Story (c) 2000 by Hikaru Katayamma/Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved.
The character Sheila Vixen (c) Eric W Schwartz. Throckmorton P Ruddygore,
Poqua, Lakash (c) Jack L Chalker. All other characters are (c) Hikaru
Katayamma. This story contains adult situations and language. By
reading it the viewer agrees not to hold this or any other person responsible
for any content they may find objectionable. If you don't like it, don't
Sheila sat at a table near the fireplace, nursing a mug of hot, hard cider. For the last four days she had made this table hers, growling at anyone who dared to try and sit down. Although it didn't make the owner of the hotel very happy to loose spots at a table, he wasn't about to argue with a sword mage.
She glanced up from the fire to the large, polished silver platter that sat on top of the mantel. Its ornate etchings and engraved lettering were testimony to some royal schmuck liking the food here so much he sent the thing back as a gift. She snorted into her drink at that thought before taking another sip. If that guy came back today, he'd probably die from the shock. She had tasted better food at McDunny's. Still, the platter was handy in that it allowed her to watch the action at the bar behind her.
To any casual observer, Sheila appeared to simply sit and watch the fire. In fact, she was actually watching the goings on in the rest of the small inn, especially as it pertained to Ross. So far, each evening he would leave the bar and return to his room for a brief period. That's what Sheila was waiting for now. Sure enough, she watched him put his empty mug down, end his friendly conversation with a local and head up to his room.
A few minutes later Sheila stood up, knocking over her mug and holding her stomach. She gave the serving wench an angry growl as she walked by and muttered, "Damned humans. Probably trying to poison me again." She hastily made her way up the stairs while appearing to be in a hurry for obvious reasons.
Upon reaching the area near their rooms, Sheila carefully walked on the sections of floor that she knew wouldn't creak, allowing her to move silently to her door. She opened it just wide enough to slip in before closing it behind her and latching the lock. Sheila then took the shot glass that she had liberated from the bar and placed it between the wall and her ear in order to listen.
Ross was reporting in with his superiors. His report confirmed her suspicions. This wasn't just an early monsoon season. He was actually forcing it to rain like this.
"Now I've got you, you son of a bitch," she thought with grim satisfaction. Sheila listened to him for another few seconds, then tiptoed over to her bed, putting the shot glass down next to an empty bottle that she had brought up the night before. She then blew out the candle by the bed and closed her eyes.
Sleep wouldn't be forthcoming tonight, though. Her mind was running full speed making plans. "OK girl, we've got him convinced that we're trapped," she thought, her mind filled with possibilities. "Nobody wants to go near us, so they won't be banging on the door for breakfast. If were going to do this, we do it at night, while that skin-headed prick thinks we're too afraid of our own shadow to go out in the rain. I may hate lightning, but right now I hate that bastard even more!"
Outside of town, high on the desert mesa, there sat a tall mound of dirt that everyone said was sacred to the Indians that had lived near there. The grid of streetlights and other illumination lent an eerie glow to the edge of the mesa when viewed from the middle. Numerous beer cans and bottles littered the dirt near the trail that led up to the mesa. People had been coming to the top of the mesa to drink beer and have a good time for decades. Tonight, the party was anything but celebratory.
The three boys on the plateau stood at points equally spaced around a summoning circle. Each of them stood within their own circle of protection. Around the group was a larger and more intricate containment circle. Evenly spaced around them were six torches that provided the light the biggest boy was using to read by. Standing just over six feet tall, the Hispanic- looking kid had the build of a football player, which was fortunate since he was a linebacker for the local high school. To his right another large boy stood unsteadily in his circle while occasionally taking a drink from a bottle of whisky. Opposite of the two a tall, gangly, nerdy-looking kid with glasses stood hugging a ancient, leather bound volume to his chest. He nervously pushed the glasses back up to the bridge of his nose as he watched.
The tall Hispanic boy stopped reading and turned angrily to the nerdy looking kid. "It's not working, Specks! Why isn't it working?" he demanded , shaking the hand-written notes at the small kid.
"It takes repetition, Tank. You have to say the spell over and over to summon a demon." He opened the book to a marked page and read. "Seven times must the words be spoke," he read haltingly, translating the old words in the book. "And seven times must you "
"ENOUGH!" Tank interrupted. "If this doesn't work, I'm gonna make you wish you'd never been born."
"It'll work," the nerd whimpered.
Tank muttered something in Spanish before he resumed phonetically reading the ancient words that Specs had written for him. Just about the time he was ready to forget the entire idea and go kick the wimp's ass, Tank felt a rush of air. Before the trio, there was a blinding flash of light as the very fabric of space split open, spat forth a body and then sealed itself after the passage.
"No fuckin' way," Tank muttered as he watched the demonic form that lay on the ground before him. The demon's black leather wings and barbed tail were spread out, covering most of the summoning circle. It's ebony skin and hair made it almost invisible in the gloom of the night. Only the highlights from the flickering torches let them know for sure that there was anything there. A low groan escaped the prone figure.
"All right, dude!" the boy with the bottle said with a laugh as he took another swig. "You did it!"
