By nightfall, they had reached the encampment. They had ridden swiftly through the twilight of the day, hoping to avoid any peril that the ride could throw at them. However, upon returning, Shi’Karil and her cohorts found they had come headfirst into just the kind of trouble they had wished to steer clear of. From the outset, they could hear shouts and screams, the sounds of struggle that not a single one of them were want to hear. Moving closer, they found clusters of women and cubs huddled together behind wagons, their ears and eyes covers. One of the wagons, hopefully not one with anyone behind it, Shi’Karil thought, was toppled onto its side. Yet, still, not in the perimeter of the camp, none of the five could make heads or tails of who or what had done that kind of damage.
Reaching the outskirts of the camp, all four of the guards abandoned their myters to the lowest ranking, and most youthful member, of their group. He was ordered to stay back and guard the priestess who was to remain mounted with the still unconscious fox. That didn’t quite sit right with Shi’Karil, and she knew the men charging into the camp were smarter than that. Perhaps they meant to return and collect her once her art was required, but then again, they could just as well have thought brashly that they could do battle with whatever sat inside the circle and come out clean as driven snow without her aid. Whichever the case was, the priestess immediately disregarded the order and dismounted the great bird despite the young soldier’s calls to stay put. Shi’Karil quickly ordered him to keep his eyes on Sirian; she was not to be left alone.
Shi’Karil worried of her newly made friend, Sirian, had been in a queer way after she had dealt with the demonic abomination. Despite all she tried to rouse the woman, Sirian had not come around even a little after the encounter. She neither twitched nor muttered in her sleep, and if not close enough to see the rise and fall of her chest, one would assume she had expired in the confrontation. Shi’Karil couldn’t believe that the uncomfortable position she rode on the myter would not even disturb the girl. With all the concern she felt for the fox, Shi’Karil was forced to try something a bit more drastic than she cared to. Attempting her final spell, the healing spell, the piece of magic that truly set her apart from the rest of the priestess, was all she could do. And despite sinking all of her remaining energy into the weaving of that magic, there was no effect on Sirian. Shi’Karil was kicking her own tail for wasting all that raw power than, now as she moved between wagons and tents to the center of the action. And as she came through to see what all the trouble was, she was both astonished and disappointed.
There were limp bodies scattered about the campsite, all radiating from one point in the center of camp. At that spot stood the stalwart figure of the deformed coyote, his eyes lit with an unearthly fire and jaws snapping wildly with fury. It required very little thought to conclude that he was the source of all this trouble and that he was more than a match for those coming against him. Looking to his limbs, Shi’Karil found that somewhere along the lines, someone had tried to chain him back. Though the cuffs were clasped tightly around wrists and ankles, they were not yet secured to anything. She had to almost scoff at that idea, that none had decided to attempt to finish the job rather than confront the beast head-on. Yet, again, the coyote was so terribly muscled despite being somewhat stout in stature that to even attempt it would require a strength that most wouldn’t possess. Shi’Karil terribly wished the fox was awake at that moment. If any would know how to quell this monster, it would be the man’s companions.
With that thought, Shi’Karil quickly searched the masses of men standing by idly, waiting for their opening to strike. She sought and found with ease the two white wolves who were only now entering into the ring made by the caravan. One of them was holding a splotch of deep blood red that marred his fur down the side of his face while his partner helped him along. The second wolf had his arm bound in a makeshift sling, which was less than reassuring for Shi’Karil. Minding the monster at the center of the group, Shi’Karil made it over to the wolves. Both set their gazes firmly on the coyote despite the lynx coming directly to them.
“You two! What is happening to your friend there? He’s worse than any of the ferals I’ve had to deal with in my time,” the priestess condemned, not surprisingly either mirthless wolf.
Sothoh, pushing off Jaium to stand on his own, answered, “It’s that wicked blood. We knew it wasn’t gone from him; it never could leave him if he were to live. We need Sirian to work her gifts again. Where has she gotten off to?”
“She’s just outside the camp, but she won’t be any use to us. She’s been out since our run-in with the demon back at the other caravan. What can we do about him without the fox?” Shi’Karil asked, despite seeing less than confident looks on the wolves’ faces.
Jaium remarked, pointing to Mishonrayel, “Chains. We can hook him onto the underside of that wagon, that is, if we can get him over there. Otherwise, we’re going to have to break our promise to Siri.”
“Promise?” Shi’Karil quickly asked as Jaium was still in mid-thought.
Touching the hilt of his curved ax, Jaium nodded, “We promised Siri we’d watch out for Mishon if she were away. We’ve known him long enough, know that he isn’t one of the devils and not directly a servant of them but… well, we always feared it would come to this. Mishon would lose control, and there would be no fixing him. So, without Sirian, and if we can’t chain him up, for the time being, it’ll be the only way.”
