Chapter 2: No, They’re All At The Funeral

“Shibboleth,” I said, studying the letter. “Quixotic. Fustigate. Penicillin.”

“Penicillin?” said Li Fang Fen, an elegant eyebrow arched.

“He was fond of whores,” said The Half-Faced Man.

“Dear god,” said Li.

“Well, I don’t know that you’re in much of a position to judge,” I said.

“I am slightly chilly to the touch, and possess a predatory sexual magnetism. He was a withered corpse.”

“No judgments, Li,” said Alfred. Jenny just stared silently between the group, as I lifted the letter, and continued reading the code words. From what I understood about magic, the traps would fade within a week or two, even as old and powerful as they were; enchantments rarely outlived the person who made them, if not maintained. Magic didn’t last. The why was a worthwhile question, and one I had asked Alfred about once. He’d shrugged.  Regardless, the wards were fresh, and we wanted to get a look at things sooner, rather than later.

“Critique. Patagonia-“

There was a sharp crack like a gunshot, and a blast of sunlight flashed out through the door. Li Fang Fen let out a squawk of pain. I’d been standing in the doorway, and had absorbed most of the blast, leaving my skin faintly reddened, like a mild sunburn. Li Fang Fen had caught an edge, and cradled a blistered hand, expression annoyed and rather pained. “Who does that? Doesn’t he know spring-guns are illegal?” she asked.

“That seems like a spectacularly dangerous defense mechanism for one of the undead,” said Jenny, who had caught the rest of the blast, and was completely unharmed, frowning down at her skin, which had darkened a half-shade, and was now sporting some subtle tan lines where the jacket had been covering her. I rubbed at my red skin, and sighed.

“It’s a lucky thing he’s dead, because I’d very much like to kill him about now.” I peered in the office. “According to the details in his will, that’s everything.”

The Half-Faced Man stepped forward, and passed a hand over the threshold of the entrance. “Seems clear.” He stepped forward, and then held up a hand to us. The tremendous shark jaws that framed Morton’s office door on the inside slammed shut, an inch away from him. He sighed, stepping over them, and gave me a look.

“I read every damn code-word on this sheet, Peppermint,” I said, feeling slightly aggrieved. “Maybe the thing was just held up by magic, and it wore off.”

“You’ve got a sunburn that suggests you pronounced something wrong,” said Li Fang Fen, her tone tart. I couldn’t really blame her, considering the burn she’d just gotten. “Still, we’ve got it open.” She stepped into the room, frowning as she began to examine her surroundings.

As well as being a good friend, an occasional prosecutor for the Night Court, and an inveterate party girl, Li Fang Fen was a forensic investigator for the Binghamton police department. This particular crime would likely never show up on any mortal’s desk, but her insight would help. She was Chinese, and had died in Chicago sometime in the 1920s. She was only a little bit taller than Jenny, dressed in a stylish 20s flapper dress that she wore in absolute contempt of the fact that this was a crime scene, she looked incongruous, but no more than the rest of us.

“So, we may find some clues that point to Alfred’s involvement,” I said, stepping into the room.

“Like that?” asked Alfred, pointing at the chair. His rapier was stuck through it.

“Alfred,” said Li Fang Fen, closing her eyes. “Please, tell me that you didn’t actually murder this guy for his scant academic prestige.”

“I swear by my mother’s name, my true love, and my swords, I did not murder, or abet the murder of, Dean Morton,” said Alfred. He sighed. “But I was also alone last night, and as such, I don’t have much in the way of an alibi.” He frowned around the room. “This is… odd. I taste fairy magic.”

“Illusions,” said The Half-Faced Man. “The door wasn’t forced, the wards weren’t tripped. Whoever entered this place was invited.” He passed a finger over the wall, and his eyes drifted down to a case sitting on the table. Eight hemispherical slots were visible in the velvet interior, but only half a dozen of them were filled by glass orbs. One of the others contained a meager handful of broken shards. He lifted one, and tossed it gently to Jenny. She nearly dropped it in surprise, and opened her mouth to ask a question. Then she frowned.

“It’s warm.”

“I suspect it contains the sunlight.” The Half-Faced man gestured towards the floor. More glass shards were spread there. “I think that you dispelled the wards properly, Atina. It must have set one of these off.” He frowned. “Defenses, or a tool of assassination?”

“Assassination, most likely, but we can’t be sure. I can already tell this case is just going to be a delight to find out,” said Li, and sighed. “Try not to touch any more evidence in here. I’m going to need to dust everything for fingerprints, see what I can find.”

