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Her sword – the Riches of the City – Peabo’s leaf spring – “It’s all good” –

Her sword the blade of it harshly bright from clean straight quillions set above the glittering wiry net of the guard about her pronated hand up and out to the tip of it quivering just a foot or so from his throat, his chin lifted up and back, his eyes, one blue, one brown, unblinking, fixed on hers. “Gallowglas,” he says, and just the touch of a question to his tone.

“Jesus, girl, put that away!” Vincent, eyes wide, beside them.

“You lied to me,” she says, to Lymond, to the King.

“I assure you, we have not.”

Her other hand still wrapped in that bloodstained towel held low, fingers and thumb clamped tightly about the chiseled teeth of that skull mask, the mane of it dangled just above the puddled floor. “You kept things from me,” she says.

“We have been as clear and open in our dealings as any ruler might,” he says, but she’s lurched forward and a whick of her wrist that shivers the sword to whip the tip of it snag and slice, he jerks back hand up across to clutch his shoulder sleeve there torn, and a yelp from Vincent. Jo lowers her hilt, draws back her blade, the tip of it dulled by a smear of red.

“But I showed you that the day you took your charge from me,” says Lymond.

“What the hell,” says Vincent, off to the side, as “You didn’t tell me,” says Jo. “You didn’t tell me what it means. That you could take this from me!” Hoisting the mask, the mane of it limply swaying. “That all this time you could’ve done this shit yourself!”

“Huntsman,” he says, “your grace,” lifting his hand from his shoulder to hold it slickly red between them, there by the mask, “even if this meant what you think,” wincing as he grips his wound once more, “I could not hold your office. A king might no more be gallowglas, than a gallowglas a king.”

Vincent, stepping close, says, “Let me take a look at that,” but Lymond turns his shoulder away, “Dad, please,” he says, and then, “Jo. You took this office from my mother’s hand. You sought the mask yourself, and you’ve done well by it, and yet – if I could take it from you?” She’s lowering her blade as he steps toward her, and reaches out his free hand to grasp hers wrapped in the bloodstained towel, and the mask a-sway between them. “But I can’t,” he says. “You are the Huntsman. The hunt is yours.” Removing his bloodied hand once more from his shoulder, folding it with his other about her makeshift bandage. “But,” and he takes in a deep breath. “It’s your other office that concerns us, now. You were missed at court, yesterday.”

“Luys,” she says, a croak of a word.

“The Mason was game, but we needed Southeast,” he says. She looks away, steps back, tugging free her hand, her sword and the mask held low as she’s shaking her head, “Jo Gallowglas,” says Lymond, “there is a threat, to your quarter, and our Queen. We understand you wish to set aside your duties; we sought you out today to ask you to come back with us, to,” he blinks, a hint of a frown, “where it all began,” he says, “to, to Goodfellow’s house. We would go to Goodfellow’s house. To show you something there, of duty, and our need. Shall we dress our wounds, and go?”

Her back to them both she lifts up her bandaged hand and holds the mask there a moment, then lets it drop, clack, to the floor, that mane slumping in a tangle. “How’d you know you’d find me here?”

“Christ,” growls Vincent, “you have any idea the ruckus you made with that thing? All anybody’d have to do is follow the damn rain.”

“Yeah?” says Jo, looking back, over her shoulder.

“He called me,” says Lymond. Jo nods at that. “While he was getting the bourbon,” she says. “I didn’t know you guys were speaking to each other.” Vincent, glowering, shakes his head, “You scared the living hell out of me, girl,” he says. “Coming in like that.”

“I’m sorry,” says Jo, looking down. “I’ll go with you, majesty, but first,” lifting her red-shoed foot.

She lifts her foot, she brings it down, a stomp of a step on the mask, crack. It breaks, snap a jagged feathery line of torn papier-mâché from jutting tooth a-curl through cheekline up to wrench an empty eye-hole apart, that last clinging twist of forehead parting as she kicks the pieces away, dead black hair whirling petals skidding through rainwater clink against the mirrored wall.

“I won’t kill anyone else,” says Jo. “Not for you, not for anybody. Not ever again.” Looking up to the King. “We still good?”

He lifts his head, a slow nod, “The hunt is yours, as you see fit, Huntsman,” he says.