"Yah, I did," Tank replied. "I did it," he repeated as he began to laugh. "What now, Specks? What do I do now?"
"Huh?" Specks muttered as he looked up from the demon. "Umm. You summoned it. Now give it a command. Just remember, don't break the circle for any reason."
Tank laughed again. "Give it a command eh," he commented. "Ok, you. Rise. Stand before me. I command you." His command was obviously supposed to sound dramatic, but it failed miserably.
The ebony head looked up at him, its red eyes glowing in the dark. Despite Speck's warning Tank took a step backwards, almost breaking the circle. Slowly the creature rose to her feet. Now standing upright, Tank could see the shapely female form that was barely covered by a black leather outfit. She took a moment to survey the area around her before looking back at Tank.
Tank smiled again. "Good. Now kneel before me, bitch," he ordered.
Her eyes narrowed at the towering Mexican. "What did you call me?" she said in a dangerously low voice.
"I said 'on your knees, bitch'," Tank repeated, then began reading a passage from the paper in front of him, intoning the words with a loud, strong voice.
A brief flicker of pain visited her face before she glared at Tank. With a roar, she charged the tall boy, heedless of the circles. There was a bright flash of energy as she hit the rim of the summoning circle, and then she was through it. Tank's eyes flew open in terror as she slammed through the protection circle that he stood within. She then wrapped her left hand around his throat and lifted him from the ground. The papers, forgotten, fluttered to the ground as he clawed at her hand, choaking.
"Nobody calls me bitch," she said angrily as she squeezed. "And just for your information, my name is Hecate." She snarled as she plunged her right hand into his chest and ripped out his heart. With a large smile she held it up where he could see it. "Thanks for the snack," she said before dropping him. As the muscle in her hand quivered and stopped beating, she casually tossed it aside.
"Oh, fuck!" the other large kid said as he dropped his bottle. He stumbled backwards out of the circle as Hecate turned to face him. "Keep away from me, you fucking bitch!"
Hecate shot across the summoning circle and slammed into the boy with all her might. Her right index finger was driven through his forehead and into his brain. With a sadistic smile, she watched his twitching form as it fell to the ground and flopped around. "You people just don't learn, do you?" she asked to the corpse as she licked the gore from her finger.
With a shake of her head, she turned to the last remaining boy. He stood
confidently within his protective circle, clutching the ancient tome to
his chest. She sauntered over to where he stood and looked him over. "So,
what do we have here?" she asked out loud. Squatting, she examined
the workmanship of his circle. "Very impressive. Unlike your friends,
you did a good job."
Hecate stood and nodded. "Nice work. That circle could hold off a pretty powerful demon of hell," she admitted as she glanced around. "Unlike your friends' circles, or the summoning circle. It's almost like they were supposed to fail."
Specks laughed. "They were," he admitted, basking in the confused look that came from Hecate. "Those assholes forced me to show them how to summon a demon. I figured that if they wanted one so bad, it was the least I could do to let the demon have them in return."
"And after it had fed?" she asked, scowling at Specks. "You may be protected, but what about other people in the area?"
He was practically gloating. "Look at the outer ring. I think you'll find it more than sufficient for the power of the summoning."
Hecate strolled around the outer ring, examining the work. "Indeed, you're right," she admitted coming back over to where Specks stood. "But the big question is, what's going to protect your ass from me?" Sparks sputtered and flew from the point where she was probing the air in front of the boy with the claw at the end of her index finger.
Specks laughed again. "This ring is more than sufficient for anything short of a prince of hell."
Hecate plunged her hand through the ring and grabbed the boy by the front of his shirt and yanked him out of the protective circle.
"H-h-h-how d-d-d-did you d-d-do that?" he stammered.
"Here's a piece of news for you, boy," Hecate said with a broad, toothy smile that showed off the sharp fangs in her mouth. "I may be hell-spawned, but I'm no demon." She laughed as she dropped him to the ground.
"Oh god oh god oh god " he muttered as he looked up into her glowing, red eyes.
Hecate took another look around before returning her attention to the boy. "Any last request before I take my leave?"
"L-l-last request?" he stuttered out, echoing her. Specks blinked a couple of times as he looked up at the demoness who was meticulously preening her claws. His eyes slid past the deadly hands and to the shapely body beyond. "W-well OK." Again Specks swallowed while he screwed up his courage. "OK. Sleep with me," he stated.
"What?" Hecate asked, shocked at his audacity.
"Um Sleep with me," he replied with a wide-eyed, somewhat insane look. "You know. Have sex with me. Hey. If a guy's gotta go, he might as well go with a bang, eh?"
Hecate stared at him for a minute before she began to laugh. The more she looked at him between breaths, the harder she laughed, until finally the hell spawned collapsed to her knees, her arms wrapped around her ribs, trying to stop the pain from the laughter.
Seeing an opportunity to possibly escape, Specks leapt to his feet and began to run.
Behind him, Hecate looked up and while still laughing, stood. "Where do you think you're going?" she asked with a smile, still laughing slightly. When he didn't answer, she dug her clawed feet into the ground and took off after him.
