The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Serving the Demon
by Naching T. Kassa
Like roses in winter, blood bloomed across the icy trail. Sometimes, it accompanied the track of a cloven hoof. Other times, the track of a man. It sparkled beneath the round, silver moon and led into the wood.
The dog followed.
Behind him, Thomas wheezed. His breath billowed like the smoke of a dragon as his battered boots crunched through the snow. He carried a bow in his hands; the sinew stretched tight, his last arrow knocked.
When they reached the trees, Thomas paused. The dog took a few steps forward and halted. He kept the customary distance between them.
Thomas lowered the bow and pulled a flask of courage from his belt. He took a swig and the scent of fermented honey filled the air. The dog turned away. Something in the forest had caught his ear.
A howl sounded from the depths.
Thomas drained his flask and threw it aside. Raising the bow, he staggered forward.
“Dog,” he snarled.
The dog tucked his tail between his legs and shied away but Thomas didn’t focus on him. Instead, he strode into the forest. Dog hesitated, then crept in after him.
Crooked trees reached toward heaven and shielded the forest floor from the ravages of winter. Moonlight dappled the thick carpet of moss which covered the earth and silenced their footsteps. No prints marked its soft surface but, when Dog pushed his nose into it, the scent of blood filled his nostrils.
“How much will they pay for the devil’s hide?” Thomas said as Dog took the lead. “A hundred gold pieces? A thousand?”
The howl sounded again, closer this time. Thomas’s eyes glinted like the gold he’d spoken of.
“Go,” he commanded.
The dog rushed forward.
His quarry exploded from the shadows ahead, its scarlet skin gleaming in the moonglow. An arrow protruded from between the shoulder blades. The dog produced a howl of his own and gave chase, Thomas at his heels.
The pursuit was brief. A tree root rose up in the darkness and the creature caught the obstacle at full speed. It fell, sprawling into the undergrowth. When the hunters drew near, it held up a hand and cried,
The voice, raspy and guttural, brought Dog to a halt. He stared at the monster, cocking his head from one side to the other. Who was this creature? Horns protruded from either side of its head and a ring adorned the nose. The scarred visage contorted in pain as he stared into the yellow-gold eyes. Melancholy filled their depths.
Thomas trained his barb upon the beast.
“Mercy,” the demon said. “The silver-tipped arrows have weakened me and I have no fight left.”
“There is no mercy for you, devil,” Thomas replied.
“There is, if one will give it. I offer much.”
Dog continued to stare into its eyes. He took a step forward. Something had changed. The monster’s face rippled.
“You are dissatisfied with your lot in life,” the demon continued.
“You know nothing of me,” Thomas sneered.
“You tire of hunger. You tire of pain. Sometimes, when death opens its arms to you…you crave the embrace.”
Thomas lowered his bow.
“You knew freedom once. Knew love and loyalty. And, then a fiend entered your life. He lives in liquid showing his foul face in ugly deeds. His sweet scent haunts you even now. I can free you from his tyranny. I can give you new life.”
Thomas paused. Then, he shook his head and raised the bow.
“No, devil. You will not tempt me. My new life begins with your death and the reward I will earn.”
The demon looked up.
“I was not speaking to you,” he whispered.
Dog stood growling, his teeth bared. Thomas swung the bow toward him but before he could loose the arrow, Dog leaped. Thomas screamed.
When life had faded from Thomas’s body. Dog turned to the demon. He approached and with his teeth, pulled the arrow from its flesh.
Golden light flooded over Dog and the flutter of white wings filled the air.
“You have ceased to see with your master’s eyes,” the creature said.
Dog followed him from the wood.
Fiction © Copyright Naching T. Kassa
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Naching T. Kassa:
It’s the Final Masquerade and it’s your turn to dance.
The evening is ending and the guests are ready to leave, but the final event of the evening is just beginning — the unmasking.
Welcome to Final Masquerade where no one is who they seem.
Stories written by Daniel I. Russell * Ken MacGregor * J.C. Delisle * Joshua Chaplinsky * Lori Safranek * D.S. Ullery * Samantha Lienhard * Thomas Kleaton * Josh Strnad * Naching T. Kassa * Roy C. Booth & Axel Kohagen * Sheldon Woodbury * Craig Steven * Gregory L. Norris * Jay Eales * Dale W. Glaser * R.K. Kombrinck * Jonathan Cromack * Brian C. Baer * Adrian Chamberlin