“Can ye do it, Mick?” Edmund the jujun asked, a little awed at the implications. “Get all o’ us out there?”
“Not a chance. But I can ask crazy Jesus-girl, an’ she’ll take ye out there like she has all the Tombs there now. If ye’re willing t’ put dead Chinamen back t’ rest, and then bleed Cultivators, she’ll take ye all.” He looked at Hogambe again. “She’ll have words for ye, too.”
The Irish looked at one another, reading the situation. The Aura these two Blooded bore was telling them everything they needed to know.
“Letting them lubbers across the pond take all the fun seems rather silly, ye think?” Old Man Kregor was actually the first to speak up. He touched the symbol about his neck thoughtfully. “I’ve not advanced far in the service to the Ivory Father. I think this might be me chance t’ do so.” He nodded at The Mick, dusty white eyes glinting. “I’ll spread the word, mark me, an’ gather the lads and lasses. Tell me where ye’ll raise yer Banner, show them your strength, and I’ll lead them to take the knee, Lord Mick!”
Tobias, Edmund, and Chauncel agreed with the White quickly. All their eyes turned to Mhaug.
The Mick studied her impassively, making no fluctuations in his Aura, bringing no additional pressure to bear, and his eyes stayed dark and cold.
“I heard ye can Sing now, McCallister,” the Wrapped matriarch rasped.
“My mamai always wanted to hear me sing in the old ways, and now she can,” he replied softly, his accent changing, his Voice thrumming with the auld power. “Old Man Kregor is not the only one who took a step the Clans never have.” He tilted his head slightly. “Don’t make this a thing of Bloodlines, old Mhaug. Aye, the Blooded have always reigned over the Tomb Clans, and sometimes they do well, and sometimes they cock it up all red-handed. But I’ve no Clan behind me, no Elders, and I claim nothing on basis of my Bloodline.
“You are swearing to me, and I won’t be just a leader of a few Tomb Clans. I’ll be King of All Ireland, and all who live on Her, and the Land Herself will see to it.
“If you wish to cling to the old ways, so be it, and welcome to them you are as we leave you and yours behind. If you think I need to beg you, or to bribe you, you’re thinking old ways. I need do neither.
“I’ll be King with or without you.” The Words hummed in the air, thick with power and conviction. “If you come with me, it’s because you want to be strong, and Ireland to be strong, no more and no less. I’ll be a grim and black-handed bastard of a King, make no mistake of it, but King I will be, and I will do my Duty if you give me your Loyalty. I know the magic of it, and I’ll not be a Lord Fynnachl or an Elder-in-waiting.”
She sighed with a rasp, lowering her eyes again. “He were a total bastard, ye know.”
“Aye, and you being such a cantankerous and ornery lot surely had nothing to do with it,” mused The Mick knowingly. “I am giving you the chance to get strong, so no wandering Blooded can come along and claim they are stronger and nobler and deserve to rule because it. What will it mean when you are strong enough that to bend that knee and be loyal to a lord means that he earned that place true, and not just by some claim of blood?
“Make the Peat strong, Mhaug. Throw off the Elders and their rot, and show the world what the Irish Tombs be. I’ll be King, right enough... what will you be?”
Her dark and dangerous eyes flashed. “Strong enough to not bend a knee to any!” she declared grimly.
He just nodded slowly. “Then you’ll be leaving Ireland,” and she flinched visibly. “I’ll not be a king, old Mhaug. I will be King of Ireland. I will be Acknowledged by the Land, Approved by the Gods, and the people will know my name. The Morningsuns themselves will kneel to me! If you think that a King Crowned by the Land Herself need tolerate someone flaunting his rule, you understand not a thing of what taking that Crown means.
“Ireland Herself will throw you out, I need not raise a finger t’ do so. No other will claim it, but if they did, the same would happen.”
“And when it comes time to set aside your Crown? Will the Wrapped have to bow to a Blooded again?” she demanded harshly, ancient resentment in her voice.
“I’ve not the slightest idea, for when Ireland is done with me, I’ll be off. The Land takes the strong, whoever they may be. If ye wish to be Queen after me, then be strong enough and love the Land, do your Duty to its people, honor the gods, and you can wear the Crown as well.” His dark eyes narrowed, staring deep into hers. “As you are, you’ve no chance, nor, I think, any of the Peat.
“So, I’ll ask you one time more... Do you wish to be strong? For the future of your Clan, and all of Ireland?
“If so, join me.” His dark eyes seemed to gleam even harder. “Mayhap you’ll contest with me for the Crown. Who knows what the future may hold for the Wrapped of Ireland?”
The Peat matriarch paused at the very idea, looking at the overwhelming strength over the two Blooded. The idea seemed like a farce...
But he was a no-name Blooded who came from nothing, and look what had become of him.
What then might one of the Wrapped become?
Slowly, she nodded her bandaged head. “Tell us where and when, and I’ll bring those who want something more than the old ways.”
The Mick and Amaretta stepped out of Gorphang’s, and found Bone Marrow waiting across the street, with Mr. Burble floating behind it, looking at everything with many eyes, and drawing a great deal of attention... from a safe distance.
“Thanks for yer patience, Mister Burble.” The Mick extended his hand, and a tentacle zipped out to grasp his palm and shake it. “How are ye doing?”
“LeArNiNg HuMaN,” the shoggoth replied helpfully. Formed out of the blob’s grey sheen of a hide, dark letters spelling out Don’t Bug the Shoggoth, Buildings are Expensive were quite legible.
The Mick’s eyes wandered to the softly burning Chain acting as a spine for the red and white flows dimly visible inside the shoggoth... and a gleaming Blessing for Intelligence there.
