“Shia, could you give us a minute?” Million asked the physician, her face grave. “Sorry to interrupt your work.”
“No, it’s fine… I can finish the rest off once you’re done.” She smiled in return, giving a nod of thanks to Emel before she quickly hurried out of the room. There was silence as her master looked to Million with confused, sad eyes.
“Start packing, Master.” Came her reply, trying her best to look determined and in charge, even as she reached for their backpacks.
“WHY?!” Emel shouted, looking as startled as her demon from the outburst.
“A coach arrived in town for the festival. They’re from Mardalen. I recognize them from the week we spent busting our humps trying to get them not to banish you. These ones weren’t particularly nice townsfolk, and they have guards with them.” Million admitted. “It might be best if we get on our way now. Leave quietly instead of after trouble starts.”
“No.” Emel replied, her tone steely. “We’re not letting them chase us out of here. We’ve done good here, people know you without knowing what you are, they’ve seen you be nice and not evil.” She stamped her foot down, before wincing as bare foot met the corner of one of the books Shia had left. Muttering a few rude words, she fell back on the bed to nurse her aching sole.
Million kept her mouth shut for a few minutes, before nodding. “Okay, Master.” She smiled as she sat the backpack down. “I was only doing what I thought you might want me to do. Guess I was wrong! That’s why you’re the mage and I’m the… hitty… punchy one.”
The flash of a smile across the mage’s face was well worth it. Until Shia poked her head around the door, avoiding even making eye contact with Million.
“Emel? The Mayor wants to see you.” She said in a subdued tone, hurrying in to get her book. She cast a quick look at Million as she was starting to head out, clearly frightened now of the tall, muscular woman.
“Don’t bother saying anything, Master.” She said as she saw Emel open her mouth, her fists clenched tightly. “You’re not going to change her mind.” Sinking down to one knee, she picked the backpack up to start packing again.
“Right.” Emel huffed, rising and slipping her boots on. “I’m going to talk to Mel-Krevin. You better be prepared to unpack all those things once this is all sorted.” She ordered, snatching her staff up and stalking out of the room.
Emel had been angry when she was banished from her hometown, but the town’s laws were the town’s laws. Here though? After everything Million had done for them, to be treated like that? She was incandescent with fury. No heed was paid to the physician as she brushed past her, her knuckles turning white as they gripped the shaft of her staff. Already people were staring, muttering under their breaths as they watched her pass on the way to the mayor’s home.
Mel-Krevin was waiting on the steps for her, his face neutral. “Emel. I’ve been talking with some people from your hometown. Is it true what they said?”
“I’d have to know what they said first.” She replied, her jaw clenched as she stared up at him.
“That you released the last known demon, Million, from captivity and laid a curse on their town after they banished you.” He asked. His eyes flickered from side to side a little. Emel didn’t need to look to know that some of the town guards were near.
“I don’t know anything about a curse. As for what I do know: Undead were attacking the town. The town guard had retreated to ensure the safety of the town, and I was left to handle them myself. In the battle, I accidentally released Million, who saved my life and defeated the risen skeletons that were rampaging through.” She took a long, slightly shuddering breath as she fought to keep a check on her emotions.
“The town council then banished me for my actions. We worked for a week trying to convince them to let us stay, running myself to the point of exhaustion to try and win them over. Even Million did. They kicked us out regardless.” Pressing her teeth against her lower lip, she stared up at the mayor. “I didn’t mention what Million was because it didn’t seem to matter. We recovered the Baton. We destroyed the hive. A few words from some travellers and you’ve got your soldiers flanking me?”
Mel-Krevin’s shoulders sagged as he waved away his guards. There were still a couple to the side of the mayor’s house, bearing the insignia of the town of Mardalen. Keeping one eye on them, she spoke to him. “We’ll leave. Not for you, but because even after everything that we did to help you people can still treat us like this. So we’re leaving because we just won’t enjoy it here.”
