A fire demon was standing with her back to him frantically striking the boulder where they had just stepped through the gate. Each time her hand struck the stone, sparks flew. She was a petite little creature, only a little over five feet tall, but no less menacing looking. Her forked tail flicked in agitation from beneath a short leather skirt. On occasion it stuck out at the boulder as if on its own violent mission. The fiery tattoos which snaked their way up her legs and arms blazed and flared with each impact of the stone. She knew it was a gate and she wanted in, but the gates only ran one way…lucky for Thaldrake.
When she had exhausted herself she fell to her knees and curled up with her back against the boulder. She didn’t seem to be aware of Saul or Charles now that they were out of her way. She wailed in despair - a keening kind of ethereal sound that was at the threshold of harming Saul’s hearing. He laid back his ears and scanned the area. It was a smoldering wasteland at least a hundred yards out from the gate. Nothing but black earth and tree stumps. But, the burnt area was surrounded by a lush forest with a thick undergrowth of ferns. Saul could see orchids and moss dripping from the trees in the moonlight of late evening. There didn’t seem to be anyone else around.
Charles’ moan brought Saul’s attention back to his friend. He shucked off the packs, bow and quiver he was carrying. He pulled out his water bag and lifted Charles’ head into his lap to give him a drink. When he looked up he found the demon studying him.
Her eyes were almost the same shade of green as his, but her skin was the color of melted chocolate with those fiery tattoos on her face as well as arms and legs. They looked like ancient runes. The horns which curved forward out of her dark, flame tipped hair, were large and not unlike a Braham bull’s. Fire licked along their upper edges. Her expression was one of a lost child. Yet, Saul knew, whether lost or not, she was a dangerous being. One who could kill him and Charles in an instant, no matter how hard he might try to defend them.
Saul took the only avenue he could think of, he began to talk in as soothing a tone as possible.
“I am Saul of the Baretti. This is my friend, Charles. We come from the Mid-lands of the East Realms.” Saul brushed the hair back from Charles’ forehead. “My friend was injured in the Crystal Cave. He’s not doing very well. I hoped to find a healer here.”
The demon blinked and said slowly… softly, “Azur, healer.”
It was as if she had difficulty speaking. She reminded him of Remy and that made him relax a bit.
“Can you take me to Azur?” Saul asked hopefully.
“Azur,” the demon said and bowed her head.
“You’re a healer?” Saul asked in disbelief.
She nodded again and the flames on her body seemed to settle into a soft glow as if the thought of her other-self calmed her.
Saul had already jumped to the conclusion that this demon was the wife and mother of the family Thaldrake killed. Else, why would she be so desperate to get through the gate? How ironic both she and he were healers. How sad fate had twisted their lives together.
She moved slowly forward on her hands and knees toward them. It was as if she was afraid of frightening them. The tail, which had been so menacing looking earlier, now trailed behind her in a non-threatening manner. When she got close enough she reached out to touch Charles.
“No!” Saul spoke up quickly.
Weren’t fire demons evil? If so, could Charles’ aura burn her as it did Remy and if so, would that set her off. Would she kill them both? Or could she kill Charles? Due to his weakened state, his aura had faded to such a point, it was no longer visible to even Saul’s penetrating gaze.
“He’s the last of the Light Bearers,” Saul tried to explain. “Touching him might hurt you.”
She acknowledged his statement with a nod, but paid him no heed. She proceeded to grasp Charles’ hand.
A soft golden glow emitted from their clasped hands. The glow increased as it crept up his arm. It turned into a white light when it reached his chest, much like Charles’ own healthy aura. As it oozed down his torso it became brighter. When it reached his injured leg it turned a fiery red and settled there for several minutes.
Saul felt no heat emitting from the process of what looked to him a connection of their souls. The energy flowed back and forth pulsing from white to deep orange. He felt Charles’ brow and was surprised to find he no longer appeared to have a fever. As the glow softened into a steady white over all his body, Charles took a deep breath. He cracked a slight smile as he fell into a relaxed sleep.
Azur set back on her heels. “Rest,” she proclaimed in a whisper.
Whether she meant for Charles, for herself or for all, Saul didn’t care. It was a lovely warm night with a gentle cooling breeze, under a moonlit sky. He curled up around Charles. Azur went back to lean against the boulder and they all three slept.
“Saul,” Charles said softly.
Saul came awake instantly. He lifted his head from beside his friend’s.
“I’m here, Charles.”
“Water,” Charles crooked in a dry rasp.
Saul eased his arm out from under Charles’ head. He sat up, grabbed the water bag and dribbled water into his friend’s mouth. It was just sunrise and he was grateful to hear his friend’s voice no matter its condition.
Charles swallowed the cooling liquid. His mouth felt as though it were lined with sandpaper. His tongue was even swollen.
“Where are we?” He asked when Saul lowered the water bag.
“Land of the Fire Demons.” When Saul looked up with the thought of introducing Azur, she was gone. The boulder only held a dark scorch mark in her outline where she leaned the night before. “We met Azur last night, but you wouldn’t remember. I guess she must have left after I fell asleep.”
Saul offered more water. Charles thankfully accepted.
“She is a healer and she tended you last night,” he explained. “With a mere touch she quieted your fever. I thought I was going to lose you.” He put his paw gently on Charles’ chest. “Let’s have a look at your leg.”
The cat leaned over and slowly unwrapped Charles’ injured leg. He sat back on his heels when he saw it beneath the bandages. He began to purr with pleasure.
“Here… have a look at this.” He gave Charles his hand and pulled him to a sitting position.
Charles gawked at the change in his leg. The last time he remembered seeing it, it was swollen, inflamed and pus ridden. In this morning’s light, it appeared to be healing in a healthy way. Another couple of weeks and it would be a leg he could walk on again.
“She is a talented healer, indeed,” Charles said. “It doesn’t even pain me much.”
Saul put a paw to his friend’s brow and smiled. “And your fever is totally gone. She did it with a mere touch,” the cat said in awe. “There is a lot to catch you up on, but let me help you to the shade first.”
Charles had been facing the boulder and only now took note of the wasteland they were sitting in.
“Happened before we arrived,” Saul said, as he gathered up their packs and slung the bow and quiver over his shoulder. “I figure Azur has been lurking around this gate, maybe others. She tried to get through it when we arrived.”
“And I take it she is still angry?” Charles asked.
“Yeah, but I have more to tell you. I met Thaldrake the rouge vampire,” Saul said with a smile.
“You met him? Where? When?” Charles asked excitedly.
Saul reached out a paw. Charles took it and the cat pulled him up on his feet. The elf threw his arm over the cat’s shoulder so he could take weight off his bad leg.
“Come on…Give. I am dying to know,” Charles begged.
“No, luckily you are not dying, nor am I. And, it is because of Thaldrake,” Saul said. “Like I said, there is a lot to tell.”