Category Archives: 13.02

Execution 13.2

Last Chapter                                                                        Next Chapter

“I have no idea what happened there, but I can confidently say that probably could have gone better.”

“Yeah, Evan,” I replied.  I’d collapsed onto my stomach, and I didn’t turn my face away from the ground as I spoke.  “Yeah, it could have.”

“Are you dying?  Hole in the stomach usually means dying.”

“Not dying, Evan.”

“Do you need help moving?  I work my mojo and help lift, like this,” he said.  Tiny talons grasped a branch at my shoulder.  He tugged, flapping his wings.

“I just need to think for five seconds,” I said.  “Where’s Green Eyes?”

“Close.  She found a hiding spot.”

“Good.  So long as she’s safe.  Something’s going on with the bell.”

“Something’s going on with you.  Guy extends his hand, and you shake it with a broken sword?  Except you stabbed it, so that’s, I dunno, it’s like someone goes in for a fist bump and you shake it instead, but way, way worse.  Even if he’s a bit of a jerk, that’s-”

“It wasn’t me,” I said.

“Looked like you.”

“Evan,” I said.  “Molly stepped in.  She doesn’t want anyone making deals with the Behaims.  What I did there, I didn’t do by choice.  She interrupted the deal, stopped it from happening.”

“Oh.”

I began to climb to my feet.  Wood creaked and snapped, my midsection precariously close to breaking in half.  There wasn’t any structural integrity there.  I had to lean against the wall.  I wasn’t quite in an alley, but it was a narrow bit of one-lane road that almost didn’t qualify as a road.  The building next to me might have been a small cinema, once, but there were only patches of differently-painted brickwork now where the big signs had been.  My fingertips dug into the parts of the brickwork where the weather had eroded the mortar, much as I’d climbed on the walls in the Tenements.

“Same problem we’ve been running into for the last while,” I said.  “Can’t break the pattern.”

“Rose said something similar, a few days ago.  About your gran and the diaries, or something.”

I could hear Evan, but I couldn’t place him.  I looked at my shoulder, where I’d last felt him perch, and he wasn’t there.

A moment later, I found him, perched within the gaping hole in my abdomen.

“What did she say, specifically?”

“That, um, your gran struggled to change stuff, according to the diary.”

“Elaborate?”

“Can’t.  That’s all Rose said.”

“Right,” I said.  “Damn.”

Rose had deterred me from reading the diaries, way back near the beginning.  Back when she’d lied about knowing who we were and where we’d come from, when she’d lied about doing the ritual.

Now, just recently, it had come up again.  Rose thought the diaries might have clued me into what I was, and the true origins.  That we were cut from the same metaphorical cloth.

I needed to read those diaries.

But it wasn’t like I was going to get a few days to just sit down and read anytime soon.

As I made my way back to the main street, I could see the Others that the Behaims had been keeping as protection.  Will, the guy I’d very nearly slashed, had managed to wrangle most or all of the clockwork people.  There were other Others, however, who were very clearly free.  Zeitgeists and bogeymen from film.

The clockwork people were assuming a defensive position, facing off against Others who had been the Behaim’s allies until only moments ago.

They backed off as Alister’s clockwork knight stepped forward.

That knight apparently spooked them.  Because they could see something I couldn’t, maybe, or because they had knowledge I didn’t.

I could step in to help.  Flank the attackers, save the Behaims.

I wasn’t sure that I should.

Would it make a difference?  I suspected the Behaims had things well in hand.

But helping the guy I’d just been planning to kill, someone who was arguing for all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons, someone who’d participated in the attack and quite possibly sent that ken-doll clockwork man to pry the library doors open?  It was kind of hypocritical to turn around and save his life.  I hadn’t changed my mind on anything between the time I’d tried to kill him and now.

On the other hand, it was maybe poor form to go from almost accepting a deal with the Behaims to joining the other guys in attacking them.

“Any wisdom, Evan?  I feel like I should step in, but rationally…”

“No,” he said.  “Not much wisdom here.  My brain is roughly the size of a corn kernel, I haven’t had a heartbeat for half a year, about.  I’m pretty sure I’m brain dead, technically.”

“Don’t make excuses.  You learned to play poker.”

“This is more complicated than poker,” Evan said.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Definitely more complicated than poker.”

“I cheated, anyway.”

“Yeah.”

I turned my back on the scene.

There was far more movement than before.  Other attacking Other.  Further down the street, a pack of people ran.  Moving in something pretty damn close to a formation.  Unpracticed, driven by necessity and a bit of intelligence.

