A Man and His Demon

by: William C. Burns, Jr.

On the evening of the day after Kota Tu Arye’s burial, Kota Cyon, son of the elderly healer, received a summons to the “Court of Thieves” to settle one last affair of estate.
As he entered the cobbled marketplace, the blue-white sun broke through the perpetual cloud cover. Everywhere, people paused in their transactions and shielded their eyes to look skyward. Sunlight was rare here on the water-covered world, Lao-Damia, and the youngsters cast off their cloaks and danced in the glaring light. The elders tried to look on with disdain, but a glint had appeared in their eyes also.
Smiling to himself, Cyon reexamined the address noted on the summons and quickly found the edifice of Das Mi, dealer in demons, new and used. The Aegis, guarding the entry, bowed in deference to the Kota’s lincoln-green robes, then smiled warmly and admitted him to the inner court.
“Kota Cyon, please be welcome and comfortable! Bring wine; what am I saying, this man is a healer. Bring iced tea, spiced? . . . No? Very good, be seated.”
“Das Mi, it is a pleasure.” Cyon shook the dealer’s hand and seated himself in the aromatic furs of the proffered chair. Both men maintained the customary moment of silence, allowing themselves time to gather their thoughts. Their drinks arrived.
“You are wondering about my summons, young healer. Yes, well, the fate of one demon, holding of your father, must be decided. He mentioned as much?”
“While serving internship at Creautal, I seldom communicated with my father. His illness had advanced when I returned and he was often incoherent. As executor of his estate I’m surprised to find he held a demon, angel or any other thing of value.”
“Well, about that . . .” Das Mi looked embarrassed and uncomfortable. He stood and motioned for Cyon to follow him, in response to the healer’s puzzled look.
They passed though an ornate door and down a short stair. The damp air was thick with the acrid smell of demon.
The dealer guided Cyon into one of the demon keeps. The leathery scales of the creature, writhing against the rough stone wall, were dull and some of the thorns cresting the head were missing. A shrill whine escaped its drooling mouth as it repeatedly raked blunted claws across the floor. Three of the delicate eye stalks dangled listlessly. The dealer remained silent.
Cyon moved to the head of the beast. It hid its face, turning away.
“Can it traverse the Path?” Cyon asked.
“Well, yes, it yet retains some virtues, but for how long? I haven’t a clue.”
“Perhaps you could barter the privilege of this beast and retain the profits for yourself.”
“Honestly, I fear that such a barter would be a liability to my business. In fact, the sooner you take it . . .”
“Das, I just received commission. I plan to minister locally for the next seven years and then perhaps barter for transport, to reach the Far Places. My father left many unsettled affairs and in the balance I have very little with which to compensate . . .”
“Kota, Kota, there is no charge associated with this beast,” interrupted the dealer. “I am mortal and as such I have no desire to incur the wrath of a healer. I may require your services someday. At such a time, I would see you smiling.”
“Well, I can use transport.”
“After all, you are Kota. Perhaps you can . . . heal it?”
Cyon was clearly not amused.

Beyond East Gate, in the rolling hills of Rewgen, the evening mist wrapped everything in a soft blanket of darkened fog. Cyon kindled the fire in the hearth before venturing out to the improvised grotto to assess his inheritance.
The demon lifted itself when he approached. It groaned and stretched its tattered membrane wings as he pulled down a bale of straw.
“You could at least be grateful I did not leave you to the charity of Das Mi, you filthy beast,” he said raking the fur behind its (his? her?) wings playfully. The throttling smell of the demon was only heightened by the moisture.
“What shall we call you? You have the power of speech, speak to me. Tell me your name?” There was no response. “Vector, I will call you Vector. Do you like that?” It huddled against the earthen wall and would not face him directly.
He sensed something of the afflicted thoughts churning through the mind of the creature. He poured the prescribed three measures of food into the massive feeding pot and checked the water, then stood a moment in silence, measuring his circumstance. Shaking his head after a time, he walked back to the warmth and light of the cottage, leaving the grotto door unlatched, as custom demanded.

