To say that Lethen and Renala were caught unawares would be an understatement. They were sitting there with periods of idle chit-chat between bouts of thoughtful silence. When the chain snapped and the wolf bolted forward, it was Renala’s daemon that saved them. It shifted to halberd and swept across the beast’s path, knocking it to the side. By the time they’d gained their feet, the daemon had done two more arcs to save them.
Renala placed herself between Lethen and the creature. Her shield was doing all the work, but the wolf was quick and she wasn’t in the best of health. Every time she took a hit, she winced. Even reduced by the shield, the power behind those strikes wasn’t easy to bear, especially with a gash in her ribs. “What do we do now?”
“I don’t know,” Lethen said, “we’ll think of something. We have to. How long can you keep that up?”
“Not sure. He hits harder than Angus when he’s trying to teach you something and you’re not getting it. I don’t know if I can do this alone.”
It hurt for Lethen to hear those words. His reason for even being a daemon knight was to protect others. Here he was, cowering behind a tiny girl with a shield. This might well be the end for both of them. It might mean the deaths of their friends when the door opened. It might mean the deaths of the townsfolk and who knew how many others.
He held up his shovel. He wasn’t going out like that. “You don’t have to do this alone. If I can get it to concentrate on me, will you be able to get a better shot?”
“Maybe. This room isn’t all that big. Maybe if you were able to pull it far enough away, but you can’t do that. You can’t defend yourself. What if it gets hold of you?”
Lethen shook himself to get ready. “If it does, just make sure you get a clean hit in. Make it count.”
He waited for the wolf to leap and dove to the side, rolling to his feet just as the pounce connected. When the daemon landed he eyed them both before charging at Lethen.
Lethen braced himself with his shovel held out in front. He prayed Renala would be able to do some damage.
* * * * *
As Angus watched the link bending, he shot out his daemon as a whip, hoping to be able to snag the last complete link. He knew it was futile even as he did it. Of course, it slipped through the hole, letting the daemon run free with his students.
They still had three minutes until the door opened. He hadn’t wanted to free the beast, but now they needed to overpower it. If they could get the whole team together, they should be able to take it down. Getting in wasn’t an option. If the walls and door were strong enough to keep the wolf in, it was strong enough to keep them out. If Lethen and Renala didn’t make it, he’d take it out on the two who’d trapped them in there.
“Follow me,” he said as he rushed from the room. He marched past Angel, giving him a nod before opening the secret door.
It was still dark in the office space. “I know there’s power here, can we get some lights on? I wanna know what I’m working with.”
The shorter Russian reached behind some of the tools in the second room. A thin, weak fluorescent bulb flickered to life above them. It wasn’t much, but it did make it easier to take an inventory. It was hard to tell with them bundled up, but there were at least two heavy nets. Three cattle prods sat in a corner with a couple thick ropes. They would trap it if they could, kill it if they had to.
“Marnie, Prolier, grab one of those nets and see if you can find some way to secure it above the door. We want to let our friends out, but we don’t want the creature getting loose.”
They duo looked up to find a suspended ceiling above the door. Prolier lifted Marnie enough that she could tie the corners of the net in place. It hung down over the door like a veil.
“Good, now I want both of you with those prods. Your weapons may be able to do more damage, but that much electricity will put it down quicker. Remember, the men who put this thing here are daemon users too and they choose to use the prods instead.”
They picked up the wand-like devices, looking at the forked ends. Neither of them had ever been in the beef or dairy industries, so they’d never seen anything like them. They looked evil. Holding them out before their bodies, they looked at Angus, who now held the bottom of the net up so the door could open.
“How long?” The sensei asked.
“Three minutes or so,” the short one said.
“Come on guys, you can make it,” Angus said under his breath as he waited.
* * * * *
Lethen had his shovel held before him, but it was his fist that he used to defend himself. As the wolf leaped at him, he swung his strongest hook into the side of the beast’s face. It didn’t seem to do any real damage, but it allowed Lethen to turn aside the attack.
“Be ready,” he said as he braced himself for the next attack. He was now between Renala and the daemon. If he could deflect the next one as well, it should put Renala in a good position for a strike.
When the leap came, Lethen decided at the last moment to roll under it, rather than try the same tactic twice. He came to his feet, ready for more, but the wolf had continued forward. Renala’s swing was aborted prematurely as she had to shift back to the shield.
