Chapter 1: Prologue
Mikey watched as the faraway form he’d pinpointed as his brother weaved through the mass of white-clad people heading to the sermon. His brother was making good progress through the crowd, but even so, he would be a little late. A little, but not enough for anyone to notice, Mikey would make sure of that. He took his attention off of Gerard for a moment to glance at the bell-ringer, a boy of about twelve that he didn’t have the audacity to kill, and put a finger to his lips to silence him. Gerard would probably tell him off later for letting the kid live; something like that could lead to a fatal mistake, but Mikey had tied him up good. The job would get done, and the kid wouldn’t have the chance to run off and tell somebody until Mikey and Gerard were long gone.
From his place at the top of the belfry, Mikey could see that the king was sitting in an ornate wooden chair center stage, his son standing behind him to the right. The prince looked impatient, shooting goofy faces at his guards whenever he thought he could get away with it. They both remained stoic, but both were quite young themselves, and were probably struggling to properly do their job. One of the kingsguard shot the prince’s guards a dirty look for letting the prince act up, then went back to bowing his head. Mikey could never understand why they thought that was the best way to do things. How could looking downwards, away from the one you’re meant to protect, ever be effective? Their idea of respect was just plain stupid. The way the kingsguard let down their defenses during the Sunday sermon was idiotic at best. They put too much trust in the thought that their people would all take that time to pray to the gods. Mikey rarely prayed to them at all anymore, and they hadn’t smited him yet. Though, perhaps he’d sinned so much that they just didn’t know what to do with him.
“It’s twelve o’clock.” The bell-ringer said bitterly. The stupid kid had been complaining about the fact that he had to ring that blasted bell for the whole time now. Mikey wished he would shut up. “The bell is supposed to be rung by now, you idiot.”
Mikey shot the kid an annoyed look, and tried to ignore him as he watched Gerard approach the front left side of the stage, blending in with the rest of the people who had pushed their way to the front. He had to time this just right.
Mikey stood, wrapping his hand carefully around the rope, watching and waiting. Gerard put one foot on those wooden steps, and Mikey tugged.
The next few minutes happened so fast and so slow all at once. The ringing of the bell reverberated in Mikey’s head and across the plaza. The crowd of white bent to pray, all eyes turning from their king to the golden altar behind them. Mikey fought back the headache that stupid bell was trying to force into him, and crouched down in the shadows of the belfry. He scanned the crowd to check that there was only one person who had their attention elsewhere. Gerard had already snuck his way onto the stage in that time, and was walking with light feet towards the king himself. With a flick of the wrist, Gerard exposed a hidden dagger. Mikey only noticed him do this because of the way the sun glinted off of it momentarily, but he wasn’t the only one who’s attention the sunlight caught. One of the prince’s guards caught it, shoving the boy into the second guard, who shielded and ushered him away as Gerard slit his father’s throat.
“Gee!” Mikey yelled out, helpless as he watched that guard draw his sword on Gerard.
His warning would never be heard from where he was. At least, not by anyone below. The only one within proximity was the bell-ringer, who laughed at him.
“Shut the fuck up.” Mikey snapped, whacking the boy with the blunt hilt of his sword to knock him out.
He left the kid behind, figuring someone would find and untie him eventually. He had bigger concerns now, with his brother in the middle of mass chaos. He had timed that bell so carefully so everyone would be distracted, and of course everything would go wrong due to something as stupid and trivial as the sun .
He raced down the stone stairs of the belfry, not even taking the time to make it all the way down. When he reached a window that was low enough for him to jump from, he did, though he had to tuck and roll to prevent landing too hard.
People were screaming and running from the scene, so nobody was really taking any notice to him, unless they saw him as a nuisance just getting in their way of safety. By the time he managed to get the stage back in his view, the entire scene had changed. The prince and second guard were nowhere in sight, but the guard who had noticed Gerard was still there, off to the side with blood on his hands and an alarmed look on his face. The king was laying on the edge of the stage in a pool of his own blood, long dead. His kingsguard had apprehended Gerard after the prince’s guard had slashed him across the back. They had him pinned down with his face pressed into the wood of the stage, tying him up. The way they had him positioned made it clear that the white robes he’d donned to play the part of a religious citizen were stained bright red around the area that was torn open.
Mikey gasped, and stopped dead in his tracks as they roughly lifted Gerard up, forcing him to stand. Stragglers still running away carelessly bumped into Mikey in their haste. Despite all the commotion, Gerard still managed to make eye contact with Mikey, and just barely shook his head.
He didn’t want Mikey to go after him. Not yet, at least.
His older brother was right, of course, there was no need to do anything stupid or risky while the entire kingsguard were on edge. They both knew that was a surefire way to get one, or both, of them killed. It was best for Mikey to let them think they had gotten the only assassin, and get reinforcements from the Keep.
Mikey held that eye contact for just a moment more before turning and disappearing into the crowd.
Mikey tried to stay calm. He really did.
It was just so damn hard to stay calm. Especially when he went to the master’s office to report what had happened, and saw that godawful traitor sitting casually on the side.
Bob Bryar was meant to be there with them, to assist in the escape plan and help prevent what ended up happening to Gerard. Of course, in true Bob Bryar style, he never showed up. Mikey scouted the area after Gerard made him go, just to make sure they hadn’t gotten to Bob and killed him. But there hadn’t been a single indicator that Bob had even shown up, and by the way he was smiling at Mikey, mocking him, he knew he hadn’t been there on purpose.
“You were supposed to be there!” Mikey yelled, unable to hold in the anger he was feeling. “Where the fuck were you!?”
Bob just chuckled and rested his chin on his fist, looking very comfortable in that nice chair by the fire. He always looked at Mikey like he was a stupid little kid. Just because he was older than Mikey, he always thought he was so much better. Sure, Mikey was young, but his upbringing had matured him way more than the typical boy his age. It was infuriating to have made it so far, and to be discredited by his age.
Mikey scowled, then turned to the Master of Assassins, Marilyn Manson. He was looking very busy, writing something on a piece of very nice parchment, and hadn’t even looked up at Mikey’s arrival or outburst.
“They have Gerard.” Mikey told him, jabbing an angry finger in Bob’s direction. “ He wasn’t there, and the mission was a failure.”
“Is the king dead?” Manson asked calmly, putting down his quill and folding his hands.
He finally raised his head to look at the young assassin, but his facial expression didn’t reveal how he was feeling about any of this.
“Yes, the king is dead, but that hardly matters!” Mikey exclaimed, crossing his arms over his chest. “The prince lives, and they’ve arrested Gerard.”
“That boy prince means nothing. He’s sixteen years old, I’ll bet all he cares about is money and women. He’ll know nothing of ruling, all royal brats are the same.” Manson said, leaning back in his chair.
“I’m nearly sixteen and I don’t care about either of those things.” Mikey argued.
“That’s because you’re weird.” Bob said, trying to rile Mikey up more.
“Shut up, you don’t get to say a thing to me, you traitor! You weren’t there.” Mikey said. “Why don’t you tell Master Manson why you decided not to show up. I know I’d love to hear your excuses for this one.”
“I told him not to go.” Manson said.
“You… What? ”
“I am very proud of you and your brother, Mikey.” Manson said with a small smile, not letting Mikey have a chance to process this new information. “I’ve never had a team of assassins successfully carry out this particular mission.”
“You knew this would happen, didn’t you?” Mikey asked incredulously.
“Honestly, I believed you both would be dead. This is quite the accomplishment.” Manson said proudly. “Of course, I was very confident in your abilities, though I was running out of good assassins to go after that king. I’ll admit, I’m glad at least one of you have returned. It would have been a terrible loss to not have you in my reservoir.”
“I am not part of some collection!” Mikey snapped, taking a step back. “You raised Gerard and I, and I would have expected you to see us as more than disposable tools. I thought you cared about us.”
“Of course I care.” Manson smiled, baring uneven yellow teeth. “You are still useful to me. As long as you prove yourself useful, Mikey Way, I won’t find a need to dispose of you.”
“You are fucked up.” Mikey said, horrified. “I’m leaving, and I’m going to save my brother myself.”
Bob stood, his hand reaching for the sword at his hip. Manson raised a hand lazily.
“Ah, ah, ah.” Manson said, as Mikey bolted down the halls of the Keep. He knew those halls so well, having run down them so many times. A few times long ago, as a child being chased by his brother in good fun, then more often as he got older, on his way to various missions. “Let him run. I’m curious to see what he does. We will kill him eventually, just not right now.”
“You’re sure?” Bob asked, hand still resting on the hilt of his sword, but not drawing it. “I would be more than happy to kill him for you.”
“You don’t want that.” Manson said, picking his quill back up, and adding more to the parchment. “Don’t you want it to be slow and painful for him? Don’t you want to torture him?”
Bob sat back down, crossing one leg over the other and staring into the fire.
“You’re all just pawns to me.” Manson murmured. “None of you are special. It’s nothing personal. I just got tired of the Way brothers.”
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
It wasn’t exactly warm in early spring, but the way the sun beat down on the clay tiles of the rooftops made it seem that way. Mikey was lounging on someone’s roof, he didn’t know who’s, but judging by the quality of tile, they must have been pretty wealthy. Something big was coming up, and it was making Mikey completely miserable, which was the very reason he was pissing off on a roof with a bottle of the shittiest ale he’d ever had.
Alcohol was great. It made the last four years a little bit forgettable, at least for a moment. He knew he really should stop being so unproductive, but he had a week until he could even carry out his plan anyway, so he might as well try to enjoy the pointlessness of life. He would quit drinking tomorrow, and gather up all those scoundrels he’d managed to bring to his side through bribery or manipulation, and rally up an idiotic rebellion. If all went according to plan, the resistance would be a big enough surprise and distraction that he could carry out his own personal plans.
He wasn’t really convinced it would work, but he’d been trying things for years now, and he figured it didn’t matter anymore how strategic he was. At this point, all he had was to give it all he’s got.
A shadow passed over him; he could tell by the way the sun stopped being so warm, and the way the redness behind his eyelids faded to black. It’s lingering presence wouldn’t budge, so he cracked open his eyes just a little to see who in their right mind had gone and found him on a roof.
“Hello, Mikey Way.” The man said gently, smiling. “You’ve grown up quite a lot since I last saw you. What are you, nineteen now?”
Mikey made an obscene gesture at the man with a particularly rude finger, and closed his eyes again, taking a swig of that nasty ale.
“Mikey, come on. Don’t be like this.” He sighed. “You look terrible. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“You can get out of the way of my sun.” Mikey said bitterly, scowling.
“ Mikey .”
“ Ray .” Mikey mimicked mockingly. “Seriously, just kill me or leave me alone. Pick one, I could care less.”
“I’m not here to kill you.” Ray said, crouching down so the sun’s warmth flooded back over Mikey.
“Do you still work for the people who want to kill me?” Mikey asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah.” Ray said, frowning a little. “Listen, I don’t want to, but you know it’s impossible to leave them alive.”
“I did.” Mikey retorted. “Gerard did. Remember him? He was your best friend, wasn’t he? And here you are, still working for the people who want him and his sweet little brother dead.”
“Real sweet.” Ray said sarcastically, yanking the bottle of ale away from Mikey before he could have any more. “I can see the two of you are doing just great. It’s not like one of you is in a dungeon cell and the other is wasting his damn life away on shitty ale while being hunted down by multiple organizations.”
Mikey glared at him.
“Where are you living?” Ray asked.
“Everywhere.” Mikey muttered.
Ray looked concerned.
“You’ve been taking shelter, at least, I hope.” He said.
“I’ve been managing, okay?” Mikey said, sitting up and crossing his arms, no longer able to use his ale as something to do with his hands.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
“What do you want, Ray?” Mikey asked, avoiding Ray’s question.
“I came to warn you.” Ray said seriously.
“Of what?” Mikey asked, distracted by his ale in Ray’s hand.
He was very disappointed at his lack of ale. He wished Ray would just give it back and go away forever.
“Whatever you have planned for next week–and don’t act like you don’t, I know you do–don’t do it.” Ray said. “I don’t know what you’re doing, but from what I can tell, Manson does, and he’ll use that opportunity to get to you.”
“Ray, do you realize I don’t give a shit what Manson tries to do to me?” Mikey asked. “I don’t give a damn. What do I have left, anyway?”
Ray sighed in frustration, running a hand through his hair.
“I don’t think you should try to go after Gerard alone.” Ray said. “Especially not on that day, it’s too predictable.”
“Then you come with me, and we’ll do it the day after.” Mikey shrugged. “Or before, I don’t care. It’s been four years, Ray. I can’t leave him there any longer.”
“I can’t come with you. You know that the best I can do is advise you not to go.” Ray said sadly.
“No, you get to make that choice.” Mikey grumbled.
“What choice? The choice to live? You should make that choice for yourself.” Ray held up the nearly empty bottle of ale. “ This isn’t you.”
“It is now.” Mikey snapped, reaching for his ale defiantly.
Ray’s reflexes were quick, and he tossed the bottle into the air, snatching it with his other hand and holding it out of Mikey’s reach.
“Take care of yourself, Mikey.” Ray said firmly. “You’ll live better if you do.”
“I’m still going to try to free Gerard.” Mikey argued.
“Fine.” Ray sighed. “I kind of figured you would.”
“If I promise to get better, will you try to keep Manson off my back that day?” Mikey asked.
“You don’t have to promise me anything, Mikey.” Ray said. “You know I’ll always look out for you. But yes, I’ll do what I can.”
“Thank you, Ray.” Mikey said. He surely wasn’t sobered up at this point, but he was clear minded enough to know that despite how much Ray was getting on his nerves before, he really did appreciate him all those years. “I really, truly miss you.”
“I miss you, too, kid.” Ray said, patting Mikey on the shoulder. “Good luck next week. I hope we both live to see each other again. And Gerard, too.”
With that, Ray jumped off of the building, and Mikey watched as he dropped down and blended in with the people in the street. Mikey sighed, and laid back down on the rooftop. He reached over, and frowned.
Ray took Mikey’s goddamned ale.
Frank Iero roamed the dungeon halls, one hand trailing the cold stone walls and the other resting protectively on the ring of keys around his hip. Every so often, he would snap his fingers or make a command to one of the dogs scouting the dungeon. Occasionally, he would say something to one of the prisoners, if they were doing something he didn’t trust.
When Frank was a boy, he and his little dog Sweet Pea took a job chasing down mice in the castle dungeons. It was the best he could do to try to support his single mother on her deathbed, and it meant he didn’t have to sell his dog. As time went on, the kingsguard began to notice how well trained Sweet Pea was, and asked to see if he could replicate that obedience on bigger, more stubborn dogs. The fact that at the age of nine he managed to exceed their expectations was astounding to them, and he was offered a full time job. He had been training and supervising the castle guard dogs ever since.
It was a blessing, he realized, that he and Sweet Pea weren’t thrown off onto the streets once his mother passed. As young as he was at the time, he knew he would have been taken away by some sleazy orphan stealer to be turned into a courtesan–or worse, an assassin.
Really, it was quite funny that Frank found that worse. He knew if it had come down to that, he would have been a much better assassin. He was a fairly good fighter even without all of the extensive training, and, he admitted, he was a bit of a danger to others. But if there was one thing he had learned in the last few years of his current job, it was that he really hated assassins.
Or rather, he despised the one he had to constantly keep a close eye on down there, and that particular one had set Frank off from all other assassins.
Just as Frank managed to find time to sit down and tend to Sweet Pea’s poor arthritic paws, the unbearable assassin had to wake up and bother him once again.
“Hey, Frank, you around?”
Frank sighed. He wished he could just ignore him, and pretend he wasn’t on duty. But really, he was always on duty, considering he lived in the dungeon master’s ward. Plus, at the sound of his name, one of his guard dogs perked her ears and looked at him, effectively giving him away.
Frank stood, picking Sweet Pea up, and gave her a little kiss on the head. With the hand that wasn’t cradling his tiny dog, he grabbed the torch mounted on the wall above him, and walked over to the assassin’s cell.
“What do you want?” He asked, docking the torch and leaning against the cool stone across from the cell.
“Hiya, Frankie, long time no see.”
The assassin was sitting cross legged in the corner of the cell on the tattered burlap that made up his bed. In the years that he’d been in the dungeons, his hair had grown long and tangled, and he’d become as filthy as the other long time prisoners. Though, despite the grime and terrible conditions, he still had this stunning elegance in his facial features that Frank thought really highlighted his arrogance. Especially when he smiled the way he was right now.
“Shut up, Gerard. What do you want?” Frank asked, frowning.
“There is a rat.” Gerard said pointedly, pointing to the other side of his cell, where sure enough, there was a huge, nasty rat searching for something to eat. “Would you like to send your dog in to take care of that?”
“She’s too old.” Frank said, protectively holding Sweet Pea to his chest. “She doesn’t work anymore.”
Even if Sweet Pea was young and perfectly capable of hunting that rat, Frank would never send her that close to Gerard Way. Frank would never admit it, but the assassin kind of terrified him.
“Well that sucks.” Gerard sighed. “I guess I’ll just take care of it myself.”
Frank tilted his head, unsure of what Gerard was going to do. He watched as Gerard picked up a tiny rib bone, probably from some other rat or mouse that had wandered into his cell long ago and died. He rubbed the tip of the bone on the stone wall for a while, quickly sharpening it into a needle-like point. He held the bone between his fingers like a dart, and squinting one eye, threw it in the direction of the rat. Frank’s eyes widened, and he jumped a little as the makeshift weapon lodged itself in the side of the rat’s body, piercing through its little heart.
Gerard rose to his feet, and picked the rat up by the tail, letting it’s dead body dangle for show. Sweet Pea wriggled in Frank’s arms, excited from the sight of the rat, and Frank had to set her down to prevent her from falling out of his arms.
Frank finally snapped out of his astonishment at what just happened, and went straight into taking care of the situation. He certainly couldn’t allow this lethal assassin to be around anything that could potentially turn into a weapon.
“I want that rat and any bones, now.” Frank said sternly, holding out his hand.
“Well, fine.” Gerard said, crossing the cell to the bars. “No need to be so demanding.”
He dropped the rat in Frank’s open palm, and Frank removed the sharpened rib bone, giving Sweet Pea the leftover carcass as a treat. The dog happily took the prize she could rarely get for herself anymore, and slowly hobbled off with it.
“What else do you have?” Frank asked, crossing his arms.
“Nothing really. Just those blankets and some straw.” Gerard shrugged, wrapping his hands around the cool iron bars. “You don’t trust me, do you?”
“Why would I ever trust you?” Frank asked, alarmed at the way Gerard truly seemed surprised.
“Well, I’d like to think that after roughly four years we’ve developed some sort of a friendship here, Frankie.” Gerard said, leaning as far as he could against the bars of the cell while still remaining casual.
“We haven’t.” Frank said, trying to stay as far away from the cell as he could so Gerard couldn’t somehow sneak something from him and escape.
“Cuts deep, man.” Gerard sighed, shaking his head. “Real harsh, especially so close to my birthday.”
“You have no idea what the date is.” Frank said, rolling his eyes.
“I’ve got a pretty good idea.” Gerard insisted. “I’ve been counting as best as I can. Of course, I’ve had to account for a few things I’m not sure of, mainly that one time you knocked me out when I almost escaped.”
“You did not almost escape, you barely made it past the dungeon doors.” Frank reminded him. “And you were only out for a day.”
“Well, that narrows it down a bit.”
“Sure it does. What’s the month?” Frank asked, not believing him.
“Early April.” Gerard said, without a moment of thought.
Frank raised his eyebrows, surprised at how accurate his timing was, especially after so many years. Though, it could just be a lucky guess stated with conviction.
“Alright, when is your birthday, then?” Frank tried.
“Today is the eighth.” Frank said, figuring he at least owed it to the guy to tell him his birthday was the next day.
Gerard beamed, a genuine smile that traveled all the way to his eyes. It was probably the happiest Frank had ever seen a prisoner, and it made him queasy to think it was the one prisoner he was most scared of that he’d somehow made happy.
“Well, then, I’ll be twenty-two tomorrow.” Gerard announced.
“That’s, um, great.” Frank said, unsure of how to respond to that.
It was kind of a terrible thought, realizing that this man had gotten himself locked up during the most important years of his life. He should have been spending time with people who cared about him, being reckless and falling in love. Instead he was turned into a murderer by some sadistic assassin master who only wanted money, and killed the king, landing himself in the worst place to live out your life. It was such a scary thought, especially since Frank could have been the one on the other side of those bars had things gone differently for him.
“Usually I would celebrate with my little brother.” Gerard mentioned. “I haven’t seen him in so long. Obviously.”
“You have a brother?” Frank asked nervously. “Is he… Like you?”
“My brother is this scrawny kid with too many morals, he’d make a terrible assassin.” He lied. “Don’t you worry, he won’t ever come for me. It’s been four years, remember, for all I know he could be dead, or in a similar situation as my own.”
That part was true. Gerard had pretty much given up any hope that Mikey was coming for him. It was a hope that easily dwindled as time went on. He wasn’t blaming Mikey. He knew that wherever he was, if he was alive, he loved Gerard and wanted to free him. But love and wanting were one thing, and having the abilities and resources to follow through was another. So Gerard had accepted his fate a long time ago, and decided to just let the rest of his life go on until he wasted away in that place.
“Well, I’m sorry about that.” Frank said, then added, “I think.”
“You don’t have to be sorry for me. You don’t like me, and you’ve got every right not to.” He said. “It’s fine, I get it.”
“Well, it still bothers me.” Frank frowned.
“What bothers you?”
“I don’t know. That you’re going to turn twenty-two in a dark, dusty cell. That you were only eighteen when you came here. That you had to kill people at such a young age. That you must not have parents, and some evil person robbed you of your innocence for their own gain. How messed up all of that is, and how you probably deserved better than to become such a terrible person.”
“Wow.” Gerard said quietly. “Well, come on now, where’d you get all that from?”
“You’re an assassin.” Frank said simply. “It’s not very hard to make those conclusions.”
Gerard was silent, and looked down. Frank figured this meant he was right.
“I don’t regret it, though.” Gerard finally said, not meeting Frank’s eyes. “I don’t know what you knew about your king, but at least from my perspective, that man deserved to go down. I just hope the current one is doing better, because if that’s the case, then I have no problem rotting in here. I would take the burden of a torturous life proudly if it means this world can be a better place for everyone else.”
Frank just nodded and left before he could think any more about the assassin’s words.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Ray was summoned to Manson’s office, and he discovered upon reporting that Bob was too. Bob was lounging carelessly in one of Manson’s fancy red velvet chairs. He tended to do that whenever he was in Manson’s office. Ray, however, stood straight before Manson with his hands clasped behind his back, patiently waiting to be given orders.
Ray and Bob were complete opposites. Ray was obedient and respectful, yet hated Manson with a deep passion that he carefully hid. Bob groveled at the Master’s feet, yet was completely and utterly incompetent and disrespectful. Manson liked them for different reasons, and loathed each for different reasons. Both tended to end up on a higher pedestal than the other assassins in the keep, mainly because they played the part of Master’s Pet–Though with very different motivations.
“You’re giving me a partner on this mission?” Bob asked, frowning and eying Ray up. “You know I prefer to work alone.”
“This job isn’t a typical one.” Manson said. “You’re going to need each other.”
Bob huffed, and Ray fought the urge to roll his eyes. He always saw Ray as competition. Ray had a pretty good idea of what this mission was going to be, and he knew Bob was going to be a real pain in the ass. If he was right about what Manson was planning for them, then he was just going to make sure he was a pain in the ass right back.
“A rebellion has started outside the castle this morning.” Manson informed them, and Ray wasn’t very surprised. “I have reason to believe it is a distraction formulated by Mikey Way in an attempt to free his brother from the dungeons.”
Bob perked up, sitting straighter in the chair in excitement. Ray remained stoic. He knew Mikey would do something insane on Gerard’s birthday. At least Manson was sending him and Bob, and not going himself. This would set Ray up to monitor the situation without looking suspicious, and all he would have to do is take care of the imbecile sitting next to him.
“I’m sending you both out to scout the castle. If you are lucky, Mikey’s plan will be a success and the two of you will be able to easily apprehend both Ways and bring them back to me.” Manson explained.
“What if he fails?” Ray asked.
“Then there are two options. If he escapes the castle, you bring me one Way. If not, then you return to me with nothing.” Manson said. “Punishments will be in order for that last option, but we will move on and formulate another plan to liberate the Ways and bring them into our own hands.”
Manson’s punishments were brutal, but well worth Mikey and Gerard’s safety to Ray. Plus, there was the added bonus of Bob getting lashings too. Three wins and a loss; a favorable ratio in Ray’s opinion.
“Good.” Ray said. “Shall we set out, then?”
“Yes. You are both dismissed.” Manson said. “Don’t disappoint me.”
Mikey was not leading the rebellion. Nobody was, but it wasn’t like anyone knew that. People just saw chaos and started to panic. Panic leads to more chaos, and a very effective distraction.
Mikey loved chaos.
He walked through the sand on the edge of the shore, the only people who noticed him being the pirates who wisely stayed out of Mikey’s business. They merely looted merchants’ abandoned ships, using the fear and chaos to their advantage as well.
The eastern side of the castle was on the edge of a large cliff, which faced the shore where merchants docked their ships. Mikey had been studying the different castle entrances for years, and learned that was the side that was least defended. The ocean and the cliff provided enough protection that there were rarely any guards present on the eastern side. Those obstacles were extremely difficult to get past, making the threat of that side remaining guardless seem minimal, especially when other parts of the castle were much more vulnerable.
Mikey didn’t see this as much of a problem, however. Most people who attempted to climb the cliff would end up falling to their death into the rocky waters below, but he had been well trained for this type of thing. He’d climbed tall cathedrals to the top without falter, and those were architecturally structured to have flatter points and smaller protrusions which made finding handholds more difficult. The rocky cliffside would be much easier to scale, so long as he was careful.
At the top, there was a thin patch of grass which he was able to sit on and catch his breath. Above him was a balcony, the sole entrance on that side, which he had to jump up and take hold of. For a moment, he dangled dangerously above the churning water far below, but he managed to pull himself up and over the balcony bars. The door was locked, but Mikey jiggled a knife between the door and the jamb, and managed to pick it open.
He found himself in an empty room that appeared to be a study of some sort. Many dusty books lined the shelves embedded into the walls, and there was a mahogany desk in the center that was gilded with gold leaf. Mikey rolled his eyes at the tackiness of it, and crossed the room to the hallway door.
Once he snuck out of the study, Mikey crept down the pristine halls of the castle, heading towards where he assumed the throne room would be. He honestly had no idea he would make it this far, as he never managed to before, but somehow this plan was working a lot better than his previous attempts.
Maybe he should have just went straight for the dungeons, as he had a better idea of where those were, and what to do once he got there. He did acknowledge that his lack of preparation going into this was pretty stupid, but before he rescued Gerard and things got chaotic, he wanted to finish that job from four years before. He just needed to. It was like he couldn’t feel complete until he had accomplished both tasks: saving his brother and killing the prince-turned-king. If after four years he couldn’t at least tell Gerard he finished the job for him, he would consider himself a failure.
Mikey found himself in a large foyer, with two sets of grand stairs leading to the exact same place, long red rugs draped down them. The ceiling was painted with a gorgeous mural, and from the center where the sun would be, a large chandelier hung. The vastness of the foyer overwhelmed Mikey, and he stepped lightly down the stairs, doing his best not to create an echo.
He reached the bottom of the stairs, cursing the fact that his boots still had little granules of sand stuck to them, which were making a mess. He wouldn’t care if it weren’t for the fact that someone could notice that the perfectly clean foyer had little bits of sand all over, and come to the conclusion that someone had snuck in. Knowing he had to act fast, Mikey gazed up at two large wooden doors, and decided that those must be the ones he was looking for. With a deep breath, he pulled them open, and stood before the king with an unbridled violence flooding through his veins.
The chaos in the courtyard was dying down. Ray and Bob had watched the original offenders take off long ago, and now the panicked townspeople were beginning to realize that the only danger was each other. People were always so stupid when they were afraid. Untrained people would fight anything, it seemed. They didn’t have a clue how to calculate their moves to ensure they took the least hits. If Ray and Bob weren’t crouched in the shadows on top of a nearby building, and one of those people went after them, the poor idiot wouldn’t have had a chance. Their aimless kicks and shoves would do nothing against the skill the assassins possessed.
“I didn’t see him go in.” Bob said, disappointed. “Do you think he got in?”
“I don’t know.” Ray said. “He probably did.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t see him.” Bob repeated.
“Of course not, he didn’t want to be seen.” Ray said, shaking his head just a little.
“We’re probably wasting our time on that little piece of shit.” Bob complained.
“Fine, then leave.” Ray said, hoping Bob actually would. “I can handle this on my own if you don’t want to be around.”
“No, you’ll do it wrong and then Manson will punish both of us. I don’t want to be punished for your incompetencey.” Bob said.
The thought of killing Bob and telling Manson it was a tragic accident, or that Mikey killed Bob and got away, went though Ray’s head, but he did not act on that desire.
Instead he just thought about how to prevent Bob from actually getting to Mikey if and when he came out of that castle.
Ray looked at Bob, and squinted his eyes.
Maybe he would have to kill Bob. He would make that decision when the time came.
There were only two kingsguard in the room. The same two who had guarded the prince on the day Gerard killed his father, Mikey thought. He wasn’t entirely sure, though, because they had been so far away, and he’d been much more concerned with other things than what everyone on that stage looked like.
One stepped forward, sauntering casually closer to Mikey. He thought maybe this one was the one who caught Gerard; the other he sort of recognized as the one who guided the prince away. He only remembered that because that guard looked kind of intimidating.
“Hello, unexpected visitor.” The kingsguard that approached him said. Mikey narrowed his eyes at the way he said that. “What brings you here on this fine revolutionary evening?”
Mikey responded by drawing his sword, and taking up a beginning stance.
“Ah, so it’s one of these visits.” The kingsguard said, drawing his own sword, and smirking in amusement.
Mikey’s eyes flicked from his apparent opponent to the king and other guard, trying to calculate his moves to get to the king. It was strange, the king was on the edge of his seat, though he didn’t look afraid, and he wasn’t making any attempts to get away. He was merely watching his kingsguard carefully, one hand buried under his robes, perhaps on a defensive weapon of his own. Mikey wondered if he even knew how to use it. The second kingsguard stepped forward with his own hand on his sword, but Mikey’s opponent shook his head.
“Save your good nature, Andy.” He said. “I’ll take care of it.”
Mikey’s grip on his sword tightened as the striking image of Gerard’s blood on the white robes flashed through his mind, reminding him exactly why he was here. He had worked and waited for so long to get to this point, and now that he had made it he had nothing but bloodlust set into him.
Set off by the memory, Mikey lunged, and the first clash of swords as the kingsguard made his defensive move rang through the high-ceilinged throne room. Mikey tried slashing from the side, but his opponent was much shorter, giving him the advantage of swiftness, and allowed him to quickly sidestep the move.
Mikey twisted, and swung around fast. His sword cut through the air, and the kingsguard dropped, ducking just in time to avoid getting the top of his head taken off. Mikey stumbled at the miscalculated force of his swing, and his sword lodged itself into a nearby pillar. Before he could yank it out, the kingsguard used being crouched down to his advantage, grabbing Mikey around the waist and knocking him off balance. His hands slipped from the hilt, and his sword remained stuck in that pillar as he crashed to the ground.
He felt his head hit the stone floor hard, and stars clouded his vision, making it very hard to focus. He had to clear his head, because he swore, he was not going to be bested by a kingsguard of all things. He realized that he really should have been training more, instead of drinking all that ale. Why did he have to be so stupid to do that? He knew the answer, it was childish stupidity, mixed with wallowing in his sorrows and aimless desperation that lead to him bursting in there so unprepared. Just because he was a good assassin didn’t mean he was going to fare well against a conditioned kingsguard after years of neglecting to take care of himself. Stupid, so stupid. If he made it out of this alive, he was going to train like hell with whatever he had.
He breathed deeply through his nose, and opened his eyes, using what strength he could recover to throw the kingsguard off of himself. The force caused the kingsguard’s sword to fling across the room, far out of either of their reach. Both were unarmed now, but Mikey rolled on top of the kingsguard and quickly drew a dagger from his hip holster. He was seeing double, his vision blurred, but he took a shot in the dark, hoping maybe he’d hit something. His dagger made a loud clanging noise as it roughly hit the stone by the kingsguard’s head.
“Damn, you’re resilient.” The kingsguard said, and before Mikey could do any more than nick his ear, brought his leg up and kneed Mikey between the legs.
Mikey gasped, and the kingsguard took the opportunity to slip out from under him, and pin him to the ground. The pain in Mikey’s stomach from the assault to his groin intensified as he realized this was the way they held Gerard down four years before. He started to panic at the reminder of that moment, hating the way his arms were bent behind him and the side of his face pressed into the floor.
“Do you want to talk about your problems, or are you going to continue to try to stab me in the face?” The kingsguard asked.
He had to put his entire weight on Mikey to keep him down. Mikey tried writhing in his grasp to try to free himself, but he wasn’t budging. He noticed as he did so that the king got a little jumpy, looking like he was about to rush over to help his kingsguard if he needed to. It was very odd, at least in Mikey’s experience. Nobles usually stayed out of the way of danger. They weren’t likely to jump into a fight, even to save someone they cared about. Not that Mikey ever thought nobles cared about anyone but themselves. He knew very well what their priorities were.
“Why does he look so concerned about you?” Mikey grunted.
The best he could do to indicate who he was talking about was tilt his head a little in the direction of the king, which caused him to scrape his cheek on the rough stone floor. He winced at the burn, annoyed at the fact that that was the only injury he was leaving this fight with. He considered trying to annoy the kingsguard into giving him a more impressive injury, but ditched that idea, knowing how idiotic and prideful it was.
“The king is a good guy. He cares about his friends, even the ones who work for him.” The kingsguard replied with a cocky little smile.
“No, I know that stance. He’s prepared to take me out if you make a mistake.” Mikey said, coming to a realization. “He’s your decoy.”
“Clever.” He said, impressed, and the decoy king stood, already drawing his sword. “I’m fine, Joe, sit down. I want to ask him some questions.”
The decoy, Joe, reluctantly sat back down, still intensely watching Mikey.
“You’re Peter the Third.” Mikey said, eyes widening.
The true king grimaced, and took one hand off of Mikey’s wrists to catch a wad of rope Andy threw to him. Mikey thought he might have been able to use that chance to get out of his grip, but it was to no avail.
“I hate that.” He said, beginning to wrap the rope around Mikey’s wrists. “I prefer to just be called Pete. I’d rather not be connected back to my father.”
“‘King Pete’ sounds stupid.” Mikey said, hoping if he kept talking to the guy, maybe he could buy enough time to think of an escape plan.
It was kind of interesting to hear that he didn’t want any connections to his father. Mikey wondered what that meant.
“So what’s your deal?” Pete asked, effectively ignoring the remark. “You’re not some rebellious commoner, I can see that for sure. You’re an assassin, aren’t you?”
“No, why would you think such a thing?” Mikey was taken aback, and his much too quick delivery wasn’t very convincing.
“You’re lethal, and you’ve clearly been trained to kill. However, your self defense skills could use a lot of work.” Pete explained. “It’s unsurprising, really. I’m sure your master trained you to with the sole intention of getting paid. They don’t seem to care if their assassins are able to take care of themselves, as long as they get the job done. So, due to your evident skill yet inability to keep yourself from being taken out, it’s pretty easy to conclude that you are–or were–an assassin.”
“Fancy talk, prince.” Mikey shot back.
“It’s king, and under that title you tend to pick up a formal tongue around people you don’t know well.”
“Well, prince ,” Mikey said, narrowing his eyes and purposefully not correcting himself. “I’m glad I don’t know you well.”
Mikey felt the weight of Pete come off of him, and he was roughly yanked to his feet by the tough looking kingsguard, Andy. He tried to twist out of the rope using three separate methods Manson taught him, but he couldn’t get out. The only thing that Mikey found good about this whole situation was the little bit of blood running down Pete’s ear, which meant he at least wounded him. Very minorly, but it was still an accomplishment, especially considering the circumstances.
“There hasn’t been a rebellion since my father was killed.” Pete said, casually walking over to the window. “I’m intrigued, why do you hate me?”
“You have my brother locked up, and I want him back.” Mikey said, grimacing at the way his arms were bent and tied behind his back. “You’re pretty damn calm considering the circumstances. If I could break through your forces and get all the way in here, who’s to say my allies can’t?”
“You didn’t pick very good allies.” Pete said, pointing out the window. “We watched the cowards bolt the moment they realized they were going to die if they followed through with this.”
Mikey huffed. Bastards. He knew those scoundrels and vagrants weren’t to be trusted.
“It was what I could gather.” He muttered.
“Who is your brother?” Pete asked.
“I won’t tell you. You’ll only kill him to punish me.”
“Is that the impression I’ve left on you?” Pete asked, frowning.
Mikey didn’t comment.
“Alright, well, I see that you’re not going to be ready to tell me anytime soon.” Pete said. “I’ll let you have some time alone to think about how you want to continue this discussion.”
Mikey’s eyes widened. He was going to be sent to the dungeons. That was really bad. Perhaps he’d see Gerard down there. Mikey thought maybe that would be worse. If Gerard saw him being brought down there to be locked up forever, he would lose all hope. Mikey didn’t want Gerard to lose all hope. He was certain they both lost more than their fair share of it in their time apart, they didn’t need any more taken from them.
“Where would you like him?” Andy asked.
