Saturday, January 9, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 8

Saul was frantic. It was not a state of mind the usually calm cat was accustomed to. When they came out in this jungle on the other side of the gate he immediately administered first aid to Charles. He cleansed the wound and used the supplies in Charles’ pack to stitch it. He cut more strips of material from the cloak to bandage it again. Then he tended to his own foot. His wound was not so deep and seemed to be healing, but his friend’s was infected and growing worse by the hour.

They both expected to see people here or ‘demon people’ at least, but none appeared. Over the last three days Saul had run in increasingly wider circles hunting for someone to help. He had not encountered anyone.


There was lots of game. He captured and killed a large ground bird of some sort and made soup for Charles the first day, but that was before the man’s temperature started to spike. A few hours ago the elf slipped into a troubled sleep and Saul was unable to bring him around enough to even get water into him.

The cat squatted next to Charles. His tail was the only thing moving. It flicked back and forth in agitation. He just didn’t know what to do. He was unfamiliar with the plants in this jungle or any of their medicinal qualities.

Neither he nor Charles believed they were in the Land of the Fire Demons. They both came to the same conclusion before the man became so ill he stopped talking. They took a wrong turn in the cave, went through the wrong gate and it dumped them out here. But where here was, they had no idea. As Remy warned them, the gate closed behind them and no longer gave them access. They were lost.

Saul’s ears rotated toward a sound behind him. Since their arrival he felt as though they were being watched. His skin would crawl on occasion. He chalked it up to nerves. There were so many creatures in this jungle Saul assumed it was an animal since his search for humanoid beings failed to turn anyone up.

He turned to scan the area behind him. Trees that towered over their heads created a canopy of leaves so dense the sun barely filtered through. Long armed creatures screeched and leaped from branch to branch. Birds perched above created a constant cacophony of unfamiliar calls. The only time the jungle was quiet was when night fell and darkness surrounded them.

The lower branches of the trees gave way to trailing vines which the animals in that area of the jungle swung from in order to maneuver through the landscape. On the ground there were a plethora of much larger four hoofed animals and rodents in a variety of sizes. Saul even spotted a small wild cat. The jungle was alive with creatures.

Saul killed a pair of some sort of large mouse-like creatures last night when they came sniffing around Charles’ leg. The elf’s wound was beginning to attract predators, though luckily, nothing Saul couldn’t handle.

Charles moaned in his sleep, bringing the cat’s large green eyes back to focus on his friend. The man was cold and they had decimated his cloak using it for bandages for them both. The cat tossed another branch on the small fire. He pulled what was left of Charles’ cloak up to the man’s neck and lay down beside him. With the fire at his front and Saul at his back he would be able to keep him warm through the coming night. He curled up and over Charles best he could without hurting him. He had no idea what to do next. Charles had deteriorated to such a state he didn’t want to leave him in the morning. He was afraid he would come back to find him dead. He pulled Charles’ fever wracked body closer as a chill shook the man from head to toe. He held him and purred softly in thought. He would have to find someone tomorrow… someone, anyone, to help.

*****

Saul felt the warm breath ruffle the fur at the back of his neck before he heard the soft ‘huff.’ Whatever it was, it came up on him silently as he slept at Charles’ side. He mentally cursed himself for being so exhausted and worried he had fallen asleep and not heard its approach.

He didn’t move. Now that he was awake he could hear the soft tread of padded paws. It continued to scent him as if it were trying to figure out what he was, or worse yet, if he were edible. He felt a huge paw with biting claws grip his shoulder and attempt to turn him. Luckily, he was hugging Charles and the beast couldn’t easily roll him over. It gave up after two tries and proceeded to work its way down his body. When it reached his feet it lost interest and circled around to sniff at Charles’ injured leg. Saul cracked his eyelids to see what it was.

It was unlike any beast Saul ever set eyes on, even in The Realms. It possessed a long wedge shaped head with a protruding snort. Its eyes were silver slits and reflected the moonlight that fought its way through the canopy. When it got a good whiff of Charles’ festering leg, its mouth dropped open to reveal a maw full of razor sharp teeth set in its jaw at odd angles. It leaned over for a closer look exposing an outer skeleton of bone which ran down its back and seemed to end in a long sharp tail. A tail with a scythe shaped boney end which waved, in what appeared to be excitement, at the smell. The rest of the beast was covered in short dark hair with gray on its fan shaped ears, muzzle and paw tips.

The creature leaned closer to Charles’ leg. Saul saw drool drip off its tongue. He had to get the beast’s attention away from his friend. He decided a ‘sleepy’ flop away from Charles would not only draw the beast away, but would also give him access to his dagger. He flopped and pulled his knife at the same time, curling up around it. The beast reacted much as he expected it to, it came back to look at him again.

Saul waited for it to bend over him for another deep scent. When he felt its muzzle touch his shoulder he came up under its neck with all the force he could, driving his dragon tooth blade into it neck. The beast screamed in pain and blood gushed over Saul’s hand, arm and shoulder. He had managed, by mere blind luck, to hit a vital organ. The beast was skewered on his knife. Its jaws clamped at his head and shoulder. Its claws tried to rip at his legs as he lay under it. It wasn’t going to die easily. He twisted his wrist and pulled the blade down toward the chest. The beast screamed again and as luck would have it… its companion arrived at Charles’ feet.

The second beast was smaller, but none the less deadly looking. It grabbed onto Charles’ leg and started to drag him away. Charles cried out in delirium soaked agony as the beast twisted his injured leg. Saul tried to struggle to his feet beneath the larger beast. It continued to chump and snap at his head in what he hoped were its death throes.

And then it was over. The beast pulling Charles was lying on its side with its throat ripped open, legs twitching. The beast which had been impaled on his dagger was lying ten feet away, totally immobile, with its neck at a very unnatural angle.

There was a vampire hovering over Charles and him with blood on its hands and face. “Pick up your friend,” he said. “We need to leave this place. They hunt in packs.”

Saul came to his feet and without a word he slung Charles’ bow and quiver over his shoulder, closely followed by Charles’ still unconscious body.


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