Lair of the Beasts

Demons 4
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Chapter 4: Between Thunder and Fire

By SRSilverhawk

 

            Authors Notes: 1) Because of Real Life pressing in one me Ive had to put writing this fic on hold for a short amount of time.  I will finish this fic, but for a while I wont be able to even touch it.  This is only of the actual chapter 4.  Ill get the rest up as soon as I can.  Im sorry if, when compared to my earlier updates, this is entirely too short and raises more questions than it answers.  Everything will be explained in time, thats a promise!  Please also forgive any grammar or spelling errors.

 

Gomen-nasai to all!! SRSilverhawk

 

 

                Nuff news Heres the next installment of the fic.

 

*              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *               

 

                A large watchtower once controlled access to the village from the west.  It's hollowed remains, reduced by time and nature to seven or eight courses of pale gray stone, lay on the north bank, not far upriver from a well-traveled bridge.  The ruins were railed off so that human beings could not fall in and hurt themselves.  People were always to be seen here, regardless of the weather.  They walked about with their usual, directionless human vigor, narrowing their eyes at things they thought they saw and shrugged off and talking their monotone talk.  They stared down into the asymmetric mass of the ancient tower.  They boasted about it's walls- about how thick and sturdy they were, how many blows they had taken- as if they themselves had built them only the day before.   They drew one anothers attention to the broken arrow slits, the rusty locking bolts, the primeval chisel marks on the cracking stone, the doorstep, still clearly visible after all these years, worn smooth by the human passage of a thousand years.

                The ruined citadel itself had a mossy, pebbled floor.  Weeds infested it's inner ledges, where the walls were streaked with moisture.  Coins glinted here and there; they came from people who had thrown them in for what, in their simple, human way called 'luck'. 

                Little children gazed down and, a tad confused by the safety rails, asked their parents. "Mommy, are there monsters in there?"

                "No dear, monsters arent real," the parents tolerantly said, rolling their eyes at their offspring's wild imaginations. "Monsters are only in fairy tales, sweetheart." 'Monsters indeed,' they think, 'who believes in such nonsense as monsters.'

But what do they know?

 

*              *              *

 

                In the clear light of a spring morning, a cat flickered into existence in the ruins, or at least she was something that looked vaguely like a cat.  She was tiny, lean, delicately boned and had the look of a creature that was looking for something and knew how to get it.  Her coat was a fiery copper, topped with a broken line of jet-black calico patches the slipped along the back of her neck, onto her shoulders and down her back to the base of her tail.   Her odd, dark markings seemed even more noticeable against the silvery white pelt of her underside.  Her fur seemed to take up the brightness and clarity of the morning sun and give it back twice over, so that she glowed ruby-pearl in the midst of the ruins' broken gray walls.  Her face, with it's long muzzle and tapered ears was decorated with two-toned eyes, one a cool, glassy cerulean, the other a bright, wicked scarlet; and one ebon-black stripe traveling vertically from the corner of each eye, down her cheek like a tear stain to stop at her jaw line.  In the strengthening morning light her eyes held a strange glow, unearthly, all knowing and penetrating.

                She stood alertly, with one delicate forepaw raised off the ground, her tail flicked back and forth, the tips of her ears quivered, jangling a pair of tiny, gold loops in her right ear; she sniffed the air.  Then she vanished.  

~

 

                When she reappeared, it was a world away, upon the flying buttresses of an old gothic cathedral.  Behind her morning shone, dimly, through the fog of pollution and haze, in the distance great church bells chimed slowly with their deep bronzy voices.  The air was colder here, the stones drier and dustier, thick with the grime and the soot of centuries, sifting down slowly like all human history, into rubble and dust.

                She looked around, watching intently.

 

                Is there something?

                There is nothing.

 

                She took a disdainful puff of the sour air, shook her fur in frustration, and was gone again.

 

~

 

It was in this way that she quartered her realm.

