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The Twins Part 2

The Twins Part 2

The trio of demons continue eastward encountering more little skirmishes and friends.

The road to China was long and fraught with danger. Several large mountain ranges blocked the road causing it to go around the base of the mountains. These detours extended the trip by many days, but the demons cared little about time. The road wound through primeval forests full of animals and strange plants. Most of the animals ran from the sounds of the approaching demons. Those that stayed either preyed on the demons or froze in place with fear. The forest in places formed a high domed canopy over the road, plunging it into total darkness. With these old growth forests, the fauna proliferated unimpeded by predators and hid in the thick undergrowth protected from harm. The road widened from use and formed a barrier between each side of the forest. Occasionally it broke out into a wide meadow where a fire or flood occurred years earlier. Farms and villages dotted the landscape where two or more roads intersected or a bend in a river formed a pool to create a natural harbor for boat traffic.

The demons never worried about danger, they caused more destruction when given the chance. Demons in their natural state liked and needed to wreak havoc as they passed a village or a dwelling. If they came upon an abandoned or empty farmhouse, it became a pile of rubble in short order. Many a farmer came home from a day at the market, to find his home destroyed with not a wall standing. This trio of demons was different. However, they resisted the urge to destroy indiscriminately. It was difficult, but the urge to destroy became secondary to collecting a bounty. They found that destruction committed when in the performance of garnering a bounty satisfied both the desire to wreak havoc and earn a bounty for it. Lately however, several lords deducted the costs to repair the destruction from the bounties paid. This angered the demons, but the destruction continued on a smaller scale.

Darkness crept upon the land, as the trio wandered further eastward. They reached a village near the eastern edge of Germany where it abutted the country of Romania. They found a nice friendly inn, stopped for a hot well-cooked meal and a comfortable bed. They traveled a great distance that day and wanted no part of talk about bounty or dragons. While they ate, two farmers who brought their crops in to sell at the open-air market, complained loudly about scoundrels who raided their farms. These scoundrels roamed across the border from Romania, ripped up newly planted fields and destroyed crops ready to harvest. The loud farmers attracted merchants who voiced the same complaints. These hooligans destroyed crops, raided merchant caravans from the east and terrorized the village folk weekly. To a man, the group wanted something done to remove this scourge from the land, but did not have the means to hire anyone.

As the trio listened, they became very interested in these folk's plight. They felt, it was their sworn duty to remove swiftly, quietly and permanently this nuisance from the lives of the village people and the traveling merchants.

“These folks clearly need help from some benevolent bounty hunters to eradicate these scoundrels,” Husky muttered. “ They are nice folk and I think they need our help.”

“Aw, there you go again getting soft, Husky. Your nature is not benevolence. ” Tiger strongly argued. “We cannot go around helping villages for free all the time.”

Slim reasoned, “We had a good meal, drank some very good local ale and have a dry warm bed awaiting our weary bodies, upstairs. So let’s go out, find these roughnecks and teach them a lesson they will not soon forget.”

Tiger stood, walked over to the table of local merchants and farmers. “I could not help but overhear your plight with these scoundrels. What do they do that is so bad and when to they do it? Where do they come from?” She asked.

The men replied all at once, but Tiger chose one to speak for the group. He told of an alehouse just across the border in Romania, where these ruffians drank and staged their raids. They ran back across the border when the castle guard came near to protect the village. So far, all attempts to stop or capture these young men failed. Once they crossed back into Romania, the castle guards became powerless to chase them. The villagers wanted help, but had no bounty to offer their saviors. Tiger thanked them went back to the trio’s table and sat down.

“The castle guard cannot pursue these scoundrels when they cross the border back into Romania. There is an alehouse just over the border where they congregate before and after each raid. We can go there and ambush them as they leave to go across the border on a raid.” Tiger explained to Husky and Slim.

“That won’t solve the problem for these folks. A more permanent solution with punishment must happen. It has to occur on this side of the border to enable the castle guards to capture and imprison these bullies.” Husky proudly stated.

