Villain, 48

Just because You Hate Them All Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Your Friends

Ao3 Link

The wind was howling on top of the north tower, but Sam ignored it as he crouched in front of the spell circle, hands flat on the ground. The power was rippling around him. “I’m opening the spell now,” he said, to nobody in particular.

“Okay,” Henry said back, and even though Sam hadn’t really been talking to him so much as he’d been talking to himself, it was comforting. Knowing Henry was behind him with his sword was comforting.

Sam opened the spell, smelled tropical air. “Good morning,” Jocelyn said, stepping through immediately. Her boots crunched on the tower’s gravel.

“It’s lunchtime,” Sam said.

“Not where I live. We’ve only just finished dawn a few hours ago.”

“What?” Sam asked, trying to figure out what she meant by that. “Okay, whatever, come with me.”

“How hospitable of you,” Jocelyn laughed, following him and Henry down the stairs.

“I’m giving you lunch, that’s hospitality,” Sam said, impatient. “There are people I want you to meet.”

Jocelyn didn’t answer until they were at the bottom of the stairs and inside the tower. “Is that the reason for the abrupt invitation?” she asked. “These people?”

“Yes,” Sam said, not wasting time. He wanted Jocelyn to meet the Sea King and the two pirate leaders he’d brought with him. He wanted the Sea King to know he had other allies. He wanted to show Jocelyn he had more powerful allies than her. He wanted them to meet his father’s ally from the Coven, find out how Jocelyn reacted to that. And he wanted them all to meet Scott, to understand that Sam was the one calling the shots in this alliance.

He also wanted to know why the fuck he was suddenly at the head of an alliance, but that was for another day. Today he wanted to stop juggling half a dozen people by turning them into one group.

“Do I get to know who they are?” Jocelyn asked, “or is it a secret?”

Now it was Sam’s turn to be quiet, which he did for a long few minutes while they walked. He and Henry had talked about this, decided what Sam had to do. “Solomon never mentioned a shadow to you, did he? A disembodied voice?”

“No,” Jocelyn said slowly. “I can’t say as he did. Was he hearing voices? He was insane, but I didn’t have him marked for delusional.”

“I’ll explain at lunch,” Sam said. He’d already known that Jocelyn hadn’t known about the shadow creature, but it was good to have that confirmed. “The guests aren’t anyone I think you know. You’ll meet them soon.”

“Most mysterious. I do so enjoy your flair for the dramatic, your Majesty.”

“Thank you, I’ve been cultivating it lately,” Sam muttered.


Sam winced at Scott’s chainmail voice. “My goodness,” Jocelyn said. “This is…unexpected.”

“No doubt,” Sam agreed. “Scott has that effect on people.” And he hadn’t even done anything yet.

“You’re just going to ignore me?” Scott demanded, catching up to them. Sam could hear faint footsteps behind him. “Rude, and I’m already in a pissy mood. Oh, hey, it’s Tipsy! How’s the family?”

“I’m rather afraid I’d remember you if we’d met, young…Scott.”

“Not so young,” Scott laughed, sounding like a bird choking and smelling like the aftermath. “But we’ve met a bunch of times, rude. That’s okay, you’ll get it eventually. Sammy! You invited me to lunch! I’ve never felt so loved. Do I get to eat her?”

“No,” Sam said, trying to remain patient, which was hard when he could barely breathe. “You don’t get to eat anyone. There’s food in there for you.” They were nearing the dining room.

“Oh, I hope it’s rotting meat. Please tell me it’s rotting meat.”

“It’s beef soup,” Henry said. “Spiced.”

“I prefer goat,” Scott complained. “Make it goat.”

“Just go in and don’t bother anyone to the point where they want to kill you,” Sam grated, halting outside the door. “Now.”

“Okay, okay,” Scott let out an exaggerated sigh like a fly buzzing into someone’s liver. “Come on, Tipsy, Sammy and Sparkles want to kiss before they come in and eat.”

The door creaked open, and Scott’s voice receded. “Hey, new friends! Doesn’t this lunch look delicious? And the food looks nice too.”

“You’ve some…interesting friends,” Jocelyn said cautiously. “If he’s any indication.”

“Most of them were Solomon’s friends,” Sam said. “Blame him. Come on, let’s go.”

“Hold on a second,” Henry said, hand on Sam’s wrist. “We’ll be just a moment, Jocelyn.”

Jocelyn made a sound. “Very well. I shall go introduce myself.”

She went in, and Sam turned on Henry. “Don’t waste my time. We need to go in there.”

“I know. Thank you, Todd, goodbye.”

Oh, right, Sam had forgotten they’d sent Todd to get Scott. “Did he say anything to you on the way here?”

“He just made fun of me, your Majesty,” Todd whispered.

Sam didn’t care. “Fine. Get lost.”