“Yeah, well,” she says, and a restless slash of her sword before she heads, abruptly, out through the doors, into the hall.

“I’ll send someone round to clean this up,” says Lymond, after a moment. “It’ll be like it never happened.” And then, “Dad?” But Vincent doesn’t turn to him, or nod or shake his head. He’s still staring at the pieces of that mask.

“Thank you, Mayor Beagle,” says the man at the one end of the stage, as the woman, by far the slightest figure up there, settles back on her stool, her suit a royal purple, a weighty pearl necklace draping her black turtleneck. Sipping some water as the applause smatters away. “Mr. Killian,” says the man at the end of the stage, looking down the line of them. “Your response?”

One of the men stands up from his stool, quite tall, his suit more grey than navy, features sharp, “Thank you,” he says. His narrow black-rimmed glasses like a squint. “And I’d like to thank the Mayor, of course, for such a sterling example of the consistency, of leadership, she provides. And for all the differences we each may have with her,” a sweep of his arm for the rest of them on their stools lining the stage, the high white columns behind, “we must admire that consistency. You can almost set your watch by the moment when, in a soaring bit of oratory, she will reach into her pocket, as she just did, and pull out those stirring words attributed to Charles Erskine Scott Wood,” he spares a smile for her behind him, “Good citizens are the riches of a city. It’s a fine line; a noble sentiment – so much so it’s inscribed on the base of Skidmore Fountain, just a few blocks away.” Looking out over the audience, past the bright lights. “Certainly, we’ve a great many riches piled up in here tonight.” A chuckle stumbles through the crowd, trips over itself, falls away. The man in a neatly pressed plaid shirt on the stool by the Mayor scribbles a quick note to himself. “But my response? Well, your honor, fellow candidates, City Club,” spreading his hands, taking them all in, “so what.” Letting his hands fall. “So what,” he says, again, into the dead silence of the hall. “Four thousand people out there in this rich city, tonight, will sleep without a bed of their own. Less than two thousand will have a bed at all, in one of our overburdened shelters. Seven hundred families, with children, out there, tonight, without a home. Tomorrow, seventy thousand people will wake up in this city to go out and try to find a job, any job, and another hundred and forty thousand will go to work in jobs far beneath their abilities, for much less than they’re worth. And thirty thousand people out there, thirty thousand good citizens, have given up looking for work at all. Is this,” looking about the dark hall, “how we spend,” stepping up, toward the edge of the stage, away from the other candidates, “our riches?” He lifts his hands, presenting his point: “We can’t keep on like this,” he says, a clipped statement of fact, the edges of his words a bit dulled by amplification. “Good citizens are the riches of a city, it’s true,” he says, “but it’s not enough to pile them up and dust off our hands and say we’re done. Riches – wealth – must be invested. Put to work. To make this city bigger, better, richer than before. Good citizens of Portland!” And he lifts his voice, and his hands. “Let’s put ourselves to work!”

It’s a moment before the applause begins, and swells.

“No, no,” says Lymond, “this way,” and Jo turns from the porch to follow him down a walkway along the front of the big white ramshackle house, perched high above the corner, the sidewalk, the cars parked below. Tiny colored lights string bannisters and window frames, and candles burn on sills, but no movement’s glimpsed behind gauzy curtains, no shadows on drawn blinds. Lymond turns into a darkly narrow alley between houses, lined with rolling garbage cans of green and blue, a neat rank of yellow recycling bins half-filled with empty bottles. “Anybody home?” says Jo. Instead of her bloodstained coat she wears an oversized hoodie, hands stuffed deep in the pockets. Lymond’s already around behind the house. No walkway here, just a sketch of a path leading steeply down, between concrete foundation and ivy-laddered fence. “This way,” he calls, already down where the path peters out on the sidewalk. He’s swapped his torn yellow shirt for a hoodie of his own, pulled up over his shock of hair, a darkly anonymous silhouette. Dirt scrabbles as she hurries after almost to slam into him, stood waiting, hand on the knob of a red-painted door. She looks out at the parked cars, the empty intersection, the old green house cater-cornered across, first storey thicketed with scaffolding. “Could’ve just walked down the sidewalk,” she says.

“Then this might not’ve been here,” says Lymond, opening the door.

