Saturday, March 19, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 18

Azur cried into Charles’ shoulder as she sat in his lap by the fire in her home. He cradled her and held her tight, trying to banish her heartbreak with his presence. He did not want to see her exiled from her family. That had never been his intention.

“I am so sorry,” he murmured in her ear. “I never thought it would come to this.”

She wiped at her face with the kitchen towel she brought with her when she collapsed in his lap. Lunch would not be edible by the time she got back to it.

“I would bring Simone here if I could,” Charles said.

Azur held her finger up to Charles lips to silence him. “We have talked about this. You know it is too much to subject a child to. I would not want her to hate me because I pulled her away from her home and friends. She considers Brela her mother and there is no guarantee the satyr would agree to move too.”

“Simone’s memories would fade. And, I could have the Wizard place a spell on the child so she would sleep the whole trip.” This was something Charles had not considered earlier. It might be possible.

“No, my dear, you can’t subject her to over a week’s journey without food or drink.”

Azur was right, of course. It was Charles’ doubt that was driving him. Was his love for Azur, and her for him, enough to warrant her never seeing her family again? He didn’t want her to hate him when overtime she became homesick and had no recourse but to stay and be confined to a basement each night. Would she begin to think of him as her jailor rather than a loving husband? Saul was right. This was not a good idea. Life without her was better than an eternity of her hating him.

He slid her off his lap and rose to stand with his back to her. He gripped the mantle and stared into the fire as though answers could be seen deep within its blaze. He had found the answer to his loneliness within Azur’s blaze, but now he was going to have to leave her. He let out a big sigh without knowing it. How often could he face the journey from home to here in order to see his love? How long would it be before Azur tired of his infrequent visits and found someone else? There were other humans here – other single males of both races.

Azur came up behind him and placed her arms around his waist. She laid her head on his back and he could feel her tears through his shirt.

“What are you thinking, my love?” She squeezed him gently. “Talk to me.”

“To me, this is looking more and more like a kidnapping with me as your jailor for the rest of your life.” He turned in her arms and held her tightly to him. As he rested his chin on the top of her head tears rolled down his face and into her hair. “I have been so selfish because I wanted you so badly. I love you so much, but…I think it would be wrong to take you away from your family and friends under these conditions.”

Azur looked up at him in disbelief. “We have come so far,” she said softly. “Would you leave me now? Do you love me so little?”

“I love you so much, that I have to leave you. I can see both sides of this now, Azur. You would be giving up everything and I nothing.”

Azur was so torn. Perhaps this was the answer…at least for now. Her chin trembled as she fought back more tears. “Perhaps when Simone gets older…Then you could come…We could make a home here together.” She looked hopefully into Charles’ red rimmed eyes.

“Of course,” he lied. “When she is older. And, until then, I will come to visit often,” he promised. He knew it would not work. He would never leave his area of The Realms permanently. The innocents there would become slaves to Raven and his followers if he deserted his post. He couldn’t do that to them, not even for the love of Azur.


Charles trudged up the last hill before his home. He was weary and sick at heart. The only thing that sustained him was the thought of getting home and seeing Simone and the rest of his extended family. When he crested the hill to look down, it was as though they had been waiting for his arrival. Brela was out hanging clothes on the line and Saul was playing ball with Simone. The child was tossing it and the big cat-man was falling to all fours and chasing it like a well trained dog. He could hear the child’s peel of laughter as she pointed to show Saul where to look. While, Saul searched for the ball, just missing it, in order to make the game more fun.

It was Saul who first caught sight of him. He ran up to Simone and pointed to her approaching father off in the distance. The child squealed in delight and started to run, but Saul scooped her up and placed her on his shoulders. She slid down his back and gripped the belt of his loin cloth. She knew this game well. She and her ‘horse’ often romped through the house and yard.

As Saul trotted past Brela on all fours, he moved slower than he would have liked in order to not upset the child on his back. He announced the homecoming as he passed and the tiny satyr turned with a pained look which quickly dissolved into a smile when she saw Charles was alone. She kicked up her heels and trotted along beside the cat.

