Fantasy Horror

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Flaxius rubbed the thin wisps of graying red hair that barely passed for a beard in long and thoughtful strokes. It was Tax Day, and it was his sworn duty to collect from the townsfolk of New Delirya–no exceptions and no extensions. Rules are rules, after all, and it’s the rules that keep everything running smoothly. Sure, tax collectors were a hated lot amongst the townsfolk, but that didn’t bother Flaxius even one smidge—why should it? They can hate him all they like, but it’s what kept his belly from starving and being able to live somewhat comfortably. 

“Flaxius!” came a shrill feminine shout.

He turned towards the voice and his gaze was met by a plump middle-aged woman with graying black hair, giving her hair a sort of salt and pepper effect.

“Didn’t I tell you not to ever show your face around here again?” She wagged her index finger for added emphasis.

“Straxella,” Flaxius shouted back with pleasant intonations. “So good to see you up and about. Sure, nice of you to volunteer to be the first to pay up today.”

“How dare you!”

Several arrows came within inches of striking the tax collector—so close, in fact, that they practically kissed him. 

Raising an iron shield, Flaxius cried, “Piss-poor aim! That’ll cost you extra—your taxes just went up triple!”

WHOOSH! Another arrow came whistling through the air, only to fall impotently upon the nearby grass.

“You’re really starting to piss me off!” Flaxius growled as he glowered in Straxella’s direction. He lifted an emerald calling-stone to his lips. The calling-stone gave off an ethereal faint glow as he spoke into it, “Send backup to position Alpha, Gamma, Zeta five.” He cocked his head towards Straxella and lightly mocked, “Well, now you’re in quite the pickle, ain’t you?”


Straxella hunkered down. She used the crude stone wall that surrounded the perimeter of a smattering of hovels and just a few nicer structures as a defensive position from whatever may come from Flaxius’ end of things. Her weathered face still held a certain trace of feminine grace that resulted in a strange juxtaposition of both fierceness and charm. She wore a simple cotton dress that appeared to be a dusty cream accompanied by a well-worn leather vest that was a fading black. She made a gesturing signal with her fingers, and almost immediately two young men, perhaps in their mid to late twenties, kneeled down as they flanked her on either side.

“Did you see that glowing green stone?” whispered the one on her right. “What sort of sorcery do we have here?”

“You sure we shouldn’t just oblige and pay the bloody tax?” the opposite one pressed.

“Now boys, this is no time for getting queasy,” she answered with the bluntness of a sergeant dismissing the qualms of fearful men under his command. “We can’t just keep paying and paying that damn Blood Tax just to satisfy the cruel whims of that dastardly tyrant of a lord!”

“She’s right, Ofgalon, we can’t let mere might and magic to turn us into dogs with our tails tucked between our legs.”

“But Harthbane, might and magic are not things to tread lightly.”

“If the two of you are done with your yipping and yapping,” Straxella interjected with a curt directness, silencing any further discussion of the perils of magic and strongmen. “Now then, Harthbane, you sneak up on that pissant’s rear left,” she then pointed at Ofglan, “and you take him from the forward right.” 

The two brothers nodded in affirmation.

She looked at her two sons and, for a moment, found herself whisked back in time. She saw the boys when they were just barely teenagers. Their father… her husband, Cychwyntân. He stood there with the boys, training them how to use the crossbow. Harthbane always the keener and more adept at handling the instrument. How long had it been since Cychwyntân had been taken? Five years? Seven years? And for what? Standing up to the Blood Tax? Straxella had at first bit her lip and endured the indignity of the tax. But it seemed that tax always went up and never in the other direction. Enough is enough, she had told herself. She vowed to stand against the tax and honor the memory of Cychwyntân. Her two sons were unsure, but she convinced them that this would be their way to honor their father. A strong wind blew and nearly upset her sense of balance, bringing her back to herself. Leave the past and all its ghosts behind. Only the now mattered now.


While Straxella and her two sons had been busy strategizing, Flaxius had been busy assembling a small band of armed warriors who had responded to his calling stone. Although Flaxius was not sure how much help Straxella may have on her side, he was fairly confident that it couldn’t be much more than a handful—if even that. 

“If you rush up to the stone wall with your shields raised, I believe you should be able to deflect their arrows,” Flaxius advised, and then added with a wistful sigh, “Mostly anyway.”

“Why not split up and take one group towards the wall and the other from the rear?” the group’s captain advised. 

“Very well. Just get it done,” Flaxius consented.


Harthbane crept his way towards Flaxius’ rear left, hoping to catch the tax collector off guard. He found a nearby bush to take cover behind and was about to fire his crossbow, but found that the firing-mechanism had jammed. In the brief span of time, it took to unjam the crossbow and look at his quarry. He had found it was all too late! For his brother, Ofglan had attempted to throw a poisoned dagger at Flaxius but missed his mark by several inches. Flaxius, now alert to the danger, grabbed the dagger and threw it with precision, striking Ofglan in the throat. Ofglan struggled to pull the dagger from his throat, but the chosen poison was an especially fast-acting toxic one and he found his strength departing along with his fast-fading life-force. He slumped to the ground with a THUD. Flaxius bent down and checked for a pulse. He then quickly pulled the dagger from the corpse’s throat. The hair on the back of his neck stood up when he heard a faint noise coming from the bush that Harthbane was using for cover. What a tricky little bastard-devil, he mused inwardly.

“Why don’t you put that crossbow down, lad,” Flaxius said evenly, holding a Bastard Sword mere inches from the young man’s chest. “There’s no need for you to lose your life over something as trifling as tax evasion. Hmm?”

“I suppose you got a point,” Harthbane concurred.

