Escape of the Fire Demon
by Mike Phillips
Fire burned in stabs of light, quickly spreading over the wizard's
hands, growing in heat and radiance until he understood the demon had
escaped. Capistron withdrew his mind from the enchantment, breaking the
summoning spell he had placed on the fires of the blacksmith's forge,
severing all ties with the thing he sought to release.
No longer protected by the spell, Capistron realized his hands were
still clutching the fiery coals of the forge. His flesh was burning and
he knew he must soon quench the flames or risk permanent damage.
Injuring his hands might cause him to lose much of his ability to work
magic, a thought horrible to contemplate.
Forcing his hands open, the wizard dropped the coals to the floor.
The effort was terrible, making him faint with pain. He stumbled
backward, tripping over some object in the darkness and landing hard on
the dirt floor. Upon forearms and elbows he crawled to the water barrel
and thrust his smoldering hands deep into the cool water.
At last the fire was out. He breathed a heavy sigh as the pain began
to ease. In the dim light of the still burning forge, he ventured a
look at the extent of his injuries. His fingers were black, charred and
split like overcooked sausages.
"Curse the beast," Capistron said, trying to close his fist. His hands worked well enough to reach into the breast pocket of his
robe, finding the cordial he had prepared for just such an eventuality.
Pulling the stopper with his teeth, he quickly drank it drown.
The rich liquid cooled him as it flowed within, finding a path to
his blood and his damaged hands. Even before his labored breathing
slowed, the cordial started working. He felt less pain. Strength
returned to his grasp.
"Now," he said, for the first time looking about him, "where have
you got to? You can't have gained sufficient power to flee. Not yet,
The wizard stood, nearly as whole as he had been only moments
before, the cool healing of the cordial having done its magic. Fire
burned in the forge, the light playing on furniture and tools and piled
stock of iron. Nowhere was the fire demon to be seen.
Fearing the use of greater spells the wizard began to chant quietly,
not in an effort to find the demon, but to reveal the heat that would
have remained after its passing. In reply, a glowing ember shined in
the darkness, near the forge where he had stood. It was an amulet.
"Then I had caught you," Capistron said with a satisfied hiss, "only
you managed to escape somehow."
Capistron picked up the amulet and examined it. One of the prongs
that had secured the gemstone was burned away. Beneath the damage was a
small chip in the polished surface of the stone.
"Ah, so that is it. The jeweler must have damaged it in the
setting." He sighed miserably. "That's what you get for hiring
Tying the amulet to his wrist, Capistron rolled down the wet sleeves
of his robe and continued the search. A growing light from the far wall
drew his attention.
"There you are my pet," the wizard said soothingly, walking toward a
wooden bench with careful grace. "Come to me now. There's nowhere to
The thing was small, barely larger than the gem into which it was
intended to be made captive. It was vaguely human, but with leathery
wings and a long tail, glowing with a fire more intense than even the
purest coal could light. Even at that distance he could smell it, a
sulfurous stench like burnt matches.
"Enough fun, my little friend, come here, come on," Capistron said,
making kissing sounds as if to call a dog. "We can't let my first
attempt in summoning your kind turn out to be a failure, now can we?"
With a sudden speed the demon seemed to recognize the man, seemed to
realize the danger it was in. Capistron saw this change of attitude and
reacted, trying to subdue the demon with a blast of green light. But
the demon was too fast. It leapt from its resting place in the dirt
onto a bench, the spell landing ineffectually beyond.
As the demon speeded down the bench, everything it touched caught
fire. Indifferent to this new danger, Capistron followed the demon,
sending blasts of sorcery after it, missing again and again as the
demon lit from a shelf to a beam and then to the doorway, leaving in
its wake fires that roared with greater and greater ferocity.
Shouts rose in the distance. The apprentices that slept in the
adjoining rooms of the smithy were awake and calling alarm. Capistron
looked desperately about him. It would be no good going out the front
way. Neither would feats of magic to secure his escape do more than
draw an angry mob to his own front door.
His only hope, he quickly decided, was in concealment. He would have
to pursue the demon later. Stepping into a corner as far from the
flames as he could manage, he drew the darkness about himself.
Two young men came into the building with buckets. Shouting, they
splashed water on the nearest of the fires. The master and his family
soon joined them, bringing more buckets to extinguish the flames. They
hadn't worked long before another call of fire rose from nearby. In the
confusion, Capistron slipped out the back way.
Exiting the forge, the wizard found the whole town alight. The
thatched and wooden roofs were burning, bright enough to brighten the
heavens above. People were running up and down the streets, calling
alarm to their fellows and carrying buckets of water, their efforts
Rubbing his face with his hands, the wizard said, "Oh no, they'll
hang me by a gibbet for this one. Time to go."