Back in December, I might have been one of the people running.  Now I was one of the monsters.  I didn’t rush, and I didn’t run.  I couldn’t, with the holes in my body, for one thing, but I was trying to get a sense of the situation and make sure I didn’t rush headlong into trouble.

I was, I realized, approaching the spot where the Others and the practitioners were meeting.  Where the chaos was thickest.

My mind was whirling.  Trying to figure out a direction.  Even the Behaims were too strong to touch.

I’d planned to pick people off, to find a chink in the armor and exploit it.  But the metaphorical armor didn’t have many cracks.  Molly was doing the same thing I’d planned, and Molly had been exploited.

I didn’t want to be a pawn, but ever since the beginning, I’d been a bit of driftwood in a roiling tide.  A part of a much greater machine.  I’d struggled to bring about change… and I wasn’t sure I liked how I’d succeeded, if I’d succeeded.

“In the interest of making it less complicated,” I said.  “Our biggest enemy isn’t the Behaims, or Conquest, or the demons.  It’s the status quo.  I guess I didn’t realize how much reality wanted to hold onto it.”

“What do we do, then?  Go back to Ty and the others?”

I shook my head.  I didn’t want to see them.  If there was something to do, that was one thing, but if I was going back and all I was doing was telling them I knew they’d effectively betrayed me?

“No,” I said.  “I don’t want to, and I don’t think it would help.  We wanted to create an opening, and… I guess Molly created a bigger one.  We just need to figure out how to use this, before things start settling down.”

“Before dawn,” Evan said.

“That’s the most obvious deadline,” I replied.  “I think this may be the most critical point.  What happens before dawn determines what happens during the day, and everything after that.

A tall Other strode into the middle of the street.  He wore what appeared to be a black skirt that trailed from a heavy belt that was about a foot tall. His chest was bare, and what looked to be disconnected bike or chainsaw chains trailed from his waist, arms, and neck, each chain ending in something wickedly sharp.  Sawblades or caltrops of welded-together nails.  He had long hair and an almost feminine cast to his features, owing to a lack of body fat, but he still looked eminently masculine.  The muscles and the scarred skin helped on that front.

He stopped, his skirt and chains forming a barrier in my path, too broad to leap over, even if I were feeling spry.  Some chains were almost black with blood and other bodily fluids.  One ended in what looked to be a chunk of goblin.  Another, it seemed, was hooked into a living body.

The body belonged to a Duchamp woman, maybe fifty or sixty, who had the bit of metal caught in her calf.  A big, hook that might have gone around a steel cable, the point sharpened, was sticking through and around one of the two shin bones.  The woman was very much alive, and her hands and feet had been scraped raw where she’d fought to crawl through snow and salt and over cold pavement, simply to avoid being dragged by tugs against an open wound.

Now that the Other had stopped, she was fighting with frozen, bloody hands to work the big, awkward hook out of her leg.

The Other paid her no mind, his attention on me, his expression grim.

I raised the Hyena as a just-in-case measure.

“I have no interest in you,” he spoke.  His voice carried well, like the echo from a deep well.  “I could take the bird, if you offered.”

“The bird belongs only to the bird!”

“What do you want them for?” I asked.

“I have a quota.  Souls to be cast down into the workings of the Machine.  You are clearly black with the Machine’s oils.  You would be redundant.”

“You’re talking about the Abyss,” I said.

He inclined his head slightly.  “Yes.”

The Duchamp woman gasped in pain as she managed to get the hook out of her leg, pushing with the bend of her wrist and base of her palm, rather than frozen fingers.

“The bird has some of the Abyss in him,” I said, as I watched the woman crawl away on elbows and knees, making a point to keep hands and feet off the ground.  “A transfusion of power from me to him, not so long ago.”

“He is also small in body.  I’m no longer interested in him.  I’m going now.  Nine more to collect.”

Without even looking, the Other tossed a chain in her direction.  The end was covered in roughly twenty fish hooks.  The chain draped across her shoulder, the mess of hooks dangling between her arm and body.

One sharp tug, and a good two-thirds of the barbed hooks set into flesh at her armpit.

He moved on.  Tall and strong as he might have been, he was forced to lurch due to the chains that trailed behind him.  Left foot forward.  Right foot brought up next to the left.  Right foot forward, left foot brought in line with the right.  Hooks and blades and chains dragged furrows into the snow.  Where they skipped up and touched ice, a car bumper or the edge of the sidewalk, he was strong enough for the blades or hooks to cut through fiberglass or a bit of concrete.

