Category Archives: 13.09

Execution 13.9

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The two satyrs looked just a little too smug, as I reunited with the splinter group.  It wasn’t a nice smug or funny smug.  It was the kind of smug that people enjoyed when they’d pulled something on you and they knew there was nothing you could do about it.

Green Eyes was breathing hard.  Her hair was mussed up to a point that even ‘swimming’ through the snow wasn’t pushing it all straight back away from her face, she had nasty looking bite marks on her collarbone and shoulder, and a claw scratch on her arm that looked oddly frayed, as the scales there had broken away and pointed in odd directions.

“Where’s chicken nugget?” Green Eyes asked.

I pointed at my torso.

Her eyes went wide, and her mouth dropped.

“You bastard,” she said.


“You ate him!?” she cried out.

I realized I’d been pointing more at the middle of my body than my upper chest.  I was about to respond, when my thoughts ran aground wondering if she was upset because I’d beaten her to eating Evan or if she was upset because she liked him now.

“He didn’t eat me!” Evan’s voice was muffled, emitting from within my ribcage, sparing me from having to find a way to gracefully word my next statement.

Green Eyes gave me a suspicious look.

Evan wormed his way forward until he managed to stick his head through a gap in some more knotted branches and ribs.  “See?”

She gave him a look that was just as suspicious.

“We need to move, at some point,” I said.  “Get where we need to be.”

“With Jerry?” one of the satyrs asked.

“No,” I replied.  “He’s doing… whatever he needs to do.   Each person we take out is one more clue the enchantresses need to pull it all together.  I’ve brought down six out of seven of them.  There’s one left.  If they’re going to figure it out, they’ll figure it out now.”

“They’re good at this,” one of the satyrs murmured.

I nodded.  “The last one is alone, independent from the main group.  He’s not well liked.  The spellbinder.”

I looked pointedly at the satyrs.

“Who?” the first satyr asked, brow furrowed.

“The one who went off alone,” the second said.  “Quiet.  Smelled like shea butter, sandalwood, and tobacco?”

“Shay what?” Evan asked, head still sticking out.

“Shea butter,” the satyr said.

“Why would someone butter themselves up?” Green Eyes asked.

“I think he used it for shaving, going by the nuances of the smell.  But it’s good for the skin, helps with healing, and it carries other scents well,” the satyr said, the words adopting a faint roughness as he spoke, almost as if he were purring.  He extended an arm.  He was definitely purring as he said, “Smell.  Tobacco, sandalwood, and shea butter.”

Green Eyes sniffed his wrist, then broke into a smile.

“Enough of that,” I said.

The satyr shot me a sly smile.

“You’re wearing the same stuff as that guy?” Evan asked.

I poked the bird’s head with one finger, pushing him back inside.

“No.  It’s useful to be able to decide how you want to smell,” the satyr said, arm still extended.  “Cinnamon and myrrh, for when you want to cozy up.”

“I like that,” Green Eyes said.  “It’s been so long since I smelled nice smells.”

“I thought you’d like it.”

More annoyed, I said, “You’re wasting time.”

The satyr didn’t quite manage to look apologetic.

“It’s useful.  Now I know what the guy smells like,” Green Eyes said.  I was about to concede that it was useful, when she added, “We should keep one of these guys around.”

I ignored the statement.  “Do you know where the spellbinder is?”

“No,” the satyr said.  “He left to hit some key areas where local monsters gather.  Goblin shack, goblins under the bridge that serves as a gate to the Sorcerer’s domain, the woods where the hag lives, and some others I’m not remembering.”

“The faerie hangout,” the other satyr said, stepping away from Green Eyes to stand beside his fellow.

“He could be anywhere in the city,” the first satyr told me.

“I figured as much,” I said.  “You can’t find him by sniffing him out?”

“Not unless we want to backtrack alllll the way back to the lakeside and then follow the same path he took,” the satyr said.  He adopted that same smug grin from before.  “Moving slower than he’s moving, if we want to be accurate and not get sidetracked.  We might never catch up to him.”

