The Wolf’s Will – Scene 096 & Onwards

Scene Ninety Six

In which a priceless porcelain vase becomes involved in the plot

It was slightly before dawn, and Tony Tony and Johnson were already standing outside their tents. Neither of them had slept very well last night; they both had had too much on their minds.

They were watching the spreading light on the horizon; eventually they would have to look away, but for now they were transfixed.

“God I wish we’d brought some coffee” said Johnson.

“Would you trust anything the mages handed you?” asked Tony Tony; raising his eyebrows while keeping his eyes on the horizon.

Johnson considered this, “I might” he said, “If it hadn’t exploded by now. Anyway we trusted the car, and I imagine there is a lot more mischief they could have done on that”

Tony Tony looked around; the car wasn’t there of course; it was several kilometers away on the road where they had left it, but it is a natural instinct to turn when someone says something like that. Tony Tony realized that he had never been suspicious of the car; the idea never occurred to him; it was like there was something about a 2CV which seemed like it should repel magic.

Tony Tony shrugged; his old instincts were attaching themselves to the 2CV, and telling him that there was probably a tracking device in it. They were also telling him that he didn’t have the mechanical experience to tell the difference between a tracking device and a normal part of the car. He looked at Johnson, “I don’t suppose you know about cars do you?” he asked

Johnson shrugged, “Not a lot; I was trained for jet aircraft.” He said.

Tony Tony smiled to himself; he was imagining a 2CV with a jet engine.

He snapped back to reality as the first rays of sunrise struck him and hurt his eyes. Both men turned to the side and rested their backs on the same rocky outcrop that Devlin had been on yesterday.

Tony Tony looked at Charlotte’s tent; it didn’t look like she had stirred yet. “Is she going to be alright?” he asked; indicating at the still tent.

Johnson didn’t look as concerned as Tony Tony had expected him to be. “You’ve known her almost as long as I have” he said, “Your guess is as good as mine”

Tony Tony raised his eyebrows, “If she was your partner’s fiancée, then why didn’t you know her better?” He asked; He still wasn’t sure that he could trust Johnson, and he was trying to catch him out.

“I always felt that it was my partners business” he said, “I never really liked dealing with her.” It was, Tony Tony thought, a very good answer. He realized that this did imply that Johnson had been Devlin’s partner recently, and that added weight to his suspicion that he had been his partner in the Amazon.

He kept pushing forward; after all he really was worried about Charlotte. “She went straight into her tent yesterday” he said, “She didn’t even come out for dinner.”

Johnson nodded, “I think that’s reasonable” he said, “That whole experience can’t have been fun for her. I imagine she’s feeling very confused right now.”

Tony Tony gave a small nod, he could agree with that assessment. He felt it was time to brooch the subject of what was really worrying him. “What now?” he asked, he didn’t elaborate; in a situation like this he didn’t have to.

“Hmm?” inquired Johnson

“What I mean” Tony Tony elaborated, “Is that our situation is very bad at this point. Devlin won’t come in willingly until he has completed his mission, and I don’t think we have the power to force him; no matter what Professor Green says. So how do we proceed from here?”

Johnson was silent for a long moment; he seemed to find something extremely interesting on the horizon. When he finally spoke it sounded like he was examining the words behind his eyes before sending them out into the world. “We have to take him in.” said Johnson, “But we can’t do that until he completes his mission”.

Tony Tony didn’t say anything; he was trying to remember if he had said anything to Johnson about his relationship with Greg; and guess how much the man knew on his own. He decided to play it safe. “Doesn’t his mission involve killing a lot of people?” he asked

Johnson pushed himself off the outcropping, and walked a few steps away from it. Tony Tony kept his eyes pinned on him. Johnson stood with his back to Tony Tony, his hands held behind him in the ‘at ease’ position. “I’m sorry, Tony Tony” he said, without looking back.

Tony Tony felt something shatter over his head; and then unconsciousness took him in its warm embrace.

Scene Ninety Seven

In which things get worse

Greg woke up to find an axe directed at his face. It wasn’t really a positive experience.

“I’m glad you’re awake” said the Dwarf holding the axe, “It wouldn’t be satisfying to kill you while you were asleep”.

Greg nodded, and jerked his leg violently. Then he realized that his leg was tied down tightly enough that that he couldn’t really move it. This is what finally caused him to start worrying.

The Dwarf smiled, but he didn’t really look amused. “You will find that I don’t repeat my mistakes” he said. “You won’t be escaping from your rightful fate today.”

Greg tried to move his other limbs experimentally; they were all bound tightly as well.  He checked around him, as widely as his eyes could see; there was something moving in the shadows; at lot of something’s.  Greg was beginning to really regret not killing the Dwarf at the inn; if he had had any Idea that he would turn out to be this competent, then he would definitely have gone back to make sure that his knife had done its job.

The Dwarf brought his axe a little closer; Greg felt it bit into the top of his skin. “Now” said the Dwarf, “My name is Ka’Ta’Ka’Ma’Ta’Ta’Ma’Ka’Ta’Ka, you killed my father, and almost killed me, and stole my motorbike, and insulted me by ignoring me; prepare to die”

Greg could feel the blood dripping down his face from where the axe had cut it. He let his mind freewheel; trying to pick up any hint that there might be a way out.

He had bound his head, Greg realized, but hadn’t gagged him. Greg almost smiled, and then he did smile; after all smiling might unnerve Ka’Ten…Dwarf; what Greg could see quite clearly now was that he was dealing with a classic villain type; the kind of person who wanted to hear you beg; wanted to hear you talk.

“I don’t know who you are” said Greg, “I’ve only ever killed one person and I’ll bet that he wasn’t your father; I think you’ve got the wrong guy.” He knew that he sounded sincere; after all it was the truth.

“Well think you’re lying” said the Dwarf; he lowered the blade of his axe until it was resting on Greg’s throat, “I think you are a filthy human liar”

Oh dear, thought Greg, this is starting to sound familiar. “I think I’m beginning to see” he said, trying to hold his throat still, “I take it I am addressing the leader of the Dek’Tak?”

“TAK’DEK!” bellowed the Dwarf. His hand shook at the words; leaving a scattering of blooded lines all down Greg’s throat. Greg felt the fresh blood trickle down his neck, and mix with the soil underneath him. That’s okay; he thought to himself, head injuries always bleed a lot.

“I stand corrected” he said; fighting to stay calm; he knew that if he gave any indication of fear then the Dwarf would get excited and kill him where he lay; he had to keep him unsatisfied. He hated not being able to move; he wanted to run away so badly.  “However I maintain that I didn’t kill your father; he was still alive when I left the-”

“SILENCE!” bellowed the Dwarf; luckily this time round he had pulled back on his axe slightly. He brought his axe down to Greg’s chest, and used it to flick up the thing he had hanging there. Greg looked down, rotating his eyes to the full extent of their travel.

Then he felt rather stupid, he had been wearing it for so long that he had forgotten it was there; suspended around his neck by a length of Crazy Sven’s ‘Surgical string’; the horn from the helmet of the Dwarf leader. In hindsight taking it wasn’t the wisest thing he had ever done.

“Ah” said Greg, mentally trying out several variations of ‘It’s not what it looks like’, and then remembering that taking a Dwarf’s helmet was a death penalty anyway. “You see” he said; improvising wildly, “I didn’t really-”

“I do not want to hear your pathetic excuse, human” growled the Dwarf. Greg was happy to hear it; he had no idea what his excuse was going to be.

The Dwarf raised his axe like a man chopping wood. Greg’s heart was skipping in his chest, “Wait!” he called.

“No” said the Dwarf; and he swung the axe down.

Something furry tackled the Dwarf before he finished his swing.

Greg couldn’t move his head; so he couldn’t see what happened after they hit the ground, but whatever it was it involved a lot of flying intestines.

Then there was screaming; it started out being battle screams, but then he started hearing an increasing amount of pain screams.

The pain screams were getting closer, and Greg really wished that he could turn his head. Something tall stood above him, there was a flash of metal, and suddenly Greg could move again. He sat up as fast as he could manage, and got a look at his savior, “Free Flower?!” he exclaimed.

Without even bothering to nod, Free Flower turned to rejoin the battle. Greg rubbed his wrists where he had been bound; he didn’t want to touch his neck. Now that he could move again he could feel himself starting to calm down, so he look around to see what was happening.

It wasn’t really a battle; it was a massacre. It was Free Flower against what looked like fifty or sixty Dwarfs. Greg shook his head, this was a really unfair situation; the Dwarfs didn’t even have guns this time.

Free Flower seemed to have the battle in hand, so Greg turned back to whatever had hit the Dwarf who had tried to give him an axe wound.

A very familiar face rose up to meet him; she had a red ring around her mouth, as though she had been eating pasta in a particularly messy way. “Hey there, little sister!” said Reddrummer; looking delighted, “I had a feeling it would be you.”

Scene Ninety Six

In which a character wakes up inside a helicopter

Tony Tony made a smooth transition back to consciousness; must be all the practice, he thought. He kept himself totally still, and resisted the urge to open his eyes.

The air smelled of oil, and it thrummed with the sound of a helicopter blade. That was odd, thought Tony Tony, why would Johnson and Charlotte knock him out before putting him on a helicopter? He would have stepped on under his own power if they’d told him they had one.

Tony Tony focused on his surroundings again; now that he thought about it, he didn’t seem to have handcuffs on, or a blind fold; Tony Tony didn’t think that was normal if you were kidnapping someone.

He focused on his hearing again; trying to pick out voices, but apart from the blade above him, there was no real sound.

