It’s Just One Damn Battle after Another with These Heroic Types
After the Sea King’s proclamation, Owen looked at Mathilda the sexy dragon lady, who was holding the Sceptre in question. Then he looked back at the Sea King, who was standing there imperiously.
But before he could make a snarky comment, Mathilda stepped forward. “Funny,” she said, holding it up. “Because I seem to recall it belonging in my hoard.”
“It was taken from me,” the Sea King said, stepping down from the dais. “After I was killed.”
“You’re awfully energetic for a dead guy,” Owen said, resisting the urge to draw his dragon sword. The Sea King hadn’t threatened them yet, and he was only one person. They were twenty-one people and a demon bear, so Owen kind of liked their odds if it came to a fight, honestly.
The Sea King smirked. “Death does wonders for one’s vitality. I feel four hundred years younger. Hand over the Sceptre and I shall return you all whence you came.”
Owen looked at Gavin, who nodded, and opened his mouth.
“I think not,” Mathilda said, before Gavin could. “This Sceptre is my property, and I’ve gone to great lengths to get it back.”
“Mathilda,” Cal said, voice stern, as if he wasn’t talking to an intimidating dragon in human form. “Give him the Sceptre—it’s not more important than us getting the fuck out of here.”
“I disagree,” Mathilda said, standing tall. “I shall not stand here and allow that which belongs to me to be stolen right from my very hands.” She looked right at the Sea King. “And if you try to take it, I will kill you.”
“So be it,” the Sea King said, and he waved a hand.
The smell of salt powered through the room, buffeting all of them at once, and all of them but Mathilda were blown back, falling as if hit by a deluge. Owen righted himself, then reached out to help the nearest person to him up. It turned out to be Darby with the dog ears, who glared at him. Owen didn’t care. He looked around for Gavin, who was being helped up by Edwin and Stuart.
Owen drew his sword, taking a step forward. Mathilda launched herself at the Sea King, punching him with what looked like great strength. He dodged out of the way, hitting up with the flat of his palm, a flash of power blasting past Mathilda’s face as she casually leaned back. Then she kicked the Sea King in the chest, sending him flying back and slamming him into a wall. “What is the point of a human whose only strength is his magic?” she asked nobody in particular.
“Search me,” said Owen, who had to admit, she was good. He was glad she wasn’t attacking him. “Guess the Sea King wasn’t that…” The Sea King was over there getting up, Owen saw. Oh.
“I see,” said the Sea King, “that you do not comprehend the danger that you court.”
Owen snorted. “And you’re four hundred years old? It doesn’t show in your speech at all. Guys.”
The magic people knew that he was talking to them, and Lillian and Sully and Mick threw magic over Owen’s head, arcing at the Sea King in three converging lines moving at different speeds. Or at least that was how Owen imagined it. Actually he didn’t see anything, but he just assumed that there was magic somewhere and that he hadn’t just proclaimed an attack only to look like an idiot.
The Sea King raised his hand, so Owen had to assume he was right, then he staggered, which proved it. So that was good.
Then half the room exploded, which sucked. “Gavin!”
Coral didn’t throw up dust when it was destroyed, so as a hole opened in the floor and part of the ceiling caved in, Owen’s vision wasn’t obscured by anything other than falling debris. Trusting that Mathilda was going to punch the Sea King again, Owen skirted the hole in the floor to where the ceiling had caved in. Gavin was behind there. “Are you okay?”
“Fine, we’re all fine,” Gavin called, coughing. Owen could just barely see through a gap. Edwin was back there with him, thank God. A few others, too, by the sounds of it. “I don’t think we can move this, Owen.”
“Okay.” Owen sighed, letting relief take hold of him even as he heard crashing from behind him. “Okay. There’s a door behind you. Go find a way out of the castle.” The Sea King wanted the Sceptre, which Mathilda had. He wouldn’t go after Gavin.
Gavin made an agitated noise. “Owen.”
“I’ll catch up with you,” Owen promised. “But let me and Mathilda deal with this asshole first.”
“Fine,” Gavin said, looking behind him. “We’ll meet you outside. If you take too long I’m coming back to get you.”
“Deal. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
“Take care of him, Edwin.”