Jenny leaned over the desk very carefully, frowning. “Is that a…” She leaned closer. “Did he keep a statue of his favorite hooker?”

“What?” said Alfred, before turning, and frowning. “Huh. That’s new.” He leaned forward, very carefully. “Doesn’t seem to be magic. Plaque says it’s… Ishtar.”

“Really?” I asked, frowning. “She was a divine hooker, wasn’t she?”

“I think only her priestesses actually charged,” said Alfred, frowning. “What do you think, Atina? Dreamwalk?”

“Ugh.” I gave the room a brief look, frowning. “I guess that I probably should. I hate to imagine what the old lech’s done in here, though. How long would it take?”

“Ah.” He frowned. “Unfortunately, it may be some time. Our datura supply has been cut off lately, and I wouldn’t trust what we do have.” He sighed, looking around the room. “I don’t imagine this room will see much use. It should keep. But I couldn’t promise to have it done in less than three months.”

“Damn,” I murmured. “Probably too late, in that case. Well, keep an eye on it anyway.” I shook my head. “What do you think, Li? Anything more we could do here?”

“I’m going to dust for prints. I’ll let you know.” She smiled. “We’re still meeting for drinks this weekend, right?”

“Of course.” I smiled. “Well, in the absence of any more information… Not a whole lot to do.” I sighed. “Alfred- If anything comes up, call me. Jenny, if anyone starts asking you about this, call me. Li, if you find something big, call me. Half-Faced Man, if you decide you want to be helpful on this one, call me.”

“I don’t own a phone,” he said.

“I know. I’m not betting a lot on you deciding to be helpful.”

“Atina…” He frowned, folding his arms together.

The Half-Faced Man had tried to get one of my clients executed, once. Not very hard, which was why we were friends now, but I’d met with him as the King’s Man for the Fall Court. He was weird on countless levels, and he scared the hell out of my friends. He was unreasonably tall, his arms and legs jointed so that they bent in odd and disquieting ways. He wore a porcelain mask without eyeholes, golden filigree making the shape of eyes where they should be. His teeth looked like an anglerfish’s. And he was a friend, which is why I busted his balls gently.

“Forget it,” he said, finally, and sighed. “I just really wish that this wasn’t happening. Do you mind if I join you and Li Fang Fen for drinks this weekend?”

“You’d better not scare off any boys I find,” said Li, a hand on one hip, an eyebrow raised.

“Yeah,” I said. “And if you think of something we should know…”

“Mmmm.”

Sometimes, I wondered whether he was really hiding things I needed to know, or if he was hiding the fact that he didn’t know. He’d done it before. Fairies are, as previously stated, a bunch of drama queens. I smiled. “I’ll see you on Friday night. We’re meeting up at Irish Kevins.”

“The place is about as Irish as Polly,” said the Half-Faced Man.

“Watch it,” said Alfred, without rancor, a slight smile on his face. The two had gone through a bonding experience the previous summer, which had dispelled some of their discomfort. It was good to see them getting along.

Alfred, Jenny, and I left Li to her examinations and walked out of the Department of Postmortology, Alfred leading the way through the complex and twisting corridors. The Postmortologists- ‘Necromancer’ was considered a bit of a slur here, and I wasn’t going to call them Horses at the moment- walked with their heads downcast. I couldn’t blame them. Normally, the death of the dean would be- well, not exactly a happy event, but there’d be some people ready to fill the dead man’s shoes. The news about the will had caused some furor among the faculty, but since nobody else had been named, nobody had managed to gather enough support to seize power.

“You going to be able to keep things together?” I asked, frowning.

“Dean Morton kept this place running through a careful combination of threat and reward, a nest of vipers kept under his heel by his personal puissance and skill. I might just let them vote on who’ll be the next Dean.” He smiled. “But it shouldn’t be much of a problem in the meantime. I work with the Fae, after all. You know how predictable undead are.”

We both looked at Jenny. She tilted her head. “What?”

“Sorry,” Alfred said. “Reflex. I rather expected you to be offended. Was that racist of me?”

“No,” she said, and smiled. “I’m not like the other corpses, after all.”

As I drove them back to their respective homes, I reflected on that. It was definitely true. In more ways than one, Jenny was abnormal. The nature of an Undead was to grow more powerful over time. It encouraged conservatism. Dean Morton was well over a hundred years old, and one of the oldest Undead in the city.

