We had two things to do, and not much time to do them in: To rescue George, and to renegotiate the Silver Pact.
George started his own break out, or the lune inside him did. Boomer got pretty cut up trying to extract him, but nothing that wouldn't heal. George came out less well; he died in hospital. I do consider it a win that he didn't die in a cage.
By that point, I wasn't in much of a mood for the Merchant Prince's bullshit. After a thousand years, he was worried he was 'becoming something different than himself' and tried to talk one of my pack, one of my wolves, into being his agent provocateur. So, when he didn't like the new pact - which is actually much, much softer on the Courts than I would have liked, but right now we have one pack in the county - I figured to hell with him.
The Brightaxe sheared through his altar with a sharp crack and the spirit itself disappeared with one last jingle of coins. We could have tried to summon him, but he'd have gone to ground somewhere, in whatever he'd replaced his abacus with after the PKs burned it.
Instead, I turned to the others and said: "It's open season. And in future, as far as we're concerned, it's name is 'Merch'."
I never found a way to say to him: "I know what you are, George Tarrington-Clavell. Sort of."
I never found the way to say: "I know what you have lost and I think I know how much it hurts that you can't follow her."
I never found the way to make that offer. "Go after her. Let me carry the burden."
So now the Pure have him and they will kill him, one way or the other. A part of me feels odd, that we worry so over a Claimed, because of what is inside him. In the end though, for me it's not about what is within him; it's not about the Lune that keeps him alive when others burn. It's about George, and what I owe him, because there but for the grave of God go I, and if it were me being held by the Fire-Touched... I'd sure as hell want someone to come for me.
And now the world trembles with a sound like the thunder of an angel's wings every time he is near. Now, his footsteps ring with destiny. I fear his anger all the more because I have never seen it.
When my children were taken, he told me: "If I help, we have a better chance of getting them back, but there is a greater chance of them being hurt," and I knew what he meant. I thanked him and I refused his help, for all that I know him to be capable of, because to involve him would be to make my loved ones pawns in a game greater than I can yet conceive.
He walks a different road now and can not walk but a short way with us. It is a path mightier even than he has trod before, and a lonely one. I would not for all the world be in his shoes, but it gladdens me to know that he is there; that if our enemies should play a hand in that game, he will be there to meet it, and that if they threaten such, he is there to call their bluff.
Once, he was known as Scooby, now as Richard, for his power is such that he need not cloak himself in grand names. He has true greatness.
A lot happened today, but ultimately that's all I can think about, because the world is big enough and old enough to look after itself, but they tried to kill my children.
Ruby is angry, but it's covered by her relief. She's been changed by all this, and she probably thinks for the better, but I can see that she's thinking that she did the right thing when she killed, not the necessary thing. It's a slippery slope and I'll need to watch her, because she doesn't realise that just because something has to be done, that does not preclude that thing being wrong.
I want to hunt down and kill every one of those involved and stick their heads on spikes. I will find out who was responsible for this and see their plans in ruin before they die. One of those is necessary, one of them is not; neither is right, but one of them I will do because I have to, to protect my family.
One of my babies was blasted into the air by an explosion. If the magic protecting her hadn't come back up at that moment, I don't know what might have happened, but it did and she's fine. Ruby is fussing, but they're babies; they're practically over it already. It's Nuinia for whom I worry. She knows full well what happened to her, she had an enemy Mage invade her dreaming mind, and this is not the first time she's faced her own death this year. If I survive past the New Year I'm going to have to spend more time with my daughter.
I'll plan for that later, but for now it's hard to see past the moment; past the fact that I almost lost them all.
And I know that someone needs to die, because they tried to kill my children.
He, by the way, was the man in my bed. I can't remember his name. Big guy, looked like a cat half the time. I wasn't sure if I wanted to fuck him or poison him. Maybe both. But anyway, he was there, mostly naked, with his hands all over me talking about heroism.
I wanted to scream at him. I almost did. I don't know what I'd say, but Jesus I wanted to say it. What is there to say?
