Saturday, February 20, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 14

Saul slowly worked his way through the village. Even though he must have been a creature few of these people had ever seen before, he was welcomed. If the human or demon (he could not tell one from the other during these daylight hours) was tending their garden, they stopped to chat. Many offered him something to eat from their bounty.

As he wandered, silently looking for Azur’s two keepers within the community, he tried to envision what happened when Thaldrake arrived here. It must have been dark, or he couldn’t have survived. The sun was strong here during the day. If it was night he had to evade the roaming demons and find the homes of their unprotected, sleeping human companions. Azur’s home was at the far end of the village. Why had he passed up all the other human occupants in order to get to Azur’s family?

“Saul, right?” Someone asked, as they came up behind him and patted him on the back.


Saul turned. It was the younger of Azur’s two keepers. He was a little taller than Saul and wore his hair closely cropped under a large straw hat.

“I am Dralar. Azur’s brother. Will you walk with me,” he asked. “I want to show you something.”

Dralar led Saul through a garden between two domed houses. He picked an apple as he passed through the orchard behind the house and tossed it over his shoulder to Saul. Saul caught it. He polished it on his furry bicep, above his arm bracer, until the red skin gleamed, then he put it in his pouch. Charles loved apples. He would take it back to him as a treat.

The young fire demon led him out through a field of ripening grain to stop at the edge of a tall mound of newly turned earth. The blacksmith was waiting for them, his apron still in place and sooty from his duties at the forge.

“This is Jazper, Azur’s uncle,” Dralar introduced the smithy.

Saul offered a paw, as was polite in the human society, and hoped it was the same with the fire demons.

Jazper took it. The man’s huge hand engulfed his paw and radiated heat.

“This is where we buried Thomas and Kyle, my sister’s husband and son,” Dralar said. “It is the first death we have had in our community for over ten years.

“We are a solitary society,” Jazper started to explain. “We know the violence and destruction we are capable of. We keep to ourselves, here in this area of The Realms. We have gatekeepers stationed at all outgoing gates.” He shook his head. “We were foolish to believe there was nothing that could harm us or our human partners while we were on watch.”

“The vampire entered through a gate we were unaware existed,” Dralar said, picking up the thread of Jazper’s conversation. “It was at the far end of the village, right behind Azur’s home.”

“When Azur came back through after chasing the vampire, we sealed the gate. No one else will ever come through it again.” Jazper looked down at the mound. “If we had known it was there, we would have sealed it earlier.”

“And the gate Charles and I came through?” Saul asked.

“One gate needs to remain open. Azur slipped away from us the night she found you,” Dralar said. “She was blocked from exiting any other gate, but as a community, we all are aware that is an entry gate. Her mind is not sound and her thoughts not clear. During the blaze she thinks only of revenge and killing. She hoped to get out that gate even though we all know it is a one-way in.”

“You have to understand; when we are in demon form we are ruled by our emotions. Azur is out of control at the moment, but she will not remain that way,” Jazper explained. “Her blaze will cool and she will slowly regain control. That is the reason we stay together and help monitor each other, though I must admit, we have not had an incident this extreme in a very long time. We don’t want anyone to get hurt while her blaze is strong, least of all Azur. She is important to us as a family member and to the community for her healing skills.”

It was time to fess-up to these men. Saul let out a deep sigh.

“Charles and I were sent by Raven to make sure Azur did not leave this domain. He says he is concerned for the innocents that might get hurt in a confrontation between his vampires and Azur. I can see you feel the same way.” Saul’s tail swayed slowly back and forth as he thought. “I believe Charles and I can reassure Raven there will be no trouble from this side of the gate.”

Saul cleared his throat. He wondered if he should tell them about Thaldrake. Would it help any? Would his being sorry make any difference in the situation? Saul thought not. It would most likely be scoffed at.

“You and the Light Bearer are welcome to stay until he is fit to travel,” Jazper said. “However, it would be best if you stayed inside at night in the future, as requested.” Jazper’s brow wrinkled as he looked down on the cat.

Saul laid back his ears in shame. “I will. I just wanted to understand.”

“And it was well you did it, because it brought us together,” Dralar said, as he placed a gentling hand on Jazper’s shoulder. “We would have thought you mere travelers otherwise. Now we had the chance to talk and you will see by the time your friend is healed, my sister will be herself again. There is no reason for our people to be entangled with Raven’s. We do not seek trouble where it can be avoided. We look after our own.”

“As Raven should look after his,” Jazper added.

Saul swore he felt a wave of heat roll of the smithy.

*****

“You’re back,” Azur said, as she rose from the seat next to Charles in the porch swing. “I’ll start lunch.”

She scurried off as though she and Charles were teenagers caught in a compromising position.

“How was your walk?” Charles asked.

He shifted in his seat uncomfortably and pulled out his journal from its place tucked beside him. Saul noted he was blushing. The cat-man’s whiskers twitched. What had they been up to?

Saul sat down on the grass with his back against the tree trunk. “Very informative. As I suspected, they are keeping an eye on her and attempting to calm her. The older man is her uncle and the younger her brother.”

Earlier in the day when the elf and he talked about what Saul observed during the previous evening, Charles seemed concerned about Azur’s keepers. He’d asked a lot of questions Saul didn’t have answers to.

Charles leaned back in the pillowed throne of the porch swing. “That is good to know.”

“Which?” Saul asked. “That they are keeping an eye on her, or that the younger one is her brother?” The cat gave the elf a squint eyed stare.

“What?” Charles asked feigning innocence, his blue eyes sparkling.

“Charles, she has only been a widow for a little over two weeks,” Saul cautioned. “And might I point out, she is also a fire demon.”

Charles leaned forward toward his friend. “Saul, something has happened. I can’t explain it, but Azur feels it to.” He looked intently into Saul’s eyes. “It is as if we were one. I can feel her excitement right now as she prepares our meal. Her every thought is mine and mine hers.”

Saul pulled his feet up under him and wrapped his tail around. The idea of his friend being privy to the fire demon’s thoughts was unsettling. What if she had cast a spell on him? Did fire demons do such things? Saul always thought Charles was the strongest willed creature he knew, maybe even the strongest in The Realms.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Charles said with a smirk.

“Like what? You just told me you and the demon are able to communicate subconsciously and you don’t expect me to be just a little weirded-out?”

“Don’t call her that,” Charles snapped and waved his journal at Saul. “Her name is Azur.”

Saul lifted an eyebrow. “Okaaaay…” He tensed under his friend’s hot gaze. “Charles, are you alright?” he asked in a calming tone.

The elf leaned back into the pillows again. “No…I’m sorry, Saul. I don’t know what got into me.” He rubbed his brow with his fingertips. “All of a sudden I was…”

“Angry?” Saul supplied. “Maybe her touch conveyed more than the ability to know her thoughts. What do you actually know about fire demons, Charles? Have you ever met one before?”

“No, they stay mostly to themselves,” Charles said, as he continued to rub his forehead.

“Dralar and Jazper, that’s her brother and uncle, say that fire demons are ruled by their emotions during their demonic hours. They call it the ‘blaze.’ They told me she would calm over time. Perhaps this connection you feel is part of those heightened emotions. You have always been sensitive to others. That’s the reason Raven sent you.” Saul reached out and placed his paw on Charles’ knee. When the man looked up he said, “Perhaps your connection will fade as she calms.”

“What if it doesn’t?” Charles asked, pinning his friend with a worrisome gaze. “What happens if we are linked like this forever?”


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