Amy shoved the spear into its eye. It sunk into the corner, deeper than any of her other strikes.
Though I couldn’t see it, I felt the air thicken with its being. Flashes of memories of faces that other people had loved or hated passed through my mind, followed by moments of terror and a vision of The Thing’s teeth.
The Thing tried to pull away, but Amy stepped forward, pushing the spear in further. It reached out its hand, grabbing the spear, but it did that about the same time that I shoved my sword into its other eye, pushing it as deep as I could and willing the flames to burn hotter.
More warmth flowed through me and flame burned the skull, starting from the inside out. Eyes, ears, and mouth blackened first, fire pouring out of the openings.
Amy kept her spear in at first, but pulled it out as seams of red appeared on its skull and the skin began to burn all at once.
Then the head became a burning skull, mouth open in a silent scream for a few seconds before the skull disintegrated, turning into sparks and ash.
Andronicus lay on the ground where the The Thing had stood. I couldn’t say with any confidence whether he was dead or alive. He had his own head at least.
The sparks floated away, but burned themselves out before they reached the grass.
As the last one burned out, I noticed that whatever I’d been feeling in the air was gone.
Knowing what I’d seen, I couldn’t be sure if that was its soul or the remains of the essences of all the beings that it had eaten. Some mixture of both seemed likely.
They’d deserved better.
“Well done,” Amothel changed from an eagle with golden flecked wings to whatever she was—elf or half-elf in a quick shapeshift that left my stomach queasy.
“We followed you, but had to protect a ward from vampires. They’d used their influence to compel mortals to attack the ward with a bulldozer.” She gave a brief, flat smile.
“We?” I asked.
“Myself and the Graffiti Knight as you call him here.” She glanced over at Amy. “You should tend to your friend. She doubtless has something to say before she dies.”
“Dies?” I stared at Amy. She’d sat down on the grass, holding herself upright with the spear. Her face, the part the helmet didn’t hide, had a gray tone.
“Dies,” Amy said. She said it without any fear that I could hear. “It happens to all of us, and I’m more than aware of what happens after—you’re reborn in the body of a younger, more naive relative.”
She shook her head. “I should have guessed how hard that thing could hit. You remember when I absorbed their powers? It was amazing. They’re unstoppable.” She grinned, “But we stopped it and I think we might have stopped it forever this time. The Bloodmaiden has never had access to Lee—not that way.”
She coughed. Drops of blood flew from her mouth. One of them ran down her chin.
Vaughn walked across the grass, beginning to run when Amy had said “Dies.” It wasn’t much of a run. As tired as he was, it struck me as more of a quick stumbling.
He turned to Amothel. “You’re a wizard. Do something!”
Amothel shook her head. “Those wounds are beyond my ability.”
He said something else, but I missed it. I’d started to think about when we’d fought mind controlled heroes of Cabal descent at the Stapledon program. Amy had absorbed their powers, but she’d stopped before she killed them.
I stepped closer, grabbed the spear below the blade and moved it into my left bicep, not putting any serious force behind it. I wanted it to make me bleed, not make a hole that would need stitches.
It ignored my armor as if didn’t exist, moving through it without damaging it or even scratching it.
“Rocket!” Amy shouted as it bit into my skin.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Pull it out when you’re not in danger.”
But it was not okay. Though I couldn’t say how I knew it, the spear felt hungry, draining what? My soul? I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I felt colder. Any thoughts I might have had about pulling the spear away from my arm went away as everything around me began to dim. Not that there was much light to begin with, but my HUD had been doing a good job of amplifying what light there was.
I needed to brighten the screen because I could barely see it.
In the distance, Amy said, “I can’t stop it. I’m too hurt. That’s why I didn’t use it!”
Vaughn replied, but I couldn’t make out the words.
As everything turned black, another voice, this one calm and confident, said, “No.”
I knew the voice, but I couldn’t place it. As I tried, warmth filled my body and I could see again. I must have fallen at some point, but hadn’t noticed. So, when I opened my eyes, the HUD showed me stars, all of them bright and burning light years away from me.
They were probably safer that way.
Much closer than even the nearest star, Lee stood above me, black hair in a ponytail and not holding a sword or even a knife for a change.
Amy and Vaughn stood next to him. Amy glowered at me.
I pushed myself off the grass to stand next to them. I felt great, better than I had before I fell.
Amy banged on my armored shoulder with her gauntlet. “What were you thinking? I could have killed you.”
I shrugged. “I didn’t want you to die.”
She let out a breath and shook her head.