He was putting emphasis on words, rubbing it in in a way that made it hard to call him out on.  Practically telling me that if I tried to rely on him, he’d sabotage me.  Sabotage Jerry, in a roundabout way.  It was doubly irritating because I wouldn’t have called him out on it if he’d said it outright, I’d have shrugged and accepted that his loyalties fell at least partially with Sandra, and that the satyrs had reason to resent me for killing some of their own.

But by implication and by denying me the chance, he made it doubly infuriating.

The maenads were the High Priest’s warriors.  The satyrs were… more versatile, I imagined.  Quick, with sharp senses, capable of defending themselves, and readily weaponized in a social conflict.

Making them hard to deal with here.

I didn’t rise to the bait, even as the tolling of the bell in the background was like a push on the shoulder.  Familiar enough at this point that it was almost like a friend goading me to take a dare.  Just do it, and it’ll be satisfying.

“I’m not surprised,” I said.  “That leaves plan A and plan B.”

“You mean plans B and C.”

“Relying on the satyrs was never plan A,” I said, as I made eye contact with the satyr who’d just been trying to provoke me.  “Plan A is… no, let’s call it Plan B.”

“Plan B is supposed to be the plan that works,” Evan said.

“Well, if there’s any symbolic power in that, we could use it.  It’s a long shot.  We call someone back at the house.  See if they can’t use magical means to find the guy.  Except we don’t have phones, unless the satyrs have one and are willing to share.”

“Dead battery, was listening to music,” the first satyr said.

The second shrugged, patting his pockets.

“Thought not,” I said.  “Meaning we need to find a pay phone, or borrow a phone, one way or another.  Then we’d need to get ahold of someone, hope they weren’t too busy and that they had the knowledge needed.”

I ran my hand through my hair.  Very little of it draped into my eyes, these days.  It had snarled into longer lengths, held together by grit, as if I’d let particularly grimy clay into it, solidified by cold rather than heat..  A few twigs were snarled in there, and I wasn’t sure they’d ever leave.  More likely they’d grow and set down roots.

“What’s plan B?” Green Eyes asked.  “Run?  Six is enough?”

“No,” I said.  “I’d rather do seven than six.”

“Six is pretty good,” she said.

“Seven is an important number, Jerry says,” one of the satyrs commented, arms folded.

“Three, seven, twelve,” I said.

The satyr nodded.

Green Eyes only looked puzzled.

“It’s practitioner stuff,” I said.  “More than monster stuff.  Magic numbers.  Beat someone three times, counts for more, holds more sway with whoever’s there, watching.  Do it seven times, that’s something too.  We should finish this.”

“You’re missing bones,” Green Eyes said.  “You were supposed to grab some.”

“If the opportunity comes up,” I said.

“That goblin kicked your ass good,” Evan said.  Then, after a pause, he added, “Mine too.”

“I walked away.  That’s what’s important,” I said.

“The night’s almost over.  I think.  I’m not a very good judge of time.  It was a few years since I saw the sun, or the moon,” Green Eyes said.  “I like the idea of stopping, get some food, keep each other company.  But if you think we should…”

“I think we have to,” I said.


“What’s plan A, then?” Evan asked.

“This, right here,” I said.  “Waiting.”


“Waiting,” I said.  “Though we could stand to get to a better vantage point.”

“I’m wondering if he’s cracked,” Evan piped up, sticking his head out at a different point.  He dodged my finger.  He poked his head out elsewhere.  “Not making much sense.”

“Assuming the enchantresses haven’t figured out a trick to find out where we are, despite the Evan influence,” I said.  “What are they going to assume we’re doing.”

“Going after the spellbinder,” the first satyr said.

“What are they going to do in response?”

“Warn him?” the second satyr asked.  “A phone call?”

“They’ll send some help.  A warning wouldn’t be enough,” Green Eyes said.  “We follow the reinforcements?”

