Saturday, April 23, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 23

They put Simone to bed still clutching her fire opal. They came back to sit down around the table for another cup of tea and a biscuit. Saul was reclining on the couch where he was in much less pain then he had been since the mauling. Charles was pleased he caught several good sized trout earlier in the morning and Brela had worked her wonders with the last of the potatoes and dandelion greens she picked in the meadow. But it was a poor showing compared to the feasts Azur had set before them in her home. The biscuits with jam were a welcome addition and Azur, with her usual gusto, was putting them away one by one.

She was telling them about her journey. It had been a long one and grueling at times. Her people seldom left their land, so mapped routes were not available. It was a matter of finding someone in each world to director her to the next gate.

“I went in circles for weeks,” she explained, as she buttered another one of Brela’s biscuits. “These are delicious,” she complimented between sentences. “I kept landing back in the Crystal Cave. It was so stiflingly hot when I was in this form,” she indicated with a wave of her hand. “My people had closed the gate to our world, so I just kept stumbling around until fate would take me through another gate and dump me out in another world.”

“The Crystal Cave must be a ‘hub-world,’” Charles suggested. “I have heard of those. Not much to them except that they link unknown numbers of worlds together.”

Azur took a sip of her tea and then went on. “Finally, I accidently stepped through a gate trying once more to get out of there and I landed in a jungle.”

Saul involuntarily hissed from his place on the couch.

Azur nodded his direction. “Yes, I meet Thaldrake. Not at first of course, but eventually. After I had determined there was no one to help me. No sentient being to talk to, he appeared. At that point it became a matter of choices. I could kill him and be stuck there for the rest of my life, or I could get him to draw me a map. I must admit I threatened him, but in the end I listened to his side of the story and though I cannot totally forgive him, I can understand. As long as he stays where he is, then I am at peace with his choice and mine.”

She popped the last bite of biscuit in her mouth and reached for another. When she extended her hand over the biscuits, they turned a browner shade, as if they were back in the oven.

“Oh,” she said, and retracted her hand. She looked to the window and saw the sunset.

“Night comes slowly in this part of The Realms,” Charles explained. “I think nature wants to give the innocents time to find cover before dark.” Charles rose to his feet.

“Do you have a place for me,” Azur asked. She knew Charles had sent Saul ahead months ago to prepare a room, but whether it still existed she had no idea. There had been no mention of it.

“A place for both of us,” Charles answered and extended his hand down to her.

*****

Charles woke up in his and Azur’s bed. His lover was still dressed in her demon clothing of enchanted leather halter top and short skirt, but she was back in her human form. She was sweeping the ash she had shed over the night into a pile and she smiled at him as she rose up from scooping it into the dustpan. Charles was thankful he had mucked out the basement earlier this spring when he pastured the animals. He'd hosed it down and aired it out. Last night it had just been a matter of dragging the furniture back in from the shed. A bit of cleaning and Azur's evening retreat would be complete.

“There’s a bathroom through that door,” he pointed.

“I already found it, thank you.”

She went into the small closed off cubicle and he heard her dump the ash in the trashcan. She returned to their bed and crawled in under the covers with him. He cradled her in his arm as she hugged up close to his side. He buried his face in her hair and breathed in deep. She smelled of wood smoke and pine. Her skin radiated warmth. He snuggled up closer to her.

“I love you,” he mumbled.

She was silent at his side. He toyed with her hair as he listened to the house above them coming to life. He could hear Brela’s hooves tapping lightly across the floor as she tried to prepare breakfast without waking Simone. He could hear Saul move in bed. Brela’s bed creaked with his muscular weight. He would tell Brela to get his bed ready for the cat for tonight. Saul would appreciate the extra room to spread out. Brela’s bed was only a twin size, his was a double. They could move Brela’s back upstairs for her.

“We didn’t have time to really talk last night,” Azur said at last. “I know I made this decision for both of us.”

She propped herself up on her elbow and looked into his pale blue eyes. Those eyes she first thought she might drown in.