She had long since learned to how to keep to herself.  It was an old habit, still useful in a world which had long ago given her up as a mere myth, a creature of legend to be told to children to make them obey their manipulative parents.  And now, unless she wanted them to, people rarely knew she was there, in any of her forms.  A young boy caught sight of her in a gray, overworked field and whistled at her, patting his thigh at the same time, attempting to catch her attention and perhaps earn himself a temporary canine companion.  Elsewhere, an old woman wearing far too many fur coats and thick, fleece-lined gloves bent to offer her hand to sniff.  "Here, Puss!  Puss?"  She was already gone.  Looking westward now, from a high tower, overlooking the pitch covered rooftops of a thousand similar, if smaller, towers.

Are you here?

You are not.

 

'What a place these cities are,' she thought, as she flickered off of the tower.  'Bad air, worse food, and dirt everywhere.'  A jet airplane suddenly blew overhead, leaving a trail of exhaust and the traveling roar of mechanical thunder.  'Mustnt forget all the noise either.' She sourly noted.  'Humans don't care anymore.  They're tired.  And they're so damn egotistical that they dare not admit that they've made a royal mess of things.' That last thought was accompanied by a dismissive snort.

She now stood in the middle of a sparsely populated dock.  To her North, behind the moored barges, the vaguely nauseating aroma of fish and old garbage rolled towards her.  Something stirred upon one of the anchored barges, she tensed, but it was only an ancient tabby cat, toying with arthritic legs, the damp laundry that hung among polished brass hardware.

 

Was it here?

No, it wasn't.

~

 

She visited an ancient oak groove in the heart of a shrinking bayou-appearing briefly under the shadows of one particular Royal Oak.  She paused and glanced up at the old tree, she stared especially hard at the long, jagged scar midway through the massive trunk.  The scar marked the place where she had been forced to idle away an irretrievable portion of her life.  Then she turned and left, nothing but a translucent ruby-snow image of a jackal-cat caught turning away, dissolving into the air even as she arrived.

 

It isnt here either.

~

 

 Finally, she set herself up to face the northwest, and an old, abandoned stone quarry in a place an ancient people called the Great Plains.

She stood uncertainty at the edge of the great hollow, like she always did whenever she visited this place.  The dark shadow of night was just beginning to be lightened by the coming of a new day.  Faint scents still lingered here after all these years, smells of fire and char, of water and gentle patience.

There! -, if she focused hard enough she could still hear a kind, rumbling chuckle, like water running down a slow waterfall.  She could smell a little red and white hellhound.  The little hound was herself.  It was here that her life truly changed.  Here the old, gray-eyed, steel-blue hellhound named Bhearak and titled the Jisrahu had found her a purpose and changed her reason for existence forever.

Jisrahu? She pleadingly whispered.

But she knew the old Jisrahu was long gone.

The air around her body shimmered and she vanished, when she reappeared she was at the center of the growth-covered depression.  She watched motes of dust dance in the early rays of sunlight at her arrival.  She sat down.  She looked from side to empty side and she thought hard.  The color of her eyes changed slowly from cerulean and scarlet to the sharp cobalt of lightning and the deep crimson of blood.

My first assumption was right after all, she calmly said aloud to herself, they have all gone to Japan, but I dont know why.  At least theyre not on the Paths yet. Something is wrong with all this, but I dont know what it is.

Her entire name was Ranno Hera Birmagnum and she was the guardian of those paths.  In the center of that quarry, openings to the astral roads stretched away from her in every direction like a glittering, invisible web.  She felt them call her name.  She rose to her paws, looked around one last time, and shook herself suddenly.  She began to trot away and then she vanished, leaving only a slight disturbance of agitated dust and a short trail of tiny paw prints that started out of thin air and disappeared just as quickly in mid-stride.

~

 

                Now it was the early afternoon, the time of sun.  Soft sunlight, as gentle as a spring rain, fell on the sloping lawns beside a river.  A row of gray willow trees hung over the dimpled water.  The red hellhound, whose name was Hera while she was in her tiny catlike form, emerged from a nook of hazy light in the gnarled branches of one willow.  She paused to cautiously sniff the still-damp air, then made her way casually through drifts of last years leaves toward the great mansion.  It seemed to wait for her.  She slipped through the solid teak wood doors, up a broad flight of stairs, halted on a carpeted upper balcony and craned her head, listening for a moment.  Theyre all out.  Good itll make this easier.  Cy would come across some way of finding out I made her entire family go cataleptic at one in the afternoon on a Tuesday.  But whether shed care is a different story entirely. Chuckling at the amusing image her thought granted her, Hera quickly made her way from the staircase to the door of one room in particular.  'The Kid's old place.' She reminiscently thought as she stepped through the substance of the door into the abandoned chamber. 