Jenny had been undead for little over a year. She was also far more powerful than most. If I were asked, I would have placed her in the top three most powerful undead in the city, thanks to the peculiarities of vampirism. On top of that, she was immune to sunlight, a gift that was, as far as I could tell, unique. The only thing that kept her from completely upending the power structures of Binghamton’s Night Court was the fact that she was a demure, soft-spoken, excessively gentle person. Usually, anyway. She had no interest in upending Binghamton’s power structure.

Sunlight. I frowned as I dropped Alfred off, and drove home. The back of the car was full of the most recent ten boxes of letters. I’d be working on that one for a while. In honesty, I’d be paid well enough for the work that it’d still be worthy my time, but it was going to be tedious as all hell. I spent half an hour huffing and puffing, carrying the boxes into the house, one by one, trying not to sprain my lower back, setting them up in the enclosed patio where the glass let the wan sunlight in. As the sun set, I began reading through them.

The vast majority of lawyer work, to be frank, is reading incredibly dull documents. Every exciting court scene where the villain breaks down, screaming that they deserved it, the bastard, do you have any idea what they did- those moments are built on the back of ten thousand incredibly dull documents.

However, there is an upside to these moments that is rarely considered. I learned it during document review, and I learned to cherish it. The vast majority of documents are pure drek, sterile, meaningless, dull. And there are the documents that win or lose the case, which change the nature of the world. But there are also the things people say when they think that nobody will ever read them. The unguarded thoughts. And these things have a holiness all their own.

10, October, 2008. Li Fang Fen: In recognition for being a dear, intimate friend in a time of need, I leave my little black book to you, in case you should ever decide you need to top up a little Yin energy instead, wink wink.

21, June, 2003. Edwin Link, you son of a bitch, go step in sunlight for  

have always been a steady and loyal friend up until this point

know what, go fuck yourself

will be happy to know I have decided to forgiven you, and your place in my will has been left untouched, for now, despite the magnitude of your betrayal, so long as you return the photographs.

29, March, 1996. Candy, I am afraid I must confess, your abusive husband did not leave and decide to straighten up his act, and he is not the one who has been sending you money. I took it upon myself to kill him for his actions on discovering our affair, and ensure that you were well taken care of. You will find his remains buried beneath the pin clearer in the third alley of Midway Lanes Bowling, where I have bound his soul to the bowling ball he loved more dearly than you.

These are the kinds of little insights into someone’s soul that you get in legal work. You see people unvarnished. And while the undead live long lives without interfering in the greater scale of politics, without making a huge name for themselves, they are nonetheless people, with all the wild and bizarre life choices that entails.

Those were also the only three entertaining pieces I found in the entire damn stack. The only reason I came up to breathe was the smell of fish filled the air, and reminded me that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

I looked up, and visible through the small glass window between the enclosed patio and the kitchen was Roy. He stood in front of the oven, chopping something, the sound of sizzling oil filling the air. My mouth watered, as I slowly stood up. I felt a twinge of concern.

“Hey, Roy… Would you be more attracted to me if I was skinnier?” I asked.

“You are fishing for reassurance. We’ve had this conversation many times before, and it has always gone the same way,” he said. “First, my own tastes are different from modern society’s. I like your size. It tells me that you are fertile, capable of feeding yourself, and have the kind of genes that would make for a good mate. I am not overly invested in your physical appearance, which is substantially better than you believe. Your own self-image issues are more deep seated than your weight, or your height, both of which are striking to the right kind of man. My primary concern is with you eating healthily, neither starving yourself, nor eating more than you should. That’s why I disapprove of your drinking.” He looked up, and smiled.

“Thanks,” I said. And it helped. Having him state everything out, calmly, rationally, reasonably. It didn’t really change my embarrassment about my size, or make it all go away. It was just supporting me through it all. On such things are relationships built. It made me want to return the favor.

“I also know that the question is never about your weight, because you consider the joys of a good meal to be more important than simple vanity, and because you harbor a secret fear that the world will end long before you are old enough for it to make any impact.” He turned to me, his expression solemn. “Do you want to talk about it?”

I’d talked to him about these things before. This, at least, wasn’t reading my mind. “It’s nothing.”

He tilted his head.

“I can handle it.”

He didn’t speak. He just kept watching me evenly.

“Alfred said he’s going to die. Or something very like it, anyway.”

“Dinner’s ready. Eat, and talk it through.”

