4. Wormwood

“Oh, thank the Lord.” Ms. Parsley grinned and tried to ignore the holes that had been punched through her body so far tonight. It was a good thing that the Thistle Sister’s didn’t feel pain or she would have given into it long before now. Ms. Sage’s umbrella, covered in shredded black fabric, absorbed about full salvo of lightning-propelled flechettes. Acid did little more than scorch the steel beneath. The willowy blond dove past hr somber sister and dashed for discarded firearms. “I owe you one, Sage!”

“Relieve Ms. Rosemary then and direct her against the green one if you would.” Ms. Sage’s response was terser than she wanted it to be. The steampunk shield maiden didn’t apologize as there was no time. As her new opponent, Ms. Hemlock, waited for her wrist launchers to recharge Ms. Sage rushed forward and caught the cerulean-cast woman with the side of her shade. Ms. Hemlock wasn’t laughing now. Instead, what could be interpreted as a disgruntled grunt reverberated from her featureless mask. The enemy gynoid was smashed away into the side of the bombed-out gazebo’s few remaining posts. The flames licked hungry off of savaged wood and onto her clothing. Ms. Hemlock barely ducked out of the way of Ms. Sage’s next swing of the steel umbrella. The Thistle Sister had closed her parasol so she could truncheon the inferior model. Instead her shade broke right through fiery timber. Ms. Sage thrust the end of the umbrella forward and caught the blue woman’s shoulder, sending Ms. Hemlock flailing back into the still smoldering wreckage. A great plume of orange embers was sent up into the night when the villainess hit.

Ms. Hemlock opened fire with one bulbous wrist from where she lay, but to no avail. Ms. Sage merely opened her wondrous weapon once more and strode forward. The Spanish Rose counted off the number of shots in her head while pulling her own small pistol. Around the edge of the shade she aimed and put two small-caliber bullets into Ms. Hemlock’s forearm cannon. One of the pieces of hot lead managed to fly down a flechette barrel and blew out the back with a wild display of crackling blue energy. Ms. Hemlock shrieked.

“Why hadn’t I thought of that?” Ms. Parsley clucked her tongue but continued toward her Irish sibling and the violet terror that was working her over. She’d chide herself later and try to remember that trick. It wasn’t worth kicking herself too much though; Ms. Sage was the smartest one out of them all. She took aim with both of her big revolvers and shot at Ms. Nightshade’s center of mass. Dodging the redhead’s fists when seeing them coming was one thing but getting out of the way of flying bullets was something else entirely. Oh, Ms. Nightshade spun with as much grace as a dancer on the stage. One of the shots grazed her side with a shower of lavender sparks. The other punched right through where a human’s kidneys would be. The martial artist stumbled before cart wheeling away, leaving purple tracers from the manikin like seams of her joints. Ms. Parsley didn’t need traces to keep a bead on her and kept pulling the trigger. One out of the hail of bullets caught the mechanical harlot in stocking’ed leg and down Ms. Nightshade went. She scrambled into the cover of fallen trees and weed-covered rocks.

Ms. Parsley didn’t take her eyes off of that spot as she walked lateral over to where Ms. Rosemary was. “You going to be okay, Rosie?”

“I think ‘ll be ‘n a few moments, Ms. Parsley. Thank ye kindly.” The beautiful brawler swayed as she got to her feet. One of her arms quaked and she clamped down on it with her other mighty fist. Her teeth gritted while she waited for it to pass. Disheveled ginger tresses hung around her paled face as did the stench of ozone. “Ye keep the hussy pinned down n’ I’ll flatten her ugly mug.”

“Sorry, that is not the plan.” Ms. Parsley cooked off a shot which struck stone but drove the peeking Ms. Nightshade back into hiding. As long as she kept the martial artist at range there was no way she could lose. Still, it would be nice to get a killing shot in quickly. “Ms. Sage wants you to take care of the green one. I assume so Ms. Thyme can focus on the red and very angry one. I have to say this fight has not been any fun at all.”