Tony Tony tried to let his eyes relax slightly open. He could make out someone’s knees in front of him; he couldn’t see the face from his head’s position so he focused on the knees instead. They were wearing some kind of business trousers; that probably ruled Charlotte out, and they were skinny; very skinny; knobby even; so not Johnson either. An accomplice maybe? But then why leave someone so skinny to guard an unrestrained prisoner?

He took advantage of the rocking of the helicopters to roll his head upwards. He closed his eyes a little bit more, but he could still make out a blurred head above him. There didn’t seem to be anyone behind his guard.

Tony Tony considered; it would only be a matter of time before his guard noticed that his eyes were open a crack, so the real question that needed answering was whether the person above him was more likely to be friend or foe. It had been a rather unpleasant month so far, and Tony Tony settled on foe.

He cracked his body like a whip; flinging himself into midair. His feet stuck into the ground and he drove himself forward. His crossed arms caught the man under his chin, and Tony Tony forced him throat first into the wall of the helicopter. Then his eyes opened.

“Andrew?” he said, his arms loosening from around his neck. Tony Tony recognized him as the new boy on the front desk; though he had no idea how he had ended up in another country.

Andrew looked like he was halfway through exploding; every feature on his face seemed to be shaking. But then, right in front of his eyes, Andrew seemed to solidify.

“Yes Sir! It’s me sir” he said, pressing him back into the stretcher he had been laying on. Tony Tony felt like his whole body was numb; he had never heard Andrew use a complete sentence before.

“Andrew…” begin Tony Tony, but the sheer number of questions fused together behind his mouth, and wouldn’t sort themselves out. Then he asked the only question big enough to defuse most of them, “What’s going on?” he asked.

“I’ll be happy to clue you in, Tony Tony” came a voice with a smile on it from Tony Tony’s left. “But first I have a few questions for you” Tony Tony turned to find Clare looking at him. She looked, somehow older and more impressive than Tony Tony remembered her being. She was also carrying a tape recorder, which really wasn’t a minor detail either.

Scene Ninety Seven

In which fortunes change

Life was a weird thing, Greg thought; yesterday he had been suffering food poisoning out in the wilds, and today he was marching at the head of his cousins’ army.

Reddrummer was marching with a spring in her step; Greg got the impression that this was a victory march of some kind and he decided to ask.

“Absolutely, little sister” said Reddrummer, “we’re all celebrating; that little posse you pulled together was the last of the Tak’Dek; they’re only a memory now”

Greg thought that his cousin was being a little optimistic; as long as their memory remained he was sure that the Tak’Dek weren’t gone for good. He was going to mention this to Reddrummer, but then she took him by the shoulder, and spun him around so he was walking backwards.

“Look at them” she said, “They’ve been fighting for years, and now in the course of a month they’ve finished; their job is done, and they’re all free to go home now.”

Greg did look at them; they were all species, he saw Goatmen, and Dryads, and even a few Dwarfs, and what really hit him was that they all looked relived.  He found that he simply couldn’t bring himself to say what he thought.

He turned and walked forward again. “What happened to their guns?” he asked, “The last time I met the Tak’Dek they had modern weaponry”

Reddrummer smiled and called back over her shoulder, “Hey, my cousin here wants to know what happened to the Tak’Dek guns!”

All the soldiers behind her raised their guns into the air and gave a cheer. Reddrummer turned forward again, chuckling. ”Seriously though” she said, “We have no idea. Their supply just dried up a couple weeks ago, so I guess whoever was bankrolling them ran into some financial problems”

Greg nodded; he decided that when he got the money owed to him he would use some of it to track down whoever had bankrolled the Tak’Dek.

Scene Ninety Eight

In which the possibility of a fireball throwing mountain is considered.

Andrew and Frankie had managed to get an impressive fire going; and they were off collecting and firewood, which meant that the only people around it at the moment were Clare and Tony Tony.

Clare seemed to have finally stopped asking questions, and Tony Tony was glad; he had relayed everything he could remember and he didn’t really want to do it again.

He looked at the fire and thought about it; it really didn’t seem necessary, even this high in the mountains it was still warm enough during the day, in fact the sun strike combined with the fire was making him downright uncomfortable.

“I don’t think we really need a fire” he said; it was the first thing he had said so far which wasn’t in response to a question.

“No” said Clare, “we really don’t”

“Then why are the other two collecting fire wood?”

“Because when we landed I asked them to. Tony Tony, what is leadership?”

Tony Tony felt surprised, he hadn’t been expecting a question like that; he tried to answer anyway. “I think,” He said, “I think it’s being someone that your followers can trust.”

Clare nodded and looked into the fire, “What if the leader isn’t someone who the followers can trust?”

“Then they better be very good at pretending they are”

Clare nodded again, but didn’t ask anything else.

Tony Tony left the silence for a moment, but then he felt that he had to fill it. “I hardly ever know what I’m doing” he said, quietly.

Clare looked up at this; resting her elbows on her knees. She didn’t say anything but it looked like she was paying attention.

“I think the best way to lead” said Tony Tony, “Is to try to do your best for your followers, and never let on that you’re worried”

Clare nodded again; something seemed to be amusing her. The two of them looked back at the fire; they were silent again, but it was a good kind of silent. Finally Tony Tony decided it was time to think about the more practical matters at hand. “You’ve heard my story” he said, “What do you make of the latest plot twist?”

Clare looked thoughtful, “I think you’re right” she said, “I would make sense if they were connected to Devlin, so they are probably going to help him.”

“Right” said Tony Tony, “It was stupid of me not to think about Charlotte; it just makes sense that she would want to help her Fiancée; I should have kept an eye on her.”

“But you didn’t” said Clare, “and now it’s too late to do anything about it” Tony Tony jumped; it was a very ‘Greg’ thing to say.

“Right” he said, “What we need to do now is track down either them or Devlin and throw a wrench in the works”

“Wrench” asked Clare; raising one eyebrow.

“I mean we have to stop them” he clarified, “Or protect Greg”

Clare considered this, “The quickest way of helping to protect Greg would be to warn him” she pointed out. “So if it’s possible then we should be focusing on him over the others.”

“Alright” Tony Tony agreed, “So we have four people we need to find the location of; Greg, Charlotte, Johnson, and Devlin”

Clare nodded and threw another stick into the fire, “Let’s focus on Greg first” she said, “Would the cell phone trick work?”

“No” sighed Tony Tony, “His phone hasn’t worked since Australia; that’s why he called you on my phone; and even if his phone was still working we both know that he would never make it that easy. He wanted to go underground; that’s what he told me through the crystal.”

“So if we are trying to find him then he will be actively working against us. That won’t be an easy job.”

“No; it really won’t be”

“Did he tell you how that crystal trick worked?”

“No; he didn’t seem to really know himself. Ah, I see what you mean; you’re hoping that we can use that somehow.”

“Yep.”

“I don’t really know. He said that it was being done by an expert at the E.M.L”

“Okay” smiled Clare, “So we have a lead if nothing else pans out”

“We could probably move it higher on the list of options than that”

“I don’t trust that place” she said, “you were only there for a few days after all; there was probably a lot of dangerous things that you didn’t see.”

Tony Tony didn’t argue, partly because Clare was his ride at the moment, and partly because he was sure she was right about the E.M.L. having more dangerous things than the things he had seen; there are many things that a school should ideally have, and a monthly mortality count up isn’t one of them.

“Okay” said, “So we have some way of contacting Greg; maybe. Who’s next up?”

“Devlin” said Clare right away, “If we could pinpoint his location them we could just slap him with a surface to air missile”

“Clare” Tony Tony said, “I’ve seen the man slap dragons out of the sky like paper planes; I don’t think it’s going to be that easy”

“Yeh, but” said Clare “Even if we can’t think of a way to hit him right now, eventually we’ll come up with something, and then, if we know where he is, we can just hit him then. Charlotte and Johnson aren’t interested in hunting Greg themselves, right?”

Tony Tony thought about this, “I think so” he said, “They’re only interested in helping Devlin complete his mission so that he can forget about it and come with them.”

Clare spread her arms widely, “Then that’s settled” she said, “Devlin is the most important. We only need only need to lock down the other two if it really gets out of hand, and Devlin’s already found Greg.”

Tony Tony drew idle circles on the ground with a stick, “Alright” he said, “I agree with you, so how do we track Devlin down?”

“Do you think; the phone trick?” Clare asked; she was smiling and Tony Tony was fairly sure she was making a joke.

“You do remember what I told you about lighting arcing whenever he was around?” he asked, giving her the smile back.

Clare chortled, and shook her head, “Alright” she said; turning back to him, “Lets brainstorm, how do you track what is effectively a god? Actually before we do that, can you do that thing that Charlotte could do? The thing with her Crystal?”

Tony Tony hadn’t thought of that. He held his crystal in his hands the way she had done and focused on it as hard as he could. He could see the inside of his hands now, just like with a normal crystal, but now it felt like there was something behind his head; it felt like unusually chunky mist. He focused on the mist feeling, but it was like trying to see a ‘magic eye’ picture which was too big for you, Tony Tony hit the limit of what he could see, and he couldn’t seem to get any deeper. “Sorry” he said, opening his eyes.

“That’s all right” Clare said, “It was a long shot anyway. So; brainstorming.”

“Right” said Tony Tony, “We can probably assume that he will be flying, and he will probably be moving very fast.”

“Arcing lightning the whole way” Clare added, “Glowing like a second sun too if we’re lucky”

“Human body’s not a great shape for absorbing radar” said Tony Tony, “It’s fairly obvious; so he might think to block it, but if he doesn’t then he will show up like a fighter jet on radar.”

“You think he can block radar?”

“I’m not going to put anything past him at this point. If he isn’t blocking it then he will be really easy to find; Air traffic control would have been calling him franticly for the last few days, trying to get him to stop flying so low and fast.”

