Saturday, March 26, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 19

Charles found Brela at the dining room table the next morning. She tried to hide the jumper she was removing the ward-totem from before Charles could see.

“It’s okay, Brela,” Charles said. Saul told him about the satyr’s misgivings.

He walked to the kettle she kept boiling on the stove for tea. He dumped a spoon full of tea in the pot, poured in some water and grabbed a mug and the tiny sieve off the shelf. Brela pulled the jumper back from under the table into her lap and continued to remove the small stitches that held the totem in place. Charles came around and sat down across the table from her.

“You would have liked her, Brela,” Charles said.

He poured the tea through the sieve into his mug. He liked his tea weak as slightly colored water with a heavy amount of honey. He pulled the honey jar on the table toward him and started to drizzle the amber liquid into his cup by the spoon’s full.

“She is a lot like Adele,” he continued. “Strong, intelligent, defiant.” He looked at the satyr’s handiwork. “She wouldn’t have hurt any of you. She has a very gentle soul.”

Tears threatened to spill over onto his cheeks. He wiped a sleeve across his face and made busy by dumping another spoonful of honey into his tea. Brela reached across the table and placed her hand over his.

“It pains me to see you so sad,” she said. “I am sorry I was so opposed to her. I should have known if you chose her we should respect your decision and feel confident in your choice.”

Charles just nodded his head, too choked up to say anything out loud.

“Will you go visit her?” she asked. “We would miss you, but we would understand. Saul and I could take care of things while you’re gone.”

Charles shook his head. “No, no…It’s best to break it off clean.”

Brela squeezed his hand and did what she did best. She rose and went to fix him his breakfast. Being back with his family and friends, a full stomach and chores to attend to would help him forget her. Over time his heart would heal.

*****

It was late, and Charles was putting away his tools in the shed after tending his miserable excuse for a garden, when he felt the oppressive darkness of evil at his elbow. He closed the door to find Raven standing behind it.

“I had heard you returned,” Raven said leaning against the shed with his arms folded across his chest. “Did you not think I would find it interesting to hear how your mission went?”

“Frankly, I didn’t think about you at all,” Charles said. “The situation is in hand and was before we even arrived. The demons do not want any trouble with you and your kind. She has been calmed and will stay where she is.”

“Excellent,” Raven unfolded his arms. “When the cat came back without you I thought there might have been trouble.”

Charles stood with his hand on the shed door a look of intolerance on his face.

“I see that you are fine, though not as shinny as when you left.” Raven aimlessly dusted at his shoulder. “I hope the trip was not too difficult for you.”

“What do you want?” Charles growled. “Whatever it is, get it said and get off my property.”

“Well,” Raven said with imaginary affront lifting one eyebrow at Charles. “I just wanted to make sure you were alright. I can see you are and I will be off.”

He lifted effortlessly off the ground and then vanished with the speed only a vampire possessed.

Charles wiped at this brow. Raven didn’t know anything, but the man was old and could sense a disturbance in his area of The Realms. And Charles was disturbed, but it made no difference. Charles had nothing to hide. He had left his secrets behind him in the Land of the Fire Demons.

*****

Summer came to a close in Raven’s area of The Realms. Fall was short and the harvest was lean. Winter settled in like a troll under a newly found, arched, stone bridge.

Charles traded the meat Saul accumulated for his family, while he was in the Land of the Fire Demons, for root vegetables from the other farmers when he could. That source was depleted by mid-winter.

He and Saul packed up some of the meat and went to Barter Street to trade. The usually bustling market was all but disserted. The outside street stalls were closed due to the high winds and the snow which swirled and piled up in every doorway of the shops that were the permanent residents on the street.

Their pilgrimage into town turned into a shop-by-shop search for anyone who wanted to trade meat for produce of any kind. They came home with a few potatoes, some dried up carrots and a single apple along with two almost full bags of their own meat. No one had vegetables.

Brela was a wizard in her kitchen. She could go into what looked like an empty pantry and come out with a three course meal, but even she could do little with what she had. The satyr kept them fed with biscuits, butter, jam, and anything she could throw into a pot for stew.

