Word Count: 23,000+
Rating: NC-17/ Mature Content
Summary: Eureka plunges into a dark fairytale world where its citizens must figure out the curse of the Red Witch and break the spell in order to get back to their lives. Written for the Marshal Science August Challenge and Musingdarkly/Becca who wanted "anything, hot smut would be a plus". Hope this works ;)
Chapter 1: Into the Woods
Jack's eyelids felt like they were weighted down with lead, but he willed his eyes open anyway just as something sharp jabbed at his hand. He turned his head only to find a giant black bird standing right in front of his face.
“Ahhh!” Jack screamed as he propelled himself backwards through dirt and leaves. “What the...? Where am I?”
The bird only cawed once again before flying off through the dark forest.
Jack rubbed his throbbing head as he looked around to get his bearings. Moonlight glanced off of the forest floor, but there was a softer, warmer light somewhere off in the distance. The trees rustled with the wind and a wolf howled.
“Yeah,” Jack spoke to himself. “I think that's my cue to be somewhere else.”
He used a nearby tree trunk to lever himself up, stumbled over to gather up his knapsack which contained the few worldly goods he still possessed, and headed off slowly in the direction of the light.
His nerves felt raw and constantly on alert in the middle of a dark forest with strange sounds and without a weapon. He knew he should have brought a sword with him. Jack honestly didn't know what he would do with a sword – it wasn't his trade and he hadn't been well practiced – but maybe a sharp blade might have been a wise thing to have on a night such as the one he'd woken up to. For the life of him he couldn't remember how he'd gotten to where he woke; he only remembered the journey away from the small village he’d been born in and waking up on the ground. His head felt fuzzy, like he had been drinking strong ale.
As Jack approached closer to the light, his vision cleared enough for him to make out windows and the shadow of a cabin. Wood smoke floated on the air, accompanied by the mouthwatering flavor of roasting meat. The hunger that washed over him propelled his feet to carry him quicker towards shelter and warmth.
“Halt!” a voice cried out from the shadows.
Jack stopped immediately and raised his hands in supplication. “I bear you no threat. I only seek shelter for the night.” The words tasted strange in his mouth, as if he were speaking lines which were alien to him.
“Well go seek it somewhere else.”
“Please sir I beg of you. I'm just a poor Tailor and these woods are strange.”
“You likely have no idea how true you speak, but I don't take in strays.” An old man moved into the light of the window with a crossbow raised. “Now be off with you.”
“Please sir, I don't possess much, but I could find a way to repay you,” Jack pleaded.
“I told you...,” the old man started to say, but suddenly the weariness of the night got the best of Jack and his vision blackened as he swooned back to the forest floor.
The old man made his way over to Jack's limp body and nudged it a few times with the point of his boot with no success. A dog barked from the cabin porch.
“Oh bugger! I can't very well leave him out here like this, can I Lowjack?”
The dog barked in reply.
Jack woke up a second time that night with something wet against his face.
“That's a good guard dog, lick him to death.”
Jack opened his eyes, but the light of the fireplace forced him to shield his face. “What?,” he started, but then the earlier events came back to him. “Thank you.”
“Don't get too comfy there lad. It's just for the night.”
“I'm grateful. Listen, I don’t mean to be rude, but where am I?”
“You don't know where you are?”
Jack shook his head and cleared his throat. “I woke up on the ground. I don’t really remember how I got there.”
“Aye,” the old man said with sympathy. “Well, for what it’s worth, you're in the woods outside the town called Eureka. The whole place is cursed. I imagine something strange got a hold of you lad.”
The old man sat a good distance away from the bed where Jack lay and close to the fire with the crossbow still clutched firmly in his hand. The dog retreated to its master and lay on the ground in front of the fire.
“Vampires, werewolves,” the man explained. “All kinds of things live out there.”
Suddenly the cause of the old man's weariness of Jack became apparent.
“My name's Taggart and this here's Lowjack. What's your name lad?”
“Jack,” he responded automatically. “My name's Jack.”
“And you're a Tailor?”
“You running from something?”
Jack shook his head. “Just running.”
“What's a Tailor doing in a place like this?”