“You’re expecting to turn on the T.V. and find him there”

“If I’m right, then he would have almost started a war by this point”

“I think you’re wrong.” said Clare, flicking her finger at him on the last word

Tony Tony faltered, “What? Why?” he asked

“We’re pretty close to the E.M.L right?”

“Not really, but I see what you mean. He would have appeared on their screens somewhere around their tower.”

“Exactly, they would’ve just decided that it was more mage nonsense, and just hoped it would go away”

Tony Tony’s brow furrowed, “Suddenly I feel sorry for the Air traffic control around the tower. Actually I feel sorry for anyone who works around the tower; or anywhere near the tower for that matter.”

“It’s out in the middle of the wilderness for a reason, and I’ll bet that Planes treat it like a mountain and try to avoid it.”

Tony Tony smiled; he was thinking of a mountain with the ability to shoot fireballs. “What was that thing you were saying about the lightning following him?” he asked

“Well I was just thinking; something like that is bound to leave a trail of disturbed weather” she said, “If we got the weather maps for the last few days, and checked the locations and times where we know he was, then we could probably get some kind of signature to track him by”

Tony Tony looked at Clare with a new respect, “That’s clever,” he said, “He would never think to block that, even if he could.”

“Thanks” said Clare, who was smiling, “So we have three leads, the radar, the weather and the E.M.L. If it’s all the same to you I would like to check radar and the weather first”

Tony Tony nodded; he was looking around for Andrew. The sun was starting to get low, so he must be getting back soon. Tony Tony grinned, they had a plan again, once they got their orders back to Ants they would have a lot more information to work with, everything seemed better with a plan. Everything was looking up.

Scene Ninety Nine

In which a character submerges his head in order to drink faster

Greg sat up slowly. The makeshift camp spun around him. Greg put his hand to his head and imagined ripping it off; that might stop it hurting quite so much.

Water, he thought, I need water. He stumbled across the camp; trying to remember the location of the water barrel be had seen earlier. They were still partying, he realised. He supposed the Dryads must have a lot to celebrate; they were drinking and dancing and singing[1], over the unconscious bodies of all the Trolls and Dwarves in the Camp.

He found the Water barrel about where he remembered it being. He bent down and started scooping water into his mouth, and then he realised that that was taking too long; and just dunked his head in instead.

Contrary to public opinion, dunking your head in cold water is not an effective hangover cure. It is however an effective way of drinking a great deal of water in a short space of time. Greg pulled his head back out; water dripping off his hair and beard. His stomach appeared to be angled a few degrees short of the comfortable position, and his head felt tight; but the water had helped a little.

Greg noticed then something that he really should have noticed before; namely that his cousin was propped up against the side of the water barrel. Feeling a little embarrassed; Greg turned to face her, and borrowed an expression of Tony Tony’s. “Great party” he said

Reddrummer nodded; Greg noticed that she didn’t seem to want to move her head much. “Glad you liked it little sister, I just wish I knew where your girlfriend got too”

Greg didn’t bother correcting her; she had been trying to wind him up since they were both children, but she did a raise an interesting point; Free Flower hadn’t been at the party as far as he had been able to tell. He looked around him, but not too fast; he could swear he was sloshing a bit “She’s over on the ridge” he said, “Running sword drills as far as I can tell”

Reddrummer chuckled, “Yeah, she’s always doing that. Then again she’s also easily winning every fight I’ve seen her in, so yeah, suits her”

Greg nodded, he had seen Free Flower finishing up the fight yesterday; it had been like someone making a giant armour plated kebab. “Wait” he said, “Didn’t you say your army had a sword master?”

“Damn right! One of the best; that’s how I convinced her to stay after I saw what she could do against the Tak’Dek”

“Then where is he?” asked Greg

Reddrummer pointed to the side of a tent; where what at first glance looked like a conscious short man turned out to be a unconscious Dwarf propped up standing against the tent, with a bottle of red wine in his left hand, and a bottle of ‘Oh my gods, your head exploded!’ humorous party liquor in his right hand.

“Ah” said Greg

Reddrumer smiled and patted the ground beside her. “As long as we’ve got a free moment, little sister, I want to talk about what you’re doing travelling.”

Greg sat down; being careful to keep any questions he might have on the inside for now.

“Now” said Reddrummer, “it’s fairly obvious that you are trying to get home for Uncle’s will”

“Really” said Greg; who didn’t think it was obvious at all, “I wasn’t even sure you knew about that, since you were dispersing your army”

“Hah! You expected me to march up to the door of Redhall with an army backing me up”

“Well you would be a long way from the first; all you would have to do is get your timing right”

“Yeah, remember Granduncle Reddrake?”

“Well I remember the stories; he was the one who showed up so early that his enemies managed to arrange a coup in the time they were waiting.”

“Oh yeah, Man that would of sucked. But yeah, I’m really not interested in being part of the whole sorry thing”

Greg thought about this, “But you lead an army” he said, “If anyone could used extra money it would be you”

“Well yeah, but little sister, Uncle’s will is going to come with most of his titles, even if he didn’t actually write them down, people will remember. I don’t want to end up as Alpha, little sister”

Greg opened his mouth and spread his arms wide in the international gesture for ‘Look around you’, “You’re leading an army here! Why would you be afraid of leadership now?”

Reddrummer smiled and stretched her back against the water barrel, “Well yeah, little sister, but leading an army is different”

“How?”

“It’s a lot more fun for a start. Can you imagine me managing a trade dispute?”

Greg thought about their childhood fights about who got to play with the favourite toy[2], and he had to admit that he could see it; vividly.

“Okay, so that a bad idea” he said, “but even if they do pick you out as the next Alpha out of how many other people, it’s not like there is a law forcing you to accept.”

Reddrummer stretched her arms out in front of her, “Why are you trying to convince me to come with you?” she asked, “Another person along will just make more competition for you”

“Well that’s true, but I think this is something that family should stick together on. I mean blood is thicker than water and-”

“You want an armed escort”

“I want an armed escort” Greg agreed, “You said it yourself, the key to the whole ‘Walk an army to the front door’ thing is to make sure that your enemies don’t have enough time to try something”

Reddrummer stretched like a kitten, “I don’t care about the will” she said, “But I’m going to Redhall anyway, some of my army are going back to their homes there. You can come along”

“Wait” said Greg, “So you claim that you’re not interested, and then you come along with an army anyway”

“Yeah, that sounds about right, after all I want to be there for Uncle’s funeral[3]” said Reddrummer. “We have about four days left to get back for the reading of the will right?”

“Right, but how did you know that anyway? It seems like you’re pretty cut off around here”

“Immediate family’s right to know, remember? The man marched right up to me to yell the message into my ear half way through a battle; I got to talk to him after, apparently he had to fight alligators to get to me”

“There shouldn’t be any alligators up here” said Greg, “They would be way outside their normal territory”

“Hark, hear the vampire speak”

“That’s low, cousin”

“Sorry” she said; and she really did look sorry.

“That’s all right” he murmured. They sat in silence for a moment, “I think you’re lying to me anyway”

“About what?”

“About just wanting to get to Redhall for Uncle’s funeral. I bet at the last possible moment you’re going to say ‘Oh I’ve changed my mind’ and turn your army around so that you can march right in that front door”

“Oh yeah? And why would I spend all that time avoiding it then?”

“Misdirection; it’s all about timing. If you’ve got everyone, including me, convinced that you’re not a competitor, then no one is going to try and stop you”

Reddrummer gave him a weird little smile, “If that was true little sister then it seems to me that I would be the last person to tell you about it.”

“Right” said Greg

“We can march the distance easily in four days,” she said, “Hell we could stumble the distance in three days.” she looked around, with a smile on her face, “And we might have to. We’ll get started as soon as everyone can stand”

Scene One Hundred

In which a character runs twisties stained fingers through his hair

Ants ran his fingers thought his hair, scratched his scalp with both hands, and gave the ceiling a complaining groan. He was tired, and he was angry; he wasn’t a man who took losing well, and that was definitely what was happening now. He wasn’t a meteorologist though, so that was an excuse; damn poor excuse though.

Damn it! He picked up a Plush penguin off the top of his computer, as though he was considering strangling it. How was he meant to tell the difference between normal and abnormal cloud?

He put the penguin down, he was tired, but at least he could report something on the radar front; even if it actually wasn’t that helpful.

Ants kept his head arranged like a computer. He sat back and searched through everyone he knew again; searching for meteorologists; he drew a blank, but then that’s what he had been expecting.

His eyes felt heavy. There was no stalling anymore, he couldn’t give them the information they wanted, but he could give them the information he had. It wouldn’t be enough, but then he could get some sleep.

He prepared a transmission to the effect of “He had a radar signature at first, but now it looks like he’s blocking it. ‘Air traffic control’ are calling it mage nonsense, and are hoping it went away. I have no good news for you today.”

Scene One hundred and One

In which a Character blushes

Tony Tony leaned his back against a convenient cliff and drummed his fingers against his knees. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet but he could feel the sun was rising; and that annoyed him. He had wanted to set off last night; when they had received Ants’s message, but Clare had pointed out that Frankie was their only helicopter pilot, and he had been flying all day. So because there was no other choice, everyone had just gone to bed.

Tony Tony could hear the others packing up their equipment, but he left them to it; their tents were small and it wouldn’t be much faster if there was another person there getting in the way.

He had already packed his tent up; he had been up before dawn. That was a rather unpleasant habit, he thought, he hoped he would be able to break it after all this was over.

He heard Frankie’s heavy footsteps walking past him, but he stayed sitting with his eyes closed; he was trying to control himself after all, and running up now wouldn’t help him.