The woman shot me a pleading look as she scrambled to keep up on frozen hands and feet.  She managed to find her feet, and for a second I thought she might walk after him, but she took a fraction of a second too long.  He took one lurching step forward, and she was tugged, sent sprawling.  From there, it was all she could do to keep up.

“Are we going to help her?” Evan asked.

I tightened my grip on the Hyena.

The bell was so loud.  I wasn’t sure I could trust myself.

“We can,” he said.

“What makes her different from Will, back there?”  I asked.  “I’m not saying we won’t or that we can’t… but a lot of people will need help.  Enemies who sent monsters to kill Callan, or condoned it.  She’s out here, a representative for the Duchamps.  She didn’t decide to sit this whole thing out.”
“If that’s your only rule to decide who dies, an awful lot of people oughtta die tonight,” Evan said.”It’s up to you.  I promised I’d help stop the monsters… I’m just not sure who the monsters are, here.”

“Guy with chains talking about throwing people into a big machine is a good bet,” Evan said.

“You know what I mean,” I said.

“I know what you mean, sure, but I’m not sure.”

“It’s up to you,” I said, again.  “I want to.  I itch to step in and stop him.  But I’m not sure I trust my instincts, and I know it doesn’t make sense.  The monsters are picking off our enemies for us.  Or occupying them.”

“I’m really not the person to ask,” Evan said.  “Which is why I suggested going to talk to Alexis or Ty or someone.”

I shook my head.

Not that Evan was wrong, per se.

The bell continued to toll, cacophonic, jarring, setting every spirit in me stirring.

I was a monster.  I didn’t deny it.

But I was aware of how I’d nearly killed Will Behaim, and now I couldn’t help but think about how he had a family.

I was mixed up, and the bell was disturbing my thoughts, twisting them around.  I wasn’t sure I could trust myself in a fight against a genuine enemy, if I’d start thinking about how they had a family, or a history, how they might be okay.  I wasn’t sure I could trust myself to spare someone who needed sparing.

With every step the chain man took to carry him further away from me and Evan, it became harder to justify closing that distance, chasing, to rescue her.

“She’s old.  She’s supported the Duchamps through at least two generations,” I said.  “Marrying off daughters and sisters and cousins.  Forced marriages, denying them freedom.  Perpetuating an ugly cycle.  She’s here.  She’s…”

I was having trouble convincing myself.

“Yeah,” Evan said.  “But the other guy has hooks and chains and stuff, and he flings people into the Abyss.”

There were distant screeches.

I was reminded of the Drains.  The cold, the noise, the fact that there were no right decisions.

Except I wasn’t in the Abyss.

I was here.  In Jacob’s Bell.  One hour’s drive away from my hometown, the home that was no longer mine to return to.  I was here, and in the midst of this decision, I was being forced to confront myself, much as the Abyss had forced me to consider my origin, and the Tenements forced me to consider my present reality.

“I made you a promise, Evan.  To stop the monsters.”

“I think the spirits forgot that promise?  I did.”

“Anyone that needs the spirits as an excuse to hold to their word is a pretty shitty person,” I said.  “I don’t trust my instincts.  What are yours?  Is he a bigger monster than she is?”

“I don’t know, Evan.  But I think you’re right.  We need another voice to help us figure out a strategy, and we need help, but the Behaims are out for blood, because of what Molly did.  The Duchamps aren’t likely to be in my good books.  I’m not sure how to reach out to the junior council, even if I hadn’t tried them, not so long ago.  Johannes… I don’t trust him, and I don’t even want to show my face near him, knowing the kind of power his familiar can sling around.  That doesn’t leave many options for people to talk to.”

“No, I guess not.”

“There’re the Thorburns,” I said.  “Fresh eyes on the situation.  But if I go do that, if I contrive to make them practitioners, am I adhering to the pattern I did before?  Backing up the status quo?”

“There aren’t many things you can do that haven’t been tried already,” Evan said.

“No,” I agreed.  “You’re right on that.”

“Briar Girl?”

“I’m pretty sure she’s sitting this one out.  Probably protecting her forest.”

“The woman in the woods on the other end of town?”

I shook my head.

“I don’t know many others,” Evan said.  “Green Eyes.”

“If we’re looking for a voice of reason,” I said, “I’m not sure-”

“Hi,” Green Eyes said.

She’d crawled out of the shadows at some point in the last few seconds.  Evan had been greeting her.

