Het and the Rakshasa

(Part 2)

The land was very foreign to Het and she held her stave tightly to her as they wandered about the mires that passed for streets in that place. People slept on the street, or with animals, to her great shock. The buildings were low and hunched, and covered in the muck of the earth, and in that respect, they were just like the people. Here and there she could peer into their smoky interiors and see a woman bent and crooked over a fire, a man picking through junk, a youth carrying a lashed and heavy bundle over her back. But that was about as much as Het could tell apart, for the muck that covered them made them all look alike. Their eyes were white and hungry and Het shivered as she passed the listless clusters of them lining the street.

The day passed and the sergeant asked many fine questions, as his perfect fingernails tapped the polished hilt of his straight sword. Het and the Centurion followed him to and fro, from dwelling to dwelling. The Sergeant would knock, and bend his handsome head just a little inside. He would step once, twice, great policeman’s strides, and in his polite way, inquire about the terrible happenings in the community. Het was very impressed, for the dwellers were sullen and hard to read with their faces covered in muck. They spoke very little and Het was sure they were hiding some dark secret away.

The Sergeant, however, was nonplussed. “I am piecing together little by little the location of our monster,” he said to Het and the Centurion. His back was very straight, and he was utterly confident. Het saw that his Watchman’s Eye was working very well indeed, and longed to know its secrets.

The day grew very late and Het was very anxious to get back to the Palace and her bath, for the eyes of the populace followed their party like hungry beads, and the muck had piled up around her shiny boots. But as they drew up in front of the last low and sloping dwelling, the Sergeant gave them a knowing look. As he knocked, there was a tremendous noise as a man stumbled out of a side alley in a dead run. The sergeant gave out a cry, and before Het could even ready her stave, the Centurion had closed thirty paces and struck the man down with a single horrifying blow.

The Centurion was extremely happy, but Het was not, for as she drew closer, she saw among the man’s scattered entrails there was scarcely a demon to be found. In his outstretched hand was a purse of silver coins. “He shouldn’t have run,” said the Sergeant sadly, and wiped his brow, “A common thief, no more.” Het felt repulsed and regretful, for the punishment for thievery was not death. But then the Sergeant noted the hour, and Het thought of the palace and her bath, and they returned at speed.

The Sergeant’s confidence was hardly dented at all. “The poor sap was just a criminal, not a demon as I suspected! The information was very poor, but I’ll keep at it,” he said. “The people of this land are sullen and poorly spoken, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our protection!” The lord of the land agreed. They had a pheasant dinner and a fine bath, and slept well. Het, however, could scarcely sleep and spent her night staring out at the muck below.

In the morning came tales of dead livestock and stolen milk. This made the Sergeant more resolute, and gave Het hope as they set about the town. The Centurion followed along eagerly. He had cleaned his sword.

This time, a strange familiarity came over Het. Having seen the town and its inhabitants before, passing through a second time her curiosity got the better of her. As they passed through the bent and filthy streets, she peered once again into their cramped interiors. Here again was the woman bent over a fire. But Het saw that the fire was a kind of kiln or oven, and the woman had a long stick she was stoking it with. Here again, was the man bent over junk, but here and there Het saw glimmers. And here again, was the youth bent low by her heavy load, but Het saw all of a sudden that her load was a cloth of interesting texture.

The Sergeant once again passed from dwelling to dwelling, relentless. “I am very sure this time,” said the Sergeant, “For these leads have the stench of evil about them. Where dwelleth evil, dwelleth demons, don’t you think?”

Once again, as the hour was growing late, the Sergeant’s inquiries drew them close to a dwelling by a choked and polluted river. And as soon as the Sergeant rapped on the door, a woman scrambled out the window and dove into the river. Once again, the Sergeant cried out, and once again, the Centurion sprang eagerly forth. He leapt into the water and speared the woman through the belly like a fish. She spent a long time dying as the Centurion cleaned his sword.

She didn’t have a Rakshasa inside her, just the rotted teeth of a long time Glass addict. The Sergeant wiped his brow. “She shouldn’t have run,” he said, his eyes sad. Het was despondent, for the punishment for using Glass was not death. She was glad that they were rooting out evil in this land, no matter how small, but it still weighed heavily on her as they trudged through the mud back to the palace and their bath.

The Lord was very happy with their progress, even if they hadn’t caught the Rakshasa, and Het lost no confidence in the Sergeant’s Watchman’s Eye, for it had indeed detected evil, even though the dwellers of that land were uncooperative. But a bath could not clear her mind, nor could clean clothes. Once again, she spent her night staring at the muck below. And this time, a strange impulse struck her. She donned her uniform, put on her shiny boots, and clambered out the window.