He waited until he heard the helicopter motor starting to spool up, and then, with enforced calmness, he rose and walked with a carefully measured pace into the helicopter.

Clare jumped in immediately behind him. She put her hand on his shoulder in a motherly way. “You okay?” she asked.

Tony Tony nodded; he found that he did feel better actually. It was the sense of movement that did it; he didn’t feel right just standing around.

Clare swung out the door with one hand on the safety bar; she caught Andrews hand and helped him up. Tony Tony noticed Andrew stammering and blushing, of course that was fairly standard for him, but this time it did seem a little different. Tony Tony made a mental note to find out what had been happening while he was away when he got back to the office.

The helicopter rose its juddering way into the sky, and set about finding a needle piecing the sun.

Scene One Hundred and Two

In which guns are concealed underneath a dress

The good Lady Greenroe toured her walk in closet. Something simple, she thought, something not too heavy, something you can conceal knifes in.

She held up a slinky blue number; she could vaguely remember wearing it many years ago when she met the Russian ambassador. It was far too tight for her now though; far too short as well, a dress designed for a younger woman. No, if they were lucky this whole thing would be a dignified affair, and it should be carried out with dignity.

She wondered if dignity would be carried out, and whether she would be remiss in setting up another division of snipers. It probably wouldn’t be needed, she thought, her idiot cousin knew the importance of appearances, and that idiot at Redhall now would never dare try anything. She picked up something elegant that swept to the floor. Something like this, she thought, something that can conceal a leg holster, but in blue, it’ll suit me better.

She wasn’t really worried about her niece and her borderline betrayal. Lady Greenroe thought that she might have been a bit harsh on the girl, after all you can’t simply expect a girl to walk away from her fiancée, and it all might work out in her favour if she was helping Devlin to take Mr Greg out. If he managed to remove that headache then she would gladly give her blessing to the couple.

She found the dress she wanted, “perfect” she said; she could speak out aloud as much as she wanted here; the Closet was her room, and she had had it carefully bug proofed. It had cost her a large fortune, but it had been worth it to have one room in her house which was unquestionably hers.

She moved to her weaponry draws. I’ll be there as a guest, she thought, they won’t search me. She pulled out two lightweight revolvers and strapped them around her legs. Of course, she thought, a guest doesn’t shoot other guests; she picked out two silencers and a telescopic sight which she concealed in the folds of her dress. If Mr Greg did get away from Devlin then she would have to shoot him before he reached the table, the silencers were mostly there to give the whole affair a more genteel feel.

She stood up straight and looked at herself in the mirror. Not bad, she thought, trying various poses, with makeup on that should carry off the effect nicely. She smiled to herself, it was the smile that chess players get when they are in a clear winning position; the way she saw it she was the clear front runner at the moment. “Three more days” she said “and then, endgame”

Scene One hundred and Three

In which our heroes power walk

The E.M.L didn’t have a helipad, which was a serious planning flaw in a modern university, and Frankie wasn’t willing to take the helicopter any closer to the tower than what he described as ‘in range,  Sah’, so Tony Tony found himself power walking the last half kilometre.

Tony Tony was power walking because it was the fastest speed the people behind him were willing to move at. They were willing to keep up with him as long as he was walking, but they dropped back the instant he started running. It was all very irritating.

As worked up as he was, Tony Tony still took it slowly through the entrance hall; stopping frequently to explain the next danger to the people behind him. To his surprise someone had changed the crotch-kicking statue so that it now turned your tongue black and white with green spots; Tony Tony hoped it was a temporary effect.

He led them up the stairs, down the hallway, and into Professor Green’s office; she didn’t look as surprised to see them as she should have done.

“No” she said, before they had explained why they were here.

“What?”

“You want me to stop Devlin, putting aside that I can’t do that, the answer is no.”

“We don’t need you to stop him, just tell us where he is.”

“Mr Tomson, if I had that kind of information don’t you think that I would have given it to you when you went away with Miss Roe and Mr Johnson?”

Tony Tony faltered, that was kind of obvious in hindsight. “Okay, so can you tell me where Charlotte is?”

Professor Green looked up and looked directly into his eyes, “Me instead of us?”

“What? Oh I suppose; us.”

Professor Green was still holding his gaze; it was making him uncomfortable. Finally she lowered her head again. “Greg is in no danger” she said “and you will make the situation worse if you try to help him. You are welcome to stay in the tower for as long as you wish, but I will not help you like this. Goodnight Mr. Tomson”

Tony Tony felt utterly betrayed. He lined up numerous obscenities behind his eyes, lined them all up and paired them with the points he wished to make, mostly about the impossibility of Greg being safe while there was an angel out for his blood, that done he loaded them all up and got ready to fire them at her in a high impact barrage. Clare put her hand on his shoulder, and he stopped.

The words were still buzzing around his head like a swarm of angry hornets, but they were starting to die back. Be like Greg, Tony Tony thought; having to mentally scream the words to overpower the things he wanted to say, Greg could always control himself. Gradually the swarm got smaller, and smaller, and then it was gone.

Tony Tony, opened his eyes again, preparing to be civil, but they he realised he was looking at the inside of a corridor. “What?” he said.

“I got you out of there” said Clare, who was pushing and steering him, “It seemed like the right thing to do”

Tony Tony could still feel a vein pulsing on his head, “Good call”, he said, “You got a plan?”

“Why don’t you show us where the visitors sleep around here” she said, “And then we all can sit down and discuss it.”

Scene One Hundred and Four

In which the length of shadows is commented on

The sun was rising. Tony Tony watched it from the same window he had stood next to with Johnson a few days ago. “Our real problem” he was saying, “Is that we don’t know Professor Green’s motives”

“Yes Sah!” agreed Frankie

Tony Tony sighed and leaned with his back against the wall. He wished that he could talk to Clare, or even Andrew, talking to Frankie was exhausting.

“What I mean” he went on, “Is that if we could find out why she doesn’t want us to help Greg then we would be at an advantage”

“Yes Sah!”

Tony Tony rubbed his head. He wondered if Clare had woken up yet, or Andrew had decided that getting a radio to work inside the tower was a lost cause.

He threw his hands down, and asked, “What do you think we should do?” hoping for any answer which wouldn’t take him around in another circle.

“Sah,” said Frankie, “Professor Green will not change her mind, if you cannot steal the service you need then we are wasting time and should leave, Sah!.”

Tony Tony blinked and turned back to the window. Good answer he thought; suddenly glad that he had Frankie along. “Tell me Frankie, where should we leave to?”

“Sah, I do not know, Sah!”

Tony Tony nodded; he actually hadn’t expected an answer on that.

Others joined him at the window and joined in the discussion, but none of them had any ideas strong enough to carry weight. Eventually the shadows got shorter, and then longer again.

Scene One Hundred and Five

In which we jump ahead to dinner

The dining room was a huge building; it looked like it had once been a cathedral, right down to a line of stained glass windows running along the top.

One of the windows was shattered, but had remained in its frame. The sunlight scattered as it travelled through it, and the confused light beams got about half way to the floor before turning into exploding pigeons.

The light from the pigeons lit up a small table at the end of the hall were four people were eating dinner. One of them didn’t look like he was paying attention.

Tony Tony put his finger out. He caught Andrew’s spoon half way to his mouth. Andrew looked at him “What?” he said.

Tony Tony glanced at the spoon. Andrew looked as well. “Right” he said; flicking his spoonful of tomato sauce back into its pot and moving his plate into what he clearly thought was a more natural position.

“What are you reading anyway?” Asked Tony Tony, the semiconscious version of Andrew was starting to annoy him.

Andrew lifted the cover of the book so that Tony Tony could see it, but otherwise he gave no indication that he had even heard him. Tony Tony read the cover, “A study of the effect of magic on communication equipment, you haven’t given up on that radio yet have you?”

Andrew didn’t say anything for a long moment; he just kept his eyes on the page. Then he jerked like he had been shocked, “What, sorry, what?”

Tony Tony turned back to his dinner, “Don’t worry about it,” he said. He didn’t have much faith in it being possible to get the radio working, but if Andrew could do it then it would be a huge advantage.

Andrew turned back to the book, and eventually he stopped giving off any sign that he was aware of the outside world.

Scene One Hundred and Six

In which we find an enchanted window

Tony Tony was really coming to like the window down the corridor that led to the dead dorm; It seemed like it had been subject to the E.M.L ‘s ‘Sure why not?’ attitude to spell casting. No matter what all the other windows showed, the window in front of the corridor was always perfectly angled to catch the sun. Right now Tony Tony was watching the sun as it sunk below the horizon.

Two days, Greg, he thought, I don’t know if I can help you, but you have two days left.

He eased himself off the windowsill and ambled down the corridor. This whole thing had turned into a bit of a mess, he thought, it still might make a good story though, even if it is a bit confusing and it had no moral. Tony Tony grinned; the world was a funny place, who could possibly know where he would be in two days?

Frankie was already dozing when Tony Tony walked into the dorm. Andrew wasn’t in his bed, but Tony Tony’s eyes naturally found the corner where Andrew had set up his work beach; he was there still playing with the radio. Tony Tony left him to it. He was a little worried about Andrew not getting any sleep, but he supposed that was his lookout.  He couldn’t see Clare from where he was, but the curtain they had put up over one end of the dorm had an ‘occupied’ feeling about it.

Tony Tony pulled himself into his bed. Someone had cleaned his sheets, he didn’t know who it could have been; magic wouldn’t work in the dead dorm and the mages didn’t seem like they would be good housekeepers. Tony Tony shrugged it off; if there was anything he had noticed recently it was his life was a hard thing to understand. He lay down in bed and closed his eyes.

