They were in the woods on the road between Crescen and Sexton, not far from the canyon where the Bandit Brigade saved Tom and John’s bacon. The sun was in it’s wakening period between sunrise and full light of day. Mist mingled with dew and they could see the horse’s breath. Andy pulled the feedbag off the horse’s snout and looked at Tom. “Do you think he’s okay in there?”
Tom put their rolled tent on the cart next to the coffin with Raj in it. He looked at the thing, looked at Andy, and gave a half shrug. “I hope so. He’s used to heat and we kept the box covered.” He grinned and managed to look a little sheepish when he did. “He’s a desert guy... Shouldn’t need much water.”
John patted the horse as he walked by. “I don’t think any of us wants to open the box and check on him. Or do we?”
Tom climbed on the wagon. He sat on top of the coffin and looked down at John and Andy. “Let’s go.” Andy climbed on the buckboard and picked up the reins.
John hesitated. “What if he’s dead in there?”
Andy chuckled. “Then we already have the box.” He winced at his own joke, remembering that under the demon was their friend. They hoped.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t check on him?”
Tom laughed. “By pulling out the nails and standing ready to fight him and his magic with our bare hands when it turns out he’s fine?”
“If you have a better plan,” John snapped, “I’d be happy to hear it.”
“I have a better plan.”
Andy was shaking his head. John looked at him, then glared at Tom. “What is it?”
Tom didn’t answer. He stood. Like a cheap magician at an American carnival, he swept both hands next to the coffin, met Andy’s eyes, then John’s. Without a word, he jumped in the air and landed on top of the coffin. He kicked his heels across the top in a rough approximation of a tap dance.
The reaction from inside the box was immediate. It rocked hard enough that Tom almost fell off it. There were no shouts from inside—Raj was gagged—but there was no doubt that whatever was in there, King, demon, or friend, was very much alive. He stepped off the coffin and stood in the cart, looking at both his friends. “Looks like he’s pretty healthy in there. Might not smell too good, and he’ll probably need a bathroom break when we’re ready to let him out, but for now I think we’re doing checking on him.”
Andy was laughing too hard to say anything. He looked at John’s face and kept laughing while he gestured for John to take a seat next to him.
Andy snapped the reins once John was seated. They moved back to the road, toward Sexton.
Inside the coffin, bound and gagged, Rajahd’een seethed...