He threw the crossbow behind him, but then, not skipping a beat, performed a backflip, landing within arm’s length of his weapon. Retrieving the weapon, he cocked it and looked Flaxius dead in the eye.

“You killed my brother, so now it’s only fair I return the favor!”

“You could. But that would be ill-advised,” came a voice from behind.

Harthbane turned his head and saw the captain of the guard and roughly ten guardsmen, with weapons brandished for action. “And in case being outnumbered, ten to one isn’t enough of an incentive. Perhaps she can persuade you,” he said, nodding to one of his guardsmen.

The guardsman was holding a bound Straxella and pulled down the gag from her mouth. He then gave her a good kick to her right leg.

“Drop your weapon and surrender,” Straxella spat. “We’ve lost this round.”

Harthbane threw his crossbow down and dropped to the ground, sobbing.


The Citadel Rhudd Gwaedion was an imposing castle adorned with an almost endless supply of rubies. Twice a day it’s shadows would fall upon the ground, giving the appearance of pools of blood. 

Inside, Citaldel Rhudd Gwaedion, a room with minimal lighting and filled with devices intended for the restraining and detaining, served as the Tax Office. Straxella and Harthbane found themselves tied securely each to one of these devices. They expected to see Flaxius overseeing their sad predicament, instead their eyes were amazed to find a lady in an ornate crimson dress observing them with keen interest.

“A pity that it’s come to this,” she began with a tone halfway between mocking and regret. “Tax evasion is taken quite seriously by Lord Proxima. You were fools to think otherwise.”

“What’s become of Flaxius? Who are you?” Straxella demanded.

“Flaxius has lesser matters to attend to. I am known as the Accountant, and this is your day of reckoning.”

She walked slowly over to Straxella. She was holding something in her hand made of a strange transparent material with a needle at the end. Of course, it was the extractor! All tax collectors carried them to collect taxes. The Accountant pushed the needle into Straxella’s arm and pushed and pushed, drawing blood from her veins.

“Ah, yes,” the Accountant beamed, “this will make a small dent in your tax debt. But don’t worry, you’ll be with us until you’ve paid up in full.”

She walked towards the door and then turned her head towards Harthbane. “And don’t worry, young man, I’ll be back to collect from you, too.” She walked out the door and slammed it shut.

Straxella knew this was beyond bad. She’d heard the stories of what happens to tax evaders. They drain the blood out of you little by little each day. It doesn’t matter if you pay your so-called blood debt, you never taste of freedom again. Some of the tax evaders were lucky. Lord Proxima would have them executed in a fit of rage, putting them out of their misery. In retrospect, she mused to herself, Ofglan was the lucky one. At least he had a quick death and wouldn’t be subjected to this insidious torture.


In the throne room, the Accountant handed Lord Proxima several vials of blood.

“Fresh tax funds, milord.”

“Excellent,” he said in a gravelly voice. “And what of the lad that Flaxius took down?”

“He’s still recovering,” she said with a measure of pride. “Once all that nasty poison has been thoroughly removed, we’ll start collecting.”

“You’ve done well,” he said with a smile. “These tax evaders are almost more fun than the ones who just pay their taxes.” He laughed to himself. “You know, we should turn more of this rabble into tax evaders.” 

“That’s a devilish idea,” she replied. “But I know some folks who could help arrange that. If that’s what you really want?”

“Oh, yes, that would be bloody splendid.” He sat up from his throne and walked over to the wall on the far right of the throne room perpendicular to his throne. He pushed on a triangular symbol and that part of the wall started creaking and moving to reveal a hidden room full of clear jewels, ruby-like, but transparent in color.

“Well, dear, Cychwyntân,” Proximus lightly taunted, “it seems we have a full family reunion here at the citadel.” Cychwyntân stared blankly. “Too bad you have no memories of your family. I must say you’ve became far more useful as my mindless drone than that idiotic rebel leader you fancied yourself to be.” 

Cychwyntân pointed to himself in confusion.

“But I digress,” Proxima continued, “here’s some more vials. You can get back to filling our special rubies.”

The Accountant called out to her liege, “Just how many of these ‘rubies’ will we need to bring your dead queen back to life?” 

“I don’t know, but we’ll keep draining the blood of this rabble until she breathes again!”

For the first time in her service to the Lord Proxima, the Accountant was afraid. If he becomes desperate enough, would he drain my blood, too? She knew outside rebellions were useless to end his quest for the ultimate blood magic. However, a rebellion from within that held chances for success. But she knew she needed to bide her time for now until the right moment and then strike suddenly and with no show of mercy. But for now, she would continue the assigned bloodwork.  

August 20, 2022 03:46

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Graham Kinross
13:18 Aug 24, 2022

“things to tread lightly,” to be taken lightly? Isn’t mere might a contradiction? “just barely teenagers,” having just and barely seems unnecessary. They’re so close in meaning you’re probably better picking one. “Ofglan struggled to pull the dagger from his throat, but the chosen poison was an especially fast-acting toxic one and he found his strength departing along with his fast-fading life-force.” this is a really long sentence that might have more punch if it was broken up. If you delete ‘and,’ then make ‘he found his strength… a sen...


Peter Merz
16:36 Aug 24, 2022

The tread lightly was intentional, the character has a quirk of messing up idioms. But in hindsight you're right. I didn't have enough time to play that out so that the reader would pick up on that, so taken lightly would have been clearer. Thanks for the look in and all the suggestions.


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Justus LeCates
18:11 Aug 23, 2022

Great story sir I hope you write more.


Peter Merz
22:50 Aug 23, 2022

Thanks Justus! Appreciate it.


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