He was just beginning to feel that warm absent feeling which always comes before sleeping when something heavy dropped onto his bed. “I got it!” squeaked Andrew, “I got Ants and he says that he’s figured out the weather patterning!”

Scene One Hundred and Seven

In which we replay the tortoise and the hare

The back seat of a helicopter is an incredibly unpleasant place to sleep. What with the vibrations, and the noise; it’s a wonder that anyone ever manages it. Tony Tony had managed a light doze in the back until the first rays of sunlight hit him and made further sleep impossible. He wasn’t really tired, Clare had agreed on the compromise of getting half a night’s sleep and then leaving before dawn.

Tony Tony looked around and took stock of his troops. Clare and Andrew both looked like he did, if there did turn out to be fighting when they caught up with Devlin then the three of them wouldn’t be very much use. Frankie would be worse though; it is not easy to fly a helicopter and Frankie had been doing it for the last few hours on what really wasn’t enough sleep; he could push on through, but he was going to be shattered when they reached their destination.

Tony checked the readout that Ants had sent him again; it not only gave Devlin’s current position, it also marked out where he had been.

By the looks of it, after Devlin had left them at that rock outcrop, he had just spent the last few days flying around in a spiral; presumably he would have searched the whole world if that was what it would have taken, but now Tony Tony noticed that the pattern had changed since the last time he had looked; a couple hours ago Devlin had broken off his spiral and was now moving in one direction in a straight line. Oh bugger, thought Tony Tony, there is no way that could be good news.

Tony Tony focused his eyes on the back of Frankie’s head; he was not tactless enough to actually ask, but he was trying to will thoughts of speed into the huge man. Nothing happened and Tony Tony was actually glad of that; Frankie must have picked this speed for a reason.

He turned back to the readout and tried to estimate Devlin’s speed. That didn’t make sense; Devlin only looked like he was moving at walking pace. What could that mean? Perhaps he hadn’t actually spotted Greg, perhaps he had chosen to break his spiral for some other reason, or perhaps he had already got him and didn’t feel the need to rush anymore.

Tony Tony shook his head. We have to think we can help, he thought, we’ll keep going. Devlin must just be flying slowly for his own reasons.

He looked back at the readout again; it looked as though he was flying almost directly away from the helicopter. So it was a race then; Devlin was slower, but the smart money said that he was almost where he needed to be.  The helicopter had a lot more ground to cover, but it was covering ground quite a bit faster. Tortoise and the hare, he thought, edited for realism.

He settled back into his seat, feeling the now familiar vibrations thudding into him. On reflection, he thought, it’s a stupid idea to keep this information from the rest of my team; after all we are flying into a life or death situation, and this information might turn out to be vital. “Everyone” he called, “I think you need to see this”

Scene One Hundred and Eight

In which she has a headache

Charlotte had a headache; it was so bad that even Johnson had noticed. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

Charlotte shook her head and indicated for him to drive faster.

“It’s a 2CV” he said, “It won’t go any faster.”

Charlotte held her head and indicated for him to just keep driving.

Johnson kept driving. “You know” he said, “You could probably just fly there; it would be quicker than this”

Charlotte shook her head again. Johnson kept driving in silence for a few moments.

“You still got his bearing?” he asked, trying a different tack.

Charlotte kept her right hand on her head and pointed directly ahead with her left hand. Otherwise the car was completely silent.

“It’s dipping into his mind isn’t it?” he said, “To find where he is, it’s tiring you”

Charlotte didn’t move for a long moment, but then she slowly shook her head. “It’s his mind.” she said, “He’s at war with himself. It doesn’t tire me out, but it hurts me a lot.”

Johnson tried to imagine having to see inside a fiancée’s head while he was like this; it depressed him so he stopped. “Without looking again” he said, “How close are we?”

“Not far” she murmured, her eyes towards the floor of the car, “He can’t fly very fast while he’s like this”

“So we’re closing on him?”

“Yes”

“How much time do we have?”

“Before we get to him?”

Johnson nodded.

Charlotte groaned and reached for her crystal again.

“Without looking” he stopped her; he didn’t want the girl to be broken when they caught up with Devlin; after all she would probably have to be the one who talked him down again.

Charlotte rubbed her temples, “about half an hour” She said, making swirly motions in the air with her hand.

That was good, Johnson thought. They were on the road, and on the way; hopefully by the end of the day this would all be over.

Scene One Hundred and Nine

In which everything starts coming together.

There was an agreeable country, and through this country ran an agreeable country road; the kind that age old farmers laid with big, heavy stones so their carts could rattle along quicker.

On this road there was a young man, skinny and a little pale. He was talking to a tall and striking woman who seemed to have wolf ears. They were being tailed by a boisterous group of people who seemed to be pulling a cart full of alcohol behind them. They were travelling at ambling pace, without a care in the world.

A little way back, but not really far enough, there was a man with untidy black hair and eyes that shone with harsh light. He was holding his head, and occasionally he thrashed around as though he were being flogged. He was airborne, but he was still following the line of the road, and he was moving faster than the people ahead him.

Quite a way further down the road, but gaining fast, there was a little car which must have gone out of fashion at the same time as two-toned shoes. One of the car’s occupants appeared to be in pain; the other one looked grimly determined. They had a much longer trip, but the little engine was whining, and they were rolling forward with the inevitability of a rather large boulder.

Finally, a very long way back, at what was basically the start of the road, a helicopter was flying. It had a longer trip than all of the others combined, but it also was moving a lot faster than all the others combined. Everyone inside had their eyes locked on the horizon, and they only took them off to take their guns as they were handed around.

They were all closing the distance, and it would be too close to call.

Scene One Hundred and Ten

In which eyes make good mirrors

Free Flower had very good eyes, and she had been watching the skies for most of her life. She couldn’t have told you how she had picked up what was wrong, even if she had been inclined to, but she had had the feeling that something was wrong, and she was carefully scanning the sky when she saw him first.

He was a dot in the sky at first, and the only thing that tipped her off was the fact that he looked the wrong shape to be a bird. She narrowed her eyes against a sun which was getting lower in the sky, and kept a watch on him.

Gradually he got bigger, and bigger until eventually there could be no doubt of what she was seeing; a man flying unaided through the sky. She had walked backward another few kilometres before she could be sure of anything else, and by that point the others were taking interest as well.

The man seemed to be in pain, he was thrashing around and holding his head, Free Flower was sure that if she could hear his thoughts then he would be screaming.

She looked to the others to try and gauge what they thought. Most of them looked confused, or interested, or fearful; the normal range of emotion, but there was something different on the face of the skinny one; Free Flower saw recognition reflected in his eyes.

Then she saw lightning reflected in his eyes.

Scene One Hundred and Eleven

In which the sound of firecrackers is ruined forever.

Greg saw the man lift his hand. He seemed to be holding a pillar of lightning in his palm. Then before he knew what he was doing, his legs were moving, and he was off the road and through a hedge. The man let the bottom of the pillar slip out of his hand; it hit the road and collapsed.

From the foetal position that he had curled into Greg could hear a sound like a thousand fire crackers going off. Then he was back on his feet; he didn’t know what was driving him, but he decided to go with it.

Greg could see that the road was lined with bodies; the Dwarfish sword master was one of them.  Greg rolled and grabbed a rifle from one of the bodies; a woman with blond roots, no time for mourning, he thought.

Scene One Hundred and Twelve

In which we learn that a character is really bad at identifying canines

Devlin was in hell. He could see Greg; he was crouched right there on the road, shooting at him, but he couldn’t get to him. It wasn’t the bullets; the bullets were just annoying. It was a woman and a dog.

They weren’t using weapons at all; the woman seemed to be using a rapier for some reason, but they were fast; much faster than he was. When he attacked them, they dodged and attacked him. When he tried to attack Greg, they attacked him and broke his concentration.

They couldn’t really hurt him; which is to say they could hurt him a lot, but they couldn’t injure him on a long term basis. It didn’t matter how many holes they poked in him, or how many times they ripped his jaw off; he could repair the damage instantly. But it infuriated him to be so close and to not be able to get any closer.

One part of him was telling him to just nuke the whole countryside, and Devlin was finding he was starting to agree with it.

Scene One Hundred and Thirteen

In which good peaceful things happen; elsewhere in the world

The man appeared to be losing control. Free Flower could see that he was getting angry, and that he seemed to be having more and more trouble focusing his attacks. That was good, she thought, as she ducked under a wall of lighting and drove her rapier through both his eyes.

The man screamed and flung lightning bolts left and right. His attack was random and he wasn’t healing as fast as he had been a moment ago. Good, she thought, as she slipped through a hole in his barrage and rammed her rapier through his heart, he wasn’t flagging yet, but she knew that if he kept throwing energy around like that then he would exhaust himself soon. No energy source is infinite.

The wolf woman leapt at him and ripped his jaw off; she seemed to have a thing about doing that. The man made the throat-noise of a scream and started to draw energy into himself. Free Flower darted forward and cut several important tendons; the man slumped and the energy exploded out of him. Free Flower wound into a ball, felt the explosion fly over her, then unwound and slashed him across the eyes again.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw a little car approaching.

Scene One Hundred and Fourteen

In which another gunman appears

Greg saw the two newcomers hurry out of the car. One of them; a young woman who Greg thought he recognised, dashed behind the car, the other; an old man who Greg was sure he had never seen before, dived flat to the ground so that he was mostly behind the car as well.

Greg realised that he had trained the rifle on the old man, he stopped his hand before he got any further; after all he didn’t even know if the old man was hostile yet.

The man opened fire with his own gun; he seemed to be aiming for Greg specifically. My mistake, Greg thought, as he dived back into the bushes, control’s yours.

