Demons

“I think it wants to hurt you,” Vidsen said.

The creature he spoke of moved its head swiftly to gaze at him. It had eyes the color of dried blood, with no discernable pupil or white. Vidsen swallowed and took a step back. Azele Tau did not look up or respond. She walked slowly in a circle around the demon, staying just outside the boundary of salt.

“Vidsune Dor, was it?” Azele asked.

She sounded bored.

“Vidsen,” he corrected.

“Vidsen, yes. Thank you for observing the capture. You are dismissed,” Azele said.

“As you order, Azele Tau,” Vidsen said.

He retreated from the room with stiff formality.

Azele followed him to the door which she closed and locked. There were items piled haphazardly nearby. She selected a bedroll, which she spread in the empty space next to the demon. On top of the bedroll she threw a cushion that she could recline against, and a slim book with a soft leather cover. Next she took off the long red, blue and black jacket that marked her as Tau and hung it on a peg by the door.

She had the demon’s full attention. She returned to the salt boundary and squatted down close to the demon’s face. They studied each other in silence for a moment. Azele was not a very intimidating human. Neither tall nor short, neither pale nor dark; when out of uniform she would not stand out in a crowd.

“You should be able to stand again if you want,” Azele said.

The demon twitched clawed limbs, thrashed feebly, and eventually righted itself, though instead of standing it crouched, mirroring Azele. It was small for a demon, but still larger than the largest human. It bared sharp teeth.

Azele waved a hand at the pile of remaining items by the door.

“Listen, I have what I need here to bind you to my will,” she said.

The demon snorted, snapped its teeth and pushed as close to the boundary as it could get.

“I’m not going to need it. In time, you’re going to choose to cooperate,” Azele said.

In the morning, refreshed by the night’s sleep, Azele rummaged through her luggage until she found a box of sweet rolls that would serve as breakfast.

“Care to try one?” she asked.

The demon was still crouched near the edge of the salt boundary, seething with hostile suspicion.

“There’s no trick here, they’re safe. No spells, no poison,” Azele said. “I tell you what – you point to one, and I’ll eat it, just to prove I’m telling the truth.”

Azele held the box open and angled for the demon to be able to see the contents. The demon refused to participate, turning its back on Azele.

“Suit yourself,” Azele said.

She ate two rolls and returned the box to the luggage.

“I’m Azele,” she said, returning to the salt boundary. “Do you have a name?”

The demon kept its back to her. This one was wingless. It had a double row of serrated bone plates running down its spine and most of the length of its tail. At the end of its tail was a barbed spine that could deliver a dose of potent venom.

“I’m going to call you Irfo,” Azele said. “They’re small, quick to hide, and sting when seized.”

The demon ran its claws lightly across the stone floor.

Azele returned to her bedroll, settled her back against the cushion and began to read. An hour passed and the demon grew increasingly restive, pacing the circle that contained it, scratching fruitlessly at the floor and shuddering. Finally it came to a stop and began to wail. The sound was like winter storms howling in from the north.

Azele set aside her book. She retrieved her jacket from beside the door and put it back on, along with an air of inscrutable dignity. She unlocked and opened the door, surprising Vidsen Dor, his hand poised to knock.

“Vidsen Dor, I said not to interrupt,” Azele said.

“I – the sound – I was concerned for your safety,” Vidsen said.

It was evident that he was surprised she had anticipated his action.

“Vidsen Dor, you are not new to the service,” Azele said.

It was a statement, not a question.

Vidsen acknowledged her statement with a nod.

“Do you believe my reputation is merely overblown rumor?” Azele said.

After an almost imperceptible pause, Vidsen shook his head.

“I have faced more demons than any other Tau, and I am still alive, and unscathed,” Azele said. “So is Risam Dor, your predecessor. She lives in the Chimas-Huba Valley with her new wife. If you follow my instructions, you will outlast your days of service, too. You’re safer with me than with any other Tau.”

“Understood,” Vidsen said.

Azele waited until he turned and left before shutting the door and relocking it.

“Take your time,” she said. “You won’t be interrupted now.”

Eventually the demon quieted and curled up on its side, dispirited.

“Do you feel like having a conversation with me, yet?” Azele asked.

The demon ostensibly ignored her.

“I’m betting you’re bored. I would be,” Azele said.

She settled cross-legged on her bedroll and opened her book, gently turning pages until she reached the one she wanted.

My heart lies east of the sun, and west of the moon,” she began.

By the end of the poem, the demon was watching her again, eyes sullen, but with a spark of curiosity it could not hide.

“I’m your friend. I know you won’t believe me yet, but I’m here to help you,” Azele said, gently.

The demon snorted and flexed its claws.

“You may be imprisoned at the moment, but you are also safe. Inside that circle, your actions and thoughts are your own,” Azele continued.

Silence descended. Azele and the demon stared at each other. Finally the demon looked away, then curled up, its back towards Azele.

The rest of the day passed quietly. Azele ate near noon, and again in the evening, each time offering to share her food with the demon. Each time, the demon rejected her offer. In between meals, Azele made herself at home, while the demon watched with reluctant curiosity.

She set up an easel and next to it placed a box. She set three more boxes of varying sizes against one wall, and after that, three bags. She hung her water-bag on a peg, next to her jacket. An ornate wooden chest, bound with iron and locked, she left by the door.

As she unpacked she explained the contents of her possessions to the demon. The box by the easel contained art supplies such as parchment and charcoal, canvas and paint. The largest box by the wall contained a harp, the smallest a flute. The middle sized box contained her books. One bag contained her food, another clothing and grooming supplies, while the third was empty, waiting to be filled with used clothing that would need to be laundered. The ornate chest contained the supplies a Tau used to capture and bind errant demons.

“Now that you’re contained, I don’t intend to use this on you,” Azele said, rapping her knuckles once against the lid of the chest.

The demon bared its teeth.

“How long we’re in here is going to depend partly on you, Irfo” Azele continued, ignoring the demon’s attempts to be intimidating. “The sooner you participate in this conversation the sooner we’ll be able to reach an agreement.”

<<<>>>

I was browsing my saved files and google documents earlier this year and stumbled across this beginning to a story. Even though it wasn’t that old, I’d utterly forgotten it, and apparently hadn’t made any notes about world building or intended plot – something I’m usually pretty good about. Some memory of the project did eventually return to me, but as I have only the barest threads of a plot I’m not sure if I’ll end up working on it again. In the meantime, now my blog has an example of my creative fiction writing.

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