“It’s still close. Somewhere in the neighborhood, I think,” Bilal said.
“We’ll have a better chance with greater numbers.,” Teddy said. “Bilal, this is Barnabus.”
Bilal approached warily, examining Barnabus with curiosity.
“So, you are him, then. I have heard much of you.” Bilal’s voice was soothing. Barnabus felt calm in the bear’s presence.
“Probably not all of it my best,” Barnabus said wryly.
Bilal smiled, saying, “You are a brave bear. There are some drawbacks, but your dedication is respected.” His tone became troubled, though. “I have heard some upsetting rumors, including one regarding a young bear several days ago.”
Barnabus sighed. “Word travels fast, it seems.”
“You aren’t the only one searching for solutions, Barnabus. Marley has sent word through the dream world to find a means of salvation. I feel that the shaitan that we are hunting might have something of use.”
Barnabus stared in disbelief.
“You mean that is…”
“No, no, it is a shaitan, a spirit that is found in this part of the world.”
“Oh, well, that’s better I suppose,” Barnabus said wryly.
“We’ve already wounded it, my boy,” said Teddy, “so between the three of us we stand a better chance of stopping it.”
“Let’s proceed back down Rainbow Street. That’s the direction it went.”
The trio walked down from the crumbling ruins, again entering the nightlife of the popular avenue. They passed unseen, searching for anything out of place. It was not long before a disturbance at a restaurant caught their attention. Shouts and curses drifted out of the open doors. As they approached, the fracas tumbled into the sidewalk, men and women kicking, biting and swinging punches. Without pausing, Bilal walked into the building, his delicate sword in his hand.
The establishment was chaos. Arguments and fights were everywhere and the place was in shambles. Tables were upended and a few chairs were still being thrown about. The bears slipped through the room, following the sounds of violence. They found the center of the maelstrom on the third floor. The carnage was shocking to even the jaded Barnabus. Bodies were strewn across the floor, though most still moved or groaned. People were beating and clawing at one another, caught in the grip of a madness they will never understand.
All three bears stood still, observing the scene before them. The adversary was present somewhere and it was a short time before the sickley colored outline at the balcony seating. Without a word, the bears began to range out, working their way to surround the creature.
Wooden swords were hefted and Barnabus’s growling slowly cutting through the pandemonium, the shaitan realized that it was being stalked. Before it could again dissolve into mist, Barnabus leapt and grabbed the beast by the throat. His violet eyes blazed and drove the shaitan into a panic, seeing something there that no others could see. The bear threw the monster to the floor, and all three closed in as one.
The shaitan rose to its feet, wisps of smoke still trailing from the stump of arm it waved at them. The gesturing punctuated statements in a guttural language. Teddy and Barnabus cautiously looked toward Bilal, who shrugged.
“I have no clue what it says,” he responded.
The voice rose in anger, the vitriol expressed being apparent. Barnabus lunged forward, causing it to turn in his direction. BNilal and Teddy took the distraction to their advantage, slicing quickly, their swords trailing more of the smoke. The shaitan howled in pain. Barnabus stepped in quickly, slicing deep into the creature’s back.
The trio continued to move in a circular motion, feinting and striking when it was distracted. Each blow drew more smoke, and the shaitan noticeably shrunk as more smoke was released.
The fight was short and left the creature a shriveled and wizened shape. It was a grotesque little thing, looking aged terribly. The fury in the eyes, though, was filled with an energy that the body no longer possessed. The bears stood their ground, each hesitating to attack the dwarfed monstrosity.
“It’s a trick,” said Barnabus. “It will recover and return to causing pain.” Without another word, he swung his sword in a high, overhand stroke that caused the diminutive form to vanish in one last puff of smoke.