Scene One Hundred and Fifteen

In which a little mid-battle psychology is tried

The inside of Devlin’s head was a terrifying place. As Charlotte travelled through it, it frothed and foamed like a mad horse. She reached out with her mind; she was better at that now. There was so much rage there, blinding him even when he still had eyes.

There was the power too; he wasn’t even trying to hold it back. It was infinite, she could see that now, but he wasn’t. She could feel his body starting to break down under the strain. She could see what they were doing; they were making him as mad as they could, because if they did that long enough then he would eventually stop healing.

She reached out farther; trying to fill his body. She imagined taking him into her arms and stroking his hand. She imagined him calm.

Scene One Hundred and Sixteen

In which Gourmet eating is discussed

Reddrummer felt wild. It was always like this when she was the wolf; the sheer exhilaration of fighting driving her.

It seemed to be getting harder again, though. It was hard to think in the wolf state, putting aside adrenalin; the brain isn’t really built for it. She leapt for him again; aiming for his jaw; she liked jaws, but this time he swung nimbly out of the way and brought his hand up to meet her. She twisted under it, and it passed over her with a sound like ripping paper.

She hit the ground and scuttled away. When she looked back she thought he looked a lot more focused than he had before. He swept away Free Flower’s thrust, and narrowly missed on his counter attack. He had his eyes on Greg.

Scene One Hundred and Seventeen

In which a new challenger arrives

The man in front of Greg dropped from a clean head shot, and Greg realised that they were losing. It had looked good for a moment there, but now they were losing. He switched his firing position to the ‘flat on the ground’ one that the old man was using. Counting him there had only been three gunmen who survived the man’s first attack, now there was just him and another man he didn’t really know across the road.

He wondered where the other two had come from, he wondered why the man had suddenly become so calm and competent, and he wondered if that approaching helicopter was friendly.

Scene One Hundred and Eighteen

In which a great pose for a movie poster is carried out

Tony Tony hung out one side of the helicopter, and Clare hung out the other. It probably wasn’t necessary, or helpful, or safe, and he doubted he could fire a gun accurately with one hand, but he had to see something before he attacked.

That was Johnson and Charlotte down there; he had truly hoped that they would have been held up, or something else would have gone wrong which would stop them from being there. But no such luck.

Be decisive, Tony Tony, said the voice in his head, decide where your loyalties lie. He brought his gun to bear on Charlotte. War is hell, said the voice, sympathetically, as he pulled the trigger.

Scene One Hundred and Nineteen

Something wicked this way comes

Something pulled Charlotte back to her body. She had been sitting cross legged, and now her legs felt stiff. She looked down and saw lots of little holes in her legs, like pimples after you pop them. Bullet holes, she realised. One of the holes was spurting something that she refused to recognize as her blood.

She looked over at Johnson. He had been lying on the ground and his back was covered in red stains. He was still looking ahead, with his eyes firmly fixed on Greg, but he was twitching a lot, and it almost looked like he wanted to curl up into a ball.

Devlin had seen what had happened. His eyes grew wide and he bellowed obscenities while jumping back into battle. He lost all his focus all over again, and Charlotte saw him being ripped into pieces. She reached for her Crystal again, but something in her couldn’t do it anymore.

The helicopter had swung around and was coming in for another sweep. To her horror she saw Tony Tony hanging out the side. She tied to split into bats and fly away, but the pain she felt was so bad that she couldn’t do it; she had never tried to split while injured before.

He brought his gun around, and his time she thought he had a clearer shot. In desperation she invoked the name of the only god which had ever been even remotely helpful to her. “Miss Alpha!” she cried, “Please help me!”

Scene One Hundred and Twenty

In which the tide turns

The air suddenly filled with bats. Greg didn’t know where they had come from; it was like looking at a velvet black mist. His confusion turned to horror when he saw the bats swat Clare’s chopper out of the sky.

All the bats collapsed together into the middle of the fight. They collapsed into the form of Lucy (Lucy?!). Free Flower spun around and caught her cleanly through the chest. But Lucy wavered like a mirage, and suddenly she was standing on top of the sword. She aimed a clumsy kick at Free Flower’s face, which sent her flying off the road. Reddrummer leapt on her, but Lucy swung her arm around and, despite not actually touching her, broke everything along Reddrummer’s left side; including the skull.

Greg watched all of this with a brain which had turned completely numb, but that confusion ended when he realised that Devlin had seized his chance. He tried to dive out of the way, but it was too late. Devlin’s fist punched through him, and he distinctly felt his spine shatter, right before his legs went numb.

Scene One Hundred and Twenty One

In which something is said which, on the face of things, doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Tony Tony had hit his head when the helicopter had crashed, and his vision was blurring in and out. He saw Devlin punch cleanly through Greg, and then take off into the sunset, with Greg still hanging off his arm; crowing like a rooster.

Things gradually dimmed, and Tony Tony started to feel cold. He realised that someone was touching his face, and he wearily opened his eyes again. Lucy (Lucy?!) was blocking the light of the sunset. “Don’t worry, Sir” she said, “You’re gonna be just fine”

Scene One Hundred and Twenty Two

In which there is a disgusting image of a popped lung.

There was a timeless moment of nothingness, and then a timed moment of nothingness. Then the pain came.

Greg had been warned about the pain, but this was the first time he had ever experienced it. It felt as though a thousand diseased rats were clawing through his face.

His head was splitting because he couldn’t breathe, and it only seemed to get worse. He realised that time was passing again, and that made it worse because now he could suffer every second; he would have cried out but he didn’t seem to be able to move.

Then there was the noise. It was a rushing noise, like a river made of slipping ice, and it was driving directly into his skull. He could feel a weird twitching feeling in his chest; he didn’t like it and he wanted it to stop; then he realised that his heart was beating again. Okay, he thought, and then he stopped; because it hurt to think.

He realised that his head was hurting so badly because he hadn’t taken a breath yet. He tried to take a breath, but then realised that he didn’t remember how.  Damn it! He thought, and stopped again when the second spike of pain torn through him. He cleared his mind and let the image of breathing form.

Then, like a dam breaking open, he took a deep, shuddering swallow of air. His chest wheezed unpleasantly and he felt one of his lungs flopping around like a popped balloon, but some air got into his other lung, and that helped his head.

He breathed as deeply as he could; over and over again. Okay, he thought, I’m back, now where am I? He traced his last memories; looking for clues, he remembered Devlin shattering his spine; he didn’t think he would ever forget that. Broken spine, he focused on his skin, trying to imagine the feelings along it, there wasn’t much sensation anywhere, apart from the pain of course. He was having a lot of trouble trying to locate the sensations on a map of his body, but when he thought about it there didn’t seem to be any sensation below a certain point. Oh no, he thought, bones took forever to heal.

He thought again about where he was; he tried to look through his eyes, but it was like there was a mist covering them. He tried to reach up and touch his eyes; so he could see how bad the damage was, but he didn’t seem to be able to move his arms. He focused as hard as he could, feeling the willpower on his arm mount higher and higher, but it wouldn’t move.

He went back to looking though his eyes, and realised that he could see patches of light and shadow. He was looking at a sunrise, or maybe a sunset; he hoped it was a sunrise; if it was a sunset then he was too late already.

Maybe it was a sunrise and he was too late anyway; how long had he been dead for? He had no way of knowing, resurrection takes everyone differently, and the most pressing question was still on him mind.

Where the hell am I! He thought.

Scene One Hundred and Twenty Three

In which a character hides in a tiny place in the back of his mind

Tony Tony sat in darkness. He wasn’t in pain, but he wasn’t thinking either, and it didn’t bother him at all. He would be quite happy to sit there forever, but then he reached out his hand, and gave form to the void.

Shapes and abstractions flowed past him. At first just one or two of them, but more and more came and soon it was like he was in the middle of a motorway with silent, abstract cars slipping past him.

He sat there. He didn’t really have a face anymore, but if he had had one then it would have been wearing a blank smile. Soon he started to recognise some of the shapes; there was his first wife, and his second daughter, the kitten he had had as a child.

He reached out again and asked, “Who am I?” and the figures streaming past whispered their answers to him. Tony Tony took it all in and thought about it.

Eventually he asked another question, “What happens now?”And again they all answered him. He became aware that the ground he was standing on wasn’t solid; it was like it was the surface of a great dark lake, and he didn’t know what was waiting for him at the bottom of the lake, but he knew that he couldn’t stay on top forever; now that he was aware of the lake his little bubble looked ridiculously small.

He looked down; he didn’t have any light to see by, but he knew that any light he had would have been swallowed anyway. “Do I have to go down?” he asked. One of the voices whispered something behind him which made Tony Tony smile.

He held his nose, and let himself drop.

Scene One Hundred and Twenty Four

In which the problem with young people is touched upon

Greg had gotten his arms to work again, and his eyes were seeing a bit better now; of course what they were seeing right now was badly focused grass.

He was pulling himself up the hill he had woken up next to; which was hard work given that his legs weren’t moving, and he could feel it taking its toll on him, but he welcomed it; the sweat pouring down his face was great because he could feel it, and after the searing pain of those few minutes after rebirth, the ache in his arms just reminded him that he had made it back. I made the right choice, he thought to himself. Immortality is awesome.

He managed to pull himself to the very crest of the hill, and tried to focus his eyes on the horizon. After a little while he realised that this was a waste of time; his eyes didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything further than arms length away. He let himself fall back on the ground, and he realised that he could make out something. It was a flower; it was bright blue and it had gold stripes running through it. What the hell, he thought, am I even in Europe anymore?

