lena Austin
There would be no mate for him.
Lionel brooded on that ugly fact from the ledge outside his nesting cave. It was good to be home where the air was clean and the pulse of magic strong, but that didn’t change the fact that he would die, alone.
He folded his long, bare legs until he achieved the meditative pose his foster mother taught him. However, instead of meditating, he put his elbows on his knees and rested his chin in his hands. The loneliness threatened to overwhelm him.
“Now there’s a dejected fellow!” The familiar voice eased the ache of loneliness. Lionel turned to see his foster brothers Brolly and Shadow make the final few feet of climb to the ledge where he sat. After a lot of masculine back pounding, Lionel invited his brothers inside. They sat on great cushions made dusty by the long months of disuse, but no one cared.
“No luck in finding a Gryphoness, old pal?” Brolly’s human form was of a brawny young man with brown hair and twinkling brown eyes full of mischief.
Lionel shook his head, and felt his shoulders droop with despair. Brolly put a comforting hand on his arm. Shadow looked on sympathetically, his horn knob flashing silver in the morning light.
Lionel shook his golden brown hair out of his eyes. “No, no luck. It was horrible outside our magical home! You’d think in the sky, and as high as I fly, I’d be safe.” He pointed to a wound on his shoulder. “They’ve become more proficient with their arrows than your father estimated. Everywhere, the evidence exists Gryphons once were Outside, in statues and artwork on cloth they hang from their homes.” He pounded his fist into his hand in frustration. “But no real, live Gryphons anywhere!”
Brolly put his hand on Lionel’s clenched fist. “Will you let me look at the wound?” As a healer, Brolly was always courteous enough to ask if his help would be accepted. It was perhaps the sole serious thing about him.
“If you insist. I packed it with the herbs you gave me. It shouldn’t need healing.” Lionel forced himself to stillness. “I did miss the familiar tingle of a decent healer, I must say. The arrow came out of nowhere. I swear it! Humans are everywhere! Like ants! I almost was a pretty Gryphon trophy or rug for the wall!” He shuddered and remembered how close the arrow came to his vulnerable chest.
Brolly’s brown hand was over the arrow wound in a flash. “Now, that’s a vile thought!” Brolly’s distracted voice still held a measure of disgust. “I’m sorry you’d no luck, brother mine.” The warm tingle of Brolly’s healing gift ceased, and Lionel breathed a sigh of relief. The constant ache was gone.
“Why must I be one of the last of my kind?” Lionel complained. He studied the talons on the end of his hand. “I need a mate, damn it. Not only just to ease a lusty moment, but I’m one of the last Gryphons here in the Valley. I must make cubs if Gryphons are to survive.” He looked around his shabby nest cave. A female made all the difference between a place to sleep and a home. In his mind’s eye, he could almost see it. A nesting Gryphoness purring, games of Pounce and Tumble with the whistling laughter of Gryphlets, and the proud joy of flight lessons.
“You’re handsome enough to get a Gryphoness, too, if there were one available,” put in Shad, in the low tones of his kind. All Unicorns were soft-spoken, but vicious fighters when need arose. “The fact is, Lionel, you must choose a mate from outside your own race,” Shad pointed out, his voice earnest. “A filly or Vampire bitch won’t suit. Fillies produce single offspring, and Vamps tend to throw too many females.”
“I don’t want a filly, old friend. You can keep them. I don’t want an herbivore cluttering up my nest growing plants to eat. The very thought makes me shudder!”
Shad chuckled. “In truth, a Werewolf bitch is best since they’re prolific enough to produce litters.”
“But I want a real Gryphoness! The purity of my line…”
“Won’t continue without a mate, Feather Wit,” Shadow interrupted sternly. “As you well know, what form you are, you become in all ways.”
Brolly jumped in. “All she’d need to do is stay in Gryphoness form until she gave birth, Lionel. You know that.”
Lionel grumbled, then sighed. “You’re right. I’m stooping at shadows. I must find a female willing to give up her form for me. That is difficult enough.” He grinned at Shadow. “I will look among the Werewolves first. I would prefer a carnivore.”
Shadow manifested three glasses of wine that floated near the hands of his brothers. Brolly and Lionel grabbed up their wine glasses. The sparkling pink stuff slid down Lionel’s throat like liquid gold. He toasted his elegant brother in appreciation. “May I find a bitch, queen, or flirtatious filly who can love me enough to fill my cave with joy.”
“That shouldn’t be difficult,” Brolly murmured into his goblet. “Since any female can be bitch, queen, or flirtatious while they bat their lovely eyes at us and make us simpering idiots.” The brothers roared with laughter at that truth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Someone cursed Lena Austin with “may you have a life so full you’ll have many tales to tell your grandchildren.” Lena’s a “fallen” society wench with a checkered past. She’s been a licensed minister, hairdresser, Realtor, radio DJ, exotic dancer, telephone service tech, live-steel medievalist swordswoman, BDSM Mistress, and investment property manager. Not necessarily in that order. She never finished that degree in marine archaeology, but did learn to scuba — she’s got a lifetime of “Research material!”
Hey, why waste these stories on kids who won’t listen anyway? Writing them down is a nice way to spend her retirement. What? You expected an ex-BDSM Mistress to take up crocheting or something?