Saturday, May 28, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 27

Dear Readers: Thank you so much for being patient with me last week. I am now set up with a new computer and as promised this post is twice as long to make up for lost time. I hope you enjoy the continuing story of "Threat of the Fire Demon."

*****

“I’ve come to meet your lovely wife,” Raven said.

He had once more ambushed Charles outside his home - this time as he gathered wood for the stove. Raven was just so silent and with the vamp being so old, he could stand the light of dusk and be out before many of his clan were awake.

“I have told you before, Raven, you are not welcome here.” Charles picked up another log and added it to the load in his arms.

“Well, that is interesting because I don’t think I want her here. Your little Fire Demon bride.”

Charles was afraid it would come to this. Today at the circus Simone became very excited over the dragons. The huge green dragon was offering rides for a penny or any other shiny object that met his fancy. Simone was desperate for a ride. Brela had put her hoof down with a vehement… No! Charles was off getting roasted chestnuts and Saul was relaxing in the shade of a tree. Azur was her only chance. Simone blurted out her name begging repeatedly for permission as only a three year old could. It was only when Charles returned and scooped her up for the ride that she finally quieted down.

He had been a fool to continue to call Azur by her real name around the child. They should have called her Ament and gotten the child used to hearing and using the name. He hadn’t thought it through and now they would all have to pay.

Charles turned to face the vampire. “Listen to me, Raven. I know you are not anything but a blood sucker, but you have to have noticed the difference in the people of the land.”

Raven’s brow furrowed and he licked his lips as a fang protruded from between them. “They have been a bit sweeter this summer,” he said unexpectedly.

Charles had not meant the taste of them. Rather, he was referring to their health.

“Yes…Well… That is because there is produce in the land now - an abundance of it. Vegetables and fruit are bountiful this year because of Azur and her magic. The land needs her. Your people need her. You need her.” He put the logs down. “She has been here since early April. She hasn’t caused any trouble. We built a fireproof room for her and I take her to it each night. She is never free to roam during her blaze. Leave her to me.”

Raven ran his tongue over his fangs, not saying anything.

“The blood supply is sweeter since her arrival,” he conceded. “I will give your request consideration,” Raven said. “In the meantime, see that you keep her locked up at night. If I hear of any sightings of her in her demon form, you do have other family members.”

Raven couldn’t hurt him, but he could kill Saul or Brela. However, Charles knew his threat was aimed at Simone and his aura caught fire.

“You would threaten to hurt Simone? Adele’s child?” Charles asked, as his aura morphed from white to bright orange.

The vampire reacted as if Charles had smacked him on the head. He cringed and hissed, his eyes mere slits.

“How dare you,” Charles warned. “Get out of here before I do something I am sorry for.”

Raven backed up a step. “Keep her under control, Bouchard, or someone will pay the price.” He lifted off the ground and swiftly retreated before Charles could reply or retaliate.

*****

Charles rushed into the room minus the logs he went out to gather. “Where is Brela,” he demanded. He had to account for all his family before he would feel save again.

“She went up to her room to read,” Saul answered from his place on the couch.

Azur was on her knees on the floor beside him massaging his injured hip. It had become a nightly ritual before bed and it appeared to be helping. Saul was not walking up-right, but he was limping on four legs now instead of just three.

Charles was agitated as he glanced around the room. “Where’s Simone?”

“In bed where you left her with us to go get more firewood, which I see you forgot,” Saul commented.

Charles went to the door of Simone’s room and stood with his shoulder leaning against the door jamb looking at the sleeping child.

Azur gave Saul a questioning look. The cat shrugged. Neither of them could ignore the fact that Charles’ aura was tinged with orange.

Azur rose and went to him. She snuggled up against his back and placed her arms around his waist. His aura cooled to its usual white.

“What’s the matter, Charles?” she asked.

“Raven was here,” he said and turned in her arms to hug her close. He couldn’t lose her. It would be like losing part of him, even after this short time of being together.

“We knew it would happen at some point.” Saul pulled himself up and sat on the couch. “Who did he threaten?”

“What makes you think he threatened anyone?” Charles responded.

“Oh nothing…” the cat’s eyes tightened at the corners, “just the decidedly orange glow of anger you were wearing when you stormed in, and the fact that we both know that is how Raven operates.”

Charles looked guilty and his arms squeezed Azur a little tighter. “My family…he threatened all of you.”

“You bargained…” Saul guessed. They hadn’t heard any commotion before he came in.

“No, I threatened back,” Charles replied and led Azur to the chair opposite the couch. He flopped into it and pulled her gently down on his lap. She pulled her legs up over the arm and curled into his chest.

