Margot sat in the back of another Leftover jeep, leaning on the door, her eyes closed but still alert. Just resting my eyes…head hurts still. What was that in my mind? Weston needs to answer for this.
“You okay back there?” Albert shouted over the grinding of the old engine and the bumpy road.
“Yeah!” Margot shouted back. Don’t make me kill you Violet…don’t stand in my way.
The drive was a calm one, despite the road and the violent swerves to avoid what the wildlands threw at them, and Margot soon fell asleep. In her dreams she saw her true memories once more, saw them play out. The death of her parents stung and she hated Melchaia with all her heart, but a part of her, the part that felt the guilt of killing them for all these years, smiled a little, satisfied that she wasn’t responsible.
Margot woke up, startled, when Albert shook her. He gave her wide eyes and pressed a finger on his lips. “Trouble” he mouthed. Margot straightened on the seat and peered through the windshield. There was a mob outside and as Margot suspected, Violet was at the head, each of her tentacles holding a different weapon. “Something’s off…” She said as she looked closer. The mob was dribbling, their eyes unfocused and their movements clumsy, shuffling instead of walking. Before Albert could stop her, Margot opened the door and jumped off the jeep.
Putting her hands in her torn pockets, more out of habit than anything else, Margot slowly moved to the front of the jeep, facing the mob with an apathetic look on her face. Just look bored Vance. It’s worked before. Show them you’re not impressed and use their confusion to assess the situation. “V…how you doin’?”
“I told you I’d come for you…” She seethed and slobbered. She wasn’t looking at Margot, and her voice sounded raspy, forced. External influence…mass mind control, hive rage. Margot looked past the mob, trying to find the manipulator, but there was no one there and the psychic and magical signals were too muddled to trace.
“Sorry V, I’ll have to take you out…won’t be the first time. But just like last time, I’m sorry.” Margot reached deep inside her, to the power she stole and drew forth the Corpselord in her. Her skin turned a deep shade of purple and the hundreds of bodies in the Underworld’s soil acted as a massive graveyard, sending her Grave Regeneration into overdrive. If only this mended clothes, Margot said wistfully, sighing as she looked at her tattered suit.
The mob rushed her, their movements turning swift and coordinated in a split second. Hive rage upgraded to hive mind. Options? Take over hive mind, sensory overload, massacre them all. First, unlikely. Second…how? Third, how? Use weapons against them? Yeah right! Margot ran the options through her mind as she sidestepped the barrage from Violet’s many arms. The axe and meat cleaver on her tentacles bit deep into Vance’s shoulder and arm, the latter cutting her left bicep off. Margot screamed in pain and pushed Violet back. She turned around, hoping to see Albert coming to her help but what she saw made her heart catch in her throat. Albert lay there dead, his throat slashed open. Matgot screamed in pain and rage. The next attacker came at her and Margot leapt on top of him, clutched his head in her hands and pushed his eyes in with her thumbs. She picked his discarded weapon and used it to gut the next one, plunging her hands into the wound and pulling her intestines out. A part of her tried to grasp to sanity, but the images of kind Albert kept flashing through her head. I should’ve thanked him for everything he’d done for me, not treat him like crap…I’m so sorry Albert. Margot cried openly as she fought the horde but not matter how much blood she spilled, they kept coming, broken, battered and mad.
Violet came after her again, but this time Margot jumped her. Vance felt electricity dancing on her skin and the moment her hands grasped the mutant’s head, she let out a moan of ecstasy that snapped Margot out of her fury and made her step away. As she looked around she saw the same sexual euphoria take over the rest of the mob, turning the murderous horde into an orgy. Margot looked at her hands, felt the electricity again and her eyes widened. The Little Death…a Corpselord’s touch…but how? I only took her regeneration…I think.
Stepping back from the moaning masses, Vance climbed into the car to look at Albert. To her shock he was still alive and the wound on his neck was mending. He pressed his hand against his neck, then wrote on the windshield with his blood. “Takes much more to kill me…” He said. Gomorran, right.
“You gonna be ok?” Margot asked. He nodded but scribbled some more.
“Can’t talk yet.”
“Who did this?”
“Didn’t see. Just felt the knife cutting me. Special knife.” He pointed at the door with a shaking finger. Margot followed his gaze and saw a bone dagger. From the bone of a virgin I suspect, only thing that can wound a Gomorran.
Margot helped him move to the passenger’s seat and took the wheel. She moved the car around the writhing mass of sweating bodies and drove to Makai. “What was that? What made them turn?”
“How did you do that to them?” Albert scribbled still. His neck wound was closing but he wouldn’t speak for hours.
“I don’t know…” She looked confused. “I took a Corpselord’s power, but I thought I only took her regeneration.”
“Corpselords like me. You can’t take one thing, we are a package deal.” Well that explains it…still, I don’t know what came over me. Is that what he meant…is that what happens when the bad blood takes over?
“Albert…thank you for everything.” She said softly, but refused to look at him, focusing on the road ahead. The barriers parted for them, the ramp leading to Makai waiting for them. “This is my stop.” He scribbled after tapping her shoulder.