“Yeah,” I said, my voice soft.

“Assuming we can,” the first satyr said.  “What if ‘help’ is a spell.”

“Evan breaks spells.”

“Or if they drive?”

“How many people do you see out there driving?” I asked.  “Why didn’t your High Priest drive?  Why didn’t any of them?  Rhetorical question.”

“Ha,” Evan said, barely audible from within my chest.

“I don’t know,” the satyr said.  “Why didn’t they?”

I pointed.  Reluctantly, the satyrs followed.  Green Eyes was already moving to my side, following.

I spoke as we traveled.  “Because in a war like this, where an awful lot of things you don’t want to pick a fight with look human if you’re standing far enough away-”

“Like you,” Green Eyes interrupted.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.  Thank you,” I said.

She smiled.

“Anyway, I imagine that a lot of the sort of things you don’t want to mess with, like genies, that goblin I just dealt with, they’re human shaped.  So if you stand far enough away, or if you’re dealing with a crowd, you have to wonder.  You hold back.  But something in a car?  It’s going to be a practitioner, and I don’t think many practitioners can practice while driving.”

“They’ll travel on foot, maybe assisted by practice,” I said.  “Evan’s unable to fly, so we’ll have to be quick, we’ll have to be smart, and we’ll have to be lucky.”

“Because luck has really been with us?” Evan asked.

“It has,” I said.  I thought of the karma hoarder I’d stabbed.  “Eerily so.”

We climbed onto a garage roof.

“Don’t look directly at the enchantresses,” I murmured.  “Take in the scene as a whole, focus on details, or the people accompanying them.  Green Eyes, same idea as before.  Use their fear to gauge if they’re watching.  We can’t let them see us if this is going to work.”

“Yeah,” she said.

We’d hunkered down on our bellies, only our heads visible above the garage.  I was at the one edge, Green Eyes beside me, and, naturally, one of the Satyrs had settled beside her.

“Cinnamony,” she murmured.

The satyr on the far side of her smiled.

I really didn’t like that they were using such simple means to try and manipulate her.

She saw me looking, looked at the Satyr, then turned her eyes forward, ignoring me.

I saw a small smile creep across her face.  It got wider, until her teeth showed.  Narrow, long, and sharp, interlocking like a piranha’s.

Was she playing me?

I didn’t like the idea.  It stirred up all kinds of ugliness, like a footstep in a clear puddle kicking up clouds of black, vile mud.

“The smell of cinnamon makes me think of food,” she murmured, still watching the house down the street.

The satyr edged away from her.

Green Eyes, apparently unaware, leaned forward a bit, eyes narrowing, as if she were looking at something, her shoulder pressing into my armpit.

“What?” I asked.

“I saw movement,” she said.  “Wasn’t important.”

She settled down, the soft part of her chin resting on my arm, while her shoulder remained tucked into my armpit.

“I didn’t see nothing,” Evan said.  “You’re crazy.”

I turned my head.  He’d crawled out from inside me, and made his way under the back of my sweatshirt to my neck, just his head peeking out.

“Careful about lies,” I said.

“Oh yeah.”

“It’s okay,” Green Eyes said, not lifting her head as she talked, so her chin made my arm move with each word, “I am, just a little.”

“Okay,” Evan said.  “But if you’re seeing stuff that isn’t there-”

“Evan,” I said.  “Let it be.”


“Let it be,” I said.  “And don’t expose yourself.  We might need you in fighting shape.  Focus on rest.”

“Hmph, shutting me up, stowing me away,” he said, retreating just a bit under my sweatshirt.  He stuck his head out again, “don’t think I didn’t hear that chicken nugget comment earlier.  I figured that out too, you hear?”

I reached up to poke at his head again, but he was already gone, disappearing inside my shoulder.

