14.2 A Losing Battle

by Matt P.

Morgan walked away from Walter, and swallowed at the sight before her. The fighting in the school hallway had been fun—an excuse to flex, stretch her powers in a way that she hadn’t had an excuse to in a long time. And punting the boy out the door had been the kind of showing off that she used to enjoy. She was one of the most powerful Faeries, witches, and Knights in a millennium. Perhaps one of the most powerful ever.

But Oberon was the most powerful. It was how he had risen to the top and been made High King at all. A desperate people wouldn’t have risked giving someone that much power if they hadn’t thought he was the only person who could save them. In the years of plotting and leading from the shadows, of having his men butcher unsuspecting targets…it was easy to forget how awesome he was in single combat.

Tennyson and Tania danced around him, light glowing around them as they called on their power. It wasn’t a pure burn like a video game or cartoon, but sparkling motes that danced around them scintillatingly. Tania blazed bright orange and red like the heart of a fire, all the changing leaves of Autumn swirling in her wake; Tennyson burned in similar colors but a darker and more muted pallet. But all of their lights paled compared to Oberon, who burned pure crimson and ultramarine without flaw. If they were ridiculously fast he was beyond ridicule, and almost beyond comprehension even for her.

They had been fighting him for long minutes, but only they looked tired. He bore a single scratch she could see, and the other two were bleeding from numerous small cuts. It wasn’t a curb-stomping, but the odds were clearly not in their favor in the long run. They were fighting a losing battle, unless something changed.

“Balls,” Morgan shook her head and sighed. She focused on her sword for a moment, and drew a deep breath. A cold breeze rushed about her, curling around her ankles like a cat greeting its human. Long nights were growing in the world in this season, and she was well in to her power. It would peak on the solstice before breaking, and slowly the balance would tip back to her sister. But in the shadows of November, the Winter Queen ruled. Those same scintilla began to dance about her like snowflakes, but they were all the colors of Winter. Dark blue and light, here and there a blue green, and flickering about motes of pure white. The equal and opposite of Tania’s display, and one half of Oberon’s, burning around her like a halo.

In a flash she joined the fight, her sword lashing out to try for a killing strike to Oberon’s neck. His sword dropped across his back to stop it, but she still scored flesh in his shoulder and sent scarlet blood flying in to the night. He cursed and stepped back, the four combatants forming a square.

“I had hoped you would stay in Nightmare, daughter,” Oberon offered to her by way of greeting, bringing his sword up in a mocking salute.

She matched the gesture, and smirked. “Oh you know me, father, always where I’m not supposed to be. Besides,” she offered with a mock pout, “Why should Niamh get play-time with daddy when I don’t?” She pitched her voice in a childish singsong, her eyes flickering deliberately to the blood on her blade.

“You always had a wicked tongue in your mouth, girl; modernity has done nothing to make it less annoying,” her father responded. They kept moving slowly and deliberately, the three trying to get an edge while the one kept them at bay.

“Oh, I think modernity has done wonders for my vocabulary. I can say, for example, that you always were a douche canoe,” Siobhan pointed out sweetly. “Also, a bag of dicks.”

Oberon glowered, and Tennyson launched himself forward to strike in that moment. He almost caught the older man off guard, but Oberon blocked expertly and responded with a quick kick to the midriff that Tennyson had to jump back to dodge.

“I loved you all once. I fought war against my own kind for your safety, and vengeance!” Oberon growled angrily as he looked back to Morgan.

“You were always a fine father, Oberon…” Tania murmured, her voice soft and sincere.

“And this is the obedience you would give a fine father?” He challenged in return.

Morgan shook her head. “You loved us and we loved you, but loving your children does not a good King make. You upset the balance of power, threw things into Chaos, and wanted to exploit the Border. You wanted to invite chaos for pride,” she accused.

“You were jealous I loved her more,” Oberon accused back, shaking his head. “You hated that I grieved for her more than any of the rest of you, or even your mother.”

Tennyson stepped forward again, but with his blade pointed toward the ground. “And you never forgave me that I let her die. Even though we were surrounded, and Niall was Autumnborn and half corrupted by Fomor and we could barely see him coming. I followed you for centuries and did horrible things in your name to make it up to you, and you never forgave me. Just kept sending me to do your butchery.”

Oberon looked at his son and shook his head. “You are lucky to have served your King so faithfully, and it makes your treason even worse than theirs—to have stayed with me so long and strayed. Perhaps you decided to replace Sile with one of them, boy? One sister as good as another?”

Tennyson flushed a bright red, and before Morgan or Tania could stop him he launched himself toward Oberon in rage.

Oberon’s blade flashed out twice, and Tennyson gasped and stumbled past him to a stop. Two large cuts appeared on his sword arm and on his right leg, gushing blood, and he collapsed to his knees in pain and sudden agony. Oberon turned back to Morgan and Tania, casually flicking his son’s blood off of his sword as he considered them.

“I grow tired of talking. Shall we?” And then he was moving toward them like the inevitability of death himself.