“You are correct, Husky. If the guard captured the bullies on this side of the border, they ended up spending time in the castle dungeons. The time spent in the dungeon would teach them not to bully the villagers and merchants ever again.” Slim praised their de facto leader.

The trio left the inn behind, went across the border and hid in the forest near the alehouse. In less than an hour, the bullies drunkenly walked out of the alehouse and headed across the border. The trio in human form followed loosely behind quietly listening to the bullies bragging. Just as they entered the village, the trio whistled and called to the bullies. They came noisily to the trio, sized them up as travelers and taunted them. The louder they got, the more obnoxious they became. Husky drew her knife in a threatening manner, but surrendered it quickly. Tiger tried to reason with the bullies, but to no avail. Slim capitulated and felt the wrath of the bullies first. As two of the bullies assaulted Slim, Husky and Tiger took on the other four. In an extremely short time, the assault ended with all the bullies knocked out cold on the ground. Tiger went to the inn, fetched the castle guard and brought the villagers along too. The only noise heard was the sound of chains clinking, as the castle guard bound the unconscious bullies. When the bullies woke, the castle guard marched them to the dungeons, where they would spend a few months of torture and mayhem from the dungeon keepers.

That night, back at the inn the trio drank more than their fill of ale and stumbled drunkenly upstairs to bed. The ale and room were partial payment for a job well done from a grateful village. The exploits of the trio became a story of legend passed down from generation to generation.

“Well, that went better than I thought,” Tiger admitted unwillingly.

“Don’t doubt my abilities, you should know better about my gifts,” Husky snapped back. After a moment, “What town is next on the map?”

“Not sure. You know, I always wanted to see Rome.” Tiger jumped onto a cot and curled up. Husky winced at the thought.

“Rome? That’s south of here.”

“I know that Husky. Go to sleep or get out.”

With a huff, Husky opened the window and peered down. She was on the second floor, as she scooted onto the windowsill and jumped down. She landed effortlessly on her feet, blended with the shadows and lurked about the village, searching for wary nighttime travelers.

At one point, she was in demon form scouting the dark lonely road out of the village. She heard the wheels of a cart pulled by the slow trot of a horse. She crouched down low on the side of the road, waiting for them to approach.

She saw the horse first, emerging from the darkness. It was almost as if an eerie fog surrounded it. She shifted slightly in anticipation, her tails swaying back and forth.

She began to hear a man whistling the tune of Danse Macabre. The cart soon passed and Husky saw the dull black coat of the horse harnessed to a rickety old cart, where two small kids sat waiting. The man whistling drove the cart. He wore a long cloak and a wide black hat. His hair was a pale, almost luminous white, and appeared never brushed or trimmed.

He stopped whistling for a moment, tipped his hat at Husky and with a rasping ghostly voice said, “Evening Gwyligi.”

Husky jumped up in shock, she turned to look at the man again, but the cart was gone. There were no tracks to signify that what she just saw really happened.

With a shudder, she muttered, “Ankous, Never any fun.”

She skulked around for a little while longer and returned to the inn. The window she leapt from earlier still yawned open inviting her back. She jumped deftly, landed on the sill quietly, entered the room and curled up on the rug at the foot of tiger ’ s cot. She was soon fast asleep, dreaming of chasing children and romping through meadows of grass and daisies. Her feet moved in her sleep, as if she ran among the flowers. She yipped and whined in her sleep too.

The trio woke with the light of dawn streaming in the window and the sound of meadowlarks singing. Slim stood, stretched and yawned, clearing the sleep from his head. He walked to the window, looked out and saw the start of another beautiful day for travel. Tiger stirred next, sat up and purred in contentment for spending another warm and restful night. She walked over to Slim and teased him by pulling one of his tails. Slim turned, growled and swatted Tiger ’ s paw. Husky sat up watching the playful exchange between her two friends, thinking no better friends existed anywhere. She walked over to join her friends, welcoming the morning.

"Morning guys," Slim yawned. Husky reverted back to human form, her tousled bed head a tangled mess and bad bout of dry mouth. She needed a drink badly.