“It’ll be fine, Owen,” Edwin called.
Owen knew it would be fine. That didn’t stop him from worrying. “And come up with a name for that sword.”
“Will you fuck off and pay attention for once?” Edwin snapped at him.
Another crash sounded behind him. “Be careful,” Owen said, snickering. “I’ll see you soon.”
“See you soon, love,” Gavin promised, and turned away from the gap, heading for the door with Edwin.
Owen turned back to the fighting, saw Lillian and her demon bear launching magical and demon-bear-ical attacks on the Sea King while Mathilda waited for an opening. “Hey!”
Owen looked down into the hole in the floor that the Sea King had opened up. Cal and most of his people were down there, with Quentin. “You guys okay?”
Cal nodded, pieces of coral shaking loose from his hair. “We’re not hurt. The prince?”
“He’s fine. He’s headed out of the castle.” Owen winced at a crash as the demon bear soared through the air, landing between Elaine and Holly. “Listen, you guys find a way out too. I’ll get everyone else out once you’ve cleared the way.”
“Owen, you need our help,” Cal said, shaking his head. “You saw what he did.”
“It’s fine, I’ve got Mathilda and Lillian up here with me,” Owen said, as another crash shook the room and a crack rose up one wall. “I also have the dog kid,” he added, seeing him sort of hiding by one wall. He wasn’t blending in very well. None of Cal’s other people were evident, though. “I think the others must be with Gavin.” Or they’d been crushed by the falling roof, but Owen thought he could count on Sully’s demon powers to protect them from that.
“This is our fault, Owen. We’ll come up and…”
A thunderclap sounded through the room and Owen had to hide a gasp. “It’s fine,” he insisted, straightening. “Look, I do shit like this before breakfast every day, okay? Just go and I’ll catch up once I’ve dealt with it.”
And he didn’t give them a chance to complain, striding towards the Sea King with purpose as Elaine and Erik attacked him. A spike of coral emerged from the floor and stabbed Erik right through his armour, protruding from his front.
“Shit,” Owen hissed, hurrying. “Lillian, heal him,” he ordered, loudly enough that she’d hear, as he crashed in between them, hitting the Sea King full on with his shield. The Sea King reeled, blood running from his nose, and took a step back, giving Elaine an opening to slash at him while he was distracted.
All of which served to let Mathilda kick him across the chest, putting him down and cracking the floor.
She let out an annoyed huff, standing straight, the Sceptre still in her hand. “He is unconscionably powerful for a human,” she told Owen.
“Maybe he’s not human,” Owen suggested, keeping his sword pointed at the Sea King as he started to rise.
“A possibility I had considered. My point is that you and the other humans should flee if you don’t wish to be killed, which I assume you don’t. His magic is powerful enough to bother even me, to those without the protection afforded dragons…”
Owen smiled, tapped his armoured chest. “I’m fine. What do you think this is?”
Mathilda narrowed her eyes, looking closely at Owen for the first time. “I think that,” she said, seeming to look right through Owen, “is an utter lack of class, and also the former matriarch of these mountains. I’d wondered what had happened to her.”
Oops. “Friend of yours?” Owen asked, trying to pretend he wasn’t nervous.
Mathilda snorted. “Don’t make me laugh. I hated her.”
“She wasn’t my favourite dragon either.”
“Can you two do this later?” Elaine asked, as Lillian helped Erik sit. “When he’s not sitting up to kill us all?”
Owen lurched as the Sea King grabbed his sword, pulling himself to his feet. “Should have fucking stabbed you,” Owen grumbled, yanking his hand back, cutting the Sea King’s palm open as his sword came free. Then he went to do just that, leaning down for a good stab.
The Sea King swatted the sword away, the darted to the side, crashing into Owen and sending him falling sideways into Mathilda. They were entangled only for a second before she pushed him away, but in that time the Sea King jumped on her, putting his hand on the Sceptre and getting into a pulling match with her.
They flew up and slammed into the ceiling, shaking the room. Mathilda’s wings flared out, flapping a moment before she dove them back down into the floor, which cracked. “Can we just kill him?” Erik demanded, hand over the hole in his armour.
“Yeah, we should,” Owen agreed, watching them go back and forth.