“No, not leaving you behind”
“You got no choice, you have people to catch. This is my home.” He wrote, then chuckled as he realised he was running out of room to write and blood to write with. So he opened the door and leapt out, stumbling and falling down. “Go!” He attempted to say, but only a gurgling sound came out.
“Thank you Albert.” She said and this time looked him in the eye.
“Sure thing, honey!” He said back, his voice failing still.
Margot put the car in gear and left the Underworld behind. The Makai sun hit her so hard she had to brake until she adjusted again. “I missed this…” She said, feeling the warmth on her skin. Now Weston, but a pit-stop first!
Margot used her TK to blast open the door to the Royal Palace. She walked at a brisk pace and keeping her mean mask on, trying to fight off the itch of the new suit. Same as the last one, only new and resistant to damage. But damn it itches!
The King’s Unnatural Investigators stood in her way, appearing out of nowhere and forming a circle around her. “I’m here to see the king.”
“Do you have an appointment?” the head UI said, with a smug smile. He wore sunglasses but she could see glowing orbs behind the dark lenses.
“I have his word that you work for me, so get the fuck out of my way before I move you.”
“Try it Fixer, and you won’t be walking out of here. This isn’t the Underworld, we don’t play for sport here.” He sneered…until Margot used her TK to blast him off his feet. The other Investigators drew their magical weaponry and prepared to fire before the door on the far end of the long main hall exploded towards them.
Weston Styles stood in the threshold. “Enough!” He said and the UIs dropped their weapons. “She is my guest, go away!” She waved them away with a look full of contempt. “Not you Ferd, you’re coming here.” The leader shook his head and followed Margot into the King’s sudy.
“What do you want Vance? Did you find my Fixers and Illusionist?” He said impatiently as he motioned for her to sit across from him on a sofa, with only a simple coffee table between them. Severe lack of sleep, nails eaten off. Extreme stress.
“Yes and no…” She said flatly.
“Here’s what I know. The other Fixers went off the rails. The Bad Blood, whatever it is, took over them and they’ve been going apeshit around the island. Two of them died after attacking the Underworld’s Hell Knights, leaving only one. They took them to the Necropolis and John was there and took some of their memories. Then the Bad Blood in them took over the Necropolis and started raising the dead, even with the Corpselord there. I followed the trail back to the Underworld.” Weston closed his eyes and shook his head. The Unnatural Investigator behind him, Ferd, listened attentively, though he shifted uncomfortable when she mentioned the Underworld. Margot felt nothing coming from him. Shielding, interesting. “There I found Melchaia and we almost killed each other. But I discovered a few things.”
“Well, some you won’t want to talk about, and I’m not telling you about the others unless you do.”
“I’m not in the mood for games Vance!” Weston grumbled impatiently. He waved a hand and a cup of peppermint tea appeared in mid-air. He grabbed it before gravity was sure on what to do with it. The scent of it filled the room and Margot had to push down the memories of them the scent triggered.
“Then let’s get down to business. What the hell is the bad blood? What’s the deal with my keyhole eyes, and I heard you and John ‘tweaked me’ to keep the blood from taking over, so spill!” She rose to her feet and loomed over him.
“Sit down!” He said slowly, but she didn’t dare refuse the command. The look in his eye reminded her why he was the King of this island of monsters. He sighed. “Let’s do it in steps, ok?”
Margot nodded and leaned back on the sofa. “Do you know the Harrowing?”
“Yeah, everyone knows. Big bad monsters from beyond the veil broke into our dimension to devour all souls. You and your merry men stopped them.”
“The Bad Blood came from them. It’s their mark, their last revenge. Even if we saved countless souls, some of them carried the blood. From time to time one would snap, riding the madness inside.”
“Riding the harrowed wave…” Margot said absentmindedly, remembering Roberto’s words.
“Where did you hear that?” Weston leaned in, setting the teacup down. Ferd moved around the sofa and sat on the floor between them, too curious about the discussion they were having.
“I’ll tell you when you’re done.”
Weston growled then took a deep breath. “Yeah sure, riding the wave. After a couple of years the blood seemed to calm down. No more outbursts, but their hosts were now considerably more powerful. So I decided to make them my fixers. I thought giving them a chance to protect Makai would give them something to hold on to if the blood took over again. But I was wrong, it just made them easier targets.”
“Not everyone loves this city like you do, Wes.”
“She’s right, boss. Lotta people don’t like it here.” Weston shot his subordinate a look that told him to keep quiet.
“There, that’s the story. Bad Blooders have keyhole shaped irises, a genetic marker. We don’t know what the locks open though. We tried to find out of course, but couldn’t figure it out.”
“The tweaking…” Margot said, narrowing her eyes.
“Yes. We placed a seal on you. John realised what the blood was, what its call meant and made sure you wouldn’t listen to it, no matter what. You’re free of the bad blood, my dear.” No I’m not, I can just fight back.
“And what does it all mean?”