“Heya!” Evan said, a little too cheerfully.  “We’re trying to figure out where to go for help.  Kind of hard, when most people want to kill us.”

“Molly,” I said.

“Oh.  The psycho ghost that’s causing all these problems by ringing the bell?  Who just possessed you?  Well, at least she probably doesn’t want to kill you.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Call this an act of desperation.”

This?

MollyMolly.

I turned my eyes skyward.

“Okay,” Evan said.  “I’m with you.  I have no idea what you’re thinking, but I’m with you.”

“The ringing changed,” Green Eyes said, her fins flaring out, “Just a little, but it changed when you spoke.”

“It’s changing every second,” Evan said.

“If she’s the one with the bell, then she hears,” Green Eyes said, with certainty.

I couldn’t draw in a proper breath.  Or I could, but the air only went out.  Seeped between branches, stirring the snow that had collected on me into light clouds.

The branches of my body were marked with the lightest of frosts.

When I roared the words, the snow unsettled.  Air drawn in through those same cracks and up through my throat, out my mouth, carried those snowflakes.  Not quite the fog of breath, but something else.

Molly Walker!

Would she answer?

Could she?  Was she trapped in this new form, a knell of chaos, or was she unable due to the danger it posed?  No doubt she had a great many enemies.

I got the answer to my question as Molly appeared before me, the bell growing louder, until it distorted vision.  The distortion in vision worsened, clarified, and became her.  My cousin.

She’d changed, becoming one with half of a broken bell that was nearly four feet tall.  The top of the half- bell rested on one of her shoulders, the rim at the bottom near her knee.  She didn’t bow under the weight.  She was taller, narrower, as if she’d been physically warped.

“Thanks for coming,” I said.

“Don’t thank me.”

She didn’t sound happy.

“I know you didn’t like what you saw there.  Me talking to Alister.”

She shook her head.

“I get it,” I said.  “But desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“I think that’s the sort of thing Laird might have said, before he signed off on me getting tortured to death,” Molly spoke.

Something in her tone had enough force that I felt the spirits in me react.  Evan hopped back, out of the hole in my midsection, and flew back, around, and up to my shoulder.

“We can’t hold onto the past, or we’re just going to perpetuate things.”

“I heard you say something very similar to the junior council,” she said, in that same tone.  “Try again.”

She was really not happy with me.  Fuck.

“Laird paid for what he did.  He died in an unpleasant way, and he did it at my hand.  Alister wasn’t a part of what happened to you.”

“You’re arguing with me,” Molly said.  Her features shifted slightly, a reaction to her change in mood, yet not a simple change of expressions.

“I’m stating the facts.  I’m on your side.  All of this, the chaos, the hurt, the… endemic problems that are running through bloodlines like some disease, it all needs to stop.  And I’m starting to see the merit in using this to stop it.”

I showed her the Hyena.

“You let one live, and you failed against the other.”

“If you saw that, you saw the fight against the others.  I’m not talking blind, directionless violence.  I’m talking…”

“Culling,” Molly said.

“You heard that too,” I said.  “Yeah.”

“Keep talking.”

“I called you because we’re running out of allies.  You and me are in pretty similar situations.”

“Do tell.”

“We’re at the point where our usefulness is running out.  The moment things quiet down here, or the local practitioners get a firmer hold on their creations, they’ll probably put an end to you.  Make you the next target.  They want things stable, predictable, and the both of us, we’re a possible threat to that stability.”

“I’ve heard this too,” she said.

It was eerie, how she kept saying that.  How was she able to follow along so easily?

“You’re powerful,” I said, as an extension of that same thought.  “I don’t know how or why, but you’re powerful.  Let me remind you, the Thorburn diabolists have been powerful, but they’re also targets.  I was, Rose is.  The next heir probably will be.  With the Thorburns more or less down and out, what do you think happens next?”

She was listening.  When she didn’t cut me off or dismiss me, I felt like I had license to continue.

“I’m on your side, Molly.  Believe me.  But there’s only so much we can do in the next handful of hours before dawn.  What’s happening here, I’m not sure it’s the answer.”

“You want me to stop,” she said.  Unimpressed.

If I were human, I might have withered beneath her glare.

Holy fuck, she’d soaked up a lot of raw negativity in the past day.

“No,” I said.  “No, I don’t want you to stop.”

Saying that, I had her attention.

“But the aimlessness of it, it’s not helping.  We need a goal.”

“Goal?”

“Yeah.  What does it help, if you whittle down each group just a little?  Kill twenty Behaims, twenty Duchamps, kill or turn a few of Johannes’ allies… at the end of the day, we’re right back where we started.”

