8.8 Dire Deeds and Petty Insults

by Matt P.

Walter wasn’t sure he had ever seen Morgan more still, and he knew that he likely resembled statuary himself. Once again he was considering several different responses, but unlike before he wasn’t considering whether to be vulgar or not; he was considering whether or not to respond with immediate, unthinking violence.

“Right now,” Nadezhda continued in the brief silence, “There is a great deal going on in the city, Major. There are major attacks in multiple quarters of the city, there is a great deal of arson, and more armed men like you so ably dispatched are making their way in to the hospital. There they have orders to get in to the room of the young lady that you rescued this morning, and retrieve her. And anyone that gets in their way…” She let the statement trail off dramatically, and offered an artless shrug to punctuate it.

Walter’s vision swam red, and he started to move around the chair to come at Nadezhda. His body was moving in that automatic way that it did when it was moving purely by instinct, his limbs going to the right places to inflict great violence without needing to be told. The only thing that stopped him was the sudden appearance of Morgan’s hand on his, cool and firm. She caught his eye when he looked down at the hand, as if stunned at its presence, and shook her head quickly. He realized his other hand had gone to the sheath with the orichalcum knife in it and half drawn the blade out.

“You can probably attack me, Walter,” Nadezhda offered. “But you don’t have the time to do so. My men are going to be attacking any minute, and even if you get some assistance,” she offered with an even look at Morgan and Tania, “And even if you are every bit as skillful and resourceful as you seem to be, you can’t both kill me and get to them. And that is ignoring two things,” she continued. She reached out to tap the table with the green crystal, “I have what I believe you refer to as an Oberon crystal and know how to use it, and my men aren’t just attacking the hospital right now.”

She snapped, and a man stepped forward with a radio. The man was dressed all in black and appeared to be made of sides of beef, and Walter instinctively identified him as a goon. The goon turned on the radio, and the room was instantly flooded with the controlled panic of police officers under fire. Apparently things had gotten much worse in the time that they had been discussing politics with Nadezhda. “All of these are my men, and when you were shown in they started pressing. Your men are under fire across the city, Major, and very few of them know how to respond to the supernatural.”

Walter stared at Nadezhda, Morgan’s hand still on his arm in a reassuring and restraining fashion. “Why?” He didn’t articulate more than that, because he wasn’t sure he could without trying to pull himself from Morgan’s grasp and fling himself across the table. Every inch of him was burning to get out, get to somewhere he could help—help his kids, help the police, help his kids again. That one kept coming back, loud and clear.

“Because you went from nothing to very close to ruining everything,” Nadezhda answered simply. “You spent all of today finding too much too fast, and we need time.” Her tone of voice suggested this was the simplest and most rational thing in the world. “So we’re taking the time to move our resources out of the way, and ensuring you don’t have a chance to follow along and find them. A tactical and temporary withdrawal, while you all are kept too busy and off balance to respond. By the time you’re done dealing with all of those things, we will be safe.”

“Those are people—those are people’s lives you’re talking about!” Walter sputtered in anger. Now his other hand did reach back to pull out the orichalcum knife, which seemed to gleam in the low light of the room. It had a warm glow to it, like a fire that had reduced down to just radiating coals.

“They are—on my side too,” Nadezhda responded. “You’ve never sent men in to a fight for a rearguard action, Major? You’ve never tried to preserve your mission even if it costs lives? Especially if it is the enemy? Having seen your full record,” she purred, “I’m certain that isn’t true.”

Walter shook his head angrily. “These aren’t enemy soldiers, thee are civilian peace officers you’ve baited into traps!” He was nearly shouting now, and almost shaking. Right now his anger was raging red hot, even though he recognized he needed to be doing something with it besides yelling. He was starting to be a little annoyed, underneath the anger, that no one else in the room was having a similar reaction when Tanya slammed her fist on to the table n front of them. If Walter had done the same it would have served as a punctuation of anger, but when Tania slammed her fist in to the table it sent cracks running out in the expensive woods.

“Those are our people, Countess,” Tania said angrily. She stood, leaning over the table with an aura of menace. Walter could see little flames starting to lick at the edges of her knuckles. “I know,” she continued, “Attacking the policce is not enough to bring us in fully, but if we cannot take this as a declaration of war then I promise you we are taking it as a declaration of intent.” She turned to look at Morgan, and Walter’s eyes followed hers. Walter realized Morgan hadn’t been quiet, but had gonee glacially still. She could have been carved from marble—or ice—except for her eyes, which smoldered with rage. She wasn’t unfeeling about the situation, she was just keeping her anger more under control.

So do the same, Walt, Walter told himself angrily. “We’ll see how your retreat goes, Nadezhda,” Walter offered, with a flippant little bow, before he turned to Morgan. “How fast can you get me to the hospital?” He asked Morgan and Tania. Morgan stood evenly, and cast her eyes around the room like she was looking at the broader building.

“I’m afraid you’ll find our maintenance closet is a little overstocked,” Nadezhda offered with a smirk. For some reason, that drew Morgan’s ire out even more and she outright scowled. Standing, the Queen of Winter reached down to brush her dress smooth as she met Nadezhda’s gaze evenly.

“We never forget petty insults. And a Countess does well to remember how outranked she is by a Queen, girl,” Morgan told her, her voice just above a whisper and laced with icy daggers. She spared a look over to Walter, and smirked. “Hold on to your everything,” she murmured. From nowhere Walter could see a wind rose around her, and tendrils of frost began to spread out around her. The tendrils crept along the ground as if pushed out by a pulse, and Morgan reached out to take Walter’s hand. She smirked at Nadezhda. “As if I need a closet,” she spoke softly, and then a pulse of energy burst out from her and Walter felt like he was being turned inside out.