Weston looked around, closed his eyes, shook his head and then did it all over again, debating whether to tell her this. He drank the scaling hot tea in one gulp, not even showing a reaction. “It’s a seal-breaker.” He said, his voice sound ragged. “The blood seeps into the ground, like the Necropolis, and burrows its way towards Makai’s central seals, the source of everything we’ve built.”
“What is behind the seals?” Margot asked, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Monsters, abominations. Things we couldn’t kill but captured over the years. If they escaped…there’s nothing we could do to stop them.” He looked concerned then, but also deflated, as if this outcome was a certainty.
“How could you trust us as Fixers?” Margot gave him an incredulous look. I wouldn’t have, she wanted to add, but didn’t.
“Because I…” He turned to look at Ferd. “I didn’t want to believe that blood could make you evil. I’ve seen ancient spirits turn back to good, and Demons fall in love. I couldn’t not believe in the chance the Fixers could overcome their blood. Ferd did it.”
What? Margot thought to herself. She turned to face Ferd and he removed his sunglasses, showing the Keyhole shaped birthmark. Strangely though, his eyes were blue now, not the shining red she saw behind the glasses.
“Now you know everything…what did you find?”
“I know who killed the Fixers. It wasn’t John, but Roberto Peralta, a hunter.”
“What?” Weston roared, standing up and flinging the teacup away. Margot saw it crash against the far wall. Weston was livid, his face red and from the deep breaths she could tell he was trying to regain control. “I…I…I warned him not to come to my island!” He said, furious. “And now he’s killing my Fixers?”
“He saved my life…” Margot said and Weston gave her a confused look.
“Impossible. He doesn’t save. He kills.” He waved dismissively at her.
“Well, he promised he’d kill me later. He said his debt was settled and he didn’t owe anyone anymore.”
“John…he saved Roberto’s daughter’s life years ago.” Weston said, looking at the far window.
“What’s the story between you all.” Margot straightened up and leaned in, hands on her knees.
“He didn’t want us creating Makai and bringing every supernatural here. He wanted to screen who came and who didn’t.” Weston said as he sat down again.
“Sounds reasonable to me.” Ferd said, but slowly moved towards Margot’s side of the room.
The King gave him an annoyed look. “You’d think so…” He conjured a new cup of tea, this time chamomile to calm his nerves. “But under Roberto’s True Sight, no one is good enough to be in Makai, not even us, let alone him.
“So John and I vetoed him and told him no. But he didn’t like it and demanded to have hunters on the island. We shut that down too. We then shut down his idea of being the sole authority when it came to crimes. Then we came up with the Fixers, the shit hit the fan, we fought, we kicked him out. We banned the bastard from coming back!”
“You should’ve listened to me.” Roberto’s voice rang around them. Margot and Ferd stood in unison and looked around, closing ranks around one another.
“Relax, he’s not here.” Weston said. “What do you want Rob? See you’re putting that orb we gave you to good use.”
“I’m hunting your fixers Wes…before they kill more people.”
Weston took relaxing breaths, and balled his hands into tight fists. “If they’re truly off their rockers, you have my blessing Rob. But if they’re not, and they need help, you will bring them to me or to Vance…is that clear?”
“Sorry, no can do. I can see the blood in them, especially in that woman with you. She’s the worst of them all, the blood is thickest in her.” Weston glanced over to Margot, who gave him the same hard eyes as always.
“When that seal of yours breaks and the blood overflows her, she’ll destroy your precious island. I’ll kill her then and remind you I told you so…because I’m your friend.”
“She won’t fail, she can’t.”
“Is that certainty or blind hope, Wes?”
“Both.” He smiled. “John believes in her, Rob. You know how rare that is…you know how he feels. Trust him, you stubborn dog, just this once!”
“I’d love to Wes, more than you know. Pero las cosas nunca son simples. Hay demasiado en juego para arriesgarlo todo en el amor del Ilusionista. Si ella rompe el sello, estamos bien jodidos. Los reyes que tienes prisioneros no pueden escapar.” Roberto said, switching to Spanish so only Weston understood. The King surreptitiously glanced at his companions and their confused looks confirmed this was the case.
“Promise me something then…for old times’ sake.”
“You won’t harm her unless she’s turning.” He glanced at Margot and there was both sadness and determination in his eyes. She nodded, approving. Fair enough, I don’t want to lose myself.
Roberto remained silent for minutes. “No deal. See you around, your majesty!”
Weston waited for minutes to make sure he wasn’t listening still. “Vance, find me John and my Fixers. Take some UIs with you, now!”
“I have lead from the mapmaker, places where powers have vanished. I’ll send them there. I’m following my own leads. Tell them to report to me when and if they find something useful.” Margot said and handed Ferd the locations the mapmaker had given her.
She turned her back on them and left the palace, keeping a close eye to the shadows and making sure she was never in the open for very long. Getting paranoid…but I had to take this threat seriously.
“Can’t let him get me.” She said to herself.
“Too late.” She heard the sound of the sawed-off shotgun’s hammer cocking.