The Key master clutched the baby angel tightly in his arms and charged up the hill. Behind him, packs of wolves on spider legs had swarmed to the top of the cliff. They didn’t look like ants now but more like hungry, menacing predators.
He put the baby down to the ground quickly and gathered some small rocks, arranging them around her. “I’m afraid I can’t take you to the Daimon Gate. I might not be able to take care of you at all.”
He picked up a black rock and jabbed his knife into it. “This is a common safety lock,” he said to the baby, not expecting her to understand. “If I can’t get back to you, someone with good intentions toward you will be able to unlock it.
He didn’t look to see if the baby responded. He concentrated solely on the key. He had made these hundreds of times. He had his safety key with him now as well, and he could go. But he would not leave the baby unprotected.
The rock had formed a round talisman shape, and he injected his energy into it. It glowed in response.
The spider-wolves were racing toward hism. He needed more time. He blew gently on the key in his palms. It glowed once more.
Patience, he reminded himself. He couldn’t afford to make a mistake now.
He glanced up quickly at the coming wolves and then looked back down at the key. It glowed again, and then its halo simmered down.
Done. He held the key in his palm and slammed it down to the ground in front of the baby. A white light appeared on the earth, encircling the baby.
He smiled. The baby angel would be safe. Now he could leave.
He reached into his pocket for his own key but felt the hard push of spider legs at his back. The sharp spines on its legs dug into his flesh and tore his gown. He knew they could easily gut him from behind.
His key dropped to the ground, and the spider wolf kicked it away from him with one of its legs.
Warm blood spurted from his wounds. For the first time in the several hundred years of his life, he feared that choosing this human form had been a mistake. He felt his end was near.
Through blurry vision, he saw the spider-wolves pushing against the safety lock he’d put around the baby.
They couldn’t get to it, and he smiled in victory. He was the key master. He was the best, and no creature could take that away from him.
As he enjoyed his last victory, another spider leg stabbed at him. He fell to the ground and lay still. He looked at the baby angel in the circle of light. She was happy, smiling, and making cooing noises.
Did she know her parents had just died? Probably not.
His vision started to dim. He knew he was dying. He didn’t know why he cared, but he hoped someone would take care of the baby angel. He hoped someone would care enough to unlock the safety key.
Then something exploded. A thunderous sound exploding simultaneously with the body of one of the wolf spiders.
He squinted. The baby angel looked at him, smiling and clapping her hands in glee.
Another thunderous noise—along with another wolf-spider.
He had never liked the annoying sounds babies made, but he loved them now. The baby angel cooed, giggled, and clapped her hands again and again. And one by one, the wolves exploded into nothingness. The rest of the pack realized what was happening. They turned and fled.
The baby continued to clap, and the retreating wolves exploded as they ran.
The baby angel no longer needed him, and he couldn’t see anyway. He closed his eyes. He could leave now. Forever.