Erik nodded. “Where’s Edwin?” There was a lot in that question.
“He’s with Gavin.”
Erik may have said something else, but Owen saw an opening. They landed on the floor again, not far from him, and Owen leapt, driving his sword through the Sea King’s chest. And that took care of that.
Except it didn’t, because he pulled the blade out and the wound closed over right away. “I haven’t the time to die again,” the Sea King said.
And then he exploded with power, slamming Owen back into a wall. At least he didn’t concuss his head this time. That had been bad, back in the fortress.
Holly helped Owen stand. “Thanks…oh, fuck.”
“Yeah,” Holly agreed, sighing. The Sea King was holding the Sceptre and Mathilda was against the other wall. “We’re probably all going to die?”
“Nah,” Owen told her, patting her back. “It’s fine. It’s no fun killing the boss before he uses all his powers.” Owen just assumed that the Sea King was going to get more powers now that he had the Sceptre.
But in fact, the Sea King only stood there, looking down at the Sceptre, running a hand up and down it for a moment. He had his back to Owen, but Owen imagined he was smiling. “At last,” he heard the Sea King say. “I am back.”
“Not for fucking long,” Mathilda snarled from the other side of the room, and then her form seemed to turn sideways, and abruptly she got very, very big, collapsing the outer wall of the throne room, and the ceiling with it, and…
“Sir Owen,” Holly said, hand on his arm. She was pointing to the collapsing wall, where Darby was still hiding.
“Oh, fuck.” Owen had forgotten about him. “Gather with Elaine and Erik, I’ll be there in a second!” And he ran towards the wolf-boy as Mathilda rose into the air, destroying the castle as she tried to gain altitude.
Owen reached Darby quickly enough and picked him up under one arm, ignoring the way the boy fought. “Stop squirming if you don’t want to swim,” Owen told him, stepping back as the floor started to fall to pieces and fall into what was clearly the open ocean. Owen couldn’t see land anywhere from here, just water and a lot of ships. The sky overhead was darkening in a circle around the castle, which was probably related to the Sea King’s arms being up in the air.
Owen hurried back to the others with Darby under his arm, dropping him in a pile at Elaine’s feet. He glared at Owen, but Owen was looking up at Mathilda.
“She’s insane,” Elaine told Owen.
“She’s a dragon. Violence tends to be their solution to problems. And when that doesn’t work, they try more violence.”
“Like you?” Lillian asked.
Owen would have given her that, but Mathilda was brewing fire in her mouth. “Oh, fuck.”
“She…knows we’re down here, right?” Holly asked.
“She doesn’t care. Get behind me.” Owen’s armour and shield should be mostly fireproof. And Lillian was doing that thing that magic people did where she was standing there very obviously doing magic. Owen hoped it was very good and useful magic.
Fortunately the bulk of Mathilda’s attack was aimed at the Sea King, and it was only the spillover that hit them. There was still a lot of spillover fire, though, and Owen stood against it, pleased to find out that yes, dragon scales were fireproof and he wasn’t being roasted alive. A crackling shield appeared when the fire reached them and took the bulk of the heat as well, which helped.
They withstood that for nearly a minute and though they came out of it singed and red-faced with minor burns, none of them were piles of ashes on the coral floor.
“Crazy bitch,” Erik muttered.
“Now you see why I keep killing them,” Owen said, watching in dismay as Mathilda prepared for another blast of fire. The Sea King was standing there, looking up at her, unscathed.
And then the ocean outside the big fucking hole in the castle erupted, and tentacles rose from the depths to snare Mathilda as she flew, trying to drag her down. “What the…”
“With the Sceptre,” the Sea King intoned, “the ocean is back under my command.”
“We have to get out of here,” Lillian said, as the demon bear growled.
Owen agreed. Except. Except that Mathilda was the only one of them who’d landed a clean hit on the Sea King. They could run, but they couldn’t get away unless the hitched a ride on a boat—and Owen had no doubt that Gavin was commandeering a boat as he thought that, but with that huge monster in the water… “We have to save her.”
“Sir Owen!” Elaine said, grabbing his arm. “The dragon is not our priority.”
“It is,” Owen disagreed. “She is, because she has to be. We need her help. I’ll…fuck me, I’m going to go save the dragon. I’ll be back.”