“The green one?” The Irishwoman snapped her head away and it took her a moment to spot Ms. Wormwood. The winged machine was swooping down on Ms. Thyme – who was in turn vaulting over one of the fallen steam carriages, trying to find some cover from the flying fiend. “Ms. Thyme’s lost ‘n arm again.”

“Tell me something new.” After affording her sister a quick and whimsical wink Ms. Parsley started to circle the purple woman’s position.

Now that Ms. Rosemary was sure her legs would hold she stomped off in the direction of Ms. Thyme. A sinister smile cracked her full lips and darkened her lovely brow. “Careful, that be a wily one.”

The pretty pugilist opening attack against Ms. Hemlock was an attempt to spear her. Ms. Rosemary’s remaining harpoon rocketed along trailing a length of chain behind and caught the emerald raptor in the abdomen. The Irishwoman whooped, grabbed the links with both hands and pulled Ms. Wormwood out of the air. As the jade criminal bounced off of packed earth Ms. Rosemary whipped the chain and sent her crashing against the tall stone fence. Then the redhead started to reel her pray in hand over hand. “Now this is more like it.”

Alas the green fairy wasn’t going to have any of that. She proved to be more innovative than her fellows. Ms. Wormwood arched her body enough to pull herself up to her feet. Within scant moments of one whirring saw being applied to the chain Ms. Rosemary almost fell on her rump when the connection snapped.

“Bloody hell. Well let’s do this nice and close then!” Ms. Rosemary yelled. Ms. Wormwood was apparently all too happy to comply. Borne on insubstantial wings she charged the Irishwoman without a word. Her cutters met the sultry slugger’s armor forearms –and neither budged.
Now freed of the foe that she couldn’t quite overcome Ms. Thyme didn’t need to be told what to do. She took a moment for her senses to realign with time as they were no longer pressured. Her verdant gaze scanned over the battlefield. Part of her wanted to aid Harp as quick as possible but she was sure the big lug could handle his own. Down one arm and both of her swords Ms. Thyme nevertheless was already moving back into the fray. Her sisters, nay all of England, would expect no less from her. Her sprint carried her toward Ms. Belladonna – who in the throes of unthinking rage was set in a long charge after Ms. Sage. It was clear to the swordswoman as well that the gynoid had been crafted from Olivia’s parts. Ms. Sage’s sympathy toward the girl had been a weakness. On the other hand sympathy was something unknown to Ms. Thyme. She was just glad that the Order of Thistle had been wise enough not to leave her invested with any silly residue of the woman she had been.
Such distractions would be unseemly.

The line of Ms. Thyme’s run easily intersected the spear-woman’s and when it did she took a short hop, leading with her legs. One of the raven-haired woman’s boots landed on the haft of Ms. Belladonna’s halberd and she used the leverage to deliver a piston enhanced kick with her other foot to her adversary’s throat. Alas the veiled villainess’ head was not removed as hoped. Still Ms. Belladonna crashed shoulder first into the façade of the run down house even as Ms. Thyme arched backwards through the air before landing on her feet. As soon as boot soles touched down the Thistle Sister ran for the fallen woman, hoping to reach her before she had a chance to get up. Ms. Belladonna, however, did manage to stand but only by seconds. With a cry full of fury the red-eyed monster jabbed out with her pole-axe. Ms. Thyme was already moving, she fell onto her knees and power-slid under the weapon before lashing out with one hydraulic powered foot. Ms. Belladonna’s left leg crumpled with a gush of hot oil and a few sparks of red light.

“See. No better than wind-up toys. Ngh!” Harper boasted as he was only keeping from getting stabbed in the face by applying both hands to holding the doctor’s blade at bay. He’d ended up on his back and was sure that a couple of his ribs were bruised – well maybe broke after the madman socked him in the side again. Unlike the ladies he ‘escorted’ Mr. Carson was just a human being. The beating he was taking was assessing quite the toll. Still he soldiered on. He’d not let Kitty down.

