Saturday, June 18, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 30

The dungeon was dark except for the pools of light cast by the torches in the scones along the wall. There was a dreadful stench of rotting flesh. But it was the eerie, wailing sounds that careened out of the cells and bounced off the walls of the hall that pierced the soul of the Light-bearer. It was the agonizing cries from the undead and damned of this region of The Realms.

“Here.” Raven motioned toward an open cell door.

He was not about to let Charles leave without seeing what his new spouse had done to the vampire clan. Bouchard might be able to threaten him with the memory of Adele and what he lost, but he wouldn’t get away with making him feel guilty about killing Azur. She deserved it for the pain and suffering she had caused his people. He still wasn’t sure if he would spare her.

Charles buried his face in the crook of his elbow in order to filter the stench of the rotting vampires spread out on the low beds lining the walls. They had never had zombies in this area of The Realms, but Charles would have sworn that was what he was looking at. There were six in this small cell.

Raven walked to the foot of one of the beds. “This is Malcom, my first. He has been with me for centuries, yet your woman’s plague has driven him to this in less than three days.”

Charles advanced to the side of the bed. The vampire was dresses as all of Raven’s men dressed, black pants, shirt, shoes and pencil thin tie with a long black duster over all. But unlike the vampires Charles encountered in the past, this one had skeletal hands that oozed with open sores, weeping greenish-yellow pus. What Charles could see of his face and neck were equally covered with the infected looking boils.

“Master,” the thing on the bed croaked. “Please…” It raised a hand toward Raven. “The pain…Please kill me.”

Raven looked irritated and picked at some speck on his sleeve rather than look at the man on the bed.

“My people are not used to pain. They left that behind when they were turned.”

To Charles it sounded as though Raven was ashamed of the man and making excuses as though he was a sniveling child rather than a century’s old dying friend. Charles turned a disgusted gaze on Raven.

“I can’t administer this,” Charles said, patting the bag at his hip. “You know I can’t touch them without hurting them.”

Raven motioned to one of the guards who followed them down. He held out his hand and Charles passed him the bag. “Give each of the sick a bottle. We’ll wait upstairs to make sure you have enough before the Light-bearer leaves.”

Raven left the cell and started back up the hall.

Charles stopped at the door of the cell. “How many are ill?” He asked, as he looked further down the hall.

Raven stopped and looked back at the man. “Thirty-two at last count.”

“And they’re all down here?” Charles was appalled.

“Of course,” Raven answered. “Where else would they be? You don’t expect me to keep them upstairs with their stench and moaning?”

Charles frowned at the insensitivity of the man. These were his people. He admitted he had known Malcom for centuries. He’d made a point to bring Charles down here to see them, yet he cared for them so little he left them to die in the dark of a dungeon. This was the side of Raven that Charles always saw and Adele never knew. This was what made it so imperative that he remain here in Raven’s area to keep the evil the vampire ruler exuded from spreading out over the humans and other innocent creatures of the land.

“Are you coming?” Raven asked.

Charles turned away from the undead horror and followed the vampire back upstairs.


Charles was awakened by a sharp series of raps on the trapdoor above their heads. He had made it in late last night after the delivery of the elixir to Raven. He caught Azur up on what he saw and what was said, then when dawn began to break and Azur shifted back into her human form, exhausted, they both curled up in bed and fell asleep.

The family had established a routine over the past few month. Saul, now that he was getting around better, would help Brela get Simone up, fed and start the chores while Charles and Azur slept for the first few hours of the morning. The couple made up for their absence during the morning by picking up the slack for Brela and Saul as they were tired in the late afternoon and early evening.

The rap on the door came again and this time it seemed insistent. Charles eased Azur’s arm from over his chest and slipped his arm from beneath her head, as he tucked a pillow in its place. Once out of bed, he leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek. She was always such a sound sleeper. He turned, slipped on his pants and dropped a shirt over his head before proceeding to the door.

When he lifted the lid he was staring into Saul’s worried face.

“Thomas Claymore is dead,” Saul whispered. “Killed by a vampire last night when he went for firewood.”

Charles proceeded up the stairs and lowered the door behind him. “Are they sure it was a vampire?”

“No doubt. His throat was ripped out.” Saul sat down on one of the dining room chairs. “He had red eye. His wife said he was coughing really bad. They were coming out here today to get some of the potion they heard we had.”

Charles joined him at the table. Brela silently put mugs of hot tea at their elbows. When Simone came into the room she grabbed an oatmeal cookie from the jar and intercepted her halfway.

“Let’s go read a story, Simone.” She tempted the child with the cookie in hand.

Simone followed her obediently back into her bedroom. Charles waited for the door to close behind them before he spoke.

“Raven said he would hold off. We were going to discuss it further tonight when I bought the stored blood from the root cellar for his people.” Charles rubbed a hand over his face. “He gave me his word.”

“Maybe it was one he didn’t get to last night. I mean, we really have no idea how many vamps there are in his coven.” Saul took a sip of his tea and grimaced. He’d forgotten to add the honey that made it palatable. He reached for the jar. “I gave Mary some of the potion when she came. Also, gave her some to pass on down further into town where Azur and I didn’t reach yesterday.”

“Are you feeling up to an errand?” Charles asked.

Saul had moments when he appeared healed, but the man knew his friend still experienced pain when he was overtaxed.

Saul left off drizzling honey into his tea. “What do you have in mind?”

“I need to go see Raven and make sure he reigns in his people. I want you to go to town and see the printer.” Charles rose and went to the chest on the mantle. He took out several coins and brought them back to the table. “Have him print a flyer advising everyone to stay in during the evening hours. I know they do mostly, but something like Claymore’s death proves they need a reminder. Add on a notice that we have an elixir for the red eye and it’s free to anyone who wants it. Then hire some kids to post them as many places as they can get covered in what’s left of the daylight hours. If nothing else, we will force the vamps into submission.”

“That will work for everyone other than the nocturnal Aos Si, Ahool and Oni.”

“I can’t imagine even a vampire taking on an Oni or an Ahool. If they want to, that’s their choice.”

The Oni were a clan of troll like creatures and the Ahool were a humanoid sized bat which appeared a distant relative of the Vampires.

“As for the Aos Si, they have always been smart enough to out run the vamps.” Charles had faith in the fairy folk of the mounds being able to allude the vampires. “Have we exhausted the last batch of medicine?”

“I am afraid so,” Saul said between sips of his tea.

“I’ll get Azur up and have her make some more. I can take that with me, along with the stored blood, when I talk to Raven.”

Saul downed the last of his tea and set his mug in the sink. He scooped up the coins off the table and dropped them in the pouch at his waist. “I best be off. Sooner the flyers are printed and hung, the better I will feel.”

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