“Owen!” Lillian grabbed his arm. “Hold on.”
“There’s no time.”
“Two seconds so I can cast a spell,” she insisted, waving a hand.
“The armour’s magic-proof.”
“But the air around you isn’t,” Lillian said, concentrating. “I’m just hardening it. It’ll be buoyant. For if you fall into the water.”
Owen nodded, not feeling anything. “Okay. Thanks. You guys try to distract him. Without dying.”
Elaine nodded back, gripping her sword. Rain had started to fall. “I do not want to have to explain to the prince why you died, Sir Owen.”
Owen smiled at her. “You won’t have to, trust me. I’ve never died before, right?”
And he turned and headed towards the battle between the two monsters. Mathilda was clawing and biting at the monster—it must be a kraken, Owen decided. He’d heard of those, giant monsters that dragged down ships. He wasn’t an expert in sea monsters, but it definitely wasn’t a serpent.
He was almost in sword range before he noticed that he wasn’t alone. “Hey,” Owen said to Darby, holding him back. “You go back there.”
Darby just looked at him, making signs with his hands, a determined set to his shoulders.
Owen frowned at him, watching. His little cousin Phoebe was deaf too, so he knew an okay amount of sign, but he didn’t recognize most of what Darby was saying outside of the outlines. Glancing at the duelling monsters, Owen stuck his sword in the ground for a second and clumsily signed Go back. It’ll be okay.
Darby shook his head and signed something rapidly, which looked a hell of a lot like an insistence that he could help. Owen sighed. He didn’t have time to figure this out. So he lifted a foot and pulled out a boot knife, handing it to the boy. Be careful, he signed instead. Follow me. Hopefully the kid understood Owen better than Owen understood him.
And then he picked up his sword and went back to work with his wolf-eared new sidekick. Owen wondered if Darby was a werewolf or if it was racist to assume that just because he had dog ears and a tail.
Two of the kraken’s tentacles were anchored to the building, several more holding Mathilda in place, or trying to. She’d chewed through one and was clawing at another while launching another volley of fire at the Sea King while Lillian tried to distract him.
The monster had managed to pull Mathilda down quite a bit, and Owen had to wonder if dragons could swim. He’d rather not find out, so instead he started to run, taking advantage of Mathilda’s leathery wing being low enough to reach, and landed on it awkwardly. With step one done, Owen ran up the length of the wing, intending to get to the two tentacles wrapped around Mathilda’s body.
A wolf with a knife in its mouth ran past him, easily traversing Mathilda and getting there way before Owen, before turning back into Darby, taking the knife out of his mouth. Oh, so he was a werewolf after all. Nice. Darby was already stabbing the tentacle before Owen got there, not that it seemed to be having much effect. Owen put a hand on his shoulder and unsheathed Little Sword, putting his other sword away for now.
Darby eyed Little Sword, stepping back, and Owen smiled.
As he struck down at the tentacle, thunder rolled overhead and Owen ended up pulling his strike a little, startled. He sliced through part of the tentacle, which writhed, loosening. With a loud cry that drowned out the thunder, Owen struck again, cutting through it. The tentacle fell off on one side, slunk down on the other, and Mathilda pulled against it, wings pounding the air as she gained altitude with them on her back.
The other tentacle wasn’t enough to keep her there, and it started to slide down. Owen pulled Darby back so they wouldn’t get caught, resting Little Sword against Mathilda’s back so he didn’t lose his balance. Lightning flashed, thunder accompanying. Owen fell over.
Darby helped him stand, practically dragging Owen to his feet. He had to, he had to focus. He had something to do. It was just a stupid sound. “Come on!” he said, waving so Darby would follow him, running up Mathilda’s back as she freed herself from the other tentacles. More were rising from the water as if to grab her again. How many tentacles did this fucking thing have?
Thunder crashed again and Owen nearly passed out, but he made it to Mathilda’s neck before falling to his hands and knees. “Worry about the Sea King!” he shouted at her, peering down at the roiling water. He could see the main body of the kraken down there. “I’ll kill this thing!”
A quick glance at the remains of the throne room showed that several other people had shown up and were mostly fighting Elaine and her people, though two winged figures were fighting with the Sea King now.
