Villain, 65

Your Choice of Ally Depends Heavily on What You Want From Said Ally

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With a knife to his throat, Sam took a breath. Henry was close to him. “Okay,” he said to Giacomo. “What do you want to talk about?”

Giacomo shifted a little. Sam’s back hurt. He wasn’t going to be able to hold this little fuck up for long. “How much you’ve fucked up the Kyainese government, what else?”

Nobody in the room was moving. “I’ve done nothing to the Kyainese government but help House DiGorre get back on the throne.”

“Cut the shit,” Giacomo suggested, pressing the knife just a little closer. “It’s just us and your friends here. You abducted Hans, which made it possible for Stephan’s coup to succeed and, by the way, killed my dad. Then you sent Hans back when we didn’t want him, putting you in charge after Stephan disappeared. And now that he’s not puppeting the way you want him to, you’ve gone in person to threaten him so he’ll do what you want. You’ve been trying to run Hawk’s Roost from out here for a year now, and that would offend me less if you weren’t so bad at it.”

Sam was silent for a second. He needed time to think about how to approach this. But he didn’t have it. Giacomo didn’t seem like an idiot, so that made things a little easier. Okay. “And I imagine you think you’d do a better job?”

“No,” said Giacomo, mocking. “I am doing a better job. And what I’d really like you to do is leave us the fuck alone. But I’m assuming you don’t plan to do that, so let’s negotiate us a truce, hm?”

Sam snorted. “A truce?”

“Yes, it’s a pretend friendship where two people hate each other but decide not to fight because they hate other people more.”

“Giacomo,” Henry said calmly. “If you want to talk, put the knife down and we’ll talk.”

“Hi, cousin,” Giacomo said, not moving at all. “Geoffrey has fond memories of you, but you’re just a bigger kid I met once. So as far as I’m concerned, you’re just another enemy making my life harder.”

“We’re not enemies. Geoffrey’s been working with us,” Henry said. “There’s no reason for us to be enemies.”

“And yet you came and attacked Hawk’s Roost, and kidnapped my friend,” Giacomo said. “Your servant ought to be very grateful that I didn’t cut his throat, by the way—fuck!”

Sam let his knees give out while Giacomo was talking, falling back, landing on Giacomo. The knife grazed his throat, scratching him, but not deep enough to kill. Sam elbowed Giacomo in the stomach and rolled off. Giacomo scrambled after him, but Sam let Order erupt all around him, slamming Giacomo and Todd into opposite walls.

Sam got to his feet, smiling. He rubbed his neck, felt the cut there. It hurt, but it didn’t seem serious. He took a step towards Giacomo. “You should have cut his throat,” Sam said, wishing his voice sounded normal. “It’s nicer than what I’m going to do to you.”

Giacomo giggled. “There we go. I was waiting for this part.”

“The part where I torture you to death?” Sam sneered. “You should have said that from the start. I’d have been happy to oblige.”

“Your magic feels funny,” Giacomo told him, as if he hadn’t heard Sam. “Kind of like having my skin sawed off from the inside. It hurts, but in a kind of cute way. How are you doing that?”

“Do you think being cute is going to save you getting flayed alive?”

“I don’t know, do you think being mean is going to save you from having to do diplomacy?”

“This is how diplomacy works in my kingdom,” Sam said, raising his hand to light part of Giacomo on fire. He wasn’t sure what part yet. He kind of hated all of him, but his being so small meant Sam got more burn for his effort, so that was good.

“Which brings me back to my first point,” Giacomo said. His voice was a little strained, but that was the only thing giving away that he was in pain. “You suck at ruling. If you’re going to fuck up a kingdom, do it to your own and not to mine, okay? That’s all I want.”

“What you want doesn’t fucking matter, you little piece of…”

“Sam,” Henry said. His hand was on Sam’s shoulder. “Maybe we should listen to what he has to say.”

“Fuck off, Henry. All he’s done so far is insult me and make jokes. He has nothing substantial to say.”

“I think I’d make a better emissary in Hawk’s Roost for you than Hans does,” Giacomo said from the wall.

Sam and Henry fell quiet for a moment. Todd got to his feet in the corner. “Come on,” Giacomo said after a second. “You know I’m right. You went to Hawk’s Roost and kidnapped Darius there to keep Hans in line, right? You wouldn’t have to do that with me.”

“Because what?” Sam demanded. “You’d just stay in line without being told? You don’t strike me as the type.”

“I’m not. I don’t stay in line. But I do know how to keep other people in line. And you can trust me, which you can’t do with Hans.”

Henry made a sound. “And why is that, enemy?”

