‘Of Demons and Blue Moons’
By Andy Farman
'Fae' aka the exiled Princess Aimee Adriana.
Half Faerie, half Succubus, the daughter of Lilith and Cerberus.
Fae is a legendary demon hunter and warrior, able to cross dimensions and time.
Human, former Royal Marine with a hellish price on his head.
Only Scott can see the shadow demons who hunt the beautiful Fae.
'Cerberus', once the most handsome of demons but now a three-headed hellhound.
The hellhound has broken faith with the Devil in order to aid his daughter.
'Lilith', Queen of Witches, First among Succubae, She who sits at Lucifer's left hand.
Before her corruption by the Devil, Lilith was Princess Lilliana, the most lovely and kind-hearted of Faefolk.
Lilith has created seven powerful shadow demons to slay her daughter, Fae, who has caught the Devil's eye.
'Song Singer' and 'Stumble-Fish' - Dragons.
The setting - The Supernatural, a dimension existing in parallel to the mortal world of men.
The inland Sand Sea of Kev
They made their approach out of the rising sun, a thousand feet above the desert floor. The long hours of darkness fled before them and Scott enjoyed its warmth on his back after the bitter cold and snow squalls of the previous night.
Below them, here and there, they could see where the night’s frost remained. Silver white sheets, like morticians’ shrouds, coated the sand and rock in shadowy enclaves’ but by the noon, all those shadows would be banished. The former inland sea might be a desert but it was not a void, some life still eked an existence in the blasted hell that was daytime Kev.
In order to cope with the desert’s daytime heat, Fae had taken on an all-over tan. She was all but naked; the high-thigh dragon rider boots were covered by the hand tooled chaps that any vaquero would envy. Her mackintosh and wide brimmed hat had been secured behind her saddle when the moon had slipped below the horizon. A very elegant straight brimmed Spanish lady’s flamenco riding hat sat upon her head, secured beneath her chin with the hat’s strap. Her long hair had plaited itself into a chic pigtail that streamed behind her, the silver scarf tied tightly at the nape of her neck. The boots and chaps prevented chafing, protecting her soft inner thighs from the dragon’s sharp edged scales.
Scott’s armour and the pink squire’s garb, in Fae’s royal house colours, were not just stowed away, they were securely wrapped in sackcloth and hidden from view, matching blushing pink chain mail included. His arctic parka was also now stowed away.
At the coldest hour, shivering with cold, Cerberus, in his Pomeranian form, had been suffering in the side pannier that he currently called home. He was, after all, acclimatised to extreme heat, not arctic temperatures, after several millennia guarding Hell’s gate.
Scott had undone his parka and plucked him from the side pannier, placing him in the warmth there before doing it back up. With the dawn breaking, Scott had removed him, placing him on the dragon’s wide neck as he divested himself of outer clothing.
“Thanks,” the hellhound had rumbled after observing the desert floor, thousands of feet below, “but don’t think for one moment that we are going to have a warm fluffy over this and share soapy showers… unless of course you have a cigarette about you, I’m gasping?”
Scott shook his head and the lap dog version of the great hound spat in disgust.
Returning to the pannier, Cerberus was soon asleep.
Scott now wore plain leather riding chaps over his old British desert pattern camouflage clothing. A French paratrooper’s Spectra helmet, of the same lightweight steel carbonite and nomex concoction as his ballistic armour, protected his head. Needless to say, his ornately painted squire’s helmet was also out of sight.
“Song Singer needs fluids, he is tiring!” called Fae, seated astride the massive neck of Stumble Fish, where she had read the other dragon’s thoughts.
Unlike Fae’s mature dragon, Scott’s mount was a comparative teenager. It was still growing, and it had an appetite to match.
“Is there a well or an oasis nearby?”
She shook her head sadly.
“The last time one was here I sailed across the Sea of Kev in a silk merchant’s galleon, dived naked for oysters for my breakfast, flirted with mermaids, rode dolphins and frolicked with abandon under the stars with the ship’s captain,” her expression was wistful but then she smiled at the memory of some particularly happy moment.
“What was he, Werewolf, Centaur or Minotaur?”
“Neither,” Fae replied. “She was a Sea Nymph, and as utterly beautiful as a summer’s dawn,” she sighed. “I expect that she is just dust now, but for a glorious month we made such sweet music together.”
As fascinating as the occasional insights into Fae’s past were, it had not got them a solution to the water problem.
Scott and Fae had their Faerie canteens but the wizard’s warning that magic failed unaccountably at times, out in the dunes, made it unwise to share it with the beasts. The mouthful of water that each held could well be the last.