They stood in silence, observing the coyote as he continued to howl with primal, blind rage at the few still brave enough to approach him. The options laid before Shi’Karil were not reassuring, but she had to do something about this situation. Her people looked to her, expected her to have a solution, one way or the other, and it wouldn’t quite matter what she chose so long as it stopped Mishonrayel from continuing. She knew what she’d rather do, have Sirian handle this, but that wasn’t a choice at the moment. Chaining him up was the next best thing, but again was going to be more than a challenge considering the man’s bulk. Could she really order the death of a man who was not turned and made wicked but forced beneath the yoke of the devil’s desires? Then there was that final thought, could she use her own spells to control or subdue the coyote?
Her body instantly, almost reflexively said no to her as she sought for the energy to work the magic. There was a little left in her to perhaps handle one last small spell, but that left room for another question, which spell? None of the three sounded particularly useful against a living, afflicted mortal who was meant to be kept alive. The arrow of power would strike him, and though it could be as useless as throwing a rock, it could just as well impact him with the force of a tornado. Then there was the healing spell which, if it worked at all, might undo any harm done to Mishonrayel by the demons. All the same, it could merely fortify him against further hurts while keeping the wicked blood in control. Finally, there was the fire. It could serve to chase away demonic effects if it were done just right, but Shi’Karil was less than confident. Yet, it was the easiest and perhaps the most useful of her spells. If nothing else, she could cause Mishon enough hurt to stop his berserk rage. That much would be as valuable as anything else at the moment, Shi’Karil figured.
“I need you two to gather up a few of the stronger looking men in camp. I’m going to try a spell, and if it succeeds, you will need to cease the coyote quickly. I want you to chain him up to the underside of the wagon like you suggested. He will be frail if this works, so make sure none of those you call upon try to harm him further,” Shi’Karil ordered, acting as though Sothoh and Jaium were beneath her like any other in the camp. Regardless if they felt she was overstepping her boundaries or not, the two wolves quickly went to work summoning up the help of a good deal of the travelers who were watching Mishonrayel. As they did this, Shi’Karil focused that last trickle of energy within her on the holy fires. It would be dicey at best, but if things were done just right, this would be the end of the man’s wild tantrum.
She set her gaze on Mishonrayel, who would occasionally flick his attention in her direction only to carry on as though she were no threat at all. Shi’Karil could only be happy he was not dead set on her. If he only knew what she was working to, he might just try to attack her now. Instead, she was able to focus that sparse trickle of energy into one gout of flame. Envisioning the torrent of heat in her head, Shi’Karil saw it wrapping around the man’s skull and searing away all three faces. Shaking her head, Shi’Karil tried once more, imagining it wrapping his limbs only to serve as an irritation that would not even slow him. That wouldn’t do any better than the first, Shi’Karil knew, so once more, she thought how the fires should work. Thinking of it wrapping his torso and chest like the constricting ice serpents of the north seemed the right choice. It would hurt, scar, and likely leave the man out of action for a time, but it was the best plan Shi’Karil could put together. Now all that was left was to put everything in motion and see just how well she could work the flames.
With haste, she spoke the spell and wove the fire. With ease, she laid the chain of flame around the coyote, and in an instant, the inferno roared from life to death. The markings of the magic coiled around Mishonrayel’s
body just as quickly as the flame had been put there. Had it any effect, it was almost impossible to tell. Mishon was not subdued or even knocked on his tail from the attack, but he hesitated. Slowly, he scanned the crowds, looking for something that was hard to determine for any but the man himself. After a moment of searching, the pause in action subsided, and Mishonrayel moved in a most unexpected way. As though just realizing the mess he was in, the coyote immediately rushed out of the ring of people. Not a single soul would dare stand in his way as he burst from the group and passed the toppled wagon. The dark beyond the camp consumed the charcoal fur of the coyote within seconds. And as simple as that, the menace that had terrorized the camp of mortals was gone.
Just as it clicked into the awareness of those still standing about watching the night for any reemergence of the monster, another anomaly stepped forth. Slowly, with the gait of one suddenly woken from deep slumber, Sirian came to Shi’Karil’s side. Speaking, though the other woman was entirely unaware of her, she asked, “What’s all this commotion about? How long have I been out? Last I remember, it was still day time.”
“Sirian!? I… well, we have a lot to discuss, I think. We’re back with the caravan and… your friend has gone,” Shi’Karil responded, first shocked and then hesitant of what she had to utter.
To her credit, the fox gave away no emotion in her response, “Mishonrayel? Well, I suppose we knew it was only a matter of time for him. That makes two I’m going to have to run down, and I’m not sure which I should start with. And, I’m afraid priestess, that in all of this, everything that is to come hereafter, I’m going to want your help for.”