She was silent.

“The deal you were going to make with the Behaims,” Molly said.  “It wasn’t confirmed.”

“No,” I said.  “We never shook on it.  Verbally, we never clarified it.  It was all ifs.”

“You want to attack one.  Weaken one side.  Upset the balance.”

I nodded.

“The Behaims-”

All of them were responsible in a way,” I said.  “Laird is dead.  Don’t hold on to your grudge against the Behaims.  Think Molly, don’t just ride on instinct.”

“Yes.  The Behaims will be expecting you.  And they have Rose.  Rose knows what you are and how to stop you.”

“Exactly,” I said.

“Johannes is safe.  In his demesnes.  You warned him.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“You want to go after Sandra,” Molly said.

“I think it makes sense.”

“And after?  Johannes takes power, safe within his demesnes.”

“After,” I said, “I’m hoping the Behaim and Duchamp organizations are still partially intact, and someone can kick down the doors like they knocked down the barriers in Hillsglade House.”

“After that?”

What a change, from the simple ghost who couldn’t see past the, well, past, to this.  An entity with an agenda.

“After that, I don’t know.  It’s impossible and borderline insane to plan with this many factors in play.  But if we can take the advantage, we can upset the balance again.”

“One mistake, one failure, and someone can take power.  Even if we succeed…”

“If we succeed, we’ll have made them regret what they did,” I said.  “We’ll have left the door open for change, if we haven’t changed things in the course of it.”

“That’s not good enough.  I need more.”

“I can’t give you more,” I said.  “It is what it is, and it’s better than what you were doing.  It’s… almost constructive.”

“Or we just destroy it all,” Molly said.

“Your family included?” I asked.

She bowed her head a little.

“Callan-” I started.

“I know,” she cut me off.

“The Other that attacked him, the Homoculi, they were egged on by the ringing of the bell.”

“That’s on Sandra, it’s not me,” she said.  Her voice was more distorted than ever.

“It’s a bigger problem,” I said.  “A systemic problem, one that involves all of us.  I can’t give you anything more concrete in the way of plans.  I can’t give you power or answers or strength or any of that.  All I can do is say I promise.  I swore to Evan that I’d deal with the monsters.  I will strive, in the midst of all this, to root out the true monsters and deal with them.  It’s the third time I’ve promised this.”

“Third?”

“The third,” I said.  “To Evan, to myself as I realized what I was in the Abyss, and now to you.”

I could hear the bell go quiet.

Eerily similar to the moments before she’d taken control of me.

“The last I saw, Sandra and the priest weren’t that far away.  Closer to downtown,” Molly spoke.  She sounded surprisingly like Molly, albeit with a tone as though she were nursing an awful lot of hurt near her heart.

I looked south.  Toward the lake.

“You’ll want to wait,” Molly said, in her very normal voice.  “Another few minutes.  The priest is praying, and you’re hurt.”

“Blake’s tough,” Evan chimed in.

“Yeah, no, I’m pretty hurt,” I said.  I tested my arm.  The wood was patching itself up, but a whole joint was harder to put together, and I suspected I was low on fuel.

“But when you’re standing in front of the TV, nobody’s going to tell you you’ll make a better door than a window.  Because you are a window.”

I could see the impatience on Molly’s face.  She wasn’t one for idle humor, even while we were waiting.

She wasn’t really Molly.  She’d become something else.

“Where’d this power come from?” I asked.

Molly shot me a look.

“You’re awfully aware of what’s going on here.  You’re generating so much rage.  I’d expect a ghost to affect one person like you’ve affected me, but… you’re affecting all this.  A huge amount.”

“Sometimes, in the right time or place, an idea can become a spirit, and a spirit can become a god,” Molly said, in that ordinary voice that made me think of a Molly who’d never thought of gods outside of visiting church once a week.

“A god.  You pick this up from one of your books?”

“No.”

“From Mags?”

“No,” Molly said.

“Because Mags is the only-”

“I don’t want to talk about her,” Molly said.  “She’s not part of this.  And I’m glad for that.”

“How is she not a part of this?” Evan asked.  “She’s an ambassador.  You’d think an ambassador would be busier in a time of war.”

“She’s with the small council.  She’s keeping- I don’t want to talk about her,” Molly said.  “I hate her and I don’t and… it’s easier not to talk about her.”

Read the tone, Evan, I thought.

“It’s gotta be important if you’re becoming a god, and Rose said Blake gave you power and Mags gave you power, and-”

“Evan,” I said.  “Let’s listen to Molly when she says she doesn’t want to talk about something.”

