November 5th, 2014 • Avigdell
Giemm glowered through the bars of the gate at the gunslinger. Wyatt had one of his guns drawn and trained on the bird’s feathered brow. Behind the newcomer, two warmongers milled nearer the tree line, watching with bared teeth.
“Where is he?” Giemm pressed.
“He’s here,” Wyatt answered. “I’ve called for Lask. He’ll decide what to do with you. Don’t know about lettin’ in Demon cronies.”
“Crony!” Giemm squawked, hackles bristling. “I am his Key Keeper, his right hand–”
“Can it, Feathers,” growled Wyatt, hand staying toward his other gun.
“Don’t shoot him!” bellowed a voice.
“Senierro!” crowed Giemm. He gripped the bars, leaning toward his approaching master, but got shocked for his trouble. He recoiled from the gate with a hiss.
“Wyatt!” snapped Stefin, approaching, “Put that down.”
“You know this guy?” asked the gunslinger, still sighting down the gun barrel.
“Si, he is mine. An old…” the Demon paused, and confessed, “Friend.”
Wyatt’s eyes didn’t leave the indignant bird on the other side of the gate, but he holstered his gun, and stepped back, resting his hands on his gunbelt. Stefin went to the gate and reached for it.
“We should wait for Lask,” Wyatt grunted.
“I do not need his permission to receive my people,” snarled the Demon, and pulled the gate open. The visitors could not enter, for the Light sun would turn them to ash, but Stefin strode out to meet them, leaving the gate open behind him. Wyatt watched with flinty eyes, but said nothing, keeping a close eye on the newcomers.
Giemm stood before the Demon, looking him over. They examined each other in silence, until Stefin said, “It is good to see you.”
“I did not know if you lived,” said the bird. “I saw the Runners drive you into the woods. I thought…”
“I’m hard to kill,” Stefin replied with a shrug.
“You are Light.” Giemm spoke with no contempt, and Stefin could not tell what he thought of it.
“Si,” the Demon replied.
“Am I your enemy now?” asked the bird.
“Never.” Stefin extended a hand to him. “I would have you by my side again. It is good here. You will like it.”
Giemm did not acknowledge his outstretched hand. Even shrouded by feathers, Stefin could tell he was gaunt, starving. He did not stand as he had the last time the Demon had seen him. His shoulders hunched, and he carried himself with the carefulness of one in pain.
“What has happened to you?” asked the Demon. He glanced back at the two Warmongers crouched back near the trees.
“To everyone else, I am just a Runner,” said Giemm, “And not a particularly strong one at that.”
Stefin’s jaw tightened as he considered the implications. Something ached in his chest at the sight of his battered comrade, and the thought of what might have been done to him in Stefin’s absence. There were footsteps on the path behind him, and the Demon glanced back to see Lask join Wyatt inside the gate.
“Going to introduce your guests, Stefin?” asked the Luminor. Wyatt cut a skeptical side-eye as he spoke the word guests.
“This is Giemm,” the Demon said, “My loyal friend for centuries. That is Jana and Throcko,” he nodded toward the warmongers, “They served me well for almost as long.”
“They look hungry,” Lask said. “Why don’t we draw them a door inside, get them some lunch?”
Giemm glanced to the Luminor, then asked of Stefin, “You trust this one?”
Stefin looked over his shoulder, and caught Lask’s eyes for a moment. A hint of a smile flickered on the Demon’s face as he replied, “Si. He is good.”
“I would never have thought you’d align with a farero,” Giemm remarked.
“Neither would I,” Stefin admitted, then laughed. He stepped forward, and enveloped the bird in his arms. Giemm hissed in surprise, unaccustomed to the gesture, but stopped squirming and allowed the Demon to embrace him.
“Come,” said Lask, drawing a door for them. “I’m sure you have much to talk about.”