Rabdos waved a casual hand, clearing the black smoke as he strode to the tower edge. He stopped a short distance away from the masons setting the next course of stone, but just close enough to still hear the cries of pain as the hot mortar bonded with the flesh of the stones. The young drug dealer would be in their cadre before this night was over, and Rabdos allowed a small smile of satisfaction to creep onto his face as he looked down on his corral where the young ginger mount lay naked, sleeping. He’d have to find another mount soon if he was going to release him back into Eden to stud.
The imps laying around the corral waiting for Rabdos to make an appearance suddenly sprang up and dashed across the yard out of sight. Rabdos moved around the perimeter of the tower top keeping them in sight, searching for what had drawn their attention. Approaching from the direction of the Plain of Gehenna rode three demons with a squad of imps on foot and a host of lemurs. The lead demon carried a banner with the Chisel and Hammer on it. The procession had drawn a large crowd of imps and lemurs who held their position within the safe bounds of Rabdos’ wards. The procession stopped some thirty feet from the edge of the wards and waited.
Rabdos scowled and smashed the butt of his axe on the tower rooftop, vanishing. He reappeared just inside the wards in front of the demons. Rabdos kept his outward appearance calm, but his heart raced in his chest despite being able to clearly see the protective wards swirling in the air between him and his aggressive visitors. He expected this visit from the Master Mason given his duel for the ginger mount, but that knowledge did nothing to calm his nerves standing alone against such a force.
“Rabdos the Strangler,” the lead demon announced in a loud voice.
Rabdos stood still and did not respond. Instead he affected an air of indifference outwardly that he did not feel inwardly, and casually leaned on his axe, scratching his behind as he did. The indifference had the desired effect.
“Are you Rabdos the Strangler?” the demon roared.
“Perhaps. Who wants to know?” he responded, knowing the sigil of the Master Mason full well.
“I, Dagon, do announce to all assembled here that you have violated the household of Master Masson Nebiros’ three days past. I am here to collect payment for that infraction,” the lead demon announced, waving his axe to encompass the entire gathered throng.
“I’ve done no such thing. I made no assault, no infraction against Master Mason Nebiros nor his house,” Rabdos said, knowing full well it was the truth.
“Lies!” roared Dagon from atop his mount. The finely muscled man never flinched, just continued to stare at Rabdos with hatred and fire in his eyes. “You slew his nephew. The proof sits on display in your corral this very moment!”
“Oh, you mean the mount I won in a legal duel?” Rabdos responded, but his heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t expected his target to actually be related to the master mason. This mired things greatly. His mind raced as he sought a way out of this complication. An idea sprang to mind, perhaps he could use the same tactic Dagon had planned to use on him. Squaring himself away, he hefted his axe and took on an air of indignation. “I was assaulted and insulted by a careless and stupid demon. I defended myself and took the spoils of the conflict for my own.”
“That demon was a member of Nebiros’ household, of his own blood, under his protection. His death must be paid for.” Dagon advanced his mount a few paces closer.
“It was. The idiot is dead.” Now to press his gambit and move the confrontation to the endgame as he’d envisioned. “You should pay me. I’ve done the Master Mason a service by culling his herd and improving his bloodline. But I will be generous this time in the interest of fostering good relations. I will not press the issue of payment.”
Dagon’s eyes went wide with rage. His jaw clenched and unclenched as he searched for words to respond to the insolence he’d just received. He finally screamed in rage and shot an arc of hellfire into the sky before turning his seething gaze upon Rabdos himself.
“This is the last warning you will receive careless imp!” Dagon screamed the insult, leveling the axe directly at Rabdos. Hellfire still trickled across the blades of the double axe head making the gesture look all the more menacing. “You will return the mount and turn over all you have or your life is forfeit and I will burn you to cinders where you stand!”
“You have no such authority,” Rabdos responded, though his eyes darted left and right to ensure he was still behind his wards and that they still held strong. They did.
“I have been granted all authority to act as Master Mason Nebiros, himself,” Dagon said.
Lord Malphas’ warning that there was a breach to be exploited in his wards bounced into his mind. Rabdos unconsciously stepped back making certain nothing would push him beyond those wards, but he began to search their surface looking for that weakness. A sly grin crept onto Dagon’s face as soon as Rabdos moved, and his body language changed gripping the axe more firmly as his eyes narrowed to make sure of his target. Rabdos looked left and right scrutinizing his wards, but they were perfectly in place. He focused again on Dagon who still held him firmly in his sight. He wasn’t concerned about the wards at all. He knew the weakness too. He could attack at any moment and Rabdos would be totally exposed.
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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