The little demon who cou.., p.12
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       The Little Demon Who Couldn't, p.12
 

          
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MURMUR trotted quickly yet rather reluctantly along the darkened street. The shining silver orb in the sky above flooded the town with its white light, and all around it hung a host of twinkling stars. The air was cold and still. Jack Frost would be having a busy night-a night Murmur was determined would not include giving a little demon a frosty nip. His beady eyes roved around, scanning for any signs of the frost sprite.

  Ahead clopped Gribon. The pale-eyed one looked neither left nor right. His eyes were fixed ahead, just as his mind was fixed on one thing: getting back his tail from Saint Kriztofer. He had been steaming and smoking up in the attic all afternoon, impatiently awaiting night, all the while working himself into an ever greater rage.

  And as Gribon did that, Murmur had remained cowering down the back of the dresser. He was terrified of Saint Kriztofer, but he was almost as afraid of his father and of the monstrous Belphegor. Had it not been Belphegor's order that had resulted in the two lost demon tails? He kept up the unhappy silence he had maintained all afternoon.

  Through the sleeping, moon-washed town passed the demon pair, Gribon striding ahead steaming and brandishing his pitchfork, and Murmur trailing behind dragging his bumperty-bump down the street in a drooping hand.

  Finally the street began to climb. Painted wooden villas with verandas lined either side of the street, settled behind their white picket fences amongst plant-filled gardens. The top of the hill was reached. On it was a little garden area with grass and a few park benches. And seated alone on one was Saint Kriztofer.

  Gribon charged, his pitchfork levelled at the saint's back like a lance. A gasp of pain escaped Kriztofer as Gribon speared him on the prongs of his pitchfork.

  'Give us back our tails, saint!' screeched the pale-eyed demon.

  'Your name, demon, is-is Gr-' The saint was searching, and Murmur looked on in terror, desperately hoping Gribon would not be named. If a human named a demon, half that demon's power over him was lost instantly.

  'Your name, fiend, is Gribon!' cried Saint Kriztofer at last.

  Gribon was thrown back as though struck by a shattering physical blow, although Murmur saw no movement from the saint.

  Kriztofer now stood over the sprawled demon, looking sternly down on him. 'What do you want with me, Gribon?'

  The fair one whimpered fearfully at this second utterance of his name. Lying on the ground beside him, his pitchfork's prongs were reduced to three pools of melted metal.

  'O great, mighty and wise Kriztofer,' squeaked little Murmur, cowering and shaking, 'we do not wish to cause you any bother?'

  'In that case, why is this young fool so intent on pricking me with his fork?'

  'O most wise and noble Kriztofer, we merely came to retrieve something that you appear to have accidentally carried off with you when you met us in the park?'

  'What thing do you refer to?'

  The little demon's furry hocks knocked together as he cowered and cringed beneath the saint's penetrating eyes. 'O wisest, mightiest, most noble and exalted one, it is our tails? We?we have lost them?'

  The saint's stern dark eyes twinkled with a slight mirth. 'How very careless of you, Murmur.'

  'I don't suppose you would happen to have them?about you?'

  'I'm afraid, young Murmur, that I do not.'

  'Tell us where you put them then!' screeched Gribon, who had now got back up, although he was standing well away from the saint and brandishing his melted pitchfork.

  'I put them nowhere.'

  'Stop talking in riddles, saint!' shrieked the pale demon, beginning to steam and smoke once again.

  'Pardon me. I meant to say that your tails are nowhere because they no longer exist.'

  Gribon stared at Kriztofer with wild, horror-filled eyes. 'W-what do you?mean? Our tails have to be somewhere-you lie!'

  Little Murmur did not know much, but he did know that saints never lie. 'W-what has happened to them then?' he squeaked shakily.

  'They have been redeemed, dissolved back into air.'

  'This was your doing, saint!' shrieked Gribon, shaking his wilted pitchfork at Kriztofer and hopping with rage.

  'It was indeed.'

  'I'll get you back for this, you angel-faced innocent!' shrieked the pale-haired demon.

  Kriztofer just smiled. 'Look at your hands, demon.'

  Gribon looked. 'Murmur, Murmur,' he shrieked, 'my hands, my talons, they are human, human!'

  Murmur turned fearful little eyes upon his companion's hands. They were now neither bony nor sinewy, and had fingernails instead of talons. The little demon gaped in horror.

  'Your?your hands look?all plump and soft?like human hands!' he gasped, shaking and cowering and jittering so fearfully that his teeth chattered and hocks knocked together.

  'Perhaps next time you will have the courtesy not to prick me in the back with your little fork, Gribon,' said the saint.

  'I'll teach you yet, saint!' shrieked Gribon. 'It is us demons who rule the darkness, not you humans!' And then he uttered another shriek and lunged at saint Kriztofer swinging his pitchfork.

  With one swift movement, the saint knocked Gribon's pitchfork from his hand and had him by the ear. The caught demon squeaked and shrieked and gibbered for mercy.

  'Go, demon!' cried Kriztofer, releasing the squirming fiend.

  Gribon went. He bolted straight down the middle of the street, his eyes wild with a mad panic and scarcely seeing. The rapid clatter of his cloven hooves echoed through the empty night. But then their sound changed. The footfalls became softer and lower, quickly changing into more of a slap before they disappeared into the distant night.

  The little demon could hardly believe his ears. Gribon's goat-legs and cloven hooves had to have changed into human feet and legs. No other feet made that sound except bare human feet.

  'W-what have you done to him?' stammered Murmur, still looking with horror down the now-empty street.

  'When he attacked me I had to defend myself. In so doing, I took from him some of his evil powers.'

  'Some? I think he has little left.'

  'Yes, you are right. I don't think Gribon will be causing human beings much trouble from now on.'

  Little Murmur looked up at the saint in fear and trembling. 'You-you won't do anything to me, will you?'

  'If you do not do anything to me, no.'

  'Your honour, I would not dream of doing anything to you!' gibbered the little demon, bowing and scraping as he backed away. 'I am nothing to you, nothing at all. I am beneath your notice, not worth a second of your time, worthless?'

  Murmur had now put a bit of distance between himself and the tail-taker. After bowing and scraping a few more times just in case, he turned and bolted. His high goat-clatter echoed down the street, and for once, he was glad to hear it.

  * * * *

 
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