Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 10, Fantasy

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Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 10, Fantasy

Post  Firebrand on Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:56 am

Chapter 10

Even from their first step into Wide Crossing, Sin could tell something was amiss. Orrin tensed, and Thalia hissed. “What’s going on?” Sin muttered to Damin.

Chifumi licked her lips. “There’s a strong demon around here, and it’s making no attempt to disguise its presence. Its smell is overpowering.”

“I smell nothing,” Damin said.

“Demons can sense the work of other demons in the area. I guess it’s like a smell, because it permeates,” Chifumi explained. “I can’t see it, I can’t touch it, but it’s there and its overpowering. Like a bad smell.”

Anjaru glanced at the boarded-up windows around the town. “Let’s see if there’s a pub or some other place to gather information.”

Orrin cleared his throat. “Julia and I passed through her some time ago. There’s an inn, the River’s Rest, a short way up the main road.”

The earth demon led them there, and Sin caught his first glimpse of the river and bridge that gave Wide Crossing its name. The river was nothing at all like the lazy waterways that trickled through the Forest near Harrisholt. It surged and seethed with foaming white rapids, and the long stone bridge shot across it like an arrow. Surprisingly, no one crossed the bridge, but this did nothing to spoil the awesome power of it. It was by far the largest thing Sin had ever seen built by human hands.

Great sweeping arches formed the bridge’s legs, and a sharp smell of… something met his nostrils. It was clean and pure, perhaps the smell of the powerful river. Kelrick had to literally drag Sin away and towards the inn.

Orrin pushed open the door, and the innkeeper behind the wooden bar took one look before his face curled up in a sneer. “Demons? Out! We don’t serve your kind here!”

“What are you talking about?” Lisana cried. “These demons are my vassals, and I will see them taken care of!”

“You welcomed me here just weeks ago!” Orrin protested. “What has changed in that time? I still have money with which to purchase food!”

“It’s a policy thing,” the man said with a shrug. “Everyone in Wide Crossing does it now. After that demon started causing trouble on the bridge, we’ve stopped serving demons, Bound or otherwise.”

Anjaru lowered his voice. “You humans go find out what you can from that man. After you buy some things, he will probably be ready to gossip. Figure out what’s going on here. Kelrick, wait outside with Chifumi, in your hound form. It is the most animal-like of any of ours, except perhaps me.”

“Well then, you stay!”

“I will go with Thalia and Orrin, and see if this ‘no demon’ policy really does cover the whole town.”

With that, Anjaru flared his feathered cloak and exited in a rather haughty manner. Orrin squared his shoulders and offered an arm to Thalia. The Ice Maiden took it, and left the inn with a huff. Damin took a seat at the bar, and ordered them drinks. When Grey reached for a pint of ale, Julia slapped his hand away.

“You haven’t hit your majority yet! You can’t handle alcohol.”

“I could when I was with the bandits!”

“Well, you’re my valet now, and I don’t want a drunk valet!”

Grey grumbled, and Damin ordered the boy a glass of water. He struck up a conversation with the innkeeper and Julia, while Sin, Lisana and Grey crept over to the windows. The young rogue slid one open, and when a girl arrived with a plate of meat that Damin ordered for them, he snapped his fingers, summoning Kelrick and Chifumi to sit beneath the sill.

Between bites, he would feed them bits of food, much to Chifumi’s delight. After a time, Damin and Julia came over to join them. The guardsman sat down with a sigh. “Apparently, a short while ago, a feral demon arrived in Wide Crossing. It rampaged through town, and then set itself up under the bridge. It’s been attacking travelers and trade caravans for weeks.”

Sin slammed his fist down on the table. “Why doesn’t anyone just run it through with some enchanted steel?”

Julia raised an eyebrow. “Enchanted steel is not easy to come by.”

“In Harrisholt, all our weapons were enchanted!”

“Because you had a sorcerer on hand! Most of them live in the Capitol, and when they do enchant weapons, they tend to be pricey. Much more than the town watch here can afford.”

Lisana shrugged. “Well then. We’ll just have to take care of it ourselves!”

Grey sat bolt upright. “Are you crazy? This thing can rip a trade caravan apart! Those things have guards! Armed guards.”

Damin glanced at the sorceress. “I think that’s our only course of action. We’ll need to use your demons to lure it out from under the bridge, and then Sin and I can dispatch it. Obviously, brute force alone won’t win this for us. We’ll need to trick it.”

Kelrick barked, pulled his head up over the windowsill, then turned and bolted down one of the adjoining streets. Chifumi tapped on the glass. “He said he was going to go get the others, and to meet him at the bridge in half an hour.”

“Hey!” the manager shouted. “I thought I said no demons!”

“She’s outside!”

“And you will be too! Out! Go! I don’t want to see you here again!”

***

“He could have at least let us finish our food,” Grey complained. “We paid for it and everything!”

Damin ruffled the boy’s hair. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that too much. I think he’ll be happy to have us back in a couple hours. As soon as word gets around.”

Sin leaned over one of the bridge’s embankments. “You think so?”