No time to worry about that. Mathilda rose higher, and a tentacle managed to wrap around her leg. Owen took a breath, heart pounding like it wanted to explode. Beside him, Darby had his knife in his mouth again. What are we going to do? he signed, clearly enough that Owen could make it out in the rain.
Owen smiled, putting away Little Sword, and signed Jump before drawing his other blade again.
Darby blinked, and Owen leapt from Mathilda’s neck without looking. If he looked, he’d hesitate and he didn’t have time to do that. He’d already seen where he needed to land.
It wasn’t that big a fall, and Owen fell with his dragonbone blade pointed down, looking at the main body of the kraken as he did. It looked like just one big head; he could even make out an eye over there. Thunder broke again as Owen fell, but he held steady, crashing into the kraken with a yell, blade easily piercing its skin, and sliding down as Owen fell to the water, opening a huge rent in the monster’s flesh.
It reeled, turning and writhing as Owen tore it open, blood and brain matter spraying, tentacles retreating from Mathilda as it drew in on itself. Owen’s downward momentum stopped, and he pulled his sword free, one hand in the hole he’d made to help himself stay attached to the monster. It moved again as Darby landed not far from Owen, right on its eye, which popped with a kind of awesome—if gross—explosion of fluid.
The kraken went limp, and began to sink into the water as it died. Thunder struck again and Owen lost his handhold, falling down into the water with a splash. A tentacle fell on him, dazing him a moment, but Owen rolled away, Lillian’s spell helping him float to the surface without any intervention from him, which was good.
As Owen broke the water, trying to get his bearings, Darby swam up to him, blood and eye fluid floating off his body in the water. He signed exuberantly for a minute, and though Owen didn’t know what he was saying, he got the gist and he grinned. Then Darby pointed at the castle and then made a question gesture. Owen looked over at the tentacle that was still stuck to the wall and pointed. Darby made a face.
They swam towards it as quickly as they could—they weren’t going to have a lot of time—and Owen made Darby go up first, using his knife to climb up the tentacle. Owen went after him, after putting his sword away with some difficulty, and just drove his gauntlets into the dead kraken’s flesh to climb.
Thunder was getting more frequent now, and it was everything Owen could do not to freeze up as he climbed, able to tell himself that it was just Mathilda above them, growling and roaring as she blazed fire at the Sea King in the rain. That was all it was, Owen swore, climbing mechanically. Just the dragon. He didn’t care about dragons, they weren’t scary, he’d killed two and he’d kill more if he had to. Nothing to be afraid of.
Nothing to be afraid of.
Owen wished Gavin were here. If Gavin were here he wouldn’t be afraid.
Owen’s hands hit coral and he pulled himself up with a cry, Darby pulling him. He was pretty strong for a kid. He got up, stood up, getting his footing on the slippery coral.
What’s wrong? Darby signed, looking worried.
Owen shook his head and looked past him, thunder blazing through the sky as lightning struck something behind them. The two winged people and another guy Owen didn’t know had been thrown back by the Sea King—it was Bartholomew again, and another angel, a woman. As Owen watched, Erik ran at the Sea King, slamming him with his shield, stunning him a second before Elaine ran her sword through his shoulder, pinning him in place. Holly took out his ankle with a low blow, and Lillian’s bear leapt at the Sea King, jaws open wide. The new guy, pale and scared, knives in his hand, shouted out. “Nate!”
All of them were blown back by a thunderclap, Holly sliding towards Owen, her speed enough that she’d slide over the edge if Owen…
Owen caught her, hauled her up, eyes still on the Sea King. A clap of thunder. That had been him. He’d made it.
Thunder terrified Owen. He couldn’t handle himself, he’d never been able to. It was just so big and so loud and it was everywhere and it came whenever it wanted and it couldn’t be controlled, and it couldn’t be stopped. Owen couldn’t fight thunder, he couldn’t hit it until it died, until it stopped making that noise that shook his entire body, cracked his bones and made his brain hurt.
But this…this thunder. The Sea King was making it.
And Owen could hit him until he died, and the thunder would stop.