Hearing the rustle of the leather wings, Specks glanced over his shoulder just in time to see the moon eclipsed by the flying form of Hecate. He had barely enough time for a brief scream before she was upon him.
Sheila walked down the street, staying under the awnings in order to try to stay dry. It was a good idea in theory, but in practice things didn't work out so well. A strong gust of wind, along with a quick shift in its direction, blew the rain around Sheila's rain slicker, dousing her legs and tail with cold water.
Reaching the end of the awnings, Sheila paused and looked out at the pouring rain as a bolt of lightning illuminated the sky. She had about a fifty foot dash in the pouring rain from the awnings to the open door of the livery. She let out a low growl as she hugged the hood of the slicker closer before making the mad dash through the mud.
She felt the hackles on the back of her neck rise, telling her that Ross was once again spying on her. This had been happening for days. It had only been recently that she had figured out what the source of the feeling was. Now that she could tell when he was spying on her, she could tailor her actions to fool him while he was watching. Good. She wouldn't have any trouble being surly and miserable with this stable master, though it would be inconvenient if Ross didn't get bored quickly.
The stable master hurried over to the cloaked figure to help with their wet things, but slid to stop when Sheila flicked the hood back revealing her face.
"Where's my horse?" she growled, while trying to wring the water out of her tail.
The tall, muscular man wiped his hands on the apron he wore. "She's stabled in the back, miss," he replied, gesturing with his head down a line of stalls. He led her towards the far end of the row where her horse apparently was being put up. "It's almost been a week since you came in. I was beginning to wonder if you'd abandoned your mare."
Sheila let out a snort of derision. "Not likely." She looked over the horse carefully. It was obviously being well fed and the grooming appeared to be acceptable. "Fine. It looks like I'll be here until the rain breaks. You have a problem with that?" She stood less than a pace away, hands on her hips, looking up at the large man.
He shook his head. "Not a problem, just so long as you pay your bill before you try to leave."
Sheila stopped and turned back to the man. "You trying to imply that I would skip out without paying you?"
He cocked an eyebrow while crossing his arms. "I don't know anything about you. I'm just telling you like it is. If you did try to skip out, you wouldn't be the first person to do that to me."
Sheila scowled for a second before nodding. "Yah. I guess I can see that." She turned and headed for the exit. As she neared, the feeling of being watched faded. She paused at the door before turning around and walking quickly back to the man. "OK. Listen up. I don't have much time to talk while I'm not being watched."
"Yah. That creep that I rode into town with is following me. He's been magically spying on me while we were talking," she stated quickly while nervously looking around.
"So he is a painted mage," the man replied distractedly.
"Yes he is, and I plan on ditching him." Sheila paused for a second and looked around. "The trick is to figure a way to send him off on a false trail."
The tall man smiled. "I think I have a way, maybe. Do you know how he keeps track of you?"
Sheila nodded. "Yes. He's given me a couple of rings. I'm pretty sure that they're what he's using to track me."
"Good," the man replied. "Then they shouldn't be to hard to send out with the next courier, eh?"
"Courier?" Sheila echoed with a bit of a smile. "Yah. I guess that could work. When does the next one leave?"
"One is due in tonight. He'll sleep until dawn then ride out on a new horse. I should be able to get him to carry the rings for you." The man crossed his arms and looked thoughtful. "Yah. If you're lucky, he could keep the rings in motion for a long time by passing them off. That would sure mess up the trail." He stopped and looked back down at Sheila. "That's assuming that he's really watching for the rings and not something else."
Sheila leaned back against a post and thought about it. "That's all that he's given me. Everything else I bought myself."
"That doesn't mean he couldn't throw an enchantment on it," the man explained. "Heck, he could have a spell on those fancy clothes of yours, or the swords."
Sheila shook her head. "I don't think so. They were magical already. I don't know why, but I'm pretty sure he can't mess with them. As for everything else, I guess I'll be needing new tack and barding for my horse."
He nodded. "I'll see to it. In fact, I'll even give your horse to the courier. He'll drag it along to the next town." He paused before continuing. "You do realize that this is going to be expensive."
Sheila nodded. "Don't worry. I have gold." She dug into the pouch that she kept tucked under the kimono, pulled out five gold coins and handed them to the man. "I think this will get the ball rolling."
He looked at the odd denominations. They weren't from any country he was familiar with, but the weight told him they were indeed made of gold. "This will do for a start. When do you want to leave?"
Sheila started towards the door, followed by the man. "About three or four hours before dawn. Do you think you can have the horse ready for me to go then?"
He nodded. "Sure. I can get up a little early. I'll have everything ready for you."
Again Sheila stopped at the door, this time she turned and put a paw on his chest. "I'm sorry about how I've had to act. Thank you for your help."
"Don't worry about it," he said, giving her paw a reassuring pat. "I'd be in a bad mood if I had one of them following me around everywhere, too."
"Thanks," Sheila said as she flipped the hood back up over
her head and ran out into the rain. For some reason the foul weather no
longer seemed so oppressive