Saturday, January 23, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 10

Saul slept soundly for the first time in three days. He knew the vampire was incapable of harming Charles and he had never heard of their kind attacking one of his kin. And to add to his sense of security, the vamp looked well fed. The game in the jungle must be easy pickings for a flying blood-sucker.

When Saul woke up five hours later, he noted several changes. Thaldrake had obviously gone back to their makeshift camp and retrieved their packs along with their meager supplied. The pot he had been using to warm water for tea over the fire was hanging over the vamp’s with stream flowing off its surface. Charles’ injured leg was stripped of its bandages and in their place was a moist, hot rag lying over his wound – another piece of Charles’ ever shorting cloak. The vamp had applied a poultice, and by the looks of things – another rag in the pot – it appeared as though he had been doing it all night.

Currently though, Thaldrake was sitting at the mouth of the cave, his long legs pulled up against his chest with his arms resting across them, his head down, apparently sleeping. Saul could see the morning sun filtering through the vines hanging down over the mouth of the cave. He could also see that Thaldrake was beginning to smolder where the sun was hitting his pant leg.

“Thaldrake…” Saul called out softly, as he came to his feet.

The vamp’s head lifted from his arms.

“You’re smoking,” the cat pointed with a paw.

Thaldrake jumped to his feet, vigorously patting at his pant leg.

“Thanks,” he said and came over to the fire.

“You were busy last night,” Saul noted.

“I had a look at his leg,” Thaldrake stated the obvious. “I am not familiar with any of the plants here, so all I could offer was a hot poultice. I needed something to boil water in and I remembered coveting your equipment, meager as it is.” Thaldrake pulled the cloth out of the steaming water and oblivious of the heat, wrung it out and replaced the rag on Charles’ leg. “It really should be lanced and drained. It would make him more comfortable and it might save his life.”

“You sound like you know what you are doing,” Saul observed.

“I was a pre-med student before I was turned,” the vamp stated without looking up.

No wonder being a vampire was so tough for the young man. His life was on a course to save lives, not take them. Saul sighed heavily at the injustice of The Realms and its current ruling class.

“Can you do something like that?” the cat asked.

The vamp raised his hand and flexed his fingers, showing off wickedly sharp claws. “If I had something sharper other than my nails."

“Will this do?” Saul asked, pulling his dragon tooth dagger.

Thaldrake tested the tip with a finger. The razor sharp tooth blooded it for him.

“It will do.”

*****

Saul knew he could not hold Charles still on his own while Thaldrake lanced his leg, so he cut and sharpened stakes he drove into the ground on either side of his friend. Then he cut some stout vines with which he could lash Charles down. When he was finished he grabbed Charles’ leg on either side of the wound and waited while Thaldrake cleansed the dagger in the fire.

It was a horrific experience for all three. Charles screamed in pain. Thaldrake sweat over the operation and the cleansing of the very deep, very infected wound. Saul mourned the pain his friend had to endure and the loss to the mundane world of what appeared to be a talented medical student. But, eventually it was over and the leg wrapped again. This time in material ripped from the tail of Thaldrake’s white shirt.

Saul placed a cooling cloth on his friend’s brow. “Thank you.”

“I’ll get you to the gate tonight. Hopefully, they will have a healer. Until then, try and get him to drink some water. I’m going to get some rest.”

The vamp went back to his place by the cave opening, though Saul noticed not so close as to get burned this time. He folded up against the wall and almost immediately fell asleep.

*****

“No, Oh my god, no…” Thaldrake moaned in his sleep.

Saul touched his shoulder. The vamp awoke instantly. His hand shot out and grasped the cat around the neck. His face was a picture of anguish. Tears streamed down his cheeks.

“You were dreaming,” Saul consoled. “It was just a dream.”

He reached a paw up to remove the vamp’s hand. Thaldrake released him and wiped at the tears on his face.

“It wasn’t a dream. It’s the attacked on the child. It comes back to haunt me each night. I shall never forget it, or forgive myself.” He buried his head in his hands. “I should have just killed myself. I have thought of it so many times.” He looked up into Saul’s large green eyes. “But you know, they say in my world it is the coward’s way out. In reality it takes far more courage than I have.”

Saul placed a consoling paw on the vamp’s shoulder. Life, and death it seemed, were so unfair.

“If you had killed yourself, you would not have been here to save Charles, and I am very grateful for that.”

“Do you really think he can stop the fire demon?” Thaldrake asked. Saul had explained to him earlier what their mission was pursuant to Raven’s request.

“If anyone can, it is Charles. He has a way of calming people.” Saul looked toward his friend. “He appears to be sleeping a bit more comfortably now.” He rose to his feet. “You should try to get some more sleep before dark.”

Thaldrake nodded and put his head back down on his arms.

*****

It took the better part of the evening to get to the far gate. Thaldrake carried Charles the whole way. Saul slung both their packs and the bow and quiver over his shoulder. He had trouble with the load shifting while he was on all fours, but it was the only way he could keep up with the vampire. As it was, the vamp would not make it home before sunrise.

“Will you be alright?” Saul asked, as he stood before the vine covered boulder Thaldrake indicated was the gate.

“You have no idea how much that means to me…that you would ask. It has been so long since someone has expressed concern.” The vamp smiled for the first time.

Saul could almost see the promising young med student who once possessed this soul.

“I mean it,” he replied. “You can’t get home before daylight.”

“I spotted some places along the way where I can take shelter.” He laid his hand on Saul’s furry shoulder. “I hope Charles recovers and I hope you both return home safely. If it helps any, please tell the fire demon I am sorry and living where I can no longer harm anyone.”

“I will,” Saul said. “And we won’t ever reveal where you are, Thaldrake.”

“I appreciate that.” He squeezed the cat’s shoulder and let his hand drop. “Stop by again, anytime,” he said with another smile.

He transferred Charles to Saul’s shoulder. “Can you carry all that?”

“Hopefully, I won’t have to go far.”

“There will be a path to your left. Take that around the hill and the village should be on the other side,” Thaldrake instructed.

“Thank you. By the way, I left you the cook-pot,” Saul said with a smile. He shifted Charles’ weight to a more comfortable position, turned and walked ‘into’ the vine covered boulder.


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