“You are such a firecracker when I am not around,” Saul teasingly scolded. “How did he take that?”

“He left,” Charles said with satisfaction. He smoothed Azur’s hair with his hand finishing the movement by curling a lock around his finger. It was an action Saul had witnessed numerous times over the past few months.

“Well, then that is that,” Saul breathed with a sigh. “We have a stand-off.”

“We have a compromise,” Charles clarified. “I pointed out to Raven, Azur’s talents with growing things and the community’s benefits from such. He conceded for the time being as long as he does no hear of her being loss during her blaze.” He hugged Azur. “As long as you are safely tucked away at night, you can stay.”

Azur pulled away in order to give him a kiss on the nose. He could see the fiery tattoos on her face beginning to glow. His aura luckily kept him safe from being burned by her internal furnace.

“Speaking of which,” he said shifting her in his arms so he could pick her up. “I think it is time we went to bed.”

She threw her arms around his neck. He nodded at Saul and smiled. “See you in the morning.”

*****

It was over two weeks before they heard about the illness which struck the village. Even then, if it hadn’t been for the apple tree, they might have missed the news.

The old apple tree stood at the edge of the meadow and had always produced poorly. To get a dozen edible apples off of it in the fall was considered a bounty. Not this year. This year one of its tap roots must have run the twenty feet to the fertilizer pond and the tree was loaded with apples. It had so many apples on its branches that Charles, Azur, and Saul, now that he was moving a bit easier, had to put wooden braces under the over burdened limbs or tie them up to the trunk with ropes.

Azur and Brela canned applesauce and pie-filling until the shelves in the root cellar were bowed by the weight. Brela decided to trot over to the Furgussen’s to offer them the opportunity to pick and ask them to spread the word further into town that the Bouchard’s had apples for the taking.

“Helena wouldn’t let me in the door,” Brela said to Charles, Saul and Azur gathered around the dining room table for tea.

A drizzle started overnight and it turned into a light rainfall this morning. Simone was playing on the rug with the menagerie of carved wood animals Saul had produced during his convalescence.

“You know how outgoing she usually is?” She looked to Charles. They had known the Furgussen’s for years. “She said they were all sick. She had a horrible cough. Told me the whole village was coming down with it. Someone said they thought it was the circus that brought it in.”

“That’s not good.”

Azur rose from the table and went to the cupboard where she kept her herbs and homemade remedies. She pulled down a bottle and coming back to the table she popped the cork and reaching over Brela’s head she poured a small stream of the amber liquid into her tea.

“That’s a little preventative,” she announced and went on to add some to each of their cups. “Don’t want us all coming down with something during harvest time.” She poured a small amount in a play tea cup and handed it to Simone. “Look, mommy has a special magic elixir for the mouse,” she said.

Simone eyed the cup. “What’s it do?”

“Well, it has been known to turn little girls into unicorns, but I can’t guarantee anything.”

Simone downed the liquid and immediately shook her head and rose to her feet. She pawed at the ground with one imaginary hoofed foot and whinnied in a high pitched, happy voice. Azur patted her head.

“And you are such a lovely unicorn,” she said with admiration.

Brela rolled her eyes at Azur. “Thanks, just what I needed, a horse in the house on a rainy day.”

“A unicorn,” Azur corrected, “and unicorns can be put under other magical spells that turn them to quiet kittens.”

Simone gave out another whinny and charged up the stairs to Brela’s room. They could hear the child galloping and skipping around the floor above.

“Maybe she will tire herself out faster and I can put her down for a nap,” the satyr sighed.

Azur recorked the bottle and sat back down, pulling her mug up to her.

Brela tilted her horned head toward the cabinet Azur claimed as her little corner for medicines. “Do you think you have anything in the cupboard that would help the Furgussen’s with that cough? I swear it sounded like they all had pneumonia.”

“I might, but it would help if I heard the sound of it. I could fine-tune the remedy better.”

Both Brela and Azur turned to Charles. Charles had intended to go on a day hunt with the werewolves. If they brought down the substantial beast they had been scoping out for days now, it would be the last hunt of the season and he could help with bringing in the remainder of the produce crops.

“I think it best you stay home with Simone today as planned, Brela.” He rolled his warm mug between his hands. “Saul, do you feel up to going with Azur?”

It wasn’t as though she was going that far, but he still didn’t like her being unprotected. He still didn’t trust Raven not to put someone up to hurting her when she was in her vulnerable human form. What was he saying? He didn’t put Raven past having her killed.

