Saturday, March 5, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 16

Saul didn’t return for breakfast or lunch. He just couldn’t bring himself to sit watching Charles fawn over Azur. His head already hurt from both the anxiety of his friend’s actions and the lump he was still sporting from the collision with the wall. When he got hungry he grazed the back area of someone’s orchard, taking a couple of apples and some grapes he thought wouldn’t be missed. When that didn’t satisfy his hunger he went hunting in the forest and killed a rabbit type of animal he cleaned and cooked over a fire made from the flint starter in his pouch.

As the afternoon dragged on, his mind toyed with a plan to kidnap Charles during the night, secret him to the gate, leaving the Land of the Fire Demons behind. Perhaps distance would cure his friend’s mood. But, he worried the bond would be so strong Azur might pursue them. Then the very thing they came here to stop would follow them home. The cat’s mind continued to run in circles like a mouse in a cage until by mid-afternoon he decided to wander back to Azur’s.

She and Charles were sitting in the porch swing. Dralar and Jazper had taken seats under the tree as well and they were all deep in conversation. When Charles spotted Saul, he struggled to his feet and hobbled over on his crutch. He stopped a few feet short of reaching the cat.

“I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “Please come and sit down. I think we have figured out what happened.”

Saul followed. When Charles sat back down the cat folded up at the base of the tree again with his back to the trunk.

Charles took Azur’s hand. Saul cringed inwardly at the sight. He had to get Charles away from here.

“You tell him,” the elf coaxed her.

“I am sorry, Saul. I didn’t understand what you were trying to tell me until I saw Charles after you left this morning. We went over what happened last night,” Azur started to explain. “I called Jazper and Dralar to consult with them. Dralar is a healer too.” She nodded at her brother. He smiled encouragement.

“We all believe I really did affect Charles’ emotional stability,” she confessed.

“Ya, think?” Saul shot back sarcastically.

“Saul,” Charles chastised in the usual tone he used when Saul did something he did not approve of.

Saul shrugged. At least he sounded like the old Charles. No snappy retort, no bolts of energy unleashed.

Charles squeezed Azur’s hand and gave her a reassuring nod.

“Neither of us has ever tried to heal someone when we were in our demon form,” Dralar explained. “We believe that when Azur healed Charles during her ‘blaze’ she did pass some of her emotional state on to him.”

“However,” Azur hastened to add “we believe that it is a temporary state of mind. As I regain my control, so will Charles, until eventually, he will be as he was before.”

“We also feel that Charles may have a calming effect on Azur,” Jazper added. “We are going to take him with us tonight and see if he can keep her mind off escaping.”

Saul sprang to his feet. “You told me it wasn’t safe and yet you want to actually take Charles out among you all while you are in your demon form?” He turned to Charles. “We need to go! Now!” He had to save his friend from this insanity.

Charles remained seated and calm. “Saul, it is the only way. Neither of us can live connected like this. You saw what happened last night. Damn, you were the brunt of it.” His face wrinkled into a pained look. “I can’t go home this way. I can’t take a chance I would hurt Brela or Simone.”

Saul folded back up against the tree trunk. He pulled his knees up against his chest and curled his tail around his feet. He didn’t like it, but he was going to have to live with it. Charles was making sense for the first time in the past twenty-four hours.

*****

From the Journal of Charles Xavier Bouchard
In the Land of the Fire Demons

It has been a full seven days since our arrival in this land and I truly believe I can finally feel the lessening of Azur’s temperamental influence over me brought on by her healing touch. It is still difficult to control in the evening hours, but I can, and do, manage. My aura and soul are once again calm during the daylight hours.

Saul is still keeping a close eye on me. We are both aware of the damage I could wreak if my power were unleashed. It would put the demon’s to shame. Saul follows us out each night and perches up in the big oak at the edge of the training field. I believe he is the only one who could talk me down should I start to lose control.

The time spent with Azur has resulted in a trust between us. I am growing closer to her with each passing day. Not because of any influence she might have over me now, but because I truly enjoy her company. It has been so long since I had someone as a companion. She is a wonderful woman. In some ways she reminds me of Adele. Azur has the same independent, strong spirit that drew me to my lovely wife.