His insult worked though because the beaked bastard turned his goggled eyes away toward the inhuman fighting going on. Steam hissed angrily out of the mask’ vents. It was just the distraction that Harper needed. The big man let one arm slip away as soon as the pressure lessened and groped around until he found a rock.

“I’ll carve the Thistle’s little cunts up for spare parts as soon as I’m done with you.” Gone was any veneer of a penny dreadful villain from the doctor now. His mechanical voice slurred with insanity and low-born gruff. Such was not a tone that Harper was unused to from his years in the civilian navy.

One of the plague masks’ lenses cracked as the rock hit it. Harper didn’t let up as the doctor’s head snapped back. He smashed the rock into the side of the beak next with a satisfying crunch. “Go to hell.”

A sickly sweet gas without much visual substance to it leaked out of the cracks in the doctor’s lens as he recoiled away. In the motion he made a desperate swipe that didn’t connect with Harper. The dutiful brother grabbed that hand though and used it pull the blackheart back in for a third strike. This time the mask bent away from whatever platting it was attached to and slid up the man’s face. A sliver of mutilated meat was revealed.

This set the psychopath in full retreat. He tugged his arm away with a fitful jerk and let the blade fall down too. He did drive his knee into Harper’s stomach and the brute’s lack of breath allowed the doctor his freedom. The masked man waivered as he stood. He tried to desperately pull the mask back down. “Girls! Girls, I need your help!”

Even though pain from the lack of air in his lungs tried to keep Harper down he forced himself onto all fours. The haze of ache was fought back as he took hold of the oversized scalpel and launched himself forward. As Harper stuck the weapon deep into the doctor’s back he slammed the man up against the side of one of the burned out carriages. It was time to make the blighter pay for all the men he’d killed tonight. Despite the suction the human body produced when stabbed Harper did pull the scalpel free before plunging it right back in. He was rewarded with screams of pain from the villain along with gushes of hot and very human blood. Harper’s nose broke when the doctor slammed the back of his head into it. Both men staggered away from one another.

Help, however, was not forthcoming for either of them. Both quartets of bionic women, good and evil, were too busy trying to kill one another. Now that the Thistle Sisters had switched foes the tides were turning in their favor. It seems that each of the doctor’s creations had been better at their roles than their opposite with the Order’s creations had been. Alas they lacked combat expertise and strategy.

Harper was the first to overcome disorientation. Out of the corner of his gaze one way Ms. Sage had just finished smashing the faceplate off of her blue foe with a swipe of the umbrella and was moving in for the kill. The other direction Ms. Parsley was back peddling while shredding the legs of her purple opponent who was trying to make a mad dash to get to the gunslinger before she was cut down fully. The villainess whose theme was red went sailing across the yard and over the estate’s fence and then Kitty – Ms. Thyme – leaped after her, intent on finishing the job. While the former seaman couldn’t see Ms. Rosemary he could hear her cursing up a storm, in a jolly manner. She was taunting her enemy which was a sure fire clue that she was winning.

So he pitched forward more than pounced on the doctor who was futily trying to pull the knife from his own back. Harper grabbed one of his shoulders with a hand while the other curled around the beat of the mask. He used his bulk to pin the man back up against the side of the coach and pressed a knee against the doctor’s lower back. Harper could already taste the copper accent of his own blood as it ran down from shattered nose. It was hard to breathe too. The broad-shouldered hero didn’t let that stop him though. He grunted and more blood oozed from the wound on his shoulder but suddenly the mask snapped off with the terrible sound of metal and flesh tearing. With flourish Harper tossed it over his shoulder.Then he spun the fiend around to get a good look at the man who’d caused all this horror. “Who are you?”