The Call came five days later. Cyon, the only Kota with any chance of reaching the Fringe with haste, dropped his travel pack on the floor of the keep and approached Vector. Gently, taking the head of the beast into his hands, he stared into the three fixed eyes in the center of the forehead.
“Fainthearted beast, great is my need for your services. There is a little boy in the Fringe and he is very sick.” Cyon visualized the destination and impressed it on the seething mind of the creature. “You must take me there,” he said, at last satisfied it had understood. Vector tried to pull away. Cyon gently but firmly pulled the head back around. “Demon, stand.” It mewed softly and obeyed. Cyon snatched up the pack and mounted.
There was a flash, a clap of thunder and they were gone.
By what road do demons and angels take us? This is difficult to say exactly. Even those who have traversed the Path more than once give widely differing accounts. Human senses are so undependable and the passage taxes travelers beyond their limits. Two things can be said for certain. First, humans would have no access to the Far Places without the aid of the creatures. Second, angels take the high road, while demons take the low.
Cyon felt something . . . something other than the gut wrenching after-shock of traversing the Path. He slowly opened his eyes, finding a vast desert, dark with night. Looking up he caught his breath. A dazzling ringed moon, many times the size of his sun, hung above the distant hills, filling the horizon. The entire surface of the moon, obscured by cloud bands, ran the visible spectrum from ultra reds to incredible violets. The clouds of the moon whirled and danced at the whim of the distant winds. Three sets of rings crisscrossed the vista. One was barely visible because it was edge on and the other two were at various angles.
“Wrong! Vector, this is wrong.” Vector mewed in discomfort. The mind of the beast was slippery and hard to hold. Cyon fought his own anger as he re-envisioned their original destination.
“Why?” asked the demon, speaking for the first time.
“Vector, I’m gratified you’ve a voice, but this has to wait. We must go . . .”
“But, why?” it whined.
“Because, our assistance is required.”
“You won’t like it.”
“Do it!”
The flash lit the night desert and thunder rolled over the empty dunes.
The hovel of the sick child was abominable even by Fringe standards. The father, a self-exiled refugee from civilization, ignored the healer and beast when they arrived. The wife and mother threw open the door and dragged Cyon into the dim interior without greetings. A boy, about five years of age, lay in a small, freshly made bed.
“Vector, wait outside.” The beast complied.
“Please, your name?” Cyon asked, removing his travel cape.
“Mehetable, Mehetable Aryowade, and that, that was my husband, Urse. He doesn’t like healers.”
“Charming fellow. How long has your son been ill?”
“He got the fever three days ago. I thought it was just the faints, you know? But it got much worse. He’s burning up and I can’t do a thing for it. What do you think?”
“What’s his name?”
“Linwood, we call him Lin.” The mother appeared worried, while the father on the other hand, had looked extremely angry.
Cyon carried out the four rites of examination. There were contra- signs for all known diseases. He concluded the child had contracted a nova-virus, the kind that crop up on the Fringe all the time. He gave remedies designed to relieve the fever. Together, he and themother cleansed the boy. “Mehetable, have you ever received ministration of a healer?”
“Well, I was awful sick when I birthed Lin. The midwife at Central, Angela, she helped me.”
“Was she Kota?”
“No sir.”
“Might I spend some time with Lin? Alone?”
“No sir. Urse didn’t want you here, wanted no part of it. He’ll kill me if I leave you in here, alone. I’m the one what sent the call, this is all on my head.”
“You want to stay?”
“I insist. I must,” she said taking hold of his sleeve. Cyon looked into her eyes and knew the measure of her determination.
“Well, this might get messy. I need an assistant. Feel up to it?”
“Yes sir.”
“First, there is the ritual of preparation. I will be a moment.” Cyon assumed the position beside the foot of the bed. Moments passed as he centered. Mehetable watched silently. There was only one way to kill a virus. The boy would need quickened anti-viral bodies, produced in a living body.
Cyon stood, drew the cleansing breath and moved over the boy’s head. “I must kiss him,” Cyon whispered, then licked the boy’s forehead. Special senses in his tongue, mouth and mid-brain began the analysis. “And now I must prick his finger.” The mother drew back as he penetrated the soft flesh at the tip of Lin’s finger and squeezed out a ruby droplet. A stifled squeak escaped her when the healer put his lips to the drop of blood.
Cyon sagged, staggered and caught himself on the edge of the bed. The mother rushed to catch him.
“Ease me to the floor,” he whispered.
“Is something wrong, Kota?”
“No, no . . . well it hit me rather suddenly, but this is normal, everything is fine. I just need to sleep a moment. Cover me with the cloak, yes. Thank you. Watch over things for me?”
“Yes sir.”
The modified spleen and liver of the Kota produces anti-viral bodies genetically designed to seek out and destroy the invading antigens, while fortifying and regenerating the host. All this happens without the Kota’s direct knowlege, all in all, a pretty good system.
However, there had lately been talk of psychogenic diseases that could overwhelm even the healer’s fortified immune system. Of all things, this frightened Cyon the most. Such a disease could not be contained.
Cyon awoke hungry, which was a good sign, just a simple virus. The itch across his abdomen and in his wrists indicated that his immune system now held the healing agent.
Lin stared at the ceiling, fevered eyes glazed and uncomprehending. The Kota placed his hands on Lin’s temples and the flesh in Cyon’s hands opened. He pressed both hands firmly to keep blood from escaping. An artery and a vein crept from the incisions in his hands and burrowed into the temples of the boy. A tingling sensation along his left arm told him the anti-viral bodies were leaving his body and entering the boy. This one had been tricky, but the boy was going to be well again.
Suddenly, something struck Cyon across the back of the neck. His mind exploded in fireworks and he was falling into darkness.
Without fully regaining consciousness, Cyon tried to drag himself into a standing position. He had to reach the bed, something to do with the bed. Pain assailed him and his hands felt wet. There was blood on his hands.
“The boy!” he bellowed, staggering. He saw the bed, empty. The woman was in the corner rocking back and forth, weeping. Beside the bed, a pile of rags suddenly resolved itself into the stone-still body of the husband.
“Woman? Woman!” he shouted, bracing himself on the headboard of the bed. She did not respond. “What happened?” he asked, creeping in her direction. She was cradling Lin’s dead body. “Mehetable, speak to me,” he commanded.
“He came in . . . He promised to stay outside. He came in and he was wild. He hit you when he saw . . . and now . . . now my Lin’s dead. My little boy is dead.” She sobbed.
“How long?”
“What?”
“How long has it been?”
“Yesterday. It happened yesterday.”
“Noooooo!” shouted the Kota. He couldn’t breathe. He was numb with shock. Vector seized the helpless healer and dragged him from the hut. Then came the flash and thunder.
The hell ride went on forever. Faces whipped across a sky filled with fire. Voices chanted, whined and screamed all at once. The world was coming apart with a bang. All times were crowding into this place all at once. His mouth filled with the taste of bile and his skin felt like ice, though he was sweating. And then there was darkness.