"Where is a hair brush?" she growled.

"Here Husky, g get that, under control." She gave the feline a sneering smile.

"No fighting in the morning girls," chided Slim.

They gathered their belongings and went down to the inn for breakfast. They required a hearty meal before starting the day’s journey. They sat at a table eating and talking about the journey into Romania and beyond. A group of villagers entered the inn and approached the trio. They presented them with a few small gifts in gratitude for the night’s activity. Several merchants came in after the villagers and gave the trio new traveling bags filled with fresh baked breads, cheese and wine. Before the trio left the inn, they received many gifts of food and apparel. When they left, the villagers and merchants lined the road, cheered them on and small children chased after them.

“Well, that was nice.” Husky snarled sarcastically. “We needed these things and now we have them and did not have to pay for them, how nice.”

“Why do you have to be that way?” chided Tiger. “You always throw a wet blanket on nice things people do.”

“Can’t you just accept that people are generally good and show how grateful they are for a kind deed? ” Slim protested.

A disgusted Husky, curled her lip but kept walking, ignoring her companion’s remarks. She thought her friends were too optimistic about people’s behavior. She never knew a human to give something without wanting something in return. 'They always want something in the world in return, they just do not speak up about it,' she thought to herself. 'They don't realize the good people are seldom and few and most likely dead already.'

They happened upon the tavern where the bullies gathered the night before and they stopped in for a visit. In daylight, the place looked as if a good heavy windstorm would flatten it, the walls leaned at an angle, the door hung open and the windows were rags. The place was dirty, run down and unkempt but people did not seem to care. They sat at a table, ordered a cool drink and talked about the capture the night before. The proprietor approached inquiring about the six men captured. They told him that his friends were in the castle dungeon and would not be back for some time. He shrugged his shoulders and walked back to the bar. Their duty done the demons stood, walked out and headed back to the road to Hungary.

The road narrowed as the forest thickened. The canopy over the road almost totally blocked the sun from reaching the ground. Animals scurried everywhere in the undergrowth, as the demons approached. As they rounded a curve in the darkest area, several trolls came out, surrounded the demons and demanded payment to pass. Husky laughed at them, Tiger mewed and Slim smiled. One of the trolls near Husky raised his club threatening her.

"You might not want to do that.” Slim said in warning, but it was too late.
Before the arm rose over the troll’s head, it lay on the ground severed from its owner with the club rolling away. The skirmish that ensued, did not last long. Husky swung already at the next one closest to her, her sword carved into his thigh. Tiger sighed and threw knives at the trolls that strayed from the group. Each one whistled as it sliced through the air. Slim finished off the last of them by summoning fire and scared off the rest.

"Don't do that again," Slim growled at the Gwyligi.

“That was fun,” laughed Husky. “We got to chase some trolls. It was about time.”

“You always overreact to threats,” chided Tiger. “I could have handled them easily.”

“Oh, leave me alone. I needed to get my sword bloodied today and I did.”

They continued walking, eating and talking about what they wanted to do next. The road widened and came to a crossroads. They headed east, but wondered where the north south road ended. Slim thought it might be nice to head south, when the weather turned colder. Tiger thought the same thing. Husky just pranced along enjoying the soft dirt of the road between the pads of her paws. She had a shaggy thick black coat, so she did not care. She pricked her ears up when she heard some voices ahead, slowed and resumed human form. She warned her companions of the potential danger. They resumed human form too and proceeded slowly forward. Up ahead around the next bend were two elves arguing heatedly. They talked about abducting some gypsy children to work for them in their small factory. The younger elf argued they had enough money to buy the children. The older elf countered with why pay for something when you can steal it. This went on for a few minutes, until the demons approached.

As the demons approached, the elder elf sized them up and looked intently at the size and bulge of their purses. He concluded the demons were prime targets to swindle. He wanted to get their gold, not some of it, but all of it. They were demons and not very smart, if they were friends and traveled together. The demons stopped, looked at the elves, shook their heads and started to leave.

