Rat & Will Chapter 27: Why do Demons Always Smell Like Crap?
The doors behind the throne were both locked. Of course. Neither keyring held a key that worked.
“Should we knock?” Will hefted the small ax he’d picked up over Rat’s objections about weight and shook it teasingly.
Rat looked about pensively. “Who locks doors this close in? And where are the damn guards?” She turned to the row of three doors on the other long wall, but then shrugged and turned back. “Not a lot of choice. But lets try real knocking and surprise first, ok?”
Will shrugged and stepped back. She rapped the nearest door. After a few tense moments, it swung open. An irritated, pimply male face peered out.
Rat waved, drawing his attention downward. “Hi.” She punched him in the face, twice. He fell, a look of surprise managing to drip across his face just before his eyes rolled up in his head. She caught the door with her boot. “Huh. Weighted to close.”
Will looked down at the unconscious man currently bleeding from a very broken nose. “Did you have to hit him twice?”
Rat snarled. “With what I’ve seen so far? He’s lucky I didn’t stab him twice.”
“Fair enough.” Will grabbed an arm and dragged the man into the doorway to stop the door from closing.
Rat rolled him quickly, holding on to a new key ring and tossing Will a sizable purse after looking through it. “Mostly copper. Bet he’s new up here.”
“Good thing you didn’t stab him, then.” Will said. He dropped the purse in with his nuts.
Rat’s answering “Eh” was non-committal. She’d seen enough to discard the idea that there were any innocents in uniform up here.
Past the door was a staircase, lined with fine carpets and well-lit with expensive looking candles in once shiny, but over-wrought holders. Rat grabbed the nearest, blew it out and broke it into several pieces that she pocketed. When Will raised a brow, she shrugged. “Nearly used up the last one on that girl.” Then she headed up the stairs, the thick carpeting muffling Will’s steps behind her.
The stairs took a wide turn, finally opening onto a wide hallway lined with doors. This hall continued the plush carpeting and the ugly candle holders of the stairs, but added hideous florid vases and portraits of people more rich than tasteful. Rat sneered. That stuff wasn’t worth the time it would take to cart it to a place with money and sell it. Breakable, though. Will caught her considering look and grinned, but pulled her past the first giant flower covered monstrosity. “Maybe we start with the quiet option?” He whispered, leaning over her shoulder.
“Do we have to?” Rat cast a final longing look at the thing then shrugged and considered the rest of the hall. “Too many doors. No idea about any of it. Want to just start at the first, or go kick in that fancy one at the center?”
“If we’re starting quiet,” Will stressed the word enough to get an eye roll from Rat. “Maybe kicking in doors isn’t the plan just yet.”
“Fine. First doors first, then.” Rat gritted her teeth and began testing keys on the closest door. Once open, it appeared dusty and unused. Without a word, they closed the door softly and moved to the next.
This one wasn’t locked. It also wasn’t currently occupied, though it had been long enough to get torn to bits. Even the stupidly fancy curtains were shredded. Rat shook her head at the waste and closed the door as quietly as she’d opened it.
The next door wasn’t locked, but it was occupied. Two forms lay under the fancy bedcovers of the large imposing bed at the center of the room. Seeing the sword and shield leaned up against one side of the bed, Rat slipped silently into the room. Behind her, Will stood ready as she pulled a packet of paper from her coat. Taking her time to avoid creaking floorboards, Rat approached the bed carefully. When she got close enough, she ripped the packet and flung it at the faces of the sleeping couple.
There was a strange, gasping interruption to the man’s snore as he inhaled the powder, tried to wake, then fell into deeper sleep. The woman didn’t react at all for a single long beat, then eyes opened wide to reveal glowing red orbs and she sat up in a single, fluid motion, shaking away ink black hair.
“Shit.” Rat backed up, nearly tripping on the carpet in her haste to be further away.
“So.” Will moved to his usual place beside her. “Demon?”
“How in Pathos would I know?” Rat watched the…woman(?) watch them, all her instincts screaming at her to run.
The black haired woman seemed amused. And not at all worried. When she spoke, her voice had an odd gravelly quality that made Rat cringe instinctively. “What is this?”
Pissed off about the cringing, Rat snarled. “What are you?”
The thing (it couldn’t really be called a woman, after all)…laughed. The sound made them both cringe again, this time with actual pain. “Oh little dwarf, you wouldn’t understand if I told you. But the one with you…” It sent a look at Will that had Rat stiffening in outrage and Will’s eyes widening in recognition.
“Tethas help us, it’s a Slardur demon.” His voice was hoarse, the words little more than a whisper. “What kind of idiot would release that?”
Rat looked quickly back and forth between the demon and her suddenly pale husband. “Information would be good right now, Will. What does it do?”
The thing turned it’s full gaze on her. Rat winced at the heavy feel of it. “I? I do nothing. But you? You will do whatever I tell you, little dwarf.”
The thing’s voice clawed through her body with a feeling so like dull knives that Rat actually looked down at her own chest, relieved to find it whole and unbloodied. But the tearing sensation didn’t stop when the demon finished speaking. It still felt like the thing had dug claws in her and left them there. She shivered.
Will tried to shove her aside. “Leave her be, demon!”
The thing was looking less and less like a human at all. It laughed again, louder, causing both Rat and Will to moan slightly in a pain that wasn’t purely physical. Then the head tore slowly open and something horrible and nearly as bad as the voice began to shove it’s way out.