Harper had been expecting a wrinkled old man under the mask, or some scarred skull that barely resembled a man any more. He wasn’t prepared to find that the fellow was only a few more years older than he, still full of vitality! There was the evidence of some disaster that had ruined the man both physically and mentally. The bottom half of his jaw was mired with scar tissue and fresh lacerations from where the mask’s moorings had torn away. He had no eyebrows and while only his face was exposed from the cowl he wore it was clear that he didn’t have a scrap of hair left at all, only more scars. Still, there was something undeniably aristocratic about the madman – even charmingly handsome. He had all the right features in the right places to make Englishwomen swoon. His smile was as much like an angel as his stark blue eyes were devil-born. Blood oozed from between his lips.

The doctor obscenely cackled, even with the weapon driven into him. “And gambit revealed, you re struck mute! I suspect this revelation is a shock to you – this being the last face you expected to see!”

“Uh.” Harper blinked then narrowed his eyes, his meaty hands curled tight on the shoulders he held. “I’ve no bloody idea who you are.”

“Really?” The bleeding fellow was immediately crestfallen. “How long have you been with the Order of Thistle, anyway?’

Taken aback by the absurd moment the lug’s grip unwisely loosened. “A few months.”

“You do look familiar though.” Even though his voice held the hint of a strained wheeze now that the mask was off the doctor took advantage of the situation. His forehead connected with Harper’s already broken nose – which forced the hero off of him. Once free he pulled yet another stick bomb. “Introductions are in order then! Professor Henry Scabious, my good sir. Now, let’s see about killing you.”

“… You’re related to the widow?” Harper vainly fought to reign in his senses. He still had good enough sense to lurch back toward the professor so the grenade could not be used.

Scabious used the explosive like a billy club as he tried to break the Harper’s big jaw. “You are an idiot! The reason she’s a widow, a black one at that, is because she tried to kill me! The jealous cow couldn’t stand being in the shadow of my genius.”

Harper used his forearm to block the weapon and didn’t like the face that it nearly went numb. Apparently the insane really gain strength from their malady. He used another hand to throw a quick jab. Well, the oddity and morbid air around the Widow now made a lot more sense. Being married to, and then trying to kill a monster like this would harden any heart. “Well then, let me finish the job for her! I’m a gentleman after all.”

“Now you’re getting into the spirit of this!” The professor giggled as he ducked away from the punch and looked up into Harper’s gaze in a hooded fashion. It was unholy how devoid of humanity his eyes actually were. His free hand socked Harper in the stomach but found it unyielding. Henry raspily gasped when the brute brought his extended elbow down into him.

Harper grabbed for the grenade. “Tosser.”

“If you insist.” The stick bomb was let go, without the pin and bounced at the men’s feet. Harper ran one way and soon as he was free Scabious ran the other! The distraction worked and ended with a explosion. Both men didn’t quite clear the radius exactly and were overcome with a distortion of their vision and a ringing in their ears. Madcap as the action was, it had the desired effect.

The professor staggered away for a few more steps before breaking into a clumsy run. Once he had some distance from the other man it would be easier to kill him after all. Back Henry reached to try and get the scalpel free. Why weren’t his girls helping him? He braced himself against one of the ruined gates to catch his breath – as best he could. The madman’s eyes roamed to gather that answer. Heartsickness washed over his achingly handsome face as said explanation came. While he’d been caught up trying to murder the other fellow his precious dolls were on the verge of losing. In fact he was greeted with Ms. Nightshade’s final moments.

As Ms. Hemlock was already scrap metal without a head Ms. Sage had come to the aid of Ms. Parsley. Not that the gunslinger actually needed it. By the time the violet automaton had gotten anywhere near the blonde she’d lost both of her legs. Now that was not to say that Ms. Nightshade had been totally declawed, she’d managed to use one and her stumps to not only knock one of Ms. Parsley’s pistol’s away but had broken that hand too. Before the purple terror could follow up with any stunning finishing combo Ms. Sage came down from above and pinned her to the ground by standing on her own shade. The dust from the impact was still welling up into the cold night air as Ms. Parsley leveled her remaining revolver at the back of her enemy’s skull. No mercy was expected on either side of this conflict. The first bullet fired penetrated Ms. Nightshade’s gilded cranium but it was the second which caused it to explode with a shower of cogs, grey matter, and long arcs of purple lightning.

