13.3 Playing Nice

by Matt P.

Walter expected it to be bad as he emerged up the hallway in to the bottom floor of the high school. What he didn’t expect was sheer pandemonium. Students were, perhaps wisely, running like mad to get away from whatever it was; they were retreating in a way that left no one trampled as far as Walter saw. It was as if some switch in their brains had just been flipped, and with it their desire or ability to do anything but leave the school as quickly as possible.

The problem was so many of them were flowing out of the school in to the area where the fight was. And what a fight it was. There were large stone steps leading up to the school, whose entryway featured a row of oddly grand pillars. The whole outside of the school was the same odd grandeur, because it was the oldest school in Border—although originally under a different name. Now one of those stairs and one of the pillars had large cracks in them. Horse sized cracks.

“Gods above and below…” Tennyson said as he saw what was going on in the courtyard. As slow falling snowflakes brushed against them, Tania Summers fought like a wildcat against her father and a Lord of Nightmare. Her sword was out, but it was not a small or slender blade this time. A full longsword, if not a bastard sword, it was also wreathed in scarlet and orange flame. The light reflected off of the falling snowflakes and made it look like she had a fiery aura. Unfortunately she didn’t seem to be winning the fight, no matter how fast or powerful she was.

But even as a losing effort it was beautiful to watch. Walter had to force himself to action, force himself to overcome the desire to stand and watch what was going on. He raised his pistol and fired at the de-horsed lord of Nightmare; but as it got close it seemed to warp away, streaking off to bury itself in a thick tree. The person on the horse pulled back from Tania and reared around to look at whomever was impudent enough to shoot at it.

Ah…the soldier. Our colleague’s project. Did you think you could harm a god with a gun?” It asked the question in a resonant voice, like Walter’s had been when he was in their land. It seemed especially Ring Wraith-y coming from a black hood, and it sent an involuntary shiver down his spine.

“Some day,” Walter said with a shake of his head, “I’m going to deal with something that is actually afraid of guns.” He holstered the pistol. “Tennyson, I don’t suppose iron?” The horse began to trot toward him, and out of the folds of the cloak pulled a sword. It was long and curved like a standard cavalry saber, except that it seemed to trail shadows behind it as it was drawn. Walter could swear that he saw something screaming deep inside the trail behind it.

“Nope,” Tennyson said calmly. As Walter watched the man’s sword began to grow in length from the short and slender blade to a full long sword, and his clothes began to ripple and change. After a long moment he was wearing a chain mail hauberk and a dark blue tabard with silver stitching. He considered it for a second. “Huh. Guess it knew I changed sides,” he said with a shake of his head. “You’ve got a couple iron knives?” At Walter’s nod, he motioned. “They have something around the handle, I hope?”

“Yeah…” Walter said, pulling them out. Tennyson motioned, and he carefully handed them to the man.

“Trade you.” He spun his sword around quickly, offering it to Walter. “You’re not fast enough to fight Oberon, and as long as I’m going to commit treason I might as well go all in.” Walter noted that down to ask about later as he took the blade. It was surprisingly light. “Go.”

Walter nodded, and raised the sword to salute the faerie knight. “Try not to die.”

Tennyson smirked, and returned the salute. “I was about to say the same to you,” he offered wryly as he began to run off to fight his father. Walter turned to the horse and rider approaching them cautiously. As the rider saw Tennyson move off, the rider chuckled and began to relax visibly. Walter raised the sword he held point first to him. Behind him, from inside the school, he heard another large crash and the sound of something crying out in frustration.

“Morgan, we could use some backup…” He called out.

“Little busy, give me some time!” Came a strained response. In front of Walter, the Lord of Nightmare began to chuckle.

Come. I will deal with you while the King of Faerie ushers your friends to the long sleep. You may all see one another there and rejoice, for you will know not the sorrow of this world.” For all the ominous intonation and attempt to sound like a deity, Walter could hear the patronizing tone of the voice. He was just a squishy mortal in the way of something far more powerful, and as soon as this bug was splattered across the windshield bigger things could be accomplished. He’d heard it from Oberon, he’d heard it from Ninja Grandpa, and now he heard it from the Witch King.

“You know what, asshole?” He asked, sword still out. “Just for that, I’m not going to play nice.” Left-handed, he drew his pistol and shot the rider’s horse out from under him.