Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 6, Fantasy

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Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 6, Fantasy

Post  Firebrand on Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:44 am

Chapter 6

Sin checked Lisana’s pulse again. “We need to find shelter soon. That concussion was worse than we thought.” The sorceress was lying on Dusty’s back, unconscious.

Orrin, in his human form, scanned the Forest. “I don’t think there are any proper dwellings for miles.”

Julia tightened the bandage on her arm. “We need to find something. The sky’s threatening rain, and if we get caught in it, we’ll catch cold. For Lisana, that might be fatal.”

Kelrick glanced at his mistress. “I'll go find a place for us.”

“Not alone.” Thalia blinked slowly. “I will accompany you. I see better in the dark.”

Anjaru threw his shoulders back. “And I will go. With my wings, I can bring word and lead you.”

Orrin glanced at Julia. “Take care of these two. I’ll go with the other demons. If nothing else, I can carry supplies back.”

With that, all four demons shifted to their animal forms and ran ahead on the trail, disappearing into the gathering darkness. Sin soon lost sight of them, and they continued on at their plodding pace.

***

“I see a light up ahead!” Anjaru called down to his companions. When they were in animal shapes, they all could communicate using the tongue of the Beasts, which was as much about body language and signals as it was about actual sounds.

Kelrick’s dog-ears pricked up, and his dark fur rose. “I smell food. And wood smoke. An inn, perhaps?”

Thalia’s sandpapery cat’s tongue played across her teeth. Her pale fur seemed to glow in the moonlight. “Out here? No.”

Orrin’s long gait put him ahead. “I think our best choice is to see what is there. If it is an undesirable place, or the people there wish us harm, we can quickly disappear into the Forest.”

As the demons drew closer, they found that the light came from the windows of a log cabin, set some distance back from the trail. Anjaru landed on Orrin’s back, careful not to let his talons dig into the earth demon’s broad shoulders.

Kelrick placed his paws on the windowsill and peeked inside. “It’s the robbers we fought a couple days ago!” He bared his teeth, and began to shift back into his human form. “Let’s get them!”

Thalia hissed. “Don’t be a fool! We still have a chance to get out of here!”

Kelrick growled. “Mistress Lisana needs shelter, and these are bad men. I have no qualms driving them from this place.”

Anjaru flapped his wings. “A fight does not answer everything. Perhaps there is a better way to get them to leave.” He flew up to perch on the chimney. “Let’s have a look around, shall we?”

Orrin began to walk slowly around the cabin, outside the ring of light. His large size made him unable to hide below the windows like Thalia and Kelrick. Inadvertently, his hoof struck a rock, which struck another rock, and so on, setting off a scratching chain reaction.

All the boisterous noise from inside the cabin ceased. Thalia and Kelrick pressed themselves up against the outside walls, and Orrin disappeared into the brush, his dappled coat somehow blending in with the trees and foliage.

Inside the cabin, the chief robber put down his mug of ale. “What was that?”

The youngest robber, a teenage boy with dark eyes and a pale face, shrugged. “Probably just some dumb animal.”

Another robber shook his head. He wore an eye patch and had many scars. “No! It’s a demon! I’m sure of it! Get your iron!” Several of his cohorts did just that.

The lead robber shook his head. “Don’t be stupid. It was just a fox or something.”

At that moment, Anjaru shifted his weight on the chimney; his wings flaring out and quickly back in. The sound was magnified as it traveled down the stone chamber.

“Didja hear that?” another of the robbers whispered. “Great big wings! Ain’t no animal in this Forest with wings that big!”

The chief robber smirked. “How big? You dimwit, you haven’t even seen ‘em. How do you know how big they are?”

“I just do, Boss! I mean, I don’t think anything has wings that could make a noise like that, except maybe a dragon!”

The boy put his feet up on the table. “Everyone knows all the dragons are dead. Besides, only two demons can take the shape of a dragon.”

The bandit trembled. “Then… that means… one of them is out there!”

This set the bandits into a panic, muttering amongst themselves. “What’re we gonna do?”

“A demon that looks like a dragon?”

“It’s gonna gobble us up in one gulp!”

“Shut up, you idiots!” the lead bandit roared. “There’s no dragon out there, ya hear me?”

During this exchange, Thalia had silently padded over to the other side of the cabin, and ran her claws along the rough wood. It made a rasping noise that sounded very much like scales.

Kelrick heard this, and using his nails, made the same sound. They alternated, and to the casual observer it sounded as though a large snake was slithering around the cabin.

“There’s its scales!” the scarred robber shouted. “It’s out there right now!”

Anjaru beat his wings again, and Orrin kicked more rocks. The rocks made a sound very much like long sharp claws scrabbling against the ground. The ox kicked a tree, and made a thudding sound.

“It’s coiling around the cabin!” a bandit cried.

