Too Many Demons: Part 1

Two hands, desperately thrown out, somehow managed to grasp the narrow ledge between the chest and the open trapdoor. A low growling below gave warning that it would not be safe to hang there for long. One leg swung up, a foot reached the narrow ledge; an arm shot up and caught the rim of the open chest. With a heave that almost pulled arm from socket, the thief leapt clear. From the darkness below, two bright eyes glared up. Gamelan grabbed a handful of coins and was off, stuffing a purse on the run. A clamour of bells and distant shouting lent wings to the thief’s feet. As the wall was scaled once more, an uproar in the street below warned that the City Watch had been alerted.
“Must’ve been well bribed to turn out so fast,” breathed Gamelan, and ran along the wall, nimble as the cat that followed. Since several merchant houses were protected by interconnecting walls, it might be possible to descend well away from the main commotion. Misfortunes, however, rarely come singly. A voice cried out.
“There ’e goes, towards the Shambles!”
And the street was suddenly full of blazing torches. Greasy, unkempt faces glared upwards as dogs might at a wounded fox (perhaps a treed wounded fox!). No escape that way.

A door burst open from a building on the other side and four armed guards, alerted by the noise, made for the wall. The odds were poor but on the other hand they were impossible in the street. Gamelan leapt down, grabbing the branch of a convenient tree and swinging lightly to the ground. As the guards ran forwards a bundle of fur, all claws and screeching, came flying at them, clawing face, leg and arm. The nearest, distracted, was dispatched by the thief’s blade. The clash of swords rang out even as the watch clamoured and battered at the gate in the wall. A bare two minutes later the gate was pulled open and a youth in guards’ livery, all bloodied, collapsed to the ground.
“What’s happened?” asked the Watch captain, shaking the guard, careless of any wounds.
“That way...”, was the gasping reply.
Their eyes swept past the bodies of the other guards to the open door and the light within. There was an uproar from the house. The Watch rushed through the gate in a din of shouting, rattling mail and pounding boots, ignoring the listless body that slumped to the ground. In a moment there was a terrific noise from the house, like that of a battlefield with two great armies engaged not so much in killing each other but in breaking everything in sight and making as much racket as they possibly could.

You can find the complete version of Too Many Demons: Part 1 in issue 48 of TBD.

Stuart McPherson