I entered the dining room. Roy set the plate down in front of me. The tuna steak had been lightly seasoned, and a lemon wedge sat on top of it. I looked over at his plate, where another wedge sat, and the kitchen, where there was a distinct lack of lemon juice, or half a lemon remaining. That was one of the things that always impressed me about Roy, and which I vaguely suspected was supernatural. In my experiments in cooking, so often, there were remains; things which I planned to use, which remained forgotten in some corner of my kitchen until years later. Roy didn’t do that.

I dug my fork into the tuna, watching it flake delicately, the smell warm, and familiar. A small serving of risotto sat on the side, garnished with a few stalks of well-cooked broccoli, glistening dark green, toasted spots visible on them. I closed my eyes, and took a bite. It was tart, a little bitter, crunchy, and satisfying. I took a few bites, and opened my eyes. Roy was staring at me, effecting a pose of nonchalance, but watching me very carefully as he sat in the chair besides mine. “It’s delicious.”

“I know,” he said.

“Alfred is going to… I don’t know. It’s something like dying, and it scares the hell out of me.”

He nodded softly.

“My friend’s going to be gone. Forever.”

“Yes,” he said, softly, and gently. He reached out, and rested a hand on my shoulder. That was all. Just a long, slow moment of physical contact.

“Not a lot of hope, then, is there?”

“Fate will have its way,” he said, and there was a depth of venom and loathing in his voice, just for a moment, that shocked me. I looked over at him.

“What?”

“Alfred is a hero. Fate toys with heroes. It will consume him, and use him for its own purposes.” He let his hand drift down my shoulder, to my hand, squeezing it once before sitting back.

We ate in silence for the rest of the meal, the two of us sitting side by side, separated by a gulf that felt about a thousand years old. We were interrupted when my phone rang. I checked the caller ID.

“Li?”

“Atina, get to the graveyard. The Night Court is meeting.”

“What? It just met a couple of days ago, the Full Moon isn’t for weeks.”

“Things are bad.”

“I’ll wrap this up for you,” said Roy, as I stood up from the table. I ran to the door, and paused for a moment, turning to look back, over my shoulder. Roy stood in front of the sink, his back to me, still visible from the door, as he hunched over the pots and pans, the sound of running water filling the air. I opened my mouth, to say something. To reach out to him, to offer a little support. I realized I had no idea what to say.

There are no good situations that call for a visit to the graveyard past sunset to deal with an emergency, but I had never heard of the Night Court assembling unexpectedly. The Undead are hidebound, fixed in their ways to a nearly psychotic degree. For something to disturb their schedules…

The graveyard was like a bee hive after someone had thrown a stone through it. There were more Undead than I had ever seen, and no sign of the usual pomp and circumstance. I cast a quick, reflexive look up to the ice cream store at the top of the hill, overlooking the graveyard. Thankfully, nobody appeared to be in the mood for ice cream in the middle of the winter, and the confusion went mostly unwitnessed.

I saw Lady Ann Willing standing with arms folded, visibly holding back the urge to meddle and take control. I approached her, and waved. The Wight turned to me, and smiled tightly. “Atina. I was wondering where you were.”

“I swear I didn’t do this intentionally.”

“Humans are always chaotic. They do… unpredictable things. And when faeries are mixed in…” She looked down, her expression grim. “Do you have any idea, Atina, who is actually responsible for this?”

“No,” I admitted. “And it may be a while before I have any theories.”

“That’s not good.” She frowned. “You remember that for quite some time, Chaac was murdering the Camazotz, yes? Most of the supernatural community did not care, being glad to see the vampires go?”

“Yeah?”

“This isn’t like that.” She sighed, spectral claws tapping nervously back and forth on the back her hands, pale eyes fixed down on the knot of arguing ghosts and corpses. I could see Li Fang Fen among them. “Do you know what the biggest problem with one of the undead passing on is?”

“The will?”

“In a manner of speaking. It’s the grudges. All those grudges you thought you had forever to hash out or deal with. Amplified by age, and stubbornness, and power. And if they begin to believe that they are threatened…”

“Ugh.” I sighed. “They’re going to do something stupid, aren’t they?”

“They are already blaming Jenny.”

I went from a standing start to a full sprint, heading down the path towards the knot. I could see Li Fang Fen standing face to face with some pinch-faced Postmortologist, the silver-haired wizard flanked by an unfamiliar ghost.