Raising his binoculars, Scott scanned the sands and rocky outcrops for any sign of water, there was none. The only thing left to do was something a Navajo instructor had once shown him on a desert survival course.
“I’m going down,” he told her “Follow me.”
But he was gone, the great wings flexed and warped, changing their angle, and Song Singer spiralled down, landing in a canyon with rock walls as smooth as marble, rendered so by the action of waves that had disappeared millennia before.
Stumble Fish followed suit at Fae’s first thought.
From two hundred feet up, Fae saw a slight movement in rocks above the canyon and the dragon swung right so as not to alert it by casting a shadow over it. It was warming itself, recovering from the night’s bitter cold, but soon it would seek the shade.
She must hurry.
Stumble Fish spread its wings wide and landed lightly on the far side of an outcropping.
Fae quickly removed her chaps and boots before releasing the leather ties securing her hunting bow and quiver of arrows. The heavy oak war bow and bodkin tipped arrows were overkill for what she now intended to stalk. She next removed the belly chain, she would not need the katana but the tinkling of the jewels and sparkle of gold and gems did not lend itself to clandestineness. The warrior souls entered her with expectation, as they always did, but she sheathed the long blade and hung it down her back by its strap, safely out of the way.
Slipping silently to the ground, naked but for her weapons and flamenco hat, Fae ran around the side of the outcrop that was still in shadow, her feet making no sound despite the silence of the desert.
Once she had gone, Stumble Fish stepped over the canyon’s lip, gliding down the rest of the way to join Song Singer and Scott.
Both dragons watched the human male, camouflaged helmet in hand, kneel and demonstrate how to lick the frosty rock wall and gather the moisture that his warm tongue produced by melting the silvery sheen.
“Stupid human, what are you doing?” Cerberus asked.
Scott looked over at the small dog.
“I am starting at the bottom and working up. Do you have a better suggestion?”
“Certainly,” the hellhound rumbled. “I would start high and work down, that way my thirst would be quenched before I got to leg-cocking height for every quadruped or biped with a weak bladder that had passed this way.”
Although not noted for their humour and not bi-lingual either, the dragons issued their peculiar hissing laugh that was most probably prompted by the human’s reaction, rather than any understanding of the hellhound’s words.
After about twenty minutes, the rasping sound of dragon tongue on rock ceased and Scott looked towards them. Both creatures’ throats issued a low purring sound and their necks were craned upwards. Scott followed their gaze, seeing Fae a hundred feet up, climbing down the seemingly sheer face with lithe and nimble moves. Bathed in sweat, her tanned skin shone as if oiled and the flamenco hat hung down her back, along with bow, quiver and katana, secured by the strap about her neck. A lump came to his throat, and a renewed longing, she was utterly beautiful.
Tearing away his eyes, he strode between Song Singer and Stumble Fish, placing a hand upon each creature in order to make the telepathic connection.
“They desire her!” he said in surprise.
“That makes three of you,” stated Cerberus. “Dragons are like dogs, they would try and mount a keyhole if it were big enough, and the longer they are separated from females of their own kind the more likely it is that they will try,” the hellhound nodded towards Fae. “They are restrained at the moment but they will sate themselves with her if we are not soon done here and clear of this desert. It will become very difficult to handle them in a week or two, sooner if they have water a-plenty and full bellies.”
Fae dropped the last few feet, landing easily and re-seating the hat upon her head. On seeing Scott, she beamed a wonderful smile that was filled with some childlike delight. Almost as if she were displaying a goldfish that she had won at a fair, she held out a large lizard that she had killed.
He let his eyes drink her in, as he had not dared to do for quite some time. The firm and perfect breasts with their wonderful bounce at each step, the flat belly, athlete’s legs and the delicious wiggle of her buttocks as she walked by him. Scott allowed a little daydream to play across his mind that was distinctly X-rated, but she did not bat an eyelid. The dragons also watched her as she walked and the manner in which each licked its lips had nothing to do with missed breakfasts.
Something was definitely not right, Fae always knew if he was thinking about her, it was his pet hate but its absence was an indicator of forces at work here that even she was unaware of.
“What that wizard said about magic being nullified out here is true,” he said and Fae turned to answer him.
“I know, as one was prevented from flying down as my wings would simply not appear when I bid them do so…” her puzzled expression suddenly changed to one of killing coldness, and she dropped her catch.
Scott felt shock and then horror, in a blur of movement Fae had nocked an arrow, drawn and let fly straight at his face.
It passed so close that the feathers brushed his ear.
Something screamed behind him.
Half turning, adrenaline entered his system as a result of what he beheld, ten Sand Tangs, the man-sized, hairless desert apes, were rushing them, seemingly out of nowhere.
