Lethen stared at the way his shovel was dug into Renala’s ribs. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“We can’t move back here. I didn’t know it would be that long. I thought when the chain stopped, they had found a way to get the door open too.”
Lethen tried to move, but the wolf was keeping them pinned behind Renala’s shield. “Marnie, we have a problem.”
“Another one?” Marnie’s voice came through the door. “What now?”
“We’re pinned in place and we can’t stay like this for half an hour. We’re going to have to move. If we move, we have to get within range of the wolf. Is there any way you guys could back the chain up some. Even four or five inches would help a lot.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
They couldn’t hear if she’d left over the sound of the beast in front of them, but they both prayed that she had.
* * * * *
Angus was feeling impatient. Marnie hadn’t yet returned with news on whether the duo were safe or if they were lunch. When she finally did return, he was short with her. “Well?”
“We need to back the chain up some.” She explained what she knew of the situation.
Angus grunted. “That’s easier said than done. That thing is pulling harder than any of us can.” He looked at the machine. “How long until the motor reels him in?”
“Five minutes before the door opens,” the shorter local said. “So about twenty minutes from now.”
Marnie looked at Angus. “That’s too long.”
“I agree.” Angus watched the chain slowly sag lower. “Maybe…” He pulled the slack of the chain out from the wall and barely manged to get his staff through the loop. He dug the bottom against the corner where the wall met the floor. “Marnie, help me pull. Prolier, I want you ready to pull your claw out and put it in further down. Maybe we can give them some breathing room. We have to be quick. The longer we take the less effective it will be. Now.”
Angus and Marnie pulled the staff almost down to the floor.
Prolier reacted quickly, giving Lethen and Renala probably an extra foot and a half. He had his claw in a little further this time and looked at the part that had been jammed in before. As Angus had told him, there was no damage to the blade at all.
Angus pulled his staff from the loop. “I hope that gives them enough space to get comfy. I don’t see any other options until the machine does what it was designed to do. All we can do now is -”
The less hospitable of the two natives started shouting at his comrade and pointing at the chain.
The other one walked over and inspected it. After a moment he spoke and there were words exchanged in Russian.
The taller one crossed his arms, walked to the opposite wall, and sat down like a huffy child.
Angus let the scene conclude before opening his mouth. “What was that about?”
The shorter man picked up the chain that was now sagging outside the machine’s cubbyhole. He pointed to the part where Prolier’s claw had dug into the metal. “He said that you damaged the machine and now we will all be dead. I told him that they’ll never see it because it will be wrapped around the spindle. He’s not happy about it.”
Angus looked at the chain. Prolier’s claw had gotten almost halfway through the steel link. He hadn’t been joking when he’d said that daemonic metal was far tougher than the regular stuff.
* * * * *
Lethen and Renala watched as the daemon was jerked back by it’s leash. It fell back a short distance and started tugging on it’s chain even harder. It didn’t like being denied it’s meal.
They separated themselves and Lethen was able to see the damage that he had caused. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. The blade had cut through her shirt and into the skin. By the blood on his shovel, it had gone about half an inch into the muscle. Hardly life threatening, but somewhat debilitating.
Lethen looked at Renala cradling her side. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea. Are you alright?”
“I’ll be fine,” she said.
Now that they weren’t glued together, Lethen could see the blood staining her shirt. It ran down to her waist and was starting to soak into the top of her pants. “It doesn’t look fine. We need to stop the bleeding.”
“What if the chain comes back out? We should sit since he can only reach us at chest height. That could give us a little more room and still let me use my shield if need be.”
“If I sit, will you let me dress your wound?”
Lethen looked around. She was right. He had nothing that would work very well. He looked at himself and realized that he would have to use his clothing. He pulled off his thin coat to reveal the thermal underwear that had been supplied with the cold weather gear. He stripped that off to reveal a well toned physique. He had been fighting his whole life, and had begun training to be a daemon knight. He was in peak physical shape. He was too busy to notice Renala looking embarrassed.
He rolled up the trunk part of the shirt, leaving the sleeves dangling. Once it was tightly wound, he told Renala to lift her shirt. This time he did notice her embarrassment. “Worry about modesty another time, A bandage put on over clothing isn’t gonna work too well.”
She still hesitated, but did lift her shirt to just below her breasts, blushing furiously.
