If you’ve ever seen a final battle between good and evil in a movie, this was nothing like that. Mr. Salvatore didn’t engage Hans with the stylized violence of a kung-fu flick or the flashy effects of an anime showdown. He just lashed out.
The fighting was too brutal for me to follow. Hans had to be three times Mr. Salvatore’s size. Hans had better reach, he was made of solid muscle, and I knew from personal experience how frighteningly fast he could be.
Mr. Salvatore was faster.
Worse, I realized in dull terror, Mr. Salvatore was stronger.
And even worse still, Mr. Salvatore had been undead for hundreds of years and multiple wars – plenty of time to learn exactly how to handle himself as a weapon.
I heard flesh brutally striking flesh. Hans tried to fight back; to grapple. For a second I thought he might overwhelm Mr. Salvatore with his sheer size, but Mr. Salvatore had no trouble at all tearing free from the arms that had held me so securely just moments before. And then Hans was struck hard enough to be sent reeling back.
Hans caught Mr. Salvatore’s wrist and kept himself upright, but Mr. Salvatore yanked free of Hans’ grip again with lightning speed. Then he caught Hans’ wrist and elbow and snapped his forearm like a twig.
Hans snarled. Mr. Salvatore effortlessly twisted him around by his arm. I heard Hans’ elbow dislocate. Then Mr. Salvatore kicked him to the ground. Hans caught himself on the concrete with his good arm.
I cried out – as much as I could, since I only seemed capable of breathing in.
Hans’ body writhed like he’d started shifting shape but arrested the process mid-change, and then he was surging to his feet; has broken arm straight and swinging his fist at Mr. Salvatore again.
But Mr. Salvatore was moving before Hans was upright. I don’t know if it was my nightmarish imagination or if I heard ribs crack over the sound of Mr. Salvatore’s shoe impacting in Hans’ side, but Mr. Salvatore’s kick flipped Hans over and left him sprawled on his back. Hans started to rise, but not before Mr. Salvatore was on him again.
Mr. Salvatore shoved Hans back down to the concrete and crouched over him. A blade flashed in the light of the street lamp.
A blade in Mr. Salvatore’s hand.
It plunged into Hans’ chest.
I couldn’t even scream. I was still hyperventilating too hard to breathe out.
Not too hard to move, though.
I don’t know what madness seized me, but I surged away from the lamp post. Not to do the sensible thing; get in Megan’s car and flee. Not even to do the more sensible thing and get in Hans’ car, which was closer and still running, and flee. No.
My ankle protested with enough pain to clear my head and make me starkly aware of how fucking insane my decision making paradigms are, and then it gave out again. I half fell and half threw myself at Mr. Salvatore’s back.
I accomplished nothing. Mr. Salvatore twisted around and batted me aside like I was one of the thousands of ninjas in historical manga that get slaughtered to prove how badass the hero is. I hit the ground on my side. The concrete of the sidewalk scraped the hell out of my arm. I couldn’t stop my eyes from watering and I wanted to puke and I hurt all over and everything was fuzzy and I didn’t know how many times Mr. Salvatore had stabbed Hans or if the knife was silver or if Hans was dead or when Mr. Salvatore would come after me…. And the shadows were moving.
I was laying helpless on my side, staring into the alley. Mr. Tophat had warned me that the goblins would be back. Now they were, and their numbers seemed to surge as my terror mounted. I pushed myself up from the sidewalk, as much as I could. Kneeling was all I could manage, and I still wanted to throw up. All I managed to do there was exhale.
“Mr. Salvatore,” I croaked.
“Yes?” Mr. Salvatore idly asked from behind me. But I wasn’t talking to him.
“Midnight,” I told the alley. “Crossroads. You came after me; makes me the challenged.” My lips split in a smile fit for a skull. “Already beat one of you,” I rasped. “I can do it again.”
“Ms. Abigail?” Mr. Salvatore asked again; this time from much closer. Couldn’t he see the fae? Maybe not. Hans had been able to smell Megan on me, but hadn’t mentioned Mr. Tophat. Maybe the fae were too in-between worlds to be seen before they were noticed, unless they wanted to be.
I raised my head. Mr. Salvatore had died before. In the wars. He could be beaten. I just needed an army. In that instant, just as I realized what I was about to say, I was more terrified than I had ever been in my life.
The part of me that was planning; that takes over when everything goes to shit and I’m too panicked to take care of myself, wondered if that would be an enticing enough lure.
“I choose Mr. Salvatore,” I said – and I knew he was right behind me. “I will willingly yield to whoever fucking kills Mr. Salvatore right now,” I shouted. “And I don’t even care what weapon you use or how many of you pile on!”
My racing heart beat exactly once before the darkness surged forward.
I shrieked. The goblins howled as they charged me – and charged past me. I collapsed, covering my head with my arms and curling in on myself. I don’t know if it was dumb luck on my part or supernatural ability on theirs, but somehow I wasn’t trampled by the fae tide.
I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry, so I stayed fetal and did both. Terrified laughter spilt from my lips while tears of exhilaration streaked my cheeks. I had an army. So what if they were only fighting for the right to torture me to death? I had a fucking army, and Mr. Salvatore was fighting for dear unlife.