“Hold up a moment,” the elder elf said. “I have a proposition for you. We own a mine of gold in the neighboring hills. We are going to the gypsy camp to purchase some of their children to work the mine, but a group of trolls set upon us and stole our money. If we make you a deal, can we get you to invest your gold in our mine for a half interest in anything taken from the mine?”

Tiger stood firm and in a loud voice, “We are not interested in any scheme you have.”

“But, but,” the elder elf stuttered. “You have not heard the rest of my proposition.”

“I do not need to hear it,” countered Tiger. "Every deal I had with an elf, I ended up losing everything. I am through with elves and their schemes.” Tiger firmly placed her hand on the hilt of her sword to show she was serious. Slim and Husky followed Tiger’s example. With that, the elves turned and walked away in the direction from where the demons came. Tiger breathed a sigh of relief, Husky chuckled and Slim laughed.

As the sun slowly sank in the western sky, the trio came upon a gypsy encampment. This camp was off the road near a slow moving, shimmering, bubbling stream of fresh spring water bordering a meadow full of daisies. Unknown to the demons and the gypsies, the stream was home to a band of nix and nixies. This band of water nymphs was very fond of children whom they stole and sold to local elves. These children became slaves working in the mines and smelting houses in the neighboring mountains.

The ornate wagon in the center belonged to the king of the gypsies. He held court from this and his word was law. The other wagons encircled his providing protection and a safe haven for the band. Two fires blazed in the circle, one for cooking, the other for gathering, eating and singing. Children scurried about playing and hollering. When they saw Husky, they stopped, looked at her and ran to greet her. This band of gypsies was rather large as there were twenty-four wagons and six supply carts in the outer circle. Outside the circle, the gypsies tethered their horses and oxen in a meadow of sweet grass and flowers downstream from the camp. Behind the king's wagon was a smaller but just as ornate wagon for his daughter the princess. Dinner cooked on the fire and the men set up the dining area. Everything stopped as the three demons approached.

An uneasy truce existed between gypsies and demons, so the trio entered the camp and greeted the king courteously. The gypsies invited the demons to stay for dinner and spend the night. The evening meal was good and the demons ate their fill and shared the food from the villagers. After dinner Husky assumed her demon form, the gypsy children gathered around Husky and played with her. She got up and ran away with the children following her.

"Leave me alone," she whined running as far and fast as she could. Unfortunately, none of the children stopped the chase. One child in particular was faster than the rest and kept up a steady pace beside her. She growled in response and pushed herself to go faster. Despite her efforts, she could not lose the boy and ran out of energy. She rested by a stream, exhausted.

"You're fast, Gwyligi. I had fun chasing you." The boy said as he sat down next to her. She snorted and ignored him, as she waited for the remaining children to pounce on her. They begged her to give them rides for which they brushed her long black coat. She did not mind the latter but the last time the trio came to a gypsy camp, they put a harness on her and tied her up with the dogs. To her that was cruel punishment for being a demon in the form of a dog.

"We lost the others," the boy replied not even the least bit out of breath. "I'm Ryan."

"Husky," she replied gasping a little. She took a good long glance at the boy, feeling his intentions were pure.

"Why do you dislike children?" The boy asked curiously.

"Because they chase me down and treat me like a dog," she snapped back impatiently. Ryan flinched at her sudden anger. She sighed and turned away. 'I am fighting a child.' she thought to herself with a form of self-loathing.

"Look it's not that I don't like children. It is just the ones I have seen are horrible and they grew up to be horrible people. There was one child who didn't."

The boy was silent for a moment. "What happened? Who was this child?"

"N N Nothing, Never mind! Go on home, leave me alone!" Husky suddenly went on the offensive.

"Was the child a boy?" He gasped, "WAS HE YOUR FIRST CRUSH?"