Behind the Tangs, in the background on a smooth rock ledge, stood a young woman with flowing waist length red hair, naked but for a sand coloured cloak that hung down her back. She was pointing fixedly at Scott and Fae, as if directing the beasts’ actions, the forehead above her pretty face was furrowed as if she were concentrating intensely.
Tangs were not pack hunters, they were solitary and very aggressive, and fighting to the death any that encroached on their scent marked territory. Not even the females of the species were safe, not unless they were in season and seeking to mate. Sand Tang females were in short supply though.
Tangs were strong, incredibly fast climbers and with the strength to lift their own bodyweight. With such speed they were, of course, easily able to pull a human’s limbs from their sockets. Retractable claws in hands and feet, a throwback from their days as jungle dwellers and tree climbers on the sea's shores, were fearsome weapons.
At night, the merchants’ caravans that crossed this expanse carried wood for fires and built them high, posting guards in pairs. One on one a solitary Sand Tang was a match for most caravans’ sell-swords. A lone guard would be treated as supper before attempting to snatch one of the merchant’s womenfolk and carry her off into the night. The women of the caravans locked their yurts securely and slept with a blade resting beneath a pillow if they were wise.
Four of the Tangs kept the dragons occupied, preventing their intervention and somehow knowing that their fire breathing ability was curtailed by lack of fluids. Darting about, they cooperated in making hard targets whilst tormenting Song Singer and Stumble Fish.
Three Tangs were heading for Scott, three for Fae, the central Tang of each trio charged directly at their targets whilst the other two moved outwards with the intention of flanking and encircling them. All actions that were normally far too canny and out of character for these creatures.
The Tang nearest to Scott had taken the arrow in its nose but the hunting tip, and pull of the light bow, had been insufficient to drive it into the brain. It was enraged but still coming straight at Scott and he had no time to draw a weapon.
Scott went up onto his toes, his eyes narrowing, measuring his opponent, its speed and the remaining distance as his training took over. He danced backwards a full pace and swung his right arm as if it held a hammer. The helmet that he still held by the strap struck the end of the protruding arrow, driving it all the way through into the creature’s brain. It killed it instantly but its momentum bowled him over as they collided, sending him spinning backwards, head over heels.
Apparently satisfied that a single Tang could finish off the human male, the other swerved abruptly and headed for Fae, four against one.
They were quick, very quick, and before Fae could retreat and put the other rock wall at her back, they had her boxed in. Discarding the flamenco hat, she dropped the lightweight hunting bow and reached back over her head one-handed, drawing the katana.
She assumed the defensive position of ‘All Eight Directions’ the Hasso-no-kamae, left foot forward, the sword held upright with the hilt in front of her right shoulder, its guard just touching her ear. From that position she could best respond to attacks from any direction.
Her body shone with sweat, a bead ran down between her shoulder blades, following the contours of her spine until it disappeared into the cleft between her buttocks, but she was motionless, poised for combat. Fae looked determined and confident but all was not as it seemed.
The Thirteen had occupied her body before she had hunted the lizard but now there was just one warrior soul, the attentive Clover, who whispered advice and lent her own muscle memories to Fae.
The remainder were present but unaccountably mute and inactive.
Cerberus attempted to transform back into the three-headed, giant hellhound, but he could not do so, he remained for all intents and purposes a little Pomeranian lapdog.
This was not, Scott decided, one of those action movie scenes where the heroes are surrounded by overwhelming numbers who then, inexplicably but predictably, proceed to attack one at a time.
He hoped that he and Fae were not Butch and Sundance.
His opponent rushed him before he could regain his feet and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Fae’s four opponents do the same to her.
Still on his back, he drew the Sig, aimed and fired in one flowing movement, hitting the beast between the eyes and it tumbled into the dust at his feet. He next aimed at the person seemingly controlling the apes: it was a long shot, too far for accuracy with a handgun but not so far as to be out of range. The echoes of the second shot followed closely on the heels of the first, reverberating off the rock walls, but the round missed her by a full foot.
Stone chips flew from the point of impact and the mysterious woman on the ledge flinched. Cerberus began to transform but the distant figure recovered.
Now the size of a mere Great Dane mastiff, but with three heads once more, Cerberus charged the Tang at his daughter’s back. That slight loss of concentration had the large ape’s charge faltering, just for a moment, but it was enough.
From the Hasso-no-kamae position, Fae jumped to the right, confronting her attacker there, bringing the sword down two handed in an overhead chopping motion. The katana cleaved the Tangs head in two, splitting the skull and continuing vertically until halted by the breastbone, which trapped it.