Down a couple of steps into a basement apartment and a crowd about, chatting quietly, couches and sofas, small tables with flickering candles, “On water lying strong ships,” someone’s saying, quite loudly, a guy lit up in the corner, “and men in weakness skilled reach elsewhere: no prouder places from home in bed the mightiest sleeper can know,” he’s reading, from a slender book held theatrically. “This simple joy,” murmurs Lymond, leaning close. “To walk into a room, and not be known. To not be, for a moment, King. Or Duchess.” Straightening as that guy in the corner belts out, “but a fountain without source, legend of mist and lost patience,” and somebody’s making his way toward them, a small man all in black, spreading welcoming hands. “Never lasts, of course,” says Lymond.

“You majesty,” says the man all in black, “your grace,” quietly, unobtrusively. “What a surprise.”

“Pleasant, I hope,” says Lymond.

“My house would brook no other kind. Food? Drink? A bit of poetry?” That guy in the corner’s emphatically declaiming, “And the dusty eye whose accuracies turn watery in the mind,” as Lymond shakes his head, “Just a bit of business upstairs, if we might. Perhaps after?”

“Ah, if after’s but perhaps, might I bend your ear before?”

Lymond looks to Jo, who shrugs. That guy in the corner holds up his book, “Like an island with no water round in water where no land is!” The applause is sparse. More people are looking to them by the door, as Lymond and Robin Goodfellow head off to one side, someone’s waving, getting up from a couch, it’s Becker, beaming, and Pyrocles in his blue suit getting to his feet, ducking his head in a bow as Jo holds out her hand for a shake, “Your grace,” he murmurs, and then Becker’s wrapped his arms about her in a sudden clap of a hug, “Damn, it’s good to see you!”

“You look, you look good,” she says, “is that a beard?” What’s left of his hair’s slicked back, and his loose shirt’s of a berry-colored plaid, “Life as a duchess must treat you right,” he’s saying.

“It’s,” says Jo, looking away a moment, the guy over there’s saying, “a custard made from the pink powder bought at the store,” and she takes a deep breath, “it’s a challenge,” she says, a half-hearted gesture, a deprecated smile.

“How does Peabo’s leaf spring by you, lady?” says Pyrocles.

“The what now?” says Becker, looking to him. “You’re fixing her car?” Back to Jo. “You have a car?”

“He means my sword,” says Jo. “It,” she looks down a moment. “It’s done everything I’ve asked. You’re, ah, your hammer’s true, Anvil.”

He smiles. “Your grace is kind.”

Over there, Lymond’s shaking Robin’s hand, “I think that’s my cue,” says Jo, stepping back. “Business upstairs.”

“Well,” says Becker, “come back down when you’re done!”

“We’ve been told there’ll be dancing,” says Pyrocles.

“If we don’t have to take off,” says Jo, “I’ll come back down, sorry,” she nearly bumps into, steps around a stolid woman swathed in pearly grey, her dark hair tiny screws, “but this custard is too fine!” cries that guy in the corner. “Sorry,” says Jo, past a dark man draped in a long white shawl, a shirtless woman, arms bound in pink fishnet, a man in beige fleece checking his watch by a man trussed in slashed denim and electrical tape. There’s Lymond, holding out a hand. “Shall we?” he says.

Up a tightly switchbacked flight of stairs, walled in framed illustrations of moths as if specimens pinned to the paper, colors of earth and stone and bark and dying leaves, there’s silver though, and neon spots of pink and yellow, and now white gold and tiger-stripes, butterflies in a sunburst of orange that cools through ruby and amethyst to emerald, sapphire, onyx, and at the very top a cloud of opals about a door that opens on a toothpaste-colored kitchen, brightly empty. “Beer?” says Lymond, opening the fridge.

“If you think it’ll help.”

“Can’t hurt,” he says, handing her a bottle. “Through here,” and a gesture with his.

The wide room beyond, windows lit with candles and strings of light, the hearth at one end cold, swept clean, and nothing else but the upright sword out in the middle of the floor, a neat ring of charcoal burnt about it, the blade of it straight, the hilt wrapped in white leather yellowed with hard use. “Marfisa’s sword,” says Lymond.

“I figured it had something to do with this.”

“You’ve seen it before, I know.”