Saul was almost as mobile on all fours as he was before the accident. He actually saw the cat-man pull himself up on two legs twice this past week with the help of the dining room table and Azur’s well placed hands on healing pressure points. Charles had great hopes he would see his friend upright once more, and hopefully soon.

“Sure.” Saul smiled over the rim of his mug. “It would be good to stretch a bit.” At that he stretched out his left leg and kneed it with his paws as Azur taught him.

“Alright, then I will meet you all back here tonight for early dinner.” Charles rose and put his mug in the sink.

Azur held his cloak for him as he shrugged into his pack. Once the cloak was in place Brela handed him his bow and quiver.

“Simone!” Azur called, “Your daddy is leaving. If you want a kiss goodbye, you best hurry.”

The child came charging down the stairs to throw herself at her father. When he picked her up she gave him a big slobbery kiss on the cheek.

“Bye, Daddy.” Then she was wiggling to get free. The moment her feet hit the floor she was off at a gallop with another high pitched whinny.

Charles hugged the tiny satyr and kissed his wife goodbye. He nodded in Saul’s direction. “Be safe,” he blessed as he left.

*****

“The children came down with it first.” Howard, Helena’s husband, had a hard time getting the short sentence out before he broke into a cough that literally bent him over. He held his ribs as though his chest ached with every breath.

“You should sit down,” his wife said, as she placed a hand on his back.

He shook his head. He was intent on being the man of the house even though he sounded like he was at death’s door. He straightened back up.

“The kids are in here.” He motioned with his hand toward a door across the living room.

“I really hope you don’t catch this,” Helena said in a worrisome voice, as she followed along behind. “You have Simone to think of. But, the Wizard has been out and he says he has never seen anything like it before. He tried all kinds of potions to stop the cough, but he and his fairies left without accomplishing much.”

When Howard swung open the door it was deathly quiet. Not a single cough could be heard. Three young children lay like lumps in a large bed before them. Azur placed her bag down and knelt by the side of the bed. She felt the closest child’s brow and then lifted an eyelid.

“How long have their eyes been red like this?” Azur asked, as she opened her bag.

“Since yesterday when their cough stopped,” Helena answered. “The Wizard said he thought they coughed so much they burst blood vessels in their eyes.”

“I’ve seen this before.” Azur pulled several bottles and bunches of herbs from her bag. “The children among my people get this. We call it red eye.”

Howard and Helena exchanged a startled gaze. He pulled himself up straighter and stepped forward menacingly.

“So it was you who bought this to the village!” He accused. His fists tightened at his sides. “You’re the reason my family is dying. Wasn’t the circus folks at all…it was you!”

Saul grabbed hold of the dresser behind him and levered himself up off the floor. He was formidable on all fours, but he knew he looked more of a threat at eye-to-eye level.

He placed his hand on the hilt of his dragon tooth dagger. “Calm down, Howard.”

The man bristled further and shook a fist in Saul’s face. “I want that woman out of my house!”

Saul didn’t take his eyes off Howard as he reached down to place his paw on Azur’s shoulder. “We should go.”

“No.” Azur came to her feet. “This is not life threatening,” she advised the troubled parents. “Our children catch it before they are a year old. When the red eyes appear, we know they are almost over it. I swear, Helena,” she looked appealingly toward the mother, “they will be up and good as new in another two days. And, I can give you and your husband something to stop the cough.”

Helena reached out and took her husband’s arm. “Let her help, Howard. There isn’t anyone else,” she pleaded.

Howard looked uncertain, but Saul was more than he wanted to take on considering how lousy he felt. He gave in and went to sit in a chair in the corner to keep an eye on the woman.

“I’ll need some warm water to put this elixir in,” Azur said to Helena. The woman hurried off to accommodate the request.

Within the hour the children had all been administered a dose of the medicine. Howard was reluctant to take it, but then when Helena pointed out to the stubborn man that his children had been given the same thing, he acquiesced. Within another fifteen minutes all was quiet in the house.

“The course of the ailment will still take you through the red eye symptoms,” Azur explained, as she repacked her bag, “and you will feel tired during those three days, but then you should wake on the fourth day clear eyed and feeling fine.”

Helena put her hand on Azur’s arm. “Thank you.”

Azur patted the hand. “One dose of the medicine should do it, but either Brela or I will check back in with you tomorrow.”

Once Saul and Azur were back on the road and out of sight from the house, Azur stopped. “Saul, I want to go see Martha and Sam’s.”

“You think they might have it?” The cat-man asked.

She hitched her bag up higher on her shoulder. “I think everyone I came in contact with might have it.”


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