Saturday, February 27, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 15

Saul watched the two of them at lunch from under hooded eyes. They took every opportunity to touch one another. Azur came up behind Charles and laid her hand on his shoulder in order to place the dishes of food on the table. Each time Charles passed a plate to her, their fingers caressed each other’s. It was like they were magnetized. When Azur reluctantly left after lunch to tend to her garden, Charles asked Saul to help him to the bench at the side of the house. He sat with his gaze riveted on her.

Azur located an appropriate branch to fashion a crutch and Saul sat down next to his friend. Using his dagger he carved the top into a more comfortable ‘U.’ Azur took a break, wrapped and secured a cushion of material on the arm rest. Charles was now mobile. He hobbled around behind Azur until she ordered him to sit down and rest or she would send him back to bed. It was a long afternoon for Saul, worrying about his longtime friend’s unusual actions.

When the light started to fade and a summer storm began to gather dark clouds to the south, they all moved into the house. Saul trailed along behind Azur and Charles, listening to their conversation, watching their gestures. You would swear they were in the early stages of courtship.

Azur tucked Charles in. She closed the windows to the wind that was picking up outside. She built a small fire in the fireplace and then hurried off to change for her night outside.

Saul sat down in a chair by the fire and contemplated the flames as they ebbed and flowed with the shifting of the wind outside and the draft in the flu. Azur said her good-byes. Charles asked her if she would be alright in the storm. She assured him her people relished a good storm to play in.

“I wish I could see her in her other form,” Charles said a short time after she left. “I bet she’s lovely.”

“She is lethal looking, Charles,” Saul said, in an effort to bring his friend back to reality. “She’s a fire demon.”

Charles threw off his covers and slid his legs over the side of the bed. “Why do you dislike her so much?”

“I don’t dislike her,” Saul countered. “I just don’t like what she is doing to you.”

“What is she doing?” Charles pulled himself up on his crutch and hobbled toward Saul. “She has done nothing but show us both kindness.” He waved his hand around the room. “She has opened her home to us, fed us, healed me…”

“Healed you or bewitched you?” Saul asked. “Have you forgotten what happened this afternoon?”

“She has not done anything of the sort,” Charles said. His white aura was taking on a golden tinge. “She is a healer.”

Saul rose slowly. “Charles, do you remember what we talked about this afternoon under the tree?”

Charles rubbed his forehead with his free hand, a frown wrinkling his brow.

“She has done something to you,” Saul said. “Whether on purpose or not, you are changed.”

Charles’ hand fell from his forehead. When he looked up at Saul, his icy stare was one of malice. “You will not speak ill of her.” His aura shifted from a gold to a spiking orange. He was as upset and angry as when Raven stole Simone.

“Charles…” Saul said and reached out a placating hand.

Charles slapped it away and his aura shifted to a fiery red.

“Charles…” Saul said, as he took a step backward.

He had never seen the man this angry. He hadn’t really thought him capable of being this unsettled.

“I need to talk to her,” Charles said under his breath. He hobbled on his crutch toward the door.

Saul ducked around him quickly, blocking his way.

“You need to stay inside, Charles.”

Charles raised his hand. As fast as Saul was he could not escape the huge radius of the energy spike from Charles’ hand. It slammed him against the wall knocking the shelves of dishes to the floor to crash into tiny shards around him.

Charles advanced on the dazed cat and gripped him around the neck.

“Charles…” Saul gasped. “Let me go.”

He could have raked the man with his claws, but he was his friend. He was not in his right mind. He was a man possessed by a demon.

Charles let his crutch drop. There was no need for it with his hand around the cat’s neck. His aura licked out in red tentacles. It wasn’t enough to be choking his victim he raised his other hand and struck Saul in the face. The cat’s head bounced back against the wall with a resounding thud. Bubbles swam over his vision.

“I will go to her,” he hissed. “You can’t stop me.”

Saul was lean, but he was all muscle. He was not going to let Charles hit him again, but he didn’t want to hurt his friend either. He let his weight sag at the knees and it had the expected result that it pulled both him and Charles to the floor. Now Charles was at a disadvantage. His leg would keep him down.

Saul rolled away from him as soon as he lost the grasp on his throat. He clawed his way up on all fours and sprinted for the door. Charles struggled to rise. He saw the cat scampering away. He raised his hand and shot another bolt of energy at Saul. Saul was slammed head-first into the wall. He was momentarily stunned, but not long enough for Charles to get to his feet. Saul scrambled back up and made it out the door before the next bolt struck.

*****



When Azur returned the next morning she found Saul sitting with his back against her front door. He’d obviously been there for some time, because the rain had stopped, yet his coat was wet. His nose was bloody and swollen and he was attempting to dry out his fur by stoking it with his paws.

“What’s going on?” Azur asked in all innocence.

“Why don’t you tell me,” Saul growled. “You healed my friend’s leg, but you have messed with his mind.”

Azur knelt down beside Saul and reached out to touch his swollen face.

“No!” Saul hollered and jerked back so violently away from her hand that he slammed his head into the door. “Ohhhh,” he complained as he grasped at the lump assaulted on the back of his head for the second time in less than a few hours. “Keep your hands to yourself,” he growled. “Charles is not the same since you healed him. He has never struck me before. He has never stuck anyone before, to my knowledge.”

“What are you saying?” Azur gazed at him with wondering eyes.

“I’m saying you have tainted his soul with your healing,” Saul accused her. He came to his feet so abruptly that she was rocked back on her heels and sent sprawling on the gravel path. “I tried to stop him last night when he wanted to follow you. This is what I got for my efforts to keep him safe,” he waved a paw at his face. “You have bewitched him.”

“I never…”

Saul cut across her words. “Don’t deny it. This is the proof.” He held out his paws to show his disheveled state.

With Saul no longer guarding the door, Charles opened it to the sound of his friend’s shouted words.

“What’s going on?” Charles asked, as he stood leaning on his crutch.

“You two figure it out,” Saul said in a dismissive tone. “I’ve had enough for one day and the sun isn’t even high in the sky. I’m going to go somewhere quiet and clean myself up.”

He stalked off under Azur and Charles’ perplexed gaze.


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