Mikey blinked, broken off of his train of thought by surprise. Scary guard had the voice of a princess.
“One of the main tower guest rooms. That should do.” Pete said, then looked to Mikey. “I’ll come check on you later, yeah?”
Yeah, sure . Mikey thought. If I’m not gone by then.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Mikey was not sent to the dungeons, much to his surprise. Instead, he was made to walk very far, winding through the castle, until he ended up in a tower. He figured out pretty quickly that the reason it was taking so long was because Andy was trying to confuse him. But Mikey was tracking their path, and was able to eliminate the false turns they took from his mental map. Mikey counted 117 steps to get to the room, which in his opinion was completely unnecessary, and much too long. He wondered if anyone ever actually used that staircase on a daily basis, and if they did, he felt very bad for them.
The floor they stopped on wasn’t even the top. There was still more staircase winding its way up to at least one other floor, maybe more. There were three identical doors on the floor, and Andy unlocked one with a brass key. Mikey would have tried to nick it from him, but the knot tying his wrists behind his back was unusually well done, and too tight for him to even move his hands enough. He had never seen a knot like this. He had never been taught how to escape such a knot. He would have to sever the rope if he had any hope of freeing himself.
Mikey was ushered into the room, but Andy did not follow.
“I hope it’s comfortable enough for you.” He said. “Pete will stop by later, like he said.”
Andy shut the door before Mikey could even process any of that, and he heard the little click of the lock trapping him in. This was by far the weirdest situation Mikey had ever been in. Did they forget he just tried to kill Pete? He wasn’t a guest, he was a prisoner, yet despite being locked up, he was in a pristine, luxurious room. A kingsguard had just said he hoped he was comfortable, and then called his king by a nickname.
Mikey kind of wished this was a dream, because that would make so much more sense.
After staring at the door in disbelief for a few minutes, he tried to open it, even though he knew it was locked. It wouldn’t budge, so he sighed and turned to look around the room. There was a window directly across from him, which gave him a pretty good idea of how high up he was, considering he could see most of the town from there. The bed was in the middle of the room to his right, covered in soft purple sheets and blankets, and littered with so many unnecessary decorative pillows. Of course everything was purple, it was the most difficult color dye to come by, and only the richest people in the world had access to it. Mikey was pretty sure he had only seen purple fabric once in his life, when Manson made some high end deals to get a very small amount, which he used to try to pass Mikey and Gerard off as nobles for a job. But that happened when Mikey was only eight, and he didn’t remember the job all that well. Gerard did most of the work.
The room was actually quite large, and allowed enough room for a small dining table and a fireplace with a chair in front of it. There was a door on the left side of the room, which Mikey tried, and found to be a garderobe. That wouldn’t do him much good for escaping.
He went back to the main room, and sat on the bed so he could angle himself enough to pull a knife from his boot. He twisted it around as best as he could behind his back, and slowly cut through the rope binding him.
He rubbed at his wrists to try to lessen the angry red marks the rope had left, then got to work on formulating an escape plan. At this point, they already knew he was there and had a general idea of what he was there for. After what just happened, they were likely going to increase security. He had abandoned the idea of killing anybody, but he still needed to save Gerard. He just wasn’t quite sure how he was going to do that yet.
It was getting late, and everything was silent. Ray and Bob still had yet to see Mikey, and if Ray hadn’t known any better, he probably would have assumed Mikey had nothing to do with this. But, of course, Ray knew Mikey well, and there was no way he would set up that entire thing, pay off those scoundrels, and then not try something. He was in there. It was just a question of whether he would come out or not.
“Where is he?” Bob asked, scowling. “Did they kill him?”
“I don’t think they killed him.” Ray said calmly. “This is Mikey we’re talking about. He’s not going down because of those useless kingsguard.”
“They better not have killed him.” Bob said. “I don’t want him dying so easily. I want to bring him back to the keep and cut him up piece by piece.”
Bob suddenly felt a sharp pain in his thigh, and made an exclamation of pain.
“Oh. Oops.” Ray said dully. “It looks like my hidden blade is malfunctioning. It’s releasing when I don’t want it to.”
Bob glared at Ray, but didn’t make any comment on what just happened.
“Why does Manson like all of you so much?” Bob asked, wiping the bit of blood that Ray drew off of his leg. “You, Mikey and Gerard.”
“I think it’s very clear that he does not like Mikey and Gerard.” Ray said, shooting Bob a confused look.
“Well, he used to.” Bob argued. “They used to be the best. When we were kids, they always got the most praise from Manson. Manson loved them. Even you knew it, don’t try to deny it.”
“I don’t think you realize how he treated them.” Ray said carefully. “You never had to patch Gerard up after Manson let him take extra punishments for Mikey. You never saw how that pushed him too far. You never noticed how jumpy Mikey would get if someone accidentally brushed against him. You never realized that the reason Mikey wore way too many layers was to try to hide all of the scars and injuries that weren’t from jobs. Manson loves torturing people. He loved them because Mikey was young and scared, and because Gerard took more than his fair share for his little brother. That’s what Manson loved about them. It’s not some accomplishment like you think it is.”
“The rewards outweigh all of that.” Bob grumbled. “I still don’t regret staying back that day four years ago. They deserve what’s coming to them. Their time is over, and they need to realize that.”
“I really don’t understand you.” Ray muttered, leaning back against the roof’s chimney.
“Of course you don’t, you always know how to make Manson happy.” Bob frowned. “He thinks I’m an idiot.”
Ray thought maybe Bob was looking for him to say that he wasn’t an idiot, and that of course Manson liked him. But Ray did not do this, because Ray thought Bob was an idiot and did not like him.
“Well, maybe do something about that.” Was all Ray said.
“I’m trying to.” Bob pouted. “But by the looks of things, we’re heading back to the keep empty handed.”
“Then I guess you’re going to have to figure something else out.” Ray said.
“I’m going to try to talk to the assassin.” Pete announced to Joe and Andy, once he finished his daily business.
“We should go with you.” Joe said, now back to wearing his kingsguard attire. “He probably still has weapons that we don’t know about.”
“You’re right.” Pete said. “You can stand outside the door, but I don’t want you going in. I don’t want to freak him out. I’m trying to build up some trust so I can learn more about him. I’ve got a theory I’m trying to test.”
Joe and Andy looked to each other nervously, then back to Pete.
“Don’t give me those looks.” Pete said. “I realize it’s kind of crazy, but I really don’t want to lock him up, or worse. If someone who doesn’t even know me hates me, then it’s a clear sign that they’ve been put in some sort of shitty situation that’s probably undeserving. I want to try to help him, and I want to prove to him that I’m not a ruthless leader.”
“Just be careful.” Andy said. “We don’t know what he’s capable of.”
“I will.” Pete promised, before walking out of the room.
Joe held Andy back before following Pete.
“Patrick returns tonight, correct?”
“Yes. Should be soon, hopefully.” Andy replied.
“Thank the gods.” Joe muttered, and the two kingsguard followed their reckless king.
Pete walked into the room to find the assassin crouched on the windowsill, attempting to jiggle a knife through the sealed edges. Hearing the door open, he glared at Pete.
“You’re interrupting my escape attempt.” He said bitterly.
“That’s alright, you don’t seem to have gotten far.” Pete said, closing the door behind him.
The assassin groaned in annoyance, and jumped off the ledge.
“What do you want?”
“I thought I’d offer to draw you a bath.” Pete said. “For one, because you are covered in dirt and blood. I have never seen so much dirt and blood on one person, and I’ve visited the dungeons.”
“Good, it shows you that I’ve killed a lot.” He said, purposefully sitting on the edge of the nicely made, clean bed just because he knew doing so would dirty it up.
“It mostly just shows me you’ve lived a rough life.” Pete said gently.
“Stop pitying me.” The assassin said, crossing his arms. “What’s your other reason?”
“Well, you’re obviously still concealing weapons, because you somehow got ahold of a knife even after my guards patted you down.” Pete said. “We’ve decided that the only way to really know if you don’t have anything on you is to have you strip down and get you new clothes.”
“No.” The assassin said sternly, crossing his arms even tighter around his chest, and recoiling a little. “Absolutely not.”
“Listen,” Pete sighed. “I really don’t want to lock you up in the dungeons. I’m trying to be nice here, but you did try to kill me, so I’m only taking necessary precautions.”
“I don’t care.” He stood and crossed the room to be further away from Pete. “You can have all of my weapons, and you can dress me in your stupid fancy ass weaponless clothes, but I am not stripping down in front of anyone. I’m not about to talk to you about my issues, so you can take that or leave it.”
“Okay.” Pete said. “Fair enough.”
“I’m not going to make you do anything that makes you uncomfortable, and your compromise is reasonable.” Pete said, moving to the garderobe. “Come on, now.”
The assassin took a moment to register his surprise, but soon followed after Pete.
Once the bath was prepared, and the assassin was settled, Pete sat on the windowsill outside the door. He began examining the weapons the assassin had handed over, and realized there was so much he wanted to know.
“Can I ask you some things?” Pete asked through the door.
“Maybe.” Came the assassin’s unsure reply.
“Don’t worry, I’ll start out with an easy one.” Pete said. “What’s your name?”
“Just Mikey? No surname?” Pete asked, turning a dagger over in his hand.
“I don’t have any parents.” Mikey said flatly.
“That doesn’t answer my question.” Pete said, looking over at the door.
He couldn’t help wondering what this conversation would be like if he was face to face with Mikey. He wondered if that flat tone would have been met with an equally flat expression, or one laced with the emotional hardship of the words. It was hard to tell with him, the way he spoke with so much rage and passion, though managed to remain so stoic in his features.
“I know.” Mikey said defiantly.
“But you have a brother. The two of you must have a shared surname.”
Mikey ignored him, and Pete sighed.
“Where are you from?” He decided to ask next.
“That’s not what I meant.” Pete said. “What Keep are you from? Who is your master?”
“I’m not going to tell you that.” Mikey said, but after a moment had a second thought. “Or maybe I should. Then you can try to go after him, and one of you will end up killing the other. Would save me a whole hell of a lot of work.”
“You don’t have any loyalty to your master?” Pete asked, surprised.
“I have loyalty to my brother.” Mikey said simply. “My old master is a terrible human being, who has been trying to get me killed for most of my life, and probably has scouts monitoring your castle for when I leave.”
“Well, then it’s good you won’t be leaving.” Pete said.
Mikey opened the door, and stepped out with little droplets of water falling from strands of his hair and sticking to his eyelashes. He had laced the tunic Pete had given him all the way up, so there wasn’t a bit of skin that could be seen below the neck.
“That was fast.” Pete noted.
“Baths are vulnerable places. It’s easy to be killed in one.”
Pete didn’t ask Mikey why he knew that. He really didn’t need a recount of the time or times that Mikey had killed someone in a bath. The thought of the blood flooding the water and seeping over the side of the tub was a gruesome enough image that he’d formulated himself. He didn’t want or need to have any of the real details.
“Well…” Pete started to speak, but trailed off at the sound of people shouting outside the door.
The voices neared closer, until one addressed him, sounding completely astounded and disapproving.
“Pete! You’re keeping an assassin as a guest !?”
“Oh shit. My advisor is home.” Pete muttered. “I’m going to have to get back to you. If I’m still alive after this.”
Pete slipped out of the room, locking it behind him, and came face to face with his extremely disappointed advisor.
“Hi Patrick.” He said nervously.
Patrick shook his head, frowning, and shot a glance towards the door.
“Walk.” He said, pointing down the stairs. “I don’t want any eavesdropping.”
Pete sighed, and descended the stairs, Patrick at his side.
“What were you thinking?” Patrick asked, once they were out of earshot. “You need to stop sending me on diplomatic missions if every time I leave you make such life threatening decisions!”
“I’m just trying to gain his trust so I can ask him more questions.” Pete said. “If we don’t treat him well, he’s going to keep being secretive. In the four years I’ve been running this country, I have never had an assassin sent after me, and I want to know why.”
“Are you crazy!? That’s like sticking a cobra down your pants and simply praying it won’t bite!” Patrick exclaimed.
“Who said anything about my pants?” Pete asked with a sly grin, and Patrick glared at him. “He said it was because I have his brother in the dungeons, but he also refuses to tell me who that is and seems to think I’m some crazy executioner like my father. I know there’s more to it.”
“Pete, do you know who this might be?” Patrick hissed, glancing back up the stairs nervously.
“I know.” Pete said. “That was my thought, too. It’s fine, we’ll summon Brendon and get confirmation. Then, if our theory is right, we’ll deal with it.”
“Deal with it how?” Patrick asked.
“I’m still working on that.” Pete said. “How was Torvia?”
“Don’t you change the subject.” Patrick scolded.
“It might help.”
“How would our strained relationship with the Torvian government help this situation in the slightest?” Patrick asked, exasperated. “The trip went about as poorly as we expected.”
“We’re going to have to send another representative to Torvia, and it’s not going to be you this time. You’re right, I make bad decisions without you, that’s why you’re my advisor.” Pete said. “If we’re right about who he is, then I have an idea. But first, we need confirmation.”
Patrick breathed heavily through his nose, thinking about Pete’s words.
“I wish you would communicate with me more.” He said. “I’ll call for Brendon.”
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Brendon Urie always had to enter a room as dramatically as possible. Pete had gotten very used to his young friend bursting into the throne room, acting like a simple situation was a much bigger deal than it was. The first few times, Pete had freaked out, thinking that something life-threatening was happening, but he was no longer fooled by Brendon’s startling entrances.
“I hear I’ve been summoned for some extremely important business, in which my very good friend, the king, wants to show me something.” Brendon announced loudly. It was completely unnecessary considering the only people in the room was him, Pete and Patrick. “But much more importantly, I have been noticed by a stunning lady.”
“Okay, Brendon.” Pete sighed, standing and descending the steps to the stone floor. “Let’s go.”
“Don’t you want to hear about my amazing new love interest?” Brendon asked, as Pete took him by the elbow and dragged him out of the throne room.
“I don’t know, do I?” Pete asked.
“It’s a great story, I think you want to hear it.” Brendon insisted.
“Well, we’ve got a long way to walk, so you might as well tell me.” Pete shrugged, heading towards the main tower.
“So, I was trying to clean the rafters, because there’s so many bats and birds up there, and I kicked a dead pigeon off the side of the bell tower. There was some annoying guy ranting about something on the street, and it hit him in the head. Everyone else was rushing to see what happened to him, but she looked up and she was laughing. Then she smiled and waved at me. I think I’m in love.”
“Okay, Brendon.” Pete said, not really sure how to process that story.
“I almost passed out, it was fantastic.” Brendon grinned. “She was so beautiful.”
“Do you even know her name?” Pete asked.
“Not yet, but I’m sure it’s a great name.” He said.
“I don’t want to be the one to tell you this, but don’t count on anything.” Pete said. “You don’t even know her. She might not like you.”
“Trust me, Pete, I’ll get the girl.” Brendon said, shooting Pete a goofy smile. “I’m adorable.”
“Are you even allowed to pursue any woman?” Pete asked skeptically. “You’re taking over the cathedral in a few days, aren’t you?”
“It won’t be for a while, after I turn sixteen there’s lots of legal stuff I have to go through.” Brendon explained. “But then, once I get all the power, I get to start making reforms. The bishop can’t marry? Not for long, motherfuckers!”
“Who decided you should run the religious community?” Pete muttered shaking his head.
“Some very stupid people.” Brendon admitted.
“I still don’t understand why you want to run the cathedral.” Pete said. “You’re not even religious.”
The two of them had many a conversation on the topic. Both were very conflicted in their views on religion, especially considering they were expected to be very religious due to their occupations. Pete was meant to be a model to all of the citizens, who all thought he had divine right as their king. Then there was Brendon, who’s job was to organize the people for prayer three times every Sunday. But both had so much thrown onto them so young that neither were very sure that there were any gods. Because if there were, then they had dished out quite a lot of cruelty onto the boys and the people of their country.
“You wouldn’t get it.” Brendon said. “You’re the king, you’ve never had to worry about anything. You didn’t have to take a job as a bellboy just to scrape up a few coins. Poverty sucks, Pete. This is my chance to be a big deal, like you.”
“You’re not poor anymore, I’ve been helping you.” Pete said, puzzled.
“Yeah, and that’s a great thing for you to do for a kid . I’m growing up now, and I need to take care of myself. I can’t be relying on friends forever.” Brendon said. “You’re nothing without power in this world, and I’ve been given the chance to have some of my own.”
“So what are you planning to do?” Pete asked uncomfortably. “Be a false prophet?”
“I wouldn’t be false.” Brendon said. “Perhaps I don’t believe in the gods, but I still know more than most about them, and I can easily speak on their behalf and spread their teachings. Besides, if they are real, then they wouldn’t be letting me do this if they didn’t think it was a good idea.”
“I suppose so…” Pete said slowly. “You know if you don’t want to do this, I’ll still help you.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Brendon said, rolling his eyes. “Trust me, this is going to be amazing. I’ve never been happier.”
“If you say so.” Pete said.
“I do. Now what’s this thing you wanted to show me?” Brendon asked. “We have been walking up these stairs for a really long time. I’m getting tired.”
“It’s actually a person.” Pete explained, stopping in front of the guest room door. “I want you to tell me if you recognize him.”
“That’s a little weird, but okay.” Brendon said, laughing a little.
Pete opened the door, and Brendon stopped in his tracks. Mikey’s jaw was practically on the floor, surprise and annoyance etched all over his features.
“ You !?” Both exclaimed in unison, recognizing each other despite both aging a bit since the last time they’d crossed paths.
“Well, that answers that question.” Pete said.
“That’s the asshole who tied me up and knocked me out when I was a kid!” Brendon exclaimed.
“You’re clearly still a kid.” Mikey said, raising an eyebrow. “How the fuck are you still alive?”
“You never killed me, you incompetent idiot!”
“I never wanted to, brat!” Mikey argued back.
“Hey, cut it out, both of you.” Pete said sternly.
“Why? I don’t take orders from you.” Mikey said, flicking his attention back to Brendon. “I spared your ass even though every instinct and training I’ve ever had begged me not to. How the hell did the bellboy get on friendly terms with the fucking king?”
“After you sabotaged my bell ringing and your partner killed his father , people started to accuse me of being a part of it.” Brendon said, crossing his arms. “If Pete hadn’t listened to my story and let me tell him all about you and what you did, I would be in the dungeons right now.”
Despite how angry and annoyed Mikey and Brendon were, Pete was ecstatic. He had his confirmation, and now he knew how he could help.
“I know who your brother is.” Pete said, smiling widely.
“No.” He said, running his hands through his hair and starting to panic. “Ohh, no no no, this is so bad. Fuck.”
“Don’t you dare touch him, I swear to the gods if you do I won’t miss your face this time.” Mikey snapped, fire behind his eyes. “I don’t care if you’ve got me locked up in here, I’ll figure something out. I will always figure something out for him.”
“Why do you always think I’m going to hurt him?” Pete asked, exasperated. “If I wanted to execute him, I would have a long time ago. We all know very well what he did, and yet he’s still alive. You’ve got to trust me, I’m not going to hurt him.”
“Oh yeah? Then what exactly is it that you’re planning to do to the assassin who killed your father?” Mikey asked.
“I’m going to offer him an opportunity for redemption.” Pete said, and Mikey burst out laughing.
“Wow, you really are cruel.” He said. “Why don’t you mess with someone else’s sense of hope. I don’t have any left for you to try to take. It’s not going to work on me.”
“I’m not messing with you.” Pete sighed. “I’m completely serious. I don’t think either of you are bad people, and I think you deserve a second chance. You need to be willing to accept it though.”
Mikey crossed his arms.
“See what Gerard says. If he wants to take you up on your offer, then great.” He said. “But if he has the same opinion of you as I do, and doesn’t take it, then I’ll figure out a way to free him myself, regardless of if you try to get in the way.”
“Alright.” Pete said, turning to leave.
“Alright!?” Brendon exclaimed. “You’re going crazy, this guy is crazy!”
Mikey leered at Brendon, and Pete tried to push him out the door.
“Brendon, leave.” Pete ordered.
“I can’t believe you!” Brendon said, astounded. “He’s going to kill you. Why do you have him locked up in a guest room? He should be in high security with his just as crazy brother.”
“This is high security.” Pete said calmly, leading Brendon back down the stairs. “It’s just comfortable high security rather than a pile of dirt with a blanket on it.”
“I bet he could kill you with like two thirds of the furniture in there.” Brendon said. “What does Patrick think about this?”
“When have you ever cared what Patrick thinks?” Pete asked. “You’re usually the one who encourages me not to listen to him.”
“I care a lot about what Patrick thinks when it involves a crazy murderous assassin who wants us all dead.”
“Well, we’ve gone this far, so I’m going to send you home and continue with my promise. I’m going to offer the notorious Gerard Way a chance at redemption.”
Brendon made a strained noise of confliction.
“I am torn between sticking around to watch this all unfold and leaving to get the hell away from this place before it gets any worse.” Brendon said.
“Go home, Brendon.” Pete said, rolling his eyes and walking away from Brendon. “I’ll update you on the drama later.”
“Not if you’re dead you won’t.” Brendon called after him worriedly.
“I won’t be dead.”
“So… He’s in there?” Frank asked, staring at the guest room door with a look of confusion and horror on his face.
“Yes.” Pete said. “Why is everyone so surprised that he’s in the guest room?”
“Because he’s an assassin.” Frank suggested. “Listen, I don’t think this is a good idea. You’ve got one assassin getting the royal treatment, and you’re asking me to take another on a godsdamned trip. How does that make any sense?”
“Nobody thinks it’s a good idea, but it is.” Pete insisted.
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re way too determined?” Frank asked.
“Patrick, all the time.” Pete said.
“Do you realize what you’re asking of me?” Frank said, shaking his head. “I don’t know if I can do that.”
“It’s okay if you don’t want to, I’d just send someone else, but you know him best, which means you can handle him.” Pete said. “At least talk to him about it and see if you change your mind.”
“Can I see this one?” Frank asked, tilting his chin towards the guest room door.
“Go ahead.” Pete said, unlocking the door.
Frank cracked it just a bit, peering in. Knowing someone was watching him, Mikey smiled mischievously at the door.
“He’s absolutely wicked.” Frank said, slamming the door shut. “You better be careful.”
He brushed by Pete and started down the stairs.
“Are you going to talk to him?” Pete asked hopefully.
“I’ll do it.” Frank said, turning back only for a moment. “But we’re both putting our lives at risk for this, so like I said, be careful. I sure will be.”
Frank had never approached Gerard himself before. Gerard always had to call him over. So it was quite the surprise when the dungeon master payed him a visit with interesting news.
“I have a proposition for you.” Frank said carefully, looking very much like he didn’t want to be saying this.
“Oh yeah?” Gerard asked. “And what might that be?”
Frank sighed, frowning.
“How would you like to go outside for the first time in four years?”
Gerard watched him carefully, trying to narrow down all of the reasons Frank would ever let him do that.
“Are you finally going to execute me?” Gerard asked, figuring that was the only reason they would ever risk moving him from his cell.
“No.” Frank said. “Apparently the king has made the decision to offer you the opportunity to go on a supervised mission to see if you can be trusted.”
“Trusted?” Gerard asked, taken aback. “That’s ridiculous. Why would he want to test me for trustworthiness? I’m pretty sure I’ve proven to be the most likely person in this place to kill him in his sleep if I could.”
“Well, someone might have you beat now.” Frank said, thinking about that malicious assassin upstairs.
“Yeah?” Gerard asked, laughing lightly. “That’s quite the accomplishment. I applaud them. So what’s the deal? You’re overcrowded and need to kick someone out to fit this new, even more untrustworthy person in my place?”
“I don’t know why the decision was made. I think it’s as stupid as you do.” Frank said. “I just took the orders, and told you what he told me. I mean, I guess it must have something to do with that guest. Mikey or something, he seems just as crazy as you–”
“What did you just say?” Gerard asked suddenly, his heart beginning to race.
“He’s creepy. I saw him a few minutes ago, and he’s got that same murderous glint in his eyes that you’ve got.” Frank said. “Honestly, this place is going to shit. We’re all going to be dead by next week at this rate.”
“No, his name. What did you say his name was?”
“Um, Mikey, I think.”
“Where is he?” Gerard asked. “You said he was a ‘guest’. Do you mean in the same way that I’m a ‘guest’ here?”
“No, he’s not under my supervision. He’s staying in one of the rooms in the main tower.” Frank said. “Think about the offer carefully, because this is probably the only chance you’re ever going to get to get out of your life sentence.”
“I’m taking it.”
“What? You did not think about that carefully.” Frank said. “You don’t even know what you’re supposed to do.”
“I’m taking it, and I want to see Mikey.”
“I don’t think that’s part of the deal.” Frank said. “What’s so special about this guy? He was your partner or something?”
“He’s more than that. He’s my brother.” Gerard said. “You knew his name, and if he’s involved with whatever this is, then I trust you.”
“You mean that was your ‘scrawny kid brother’?” Frank asked, in disbelief.
“I might have lied just a little bit.” Gerard said. “He is a lanky thing, but then again, last time I saw him he was fifteen.”
“Well, he’s grown up, and he looks ready to kill us all, so you’ve got that to be proud of.” Frank said sarcastically.
“I miss him so much.” Gerard sighed.
“The sooner we head out, the sooner you can come back and see him.” Frank said. “Do you want to hear what we have to do?”
“Yes.” Gerard said. “Tell me, and I’ll do it.”
“We’re going to a foreign country called Torvia.”
“I’ve been there before.” Gerard said, remembering a time when Manson took him for a job. He remembered it as a pretty poor country that wasn’t very strong, though it was beautiful. “What for?”
“A diplomatic mission. They might be planning on declaring war against us, and we need to scope them out, talk to some leaders, and report back here.”
“Torvia is declaring war against us? Either we’ve fallen as a country, or they’re suddenly a superpower.”
“The latter.” Frank said. “They’ve unexplainably grown quite strong in the last few years under new rule.”
“Wow.” Gerard said. “Well, lucky for you, I remember my way around the central city.”
Frank sighed. They were actually discussing this. It was actually happening.
“Dear gods, I can’t believe I’m about to go on a goddamned mission with a psychopathic assassin.” Frank muttered.
“Hey.” Gerard said, offended.
“Excuse me for having reservations about this, but you do kill people for a living.”
“Well, if you’re serious about this, and Mikey is involved, then you don’t have anything to worry about.” Gerard shot back.
“I am serious.” Frank said. “And we’re going to get going as soon as possible. Now here’s our first challenge. The townspeople all know who you are and what you look like now. You’ve gained a lot of notoriety on the day you killed the king. Just because we’re giving you a second chance doesn’t mean they will, and they will recognize you. How would you get around that?”
“I’d put on a disguise.” Gerard thought for a moment. “Here’s an idea; I’d go out as a lady. Nobody suspects a lady. Do you think you’d be able to acquire theatre padding, cosmetics and womens clothing?”
“Yeah, no problem.” Frank said.
“Good.” Gerard said, smiling. “Let’s go on a little adventure.”
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
Frank was very tense. Of course he was tense, he was doing something he never thought he would ever in his right mind do. Not only had he just released the most feared person in the castle from the dungeons, he was now leading that very person straight to his king. It was pure insanity.
He had Gerard’s wrists tied together in front of him, for now. It was a precaution he had been advised to take only because of who they were on their way to see. He knew Joe and Andy would be on extra high alert even before they entered the throne room.
“Sorry.” Frank muttered, glancing at the tightly tied rope digging into Gerard’s wrists.
He felt like he needed to say something. The last thing he wanted to do was annoy Gerard, especially since he was going to be a semi-free man in a short time.
“I understand.” Gerard said, very calm for the situation.
Frank was still a little worried he was silently plotting something. He really hoped he wasn’t bluffing at how determined to see his brother he was.
Arriving at the throne room doors, Frank turned to face Gerard, resting his hand on the door handle behind him.
“When we go in, kneel. Both knees, hands visible and head down.” Frank instructed. “Don’t do anything until you’re told, understand?”
“Is the king really that concerned with how I act?” Gerard asked, holding back an eyeroll.
“Listen, I know you have a lot of preconceived notions about the king–especially based on his father–but you have to remember he’s giving you a chance when most people would not. He isn’t particularly concerned about the way you present yourself, but his guards are going to be very jumpy. If you’re stabilized on the ground and don’t make any threatening eye contact, they won’t be so uptight” Frank said. “They’re quick. If you make a slight move that doesn’t sit well with them, they’ll react.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll behave.” Gerard assured him.
Frank swallowed hard, and opened the door.
“Go.” He said, ushering Gerard through first, then following close behind.
Every footstep echoed through the room due to the dead silence as they approached the king. Pete stood, and Frank stopped Gerard a few feet back.
To Frank’s relief, Gerard did exactly as he told him to, immediately dropping to his knees.
“Hello, Gerard Way.” Pete said cautiously. “You’ve accepted my offer?”
“I have.” Gerard replied.
“Your brother doubted you would.”
“Then he doubts my loyalty to him.” Gerard said. Despite Frank’s warning, he risked raising his head to meet the eyes of the king. There was careful calculation in Pete’s expression, and determination in Gerard’s own. “He is wrong.”
“How do you feel about serving your enemies?” Pete asked.
“I don’t see you as an enemy. I’ve come to the realization over my time of solitude that a son should not be punished for his father’s sins.” Gerard said. “The worst thing you’ve done to me is stick me in a cell for four years, when you really should have executed me on the spot. And here you are today, offering parole. That is very generous considering the circumstances. I have no reason to see you as the enemy I once did.”
“You have nothing against anyone in this room?” Pete asked.
“Well, he gave me a pretty impressive scar protecting you four years ago.” Gerard said, acknowledging Joe. “But all I can say to that is you should be proud of him.”
“I am.” Pete said honestly. “But what happened then is none of my concern today. We have much more important things to worry about, and I’m looking to the future, not the past.”
“Respectable mentality. So, I gather your plan is to send Frank and I to Torvia. Negotiations only or do you have someone in mind you need taken care of?” Gerard asked.
“ Gerard .” Frank hissed disapprovingly, but Pete was very much unfazed by the question.
“I hope you won’t need to resort to that, but I am not opposed to you using that particular skillset if necessary.” Pete said, and Frank’s eyes widened at what that permissed. “Frank knows all of the necessary information and arrangements. You won’t be able to complete the mission without him. Of course, that would mean you don’t get to see Mikey, which I pray is enough to discourage you from letting my dungeon master fall into any harm.”
“Frank will be safe, I swear to you.” Gerard promised, glancing over to him. “He may hate me, but I’ve actually grown quite fond of him over the years.”
“I don’t hate you.” Frank muttered.
“And I swear to you that Mikey will be safe.” Pete said in return.
He didn’t have to say that, but it meant a lot to Gerard. For all that Pete’s father had done to the Ways, Gerard was astounded at how respectable the young king was.
“You surprise me, king.” Gerard said, smiling. “I like you a lot more than I thought I would.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Pete said. “Now, I hope you understand, I can’t let you see your brother until after you return.”
“Yes, I understand completely.” Gerard said. “Though, I should warn you, he’s stubborn. Be careful around him.”
“I will be. I believe I have him figured out better than he thinks I do.”
“That’s good. It’s best to try to stay a step ahead with Mikey, trust me on that.” Gerard warned.
“Is there anything you would like me to tell him for you before you go?” Pete asked.
Gerard looked down, thinking for a moment.
“Give him my word that I’ll kill him if he does anything stupid that’ll put him in danger. I plan on being careful, as I’d like to see him before we both join the Black Parade.” Gerard said. “Use those words. He’ll put more trust and belief in you if you mention the Black Parade.”
Pete nodded, acknowledging the words.
“No, thank you.” Gerard said, standing. “I hope to see you again very soon.”
With that, Gerard Way and Frank Iero left the throne room to prepare for their journey.
Pete entered the guest room with the intention of delivering Gerard’s message to Mikey, but was shocked to find the assassin dangling by his legs from the rafters, doing crunches.
“Gods, why are you on the ceiling?” Pete asked, alarmed.
“Training.” Mikey said, uncurling so he was hanging upside down, a little bit of sweat trickling into his hair. “I’ve been slacking. I need to train.”
“Well, don’t do that .” Pete said. “It won’t do you any good. I’ll take you to the training room later. Get down from there, I have news.”
“Fine, step back.”
Pete moved out of the way, and Mikey pulled himself up so he could grab the rafter he was hanging from. He flipped his legs through, then dropped down in front of Pete.
“Alright, you said you have news?” Mikey asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Your brother took the offer.” Pete said, stepping forward again. “He left a few minutes ago.”
“He wouldn’t. You’re lying.”
Pete ignored that, already knowing that would be Mikey’s reaction.
“He said to tell you not to do anything stupid, because he wants to see you before you’re both part of ‘the Black Parade.’ Whatever that means. I suppose you’d know.”
Mikey stopped dead in his tracks.
“How do you know that phrase?” He asked, shocked.
“I don’t know what it means, he just said you’d believe me if I told you that.”
“Well, yeah, there’s no way you’d ever know that unless he told you.” Mikey said, thinking it over. “You couldn’t have tortured it out of him, we have different code words for that.”
“That’s a code word?” Pete asked. “So it means something to you.”
“Well, that one’s not so much a code word than it is something that only the two of us know. It means the afterlife.” Mikey said. “My brother used to tell me our parents joined The Black Parade. I wish I could say that helped, but I’d seen things someone that young never should have seen.”
That was a lot of information that Pete hadn’t been expecting Mikey to reveal. He was hoping this was a sign that the assassin was starting to realize it was okay to open up. It wasn’t exactly too much new information; his occupation was enough to tell Pete that he was parentless, but he was alluding that there was more to it.
“Care to elaborate?” Pete tried, feeling like testing his luck.
Mikey shifted uncomfortably.
“I’ll take you to the training room.” Pete said, backtracking as to not overstep his boundaries. “If you decide to talk, you can talk. If not, you can just train.”
Frank had finished packing two travel bags about ten minutes ago, and was now waiting for Gerard to finish with his disguise. Frank sat on his bed, Sweet Pea in his lap, going over the things he packed again to make sure he wasn’t missing anything important. Gerard said he’d probably take about forty-five minutes–apparently he’d done this before for a few jobs–so Frank decided to talk to him for the remaining fifteen minutes or so.
“How’s it going in there?” He asked.
“Good.” Gerard said distractedly.
“Do you think it’ll be convincing enough?” Frank asked worriedly.
“I’d tell you to ask Lord Gacy if he thought it was convincing, but he died thinking he was about to bed a courtesan.” Gerard said. “I’ll let you decide how good I am at this based on that, or you can just wait and see for yourself.”
“I’ll wait.” Frank said, trying not to think too much about that story.
“I make you uncomfortable, don’t I?” Gerard asked.
“Well, yes.” Frank said. “All of the killing talk is hard to get around.”
“Why did you agree to accompany me on this mission, then?” Gerard asked.
“Pete said if I decided not to go, he would send someone else with you. I felt like it was best for you to be stuck with me, since I know you best.”
“Well, Mikey knows me best.” Gerard said. “Imagine if he sent both of us.”
“Not hard to imagine.” Frank said, shaking his head in disapproval. “The two of you would run off, never to be seen again. Nobody in their right mind would never let that happen.”
“We wouldn’t run off. We would get the job done.” Gerard said. “We’re not sleazy, you know. We just do what we’re supposed to do.”
“If you say so.”
“I do say so.” Gerard said, stepping out of the gaderobe and leaning against the doorframe. “What do you think?”
“How the fuck?” Frank exclaimed, jaw dropping. “How did you do that!? You fucking transformed ! And into a woman of all things. You don’t even look like yourself, but at the same time you sort of do.”
“That was the point.” Gerard reminded him.
“Well, geez.” Frank said, shifting uncomfortably. “It’s unsettling how pretty you are.”
“That’s the best part.” Gerard said, smiling slyly. “It’s amazing what you can do as a girl.”
“Like kill people.”
“You are very hung up on that.” Gerard said, frowning. “You know that’s not the only thing I do, right? And I do have a four year streak of not killing anybody at all.”
“Only because you couldn’t.” Frank argued.
“It’s still pretty impressive.” Gerard muttered. “Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah.” Frank said, slinging one pack over his shoulder, and handing the other to Gerard.
“You’re bringing the dog?” Gerard questioned when Frank began to leave the room, still carrying Sweet Pea.
“Well, yes.” Frank said. The thought of leaving her behind hadn’t even crossed his mind. “She goes everywhere with me.”
“Everywhere meaning she’s been far from home before, or everywhere meaning around the castle?” Gerard asked skeptically, following him out the door.
“Don’t worry about it, she’ll be fine.” Frank said, clearly avoiding the question, and continuing down the hall. “Trust me, she’s much tougher than she looks. And she’s smart.”
“Oh.” Gerard said, coming to a realization. “You’re worried because she’s older, aren’t you? You’re afraid that if you leave her for too long–”
“Stop.” Frank turned, forcing Gerard to halt in place as to not run into him. “Don’t say it, okay? She’s gotten me through a lot, and I’m bringing her because I think she can be useful. That’s all the explanation I need to give you.”
Frank turned and continued to walk down the hall, very fast for someone with such short legs.
“I’m sorry.” Gerard said gently, running to catch up with Frank.
“Let’s just go, alright?”
Pete took Mikey to the training room, setting him up with a blunt wooden sword and a few sand-filled sacks to use as training dummies. He neglected to tell Joe, Andy and Patrick that he was allowing Mikey out of the room, let alone giving him tools to train. They would only disapprove and lecture him on how he was giving the assassin everything he needed to kill him. They didn’t understand things the way Pete did. They wouldn’t listen to him if he tried to explain why he was doing what he had decided to do.