“Sunlight, you said- In the middle of the night! Who else-“

“There is absolutely no evidence of her presence,” said Li, and I could see she was fighting very hard not to draw her gun. It wouldn’t kill a ghost, but that would only encourage her to shoot.

“She’s-“ I began, only to get drowned out by a wave of silence that spread across the hill. I turned.

Jenny stood at the top of the hill, dressed modestly in a pair of high heels and an understated dress. Like most of the undead, she dressed with no regard to the cold in front of the Night Court, as opposed to the bulky-ass coat I was wearing. She walked down the path slowly, without any apparent hurry, and it struck me that, despite my thoughts, she had grown into her power over the last year. She reached the knot, and no one dared to speak a word. She smiled, and bowed. “Hello.”

A spectral figure appeared out of the crowd. Tall, Native American, with long, smooth hair, though gnarled by age. Tadodaho was older than America, and had spent most of the last 200 years in a snit. I’d gotten him active again to win a case. It had shaken things up, and made me no friends whatsoever, even with him. He had once been the leader of the Iroquois Confederacy, was now the leader of Binghamton’s Night Court, and he was one of the scariest undead in the city. And he was watching Jenny warily. “Jenny Nishi.”

“Hello, Tadodaho. I am sorry I missed the Night Court this month. You know how I enjoy our talks.”

“In a long life, we all miss a few gatherings,” he said, and sighed. “Did you kill Dean Morton?”

“No,” said Jenny.

“Good enough for me,” said Tadodaho.

“Good enough?” asked the Postmortologist. “She’s-“

“She could kill us all,” said Lady Ann Willing, approaching. “This was, in fact, the precise reason why I erred towards the side of executing her, though I have changed my mind on that subject since. If she was responsible, all she would have to do is conjure up sunlight here, and decimate the city’s population of undead. Quite frankly, if we asked her to take the blame for this, the best scenario we could hope for is that she humors us while being innocent.”

“I don’t intend to kill anyone. And if it will satisfy the Night Court, I will hand myself over while Atina discovers who is responsible.” Jenny crossed her arms. “If that will satisfy you.”

“I am afraid that is not reasonable,” said Tadodaho. “First and foremost, I absolutely believe that you are not responsible. Second…” he sighed. “I have every reason to believe, based on what we have learned, that Alfred Ethniuson is the one responsible for this. In which case, this is likely the first step in a war.”

“A war?” I said, blankly.

“There exist two possibilities. Either he did this, or another of the Fairy Court did. It is, for reasons already explained, very unlikely that one of the Undead are responsible, and the Demon Prince of Binghamton has always been true to his treaties. But fairies…” Tadodaho’s brows furrowed. “They are fickle. They enjoy a disruption of what is expected, and what is promised. We cannot trust them to be true to their word.” Tadodaho’s expression was grim.

“Why do you think they would even do that?” I asked, trying to keep a hold on things. This was going pear-shaped very quickly.

“The Fae delight in surprises,” began Lady Ann Willing, only to fall silent. And for the second time, a hush fell over the crowd as the sounds of hooves on stone filled the air. The sound echoed and bounced strangely between the trees and the grave markers. I frowned, as ten horses circled around the corner of the trees. Each was bright, glowing white, and bearing a rider. I recognized the King and Queen of Fall, and from the look of them, the others were of an equal rank. The flowers and laurel crowns on the first pair of riders suggested Spring. The swords and armor on the second, Summer. The third pair was Fall, who I had met personally, and were dressed in long robes. The final pair were the only ones besides me wearing anything remotely appropriate to the weather, dressed in great coats with long hoods that covered their faces. The last I recognized, as Alfred, and the Half-Faced Man.

The King of the Spring Court dismounted, and approached us, with great reverence, holding an oak box in both hands. He approached Tadodaho, followed closely by the other seven. When he was within arms reach, he bowed his head. “Ancient Spectre,” said the King. He was tall, slender, one of the Ljosalfar, a Nordic elf. His long blonde hair was woven into a delicate braid that settled around his bare shoulders, and his eyes sparkle like moonlight. He made a rather startling contrast to the dark and dour undead. “I bring my condolences, and a peace offering.” He bowed once again, and set the box on the ground at his feet, before standing up straight.

“It is a pleasure to see you again, Baynson,” said Tadodaho, his voice level. “And a peace offering? Do you, then, take blame for the killing of Dean Morton?”