He pressed the thick part of the shirt against the horizontal gash. “Keep pressure on this while I tie it off.”
She nodded and pressed her right arm to her side, locking the makeshift tourniquet in place. Holding the other arm up, Lethen laced the arms together, tying it tight enough for her to squeak. The instant he was done, she shoved her own shirt down over it. “Thank you.” She said, not able to look at him right away.
“Are you guys doing better now?” Marnie’s voice came through the door once more.
Lethen responded. “Much better. Renala’s hurt, but not seriously. How long until we can get out of here?”
“About twenty more minutes. In fifteen minutes, the motor will start reeling it back in. You good until then?”
Lethen looked at Renala, who simply nodded. “Yeah, I think we’ll be fine. Thank everyone for doing that. I’m not sure what you had to do, but now we can just sit and wait.” He looked over at the wolf daemon and could tell that he wasn’t happy about the arrangement.
The wolf was pulling at his chain as if to either break it or decapitate itself. Every muscle in its abused body was as tight as spandex on a morbidly obese woman. The chain itself could probably have been played like a guitar string. He would not be denied his dinner without a fight.
Lethen put his coat back on. “So now that we’re safe and have some time to ourselves, what was that thing you wanted to tell me?”
Renala said nothing for several seconds. “It can wait.”
Lethen frowned when he saw how serious she was. Her small, innocent face didn’t look right with such a severe expression plastered onto it. There was something on her mind and he wanted to distract her from it. “Did I ever tell you why I decided to become a daemon knight?”
Her face softened a bit. “No, you haven’t.”
“I’m sure you heard the news of my coming to town as a kid. I was five then, and I had come from the caves of the grizzards. My mother is of the Kraxion clan who live under parts of Japan. Her particular branch of the family lived in the tunnels between mainland Japan and Rosuto Island, which is of course where Oni Village and Hikari are.
“The first thing I should probably tell you is that life with the grizzards wasn’t much different to life with humans. Theirs was a simpler life, but they were no less accepting of the mixed heritage. The day my father took me and fled from the Kraxion caves, another father had come over to see us, and had brought his six year old. My mom was out running an errand. They seemed friendly at first, but once the door was closed, they attacked.”
Lethen stared at the wild daemon as he told the story. It was changing up it’s tactics. Instead of just pulling on its tether, it was taking a few steps back and charging; trying to knock the machine loose from whatever was caught. Perhaps it understood that it’s chance of a free meal was fading by the second.
The story wasn’t pleasant to tell, but he continued. “The man took my father down quickly, and once he had, he sent his son to take care of me and my sister, Kara. My dad told us to run. We made it almost to the front door when the little bastard caught us. I tried to hold him off so she could escape, but I didn’t last long.
“I remember lying on the ground and seeing him kick her two year old form before my mom burst through the door. She was the warrior of the family. Unlike humans, all grizzards are trained to fight. She snatched up the child and threatened to behead him if they didn’t leave immediately. The father caved and left with his attempted murderer of a son.”
Renala’s eyes were welling with tears. “That’s horrible. But your sister made it, right?”
Lethen nodded. “Last I saw she did. We left that night after my parents had decided to raise us separately. She would flee to her distant, and more tolerant family under mainland Japan with Kara. He would head to the other end and come up near the hidden little village of Oni. I vowed that day that I would find her, and when I did, I would be strong enough to protect her. When I discovered what daemon knights were, I knew I had to become one. I knew I had to become the strongest one.”
Renala was just staring at Lethen when he finished. She had simply passed the test and had gone into the family business.
* * * * *
Angus watched as the chain was slowly being pulled back into the machine. It was almost to the point where Prolier could safely remove his claw. What concerned him was the way the daemon was behaving. It wasn’t the actions of a mindless beast. It knew how to apply the most force to whatever was obstructing the chain. If Angus had used a normal tool, it would probably be in pieces by now.
“Okay, Prolier, the next time there’s slack on the line, I want you to pull your claw out. Let the machine do the rest.”
Prolier did as instructed, but as soon as he started to pull free, the wolf jerked harder than it had before, putting extreme pressure on the blade as he withdrew it.
Angus had been right when he’d said that daemon metal was stronger. Because of that, it could also hold a finer edge. It was like drawing a knife through a steak. Before the weapon was even fully removed, the link had been cut.
As if in slow motion, they watched as the metal bent and the chain was severed.
* * * * *