Now the lead robber looked a little worried. “All right. Everybody get your steel and iron. Here’s the plan. We’re goin—”

At that moment, Orrin bellowed, long and loud. Anjaru took up the cry, shrieking at the top of his voice. Kelrick bayed and growled, and Thalia hissed and yapped at loud as she could. The end result was a dreadful racket that would have scared even the bravest of men.

“Forget the plan!” the timid robber squealed. “Let’s just get outta here!”

He threw the door open and ran out into the night, followed by the rest of the robbers. They ran deep into the forest, trying to get away from the dragon.

Anjaru fluttered down from the roof. “Well… they aren’t a very bright bunch now, are they? I say we keep their cabin warm for them. Why don’t you three stay here and get comfortable? I’ll send for Sin, Lisana and Julia.”

The falcon winged off into the night. Orrin found that he could not fit in the door in his animal form. “You two go on inside. I’ll wait for the others to get back. An ox can make a formidable guardian in case those robbers come back.”

Thalia slunk past him to curl up on the mantle, for the fire was dying down to embers and the stones were nice and warm. Kelrick lay down by the door, his head resting on his paws, and slowly drifted off to sleep.

***

The sharp call of a falcon startled Sin out of his reverie. The young man scanned the dark sky, but saw nothing. “Anjaru?” he called out. “Is that you?”

There was a thud behind him. Julia whirled, Sin’s silver knife flashing in her hand. “How’d you get that?” Sin cried indignantly.

“Trade skill,” Julia shot back. “Now shut up. I heard something.”

There was a rustle, and Anjaru, now in the shape of a sharp-featured man in a falcon-feather cloak, stepped into Sin’s range of sight. “I apologize for startling you. The other demons and I found a cabin, some miles up the road. It was inhabited by the robbers we met some days ago.”

There was a ring of metal on metal as Sin drew his sword. “Then we’ll fight them off.”

Anjaru shook his head. “No need. We scared them away. No one was hurt. We have left one lantern burning outside. It will not be hard to spot. I will lead you.”

Julia shook her head, and passed Sin his knife. “No. Go back. The robbers might return, and the others will need your help.”

“My place is here, with my mistress.”

Julia scowled. “We’ve taken care of her just fine. Go.”

“The other three are—”

“I said, go. Your mistress isn’t here to order you, so take it from me. Shoo. If we aren’t there in one hour, come looking for us.”

Anjaru blinked, taken aback. “All right. Be safe, and I will see you shortly.”

He changed into a falcon, and flew off into the night.

***

The robbers gathered in the woods. The lead bandit punched the one who led the flight from the cabin. “Did you see a bloody dragon when you ran? Did you?”

“N-No, sir!”

The leader hit him again. “And don’t you think a dragon would be hard to miss?”

“Y-Yes sir!”

The bandit leader smirked. “So here’s what I say, boys. I’m thinking we were tricked. Whoever it was, right now, they’re probably stealing our treasure and eating our food. Well, let me tell you, I can’t have that. So let’s go back and drive ‘em out!”

“Yeah!”

“If they’re demons, our iron will take care of ‘em! If it they aren’t… well, my sword still works regardless!”

“Yeah!”

“So let’s take our loot back!”

The bandit led the robbers back to the cabin, and paused at the edge of the clearing. He turned to the timid robber. “Since you got us into this mess, you go in first, and tell us what you see.”

He shoved the man forward, and the robber staggered to the door. He glanced around furtively, and slipped inside. The timid man found it very dark inside the cabin, so he stumbled into the kitchen and lit a match.

He hurried to find a coal before the narrow sliver of wood burned out. Thalia, being a light sleeper, had awoken to the robber coming in the door. Her cat eyes glowed in the darkness.

The robber, mistaking these for smoldering coals, held the match up to them. Thalia hissed, and scratched his face with her sharp claws. The man staggered back, and bumped into Kelrick. The dog woke up with a strangled bark, and bit the terrified man’s leg.

The bandit howled, and fell out of the cabin. Anjaru puffed up on the roof, and shrieked in indignation. The scar-faced robber ran forward, and stumbled over Orrin. The ox bellowed, and kicked the man.

“What’s going on here?” the lead robber roared.

The timid bandit and the one with the eye patch ran back into the shelter of the trees. The one who had gone inside the cabin made his report. “In the house, there’s an assassin with a knife sitting on the fireplace! She scratched me, see? And behind the door, there’s a knight! He took his sword and stuck it in my leg! Look, look!”

The man with the eye patch nodded. “On the roof, there’s a judge who shouted ‘Bring that villain to me!’ and in the yard, his bailiff tried to hit me with a club!”

The lead robber hit them both. He gestured to three other robbers. Two were large strapping men and the third was the crafty boy with dark eyes. “You three, come with me. We’re going to take care of this ourselves!”

The four men ran out of the forest with a roar. The brandished their swords high above their heads, scanning the yard for any soldiers. However, Orrin had retreated back to the other side of the forest, waiting to strike, and Anjaru was hiding on the other side of the chimney.

The robbers darted into the cabin, and one of the men lit an oil lamp. The wick fizzled to life, casting an orange glow around the small space. And the robbers realized they weren’t alone.

