“We need to discuss Elizabeth’s escape,” I said without preamble, as I dumped my bag on Derek’s bed.
He stared at me. “Um…”
“Three days ago, Friday the 12th of October, a renegade—or Blackguard or whatever—snuck into the warcage where we were keeping her, and used some sort of rust power to free her. There hasn’t been a peep since. No attacks, no demands, nothing.”
Adam, sitting over by the window next to Akane, spoke up. “Yeah, we know all that. Been spending the whole weekend racking our brains trying to find a way to prepare.”
Derek nodded at everyone in turn. “Adam, Akane, Ling, and Robyn,” the last two were sitting on Adam’s bed barefoot. “We’ve been thinking about what she might do. My question is…” He turned back to me. “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!?”
I winced, touching my necklace. “Silver and gold, Derek, not so loud.”
“You disappeared for almost two weeks!”
“I called. Told you I was still alive.”
He snorted in derision. “Yeah, but that was it. No word on where you were or what you were doing. For all I knew, Elizabeth had captured you and forced you to say that.”
“Well, she didn’t. I captured her.” I waved my hand. “You know what I mean. Clarke called me in to do the vivisection with Doctor Henry.”
Robyn perked up at that. “He did? Why not do it himself?”
“He was busy,” I explained. “Not to mention that he’s a little lax on safety, which would have gotten him killed in this case.”
Derek’s eyes were narrow. “What do you mean by vivisection?”
I met his steely blue gaze with one of my own. “Exactly what I said. I spent the last few days cutting her apart, piece by piece, trying to find some answers.”
“And?” Akane asked.
“Results are…inconclusive.” I shook my head. “But what we do have is not good. I wasn’t able to find any usable limits to her regeneration. Any body part, including her head, will reattach within seconds. Doesn’t matter how small the pieces are—throwing her in a woodchipper just pissed her off.”
While the others gawked, Ling tapped her lip thoughtfully. “I would have thought completely destroying the brain would work. It normally does in these cases.” She looked up. “Please tell me you took my advice?”
“Yes, I attacked her with all sorts of different materials. Holly, garlic, silver, and anything else that might hurt a mythological creature. No luck.” I shrugged. “Even the weirder stuff, like enriched plutonium, didn’t seem to have any effect.”
“Well, worth a shot.”
“Yes, I agree. Because I did find one thing that works.” I paused.
Everyone looked at me expectantly.
“Well?” Adam asked. “What was it?”
“Liquid nitrogen. Well, I suspect any extreme cold would do the trick, but that was all I had on hand. Freezing a cut-off body part keeps it from reattaching.”
Derek smiled briefly. “Did you tell her to chill out when you did it?”
That made me smile, but I came back on topic quickly, ignoring the childish pun. “Look, the point is, we can’t actually use this.”
“Why not?” Adam asked. “Last time I saw Ling’s friend Turgay—before the whole thing on the Ring, I mean—he showed me some liquid nitrogen shotgun shells. I’m sure a few of those will do the trick.”
I shook my head. “No. Because will freezing the limbs prevents them from reattaching, it doesn’t stop her from regenerating.” I paused to let that sink in. “She just regenerates new limbs from thin air. I watched her do that with her head.”
“Well, that’s unfortunate,” Ling muttered. “Unkillable villains are always the worst. Of course, they’re usually in fantasy settings, so then the heroes go on a quest to get a nearby god to help, but that’s not an option here.”
“It’s far more than unfortunate,” Robyn said in a slightly hysterical voice. “Creating matter out of nothing? That’s nowhere near possible.”
“Says the girl who can fly,” Adam quipped.
My red-haired friend jabbed a finger in his direction. “That’s not related. That’s just…moving gravity around. Yeah, we don’t know how I’m doing it, but it’s not playing hopscotch with the laws of physics.” She turned to me. “This is impossible.”
I smiled. “You know, that’s pretty much exactly what MC said? You two really are sisters.”
Adam blinked in surprise. “Wait, she’s your sister?”
Robyn waved his words away. “She’s my dad’s daughter. Kinda. It’s a long story, and we don’t really treat each other like sisters. The point is—” again, she turned to me. “How can we use this against her?”