“Go to the guardhouse,” Henry told him. “I told Manuel that you’d be there to help some of the off-duty guards relieve some stress this afternoon. I already told Derek about it.”

“Yes, sir,” Todd said, sounding on the verge of tears. But he didn’t cry, at least not where Sam could hear him, as he trudged off.

“Remember when you didn’t want him to get raped by half the castle?” Sam asked idly.

“It protects the other servants from being at the receiving end of it. And it’s something useful that he can actually do,” Henry said. “His training is going well, apparently. I was thinking that we could get Derek to come in and give us a demonstration. Might cheer you up.”

Sam snorted. That was an appealing idea. “Fine. Now stop wasting my time.”

“Before we go in…”

Sam sighed. “Don’t waste time telling me to be careful or smart. I know this is a bad idea, okay? It’s the only option we have.”

Henry touched Sam’s face, two fingers running down his cheek. “I was going to say that if it goes badly, who do you want me to kill first?”

Oh. Sam was quiet for a second, letting Henry touch him. “Read the situation and decide. I trust your judgement.”

“Okay,” Henry said. “Let’s go, then. Waiting a few minutes will have made them nervous.”

“Or annoyed.”

“It amounts to the same thing. Let’s go.”

“Yeah.” Sam got on his toes and kissed Henry, then turned and went into the dining room.

“And then,” Scott was saying as Sam moved into the room, towards his spot at the head of the table, “the kid starts to blubber and say he doesn’t want to do it anymore, as if he has a choice and as if he hasn’t already dumped centipede eggs over half the city. Snot running down his face and all. Humans are adorable, aren’t they?”

“Adorable isn’t the word I’d use,” the Sea King said, sounding impatient. Good. “Sorcerer King, why have you allowed this abhorrent creature near any living thing?”

“Because misery loves company,” Sam said as he took his seat. “And because if we’re all to be allies, we may as well all meet each other now. Saves me having to have the same conversation six times.” He sighed. “Though there are a few more who will join us next time. Our ally in the mages’ academy couldn’t sneak away and neither could Solomon’s wizard friend.” And the other friend, the one who’d helped him with the dragon, hadn’t answered Sam’s summons at all, even with regrets. Solomon had obviously let these people get away with far too much.

“Well, that’s probably because of all the fun in Hawk’s Roost,” Scott said, chair scraping. “Which is why I’m so jazzed that you wanted to chat, because I’m lipid. No wait, lipids are the things you eat. I’m pissed.”

“What happened?” Henry asked. “The king sent Hans DiFueure to take the city. Didn’t he?”

“Oh, he did,” Scott growled. “But the Late King Stephan managed to be late for his funeral. Which I don’t care about, because at the same time that was happening, some fucking little ball of jizz pulled a Right Hand and cried me right out of existence.”

“What?” Sam asked. This sounded important, he didn’t have time for the tedium that passed for Scott’s personality.

“I’m saying a human evaporated every centipede in Hawk’s Roost, Sammy. Your puppet king is on his own, so if you want him to keep dancing, you’d better retie those strings somehow.”

Fuck. Who the hell had the power to destroy Scott like that? “Fine. I don’t imagine you’re useful enough to know anything about this person.”

“If I did, you think he’d still be sucking air through his face holes?” Scott snapped. “I’ll find him, don’t worry. He fucked out of the city, but I know where he’s headed, and there’s a lot of me up there.”

“Tell me when you find him,” Sam ordered.

“I demand to know who this creature is,” the Sea King said in a growl. Beside him were the two pirates who ran his armada, and Sam felt a not insubstantial power from them as well.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Solomon’s Coven friend asked. Her name was Cassiopeia. “This is the creature who’s been controlling all of those centipedes.”

“What centipedes?”

“My goodness, your Majesty, where on earth did you find this boy?” Jocelyn asked with a laugh in her throat. “He doesn’t know anything, does he?”

“How dare you speak that way to the Sea King?” one of the pirates demanded. It was the man—the other was a girl Henry’s age. “You are only a witch of middling power.”

Jocelyn snorted. “And you’re only a necromantically-animated corpse of middling value.”

“I,” said the necromantically-animated corpse of middling value, “am Constantine Hammerhead, pirate lord of the…”

“Yes, yes,” Jocelyn said, interrupting. “I know who you are. I was there when my son reanimated you.”

“James did?” Sam asked, straightening in his chair. He might have to kill this pirate lord if that was true.

“No, Johnathon. My useful son.” Jocelyn gave the impression of laughing, though she wasn’t. “Not what I would have wasted my time on, but I do think it’s important to let my children have hobbies. He was so disappointed when you went missing some months ago, Master Hammerhead. How delighted he’ll be when I tell him I’ve found you.”

“The pirate lord and his fleet belong to me now,” the Sea King threatened. “I care not whence they came.”