“Because Hans is a liar who pretends that he cares about Kyaine and pretends that he cares about House DiGorre and House DiFueure and pretends that he cares about a lot of things.” Giacomo paused for a second. The little shit probably thought he was being dramatic. “I don’t pretend to do that. I care about my brother, and myself, and that’s it. I’m going to do what’s best for us, and what would be best for us would be if we were allied with you. Which Geoffrey already is, and which I already have been.”

“And since when were you ever working for me?” Sam asked with a snort.

“Since someone told me that swallowing a centipede egg would give me the power to get what my family wanted.”

“What the…” Sam stepped forward, lifted Giacomo’s shirt, put a hand on his chest. There was no trace of Scott’s power inside him. “You’re lying. There’s no centipede inside you.”

“I wondered,” Giacomo said. “The feeling disappeared a while ago, when Hans showed up in the city.”

When someone had blasted all of Scott out of Hawk’s Roost. “You were Scott’s spy in the city.”

“Don’t know who Scott is, but sure,” Giacomo said. “Your dad used the centipede to tell me when he needed errands run in Hawk’s Roost, and I’d assumed you had taken that over when he died. Did you not?”

“It’s…” Sam was going to kill Scott for not telling him this. “It’s a long story. We’ll get you another centipede egg.”


“Excuse me?”

“I said no. I didn’t like it much the first time and I’m glad not to have it now. I was a stupid kid when I fell for the ‘it’ll grant all your wishes’ tripe, and I’m not stupid anymore. I’ll work with you, but not for you.”

“You’ll work for me, or I’ll kill you,” Sam corrected. He let Giacomo down, though.

Giacomo made a little noise. “No you won’t. That would be a bad idea.”

“Would it?”

“My brother is the only thing actually keeping Hans in line for you. Hans doesn’t care enough about Darius for him to be a useful hostage in the long run, so you need someone to do that. If you kill me, Geoffrey will devote all his energy to killing both of you.”

“So what you’re saying is,” Sam said, “if I kill you, I should kill him too.”

“What I’m saying is, it’s not worth your effort to kill either of us when we’ve been good allies for you before, and as soon as you realize you need us, we can be again.”

Giacomo was hard to read. His emotions came off as fake to Sam, so he had no idea what the kid was actually thinking. Henry’s hand on his shoulder made him want to slow down, think about it for a second. Hans was incomptent in a predictable way, but Giacomo was obviously smart, ambitious. Maybe he was a better fit than Hans for what Sam needed.

What Sam needed was two minutes to think about this. “Todd, take Giacomo and Darius to a room to rest. I’ll talk to them later.”

“Darius is…”

“If you’re about to give me an excuse…”

“He’s unconscious,” Giacomo said. “I’ll carry him. Come on, Todd.” He said it like Todd was his inferior. Hadn’t taken him long to figure that out. A point in his favour.

Only once they were gone did Sam put a hand to his throat. “Do you think we should listen to him?”

“I think we should hear him out,” Henry agreed. “Let him stew for a bit—don’t talk to him right away. But I think he’s right about Hans. This isn’t going to keep him in line. Someone we can work with for real might be better than someone we have to try and control.”

“And would you be saying that if he wasn’t your cousin? Thanks for the fucking help dealing with him, by the way.”

“Undermining you in front of him would have been a huge mistake.” Henry let out a sigh. “It doesn’t matter, because he is my cousin. I’m not so attached to some nostalgic idea of my family that I’m willing to put us in danger because of his dad and my dad being brothers. Besides, I’m inclined to trust someone who tells us upfront what his priorities are.”


“I’ve only ever known one person who did that before,” Henry said, squeezing Sam’s shoulder. “And I married him.”

Sam wasn’t sure what to make of that. “Okay,” he said after a second. “Let’s…I want to sit down. I want to decide what we expect from him before we talk to him again.”

“Yeah,” Henry said, guiding Sam to the door. “Let’s do that. We’ll do it over supper, once we make sure your neck is okay.”

Sam had also only met one person who was so upfront about his priorities, he thought as they went. He’d married that person too and it had been the best decision he’d ever made.

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2 thoughts on “Villain, 65

  1. The more we learn about what Solomon was up to, the more clear it is just how clumsy he was at it.

    It’s…almost insulting, honestly. If you’re going to scheme and manipulate your way to power, the least you could do is have the courtesy to be good at it.

    And now Sam and Henry are stuck cleaning up his messes, and deciding how much of them is worth salvaging when they don’t have a complete picture of how they connect to the messes he left elsewhere that they don’t know about yet. Fun.


    1. Yeah, I think it’s increasingly clear that Solomon was really not the evil mastermind people thought he was. He kind of just muddled around and assumed it would work out in the end.

      And now his successors are stuck having to deal with all this shit. It’s like when a relative dies and you have to go through all their stuff and decide what to keep and what not to keep, except a million times worse because Solomon’s stuff is a bunch of vague and seemingly aimless schemes that nobody knows the ultimate goals of, haha.



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