The snow fell.  There was activity in the house, people moving across windows.  A general sense of agitation.  A few too many people, perhaps, crammed into one house, unless it was a demesne – and I wasn’t seeing anything special through the windows to suggest it was.  Those numbers in that kind of space wasn’t a big problem when things were quiet, but things weren’t quiet.  Several recent deaths, high stakes surrounding everything, and people were probably limited to the common areas.  Restlessness.

It was more peaceful where we were.  I didn’t breathe, but Green Eyes could.  I couldn’t feel much, not heat or cold, exactly, but I could feel the pressure of her chin, and the movement of her body with each breath she took.  I could feel her heartbeat, distant.  It was almost reassuring, like having a heartbeat and lungs of my own again.

Quiet, calm, laced with a kind of tension.  As if we were snipers, waiting for hours for a possible shot.

Time was running out.  Was my guess right?  Would this work?  Or should we send the satyrs out to find a pay phone?

Were they capable of figuring out who the last target was?  All they had to do was connect the last dot.  Through magic, enchantment, any number of divination tricks, summoning spirits.

Or they could ask.  They just had to figure out, to hear where I’d gotten the names from, and then they could grill the various kids in the chatroom.  I had little doubt they could get the information they needed out of people.

Would they walk into the metaphorical crosshairs?

It didn’t do to dwell.  I glanced at Green Eyes, and noted the bite mark on her collarbone.

“How’re you holding up?”

“Wish I got to eat more of the people we stopped,” she murmured.  “Wish you got more raw bones and dead wood in you.  But all in all, this is good.”

She snuggled a little closer.

Having been where I’d been, experiencing what I’d experienced, knowing it was only partial, I had no grounding in what to do.  I’d had girlfriends.  I’d had more than enough tender moments, back at Carl’s compound, but now, like this, being what I was?  The only reason I wasn’t panicking at the idea of physical contact was because I’d left so much of myself behind.  I’d disconnected from Blake the human.

But maybe this was a possibility because we were monsters.  Green Eyes was probably never going to be a tool to manipulate me.  I wasn’t about to be something she could look at as food.  Or at least, not quite, in both cases.

I settled one hand on her back, and pulled her closer, more to reaffirm that it was good.

She made the smallest noise in the low part of her throat.

Evan piped up, “While we’re talking about food, you wanna know what I never did when I was alive?  I never had sushi.”

“I was getting to be fond of you, nugget,” she said, “Don’t go and change my mind.”

“Well, I liked you pretty much right away, so there.  Maybe I’m just a better person,” Evan said, his head poking up beneath my sweatshirt, a little lump at my back.

“If you are, then learn to be quiet when a girl’s trying to enjoy a moment with the boy she likes,” she said, very gently pushing the lump under the fabric down.

“Oh.  Oh, dangShoot,” he said.  “Didn’t realize.  Now I feel bad.”

He sounded genuinely upset.

“Don’t,” Green Eyes said.  She stroked one section of the sweatshirt.  I could only assume Evan’s head was under it.  “It’s good.”

“Speaking of good,” one satyr spoke up, “You were right, bogeyman.”

I could see people moving out.

I watched, noting the number as they continued moving around the side of the house.

The number was the most important thing, here.  It set the tone of the coming confrontation.  How hard a fight would it be, and who would be fighting?

There were two big possibilities here.  Either Sandra would send a select group, or she’d send everyone that was willing to go, with only stragglers remaining behind, I assumed.

“Five,” I murmured.  “Ten.  Twelve… 

“Fifteen,” Green Eyes updated the count, as three more left the house.

“No lucky number.”  This from the satyr that had been cozying up to Green Eyes.

“No,” I agreed.

The group added up to twenty.

Probably closer to being everyone that was willing to go.


That was ideal.

We moved quickly, down from the roof, then along the sides of the street.  As planned, it was Green Eyes and I in the lead, the satyrs trailing behind.

Sandra was there.  More confirmation that it wasn’t the elite contingent.  Sandra wouldn’t have left the people with doubts alone to commiserate.  It wasn’t that she was manipulative, which she was, at least a little, but more that, well, she had a group to look after, and I would have stayed behind, if the positions were reversed.