Mikey did not speak to Pete, despite the fact that he stayed and watched from the side. It was alright, Pete didn’t expect him to be ready to explain anything. He was hoping that someday soon he would learn more about the assassin’s past, but for now he was just happy enough to be getting somewhere.
Even before his father died, Pete wanted to be a less ruthless king than his father had been. One of his father’s biggest flaws was serving too harsh punishments. They were usually to good people who were sent on the wrong track under unfair circumstances. Pete thought he had found that in the brothers, and was pleased to have the chance to offer them redemption. Maybe it was a little bit spiteful of him to have chosen his father’s assassins, but he really did see something in both of them that made him think there was more to what happened four years prior. It wasn’t just a job that would get them paid. The way Mikey moved as he trained as opposed to the intensity with which he fought with Pete before was more than enough to tell him that. Mikey hated his father, and it was such a deep feeling that the grudge extended to Pete himself and anyone affiliated with them.
Though he knew it was dangerous, it only sparked Pete’s curiosity. Each little revelation was another thing that intrigued him. All he wanted was to learn more.
He would, he knew, he just had to give it time. The more little things he learned, the more he could work on piecing together the story. And in the meantime, he would do what he could for two souls he saw worth saving.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
Ray and Bob stood before Master Manson, who kept them waiting in a long stretch of disappointed silence. He watched both assassins carefully, from the patient, unafraid stance of Ray to Bob’s jittery, anxious one. Manson sat forward in his chair, leaning onto the desk in front of him.
“You didn’t bring me any Ways.” He said, his voice quiet and low.
“Not this time, Master.” Ray said stoically.
“He’s still in the castle!” Bob said hastily. “The king has both of the Ways, all we have to do is get them back from him, and they’re ours!”
“And how, exactly, are you expecting to do that while you stand before me with your hands empty?” Manson snapped. “I knew that if you couldn’t apprehend them now, you wouldn’t be able to collect them for me after. Once inside that castle, they’re nearly impossible to get to. Don’t you think if it was easy to break into that castle I would have gotten Gerard a long time ago? No, we will have to resort to much more complicated methods.”
“Like what?” Bob asked.
“Oh, I can’t tell you that.” Manson said. “You’ve failed me enough now. I’m not going to take the chance of either of you messing up my plans again.”
“What!? We don’t get to be involved anymore!?” Bob exclaimed, disappointed.
Internally, Ray was panicking. He needed to know what Manson was going to do, so the Ways could be one step ahead of him. But at this point, Ray wasn’t sure if he could even be much help, seeing as Mikey had been his only connection, and now he was somewhere unreachable in the castle. He knew it was a bad idea for the kid to go that day, he just wished he could have done more to convince him. Ray just hoped wherever he was, Mikey was alive, and at least safer there than in Manson’s hands.
“Absolutely not.” Manson said. “Both of you will return to taking regular jobs once you’ve properly healed from your punishments. I would like to have you back to work in two weeks, but we will see how that goes.”
Bob whimpered, and Ray closed his eyes, letting out a harsh breath from his nose. Manson’s lips curled into a sinister smile as he made one last remark.
“I am very angry, after all.”
Gerard and Frank wove through the crowds of people, heading through the central city towards the docks. They were taking a ship to Torvia. It wasn’t one of their ships, however. The Torvians had made it clear that the last enemy ship that would pass freely through was the one that brought Patrick back home, and they’d only been so kind to use him as a messenger. It was lucky Patrick was back in one piece based on how that trip went.
Because of that, Frank and Gerard were getting smuggled across the sea on a pirate ship. It was a very dangerous method, they knew, but it was much better than showing up with their sigil on the sail, and getting blasted down immediately.
Usually, when walking through the central city, nobody paid Frank much attention. But with Gerard at his side, he realized he was getting a lot of glares and jealous looks, while his companion was being ogled by just about everyone who passed. A street vendor made a crude comment that had Gerard chuckling and rolling his eyes, probably because he knew what that vendor did not.
“People seem very interested in you.” Frank muttered, uncomfortable under the hateful stares he himself was getting.
“Yeah.” Gerard said. “You might not notice it usually, but women get that all the time around here. That’s why girls always come to the city with their husbands, fathers or brothers.”
“They need that kind of protection around here?” Frank asked, alarmed and disgusted.
“Let’s just say if you weren’t here I’d probably have to punch someone for getting too touchy.”
“Yikes.” Frank said. “Well, if anyone pulls anything, I’ll kick them in the groin for you.”
“Aw, you would do that for me?” Gerard asked, smiling. “How gentlemanly of you.”
“I might do it to you if you don’t stop teasing me.” Frank decided to add.
“I’m flattered that you see me as deserving of your violence.” Gerard said. “Unfortunately, it would blow our cover.”
“Might be worth it.”
“You’re probably right, Frankie.” He said, and Frank didn’t comment on the nickname this time, just smiled a little and shook his head.
“Come on, we’re almost to the docks.”
“Pete, what good am I as your advisor if you never listen to a word I say?” Patrick asked, following his much too determined king into the throne room.
“Well, you’re very good at warning me of the dangers of every decision I make.” Pete suggested. “I don’t always go against what you say, just when I don’t like what you say.”
“Well, can you listen to me for once and try to understand that you’re messing with something greater than all of us, and more dangerous than you think?” Patrick asked.
“The assassins aren’t ‘greater than all of us’. If they were, we’d all be dead already.” Pete said, rolling his eyes.
“I was talking about Torvia, but I think the assassins are concerning as well.” Patrick corrected. “Don’t you remember what happened to the Aylasanian king?”
Of course Pete remembered; it happened when he was young, and the story haunted his nightmares for days after he heard. The king of Aylasan liked to keep exotic pets, one of which was a wolf. She didn’t trust him at first, but eventually they became inseparable. She was with him through all of his travels, meetings and negotiations, and even had a place in his bed. He became a very powerful man with her at his side. Her presence intimidated enemies and put allies at ease. A wild animal had become his protector, and his best friend. One night a servant entered his room without proper warning, and spooked the wolf. She didn’t know what was happening, and thought her master was in danger. She flung the king out of the bed, into the corner of the room, putting herself between them and tearing apart the servant. She didn’t know, but in her attempt to protect her king, he hit his head on the corner of a side table. His guards tried to get past her, but she was so intent on keeping them away from him that by the time they did, it was too late. The impact had broken his skull and he bled out before he could be saved. Having killed two people, one of which was the country’s king, the wolf was executed by guillotine, the same way a human criminal would have been executed. Nowadays, the Aylasanian banner bore a red wolf, in honor of the late king and his protective companion.
“You shouldn’t mess with dangerous things.” Patrick warned. “You’re putting yourself in a very risky position.”
“He’s not a wild animal, Patrick. He’s just a man.”
“A man who wanted to kill you, what don’t you understand about that?”
“I understand that his brother is more important to him than some grudge against my father.” Pete said. “Regardless, I’m being careful, but I’m also giving him a little bit of freedom to show that I can be trusted.”
“Pete, you don’t even know why he hates your father.”
“Well, I’ll find out, eventually.”
“You say ‘eventually’ and all I can think is ‘too late’.” Patrick sighed.
“Tonight, then.” Pete decided.
“What?” Patrick asked.
“I’ll find out tonight.” Pete said. “I know I can get him to talk to me. I just need to approach it in the right way.”
“Are you sure?” Patrick asked. “Maybe you shouldn’t push it with him.”
“He talked to me a little today. Maybe I can gain more trust.” Pete said. “I hate having to keep him locked up.”
“I know you do, and that’s why I’m so worried.” Patrick said.
“You have nothing to be worried about. I am capable of taking care of myself, you know.” Pete assured him.
“I wish that made me feel better about this.”
“This is the ship.” Frank told Gerard, stepping onto the dock and approaching a crew member that was leaning against the hull of the ship.
“You’re Frank?” The crew member asked gruffly.
Frank nodded. The crew member looked Gerard over once before turning and starting up the gangway.
“Come.” He said, and Frank and Gerard followed, both a little uneasy. “Stay on the deck. I’m going to fetch the captain.”
Frank and Gerard watched as the crew member disappeared onto the quarterdeck, soon emerging with a very tall, dark haired man.
Gerard swore under his breath.
“What?” Frank whispered nervously.
“As it turns out I’m going to have to play the part of a woman longer than expected.”
“Why is that?”
“Oh you know, it’s just that we’re being smuggled across the sea by a pirate who I may have been involved with in the past.” Gerard said. “And by ‘involved with’ I mean ‘killed the love of his life’.”
“Dear gods, Gerard.” Frank said. “What are we going to do?”
“Well, you never told them who we were or why we needed to be smuggled, did you?” Gerard asked hopefully.
“No.” Frank said. “I never told them.”
“Well, then.” Gerard said dramatically, already formulating a story in his mind. “I am the daughter of a rich nobleman, and you are my poor farm boy love interest. Daddy doesn’t like that I’m settling for someone of much lower class than I, so we are escaping together.”
“Why do I have to be a poor farm boy?” Frank frowned.
“Because you have a scruffy little rat-catching dog.” Gerard said, dropping the dramatic story-telling voice. “Do you ever see nobles with scruffy rat-catching dogs?”
“She’s beautiful.” Frank said defensively, hugging Sweet Pea closer to his chest.
“Of course she is, dear.” Gerard said, smiling cheekily. “Oh, and you’re going to have to let me have a knife.”
“Why? That’s a terrible idea.” Frank said. “I told you, no weapons. You’ll just try to kill me in my sleep. Or when I’m awake. You’ll try to kill me regardless.”
“I don’t need it to kill with.” Gerard huffed. “We’re going to be on this ship for a long time, and if I’m going to pull off being a lady, I’m going to need something to shave with.”
“Listen,” Gerard said. “If I wanted to kill you, I wouldn’t ask for a weapon, I would make one myself. You know that, you’ve seen me do it. Also, I’m not stupid. I know I have to be on my best behavior if I want to see my brother again. Like it or not, Frank, we’re on the same side now.”
“Well, all I can say to that is I sure hope he believes your story.”
“So do I.” Gerard muttered, as the captain approached them.
“Hello,” The captain grinned widely. “I’m Captain Biersack. Welcome aboard the Black Veil.”
Mikey lay awake, staring at the ceiling. He couldn’t sleep if he tried. The bed was much too comfortable for what he was used to, plus he couldn’t stop thinking about the Black Parade. He usually tried not to remember the day his parents died, but the memory was always there, haunting him with its gruesome details.
There was a faint knock on his door, and Mikey looked over as it opened and Pete entered. It wasn’t very surprising, the king seemed to come around all the time.
Mikey sat up in bed, feeling awkward laying down, and Pete immediately apologized.
“Were you sleeping?” He asked.
“No.” Mikey said, wrapping his arms around his knees.
“Okay.” Pete said, taking a seat at the little table by the fireplace.
“Do you need something or…?” Mikey asked, confused.
“I was going to ask you something but now I’m kind of afraid to hear the answer.” Pete admitted.
“I’ll leave if you want to sleep.”
“No, it’s fine. I wouldn’t be able to anyway.” Mikey said. “I’ve been thinking too much.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Pete asked.
Mikey sighed, hanging his head.
“I suppose you deserve to know.” Mikey said. “Seeing as it’s the reason why both of us are where we are today.”
“So you’ll tell me why?”
“I’ll tell you why.” He said quietly.
“Gee, you’re going too quick.” Mikey said, stumbling after his brother as he was pulled by the hand through a crowd of jeering spectators.
“I know, I know.” Gerard said apologetically, ducking under the arms of a hand holding couple. “Just try to stay with me okay?”
“What’s going on? Where’s Mom and Dad?” Mikey asked.
“I don’t know.” Gerard replied, but he had an idea of where they might be that he really hoped was wrong. “Come on, Mikey.”
The boys were able to get to the front of the crowd; being smaller than the adults made it easier to squeeze through. Just as Gerard thought, the crowd was congregated around the central stage, below the golden altar that reached high into the sky, connecting the people with the gods. But it wasn’t Sunday, which meant there was no scheduled worship, and made the mass of people around the stage concerning.
Gerard pushed through a few more bodies, practically dragging Mikey through behind him, and grasping his brother’s little hand tightly so he wouldn’t lose him. When he was able to see the stage, Gerard gasped, his worst fears about what he might see confirmed.
Their parents were on the stage on their knees, bound by the wrists and ankles. The executioner’s guillotine was positioned centerstage with the king himself standing next to it. Usually kings got someone to do the dirty work for them, but he always did it himself, taking the place of the executioner. It was incredibly disturbing how much he enjoyed it.
“Do you know why you kneel before me today?” The king asked, his voice cold and gleeful.
“Please,” Donna cried. “You have no reason to believe–”
“To believe that you are a witch!?” The king cut in. “There have been plenty of reports against you. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were using your disgraceful magic to try to overthrow me.”
“Magic doesn’t exist.” Donna protested.
“You claim before the gods that there is no magic, defiling their powers with your foolish attempt to be unworldly? All witches want to be gods, but the gods won’t let you. They give me the divine power to destroy you and those affiliated with you before you can steal from them.”
“I swear I would never–”
“Pete, come here!” The king boomed, and the five year old jumped, fearfully approaching his father.
The king placed his hand on Pete’s shoulder, guiding him in front of the large guillotine. He looked up at the sharp silver blade, shaking at the thought of what it could do.
“I want you to see this, son. I want you to see what the gods give us the power to do.”
Pete’s eyes widened, and he tried to step back, but his father’s hand was holding him firmly in place. He couldn’t hide in the back anymore, squeezing his eyes shut and pretending it wasn’t happening. He had to watch this time.
“Gee?” Mikey said in a shaky breath, realizing what was about to happen despite being so young. “Gee, you’ve got to do something!”
Gerard said nothing, frozen in place with terror. What could a seven year old do in the face of death? That was all he could see when he looked at that king; a purely evil being– Death himself.
He wished he could move, and get Mikey out of there before they had to witness this. But it was as though Death’s servants had taken hold of him, and wouldn’t release him until they were satisfied their master had taken what was his.
“Any final words, woman?” The king asked, towering over Donna with a malicious grin on his face.
“My boys, what kills you will be your strength.” She said, very quickly. She must have known somehow that they were there. “Remember my love for you will pierce through death.”
The blade descended quickly, slicing through the air until it severed her neck. Gerard swayed, feeling sick, and momentarily forgot his brother was there until he heard him scream.
“Mom!” Mikey wailed, lunging for the stage, but Gerard held him back, not letting him get any closer.
“The witch had children!” Someone announced, having heard Mikey’s screams. “Demon children of the night, get them!”
Without even thinking about it, Gerard picked Mikey up and ran. He did not give anyone in the crowd a chance to register what they had just been accused of. Witch allegations were serious enough, even though it was ridiculous to even think that witches existed in the first place. Enough “proof” and the king had you and your loved ones killed on the spot. But if that supposed witch had children, it was even worse. The king saw “children of the night” as sources of power that he could dissect and experiment on until he found what he wanted. It was always about more power.
Gerard broke through the crowd, hearing larger footsteps pushing through behind them, and the sickening metallic noise as the guillotine came down a second time on their father’s neck. He ran as fast as his little legs could carry the two of them, with no idea where he was going with the tears clouding his vision.
Gerard felt large hands stop him, and screamed. He didn’t know how they could have gotten to him so fast. They would have had to push through the crowd so quickly.
The brothers were pulled into a dark alleyway, and shushed by whoever had grabbed them. The person pressed them against the brick wall, hiding the boys in the shadows, and watched as those pursuing them raced by the alley. Once they were set on the wrong track, the man took his hands off of Gerard and Mikey’s mouths, and revealed himself.
“Don’t worry. You’re safe now.” He assured them.
“Who are you?” Gerard asked, his voice cracking.
“My name is Marilyn Manson, and I will be the one who teaches you how to prevent that from ever happening again.”
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
Gerard stood at the front of the ship, watching as the city disappeared, until there was nothing more than the sea and the sky. The sun was beginning to set, and with it came a cool night breeze that ruffled his hair and made him cross his arms to keep away the cold.
“Captain Biersack has a room set up for us.” Frank said, coming up behind him, and Gerard just nodded slowly. “Are you alright?”
“Just… Thinking.” Gerard turned around. “We’re going to be gone a long time. Are you going to miss home?”
“Not really.” Frank said. “The only sense of home I’ve had since my mother died is Sweet Pea, and she’s right here with us.”
“I understand that feeling.” Gerard said, looking down at the deck. “Mikey was my Sweet Pea. He’s all I have left. Everyone else I’ve ever cared about is either dead or contractually my enemy.”
“No one leaves the business until the day you die or get caught. I’m lucky I’m the latter.”
“So… If you say you’re out…” Frank started slowly. “Does that mean you’re done being an assassin? That you’re done killing?”
“No.” Gerard said, his eyes set back in the direction they came from. “I’m not done until my former master is dead. He will be my final kill, and I plan to do it with Mikey.”
Gerard looked back at Frank.
“Once we are home safely and I carry out that final kill, then I am done.”
“You have nothing to worry about, Frank. You are neither my enemy nor am I getting paid to kill you. The only reason I would kill on this trip is if our lives are threatened. “Our” meaning you, me and the dog. The three of us are making it home at the end of this, I’m gonna make sure of that.”
“So if Captain Biersack finds out who you really are, what will you do?” Frank asked.
“We’ll figure that out if we get to that point, but we won’t because we’re going to be careful.” Gerard assured him. “You said there was a room ready?”
Gerard yawned, showing just how tired he was.
“Come on, I’ll show you where it is.”
“So the gods sent down the first seven rulers, one for each of the seven lands. Aramir, Olyviore, Clarabelle, Paigan, Ebour… Myrcella and…” Brendon trailed off, trying to remember the seventh.
“You know this one, Brendon.” The Grandmaster said encouragingly.
“Galfrey?” Brendon tried.
“I’m trying so hard to remember it all.” He said, discouraged.
“It’s a lot for one to remember, especially so young. You’ll get the little details eventually.” The Grandmaster said.
“Not before the induction.” Brendon said, shaking his head.
“You don’t need to know all of that for the induction.”
“Why did you pick me to be your successor?” Brendon questioned. “I just don’t understand. It makes no sense for me to be a bishop. I’m wild and annoying, and I don’t know half of the lines in the scriptures.”
“The way you present yourself may seem over the top, but your energy and heart are exactly what I want for the community. You underestimate yourself, Brendon.” The Grandmaster said.
“I still don’t see how that makes me the right choice for this position.”
“The gods wouldn’t have permissed me to select you if I wasn’t making the right decision.” The Grandmaster said. “Do you not want this?”
“I do, I just worry I will make the wrong decisions.” Brendon said. “I often do.”
“Don’t worry so much, boy. You’ll know.”
“Will I, though?” Brendon muttered to himself as the Grandmaster’s attention turned to the great church doors.
The doors opened, and two boys entered, neither much younger than Brendon himself. They shuffled into the church silently, and upon realizing there were others in the room, looked to each other nervously.
“We’re sorry.” One of the boys apologized. “We know it’s after hours, but we hoped…”
“It’s alright.” The Grandmaster said gently, gesturing to the pews before the stairs where he and Brendon currently sat. “Come, sit.”
The boys moved nervously to them and sat in the pews, heads hung and hands folded in their laps. Brendon looked to the Grandmaster, unsure of what to do or say.
“What brings you here?” The Grandmaster asked in a kind voice.
“Our house was robbed.” The older of the two said hesitantly. “Our mother was home at the time, and the looters hurt her to get away with the crime.”
“We didn’t have much to begin with, and now we’re not sure if she’s going to wake up.” His brother said.
“What are your names?” Brendon asked, and the Grandmaster sat back silently to see how Brendon would handle this.
“Tyler and Josh.” The younger said.
“Do you have other siblings, or is it just the two of you?” Brendon asked.
He himself had four older siblings, and he knew very well how hard it was for the poor to feed a large family. He didn’t doubt these two boys had taken whatever job they could get to help even in the slightest, the way Brendon had with the job as the bellringer.
“Just us.” Josh said.
“How about a father?” Brendon asked.
He wasn’t surprised when they shook their heads, it sounded like their mother was the sole provider from the start of the story.
“Our mother isn’t really our mother, she’s just a kind lady who took us in when we were abandoned due to overcrowding at the orphanage.” Tyler explained. “But she’s the closest we have to a mother, and she’s very important to us.”
“I see.” Brendon said. “If praying for your mother’s health brings you peace, you may stay as long as you need. If you would accept further help from me, I would like to give you these.”
Brendon pulled two silver coins from his pockets, handing one to each boy.
“One should take care of food for a while, and the other will cover a medical visit for your mother.”
Tyler and Josh looked astounded, yet grateful.
“Thank you.” They said together.
“You don’t need to thank me, just promise me you’ll come in again tomorrow so I know you’re both alright.” Brendon said.
Tyler and Josh nodded.
“You boys can pray now.” The Grandmaster said, gesturing to the candlelit altar.
“Thank you.” They said again, heading to the altar together.
“That was handled incredibly well, Brendon.” The Grandmaster said. “I am very proud of you.”
“You are?” Brendon asked, raising his eyebrows.
“I am.” The Grandmaster said. “Do you understand now why I chose you?”
“I… Suppose so.” Brendon said thoughtfully. “I didn’t realize I cared so much.”
“I know you don’t, but that’s what makes you the best.” The Grandmaster smiled. “You hide a kind heart behind a large personality, but what sets you apart is that you act on your heart. Always continue using your heart, Brendon. It’s your best attribute.”
When Pete entered Mikey’s room that morning, he was accompanied by a large dog that sat on its haunches by his feet.
“What’s this all about?” Mikey asked, looking cautiously at the intimidating dog.
“I’m taking you out to the city.”
“You are?” Mikey asked. “Where to?”
“The Courtesan’s Guild.”
“I’ll have to pass up that offer.” He said, looking disgusted.
Pete laughed at the immediate rejection.
“It’s a business thing.” He said.
“You don’t have to explain it to me. I grew up around the courtesans, I know how the business works." Mikey said, looking like he wanted nothing to do with this.
“You still don’t understand.” Pete laughed, shaking his head. “I have an arrangement with some of the girls at the Courtesan’s Guild that they’ll deliver supplies to the poorer parts of the city if they get to keep some for themselves.”
“I didn’t realize you were so charitable.”
“I’ve got more money than I know what to do with, and I have people in my country who struggle to feed their families.” Pete said. “I wouldn’t be a very good ruler if I didn’t do what I can to change that.”
“You being a good man really ruins my negative expectations of you.” Mikey pouted.
“Good, maybe you’ll stop trying to murder me, then. With that being said, this is Bo.” Pete said, nodding to the huge black dog waiting patiently beside him. “He is one of Frank’s dogs. He has two jobs on this trip. One is to keep people with ill intentions away from us. The other is to keep you in line. Fair enough?”
“There’s boxes downstairs that we need to carry over.”
“Alright. Show me where to go.”
“I can’t believe he kept all of this.” Gerard said, looking through the closet in the cabin he and Frank were given to sleep in. “All of Juliet’s old clothes are here.”
“Juliet being the Captain’s lover?” Frank asked.
He was sitting on the bed with Sweet Pea on his lap, massaging her paws and feeding her little bits of bread from his pack.
“Yes.” Gerard said, pulling out a red tunic. “I remember this.”
He turned it over to reveal a large tear in the back, and darker red stain spreading around it.
“Well, he probably couldn’t bring himself to get rid of it.” Frank reasoned. “Grieving is difficult.”
Gerard sighed, replacing the tunic in the closet, and flopped down onto the bed next to Frank.
“You need to tell me what you did.” Frank said, looking over. “We’re going to get into more trouble if I don’t know why you killed her. Was it for a job?”
“Sort of.” Gerard said nervously. “She wasn’t supposed to die.”
A door slammed shut down the hall, and Frank and Gerard fell silent.
“These walls are thin.” Frank whispered. “I’m worried someone will listen in on our conversation.”
“Right.” Gerard nodded. “Good thinking, I’ll take care of it.”
He cleared his throat and threw his head back into the pillows, startling Frank.
“Ahh! Oh, Frankie !” Gerard moaned, which made Frank jump in even more surprise.
“The fuck was that?” He hissed.
“They all think we’re fucking anyway.” Gerard shrugged. “If anyone was listening, I figure they’re gone now.”
“Okay, well, try not to do that again.” Frank said, blushing profusely.
“It’s fine... Just tell me the story.”
“Stay on the deck and keep a lookout.” Gerard whispered. “I’ll be quick, we’ll be in and out of this job shortly.”
Mikey nodded, and watched Gerard disappear below deck to complete the job. Once he couldn’t see Gerard anymore, he walked silently to the edge of the ship, looking out at the lights of the city. The yellow hues from the torches in the windows contrasted the silvery moonlight against the water as it quietly sloshed against the boat. He scanned the docks, watching for anyone who might approach the ship, but anyone awake at this hour would be in the central city or the Courtesan’s Guild.
Mikey whipped around at the sound of the voice, coming face to face with a girl and her very sharp rapier.
“What might you be doing on this ship unwelcomed?” She asked, advancing on Mikey and forcing him to take a step back.
“Wrong ship?” Mikey tried, shrugging.
The girl smirked, and let out a tiny laugh. Of course she didn’t believe him. She pushed him back a little further, the tip of her rapier grazing his throat. His foot hit the edge, and he knew if he took another step back he would fall to the water below.
She used the rapier to push back the hood of his cloak, revealing his face, then gently tilted his chin up to get a better look at him.
“My, you’re young.”
“Everyone always says that before I take them out.” Mikey said, swiftly pulling a hidden blade from his cloak.
He knocked her rapier away from his chin, feeling a sting as it scraped his jaw in the process. She stumbled back, surprised by his sudden attack. It was just enough of a shock to allow Mikey to push her back and pin her to the deck. The girl’s cockiness was gone, and she looked distressed.
“Andy!” She screamed.
“Juliet!” The reply came from not too far away, which meant Mikey and Gerard didn’t have much time.
At the sound of the screaming, Gerard arrived at the top of the stairs. There was a cut across his nose, and blood that wasn’t his own splattered across his cloak.
“We’re not here for you.” Mikey said. “If you let us go, we’ll leave you alone.”
“Mikey, duck!” Gerard exclaimed.
Mikey rolled off of Juliet just as a knife whizzed past the spot he’d just been. It caught his forearm, ripping his sleeve and slicing through his skin. Mikey looked up to see the thrower was a tall man on the upper deck who looked worried, and was already wielding two more throwing knives.
Gerard jumped up, grabbing the rails and pulled himself onto the upper deck. Using his sword, he knocked the two remaining knives out of Andy’s hands, then continued combat when the Captain drew his sword.
Juliet was back on her feet, and having retrieved her rapier, returned to going after Mikey. She lunged at him while he was still on the ground, and he rolled on his back to kick her in the stomach. He got back on his feet and drew his sword, using his opposite hand to fight now that his sword arm was incapacitated.
Juliet swung her rapier, and Mikey easily deflected her blows, stepping back as she continued to jab forward. What he didn’t expect was to feel wood against his back as she pushed him to the edge of the boat. He’d forgotten the lack of space he had to fight on the vessel, and judging by her pleased smirk, Juliet knew this. She had him cornered with her rapier against his throat again. His back was bent over the rail, the drop below threatening him with it’s churning waters. In the face of death, he looked past Juliet to see where his brother was. Lucky for him, Gerard had knocked the Captain down, and now stood on the rail of the upper deck.
“Time to die, little assassin.” Juliet said, but before she could slit Mikey’s throat and throw him to the waters, Gerard leapt from the upper deck and stabbed her in the back.
Gerard’s sword pierced through her stomach, and blood fell from the mouth on her shocked face as she crumpled to the ground.
“Are you alright?” Gerard asked hastily, grabbing Mikey’s shoulders and hoisting him up so he didn’t fall overboard.
“Fine.” Mikey breathed, although speaking hurt due to the shallow cut Juliet left across his neck.
“We need to go.” Gerard said, ushering Mikey away as the Captain realized what happened, and the agonized wails of loss filled the night.
Mikey was doing whatever he could to not piss off that dog. Every time Bo snarled at a passerby that got too close to Pete, Mikey imagined his strong jaws clamping down on them, sharp teeth piercing into their skin. Mikey certainly understood why Pete picked this particular dog as his protection. He thought it was in everyone’s best interest not to tempt the animal.
Knowing what that dog could do, he was actually quite happy to see the Courtesan’s Guild, despite his hatred for the place. Of course, it held a lot of negative memories for him from the times Manson would bring him, but he did have a few friends there. If he could ever consider anyone a friend.
It wasn’t surprising, of course, that Pete’s contact was someone Mikey knew very well. Though that didn’t stop him from being a little shocked at who in particular she was, and she didn’t hide her shock either.
“Mikey?” Lindsey asked, her eyes wide. “I can’t believe you’re alive. I thought for sure I’d never see you again.”
Mikey set down the box he was holding, and let Lindsey pull him into a hug.
“Gods,” She said, taking his face in her hands. “You’ve grown so much. What happened? Manson didn’t sell you, did he?”
“No, I got out on my own.”
“And Gerard is…?”
“Alive.” Mikey said. “He’s overseas.”
“Is Manson looking for you?”
“He’s always looking for us.” Mikey said. “He’ll only move on to the next name on his list when we’re dead.”
“You shouldn’t be here, then.” Lindsey said worriedly. "Madam Von Teese is undyingly loyal to Master Manson. If she finds out you’re here, she’ll give you up to him for free.”
“Then we’ll make it quick.” Pete said, and both Mikey and Lindsey started as they had forgotten he was there. “Where did you want these?”
“I’ll call for my acolyte to take them.” Lindsey said. “That way you two can leave without having to walk through the building and risk the chance of running into Von Teese.”
“That would be appreciated.” Pete said.
“Bandit!” Lindsey called.
Mikey hated seeing the acolytes. They were so young, and it wasn’t fair what they would have to go through once they came of age. The acolytes of the Guild we’re just like the ones of the Keep, trapped into a life they couldn’t escape. Mikey knew very well; he and Gerard had been acolytes for a short time until Manson considered them trained enough to go on missions. The Guild’s acolytes couldn’t become courtesans until their sixteenth birthday, but despite the longer wait time, Mikey was much happier to be an assassin young than wait and have to do what the courtesans did.
The little girl ran in, and Mikey instantly saw Lindsey in her. He’d grown up around the acolytes and courtesans at the Guild, and remembered very well what Lindsey looked like when she was younger. There was one thing Mikey knew for sure upon seeing her. This girl wasn’t just a prodigy, she was Lindsey’s daughter.
Bandit looked from Pete to Mikey in curiosity, and when her eyes met Mikey’s his heart stopped with even more recognition than before. Mikey knew those eyes better than any.
“Please take those boxes to the back room for me, dear.” Lindsey instructed, and the girl lifted one of the boxes and left with it.
“Lindsey…” Mikey said carefully, watching her go. “Your acolyte, how old is she?”
“Don’t worry about it, Mikey.” Lindsey said, brushing off his words.
“I just want to know.” Mikey said pleadingly. “I wouldn’t be mad or upset or anything, I just want to know.”
Pete was very quiet throughout this exchange. He could tell he wasn’t meant to be a part of it, so he tried to politely tune it out. But he couldn’t help but let it spark his curiosity. He’d already learned quite a bit from their first exchange, but this one was a little harder to decipher what was going through their minds.
“The two of you should go.” Lindsey said sternly. “Madam Von Teese likes to do a walk through of the building at this hour to make sure everyone is doing something.”
“Lindsey, come on.” Mikey said desperately. “Talk to me about this.”
“I’ll walk you out." Lindsey said, ignoring him and pushing them towards the doors.
“I don’t think she wants to talk about it, maybe you should drop it for now.” Pete muttered.
Mikey glared at him as Lindsey sent them outside and shut the doors without so much as a goodbye.
Mikey stormed down the stone steps, annoyed. Pete let out a low whistle to make Bo to get up from where he was resting in the shade and trot alongside him.
“Not to be intrusive or anything, but do you want to talk about whatever happened in there?” Pete asked carefully, walking quickly to keep up with Mikey.
“Bullshit, that’s what.” Mikey snapped.
Bo let out a warning growl, threatened by the tone, and Mikey sighed.
“I have a theory that’s kind of freaking me out.” Mikey said. “You know Lindsey’s little acolyte?”
“Yeah. What about her?” Pete asked.
“I think she’s my brother’s kid.”
“Really? How would you know for sure?” Pete asked. “Other than Lindsey acting incredibly suspicious, I suppose.”
“She looks just like Lindsey, but she has Gerard’s eyes.” Mikey explained. “Plus, I know his history. When my brother was younger there were a lot of older assassins who were pushing him to grow up faster. He was dealing with some things anyway, and the combination of the two led him to seek out Lindsey. I guess I can’t know for sure, but everything just matches up too well.”
“So I’m guessing this isn’t something he would know.” Pete said.
“No, he would have told me if he knew.” Mikey shook his head. “I don’t know what to do about it.”
“Well, there’s not much you can do right now.” Pete said.
“I know.” Mikey said. “That’s what bothers me.”
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
“You took the assassin out of the castle yesterday?” Patrick asked, finding Pete hovering over a strategy map.
He didn’t look angry, or upset, or even disappointed, but Pete still acted nervous under that sort of question, which usually would have sounded accusatory. He wasn’t quite sure why it didn’t sound accusatory. Perhaps he was really testing Patrick’s patience.
“Listen, I just thought–”
“Don’t dodge the question, Pete.” Patrick interrupted, shaking his head. Pete’s father would have beheaded his advisor for interrupting, but Pete just shut his mouth. “You did or did not take the assassin with you to bring supplies to the Guild?”
“I did.” Pete said sheepishly. “But I brought Bo–that great big dog of Frank’s–so everything was fine.”
“Wait, you brought a dog instead of Joe or Andy?” Patrick asked, raising an eyebrow. “Never mind, I’m getting off track. How was he behaved?”
“The dog?” Pete asked, not understanding.
“No, Pete, I’m talking about Mikey.”
“Oh, right. I had no problems with him. I think he understands that trying anything will prevent him from ever seeing his brother again, and I know that Gerard is more important to him than anything else.” Pete said. “I honestly don’t see us having any issues with him from now on. I’m sure you’ll think I’m giving him too much credit, but I don’t see any bad in him.”
“Well, that’s good because I’m going to need you to take him out again.” Patrick said.
“Patrick, I told you, he was completely fine, he– Wait did you just say you want me to do that again?” Pete said, thinking surely he must have misheard.
“Yes, that’s what I said.” Patrick said, confirming that Pete was not, in fact, going crazy. At least not in this case. “Construction on the citadel is nearing completion, and I think you should bring him with you tomorrow when you go to check on the progress. He’s an assassin, so he knows all sorts of ways of getting into places that are supposed to be impossible to get into. My hope is that he will see the weak spots in our citadel. If we know what those are, we can try to fix them before we have to move the people into the fortress and Torvia attacks.”
“That’s clever, Patrick.” Pete said approvingly. “I really like that idea. And Patrick, I really do believe he will tell me if he notices something wrong with the citadel.”
“I hope you’re right. It will be a lot of help if you are.”
Much to Frank’s displeasure, Gerard decided to go back to rummaging through Juliet’s old clothes. It was true that they had only brought one feminine outfit, thinking that Gerard could just wear some basic male clothing once on the ship, but their little change of plans had left them having to improvise. Frank thought he should just wear the same clothes over again, and that it didn’t matter, he was sure nobody would care or notice. But Gerard said surely they would notice, and high class ladies never wore the same outfit more than once. Frank still thought Gerard should wear the same thing, and that this was just an excuse to try to get a reaction out of Captain Biersack. Honestly, Gerard could be quite petty.
What was worse, Juliet had an array of outfits that involved tunics and pants . Of course, Gerard picked one of those, claiming it made his butt look good. Frank protested the outfit heavily. A lady would never wear pants, which only proved Frank’s point that Gerard had no concern for accuracy. It was nothing but reckless to wear such a thing. It accomplished no other goals than provoking the Captain and, admittedly, making Gerard’s butt look good.
Frank thought it was a terrible idea. But it wasn’t like Gerard was going to listen to a thing Frank said on the matter.
“Gerard, you can’t wear that, they’re going to see right through that disguise and figure us out!” Frank hissed, chasing after him as he ascended to the deck.
“I can wear whatever I damn please!” Gerard called back, much too loud for Frank’s comfort.
“Let the lady wear what she wants, Frank.”
Gerard and Frank jumped, startled, and turned around. Captain Biersack trotted down the stairs, joining Frank and Gerard on the lower deck with a friendly grin on his face.
“Sorry, there wasn’t any time to gather things from home, and I found this in the closet-” Gerard was panicking, making up excuses just as Frank knew he would have to wearing Juliet’s clothes. There weren’t very many ways this could end, and Frank was worried it would be one of the bad ways.
“It’s fine, she won’t miss it.” The Captain said, a tinge of sorrow in his voice.
“Why is that?” Frank asked, even though he knew.
“My dear Juliet was killed by an assassin on this very ship.” Captain Biersack said. “He stabbed her through the back, and cruelly left me alive to cradle her bloodied corpse until my crew finally found us. I was inconsolable for weeks. My First Mate, Ashley Purdy, had to take over until I was fit to be captain again.”