Many are the warriors, male and female, whose final opponents unwittingly ensured their destruction, their bodies gripping the blade in such a fashion, before a combat had ended.
Her father was involved in a violent fur ball of a fight with a Tang on her right, so she was safe in that direction but she sensed, rather than saw or heard, the other two closing fast, one from her left and the other running directly at her back.
Instead of stepping back and releasing the blade that way, Fae performed a Mae Geri, a front kick to the ape’s chest, propelling it from the blade. She turned fast, leading with the left foot as she spun in that direction, her knee bending as she leant into the strike, cutting in two the Tang on her left. She immediately stepped back, turning her back to the remaining great ape and reversing her grip on the handle as she did so. Fae drove the sword’s tip backwards, directly beneath her left armpit. The sword speared the Tang through its groin and it fell, screaming pitiably, clutching at the wound.
Instead of delivering the coup de grace, Fae ripped the scarf from about her pigtail and flung it with great force, whereupon it transformed into the needle pointed dagger.
No demon, but no innocent either, the young woman on the ledge was taken in the back of the neck as she retreated. It severed the spinal cord and she fell, her momentum carrying her over the lip of the ledge, but she was dead before she impacted the rocky floor, twenty feet below.
With the Sig in the aim, Scott stood and approached the fallen woman, alert for other Sand Tangs.
The four apes who had menaced the dragons had all turned and attempted to flee the moment that the dagger had ended their mistress, but Stumble Fish and Song Singer were on them in an instant. Snapping jaws had severed the heads from the Tangs’ bodies and now the two dragons began to feed.
Cerberus had ripped the throat out of his opponent and was likewise tearing great chunks from the flesh and wolfing them down.
The sound of a keen blade passing through the air silenced the wounded ape and its head rolled away.
Dead eyes looked skywards without focus as Scott knelt beside the slain woman. Her hair was decorated in a gold filigree mesh, an item not dissimilar to a tikka, a traditional piece of head jewellery in India and Pakistan. About her neck, she wore a rather beautiful golden medallion secured by a simple leather strap. A leather pouch was also attached to the strap, it bore magical runes and it appeared to him that the medallion would fit snuggly inside of it. Removing it from about her neck, he slipped the medallion and pouch separately into a pocket.
Fae had a way of bossing him about as if she were a prefect at an exclusive girl’s school, and resentment breeds rebellion.
He would tell her about it later.
Rolling the dead girl face down, he removed the cloak and to his great surprise, she bore the mark of twin dog’s paws on her right buttock.
“A relative of yours?” he asked, hearing Fae approach.
“No,” she leaned over, retrieving the dagger, the blade making a sucking sound as she withdrew it. “They are tattoos, not birthmarks, she worshipped one’s mother, and she is an unholy nun, a Sister of Lilith.”
“And what about these, then?” he indicated two tattooed outlines of Sand Tang’s palm prints, one behind each shoulder. “Did she worship the Sand Tang’s too?”
“No,” Fae took the garment from him. “I imagine that the apes worshipped her and as such she gained telepathic control over them.”
What Scott had thought to be a cloak was in fact a scapular, a sideless garment, like a poncho but much narrower, not even as wide as the hips but ankle length. Its colouration exactly matched the terrain.
“A nun’s habit that doubles as camouflage clothing,” he observed, “So there is water near here, somewhere.”
“And may one enquire how you deduce that?” Fae asked.
“No packs for rations, no canteen for water and no boots of course.” He lifted one of the dead girl’s lower legs, examining the soles of her feet. “Hard skin but not hard enough for hiking on hot sand and rock, and also they are relatively clean. She washed them recently, so she was not leading a patrol of adoring simians. She was commanding some kind of guard post.”
With amazing ease and impressive speed, Fae ascended to the ledge.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“One intends to discover this aforementioned guard post as we need water.”
He joined her, although less elegantly.
“There could be others, more Sand Tangs,” he cautioned.
“Hardly likely if your theory is correct, I image that there was barely enough water to sustain those we slew,” she indicated the bodies below them as she led the way along the narrow ledge. She was as sure footed as a cat and twice as sinuous, her hips rolled with the movement.
He took a moment to examine the medallion before slipping it into its pouch. It was incredibly old but it bore a stunningly accurate likeness of Lilith upon its face. He tucked it away and admired the way the dogs paw marks moved upon her sweat- glossy buttock.
Fae was still speaking.
“…were there more ample supply of water we should have espied a greater number of wildlife in the locale and…” she huffed in exasperation. “Will you please cease and desist that infernal ogling of one’s arse!”
At least Scott now knew the source of the magical nullification, if not its method of projection, and he now possessed a means of preventing Fae from intruding upon his privacy by reading his mind.