Professor Scabious tried to call out in grief fueled rage but his voice was stolen from him by a sudden hacking. His lungs were burning as more fresh air infected them. More blood came up from ruined chest and he spat it to the side. Without whatever alchemical gas was pumped into his mask the mad scientist’s condition was rapidly deteriorating. One could only cheat death for so long. He shuddered and took a few shaky steps as one hand gripped at his chest. It seemed like tonight would be the night where Elsbeth’s wound finally did its deed. He looked up to the cruel night sky and the faint red glow of Balor’s Eye.

“There you are.” Harper growled as he advanced on the stricken man.

“Indeed. Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if they never came? How… dull it would be?” The professor’s odd query and sudden sway to melancholy stilled Harper. Thus Henry continued with gasping breaths. “Innovation has reached new heights, things only dreamed of feverishly before.”

“At the costs of hundreds of thousands of lives.” Harper scowled.

Henry used the ruined fist for support as he turned back to look at the thick-headed man. He wore an expression that was a fine mix of disdain and pity. His eyes were rapidly staining yellow as death came closer with each rattle of air. “Yet, look how close to perfection we have come? I have accomplished what the Beautiful Ones and even the Order of Thistle never has. My daughters are perfect.”

“Your daughters are all but scrap metal.” Ms. Sage spoke as the soles of her boots touched down feather light on top of the crumbled wall next to both men. She closed her umbrella and brought her pistol to bear at the madman’s head. “So obviously they are not.”

“Bah! Better than you outdated machines!” The professor jerked his chin up at the woman and feared not the threat of her barrel. Instead he grinned in a ripsaw manner and splayed his open hands to the side. “And you will always be only machines. Tell me, Isadora… sorry, Ms. Sage. I forgot you are not a woman more. Has Roland moved on yet or do you double as a bed warmer?’

‘How dare you.” Her hazel-spiced eyes narrowed as quivering rage rippled through her artificial blood. She wanted nothing more than to put her last bullet through the man’s brainpan. Her finger would not respond as another wash of alien emotion gripped at her. “Who are you?”

“One of the King’s horses and all the King’s men. I helped put you back together, put all of you together.” Henry’s smile was almost rigamortis tight. Fresh dementia surfaced in his diming gaze. He turned his attention fully away from Harper up to the somber woman. “But I realized you were flawed machines, not women… just… pale imitations of what you once were. A blank slate that needs to be filled.”

“Shut, “ Ms. Sage’s gun shook. “Up.”

“No. A man should always speak the truth. My daughters are the next stage of humanity. Even as this ball of mud is reduced to ash they will carry on. While things like you will rust and at best be a distant memory. You and the Order of Thistle.” Henry spat out a glob of blood.

“I think you should rethink that.” The words came out of Harper as he ducked. He narrowly avoided being struck by Ms. Wormwood as the green woman spiraled overhead and crashed into the far gate. One of the bent bars impaled her through the stomach like a butterfly set for display. Her green wings sparked once before fading. The foul machine went limp. Loose wires and gears hung out of the damaged left side of her faceplate.

“No!” Fresh life surged through the professor. So sudden he shifted from dying to vibrant that it took both Harper and Ms. Sage by surprise. Thus the gynoid’s shot went wide when she finally managed to fire. Likewise Harper’s grab for the man missed by a mile. The swell of energy did not last long. Henry nearly fell as he gripped at the speared droid’s legs. “Constance. Wake up, come on now. They can’t stop you, they can’t!”

