Saturday, June 25, 2016

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 31

Charles trudged up to Raven’s mansion pushing the wheel barrel full of blood and the red eye potion. It was late afternoon, so there was no guard at the door. Charles used the large brass knocker with gusto. He was hot and tired and wanted to be done with this business.

A female vampire answered the door. She kept well back in the shadows out of the overcast afternoon light spilling in the door. Charles had never seen this one before.

“I’ve come to see Raven,” he announced.

“He is not accepting visitors at this time,” she sneered, making her rather charming face totally unattractive.

She started to close the door. Charles stuck his foot in and placed his shoulder against the door.

“He’ll see me,” Charles insisted. “Tell him the Light Bearer is here to see him.”

Charles’ announcement of his title made the female retreat.

“Go!” He urged her.

When she left to hurry up the stairs he turned back and retrieving the wheel barrel pushing it into the foyer.

The minute Raven appeared he started hurling accusations. “Malcom is dead,” Raven hissed from the landing above. “And Crackit…And Holloway…And Adams.” He drifted down the staircase, as a show of his power, as the female followed at a safe distance. “All were given your wife’s potion.” He glared at Charles. “She is deceiving you, Bouchard. She came to destroy me and my coven. I told you what would happen if it came to this. You should have arranged for her people to keep her. You should have refused her when she followed you. Tonight, the blood of the innocent will run thick in the streets and come morning, there will be nowhere your woman can hide to escape my retribution. I will have her found and killed.”

Charles bristled at his words. “I have warned you before, Raven. Do not threaten my people.”

His aura flashed like lightning through the room. The two vampires hid their eyes in a reflexive action to the overpowering brightness.

Charles’ anger cooled as the two recovered from the onslaught. “I don’t know why the elixir has not worked for your people. Perhaps it takes two doses.” He waved his hand at the wheel barrel before him. “I have brought more and some untainted blood.”

Raven came closer and lifted one of the jugs from the wheel barrel. He popped the cork and smelled the contents. “Animal blood.” His lip curled with disgust.

“What did you expect? Did you think I was bleeding my people for you?”

“One can always hope.” He lifted an eyebrow and sneered showing his fangs.

He let the jug slip through his fingers and crash to the floor. It exploded on impact spraying blood all over Raven and Charles. Fast and powerfully, as only a vampire can move, Raven reached forward and grabbed the edge of the wheel barrel tipping it over and sending all the contents crashing to the floor. Broken jugs and jars of blood mixed with the green ooze of the broken vials and bottles of elixir.

“Oops,” Raven said. “Falicia, there seems to be a mess in the foyer. Get someone to clean it up.”

“Yes, Master.” The female vampire immediately left the room, grateful for her chance to escape what appeared to be the upcoming confrontation between her master and the Light Bearer.

Charles, however, did not rise to Raven’s challenge. He knew from past encounters there was no use in him trying to talk to the vampire when he was in one of his manic rages. He held Raven’s stare as he wiped a drop of blood from his cheek.

“Reign in your coven members. We will find a way to resolve this issue.”

“I already know how to resolve this issue,” Raven hissed in anger.

Charles turned and left the mansion.

*****

Saul limped along posting a flyer on every fence post and tree along the road home. He spent Charles’ money to hire a half dozen more boys to post the flyers in as many directions as possible, with a stern warning they were to be in by nightfall. Now he stood at the fork in the road to the Bouchard farm and debated with himself. He looked up at the sky and tried to calculate how much more daylight he had. It was dusk, but dusk lasted longer in The Realms. It was like the land itself wanted the innocents to get safely home before dark.

Saul rubbed his hip with a paw. It wasn’t paining him as much as in the past. Azur’s herbal potions and the nightly massages were slowly healing him. He had been on two legs all day and he honestly felt he could make it to the Willow gate and back again before dark without too much discomfort.

He had the idea of going on to Remy’s gate earlier in the day when someone stopped to talk to him as he was posting a flyer. “What if someone’s been in the mundane world this past two weeks?” The human had asked. What if, indeed? They wouldn’t know about the trouble brewing in this area of The Realms. They would be unaware of the danger they were in.

Saul flicked an ear as a dragonfly thought to perch on him for the night. He studied the road ahead. It wasn’t far to the gate. Vamps had never bothered his kind, but then again, he was Charles’ friend and they might hurt him in order to get at Charles. He stood indecisively on the side of the road. He looked toward the house and then back at the small stack of flyers in his paw. If it saved just one life, wasn’t it worth the risk? Humans were so vulnerable in The Realms.

He folded the flyers and stuck them in his mouth, then fell to all fours to make a mad dash for the Willow gate.