“I don't rightly know sir,” Jack replied. “I set out from the town of my birth to seek my fortune and fate has somehow led me here.” Again the strange sensation of alien words coming from his mouth washed over Jack. It was as if he were repeating lines from some play written long ago.
“To an accursed land? I don't reckon fate likes you very much.”
“What curse is on this land?”
“No one knows the specifics, but we all know that the Red Witch laid a curse on all of Eureka not that long ago. Strange creatures sprung up all over the place and most of us lost all memory of any life before the strangeness befell us. We all knew who we were and the basics, but any history of this town before the witch has been lost.”
The old man paused to pick up a steaming cup and take a drink.
“There's no leaving the area and you my boy are the first person to enter this land that I can recall. Now get some rest and I'll take you to the Queen tomorrow.”
“Aye, a fierce and beautiful creature. She'll hear your story and determine what to do with ya.”
When Jack woke up in the morning, the fire was cold and Taggart was nowhere to be seen in the small cabin. There was a small tray of food which he quickly ate and then Jack gathered together his things and a few provisions to last him long enough to get out of the forest. He quietly snuck out of the cabin, careful to avoid Taggart and set off for someplace a little saner.
About an hour into his journey, a scream startled Jack, closely followed by a crash and a series of thumps. He took note of the direction and felt strangely compelled to seek out the source of the commotion, despite his usual instinct to run the other way. Coming upon some ruins so broken down that only a few crumbling walls remained, Jack hid himself and quietly snuck into viewing distance of a very tall man, clothed only from the waist down in leather britches and wearing some sort of antlers on his head.
“You'll never get inside,” a seductive female voice hissed at the man and a woman with fiery red hair came into view. Somehow, Jack immediately knew she was the witch Taggart spoke of the night before.
“That may be so, but you're not walking away from this fight,” the man growled back. Jack looked at him again and saw that the antlers he wore actually grew out of his head.
“Must be some sort of wild man,” Jack whispered to himself.
The man's head jerked and Jack jumped back behind the derelict wall to conceal himself.
“There's more than one way to deal with you,” the woman spoke again. Jack peaked back around the corner and to his amazement, the Red Witch's body morphed into that of a large bull.
The strange man stepped backwards and transformed into a magnificent stag. The two beasts fought, horns clashing back and forth. One lost ground as the other advanced until their positions would reverse. This went on several times until the stag jumped to the side and ran the bull through with his antlers. The bull howled in pain and once again became the woman, bleeding to death on the forest floor.
“You won't win. This town will still be cursed, even after my death,” the witch gasped before breathing her last breath and then her body disappeared. The stag became a man again, sniffed the air and walked off somewhere out of Jack's view.
Jack waited a bit in case the stranger decided to come back, then stepped away from the ruins and breathed deeply in relief. He turned around and couldn't help but shout as the very same wild man stood in front of him, staring intently down into Jack's eyes.
“Enjoy the show?”
Jack's tongue caught in his mouth in shock and he couldn't force himself to spit out an answer.
The man backed up a little to give him room and cocked his head as he studied Jack. “Who are you? You're not from around here.”
The daze started to retreat, leaving Jack able to speak. “No. I didn't mean to spy. It's just that like you said, I'm not from around here and I was looking for the man who lives in a cabin. I was staying with him...Taggart, his name's Taggart...”
The Wild Man moved gracefully towards him with movements that echoed his stag nature and placed a finger on his mouth. “I didn’t ask for the Hunter’s name, I asked for yours,” he spoke softly.
“Jack. I'm a Tailor.”
The man's eyes flashed with knowing. “You're the Tailor.”
“Then you'll be coming with me.” The man announced and took Jack's arm, dragging Jack along in his wake.
“What? No.” Jack pulled free and stumbled backwards. “I have to find Taggart. He's going to take me to the Queen.”
“It's a fair journey into town on foot; the Hunter isn't good enough to guard you and the mutt he keeps is worthless. I'll take you.”
“No,” Jack argued back and backed up further until he neared the front of the cabin. “I'd rather go with him.”
“He’s already let you wonder off by yourself once and thus proved his incompetence.”
Jack felt a pang of guilt, which must have shown on his face.
The startling blue eyes of the strange man before him flashed in understanding. “You ran away.”