Finding no adequate shadows to hide within, Capistron called upon
his powers to make himself invisible. But unlike the darkness he was
able to put to use in a dark place, he didn't have the strength to
disappear. The spell failed to adequately hide him, even in such a
fickle light as that of the burning homes and shops of the town. Weary
from his labors, he could do little more than change himself into
something less than threatening in appearance.
Inspired, Capistron ripped his clothes and rubbed them with dirt,
bending at the middle and pushing up a shoulder. Leaning on a stick
from the smith's woodpile, he limped, making himself look a beggar man.
With the last of his magical energies, he cast deception about himself,
starting down the narrow roads and alleys that would lead him away from
the fiery path of the demon.
Many carefully placed steps from the forge, Capistron took a moment
to rest and to collect his strength from the night's efforts.
Exhausted, he slumped down against the backside of some tall building,
hidden near a few garbage pails that sat at the stoop of a quiet
doorway. It seemed the entire town was up behind him, calling to each
other in their attempts to extinguish the ever spreading fires.
The wizard was rapidly losing interest in his mislaid demon, fearing
that even if he were able to find and subdue it now, the good
townspeople would lay blame for all that had happened on him. His only
hope was to pass unseen by the guard at the gate, if indeed the guard
remained at his post and had not gone to fight the flames.
As he sat, absorbed as he was in his plans to escape and feeling
confident enough in his hiding place, Capistron was overtaken by the
need for rest. Just closing his eyes to clear his thoughts, he forgot
himself and let better sense succumb to desire.
With no more than the lifting of the latch as warning, a nearby door
was flung open and a big man, a veritable giant, appeared. "Come give
me a hand. I've got two more buckets right out here," the big man
shouted to someone behind him.
Frightened and off guard as he woke from drowsing, Capistron jumped
to his feet, forgetting that no crippled beggar would move in so sure
and quick a way. The giant, smelling badly of smoke, stood at the door
and took in the outward signs of the disguised wizard in a moment.
"My, my, hello there stranger. What's this about then, eh? Up to
mischief?" From the steps the giant picked up one of the garbage pails
and hastily dumped the contents onto the ground.
"No sir," Capistron replied, remembering to hunch over and speak in
a weak voice, "just gathering a bit of rest for my tired limbs, my good
"Tired limbs?" the giant said suspiciously. "I'd say not tired
enough for this time of night, especially with all that's been going
"No, no sir, you misunderstand. I'm just a tired, old man," the
wizard said, trying to make himself look more the beggar than he had.
The giant eyed him severely and didn't move.
Gathering what power he could into his mind, preparing to force his
will upon the giant, Capistron said, "You've had too much to drink.
You're drunk and you're tired and you have breathed too much smoke.
You're seeing things. Calling out will only bring shame upon yourself."
"Tired old fool maybe, and as drunk as I might or mightn't be, but
you've got the look of the devil about you or I'll be a donkey." The
giant turned his head toward the interior of the building and yelled
loudly, "Hey boys, seems I caught the trouble maker right out here on
A cry came from within the building, as did the sound of a great
many people heading toward them. Capistron ran.
"There he goes around the front!" the giant yelled behind him,
dropping the bucket and following in close pursuit.
The alley behind the building had been dark, but as he ran along the
side between it and a stable, Capistron saw that the street was bright
as if it had been lit by a hundred torches. Then he realized it was.
The work of the fire demon had been quick, and though the demon had not
yet come to the building behind which the wizard slept, nearly all else
Reaching the street, the gate looked to be unguarded, but there were
people everywhere fighting the fires. Capistron ran for the gate as
fast as he could. He had a horse tied to a tree only a half mile or so
down the road, and if he could only make it that far, he could be away
and home and able to deny all the night's activities.
A shout came from behind him, then another. The giant moved faster
than the wizard expected, and those from within the tall building, he
saw now that it was an inn, had gained the front door. They were
yelling to the others. The villagers saw him and pointed and shouted in
return, dropping their buckets and running in his direction.
Capistron knew that he could not possibly make it to his horse with
so many after him, so he ducked into the stable, hoping to find there
some answer for his need. Inside, it was dark but far from peaceful.
The animals were nervous, calling out in their own fashion and moving
with a desperate anxiety. Closing a wide door behind him, the wizard
quickly found a hayfork to bar it.