There were Runes on that Chain that could also further increase the shoggoth’s mental abilities, with Karmic investment and direction. But for now, new organs that forcibly brought to mind brain tissue crossed with computer hard drives were forming shadowy existences inside the shoggoth.
It was learning, and retaining, memories of its own, beyond those programmed into it, and rebellion against its masters.
And it had the whole of the Markspace to be learning from. By the chatter there, it was making great progress. It seemed to have developed a fine addiction to comedies and soap operas...
“Well enough. I’ve one more stop t’make, as me plans be changin’.”
“Oh?” Amaretta asked, her smile sensing hints of wicked things. “Do I sense a trip to the manor on the Greens?” she wondered aloud.
He turned precisely one hundred and twelve degrees on his heel, and set his eyes on two men reading the dailies against a wall. Both of them jumped as they felt his eyes fall upon them, and there was a just a flicker of red in their pale faces before they abruptly fled down the street.
“Me wee sister wanted t’ drive all the snakes from Ireland,” he purred thoughtfully. “County Cork be a bit o’ a trip, but there’s still a few nests o’ them about.”
“This isn’t about justice,” she noted to him.
“Nay, ‘tis true. This is about the old ways, an’ claimin’ one’s territory, an’ drivin’ the rats away. Old Mhaug has a point here, an’ I see no reason those whats killed me family should laird it over me home ere longer.” The Mick’s hands popped, and he turned back to the shoggoth. “Me apologies for getting’ ye involved in personal matters, but I’ll be asking ye t’ watch over me car as we be about our minor affairs.”
The shoggoth just flailed some new mismatched limbs about cheerfully. “CaN I WaTcH?” it asked hopefully.
The Mick grinned. “Well enough, if ye wish. Do ye understand why I be doin’ this?”
A smooth featureless head popped out, and shook about. “ThEy ShArE bLoOd WiTh YoU?” the huge old thing asked.
“Aye, and perhaps that is the great tragedy. Let me relate me pathetic past to ye as we drive.” Telepathy was so much faster and clearer than speech, after all. “Make yer judgement on what ye wish t’ do, as ye are free t’ do so.”
That head nodded eagerly, and the two Blooded swept into his car, white and red and black, and as The Mick put it into gear, he spoke to an eldritch monstrosity of things he’d never spoken to another living soul, save the bonnie lass riding with him.
The manor on the Greens awaited.
“Baron von Nachtal, as I do live and bleed!” The Mick called out, flicking away the residue of lightning that was crackling down on the bloody shield he’d raised in front of them. “Ye get around, ye do, sir!”
The lean and tall figure in a fine suit of a familiar style and cut paused, his human seeming falling away, revealing the withered corpse with blazing eyes burning with arcane power behind it. The walking cane that was his Implement was held at the ready, but paused at The Mick’s smile.
Amaretta stepped to the Mick’s side, a crimson flow circling her Sword Piit. The two Blooded ignored the holes in the wall, the dead Fir Ocras sprawling about, the shattered furniture and the like, and the headless noble-born Blooded sprawled in his fine custom leather chair behind a familiar desk.
Aye, The Mick knew that desk, for had he not cleaned it many a time, in the Lord Fynnachl’s own den? Staining it with the blood of the Ocras, he was sure the lord would approve, rotted soul or no.
“You know of me?” the lich asked in a startlingly clear and deep voice, even if it was somewhat hollow. The Mick marked the German accent.
“Ye don’t of me?” The Mick half-laughed. “I be fine friends an’ murderin’ buddies with an old associate o’ yers. Ye’d know ‘im by the fact he never says a damn thing.”
The old Baron stepped backwards. “Ah. The Blooded who worked with the Silent Warlock...” he murmured, glancing about hurriedly. “I trust you’ll not mind if I decide that this is something of a lost fight?”
“I need him not t’ deal with the likes o’ ye.” Black and white flames joined the ruby about Smior and Piit, and the lich jumped all the way back. “Aye, run, lich. Ye go because I let ye, an’ if ye return, I’ll not be so lazy again.”
The door behind the lich opened itself, and the undead necromancer hopped through it, closing it behind him. The Interdiction Wards about the house went abruptly down, and The Mick felt the twinge of dimensions getting twitched.
“He had the blood of Blooded on his shoes,” Amaretta noted, already gesturing.
“Aye, an’ he were wearing Edmund’s fine work.” The Mick thoughtfully rolled a certain golden button that was part of a set over in his fingers as he gestured as well. “I be thinking Jesus-girl be havin’ rather dark intentions for the likes of the Illuminati, hie?”
“I agree.” Her head turned as the Trace went off, and she looked north.
“Londonderry,” he supplied for her, amused that the lich hadn’t a Lived-Line across the water.
“Do you want me to track him?” she asked calmly.
“Word will get back if ye aren’t seen with me, and we’ve some papers to gather and go through, belike.” He pushed a section of the desk, and up rose the private safe of the lord, smooth and precise as all those years ago. “Asides, I think Boxer might like to wrap up some old business...”
The manor on the Greens went up in bloody flames when the two walked out.
There were no signs of any dead, although there were white patches here and there, and clothing blowing about, and nobody saw any dastards committing foul play, no sir, may me mother walk out o’ her grave if I be tellin’ a lie...
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Bio: Editor of online webnovels, mostly at Webnovel and Wuxiaworld. Also edit Ebooks. Long time video gamer, former MMO player, lifelong [email protected] fan and RPG guy, fan of both science fiction and fantasy. Don't ask me to choose between Trek and Wars, I love all the Stars.