My Ranking Points
When they came for him this time, the troop consisted of thirty foot soldiers, fifteen cavalry, five war trolls, three elementals, and one necromancer.
“Cute,” Chester muttered drily.
Puck barrelled towards the window at the approaching parade. “I’m coming with you. I’m going to the palace. We’re getting Atti back, right?”
Chester glanced down at the girl, hair frayed and eyes blazing, and something strange broke inside him. “Yes. Yes we are.”
Indigo lurched forwards. “In that case, me t—“
“We’ll be lucky if they don’t kill Puck on sight. You absolutely won’t survive.”
Indigo snarled almost as violently as his werewolf form. “This is about Atti, you ****.”
“You think when Atti sees your head paraded around the streets, he’ll just know he’ll be fine?”
There was silence.
Then hooves shred the silence.
“Chester Samedi,” a voice blared. “The queen accepts your request.”
Indigo looked at Puck for support. Puck’s face was expressionless. He dug his fingers into his palms, grimaced, then pulled up a patch of floorboards and clambered inside. Chester slid a rug over the hatch and uttered an incantation.
Then the two strode out of the door without a word.
The necromancer, Craethum Mortis, stood at the head of the troop. One of the most feared generals this side of the Woods. Under his coven, Malabar had overrun four kingdoms in three days and ground two more to dust. His beard was finely trimmed and dusted with gold. From the tip of his chin to the hems of his suit, darkness wreathed him. It trailed along his cloak, it clung between the sallow caverns of his eyes.
“Bold,” Chester declared. “Bold for a man of Death to challenge a son of Death.”
“I’m not here to challenge,” Mortis whispered. His voice was honey poured over shards of ice. “I’m merely here to escort. Though I’m afraid the girl is a wanted assassin and not part of our agreement. I will be making formal arrest.”
Puck’s fists clenched.
“That will not be necessary,” Chester frowned. “I wish to have my audience. Puck will attend. And then we will both leave. No arrests will be made. No action taken against what I have outlined.”
“Ah,” smiled Mortis. Shadows began to scurry across the cobblestones. “Here we have a problem.”
“I don’t have time for your problems. Those are my terms.”
“I’m apologise, son of Death,” Mortis shrugged. “But terms are made by those in a position of power.”
Twenty swords, forged from dragon’s fire, glimmered across the troop. An elemental brandished a pair of handcuffs.
Puck looked on the verge of charging them all at once. Chester hoped that she remembered what they came to do. “As I said, I don’t have time.” Then he reached into his pocket.
Mortis cackled. His professionalism dripped away from his face even sooner than expected. He was enjoying himself. “Don’t even think about using your little death card on me! I have fought with swarms of skeletons. I have duelled with the most powerful warlocks of the century and won! I could raze the Union’s armies tomorrow. What advantage have you, hm, boy? Necromancer to necromancer. You’ve never met a challenge you can’t face, eh? This is entire troop is linked through my magic. Every inch of their steel is maintained solely through me, through my work, my blood. Me.Think you can stroll through this kingdom and devastate it over your little friend? What secret trick do you have to take down my army here? What knowledge, what insight, what power? I can’t wait to hear! I can’t!” Darkness began to leap and cavort like waves. A storm of shade clawed against the houses.
“You remind me of me,” Chester sighed, then brought out his pistol.
Puck, shaking with rage, did the same.
“A deck of vodou cards and you attempt to—Wh—This is even more stupid than I—Lower that,” snorted Mortis. “You’re embarrassing yourself.”
Chester lowered it. And shot the man in the foot.
Mortis howled and collapsed to the floor. Puck shot him in the face. He stopped howling.
Twenty swords clattered to the ground and melted into the shadows.
Puck gulped. “We were relying on him being so proud of himself that he controlled the whole thing? How did you know that—“
“Because I would’ve done it too,” Chester breathed. “Now, unless anyone else would like to waste our time, I would appreciate it if you could take us to your Queen.”
Antonia was beautiful and young and powerful and her throne room was gold and silver and marble and lined with guards and jewels and paintings and Chester cared about none of it.
“Master Samedi, at last, now we can—“
“We want Atticus Ferry,” Chester said. “Safe and unharmed.”
The Queen chuckled. “Honestly, I expected more from you, Samedi. I did. This is just…boring. And childish.”
“Your Majesty,” Puck called. “With respect, go f—“
“It doesn’t matter what you think,” Chester shrugged. “If his release is not guaranteed, you have declared war.”
“Declared war on whom? You?”
Antonia’s chuckles swelled into heaving laughter. “You and your b—your band of assassins? You know the only reason that girl there is still walking with a head on her shoulders is because I find this whole affair rather funny?”
Puck’s fury was palpable. Every syllable burned so viciously that Chester had to bite his tongue to stop himself from acting on her every word. “We are taking Atti.”
Antonia frowned. “It’s getting more boring. Guards, why are they still standing there? Kindly escort Master Samedi out and detain the girl.”
“You will not,” warned Puck. Chester could feel her magic shivering in the air. It was strong. So strong. Which meant that she was angry. Very angry.
“You—-Ha—-You expect your little parlour trick to work on me?”
“No,” Puck nodded. “On them.”
The Queen’s personal guard rushed the throne. Antonia rose to her feet and shrieked.
Puck was already on the other side of the room. The doormen raised their axes. She sliced them both open and ran. Chester stopped for a moment, watching as the men swarmed the enchantress like flies, only to be swatted by jets of fire.
“We will have Atti by the end of the parade,” nodded Chester. “You can return him willingly or we will take him by force. And if he is harmed, I will rain literal **** on your kingdom.”
Then he followed Puck out of the palace.