Gerard thought this explanation was rather over-dramatic, but of course he said nothing. He supposed he would have reacted similarly if it had been the other way around, and Juliet had succeeded in killing Mikey. But weeks without working was unthinkable to him, and he would have only worked harder in Mikey’s absence.
“I haven’t seen the assassin or his brat of a brother since.” Captain Biersack said. Gerard was fighting very hard not to scowl at or retort the comment about Mikey being a brat. He just clenched his teeth, forced a sympathetic smile and nodded. “And I am glad for it if I never see them again.”
“I am very sorry for your loss.” Frank said. “I hope that assassin burns in hell.”
Gerard glared at Frank, who very conveniently neglected to look at him. Frank did not care. If Gerard was going to act childish and not show any guilt about this, then Frank would say such things. He didn’t mean it, really, but it was a little bit deserved.
“I’m sure many people wish for that.” Captain Biersack said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they both had high prices on their heads. Hell, they could already be dead for all I know.”
“Do you care whether they’re dead?” Frank questioned.
“I don’t bother myself with any vendetta against either of them, if that’s what you mean.” Captain Biersack shrugged. “But rest assured that if one of those assassins ever steps foot on my ship again, I won’t hesitate to do something about it. My crew is my family, and if they ever lay a hand on any one of my family again, I’ll kill them myself.”
Frank searched Gerard’s face to see if it revealed any of what he was thinking, but he looked fearless and calm. He never seemed worried this plan would fail, but Frank knew he had to have some doubts somewhere deep down.
“Such grim talk, I had originally come to find you both for a much more lighthearted reason.” Captain Biersack said. “There’s not much to do on the ship when things are slow, so we often pass the time with plays. The boys are about to put one on if you’d like to watch.”
“That sounds lovely.” Gerard said, looping his arm through Frank’s, and letting the captain lead them away.
The citadel was built as a sanctuary to hold the citizens in the case of an attack from another country. It was set into the ground on a hill just outside of the central city, making it very hard for enemy troops to get to it. In the years Pete had been alive, it had only been used as a training camp for their military. Pete was glad to have not yet had a war in his life, but his inexperience worried him. Not having used the citadel in many years as a protection might have made it weak, or old fashioned, and Pete didn’t want to take any chances with the lives of his people. Over the four years of his reign, he had been putting funds into the renovation of the citadel. Now that there was a high chance of Torvia going to war with them, he wanted to ensure it was ready to protect his people.
The rocks of the pathway crunched under Pete’s boots as he and Mikey were lead over the bridge and into the citadel by four of the soldiers. Two more soldiers pulled the chains to the bridge, drawing it up and closing them into the citadel. Mikey was scanning the courtyard like a hawk, his face set into a predatory line that Pete could tell was making his soldiers uneasy. He wasn’t sure Mikey knew he had this effect on the men, who probably sensed how lethal the boy was the moment he stepped foot into their fortress.
“Your soldiers appear to be trained well.” Mikey mentioned, and Pete saw that his gaze was locked on a group of men who were sparring. “The outer sides of the citadel could use some work if you want maximum safety and defense. Who are your top generals? I’d like to speak to them.”
“Patience, Mikey. Here they come.” Pete said, nodding in the direction of two men walking towards them across the sand.
“Your highness.” The two generals said in unison, taking a knee before Pete.
“General Barakat, General Gaskarth.” Pete greeted, and each one stood at his name. “Thank you for welcoming us to the citadel during training hours.”
“Always accommodating for you, Pete.” General Barakat said, a joking smile plastered across his face, all formalities suddenly dropped.
“Good to see you, Jack.” Pete laughed, hugging his friend.
“As if he’s the one who causes us to change our plans constantly.” General Gaskarth teased. “Was it not you who just last week coerced me into helping you move one of the cannons because you didn’t like the way the sun reflected from it when you were in your study?”
“You’re all so very formal.” Mikey said, and Pete and the generals finally acknowledged his presence.
“Jack, Alex, this is Mikey Way, my… Resident assassin.” Pete introduced, settling on that as a title for Mikey. Temporary title, he hoped, since he thought it needed some work.
“Yes, Patrick did tell us about that.” Alex said, eyeing Mikey warily.
“All good things, I’m sure.” Mikey said. “I’m Patrick’s favorite.”
Jack and Pete both burst out laughing.
“I like him.” Jack said. “Try to keep him around a while, will you, Pete? I’d like to share a few conversations under less tense circumstances.”
“That may not be for quite some time.” Alex said gravely, then looked to the four soldiers that brought Pete and Mikey in. “You’re dismissed. You can return to training.”
After the soldiers had left, Alex turned back to facing Pete and Mikey.
“Come, Jack and I can give you a tour of the citadel.”
“Do you confess to your heinous crimes?”
“Remind me again what those were.”
Three of Captain Biersack’s crew mates were standing in front of the rest of the crew, who were sitting on the steps with Frank and Gerard. They had set up crates as makeshift desks and benches, and acted out a mock trial.
“Well,” Said CC dramatically. “You have first been accused of piracy.”
“Preposterous!” Jinxx said. “Pirates don’t exist.”
“Yes, they are merely fairytales meant to scare little children into staying inside after dark.” Jake added.
The crew erupted into a howl of laughter.
“Even so, you have also been accused of… Killing Jake Pitts!” CC exclaimed.
Jake gasped, bringing his hand to his chest in mock surprise.
“I’m a ghost!?”
“Indeed, you are, my friend.” Jinxx said gently. “Though it was not I that killed you.”
“Then who was it?” Jake asked.
“You fell overboard. The Sea Serpent got you.” Jinxx said sadly.
“Overboard you say?” CC asked. “Then you must be pirates! Have you lied before the court!?”
“Of course not!” Jake exclaimed. “I am not a pirate! I am a ghost pirate!”
“Oh, well that makes all the difference.” CC admitted. “We cannot try you in this court, this is a human court, not a ghost court.”
“Well, then, I’ll see myself out. By walking through this wall.” Jake said, ducking away and joining the rest of his crewmates on the steps.
“Are you also a ghost?”
“Um…” Jinxx said slowly. “Will you arrest or execute me if I’m not?”
“Indeed, you stand accused of such terrible crimes.”
“Well, then yes, I am a ghost.” Jinxx lied.
The crew thought this was hilarious, clear by the uproarious laughter that erupted.
“Then you too are free to go.” CC said. “This case is closed.”
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Captain Biersack said, leaning down from the step he sat on to talk to Frank and Gerard. He had a huge smile plastered across his face, and Gerard had never seen him look so carelessly happy before. It was shocking, to see him just living his normal life, enjoying time with his crew. Gerard could barely see the terrified man who threw knives at his brother; who so sorrowfully mourned the loss of his lover. It was odd to see him so happy. “These guys always come up with the most humorous plays.”
“It was very funny.” Frank said. “Your one friend, he said something about a ‘Sea Serpent’… What is that?”
“It’s a giant snake-like monster that supposedly lives in the seas connecting the continents.” Andy explained.
“Does that really exist?” Frank asked skeptically.
“Nobody knows.” Andy said, shrugging. “They say those who never come back from sea met their fate by the Sea Serpent. It supposedly follows and protects a pirate ship run by a crew that calls themselves the Sea Snakes. It could be a legend, but you can never be too careful.” Andy stood, brushing off his pants. “Regardless of if the monster exists, the Sea Snakes do. They’re ruthless, and it’s best to stay out of their waters.”
“We’re staying out of their waters, then, aren’t we?” Gerard asked, unnerved by Andy’s tone of voice.
Andy seemed to hesitate before saying, “We have to brush along the edge of their border to get to Torvia, but as long as we are careful we will be fine.”
Neither Frank nor Gerard liked the sound of that. Andy’s voice lacked it’s usual confidence in piloting his ship. If something went wrong, and the Black Veil went down, they were going with it.
Gerard couldn’t fight his way out of that sort of danger. If that happened, there was nothing they could do but drown.
The citadel was very large, enough for the common-folk to fit mostly comfortably. The inside held buildings filled with rooms and cots, with thick walls and fireplaces to keep in the warmth. There were two outer walls surrounding the citadel, and making it through to the space in between those walls would mean certain death by archers and cannons. These were multiple layers thick as well, reinforced three times more than the castle walls were. It was clear that the builders and generals had carefully strategized the construction of the citadel until it was near perfect.
But it was near perfect. They had asked Mikey to come to give them feedback, and there was a glaring problem he noticed the moment he could see the outside of the citadel. If he had wanted to get in for a job, he would have scaled the walls where the cannons had their blind spots, and he would have been able to get in without a problem.
“The flat outer walls are weak spots. Cannons and arrows can’t protect them if enemy troops get past the trenches. You’d only be shooting at yourselves if you tried.” Mikey said. “What would you do to prevent that?”
“We could build triangular walls parallel to the flat walls, which would add more corners, and add more range for our cannons and arrows.” Alex said. “That would prevent them from being able to get to our trenches in the first place.”
“That would work...” Jack said, nodding. “Unless they could starve us out, their siege would fail.”
“Would you be able to build those in time?” Pete asked, looking skeptical. “That’s five extra structures.”
“If we focus our time on that, then yes.” Jack said. “We’ll have to keep up training, but if we spare time for our men to work on the construction, it would be done in about a month or so.”
“I would suggest you do that, and soon.” Mikey said. “It sounds like war could be upon us in a matter of months.”
He looked to Pete for confirmation on that thought.
“That’s what Patrick thought upon coming home from the trip to Torvia.” Pete nodded. “It could be sooner, even, but they would have to travel to get to us, so we would have some time to prepare.”
“We can work on the plans tonight, and if we send for a shipment of stone and mortar immediately, we will be able to get to work sooner than later.” Alex said. “Do we have your permission to carry out this task?”
“Absolutely.” Pete said. “I want the project started as soon as you can. Even if you can’t finish in time, it will be better than nothing. We can’t afford for nothing.”
“Thank you,” Pete said, when the night fell and they were back in Mikey’s room. “For your help today at the citadel. You did not have to do that, you could have let us think our fortress was fine, and watched us die when the time came. But you didn’t, and for that I am grateful.”
“You would have done the same had it been the other way around.” Mikey said softly. “In fact, you have done the same. You by no means should have let my brother and I live. It’s me that should be grateful to you.”
Pete smiled, and from his pocket pulled the brass key he always used to lock the room. Mikey sighed, and sat down on the edge of the bed, knowing this meant Pete was going to leave, and he would be all alone again. He was actually starting to like being around Pete. He hadn’t realized before just how lonely he was. He watched as Pete took the key and rather than turning it in the door and leaving, he placed it on the table near the fireplace.
“I’m no longer locking you in here.” Pete announced. “I trust that if you decide to leave this room, you won’t do anything stupid and you’ll come back by the end of the day. For safety purposes, I am still going to have someone check in on you, and I don’t want you out of the castle after dark. Any time you are out of the castle, you must be with me, Andy or Joe. But don’t worry too much, you’ll barely even know they are there.”
“Are you serious?” Mikey asked, looking even more surprised than Pete thought he could express with his usually stoic facial expression.
“I am.” Pete said. “You deserve a bit of freedom after everything you’ve done. I’m sorry there’s still so many restrictions, though I’m sure you understand why I have to do that.”
“Yeah.” Mikey said, looking down at his lap like he wasn’t sure if this was actually real. “I… Thank you. I appreciate that.”
Pete, for a moment, thought about taking Mikey’s hand and reassuringly squeezing it before he left. But he did not do that. He simply stepped out the door, and quietly closed the door behind him, leaving that key sitting on the table, and the door unlocked.
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
Mikey had considered if Pete’s little spiel the previous night was just a test, but when he tried leaving the room, nobody gave him any care. Sure, he got a few anxious glances from the castle staff, but he couldn’t blame them for being scared of him. He definitely deserved their wary looks, and understood why they often hurried away from him. He was used to people not wanting to be around him. He had that effect on people, and it made sense to him at this point. He was used to being alone. But that didn’t stop him from maybe wanting to have some sort of companionship. He missed his brother.
He worked his way through the castle, seeing what exactly his boundaries were. He would wander into the castle, return to his room, then go a little further. Still, nobody had a problem with him stalking through the halls. It was odd, Mikey thought, that the worst he was getting was a few people rushing to be further from him. For Pete to be able to convince his entire staff that Mikey could be trusted, for the most part, was interesting. These people must have had a lot of faith in their king to let an assassin freely roam their work and living space.
Mikey returned to his room after a while, getting bored of watching people scurry away from him. His lonely thoughts wandered to Lindsey’s acolyte, Bandit. Mikey was sure that Bandit was his niece, there was nothing he had seen that could convince him otherwise. The child had his brother’s eyes, eyes he knew better than his own. The thought of that little girl, Gerard’s little girl, staying in that awful place any longer made Mikey feel sick. It was no place for any child, and it was a place Mikey couldn’t stand. Madam Von Teese would make her life miserable, like she had done to all of the previous acolytes turned courtesans. It was only a matter of years, and the older Bandit got, the more claim Von Teese would have on her.
Mikey was determined to put an end to that. He was going to get Bandit out.
That was the decision he had made. He had tested the boundaries, and so far he hadn’t found any. So long as he returned to this room eventually, what would be so bad about going to the guild and at least talking to Lindsey? He had to do something about it. He wasn’t going to let Bandit suffer like that. It wasn’t fair.
He was careful when he snuck out at night. He figured he was breaking a few of Pete’s rules, but he really did have the intention to return once he was finished with his plan. What Pete didn’t know, Mikey thought, wouldn’t hurt him.
He found Lindsey almost immediately upon entering the guild. It was night, so the courtesans were walking around outside and in the foyer. Lindsey had been sitting in a red velvet chair, waiting for some client to roll around and offer to pay her for her services. But upon seeing Mikey she jumped up and grabbed his arm, a mix of fear and anger on her face.
“Mikey, you need to stop coming here.” Lindsey hissed, dragging him into a side corridor.
She looked around cautiously, and once satisfied that nobody was coming, pulled him down the hallway.
“Shh.” She said, pushing him flat against the wall.
Mikey picked up on the shuffling of feet, and a dainty giggle before two figures passed through the connecting hallway. They were clearly very distracted, seeing as they clumsily fell into one of the rooms with their mouths locked together.
Lindsey peeked around the corner, then carefully led Mikey down the hall in the opposite direction from the courtesan and his client. She quickly pushed him into a room, and locked the door behind them.
“ What are you thinking!?” She scolded. “You know what will happen to you if Madam Von Teese finds out you’re here. If you ever come back again, I’ll be compelled to tell her just so you’ll stop putting yourself in danger.”
“You wouldn’t tell her, that’s what you’re trying to prevent.” Mikey retorted.
“Yes, and you’re making that very difficult.” She sighed, sitting exasperatedly on the bed. “Why are you here?”
“I want to talk about Bandit.” Mikey said. “I can take her back to the castle with me. Once she’s safely away from here, we can work on getting you out of your contract and–”
“No.” Lindsey cut him off, scowling.
“No?” Mikey asked, taken aback.
“Mikey, you are not her father. You don’t get to make any decisions about her, and you certainly don’t get to whisk her off to wherever you damn please.” Lindsey snapped, standing.
“I know I’m not.” Mikey said. “You can’t seriously say you want her to live this life. Gerard would not like her to live any of our lives. Manson and Von Teese are–”
“She stays with me.” Lindsey said. “I don’t care what he wants, or what you think he wants. She has a mother, and that’s all she needs.”
“He is the father, though, isn’t he?”
“Anyone could be the father, Mikey. It’s part of the business.” Lindsey said. “Sometimes contraception tonics don’t work. How would I know which one?”
“But you do know, I can tell you know.”
“What does it matter? None of us needed a father, and we all survived.”
“Yeah, and we turned out just great.” Mikey said sarcastically.
Lindsey was about to retort when the doorknob jiggled, and they both looked to it nervously.
“Hush now.” Lindsey whispered. She held her arm out, pushing Mikey behind her, blocking him as best as she could. “I locked the door, but Von Teese has the keys to every door in the guild.”
Mikey watched the door carefully, tensing as he heard the clicking sound of a brass key turning in the door. He scanned the room, looking for objects he could use as weapons should he need to. As he reached for a candelabra resting on the nightstand, Lindsey pulled him down to her level by the coat.
His immediate instinct was to push her away, but the voice inside his head was yelling at him that this was part of the plan and he better not go and ruin it.
The door swung open, and Mikey would’ve tried to see who it was, but he was too preoccupied with trying not to fall over or do anything else that would prevent Lindsey from obstructing his features with her face.
“Ew.” Came a distinctly familiar voice. “Get a room, why don’t you.”
The words were accompanied by a snigger that proved the speaker knew how ironic his own statement was. Mikey did push Lindsey off of him this time, not at all surprised to see Pete leaning against the now closed door. Little Bandit stood in front of him, a key clutched in her hands.
“Is that why you locked me out?” Bandit asked, frowning and crossing her arms.
“Oh, it’s just you.” Lindsey sighed, relieved. “Sorry, Mikey, I didn’t want anyone to see your face.”
Mikey just nodded, frowning and wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his coat.
“How lucky is it that I managed to find Bandit here to let me in before your virtue was compromised.” Pete said mockingly, the corners of his mouth perking up in amusement. “Very lucky, indeed, Mikey Way.”
Mikey narrowed his eyes, glaring at Pete.
“What are you doing here?” Mikey demanded, annoyed.
“Well, clearly I followed you.” Pete said, flopping into one of the chairs in the room. “I specifically remember telling you not to leave the castle after dark. Or at all without a chaperone.”
“Ridiculous.” Mikey muttered. “I can’t believe you burst in here like that. You know where we are, yes?”
Pete shrugged, and said, “You’re the one who said you didn’t like these places.”
“I could very well have been lying to you.” Mikey said, feeling an angry blush rising up his neck and across his cheeks. “You could have walked in on any sort of predicament.”
“I would not have minded.” Pete said carelessly.
“Yes, well, I mind.” Mikey scowled.
“Why were you really here?” Pete asked, knowing that everything Mikey was saying he was annoyed at was purely hypothetical.
Mikey looked from Bandit, now more interested in a little wooden doll across the room, to Lindsey, who’s expression was both threatening and begging him not to tell the full truth.
“It’s about my brother.” Mikey said simply.
“Oh, you mean because of…” Pete nodded in the direction of Bandit.
“Did you tell him everything?” Lindsey asked, not looking very pleased with Mikey at the moment.
“Only what I knew and what I could speculate.” Mikey said. “Everything else you still won’t tell me.”
“Mikey, you’re being ridiculous.” Lindsey said, glaring at him. “You need to learn to stay out of business that is not your own. You also need to learn to be a better kisser. You’re absolutely horrendous at it, and unnaturally awkward.”
Mikey was offended. That last comment was completely unnecessary and uncalled for. He had not asked for that assault to his mouth. It was merely a way to avoid getting caught, it didn’t mean he had to act like he wanted to do that in any way. Let alone act as though he liked it when he very much did not.
Pete, however, found this very funny, apparent from the way he tried to stifle a laugh.
“Can you not?” Mikey said, shooting Pete a hostile look.
“Arguing does nobody any good.” Bandit said, looking at the three who didn’t even know she was paying them any attention. “If you plan to stay around, you best try to get along with each other.”
“She’s right, the two of you can’t leave until the morning lest someone in the halls recognizes you.” Lindsey said.
Mikey sighed through his nose, and nodding in agreement, sat down on the edge of the bed, prepared to pass the time meditating. Lindsey sat at her vanity, and got to work on sewing what looked like a dress for Bandit’s little wooden doll. Pete was the one who turned his attention to the little girl in the corner, noticing how lonely she looked in a room full of adults with nothing but a doll Madam Von Teese probably didn’t even allow her to have.
“Does she have a name?” Pete asked, crouching down by Bandit and gesturing to her doll.
“Her name is Lady Lily Casterdale, and where she is from she is regarded most highly by all of the people.” Bandit said proudly.
“Well, my Lady.” Pete said, taking the doll’s tiny wooden hand and kissing it. “It is a pleasure to be acquainted with you.”
Bandit grinned, and began telling Pete more about the life she created in her head for her doll. Mikey stopped listening, lost in his head as he watched them talk. Something about it all made him start to feel something he hadn’t ever felt before. An ache deep in his chest that felt so good it almost hurt. He was mad at Pete, that he was sure of, but some other feeling he couldn’t place his finger on was breaking through just enough to allow him to admire Pete’s benevolence. He supposed the king must have a lot of that, for he had given the Ways more of a chance than they ever should have gotten.
Mikey closed his eyes and let his thoughts take him over. He didn’t know how long he sat in silence, tuning out the three others in the room. He only snapped back into reality when Lindsey spoke, looking to the pendulum clock in the room.
“It’s three in the morning.” She said. “Late enough that most everyone will have finished bringing in new clients, yet early enough that nobody will be out of their rooms. I would suggest you leave now.”
“Alright.” Mikey said, standing.
He took a glance at Bandit, his heart aching at having to leave her behind, but he let Pete drag him to the door and out into the hallway.
“I know it upsets you, but there’s nothing you can do right now.” Pete reminded him. “I’ll help you get her out of there, but not yet.”
“You will?” Mikey asked, not expecting Pete to want to help him.
“Bandit gave that doll of hers the life she wishes for.” Pete said softly. “She told me of a big, happy family, of a mother and father, with plenty of uncles and cousins and horses and dogs. She is very lonely, that little girl. I can see she loves Lindsey dearly, but even that young she can see the life she was given was not the one she deserves. She doesn’t deserve it.”
Mikey nodded, but he was suddenly distracted, Pete could tell. He frowned at a window as they passed it, and suddenly pushed Pete away from the moonlight flooding in from it. After stumbling a bit, Pete straightened and looked to the floor, where two shadows told him there were people walking by that window. Clients or courtesans, he wasn’t sure.
“Come on.” Mikey whispered, waving his hand and leading Pete along.
They reached the end of the corridor, to the large double doors that meant freedom. If they could get past those and into the city without being seen by Von Teese, they should be fine.
Scanning the foyer, Mikey and Pete determined that nobody was around, and they would be able to use that opportunity to sneak out. They slipped out the doors, and were met with the sight of two girls dressed in cloaks and gear.
“Shit.” Mikey said, as the girls spotted them, and pulled blades from their sheathes. “Manson must have sent some of his assassins to guard Von Teese.” He grabbed Pete’s hand, pulling him behind him down the steps away from the guild. “Run.”
The force of Mikey dragging him down the steps caused Pete to stumble a bit, but he caught his balance before he went tumbling down the stairs. It was lucky he didn’t fall, because the assassins were already close enough, and gaining on them.
Mikey yanked Pete to the right, down a dim alleyway. The girls followed, redirecting their path to accommodate to all of their turns.
“Where are we going?” Pete asked, as Mikey led him down another alley.
“Don’t know yet.” Mikey said breathily. “Away from them.”
As he said it, a dagger went flying by them, nicking Pete in the side. He swore, and Mikey shoved Pete behind him, shielding him from the second dagger that flew at them. Mikey caught the second knife with the blade to the palm of his hand. He winced, but took the handle of the knife and threw it back, where it found its place in the leg of one of the assassins. The girl cried out and fell, but her companion didn’t assist her. She continued to pursue the boys, leaving her fellow assassin to bleed out on the ground. Mikey grabbed Pete’s hand again, and this time Pete could feel the warm stickiness of blood from where the knife had cut Mikey’s hand.
“You said last night that you trusted me.” Mikey said. “I know I fucked that up by going out tonight, but I’m going to need you to trust me again. And don’t be scared.”
“Scared of what?” Pete asked, because if there was something scarier than the lethal lady pursuing them, he wasn’t sure he was going to like it very much.
But Mikey didn’t need to tell him, because then Pete saw that they were running straight for a cliff; one that plummeted down into the ocean. Mikey was planning on jumping to get away from Manson’s assassin.
They were still holding each other’s hands when they leapt from the grassy rocks, only breaking apart when they were submerged in the cold water below. The moment Pete surfaced, Mikey pushed him to the left as the assassin jumped in after them.
“I didn’t think she’d risk following.” Mikey said, pushing his hair back out of his face as the splash of the assassin joining them brought up waves in the water.
After the water settled, the assassin didn’t surface. Pete wondered if she’d hit a rock and snapped her neck. But before he could ask Mikey if he thought so too, Mikey dove underwater, leaving Pete alone above the water.
The sea was eerily settled, only tiny waves flowing through it. The surface looked so peaceful, with the moon casting it’s shimmering light on it like little diamond crystals. No one looking out at the sea would know of the war waging below the surface. Pete couldn’t even tell where they were, which made it very difficult to even try to help.
Suddenly, Pete felt a hand wrap around his ankle. He had just enough time to gasp some air in surprise before being dragged down under. The salt water stung his eyes as he forced them open to see what he was doing as he tried to free himself from the assassin’s grasp. Mikey came up behind her, grabbing her around the neck and pulling her off of Pete. The tiny bubbles coming from his nose told Pete that Mikey didn’t have much longer before he was out of air. But Mikey tilted his chin up quickly, wordlessly telling Pete to get out of there. Mikey seemed to be in control now, and Pete hadn’t taken a real breath before being pulled under.
When Pete surfaced, he shook his head, blinking the water out of his eyes, and realized that the water around him was darker. At first, he thought it must be a shadow from the moon, but the water glistened just as bright as before, but now with a pinkish tint. There was blood surrounding him, and a lot of it.
Pete dove back under the water in a panic, knowing that Mikey didn’t have any weapons on him. There was no way Mikey could have caused that much damage without a weapon of some sort, which could mean that he was the one who had been hurt. Pete was struggling to see through the thick crimson clouds surrounding him, but soon could make out two dark figures floating away from him. Pete swam towards them, and was able to make out the female assassin sinking to the bottom with her own dagger in her stomach. That was where all of the blood was coming from, or at least most of it, Pete hoped.
Mikey was suspended limply in the water with his eyes closed and hair floating around like little blonde feathers brushing his face. Pete swam towards him, grabbing him around the waist. He carried him up until he felt the cold breeze on his face, and had Mikey above the water. Supporting Mikey with one arm, he used his other arm to swim to a cave-like crevice in the cliff. Once he made it to the rocks, he was able to prop Mikey up on some of them. Mikey wasn’t breathing, but he still had a faint pulse.
“Mikey!” Pete exclaimed, shaking Mikey to try to get him to wake up, but he just slouched over on the rocks. “Fuck, Mikey, come on.”
Pete started hitting Mikey on the back, trying to kickstart his lungs. He did this repeatedly, desperate for Mikey to breathe again. All of the sudden, Mikey gasped a ragged breath, and coughed up water onto the rocks.
Breathing heavily against the burning in his lungs, Mikey attempted to catch his breath. Eventually, he was able to steady his breathing and lean back against the rocks. He closed his eyes, wiping the back of his hand across his face to get some of the water out of his eyes, and tousling his hair, unsticking it from his forehead. He took a painful deep breath, and opened his eyes. Immediately upon seeing Pete, he scrambled up, dropping back into the water.
“You’re bleeding.” Mikey said worriedly, sitting on a lower rock and hovering his hand over the cut on Pete’s side.
Pete looked down, and sure enough his shirt was stained dark red and tattered where the first assassin’s knife had caught him in the side. The rest of the tunic, which had previously been ivory, had a pink tint to it from being surrounded in water mixed with the second assassin’s blood. That only made the injury look worse, and though Pete didn’t even feel it, he had no idea how serious it actually was. It could be not that bad, but he couldn’t even tell since he was so high on adrenaline.
Mikey got to work on Pete’s wound surprisingly quick for someone who had just almost drowned. Before either of them really knew what was going on, Mikey had Pete’s shirt off of him and was ripping it into strips to create makeshift bandages. The cut was bleeding quite a bit, but it wasn’t incredibly deep. Mikey wrung the strips of cloth out, and tied them around Pete’s waist. It wasn’t the best solution, and Pete was starting to feel the burn of the salt water now that he wasn’t more concerned about running for his life than the pain.
Mikey’s fingers were nimble, working fast on the knots. When he finished, he looked up, having noticed that Pete was quiet.
“You okay?” He asked, looking concerned.
“Me? I’m fine. You almost died.” Pete said, barely able to believe how rapidly Mikey had recovered from that experience.
“Yeah. I mean,” Mikey said, blinking. “You were hurt.”
“You’re hurt too.” Pete reminded him, taking Mikey’s hand and lifting it to show the cut across his palm.
It wasn’t bleeding anymore, but it was a shocking red line across Mikey’s hand.
“I’ve had worse.” Mikey said, one corner of his mouth perking up in a sad smile.
He tilted his head a bit, and it was then that Pete realized how close they were to each other. Close enough for him to see the scar making a crescent across Mikey’s neck. It was the only scar Pete could see with the way Mikey always laced his shirts up as high as they would go, and he wondered how many Mikey was hiding. There were probably more than Pete would like to know Mikey had endured.
“I’m sorry.” Pete whispered, unable to speak any louder.
“Don’t be,” Mikey said, shrugging. “You didn’t–”
Mikey didn’t finish his sentence, because he was suddenly silenced by Pete grabbing him by the shirt and pulling him in for a kiss. He gasped in surprise at first, then melted into it, ignoring the taste of saltwater on Pete’s lips. He wrapped his arms around Pete’s neck, and slipped off of the rock he’d been sitting on to get closer to Pete. Pete moved his hands from grasping Mikey’s shirt to his face, running his wet thumbs along Mikey’s jaw. The night sky was clear, the clouds having disappeared to let all of the light and clarity shine down. Something about that felt so absolutely right, like the stars had some sort of influence over human destiny. If they did, they were working their magic that night, aligning just as they should.
Because two boys had made it out alive tonight, and were feeling things that only ever could be explained by fate.
Even when they pulled apart, the timing was just right. Mikey would have said he’d never felt so breathless, but that would be an incredibly stupid thing to say considering he had just almost drowned. But at the same time, he felt like he’d never breathed so comfortably before. He’d never felt so safe before, not even when he had his older brother to look out for him. It shouldn’t have made any sense, kissing the man he’d once considered his enemy, now making all the sense in the world because it was Pete. And Pete was everything.
“Lindsey was wrong.” Pete said quietly. “You’re not a bad kisser at all.”
Mikey laughed, pulling Pete back to him and resting his head against Pete’s.
They stayed together in silence for a while, just foreheads pressed together, feeling the softness of the waves against the rocks and their bodies. Eventually, they would have to leave. Go back to the castle and do something about their injuries, maybe have a conversation about everything that had happened that night. But for now, everything was just simple. Everything was fine, if only for a moment.
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
The Captain had a headache. It was stress induced, he knew, and he was trying very hard to hide from everyone else how stressed he really was. The only thing he could think to do was take a walk around the ship, get some fresh air, and try to clear his head.
There was a lot to worry about as the ship’s captain. Trying to stay just outside the Sea Snakes’ border was going to be very tricky, and the clouds overhead told him they were looking forward to a massive storm. The sea was already unsettled, rocking the ship and already causing a few of his crew mates to hurl their meals over the side of the Black Veil. Even the most experienced pirates could experience sea sickness in such conditions, and Andy wondered if his headache was caused by more than just his worries.
Andy ran his palm over his face, rubbing his eyes to try to relieve his pain just a little bit. He was hyper-aware of every noise, it seemed like, since each tiny sound made his head pulse. So it wasn’t too surprising that he picked up on voices when he passed the room the Black Veil’s guests were staying in. What was surprising was what he actually heard.
It was Frank’s voice, and from what Andy could tell, he sounded pretty annoyed.
“Cut it out, Gerard.”
Andy stopped walking, thinking he must have misheard. He was clearly delirious because of his headache, there was no way he had heard that name. But when he tried to listen in, he swore he heard it again.
“Would you stop pestering me for one moment, I’m trying to write the letter to Pete.” Frank said. “The more you tell me to change, Gerard, the longer it’s going to take. I want to send the pigeon out tonight, before the storm hits.”
Andy’s head was spinning. He knew what he had heard, and he knew it meant trouble. He hastened to get out of there, heading back to the study, where he hoped his first mate would still be.
Luckily, Ashley hadn’t gone to bed yet. He was still in the study, a candle lit over a piece of parchment he was scribbling away at with a quill. He looked up upon Andy’s arrival, standing up.
“What’s wrong?” Ashley asked. “You’re so pale, you look like you’ve been scared out of your wits.”
“I may have been.” Andy said, letting out an anxious breath.
“What happened?” Ashley asked.
“I fear you’ll think me foolish and paranoid.” Andy said, looking wary.
“Andy, I have known you for how long now? I trust that whatever you have to tell me is neither foolish nor paranoid.” Ashley said. “What is it?”
“I believe Gerard Way is on the Black Veil.”
“What?” Ashley asked, nearly knocking the candle and ink bottle off of his desk when he stepped back in surprise. “How could that be? We’ve been in the middle of the ocean for weeks, no one could have boarded the ship since we left.”
“I know, that’s why I think he’s been here all along.” Andy said, swallowing hard. “The girl, Frank always calls her ‘Gee’. I thought that was a nickname for Genevieve or something, but now I’m thinking it’s just a cover up. I think Gerard Way has been posing as a woman to infiltrate the Black Veil.”
Ashley paled now, looking just as worried as Andy.
“You were the only one who saw his face. You fought him, do you recognize anything that would make you think that?”
“I thought she seemed vaguely familiar, in a weird way that I couldn’t quite place. I think this is why.” Andy said.
“Who is Frank then?”
“I don’t know. Another assassin? Must be someone he trusts, or else he wouldn’t have brought him on the ship.” Andy said. “He wouldn’t have risked bringing Mikey back on the ship, that would have been reckless. Or perhaps his brother is dead, and Frank is his replacement partner. I don’t know. I don’t care. They are a danger to everyone on this ship.”
“So, what do you want to do?” Ashley asked.
“First I need to confirm my theory. I need to see him as he was when I first saw him. Shorter hair, no cosmetics.” He said. “Then I want him in the dungeons. Frank and his dog can stay on lockdown in the room until we get to land, but I want Gerard Way to pay for what he has done, and what he must plan on doing by being on the Black Veil. I don’t ever want him to forget Juliet’s name, and I want him to know that she is what caused his downfall.”
Pete and Mikey were dripping dirty, bloody saltwater onto the floors and carpets of the castle as Pete led Mikey up the stairs. The water was freezing, especially in the breeze as they walked back to the castle, but Mikey barely felt it as he was still hot and flushed. He wasn’t quite sure where Pete was dragging him off to, since they were going in the opposite direction of the tower Mikey stayed in. It hit Mikey then that Pete might be leading him to his own room. He realized he didn’t know where Pete’s room even was, and it was entirely possible that was where they were headed. He wasn’t sure what Pete was expecting now that they were back to the castle. Mikey panicked for a moment at the thought, though the panic was short lived as he admitted to himself what he actually wanted.
Pete pulled Mikey by the hand down the hall, coming upon a door. He hesitated a moment, sighing, before knocking loudly three times. The door swung open, and an exhausted looking Patrick stood there, pale faced and groggy.
A mixture of relief and slight disappointment flooded through Mikey. Of course, they both still had injuries to attend to. This was good, Mikey was too worked up anyway, and it prevented him from doing anything an unclear head would have him do too soon.
“What happened to you two? It’s four in the morning.” Patrick asked, holding back a yawn. “Why are you soaking wet?”
“Midnight swim gone wrong.” Pete said with a grin, shrugging.
“Yeah, okay.” Patrick said, shaking his head and inviting them into the room. “Do you want to tell me the real story, or are you just going to leave it at that?”
“Oh, well, we were running from assassins and we jumped off a cliff to get away.” Pete said casually.
Mikey could tell he was trying very hard to make it seem like nothing, even though it was clearly a big deal. Patrick surely didn’t seem to think it was no big deal.
“Assassins? You jumped off a cliff ?” Patrick asked. “Are you insane!?”
“Probably, yeah.” Pete said, lifting his arm to show Patrick the makeshift bandages covering his cut. “You have something to patch this up?”
Patrick made a strangled noise that sounded both angry and concerned. Mikey was getting the idea that Patrick had to deal with a lot of Pete’s bad decisions. Mikey was pretty sure he was one of those bad decisions.
Patrick pulled some supplies out of his cabinet drawer, while Pete sat down in a chair. Mikey took a step closer to Pete, hovering awkwardly nearby.
“Mikey, sit down.” Pete instructed, pointing to another chair, and Mikey quickly and quietly obliged.
“Why were assassins after you?” Patrick asked, cutting loose the old, wet and bloody bandages.
“Everything was fine.” Pete said, avoiding the question. “Mikey took care of them.”
“Why weren’t you with Joe or Andy? I feel like I keep having to ask you that, why do you keep going out without them?”
“I didn’t want to worry them.” Pete said, wincing as Patrick cleaned the cut with a cloth doused in liquor.
Patrick frowned, casting a quick, barely noticable glance at Mikey. It was clear that he knew Pete was hiding something.
“It was my fault.” Mikey said, and Pete shook his head, looking mad at Mikey for admitting that. “I left when I wasn’t supposed to.”
“He had good reason.” Pete added quickly.
“I’m sure.” Patrick muttered, wrapping gauze around Pete’s waist.
When he finished up with Pete, Patrick stood, heading towards Mikey with the medical supplies.
“Where are you hurt?” Patrick asked.
“I’m fine.” Mikey lied.
“Right palm.” Pete told Patrick absentmindedly, standing and walking to Patrick’s liquor cabinet.
Patrick took Mikey’s wrist, and doused his hand in the alcohol, making quick work of wrapping it up in gauze. Pete returned with three glasses and a bottle of champagne, pouring the liquid into each flute.
“It’ll help with the pain.” Pete said, handing one to Mikey.
