Read Seal of Solomon (Journeyman Book 2) Online
Authors: Golden Czermak
“You little meat bags,” Steinolf snarled. “Your kind were also there, there is no denying that. So don’t try to sway us from the real issue at hand; Onoskelis is not fit to lead!”
Astaroth, dressed in one of his many tailored suits, this time a pinstriped affair, also stepped forward and extended his arms. His red hair billowed distinctively in the breeze amongst the sea of blacks and browns. “Now please, calm down and think about what you are saying,” he said in a feeble attempt to pacify things before they escalated. “We should not simply throw out the progress we have made to this point. There is no need for -”
“Progress? If that is what you wish to call it,” the werewolf challenged, continuing his tirade with the backing of taunts and heckles. “Shall we examine this in greater detail?”
Astaroth nodded, stepping back to Keli’s side. “So be it.”
Steinolf continued, pacing upon the dais as he spoke. “We do not have the artifacts you described as ‘key components’ to achieving your goals. Therefore, ours are delayed. Leads on the other items are scarce, too, from what I hear. Yet, instead pushing forward with more raids of Journeymen resources, you choose to wait for a
to take the lead. It is my opinion that HE should lead your little army because at this rate, he’ll claim all your precious treasures as his own. Good luck getting them back when nobody is around to help your worthless selves!”
Paimon rushed forward, racing down the steps. He pulled back his arm, sending his flail to smite the beast. “Impudent fool!”
“Enough!” Keli’s voice cut through the tense air. She shot a wretched glance toward Paimon just as his weapon lodged itself in the dirt ahead of the dais.
The crowd hushed once again as she descended the broken stairs, then walked across the dead grass until she stood off to the side of the platform. Passing a hand casually through the closest torch, she tickled its lapping flames with her fingers before walking right up to Steinolf. The imposing wolf towered above her with his yellow eyes watching every move. His bushy hair stood on end and sharp claws sunk firmly to the sides of the lectern.
She wasn’t swayed, addressing him in a subdued voice. “If you have a problem with me, Steinolf, you could have called a private meeting without bringing your little mob with you.”
He leaned down toward her, restraining his own tone. “If I wanted a bitch, Onoskelis, I would have turned one of the women at the clubs you frequent, Your Grace.”
The urge to thrash him rose swiftly, but that would likely do far more harm to the alliance than good. She scanned the crowd, taking in the faces of the surrounding monsters and settled on a different approach. “Despite what you make of my leadership,” she spoke, “I take full responsibility for the loss of the Ire and its shackles. Nobody else holds the blame but myself.”
“At last, we are in agreement then,” Steinolf said assertively.
“Maybe,” she replied. “Now is the time for this alliance to rise, not fall back into the recesses of shadows. All this petty bickering will only serve to give the Journeymen more of a chance to find intelligence on our operations and use it against us. We cannot afford to lose such ground. I WILL lead us to victory and this world shall be ours, as agreed upon.”
The wolf leaned down even further, now eye to eye with her. “Prove it!”
There were quiet gasps from both parties.
“What would you have me do to get you to take your rabble elsewhere?” she asked, seeing that her words were having no effect. She could not see the uneasy faces of her own kind behind her.
Steinolf returned to his full height, turning to the crowd before stepping off the platform. He also ran a clawed hand through a nearby torch, the smell of burning hair and sounds of sizzling rising into the air. With his burned hand, he rubbed it through Keli’s short blonde hairs, covering them in soot. “Find the location where Crosse is staying and destroy it. Do this and you will have demonstrated that demons are not the failures their current record shows them to be. Perhaps then we can wipe the dagger clean.”
Astaroth was appalled, hiding his revulsion as he looked down from his position on high. Some of the lessers had also begun to titter lowly amongst themselves.
Perhaps Baal was right in his assessment of her?
he thought. Even for a loyal demon such as he, this course of action bordered on too much clemency for the face of true demon kind. Since when did demons jump at the direction of monsters? Never. Since when did demons allow themselves to be demeaned? Never.
“Agreed,” Keli said, spinning around without another word until she reached her entourage. “Come.” The entire party of demons entered through the main doorway and disappeared into the lightless hall.
THE GREAT DOORS
to the command center’s antechamber flew open and the demons working inside were startled. Paint chips snowed down and the doors closed just as quickly, Keli slinking her way down a central path between several orderly rows of benches and desks. She was followed close behind by her two Knights.
“Paimon,” she said tersely, “clear the room.”
“Your Grace,” he started, “you should wait until we reach -”
“Forget the fucking circle!” she boomed, voice breaking. She stopped about halfway down the path underneath the gray light of a dim fluorescent lamp and wiped some of the sooty residue from her hair. “Just… empty the room of the others.”
He looked around promptly as she carried on walking. “Well, you all heard her,” he shouted to the lessers. “NOW!”
He didn’t have to ask twice and the room cleared out quickly. The demons streamed out in single file, leaving behind bubbling potions and half-filled spell bowls on the worn tables. When the door latched itself with a quiet
, he turned back toward her.
She was now resting with curves sat atop one of the shiny computer desks, a map of the world divided into triangular grids filling the small screen behind her.
“It is done,” Paimon said, dropping the flail which vanished into thin air with a quick
. Removing his helmet, he ran a gauntlet through his dark hair.
