Saturday, December 5, 2015

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 3

The fog was dense early the next morning when Charles shrugged on his pack and prepared to leave. Brela stood on the threshold outside, her small hooves clacking on the threshold as she danced in agitation. She handed him his quiver and bow. He slung them over his shoulder.

“Tell Simone, when she wakes up, that daddy will be back as soon as he can,” Charles instructed.

“I will.” In an emotional moment the little satyr hugged him around the waist. “Be careful,” she mumbled into his chest. “This is not like a hunt in the woods with Saul.”

“Ah, but it might be close,” Saul said, as he emerged out of the fog.

His golden stripped coat was damp from the mist, but his tufted ears were pricked forward in anticipation. He was equipped as usual with his dragon knife and pouch, but he had added a small backpack made of leather and decorated with dangling gryphon feathers. He also had a feather attached to the bottom ring of the five that looped through his left ear.


“You can’t come.” Charles stated flatly.

“Oh, but you are mistaken, my friend,” Saul said, as he came up to stand toe to toe with the elf-man. “My ancestors are from the Land of Sand and Stone. You can’t go without me.”

Charles started to argue, but Saul held up his hand.

“What is your plan? Are we borrowing hippogriffs from Raven?”

“I want nothing more to do with Raven,” Charles scowled.

The man sighed in exasperation. The cat was not one that took no for an answer. He did as he pleased and would trail along wanted or not. In truth, Charles would enjoy and appreciate his company.

“I was going to go talk with Remy and get directions from him,” Charles answered.

“Good idea,” Saul said.

The cat stepped over and gave Brela a hug. “I’ll bring him back, even if I have to drag him.” He chuckled at the image that brought to mind and headed out toward the willow gate where the vampire watcher, Remy, was stationed.

Charles gave Brela one last squeeze on her shoulder and turned to follow.

*****

Remy was another one of the vampires assigned to a gate of The Realms as punishment for not consuming human blood. He had been stationed there for so long that he managed to make it work. He acquired many friends who helped him in gratitude for not giving into his blood-sucking nature.

Remy was a quiet vampire. He never volunteered information. He only answered a question if it was directly asked. He could list the creatures by name and species which passed through his gate from the time he started working there until the present day. And he would do it in order and by date if you asked him to, but his focus was limited and his speech restricted. A conversation was not something easily accomplished with the willow gate guard. However, he was a vast reservoir of knowledge if you had the patience to mine down to it and knew what questions to ask. He knew the gates of The Realms like no other being.

Remy was focused on the view of the mundane world from his gate when the pair arrived. He turned as soon as he heard them.

“Charles,” he said and nodded.

Charles loved the sound of his name on Remy’s tongue. He made it sound as smooth as melted chocolate.

“Remy,” the elf-man greeted back.

They stopped short of the gate. Charles leaned up against a tree across from the boulder Remy was leaning on. Saul squatted down by Charles’ side. He knew this would take some time. Nothing went quickly for Remy unless he was after a fugitive through the gate. Then he moved like all vampires, so fast the human eye could not detect him.

Remy pushed off his boulder and took the few steps that separated him from the travelers. He tentatively reached out a hand toward Charles. The vampire had a slight smile on his face which showed his fangs, but his eyes were fixed on the elf’s chest. Charles could not back away with the tree behind him.

“He sees your aurora,” Saul said, and came to his feet. He hadn’t been with Charles the last time this happened.

Remy’s gaze shifted to the cat, but because he did not look a threat he brought his eyes back to Charles. It was as if the vampire was a child and the elf was holding out the most fascinating toy imaginable.

The vampire’s hand came closer. Charles’ powerful light aurora, his goodness, would burn the vampire if he touched it.

“Don’t!” Charles commanded.

Remy snatched back his hand and his focus turned to the elf’s face.

“It will burn you, Remy,” Charles explained. “Remember last time?”

Remy rubbed his right hand with his left and you could see the vampire sifting through the memories.

“Burned, Remy,” he said softly. “Accident.”

“Yes, it was an accident,” Charles agreed. “I would never intentionally hurt you, Remy. You and I are friends.”

“Friends,” Remy agreed and turned to go back to his previous place at his watcher’s station against the boulder. “Charles is Remy’s friend.”

He settled into his position and focused his gaze out toward the mundane world again.

Charles raised an eyebrow at Saul. Saul huffed and settled back down into his waiting squat, his tail curled around his hind paws.

“Remy? I need your help,” Charles said to get the vampire’s attention back. “I need to know the gates to take to the Land of the Fire Demons.”

Remy turned his attention back toward the waiting pair. “You have to go through the Land of Sand and Stone to get there.” Remy shook his head. “You don’t want to go there. Hard place. Dangerous place,” he mumbled under this breath.

“My ancestors came from there,” Saul volunteered. “I have heard the tales.”

Remy humpfed and turned back to the gate. “You don’t want to go there.”

“I have to go,” Charles said. “There is an evil coming from the Land of the Fire Demon and only I can stop it.”

Remy didn’t even look at him this time.

Charles moved into the vampire’s field of vision. “I have to stop it or many of us in The Realms will die.”

Remy’s hand twitched at his side as though a part of his brain were telling him to touch Charles again. He fisted it and focused on the man’s face.

“The gates in the Land of Sand and Stone only go one-way. If you leave the path, if you get lost, you will never make your way back.”

Charles shook his head. He had never heard the vampire string that many words together. The place must be daunting. He sent a questioning look to Saul. The cat shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘what choice do we have?’

“We still have to go, Remy. Give me directions. Tell me the gates to use.”

Remy removed a pad from the inside pocket of his long duster, and a #2 pencil, of all things. He turned his back on Charles. He put the pad on the boulder and started to draw. Thirty minutes later he handed Charles a map of the route to the Land of the Fire Demons.

Charles took out the journal he was always in a habit of carrying with him on trips and tucked the map safely within.

“Stay to the path,” Remy cautioned. “And remember the tales of the cat’s people. They are all true.”


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