Saturday, June 4, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 28

Saul looked up at the sky. Even though it was still drizzling and dark anyway, he felt in his bones that it was close to dusk.

“We need to go home.”

Azur stood in the mud of the road. They had made four house-calls in the last three hours and found all the occupants ill. “What about the rest?”

“We’ll, have to see them tomorrow. I have to get you home.”

Saul shifted from foot to foot. It was going to be a long walk home and he had to admit he was the one who would be slowing them down. His left hip had begun to ache since his stand against Howard during the full hour at their home. They had to start for home or they wouldn’t make it before dark.

Azur looked further up the road. How many people had she infected? How many were suffering because of her? She had never anticipated this. Of course, she should have. The fire demon clan kept to themselves. It would be only natural that she would bring something to this community that they had never been exposed to before. She had been lulled into a false since of security because Charles, Saul, Simone and Brela had not been ill. However, none of them were human. Charles and Simone had at least some Light-Bearer blood to protect them, and Brela and Saul were totally different species. But, it seemed like every human Azur met at the circus and the dinner after had come down with red eye.

She wiped her damp hair back from her brow. “Tomorrow then, first thing,” she conceded. She hitched her bag back up on her shoulder and they struck out for home.

*****

“You’re late,” Charles said the minute they entered the door.

“It was my fault,” Saul said, as he limped in. “I overdid it.”

Azur reached out and touched Saul’s aching left hindquarter as he stood on all fours at her side. “That’s not true. I wanted to see as many of the sick as I could.”

Charles expression immediately changed. “So it is spreading?”

Azur let her bag drop at the door. She slipped off her wet cloak and Charles went to her, taking it and hanging it on the peg by the door. Saul went straight to the fire and sat down soaking up its warmth while he started grooming his wet fur.

“Come, sit down.” Brela instructed. “I’ll get you both a mug of hot tea. Dinner is almost ready.”

Azur sat down at the table with her back to the fire and her front facing the woodstove. She was chilled to the bone, but pleased she was able to help so many. Tomorrow she had to start out again, but she needed to make more elixir before she went.

“Tell me, are they going to be all right?” Charles came around and sat down across the table from her so he could see both Azur and Saul. Saul looked totally worn out.

Brela handed Azur a towel for her wet hair and a mug of tea. Then she did the same for Saul. The cat held the hot mug in his paws for a moment savoring the warmth.

“Azur fixed them all up. That bag of hers was pure magic,” Saul complimented.

“What is it they all have?” Charles asked.

Azur left off drying her hair, the towel falling over her shoulders. She reached across the table and took Charles’ hand. “It wasn’t the circus that brought the ailment to town, it was me,” she confessed. “They have something the Fire Demon community calls Red Eye. It is a childhood disease among our people. Children catch it before the age of a year old. We really wouldn’t even know they were sick except that when it’s almost over, their eyes turn red. That lasts for three days and then they are as good as new.” She let go of Charles hand and took up her mug of tea. She took a sip and went on. “Adults who manage to miss it as a child, which are rare among our kind, have a little more difficult time of it. The cough usually lasts longer before the healing indication of the red eyes appears. I am not sure how long this will take with the human population, but Sam and Martha’s boys were all totally over it when we saw them today. Sam’s cough was still rough, but Martha’s was diminishing. I think they should be over it in another week at the most.”

“We just need to spread the word and get some more of Azur’s cough remedy in their hands,” Saul said from his place by the fire. “It was the not knowing that was upsetting most of the folks. The Wizard was at a dead end. Helena told us he didn’t know what to do for them. Azur and I were talking on the way back and she thought she could give the ingredients for the elixir to the Wizard and he could help distribute it.”

“The werewolves and I made our kill today.” Charles smiled at the good turn the hunt had taken. They not only got the huge Mulmoose, but they also flushed up a flock of wild turkeys and Charles brought down two large birds. “I can help with spreading the word and distribution of the medicine tomorrow too. The Mulmoose has to hang for a day or two anyway.”

“You got it?” Saul exclaimed.

He had been listening to Charles description of stalking its trails and paths for weeks now. He was so anxious to get sturdy enough on his feet he could go out again on a hunt. He missed his private time with Charles. He was very rarely alone these days.

“We did indeed.” Charles’ eyes sparkled. “The werewolves are a good pack to hunt with.”

He saw Saul’s wistful expression. He knew his friend missed the outdoors.

“Of course, we would have brought it down last week, if you and I had been hunting it.” He smiled at Saul and saw his spirits pick up. “I’ll tell you all about it when the ladies are not around. There was one point we really could have used your help.”

“Not now,” Brela interrupted. She sat the large bowl of stew on the table which she had been ladling up. That was followed by a basket of bread. “Eat now, talk later. This dinner has been waiting too long. And after dinner I need some more firewood brought in before nightfall.”

*****

“What has She done, Bouchard? My people are dying!” Raven hissed the moment he landed at Charles’ side under the lean-to of the woodshed.

His hair was plastered to his brow from the incessant driving rain that had settled in for the night.

“They’re not dying,” Charles countered. He was afraid this might happen. He had his speech all prepared. “It is not life threatening to fire demons or humans.”

“I said My people!” Raven thumped his chest with a gloved fist for emphasis.

“Vampires?” Charles pinned him with a shocked expression.

“Yes, Bouchard, Vampires!” Raven was so angry if he could have he would have killed Charles for his deception. “Lizbeth, Holcom, Jefferson, they’re all gone. And, not in a nice tidy way with a stake and some ash. No, in a gruesome flesh eating, zombie, agonizing death throes ending.”

Raven started to pace below the shelter behind the house. He couldn’t contain his anger. If he had the fire demon before him at this minute, he would take great pleasure in killing her.

“Azur said it was a childhood ailment among her people. She tended to our sick neighbors today and Saul said they were all on the mend.” Charles put the wood he was holding down.

Raven turned back toward him, his fists clinched at his side. He hated feeling powerless and this man, this Light Bearer and now his woman, the Fire Demon, had made him feel totally incompetent. “Then she has duped you, Charles. She didn’t come here for you. She came here to kill vampires.”

“No.” Charles ran a hand over his face as though it would clear his thoughts. “No, she didn’t know this would happen.”

“Didn’t she?” Raven stepped closer. “Every one of my people who supped from a tainted human has, or is, dying. How am I to keep my people safe? Lizbeth had a compliant companion and yet the man must have come in contact with another human with the disease while out running errands during the day for Lizbeth.” He scowled at Charles. “Is the blood pool forever tainted now? Or, once the humans are well are my people safe? Tell me, Charles, what should I do? Should I have my people seek out the sick and slaughter them so the disease goes no further?” Raven’s eyes turned red with the thought. He could and would feel powerful giving that order.

“No, you mustn’t.” Charles’ aura flared. He stepped toward the vampire and Raven retreated a step. “We will find a way around this,” he assured the vampire through clinched teeth.

How could Azur do this to him? He accepted her. He let her into his home, his life, his heart, and she betrayed him. Now her action had endangered a balance he had kept in this area of The Realms for decades.

“Give me tonight and tomorrow to sort this out,” Charles said, his mind spinning with questions that only Azur could answer. “I will come to you tomorrow night. I will have an answer by then.”

Raven narrowed his eyes at the Light Bearer. “One day. One day only. If I don’t have an answer upon rising tomorrow night I order it open season on any human with the slightest sigh of a cough or red eyes.”

He grasped his cloak tighter around him against the pelting rain and lifted off disappearing into the darkness.



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