Owen took a step forward as Mathilda’s fire lit up the destroyed throne room again, blocked by a barrier put up by the Sea King. But Mathilda changed shape again in the air, landing on the Sea King with a massive punch that put him through the floor.
“Sir Owen?” Holly asked. “Are you okay?”
Owen nodded. “Fine.”
He drew both his swords. He was going to kill the Sea King. That was the only way. That was the only way he could stop being terrified.
God, he wished Gavin were here.
Darby signed at him, asking what Owen was doing. Owen just gestured with his head towards the Sea King, raising a sword. His hands were too full too reply.
Bartholomew and his angel friend, Mathilda, and Elaine, and the sad new guy were all ganging up on the Sea King, the new guy seeming to be fighting both the Sea King and the other four, which made Owen wonder what was going on. But he didn’t care. He was going to…
Someone stepped in front of him, a westerner in a long coat and a silly hat, with a scar on his neck. He had a halberd in one hand and a broadsword about the same size as Little Sword in the other. Owen stopped, raising his swords.
“Mine are bigger,” the man said, grinning.
“Who the fuck are you?” Owen asked, voice low. He wanted this man to get out of his way.
“My name is Constantine Hammerhead,” the man told him, raising both weapons. “Pirate lord.”
Oh. That was convenient. “Great. I’m actually here to kill you. Sort of. But I’m going to kill the other guy first. Get out of the way.”
Pirate Lord Constantine Hammerhead did not get out of his way, but instead attacked Owen like someone who wanted to get stabbed, first running at him and lashing out with the halberd, then throwing a lightning bolt from his sword when Owen caught the weapon with Little Sword. The lightning hit Owen’s armour and disappeared, and Hammerhead blinked.
Owen tackled him shoulder first and staggered him, swinging out with both swords to keep him away, then moved towards the Sea King. When Hammerhead tried to attack him again, a wolf jumped on him. And then when he got up again, throwing Darby off and lunging at Owen with the broadsword, Erik was there, using his shield to deflect the blow and clipping Hammerhead just above the eye. “Good job on the squid,” Erik told Owen.
Owen nodded, wincing at thunder rolled again. “Thanks. Keep him distracted, I’ll be back once I’ve killed the Sea King.”
And he let Holly and Erik handle that, heading back to the Sea King as he took another strong hit from Mathilda.
A gap opened up between Bartholomew and Elaine, and Owen charged through it, narrow sword aimed at the Sea King’s throat as he staggered from Mathilda’s punch. “No!” the new guy cried, slamming Owen’s sword aside with a short knife and most of his body weight, then turning to slash at the Sea King with a longer knife.
“What the fuck?” Owen demanded.
“You can’t kill him!”
Owen rolled his eyes. “Yes, I can,” he said, and he stabbed out again, taking the Sea King in the shoulder, not pulling the blade out this time in order to keep him pinned in place. “See?”
And he went to swing Little Sword and take the thunder-making fucker’s head off.
A flash of pain on Owen’s elbow and he dropped Little Sword as a knife lodged in the fold of his armour. And then he was kicked back with surprising strength and the new guy leapt at the pinned Sea King with a golden knife in his hand, aiming for his crown.
The Sea King fell back, avoiding the blow and instead letting the guy’s knife get tangled on an iron medallion he was wearing, which he hastily ducked his head out from before anyone could stab him. Then he blasted them all back with a thunderclap, and Owen dug his sword into the coral to stay in place. The new guy was thrown over the side and into the water.
As Owen stood, a dark stain spread out all around them, putting a stop to all sound. Enough.
“Enough?” Owen asked, looking around. That voice had no source.
“What is this?” the Sea King demanded.
I am rescuing you from certain death, little king, that same voice said.
“I do not require your—” But the Sea King vanished, and behind Owen, so did Constantine Hammerhead and all the other pirates, as if they’d never been there.
The presence lingered for a moment after. “What the fuck are you?” Owen asked, hair standing on end even in the rain.
Someone with rapidly diminishing patience, little knight.
And the thing, whatever it was, disappeared, the rain falling softer now. The clouds were already dispersing with the Sea King’s departure. There was no more thunder.
Sighing in relief, Owen sheathed his sword, went over and picked up Little Sword, wounded arm hanging at his side. He put the broadsword away too, and by the time that was done, the rest of them had started to gather around him. Darby signed at him, but Owen only saw the word arm.
