Saturday, June 11, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 29

Charles’ heart was full of doubt, and his head full of questions, when he returned to the house with the firewood. He unceremoniously dropped it in the box to the side of the hearth with a loud bang.

“Charles,” Brela admonished, “you’ll wake Simone.”

He turned a sheepish look toward the satyr, but it immediately left his face when he saw Azur standing next to her drying the dishes. He strode up to her, took the plate and cup towel from her hand and laid them on the counter.

“We’re going to bed,” he said to anyone who was listening. He took her by the hand and practically dragged her to the trapdoor of the basement. He gestured downstairs. “After you.” He followed Azur down and grabbed the door to close it behind them. As his head was just about to disappear he looked to Saul. “Lock the door and don’t come down no matter what you hear.” Then he dropped the door down in place.

Saul limped over and threw the bolt home on the door. He turned back toward Brela. “I wonder what that was all about.”

*****

Charles sat halfway down the flight of stairs, his head buried in his hands. He couldn’t face her. As much as he needed to straighten this out, he didn’t even want to start the conversation. She had left her land, her people, to come here and seek revenge. She couldn’t return. They sealed the gates after her. He couldn’t bear to have her here when he knew she didn’t return the love he felt for her. Hell, Raven wouldn’t allow her to stay after this. How would he stop the slaughter that was coming? All that blood would be on his hands… the infected humans, Azur. All his fault for being deceived by this woman.

“Did you ever love me?” He asked, as he raised his head to see her at the foot of the stairs looking up at him with concern. “Just tell me the truth.”

“What are you talking about?” She started up the steps toward him, but he threw up a restraining hand.

“Just answer me. Did you ever love me, or was I just the means to extract your revenge?”

“Please, Charles, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It had been a long day and this attitude, this distance that separated them, was baffling.

She made another attempt to mount the stairs. Before she could he rose and his aura instantly flared the deep orange of his anger. “The vampires are dying,” he hissed, as he descended the stairs toward her. “The disease you brought…your red eye is killing them. You have put my family at risk. You have put my corner of The Realms in danger. Raven intends to slaughter everyone who had or has red eye. I just want to know…Did I take you into my home, shelter you, love you, and you paid me back by doing this?” He waved his hand and energy flew off him like a storm driven wave crashing against the beach. The picture above the bed went flying across the room.

Azur said nothing. She stood her ground as she felt the evening descending and bringing on her change into fire demon. Her eyes shed tears at the verbal attack, but they sizzled and popped on her demon cheeks like water droplets in a hot skillet. Her horns rose from her head and curled forward. When they reached their full length they exploded in flames. Her clothing turned to ash as her body continued to heat up and her forked tail grew to its full length.

She stepped forward to stand toe-to-toe with Charles, her tail weaving menacingly above her head, behind her, like a cobra ready to strike. “Revenge was not my intention. I gave that idea up long ago.”

Her face softened and she raised her hand to his cheek. “I love you. I have loved you since the first night I set eyes on you.” She could feel his anger, his energy stopping her from touching him. “I had no idea I would bring this malady to your world. It never entered my mind how it would affect other species. I didn’t do it on purpose. I came for you and you alone.”

She felt the barrier lift as she watched his aura shift from orange to a pale blue. She had never seen it this color before, but it gave under her hand and she was able to softly stroke his cheek. “You have to believe me, Charles.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his throat below his chin. The flames on her horns licked at his face, but didn’t harm him.

Charles wanted to believe her. He loved her so. He just needed reassurance that he had not chosen wrong, that his judgment was sound. He bent down and took her in his arms. He buried his face in the hair at her shoulder. He was out of options. He couldn’t see a path which didn’t lead to death and destruction. How could he stop Raven? How could he protect his family, his people, his love?

Azur took his hand and led him to the bed. She sat down and pulled him down beside her. She leaned into him curling her arm around his and cradling his large hand in hers.

“Tell me what we need to do,” she whispered.