His head began to clear. The demon had returned them to the desert world of the awe inspiring moon.
Cyon scooped a handful of sand and watched it slip through his fingers. The wind played with the sand as it struck the ground, making it dance. Had he come here yesterday or been here forever; only dreaming his other life, the life he thought was real?
Vector stirred at his side, but remained silent.
The wind twisted a vortex of dust and danced in the growing light. Distant voices hissed in the wind. Cyon contemplated the strange constellations lingering in the unfamiliar skies. They bore no resemblance to the skies of his youth. Just before sunrise he discovered the moon had an equally spectacular sister.
“How can you do it, Healer? How can you stand it?”
“What?”
“The child died.”
“I didn’t kill the child.”
“But you failed.”
“Yes.”
“Deep was your grief, deeper perhaps than even mine. I felt . . .”
“What is your grief, Vector?”
“We will not speak of this,” the demon hissed. There was silence.
“Vector? You know the problem with demons?”
“What is that Kota?”
“Demons just can’t let go. They know only one emotion and their whole existence centers around that one feeling. All of your thoughts are one thought, all of your memories are one . . .”
“Healer, how can I let it go?”
“Don’t fight it. Don’t give in to it. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Just let it happen and let it end.”
The wind whispered over the sand.
“Healer, the sun will rise soon and the sands will burn.” Cyon looked at the demon. All the eye stalks were erect and there was a new luster in its scales.
“Where shall we go Vector?”
“Home, I would like to go home, healer.”

