Nanny stole a jeep; Warlock sat in the passenger seat next to him and Aziraphale (in the woman he was possessing) and the weird man sat in the back. There were no keys but it worked for Nanny anyway which, after the burning Bentley, wasn’t actually that surprising.
If possible, Nanny drove faster than usual and they soon caught up with the four children on the other side of camp. They, and a tiny dog that Warlock just noticed, were facing off against some really weird adults. There were four of them: one had white hair and rubbish swirling around their feet, another had cracking skin, sharp teeth and was holding some scales, and the third had bright red hair and blood running from her eyes. The last one was probably the weirdest as its cloaked figure just stood behind the others.
Jumping out of the car, Warlock followed the adults as they ran over. “That’s the one,” Nanny said, pointing at the curly haired boy who was standing slightly in front of the others. “Shoot him! Save the world!”
Warlock watched as the old man stopped in his tracks ad glance down as the gun in his hands. “You can’t just…” he said. “He’s only a wee boy.”
“Give me that,” Aziraphale snapped and snatched the gun from the man’s loose grip. However, the woman seemed to be fighting him and the two of them wrestled with the gun, alternatively pointing it towards the boy and the sky.
“You can’t kill children!”
“Madam, for the greater good…”
Warlock flinched as the gun went off, closing his eyes against the sudden flash of light. His ears rang from the explosion so he couldn’t make out what Aziraphale/the woman was saying but there was a cloud of smoke above the curly-haired boy.
The woman must have won then.
Tilting his head, the boy studied the woman and asked, “Why did you do that?” Before, Aziraphale/the woman could respond, the boy continued, “Why are you two people?”
“Well, it’s a long story but I was in my bookshop…” Aziraphale has got back control again, Warlock thought.
“S’not right,” the boy said. “You should be two separate people again.”
There was no shower of sparkles or a popping noise to indicate that something happened; in one moment, they were sharing one body and in the next Aziraphale appeared in his own next to the woman.
Warlock hung behind Aziraphale and Nanny (who kept stealing glances at the angel, as if to make sure he stayed there). The other kids and the dog had gone back to facing the weird adults and the lead boy turned to his friends and said, “They’re just like nightmares really. We only have to stand up to them.”
The red woman stepped forwards, casually swinging a flaming sword. “I am War,” she said, her voice grand and full of confidence. “Men and boys are made to serve me, to live in me and die in me.” Her words reminded Warlock of his father who regularly told him that war was a ‘necessary evil to protect their country’. During those one-sided conversations, Warlock tended to just nod along; he had little interest in the wider world.
Warlock could see the girl’s shoulders tense as she took a step towards War. Her voice was full of righteousness as she said, “I am not a boy. And my mum says war is just masculine imperialism executed on a global scale.” Warlock wasn’t sure what most of those words meant but it made War pay attention to her.
Raising her flaming sword, War waved it in the girl’s face. “A little girl,” she drawled, “go and play with your dolls, little girl.”
A friend of his mother had a daughter that really didn’t like it when Warlock used to say that girls couldn’t play soccer. Apparently, it was partly due to the fact he called it soccer and partly because, to quote her, “girls can play football just as good as boys” (which she proved by taking Warlock out with an amazing tackle). Warlock could see a similarity between his old friend and this girl in the way she jutted out her chin when she replied to War.
“I do not endorse everyday sexism.”
Sneering, War swung her sword at the girl and Warlock’s breath got stuck in his throat. Before he could properly panic, the girl ducked under the sword’s arc and stamped hard on War’s foot. With a cry, War dropped the flaming sword which the girl snatched up and, straining slightly to hold it with two hands, pointed it at War.
As the girl lectured War, Nanny turned to Aziraphale and said, “Didn’t that used to be your sword?”
“I do believe it was.”
Warlock wanted to find out more because Aziraphale seemed like the least likely person to use a sword (or a gun to be honest), but the lead boy started talking again and everyone’s attention was back on him.
“Just say what you believe, Pepper.” Warlock thought the girl was already saying what she believed but at least now he knew the girl’s name.
War grabbed the sword, seemingly unbothered by the flames, yet it turned out to be a bad idea. Pepper shouted, “I believe in peace, bitch!” and the flames climbed up War’s arm until she was completely engulfed and then pulled her into the sword.
“Drop it, Pepper,” the boy said and the sword clanged on the tarmac. One of the other boys picked it up and pointed it at the adult with white hair.
“And I believe in a clean world,” he said and the person was absorbed by a smoky flame; the only thing left behind was their black crown. The boy passed the sword to the last boy with glasses who directed it to the slim man.
“A-And I believe in enough food,” the boy said shakily. The dog darted forward and bit the man’s ankle and, with a surprised and pained shout, the man followed his friends into the sword, his scales dropping to the floor next to the crown.
The lead boy moved in front of his friends and addressed the last figure, who Warlock had nearly forgotten about with all the other stuff happening as the cloaked person had not moved once. “Death,” the boy said, “this has to stop now!”
When Death spoke, it sounded as if it was speaking directly into Warlock’s mind. He said, “IT HAS STOPPED FOR NOW. BUT WE WILL BE BACK. YOU CANNOT DESTROY ME AS THAT WOULD DESTROY THE WORLD. With a slight incline of its head, Death said, GOODBYE GENTLEMEN (Warlock heard the woman and Pepper exclaim “Hey!” in unison at that) and then, it disappeared by creating what appeared to be a black hole.
Aziraphale turned to Nanny and said, “There, you see Crowley?” It’s like I said…”
“It isn’t over,” Nanny said, tilting his head up to the sky. “Nothing’s over. Both Heaven and Hell still want their war.”