I’m okay, he signed with one hand. He looked at Bartholomew. “What the fuck…”
The floor started shaking, and falling in, bits of the castle falling into the ocean. “Shit.”
The castle was falling apart, and Owen looked around for an escape, saw two ships. “We have to get on one of those,” he said, nodding at the one in the lead. “Let’s go.” He signed that last bit as well.
And they followed him at a run as the castle collapsed around them, the ship angling closer, people on the deck calling them. “Go,” Owen called, pushing Lillian to go first. The angels had just flown off—fuckers—and Mathilda swooped over to the boat as the bear leapt after Lillian. He nodded at Darby, who hesitated, and tried to put Owen’s knife back in his hand.
Owen shook his head. Yours, he signed. He’d eye-stabbed a kraken with it, he deserved to keep it. Owen could get a new knife.
Darby’s eyes went wide and he grinned like a fool before shifting into a wolf and leaping onto the boat with a howl.
“Good work today,” Elaine said, patting Owen’s shoulder.
“You too,” Owen said, smiling. “Holly did really well too. Go, before we all drown.”
She nodded, and they both went with Erik. Owen jumped last once they were all clear, landing on the deck of the ship easily but then falling over onto his injured arm and not liking that much.
But he stood up, helped by Darby and Lillian, who ran healing magic into him. “I’ll need to look at this once you take this armour off,” she said as Darby held his arm, worried.
“Yeah,” Owen said, the pain lessening a little. “That little asshole.”
“You’ll be fine, stop bitching.”
Owen nodded. “Thanks for all the help up there.” He also patted Darby’s head as a gesture of gratitude.
“Just trying to keep everyone alive.”
Owen looked up, saw Gavin standing there, coming down some steps, pale. He smiled. “Everything’s dealt with,” he said.
“I don’t care,” Gavin whispered, running over and hugging Owen tight. Darby moved aside with a glare. “I’m sorry,” he said, so only Owen could hear. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when the thunder started.”
Owen nodded, hugging him back. “You came, though. You stole this whole-ass boat to come find me, didn’t you?”
Gavin nodded too. “Just not fast enough.”
“Are you okay?” Owen asked, feeling calmer now.
“Yeah. Edwin and the others kept me safe. I’m fine.”
“Good.” Owen looked over Gavin’s shoulder, saw Edwin hugging Erik in much the same way that he and Gavin were hugging. He caught Edwin’s eye and smiled, mouthing a thank you. Edwin nodded at him. “Okay,” he said, letting Gavin go. “Then we’re fine. Did everyone get out?”
“I think so,” Gavin said, looking around. “Everyone with me did. I think Cal and his guys are on another boat. God, I was worried about you.”
Owen grinned. “Why? I had it under control.”
Gavin just looked at him. “You can’t move your arm, can you?”
“Some asshole with a knife came in at the end. Let’s talk about the time I killed a kraken instead of that.”
Gavin laughed, and he kissed Owen. “Okay. Let’s go take stock and figure out what’s happening. I’m very confused.”
“You and me both,” Owen said, sighing. “The Sea King—I didn’t kill him. He got away. Some weird shit appeared and teleported him out at the last minute.”
“Great,” Gavin said. “And I notice Mathilda doesn’t have the Sceptre anymore.”
Owen looked over at her. She was glowering at the remains of the castle, but she nodded at him. He nodded back. “Yeah. I’m…not convinced we actually won this one.”
Gavin smiled at Owen, taking his uninjured hand. “Sure we did. We’re alive. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the admiral and then we’ll figure the rest of this fuckery out.”
“And then engage in some fuckery ourselves, I hope,” Owen added, though he was too fucking tired for real fuckery of the fucking variety. At least right this instant. Fighting the queen of demons and the king of the ocean in the same day was harder than it sounded.
“Naturally.” Gavin gave him a grin. “You can regale me with the story of killing the kraken. I’ll tell you about how I almost drowned Louis and got Edwin to kill a sea monster.”
“Perfect,” Owen said, following after him. It had been a really long day and he was ready to just sit down and talk with Gavin quietly.
That sounded really nice.