The Binder and the Dark-spawn

Jenelle is sleeping on the couch. I sit in the chair, right beside her head.
Her demon is running back and forth across the back of the couch. It does that a lot when it’s bored.
It is a slither of smoke with oversized paws that conceal nasty little claws. I have seen it for as long as I have known her. It is my small talent/curse.
It’s time I spoke to it directly. The myst that makes me demon-proof is kinda thick and it take a bit of concentration to thin it enough to speak Hesirith. That, and it makes the shielding kinda itchy and cantankerous.
“You. . . on the couch.” It ignores me.
“Shac-akawak-naw wa-tokata. . .” That gets its attention.
My hand is on her arm before it can get back into her. “Sorry, old sport, but no.”
If it dissipates, then problem solved, one less of its kind.
It decides to try attacking me. Bad choice. The shielding holds. They hate it when I laugh at them.
By its actions it has created a relationship with me. I reach through the connection and grab it by the underside. They really hate that.
An hour of really pointless struggle ensues and the dark-spawn starts to run down. It can’t feed on either of us and I’m not letting it out, so its starving.
It whines for a while; threatens for a while more and at length goes silent.
“Now, little pup, I am sure you have heard of Binders. Yeah, it’s like that. I am gonna make a deal. Either you dissipate and leave this plane for all eternity or I bind you to something inanimate and throw it into the ocean.”
It tries to bite my face. I sigh.
“Son this is pointless,” and I find the part of me that does the binding.
The creatures speaks, “Hold thy hand. Lest you in haste bring a misfortune to all concerned.”
“You mean Jenelle?”
“She summoned me and in exchange for the gifts she gives me I provide her with. . . entertainments.”
“About that, I don’t care, leave now or be bound and learn to entertain fish.”
“You insolent human, if you knew of my master. . .”
“I am the Keewah of Sultac, Binder of Nethers and Dark-spawn. I am the Fear-god of your fathers and your master fears me. Stop the rhetoric and decide your fate.”
“She needs me. . .”
“No, she doesn’t.”
And it is gone, choosing dissipation above binding. Eh’.
Jenelle awakes and is dulled by the experience.

Within an hour she has thrown me out of the apartment. The last thing she said to me before throwing her cell phone out the window was, “How can I write now! I needed that inspiration if I’m ever do anything worth a crap. You did this to me, and I hate you! Never come back!”

So, I guess its true, you must be careful when you throw out a demon, that you don’t throw away the best part. . .

A Dragon and a Fire Angel Turn up in a Bar ~ D’l Kyrug

The Silver dragon says
“And so fair fire-angel
what has happened to your wings?”

“They got stuck in the gates
whilst I was trying to escape the forbidden gardens of desire”

“Hon, that has got to hurt
Not unlike the time I got my tail caught
in the tilt-o-whirl of love”

Nodding agreement the fire angel remains silent
swimming deep currents of memory in her thoughts

The Silver Dragon stamps his foot
shouts, “The Service in this place leaves a lot to be desired
Can”t a dragon get a drink in this dump?”

The fire angel turns towards him, eyes lowered
and hands him a silver mug with potent red wine
He looks confused but takes the proffered cup with appropriate reverence
and mumbles something in dragon
“You are One So Rare
most hallowed and revered. . .
When did you start tending bar?”

But out loud he says
“Thank you m”Lady
and may the day of your healing be hastened”
then he breaths fire across the beverage
The vapors spill over
Cause a fog to rise around all the patrons of the place
Most don’t seem to care
and the rest are smart enough to know better

He drinks deep
as only dragons are prone drink

Alive, the Breaking of Day ~ D’l Kyrug

Sunrise
or is it only the fever speaking to my sickened mind?

