Saturday, December 26, 2015

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 6

Saul stopped and pulled his water bag from his pack. He took a sip and passed it to Charles. Charles drank deeply. The heat was affecting him far more than it was Saul. They had changed places in their misery. The cat was from here. His fur was insulation against the heat, his large paws kept his weight distributed over the sand, so he did not sink in with every step. His large ears caught the cooling breeze, and the movement of game, which he caught and shared the vital fluids of with his friend. Charles had none of these life saving gifts and the sun beat down on him relentlessly hour after hour.

The landscape was sand dotted with boulders ranging in size from a goat cart to a large, multi-passenger wagon. There was no vegetation in site taller than knee high and it was all dry and lifeless looking. The area seemed to be populated by lizards, mice and snakes.

“How did your people ever live here?” Charles croaked out.

His throat was still dry, but he dared not drink more. He had already gone through his water bag. They only had what Saul was carrying and their target, the mountain range ahead, seemed to move further away instead of closer.

“We’re built for this climate,” the cat-man answered. “If we hadn’t bred so much the majority of us would still be here, but we overpopulated the area. Younger members of the community started to leave. My parents were among them.”

“You were born in Raven’s area though, right?”

Charles was stalling. He just wanted to sit down in the shade of one of those boulders. He was exhausted.

Saul could see his friend needed to rest. He knew Charles well and Charles knew he was born in Raven’s part of The Realms, he was stalling. “Let’s make it to the large boulder over there,” Saul pointed to one off in the distance. “We can make that by nightfall and rest.”

“Why can’t we rest now and travel at night in the cooler weather?” Charles asked.

The cat looked around. They weren’t close to any large boulders, just clusters of small stones. “You’ll see why tonight,” Saul answered, as he had the last two times Charles asked.

“Why so mysterious, Saul? Is it one of those tales your kin told you? You can tell me.”

“Not until tonight,” Saul said. He put his water bag back in his pack. “It’s not far now.”

*****

Saul knelt down on the rock so he could reach down for Charles’ hand. The man could hardly walk, much less climb the huge boulder.

“Why can’t we just sit in the shade down here?”

There was almost a whine to Charles’ voice. The shade was so inviting at the base of the boulder and on top, where Saul wanted him to perch it was still blisteringly hot. The sun was setting. The sand would be cool soon. He sat down in the shade.

“No…no…no…” Saul said, as he scrambled back down the rock face. “You can’t sit down Charles. Get up!” He demanded and pulled on the man’s arm.

“Leave me alone, Saul.” Charles yanked his arm away from the cat. “We made it to your damned boulder. Now I am going to sit here until you drag me out in the sun again tomorrow.”

His face was blistered on top of the bug bites. He was miserable. He looked toward the mountains in the distance.

“I don’t think I will make it tomorrow,” he said softly.

“Of course you will,” Saul said. He crouched down beside his friend. “You’re just tired, but you need to get up. I'll help you up onto the rock.”

A lizard scurried across Charles’ outstretched legs, up his torso, and leaped from his shoulder to the rock behind him.

“Come on, Charles,” Saul coaxed, “just a little bit further.”

“Let me sit for a few more minutes,” Charles said. “It’s nice in the shade.”

His head drooped forward. Saul thought he had passed out.

“Charles???” He said in a frantic voice.

“Leave me be,” Charles mumbled.

Another lizard leaped over the man’s legs and up onto the boulder, followed close behind by three mice and a fast moving sidewinder.

“Charles…Get up or you are going to die here!” Saul shouted.

Charles tried to focus on his friend. The cat’s ears were pricked forward and he could swear he saw a mouse leap from Saul’s shoulder to the boulder behind him.

“Come on,” the cat said and physically pulled Charles to his feet. “Up!”

Saul turned Charles face-first against the boulder that had been at his back. The sun was fast falling below the horizon. He pushed Charles so hard he bumped his head into the boulder.

“Climb!” He shouted in the man’s ear. “Damn it, Charles…MOVE!”

Charles fell back. He had a moment to marvel at the multitudes of small creatures scurrying, slithering and climbing up the boulder face ahead of him. It seemed like some kind of a mass migration.

Then Saul was above him holding his hand down to him with as frightened a look on his face as he had ever seen on the cat.

“CHARLES!…GET THE HELL OFF THE SAND!” Saul shouted.

Charles held his hand up. Saul grabbed hold and with a strength the man did not know the cat possessed, he literally yanked him up on the boulder.

*****

Charles sat on the safety of the boulder beside Saul. He watched the sand around the huge rock curl and roll as if it were a pot of water at full boil. He saw a lizard perhaps a foot long running for all it was worth toward their boulder and sanctuary. It leaped dramatically from coiled hump to oozing tube until it was almost free. It made one last vault from a coiled hump to the boulder, but it didn’t make it. One of the huge worms circling their little haven leaped up a good six feet and snatched it right out of the air. It clamped a double set of huge serrated teeth around its middle and pulled it under the sand. The lizard had become worm food.

“That could have been me,” Charles said in an almost daze as he took another sip of the water Saul offered him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I was afraid you wouldn’t walk on the sand during the day,” Saul explained. “I mean…The legends say they are there all the time. They just sleep during the day.” He took a sip from the water bag when Charles absently passes it back to him. The elf was mesmerized by the constant motion of the sand. “I couldn’t take that chance. We had to get across the sand.”

“And now I know it is safe during the day.” Charles swallowed hard. He turned ice blue eyes on Saul. “Next time, trust me.” He pulled his backpack close and curled up using it as a pillow. “Wake me when it’s safe. I want to make it to the mountains by tomorrow night.”


No comments:

Post a Comment

If you'd like to get a heads-up on my latest book releases, sales, and freebies, make sure to sign up for my newsletter! And you don't have to worry about getting a bunch of junk - I only send it out when I really have something you might want to hear about.

* indicates required
Close