"Go home, kid. It is none of your concern, he's gone anyway." 'Gone and took all of his promises with him.' she silently added.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, some of the gypsy men got out their violins, guitars and concertinas and played stirring gypsy tunes. Tiger felt the beat of the music, stood up and danced around the fire attracting the eyes and hearts of the young men in the camp. Tiger had the power to captivate and seduce a man with a look and a smile. When she danced men fell at her feet and worshipped the ground she danced on. It was the same here. The young men stopped what they worked on and sat mesmerized by her. Some even tried to dance near her, hoping that she would begin to dance with them. Sometimes she would dance and tease them by suddenly changing partners. She was very good at flamenco dancing, finding it the most passionate and soulful of all dances. None of the humans could compete with her. Being feline, her body flexed very seductively.

Afterward, she would see some of the boys slink back to work, finding her out of their reach. Jealous girls glared at her while other girls looked to her as a role model. They would probably dedicate their lives to emulate her from that moment.

"Your traditions run deep here," Tiger said to the king. He nodded and kept a wary watch over his daughter, Tamara. Tamara danced for the gypsies each night, but never had a partner either male or female. When they were in a village, she danced distracting the merchants and farmers while the young gypsy men and older children stole goods and food. The cantor belted out the next song and Tiger skipped out onto the dance floor again.

The princess, daughter of the king, danced with Tiger, competing for the men ’ s attention. The only person attracted by the princess was Slim. The young men of the camp were afraid to approach the princess because her father was the king. When the music stopped for a break, the young men gathered around Tiger offering her wine and cheese, asking if they could spend the night with her. Smiling she declined every offer, but that was not good enough for some. She left the safety of the campfire to go rest and be alone. Several young men sneaked off to find her adding to the ire and jealousy felt by the princess. The princess, knowing that Slim liked her, presented herself to Slim. She took his hand and led him away from the fire to her wagon. Slim reluctantly went with her because her beauty captivated him.

"My name is Tamara. I am the princess of this clan." She smiled a captivating smile.

"I can tell by your exceptional beauty, my lady," Slim bowed steeply.

"You are from the northeast, are you not?"

"I am." He told her gently.

"Ah ha, I hear that men from the northeast are gentlemen. Are you a gentleman?"

"I am many things, princess gentleman may or may not be one of them."

"Then let us see." she leaned in close, in turn he took a step back.

"I really mustn't."

"Why not," Tamara asked outraged. "Is it because of one of those other girls you travel around with? I don't really see you with the dog-girl, but that tiger, is she the one you are with?"

"Heavens no, my lady, it's just"

"It's just what?" She walked away a bit in anger, holding her arms wrapped around herself tightly.

"I haven't asked you to dance with me yet."

"Do you want to dance? We could go back then," she turned toward the fire.

Slim grabbed he arm, "I'm not very good at flamenco, I'm afraid. I know how to waltz."

"What is the waltz?"

"Here, put your left hand on my shoulder and your right in my hand." She did as instructed.

"I don't know this dance, ” she told him, unsure.

"Don't worry, look over my shoulder and follow my lead." After a few unsteady steps, the princess soon got the gist and they danced beautifully together.

As the distant music played, several things happened outside the camp. The nixies that lived in the river came out to dance. They danced close to the encampment trying to lure the children away. When, Husky left camp some of the children following her fell under the spell of the nixies. These children followed the nixies back to the river and joined them in their homes beneath the shimmering water. Husky returned to camp with the children that managed to find her without the nixies magic snagging them and they went to their wagons to sleep until morning.

"Goodnight, Husky. I will see you in the morning!" Ryan's younger sister cried, hugging her tightly. Ryan waved and dragged the girl away.

She huffed, thinking 'fat chance' but she secretly smiled to herself.

The camp quieted down for the night. Every family went to their wagons and slept under them. The children taken by the nixies did not come back. No one missed the children. The fires burned low as everyone slept and the demons curled up around one of the fires in their demon form, well Tiger and Husky anyway.

Slim escorted princess Tamara back to her wagon, kissed her hand, and slipped away into the shadows. She stood on the steps to her wagon blushing heavily.

This part is a full collaboration between 3rebels4 and frogprince.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright 2012, 2013 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Cal Erickson, aka frogprince

Posted with permission at storiesspace.com

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