I caught a glimpse of Needledick the Goblin King.  His familiar was with him, still humanoid.  He’d collected the axe I’d driven into the one Ritchie Brother’s groin, and held the serrated sword again.

I’d left the axe behind on purpose.  A spur of the moment thing.  It struck me as the kind of thing the goblin would come after me for.

I really didn’t want to pick another fight with a goblin of its caliber.

The diagram drawer was there too.

If we accidentally gave ourselves away, we’d have him to deal with again.  I didn’t want that either.

If seven was our lucky number, and if all went according to plan, then succeeding here would be key.

If I’d had a heart to stop, it would have stopped as I saw the diagram drawer look back, his fear spiking and staying at the new height.


He said something to the practitioner beside him.

The fear rose a bit more.

We reached the main street.

More open area, less cover to help us.  More white behind us, making us silhouettes against a pale background.  Without speaking a word, we collectively fell back a bit more.  Even the Satyrs, I imagined, had hunted enough to have instincts on this front.

I was only beginning to consider possibilities for slowing them down and getting ahead of them, now that they seemed to be moving with more direction, when Sandra acted.

A gesture, a movement, her chalice raised high.

The group blurred, as if I were wearing strange bottle glasses, and then the colors shifted, growing more stark.  When they moved, they moved fast, out of sync with reality and the space around them.  One footstep covering the length of two parking spaces, the legs not stretching, the individual not moving in any odd way, just… moving farther.  The heightened colors left a trail behind them, odd, veering too far in odd directions.

In moments, they were gone.  Down two blocks, then around a corner.  The trail of colors dissipated in their wake.

Leaving their pursuers, us, in the dust.

“Did they see us?” Evan asked.

“No,” Green Eyes said.  “There would have been more fear, or less fear.  They were the same.  They were just-”

“Covering more ground,” I finished.  “Did they leave smells?”

“Yes,” the first satyr said.

“You can track them?” I asked.

Yes,” the satyr said.

We switched roles.  The satyrs led.

This was complicated.  I wished I knew Sandra better, to guess how she thought, how she strategized, and what she might do in this sort of situation, everything on the line.

It, in the end, took five or ten minutes to catch up.  Others watched us, and with each one, I had to wonder if they’d left watchdogs, guardians, reporting back to them.

The calm was gone.  There was only tension.

Yet Green Eyes looked positively rosy with good cheer.

“Which place is this?” I asked.  “It’s not the bridge.  Not the woods, unless I got really turned around.  Goblin shack?”

“No,” one of the satyrs said.

The scene came into view.  I stared.  “God dammit, why can’t it be simple?”

It was, in large part, an ordinary section of street.  A dead end, with a house at the far side.  The eclectic decoration around the house, which included a tarp-covered fountain and several rather elegant little statues standing in a snow-covered garden, pretty much told the entire story.

The Duchamps had gathered.  They had spread out, occupying the end of the street.  Several sat on car hoods and bumpers.

The Spellbinder, as it happened, was easy to pick out.  He looked so ordinary, if a little stone-faced in expression, with drooping cheeks and larger ears betraying his age just a bit.  His hair was parted to one side.  I could have figured his identity by process of elimination, after stalking the Duchamps enough times tonight.  I didn’t have to.

A diagram sat at the far end of the street.  The simple, stark, straight-line-and-geometry diagrams were to this what printed writing was to cursive.  Flowing lines, curving, like elaborate musical notes or calligraphy, all with a pattern in mind.

Which was fitting, given the Faerie in the center of the circle.

At least, I hoped it was a Faerie.

There were two girls in red-and-black checkered scarves.  They were identical in appearance, but different in dress.  Both had unruly curly hair that was only slightly more manageable because it was damp with snow, both had earmuffs, albeit with different styles.  One knelt in the center of the circle, slumped over.  The other stood between Sandra and Needledick the goblin king.

