Barbarians and Basilisks
When writing Thick as Thieves, I came to a point where I needed some sort of magical object to serve as a goal for the first of the heroes’ adventures. Because the object was part of a spell that locked a slave collar, I came up with the idea the object was also alive. That led me to make the object an egg—and because it was a magical egg in a rip-roaring fantasy, I made it a basilisk egg.
Basilisks have lots to recommend them. Even the name sounds wonderful. It comes from the Greek for “little king.” Their power to turn anything they look at to stone is rooted in some fun history. Current wisdom says the inspiration for basilisks came from ancient Greeks who’d seen cobras in their travels. By the time the Middle Ages came along description of this exotic reptile had crossed with that of cockerels, or roosters, and the animal acquired its legendary status. According to myth, a basilisk is the “king” of serpents and resembles a cross between a snake and a rooster. It has a crest on its head and possesses both a killing gaze and poisonous breath.
How cool is that? Deadly, not terribly big according to most sources outside of the Harry Potter universe, and feared by all.
Here’s where the SPOILER tag comes in… don’t read further if you want to be surprised while reading the book!
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Vorgell the barbarian has a chance to break the basilisk egg but spares it, preferring to steal the egg instead. Hilarity ensues when the egg hatches in his pocket. Turns out basilisks imprint on the first creature they see upon hatching.
Once Petal the baby basilisk hatched, there was no putting her back in the shell. As a writer, I had no choice but to run with her. She claimed Vorgell’s heart and those of a few readers as well. A barbarian and his pet basilisk make a good team! Furthermore, she always remains a deadly, unpredictable force, both in this novel and in sequels to come.
And here’s where the author admits she loves Petal so much she commissioned some mugs with the cute little basilisk.
Something hard poked Vorgell’s hip and he adjusted his seat. He had shifted position earlier to give more room to the contents of his pockets, but this was different. A click of one object hitting another was shortly followed by more sound. Something in his pocket was moving….
The basilisk egg! If it broke, they would have no payment for the sour old witch Ibeena. If there was one person left in the land in whose debt he did not wish to find himself….
Vorgell eased his hand into his pocket, only to be greeted with a vigorous nip. He bit his tongue to hold back a cry and snapped his hand back. Blood welled red on his pointing finger.
“Why, you—” Apparently basilisks had teeth.
He shoved his hand back into his pocket, this time quickly, and scooped out the contents. The rock with the crystals, the leather bag containing his fire kit, and two copper coins spilled onto the fur coverlet. The basilisk egg was still encased in guardian crystals, but there was now a large chip on the exposed end of the egg. A tiny, pointed beak peeked through the hole. Now that he could see what he was doing, he picked up the egg again and watched the little basilisk chip away at its shell.
Would the old crone Ibeena want an egg that was hatched? He could hardly force the creature to stop what it was doing. With a shrug, seeing as Madd was sleeping, he decided to help. Vorgell grasped one of the guarding crystals between his fingers and then pried and wiggled until it was loose. He carefully slipped it from the rock to give the hatching beastie more shell to break away. He did this twice more until most of the egg’s surface was cleared.
All at once the egg split and a hideous little head popped out. The basilisk’s beady, slit eyes fixed on Vorgell. He recognized that gaze. The eye had looked quite a bit larger as it stared at him from the green jewel of Madd’s collar, but it was the same. He grinned a greeting and watched the slimy thing struggle to free a pink, clawed foot. He could not say for sure just what a basilisk was, save that it had very long toes and what looked like a beak on its snout. Some sort of wet, rosy feathers plastered its skull, but the rest as it emerged appeared to be soft, scaly, and green, not unlike a lizard. When it freed the last of four little legs, it tumbled, tiny tail and all, into Vorgell’s waiting hand, where it quivered in the cup of his palm.
“Well, look at you,” he said, putting aside the now vacant egg and its prison of rock. He thought better of touching the poor newly hatched creature, not knowing if that would be wise, and simply cradled it against his body where it would find warmth. Now that it was free of the egg, he could see the rosy feathers continued from its head down its back and it had a cute little tuft at the end of its tail. It didn’t look quite so ugly now.
“Aren’t you pretty?” he said softly. “You’re pretty as a petal.” The basilisk strove to move forward, but he prevented it from leaving his hand, and it huddled, trapped against his body, looking up at him with unblinking, jewel-like eyes. The little thing had magic in it. That much he could tell, but if it had any powers, he couldn’t say. “You don’t have a mother to name you,” he murmured, because all things that entered the world must be named to assume their proper place, “so I’ll have to do. Because you’re pretty, I’ll call you Petal and hope you’re a girl.”
For more of Petal’s story, here’s the blurb for the book and information about where to find it, and me.
After Vorgell the barbarian fucks himself with a unicorn horn, he ends up in a cell with Maddog, a pretty young thief. It’s lust at first sight for Vorgell—but honestly, he can’t help it. Unicorn horn is a potent aphrodisiac, and now he can’t stop thinking about sex. Luckily, Madd is one male witch who knows how to put Vorgell’s new magical body to good use when he tricks Vorgell into a kiss that helps them escape.
Vorgell may desire sex in general—and Madd in particular—but Madd has no intention of being screwed by a man twice his size. He has problems of his own, including an enchanted collar that causes him to desire his most hated enemy. He wants that collar off as soon as possible, but that requires stealing a basilisk egg from the castle they just escaped.
Drawn together by lust and magic, the two men join forces and soon find themselves up to their necks in witches, wizards, and trouble. Vorgell and Madd might just be perfect for each other, but first they have to survive long enough to find out.
Tali Spencer fell in love with writing at an early age and never stopped. Thanks to a restless father, she grew up as a bit of a nomad and still loves to travel whenever she can. Her longest stint in one place was Milwaukee where she went to college and enjoyed a series of interesting careers including respiratory therapist, airport executive, and raising three surprisingly well-adjusted sons. She later married her true love and put down new roots in Philadelphia, where she lives in an ongoing Italian American family sitcom. At least she’s learned how make good pasta. When not writing, Tali reads everything from sweet goofy romances to Lebanese cookbooks, manages her fantasy football team—go Gekkos!—and takes long walks with her loving, if slightly neurotic, poodle.
Visit Tali’s blog at http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com
Buy Links for Thick as Thieves: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4002