Sunrise
in tired eyes
and mist covers the lake
as shivers take my body once again

Choirs of angels
chorus of demons
deep harmonics of infrared and razor sharp ultraviolets. . .
Rainbows dance in the coming sun
I am weary
bleary and. . . strangely alive

Hands?
Yes. . .
Legs?
Oh yeah. . .
Let’s just sit here a bit

Darkness
holding on to my back
slipping around behind me
at the speed of dark
leaving its roots in shadows on me

Daybreak pours across the Face of the East
Golden liquid honey
cascading into my face, hands and
soul
Night retreats to the West

Oddly. . .
The cool of the Darkness
adds to the comfort of the Dawning Light

Balance

A glistening, glittering spider’s web touches everything
An array of light and shadow. . .
and somehow beyond understanding
I am alive

Alive!

We, the damned, are so pleased with your services

Oh and one last thing
before the event horizon completely forms
I have a message for you
from somewhere inside . . .

“Thank you.
The creature known to you as Bill
has been returned to his chaos box.
We never could have entrapped him without your help.
After all he was going too far
we all know this.

The part where you let him think
he was making progress . . .
and then when he dropped his defenses
smacking him in the face,
now that was inspired.
Several of our number have expressed a desire
to study any notes on technique
that you might care to forward.

We couldn’t have done better ourselves.
Your services in this respect
will be compensated with thirty pieces of silver
delivered to your doorstep sometime around midnight.

Please know that we, the damned, are so pleased with your services
that we may contact you in the future
if the need arises.
Again thanks.”

Love ~ Unlocking the Wizard part 3

True Love
asks no coin in exchange
Gives the way the mountain spring yields the waters that sustain life
without commerce

True love is the purest form
of agony

True love brings the gods to their knees
makes angels of demons and
demons of angels

True love
is a walk in the blindness of pure light

the Lady Kaila and the Idiot

My hands cold
elbow deep in the mists of a dark winter’s night
under a moon the color of polished silver

She had insinuated herself
into the statuary of the icy garden
Barely perceptible. . .
A pale silvern flame
aflicker in a lustrous wonderland adorned
by the Fae in the service of the Ice Queen

The fresh fallen snow swallowed the echoes
of the whole of the World
and lent a featureless virginity to all things here below the night sky

Her voice comes to me
like someone at a distance
Saying
‘I am innocence reborn
and the dying breath twined around your name. . .’

I answer
‘You shame me now for I have ever been hidden in potentiality
I am pages as yet unwritten
parched and dry for want of ink’

She gestures to a hidden horizon beyond the garden wall
‘You shall render me gravely
if I leave you to your poetical devices
Come
Dance with me’
She steps down from her pedestal
Extends her hand

‘I can never write all that I feel
and so I am captured
hated
wasted
Spread across time like a rope of wine’

She stops
Her dark eyes glisten
‘Oh youth I would allow your caress
that I might remember a fever
Remember a night where Nux spread her belly across the vault
from one horizon to the other
And then you were a lad much as you are
pulsating, hot, raw
tormented
But tonight you are all I have’

‘Lady I might not have the heat to melt you
and then what of me?
I will surely disappoint you
and your ire is something of legend. . .
Is there another sport that you might like?’

She took the whole of the sky into her arms
‘All the world is here in this moment
and the darkness of the skies
is the silence that falls between Lovers
The silence between heartbeats
There is madness in the way of Lovers
Dissolve into my passion
Into the alchemy of my soft touch
and you shall be transformed
Transmuted into a more eternal art’

‘I could never endure the light of morning
I am
and always was a shadow
hiding from the fingers of the coming dawn’

I have displeased her

She is the breadth of a hair from my face
‘Release me from my winter heart my darling
Torture is being this near and yet so far away
You were ever my Love
We are etched in stone and starlight
You have but to take my hand. . .’

Her hand seeks to brush back my hair
causing it to turn white and brittle
I lean away
‘Where does the cold come from?
Whence the Sun, the moon and the Stars
The wind
the sea
me?
I can not embrace you
I do not belong to even myself. . .’

Her look is savage
her look is despair
her face turns to marble even as I watch
and something eternal leaves her

She says
‘Forgive me
I longed to see the sunlight in your eyes
to touch the moonlight in your hair
I desired one last kiss of starlight falling from your love-filled mouth’

She turns

She turns and she is gone