Inside her head, Rat was screaming, but she found she couldn’t move. It was as if her feet were tied to the floor, her body stiff and no longer hers. Beginning to realize that the true danger of the voice wasn’t the pain it caused, she nearly panicked. But Rat wasn’t the panicking kind. Rat was the get pissed off and kill everything kind. Outside of her body that wouldn’t listen, Will was yelling at the demon. But inside, Rat concentrated on forcing a single hand to move slow and sure.
“Tethas take you!” Will nearly screamed it as he stepped forward with his sword held ready. He slammed into an invisible wall.
“Ah, ah, little warrior. I don’t think so.” The thing had pulled the woman’s head down and away from it’s own, and above where it hung, limp and oozing, the thing grinned, green teeth dripping foul smoke. “I can’t make you obey, but I can hurt you. But even better, I can hurt her.” It turned back to a still and frozen Rat and Will followed suit, a look of horror on his face.
“Rat! Don’t listen to it! You have to run!” He tried to grasp her arm, pull her, but she was frozen, fighting him. Not wanting to damage her, he released his wife with a low groan.
Rat stared at the demon, her face almost blank. The slardur stared back, still grinning as it continued to pull itself from the woman’s body with soft, sticky sounds. “Little dwarf, why don’t you pull out one of those delicious knives?” Slowly, Rat moved to obey with a slow and trembling right hand.
Will moaned softly. “Lena, don’t.” He clutched at her arm again.
Quietly, so softly that Will could have imagined it, he heard. “Idiot. Distract it.” He looked at her face, but her eyes were still locked on the slardur.
Taking a deep breath, he released her and turned back to the demon. Raising his sword, he approached till the invisible wall stopped him. Then he began to pray.
The demon laughed again. This time, only Will winced, but blood dripped slowly from Rat’s nose. She ignored it and concentrated on being pissed off. On the fear in Will’s voice and how angry it made her. She focused on that single left hand.
The slardur turned back to her. “Alright little dwarf. Let’s use that knife for something fun, shall we?” It paused while it pulled itself fully from the skin of the human woman. Somehow, it was still difficult to make out, the shadows of the room clinging to it in a way that made no earthly sense. But it’s glowing red eyes stayed on Rat. “Run that blade lightly down your face. Just a short bit of blood. Nothing that will kill or maim. Yet.”
Ever so slowly, Rat moved the blade up to her own cheek. At the wall, Will cursed, then began to pray even louder. The demon turned back to Will as the blood welled up on Rat’s cheek. “You see little Tethas warrior, what I can make her do? The hurt I can cause you both? Will you let her cut you too? Or will you fight her? Harm her to save yourself?”
It stared at Will, watching with fascination as the tears fell down his rugged face even as he continued to pray. His sword began to glow. The demon smiled ever impossibly wider. “You still believe? So much the better, little fighter.” Blood began to drip from Will’s ears. He brought the glowing sword down across the invisible wall. It gave with a sucking sound like a boot pushing into mud. He pushed forward.
The slardur cackled and waved a slimy limb. Will sliced through a wave of…something with his still glowing sword. For an instant, it hissed and fizzed at his arm and hands like Rat’s acid, till his prayers and the now glowing mark on his hand dissipated it. The thing cackled louder and Will’s nose began to bleed. “Oh, this is fun. But how long can you keep it up, little warrior? What if I tell the dwarf to kill herself?”
It swung back to Rat, then stopped in surprise, finding the space she’d filled empty. And all at once, it wasn’t smiling that awful green and smokey smile. Now it’s red eyes were large and surprised. And Rat was standing on the bed behind it, her bloody smile fierce and angry and her hands holding two wicked daggers stained to their hilts in blue.
“Blangdon take you, bitch!” Rat shoved the daggers again into either side of the slardur’s head. The last of the invisible sticky wall holding Will dissolved and he rushed forward to bury his still glowing sword deep into the belly of the beast. Rat threw herself from the bed and shouted, “Will, take the head!”
With a bellowed “Tethas!” he pulled the sword from it’s fleshy cocoon and swung it wide over his head, using the momentum to take the thing’s head clear off. It sailed across the bed with a spray of brilliant, sizzling blue.
For a long moment, neither one could do more than clutch at breath. Then a snore sounded from the bed and Rat shook herself, hard. She approached the bed and its gore-covered trophy with more care than she usually showed, but when she got close enough to be sure it was dead, Rat kicked at it with the toe of her boot. Then she exhaled shakily and swiped an arm across her blood covered face. “Well that’s a thing I never wanted to know existed.”
After his own hard shake, Will rushed to her side, pulling her into his arms. Toes no longer touching the floor, she tried to push at him, but finally subsided, patting awkwardly at his back while he clutched at her. “Damn it Will, we’ve got more shit to do.”
“Just…just give me a moment, Lena.” He tightened his grip, his cheek buried in her now messy braid.
She sighed noisily, but relaxed. Held on. “Just a bit of a scare. Won’t even scar, not that it would matter much.”
He gave his own loud sigh. “She’d have had you cutting us both up. And you’re good enough that it would have taken a very long time.”
She chuckled, but it was a mirthless sound. “I know. Bitch pissed me off.”
He chuckled at that, but at least his laughter held some humor as the fear and worry wore off. “Thank Tethas for that. Most people can’t even think once a slardur starts working on them.”
“Whatever.” Rat shrugged and pulled away from Will. He let her go with a knowing smile. “I bet the damn thing didn’t even have any coin on it. Gonna take it’s head though. Anyone argues with our loot, I’ll let ‘em have it back.”
“Right.” They approached the bed and wiped blue blood from their weapons. Rat pulled a case from a pillow and kicked the head inside.
“Why do demons always smell like crap?”