Lethen ran up to boot it in the ribs, but it must have known he was coming. As he swept his foot forward, the daemon turned and caught his ankle with its mouth. The pressure of the jaws was like nothing Lethen had ever experienced before and he cried out.
“Lethen!” Renala screamed.
“Just hit the damned thing already.” Lethen was punching the beast in the head with all his might and it was having no effect. As much as the bite hurt, he was glad that he wasn’t feeling the sharp pains of the teeth digging into his flesh. The boots that Angus had supplied them were tougher than they looked.
Renala swung with all her might, burying the blade of the halberd into the wolf’s flank. It squealed and let go of Lethen’s leg. The daemon hobbled away from them into the opposite corner. It was still facing them and angry, but it wouldn’t be able to leap as far. Though she had hurt it, the fight was far from over.
Lethen rose and almost fell again. He took a step toward Renala, who obliged him and stepped forward. He could put pressure on it, but he couldn’t move fast.
“Are you gonna be okay?” She asked.
“Yeah. It hurts, but I can move.”
“That was incredibly stupid. You know that right?”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
She didn’t respond.
“You also realize that I’m going to have to do it again, don’t you?”
“Your defense is incredible, but we have to trade roles in this fight. I have to draw its attacks while you go on offense. I can’t hurt the bastard.”
This time she did speak. “Well, whatever we’re doing, we need to do it quickly. He’s getting ready to attack again. I don’t like this, but I don’t have anything better. Are you sure you can do this?”
“I guess we’ll find out. Move slowly to the left and circle around him. If he goes for you, I’ll distract him. When he focuses on me, cut another piece out of him.”
Renala did as he said, forcing the wolf to split its attention between them. At first, it went with Renala, but once it saw how unsteady Lethen was, it advanced on him. It was a much more restrained approach now that it knew they could hurt it, but it was still growling all the way.
“Just a couple more feet,” she said, holding her halberd at the ready. She swung as soon as she had room.
The wild daemon chose that moment to jump, avoiding a blow that could have severed a limb.
Lethen’s ankle chose that moment to buckle, making the bite miss as he fell back. The unfortunate part to this otherwise fortuitous event was that it put Lethen on his back with the wolf on his chest. His instincts kicked in, raising the shovel to fend off the dripping maw that was coming for his throat. When he did, the wolf bit down on the shaft of the weapon. Lethen felt himself slip under the surge of rage and pain from his daemon.
Lethen’s eyes lit up as though there were a lantern in his head. The wolf let go and dropped back from this new threat. Lethen bolted forward and wrapped his hand around the daemon’s mouth, holding it shut. He spoke to it in a voice that both wasn’t Lethen’s, and wasn’t in any language Renala had ever heard.
When he had finished, he threw the wolf into the corner. The light faded from Lethen’s eyes and he fell back into a kneel. He was breathing hard.
The daemon dog backed itself into the corner, no longer the feral beast it was just moments before.
“What the hell just happened?” Renala asked
“My daemon took over my body again, just like it did the first day of training against Silva.”
“But what did it say?”
“I’m not sure, it was something close to Kraxid, but I’m not sure.”
“The language of the Kraxion clan. I was only five when I left, and I haven’t used the words in a long time, but I remember the basics. I felt the anger in the words. He was telling the wolf off for something. I think there was something about a plan, but I couldn’t make out any details.”
“Well whatever it said worked.” Renala changed back to her halberd and relaxed a little. “Why would a daemon understand something similar to Kraxid?”
“I don’t know. I’m just glad we might make it out of this alive.”
* * * * *
The door would open any second.
Angus didn’t have an exact count, but it was definitely soon. He was thinking about how much he hated waiting when he heard the Russians struggling with each other. He turned just in time to see the flash of a shot being fired while they fought for the weapon.
Angus snapped his staff out, catching the taller of the two in the middle of his forehead. The blow snapped the man’s head back, before he dropped to the floor in a heap. Angus doubted he was dead, but he certainly wouldn’t be waking up in the next few minutes.
“Sensei.” Angel said.
Angus looked over to see him pointing at Marnie. Shifting his view, he read pain on her face. He looked down to see the spreading red patch around a hole in the calf of her pants.
The stray shot had caught her in the leg.
* * * * *