Ms. Rosemary can jogging over to see her handwork and smiled in a grim fashion. Well that was one more out of the fray, so that only left one more didn’t it? She ended up next to Harper and Sage who were watching the scene with a sense of sadness. “Eh? What’s this now? Aren’t we going to stop him?”

“Aye. We should.” Ms. Sage’s tones were unsure, she was rattled yet again. How many times had that been over the last few weeks? She tried to fight back her unease and reload her gun. Instead she gestured weakly to the villain with her chin. Bullets were fumbled through her fingers. What sort of thing was there between her and Roland really? Her stomach knotted up and her mind swam.

“Sage?” Ms. Rosemary paused and looked up at her faltering sister. She, along with Harper, wrongly assumed that this fight was all but ended. Ms. Parsley after all was off in the fields beyond helping Ms. Thyme deal with the last of these cheap knockoffs.

Professor Scabious finally managed to get the scalpel out of his back as he sagged against his inert daughter. If one looked closely there was still a faint green glow that pulsed from the back of her skull now and again. Instead of turning the weapon on his foes to try and get a last kill in it looked like he was taking his own life. Harper shouted at him to stop, misinterpreting why the madman drove the blade into his own chest and tore it to the right.

Fetid blood and alchemical fluid sprayed out everywhere as Henry opened up his own chest. Perhaps it was more proper to say he popped open the metal plate on one half of his chest. The baleful light of a hellstone flowed out of it, bathing his terrible creation in a crimson glow. With a primal and desperate scream the criminal genius ripped out the stone which had replaced his heart complete with all the stringy gears and veins that were attached to it.

“Bugger it all!” Ms Rosemary lurched forward and tried to make a grab for the man before he was going to do whatever it was he was going to do.

She didn’t reach the dying man in time. In his last act of evil before falling into the pits of Hell Professor Henry Scabious reached out and pressed the chunk of moon rock to the gouge in Ms. Wormwood’s visage. Apparently he had animated himself in much the same way as the Fomorian’s constructed their fairies. There was a howl of sound as aetheric vibrations rent the air around them. The souls of all the soldiers killed by the professor’s grenades surged up from their charred corpses and flowed in a visible wailing tide into the pierced automaton.

“Oh feck, not ‘gain!” The Irishwoman was reminded of the one time they had fought a Beautiful One, how he’d drawn the souls of the dead to him for extra power. Her huge gauntlet clamped down on Henry’s shoulder. It was too late. His life force was torn out of him as well, surging between outstretched fingers and the stone as his dead body was torn away and thrown by the redhead. Ms. Rosemary took a step in and wound her other fist back for a heavy punch.

Instead the bonnie boxer was knocked clear over the decrepit house by a simple kick from Ms. Wormwood as she came back on-line. The loose wires of her face and those around the hell-stone intertwined akin to snakes – then pulled it into place. The stone flashed red once, pulsing with a strange keening as it powered back up her chassis. It reminded Harper, who was trying to shield his eyes with a forearm, of Balor’s Eye above. As her wings of energy formed once more and the generators on her shoulders nearly overloaded Ms. Wormwood’s new ‘eye’ was filled with rapid growing and emerald veins. By the time the stone was consumed by the color the pole plunged through her, and all of those around her had melted to slag.

The green fairy did drop to the ground for just a moment and her wings snapped wider and more beautiful than before. Her entire brass frame was highlighted by an overlay of malachite light. Ms. Sage was forced to use her ruined umbrella to protect her eyes as well. When the intense radiance finally died down the tactician peered around the shade’s edge in wonder.

Light had not completely left Ms. Wormwood’s body. Instead it had formed a second skin over the top of it. A ghostly and flowing gown drifted against the night’s breeze. Her broken face was hidden under the one of innocent beauty which was framed by a head of tussled hair. The spectral green glow even hid her artificial arms – from fingertips to just below her shoulders anyway. There the illusion was torn by a static gap, its edges constantly twisting around the peaks of her shoulder plates. All and all it gave her an utterly otherworldly appearance like something torn from the darkest of fairy tales. She met Ms. Sage’s gaze for just a moment before turning to where the professor’s body had landed in a bloody heap.

