I stalked outside, leaving Adora to jog in my wake. All I found, to my intense displeasure, were Robilar, Corath, and heaps of dead demons, their remains beginning to steam and stink in the early morning sunlight.
“Damn it.” I stopped before the two men and scowled at them. “Did you fuckers have to kill all of them?”
Robilar’s chuckle sounded tired. “We didn’t come close to killing all of them.”
“About twenty minutes ago, the demons broke free, and ran.” Corath wiped at ichor on his face, but only smeared it. “We have no idea why.”
I slammed my sword into its sheathe, cussing under my breath. So much for that idea.
“Where’s the Keeper, Carter?” Whatever he saw on my face caused Robilar to blanch, and back away. “Sore subject. Never mind.”
“I’ll not never mind.” Corath marched up, and poked my chest with his finger. “You have a lot to answer for, human.”
I growled, and reached for my sword. I met Adora’s warm, calloused, hand instead. “Now is not the time, Corath.”
My blade pointed at his larynx, and a ruby droplet formed at the tip. “Utter one more word. I dare you.”
The Gorauch clamped his mouth shut so fast he bit his tongue.
“Smart man,” the Chronomancer said.
“Ha-How did you do that?” The Lady’s voice cracked as she spoke.
I ignored Adora for the time being. “Can you track demons?”
“I can do better than that.”
I sheathed my sword again, and folded my arms over my chest. “Go on.”
“I can bring one from the past, to the present.”
Robilar nodded, closed his eyes, and furrowed his brow. He took a deep breath, and held it. Sweat rolled down his cheeks as he rolled his arms through the air like Dearbhaile has when we played in the river at the beginning of our journey from Lady Soo-jau’s palace. Wonder what the Vaush-Tauric is up to?
A glowing white rectangle appeared before the Chronomancer. His eyes flew open, and he thrust his hands into the light. A mighty yank, and one of the wingless bat-like demons with rippling, angry red muscles, and a clear, glistening and viscous fluid to roiling down its body tumbled free, rolling across the ground.
Before it regained its senses, I had it lifted in the air with my right hand wrapped around its throat. “Hello, Ugly. You’re going to answer some questions for me.”
It screamed, and chittered in rage, slashing at me with its sharp claws. When they raked over my forearm, I squeezed.
“Carter, don’t kill it, yet.” Robilar’s voice was a hoarse wheeze. “I’m not going to be up to Pulling another for some time.”
I growled, and hammered the demon to the earth like I was a professional wrestler executing a choke-slam. Where I got the strength, I didn’t know at that point. The demon had ceased its squirming, stunned from the impact with the ground.
Adora’s rough hand touched my shoulder. “Carter, allow me to question it? I speak Infernus.”
“Really?” I glanced at her over my shoulder. “Alright. Make it quick. We’re losing time.”
The demon rolled to its belly and tried to scamper away. My foot in the small of its back sent it flat again, putting an end to its attempt. The Princess, or Queen, technically, chittered at the daemon which made the sound in return. A few minutes of back and forth made my head hurt worse.
I stepped away, focusing on the smoking ruins of the keep. The fiends had used some magic which had melted stone like tallow. An ungodly scream ripped through the air, causing all the hair on my body to feel as if it all wanted to run. I spun around so fast I must have looked like a top, even though it was a one-eighty. Made me dizzy as hell, too.
A silvery-white glow engulfed Adora’s left hand. The bat demon’s right shoulder oozed a greenish smoke. She chittered something loudly at the creature which then shook its head. Her radiant palm clamped down on it. It shrilled. I thought it was pain, but there was an odd note to it. The Princess… Queen… released her grip. The fiend panted. A glint shone in its eyes. She spoke to it, but it cut her off, much louder.
I strode over and caught her hand as she went to touch it again. A thousand bees stung me simultaneously and acid dripped from their stingers. I felt a jolt in the center of my chest and found myself looking up at the sky with no clue how I got there.
My field of vision grew darker for a moment and then I realized I was surrounded by Adora, Weijia and Robilar. “What happened?” I attempted to sit up, but my abdomen felt as if someone had beat it with hot hammers. “Fuck me.” I tried to scream it, but the pain left me breathless. To be honest, I don’t know if I made a sound other than a groan.
Adora took my hand in hers and fire raced up my arm. I recoiled and rolled to my hands and knees, scrambling away about five feet. I tried to rise, but it was as if someone else controlled my limbs.
“Carter? What’s wrong?” Concern hoarsened her voice.
A crimson bolt shot from my up thrust hand. She leaped away and it hit a tree which exploded in flames. A hissing cackle erupted from my mouth, tearing at my throat. I found myself flying through the air as whoever controlled my body leaped to attack her again.
A black aura engulfed her fist. ‘Oh, shit.’ Her hand suddenly vanished from my sight and the lights went out.