Chapter 37

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“Is it really okay to let your demon do as he wishes?” Owen asked as he dropped a dead boar onto the ground. The two suns shone overhead, illuminating a glade with a shoddy shelter made of leaves and branches. Raea sat next to a sleeping Palan underneath it, leaves blocking out the sun overhead. Gerome was tending to a small fire beneath a tree in an attempt to create as little smoke as possible.

“It should be fine, right?” Carmella asked in return. She was sitting on top of a tree’s branch, keeping watch of the group’s surroundings. The lizardmen city could easily be seen from her vantage point.

“But he will not even tell us what he is doing!” Owen said as he pulled out a knife and proceeded to butcher the boar.

“Hey!” Gerome said and snapped his head towards Owen. “Stop! You’re doing it all wrong.” He walked over to Owen and snatched the knife out of his hands. “Give me that.”

Owen frowned. “That is not how you address your superior,” he said and furrowed his brow. Carmella burst out laughing as she watched Gerome scratch his head with a flushed face.

“Sorry,” Gerome said and stared at his feet. “But you were really doing it wrong. Have you never butchered an animal before?”

“I have not,” Owen said and grunted. “Forget it. I leave the meal preparation to you.” He pat Gerome on the shoulder and found a stone to sit on. Gerome exhaled and crouched next to the boar, sinking the knife into its hide.

“Should I wake Palan up?” Raea asked as she stared at the demon sitting next to her. Palan’s eyes were dull and staring at the ground just in front of his feet.

“Just leave him,” Carmella said as she leaned her back against the tree trunk, keeping her head oriented towards the lizardmen village. “He does everything at night.”

“But he has not eaten with us for nearly a week,” Raea said and frowned. Her face was smudged with dirt and a few leaves were entangled in her hair.

“Maybe he is eating at night,” Gerome said and shrugged as he slid the hide off the boar.

“In the lizardmen’s city?”

“He did say he wanted to taste them,” Gerome said and made a face. “I don’t think Palan would forget to eat. He did mention it as one of his rules for survival.”

Raea’s face blanched. “Maybe I should accompany him to the city tonight,” she said and shuddered as she stared at Palan’s face.

Palan’s eyes suddenly shifted to the right and made eye contact with Raea. She gasped and fell over backwards. Palan frowned. “No,” he said and wet his lips with his tongue. “You’ll get in my way. I’m almost done.”

“I thought you were sleeping,” Raea said as she took in a deep breath and sat back up.

“With you blabbering in my ear the whole time?” Palan asked and snorted. He stuck his bare chest forward and arched his back as he stretched out his arms in front of himself. He cracked his neck and crawled out of the shelter before standing up. He glanced at the suns in the sky and frowned. “It’s still too early.” He glanced around. “Where’s that stupid dog?”

“Your wolf is hunting somewhere over there,” Carmella said and pointed towards the west.

“I see,” Palan said. Owen’s gaze caught his eye. “What are you looking at?”

“Those scars on your back,” Owen said. “Where did you get them?”

Palan narrowed his eyes. “None of your business,” he said and snorted as he walked up to a tree and sat down, resting his back on its trunk. “I’ll kill you if you wake me up again.” Owen frowned, but didn’t say anything as he wiped blood off of his armor. Raea sighed and shook her head as she brought her knees to her chest.

After a while, Gerome announced that the meal was ready and passed out portions of boar to each person except Palan. They ate in silence as Palan’s eyes tracked their movements in his sleep. When they finished eating, Gerome put out the fire and Carmella climbed back onto her tree. Raea went to feed the lizardmen prisoners that they captured throughout the week while Owen went off to get water.

Nighttime came and Palan began to stir. He nudged Raea’s head off his shoulder and frowned as she mumbled in her sleep. Gerome and Carmella slept next to each other by a small fire, their bodies separated by their weapons. Owen was sitting on a rock, hunched forward and staring at Palan as the demon stood up and yawned. Owen asked, “What exactly are you doing in their city?”

Palan smiled at Owen as he pat his bag, confirming that it was still strapped to his waist. “You’ll see tomorrow,” he said and headed into the forest, going towards the lizardmen city. “Make sure Raea doesn’t die.” Owen grunted and glanced at the lance by his feet before watching Palan’s figure disappear in the darkness.

Palan inhaled deeply through his nose as he glanced at the yellow moon hanging in the sky. He smelled the woodsy fragrance interspersed with blood and droppings and smiled. Owls hooted off in the distance as he crept along the forest floor, feeling the twigs snap underneath his leather boots. His body tingled as he sensed the heartbeats of the nearby rodents, scurrying about in the undergrowth, picking up fallen nuts and seeds. His heart pounded in his chest, faster and faster as he increased his pace from a stroll to a dash. Critters fled from his path as they sensed the ground vibrating as Palan trampled his way through the forest, heading straight for the lizardmen’s city. He approached the spiked wooden walls and unsheathed a red dagger with the word Anidun inscribed on it. He leapt upwards, sinking the blade into the wood and scrambled up the wall like a spider, occasionally using his teeth to support himself. He stood on top of the wall, hair flowing in the wind.

Palan gazed at the sprawling city beneath his feet and inhaled, his chest puffing out as the air flowed nonstop. He smelled the fear in the air and licked his lips as he took a step off the wall, plunging towards the ground on the other side. He landed on the balls of his feet, his hands touching the ground with knees bent. He stood up and smiled, feeling his blood roaring through his ears. The city was silent. Not a soul wandered the streets, in fear of the being that plagued them for the last week. Palan took a step forward towards the center of the city. It was time to hunt.

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