Astaroth wasted no time letting his feelings be known. “You cannot possibly be entertaining the idea of doing the bidding of that mongrel and his ragtag band of miscreants?”
“As of right now, I am. They’ll all pay in due time, Astaroth,” she countered reassuringly. “Both the monsters and humans alike. This is all a means to an end.”
“I agree,” said Paimon, setting the helm on a table. “It is imperative that we keep this flimsy union together, despite what our core feelings on the matter are.”
“Yet you were a hair’s breadth away from smiting that dog in front of its throngs not ten minutes ago,” Astaroth chastised, waving a finger toward him.
“Yes, and that was out of anger,” Paimon admitted.
“More like how things should be done,” Astaroth retorted.
Paimon laughed vigorously. “Now, you’re beginning to sound like Baal, who you disagreed with no more than a month ago. Have you had a change of heart, Astaroth? In Lucifer’s name, how many times must we switch our views – as much as humans change their underthings no doubt?”
Astaroth raised up a sparking fist, a large axe appearing within it. He swung and the blade stopped just short of Paimon’s neck.
“Look,” Paimon replied, his flail already back in hand. “I’m placing my personal feelings into a box for later use. I would love to see the grin wiped off that mutt’s face, but must wait for that pleasure. Yet, you and I stand here all too willing to smite OURSELVES! What foolishness is this?”
Astaroth lowered his hand and the axe vanished; sweat had begun to roll uncomfortably down his back. He approached a nearby workbench and placed his suit jacket across it, rolling up the sleeves of his bright white shirt. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll agree to this madness for now. Your Grace, what is your plan?”
“Oh, you two finally realize I’m here?” she asked derisively, stepping between the both of them. She proceeded to rub her hands slowly over their crotches as she passed by. “They’re still there, gentlemen. You must stop feeling the need to whip these out whenever you argue. It’s unbecoming.” She carried on toward a bench containing a carafe of wine. She poured herself a glass of the pungent red liquid, using a cylindrical flask off the worktable as a container. As she took a sip, she found it bitter for her taste, but drank it nonetheless.
“It is fairly obvious that in order for us to ensure the continued survival of this alliance, then we must find a way of getting ourselves onto his property,” Paimon said as he also took a helping of the wine. “That should win us favor with the monstrosities.”
“No,” Keli responded, “I don’t think it will be nearly enough to merely grant us access. What then? Are the monsters going to applaud? I want that place razed to the ground after we take back what is ours. That’s the only way it’ll send a message large enough to both the Journeyman and to our other enemies. They’ll know that we mean business and won’t want us to turn our sights toward them, else suffer a similar fate.” She paused, taking a deep breath. “Plus, it helps us deal with that bastard Crosse; too long has he been a thorn in our side.”
“And yet, we have no idea what warding or spells they have in place,” Astaroth said with harsh realism. “Nor do we have a clue what redundancies Gage or his team have lying in wait, should we actually manage to break any of the lines in their defenses.”
“He is right, Your Grace,” Paimon furthered. “Without knowing, we would be shooting in the dark with slingshots instead of cannons.”
She swirled the wine around in her flask; oh how much it resembled blood. She lifted it up to her nose and took a robust sniff. “Then the answer is clear: we have to get rid of all the hurdles at once. Spell or ward, erase them all.”
Paimon choked on his own drink, a bit falling to the floor, leaving spots of red. “No such means exists!”
“Giving up before we’ve even started, Paimon?” she asked, not making an effort to mask her disappointment. “You commanded
legions during the War of Heaven and simple spray painted symbols are going to hinder you?”
Diminished, Paimon fell silent.
“If one exists I'll find it, Your Grace,” Astaroth piped up, confident. There was a glimmer in his eyes. “If that is all, I will begin looking into this right away. There’s much work ahead of us.”
“Another change of heart?” Paimon chastised. “What exactly are you up to, Astaroth?”
“Nothing subversive, if that is what you're implying,” he answered, cutting his eyes toward Paimon. “Simply looking to get things started. The sooner we’re able to get our hands on the artifacts, the sooner Hell can arrive on the Earth.”
“Good,” Keli replied. “Report back to me should you find something of use, Astaroth. Immediately. We are on a time crunch, as I don’t know how long I can keep Steinolf waiting, nor do we want Gage to get too far ahead of us.”
Astaroth nodded, then departed as Paimon stepped out of his way, watching suspiciously out of the narrow slits of his eyes.
“Yes, Your Grace,” Paimon muttered. “I'm sure Astaroth will be trying his hardest to please you.”
AT LAST, THE RIDE
in the golden bullet was over.
As Joey pulled into a parking lot on the upper deck of parking at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Gage didn’t quite know what else to think about his driving of the Z28, which was a strange amalgam of a high speed car chase, while riding roller coaster, in a tumble dryer. Regardless, this was the longest time he had ever spent in the passenger seat and he thanked the entire pantheon of gods he knew of that the trip was over in less than an hour. That alone was much better than a day’s worth of butt hurt had they ventured all the way up to New York City.
Gage opened the passenger door and lifted himself out of the seat, stretching to get the blood flowing again in his legs and ass. He wiped away the wrinkles on his black v-neck and leaned on the roof waiting for Joey to get out.
“Ya catch that parking was damn near twenty dollars a day?” Gage asked, thinking that it was way too much, factoring in the price they paid for the last minute seats. He chuckled to himself in disbelief. “Thank God for credit.”