Each possibility worse than the other.

The entire group was arranged to protect the spellbinder.

Except he was no longer my focus.

“Mags,” I said.

The girl standing between Sandra and the goblin king shook her head slowly.

My eye flickered to the girl sitting slumped in the circle.

I thought of the story I’d heard of the spellbinder.

He’d bound his wife.  Enslaved her mind, spirit, and body.


The girl standing between Sandra and the goblin king shook her head.  “No, Blake.”


“That’s not Mags either.  Well, unless he decides to call himself that.  It’s not like the name belongs to one person in particular.”

I looked between the two girls.

The girl beside Sandra raised a hand, and pointed at the spellbinder.  “He got the faerie for me.”

“You might consider it a gift,” Sandra said, “for goodwill.  My family has long dealt with faeries, and Padraic is a bastard.  I’m content I can smooth over any hurt feelings.”

“I’m Maggie again,” Maggie said.  She smiled, but it wasn’t the smile that should have gone with the statement.  She hugged her arms close to her body.

“The ambassador is supposed to be impartial,” I said.  “You can’t side with them.”

Mags is the ambassador,” Sandra said.  “She doesn’t have the name, she doesn’t have the title, or the obligations.  If she takes on any bad karma due to any lingering ties to the title, that will be dissolved when I become lord and do away with the job.  Maggie, of course, will be free to go.  No consequences.”

“It’s almost everything I wanted,” Maggie said.

“And your family?” I asked.

Maggie hugged herself a little more.  “Like I said.  Almost everything I wanted.”

I nodded slowly.  “I was assuming you were talking about this, us.  Will I be the second Thorburn you kill?”

“Harsh,” Maggie said, her voice cracking a bit, as she dropped to a whisper.  “You don’t hold back.”

There was a pause.  The tolling of the bell continued in the background.  I could only assume Molly was resting, or she’d be here.

“Screw this!” Evan piped up.  “You were cool!”

“I’m still cool,” Maggie said.  “Believe me.”

“Nuh uh!”

Needledick took a step forward.  He drew a weapon, and laid the handle in Maggie’s hand.  A trench club, not unlike a short baseball bat, with spikes at the tip, to lend it a bit more oomph.

Maggie gripped the weapon in both hands, the leather of her gloves squeaking against the handle. In this short dead end of a street lit only by two streetlamps, I could make out the tension at her jaw.

“Is this how this plays out?” I asked.

“You’ve had a good night,” Sandra said.  “Picked off several of ours, striking out of the cold and the darkness, from several angles, disappearing from even our ability to see you.  Winning over Jeremy was an especially good bit of luck on your part.  There’s a lot to be said for momentum, and this was the best way I could decide on to break yours.”

“Well, it’s a good way to do something,” I said.

Maggie nodded.

“Once, I mused on how similar we were,” I said.  “We might have even talked about it.  Do you remember?”

“You’ll have to be more specific,” she said, staring down at the weapon.

“We both want the hell out of this town.  I think it stems from the same desire.  We want to be free, and this place sucks.

She reached up and grabbed the fabric of her shirt, right over her heart.  “Believe me, I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t want to be free of this place for good.”

“The key difference, though,” I said, “Is that you wrap yourself up in more bondage to get free, while I… lose myself, I guess.”


“You’re their puppet, doing what they say.  Doing things the way they want you do to them.”

“Yeah.  I am,” she said.  She couldn’t make eye contact.

“Part of my success tonight is due to the fact that I’ve started to play my role a little better.  I’ve defined who I want to be and why, and I’m following that path.  Can you say the same?  Is this who you want to be?  Or are you their pawn, again?

She stared down at the weapon.

“Moving speech,” Sandra commented.  “But a deal’s a deal.  She already agreed to our terms.”

“A benefit of changing identities,” Maggie said, “Is that you get to leave consequences behind.”

She straightened, and looked me in the eye.  She turned on Sandra, backing away, moving in our direction.