“No,” the lie felt awkward and flimsy coming out of Jack’s mouth. “Ok, yeah. I left. I’m just a Tailor and you guys have a big cursed land with all kinds of strange things to deal with here…”
The Wild Man stared at him like he was prey; Jack felt completely exposed. “I don’t fit in and I won’t, so I’m just going to go now,” he bent down to retrieve his sack, which he had abandoned earlier on the forest floor.
A large hand on his arm jerked him upright. “You’ll never make it out. No one can leave, that’s part of the curse.”
“Well I’m not from around here, so maybe I’m different,” Jack argued and jerked himself free from the grip, forgetting his fear of the dark woods and the strangeness of the wild man in front of him for a moment.
The stranger stalked towards Jack. “Aren’t you afraid of me?” he asked, voice laced with dark amusement.
“Well, you've got antlers and can turn into an animal. You killed that woman, whom I'm sure was a truly wicked witch and deserved her fate, but her blood's still on your antlers. So I’m guessing I should be, but somehow,” Jack tilted his chin up in defiance, “no.”
Despite the words coming out of his mouth, Jack's back hit the ancient wall as he continued to back away with nowhere else to run to as the man trapped him with his own body, his muscular arms pinning Jack in on either side.
“Do you always ramble like this?”
“I don't ramble,” Jack felt his face redden and his heart sped up so fast if felt like it would burst out of his chest at any moment.
The strange man's face came so close that Jack had no choice but to look him in the eye. The warmth of the other man's body was overwhelming and Jack felt parts of his body he didn't expect to respond stand at attention. The wild man sniffed him and glanced down at Jack's erection, straining his trousers.
“Now that's interesting.”
Jack looked away in embarrassment. “It doesn't mean anything.”
The stranger's left hand grasped Jack's face firmly and turned it so that Jack was once again staring closely into hypnotically blue eyes. His other hand dropped down to cup Jack through the soft cloth.
Jack gasped and bucked into the touch. The stranger smiled and rubbed Jack leisurely.
“You're the Tailor, which means that you are to get into the enchanted castle and free the princess so the curse will end. That’s your role and how the story goes. Don’t ask me how I know, because I don’t know where the knowledge comes from myself.”
Jack groaned and arched his back. The hand on his cock kept up its deliciously slow motion.
“I can't get into the castle. I've tried, but it's not my task to complete. It's yours. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Jack gasped out, “oh god, yes.”
“Good. Now I see you're an honorable man,” the man said with just a whiff of sarcasm, “so I want you to promise to come with me. You’ll be my charge so long as your task needs to be fulfilled.”
“I don’t think...,” Jack started to protest, but the hand sped up and all thought was lost.
“We will go to town first and you will see the Queen, but you will not survive the horrors that await you in these woods by yourself.” He lent in closer until his lips grazed the outside of Jack's ear. “But I can protect you. Now promise to come with me.”
Jack was almost to the edge of pleasure, but the stranger slowed the motion of his hand down once again. Jack groaned and bucked in frustration.
“Promise me,” the man demanded and Jack shivered.
“Ok,” Jack gave in. “Ok, I promise.”
The man stroked him faster and within moments Jack came with a loud groan.
Something snapped cold against his neck. Jack reached up to find a collar around his neck. “What...?”
The man covered Jack's mouth with his own for a quick, fierce kiss.
“You're mine now. You promised you'd come with me and you're going to keep your word,” he replied to Jack's unanswered question and his fingers stroked Jack's neck along the collar. “So long as you wear this, you won’t be able to wonder off very far and I'll be able to find you no matter where you are.”
The man withdrew abruptly, leaving Jack shivering from the change in temperature.
“Now clean yourself up quickly. We must leave as soon as possible.”
Jack walked steadily through the thick forest while the wild man kept close, his attention focused out on the forest and on possible threats.
“So, um, what's your name?” Jack asked awkwardly, trying to break the silence. He figured that after what had happened between them, they should be on a first name basis.
“Names give power. I might tell you mine someday,” was all the man replied.
“But not today?”
“No. Now be quiet.”
“You know, I think I’ll call you Stark,” Jack said anyway. “After all, if it wasn’t for those skin tight trousers, you’d be stark naked.
