Rabdos slowed his pace as he approached the boulder field on the edge of the plain of Gehenna. The ridge fires burned low and the craggy hills that surrounded the boulder field cast long shadows over the place Rabdos was headed.
He swiveled his head to see if any other denizens of Hell were following him and altered his path slightly. Arriving at a boulder, Rabdos slipped his axe behind his back and leaned up against a large boulder. He gathered in the reserves of power he’d siphoned from his host and willed his stony skin to transform. Slowly, his smooth grey flesh took on the exact color and texture of the rock he touched, blending him into the stone better than any chameleon walking the earth. After his skin transformed he froze in place and waited.
Fifteen minutes later, Rabdos began to inch his way around the rock he leaned up against. The path the little demon took wound him back behind the stone and into a maze of other large stones like the one he touched. As soon as he moved far enough around the rock to be out of sight from the plain he began moving from stone to stone, always keeping in contact with the surface of one rock or the other. After several minutes of this Rabdos moved around one particularly large stone into a broad open area. The large stones that ringed the one hundred yard clearing made the area feel more like an arena and less like a boulder field. Waiting in the middle of the clearing stood a muscular demon at least three times Rabdos’ size, covered in deep chitenous armor plates colored a deep crimson that contoured to the rippling muscles beneath. Attached to his head were two great curving ram’s horns that bent round to follow the great demon’s jaw line, stopping on either side of his mouth and creating a boney frame for his blood red, smooth lips. The legs the demon stood upon looked to be goat’s legs, but instead of fur covering them more of the crimson, smooth skin covered the legs down to jet-black hooves.
“You’re late, imp,” the giant demon said.
“Imp no more, Lord Malphas. Thanks to your tutelage,” Rabdos said, stepping away from the boulders and bowing to his superior.
“Yes, so I heard. I was not able to attend, though I hear you did well garnering a cadre even,” Lord Malphas said, swinging his axe from one hand to the other in a practiced twirling motion.
“Indeed, yes. It had the added benefit of watching that wretch Pilfis fly into a rage and Our Father Below snuffed him out,” Rabdos said.
“Ah, I would have liked to have seen that,” Malphas said. “Did you do as I instructed once you had your followers?”
“I did. I was able to suck enough energy from his suffering to ward off most of the wounds directed at me. Again, I thank you my lord,” Rabdos said, trying to imitate the larger demon’s axe motions. He was neither graceful nor successful, dropping his axe with a clatter into the gravely dust of the ground.
“You seem distracted my little,” Malphas hesitated, substituting another word for the one he was going to say. “My little demon friend.”
“A question plagues me.”
“No one in Hell helps anyone, yet you help me in defiance of Our Father Below’s commands. Why do you risk eternal burning for me?”
“Ole Scratch does not reveal his plans to lesser minions and neither do I reveal my motivations to you, little demon. It is enough that you know my information is true,” Malphas said, halting the spin of his axe and leveling the axe head at Rabdos.
“Factual, maybe, but I find little in the way of truth in Gehennah,” Rabdos countered, appearing to pay the axe no attention as he focused on spinning his own axe as Malphas had done.
“We have spoken nothing but truth, my friend, since we have known each other yet still you do not trust me,” Malphas said with a melodramatic pout on his face.
“No, I do not,” Radbod said flatly, stopping his axe from spinning just as Malphas had done.
“That is the smartest decision you have made.”
“So what now?”
“Go back to your charge when you go topside and replenish your energy. I feel a calling will be placed on you shortly by your new master and you will need your rest,” Malphas said. The demon snapped his head quickly to one side as the sound of rocks and pebbles being kicked against the large stones announced the approach of someone. “Ah, you are needed sooner than I expected. You will have to act quickly and replenish your suffering here before you meet with Scratch. Go.”
Malphas didn’t wait for Rabdos’ response. Instead, he made three quick strides and reached the other side of the clearing. As the giant demon strode across the open area his form shifted and changed into that of a diminutive imp just before he reached a crag in the clearing ring, vanishing from sight.
A round, beady-eyed demon with skin the color of charcoal waddled into the clearing, kicking great gouts of dust up with each step. The new arrival seemed out of breath as it scanned the area, quickly spotting Rabdos and waving him over. Rabdos had no intention of being summoned like some common lemur until he noticed the pentacle openly branded into the creature’s chest. Surprise and shock flashed across Rabdos’ face as he recognized the secretary to none other than Satan himself, Baalberith. Rabdos ran across the clearing as fast as he could.
“There you are. How dare you make me come all the way out here to find you,” the winded demon panted out sternly. “Our Father Below wants to see you immediately.”
Baalberith didn’t wait to see if Rabdos understood the command or even heard it. Instead, the rotund demon spun around and began the laborious journey back out of the boulder field.
Exhilaration at the thought of being called for by Satan himself were quickly replaced by worry as Rabdos glanced at the spot in the rocks where Malphas had vanished a very short while ago. Did Satan know he’d been tutored? If he did, chances were good these would be the last untormented hours of his life.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. For more information about this story please join us on our Facebook page community at www.facebook.com/firstchevalierbooks.