Saul coaches caution and restraint whenever we are out of Azur’s hearing range. He is concerned for my welfare and I appreciate his steadying influence. He has pointed out repeatedly the opposition I would encounter if I chose to bring Azur home to our part of The Realms. I have countered that Simone and I could move here, but in my heart of hearts, I know I would not leave all the innocents at the mercy of Raven and his blood-suckers.

Saul continues to warn me about the difficulties created by falling in love with Azur and that I should keep my distance. But, I think he is too late. I believe I have already fallen in love with her, and I also believe she feels the same about me.

*****

“Catching up on your journal?” Saul asked, as he approached Charles once more settled in the porch swing.

Charles closed the book. “I was.” He smiled up at his friend. “It’s been a while.” He invited the cat to join him with a wave of his hand.

Saul took up his usual position with his back against the tree trunk. He pulled an apple from the pouch at his waist and tossed it to Charles. Charles caught it and admired its flawless peel. The fruits and vegetables in this land were unparallel. He sunk his teeth into it. The juices exploded in his mouth. He loved apples, but he had really never tasted a decent one until coming here, to the Land of the Fire Demons.

“I’ve made a decision, my friend,” he said around the bite of apple. “I need your help.”

“I’m all ears,” Saul answered. He pricked his large tufted ears forward as evidence of his sincerity.

“I want you to go back home without me…” Charles started to go on, but Saul’s words stopped him.

“I am not leaving you!” the cat stated flatly.

“Hear me out,” Charles said in a calming tone, “please.”

The cat squint his eyes at the elf and folded his arms across his chest in a defensive posture.

Charles hesitated for a moment. He swallowed the last of his bite of apple and laid the rest aside. “I am going to ask Azur to marry me,” Charles said.

“Charles, we talked about this.” Saul shook his head. “You can’t bring Simone here. You can’t subject a child to what we went through, and saw, on our way here, no matter how much you prepare her. And Brela will refuse to come. As much as she loves Simone she has family in our part of The Realms.”

“I am not proposing bringing them here,” Charles countered. “I’m going to take Azur home with me.”

Saul couldn’t even speak. He just stared at the man. Was he insane? Did he want to start a war? Weren’t they sent by Raven to stop her coming, not bring her back?

Charles plowed on while Saul was stuck in silent shock. “That’s why I need you to go back ahead of us. I need you to prepare for our homecoming.” Charles leaned forward as if to conspirator. “I will bring her through during the day. No one will know she is a demon.”

“And when it comes nightfall?” Saul asked the obvious.

“That’s why I need you to go home ahead of us. I believe you can direct the refitting of the basement of the house to accommodate her.” Charles moved down on the grass at the base of the tree beside Saul. “Go see the wizard on Barter Street. Tell him you are going to set up a still operation in the basement and you want it enchanted against fire. There is gold to pay him in the chest on the mantel. You can also promise him some of the brew once it is completed. And, I think the lock on the trap door should be replaced with a heavier one.” Charles scratched at the morning stubble of beard on his chin. “The doors out to the lower meadow from the basement will have to be replaced. Iron if you can get the smithy to make them. There is gold enough for him too. I am counting on him being anxious to help in exchange for a part of the still’s product. He’ll need to get on it right away or he won’t be finished in time.”

Saul blinked his big green cat eyes at Charles in total disbelief. What was the man thinking?

“You think Azur will agree to spend half her life in the basement of your home?”

Charles nodded, “I do.”

“And, what happens when you do not produce the promised liquor?”

“I will tell them it just didn’t taste worth a damn,” Charles grinned. “We tried, but it was undrinkable.”

Saul’s tail flicked irritably. “I thought you were getting better.”

Charles turned to look down at the cat beside him. “I am better,” he assured him. “This is me talking. Azur has no more influence over me during the day and very little in the evening any longer. Saul,” he said, placing his hand on the cat’s knee, “I really love her. I never thought I would feel this way again about anyone after Adele’s death, but I do. I want to spend the rest of my life with Azur.”

“You think she will say yes and move to an area inhabited predominantly by vampires, the very beings who killed her late husband and child?”

“I hope so. I hope her love for me is as strong as my love for her.”

*****

From the Journal of Charles Xavier Bouchard
In the Land of the Fire Demons

I asked Azur to marry me. She has accepted. I am almost giddy with delight.

I have copied Remy’s map for Saul. He leaves tomorrow.


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