This isn't how I pictured war, but when this showed up yesterday as a DD, I couldn't believe it. Click on the link for a full view. Incredible.
11. The Instrument of Fate
The taste of Paris: grit and muddy snow. A sewer rat chittered at him, tapping his cranium and peering into his sinus cavity.
“I told you. All out. Beat it,” he mumbled.
The rat hopped up and down on his skull.
His head whipped around.
Battling War. And by the looks of it, not winning. Moira’s horse lay on its side in the street, gore streaking its hide and hooves. Death sprang to his feet, the rat slipping and clutching onto the cowl of his robe.
The Incarnations paused, teeth bared, weapons raised: Moira’s scissors were nothing to War’s sword, as long as the Fate herself.
“I’ll get to you in a minute, boy,” said War. “Maybe less.”
He swung, Moira ducking as the massive blade missed her head by a centimeter.
“Get to the Council!” she shouted. “Now! Tell them--”
The flat of War’s sword cracked against her face, knocking her back. She stumbled to the ground, one hand down for balance, her scissors clattering to a stop several feet away. The tardy heart in Death’s chest bloomed, filling him with a cold, crimson anger. The trembling rat went still, narrowing its black eyes and settling itself on Death’s shoulder.
There had been one instrument of Death’s office that he had been loath to touch.
One instrument that had seemed almost… decorative. Frighteningly unnecessary. He’d slid it beneath his bed with the spider sacs and old comic books. And now, he knew what it was for.
He called it.
War raised the sword over his shoulder for the final blow. Moira lifted her head, pushing back damp, dark honey tendrils hair to look up at him with pity in her gray-green eyes.
“I’m sorry, Erik.”
“Too late, my dear,” he snarled.
War hesitated, glancing to where Death had last stood – pathetic, weak Death.
The scythe descended.
Two mortals, climbing up from the catacombs, paused. After a few moments, with nervous grins, they conceded to one another that they hadn’t heard anything, nothing at all. No sound that had carried through their very bones.
It had been the sound of a god’s sword hitting the pavement.
Red seeped into the bottom of her robes. Her fingers traced sticky patterns across the horse’s shoulder.
“Go,” she said. “You need to get to Council.”
He knelt beside her. Put his hand by hers on the horse’s yet-warm neck.
“Who picks the mortals to be the successors?”
“We all do. We take turns.”
Death studied her profile: her small nose with freckles so fair they almost blended in, were almost unnoticeable. Almost. And the faint lines by her mouth—the lines of someone who threw their head back when they laughed, and did it often. Her hair, falling in uneven waves to oscure her cheeks. And he knew, just then, that if he lifted her hair, he would find on the back of her neck another small constellation of freckles, and that she liked to be kissed right there.
“Who picked me?”
She didn’t look at him. “I did.”
The horse’s pulse weakened, fluttered.
“He suffers,” he said.
Death rubbed between two velvety ears before stroking down the strong, muscular curve of the horse’s neck. The horse exhaled once more. There was nothing to pluck.
They sat in silence for long moments.
“You’ll find him again,” said Death, getting to his feet. “After all, you found me.”
Moira looked up, eyes dry. “I did.” She stood and took his hand. “And now it’s time to let the rest of them know.”
They were gone, and Moira’s horse faded away, leaving the street empty but for the dull gleam of War’s sword in the gutter. And after a minute, a demon skittered up from the catacombs and stole away again with it in its scaly grasp.
Again, my thanks to everyone who is reading this. Soon, this blog will return to its normal service, and I must say, I will miss Death. I haven't written the last part, probably because I don't want to, but I'll try to get it done today.
The February Femmes Fatales continue to astound, with Sue Harding's Be Careful What You Wish For: a heartbreaking tale, gorgeously written and paced, on a classic theme. If you love Phantom of the Opera, this story is for you.