“Perhaps,” Anjaru said, coming up silently behind them. “I think we would only have a few hours before messengers were dispatched saying that trade was opened again, and that could be traced back to us. Best we just keep going to the Capitol.”

The other three demons appeared from an alleyway. Orrin nodded. “I agree. Now… it begins, yes? Lisana, you will cross with Thalia. Follow her lead. We know what we’re doing. Well, I suppose it all depends on the relative intellect of this demon. And how hungry he is.”

Lisana gasped. “You’re not going to let it eat me, are you?”

“No, of course not. It may try, though.”

The sorceress let out a little squeak as Thalia led her across the bridge. Sin watched with anticipation, and began to walk after them. Kelrick laid a hand on his shoulder. “Wait. Any minute now…”

When the two women reached the exact middle of the bridge, a figure burst from the water below. It was covered in matted brown hair, and its glowing orange eyes were wild. It opened its mouth and roared.

“Ooh! You came to me, did you? Well, it’s feeding time of Trolock!”

Lisana groped for her wand, but Thalia held up a hand. “Are you quite sure you want to eat us, Trolock?”

“What? Of course! Good sweet food!” The hairy creature leapt at them, and Thalia pulled Lisana out of the way.

“Why, if you eat us now, you’ll have no appetite for when my friends cross.”

Trolock stopped. “No… appetite? What friends?”

“See? Over there. They will be much more filling that us, anyway. We’re thin as sticks.”

Trolock sniffed. “You are lean… All right. I’ll let you go, so I can eat later.” He leaned against the railing of the bridge and flexed his fingers. Razor edged claws burst out of the tips of his digits. “They better hurry. Trolock’s hungry. And if they don’t come soon, I’ll go and eat you.”

Thalia smiled thinly and led Lisana across the bridge. As they walked Lisana glared at the ice demon. “Thin as sticks? I’m not really…”

“I know. But he’s male, and males are stupid.”

They reached the other side, and Thalia waved to Anjaru. The Air Master began walking with Kelrick. Sin moved to follow, and this time, Orrin held him back. “Your time will come. Wait. Be patient, young man.”

When Anjaru and Kelrick reached the middle of the bridge, Trolock moved to stand in front of them. “I get to eat you now. The lady said so.”

Anjaru chuckled. “Why, sir, you certainly don’t want to eat us. You’ll spoil your supper.”

“You are my supper.”

Kelrick raised an eyebrow. “Oh, no. You don’t want to do that. See, we’re all sinewy, and lean from travel. No, whom you really want to eat is the next group. There’s a woman, and three men. There ripened to perfection. Well, and then there’s a boy, but he’s a little half baked.”

Grey, hearing this, stood up. “Hey!”

Anjaru waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, ignore him. We’d just put you off your hunger.”

Trolock cocked his head, and seemed to be weighing eating now or eating in a few minutes. He really wasn’t the brightest of creatures, so he allowed Anjaru and Kelrick to pass unheeded. Because, obviously, four people to eat would be better than two.

Orrin led the rest of the bridge across, and this time Trolock spread his arms wide in front of them. “No more getting past, right? No more friends? Trolock gets to eat you, right?”

“Don't be preposterous.”

Orrin slammed his fist down on Trolock’s forehead. The demon screeched in indignation. “Not fair!” Then he leapt at the earth demon, his claws glinting.

Sin sprang into action. His sword slid out of its scabbard, and he thrust it at Trolock’s ribs. The hairy creature whirled on him and stood up to his full height, an imposing eight and a half feet. Kelrick, Thalia and Anjaru raced from the other side of the bridge, swords in hand.

Orrin grabbed Trolock, only to be slashed by the creature’s claws. “Steel! Run it through with steel!” he roared.

A trail of fire flowed behind Kelrick like a comet. He channeled it outwards, sending it flying through the air like an arrow. It hit Trolock, and his fur burst into flames. The creature roared, and leapt into the river. “Rotten mongrel!”

“This isn’t over!” Anjaru shouted. “Look!”

Trolock had swum under the bridge, against the current, and launched himself into the air again. Orrin whirled around, shielding Julia and Grey with his body. Damin’s sword was held out in front of him, reminding Sin of a picture he had once seen of a general at the front of his army, leading the charge.

“Have at you, foul beast!”

Damin raced forward, the sunlight glinting off his blade. Anjaru leapt into the air, impossibly high. “Damin, you fool! That thing will impale you!”

“My blade is longer than it’s claws!”

Something slammed into Trolock, making the creature writhe and fall short of its mark. Julia nodded briskly. “Make sure you get my knife back.”

Anjaru sent a gale raging down the bridge at Trolock. The hairy creature was lifted off his feet and slammed into a wall Orrin raised from the stone of the bridge. Trolock shattered the stone, and rushed at Thalia. The demon conjured a scepter of ice and drove it through Trolock’s gut.

“Try eating that, disgusting beast.”

Trolock’s tongue lolled, and he drew the scepter from his chest. “You should know better than that! It takes steel to kill me!”

Kelrick’s fist slammed into Trolock’s mouth. “Steel we have! Damin, Sin, quickly!”