“We can’t,” I answered. “That’s what I was saying. I suspect those nitrogen shells Adam mentioned will slow her down, but they won’t stop her. And she’ll have the Blackguards with her.”
“And we still don’t know how many of those there are,” Derek contemplated. “Not to mention that if that ambush in the alley was any indication, they’ll know how to fight together well.”
“I have a tiny bit more of that sleeping gas,” Robyn perked up. “We just need to lure them somewhere enclosed—”
“Won’t work,” Ling and I said at the exact same time.
I blinked, then nodded to the blonde little delinquent, conceding her the floor.
“Elizabeth is smart,” she said slowly. “Or…actually, I’m not sure that’s the right word. If she was smart, she wouldn’t have been captured in the first place. But once she was captured, she chose to stay, and be tortured, even though she could escape at any time. Why?”
“She wanted to see what I would do,” I muttered.
The Chinese girl nodded. “Exactly. We bested her once, so she needed to get the upper hand again. Like…” she scrunched up her face, searching for the words. “Like a lion who has been burned by a fire. He doesn’t just jump in again, he hangs back and circles, watching and waiting.”
Derek scratched his chin. “That would explain why she’s been quiet the past few days.”
“She’s probably also gathering her followers,” Ling added. “I imagine they went underground when she got captured. The point is, the same trick won’t work on her twice. She’ll be ready for gas.”
Adam looked at the rest of us. “So, what? We just wait for her to make the next move?”
I glanced at Derek, who shrugged. I turned back to our little psychopath and shrugged too. “I guess so.”
“There’s not much else we can do,” Derek added. “What with the fey going crazy, all we can really do is try and resolve that as soon as possible, then hopefully get the alliance together again to prepare for the Composer.”
“Delphie might be Alpha of the murids,” Akane put in. “Her sister was the Lady of the Plague.”
I frowned. “Delphie, Delphie…that’s the small girl with the long brown hair, right? Seena’s friend?”
The swordswoman nodded.
“I still can’t believe her sister was a warlord,” Derek muttered, somewhat angrily. “We’ve done jobs for Plague before. You’d think it would have come up.”
“Delphie’s dead,” Robyn cut in bluntly. “She took some injuries when the fey appeared, and was taken back to their base for treatment. She was found there, dead, after the raid.”
That was an…odd bit of trivia. “How do you know that?”
The fire-headed girl shrugged. “You hear a lot, flying around. You hear more when you’re one of MC’s only friends.”
Adam frowned. “I thought you were sisters.”
Robyn sighed. “Kind of. But we don’t…” She shook her head. “Does it really matter?”
Derek spoke up before Adam could answer and turn this into a full-blown argument. “Okay, that’s one warlord off the list.” He tapped his chin. “But we’ve still got Obould, Thor, Sinmara, McDowell, Hannesdottir, Tecumseh, Dispater, and Pale Night.”
That got my attention. “You got Pale Night to say she’d help? Silver and gold, how’d you manage that? You ask her mom to talk to her?”
Derek shrugged. “She came when I asked, and that was it. Surprised me, to be sure.”
“Wait, Pale Night. I’ve heard that name before,” Adam said with a frown. “She’s in charge of…the kids, I think it was? Is she from an orphanage?”
Ling smiled. “No. She was the first demon warlord. It’s just that she tries to mimic her ‘Mother’ so much, that people call her House kids. You know, as an insult.”
“Oh. I see.” But he still had a confused look on his face.
“So I guess that’s it then,” Derek said. “Call up the warlords, make sure they’re on high alert. Is there anything else we can do?”
Everyone shrugged, or shook their heads.
“Okay, then I guess this meeting is over. We’ll take things as they come.”
There were a few surprised looks, but mostly everyone started packing up what little they had in preparation to leave.
“Derek,” Akane said as she sidled up to the blond man. “I need to take a few hours off. I have…something I need to go do. I just need a few hours.”
“Can it wait for ten or fifteen minutes?”
She blinked, and fiddled with the blue ribbon in her hair. “Uh…yeah. Why?”
“I need you to come with me.” He turned to me. “You too, Laura.”
“We’re going to the roof,” he said, dodging my question. “This won’t take long.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 165)
Nothing much got done here, I know, but it’s one of those important transition scenes. Next one has more plot.