Stark gave him a look he couldn’t quite decipher before turning back to look at the path before them. “Call me what you like.”
“So what’s this Queen like?”
“I said be quiet!”
It was a brusque order and Jack felt his pride prickle. “Alright, Fine! Manhandle me to get what you want and then tell me to shut up. Don't know what I was expecting from a brutish, wild animal.”
“I am not an animal,” the man growled at him. “And I clearly possess a greater intelligence than you if you cannot discern that you need to cease your prattling in order for me to hear anything approach.”
“So now I prattle? Before I babbled and now I prattle. I don’t need this,” Jack's patience snapped at the man's coldness. “Just point me in the direction of town. I'll walk there, see the Queen by myself and you can hover somewhere where I can pretend you're not there.”
“Like I trust you to keep your word and not run given the first chance,” Stark scoffed back at him. “Are you done throwing a fit yet?”
Jack was just on the verge of shouting back that no he wasn’t done when a fierce thunderstorm broke out, drenching him and obscuring Jack’s vision in the already dark woods. He tripped over some kind of twig or root, barely keeping himself upright.
“Oh that’s just great. Listen, I…” Jack stopped speaking when the ground beneath him gave way.
Jack grimaced at his filthy, wet state as he crawled off the large pile of straw that had padded his landing. Wherever he was held no more light than the forest above. He used his hands to feel his way to the nearest wall and follow it, tugging at the annoying, tingling sensation the collar around his neck now caused.
He persisted in trying to find a way out for what seemed like hours, but felt more like he was walking in circles and the collar around his neck proved to be painfully irritating. Exhaustion quickly overtook him and blinking against the blackness before him until he could no longer stand it, Jack eventually sank down the wall to the floor and rested his eyes.
A high pitch and unnatural sounding screech woke him up. Jack went instantly on alert. As it carried on, it sounded more and more like something cackling - the type of noise that should send anyone running in the opposite direction, if only the opposite direction wasn’t pitch black with no way out. Softly glowing light now radiated from the direction of the foul noise. Jack gathered up his courage, stood back up and walked as covertly as he could towards the light.
The sight that awaited him turned Jacks stomach. In a rough, cave like room, bones lined the walls and massive tables in the center held parts of slaughtered animals. His attention moved past the gory spectacle to two big, hideous creatures at the end of the long room, laughing and prodding a hanging cage containing Stark.
“Come now little deer,” the first troll teased. “Why don’t you tell us why you came down into our home?”
“We promise to break your neck before we roast your remains,” the other laughed. “Otherwise you can enjoy the smell of your own flesh simmering over the fire.”
“I told you,” Stark answered bitterly. “I only sought shelter from the storm.”
“Here?” the first one said in an awful, high pitch voice. “You know these woods better than that Wild Man. You knew we’d eat you if we caught you near our home.”
Jack’s attention was caught by sight of a door on the far wall, propped slightly ajar and letting a small amount of fresh air into the stale room. He dropped to the floor and crawled down the room, hiding behind the large tables.
However, when he managed to make it within yards of the door, he found no way to get out without the trolls spotting him. The door simply wasn’t open far enough and the gap between it and his hiding space was too wide.
Blood dripped on him from above and Jack looked up to find more flesh hanging from meat hooks. He moved quietly under the shelter of the large wooden table he had hid behind and by chance spotted a rusty key hanging by a rope of leather on the wall above him.
“Perhaps, little deer, you were looking for someone?” one of the trolls suggested. “We did have a trap triggered a little while ago.”
“Should we go and find whoever fell into our lair?”
“That way you can die together?”
Jack heard the heavy clang of antler against metal and the trolls started laughing again.
“I think we shall brother.”
“Yes brother, let’s secure the entrance and go find the deer’s lost friend.”Jack shuffled as far as he could out of sight and held his breath while the door banged close and a metal bar fell across the frame, securing it from the outside. He followed the feet of the retreating trolls back into the dark caves from which he’d emerged and didn’t breathe normally again until he was sure they wouldn’t hear him. Instinctively he scrambled to the door, opened it and ran as fast as he could, knowing the trolls would surely hear the noise he made moving the heavy door and escaping.