He rolled over onto the grass. He was fighting the urge to start crying; something he hadn’t done since he had been a child. There was nothing he could do, for one of the first time in his life there was absolutely nothing he could do. Greg felt like a newborn baby, not even able to lift his own head. He started thinking of all the people he had admired over the years, and thought about what they would have done; not started crying, is what he came up with; it wasn’t really very helpful.

Then he thought about Tony Tony; what would he have done? He would have gotten help from someone stronger, he thought. Greg pointed his face at the sky he couldn’t see. “Help” he called, “Help!”

With a thudding noise something pulled up right next to his head. A hard voice sounded from somewhere above him, “You call for help” it said, “And I come. I am Crazy Sven, modern day Super Hero”

Greg knew he should be grateful, but he was actually just shocked. “Crazy Sven?!”

“Ya!”

“Your car’s fixed?!”

“Ya!”

“How!?”

“Ha! Little man, I promised it would be fixed when you needed it”

Greg thought about the car as he had last seen it. “What does that have to do with it?” he asked

Crazy Sven chuckled and opened his door. “Da problem with you youngens” he said; picking Greg up and throwing him into the back of the car. “Iz dat, you don’t take your promises seriously”

Scene One hundred and Twenty Five

In which time spent in the library pays dividends

Louise Green poked her head out of the fort she had accidently built in the middle of the library.

It had taken her days to find the book she had been looking for, if she hadn’t known that it was there somewhere; then she would have given up a long time ago. Note to self, she thought, get library on Dewey decimal system, and make the other mages go along with it.

She slapped the book down on the reading desk. She had come across it as a student, and she knew that the information she wanted was inside. The cover of the book read in faded letters “Furious angels and how to avoid them.”

She opened the book; brushing off the accumulated dust as she did so[4], there was a diagram halfway through the book. “Greater Cherub” she said, wrapping her mouth around the strange words.

The diagram showed four wings arranged like the petals of a flower. In the centre there were four heads, and they all looked angry.

Scene One hundred and Twenty Six

In which good advice is handed out for anyone who comes across something important which they don’t understand.

Tony Tony sunk back into his own body, his head felt numb and fuzzy. He reached up and put his hand against the fuzzy part, but he didn’t seem to be able to push his hand any closer than an inch away; it was like pushing against a hard wind.

He took a look around. He seemed to be only one conscious; there were people all around him, and all of them seemed to have a have a fuzzy orange glow over some part of their body. The one who seemed to have gotten off best was Andrew; he was propped against a tree with the glow over the top of his head. There was a pretty woman with blond roots next to him; she was floating in mid air; with the glow covering her entire body.

Tony Tony held his head, but his fingers couldn’t close over one side of it. He didn’t really know what was going on, but he thought he could remember almost dying.

He looked at his hands; they were the same hands he remembered; wrinkled and a little callused. So he had been dying and now he wasn’t dead; he decided to leave the glowing alone until he could be sure what it was.

Then he realised that he wasn’t entirely alone among the conscious; there was a young girl lying off the road; she was playing with a butterfly. It was Lucy, he remembered. He stood completely still for a moment, and then walked towards her; he was a reporter, and he had a few questions which needed answers.

Scene One Hundred and Twenty Seven

In which people lift heavy things

Louise Green stood on the top of the E.M.L tower. She had a good view from where she was standing, which was good  since it would take her a few hours to cast the spell and she didn’t want to screw it up by missing.

Some of the faster students were already struggling up the stairs with the equipment she needed. “What are we trying to do, Professor?” one of them asked.

Louise smiled, “Engage a little family tension” she said.

Scene One Hundred and Twenty Eight

In which our hero invents a new mountain sport

Greg was incredibly thankful that Crazy Sven had remembered to keep the seat belts in the car; by his estimate his life had been saved about three times in the last few seconds by them.

“Little flying crotch is being persistent” said Crazy Sven, as he swerved out of the way of a piece of exploding scenery.

Greg watched the sun, it was past midday, and he was running out of time. He wasn’t really worried about the man from yesterday hitting them right then; he was far too angry for that, but Greg worried that they had to get away from him soon; if he started to calm down then they might be in trouble.

He looked up to see the man holding a pillar of lightning again. He braced himself as it rolled onto the road and blew them off into the countryside. Greg waited for Crazy Sven to set the car right again, but he kept driving. “Hey, Crazy Sven” he asked, “Where are you taking us?”

Crazy Sven pointed to a huge ravine up ahead. Greg looked at it; his heart stopping mid beat. “Uh, he can fly” Greg reminded him, “I don’t think we can lose him that way”

Crazy Sven laughed, “This is, how you say, shortcut ya? To get you there faster.”

Greg thought about the places he wanted to go; the bottom of what looked very much like the Grand Canyon didn’t figure very high on the list.

He looked up to see what the flying man thought about this development; he was looking thoughtful, and then he raised his hand again. A single beam of solid white light exploded from his hand and stretched up to the sky, and then it arced down with a hissing noise like a guillotine.

Greg suddenly was aware of a rushing noise. He looked to the left and saw half of the taxi rolling away, with Crazy Sven in it. “Ride it down!” Crazy Sven yelled, “GoatSmellingCrotch is at the bottom!”

Then he was gone, and Greg was in midair.

Then, quite suddenly, he was on the ground again; granted it was ground that was sloped almost to the point of being vertical, but it was still ground. Greg’s legs had started moving again, but they weren’t moving fast or well; so he was balancing in a car split cleanly down the centreline, with legs that weren’t really a lot of use.

The ride was getting rougher, and Greg knew that he wasn’t safe. He could hear rumbling behind him; like an avalanche. He shifted his weight to the right and tried to steer the runaway thing, but this made him fall over. Cursing the world, Greg skidded the rest of the way down the canyon walls; vibrating his head against the door.

Then the rumbling died down, and he wasn’t moving anymore. Greg could hear running. He tried to pull himself out of the taxi, but before he could manage it someone strong grabbed him and lifted him out. Greg focused on the face of his rescuer, “Gileppi?!” he said.

“Greg? What has happened to you?”

Greg remembered for the first time in a little while that he was covered in blood and had a hole through his stomach. “I had an accident,” he said, “Listen; I need to get to Transylvania, as fast as possible”

Gileppi shook his head, “Greg” he said, “I’m afraid that you are in serious need of medical attention”

Greg grabbed Gileppi’s head, and turned it to where a glowing star was investigating a second landslide further down the canyon. “If I stay here” he said, keeping his voice as calm and serious as he could, “I will die. I need to get to Transylvania, before the sun goes down”.

Gileppi looked at the star through narrowed eyes, “Very well,” he said, “Come with me, I know who can help”

Scene One hundred and Twenty Nine

In which things glow

The air around Louise Green was filled with writhing blue shapes; like the textured wallpaper of space-time, and the wind around her carried sounds like drum beats. All of that was for the audience of course; the spell could easily be done in complete silence, but the flashy visuals kept people’s attention, and they didn’t take much energy. The important part of the spell was what she was doing with her mind, and that was what was causing sweat to run down her brow.

She was pushing her mind into another plane of existence.

Scene One Hundred and Thirty

In which there be dragons

It worried Greg that he was getting so blasé about being shot at with lightning, and it worried him even more that Mr. Ian Woon was so blasé about it; the man didn’t even look back in order to dodge. Still the flying man chasing them seemed to be catching on; he spread his arms wide and started to form a huge ball of white light. Greg watched the ball growing, and decided that he didn’t like his chances of getting around it.

He taped Mr. Ian Woon on the shoulder and indicated behind him. Mr. Ian Woon turned around and then looked back. “Dude” he said, “That’s nothing.”

“What?” said Greg, confused, “Can you dodge that?”

Mr. Ian Woon looked back at the expanding ball, “No way dude, noooooo way”

“Then why is it nothing?”

“Dude” said Mr. Ian Woon, indicating at the sky, “check it”

Greg looked up, and saw a pair of dragons descending on them. Before he could feel properly afraid, he saw another pair dropping out of the clouds about a kilometre ahead of them, and another pair further than that. It was like looking down a giant floating highway made of dragons.

“Wha?” he asked.

“Dude,” said Mr. Ian Woon, “We’re friends with the sky trees now.”

“Wha?”

Mr. Ian Woon looked over his shoulder, “Hey dude!” he yelled, “Check this!”

Greg distinctly heard the man chasing them say, “Wha?” right before the first wave of air hit them.

Scene One Hundred and Thirty One

In which huge destruction begins

She could see them now.

Louise wondered where the flying surfboards had come from. Greg was there too, but she ignored him, it important thing was what was chasing him. It looked like it was taking everything he had to keep up with the surfboards; Louise wondered if the spell would work better if he was distracted, probably not, she thought.

Her mind had a strong foothold on the other plane, and now she started pulling back into her body, dragging the fabric of that reality with her. She was trying to force a hole in reality directly above the angel, and her mind was having the kind of effect that a blow torch would have on a shallow pool of water.

She could feel the barriers between the worlds starting to give; on one side was the angel, on the other was someone quite eager to get through.

Scene One Hundred and Thirty Two

In which there is a family reunion.

The sun was getting low. Tony Tony thought that, when it wasn’t covered with gunfire, the country road was quite pleasant.

He had just finished telling Andrew what he had learnt from Lucy. Andrew kept trying to scratch his head, and it was visibly annoying him that he couldn’t. “So what you’re telling me, sir” said Andrew, “Is that Lucy was some kind of secret spy sent by a shadowy puppet master who has been pulling the strings behind the scenes this whole time.”

“That’s right”

“And she’s also some sort of invincible vampire god. Sir.”

“Yep”

Andrew looked at Lucy; who was crawling in the grass, and trying to hunt a rabbit. “She’s an invincible vampire god.”

“I object to the term God. But yeah that’s right.”