The two men from Harrisholt ran forward. Thalia and Kelrick tried to hold Trolock in place. The iron poisoning was staring to make his movements sluggish, but he still clawed and kicked at them. His considerable height made him hard to subdue.

When Sin was just feet from running his blade through Trolock’s heart, he broke free. Kelrick set him on fire with a wave of his hand. The fires crackled red and black, and Trolock screamed in pain.

“No water can douse Hellfire!” Kelrick growled. “And Hellfire can kill any demon not born of flames, just as good as steel. Prepare to die, scum.”

“No! Trolock isn’t finished with you yet!” The hairy beast leapt at Kelrick. “Put me out! Put me out!”

Anjaru created a wind strong enough to hit Trolock with physical force. The dense gale rocketed just over the surface of the bridge, where Kelrick was pinned. Trolock was swept up in it, rolling and bouncing down the length of the stone structure. The fire on his pelt had subsided slightly, but the stench of burning flesh lingered in the air.

Trolock landed at Lisana’s feet. “Pretty, sweet creature,” he gasped. “Grant me a last comfort before I die. Grant me your heart!” His claws reached out for her, ready to rip the organ from her chest.

“No!” Sin screamed. “Leave her alone!”

His feet were already in motion. He raced down the bridge, his sword held aloft. Trolock pinned Lisana to the ground, and licked his lips. “I should have just eaten you before, pretty,” he cackled. “Now I shall make amends!”

His mouth plunged for her heart even as he was thrust upwards. Lisana had grabbed her wand as she fell, and cast a spell of repulsion, a spell learned from Harrison’s books. She traced another glyph in the air. “Bind!”

Trolock’s hands were locked to his sides, as he lay immobile. “You didn’t say you were a sorceress! That’s cheating!”

Sin came to a halt before Trolock. His sword came up, poised above Trolock’s heart. “Wait,” Lisana murmured. “I’m going to Bind him.”

“Bind?” Trolock shrieked. “No! I don’t want to be Bound!”

“It is the only way for me to keep you out of trouble and make sure you pay for your crimes.”

Sin shook his head. “No, Lisana. It’s better to kill him.”

“Kelrick. Take him away. That’s an order.”

The fire demon grabbed Sin’s shoulder, hauling him back. “Kelrick!” Sin shouted. “What are you doing? We should just kill him!”

“Orders are orders.”

A glowing white pentagram appeared around Trolock. The hairy demon writhed. “No! No! I don’t want to! I don’t want to be Bound!”

Lisana went through the incantation she swore she would never say. She made a vow that she would never bind a demon against its will, but this was an extenuating circumstance. She did not want to kill any creature, evil or no. And this was the only alternative.

Trolock stood, the hellfire on his pelt extinguished, probably by a simple thought from Kelrick. He shouted and beat his fists against his chest. He slammed against the invisible barriers of the Sealing Circle, wincing in pain. Then, a fierce glow of determination surfaced in his eyes.

“Trolock… will… not… be… Bound!” He jumped against the Seal, and Lisana’s will wavered. The Circle was broken, and Trolock leapt at the sorceress. Sin ran to help her, but Orrin bellowed.

Sin whirled, and saw the earth demon shift into his bull form. He charged, his horns glinting like bronze in the sun. Somehow, he outpaced Trolock, and caught the demon on his horns. Then, with a toss of his head, he sent Trolock falling into the river.

The earth demon reverted to his human-like form, gasping for breath. “He’s weak. I doubt he will be able to swim. Once he reaches the sea, he’ll be carried out. He’ll die there.”

“What?” Damin hissed. “We didn’t stick him with steel, nothing except Julia’s knife. And that won’t be enough to poison him thoroughly.”

Orrin sighed. “Have you ever heard of a demon leaving the continent? We can’t cross the ocean. Once we get a few miles out to see, we fall deadly ill, and die shortly after. If this were not the case, we all would have left long ago.” The bitterness in his voice made Sin flinch.

The young man tried to find a way to change the subject. “Why did Trolock act like that? You’d think he was no better than a starving beast. Are all feral demons like that?”

Anjaru spat over the edge of the bridge. “If you get treated like an animal long enough, you start to act like one.”

Damin glanced at the crowd of people who had gathered at far side of the bridge, who had watched their fight. “Should we say anything to them? Go back? Or keep going?”

“Keep going,” Orrin replied.

Kelrick walked out to the townspeople. “The demon menace of Trolock is gone. Travel can now be opened again. You are saved.”

The very innkeeper who had shooed them away just an hour ago now looked at them pleadingly. “Please, won’t you stay for a while? What if another demon comes?”

Orrin shook his head. “We cannot. We have places to go. I am sorry. But it is for the good of everyone that we must bid you a hasty farewell.”

The innkeeper blinked in surprise. “At least let us give you some food.”

Damin nodded. “We may need it. Orrin, we can afford to be held back an hour or two.”

The villagers filled the group’s packs with food and supplies for the road. The horses were saddled, and the group set out across the bridge for the second time.

The Forest opened up around them, and quickly swallowed them up.

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Firebrand

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