"I had a hero, and I threw him away. I kicked him out of my house because he felt like a threat to the man I loved, and then he went away and died on me. So what would I do with another?
No, that's not what I wanted to say.
The man was still touching me. His hands were warm and his touch soft, but last night he choked me almost to unconsciousness, like Rex used to do. Rex was the reason I got rid of my hero, of course. Because nothing was allowed to compare with him.
"Don't you want a hero?" he had asked and now he was looking at me like he expected an answer. What else could I say?
"Of course I want a hero! I want my hero, big and stupid and gorgeous. I want him to call me his princess, and make me feel bright and clean and fresh and new. I want a hero - no - I want one particular hero and I want him so badly it hurts."
I wanted to scream and I wanted to cry and I wanted to do and say all the things I never said to Moorcroft when he was alive, because I was too damn stupid and too damn scared. Of course, I didn't.
The man - the scary-sexy-horrible man in my bed ran a hand up my thigh without thinking about it. His eyes were still on me so I gave him one of my brightest and most dazzling smiles.
"What on earth would I do with a hero?" I said.
He told me once that he found old buildings comforting. They were, some of them, as old as him, if not older; a reassuring constant in a changing world.
But as my feet find me walking the streets of Ballinasloe, I realise with some sadness that these churches were all erected after he left this place.
I do not know why I sought his church; I have long fled my own.
I think, perhaps, I had naively hoped to find this place as untouched by the world as him; a pocket of Ireland preserved in the dusty unworldliness of times long past, long before I was even born.
Forbidden is the word he used.
One does not become a heresiarch on the technicality of a word.
Perhaps that hurts more than anything else; because I think he knew it as well as I did.
The countryside here is beautiful, it’s true. And if I close my eyes, I can almost imagine him walking this road, his footsteps laying the foundations for mine some two hundred years ago.
I think, though, that even in the peace of one of these little cottages, in the company of books and artefacts and that endless sky, I would have grown restless. Perhaps I would have given in to wanderlust, always returning here a little more jaded, a little more broken. Perhaps I would have taken him with me, uprooted him time and again, house after house but always home in his arms.
Perhaps it would have been I who broke his heart, in the end.
I court sorrow in all my nights, but I do not indulge in it myself as deeply as I ought. Perhaps, in seeing how cruelly I can wield it against others, I have learned rightly to be afraid of it.
Who could stand in the face of this emptiness…
And not be filled with terror?
If I stepped back into my car now, I could perhaps make it to the border by dawn.
I find, though, that I am not yet done.
And so, instead, I sink down on to one of these benches, the brisk sharp wind buffeting against my bare calves as though I might feel the cold, not half as cold as I. I eye the brightening sky with a sad gaze, matching grey for grey. Across the road, I spy the face of a feral cat peering out from the shelter of a car, watching me in turn, and a poem drifts to mind, murmured in a soft Irish lilt as the ghost of a forlorn memory strokes the curve of my cheek.
And I am grateful for small mercies, that no one walks these streets this hour to see me cry.
"I miss you. I miss your advice. I...I could use some right now."
Amelia tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "I've been asked to sire. It's complicated, but he's...well, he's nice. And I'm sure he'll be useful. He'll be more useful than me, certainly. I just...I don't...He picked me because he thinks I'm nice, and I'm worried...I'm just worried. I'm scared.
"Oh, I wish you were here. If I could ask you for advice...it would help. A lot. But it's ok...I mean, I know you'd be awake if you could help it.
"Anyway, I just...thought you should know. So you're not alarmed when you wake up and are a grand-sire.
"I hope you like him.
"I hope he likes you. I mean, I don't know how he could not, but I know these things happen. But I hope not. I mean, I hope he does.
"And I hope you're not mad at me for doing this. I know I'm a disappointment to you a lot of the time. I'm sorry for that."
She bent and put her cheek against his hand, whispering "Please come back soon."
And that's how she stayed for the rest of the night.