She spent a few minutes drawing her gaze from a pair of tall, now-empty bookcases, towards the deserted mahogany desk, the walk-in closet, a vacant stained oak and glass display case and finally the bed itself.  The bed sat in a frame of dark oak wood with a curious ledge of the same wood above it, right along the wall. My old cat-napping spot Hera gently thought.  All clear here as well.   She shook herself out of her thoughts, reminding herself what she had come here for.  She poked her sharp muzzle into corners, behind furniture and finally, after carefully balancing herself on the edge of one bookshelf, she found what she was looking for.  There you are She triumphantly thought, she tugged a bit and suddenly between her needle-sharp fangs hung a little leather drawstring bag, dark and grimy from age and its storage in the dusty corner. 

Easily jumping down from the top of the seven-foot case, she daintily landed on the carpeted floor with little more than a muffled thump.  She callously dropped the bag to the carpet, where it lay in severe contrast with the pale surface.  Turning her head to one side, Hera deftly adjusted the loop that held the bag shut, then with nimble paws and using her tail for balance she slipped the loop over her head so the bag rested securely against her chest, its thong hidden beneath her fur.  She shook her body out from nose to tip of tail to settle her fur and adjust the placement of the bag, and then she turned and left the room and the mansion.

 

~

 

                A little while later, after taking the time to feast on a small warren of rabbits, Hera lay on a mound of soft grass to regard her surroundings. She thought about the old Jisrahu again, and the events that had led to the old water-hounds death, her own renaming as the new Jisrahu and subsequent bond she had developed with a young sorceress.  This new mystery of why the vengry were making their home in the nation of Japan was also a part of this, of that she was certain.  If there was a solution to her dilemma, and she knew there was, part of it was most likely beneath her nose.  One day soon she knew she would be forced to go and seek it, but for now it was good to just know she had only to look.  On the other hand, time waits for no one, regardless of whether or not they had an entire dimension to lord over and control or a young magist to train.    

She stood and quickly started up on her patrol again.  She scented an opening to the Astral Path; she stood and listened to the faint whisper of the compass winds, then began to make her way towards it. She was nearly upon it when she thought she heard someone call her by her full name from a great distance away.  The faint shimmer of lilting song carried along the currents of the spirit path and made her stop and direct all of her attention towards it.  She turned back towards the mound where she had come from though she was sure the singing hadnt come from there.  The voice was so faint that she couldnt tell who it was, yet so familiar it seemed to speak its own name without a word. 

 

Oma. Heras mind wordlessly supplied a name to the wild singing.  

Omas call was full of urgency.

 

*              *              *

The two youkai-slayers were better than average, having held their own together against quite a few demons. Nevertheless, neither of the men could have beaten a hellhound alone, and even together they presented little challenge to the lone kellhound. Obviously accustomed to working as a team, the larger of the two attempted to box the black in while his smaller, faster partner darted in and around the fighters, inflicting the actual damage. That tactic might have actually worked were it not for kellhounds own speed, flexibility, agility, and an annoying habit of becoming intangible at the drop of a hat. 

Moving faster than a creature of her size could be thought to move she whirled, kicking up the loose dirt and blinding her opponents.  She abruptly straightened her body out and knocked both men off their feet, one gasping from a blow that snapped all the ribs in his left side; the other looking dumbfounded as he tried to comprehend why one arm was suddenly shorter than the other. Oma stood in the open space between the two humans, unharmed and looking vaguely disappointed at the ease with which she had beaten her adversaries.

                Damn, and I called the Jisrahu in such a tizzy too. Oma dolefully thought. Shes not going to appreciate being called at a dead run for something I just took care of.

 

To Be Continued.

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