13.7 Moments of Strength

by Matt P.

“Incoming!” Ryan Aquino called out as mist continued to fill the room. The sounds from beyond the door were getting louder and more insistent, and for a moment they had masked the sounds of more Faerie warriors coming down the stairs toward them. Fortunately, Ryan had noticed before they had made it all the way down. “You both good?”

Siobhan looked at Antigone, and the two shared a look. Her eyes traced around the room, and for a moment the only thing she could see was blood. While Ryan had done by far the majority of the mayhem in the room, Siobhan knew that not a small amount of the blood on the floor was hers. She realized that it was on her as well, and suddenly it felt hot. She could taste it in her mouth, metallic and harsh, and smell it all around her. Her hands started to shake and she first almost dropped the sword, and then almost threw up. Her throat burned, and Ryan moved over to her.

“Siobhan, I know what it feels like, but you can get through this. Right now you have to get through it, as a matter of fact, because I’m running low and you’ve got my sword,” Ryan said softly. The footsteps got closer, and he raised his rifle to the stairs. Siobhan stared at her shaking hands, breathing in deep. The cold air and mist felt good on her throat and lungs, which burned with bile and horror, as her whole body quivered with the after effects of adrenalin. She was about to say something, when she felt a hand on each of her shoulders.

“Make sure they don’t come down the door,” Monica’s voice said. It was scared, her voice, but it was also steady. Ryan looked at her but then nodded, moving up to take a kneeling position and brace his rifle on his leg. Siobhan felt hands turning her, until she was looking at her sister and both of her friends. All three of them were pale, Lacey was actually crying and Antigone was shaking. After a moment of looking at one another, Monica spoke.

“Siobhan, I know this can’t be easy for you…God above, I’m going to have nightmares about it until the day I die. But I also know how strong you are.” Monica looked her in the eyes, and gave her a nod. “I can’t do what you have to do, but if you don’t do it we’re all going to die, so you have to do it.” Her voice broke a little bit at the end there, her own panic coming through, but she managed to squeeze Siobhan’s shoulder meaningfully.

“Bonnie,” Antigone said. Her terror was more open, and hearing it the iron banded Faerie hound nuzzled her leg gently. “I don’t know why we’re here, and I don’t know if we’re going to make it out. But it’s you and me, and that’s the way it was always meant to be, right? Ever since we ate that triplet in the womb,” Antigone even managed an old joke, and Siobhan felt herself let out a laugh that was as much related to a sob as it was to mirth. Behind them they heard the report of Ryan’s gun firing, not nearly as loud in the small room as it hand been before—which was likely not good for their hearing, Siobhan thought bleakly. The Eisenhund began to snarl, and launched itself off join in the burgeoning fray. “So let’s do it just like that, you and me. I’ll find my mojo and close the door, and you’ll protect me, and we’ll be okay. We’ll cry later and make Morgan pay for everyone’s therapy, right?”

Siobhan gave a slow nod, swallowing another breath of air. Their words, especially Antigone’s, helped. They were a lifeline to normalcy, a reassurance there was still some sanity despite everything happening around them. “Cry later, Morgan pays for therapy, and we eat ice cream until we crap snowflakes. Got it.” She started to give a smile, but then she heard a cry of pain and shout of warning from their Uncle, and Siobhan felt something heavy crack in to her right shoulder. She went sprawling to the ground in a red haze of pain, landing on her back and losing her grip on Ryan’s sword once more. It went clattering to the ground, completely unnoticed to Siobhan as she stared at the woman standing over her.

She was tall, with hair of so dark a blue that in the dim light it almost seemed to be black. She was tightly muscled and dressed in what appeared to be a modern version of medieval-ish hunting leathers. She also had, while Siobhan was falling, grabbed Antigone by the throat and was lifting her in to the air.

“The King will want to see you, the one who would close the door. Can’t allow that.” Her voice was cold and harsh, and she started to turn back to the stairs. Siobhan stumbled her way to her feet without thinking about what she was doing. She threw herself at the blue-haired woman, not even realizing that she was shrieking until she realized her throat was hurting. She hit the woman in the back, and was surprised by how sturdy the woman was. Siobhan went to the floor again while the blue-haired woman merely grunted and dropped Antigone, who stumbled back toward the Nightmare door. Blue-hair turned back to Siobhan, scowling.

“Leave her alone, you bitch!” Siobhan shouted as she pulled herself back to her feet, noticing for the first time that she could feel blood on her back.

“Movie quotes, really?” She said contemptuously. Siobhan started toward Ryan’s sword, but the blue-haired woman moved to stay in-between her and the sword so she couldn’t get to it. “There is a kind of person who thinks that quoting something brave makes them brave. But you know the secret?” She asked, kicking the sword back further away from them. “It doesn’t. It doesn’t make you brave,” she began to walk toward Siobhan slowly. “It doesn’t make you strong, it just means you wasted a lot of time with Netflix.” At the end of the sentence she was standing only a foot away from Siobhan. She slowly pulled what appeared to be a long hunting knife out of nowhere, the same as Ryan or Morgan pulling out their swords. “So I’m going to take your sister—”

Siobhan cut her off by lashing out with a kick that was faster and stronger than any she had ever thrown in her life. It hit the woman in the middle of the arm holding the knife, batting it away. Siobhan kept with the almost sickening momentum of that kick, and brought her other foot around for a textbook perfect strike to the woman’s jaw. It sent her spiraling back in a corkscrew, and when she hit the ground the smug smile had been wiped completely off her face and was replaced with a look of anger—and shock.

“Try it, you fucking blueberry,” Siobhan finished, launching herself at the woman.