Rabdos reappeared just beyond the door. As soon as he felt his head reappearing he raised his axe and formed a fiery disc just in front of his body. He immediately felt the push of flame from two assaults, weak attempts to be sure, but quite capable of banishing him to the Lake of Fire for all eternity.
“I am not your enemy!” he shouted as he solidified inside the room. “Cease this pointless attack and let us parlay to your betterment.”
“You destroy our minions and assault our lair and expect us to grant you parlay?” a female voice asked. Good. He needed more females. Two more blasts struck his strengthening shield to no effect.
“I have destroyed lemurs and a whore of an imp only,” he said, expanding the edges of the shield in case they tried to spread out. “I will replace those I have killed twice over and more.”
“Give us your name and perhaps we will talk,” the male voice said. He could envision the sneer though his flame shield obscured his view. Giving them his name was of no consequence at this point. They’d either join him or be dead shortly so no harm could come of it.
“I am Rabdos the Strangler, raised by Satan and favored of the Red Rider of War,” he said, adding more bass to his voice as he bellowed out his name formally. The flaming assaults stopped. “I come to offer you terms.”
“Rabdos, yes. We’ve heard of you,” the female said. “We will hear you out.”
“He means to kill us,” the male voice hissed.
“Shut up!” she said, as a sharp slap and squeak of pain accompanied the words. Rabdos didn’t fully trust them yet, but he had little choice. He gripped his axe and faded the fiery shield enough to see the room and its occupants.
A desk and large table plus several over-stuffed chairs lay on their sides providing a makeshift barricade at the far end of the room. Five people, four men and a woman, crouched behind the overturned furniture. They all had guns aimed at the door. Two demons stood at either end of the barricade, with the female on Rabdos’ left side where the human woman was, and the other demon on his far right. Smart. They were as wide as they could get to try and catch him in a cross fire as much as the room allowed, but also dumb. They were thinking very literally, letting the physical makeup of Eden’s structures limit their little brains. He’d have to work on that.
“Rabdos the Strangler. We’ve heard how you were raised, how you drew Father Satan’s attention and a prediction from the Red Rider, yet we see no mark. How is it you are so favored but bear no mark?” the female asked, waving her axe in a threatening manner at him.
He scanned what he could see of the female for any mark but found none. The male however, had come out from behind his barricade slightly, revealing a coal-black brand in the form of scales on his chest. A large pentagram with a goat’s head in the bottom point surrounded the scales.
“Death’s minions, I see. Good. I have need of you but only one must turn. The other will serve in a hidden capacity remaining in Death’s camp for the time being,” he said.
“You offer us only to replace what you have destroyed,” the male said. “There is no profit in that.”
“Twice over, and you will have stone to build your own towers plus two of each of these cattle to rule,” he said.
“Hey Rabdos, what’s the hold up?” Kicker yelled. “Five-O coming, man.”
“You are so dead Kicker!” one of the men shouted.
“My minion is right. We must conclude our business and return these to the Plain of Gehenna straight away,” he said. The female came from behind the barricade and smiled. She recognized her advantage in the negotiations, and that did not bode well for him.
“Time is our ally, not yours lord Rabdos,” she said. Good, she intended to turn. Hopefully she would provide him excellent intelligence into Death’s activities. “What do you offer me in addition for my services?”
“Dagon! Shut up,” the male hissed. She ignored him, and shifted her axe head, aiming it at her companion he noted. Oh, she was a prize indeed. Rabdos doubted her companion knew the danger he was in at this moment. He decided to play out the gambit and completely lowered his shield resting the butt of his axe on the floor as well.
“Dagon is it? You made quite a stir in Phoenicia once upon a time,” he said, smiling.
“I did, didn’t I?” she replied knowingly.
“Dagon!” the male insisted. He could do without him, but the female, he must have. Perhaps he would embed the male with the Black Rider instead, or not at all.
“Convince your minions to hear my deal and I will grant you both lands in my estate, a cadre of your own from my herd, and enough thralls to start construction of your own towers,” Rabdos offered.
“Quite generous,” Dagon said. She never took her eyes off Rabdos. “What do you think Keteb, should we take him up on his offer?”
“We could just destroy him and take what is his,” Keteb suggested, striding over to stand beside Dagon.
“Don’t be so stupid. He easily deflected our attacks and even now has a means to destroy you that you are not aware of,” she said, shifting her axe ever so slightly. The message was quite clear. The deal was almost done.
“Yes, Keteb, I can destroy you if I choose. Make your decision now. I must conclude my business here,” he said, keeping his eyes locked on Dagon, but watching Keteb out of the corner of his eye.
Keteb thought a moment more, looked at Dagon, looked at Rabdos, and then slowly took a knee raising up his chest to easily expose the Black Rider’s brand there. Dagon waited a moment more and then she too took a knee, inclining her head farther down to reveal the same brand on the back of her neck.
Immediately, Rabdos sprang forward and struck Keteb square in the center of his brand with the top of his axe. The yellow ribbon that was his mark seared into Keteb’s chest as a hot brand, sending tendrils of smoke from charred flesh into the air. Keteb let out a screech of agony as the symbol etched itself into his flesh. Then he turned to Dagon but he did not press his axe to her symbol.
“I have plans for your branding, back in my chambers,” he said. Dagon smiled knowing full well what that meant and what she would be doing while he pressed his axe into the back of her neck. She liked it. Good. “For now, prepare your minions as I bring mine into the room. We need to get deals signed for them all and then we are back to the plain.”
The two demons rose and began bathing the humans in the room in hellfire. By the time Kicker entered the room, the barricade and everything behind it sat in a pool of fire reaching to the ceiling, and the men and women crouched there were reading Rabdos’ parchment offering each what they most desired on Eden.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. To catch up on the first 45 issues you can either read them for free on the web site or purchase the compilation, Guardians of the Herald Issues 1-45: Angels and Demons for the Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Herald-Issues-1-45-Angels-ebook/dp/B00IJIFXSY.
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