Saturday, April 2, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 20

Brela stood at the stove doctoring up her pot of beef broth with the last of her spices. By the end of the week she would be out of everything and hope of spring was still at least two months, maybe fourteen weeks away.

Saul arrived a week ago with what he had left of his supplies and a toboggan loaded with firewood. He moved in thinking he could help the family with what little he had and go hunting more often with Charles. He took up residence on the couch in the front room and assigned himself the tending of the fire in the fireplace which kept the house warm.

Brela found relief in the cat-man’s presence. Simone was just a child and a cooped up child was a bored and unhappy one. Saul was the child’s favorite playmate. He played with her so hard during this past afternoon that Simone was curled up against Saul’s furry belly on the rug in front of the fire fast asleep. Charles was napping on the couch. The cold outside and the continually piling up snow had made them all lazy.

However, they all came to attention with the demanding pound of a fist on the door. Visitors were not expected this late in the day or out in this extreme weather.

Brela grabbed up Simone and moved back to the corner. Saul jumped up and stood protectively in front of the pair with his hand on the hilt of his dagger. Charles moved to answer the door.

When he cracked the door he really didn’t know what he was looking at on the other side. It was shorter than Brela, but taller than Simone. It was covered with a thick fur frozen into strands about its face. There was a yak standing close at hand so heavily burdened with leather bags and pouches that it had chosen to sit down in the snow a mere foot or two from the doorway.

The fur covered being at the door looked up to reveal itself as a goblin dressed in furs against the cold.

“If you will kindly move aside, I will make my delivery,” he said with a snarl.

Charles stepped to one side. He and Saul could handle a goblin no matter how surly he was.

The goblin came in leading the yak, who had to make a decided effort to fit its breadth and the bulk of its cargo through the door. With great effort, against the fierce wind, Charles managed to close the door behind them.

The goblin threw back his fur hood to reveal the normal countenance of his species. For all intents and purposes he was bald except for a few stray strands of long hair curling around large bulbous ears. His skin was a distinct shade of grey, whether from the cold or naturally, Charles could not tell. He had a small nose for his race, but it was none the less decorated with a large gold ring through one nostril and equally large ruby stud in the other.

“I have brought the delivery Remy ordered,” the goblin said, as he busied himself loosening straps on the Yak. The bags fell one at a time from the animal’s back with resounding thuds on the hardwood floor. One tipped spilling some of its contents of potatoes out on the floor.

“Delivery?” Charles asked. He thought he would check at the willow gate when the storm let up. He never thought Remy would arrange for it to be delivered.

“As ordered,” the goblin snarled. He finished unloading, took the Yak to the door and shooed it back out into the snow. “Now, if you will be so kind as to tell the vampire I have made the delivery so he will let my people pass through the gate, we can dispense with any further contact.”

Charles almost chuckled out loud. Remy had blackmailed the little goblin into the delivery and from the looks of the abundance of supplies, also sweetened the pot for Charles beyond his two pieces of gold.

“I will make the trip to the gate as soon as the storm abates,” Charles promised.

“See that you do or I shall be back to have words with you again,” the goblin growled.

“Provided Remy will allow you back through the gate,” Charles smiled in reply. It wasn’t often someone got the better of a goblin in a transaction.

“There are other gates to The Realms. Remy’s just happens to be one of the most convenient,” the goblin reminded Charles. He pulled up his hood with a flick of his skinny wrist and bundling his coat tighter around him he left the house.

Brela put Simone down and tripped over to the bags. She pulled the tie on the first and bleat with glee at the sight of cherry tomatoes – red, juicy little gems.

*****

“That’s the last of them,” Brela said, as she handed Charles the cloth, drawstring bag.

The four of them, including Simone, had prepared a little something for all their neighbors. A bag filled with some of the bounty from the goblin. It wasn’t a lot, but with some cooking skills it could be stretched to make a hearty stew with plenty of leftovers. There were potatoes, and onions in each bag along with carrots and two hands full of green beans, topped off with two oranges and a handful of those lovely cherry tomatoes. Charles was determined everyone would eat well tonight.

He placed the bag on the toboggan with the others. “You sure you don’t mind pulling this?” he asked Saul. They had fashioned a harness for the cat to wear so he could pull it while on all fours.

“As long as you can help me though the drifts, I can handle it,” he said.

“Don’t forget these,” Brela called.

She had dashed back into the house and returned holding the four jars of blood for Remy they defrosted last night.

Charles took them and wrapped them in leather and nestled them into his pack to keep them warm against his back.

“We wouldn’t want to forget our benefactor,” Saul commented from his place among the newly designed tresses.

*****

They decided to make Remy their first stop because they wanted the blood to still be at least a bit warm. The vampire stood beneath the willow. It was still leafed out in total denial of the winter just beyond the shade of its drooping branches. Remy was sitting on top of his boulder today as though he was in need of a higher vantage point. The snow had drifted up almost two feet deep all around the willow, but the space under it, including the boulder was free of snow and the bright sunlight of this fresh winter day.

“Remy,” Charles greeted, as he stepped over the berm to join the vampire under the tree.

“Charles,” Remy said in return and slid from his perch on the boulder.

“We came to thank you,” Charles said, as he pulled the jars from his pack. “The delivery came and it was splendid. Far more than I expected.”

“Gobbers are cheats. Fixed it so they couldn’t.” He twisted the lid off the first jar and downed it in one long, continuous gulp.

“Well,” Saul said with admiration, “you certainly ‘fixed’ it.”

“It was quite a bounty,” Charles added. “We thought we would bring you a thank you gift and share a bit with the neighbors.” Charles motioned toward Saul’s load on the toboggan.

“Simone liked the oranges?” Remy asked.

“Yes, she did, thank you,” Charles said with a smile. He was not surprised the vampire remembered the reference to his toddler at home. Remy’s memory was better than any mundane’s computer.

“Good.” The vampire twisted off another lid and consumed the second jar.

“We’re going to go ahead and make our deliveries while it’s still light.” Charles stepped back over the berm. “You keep the jars and I’ll come back for them later.”

Remy tilted the third jar toward Charles and Saul in a salute and downed half of it before they could even get the toboggan turned around.


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