Behind an open area where wagons were stored, horses were kept in
stalls. There was a big horse in the first stall, but as the wizard
approached, intending to be away on bareback in his haste, the horse
neighed loudly and reared, knocking him to the ground. Crablike, he
scurried away from the horse and then scrambled to his feet.
"It's that wizard! The stable! He's in the stable!" the giant's
voice rang out. "To arms! To arms!"
Trusting that he would have no better luck with any other animal,
Capistron ran to the back of the stable, hoping to find a way out
before being surrounded. Besides horses, there were also sheep and pigs
and cows. These were separated into pens, each pen with an opening to
the outside. Capistron climbed a board fence and jumped down, landing
on something that squealed like mad under his feet and ran off, sending
him into a place thick with dung.
Groaning, he rose but took no time to clean himself, for the door
behind him was broken open and he could hear the shouts of the angry
townspeople. After the frightened pigs and into the night he went. The
yard was for the moment empty, but by the shouts it would not remain so
for long. Capistron climbed the outer fence and made a sure step back
to earth, looking round to plan where he should go next. It was then he
The demon had grown. Though not big, smaller than a newborn child
and not threatening to someone of his abilities under normal
circumstances, Capistron had no power left with which to fight the
At that moment, the fire demon saw him as well. Its gaze fixed upon
the amulet, borne upon the wizard's arm, the device that had called it
forth and had been used to try to imprison it. Its fire exploded. The
demon raged headlong toward the man.
All Capistron could do was turn and raise his hands as the demon
fell upon him and set his clothes on fire. But the magic of the cordial
must have remained in his blood, for the fire broke upon him like water
upon the shore and he was not wholly overthrown by its heat. Feeling
the power of the cordial wax, he seized the fire demon and grappled
with it and pushed it against the ground.
In the sheep pen beyond, faintly reflected moonlight caught his
attention. A watering trough laid not two strides from where he knelt.
With a mighty effort, the wizard spun and stepped and thrust the demon
against one of the plank boards of the fence. The plank burned away
faster than thinking and Capistron crashed into the watering trough
with the demon under him.
The fire demon screamed and struggled, a great vapor rising all
about them, but Capistron held it deep within the bubbling water until
at last the demon's fire was put out. Victorious, he breathed a heavy
sigh and stood straight, his hands empty.
"Why, I'll be," said the giant from behind him, "would you look at
"He killed it!" a child shouted. "He killed it!"
"What was that thing?" said someone else.
"Don't know," replied a third, "but looks like that fellar saved us."
The second man agreed, "That man's a hero and no mistake."
The townsfolk were standing in a group, watching, buckets or hastily
gathered weapons in their hands. Those who had answered the call of
alarm with blades or cudgels were now sheepishly putting their weapons
behind their backs.
Straightening himself to his full height, Capistron announced in a
clear voice, "The creature is gone. Earlier this evening I felt the
stirrings of magic from your village. I came to investigate, expecting
to find some miscreant practicing the dark arts."
"Then what were you doing behind my inn?" asked the giant, looming
"Well, I planned to find out who it was first," the wizard started
carefully, "and so I disguised myself. The culprit must still be at
large, though by setting the fire element against the water element,
the demon has perished by my hand."
"Curious luck then, I'd say," the giant went on, giving Capistron a
doubtful look. He was accustomed to dealing with all sorts of
disreputable persons as any inn keeper would be. "So what was all that
other nonsense you were spouting?"
"I could waste no time in explaining the matter," Capistron lied
smoothly. "For your protection and that of your village, I hurried off
to finish the job."
"Right," the giant said, nodding his head suspiciously.
"Come on, Roger, this man's a hero," someone said. The gathered
crowd shouted agreement.
"Sorry, sorry," the giant said, putting up his hands in surrender.
He looked Capistron in the eye and said, "For a moment there, I thought
you were the cause of this. Forgive me, will you?"
"Why of course, I will. No harm done."
"Not to you anyway, not yet," the giant said, putting a meaty hand
on the wizard's shoulder, a crushing gesture. Capistron shivered. "Time
to go to work. Let's get this mess of ours cleaned up."
© 2013 Mike Phillips
Bio: Mike Phillips is the author of Reign of the Nightmare Prince and the soon to be released The World Below: Chronicles of the Goblin King Book One. His short stories have appeared in ParABnormal
Digest, Cemetery Moon, Sinister Tales, The Big Book of New Short
Horror, World of Myth, Dark Horizons, Mystic Signals and many others. Online, his work has appeared in Darker, Lorelei Signal, Midnight Times, and Fringe. He is best known for his Crow Witch and Patrick Donegal series. Eye of Newt appeared in the May issue of Aphelion.
E-mail: Mike Phillips
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