“Oh, it is good to be home,” Charles exclaimed with a heavy sigh, as he lifted Simone from Saul’s back.

The cat rose up before his friend and clasped his arm in greeting. The little satyr hugged Charles affectionately around his waist.

“It’s good to have you home, my friend,” Saul said.

Simone was raining kisses on her daddy’s cheeks and hugging him so tight he could hardly breathe.

Saul slipped his friend’s pack, bow and quiver off his shoulders as Charles continued to hold the child.

“Here,” Brela said, “I’ll take those up to the house and get something for you to drink. Are you hungry?” She asked.

“Got any cookies?” Charles asked. He could almost taste one of Brela’s ginger cookies.

“I do and I will bring you a plate.” She trotted off.

Saul saw her grab the ward-totem by the door as she went in. He could just imagine the satyr frantically removing the wards before Charles could see them. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t be able to remove the one from the front of Simone’s jumper before Charles saw it.

Saul walked down the hill with Charles and Simone. Charles said all the things a father would say upon returning home to his child after an extended absence. He told her how much she had grown and how pretty she was. He hugged her tight and caressed her curls.

They made their way to the bench at the edge of the meadow below the house. Charles put his daughter down and commented on the garden and how nicely Brelar had kept it up while he was away. Saul made empty comments about a single tomato that she managed to harvest and how they wished he was there to help eat it, but it was so small they gave it all to Simone. He told his friend about the hunting while he was gone and what he had brought down. He spent several minutes describing another close encounter with the werewolves before Brela showed up with the tray of lemonade and plate of cookies.

Charles ate and drank and told them all about his journey back home and the things he saw. He met up with the female dragon and her son again. This time they actually shared a meal with him and the female, Climmzen, regaled him, and her son Tellafair, with tales long into the night of faraway lands in The Realms and the beings that populated them.

Charles told of many other things, but there was no mention of Azur or why she was not with him. Simone wondered off to pick flowers in the meadow and Brela took the tray back to the house to start supper. She intended to make Charles’ favorite stew and she would whip up a batch of those biscuits he loved so much.

Charles thanked her and she trotted off, leaving the men alone on the bench. They sat quietly for a time. The man watched his daughter pick daisies and dandelions as the will-o-the-wisps began to come to life in the dusk of the afternoon and tease her with their whistles and song.

“What happened, Charles?” Saul finally asked. “Why isn’t Azur with you?”

The cat could feel the sorrow in Charles soul. His aura was a pale grey compared to the bright white it was when he last saw him. It was as though his very life had been drained from him.

“Her people…her family…were afraid of reprisal from Raven should he find out she was here. They gave her an ultimatum. She was free to go, but if she went they were going to close the gate behind her so she could never come back.” Charles ran his hand through his dark hair. “I couldn’t do that to her, Saul. It was a long enough stretch to think I could keep her happy while locking her away each night. I couldn’t take her away knowing she had no option to reverse her decision should she want to go home.”

Saul placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I am sorry, Charles.”

Simone took that moment to run up and show her daddy the flowers she had gathered. He scooped her up and placed her in his lap. She proceeded to decorate him with her bounty, poking them into his hair as Brela did for her when they played.

“You can go back to see her,” Saul offered.

“I don’t think so,” Charles said. “There is no future there. Better to make a clean break and let her get on with her life.”

“Is that what she said?” Saul asked. He couldn’t believe that was how she felt. When he left they could hardly be out of each other’s sight.

“No, but it is what I think is best.” Charles hugged his daughter to his chest as silent tears rolled down his cheeks.

If you are enjoying this story, consider reading the "Shifting" books in the "Twin Cities Series."
They are 90 minute reads which will transport you to The Realms with adventure, romance and humor.
Available in paperback and ebook form on all platforms.
Purchasing links under the Header on THIS PAGE.

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