Fool, no harm will come to you here. I am with you, and you are marked as my own,” Rabdos whispered in Robert Dante’s ear as he rode on his back. Dante should have been striding down the street toward their destination as commanded, but instead he had paused, afraid to pass a simple pack of lemurs led by a low level imp and their human cattle. He decided a simple lie wrapped by the truth would suffice and said, “Those men are mine. Now let us go. We are almost there and we don’t have much time.”
“What’s the rush? You beat them back and almost killed one of them,” Dante said, as he hesitantly resumed his course toward the pack of young men on the street corner. The street light above was out, but the three quarter moon shed enough light to see the six young men all turn to face Dante and Rabdos as they approached.
“Yo, man you lost?” One of the men asked.
“This ain’t cho hood. Get the…” another started but was interrupted by a muscular, baldheaded man who laid a hand on his chest and pushed him aside.
Rabdos rose up and stood on Dante’s shoulders. As he did so, he saw lemurs scrambling from the pavement, up legs, around waists and chests, to perch on shoulders or atop heads. The large, bald-headed man had an imp riding on his shoulder as well. The imp dipped his head deeply toward Rabdos and then bent to whisper in the man’s ear before facing Rabdos. He bore the image of a red sword branded upon his shoulder.
“My lord, you honor us with your presence,” the imp said without a hint of sarcasm in its high pitched voice. “How may we serve this night?”
“The servants of War will step aside. We go to your lair and do not wish to be disturbed by anyone. If men of valor approach you are to oppose them and send word by one of your pack,” Rabdos commanded. The imp laughed and the lemurs trilled their amusement in high pitched whistles that annoyed Rabdos’ ears. “Silence! You think my commands funny?”
“No, no my lord, not at all, simply out dated. Men of valor haven’t walked Eden for over seven hundred years. The festival around the Septuacenntenial of de Molay’s roasting is still spoken of around the Lake of Fire by the task masters,” the imp said, bowing deeply as he apologized. He had forgotten, and had almost let it slip to a common imp that two men of the order of Knights Templar walked Eden once again. They had finally shown themselves again after all these years and he would be the first to report the information. Unless of course he slipped up and gave that valued knowledge to another. The men parted and Dante moved on toward the street crossing.
“Of course you idiot. Humans call them police but they are a poor shadow of the knights of old,” he replied as they passed.
“We will do what we can, my lord, should they come but my minions are poorly equipped,” the imp said attempting to garner favor.
“Dante, stop,” he said. Perhaps he had an opportunity here. He spent a brief second calculating the risks and decided a moment cold be spared if he could increase his fold, but only a moment. “I have no treasure to spend on those not of my house. However, we are returning to my estate shortly. I would be remiss in my duties were I not to equip those in my service as I am able.”
“Forgive us, good master, but we see no mark upon you. Surely one so great as to have an estate on Gehenna would bear the mark of a Rider,” the imp stated through a toothy smile that dripped forced politeness. “A name at least so we can contemplate your offer.”
Time was running out. The gambit might pay off at a later date but not tonight. “You are too far beneath me to care for my name. I have no time for this. Come Dante we depart this rabble.”
Dante hurriedly crossed the street against the light and moved on down the sidewalk. The questions from the younger men flew behind them asking why they just allowed Dante to pass. The voice of their leader rose and fell as soft thuds punctuated his statements. Dante glanced back and picked up his pace but Rabdos never turned, though the sounds of the beatings did warm his heart a bit.
Dante’s quickened pace finally brought them to the cement steps leading up to the worn doorway of a tenement building. Sitting on the steps were two heavy-set men who openly cradled handguns in their laps. They rose as Dante approached. Two lemurs rode on their shoulders. Rabdos manifested his axe and waved it at them. The lemurs quickly scampered up the walls of the building to the third story and through a broken window.
“Wha cho want?” one of the men said in a deep bass voice, waving the gun at Dante.
“Gain admittance,” Rabdos stated flatly to Dante. “We need to see their leader. He will be expecting us.”
“Take us to your boss,” Dante said, in a firm and commanding voice.
“Us? You got a mouse in yo pocket?” the other heavy-set man asked, chuckling at his own joke.
“Idiot. He can’t see me,” Rabdos chided.
“Kicker don’t know you,” the other man said. “Now get the hell outta here before I buss a cap in yo grape.”
An imp poked his head out of the broken window and quickly went back inside.
“You’re making a big mistake,” Dante countered, though Rabdos could hear a slight waver in his voice. The man on the right took two steps down and pressed the muzzle of his gun against Dante’s chest. Rabdos could see the color drain from his charge’s face. He needed to impress upon Dante the level of power he now commanded and banish this fear. He ignited his axe and touched the man’s gun, then brushed it against Dante’s right fist. Both the gun and Dante’s fist had hellfire dancing over them.
“Punch him in the jaw,” Rabdos said. Dante didn’t move. “Punch him in the jaw I said and your safety will be secured!”
“He’ll shoot me,” Dante hissed trying to remain unheard.
“Damn right I’ll shoot you, punk. Now get outta here,” the thug said.
“He cannot as long as my fire burns, now punch the peasant,” he said hitting his words hard. They had no time for this.
Dante lashed out and connected with the man’s jaw. The thug easily outweighed Dante by at least a hundred pounds, but when his fist connected, the hellfire exploded and the man dropped to the pavement without a sound. His partner looked at him and raised his gun, but didn’t fire.
“Now repeat your command, but do so as I am speaking,” Rabdos said through gritted teeth.
“I said, take me to your boss,” Dante said correcting the pronoun and speaking with his jaw set, creating a passable imitation of Rabdos’ voice. As Dante spoke, Rabdos bathed the man’s head in hellfire. The man lowered his gun slightly and stepped back to the top of the landing.
“Sho man. Anybody what can drop Pugs like dat, maybe you do got cred,” the man said. “Come on.”
Hellfire still danced across the man’s skull as he held the door open. Dante moved up the steps and through the door into the darkness of the building. A few short steps inside ran him straight into a hard, rusted steel door. A metal on metal sound startled Dante as a narrow panel slid back shining a bright sliver of light into the enclosed foyer. A set of eyes peered out surveying the two men.
“Where’s Pugsley?” the eyes asked.
“Dude dropped him like a bad habit. Says Kicker wants to see him,” the man standing next to them said.
“Bulls…” A muffled voice cut off the sharp retort as the eyes cut away from the slit. “Man, you sure?”
A short muffled response later and the slit slid shut. A series of metallic clanks, rattles of chain, and clicks later, the steel door swung open bathing the foyer in light and revealing a second foyer with a stairway to one side and a hallway disappearing beyond it to the right. A young girl clad in a highly revealing tank top and miniskirt so short it was barely covering her modesty stood beyond the door with one foot on the bottom step of the staircase.
“Kicker said to bring him up,” she said, and started heading up the stairs. Dante swallowed hard and Rabdos wasn’t sure if it was because of the sway of her shapely backside or the four burly men with guns pointed at them.
Guardians of the Herald is live on Kickstarter to fund the production of Angels and Demons as a real book! Go to this address to get involved and see the nifty rewards available to backers of the project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thecavalier/angels-and-demons-guardians-of-the-herald-issues-1
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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