“Yes!” Evan said.

“Breaking a deal makes for bad karma,” Sandra said.  “Doing it when you’re in a precarious position-”

Drat you,” Maggie said.

She swung the club.

The ground and air shimmered, tremoring, and many of the Duchamps stumbled backward.

“Yes!” Evan cheered.

She’d avoided attacking in the direction of the circle.

“Get back,” Sandra said.  “Use the circle for cover.  She won’t-”

“I might,” Maggie said.  “Take it from me, Sandra, you do not want to get on his bad side.  I know.”

As if to punctuate the statement, the Faerie in the circle screamed, features distorting.  A guttural, male scream, cutting right to the core.

Maggie backed up further, and shot me a winning smile.

“Yes!”  Evan said.

Green Eyes hissed, and Maggie practically jumped out of her skin.  She jumped even more as Green Eyes snapped.

“No!” Evan said.

“Maybe don’t bite the allies,” the first Satyr said.

“Agreed,” Maggie agreed.

The other practitioners were moving.  Reorganizing.  Getting implements out.

I watched each.

Sandra’s troll emerged, from stoat to full size.

A fight.  War.

Too many things to keep track of.

Hyena in hand, I put the point to Maggie’s throat.

It all settled.  Things going quiet.

“No!” Evan said, louder than before.  “What?  No!”

I met Maggie’s eyes.

“Drop it,” I said.

She dropped the weapon.

There was a long pause.  Very nearly silent.

“What gave me away?” Maggie asked.

“Green Eyes.  I don’t think the reaction fit to Maggie’s.  And I’m not so optimistic to think that things would go this well for me.”

“Yeah,” Maggie said.

“Fool me once,” I said.

“I fooled you quite a few times, in Toronto,” she said.  “More than once.”

“Well you didn’t get me here.  That’s your Faerie pal, in the circle there.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“I could stab you,” I said.  “Free Maggie.”

She shook her head.  “Wouldn’t get the name back.  But if you let me go, I’ll leave until all of this is over.”

“Suppose I have to,” I said.

She backed away, then ran, moving faster than any human should.

The other Maggie stood from the circle.  She moved her arms and swept up the diagram, wrapping it around herself like a drape, as she backed away.  I saw the Spellbinder fall in step beside her.

“That doesn’t end this,” Sandra said.  “You’re outnumbered, and we’re positioned.”

“And, I’m guessing, the Spellbinder is nowhere near here.”

“Nowhere near here,” Sandra said.  “I sent him home.  He already left the city.  You won’t get your seventh kill for the list.”

I nodded slowly.

She flicked a hand.  The trench club flew to one side.  When I looked down, I saw that Green Eyes had been inching closer to it.

“I’ll surrender,” I said, very deliberately, “I’ll end the fight, let you have Jacob’s Bell if you can earn it, even support you, if you so desire, with one condition.”

“One condition?”

“Yes,” I said.  “Yeah.  All I need you to do, is swear to me, on your family, on your title, on your power, that you’ll stop with the fucked up arranged marriages.  You’ve told others in the family, you swore to them, you’ve implied, I want to hear it from you, that the Duchamp family will no longer continue catering to husbands like the ones I’ve killed.”

“You’ve killed a variety of husbands,” she said.

“Stop prevaricating,” I told her.  “You know what I want.  I want you to tell me, straight out, that I’m wrong.  That the Duchamps aren’t going to take the lordship and then keep doing what they’ve been doing.  Do that, you win here.”

The wind whistled.

There was no answer she could give.

I’d created the cracks.  Created sides, fostered arguments and doubt.  Put people on two sides with the six previous kills.  All I needed was one more.  A seventh.

“I can’t give you an answer, one way or another,” she admitted.

Which was, in its way, an admission of defeat.

I backed away slowly, my arms spread.  The others joined me.

Nobody moved to stop me.

I hadn’t gotten my seventh kill, using the list.

I’d achieved my seventh win.

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