“I was here when it happened.” She swigs from her bottle. “Well. Not in the room.”

“Six months, it’s stood there, and no one will go near it. Rather crimps Goodfellow’s style.” He hunkers down, there by the blade, careful of the char. “She could put out her hand whenever she wished, and draw it forth,” a gesture with his bottle, “but instead, she’s made do all this time with a bat, and a mask.”

“She’s pretty damn good with the bat.”

“She’s an outlaw, and she steals from you.”

“Oh, Jesus, it’s a,” waving her bottle, “grief she’s got, with one of the guys. Chilli. The Harper. Kind of an asshole. She’s trying to make him look bad – whatever she takes, we’ve covered.”

“Have you spoken yet, with Gwenders?” he says, and as her frown turns quizzical, he shakes his head. “You should’ve been at court, yesterday.” Rocking back to sit upon the floor. “You might replace the owr, but not morale, or respect. You must put a stop to this.”

“And I told you,” says Jo, looking away, out a window. “No more assignments. No little chats. I’m done.”

“I don’t mean a hunt, Jo. Or a duel. Even with the mask, you’d be hard-pressed to take her. No,” setting his bottle down, pushing up on a knee, “I’d have you bring her back. Go and speak with her. Tell her: put out your hand. Take up this sword. Be our Axe, once more.”

“And that’s it,” says Jo. Still looking out the window. “Just like that, she’s back in it.”

“She exiled herself,” says Lymond, getting to his feet. “She’s the one to undo it.”

Jo throws back the last of her beer, turns away from the window, her face in shadow, “Why do you do this?” she says, and a wave of the empty bottle. “You’re not one of them!”

And Lymond laughs, a sudden gut-busting eruption that knocks back his head, rocks him back a step, “Jo,” he says, catching his breath. “I’m the King!” That sword, shining behind him. “And kings are among the loneliest people in this world.” Stepping close, a hand to her shoulder, “It’s perhaps why we so treasure our friends. Take your time; think on this charge. Go home to sleep on it, if you would. Come find me when you’ve made your call.” Lifting his half-full bottle, waiting, until she desultorily clinks hers against it, and then, with a nod, he turns to go.

She watches him walk away, loosely waving her empty bottle about, until he’s stepped through the doorway to the kitchen, and then, a swing of her arm, “You son of a,” but she doesn’t let go, doesn’t throw, turns about. Crouches, leans forward on her knees, close by the sword. The steel of it sleek, whitely silver in the lights, but brightness snags in sparks from dings and nicks in the edges, and scoring the face. “Somebody’s been busy,” she says, reaching out a hand, settling, with a ripple of her fingers, about the yellowed hilt. Squeezing, bracing herself, but she doesn’t pull, doesn’t shift it, doesn’t move it at all. Lets go. “Shit,” she says, pushing up on her feet, stalking back to the window. Heel of her hand against the frame. Forehead against the back of her hand.


She pulls back, blinking. A golden watch, waggled right by her face. “Let’s go,” and the watch drops away, “Wait,” she says, “wait – what time is it?”

“Come on.” He’s in the shadows at the foot of the stairs.

“Come on where,” she says, heading over, heading up after him. “What the fuck is going on?”

“It’s Becker. We’ve only got a few minutes.”

“What, what about Becker? Hey!” The syllable flatly loud as she springs after him, grabs a wrist. “The hell time is it?”

Jerking his hand free, “It’s not that kind of watch,” he says. Tugging a white cuff over the face of it. “Listen,” he says, coming down a step closer to her. “I can talk just about anybody into almost anything, you give me room enough to work. But what I can’t do,” taking her hand in his, “what I can’t do is actually talk somebody into actually falling asleep. Just not boring enough, I guess. So I slipped him a mickey. He’s hitting stage three any minute now, and you need to be as close as possible when that happens. Okay?”

She nods, slowly, in the dim hallway. Looks back, the light coming up from the stairwell there, and shadows all about from fleshy lobes and fronds, and curling stalks that grow in ghostly patches up and down the wall. Someone yells below, a floor or more below, and a crash. “I think the Anvil might maybe’ve figured out Becker isn’t coming back with that martini, so we’ve got time pressure from a couple of vectors, can we,” she nearly trips over a ruck in the rug as he tugs her in his wake, “I think it’s,” stopping by a doorway clustered about with mushroom caps brown and black and grey, trembling, a scramble up the wall, fishscale gleam and a flicker of too many legs. “Yeah,” he says, turning the knob, but “David,” says Jo, “wait. Something’s – off.”