Andrew studied Tony Tonys face, but Tony Tony knew he looked truthful.  Eventually he spoke again, “That’s, sir, I think that’s…”

But Tony Tony never got to hear what Andrew thought; because at that moment the sky split open, and with a sound like trumpets something monstrous lowered itself into the world.

Tony Tony’s eyes suddenly caught the movement of what looked like surfers remembering that they couldn’t fly and dropping out of the sky. He took note of where they landed, and then turned back to the thing which was lowering itself into the world.

The thing had three wings and three heads; an eagle, a lion, and an ox, and it seemed to radiate its own blinding light.

Tony Tony suddenly realised that Devlin was there too. He was glowing much brighter than before and he seemed to be struggling against something.

Then, right before his eyes, Devlin split in half.

One half, a limp human shape, dropped to the ground.

The other half, which looked like a man’s head with one giant wing growing out of its back, soared up to the other thing and joined together with it; it was like playing a tape of jelly being smashed in reverse.

Then, without any warning, the sky snapped shut like a mouse trap.

Tony Tony and Andrew sat in perfect silence.

Lucy stood up in front of them, “Oooooo,” she said, “Make it do that again.”

Scene One Hundred and Thirty Three

In which people pay attention

Louise Green straightened up and dabbed her brow. Done, she thought, until the next time. She turned to her gathered students; who were listening respectfully to her[5]. “Alright” she said, “Make your notes and then go in for dinner; class dismissed.”

Scene One Hundred and Thirty Four

In which the gentle hippies are left behind

“Can he fly a helicopter?” Greg asked; up till now he had had very little faith in Andrew’s ability to pilot aircraft.

“He flew all the way here” said Tony Tony.

Greg didn’t think that that was much of a credit; he had seen the helicopter juddering as it had come it, but then he supposed that he could only expect so much from  something held together by orange light. He made a note to ask about the light later, but for now he had bigger problems. “The sun’s almost down,” he said, “If he can fly then let’s get him airborne.”

The helicopter juddered its way into the sky and flew as fast as it could manage in the only direction which mattered to Greg right now.

Scene One Hundred and Thirty Five

In which a character finally decides that she doesn’t care what her mother thinks

Charlotte couldn’t move her legs; the fuzzy orange light seemed to prevent that, but some men with long hair and strange accents were happy to carry her to where Devlin was.

Devlin was floating about three feet off the ground, and he was almost totally covered by the light. For some reason one of his hands seemed to have escaped damage, and it was the only part of him she could touch. She took his hand in hers and started stroking it. She had only come back to consciousness a few seconds ago, and she knew that he couldn’t feel her, but stoking his hand made her feel better.

She leaned over and whispered in his ear. “No more fighting,” she said, “You don’t need my mother’s approval, you’ve got mine”. She tried to kiss him, but she couldn’t get through the orange light, so she sat there, holding his hand, and watching the sun go down.

Scene One Hundred and Thirty Six

In which speed is granted by bowel knotting terror

Darkness was spreading across the land, but they were nearly there.  Greg didn’t take his eyes off Redhall as they approached.

“There’s nowhere to land” Tony Tony observed.

Greg looked at his watch; they literally had less than two minutes to be inside. “Keep flying,” he told Andrew.

Something whizzed past them, and then a lot of somethings.

“We’re being shot at!” Tony Tony yelled.

Greg thought it was redundant to yell that. “Keep flying” he told Andrew.

More of the bullets were finding their mark.

They were punching through the fuselage with a sound like rain falling on a tin roof. One of the bullets clipped the leg which wasn’t covered in armour. “Keep flying” He said again.

With a clipping noise their tail rotor flew away and left them, but they were saved from the deadly tail spin by some sort of artillery shell tearing away the main rotor. “Keep flying” he said, no longer with any clear idea how that could be done.

The helicopter smashed into the roof of Redhall, and Greg dropped nimbly into the chair set aside for him around the table. “Hello,” he said, to the stunned room, “I do hope I’m not too late.”

Scene One hundred and Thirty Seven

In which reporter senses were tingling

Clare was giving orders again. She realised with a shock that it came naturally to her now.

She didn’t actually think that her orders were helping much; there hadn’t been any traffic along the road so far, so it probably didn’t matter if all the recovering people were lined up in the shade, but something she had noticed was that people seemed to get on better when they had orders to follow.

Clare didn’t know how all of this was going to turn out, but apparently Greg and Tony Tony had gone off to finish their crazy mission, and that meant that there had to be someone here to stop everyone from giving in to panic.

I don’t know how all this is going to end, Clare thought, but I don’t think I’m going to be fired when I get back; after all someone has to write the story about the invincible vampire god.

Scene One hundred and Thirty Eight

In which we find out if Lord Redfox was as clever as he was rumoured to be.

Somewhere in the house a clock finished tolling out the hour.

“No, Mr Greg” said Mr Brown; the family solicitor. “Your timing is impeccable. Let’s begin.”

Greg smiled and gave the thumbs up to the helicopter stuck in the roof. Through the windshield he saw Tony Tony and Andrew gave it back. He looked at the damage to the roof, and hoped that the house was part of his inheritance; otherwise he could really end up paying for that.

Mr Brown was opening the reading of the will by reading Lord Redfox’s full title. This was taking a little while. Greg had never realised how many small countries had seen fit to name his uncle a national protector.

He decided to fill in the time by looking around the table and seeing who else had made it.

There was a tall cultured looking man, who looked amused to see him; Greg didn’t think he had ever seen him before.

There was also a ferocious looking woman in an elegant blue dress which swept to the floor; she looked angry beyond all belief to see him; maybe she had wanted the house.

Finally there was a man in a suit which didn’t fit very well because of the two bulletproof vests he was wearing underneath it. He looked utterly terrified and Greg noticed that his eyes kept flicking back and forth to keep all their hands in sight.

Greg knew that his uncle had had a reputation as a very clever man; he wondered whether he had seen this coming. If a werewolf wanted to control where his money went after death then he had to be careful about who he thought was strong enough to make it to the reading. Greg realised that his part of the game was over; it was time to see the move that his uncle had made years ago, and to find out if his uncle was as clever as his reputation held.

Greg took a cup of tea from the butler. He realised that all the other people had tea in front of them as well, but none of them had drunk any. Greg thought about this; it was considered in very bad taste to kill another guest, but that really only applied if you did so in a way that could be traced. Greg decided to leave his tea as well.

Mr. Brown finished reading his uncles titles and started on the important part of the will. The table was suddenly giving him their full and undivided attention; out of the corner of the eye he saw that even the kitchen staff had poked their heads around the kitchen door.

“I, Lord Redfox of Redhall, being of sound mind and body.” Greg leaned in and listened carefully; this was it!.“Leave my total and undivided fortune and estates, along with my titles and my recommendation as alpha, to my loyal butler, Yellowbird”

There was complete silence around the table, broken only by the sound of a tea tray being dropped.

Then Tony Tony started to laugh.

Scene One Hundred and Thirty Nine

In which the book comes to an end

Yellowbird had moved the old comfy armchair to Lord Redfox’s office; his office, he reminded himself. It was his office, and he was Lord Yellowbird. He tried to stand up straight, imagining himself tall and aristocratic, but it didn’t work; it just didn’t feel right.

He sighed and collapsed back into the chair. What on earth could the master have been thinking of? He wondered; the gods know I’m not cut out to rule. He rubbed his face, and wished that the master had been in the habit of keeping whiskey in his desk draws.

I’m not an alpha, he thought to himself, and that was true; a person couldn’t become an alpha by being left the position; one became an alpha by claiming it, and not being killed by those who objected.

The worst part of it, from Yellowbird’s opinion, was that no one was dismissing him out of hand; all the great power blocs were just watching him to see what he would to. Lord Redfox had been the greatest alpha in years, and Yellowbird was the poor bugger who had to follow him.

There was a knock at the door. Yellowbird straightened up as best he could; he had the feeling that appearance would be very important soon. “Enter” he said.

Mr Johnson walked in the door and bowed deeply. “Good evening, my lord” he said.

Yellowbird almost returned the bow, but caught himself just in time and just gave a small nod.

Mr Johnson placed a sheet of paper on the desk. “It’s the latest report, my lord; I’ll leave you to think” and with that he backed out of the room.

Yellowbird nodded him out of the room; like he had seen Lord Redfox do for him, and when he was gone he relaxed back into the chair.

He didn’t remember hiring Mr Johnson, and he didn’t have any idea where he had come from, but he had shown up this morning and had been extremely helpful all day. Since everyone apart from Lord Redfox’s nephew and his friends had gone home last night, he was grateful for any help he could get, and the fact that his highly efficient new secretary was a potential spy was actually fairly low on his list of worries.

He looked at the report. There were some groups in Serbia which were trying to get the trade in Dryad skins going again; apparently they made good bases for gardens. Yellowbird looked at the report in disgust, someone should do something about that, he thought; and then he remembered that that someone was him.

He sighed; it was deep and heartfelt. He felt like he was picking up a torch, which was very heavy, and which he wouldn’t be able to put down for a very long time.

There would be time to rest later, he decided, there was the issue of the groups in Serbia for now. He leaned back in the chair, and thought about what Lord Redfox would have done.

And life went on.


[1] Imagine Death’s personal maraca; if it was a ‘pack a day’ smoker

[2] Which is to say, the toy that the other one was playing with

[3] Werewolf funerals are held after the reading of the will; so that there are people around to attend, and they will be the ones who actually want to attend.

[4] Any book you find in a mage library will be dusty and old; they have spells put on them to that effect.

[5] Apart from one pair at the back who were working out how to make pigeons explode whenever they touched the color red

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