“I just couldn’t stay there without you,” she explained. “I’ll only ask you this once…Tell me I did the right thing. That you still want me.”

Charles reached up and cupped the side of her face with one hand and ran his hand through her chestnut curls with the other.

“You did the right thing,” he assured her. “I was a shadow of myself without you. I only hope you will be satisfied with the choice you have made. You gave up a lot to come here. I will do my best to make you happy.”

He pulled her down and tried to show his sincerity with a warm kiss which turned into a passionate embrace. All doubt was driven from her mind. She was his and he was hers.



An hour later the two untangled their bodies to the sound of Simone’s laughter. The child always woke up happy and ready to attack the day with both hands.

“We should get our story straight for anyone we meet in the future,” Charles said, as he pulled his shirt over his head. “Saul, Brela and Simone are the only ones who know who you are and where you actually came from. We have to keep that a secret.”

Azur sat down beside him and placed her hand in his.

“We need to pass you off as human…” Charles said out loud as he puzzled through the story. “They say the best lie is one that comes closest to the truth.”

“I passed though an Egyptian world on the way here. My skin is a similar color,” Azur said. “I also know their history and customs because my people are distant relatives to their gods.”

“I could have met you on the way back, we fell in love, and you followed me here.” It sounded plausible to Charles’ ear. “Raven knows your name. You will have to choose another.”

Azur thought for a moment. “How about Ament. It means ‘the hidden’? ”

“I’ll bet Raven doesn’t know any Egyptian,” he grinned at Azur. “It will be an inside joke.”

“Ament it is,” Azur agreed and squeezed his hand. “Let’s go tell the others.”

*****

Charles wanted to go to town, to show Azur off to his friends and neighbors, but the garden was a priority and Azur seemed content to just be with him.

They helped Saul back out to the bench in the sun. He was stiff and in pain again before Azur ran her hand down his side and laid it softly on his injured hip, then the pain melted away to a more tolerable level.

Brela did her morning chores and laundry. She stood hanging up the clothes on the line as she kept an eye on Simone playing in the meadow.

Azur and Charles worked on preparing the soil for the next day’s planting in the newly tilled garden.

“May I have a corner,” Azur asked. “I brought some seed from the medicinal herbs I use in healing. I would like to plant them.”

“Of course,” Charles replied. He leaned on his hoe and brushed the hair out of his eyes. “I usually only plant peas this early, but then there will be beans and potatoes. Tomatoes never do well here. The days are too short and not near hot enough.”

“Really,” Azur said. “Herbs take a lot of sun to mature properly.” She rested her chin on the handle of the hoe in her hand. “Do you have a bucket?”

“Sure.” Charles walked to the shed and pulled one out. He dumped the hand tools from it and handed it to Azur.

“I’ll be right back,” she said and headed off toward the house.

She returned sometime later with the bucket now full of a chestnut brown liquid. She poured it over the garden patch. Then she pulled several paper pouches full of seeds from her pocket and sprinkled them over a corner of the patch in neat little rows.

“Plant your peas,” Azur instructed. “When is the next full moon?” she asked as Charles bent to trickle his seeds in the trough he made.

“Oh, so we are going to garden by the celestial world?” Charles asked.

“It works at home,” Azur assured him.

“Tomorrow night,” he said. “What was that you poured on the garden?”

“Magic,” she answered.

*****

It was magic. The morning after the full moon there were green sprouts showing their heads for both the peas and the herbs. Within two weeks they were eating early peas and had such an abundant crop Charles shared them with his neighbors.

Before the next full moon Azur brought out another bucket of her magic and they planted beans, potatoes, zucchini, onions and tomatoes. The plants exploded out of the ground. The harvest was continuous and overwhelming. Brela went to Barter Street to purchase canning jars in order to put up the surplus and Charles still gave half of it away to the neighbors.

As the date for the full moon in July approached his curiosity would not rest. He had to know what Azur was doing. Was it safe? Would eating this enchanted produce affect them in any way? And what was actually in that bucket? If it was safe, could he give it to his neighbors? There would never be another lean winter like the last. The area would thrive.

 


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