Episode 50: Gonna Be a Show-Down | Scryer's Gulch
Mamzelle had picked her moment well. She knew Bonham would take Duniway to the stamp mill first. How could he not? It was a fine demonstration of his wealth and power. And it was also the best possible place for an ambush, even as surrounded as they were by other humans, for speech was impossible. No order Bonham or the Duniway woman might give could be heard, and Duniway had left Misi as half-cat half-human--a stroke of luck Mamzelle could hardly believe.
Misi had Bonham tied and gagged before anyone could blink, but his youth and inexperience showed. In his clumsiness he blocked Mamzelle's path, and she had to scramble to reach his mistress. The little whistle punk ran away the moment the demons appeared, but the steam donkey operator decided to be heroic and threw himself between Mamzelle and her quarry. By the Dark One, she'd wanted to get the drop on Duniway! Mamzelle unsheathed her claws, raked him open and tossed him aside to die.
It wouldn't matter in the end. Duniway was running, but Mamzelle was faster, and there was nowhere for the human to go. Mamzelle knew the area inside and out, and as far as she knew Duniway'd never been here. With Bonham out of the action and unable to stop her, she'd catch up in seconds.
And that's when Duniway struck.
Just as Mamzelle came within two claw-swipes of the phony schoolteacher, the woman turned on her heel. Without the operator feeding it fuel, the steam donkey was fast losing pressure; Duniway's clear, high voice cut through the diminished sound of the stamp mill. "VI GESTISCO, DAEMONIS!" Mamzelle stood rooted to the spot. Her feet burned whenever she tried to move them. Her human body shifted into her true form, wings spreading out into their full ten foot span, fangs long and sharp, eyes red with rage and bloodlust. Duniway's will pounded into her, forcing her to her knees; once there, she saw the sigils scratched into the earth.
Mamzellarrainatta Daughter of Zelliniasipatiri wasn't born yesterday, but she'd walked straight into a trap anyway.
Misi loped up, and she turned her fury on him. "Misiriplinapos Son of Misorianatus--no, Son of No One, bastard of a human father!"
"Say, you leave my father out of this!" said the cat-man. "He was as demonic as--"
"I call down the curse of the Dark One upon you!"
"That and a plugged nickel will get you a cup of coffee at the Hopewell, babe. You're stuck." His furry face creased in sympathy. "Listen, Mamzellarrainatta, we had to stop you--I had to stop you. You weren't listening to me. Do you know what would have happened to us if we did get free here in the Gulch? We'd be doped up to the eyeballs on hermetauxite before we knew it--I know, I know, slaughter all the humans, burn the town down, blah blah blah. But we lose track of time. What is time to us? One year, two years, pretty soon here comes another bunch of humans and we're enslaved again, and by folks a lot nastier than Annabelle here. The only thing keeping both of us from soaking ourselves into a coma in all this hermetauxite is that we've been ordered not to. Don't you remember? It's how that two-bit Bonham got hold of you in the first place! No one could have caught a demon like you otherwise!"
Mamzelle stared wildly all around her. The area was deserted--sometimes humans were smart. "And so you will return me to him? No, kill me. Kill me instead. I would rather die."
"I won't kill you," said Duniway.
"You already have me on my knees. You wish me to beg?"
"Be silent," said the woman. Mamzelle's mouth snapped shut. "Listen to me. I will not kill you. Nor will I return you to Bonham. I never have held with treating demons like slaves, or pets--" Here Misi snorted. "Or pets," she reiterated. "I treat demons fairly, more as partners than anything. I like them, they like me. Go ahead, speak."
Mamzelle worked her jaw free. "How many demons have you snared, then, little girl?"
"Misi was the second. You're the third."
"What happened to the first?"
"I let him go," said Annabelle.
"I don't believe you. Why would you do that?"
"I was twelve. I did it to see if I could, and because I needed help. He did what I needed him to do, I helped him with a favor, and we parted as friends."
"So let's say you did this thing. What was the demon's name, then?"
"Espinisollo Son of Eseprentussi."
Mamzelle knew Espinisollo, a strong, wise demon whose name was not generally known in the human world. If Duniway really had caught him, that made her a very strong wielder, but she might be bluffing. Mamzelle consulted her teeth and claws. "So if I do you a favor you will let me go, too?"
"Oh, no," said the woman. "For starters, you've been killing folks. Until you get that out of your head, I can't let you out of human control. And for seconds--"
"For seconds, she don't belong to you," boomed a voice. Mamzelle looked over her shoulder; Misi had freed Bonham. What kind of an idiot demon was he? "She's still mine, even if you have her under containment."
"That can change," said Duniway.
Bonham hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his trousers and rocked back on his heels to look down his nose at the petite blonde. "Are you challenging me for her? Little chit of a thing like you?"
"Yes, sir, I am," she said.
He roared with laughter. "You and what army?"
"No army, just me," she answered with a smile that made Mamzelle believe the woman could do it, even if Bonham didn't think so.
"Well, all right then, teacher," said Bonham, showing all his strong, tobacco-stained teeth, "let's have ourselves a show-down."