He offered another to Patrick, who just shook his head.
“I’m going back to bed.” He said. “Go get cleaned up and get some sleep yourselves.”
“Alright, good night, Patrick. Thank you.” Pete said, taking Mikey by the arm and leading him out of the room. “Drink that.”
Mikey looked to the glass still in his hand, and downed it, feeling the burn of the champagne down his throat.
“You’re going to want to change and get some sleep. We have somewhere to be tomorrow.” Pete said, sliding one arm around Mikey’s waist and guiding him down the hall.
“We do?” Mikey asked, looking at Pete and tilting his head a bit.
“Yes, we’re attending my friend’s induction. He’s taking over the cathedral as the new bishop.” Pete explained.
“Oh.” Mikey said. “The bellringer kid?”
“Brendon, yes.” Pete said, and seeing Mikey’s expression added, “He doesn’t hate you, he just cares about me. Like Patrick does. Don’t worry, I’ve talked to him about it.”
Mikey didn’t really think he liked other people caring so much about Pete. He felt oddly protective of him. Despite how much Patrick insisted on Andy and Joe accompanying them, Mikey didn’t exactly like the idea of two other people looking out for Pete when he could do it himself. It was a weird feeling, not wanting anyone else to care about someone so much, one he’d only ever felt about his brother. He didn’t think he could feel that way about anyone else.
But in a way, Patrick was right. That night they had been reckless, in more ways than one. They had been reckless with their lives, and reckless with their hearts as well.
Frank woke not to the sun peeking through the porthole, but to Sweet Pea’s angry warning barks. He rarely heard her bark like that, and the faint light brushing his eyelids from the rising sun told him it wasn’t early enough for her to be awake.
Upon opening his eyes, Frank found that there were pirates hovering over him and a cutlass against his throat. He tried not to move too much in his surprise, but swung his arm out beside him to clutch Gerard’s arm.
“I know.” Gerard said quietly.
Frank was surprised he was already awake, because he figured Gerard would have made a defensive move by now. But he was still, which worried Frank as the pirates manhandled him out of the bed. One of the pirates already held Sweet Pea, clamping her muzzle shut with a gloved hand so she couldn’t bite him. She wriggled in his grasp upon seeing what they were doing to Frank, but the pirate held tight.
Across the room, a group of pirates had forced Gerard to his knees, his arms tied tight behind his back. Gerard was grimacing, struggling to make them release their grips on him.
Captain Biersack stepped forward, the orangish pink light from the sunrise illuminating his face. He looked ill, Frank thought, pallid and gaunt in the dim light. His eyes were darker than usual, a trace of fear hidden behind them.
Captain Biersack’s voice wasn’t as smooth, as deep and steady as it usually was. It was quiet and cracking, weaker in a way that truly showed how scared he was.
“Who…?” Gerard tried, but the Captain wasn’t having it.
“Save it.” Captain Biersack said. “I know who you are.”
His first mate pulled a sword from the holster at his hip, and Frank fought harder against the pirates holding him back. He swung the sword, and Frank cried out, but it didn’t decapitate Gerard like Frank thought the blow would. Instead, it sliced through his hair, which had grown so long in the dungeons. Ashley brought the sword back, and this time cut down the front of Juliet’s old tunic. Ruining the shirt made Captain Biersack cringe, but revealed the bare, scarred chest of a man–Not a woman.
The Captain turned, releasing the breath he had been holding. In any other situation, turning his back on them would be dangerous, but his entire crew had Gerard, Frank and Sweet Pea well restrained.
“Put them where you said?” Ashley asked, his voice cautiously gentle.
“Yes.” Captain Biersack said, and then he walked out the door.
Ray was almost completely healed from Manson’s punishments, but he knew if Manson decided to reopen the wounds, it would take even longer to heal. That’s why he was so reluctant to go when summoned to Manson’s office. He hoped it was merely a job assignment, though he could never be sure.
He still wasn’t sure when he discovered Manson had called upon Bob as well. Either Manson was feeling particularly sadistic today, or the two of them were going to have to work together again. Ray didn’t know which option was worse.
“You both look well.” Manson said, grinning. “Much better than I would like, but well.”
Ray and Bob looked to each other nervously, then back to Manson. Manson looked at his nails, taking a moment to examine and pick at them. He looked back up at the two assassins, sensing how anxious they were despite how well they hid it.
“I no longer blame either of you for losing the Ways.” Manson declared, after a much too long silence.
“What?” Ray asked, as Bob said, “Why, did something happen?”
“Yes, something happened.” Manson said smoothly, barely affected by their surprise. “I sent two assassins out to watch over the Courtesans Guild and protect Dita. Madam Von Teese, as you know her. It’s nothing new, I have been sending those girls there for many years, ever since my relationship with Dita became… less than professional. Twenty years or so, I would say. But this morning, only one of my girls returned with some very interesting news. Her partner was dead. Killed by Mikey Way, she said.”
“So, he’s out of the castle?” Ray asked. “How did he ever manage to break out?”
“I don’t believe he ever needed to break out.” Manson said. “She claims he was with Pete Wentz. Protecting him, even.”
“Why would he do that?” Ray asked, furrowing his eyebrows.
“He’s an idiot, that’s why.” Bob said, crossing his arms. “Figures. Sleeping with the enemy, I’ll bet.”
“Yes, I came to that conclusion as well.” Manson agreed.
“What? Really? Why would you think that, of all things?” Ray asked, confused.
“Unless the king really is as careless as he acts, he wouldn’t have gotten so close to Mikey. Mikey should have killed him by now, but he hasn’t.” Manson said. “I can only assume Mikey seduced him to stay out of the dungeons, then foolishly fell in love along the way. I don’t care how it happened, but that’s where he appears to be at this point.”
“So…” Ray said slowly.
“So we have leverage.” Manson grinned maliciously. “All we need is Pete Wentz, and Mikey Way will come running right into our hands.”
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
The crowd in the city was getting bigger and more cramped the closer Mikey got to the cathedral. Pete had finally given in to Patrick’s complaints, and had left much earlier that morning in a closed carriage with Joe and Patrick. That left Mikey to be escorted to the cathedral by Andy and Bo. The dog kept pushing them with his side to keep them away from the crowd, but that only made them sidestep off track.
By the fifth time of being nudged to the side by a ninety pound dog, Andy had seemingly had enough, and he sighed.
“Come on, we have to go around the back anyway.” He said, leading Mikey in the direction Bo had been pushing them.
Once away from the majority of the crowd, Bo trotted alongside them, seemingly content with their decision to go where he wanted them to. Mikey wondered how Frank had managed to teach this dog anything with the way he always got the humans to do what he wanted. Maybe that’s what Frank had taught him to do in the first place.
As they made their way around to the back, Bo nudged Mikey’s hand with his head, to get him to scratch behind his ears. Mikey began distractedly petting the dog, but stopped when he felt the fur under his fingertips bristle. Mikey looked in the direction the dog was looking, but he saw nothing but a dark haired girl racing to catch up with her friend. By the time she had passed, Bo had relaxed, and the crowd was thickening around them again.
Andy checked around to make sure nobody was following them before unlocking a door at the back of the building. He ushered Mikey and Bo inside, and shut and locked the door behind him.
Mikey was pretty cranky by the time he got inside, from the lack of sleep and the claustrophobia he was starting to develop from the crowds. But that crankiness was erased when immediately upon entering the room, his wrist was grabbed and he was pulled through a door by Pete. He found himself in a small vestry, the door somehow already closed behind him, and Pete grinning widely at him. Mikey was pleased to note that Pete’s hand was still around his wrist, his thumb rubbing Mikey’s palm in soft little circles.
“I’ve been waiting forever for you to get here.” Pete said.
“Well, I’m here now.” Mikey said. “Why exactly am I here?”
“Two reasons.” Pete replied. “One, because I wanted you here.”
“Great reason.” Mikey said, rolling his eyes. “That liner is so tacky.”
“And,” Pete said, ignoring Mikey’s playful sass. “Two, because you’re going to prove to my lovely friends and protectors–Patrick, Joe and Andy–that you are a reformed man and are completely trustworthy.”
“They won’t believe that.” Mikey snorted, amused.
“No, but it’s worth a try. At the very least, it’ll be fun.” Pete said, squeezing Mikey’s hand. “So, try to be on your best behavior.”
“Aren’t I always?” Mikey asked, pulling an innocent face. “I’ll behave. For you.”
“Good, because I’m expected to participate today, so I can’t be nannying you.” Pete teased.
“Isn’t that Patrick’s job?” Mikey asked, raising an eyebrow.
“He would like that joke.” Pete laughed. “Come on, we should go before he comes looking for me.”
Andy had never hated the Black Veil, his treasured ship, but lately everything about it was making him sick to his stomach. The crisp salt water that usually carried a pleasant smell now stung his lungs when he breathed it in. The creaking wood of the deck began to startle him at every step, and the cool, damp walls chilled his bones rather than keeping him safe in his room from the dangers of the sea.
He couldn’t keep this up anymore. He had been avoiding going below deck to the dungeon as long as he could out of fear for what he would be greeted with. For years he had waited to speak to Gerard Way. To ask why he had done what he did that night. He thought he had wanted every last detail, thinking maybe that would give him closure. But now he wasn’t so sure he wanted to know anything. Maybe it was better not knowing.
Yet still, he wanted to know why Gerard was back on his ship. To kill one of his crewmates? Or Andy himself? He didn’t think that knowledge was something he could just ignore, he needed to know that. It was the only way he could protect himself and his family if the King of Assassins decided to send another one of his killers now that Gerard was incapacitated.
And maybe, just maybe, he still wanted to know why Juliet had to die.
They had spoken of getting married that morning, before dark fell and that prospective future was crushed. Had he known she was going to die that day, he would have married her right then and there. It would have made her last day alive special, but it was just another ordinary day. Andy couldn’t even remember the last thing he’d said to her. Her name, maybe? It wasn’t “I love you”, the kind of last words he would have wanted her to hear. He hadn’t even heard her final words, either. He hoped they were worthy of her last breaths, though he may never know.
He thought about asking Ashley to accompany him down to the dungeons, but ultimately decided against it. He needed to do this on his own. Besides, Ashley would only grow more angry than he already was. He didn’t like seeing Andy upset like this, and his mood was only getting worse. If Andy brought Ashley down, he would surely instigate a fight with the assassin, and Andy didn’t think that was wise.
So he slowly descended the steps alone, buttoning up his coat to his neck to try to keep warm as his nerves chilled him. The lantern he held before him guided him to the dank cell that was practically dripping with moisture.
“Visiting so soon?” Gerard asked, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
He was sitting against the wall of the cell, seeming fairly comfortable for the situation. It was as if he was used to being in a cell, and for all Andy knew, maybe he was. Andy saw in the lamplight that there was a dark bruise marking Gerard’s cheek, likely courtesy of Ashley. He felt a bit of remorse, at least for that. His friend’s fiercely protective nature could get out of hand at times.
“Well, I have a few questions.” Andy said, dragging his boot along the dusty floor to create a little semi-circle around himself.
It was a nervous action; something he did absentmindedly, but once he had done it, it sort of reassured him. It was like an invisible little wall of protection, keeping him where he was so he wouldn’t accidentally get too close to those bars.
“Ask away, I’ve got all the time in the world so long as you don’t plan on starving me out.” Gerard said.
“I don’t plan on starving you.” Andy shook his head, clearing it. “I…” He hesitated. “I just want to know, why did you do it?”
“You mean why did I return to the ship? It’s my only way back to my brother.” Gerard said. “I struck a deal that will get both of us out of our master’s hands while still letting us live. I had planned on being a free man for the first time since I was a seven year old kid, but of course it was too good to be true. I knew deep down I would end up in another cell in another dungeon somewhere. It was bound to happen.”
“I meant Juliet.” Andy said softly. “Why did you kill her?”
“She would have killed my brother.” Gerard said simply.
“Yes, but, you’re an assassin. Who paid you to do that? Why her? Of all people, why her?” Andy’s voice got louder as he went on, his face starting to tingle as his emotions got the best of him. He took no notice to the hot tears that fell rapidly down his cheeks as he continued to ask what he’d been waiting to ask for years. “What did she ever do to anyone to deserve a hit on her?”
“It was never meant to be her. Remember, I killed another that night. Mikey and I were paid by a wealthy lord to assassinate a former crewmate of yours–the rapist of his daughter.” Gerard explained grimly. “That night we were paid for one death, but I now pay for the second kill I hadn’t intended on making.”
“So very poetic.” Andy scoffed, running the back of his hand along his cheek to wipe away a stray tear. “You didn’t mean to, you say, yet you still did it.”
“Yes, but you would have done the same if it had been the other way around, wouldn’t you have?” Gerard asked, tilting his head slightly to the side.
Andy couldn’t even bring himself to look at the assassin at this point. It hurt too much, especially when that pang of guilt was added. Gerard was right, Andy would have done the same. If Gerard’s little brother had been the one with a sword to Juliet’s throat, Andy wouldn’t have hesitated to kill him.
But he still didn’t see it as fair, and that guilt was short lived. Men like these killed for a living. They were paid to take lives as though such a fragile thing was worth some amount of gold.
“Juliet wasn’t a killer. She was a pirate. The worst you could ever say we have done is steal.” Andy said. “I don’t claim to be a saint, never have, but I don’t kill the people I steal from, and neither did she.”
“Some might say you leave them in a worse state than I do.” Gerard shrugged. “Sometimes death is better than life when you have nothing to your name, wasting away with not a coin to buy a loaf of bread.”
“I…” Andy frowned, that guilt washing back over him. “You’re trying to manipulate me, aren’t you? You want to belittle me into thinking I’m worse than you.”
“No, I’m trying to put it into perspective.” Gerard stood, walking to the wet metal bars of the cell and wrapping his hands around them. “You haven’t lived my life. You can’t claim to know me, and I can’t claim to know you or Juliet. All you know me as is the man who killed your lover. All I ever knew her as was the woman who tried to kill my brother. We are villains to each other, yet are either of us truly evil?”
“I’m not sure if true evil exists.” Andy admitted.
“It does.” Gerard said, his eyes locked on Andy’s. “True evil is sadistic. It takes lives because it finds it fun, not out of necessity. It takes pleasure in torturing the ones it claims to love, and sees the world through a lens of selfish gain. You don’t want to meet true evil, Captain. It will take your broken heart and shred it until there is nothing left for love.”
A chill ran up Andy’s spine, and he shivered involuntarily. The way Gerard spoke led Andy to believe he had encountered true evil before, for too long of a time, no doubt. But Andy didn’t understand, did his last words apply to him as well? He loved his brother, didn’t he? Or was he hanging on to the last little bit of his heart before it was all taken from him?
“Don’t get me wrong, I deserve to be here.” Gerard said truthfully. “But it was almost you on the other side of these bars, remember that.”
“Right.” Andy said, and then he left before any more could be said on the matter.
Brendon peeked through the curtains at the audience of people waiting for him. His heart was pounding in his chest, and he was getting more and more anxious as the time to go out neared. This wasn’t just rehearsals with the Grandmaster, this was real. After tonight, Brendon would be the bishop, and the power of the cathedral would be in his hands. He didn’t realize how much that terrified him until now.
He scanned the crowd, looking for a familiar face. Pete or Patrick, Tyler or Josh, but he didn’t see any of his friends. Just a sea of unfamiliar faces who would all know who he was.
Just as he was about to step back behind the curtain, his eye caught one familiar face, and his heart skipped one of those much too fast beats. It was the girl he had met, the one he had so suddenly fallen for just as that pigeon had fallen from the belltower. She wore a pale blue dress, her hair perfectly curled and pinned back with ribbon. The color brought out her eyes, which found their way to Brendon and flashed with recognition. She smiled, and addressed him with a tiny wave.
“Lord Orzechowski’s daughter?”
Brendon turned away from the crowd to find Pete had come up behind him.
“You know her?” Brendon asked.
“Lady Sarah Orzechowski.” Pete said. “She’s the one you met at the belltower? With that dead pigeon?”
“Yes.” Brendon said, a delirious smile spreading across his face. “Sarah. That’s a beautiful name.”
“Alright, Brendon, don’t swoon. You have to go out soon, and you can’t do that if you’ve fainted.”
Brendon glared at Pete for a moment, then peeked back out at the crowd. Sarah was now turned away from him, talking to her mother.
“You doing alright?” Pete asked gently.
“I’ll be fine.” Brendon said. “I just want to get this over with. Don’t want to make it a big deal.”
“ You don’t want to make something a big deal? Is this a dream?” Pete asked incredulously.
Brendon wished he could laugh along to the joke, but he was just feeling much too nervous about this whole thing. So he just shrugged.
“I’ll be fine.” He repeated, but it was really only to try to convince himself that he would be fine.
Frank was stuck in that bedroom with Sweet Pea, who wouldn’t stop whimpering and scratching at the door no matter how much he tried to reassure her. Frank had tried that door many times, but it was undeniably locked and unopenable.
Now all he could do was just lay on the bed, sleeplessly staring at the ceiling and wondering if Gerard was okay. He was still on this ship somewhere, stuck in a cell. Frank supposed that was better than the pirates throwing him into the ocean or slitting his throat, but it was still terrible. As ironic as it was, being the very dungeon master that kept Gerard locked in a dungeon, Frank despised the pirates for imprisoning him again.
There had to be a way out of this. Frank had watched over the dungeons for years, he had to have some sort of idea of how they could escape. But this was a boat, in the middle of the sea, and he and Gerard were trapped in two separate places on either end of the ship. Frank had nothing.
Until Sweet Pea barked.
Frank looked to where she stood on her hind legs, yapping at a hole in the door where a window once was. They had taken the window out as a way to bring Frank and Sweet Pea food without opening the door or using a key, but it allowed Frank to see into the hall.
One of the pirates–Jake, he thought his name was–had been watching the room from a chair across the hall. Now, as the afternoon wasted away, Jake had fallen asleep with his head lolling onto his shoulder. Dangling from his fingers was a ring of keys, barely hanging onto his limp pointer finger.
“Sweet Pea!” Frank whispered excitedly. “I have an idea.”
Frank’s change in attitude was well noticed by his little dog, and Sweet Pea had stopped jumping and scratching at the door. Calm now that her owner wasn’t as stressed anymore, she let him pick her up.
Frank carefully lowered Sweet Pea as far as he could reach over the hole in the door, and dropped her off into the hallway. She whimpered, unhappy to be separated from him, and sat in front of the door, looking up at him with sad eyes.
“Keys, Sweet Pea.” Frank whispered.
Her ears perked up. She remembered that command. But it wasn’t the same this time. She used to retrieve his keys from the dungeon master’s ward, but this was nowhere near like that. She sniffed the air, and located the metallic scent of the keys. She hobbled over to where it was coming from, and found them hanging on the finger of a sleeping pirate. She put her front paws on the chair, and took the keys in her mouth, making a rattling sound as she pulled them off. Frank held his breath, but the pirate didn’t wake.
Sweet Pea happily returned to her master, proudly showing off what she found for him.
“Yes, Sweet Pea, good girl.” Frank said, taking the keys and working them into the lock.
The door popped open, and grabbing his dog, Frank rushed down the hall in the direction of the Black Veil’s dungeon.
Pete had left to find Brendon a while ago, leaving Mikey alone in the room behind the apse. He was about to go wandering to find Patrick or someone when he suddenly heard his name.
“Notorious assassin, Mikey Way!”
Mikey jumped, and turned to find Jack and Alex heading his way. Jack had a huge grin on his face; he was the one who had uttered the startling greeting.
“Hey.” Mikey said. “What are you guys doing here?”
“We could ask the same of you.” Jack said, offering his hand for Mikey to shake.
“Pete wants me to prove I’m trustworthy or something.” Mikey muttered.
“You seem trustworthy enough to us.” Alex said, shrugging. “Pete has good intuition, he wouldn’t have kept you around if he didn’t like you.”
“Yeah.” Mikey left it at that, though it surely seemed as though Pete more than liked him. “Weren’t you guys working on the citadel?”
“We are.” Alex said. “It’s a holiday, we figured we should at least be here for the ceremony before getting back to work.”
“Plus, Alex is performing.” Jack added proudly.
“Performing?” Mikey inquired.
“The violin.” Alex said, lifting the instrument in his hand that Mikey hadn’t noticed before. “I was asked to play for the ceremony.”
“I didn’t know you played.” Mikey said, slightly surprised to find the general did something other than leading his army.
“I love it.” Alex said, the bright smile on his face proving his passion for the hobby. “It’s my way to escape worrying about the impending war. It’s an honor to play for this ceremony.”
“That’s actually why we came over here, Alex has to go out soon.” Jack said. “Do you want to find seats?”
“Sure.” Mikey said, waving Alex goodbye and following Jack up some stairs.
Jack brought Mikey to a balcony overlooking the cathedral, where others were already seated. Patrick was near the front, so Jack and Mikey headed in that direction.
“Good, there you are.” Patrick said, spotting them. “Here, sit down, the ceremony should be starting soon.”
Sure enough, as they sat, the lights dimmed as people extinguished the torches lining the nave. That left very little light in the building, letting the sunlight flow through the stained glass windows to illuminate the room in brilliant colors.
Alex stood on the right side of the stage, the glass casting blue and red light down on him as he began to play.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Jack asked excitedly, beaming at the gorgeous music his friend created.
“Yeah…” Mikey whispered, but his eyes were not on the violinist.
Mikey’s eyes had traveled to the aisle, where the king walked, flanked by Andy and Joe. Pete was smiling, waving back to the children in the pews that bounced up and down at the sight of him. Pete approached the stage, looking up at the balcony to find Mikey. The moment their eyes met, Pete’s showy smile changed, turning soft and traveling to his eyes.
“Welcome.” Pete said, his voice echoing in the large room as he turned to face the entire crowd. “As you all know, today we are gathered to celebrate the induction of my very good friend Brendon Urie. No longer is he the young bellringer I met years ago, but an amazing man who is sure to run our religious community with great strength and heart. I couldn’t think of a better person to take over Grandmaster Freeman’s role as the bishop. With that, I would like to welcome the Grandmaster to the stage, as well as Brendon, to commence the induction.”
Pete stepped back, and for once he found himself on a stage with all eyes on someone other than him. He felt a shock of pride in his heart for Brendon, glad to finally see him as the center of attention. In that moment, while the world watched Brendon, Pete let his gaze sneak away to the center of his own world.
Mikey was still watching him, too. Sitting between Jack and Patrick, Mikey was watching Pete with a small smile on his usually stoic face. Pete winked, and watched Mikey’s smile turn into a light laugh.
Soon, Pete thought, after the ceremony he would go find Mikey and spend all the time he could with him. That’s all he ever wanted anymore, to just be with Mikey all the time. It was weird, how quickly someone could come into your life and feel like they’ve been there forever. As if the thought of ever having been without them was inconceivable. That was what Mikey coming into Pete’s life felt like, and now he didn’t ever want to lose him. He wasn’t quite sure what this feeling was yet, but he did know that it was was special, and he wasn’t going to waste it.
Because Pete Wentz, ruler of the kingdom of Erilan, had fallen in love with an assassin named Mikey Way.
Chapter 13: Chapter 12
Mikey was going to get himself in a lot of trouble with Pete Wentz. There was something about Pete that broke down those walls built into Mikey from years of training and torture. The kiss from the previous night had broken Mikey’s last defenses, the result being a flood of uncontrollable emotions. They coursed through his veins like adrenaline, taking over his entire being. It was all he could think about, and he knew it was a weakness.
Maybe if he had someone to talk to about it he could fix the damage done to those barriers. If Gerard was there, he could talk him out of it. Remind him to take back that control that was just out of reach. There was a reason he had built up those walls, and it had a lot to do with attachment. He could only afford to care about his brother, and still he lost him. It was proof enough that Mikey shouldn’t be doing this, shouldn’t be letting himself have these feelings. Manson had taught him that the things you love would only be taken from you, and Manson had always made sure to take everything Mikey ever loved.
It was a terrible risk, but at this point, Mikey didn’t think he could repair the damage done on his own.
But, he realized, it wasn’t damage. It was liberation. Those walls weren’t a protection Mikey built on his own, they were a prison Manson instilled in him. Pete had freed Mikey from that prison, and on the other side all Mikey could find was love. What Manson didn’t know, he couldn’t take, so this would be the best kept secret Mikey would ever have. It was all he could do now.
But well-kept secret or not, having to keep his feelings quiet from everyone else didn’t mean he was going to keep it from Pete. If such feelings had emerged a month ago, Mikey would have just pretended they didn’t exist until they faded and ceased to exist. He didn’t really think he could do that, not after last night. Pete must know, Mikey thought, though he was terribly lacking in experience with such things, and actually wasn’t sure how to read the situation. Had the events of last night only been the cause of an adrenaline rush? Or perhaps Pete only kissed him out of pity since he’d almost died. Mikey was pretty sure people didn’t act like that, but the doubt he felt was terrifyingly consuming.
Pete’s voice startled Mikey, making him jump at the sound of his name for the second time that day. He was never this jumpy, and never this oblivious to people approaching him from behind. His nerves were making him lose his attentiveness, and that was dangerous.
“Good thing I found you, you disappeared and Jack didn’t know where I could find you. We have to go quick, before the sun begins to set.” Pete said, grabbing Mikey’s hand without warning and dragging him in the opposite direction.
“Go where?” Mikey asked, glad to have much longer legs than Pete so he could catch up.
“I’d love to tell you, but I had originally intended on making this be a surprise.” Pete said slyly. “If I did tell you, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise, now would it?”
“I suppose it wouldn’t.”
Brendon had no idea where Pete had run off to, which was extremely annoying because he really needed someone to distract him long enough to calm the raging nervousness within him. Brendon always tried to be independent, but he admitted he needed a friend now more than he ever had before. The only problem was he only had about three friends he would have wanted to talk to right about now. One of them kept vanishing to who knows where, and the other two he wasn’t even sure showed up, or if they even considered him a friend having only met him once. It didn’t matter, Brendon liked Tyler and Josh, and thought they seemed like good people. Good people deserved good friendship.
To his surprise, upon scanning the large room, Brendon spotted the two boys standing awkwardly near the wall. They looked like they weren’t sure if they should come say hello to him or not, so Brendon took it upon himself to go say hello to them. It was ironic, that they looked shocked to see him heading their way, when they were the exact people Brendon was looking to find.
“Josh, Tyler!” Brendon called, pushing through a group of people to get to them. “How are you guys doing?”
“We’re actually doing really well, thanks to you.” Tyler replied. “Our mother is doing better. Your ceremony was beautiful, congratulations.”
“That’s fantastic to hear.” Brendon said, beaming. “And thank you, but really everything that made it great was courtesy of my friend, Pete.”
Tyler and Josh’s eyes widened.
“You’re very lucky, having a friend like that.” Josh said.
“I am.” Brendon agreed. “He’s a good man, and a good friend.”
“Well, it makes sense then, why you’re friends with him.” Tyler said, adding, “Since you’re so alike.”
“I’m really not.” Brendon shrugged. “Like him, I mean. I certainly wish I was like him.”
“You’re probably more like him than you think.” Tyler insisted. “Since you both have a lot of power, but you use it to help people. There’s not many people like you, it’s a shame.”
Brendon rocked awkwardly on his feet. He was now starting to think talking to anyone at all was a bad idea. Being told he was like Pete was a great thing, in any other situation, but it was really just reminding him how big of a deal today was. It was true, he was gaining a lot of power, and it wasn’t something to be taken lightly. It was kind of scary, actually, especially with the thought that power could easily be abused in the wrong hands. What if they were wrong, what if Brendon wasn’t actually anything like Pete at all? What if he was wrong; the wrong person to hold this power? He had to keep reminding himself what the Grandmaster had said about why he had chosen Brendon, and hope that his predecessor was wise enough to have made the right decision.
“I have to go.” Brendon said quickly, stealing a glance out the window to see it really was almost time to go. Lucky him, that the sun would settle down to leave the day behind just when he needed to escape. “My first prayer as bishop starts at sunset.”
Chatter among the pirates left to guard Gerard in his cell allowed him to piece together that they would soon be scraping the border of the Sea Snakes. The pounding sound of rain on the deck, and the way the cell was just a little more damp and disgusting than it had been before also told him that thunderstorm they’d been anticipating had begun. A nasty combination for the Captain, which was honestly worrying Gerard. It wasn’t great timing that he’d purposefully taunted the man into freaking out, and then two dangerous obstacles came raging at the Black Veil. Gerard had intended on getting him out of his wits long enough to formulate and execute an escape plan, but instead he’d created an unstable Captain of a completely doomed ship.
They all might as well accept their certain death right then and there, Gerard thought. He was hopeful that even though this mission would be a failure, Pete Wentz was a good enough man to keep some of their deal. All he wanted was for Mikey to be safe and at least partially happy. He also hoped Mikey wouldn’t do something incredibly stupid and reckless upon learning of Gerard’s death. But then again, this was Mikey, and he probably already had done something incredibly stupid and reckless.
There were footsteps coming quickly down the stairs, and one of the pirates called, “We need all hands on deck, this is critical!”
Gerard watched as the two pirates guarding him ran off to help with the undoubtedly disastrous situation on the deck. Gerard, still trapped, just sighed and leaned back against the gross, wet wall and thought about what death was going to be like. Drowning was not the way he thought he was going to go, but he supposed there were worse endings. It was better than the opposite, burning alive. That sounded much worse.
That sound of quick footsteps returned, and Gerard was surprised the pirates were returning so soon after their emergency summoning. But these footsteps were quieter, and much more careful, as if whoever was coming downstairs was trying very hard not to be caught.
“No way.” Gerard whispered, struck with a sudden realization, which was confirmed a moment later when the person came into the torchlight.
He stood there like a holy savior, soaking wet from the rain. Old rusty keys hung in one of his hands, and his antsy dog was cradled in the other.
“Frank.” Gerard said, relieved. “Never thought I’d see you from behind bars, and know I’m going to be saved.”
“I never thought I’d be so keen to release you.” Frank said, finding the correct key and unlocking the cell.
“Well, thank you for doing so.” Gerard said, just as the ship rocked violently, accompanied by a loud noise.
“The hell was that?” Frank whispered.
“Trouble.” Gerard said, grabbing Frank’s wrist and pulling him up the stairs. “We’re going to have to move fast.”
“And do what?” Frank asked, stumbling a little to try to keep up. “We’re in the middle of the ocean. You know, I haven’t really thought much further than freeing you and winging it!”
“Well, we’re gonna wing it alright.” Gerard said. “How do you feel about jumping ship?”
“Let’s see,” Frank said, sarcastically pondering the question. “Honestly, I’d prefer not to drown out here.”
“Not into the water, we’d never make it to shore, especially not in this storm.” Gerard said, emerging onto the deck and immediately getting drenched from the pouring rain. “Onto that ship.”
He pointed to a smaller ship that was currently blasting cannonballs at them in an attempt to take the Black Veil down.
“The people who are firing at us?” Frank asked, alarmed.
“Yeah, it appears they’re about as friendly with the Captain as we are.” Gerard said. “I’d say it’s a better bet than sticking around here and ending back up in a cell.”
“They could be worse!” Frank exclaimed. “The only reason Captain Biersack is our enemy is because you killed his lover. I’d consider him a pretty reasonable pirate for sticking you in a cell rather than throwing you off the plank with iron strapped to your ankles!”
“This again.” Gerard groaned in annoyance. “I’ve killed people, Frank. That’s a really terrible thing, I know that . But guess what, I’m trying to save your life right now, so why don’t you put a little trust in me for once !”
“I’ve put a lot of trust into you.” Frank argued. “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t.”
“You still complain the whole damn time.” Gerard said, as some of the crew members taking on the enemy ship began to notice Frank and Gerard.
Gerard handed Frank a dagger, pulling out a cutlass from where he’d stuck it through his belt. Both were engraved with Bs and Vs forming a star on their hilts, a black gem in the center of the gold metal star.
“Where did you get these?” Frank asked, eyes going wide.
“Stole ‘em off the wall as we went up the stairs.” Gerard said smugly.
“What do you expect me to do with this thing?” Frank asked, looking from the dagger in his right hand to Sweet Pea cradled in his left.
“You’ve got good stature for close combat.” Gerard said, swinging backhand at one of the pirates that had quickly approached him. “Put the dog down, sic her on them, and defend yourself!”
Frank didn’t have enough time to hesitate, since another pirate swung his sword at Frank’s head. He ducked down, letting the blade slice through the air above his head, and let Sweet Pea leap from his arms. She protectively scrambled towards the pirate who had swung, and latched onto his pant leg, her tiny teeth sinking into his skin. The pirate yelled out in pain, yanking his leg away from the dog and stumbling. Frank took this opportunity to knock the sword from his hand with the dagger. As it fell from the pirate’s grasp Frank caught the sword with his free hand.
“Close combat my ass.” Frank muttered, sticking the dagger through the tie in his belt and testing out the weight of the stolen sword with a light swing through the air. “Close combat doesn’t work so well when everyone else is using longswords!”
Another pirate approached Frank, swinging his sword, which Frank blocked with his own. He continued blocking blows, stepping back every time the pirate stepped closer. He was focusing on keeping the pirate’s sword away from him, while still not inflicting any damage onto the pirate himself.
“They’re trying to kill you, Frank, you can’t hold back!” Gerard called, sliding a discarded sword across the rain-slickened deck and knocking Frank’s opponent off balance. “And for the love of the gods, use that damn dagger!”
“I’m not going to kill anyone!” Frank protested, leaving the dagger tucked away in his belt.
Gerard groaned, and was about to say something, but got too caught up in the fight with a particularly intimidating pirate who had him beat in size and strength.
The pirate up against Frank regained his footing, managing to stay upright despite Gerard’s attempt to take him down. Apparently inspired by that trick, the pirate caught Frank off guard by swinging not at his head like usual, but at his legs, forcing Frank to jump over the sword. His landing was rough on the wet, slippery deck, and he slid, falling onto his back. The pirate stepped on Frank’s coat, pinning him in place with the weight of his boot, and swung his sword downwards. Frank quickly brought his own sword up to block it, using the flat side of the sword to push back on the pirate’s blade before it could get to him. It was clear that from this position he was at a disadvantage, and he couldn’t do much with so little room to move. The pirate brought his sword down again, and Frank rolled towards the pirate, the only direction he could move while pinned by his jacket. He heard the pirate’s sword get stuck in the wood of the deck, and was relieved it wasn’t his face. Discarding his own sword, Frank decided that if he was ever going to take Gerard’s word for something, now was the time to do it. He yanked the dagger from his belt, and looked at the sharp, gleaming blade. Thinking quickly, he struck the pirate’s boot, cutting through the leather and puncturing his foot. The pirate yelped, and brought his foot up from the pain. This released Frank from being pinned to the deck, but also caused him to get kicked in the face from the pirate launching his foot up so quickly.
Frank rolled over, bringing a hand to his face and feeling blood coming from his nose. Fighting through the pain, he opened his eyes to see Gerard whack the pirate with the foot injury over the head with the hilt of his cutlass. The pirate fell, dazed, and Gerard helped Frank to his feet, pointing towards where Sweet Pea was bolting through pirates’ legs, tripping them up and slowing them down.
“Get your dog, and jump.” Gerard instructed. “Onto the ship, like we planned.”
“Now, Frank.” Gerard said. “I’ll catch up.”
Frank was about to question why Gerard would have to catch up, rather than just jump with him and leave the Black Veil behind, but he didn’t have to ask, he just had to follow Gerard’s eyes. He was looking straight at the upper deck, where the Captain stood, framed like a shadow by the flashes of lightning behind him. Captain Biersack was looking right back at him, the expression on his face indicating that his mind was set on one thing. He was too close, and too determined. Gerard wasn’t leaving this ship without a fight.
“Okay.” Frank finally agreed, but he pressed the dagger Gerard had originally given him in his hand. “You might need this.”
“Thank you.” Gerard said, closing his fingers around the hilt and watching Frank run in the opposite direction, calling for Sweet Pea.
Gerard turned his attention back to Captain Biersack, who was much closer now, and was striding towards him quickly with an air of confidence he hadn’t shown before in the dungeon. His black coat fluttered behind him, looking like wings on the angel of death as he pulled his sword from its scabbard.
“Leaving so soon, and without a fight?” Captain Biersack called once he was close enough. “That doesn’t sound like you.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, Captain.” Gerard said, keeping Frank’s dagger in one hand and drawing his sword with the other.
“That sounds more like you.” Captain Biersack said, taking the first swing.
Gerard moved to block the attack, just as Frank tuck and rolled onto the enemy ship. Sweet Pea yelped at the shock of the landing, but Frank was careful to take most of the blow so she wouldn’t get hurt. He let her go and rolled a few feet, rising to his feet and rushing to the edge of the ship to watch Gerard and the Captain duel. Lightning flashed again, and their swords clashed. It was hard to tell who was doing better, both were skilled fighters, and they moved so quickly their actions were blurred from this far away.
What Frank could see, though, was when Captain Biersack managed to disarm Gerard by knocking his sword from his hand.
“No.” Frank whispered, hands gripping the sides of this unfamiliar ship, his knuckles going white. “Come on, Gerard.”
Gerard did not let losing his sword become a setback. He adjusted his fighting to match what he had, which meant close combat with Frank’s dagger. Using it to block another one of Captain Biersack’s attacks, he lodged it into the star carving in the Captain’s sword and used it to twist his arm back. Captain Biersack loosened his grip on the sword, and Gerard tossed it to the side, bringing his arms behind him and flinging him to the ground.