“Of course not. But that doesn’t matter, because you likely believe we are responsible.” The king smiled. “You have accused Alfred, Son of Ethniu, Daughter of Balor. You likely wish to punish him, but to do so would violate our treaties, and incur the wrath of the Desert Blossom, a wrath that would blight the rivers that nourish this city, and cleanse it of both life and death.”

“Really,” said Tadodaho, his eyes flashing dangerously. “You’ll have to forgive me, I’m an old ghost, and deeply ornery.” He stepped forward, and there was an aura of very dark wrath pouring off of him. I’d never actually seen the old ghost truly pissed before this, and his eyes flashed violently. “Are you trying to tell me that I should not pursue justice for a man who was under my care, because the accused has friends in high places? I know a thing or two about Balor. I may not be quite on his level, but I know how to lay a curse, too. I laid that aside, but I’m always happy to take the practice back up if the situation calls for it.”

“Peace,” said the Fall King, his eyes heavy, brushing a hand over one of his stag horns. “Forgive the Spring King his poorly thought-out drama. We have a simple offer. You cannot judge Alfred as you would one of the Undead, without wronging us. We cannot allow him to go unjudged without wronging you. Thus, we have taken responsibility.”

“Oh?” asked Tadodaho. “Well, I’m sure you have no biases in this.”

The Summer King strode forward, clanking in his gossamer plate, a muscular and blackened figure, and growled, kicking the box open. It flipped open to reveal a single gauntlet. Eight red skulls had been daubed on the back of the hand.

Only a handful of people reacted. Tadodaho stared, while Lady Ann Willing’s eyes became rather sad. Li Fang Fen looked at me, her eyebrows raised, and I shrugged. I had no idea.

“It is iron,” said the Half-Faced Man, who had approached while we looked at the gauntlet. “Daubed with the blood of the Kings and Queens of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Four trials, on each of the Equinoxes and Solstices, to determine his guilt, one before each of the four Courts. This gauntlet is an oath, that each of the Kings and Queens shall provide the greatest champion that they have to test Alfred’s mettle, at the cost of their own lives should he still live at the end of the trial.”

“Well,” said Tadodaho, wryly. “At least you’re not overreacting.”

There was little argument after that. As gestures go, it went. I strode up to Alfred after the fairies and the undead left. He had stayed standing by the horse, his arms crossed, staring down at the ground. He looked up, and I punched him across the cheek.

“Jesus, Atina,” he said, as he stood back up, rubbing his chin. “I’m not a damned vampire, you could break my jaw.”

“You fucking asshole,” I said, narrowing my eyes. “You had better not be pulling some self-sacrifice shit by suggesting this whole ridiculous thing-“

“That was me.”

I turned towards the Half-Faced Man. He had his arms crossed, his head lowered.

“One year, Atina. I bought him, and you, an entire year. Do you know the favors I had to pull in, the agreements I had to make, the hearts I had to break, to convince the Kings and Queens, every single one of them, to participate in this mad scheme?” He shook his head. “Four contests. Creation, Conflict, Secrets, and Death. You need to find out who did this before Alfred dies, or passes all four of the trials. Track down the one responsible.”

“That’s… I don’t know if that’s even possible, Half.” I looked at Li Fang Fen.

“No fingerprints. No traces of DNA. Nothing I could find to tell me who it was.”

“People kill for reasons,” said the Half-Faced Man in that schoolteacher tone he knew bugged me. “Whoever did this had a motive. They left witnesses, in the form of those who they had to interact with in order to incriminate Alfred. They did not vanish from the world. This was not a crime of passion, it was a crime of gain. We will find them, and we will bring them to justice.”

“Hey,” said Alfred. “I appreciate this. But- this is dangerous. If I die, that’s fine, but dragging the rest of you into the line of fire- This is going to be lethal. I can’t just let you all stand in the way when there’s a bullet out there with my name on it.”

“We did not ask,” said Jenny, standing next to me. I hadn’t even heard her approach. “Your fate may be to die. Everyone’s is, eventually. We may fail. You may die despite our success.” She crossed her arms. “Fate is meant to be fought.”

She’d really been earning that English degree.

Alfred couldn’t help the smile that spread on his lips. He looked towards me. I shrugged. “Well, they already stole all the good lines. But yeah.” I smiled. “Fate is meant to be fought.” I sighed, and rubbed my head. “So. The first trial is on the Spring Equinox. Late March. That gives us a little under three months to prepare.” I frowned. “I’m going to have to call in a favor from Earl Grafsdottir.”

One thought on “Chapter 2: No, They’re All At The Funeral

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