A woman sat on the mantle, stretching seductively. “Well, hello there.” She flicked her wrist, and three silver blades appeared in her hand, drawn from the folds of her pale blue and white robe. “Step into my parlor.”

The lead robber growled. “Why don’t you step out of mine?”

The sound of knuckles popping behind them made the robbers jump in surprise. “Who’s going to make her?”

Kelrick, back in his intimidating human form, leaned on his massive silver broadsword. The bravest of the bandits pointed his steel at him, though keeping well away. “Us! We’re taking our base back!”

Thalia crept up behind him and pressed a knife to his throat. Her icy touch dulled his senses. “Oh really?” she purred. “I’d think a big strong man like you wouldn’t need such silly weapons to get a little woman like me out of your house.”

The bandit’s steel fell to the ground. “Don’t be a fool, man!” the lead robber cried. “She’s got you in her power!”

He moved to slice Thalia, but Kelrick shoved him back. “Oh no you don’t.” He grabbed the oil lantern. “One false move and I break this! We’ll all go up in smoke!”

The third robber, who until this point had remained silent, squeaked. “They’re crazy! C’mon Boss! Let’s get outta here!”

He and his companion, the one Thalia had held in her grip, began to run, shoving the youngest bandit out of the way. The boy hit the floor, and gasped as he landed on his arm.

The lead robber kicked past him, and followed after his comrades. Kelrick and Thalia chased them, while the boy crept through the darkness, trying to find safety and relief for his damaged arm.

Orrin emerged from the forest, and Anjaru leapt from the roof, landing in front of the robbers. The sharp faced man spread his cloak wide. The air demon, who had very sharp ears, fixed his face into a scowl. “Bailiff, bring those villains to me! Make them drop their weapons and raise their hands!”

There was a muted clatter as the three bandits dropped all the weapons they had. “Just let us go!” the lead robber cried.

Orrin shrugged, falling into Anjaru’s act. “I don’t know if we should, Sir. These men have committed dreadful acts. Punishable by… execution.”

Kelrick and Thalia circled, looking like hungry animals, though they remained in human form. “Let’s cut them open,” Thalia hissed. “With the right spices, we could have a nice dish.”

Kelrick snarled in agreement, and licked his lips in an exaggerated fashion. “I haven’t had a good meal in weeks. That one looks like he’s got some meat on his bones.”

The robber he pointed to yelped. “Please don’t eat us!” he cried. “Please!” He ran into the forest, his companion darting after him. Orrin made a show of being knocked off balance, but in reality was not disturbed at all.

The leader of the bandits snarled at them. “You’ll regret this!” He too pushed past Orrin, and fled to the darkness of the forest.

The four demons shrugged, and returned to the warmth and comfort of the cabin, awaiting the arrival of their friends.

***

Sin and the others arrived some time later. Dusty was quickly tethered and hobbled outside, and the humans went into the cabin. Kelrick had stoked the fire, bringing the cabin to a cozy warmth.

Julia laid Lisana out on a cot the demons prepared, and began to check over her injuries again. Sin turned to Orrin. “Was there any trouble after Anjaru got back?”

The earth demon shrugged dismissively. “Just some things poking around in the forest. Nothing we couldn’t handle.”


---
Readers, this chapter marks the first occurrence of what makes Sin a unique fantasy tale. At various points throughout the story, certain moments will be heavily influenced by the fairy tales of old, most especially those of the Brothers Grimm. I have found in writing this that there are two distinct kinds of "moments", those that are self-contained scenes, like this one, and those that are far more subtle and drawn out, almost tropes within their own right. Now that you have fair warning, I encourage you to try and pick them out when they surface.

However, to remain in the present, for those of you who are genre-savvy and well-read, you may have recognized many parts of this chapter as having been drawn from a particular fable, namely, "The Bremen-Town Musicians".

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Re: Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 6, Fantasy

Post  Vagrance on Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:07 am

Style:
This story brings me back...(Googled it for my first contact with the story was in Chinese); the concept is indeed different. I shall reserve judgment for now.

Other:
Sin checked Lisana’s pulse again.
People usually check pupils rather than pulses in cases of concussion.

Plot:
This chapter seemed more focused on literary exploits than on plot progress. It felt somewhat slow.

Characters:
At last, we understand why the demon's are given their specific aspects. Cleverly done (not sure if this belongs in characters).

Julia: the steal was very fitting (she's very worldly, to say the least). I half expected her to run of with Lisana in the wrong direction.

Overall:
Perhaps it is my lack artistic vision, but I did not like this chapter nearly as much as your previous; I felt you were trying to force a fairy tale reference in there for the sake of it. I hope your next attempt is more successful.

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Re: Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 6, Fantasy

Post  Firebrand on Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:26 pm

If at parts it sounded quite different from my normal voice, that's probably because I was quoting directly from a common translation of the original Grimm. It probably didn't work as well as I hoped.

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