Time: Twenty years after The Big Reveal
Place: Santa Cruz, CA, Earth
"Why do you have horns?"
Shax glanced up from his reader, vaguely alarmed that a small human had insinuated herself at his café table without him noticing. "Er, hello?"
"Hi. I'm Hatshepsut. I'm named for a woman who was pharaoh a long time ago."
"Lovely name." Shax pulled out a smile. The kid's parents couldn't be far away and would come to rescue him soon. No need to be unpleasant. "I knew her."
She squinted at him. "It's a stupid name. No one can say it. Everyone calls me Hattie, which is stupid, too. I'm going to change it." She swung her feet, squinting at him harder. "You're fibbing. You can't be old enough to know her."
"Hmm. I do often fib. But not about this. My kind of demon doesn't age after we're grown." He sipped at his espresso. "I'm Shax, the Demon Prince of Thieves."
"That doesn't sound like a nice thing to be."
"I'm a demon." Shax quirked a brow at her. "Most of us aren't nice things, and many are perfectly horrid."
With a nod, she glanced away from him, gaze searching the plaza. "I guess. Klfruk doesn't have horns."
Sounds like a Hellish name… But Shax couldn't place it. "Who is Klfruk?"
"He's our demon house guard." The squint became a scrunched nose, no longer directed at Shax. "He's s'posed to be watching me. But he's not smart."
"Ah. I used to slip away from my guards when I was young, too. They weren't terribly bright either." Sometimes the out in the open nature of human-demonic relations still hit him sideways. A Hell denizen guarding a human household. So odd. "Does he have strange ears that look like squashed cauliflowers?"
She nodded, the crinkle vanishing. Perhaps Shax was being reevaluated as not stupid.
"That means he's a rock troll. Which is a sort of demon, but not my sort."
The feet swinging escalated. "So why do you have horns?"
"Why do you have green eyes?" Shax countered with a raised brow.
She snorted at him. Astounding. He'd introduced himself as a demon prince and she exhibited no fear. None at all. "Cause my mom does. Of course." She stopped, eyes widening. "So your mom has horns."
"Well...no. She has wings, though."
Leaning back in her chair, Hattie checked behind Shax. "Did yours get cut off?"
"No." Shax tried for haughty but only managed irritated. "I never had wings."
She gave a terribly serious nod. "My dad's got brown eyes. I didn't get those. I guess your dad's got horns."
"Stands to reason, yes." Don't frown. No need to scare the poor kid now. "I've never seen him, though."
"That's silly. You're a prince. You have to know who your dad is."
Shax pushed his plate of macarons toward Hattie, pleased when she took one. It only seemed polite. "Demon royalty does have registries and bloodlines, like human nobility, but it's not always trackable. Some high-echelon demons weren't born, you see. They were created." He gave an insouciant shrug. "And some don't care to acknowledge offspring or progeni— Parents."
"So your dad's…" Hattie bit into her carefully selected macaron and leaned closer to whisper, "A secret?"
Shax brightened considerably. A secret was much more fun than saying I have no idea. "Yes," he whispered back. "A secret."
Hattie stuffed the rest of her bright purple macaron into her mouth and hopped off her chair. A uniformed rock troll had just entered the plaza, head swiveling back and forth. Hello, sir. You must be Klfruk.
"That's all right then. You just have to go on a quest someday to find him. Princes do that." Hattie scampered off and only turned to wave when she'd taken the befuddled rock troll's hand.
A quest? Shax pulled the plate back toward him and took a delicate nibble of a virulently yellow macaron. Ridiculous. Absurd. Demons didn't go on quests. He shook himself, trying to get rid of the unsettled ripples under his skin. If he'd had a cane, he would've been shaking it. "Damn kids. Stay off my lineage."
Time: After Beside A Black Tarn
Place: Aboard the Brimstone, In Transit
Blue dot. Treats come with blue dot.
Nic twitched his whiskers and hurried after the dot. Sometimes it wouldn't wait for him. Then he had to stop and watch until it came back. The dot zipped down the tunnel and Nic ran to keep up, barely in time to catch the quick turn it made to the left. There, in a little niche--
Treats! Yes! Nom nom…seeds…nom…pumpkin.
When he finished, he glanced around for the blue dot. Did it have more following games for him? Was it time to go back to Big Feathers? There! There it ran, back to the wide tunnel. Nic scurried after. There would be more treats. Blue dot did not go back the way he had come. Down the tunnel, then up, up, into a tunnel where Nic needed the sticky pads of his feet to run on the walls instead of the floor.
Up. Up. Up. Then blue dot turned down a flat tunnel again to stop at a tiny cave in the tunnel wall.
More treats! Sweet potato! Nom nom nom nom.
He finished his nibbling and sat up, alert and waiting. Blue dot returned and raced away down the tunnels up one way, down the other, through bends and twists, sharp corners, and the occasional scramble-plop from an up tunnel to a flat one below. There were treats, but it seemed to Nic that there was more game in between treats now than there had been the first time he'd played with blue dot. That was all right. A bit more of a run to food was never wasted time.
Scent told him they were backtracking now, returning along his own trail to rejoin Big Feathers in the bright room of food smells. The bright room meant the end of the game and more treats. Yes. He was right. The light from the opening shone at the end of the tunnel now. He followed blue dot out and onto the table where Big Feathers sat with Giant and Hunter. All of these were large folk Nic liked. In this flying cave, he liked most of the large folk. Spiney was the most fun, especially when he was with Nic's small friend, Many Legs. The large person who blew smoke was a little scarier, but he'd only tried to catch Nic that once.
Sniff sniff. Yes, there was egg for him. Who had it, though? The large people were talking and not paying proper attention to him. There…Hunter held something out for him. Nic scampered over to claim his prize and chomped down. A sharp cry startled him into jumping back and the taste in his mouth was definitely not egg. Oops. Finger.
There were some sharp words, but Nic decided they weren't for him as he discovered the bowl of chopped egg next to the finger. Giant took the strange little hat off Nic's head and blue dot vanished, signaling the end of the game—also, sadly, the end of treats. That was fine. He was full now, so he climbed Big Feathers and settled out of the way on his shoulder.
Blue dot was a good game. He might even consider playing it without treats. Maybe.
[Author's note: Rat eyesight is notoriously poor with a limited color range and lack of definition, although they do see ultraviolet light. Many a young rat friend has been nipped or bitten by making the mistake of putting a finger between the bars of a rat's cage. They're not being mean—they just mistook it for something else.]
About The Brimstone Journals
Extra treats for our Brimstone readers, Brimstone Journals will post every Tuesday. Short scenes from characters' lives before, after or during the stories.
About the Author