*****

Saul slowed as he came up on the gate. Remy was sitting cross legged on top of his boulder. Saul stopped, rose up on two legs and went to greet the vampire.

“Remy,” he said, as he approached. “Good to see you are well.” That’s what he got for sticking to animal blood, the cat thought, but didn’t say. “You heard about the sick among the humans and the vampires?”

Remy slid down from his perch and stood with his arms folded over his chest leaning back against his rock. “Good time to be an exiled gatekeeper,” he said with a smile.

Saul wondered if he wished Raven would catch red eye and he would be free of his duty to the vampire ruler.

The cat held out his fist full of flyers. “I was thinking folks coming in might not be aware of the danger. Thought you might hand these out to humans.”

Remy leaned forward to look at the flyers, but didn’t offer to take them. Saul wondered if he could read.

“It advises humans to keep inside at night and that we have a potion to help them get over the red eye ailment.”

Remy leaned back again. He looked down his long hawk nose at Saul. “I can read.”

“Oh, sorry.” Saul shifted his weight off his bad hip. “I’ll just leave them here.” He moved over toward a smaller boulder and laid them down on top, placing a rock on them to keep them from flying away.

Remy and Saul heard the car door slam at the same time. The vampire’s attention was immediately on the gate. Saul’s ears swiveled around as he heard voices and laughter. Incoming, he thought.

Sure enough there were two teenage human boys walking toward the gate lunging their backpacks as the car that delivered them made a swiping U-turn and headed back out toward St. Paul.

“Remy,” the taller of the two acknowledged the vampire.

“How’s tricks, my friend.” The other was a shorter redhead. They ducked under the weeping branches of the willow.

Remy nodded at the boys. He obviously knew them.

“Who’s your friend?” the redhead asked, as they came up toward Saul.

“Saul,” Remy answered and stepped back for the boys to enter.

The redhead extended his hand. “Nice to meet ya, Saul. I’m Justin and this is my brother, Jarid.”

Saul took the young man’s hand in his paw and then the other one’s when he offered it.

“You’re the Baretti living out at the Bouchard’s place,” Jarid said.

Saul grinned. “Indeed I am. Only Baretti in this part of The Realms.”

“We were out a while back for some of that great fertilizer with our Pop,” Justin explained. “Mr. Bouchard said you weren’t up to being out and about. Good to see you’re doing better.”

“Mr. Bouchard said the bear was huge,” Jarid exclaimed, his eyes wide with excitement. He was the younger of the two by a couple of years. “And that a pack of werewolves helped save you. I never heard of werewolves being helpful to anyone but their own kind.”

Saul shifted again and looked toward the horizon. He could tell the boys were anxious to hear the story, but there wasn’t time. It was as good as dark. The vamps would be out soon. Some of the older vampires might already be hunting.

“You live far from the gate?” he asked.

Justin looked up and realized for the first time how late it was getting. “Not far. But we best run for it. Was nice meeting you.” He nodded toward Saul and hitched his pack up more firmly on his back.

“Before you go.” Saul picked up one of the flyers and held it out. “I don’t know how long you’ve been over in the mundane world.”

“Twenty-one days,” Remy supplied. The vamp had a mind like a computer when it came to keeping track of the comings and goings through his gate.

“We were hiking through Yellowstone with our uncle.” Justin took the flyer and scanned it. “What’s red eye?”

“Something you don’t have,” a deep baritone voice announced as four vampires drifted down from above the small group at the gate.

Fangs bared, they moved toward the two boys. Drool literally dripped from their teeth. They were the worst kind of vampires…starving vampires. They formed a deadly circle around the boys and Saul.

“Disease free humans, and a bonus, the Light Bearer’s friend.” The baritone moved closer and Saul’s hackles rose. His tail flicked in agitation.

Then all of a sudden Saul had a flashback to the incident in the jungle with Thuldrake. His keen cat eyes caught the gleam off a polished stake as it left Remy’s coat pocket. The vampires had been there one minute. Then they were no more than a whisper of ash blowing in the gentle breeze under the willow.

Justin and Jarid both released the breath they had been holding in one noisy exhale.

“Damn, Remy,” Jarid breathed.

“You’re fast, man,” Justin added.

“Go home,” Remy ordered, replacing the stake in his pocket.

The boys didn’t wait to be told twice. They hitched up their packs and ran as if the vampires were chasing them.

Remy walked over and kicked at the ash piles to disperse them. “You should go too.” He didn’t look up at Saul, just kept kicking.

“Thank you, Remy,” Saul said.

“My gate. My rules. No innocent dies here.” He was still kicking at the ash when Saul fell to all fours and raced for home.

Willow at Sunset by Blackbirdsdontlie

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