The mist swirled around the shaggy fur of the creature, formless and shapeless. Its red eyes could still see through it, but there was nothing and no one at all for miles. No one who could interfere in what was about to take place.
Without warning, lightning crackled a few feet from the creature. It stepped back a few paces, waiting cautiously. The lightning expanded into a sphere; inside it, a vague shape became visible. The ball sparked and flared, and then collapsed inward. Within a few seconds, only the shape remained. The ball of lightning was gone. In its place stood a man in an impeccable double-breasted suit, looking as impassive as if he’d arrived there by the train.
The creature growled in greeting and spoke as if with great effort.
“Your entrance seems to improve every time. I remember what happened the first time you sent someone to meet me.”
The man permitted himself a small smile.
“Yes, I believe we still keep his petrified pieces as a reminder of what can go wrong if we don’t do our job well. Good motivation, I should say. Our technology has advanced to the point where we can effectively breach the Midland branch at our will.”
The creature sneered.
“And yet, you cannot pass through to the Netherworld. Because of your impotence, I am forced to make these trips into the Midlands to rendezvous with you. It would be so easy for me to spotted and searched on my way back. Malchus would have a field day.”
The man sighed. He’d been over this conversation several times but the comantirs were a stubborn race.
“I assure you, Lord Malchus is not interested in you. Right now, he is far too busy quelling the Nephilim. Besides, today might be the last day you have to see me. I have brought what we need. Soon, we will transport all the technology we have and set up a camp in the Midland branch. From here, we will be able to break onto the Netherworld.”
The comantir grunted in agreement. It raised its thick arm, and pointed at the suitcase with its chitinous digit.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“Do you doubt it? But umm…” the man looked in concern at the massive arms and fingers of the comantir, “…will you be able to work the clasp?”
The comantir sniffed the air with his round bulbous nose and, having caught the scent of leather, it laughed.
“Tanned animal hide?! I’ll tear it apart with my claws if I have to.”
The man seemed uneasy at the idea.
“I would not recommend you do that. Find someone with opposable thumbs. It’s not that hard.”
The man stepped forward and held the case out gingerly. The comantir carefully grasped the case and held it under one arm.
“And how do things stand in the Netherworld?” The man seemed relieved now that his burden was off of him.
“The usual. Worse, if any. Malchus still controls more than half of the portals in the Netherworld. The enforcers are cracking down hard, even on the species that can’t control their crossing. And apparently the Nephilim aren’t Malchus’ only problem. There’s talk in the courts of some kind of… energy disturbance in the branches. I heard one of Malchus’ physicists talking about it. ‘Course, I didn’t understand a word, but…”
The man nodded in understanding. The comantir may not have had the technical knowledge, but he had enough sense to detect something amiss. And he did not want to think of the consequences if this energy disturbance and his own problem were the same.
“Well then, you know what to do. I’ll keep in touch via our usual methods. I will see you soon.”
The man turned around and made to leave, but the comantir’s reply made him pause.
“Then maybe, we can meet in the Netherworld?” A twinkle of naughtiness had entered the comantir’s eyes.
The man looked back at the comantir, smiled enigmatically and said, “Maybe.” As he spoke, the ball of electricity appeared around him, flickering and sparking, until it enveloped him. A flash, and then he was gone.
The comantir looked at the figure that had just disappeared, then at the package he had entrusted to it. It shrugged and started walking back the way it had come.