“Listen,” says Kerr, a flash of anger, suddenly smothered. “What he’s got? What he has, it can’t stand what isn’t right. What doesn’t belong. And what’s in you,” he taps her, once, on the chest, she winces, “that doesn’t belong anywhere. Ever. At all. So.” He opens the door.

Shelves lined with the thin spines of vinyl records, and a low-slung hifi cabinet, and Becker sprawled on the carpet before it, headphones on his berry-plaid chest, the coils of its cord, mouth open, eyes closed, an etched glass goblet overturned by nerveless fingers.

“He’s okay,” says Kerr, reaching back for her, but “whoa,” he says, “whoa!” drawn back, she’s wavering in the doorway, head drifting back and blinking forth, in her hand the hilt of her sword, and the blade of it scribing drunken loops and curls. “Jesus!” says Kerr. A slam somewhere below, another shout. “Put that away,” he says, reaching carefully this time to pull her inside, closing the door quickly, quietly, click. “You don’t need it,” he says. “It’s all good.”

“I can’t,” says Jo, planting after a moment the swordpoint in the carpet by Becker’s foot. “I can pull it out, but I still can’t,” legs folding, a slow-motion crash to her knees, “put it back, it goes wild, I might,” a deeply shuddering sob, “I might hurt, somebody,” leaning her weight on the sword like a staff, coughing up a laugh.

“It’s okay,” says Kerr, “it’s all right, it’s all good,” helping her to lie down by Becker, chiming clank as her sword falls to the carpet, he doesn’t fight her as she grabs for the hilt of it, drawing it close, he’s gently shifting Becker to lay his head atop Jo’s chest, Becker stirring, mumbling, homina frazz, “There,” says Kerr, soothingly stroking Becker’s cheek with the back of his hand. “There. It’s all good.” Another door slams, out in the hall now. “Becker!” the roar, and a murmur too low to make out much more than reassurance. Jo closes her eyes. “Here we go,” says Kerr, softly, kneeling over them both, hands held out above them, just in case, footsteps without and the doorknob rattles, someone’s pounding, “mongoose is go,” says Kerr, eyes widening, fingers trembling, “oh,” as thunder bursts, and Avery stops, a hand on the passenger door, as Killian in his grey suit ignores the thunder, smiling for the three or four photographers on the sidewalk, and Vincent pauses, bottle in one hand, cork in the other, then pours more whiskey into his mug as thunder shakes the futon frame to scrape the blue wood floor in that high blue room, Ellen a shadow on those sheets white in the streetlight, thunder troubles the garbage piled about Lake crouching lank-haired, naked, over Jessie sprawled in sleep, and Moody wakes with a start under blue plastic, balling his fists over his ears as the thunder swells, and Petra B. looks away from her phone in that windowless room, to one of the garbage bags piled with the others, and gold-crusted fingers digging, working, snarling against the throat she’s kissing Chrissie grunts and clenches, straining with the thunder to let out a settling breath, and Linesse steps and turns and throws a punch, then draws back, scowling at the Dagger beside her, blue-black fist unthrown, as thunder shakes the lights above them, and the jangle of chains, explosive fluttering, keening screams as Gordon walks the line of cages, soothing, shushing under the thunder the pianos draped in darkness unmoving but the strings shiver within, a polyphonic chorus to haunt the room, as the doorknob crunches, and Lymond throws open the door, and the thunder claps and rumbling dies away.

“Beloved!” cries Pyrocles, filling the doorway behind him. “Majesty, is he,” but Lymond’s sagging, slumping, collapsing to the carpet there by Becker, and the headphones, and the goblet, and Pyrocles falls back. “No,” he’s saying, out in the hall, “oh, my Becker, oh no, my King,” his back against the wall, papered with intricate art nouveau browns and beiges, greens in abstractly fungal patterns, shot through with silver threads.

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There is no Land Yet,” written by Laura Riding, ©1970. “The Flying Attic,” written by Anonymous, copyright holder anonymous.

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