From here, he was able to pin Captain Biersack to the ground with his knees, pressing the dagger to his throat. In that moment, everything became still and quiet. The next action he would take took too long to happen. Instead of killing the Captain on the spot, Gerard just watched him for a moment. Rain streaked down Captain Biersack’s face as he came to accept what was inevitably to come, and he closed his eyes and let his breathing slow from its fighting pace. Gerard felt Captain Biersack relax beneath him, and his head fell back, which only exposed his neck more. Gerard was genuinely shocked he was giving in so easily.
“I suppose I knew this was coming.” He said softly, the words causing his throat to just barely scrape against the dagger. “The moment I realized it was you on my ship. Maybe I knew all along, since the beginning of this. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for me to accept now that my time has come. Do what you must do, Gerard Way. Juliet and I will forgive you in the afterlife, if this is truly what the gods wanted.”
“Gerard!” Frank yelled.
He shouldn’t have been able to hear him over the biting wind and the distance between the two ships. But he did, and Gerard slowly lifted his head, his dagger still pressed against the Captain’s neck. He could see Frank, safely on the other ship, leaning against the rail with his hand reaching out towards Gerard hopelessly.
“Don’t kill him. Make things right.” Frank pleaded.
Gerard saw Manson, in the back of his mind, screaming at him to never leave loose ends untied. Manson had always told him if he let his enemies live, they would come for him in the future. The price he would pay now by killing the Captain would be less than the one down the road if Captain Biersack returned to kill him. Gerard had won this fight, but would he win the next? That was uncertain, and Manson had taught him to always be careful.
But Manson wasn’t here, now. True evil didn’t have its grip on Gerard now; it hadn’t for many years.
So Gerard dropped the knife.
It clattered, and splashed up a bit of the rainwater pooling on the deck. The noise caused Captain Biersack to open his eyes, and watch, pale faced and shaken, as Gerard slowly stood and left him behind. Alive.
Captain Biersack sat up, brushing his rain soaked hair away from his face with a trembling hand. He watched as Gerard climbed onto the rail on the edge of the Black Veil, ready to jump. But at the last minute, he turned around, looking down at the Captain.
“I know my words mean nothing to you,” He began, “but I truly am sorry about Juliet.”
“Go, Gerard Way.” Captain Biersack said, his voice shaking. “If I ever see you again, it will be on my terms, understand?”
Gerard nodded, and then he jumped.
He didn’t know what he expected to find once he landed on the smaller ship. But after seeing Frank make it safely over, he certainly wasn’t expecting to be threatened with a sword to his face. He moved his eyes to find Frank, and the two figures looming behind him with his arms pinned behind his back. The figure above him moved their sword closer to his face, and Gerard feared they had made the wrong decisions.
Chapter 14: Chapter 13
Unbeknownst to many people, there was a door on the fourth floor of the cathedral that led to a balcony facing the tall altar to the west. The sun would set behind that altar very soon; it was already starting to inch its way down the sky.
Pete leaned against the balcony, quietly looking out at the people gathering before the altar. Below it, Brendon walked out onto the stage, alone. Pete could tell he was nervous again, especially since it was all up to him now, Pete and the Grandmaster couldn’t be there with him for the prayer. But Pete also knew Brendon would be fine. It was Brendon, whatever he did would be phenomenal.
Pete didn’t need to look behind him to know that Mikey was behind him. He could sense Mikey was still nearby, hovering just to the side of him. He kept his eyes on the altar, and the sun falling behind it as he spoke.
“I was sixteen when I inherited the throne. They fit the crown to my head, but it never really felt right.” Pete said. “Only times like these does it ever feel kind of right. When people like Brendon get honored like this. When you stand here with me, your head still on your shoulders. That’s when I remember it’s better me than my father. If there even are gods, then maybe they did have some sort of a plan when they set the course of my life.”
Mikey frowned, leaning against the balcony next to Pete. Their hands were close, but not touching on the rail, and still, neither of them looked at each other.
“You find it hard to believe in the gods, don’t you?” Pete asked. “I get it, I do too. A lot of times I figure they don’t exist. Sometimes I think maybe they do.”
“I don’t know.” Mikey said, trying to decide if any of it made any sense. He wasn’t sure it did. “Something about gods controlling your life seems… Wrong. Like you don’t get to choose for yourself what you do, who you’re destined to be with… Or maybe that’s that’s why people fall so easily for one another.” Mikey looked Pete over to see if he’d figured out what Mikey was trying to say, but Pete hadn’t looked away from the altar. He gave up, looking down at his hands. “Anyway, it’s more likely the devil controls me.”
Pete moved his hand to rest on the one of Mikey’s that was closest. Mikey flipped his hand, so Pete could lace his fingers through Mikey’s and hold his hand against the balcony rail.
“Not anymore.” Pete said, and Mikey looked over to see Pete was looking at him now. “Manson can’t get to you, so he can’t control you.”
Mikey wanted to disagree with this, knowing Manson had his ways of controlling anyone he wanted, even from afar. But instead he just smiled softly at their hands and said, “What kind of god would stick the two of us together?”
“A lunatic of a god.” He said, shaking his head and looking back out at where Brendon was speaking. “Or perhaps, a god of a lunatic.”
“Maybe.” Mikey said.
The sun was about halfway down behind the altar, and Brendon had finished reciting the prayer. The bell began to ring, sounded by a nine year old boy with big ambitions who had gleefully taken Brendon’s place as the Bellringer. The people below were bending down before the altar at the sound, all lowering simultaneously.
Mikey sighed and made to kneel as well, but Pete stopped him.
“Don’t, stay standing.” Pete said. “Look at them. What are they doing?”
He gestured to the crowd of people, now all on their knees before the altar.
“They’re kneeling.” Mikey said. “To pray.”
“Do you know why they do that?”
“It’s to show devotion to the gods. Three times each Sunday. Once at sunrise, once midday and once at sunset.” Mikey said. “That’s all I know, I was never given the time or chance to learn about religion.”
“That’s alright. I’ll tell you.” Pete said gently. “When they kneel before the gods, they make themselves vulnerable, as you must very well know.”
“Well,” Mikey said, feeling a little uncomfortable with that knowledge. “Yes. Honestly, I just thought they were stupid.”
Pete laughed lightly.
“Maybe they are.” He said. “They put all of their trust into the gods. They put themselves in a position where anything could happen to them before the gods because these people have so much love and devotion that they trust them with everything they have. They put their lives in the hands of the gods. It’s a powerful statement to kneel, and people don’t take it lightly. I’ve already told you that as I’ve grown older, I’ve lost some of my belief, though I still take that statement very seriously.”
Mikey really didn’t know what to say now. He had used that vulnerability to his advantage many times; he had been trained to use moments like that. He had used it to assist his brother in killing Pete’s father. Of course, that must be what this was about.
“I’m sorry, I–”
“Shh.” Pete said, brushing his thumb comfortingly over Mikey’s knuckles. “Don’t speak, Mikey. Stay standing.”
Pete released Mikey’s hands, and slowly lowered himself to the ground.
“Mikey Way, I kneel for you.” Pete said, lowering his head. “I rule in your honor, and work to make the world a better place for you to live in it. I put my life in your hands, and I give you all of my devotion.”
Mikey let out a nervous breathy laugh. The sun was low on the horizon, sending a cool breeze that ruffled Mikey’s hair as he smiled in amusement. He wasn’t anything special. He and Pete were on even ground, as silly, mortal humans who saw the other in a light that wasn’t even possible. Mikey never felt so sure about anything he had ever done in his life as he dropped to his knees.
“Pete Wentz, I kneel for you.” Mikey said, and Pete raised his head in surprise. “I fight in your honor, and defend you with everything I have. I put my life in your hands, and I give you all of my devotion.”
“Gods, Mikey Way, you always surprise me so brilliantly.” Pete said, bringing his hand to Mikey’s face and running his thumb along his cheek.
“I surprise myself, too. But I think it’s a good thing.”
What wasn’t much of a surprise was that the next thing Mikey did was entwine himself with Pete. He was simply doing what he’d desired to do since the last time they’d kissed. It had been just a little less than a day, but it had felt like forever since they’d connected like this.
They stayed kneeling for a while, wrapped up in one another, but eventually stood together almost as if in a trance. They stood as one in the eyes of the gods, who on this holy day would be watching if they did exist.
When they finally pulled apart, the sun had set, and darkness washed over them. As quickly as the night came, the city filled with light again as the crowd of people below lit their lanterns. Mikey’s eyes were drawn to the only light that wasn’t from the worshipers, where the Keep was beginning to spark with energy. As much as he hated it, he was always drawn back to that place, where he had spent most of his life. It worried him, the mass of people distracted by something they deemed more important was something Manson always told his assassins to take advantage of. Nothing could happen tonight, he had to remind himself. Pete had ordered Andy and Joe to keep their eyes on Brendon at all times, and Mikey was with Pete. Everything would be fine. Everyone would be fine.
“You know, if we leave now, I have a way we can get back to the castle before anyone else.” Pete paused before adding, “We can easily be locked up in my room without anyone knowing. It won’t arouse any suspicion at all.”
“Yes, I quite like the sound of that.” Mikey smiled, feeling an intense surge of nervous excitement in his core.
Pete took Mikey’s hand again, and brought him to the back of the cathedral, where a horse stood waiting.
“This is Ebony.” Pete said, stroking the gorgeous horse’s nose. “I assume you’ve ridden before?”
Mikey had a horse once, a long time ago. Manson killed her after she got injured during a job. He had said that a horse with a hurt leg was as good as dead anyway. Mikey knew this was true, so he pretended it didn’t hurt as much as it really did. He still blamed himself for letting her get hurt in the first place.
“A long time ago…” Mikey said distractedly, reaching his hand up slowly to not startle Ebony when he pet her. “But yes. Manson liked it because on horseback we could get away quicker than on foot.”
Pete thought it was best to not question anything when Mikey mentioned Manson, so he simply said, “Good, then you won’t mind going fast.”
Pete swung his leg over the saddle, followed by Mikey, who wrapped his arms around Pete’s waist and rested his chin on his shoulder. Pete quite liked that little gesture of affection. It made him smile as he took the reigns and sped off towards the castle.
Manson still had two more statements to forge regarding the “tragic” and “unfortunate” demises of Lords he had ordered the assassinations of. It was one of the fun parts of his job, when he got to impersonate someone with the power to inform people of the deaths of their loved ones.
The sun had set, so he got up to light some candles and finish his work. He set the candle down, and from his breast pocket procured a handkerchief, coughing into it. He could see in the dim light that it came away with spots of blood on it. Looking around his dark office, he folded the handkerchief and tucked it back into his pocket. Once satisfied no one was spying from the shadows, he took a key from his desk drawer and went to the armoire. Clearing his throat, he unlocked the wardrobe and took a small, ornate box from it.
“That medicine won’t work forever.” Said a voice from behind him. “It may be keeping you alive for now, but in the end it will only make your suffering worse.”
“What are you doing here, you insufferable thing?” Manson asked, whirling around in anger.
“You asked for this.” Bob reminded him, lifting a severed head he held by the hair.
“Oh. Yes, right.” Manson said, straightening his coat and trying to regain his dignity. “Leave it over there, I don’t want it touching my desk.”
Bob set the head on a pile of scrap papers, while Manson took his illegal vial from the box. Bob kept his head down as he moved back towards the door, but couldn’t help looking over at Manson.
“You’re running low.” Bob said cautiously. “Do you need me to get you more?”
Manson sighed, falling into his chair in exhaustion. He uncorked the vial, and poured some of the powder into his wine glass, then added a little more than usual.
Swirling the liquid in its glass to mix the solution, he said, “It’s getting worse. But I don’t know how else to fix it. I need more time.”
Manson brought the glass to his lips, and drank the entirety of its contents.
“Yes.” He said with a wince, setting the empty glass back down on his desk. “I’m going to need you to get me more.”
“Search him for weapons.”
The girl kept her blade close to Gerard’s neck as her crewmates searched him. They found nothing, since he’d dropped the only weapons he’d had on the Black Veil. Not one of his wisest moments, he admitted, yet he somehow didn’t regret leaving Captain Biersack alive. Contrary to his training, he felt good about that decision. He never strayed so far from what Manson taught him before, and it made him feel weightless, like when shackles are removed from the wrists of prisoners. He knew what that felt like, as well.
“Nothing.” One of the girls who had been searching him said.
“Who are you?” The one giving orders asked, sheathing her sword.
To Gerard’s surprise, the women who had been holding Frank back let him go and ran off to do whatever they deemed more important, and so did the ones who had searched him, leaving this leaderly one alone.
“Come on, get up.” She said, crossing her arms and tilting her head impatiently upwards at Gerard.
He got to his feet, and shot a questioning look at Frank, who just shrugged and sent a look back that said, “don’t question it, at least we’re still alive.”
“Names.” The girl said, looking them both over.
“Gerard Way and Frank Iero.” Gerard said.
“And Sweet Pea.” Frank added, picking up his dog. “Are you the captain?”
The girl laughed. Genuinely laughed, as if it were the funniest thing she’d ever heard, shaking her head.
“We’re in the middle of a storm and a much larger ship is firing cannons at us. Do you really think the Captain would be concerning herself with a few stowaways?” She asked, getting a few more laughs out. “I’m sure she’ll have something to say to you once we get out of this mess, but right now Captain Kiyoko is the busiest woman on this ship.”
“Oh.” Frank said. “So you are… Who then?”
“Helena.” She replied simply. “I’m the lucky one who gets to deal with the two of you, because everyone else is busy fighting the current threat. I’m not the greatest fighter… Well, at least not on deck. My skill set isn’t needed right now, though I presume it will be soon.”
She looked to the upper deck, where the Captain was steering violently, trying not to lose the ship to the treacherous waters.
“So what was so bad about those guys over there that you thought you’d fare better on this little ship of mere strangers?” Helena asked, looking back to Frank and Gerard and tilting her head to the side.
“We had some disagreements with them, and though I think we may have worked things out, they still don’t want to see us again. Ever.” Gerard explained. “Figured it would be best to leave before things got worse.”
“That’s one way to put it.” Frank muttered, but for once he just looked mildly amused rather than upset or annoyed at Gerard.
“Well, are you looking for something from us? If you were hoping we would give you work here, I regret to inform you that we do not hire men on this ship. It gets real messy over here.” Helena joked, her mouth curving into a teasing smile. “They often get scared away.”
“You’d be surprised at the kinds of messes we’ve managed.” Gerard said, trying to keep it vague. “Not much can scare us anymore. I myself have seen just about everything.”
“I sure hope you’re right about that.” Helena said, as Captain Kiyoko called her name. “Because it sounds like you’re going to get a taste of it right about now.”
“Seas are rougher than expected.” The Captain informed her. “We’re gonna need guidance out of here!”
“I’ll come talk to you again later.” Helena said, stripping off her coat and leaving it behind. “Duty calls.”
She quickly ran off, leaping over the edge of the ship without any hesitation. Frank and Gerard gasped, and rushed over to see her dive into the treacherous waters and disappear under the churning waves.
“Gerard,” Frank said. “We are on a ship of insane people!”
“Did… Did she actually just jump ship?” Gerard asked, barely able to register if this was real or not.
“It’s probably some sort of sacrifice or something, like they think if someone dies the weather will get better or something!” Frank exclaimed, stepping back and throwing his arms up in frustration. “They’re probably only being nice to us so they can throw us overboard when they want the sun to shine brighter!”
“I don’t think that’s how it works.” Gerard said absentmindedly, watching as a large, dark shadow passed beneath the ship.
“Of course that’s not how it works, they’re crazy .” Frank said irritably, just as that shadow burst through the surface.
The creature that created that shadow was bigger than both the Black Veil and the Sea Snakes’ ship combined. Much of its size came from the length of it, which from the deck looked like endless coils of body and tail beneath the water. It was sleek black, with scales that shone like onyx stones dripping with water. The head of the creature was decorated with a crown of horns and fins. Sharp teeth protruded from the mouth of its reptilian head, that surfaced for a moment before plunging back into the water. The rest of it followed, until it’s tail snapped above the surface and slipped underwater with its owner.
“Oh my gods.” Gerard said, stumbling back into Frank at the sight of the thing, which caused both of them to go down.
“What is that!?” Frank asked, propping himself up on his elbows, and watching it surface and fly overhead again.
“That’s Helena!” Captain Kiyoko called down to them from the helm, seeing them planted on the deck in shock. “You haven’t ever seen a Shifter before!?”
Overwhelmed by what they’d just seen, neither Frank nor Gerard responded. They just shared a slack-jawed look, and looked again as the gigantic serpent’s head surfaced, leading them in the safest direction for travel.
“What the hell?” Gerard whispered to Frank, who smacked him lightly on the arm.
“I thought you’d seen just about everything.” He said.
“Apparently I haven’t.”
Mikey had expected Pete’s room to be ridiculously grand, like the gaudy kings rooms that bards describe in their songs. But it wasn’t like that. Except for maybe being a little bigger, and having most of the furnishings purple, it wasn’t much different than the guest room Mikey was situated in. Even the things that were purple weren’t all that overdone, though that could have been because of the rarity of the fabric color.
“It’s weird, I haven’t ever been in this corridor before.” Mikey said, unsure why he was voicing his thoughts aloud. “I thought I explored the whole building when you let me roam freely.”
“There’s a reason it’s pretty well hidden. But it’s a shame you haven’t been here before now.” Pete said, taking Mikey’s hands and spinning him around to face him. “I’m glad you’re here now.”
“Yes.” Mikey blurted, a little too loudly, and a little out of range of making sense.
He was not really sure what he was doing. He thought he was panicking a little, at the thought of this thing that he knew he really wanted to do, but was also a little bit terrifying. Of course, he was glad he was never a courtesan, but he had always relied so heavily on training all his life that going into this blindly was majorly out of his comfort zone. Plus, there were things that he tended to hide in his daily life, like the scars he always covered up, and he never thought about how he would handle that in this situation.
“Sorry, I’m just a bit distracted.” Mikey said, his eyes settling on Pete’s hand, now absentmindedly toying with the hem of Mikey’s shirt.
“Yeah, so am I.” Pete whispered, eyes locked on Mikey’s lips.
“Pete.” Mikey said quickly, grabbing his wrist.
“Mikey, I’m sorry.” Pete drew back, immediately giving Mikey space the moment he realized he was uncomfortable.
“Wait, no, it’s okay... It…” Mikey closed his eyes and sighed, releasing Pete’s wrist. “It just might be a lot for you to handle. I just want you to be prepared because nobody has ever seen how bad it really is.”
“Okay.” Pete said soothingly. “Whatever you need, take your time.”
For some reason, that was all Mikey needed to immediately feel more calm. It reminded him that this was Pete, and Pete cared. Pete was someone he could trust, and that’s why one of the reasons he felt the way he did about him.
“Alright.” Mikey said, taking Pete’s hand and bringing it back to where it had been before.
For the first time, Mikey’s shirt was off in the presence of someone else. The markings over most of his body told the tale of a lifetime of brutality–given and received. Pete had expected scarring like this, but the sight still sent a wave of nausea over him as it hit him just how much of it there was.
“This is all from jobs?” Pete asked, cautiously tracing the ones on Mikey’s chest, careful to watch for any signs he didn’t want that now.
“Some of them are. Most are from Manson. Punishments. This was his favorite.” Mikey said, turning to show Pete his back.
Between his shoulder blades was a medium sized scar that looked as though it had been reopened and scarred over again so many times. Most disturbingly, it was in the shape of a capital M.
“He branded you?” Pete asked, looking horrified.
“It’s alright, none of them hurt anymore.” Mikey assured him when he turned back around to see Pete’s face.
“I know… But I just can’t believe you had to go through all of that. That man is cruel and sadistic. You really were in the hands of the devil.”
“But now I’m in yours, remember.” Mikey said, before Pete could get too angry at Manson for what he had done. “And I’m so much better off for it. You might just be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Chapter 15: Chapter 14
Brendon climbed the spiraling stairs to the Grandmaster’s ward, holding one of the candles he had just lit beneath the indoor altar. He had spent a good amount of time to himself after the ceremony, just sitting in the dim light of the candles with nothing but his own thoughts. Now that he’d had some time alone, he wanted to speak to his mentor, seeking out more guidance for his future as the newest Bishop; the new Grandmaster.
He knocked on the door, hearing the Grandmaster’s voice come out quieter and more fragile than usual as he allowed Brendon’s entry.
Brendon opened the door, finding the Grandmaster laying in his bed. He looked weaker, and more exhausted than ever before. His eyes drooped with tiredness, and his face was etched with more worn out lines than Brendon remembered. He looked sick, Brendon thought, which worried him. His beliefs were only confirmed when the Grandmaster coughed weakly, beckoning Brendon to him.
“What is happening?” Brendon asked, setting the candle down as he rushed to the Grandmaster’s bedside. “You were so healthy only a few hours ago, before sunset. How have you grown so ill so soon?”
Brendon kneeled at his mentor’s side, taking the frail hand that had been so strong only hours before.
“Don’t worry, dear boy, I knew I was dying long before this moment.”
“Dying?” Brendon asked, shaking his head. “No, that’s not possible.”
“I am dying, Brendon.” The Grandmaster said with a soft, pained smile. “I knew since I chose you to take my place what was to come.”
“No.” Brendon said, eyes burning with the sorrow this brought him. “No, this isn’t fair. You’re supposed to retire and enjoy the rest of your life without the burden of the title you once bore. That’s what I took your place for, not for you to give up so easily. The gods wouldn’t have wanted this.”
“You will come to understand, Brendon, that they do.” The Grandmaster said. “I was once where you are now, many years ago, when my mentor told me what I am telling you. Don’t let this break you down, Brendon, let this strengthen you. Tonight your relationship with the gods grew, and it will only grow stronger.”
The Grandmaster brought a shaking hand to Brendon’s face, and brushed away the tears that lingered on his cheeks.
“Do not weep for an old man who came to terms with his fate long ago.”
“But I don’t understand.” Brendon said. “I wish I understood like you say I will but I don’t. Why must the gods take someone so good from this world?”
“I am old, and far from good. Nobody in this world is purely good, and the older you get, the more mistakes you build up.” The Grandmaster said. “But you can learn from them, and better yourself. Only those who do not learn from their mistakes, who choose to continue doing what they know is wrong, will watch their souls rot with evil. Though I have made my fair share of mistakes, I leave you now with a clean soul. That fact only proves to me more that choosing you was not a mistake, but the last great thing I will do in my life.”
The Grandmaster’s words were becoming more and more raspy and quiet as he spoke. He turned his head, coughing a few times, and Brendon held tighter to his hand as if that might keep the Grandmaster with him longer.
“Thank you, Brendon.” The Grandmaster said. “You are going to do so well.”
Brendon felt the man’s hand lose its grip on his own, and his eyes lose the brightness behind them. The flame flickering on the candle Brendon had placed on the side table went out, though there was no breeze to extinguish it. Looking to the ceiling above him, Brendon broke down, unable to hold in the emotion flooding through him. Eventually, he stood, bringing the quilt at the end of the bed to the Grandmaster’s shoulders.
He thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye, and turned with a surprised gasp. He tried to gather himself, though he knew his face was stained with tears and puffy, reddened eyes. Standing in front of the still-closed door was Sarah. She was no longer wearing the powder blue dress with her hair tied back like when he’d seen her earlier in the day. She was wearing a black gown with her hair draped loosely over her shoulders, framing a face that was so intensely beautiful it was almost off putting.
“You’re not Sarah.” Brendon said, backing away from her.
He backed into the bed, having to grab the post on the footboard behind him to stabilize himself. The girl before him smiled, a proud look on her unearthly face.
“You’re right, I am not Sarah.” She said. “I thought this form would be more comforting to you, but it seems you are more observant than those I have encountered before you.”
She moved to where the Grandmaster lay, and passed her hand over his face to close those lifeless eyes. She then pinched the wick of the candle, reigniting the flame.
“She will come to you very soon. She’s going to need you. I regret to inform you that her father was the last soul I payed visit to.” The girl looked back to Brendon. “Don’t worry, I did not show myself to her. Only you can see me.”
“Who are you? One of the gods?” Brendon asked, rerouting and backing towards the door so he could make a run for it if she tried to kill him. There was something very off about her, and he did not like it. He could almost feel her energy, and it was clear she was someone who spent a lot of time around the deceased.
“I am Death.” She said, confirming his beliefs. “I am… What you would call a god. Though where I am from, my people have gods of their own. Perhaps those gods have gods, and those have their own. That’s the wonder of it all, you never know for sure. That being said, we have less control than you think we do. It is nice, sometimes, to know that I can take people of old age, and not just sickness, destruction, violence… Just a life well lived.”
“Do you even really care?” Brendon asked.
He knew he was testing his limits, going way beyond the amount of respect he should be giving this girl. This god . But he was still in so much pain from the loss of his mentor, and the knowledge that Sarah was in the same pain as he was over her father’s death was enough to make him say things he shouldn’t have.
“Of course I do.” Death said, looking hurt at the accusation. Brendon couldn’t tell if this was an act or not. For all he knew, she could be lying to get him to trust her. “Though I know the fates of your kind, my job does not bring me anything but despair. But it is a job that someone must have. Everyone must die someday. Even me, once my job is done.”
“When will your job ever be done? Won’t there always be death?” Brendon asked, looking confused.
Death looked down, frowning.
“As long as there is life, there will be death.” Death said. “There is a great death coming, something that will try to knock out your people. I have already collected so many souls in the east. This is why I came to you. You must prepare for the war that is to come. Warn your people, teach them to fight.”
Death passed by a speechless Brendon, moving towards the door. As she passed, she placed a hand on his shoulder, and said, “The birth of a son will be the first sign that the world will be okay again. Life hasn’t been as busy as I have been lately. I hope you make that change.”
He barely felt the release of his shoulder as she disappeared. He brought a hand to where hers had just been, feeling nothing. His mind filled with too many thoughts, Brendon fell into the chair near the window, and did not move from that chair for the entire night.
The seas were calm. The storm was far away.
Captain Kiyoko, exhausted from the treacherous waters she had just navigated, handed the helm to her second in command.
“Thank you, Helena.” She called out. “You should come rest, now.”
The creature shot out of the water, this time plummeting towards the ship. But before it collided and ripped the deck in half, it began to shrink, losing its serpentine form and transforming back into a girl. Helena landed quite daintily on the deck, as if she was so used to doing it that she knew exactly how to stick the landing. Remembering that there were men on the ship, Captain Kiyoko hurried down the steps to the lower deck, shrugging her coat off as she went, so she could drape it over Helena’s bare shoulders.
They spoke quietly to each other for a while, a conversation that neither Gerard nor Frank could hear. Captain Kiyoko gently cupped Helena’s face in her hands, and nodded. Helena finished the conversation with another unheard phrase, which made Captain Kiyoko look behind her to where Frank and Gerard still stood.
She turned, and walked in their direction, Helena following a few paces behind her.
“So where were the two of you trying to go?” Captain Kiyoko asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Torvia.” Gerard replied. “We need to get there and then back home.”
“Torvia? Do you understand how dangerous that is at this time? You better have something grand to offer me, if you think I’m going to take you there.”
“We serve the Erilanian king. We’re going to Torvia on a very important mission from him.” Frank said. “We can offer you money.”
“I have money. I’m a pirate, I can get money wherever and whenever I want.”
“Well, then what do you want? Ports? A ranking position?” Gerard asked, and Frank shot him a look for offering more than they knew they could deliver.
“It doesn’t matter, I wouldn’t send any of my women to Torvia to make sure you returned to repay your debt anyway.” Captain Kiyoko said, shaking her head. “It’s not worth it, even if it’s true you hail from Erilan.”
“I’ll go with them.” Helena said. She moved closer towards her captain, her dark hair dripping over the coat wrapped loosely around her shoulders. “I’d be the best option to make sure these two return alive, and also return alive myself.”
“Helena, you’ve heard the rumors. You’ve seen the bodies near the ports. This isn’t a fun little expedition, this is a death sentence.” Captain Kiyoko protested.
“I understand what is happening in Torvia.” Helena assured her. “Please let me go. If that’s all it would take to free you of your sentence, I would do it a million times over, you know I would.”
“We don’t even know if the sentence can be lifted. I was banished. If I ever step foot in that blasted city again, they’ll have my head.” Captain Kiyoko said. “I can’t ever go home, Helena.”
“How long have you been gone for?” Gerard interrupted, after he and Frank shared an intrigued look.
They were getting very good at communicating silently now that they’d been in so many situations that required such communication. Sometimes, it was highly effective. Other times it just served to enhance their ability to bicker with each other.
“Six years.” Captain Kiyoko said. “Since I was sixteen. Apparently, attempting to steal from the royal kitchens after just getting a job there wasn’t enough to get executed, but it was enough for my family to lose everything they had. Not that we ever had much, hence the stealing. I was exiled with the ultimatum that if I ever returned, I would be killed on the spot, no questions asked. I figured my stealing skills needed work so I stole a few valuables that would go unnoticed after they so rudely fired me, and used the money I got selling them to buy a ship to captain.”
“That king you speak of, the one who exiled you, he’s dead.” Gerard informed her. “He was killed four years ago.”
“He… He was?” Captain Kiyoko asked, looking shocked. “Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? He had a son, who would keep his father’s promise to me.”
“Not if you help us.” Gerard said. “You’ll find his son is quite forgiving, especially if you help him keep his country safe in return.”
“How could you be sure he would lift my sentence if I help you? It’s too great a risk.” Captain Kiyoko asked skeptically.
“Oh, I have more reason to be sure than anyone.” Gerard said, laughing ruefully. “His father’s blood is on my hands, yet here I am, on a trip to Torvia to help him and lift my own sentence. Take us to Torvia, and he will be more than happy to welcome you home when we all return to Erilan.”
Captain Kiyoko dropped her arms out of their uptight, crossed state, insecurely holding her opposite elbow.
“Hayley, this is your chance.” Helena said, reassuringly taking her hand. “Let me go with them. You can drop us off by the cliffs, far from the ports. We won’t be seen by Torvian scouts, and you can leave without the ship being seen either.”
“You want me to leave you there?” Captain Kiyoko asked, looking like she hated that idea.
“You can get a head start to Erilan. I’m faster than ships anyway, I can get them back quicker than if you were to wait for us, and you’ll be far from Torvia and its dangers.” Helena said. “I’ve always found my way back to you before.”
Captain Kiyoko looked hesitant, but eventually, she nodded.
“I trust you.” She said. “If this is what you wish to do, then I will help you as you help me.”
Light had been pouring into the bedroom for hours, but the smitten lovers hadn’t left the warmth and safety of each other’s arms. It wasn’t until the brightness of the sun washing over them got more intense that they realized they had been there too long. Time moved much too fast, and much too slow all at once, for a pair so deeply entranced by one another.
“Do you have things you need to do today?”
“Probably.” Pete said, brushing a strand of hair out of Mikey’s face. “I don’t really want to get out of bed.”
“I know.” Mikey agreed, looking out the window at the sun shining through. “But it looks like it’s about midday.”
“Curse the sun.” Pete muttered, but he obliged his beckoning duties, and left the comfort of Mikey and the covers.
It wasn’t all that surprising that upon walking down the castle halls, they ran into a frantic looking Patrick. Pete felt a pang of guilt for wasting so much time that he could have been working to take the burden off of his friend’s shoulders. Though he scolded himself for it, he didn’t regret the way he’d spent the previous night and subsequent morning.
“Where have you been all morning? We received a letter from the Marianian king, and it’s crucial that you respond immediately.” Patrick exclaimed, clearly panicked.
“Um,” Pete said, trying to think of a good lie, but ultimately failing as he fondly remembered the truth.
“We were sparring.” Mikey said calmly, before Pete’s hesitation could be noticed.
“Yes.” Pete said, looking at Mikey. “He stabbed me a few times.”
“What?” Patrick asked, looking confused and alarmed. “Are you hurt?”
“No.” Pete said. “The sword was, um… Wooden.”
Patrick stared at them for a very long time. It was very evident that he didn’t believe them, but he hadn’t seemed to figure out what exactly was going on yet.
“He’s very good at sparring.” Mikey said flatly, then broke out into a smile, shaking his head. “I’ll leave you to your business. I’m sorry for keeping him so long, Patrick.”
“That’s alright.” Patrick said, halfheartedly due to his confusion, watching as Mikey left. “Did he just smile?”
“Yeah.” Pete said with a smile of his own, still looking in the direction Mikey had gone. “The stone cold assassin has a soft side.”
“I don’t know how you do it, Pete Wentz.” Patrick said, shaking his head.
“What do you mean?” Pete asked, as they headed for the council room.
“Even with the most damaged people, you somehow manage to make their lives better.” Patrick said. “I know you don’t realize how good you are at making people happy, but you are.”
“Hey,” Pete said, nudging Patrick’s arm. “I learned from the best.”
Patrick smiled, but there was something in it that indicated Pete was not going to be pleased by whatever this letter said.
“Tell me the bad news.” Pete sighed, preparing himself by sitting down in a chair while Patrick closed the double doors.
“Were you aware that your father made arrangements for you to marry the Marianian princess?” Patrick asked, handing Pete a scroll that had been sealed with the Marianian sigil pressed into the wax.
“The king has a daughter?” Pete asked, raising his eyebrows. “No, I never knew about this.”
“He said he’s sending her over to meet you. By now she will have left, we can’t really send her back now.” Patrick said.
“Great timing.” Pete muttered.
“In a way it is. The support of the Marianian government would be very helpful against Torvia. They have good armies and a lot of land.” Patrick admitted, as Pete read over the letter.
“So you think I should marry her?” Pete asked.
“I think…” Patrick trailed off, sighing. “I don’t trust anything your father set up, but I do think it could benefit us.”
“You know I don’t like this.” Pete said, placing the scroll on the table beside him and getting up to pour a drink.
“Of course you don’t. I never would have expected an arranged marriage for you, you’re too much of a hopeless romantic.” Patrick said honestly. “In which case, I hope upon meeting her that part of you takes over and falls for her. For your sake, I want you to fall in love.”
“I won’t.” Pete said, setting the empty glass down and pouring more. “But I will meet her and I will do what I must for the good of this country and the safety of my people.”
“I knew you would.” Patrick said, but he sounded incredibly sad about that.
“You do know me so well, Patrick.” Pete said, passing him on the way to the doors. “You’re a hard worker, and I keep you so busy all the time. As of recent, much busier than you deserve. I really can’t blame you for not noticing that I’ve already fallen in love.”
Patrick blinked, surprise and realization washing over his face. But before he could gather his thoughts enough to continue the conversation, Pete was already out the doors and gone.
Chapter 16: Chapter 15
Based on Patrick’s urgency about whatever that letter from the Marianian king contained, Mikey was not surprised when Pete burst miserably into his room later in the day.
“I knew it was going to be bad news.” Mikey said, looking sympathetic. “Do you want to talk about it or–”
He was caught off guard by Pete taking his hands and kissing him, filling him with the emotion of the connection. But Mikey knew this wasn’t just an act of spontaneity, it was only to cover up whatever Pete was feeling.
“Seriously, what’s wrong?” Mikey asked, gently pushing Pete back.
“I’m getting married.” Pete said, simultaneously seething in anger and on the verge of sobbing.
“That’s an odd thing to say.” Mikey said.
“Well, it’s true.” Pete said angrily. “Maybe your brother should’ve killed my father sooner, perhaps then he wouldn’t have had the chance to set up a godsdamned arranged marriage for me.”
Mikey kept his face expressionless, but the way he had to sit down after hearing that was enough evidence to prove it was hurting him more than he let on.
“May I ask who?” Mikey asked, looking down at the floor.
“The Marianian princess. She will be here by tomorrow, which means we are going to have to hold a welcoming ball.” Pete said, closing his eyes and trying to gather his thoughts. “I think maybe it’s best if you stay here in the room tomorrow night. Or better yet, go out, take a walk or something. You can take Bo with you, so you’re not on your own. Just so you’re not around it.”
Mikey clutched the arm of the chair, his nails digging into the wood, yet his face was still set in that emotionless line.
“I can handle it.” He lied, hoping he could convince himself, though it wasn’t effective at all.
“With respect, Mikey, I really don’t think you can.” Pete said, kneeling down and taking the tense hand that was digging into the chair.
“Then I’ll just have to handle it the best I can.” Mikey said, squeezing Pete’s hand. “My promise to you still stands, you have my protection. I won’t leave you alone with someone you don’t even know.”
“You will have to eventually.” Pete said solemnly.
Mikey stood, releasing Pete’s hand, and moved towards the window. He looked out at the greying sky, warning of a storm to come. Like the clouds holding in their rain above, he was close to not being able to hold in his emotions. He could not break, not now, not so soon. He would not let this be over so quickly after it began, he would hold on as long as he could.
“Mikey.” Pete said, his voice quiet.
Mikey turned, and Pete saw the change in Mikey’s face. He wasn’t succeeding in hiding it anymore, the pain in his eyes was evident. Before Pete’s eyes, Mikey was breaking, losing the little bit of happiness he’d found in such a short amount of time after all the heartbreak he’d already been through.
“You know, it’s been you all along.” Mikey said. “I never even thought I’d ever feel like this about someone, let alone you… But here I am now, about to lose it over losing you.”
“You aren’t losing me.”
“Aren’t I, though?”
Both were quiet for a moment. Neither of them wanted to say it was true, because they feared speaking it aloud would make it final. But it already was final, and they knew it. The sound of little droplets of rain hitting the window broke the silence just before Pete spoke.
“I’ll leave. I won’t hurt you anymore.” He said, backing towards the door, unable to bring himself to turn away just yet.