The newly redesigned basement room became a convenient place to house the cow and the chickens away from the cold. Saul helped Charles install a trough from the room to the outer corner of the meadow so he could just take a hose hooked to the sink and wash the manure from the floor down the trough and away from the house each day.

Charles was not a rich man, but he had some gold he inherited which he kept safe for an emergency. Toward the end of the long winter the circumstances were emergency status in his opinion. He dug far back behind the meat in the root cellar for five of the jars of frozen animal blood he had stored there earlier in the winter. He brought the jars into the house and put them by the fire to thaw. That night he wrapped them in leather shammies to keep them as warm as possible and with gold from the chest on his mantle he went to see Remy.

*****

The vampire stood his post at the willow gate day and night, rain or shine, soft spring through harsh winter. He was pleasantly surprised to see the elf-man and looked to Charles very much like he might actually crack a smile as he approached. He actually did crack a smile with wicked looking fangs when Charles produced the jars.

“Thank you,” he said after consuming two and a half jars in rapid succession.

He licked the blood off his lips not wanting to waste a drop of the precious fluid. Charles took note that the vampire was even leaner than usual and his temples and eyes were sunken in his head almost like a corpse. It had been a long time since he had taken in anything of substance. Charles mentally chastised himself for not thinking of bringing him something sooner. After all, they were almost friends. Were as much friends as a mortal being and a vampire could be.

By the time Remy finished the fifth jar his completion was less of a deathly grey and more of a normal flesh tone and his features appeared more rounded and less angular.

“You are a good friend,” Remy said, as he ran his finger around the inside rim of the jar to capture the last of the drippings. “It was a nice mixture,” he complimented. It was almost as though he were reviewing a fine wine. “Rabbit, stag, squirrel with a touch of quail.”

Charles was amazed. He honestly couldn’t remember what he and Saul drained into the vat they used to collect the blood for emergency trading, but most likely Remy was correct in his evaluation.

“I’m pleased you enjoyed it, Remy.”

Charles watched as Remy placed each of the jars to one side, slightly tilted against the boulder he normally leaned against. The last drops of blood would pool, so he might totally drain them.

“I need a favor,” Charles began. “I know you can’t leave your post, but I need something from the mundane world. I thought you might be able to trade with someone to get it for me.”

Charles pulled the pouch he wore around his neck out from under his clothing and produced two gold coins.

“I need vegetables and fruit.” He held them out to Remy. “Bribe the next goblin who passes to get you some. Tell him if he brings back a bushel you will give him the second coin.”

Charles had no idea if this would work. The goblins seemed to have left the area for the winter. There did not appear to be a black market on Barter Street any longer. And the elf-man had no idea if Remy’s mind could hold the thought of a trade long enough for him to carry it out. But, there did not appear to be any other option.

Charles could not go into the mundane world himself. His people had left it centuries ago in order to escape their doom at the hands of the human pollutants their pure elf bodies could not withstand. He could not hover here at the gate waiting for a goblin with which to barter. They were sly, secretive beings and would not come near the gate if they saw his aura. Charles had to depend on Remy.

Remy turned his attention away from Charles and back to the jars where the blood pooled in the tilted bottoms. He meticulously drained each one, screwed the top back on and handed them to Charles. Charles nestled them back in his pack and then leaned against a convenient tree trunk. A conversation with Remy was never quick.

Charles decided to take another approach.

“You know I have a little girl, right?” he asked Remy.

“Simone,” Remy said.

“Yes, Simone,” Charles confirmed. Where Remy got her name Charles had no idea. Perhaps a random comment Saul or he made in front of the vamp. The gate keeper rarely forgot anything he heard. “She is just a little girl. She will turn three in the spring.”

Remy nodded. He spied a smire of blood on one of his fingers and stuck it in his mouth to suck it off.

“I need the vegetables and fruit for Simone,” Charles explained.

“Simone,” Remy said again, as he removed the finger and looked to make sure he had not missed anything.

He held out his now clean hand and Charles, hoping he read the jester correctly, placed the coins in his palm.

Brela - Fanart - WIP (work in progress) by Elizabeth Babicz

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