14.6 Mistakes Were Made…

by Matt P.

“I’m beginning to think,” Walter grunted as he rolled unsteadily to his feet. “That I may have made the tiniest of mistakes.” He had managed, somehow, to keep the knife in hand during his aerial tour of the courtyard. He put it back in a regular grip. Not like I seem to be doing much defending anyway, he thought grimly.

“Mmm, just now?” Oberon asked, walking across the courtyard to him. He was dressed in dark greens and browns, like something out of a medieval painting. He even had an honest-to-God cloak that was billowing behind him. Normally Walter would have laughed, but the burning pain in his chest made him think better of it this time. “My apotheosis caused glass to explode for what was probably a block, and rain down like the tears of heaven.” He finished walking toward Walter, and held out his hands. “And just now you begin to suspect that a mistake was made.”

“I’m a slow learner,” Walter offered with a shrug. He lashed out at his absolute best possible speed with the knife, and the red-haired faerie simply batted it away like it was nothing. Walter didn’t lose the knife, and he spun it around to try to bring it down from another angle. This time Oberon brought his hand up and slapped at Walter’s forearm. It flared with pain, barely not broken, and in an instant the knife fell out of it and clattered to the ground. The only thing that kept Walter from screaming in pain was the fact that a second later the man’s hand was around his throat, and he had something else to worry about.

He heard Morgan curse, and he heard either Antigone or Siobhan cry out. Walter lashed out a steel-toed boot at Oberon’s kneecap. It cracked but the man gave no reaction. “You see, I knew you had been making a mistake from the moment y-agh—” The man’s comment cut off as Walter brought his fist crashing in to his neck, just below and slightly in front of the air. He spasmed and dropped Walter before stumbling back, his eyes wide in surprise.

Walter wasn’t one to let a man go after a good nerve strike, and moved in quick to close the distance. His foot rose quickly and his shin struck just above the knee on the inside, and Walter had a brief moment of satisfaction as the King of all Faeries dropped to one knee. He tried to follow it up with a punch to the throat, but Oberon recovered too quickly and grabbed Walter’s throat again. Oberon only gave him a moment to consider where things went wrong before the man’s other fist evened out his injuries by breaking some ribs on the other side.

Morgan started to move. Walter was being held so he could see her over Oberon’s shoulder, and she had William Alexander’s dropped shotgun in her hands and spinning in between blinks. It sent a Faerie spinning to the ground in the next second, and Walter could see Oberon starting to call on the fight to resume. With his daughters still on their knees and weeping in the middle of the battlefield.

“Wait!” Walter cried out, croaking around the hand. Oberon stopped, and Morgan stopped, and they all looked at him as if they had briefly forgotten he was there. “I’ve still…got it under…control.”

It wasn’t fair, Walter speculated, to both be laughed at and hurled across the courtyard. He hit the flagstones with a crack, as he tried to protect his most important parts by largely landing on his face. The sharp pain and copious blood streaming down his face told him that his nose had been broken. He tried to wipe the blood away, but all that did was leave his hand covered as well and more heat running out on to his chin.

“You have this in hand, then?” Oberon asked, as he sauntered forward again. Walter looked and saw Morgan standing stunned, and his daughters looking on with wide and terrified eyes. Ryan was trying to circle around with some of the Border police, but the Faeries kept moving with them too. It was one step away from a bloodbath with too many people he cared about squishy and mortal in the middle. “This is what you call that? I wasn’t aware mortal vocabularies had drifted quite so far, so that ‘under control’ now meant ‘well and thoroughly screwed’.”

Walter shrugged, staggering to his knees. That took far more effort than it should, and his breath was only coming in painful threads. With his clean hand he reached back to pat at the pockets on his vest on his back, finding them clean but lacking gun or knife. “I’m improvising,” he grunted softly as he managed to get one foot up.

“What is this, Walter…did you just want to die on your feet?” Oberon queried. “I would have let you live with your daughters, I could have even put you in places I knew would survive. They have so much value, with their strength—I would have even told you about what their potential was.” Oberon finished his casual journey, and this time Walter didn’t even fight as he was lifted up by his throat again. “And I’ve always valued valor and boldness—but this is insanity. I could have let you live, until you defied me—now you must be a lesson.”

“Slow learner…and all…” Walter repeated as he was hoisted off his feet, without so much of a sign of strain from Oberon. “Brachial strike…peroneal strike…should have done…pretty good,” he wheezed out.

Oberon smirked, his handsome features creasing in genuine amusement…and respect. “It has been many years since anyone caught me off-guard like that…and centuries since a mortal did. You should have been willing to serve…a mortal knight has not been seen in a very long time. We would have written stories about you.” Walter kicked futilely, but any witty comeback was literally choked off before it could reach his lips. Morgan shook her head from side to side behind Oberon, and Ryan was still trying to find a way to maneuver. Antigone and Siobhan were holding each other, and Walter could see in their eyes the growing belief that they were about to watch their father die. The look of two young women who wanted to turn away but couldn’t, because they also knew it would be the last time they ever saw their father alive.

“I will let it all be forgiven,” Oberon continued, unaware of Walter’s internal agony, “If you tell me why. What made you think that you could challenge me and win? What made you think that you could stand against the High King of Faeries in all his glory, shining with more power than any of our kind has ever held? Against a man holding enough power to rival the foundations of heaven itself?” He had an arrogant on his face, the sneer of a bully and a tyrant who held all the power and all the cards, and it made Walter’s insides writhe in hatred. “So tell me, mortal, what made you think you could strike down a god?”

Walter tried to respond, but it was lost in the gasping for air and the iron bars of Oberon’s fingers. One hand came up to try to pry at the fingers, while the other flopped around desperately for purchase on anything on his vest he could use. As he struggled to breathe he looked down at the fingers, and Oberon obligingly loosened them slightly and leaned in to hear. “Yes?” He asked, pitching his voice so that everyone could hear it dramatically.

Walter’s fingers closed around the slender black needle tucked in the pouch on his vest and, while continuing to twitch like a fish on a hook, slammed it in to Oberon’s gut.

“I said…” Walter gasped as he was dropped, “Morgan thought she lost her black knife, but I found it when we came back.”