“Wait.” Mikey said, and of course Pete did, how could he not? He would wait forever if Mikey asked him to. “Kiss me one last time.”
Pete practically ran to Mikey, crashing into him and winding his arms around him as tight as he could. The kiss was sweet, but intense, and laced with the salty taste of both of their tears. When they broke apart, though they did not want to, neither said a word. There was nothing they could think to say anymore anyway. Mikey just walked out of the room, leaving Pete staring at the window that was being repeatedly pounded with rain.
Mikey walked, and kept walking, letting the rain drown out the tears that had coated his face. Bo walked beside him, the dog’s footsteps light and cautious. He kept Mikey from going too far, nudging him back into the castle’s border every time he strayed too far. If it weren’t for the dog, Mikey might have just been compelled to keep on walking and leave it all behind. Heartbreak was blinding. It made him forget all the reasons he was there. Frank’s dog kept him grounded, and reminded him that his brother was kept safe and going to return. That much helped keep him from leaving the castle grounds, though he thought maybe it would be better just to leave and never turn back.
Eventually he stopped walking, the emotional exhaustion taking over and forcing him to sit on the muddy grass. Bo lay down next to him, resting his jowls on Mikey’s lap and looking up at him with sad eyes. Mikey placed a hand on the wet dog, absentmindedly brushing the raindrops out of his fur, and silently thanking him for sticking around despite the weather.
The rain was loud enough, and would wash away any trace of the tears he cried as he finally let it out. Bo crawled further into Mikey’s lap, as if a ninety pound weight in his lap was going to help. Maybe it did help, a little, since it gave him something comforting to wrap his arms around and bury his face into as the rain poured down around them.
The hours went by, and neither Mikey nor the dog moved. Eventually the rain stopped, and by morning both were dry. Mikey felt like he was breathing fine again, though not as well as the night before. It was as though the rain had washed away all of the reasons he’d been upset. The flood of water had painted a mask of emotionlessness over him, the same mask he’d learned to wear after the death of his parents and later the loss of his brother. He couldn’t afford to feel anything anymore, so he let it all go.
Oh, but what a lie that was. No matter how much he convinced himself otherwise, he couldn’t deny what he’d felt. It was still there, hiding behind a mask that was much weaker than the feelings it contained.
Mikey patted Bo, who had fallen asleep in his lap, and the dog stirred, standing. The weight of the sleepless night weighed greater on Mikey than the dog who had just released a comforting weight on him. Bo started slowly towards the castle, but stayed close enough to let Mikey know he wasn’t leaving without him. Sighing, Mikey stood and walked back towards the castle, knowing that no matter what happened there, it was where he belonged.
The lavish carriage parked at the front of the castle told him that the princess from Mariania had arrived sometime that morning. Bo went to sniff around the carriage, but didn’t seem to want to be around it for long, because he went back to Mikey and nudged him in the direction of the front doors.
People inside were busy and bustling with preparations for that night’s ball. A woman with a platter filled with some sort of doughy little desserts nearly tripped over Bo in her haste to go wherever she needed to go with them. The woman apologized to Mikey, but he just shrugged. The only reason he was following the dog around instead of taking him back to patrol the dungeons was because he thought Bo wouldn’t appreciate being ignored. It seemed like the guard dog was on a mission, and wanted Mikey’s attention. It was the least he could give him for sticking out that night with him when he really needed the comfort.
Bo halted before the doors to the throne room, looking from the door handles to Mikey expectantly.
“I have a feeling that’s somewhere I don’t want to be today.” Mikey told the dog, turning away from the doors.
He supposed he would just go back to his room. It wasn’t exactly the best place to go, as it would probably hurt to stand alone where he and Pete had shared their last kiss, but he knew it was better than the throne room. He suspected that is where he would find Pete and his lovely bride-to-be. That, he knew, was not something he wanted to see at all, let alone so soon.
Behind him, Bo barked, and Mikey felt the dog clamp down on his sleeve.
“Excuse me.” He said, looking astounded.
Never in his life did he think his own stubbornness could be outdone by a dog. Yet here he was, being unwillingly dragged by the sleeve back to the doors. Bo made an impatient noise, pawing at the doors.
“I don’t need to listen to you, you’re a dog.” Mikey said, but even those words didn’t stop him from pushing the doors open.
Apparently, Mikey was more curious than he wanted to admit. He very easily could have walked away, but he didn’t. The creaking of the doors caused all heads in the room to turn towards Mikey and Bo. The first thing he noticed was a panicked look from Pete that silently asked him what he was doing there. Mikey responded simply by nodding at Bo, who was in fact the guilty one. Mikey had just been following the dog, it wasn’t his fault Bo wanted to go in this room so badly. Pete sighed loudly, and then discreetly said something to Patrick.
Patrick stood, giving Mikey an unnaturally sympathetic look that indicated he knew much more than he had before. Patrick took Mikey’s elbow and tried to gently usher him out of the room, dodging Bo’s attempts to stop him by prancing around his feet.
“I really think you’ll want to leave before–” Patrick started under his breath, but he was interrupted by a shrill noise that surprised Mikey and made Patrick grimace.
“Oooh, who’s that? Is that another one of your kingsguard, or perhaps the houndskeeper? We have a houndskeeper, he sends the dogs after father’s enemies sometimes. How many people has that dog killed?”
In response, Bo growled, and the way he changed stance made it seem like that count was about to go up by one. Patrick had to take him firmly by the scruff to prevent him going after the girl who uttered the annoying questions. The more he looked at her, the more Mikey thought she looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. Without taking his suspicious eyes off of the princess as she hurried down the steps, Mikey helped Patrick calm Bo down at least to a non-menacing, yet tense state.
The girl approached Mikey, and pretended to clear her throat in an expectant manner.
“This is her highness Princess Alicia of Mariania.” The girl’s handmaiden introduced her after a moment.
It seemed as though the handmaiden wasn’t very practiced at her job, and her attention was not on her mistress but on Mikey. He wasn’t sure why everyone was so interested in him. Everyone but Pete, that was, since he had neglected to even look at Mikey since he first entered the room.
“And you are?” Alicia asked, looking like she’d just stumbled upon a hoard of gold.
“No one.” Mikey said, backing away uncomfortably. “I was just leaving.”
“What makes you say that? You just got here.” Alicia said, pouting. “I’m looking to learn about everyone who I will soon be able to order around. You should be interested in meeting your new queen.”
“You will be the queen consort , and you will not have the power to give him orders.” Pete finally spoke, descending the steps with a straight face that hid some sort of anger behind it. Whether he was mad at Mikey or Alicia or both was unclear.
“Oh, he’s important to you, then, is he?” Alicia asked, intrigued.
She grabbed Pete’s wrist, above his hand, where Mikey noticed bandages had been loosely wrapped around his knuckles.
Pete whistled and pointed sternly at the door with his free hand. Knowing he was in trouble, Bo crouched low and walked sheepishly out the door to go back to the dungeons.
“No, he’s not.” Pete said flatly, untangling his arm from Alicia’s grasp and turning away from her.
Though Mikey hoped he didn’t mean it, the harsh rejection still stung. Pete still wouldn’t look at Mikey, and he didn’t know if it was a matter of being unable to bring himself to do so, or if it meant he was truly done. He couldn’t read what was going on behind those distant eyes anymore. He thought he’d had everything about Pete figured out, and now something made it impossible to know what he was thinking. Sure, a lot had happened overnight, and both of them had to cope with the reality of the situation in that short amount of time, but Mikey didn’t understand what had made Pete go so cold.
“Patrick, please take Mikey back to his room.” Pete said.
Something about Pete saying Mikey’s name made Alicia’s eyes sparkle with some unknown fascination. Mikey barely registered it, and just let Patrick lead him out of the room while Andy, Joe and the handmaiden looked on in surprise and confusion.
“Sorry.” Mikey muttered an embarrassed apology to Patrick as he closed the doors on those inside the throne room. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
Patrick shook his head sadly, waving away the apology.
“I understand how difficult this is for both of you, but it isn’t going to get any easier if you barge in unannounced like that.” Patrick said, keeping his voice low as more servants carried food and decorations through the foyer.
“How much do you know?” Mikey asked sheepishly, leaning against the bannister at the bottom of the stairs and running a tired hand through his hair.
“Enough to be able to fill in the gaps.” Patrick said. “Don’t worry about the hand thing, he’s fine, he just… Punched a wall last night.”
“Doesn’t sound like he’s fine.” Mikey said bitterly.
“Well, no…” Patrick trailed off uneasily. “But he will be, eventually. You will be too. It’s just going to take a lot of time.”
“You’re a terrible liar, Patrick.” Mikey said, turning and starting up the steps. “If you don’t even believe that, then how can I?”
“It is true that I don’t believe that under the current circumstances, but perhaps…” Patrick started hesitantly.
Mikey turned back around, curious, looking down the stairs at Patrick and waiting patiently for him to decide if he was going to finish that sentence or not.
“I know that Pete told you to stay away from the party tonight, but… Well, it’s up to you. As an advisor I’m obligated to tell him to follow through with this, but as a friend, I can’t say I would be upset if you can convince him otherwise.”
Mikey didn’t say anything, and climbed the rest of the steps, heading towards his room. But as the day wore on and he lay in bed staring blankly at the ceiling, he kept Patrick’s words in mind, wondering if any of this was worth it.
Tyler and Josh sat crosslegged on the cathedral floor, watching as Brendon finished attaching a cotton-filled potato sack to a cross. He pushed two seeds into place, forming eyes on the head of the sack, and turned it so it was facing his friends. Pleased with his work, Brendon stepped away from his creation, and walked over to Tyler and Josh.
“Do you know what that is?” Brendon asked.
Tyler and Josh looked to each other once, then back to Brendon, shaking their heads.
“It’s a dummy.” Brendon said.
“Do you think that he’s gone crazy?” Tyler whispered to Josh, who looked unsure at this point.
“I have not gone crazy and I still have ears, I can hear you when I’m standing directly next to you.” Brendon said exasperatedly.
“Well, someone who is crazy might just think it was the voices in their head and not us.” Tyler defended himself. “Plus, you thought you had an encounter with the spirit of Death, which maybe kind of seems like the whole Grandmaster thing is affecting you negatively.”
“Of course it’s affecting me negatively, but I have an important job now to protect people, and there’s something bad coming. I know there is.” Brendon said. “That’s why I made that dummy, so you can learn to fight. I need to be able to teach common people to defend themselves.”
“How is just the two of us learning to fight going to help other people stay safe?” Josh asked.
“I’m still working on that little issue. It turns out people just want to learn about the gods and pray to them. They expect the gods to rain down fortune on them so long as they keep learning and praying. The second the gods want them to actually do something of importance, they decide it’s none of their business and they best stay out of it.” Brendon said, frowning. “But if I get this started with people who trust me–that being the two of you–maybe then people will start to listen.”
“Alright.” Josh said. “I’ll learn.”
“I’m in too.” Tyler nodded.
“Great.” Brendon said, beaming. “Now, watch.”
He stood back, facing the dummy, and pulled a small knife from his belt. He closed one eye, using one hand as a guide, and threw the knife at the target. It hit the side of the potato sack, just about where the shoulder of a human would be.
“What do you think?” Brendon asked, about to turn back to Tyler and Josh when another knife whizzed past his face.
Gasping in shock at how close it had been to cutting his nose off, he looked to the dummy with wide eyes to see the knife lodged right between it’s fake eyes, causing the seeds to fall.
“I believe you may need some work.”
Brendon turned his head to the doors, where Sarah stood with her hands clasped in front of her. He looked back at the dummy and then to Sarah again, awestruck.
“I’m incredibly sorry, I didn’t mean to be so rude, I just came to light a mourning candle and I saw you were practicing… I shouldn’t have, but I thought it would take my mind off of the horrible thing that has happened to practice throwing for a bit.” Sarah blushed, anxiously tucking a strand of hair that had fallen loose behind her ear.
“N–no, that was amazing, how did you… How did you know how to do that?” Brendon asked, while Tyler and Josh sniggered at how flustered he was.
“Oh, um, well, my…” Her voice caught on the word, but she managed to continue, “Father had me learn to fight since I was a little girl. Most people shunned my parents for allowing their girls to learn such a barbaric practice but after what that awful pirate did to my sister six years ago, my father didn’t care if it meant we would be safe.” Sarah explained. “My specialty always has been knife throwing.”
“Do you think you could be able to teach others how to do that?” Brendon asked, somehow managing to remember the entire point of what he was doing over his lovestruck feelings.
“Well, probably, it’s really all about the way you hold the knife.” Sarah said. “Why do you need to know?”
“There’s danger coming. I know this fact and I’m finding it difficult to spread the word. I tried to talk to the king today, but there’s something going on, a ball of some sort and I was turned away despite the fact that I’m a personal friend of his.” Brendon said. “If I could only talk to him, maybe then we could start warning people.”
“The king? He’s getting married.” Sarah revealed.
“Tonight?” Brendon asked, shocked.
“Not tonight, but they’re holding a welcoming ball for her. My family was invited, I would assume that’s why you’re being turned away.”
“Unbelievable.” Brendon muttered to himself. “New plan, we’re going to put a hold on learning to fight today.”
“Good, I’m pretty sure I would have broken a window if I tried.” Tyler said, relieved.
“I need you two to go to the Citadel. Ask for Generals Gaskarth and Barakat.” Brendon instructed. “Tell them what I’ve told you, and hopefully they’ll believe me enough to help figure out where to go next with this oncoming war.”
Brendon swallowed hard and then looked to Sarah.
“I realize you barely know me, and putting your trust in me may be difficult, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could help me.” Brendon said. “I’m going to this party and I’m going to warn Pete, but I’m going to need a lot of help to do so.”
“Of course.” Sarah said. “Anything.”
Chapter 17: Chapter 16
Mikey stared for a very long time at the attire he’d worn to Brendon’s ceremony before finally deciding to put it on. He didn’t care anymore, he was going to that party. Pete was worth fighting for, and he knew it. He’d lost everything good that he’d ever been given, and he wasn’t going to let the one good thing he’d found on his own slip away from him. He hardly had anything left to lose anyway, he might as well take back that happiness and fight like hell for it.
What he would do once he arrived, he didn’t know yet. But if Patrick thought his presence might make a difference, then maybe it would. The sun had gone down not too long ago, which meant that people had probably already arrived. Mikey took a deep breath, and exited the room, jumping at the instant sight of someone outside his door. What was particularly odd, he realized as his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, was that it was Alicia.
“Is that your room?” She asked, cocking her head at him curiously.
“Yeah.” Mikey said in surprise, shutting the door. “Shouldn’t you be downstairs?”
“I will be. Soon.” She said. “What are you so worried about, you’re clearly late too. I’ll be down on time for all the formalities and stupid little things I need to do.”
“Does any of that belong to you?” Mikey asked, looking at the jewelry draped over her arms.
“Not yet it doesn’t, but it will very soon. I’m simply speeding up the process and trying out my future possessions.” Alicia said, twirling so the jewels glinted in the torchlight. “My father is a genius for setting me up with this guy, I’ve been here a day and I’m already living better than ever before. If all you have to do to live a life of pure luxury is marry some stranger your father set you up with, then why isn’t everyone doing it?”
“I see that you have wonderful morals.” Mikey muttered, trying to sidestep her, thinking maybe he could find Pete while she was busy looting his rooms for jewels.
“Shh.” She said, putting a finger to his mouth and backing him into the wall.
Mikey hit the wall hard in shock, his eyes crossing as he stared in disbelief at her, since her face was now inches from his.
“I hear yours are worse.” She purred with an amused smile, stroking his cheek with her thumb. He wished he could back away and escape, but there was nothing but wall behind him. “Besides, you’ve stolen more than I ever have”
“What do you even mean?” He asked, his voice a low, menacing growl of defensiveness. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“I know much more about you than you think.” Alicia said, trailing her hands down his chest. “Is that how he used to touch you? Does it pain you to know that’s how your lover will touch me?”
“What are you talking about?” Mikey seethed, pushing her hands off of him.
She chuckled, backing away with a defiant swagger. Her laugh echoed through the tower, making it sound like a choir of mocking girls surrounded them.
“Don’t you just love thinking about the future? I can just imagine the sound of children’s laughter ringing through these halls.” Alicia said with a dreamy smile, laced with something incredibly cruel beneath it. “He’ll make such beautiful babies.”
“Who the hell are you?” Mikey asked, fear and anger bubbling inside him.
“Certainly not a friend of yours.” She smirked, turning away. “I’ll see you downstairs.”
“You won’t. I wasn’t planning on going.” Mikey grumbled, opening his door.
“Right, you were just dressed up to sit alone in your room.” Alicia said, looking over her shoulder and descending the stairs.
Mikey looked down at his hand, still resting on the doorknob. He hesitantly took it off, then put it back to close the door. With a sigh, he turned to where Alicia had disappeared, and went downstairs.
“We’re getting close to Torvia.” Captain Kiyoko announced, as the first sight of land appeared on the horizon.
Helena, who had been swimming ahead in her sea dragon form, emerged from the waters and landed much heavier on the deck than usual. She stumbled to the edge of the ship, and clutching the wood, began vomiting into the sea. Captain Kiyoko called over one of the crew members to take over the helm, and rushed to Helena, sweeping her hair out of her face.
“What’s wrong?” Captain Kiyoko asked, stroking Helena’s hair comfortingly. “You’re never sick like this.”
Helena wiped her mouth on the back of her hand, and turned around towards Captain Kiyoko, burying her head in her shoulder.
“There were so many, below the water.” Helena sobbed, letting the confounded Captain wrap her arms around her. “Bodies everywhere… It was horrendous.”
Frank and Gerard, who were listening in nearby, walked over to the edge of the ship, looking at the much too calm waters below. Nothing seemed too noteworthy, until they got a little closer to shore, and something flesh colored and large popped out of the water.
Frank brought a hand to his mouth, and Gerard turned solemnly away from the decaying arm floating in the sea.
“What the hell is going on?” Frank whispered through his hand.
“Something very bad, I’m going to assume.” Gerard replied, swallowing hard and looking out to the land they were steadily approaching. “And we’re heading right for it.”
Mikey pushed through the sea of people he didn’t know with faces he didn’t recognize. It was overwhelming, the heat of everyone around him, and the loud music the orchestra was playing, accompanied by hundreds of chattering voices. Everywhere he looked there were faces, even on the ceiling, where a mural of the gods was painted so they appeared to be watching him. Mikey’s head was spinning and he hadn’t even been in the ballroom for more than a few minutes.
He managed to break free of the concentrated part of the crowd, catching his breath near the corner of the ballroom near where a servant stood with drinks. He took one, and stood partly behind a curtain to avoid being seen. As he drank, trying to calm his nerves, he scanned the room for Pete. He wasn’t all too hard to find, standing elevated on the stage for everyone to see with a drink in hand and Alicia attached to his arm. All that jewelry she’d stolen was no longer visible to Mikey, save for one string of amethyst crystals around her neck. Mikey wondered if Pete even knew, though he admitted that the purple looked very nice with the black and silver gown she wore. He hated that fact.
Grimacing, he took another drink from the servant, and quickly downed it, setting the empty glass back on the tray. The servant gave him an odd look, but apparently sensing he needed it, handed him another.
Something was going on onstage, Patrick was reluctantly announcing something, and Pete was making some sort of speech that made people in the crowd clap and cheer. Mikey wasn’t really listening to any of it, he was fiddling with the glass in his hands that he didn’t even really want, and just watching Pete. He was finding very difficult to face the reality of the situation, and the alcohol wasn’t helping. Here he was, he had come to the party, but what could he actually do? He couldn’t change anything just by being here, and there was no way he would be able to get Pete alone to talk to him. Not with Alicia clinging to him like that; now kissing him like that, so intensely that Mikey had to empty the glass in his hand. She was all over him, and she was right, it did hurt. It was a much different kind of pain, but it hurt just as much if not more than every punishment Manson had ever put him through.
“Pardon me, sir, but perhaps you should slow down?” The servant said carefully, moving the tray a little further from Mikey.
Mikey, feeling quite spiteful and miserable in the moment, stared him dead in the eyes with a straight face and grabbed another from the tray. He probably wasn’t even going to drink it, but the look on the servant’s face as he hurried away before Mikey could have any more was funny enough to make it worth it.
Setting the unwanted drink on the windowsill, he leaned against the wall and tried not to look at Pete and Alicia. Pete was probably right, he should have stayed away. Patrick’s encouragement was well meaning, but there was no way this could end but badly.
It was just a matter of time.
Brendon couldn’t believe how difficult it was to get past security at this ball. Never had he had such an issue getting into the castle. He knew those guards knew exactly who he was, there was no reason for them to deny him entry. Though maybe they were just so fed up with him that they’d finally decided to punish him for how obnoxious he’d been in the past. Despite the validity of that reaction, now was not the time. Sarah was able to get Brendon in with only a small argument about whether or not the Bishop was allowed to attend such a ball, since he would have to marry the two in a few days time. There were many technicalities that Sarah managed to cleverly weave around, and she convinced them that it was acceptable for her to bring him as her guest. Just barely convince them, but convince them just the same.
Once inside, Brendon saw Pete breaking off from the girl he must be betrothed to, and descending the steps onto the main floor. Brendon headed straight for his friend with a quick stride, somehow managing to catch up with him despite the large crowd.
“Pete!” Brendon called out, squeezing through the last few people separating him from Pete. “There’s something very important I need to talk to you about.”
“Sarah’s over there.” Pete said, absentmindedly waving his hand in the direction Brendon had just come, where Sarah still was. “I don’t really have time for this.”
“No, I know where Sarah is, she had to get me in as her plus one since I didn’t get invited to this thing, and you neglected to tell me you were getting freaking married.” Brendon said.
“Really? Who the hell was in charge of invitations?” Pete muttered, more to himself.
“I don’t know, but there’s more important things to worry about I needed to tell–”
“Yeah, there are more important things.” Pete scowled, cutting Brendon off and walking past him.
Brendon watched in disbelief as Pete made a beeline for the back of the room, where a moody looking Mikey was leaning against the wall, brooding.
“Is this a joke to you!?” Brendon exclaimed, throwing up his arms and staring at the mural on the ceiling. He found the painting depicting Death, a black cloaked figure that looked nothing like the girl he’d met masquerading as Sarah. “Do you really want us to survive or are you misguiding me for fun?”
Rubbing his face in distress, Brendon pushed back through the crowd towards Sarah, who gave him a hopeful look. He shook his head, trying not to let the stress of the situation get to him.
“He won’t listen. Has other things on his mind.” Brendon grumbled, looking back to where Pete had found Mikey.
They were arguing, it appeared, which might have explained Pete’s miserable, unattentive mood. He was such a good ruler most of the time, but when Brendon really needed him to be that good, strong leader, that part of him wasn’t available. He probably thought it was going to be more nonsense, and honestly, Brendon couldn’t blame him. Coming from him, he admitted, it usually was. But not this time. This time it was truly important, and instead of Pete listening like usual, he was too busy being angry at Mikey or at getting married or whatever was distracting him.
“Is that enjoyable to you too? Making friends turn against one another? What for?” Brendon asked the portrait of Death, and trailing his eyes along the depictions of the other gods as well.
“What?” Sarah asked, taking Brendon’s shoulder and looking confused.
“Sorry. I wasn’t talking to you.” Brendon said, frowning slightly. “There has got to be something I can do, I just don’t know what. I don’t know what the gods want me to do here.”
“Maybe you’re not meant to tell the king yet.” Sarah said, finding the spot where Brendon had been looking, where Pete was guiding Mikey through a door. “Maybe there’s something else that has to happen first.”
“Like what?” Brendon asked.
“I’m not sure, but I think things will fall into place the way they’re supposed to when they’re supposed to.” Sarah said, taking his hand to bring his attention back to her and away from the closed doors Pete and Mikey had disappeared behind. “Don’t look at them, they’ll work out whatever they have going on. Look here. Do you believe in fate?”
Brendon looked once more to the painting of Death, whose dark eyes seemed to have changed ever so slightly from moments before. They looked more reassuring, as if encouraging him to go on and listen to Sarah. He had to trust Death. He didn’t have any other choice. Why else would she have taken Sarah’s form, and told him Sarah would come to him soon? The girl who he had seen only a few times, never even spoken to, but felt so strangely connected to. Death told him she would come to him and then she did. She came to him with skills that could help them, and wisdom that he prayed was right. There had to be some meaning to that, and maybe that meaning was fate. Maybe Sarah was right, maybe things were going to work out in the end. Or maybe the world was fated to end, and maybe he was meant to fail all along.
“I think I do.” He said, nodding slowly. “I think you’re right, I think what will happen will happen. But I can only hope Tyler and Josh are having more luck at the Citadel.”
“Don’t worry about them. They will be fine. I don’t know how I know that, but I know that they will be.” Sarah said.
“It’s hard not to worry.” Brendon said. “It’s hard to let go. I feel like I need to do something, but there is nothing for me to do right now.”
“Then forget about it for a moment.” Sarah said, looking at all the people around them. “Look at where we are. We’re at a ball. Do you think any of these people have a care in the world tonight? Everyone is drunk and merry and dancing.” Sarah’s bright blue eyes seemed slightly darker as they met Brendon’s. “Come dance with me, even just for a moment.”
Without a word, Brendon took Sarah’s hand, placing one hand on her waist. He cleared his mind, letting nothing but the music and the steps he had to take invade his thoughts. He led Sarah twirling across the ballroom floor, the two of them getting closer and closer until their tired breaths were shared.
“I can’t do this.” Brendon whispered breathily, hanging his head. “I can’t help feeling like everything is wrong.”
“What is wrong?” Sarah asked, caressing his face with a soft, gentle hand.
“I don’t know.” Brendon said. “But I know how to find out.”
Brendon swallowed hard.
“I need to summon Death.”
“What the hell are you doing here?”
Pete’s voice wasn’t necessarily angry, but it did radiate disappointment and a bit of anxiousness. He looked behind him to check that nobody was eavesdropping, and then frowned slightly at Mikey.
“Oh you’re talking to me now, are you?” Mikey asked, frowning right back.
“I told you not to come.” Pete said.
“Well, Patrick told me to do the opposite.” Mikey said. “Usually I’d listen to you, but lately you’ve been telling me nothing but lies. I guess that’s because I’m not important to you, right?”
“That’s ridiculous, you know why I said that, and besides, Patrick said it was a good idea for me to get married.” Pete said, shaking his head.
“Patrick’s required to tell you that. That’s his job. But he isn’t obligated to tell me anything he doesn’t want to, and for some reason he decided to tell me I should come and try to sway your decisions, but oh, what the hell am I even supposed to do?” Mikey exclaimed, waving his arms and sloshing some of the forgotten drink in his hand all over the floor. “You’re incapable of being convinced. You’ve got your mind set, and you clearly think you’ve got everything figured out.”
Pete took the drink from Mikey’s hand, without him even really noticing, and dumped the contents into a plant. As he set the glass next to another empty one on the windowsill, he wondered how many Mikey had already had.
“I’m far from having everything figured out, but I figure this must be happening for a reason. With the war coming, this could be the difference between the survival or demise of my people.” Pete sighed, rubbing his face tiredly. “You have got to understand that.”
“Right. I’m just a moody, whiny asshole who doesn’t care about innocent lives.” Mikey said cynically. “People dying and getting hurt is nothing new to me, and you, with your clean hands never once stained with blood, must think I’m so selfish for having the audacity to go and get my heart broken.”
“I didn’t say anything like that. How drunk are you?” Pete asked, looking behind the curtain to see if any more empty glasses hid on the windowsill.
“Oh, you noticed, look at how smart you are.”
“Geez. Come on, I’ll take you back to your room.” Pete said gently, trying to guide Mikey away from the few people who had begun to stare.
“You’d love that, wouldn’t you.” Mikey muttered as Pete ushered him through a door into the quiet, empty hallway. “What are you going to do, keep me around for when you get bored of your fiance? Well, guess what, I’m not a courtesan, I got stuck being a godsdamned assassin instead.”
“No. I wouldn’t do that, you know better.” Pete said, looking behind them to make sure the door was firmly closed and nobody could hear their words before leading Mikey down the hallway. “I want this as much as you do, alright? It sucks. But I don’t know what else I can do. I don’t have a choice.”
“Whatever, she’s better anyway, she can give you heirs like you need, right?” Mikey said, shrugging Pete’s hand off his arm and walking towards the tower on his own.
“That’s hardly important to me, I don’t even know where you got that from. Honestly she’s absolutely awful. But it doesn’t matter how awful she is, I am not an unfaithful man, and I will not play this game with you.” Pete said. “You have to stop saying stupid things that you know aren’t true, and move on so you can be with your brother again. You’ll be happier without me once you’ve reunited, I’m sure of it.”
“You’re right. What am I even doing? I didn’t come here for you, the only reason I did any of this was for my brother.” Mikey said. “I’m losing track of the only thing I’ve ever wanted over something as ridiculous as love .”
Pete blinked, taken aback. He stopped walking as they approached the spiral steps winding up the tower, staring incredulously at Mikey.
“Mikey…” Pete said, quickening his stride to keep up, not believing what he’d just heard.
“What?” Mikey’s voice was harsh, his eyes set in an unamused glare as he looked back at Pete.
“Did you just… Did you say you love me?”
“Of course I fucking love you, hasn’t that been obvious?” Mikey asked, throwing his arms up in the air. “And you can’t even say it back.”
“So what if I can’t? You already know it’s true.” Pete said, sounding kind of angry and kind of upset, pushing Mikey’s back to guide him up the stairs. “What do you want me to do?”
“I don’t know.” Mikey said, but then realized he did know, and turned around on the stairs. He was already taller than Pete, but him being raised up a few steps made Pete have to look up at him. “Or maybe I do. I want you to choose your own happiness for once. I don’t care if that’s not with me, but I know with certainty it’s not with her.”
“I’m sorry, Mikey, I can’t do that.”
“Why do I find that so hard to believe?” Mikey asked, turning and walking briskly up the stairs.
“Mikey, come on.” Pete called up the stairs, throwing his head back in frustration.
“What could you possibly have left to say to me?” Mikey asked. “Pete, I’m tired. I haven’t been sleeping and this entire situation has me exhausted. I can’t listen to you telling me the same thing over and over, the one thing that neither of us wants. I’ve tried to be guarded but I can’t do that with you, I can’t navigate this place where I don’t have purpose and I don’t belong.”
“I think you belong here.” Pete said.
“No. I have never belonged anywhere.” Mikey said, quickly wiping away the single stray tear that fell down his cheek.
It was subtle, but Pete saw it, the moonlight casting through the window making it only more evident. Pete slowly walked up the steps towards Mikey, and cautiously pulled him into a hug at the top of the stairs.
“You know that if I could change things I would.” He whispered into Mikey’s shoulder. “I would go back and change everything that ever happened to you so no wrong could ever be done to you, and you would never feel any sort of pain.”
Mikey was quiet for a moment, before wrapping his arms around Pete and hugging him back.
“I know.” Mikey said, his knees going weak and letting Pete support the weight of him.
He really was exhausted, he realized. A wave of it had washed over him, and he was ready to just collapse and sleep away the last two days.
“Come on.” Pete murmured, seeming to take note of this and guiding Mikey back to his room where he immediately fell into bed.
Pete sighed, taking off Mikey’s boots and draping the covers over him. Mikey coming to the ball wasn’t all that surprising to Pete, but the fact that he’d gotten drunk was a little shocking to him. Mikey had always been so careful to not let anything cloud his mind and break his concentration, so this was quite alarming to Pete. Of course, he didn’t know how Mikey had spent the few years between losing Gerard and meeting him drinking away his sorrows on rooftops. Pete was right, it wasn’t like normal Mikey, it was only like Mikey when he was at his very worst points in life.
Pete went to the door, placing his hand on the handle, but looked back at Mikey sleeping.
As if knowing he was being watched, Mikey opened his eyes and he said, “What would you do if I asked you to stay?”
Pete turned around, his hand slipping away from the door handle.
“Are you asking me to?” He asked.
“What do you think?” Mikey asked distantly, as his eyes fluttered shut again.
Pete could have left. He very easily could have, Mikey wouldn’t have noticed, he was completely out of it. But he didn’t leave. He instead walked to the armchair facing the fireplace, and turned it to face the bed, sitting down.
Pete stayed, watching over Mikey until he fell asleep himself.
Chapter 18: Chapter 17
“Do you think they’re gonna shoot arrows at us for approaching the Citadel under the cover of darkness?” Tyler asked, as the Citadel at the top of the hill came into view.
“I think Brendon would have warned us if that was going to happen.” Josh said. “Especially since there’s nothing but open field around us, we’d be dead pretty quick if they wanted to open fire.”
“I don’t think Brendon thought this through.” Tyler admitted.
“Well, then let’s hope they don’t believe us to be enemies.” Josh sighed, as torches along the Citadel lit at the presence of visitors.
The boys stood before the large doors, watching as the iron gate was lifted and the doors opened by two soldiers on either side. Two men walked through the doors towards them. They were soon followed by the four soldiers who had opened the doors, who stood ready to protect them.
“Hello there.” Said one of the two. “Who are you, and what business brings you to the Citadel?”
Tyler and Josh looked to one another, and after a quiet argument about who should talk, Tyler stepped forward slightly.
“We were sent by the Bishop–Brendon Urie–to talk to Generals Gaskarth and Barakat.” Tyler said nervously. “We have important information to provide you.”
“What would the religious community need with the army?” The second asked, shooting a questioning look to the first.
“It’s regarding the upcoming war and the threat in Torvia.” Josh added, when Tyler looked beside him with no idea what to say next.
“Very well, come this way.”
Frank sat on the steps leading to the helm, Gerard and Helena seated below him, listening to him lecture them on what to do once they arrived in Torvia. He was really only repeating what he remembered Patrick telling him, and he hoped he was getting everything right.
“The king and queen of Torvia will likely know of our arrival beforehand, there isn’t much we can do to get around that, though they won’t know we are from Erilan. Not yet at least.” Frank explained, while Gerard and Helena nodded attentively. “I figure we can make it part way through the city before the kingsguard finds and escorts us before the monarchs. Let them escort you, we are not here to get on their bad side, we are here to negotiate.”
At these words, Frank looked specifically at Gerard. He scoffed a little at being called out, but didn’t say anything, knowing it was fairly justified.
“We are emissaries invading on their land and we must present ourselves with utmost respect to avoid further conflict.” Frank continued. “Kneel before them, heads down, and stand only when invited to rise. The king and queen should be addressed as his and her majesty, and if their daughter is present, you may call her ‘your royal highness’. Any questions?”
“Do we mention the fact that half of their country’s citizens are at the bottom of the ocean?” Gerard asked, raising an eyebrow, and Helena visibly cringed at the reminder of what she’d seen.
“If all goes well, and we discover there is a greater problem at hand, it may be something we want to concern ourselves with. But I would recommend against starting with that.” Frank said. “I would prefer, if possible, to not join those dead bodies down there.”
“Right. That’s a good plan.”
“I hope you’re prepared to go, we’re quickly approaching land.” Captain Kiyoko announced from the helm.
“It will be fine. We will get the information we need, try to discourage them from attacking us and then go from there.” Frank said. “We’ve made it this far, after everything that has already happened, how bad could it end up being?”
“I hate to say it, but I think you underestimate the possibility of something going wrong, Frankie.” Gerard said, seeming not to notice that old nickname slip past his lips.
But Frank noticed, especially since the tone of it had changed drastically since they had left Erilan. It no longer sounded negative, like a cynical mocking nickname for the guy that kept him away from his freedom. It was just... Nice. Even with the dark words it followed, it was more of a reassuring capstone to a worrisome sentence.
It was something that stuck in his mind when they finally docked, and Gerard offered a hand to help him off the ship. Of course, that was likely only because he had a dog in hand, and the place they’d had to dock on was rough and rocky. But the friendly gesture certainly wasn’t necessary, and it wasn’t done with any ulterior motives.
That nickname reminded Frank of where they’d started. It made him realize that not only had they come a long way from home, but they had come a long way from the dungeon master and assassin they’d once been not too long ago.
“How long has it been since anyone’s been back here?” Sarah asked curiously, running a hand along a bookshelf and looking at her dust covered hand.
“My best guess is a few months, but that’s only because I snuck back here not too long ago.” Brendon said, a mischievous grin on his face. “Before that, your guess is as good as mine. I’m pretty sure every book in this section has been illegal for centuries now.”
“So, we’re here because…?” Sarah asked, yanking her hand away from the old, potentially dangerous books.
“Because I’m a curious person, and I’ve snooped around a bit and found something that may be of use to us today. If all goes well.” Brendon said, frowning as he ran his pointer finger along the spines, looking for the one he remembered.
Eventually, he stopped on a book painted pure white, still surprisingly vibrant despite its age, detailed with thin, twisting black designs. Pulling it off the shelf, he set it down on a nearby table and unlatched it. The pages inside were made of vellum rather than paper, which indicated just how old it really was. Each page was carefully written in iron gall ink, with haunting images pigmented with unfading color. Brendon flipped to the very last page in the book, which had a gruesome image of fallen, bloodied soldiers depicted on the left page, a dark figure looming in the background. The top of the right page had just one word written in large, bolded letters. Death. Below, in scrawling writing, was a list of ingredients and a small paragraph warning the reader that there were consequences to the recipe.
“This seems like an incredibly bad idea.” Sarah said worriedly, peering over Brendon’s shoulder at the words and image accompanying it.
“If it works, it will be more than worth it.” Brendon said confidently. “So many people could be saved if this works.”