“I am sorry, Emel. But…” The mayor raised his hands before just letting them fall to his side. “Safe travels.”
Giving a curt nod to him, she turned her attention to the lingering guards. “What’s this curse?”
“Slick ice forming all over the town, a day or so after you left.” One of the guards replied, his hand on his sword.
“It’s probably just an Frost Spirit who wandered in from the mountains. Light the torches at night from the centre of the town to outside, and make sure they keep burning during the night.” She lectured, before giving them a hard glare. “You’re welcome.”
The fury had long since left her when she returned to the hotel, leaving her feeling weak and hollow. Million had looked up, ready to start taking items out of their packed bags. On taking one look at her master’s face, she simply secured the bags.
“I’m sorry.” The demon said softly, slinging both over her shoulders. “I seem to have a terrible knack for making towns uncomfortable places for you to stay.”
It got the merest of shrugs from Emel as she changed into her travelling clothes, slipping on the back holster for her staff, her bandoleers and her belt. “Let’s get started, Million.” She sighed. “We’ll want to make as much distance as we can before nightfall.”
The back of Million’s neck prickled as they walked out of town, feeling the eyes of everyone on them. “Yeaaaah, stare it up you ungrateful lot of CiYySaBa!” She said loudly once they reached the gates, pointing at her eyes before pointing at the merchants and townsfolk on the street. “Next time you lose your stupid little drinking stick, you better hope another awesome mage and incredibly fighty demon come wandering in for your festival!”
“Million, come.” Emel spoke, her staff tapping on the ground. “They’re not worth it. They’re just not worth it.” It was a simple statement without emotion, and as they headed south west along the roughly carved track silence fell between them, much like at the start of their adventure all those weeks ago.
Every thing the demon thought to say would just come off as stupid or unfunny, so she held her tongue. At least until she noticed the slight shake of the mage’s shoulders and the sniff of a freely running nose. Her long strides catching up the distance between them, she easily hefted the puffy-eyed girl into her arms and started to jog. “Enough of that crying, Master.” Million smiled as her legs carried them down the road. “Like you said, they’re not worth it. We got resupplied, we have coin and food to last us a while, and I’m going to give us some distance. And really?”
“What?” Emel sniffed, pulling a handkerchief out of her belt to attend to her tear-streaked face and runny nose.
“They’ll miss us more than we miss them. In the distance over there? And there? And there? All that horizon is opportunity for adventure. We’ve just got to find it.”
Slipping an arm around Million to reduce any chance of her being dropped or flung accidentally, Emel nodded away. Getting kicked out of another town had stung, especially after she had gotten into the festivities, but Million was right about one thing.
“We need to find out where the rest of those hives are.” She stated, looking up into the demon’s eyes. “Let’s see what the world thinks of us after we remove every scar from the Siege of One Million Demons.”
“I’ll drink to that!” Million chuckled. “In a different town and not any of Mel-daku’s range of beverages.”
“Oh, one more thing.” Emel thought to ask as she bounced lightly in her companion’s arms. “What does CiYySaBa mean? I know the last two words…”
“Tiny-Minded Beasts.” Came the chuckled reply. “I think insults is the perfect way to start off your knowledge of the demonic language. So! Here’s all the way you can call someone an idiot in the Demonic tongue…”
And with chuckles and laughs filling the air from the litany of curses, the pair set forwards on their next adventure, the bond between them becoming more than Mage and Demon. Through sparse pines and hilly terrain their path would wind, the next town on their way being the mining and logging settlement of Halderos, situated on the storm-battered Jakylon Mountain.
Author’s Note: Well it was an unexpected journey, this. That’s parts 1-11 of Triduan done, the output of which was mostly raw text straight from brain to blog. I am now planning to re-master it with a slightly more catchy, if pulpy title. In ‘The Mage, The Demon & The Brewmaster’s Baton’ I’ll be looking to re-draft parts, add in more and polish it until it shines with the sheen of magic. And by magic I mean good writing.