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “Raven told me he has lost three of his people. They all drank from humans infected with red eye. He sees his blood source as tainted and he intends to purge it by killing everyone infected unless I can find a way to stop him.”

“I must admit, I don’t like the idea of helping vampires, but the elixir I made for the humans worked. I will make more and you can take it to Raven for his people.”

“That’s one step, but how do I keep him from killing the infected humans?”

“Are we sure the red eye will pass to the vampires after the humans recover? Perhaps it is only while they are sick. If so, we need only allow the disease to run its course and then if any of the vampire become ill after that than we have the elixir as a back-up.”

“You don’t know Raven.” Charles shook his head. “He is not a ‘wait-and-see’ kind of guy. He’d rather kill and have it over with.”

“Then you must put on your diplomatic hat and reassure him. Convince him. Tell him the disease spreads so quickly that most likely the whole population has been exposed. What happens if he kills off his food supply? Where will he and his people be then?”

Charles pulled Azur into his arms. “It might work.” His aura cooled from the melancholy blue to a stronger white. “It just might work.”

*****

There was never any need to knock when you arrived at Raven’s door. He always had a vampire guard stationed as if he were a king in need of protection. In truth, he could easily kill any of his subjects without the slightest effort on his part, all of his subjects, except for Azur in her demon form, Charles thought. But, she was so vulnerable in her human form. Raven could easily have her killed by one of his other minions who roamed freely during the daylight hours. Charles steeled himself as he approached the manor. He had to convince Raven this would work or everyone he held dear would be in mortal danger.

He nodded as he approached the guard. The vampire must have been informed he was coming, because he opened the door and stood to one side. He was not the same vamp who guarded the door the last time Charles was here to retrieve Simone. After what Charles heard about the dungeon below the manor, he wondered if the former guard was there being put through some horrible torture as punishment for not being able to stop Charles.

Raven was sitting in a high wing-backed chair in the foyer, as though he had been waiting for Charles to appear. He rose and in a show of power floated across the room to stand in front of his visitor.

“It is good you did not keep me waiting, Bouchard. My patience is limited these days.”

Charles slid Azur’s bag off his shoulder. “I have brought medicine for those among your people who are ill.” He retrieved a corked bottle from the bag and held it out to Raven. “I didn’t know how many were sick, so Azur made a large batch. I have brought several bottle.”

Raven eyed the bottle suspiciously. “You expect me to give my people a Fire Demon’s concoction? Do you think I am so easily tricked?”

Charles had anticipated this reaction. “It is the same she gave to the humans and they are recovering as we speak.”

Raven just scowled at him.

Charles uncorked the bottle and in one long swig, emptied the contents.

Raven smirked. “That could have been a safe bottle.”

“Come now, Raven, must I drink a sip of each bottle, or will you not believe me when I say I come here to repair this problem, not to create more issues.” Charles shook his head in dismay. “You know me. You know I want to maintain the balance here. I don’t want any of my people killed and you don’t want any more of yours to die.”

“Even if this potion works, the problem is not solved. The blood source must be purified.”

“No!” Charles almost shouted. “Azur told me that red eye spreads very rapidly, and we have seen that in the people she came in contact with at the circus. It doesn’t stop there. They in turn, have come in contact with others. The Furgussens’ supply produce to the inn on Hampton, the Cauldwell’s have a booth on Barter Street, the Chestfield’s supply your mansion with the produce you feed your non-vampire guests. In order to stop the spread of the ailment you would have to kill off all the humans in this region. Azur believes once the humans are over red eye their systems will be cleansed of it. If not, then she could make more of the potion to have on hand when any of your people become ill.”

Charles shifted into a more casual stance as he noticed Raven’s expression turn from hostile to thoughtful. The vampire ruler had not contemplated the consequences of his rash actions. Charles was ready to play his final card.

“Adele had faith in you. She saw humanity in you, where none of the rest of us could. Are you going to prove her wrong?”

Raven shot Charles a frigid look. “Come with me.” He turned and Charles followed.


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