The Lord of Bats 6 - Alfred II

Alfred watched the Demon boy shuffle away from Julia and her friends. The lad appeared to be terrified of something, and Alfred had to know what that something was.

The Lord of Worth made his way to Joseph, who was caressing Lillian's bare arm and whispering in her ear. "Who is that boy?" Alfred barked, gesturing to the youth.

"Hmm?" Joseph purred with a lazy smile, tearing himself from Lillian's ear. Joseph's smile disappeared when he saw who Alfred was referring to.

Muttering obscenities in the Demon tongue, Joseph strode over to the boy. Alfred frowned as he saw Joseph grab the boy's arm roughly and growl something at him. The boy looked like he was about to soil himself, gesturing wildly to Julia and her friends, shaking his head. Joseph struck the boy across the face, hard.

That was all Alfred needed. Unsheathing his sword, he darted to the boy's side. "Back away, slowly," Alfred warned Joseph, the point of his sword inches from the Demon Voice's neck.

"This doesn't concern you, Goth," Joseph hissed.

"You are very mistaken," Alfred growled back. "Now back away from the boy, or we'll see if your sorcery covers decapitation."

Joseph rounded on Alfred, his staff glowing. An ill wind filled the room, reeking with death. "What I do with my son, and to my son, is none of your business!" Joseph roared, his hair writhing in the gale.

"Gentlemen, please!" Baron Edward urged, throwing himself between Joseph and Alfred. "This is supposed to be a peace summit, not a bloodbath!"

Alfred looked around. The Demons had been converging on him, blocked by the Ravensguard and the Kingsguard. Thomas, Martha, and Marie were at his side; Thomas's Ravensblade was at the ready, Marie's daggers were poised, and Martha's arrows notched. The children were nowhere to be seen. "Where are the children?" he whispered through gritted teeth.

"Safe," Marie's whisper replied. The fear in Alfred's heart subsided a little.

The Mystery Knights, Canyonguard, Kyle Knights, and Ivyguard were behind the Demons. The Marsh Knights had encircled John and Abigail, their focus on protecting the Marsh royals. Everyone had their weapons out; swords, crossbows, standard bows, daggers.

"This can not end well," Thomas remarked, his eyes fixed on the Demons.

"He struck his son!" Alfred seethed.

"I'm as furious as you are, but we can't going around slaughtering people whose ways offend us."

"But, my Duke —!"

"No." Thomas sheathed his sword. The other Goths mirrored his actions; the Demons reciprocated, reluctantly. Only Joseph and Alfred remained resolved to fight.

"Sheath it," Thomas said quietly.

Alfred's brain burned with fury. "But — !"

"Now!" Not so quiet.

Every curse Alfred knew swirled within in his mind as he put his blade away.

Joseph's dark look lightened, but Alfred could see the hatred in the Demon's eyes. "I can see why you speak for your people, Duke Thomas. Your wisdom appears to crack even the thickest skull."

Alfred started toward the oily man; a strong hand on his shoulder prevented him from ripping the Demon's head off. "Leave."

Alfred turned to Thomas in shock. "You can't be serious! I'm the commander of your armies!"

"You also brought us to the brink of war because of an emotional outburst. I trust you with my life, but I can't take the chance that you'll destroy this conference with your hatred. Out."

"Thomas!" Marie began.

"You too, Marie."

Marie's teeth clenched, but she remained silent. Alfred opened his mouth to protest, but closed it when he saw Thomas's firm stare.

"Come on, Marie," Alfred spat. "Let's find Julia and go home."

"Good idea. The air here is a bit too cowardly for my liking," Marie snarled.

Alfred turned away from Thomas and Martha's pained looks. As he and Marie passed Joseph, he heard the Voice mutter softly, "I look forward to seeing what your heart looks like."

"My sword is my heart," Alfred hissed. "And you'll get a very close look at it soon enough."

As Alfred and Marie exited the hall, Alfred heard Joseph say cheerfully, "Now then, shall we get down to business? I believe we have a treaty to work out!"