He scanned the page, then closed the book, latching it and tucking it under his arm before Sarah could see any more of it. He then turned around to face her, looking down at her pale, nervous face.
“I’m going to need some of your blood.” He said.
“Mine? Why?” Sarah asked, alarmed.
Brendon hesitated a moment, clearly having unrealistically hoped she wouldn’t question the request.
“I would tell you, but the question may be considered inappropriate in the short amount of time we’ve known each other, so I’m just going to really hope it works.”
“Alright…” Sarah said hesitantly, but eventually held out her arm for him.
Brendon pulled a small dish from the bag he carried, and Sarah handed him one of her knives. Just a small cut was enough to get a few drops into the dish, and Brendon quickly had Sarah’s arm wrapped up to heal.
“We need chrysanthemum buds, basil, honey and ginger, which we can get from the kitchens.” Brendon said. “I hunted down the hardest to find ingredients a while ago… Just in case. I have them in my bag. I was hoping I could get past all this without having to use them, but I’ve been carrying them around because somehow I knew I was going to have to summon her eventually.”
Brendon looked down at the dish in his hand and sighed.
“We’ll get what we need and then go back to the ballroom. Does that sound like a plan?”
“I think so.” Sarah said.
When Gerard had come to Torvia long ago with Manson and Mikey, it had been astronomically different than it was now. He remembered the smell of saltwater and spices, from the merchants and fishermen that worked by the piers. People used to roam the streets, buying things, working, or spending time with friends, and there were always children playing games. He remembered Mikey’s longing gaze at the other children, joyfully tossing around a stale loaf of bread like a ball. He remembered how he had to yank his brother back to prevent a reprimand from Manson for straying from their duties. Remembered how Manson told them time and time again that they must never sacrifice their work for pleasure or desire. Those other children were lesser than them, for succumbing to that carefree, playful nature, rather than the devoted, hardworking one Manson forced upon the Ways. Children like those would never survive this cruel world.
It seemed as though those children they had once seen playing in the streets may not have survived. No one roamed the streets any longer. Only the bodies Helena had seen in the ocean were any indicator of where all of the people had gone. The city was dark and silent, vacant of the liveliness and color it once had. Anyone who may still be around must have stayed inside, mourning the history of their once beautiful city and those who were dead in the water. Now only the smell of death intertwined with that saltwater scent, enhancing the ominous feeling walking those streets elicited.
Just as Frank had warned, they were soon stopped by a group of men dressed in yellow uniforms that were shockingly bright against the gloomy atmosphere around them. Yellow, Gerard remembered very clearly, was not the color of Torvia. Though he had never stepped foot inside the palace when he had visited before, he had seen plenty of kingsguard monitoring the piers. All of them had been dressed in royal blue, the same as the flags that were now draped low against the palace walls rather than high like normal. These were the first indicators that something was very wrong, but despite all of the warning signs, Gerard cooperated with the men escorting them to the palace. Though, once inside, he planned to get enough information to figure out what was really going on.
The halls of the palace were decorated with blue threaded tapestries, that were sewed with the likeness of the kings and queens of the past. They increased in date leading to the throne room, which was covered in glistening mosaics depicting some great celebration of Torvian past. All of this beauty was contained in one place, when not so long ago this sort of color and brilliance could be seen throughout the whole city, not just the inside of the palace. After taking in all of the art around him, Gerard’s attention settled on the throne. Neither the Torvian king nor queen sat there. Both were absent, their daughter taking their place at the focal point of the room. She looked out of place sitting in the large throne, with a crown that didn’t fit quite right on her head and a cloak around her shoulders that engulfed her in velvety blue fabric.
Following Frank’s lead, Gerard and Helena knelt on the floor, staring at the tiles while they waited.
“You may rise.” The girl said, her voice clearer and more confident than she looked on the surface. “Who are you, and what brings you here?”
Perhaps she knew a lot more about what she was doing than it appeared. Or maybe it was quite the opposite, and she was using what communication skills she had learned to mask the lack of confidence she really had.
“Your royal highness, Princess Eva of Torvia, may we assume you are taking foreign meetings in your parents’ place?” Frank began.
He had very obviously avoided the princess’ initial question in an attempt to prolong the revelation that they were from Erilan, but he still addressed the fact that they stood before the princess rather than the king and queen. Gerard noticed that he seemed unsure of how to approach the situation now that things were not as he had expected to find them.
“You may assume I am taking everything in my parents’ place, as I have recently inherited the throne through unexpected circumstances.” Eva said, with a nervous glance to her right. “My parents are dead. I now reign as Queen of Torvia.”
That would explain the low flying flags, the death of the king and queen would have certainly been an occasion to respectfully lower the family sigils. Perhaps the yellow uniforms were somehow connected to this too, like a cultural ritual of some sort. Bright colors sometimes denoted a hopefulness for the future in dark times.
“My condolences.” Frank said, and with little more than a glance to Gerard and Helena on either side, changed the direction he had anticipated this conversation going in. “I am Frank Iero, I am here on behalf of the King of Erilan in the hopes of talking through a peace treaty with you.”
“I didn’t think any more representatives from Erilan would be coming here.” Eva said, looking slightly panicked. But she quickly erased that look from her expression before it could be analyzed, and she looked to Gerard and Helena. “Are you here for the same reasons as your companion, or do you have other business here?”
“I’m here for the same reason, though my motives are slightly different. This trip, if all goes well, will reunite me with my brother.” Gerard said, thinking it best in this case to leave out the fact that he was a criminal. “And if Erilan is protected from war, then many people, including my brother, will be spared from death.”
“And you?” Eva asked Helena.
“I’m here to free my lover of her exile and bring her home.” She replied simply, but the simple reply earned her two slightly surprised looks from Frank and Gerard. “Wow, you two really are oblivious, that explains so much.”
“What?” Frank muttered, but Helena just shook her head.
“Nothing.” She said, dropping the subject. “Just, carry on.”
She nodded to Frank, and stepped back, keeping her watchful eyes on the young queen.
“What can we give you to secure our safety?” Frank asked.
“Nothing. It won’t be necessary. You haven’t got anything to worry about, I don’t have any intentions to go to war with Erilan.” Eva said, and with another look to the side, began to sound desperate. “We are weak. Trust me, please, we wouldn’t be able to fight you. We have lost so many in recent months.”
“How did so many of your people die?” Helena asked, frowning slightly and moving her eyes away from the queen to where she kept glancing.
Eva opened her mouth to speak, but upon looking to the side towards that curtain Helena just couldn’t quite see behind, she rethought her next sentence.
“A plague. It spread quickly, and killed so many, but we’ve managed to isolate it and put an end to it. Now we must rebuild the kingdom.” She said. “It’s all we can do.”
“Alright.” Frank said, turning to leave. “Thank you for your time. We apologize for bothering you in such a time of crisis.”
“It is no bother to me.” Eva said, though her voice sounded strained and anxious.
Helena lingered behind a moment, trying to figure out what was troubling the girl so much. Grief from the loss of her parents and the overwhelming responsibility suddenly thrust upon her, perhaps. Or maybe there was something else. Something behind that curtain. If only she knew what was behind it, Helena thought to herself as she followed the boys out of the castle, tuning into their conversation a little late.
“They don’t even have enough people for an army, anyway.” Gerard was saying. “We’d slaughter them, they’d be idiots to attack us.”
“I suppose we came all this way for nothing.” Frank sighed. “Almost died a few times, that was great.”
“This doesn’t make any sense.” Helena said, frowning. “She was lying, there’s something else.”
“She’s just a kid who’s grieving over the deaths of her parents.” Gerard said gently. “She was in tears over it, you really think she was lying?”
“Yes, there was something in her eyes. I know that look, she was terrified, and those tears were in her eyes when she would look off to the side. The tears were from something we couldn’t see.”
“I don’t know…” Gerard frowned.
“Well, Patrick was here only a month ago, and he was genuinely scared of Torvia’s power.” Frank admitted. “Now all of the sudden the city is in ruins, most of the people have been slaughtered, the king and queen are dead, leaving behind an unready to rule sixteen year old princess. What happened here?”
“By the looks of things, a lot. This place used to be beautiful, full of life and color. Now it’s just… Off.” Gerard looked to where the yellow-clad soldiers were standing, far enough away now that they weren’t watching them go. “Care to do some investigating?”
Brendon didn’t care about the strange looks he was getting for sitting in the middle of the ballroom floor with a small dish filled with a strange crimson concoction. He added a few more final ingredients to the dish, and once finished, he reopened the book. Balancing his eye contact between the ceiling portrait of Death and the words on the page, he recited the quote on the very bottom of the page, written in small letters after the disclaimer. The effect was quick, he didn’t expect it to be so soon, but he suddenly felt the same way he had when she had appeared to him on the night of the Grandmaster’s death.
Death appeared, and though Sarah looked around in anticipation next to him, Brendon knew she would never see her. No one in that large ballroom would see her except Brendon. And looking at her now, beside the real Sarah, Brendon realized how wrong Death’s interpretation of her really was. The thing he noticed most was the way her eyes were just a little too big and bright, and that anger in her eyes, that wasn’t Sarah, that was all Death.
He scrambled to his feet before her, but she turned away from him, instead facing an elderly couple dancing. Tears formed in her enraged eyes as she reached out to the man and gently turned his face to look at her. His eyes widened at the sight of her, now changed into an even older woman, long dead. The man’s mother.
“It is time you come with me, my son.” Death said, smiling kindly at the man.
He looked back at his wife, whose face was formed into a jovial laugh, time seemingly slowed as they danced.
“Now?” He asked, sorrow etched into his features. “What happened?”
“You are having a heart attack.” Death said, taking his hand and leading him away from his wife–and his body. “Your wife and kids will be alright, Edwin. Do not be afraid.”
The man cried, clinging onto Death in a hug. She hugged him back, and the man’s soul disappeared. Time sped up to it’s normal pace again, and his body fell. Brendon watched, horrified, as his wife screamed, and Sarah, who was closest, rushed to try to help. Brendon would have tried to help as well, but his shock kept him in place, and Death advancing on him kept his attentions elsewhere.
“This is not a joke, Brendon.” She snapped, transforming back into her Sarah-like appearance. “Every time I appear to you, I must reap a soul. That man did not need to die today, you should never have summoned me here against my will!”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” Brendon backed into the wall, terrified by what had just happened.
“Do not question what I have told you, I am not a liar and I am not here to trick you. I have given you this task because you are supposed to be the one who is capable of fixing things.” Death growled, jabbing her finger at him scoldingly. “Go back and protect the cathedral. Teach your people to fight. Do not summon me again.”
Death disappeared, leaving Brendon feeling ill and having broken out into a cold sweat. Sarah came to him, a crowd of people now surrounding the dead man and blocking him from Brendon’s view. But he could hear the wails and cries of the man’s wife, which made his stomach twist and his eyes burn with grief.
“Death came to you, you talked to her?” Sarah looked fearfully back at the crowd, then to Brendon.
“I was the one who summoned her. I just killed a man.” Brendon whispered, paling in shock.
“I should get you out of here.” Sarah said, wrapping her arm around his shoulders and guiding him away, as he tried to comprehend what he’d just done.
Sarah guided Brendon through the front doors, hurrying him down the steps. He was certainly in shock, but that didn’t stop him from noticing the group of people approaching the castle. They were dressed in dark colors, and the cunning looking man at the front made Brendon even more uneasy than he already was.
“Hey!” Brendon called out, to Sarah’s surprise. “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?”
It was too late for either of them to register the fact that these men were carrying weapons, and too late to do anything before Brendon was once again knocked unconscious by the hilt of a sword. Sarah reached for the knife hidden in her skirts, but before she could defend herself with it, the same had been done to her.
“Don’t kill them.” The man at the front ordered the others. “Master Manson made it clear what our job tonight was. He doesn’t want anyone dead. Not yet, at least.”
Bob Bryar chuckled as he kicked the gleaming knife out of the girl’s limp hand, amused by her brave attempt. He looked up at the front doors of the castle, where just the person he was looking for now stood, and he grinned even wider.
“But once we’ve fulfilled the Master’s plan, things are going to get real bloody real soon.”
Chapter 19: Chapter 18
Eva’s hands were shaking as she watched the only hope of helping her walk out the door, clueless to her predicament. She hoped maybe they would see the fear in her eyes, the wordless clues she attempted to give them without the soldiers lurking behind the curtain noticing. They were holding her betrothed captive with their weapons to his throat, cruelly placing him just within her sight to scare her into their control. After she was sure they would not be returning, she stood with a deep breath and walked towards the commander. He was the only one left behind the curtain after the two soldiers ushered Frank back to wherever they were keeping him. The way he looked now, with the bruises and cuts marking his face… She didn’t want to know what they would do to him if she disobeyed.
“Thank you for cooperating.” The commander said with a rotten grin, placing a hand on her shoulder.
She shrugged his hand off of her shoulder, and walked away towards her bedroom. She allowed the soldiers the commander called over to follow her, but she didn’t let them lead her away. She refused to let them handle her. She could remain compliant if it meant she had a bit of control, however little that may be. Maybe it would help her find a way to get both of them out.
As she left, she noticed that awful spy she’d seen a few other times approach the commander, pulling him aside.
“The girl,” Eva heard the man say in a low voice, “Is the shifter the naval scouts warned us about.”
She turned back enough to see the commander’s face pale with shock and fear. The soldiers that had been following shoved her quickly around a corner to prevent her hearing anymore.
She just barely heard the commander say, “I want them all. Collar the girl.”
Alicia carefully and quietly closed the doors, wiping her bloodied hand on the dark fabric of her dress. She adjusted the jewels at her throat, smiling as snowflakes landed on the crystals, melting at the heat. The snow was not glistening quite so beautifully as her stolen jewelry, which pleased her. Good timing, that snowfall. It was falling so fast it would quickly cover their tracks.
“Did you have fun playing princess for a day?” Bob asked, spotting her as she hurried down the steps.
“Oh, you have no idea.” Alicia replied. “I’m not willing to give it up, this lavish living. You couldn’t have waited until I married the king to carry on with this plan? I’d greatly appreciate inheriting the throne once he and his savage little protector are out of the way.”
“You know very well that your father expects this to be done tonight. The longer we wait, the harder it will get.” Bob frowned. “Quit acting childish, I’m sure your father will reward you with whatever power you want. If you help us carry out his plan.”
“Fine.” She said, pursing her lips bitterly. “But you better hurry before anyone finds the front door guards I dismembered. The king himself isn’t very observant, but his advisor seems particularly distrustful. In which case, he may come snooping around in our business.”
“You dismembered them?” Bob growled. “We were ordered not to kill anyone, and dismembering lowly guards is messy and careless! You’re going to risk the mission, and Master Manson will punish us all severely if we fail again.”
“That’s your problem. Father understands my desire to have a little fun while you idiots do your job. What does it matter to me if you fail? I could easily do the job myself, if I so pleased.”
“Whatever, there’s more important things to worry about than your carelessness.” Bob grumbled. “We need to go now.”
“So you’re telling us that the god of death appeared to the Bishop, and now he’s convinced that the war is approaching us sooner and more violently than before?”
The information had caused General Gaskarth to take a seat in shock, thinking it over. General Barakat, however, stood with a disbelieving frown on his face, still unconvinced that any of this could possibly be true.
“Based on what Death told him, he seems to believe you are ill prepared to survive this war.” Tyler said, the conviction in his voice willing the generals to believe them.
“We were worried about that.” General Gaskarth said, tapping his fist on the arm of the chair in frustration. “We have too many weak spots.”
“But we’re working on fixing that.” General Barakat added, hoping to ease the uncertainty they had in their renowned Citadel.
“That is all very good, but this ,” Tyler said, gesturing around them at the solid stone walls. “Will hardly protect everyone from what is to come.”
“Then what must we do?” General Gaskarth asked. “How do we ensure more people will survive?”
“And how do we protect our king? Without him this country will crumble faster than any army could destroy us.” General Barakat said.
“According to Brendon–according to Death–we need to teach the people to fight. The common people. And where better to do that than here?” Josh said.
“You’re right, we should have thought of this before. Even minor knowledge in defense will better serve our people when they are threatened than what they have now.” General Barakat said.
“Then we will start with that right away. Give the Bishop our thanks for his support and assistance to us.”
Tyler and Josh both nodded before stepping out of the small office the generals shared. It was time for them to return to Brendon, tell of their success at the Citadel, and pray he and Sarah had experienced the same success at the castle.
It was snowing.
Even beyond the dream he was having, Pete could feel the cold creeping through the stone castle walls as he slept in that chair before Mikey’s bed. That cold made its way into the images forming in his mind, a blanket of white crunching beneath his feet. He realized, looking up, that he was standing before the cathedral. Brendon was facing him with an open book in his hands, and to his left, in a gold wedding gown, was Alicia.
She wore a shawl of pure white fur around her shoulders, that was soft and beautiful in a terrifying way. The pelt looked too familiar, too much like the fur of one of Frank’s dogs, and it made Pete feel ill and uneasy. He didn’t want to ask where she had gotten that fur.
This was not a dream he wanted to continue having, especially since it would soon be a reality. Why should he have to live it more than once? He tried to force his eyes to open; tried to wake up so he could at least go check on the dogs.
But he just couldn’t wake up, and his mind became distracted from his attempts when he looked to the side to see Mikey standing in the distance between two pine trees. He wore all black, which made him stand out brilliantly from the snow, but nobody but Pete seemed to see him. Mikey gave him a beckoning look before backing into the forest that only existed in this dream world.
Pete left the crowd around him, letting the snow capped trees swallow him as he followed Mikey. They hadn’t walked very far, but they were deep in the forest nonetheless. Pete heard twigs snapping behind him, and watched with a start as a pack of wolves came running past him, taking him no notice. They rushed past Mikey, who kept walking forward until they had completely passed him. He only looked behind him for a moment, light brown eyes seeming to match the golden hue of the wolves’ only for a moment.
Mikey stopped by a nearly frozen-over river, just little trickles of water flowing below and over the icy surface. He smiled faintly and held out his hand, which Pete took without much thought. In the real world, he couldn’t do that, he would’ve had to keep his distance for the sake of the country. But here in his mind he didn’t have to worry about that. Being reckless was no concern in an imaginary world. If only that was the way it worked in the real world. Because as much as he hated to think about it, he really had gone and lost the best thing he’d ever had.
Mikey pulled Pete closer, so close that Pete could almost see the detail of the snowflakes stuck to his lashes and in his hair. He was so incredibly beautiful, those soft brown eyes giving Pete a look that made him weak in the knees.
“Tell me you love me.” Mikey whispered, dragging his thumb across Pete’s bottom lip. “Tell me before it’s too late.”
“I love you.” Pete said, wishing the real Mikey could hear him say it.
Pete brushed away the tears that slid down Mikey’s cheeks, blushed pink from the cold or the statement or both.
“Now go tell me , before it’s too late.” Mikey said, gently pushing Pete back towards where they came.
Mikey kept backing up, watching him intently, and though Pete wanted to follow him, he for some reason could not. He watched him for a ways, and then suddenly, Mikey fell. It was so slow, with no warning, but then suddenly he was laying in the snow. Pete ran to him, able to move now, as somehow the invisible wall between them had gone down.
“Mikey, what happened!?” Pete asked in a panic as he fell to his knees beside him.
The pure white snow was turning a bright crimson around them, but Pete could not find any source of the blood on Mikey.
“Wake up, Pete.” Mikey said, his voice clear and seemingly unpained, though his blood continued to paint the snow red. “My guard is down and they’re coming.”
“What?” Pete asked, but Mikey’s only reply was to brush his thumb along his cheek with a small smile.
Pete opened his eyes, looking to the window to see that snow was indeed piling up on the windowsill, falling quickly and heavily. He looked around the room curiously, wondering what that dream meant. As his eyes fell on Mikey’s sleeping form, he heard the faint sound of multiple footsteps coming up the stairs. Fear struck through his system as he thought back to what Dream Mikey had last said to him. He jumped up out of the chair, rushing to Mikey’s bedside and shaking him awake.
“I think we’re in danger.” Pete whispered, but Mikey’s ears had already picked up on the impending footsteps.
“Get behind me.” He said, scrambling out of the bed and putting as much distance between the door and them as he could.
For a moment, there was nothing but silence. No more approaching footsteps, just the faint rustle of fabric a second later when Pete wrapped his hand around the hilt of the ceremonial sword still sheathed at his hip.
“You have anything on you?” Pete asked lowly.
Mikey just have him an exasperated look that Pete couldn’t quite read, before reaching down and pulling something from his boot. A knife, Pete figured, probably stolen from somewhere as insurance. It wouldn’t have surprised him if Mikey had nicked a knife from somewhere, but when the object glinted in the light from the window he saw what it really was.
“Is that a fucking spork?” Pete hissed, not amused if this was some sort of joke.
“I’ll make it work.” Mikey said, flipping the spork in his hand so the short metal prongs faced down.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Pete said, switching their positions so Mikey was behind him now, and unsheathing his sword.
Mikey, stubborn as he was, was so close to arguing with Pete over who was protecting who. But he didn’t have the chance as the door burst open.
“Hello, Mikey Way.” Bob said, leaning against the doorframe and pulling out a knife to run his thumb along. “And, what a surprise, your royal majesty, King Peter Wentz the Third, the absolute honor …”
Bob chuckled, dropping his ridiculing tone.
“The way I’ll be rewarded when I bring back not one but two .” He continued. “Master Manson will be so pleased.”
“This is where my damn fiance ran off to?” Came an unpleasantly familiar voice from behind the assassins. “Unbelievable.”
“Did you know she was with them?” Pete asked in an undertone, leaning towards Mikey but not turning away from the assassins.
“I had my suspicions.” Mikey said, narrowing his eyes at Bob.
“Oh, how touching. Are we interrupting something?” Alicia cooed mockingly, stepping in front of Bob. “I would apologize for intruding, but getting rid of any threats to my marriage is beneficial to me, so I’m really not sorry.”
“You’re involved in this.” Mikey said, and it was not a question. His eyes flicked to Bob, still leaning against the doorframe and added, “That’s how you got in.”
“Surprised?” Alicia asked with a smile.
“Not in the slightest.” Mikey growled.
“So rude, Mikey Way.” Alicia said with a disappointed tsk, examining her nails. “Are we going to get this party started or what?”
Bob sighed in annoyance at the girl’s attempt to take charge of his mission, but he signaled his underlings on anyway.
Two backed Pete into a corner of the room, separating him from where three took on Mikey near the window. Pete kept half of his attention on Mikey as he fought back, not trusting that ridiculous spork. But after a while, he realized that the fact that he was able to focus only half of his attention on the highly trained assassins attacking him was very odd. He was not that skilled of a fighter; he had only learned enough to defend himself in the case of an assassination attempt. Had they been trying harder they would have easily been able to kill him.
Which made it clear what they were trying to do. They weren’t fighting to kill. But Mikey was.
He angled the spork upwards, jerking to the side as a knife tore at his sleeve, nicking his shoulder. Aiming for one of the assassins’ necks, he jabbed it into the man’s jugular and twisted hard. The assassin clawed at the embedded spork, falling to his knees with a scream as his blood stained the ornate rug on the floor.
“The spork is done for.” Mikey announced, kicking another assassin in the shin, and twisting him around by the arm.
“Great, that weapon lasted long.” Pete said sarcastically, yanking his sword out of the thigh of one of his foes. “You think you can give me a minute?”
“I can give you two.” Mikey quipped, flipping the assassin so he crashed into the window.
Glass shattered, hitting the floor in a ringing melody. The man’s head hit the wall, finishing the tune with a loud cracking noise. As he slumped against the wall, blood running slowly down the back of his head, Mikey turned to the final assassin in his way of gutting Bob and Alicia for what they’d done.
“Watch it!” Pete said suddenly, shoving Mikey out of the way of the assassin’s flying sword.
Mikey stumbled back at the impact, tripping over the guy with the spork in his neck as Pete slashed a cut across the forearm of the assailant. Pete watched in horror as Mikey fell backwards, and then fell right through that shattered open window.
Mikey was never the wolf. Pete was.
Pete opened his mouth to call out Mikey’s name, but before he could, something hit him hard over the head.
“Shit!” Bob exclaimed, running to the window. “We lost him! What now!?”
He saw no sign of Mikey looking out at the snowy castle grounds. He couldn’t have gone far, but Bob just knew he wasn’t dead. He had to have escaped. Had to be somewhere.
Bob turned, finding Alicia propping up the limp, unconscious king with one arm, a thick candelabra in her other hand.
“Plan B, genius.” She said, giving him a wicked smile that reminded Bob too much of one man.
Chapter 20: Chapter 19
Brendon’s head was spinning, pounding in the back. It felt so similar to when Mikey had whacked him across the head years ago that he almost didn’t realize it wasn’t that same moment. No this was a different situation… But the man who had done it, he too was an assassin, Brendon was sure of that. The weapons, the way he carried himself, and his presence here at the castle were all the indicators he needed to know. Even so, he didn’t want to believe Mikey was a part of this, not this time. Not after what Brendon had observed; the change in Pete that could be frustrating to his friends, but certainly made him happier. Better. Even when he was mad at him, he was the only thing on Pete’s mind.
Pushing past the intense headache, Brendon heard someone calling his name, and quickly realized there were other voices around him. He felt two hands patting his cheeks furiously, trying to wake him up, while two more shook his shoulders. Breathing deeply through his nose, he forced himself to break free of that darkness and opened his eyes into Sarah’s. Hers were concerned below a dark bruise forming on her forehead, her hair falling around him and blocking the rest of the world from view.
“Thank the gods.” She breathed, sitting back on her heels.
That revealed that the other person kneeling over him was Patrick, looking grave. Something happened, something very bad.
Beyond Patrick, Joe and Andy were scouting with their backs to the castle. Their swords were out, as if they expected someone to appear from the falling snow and try to attack. At this point, Brendon wouldn’t be surprised.
“Things are going very wrong, we need to go to the Citadel.” Patrick said, helping Brendon stand up on wobbly legs.
“Where’s Pete?” Brendon stumbled a little, looking back at the castle as Sarah rose and rushed to his side, checking the bump on his head worriedly.
“Like I said, very wrong.” Patrick repeated vaguely, trying to guide Brendon and Sarah away.
“He’s dead.” Brendon said what he feared was true, resisting enough to cause Patrick to have to stop.
Patrick turned around, expression unreadable as he breathed deeply.
“I don’t know.”
“Those men, those assassins. They would have killed him, wouldn’t they have?” Brendon pressed, trying to get some sort of information out of Patrick. Anything. “That’s what they were here for, isn’t it?”
“ I don’t know. ” Patrick ground out, causing Brendon to move back a bit.
“He wasn’t among the bodies we found.” Andy stepped in calmly, alerted by the uncharacteristic anger coming from Patrick. “But if we’re going to find him we need to leave here and work out what we know.”
Patrick closed his eyes and took another deep breath. But Joe, who was listening in nearby, jammed his sword into the snow in frustration.
“He should have let me decoy today. I shouldn’t have let him leave my sight…” He said, keeping his back to the others as he fell to his knees in defeat.
“It wouldn’t have made a difference.” Patrick said, voice soft again as he placed a hand on Joe’s shoulder.
“It will if he’s dead. You know what that would mean.”
“What would that mean?” Brendon asked in concern.
“They would have to take over.” Andy answered. “Pete has no heirs. No one for the people to take comfort in taking his place. We would be forced to lie. Patrick would run things from the sidelines and Joe would become Pete’s permanent decoy. If we’ve prepared properly, no one would be the wiser that the royal bloodline ended here.”
“That’s insane. Would anyone actually believe that?” Brendon said.
“You would be surprised at what people would believe if it means they can avoid change.” Patrick sighed.
“Right.” Joe said, standing and returning his sword to its sheath. “And if I had been in his place, those criminals would have believed me to be him, and would have taken me instead.”
“No. He wasn’t targeted for being the king. Royalty or not, he was taken because of his affiliation with Mikey.” Patrick said.
“So he was involved in this?” Brendon asked, hating the sound of that even more.
“No. I don’t believe so. If anything, I have to believe the dead assassins were courtesy of him.” Patrick said with conviction.
“With what evidence you have, what do you think actually happened?” Sarah asked.
“You all saw how close Pete and Mikey got.” Patrick said simply, keeping what he knew to himself, but letting the others make the connections they were already starting to make. “The assassins want back what they think belongs to them. They’ll use whatever they can to do that.”
“So, Pete is bait.” Brendon concluded.
“We can hope so. Because if he is, then that means he’s still alive.”
Pete’s wrists and ankles were shackled, tethered to the cold stone wall behind him. He yanked at them, knowing they wouldn’t give, but trying anyway out of desperation. The room around him was dark, but as his eyes adjusted to his surroundings, he realized that a man was sitting in a chair in front of him. The man’s sharp featured face was dimly lit by a candle he had in hand, and though that face was unfamiliar to Pete, he knew exactly who it was.
“You must be Marilyn Manson.” Pete said, twisting his wrist in an attempt to make the digging of the freezing metal less uncomfortable.
“You’ve heard things of me?”
“I have heard many, King of Assassins.” Pete said coolly. “None of which have given you a good reputation.”
He vividly remembered the scars that marked Mikey’s body. That prominent M that marked his lover as Manson’s property. He knew very well that those scars had once been mutilations dished out by Manson. He could only imagine what else this vile man had done.
“Hm.” Manson seemed intrigued and amused by the defiant tone of Pete’s voice, as if he had expected him to cower in fear. To beg for release. Never. Pete would not give him that satisfaction, if not for his own sake but for Mikey’s. “It’s strange, you don’t seem very afraid. You must be very brave, foolish little monarch.”
“What is there to fear? You are the one who has abducted Erilan’s beloved king.” Pete replied. “I have a strong kingsguard willing to go to the ends of the earth to find me, and loyal friends leading a well-trained army. Not to mention I’m friends with the bishop, so I’m sure the gods are very pleased with you right now. You’ve pissed off a lot of people who can and will have your head for this.”
“Your threats are meaningless, child. I have no reason to believe any of your so called friends will have the skills necessary to harm me. As for you, you haven’t held an execution in your entire reign. You’re too soft, you have never taken a life.” Manson scoffed. “Besides, I’m only expecting one to come for you.”
“What, you don’t believe me when I say my friends care about me? They’ll come.”
“No, they won’t. They don’t have enough information to find you. I only left clues for one to know.” Manson said. “I’ve dangled the bone before the face of the dog, and now I just wait for him to bite. Soon, my lost puppy will return, ready to throw back into the fighting pits. After some stricter training, of course.”
“What are you talking about?” Pete asked.
“Forgetting so soon, are we? Fickle young kings always do.” Manson shook his head. “Mikey Way. I am talking about your beloved Mikey Way.”
“He’s dead.” Pete said, his voice barely a whisper as he choked out the words. “He fell from the tallest tower in the castle.”
“No body. Not dead.” Manson said lazily. “You think I didn’t train the boy to survive such a thing? Basic training. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Windows are a primary escape route for all of my assassins, regardless of how many stories up they are.”
“He’s alive…” Pete muttered in relief, sighing from his nose. “He’ll gut you for this.”
“He’s alive for now .” Manson said grouchily, slapping Pete hard across the face for talking back to him. “When he returns–”
Pete spit out some blood, purposefully getting some on Manson’s face.
“You don’t even know where he is, do you?” Pete said, letting out a defiant laugh.
“It doesn’t matter.” Manson snapped, pulling out an already bloodstained handkerchief and dabbing his face. “He will come for you in due time. That is when I will have him.”
“He won’t come. He knows what’s good for him, he’ll stay far away from you and let my kingsguard come to gut you.” Pete said. “They will come because he will tell them where to find me.”
“Perhaps he would have done that, if I hadn’t influenced him. He won’t trust your kingsguard, he will tell them nothing. And regardless, seeing as how fond he’s grown of you, and how hateful he’s grown of me, he will see me as his kill. He will come, and no one else will be involved.”
“And then what?”
“And then I test him. See where his loyalties lie; see if I’ve done a good job on him or if you have turned him as soft as you.” Manson said.
“Soft.” Pete scoffed. “You mean having a heart? He already had one, it was just always focused towards his brother before. All I’ve done is given him another reason to use it.”
“Speaking of, where is my other Way? My assassins scoured your dungeons and reported he was nowhere to be found. I don’t appreciate not knowing where my charges are.”
“Good luck finding him, Gerard is halfway across the seas, by now he should be on foreign land where you won’t ever find him.” Pete laughed again, enjoying how annoyed it made Manson.
“You sure seem to enjoy making things difficult for me.” Manson said through gritted teeth. “All this for two men who formerly wished to kill you? What is your fascination with your own enemies?”
“Did they wish to kill me, or were they ordered to? Tell me, why were they ordered to kill me?”
“I think you know very well why. A lot of people who suffered at the hands of your father wanted your bloodline to end.” Manson shrugged, as if an alarming number of the citizens of Erilan hiring assassins to kill him at a young age was inconsequential. “Besides the blood money they would earn for such a kill, they had their own vendetta against your father. Up until recently my boys saw you as nothing more than the son of an eager executioner. Just as likely to murder innocents, maybe even more so, than to be one yourself. Do you remember the day your father executed Donna Way on suspicion of witchcraft, along with her husband for affiliation?”
“I remember.” Pete’s voice cracked. “They were the first people I ever saw die. I didn’t know who they were at the time. But I know now who they were. I remember her eyes. I know those eyes well now.”
Pete swallowed hard.
He’d lost so much. His parents, his brother. He wasn’t going to lose Pete so quickly now. No, Pete realized with newfound horror. Mikey was going to come for him. He wasn’t going to play it smart, not now, not when there was nothing left. Manson was right. Manson was going to win.
“If you want to live to save your king, then you need to get up and come with me now.”
Mikey blinked at the sound of the voice, clearing his head to see Alicia’s handmaiden crouched above him. He shot up quickly, aiming to tackle her and run until he could reorient himself. He missed as the abrupt movement threw stardust before his eyes, his mind closing in on him. Before the world could come back into view, she pinned him back to the ground.
“I’ve been tasked with protecting you, but if you’re going to make that difficult for me, I won’t hesitate to fight you.” She said, and Mikey was forced to stay there until her face was back in focus. “I know where the king is, I can help you.”
“Who the hell are you?”
“My name is Christa. Ray sent me.”
“Ray? What does he have to do with this? Mariania has got it out for us, they’ve managed to infiltrate–”
“Mariania couldn’t go after us if they wanted to, Bob put their king’s head on Manson’s desk weeks ago.” Christa informed him, allowing him to sit up, slowly this time. “All of this was part of Manson’s plan to get to you, which is why Ray sent me to keep you safe. Manson has been suspicious of Ray lately, but he was none the wiser when I offered to masquerade as the princess’ handmaiden. Anything to keep the master’s daughter safe.”
“Manson doesn’t have a daughter.” Mikey said, rubbing his head, and finding his hand came away with blood.
That damn broken window. When he fell, he caught hold of the windowsill and tried to drop down into the soft snow on the balcony a story below. But the broken glass must have went both ways, which was why he now had a bleeding cut across the back of his head.
“Not a legitimate one, but I’m sure you know very well about what’s not spoken about between him and Madame Von Teese.”
“Fuck.” Mikey said, wiping his bloodstained hand on his pant leg.
So much for the formal outfit. The whole thing was coated in both his own blood and the blood of the assassins. He recognized some of them. Not that he’d known them well, but those were familiar faces from the Keep he’d just killed. Who were so ready to kill him. Mikey wondered what they’d been told by Manson about him.
“Don’t worry about that right now, I’ll take care of it.” Christa said, taking Mikey by the wrist and pulling him through the balcony doors.
He watched her gather the reddened snow from where his head had just been, and toss it off the side of the balcony. She then messed up the snow to cover their imprints in it, and left the scene, closing the doors behind her.
“There, now it won’t be so easy to track you.” Christa said, moving behind Mikey to examine the cut. “Now, let me see this…”
Mikey wanted to move away, but he was still in a bit of a daze, so he let her run cold fingers along the back of his head.
“It’s not as bad as it looks. The blood is already letting up.”
“Good.” Mikey said, and was on his way out the door and into the hallway before she could say anymore.
“Hey,” She said, hurrying after him. “How do you think you’re going to do this on your own?
“The Keep used to be my home. I know my way around.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Christa said. “Manson is expecting you. He’s well aware that you know your way around the Keep, I’m certain he’s counting on it to lure you into a trap.”
“So what? Worst case scenario is he gets what he wants and wins. It’s been a long time coming anyway. I’m sure you know how it goes. Nobody leaves Manson, you’re either captured or you die. I’m no exception, no matter how much I thought I was. Truth is, I never really left him anyway, he always had his control from afar.”
“He’s been struggling to control you for years, he’s just lucky he found out you developed a weakness.”
“ Weakness .” Mikey scowled at the word as he turned, causing Christa to stop suddenly to avoid running into him. “Ray sent you, you said?”
He looked her up and down in the dim light of the hallway torches, taking careful note of the distant empathy that orange light highlighted on her face. She knew how he felt, knew exactly where his recklessness was coming from. She was trying to stop him because in his place, she would want someone to stop her.
“Looks like we both have one.” He sighed, softening that scowl into a sad smile.
“He asked me to look out for you. I promised him that, you understand.”
“Then you must understand that I promised Pete my protection, to whatever end. I cannot fail him.” Mikey’s eyes burned as he spoke, his chest feeling incredibly tight.
“I do, but let me help.” Christa pleaded.
“Alright.” Mikey nodded. “Now, we need to move fast.”