“Papa.” Her olive toned lips moved slowly. A fresh and angry distortion rippled across one half of her face. The still broken plate and demonic ‘eye’ could be seen for a breath before the illusion took hold once more. There was little more than an explosion of air where Ms. Wormwood stood, then an afterimage of green light before she was hovering over Henry’s form. The silence stretched as she hovered there and sniffled. Harper rubbed at his eyes trying to get his sight back. Ms. Sage stood as still as a statue, transfixed. Ms. Rosemary grumbled as she came stomping back around the side of the house, pulling up one of her sleeves. She was going to break the prissy robot between her fingers.

Ms. Wormwood didn’t look at the angry woman advancing on her but back over the raging galvanic display of one shoulder. A shot along with Ms. Belladonna’s scream caught her now pointed ear. The girl’s gaze narrowed before she moved like a stroke of green lightning once more. Ms. Sage tried to visually track her trajectory but by the time the Spanish Rose’s sight had caught up with the vibrant construct she’d already slammed arms first into the gunslinger.

Ms. Parsley cursed a blue streak as she punched through the side of a barn house dozens of acres away. Ms. Sage fluttered a hand over her lips and gagged. “Sweet Lord.”

“Nothing that uses hell-stones has anything to do with our Savior.” Harper spat and didn’t like feeling so completely helpless. Ms. Thyme was out there with that blasphemy now! He couldn’t leave her to just be destroyed. As dauntless as ever he took off running into the killing field.

“You again.” Ms. Thyme took a step back from her fallen prey. As usual she had no trace of emotion in her tone. One thing was for sure though; she knew that this gynoid now swathed in an apparition was just that much more faster than even her. She did not retreat though but dug in her heels while trying to calculate the proper lines of attack.

In turn Ms. Wormwood gave her a dismissive gesture with a flick of slim fingers – which showered the other false woman with sparkling motes. It was like fairy dust from a story book save it carried with it a prickling of static electricity. “We are leaving.”

“Like hell.” Ms. Thyme said listlessly. Not that she had any idea how she’d stop the woman.

The green fairy didn’t give her battered counterpart the time of the day. It was as if the other construct was beneath her now. She fluttered down and gripped the front of Ms. Belladonna’s corset, curled her fingers around a loose bit of the boning. The veiled creation didn’t resist, because she couldn’t.

She did, however, moan with a crackle of electronic despair. “Please, let me die…”

“Hush. Father’s work must go on. We must go on.” Ms. Wormwood chided and beat her wings once. The gale kicked up by it forced Ms. Thyme to take several steps back instead of launching an attack. Her soot black hair snapped in the wind and the swordswoman made a mental note to get more weapons besides the sword. She was always losing them. She shouldn’t have conceded on leaving the rune-spear back at the castle for more study.

“No. Please. I just want to die.” Ms. Belladonna whimpered and feebly put a hand on her rescuer’s arm. It wasn’t near enough to get the grip to loosen. She shut her crimson eyes and let out a shaky gasp. Without another word Ms. Wormwood shot up into the sky. Her vibrant trail could be seen for miles as she flew away at speeds undreamt of.

Harper panted for breath and tried not to get on the blood and snot running down the back of his throat and the front of his face. He finally caught up to Ms. Thyme’s side and fought to get his heart back under control. He took a moment to gingerly touch his nose. Oh hell it hurt. “I don’t suppose you have the foggiest clue what just happened?”

“I do not, Mr. Carson.” Ms. Thyme didn’t watch the green light is a faded away. She turned her gaze to Ms. Sage who was still rigid atop the wall. Her own fertile eyes narrowed. “We shall endeavor to find out.”


Verse Seven

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