“Thank you.  I’m not saying I’m becoming a god.  It’s… only an idea.”

“That’s a hell of an idea,” I said.  I looked out over the town.

“Scary idea,” Green Eyes said.  “I’ve never met a happy god.”

Just about everyone present glanced at her.  Green Eyes didn’t elaborate.

“Sandra is mustering her strength,” Molly said, a change of subject that felt just a little forced. “I’ll create a distraction.”

I nodded.

“What will you do?” Molly asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “But I’ll hurt her somehow.”

“We,” Green Eyes said.  “I’m not leaving you again.  Not when you got a hole in you the last time.”

I nodded.

“You have ten minutes,” Molly said.  “Then I hit them.”

I moved.

My goal wasn’t Sandra.  At a run, I could get to the lake in two to three minutes.  Get within sight of her in half that time.  Even injured.

One arm held the other in place, tight against my abdomen.

Green Eyes followed, surprisingly quick.  Evan was in the air.

“I need bodies,” I called out.  I glanced at Green Eyes.  “Already dead!”

“Bodies?” Evan called out.

“Unattended!”

Getting further down the street, heading southeast, I saw the park at the end of ‘downtown’, insofar as Jacob’s Bell had one.  Hillsglade House was almost directly north, the lake and Sandra directly south.

Evan was already circling over a pair of buildings.

Playing the role of the buzzard.

As I drew nearer, I realized there wasn’t an alley between the buildings.  Here, the shops were just starting up.  Many were closed.

The furthest point from the newly revitalized area at the north end.  Closest to the marsh and the forest that the city wanted to expand into.  Close to the park.

It was like returning to the tenements.  I climbed a section of display window that was covered in iron bars, then reached for a windowsill.

After the Tenements, even being injured, with one arm only partially working, serving only to hold my position and give me a chance to raise my right arm, this was cake.

Green Eyes was even faster at climbing than I was.

We reached the rooftop.

A dozen birds congregated on a pair of corpses.  A couple, pecked to death.  A telescope had toppled beside them, and snow collected on a book that was still open, pages facing the sky.

Green Eyes lunged for the nearest bird.  She caught it, and stuffed it in her mouth.

Two of the other crows exchanged glances in a very human way, then took off with the rest.

Approaching the bodies, I brushed the woman’s hair aside.  It was only after I moved it that I saw her face and recognized her as a Behaim.

Using the Hyena, I carved flesh from bone.

Using raw strength, I tore carved bone from body.

I pressed carved bone into the cavity.  One folded segment of spine went into my middle, which still gaped open.  Almost like intestine.

The bone found its place, and the wood closed in around it.  At the shoulder, I doubled down on bones, replacing what I’d lost, then adding some.  The wood closed over, almost eager to get a grip on the still-bloody bone.

“Better?” Evan asked.

I nodded.

We were almost out of time.

But I felt strong enough to hop down from the two-story building’s roof.

We approached the lake.  It took less time than I’d thought.  Evan landed on my shoulder.

An awful lot of Duchamps and their husbands were there.  They were pulling together in what looked to be a last-minute defense.  Protecting themselves against their own Others, scurrying this way and that to patch up defenses that had gone awry.

A strategic position, away from the city proper, far from Johannes’ demesnes, and close enough to act on the house if need be.  Fortified.

Molly’s initial jolt had, at a glance, made all of the weak bindings break.  The secure bindings held, as did the better relationships.  In the midst of the chaos, Sandra and the high priest of Dionysus were standing on the dock, giving orders, talking.  The priest’s followers were gathered around him.

I braced myself for it.

It was still bad.

Molly attacked.  Full force, focused on the Duchamps.  Two, three, five times as intense as she’d hit me, to disturb the spirits and briefly take possession of me.

I saw the attempts at rebuilding a defense fail.  I saw Others that were being reined in suddenly turn, breaking free.  A dozen traps went off, and there was fire, and distortions in space.  A flickering of what might have been a doorway to someplace else.

But in the midst of it all, Sandra and Jeremy barely even flinched.

Seeing it, I knew.

There was no chink in this armor.

“Back,” I said.

“Back?” Green Eyes asked.

“We promised, you promised-” Evan started.

“There’s no way to win this,” I said.  “Getting through all that?”

“So we run?” Evan asked.

“No.  We attack from another angle,” I said.

We headed in the opposite direction.

Last Chapter                                                                        Next Chapter

Advertisements