“Oh, I’m sure you two can work something out. Why is it that boys never want to share?” Jocelyn paused for just a second. “Cassiopeia, you’re looking at me like you’ve eaten that rotting meat Scott was so disappointed to have lost.”

“Who the fuck wants to eat meat that’s not rotting?” Scott demanded defensively. “At least unless it’s freshly dead. Or not dead. You look tasty, Floater. I was disappointed when Tipsy’s kids didn’t feed you to me.”

“I was merely thinking, Jocelyn,” said Cassiopeia, as if Scott hadn’t spoken, “that I should have listened to James when he said you and Solomon were working together. I once asked Solomon and he explicitly told me he wasn’t.”

“Funny, I once asked him if he had an ally still on the Coven and he explicitly told me he didn’t,” Jocelyn said. “It seems he lied to both of us.”

“It seems so. And we can’t both use the witches’ stone, now can we?”

“No, I’d say we can’t.”

“Why is it that adults never want to share?” Hammerhead’s lieutenant Alanna asked, sneering.

“It hardly matters when that stone is the one we’re the farthest from being able to get to,” Sam interrupted. “And considering that you lost two of the other ones, Cassiopeia, perhaps you should worry about that.”

“I accept all the blame for that, your Highness,” Cassiopeia said, grudgingly. “I expected my proxy to have better security than he did, and then I expected their new owner would give them to me eventually. They were stolen again before I could even make the attempt.”

Sam knew that, but everyone else in the room didn’t. “And now you have no idea where they are.”

“No, I’m afraid not. Neither, fortunately, does anyone else.”

“Except for the little bat who stole them,” Scott sang.

“Where are they, Scott?” Sam asked.

“Who knows?” Scott asked. “Not me. I haven’t seen him either.”

“Tell me when you do.” There was no question that Scott would see them, it was just a question of when.

“These stones you all speak of are irrelevant to me,” said the Sea King. “This is not what I am here for.”

“They are relevant to you,” Henry told him.

“Oh?” The Sea King sounded amused. “Do tell, then.”

Sam took a breath. Okay, it was time. “There is an entity that is attempting to manipulate both myself and the Sea King. A shadow who claims to be a god. It was manipulating Solomon as well.” And for the Sea King, he added, “It wants the stones.”

Nobody spoke for a moment, and then Scott scraped his spoon against his bowl, then slurped loudly. Sam hadn’t touched his own food and remembered he was supposed to in order to show it wasn’t poisoned. Hopefully Henry was eating. “Click, click, click,” said Scott. “You should see all their faces, Sammy, while they realize how it all clicks together. Humans love realizing they’re just pawns in someone else’s game.”

“So you knew about it?” Sam asked Scott. If any of them had, it would have been him.

“Can’t say as I did, and you’re going to tell me all about it, okay? Because it sounds tasty and it’s been a long, long-fuck time since I’ve eaten a god.”

Sam didn’t think he’d ever heard Scott sound that way. For the first time since they’d met, he could believe just from listening to him that Scott was dangerous. “Sounds like you’re asking for a renegotiation of our deal.”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Scott said, still sounding dark.

“So the dark creature wants us to gather these artefacts for him,” the Sea King mused. “I can relate. I am, however, no monster’s game piece.”

“That,” said Cassiopeia, “is something I suspect we can all agree on. Which I assume is why the king has asked us all to come here.”

“It is,” Sam said, though he’d ordered them to come here. “We have mutual goals. And a mutual enemy who thinks to control us all. We’re allies and I think it’s time we started acting like it.”

“Aw, we all love you too, Sammy.”

“Except for you. You can shut the fuck up.”

“I’m his favourite,” Scott stage-whispered to someone.

“In other words,” said Alanna, who Sam didn’t like much, “you need our help to kill this monster of yours.” She always sounded like she was sneering.

“In other words, working together is the only hope you have of not being someone’s servant for the rest of your life,” Henry said, before Sam could get annoyed. “Or afterlife, I guess.”


“He’s right,” Jocelyn said. “Whatever this creature is, it’s obviously more powerful than all of us or it wouldn’t be using us as game pieces. We have to kill it whether or not we’re interested in the stones.”

“I think the best way to do that is to do what it wants for now,” Cassiopeia said quietly. “Find the stones. Having them will make us more powerful, and if it thinks we’re trying to betray it, it may take drastic action.”

“Bringing the Sea King here was obviously meant as a threat,” Sam said. “So you’re right.”

“Our strength is that it doesn’t think we’ll be able to work together without it telling us to,” Henry added. “We should avoid being too obvious about this alliance. Hopefully we can all pretend to hate each other convincingly.”

“However will we manage that?” Hammerhead drawled.

Sam finally ate some of the soup, found it both cold and too spicy. “We’ll pull it off somehow. I know, let’s make a list of people we want to kill. Mine only has my siblings and Jocelyn’s son on it at the moment. Any suggestions?”

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