Finding Gratitude, Part 27

The first guard went down in silence.

The second the same.

Third and fourth were slammed together before they could raise the alarm.

On and on we went. Number twelve saw the flash of a blade, and had to be locked in a broom closet. Twenty-six was thrown down a flight of stairs, and had to be tended for a nasty head wound.

We were just breaking into the mayor’s residence. We weren’t going to kill anyone we didn’t have to.

I wish I knew how the mayor felt. I imagine she started to rouse when some extra pressure settled on the bed. When the blade tapped her on the head, she awoke. And when she found her dagger under her pillow missing, and the charms from her bedside table absent, she stiffened in fear.

I held out my hand, and smiled. “Mayor Gianna, we haven’t met. My name is Emelia.”

Sela kept her blade trained on the mayor. Lana crouched at the edge of the bed, and kept an eye and ear out for anyone who even breathed wrong.

Gianna was exactly like Sela had described. She was calm, and composed, rising to a sitting position. She took my hand, firm while not trying to break anything. “Green Witch, I presume?”

“Not tonight. Taking a night off from superheroing after a long day. Just wanted to say hello, and pay my respects to the leader of our new home.”

“Pleasure.” Her words were tight, measured.

I smiled. “I like Gratitude. Or rather, most of it. You seem to actually work to combat some of the worst parts of politics. There doesn’t seem to be a trace of racism, or species discrimination.”

Lana cleared her throat. I winced, and nodded. That was something that we’d have to return to again and again. But it was worth it.

“Women can find work just as often as men. There actually are some opportunities to work together here.”

“I have several ideas on how we can…”

“Like cleaning up the sheriff’s office. Or reforming the union workers on the dock so they don’t take so much graft. Or run a sex trafficking ring out of a damn harbor.”

Gianna looked at me. I didn’t look like it, but I listened.

“You think you know everything. You have no clue what it takes to run a city.”

“You’re right, I don’t.” I said. “And I’m not saying we’re in charge, or you better hold to our code, or anything dumb like that. I just wanted to let you know, we’re not going to let things slide. Purse snatchers, wife beaters, the dumb crimes will be treated just the same as one of your cronies engineering a kickback for poisoning kids.”

“We take it personally when kids are involved,” Sela said. “Something a bit too close to home.”

“There are compromises we could make.” Gianna said. “But I won’t do it at the point of that sword.”

I really needed to learn more about Sir Violet. “Ok.”

Sela lifted her hand, and sheathed the blade. “We just wanted a chance for a chat. We didn’t even kill any of your men.”

“Thank you?”

“You’re welcome!” I smiled to Sela. “I told you she could be reasonable.”

“Surprised me too.”

“It was so nice to meet you,” I said. “I can’t wait to see what happens next. Have a wonderful evening.”

Gianna nodded. “Good night. And likewise.”

I got up off the bed. Handed Lana the mayor’s knife, and patted her on the head.

“Just once, in the arm or leg. And don’t nick anything important.”

“What?” Gianna shouted. Lana stabbed down in the mayor’s left bicep. She didn’t tear through the arm. Just a quick strike, in and out.

“I did promise.” Sela said.

Gratitude was going to be fun.

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

Finding Gratitude, Part 26

I don’t know what’s more exhausting. Fighting a wyvern, or having to walk down three-hundred and sixty-six steps to get back down afterwards.

It took longer than I had expected. Every floor just seemed so…fascinating. The wyvern wasn’t one to keep an untidy lair. There was gold, and mattresses, and empty floor upon empty floor. Once we got past the first few floors, there was just so much space.

More than enough for a group of heroines to set up in.

“There’s no one around here,” Sela said.

“They’ll come back.” I said. “No wyvern to terrorize them.”

“Right. Just the three tiny girls who killed that wyvern.”

“Who everyone will think will just roll over.” I said. “Like our dear mayor.”

“That bi-”

“Come on, Sela.” I said. “I don’t act like it, but I’m still a kid.”

“Not after today,” she said. “You’re not getting treated like a kid much longer.”

“Dang.” I looked through the window. Lana was coming back, and with friends. That weird crow boy was back, as well as some other bird-people. “It looks like Lana made friends last night. Did you?”

Sela shrugged. “Maybe. Hard to tell. You?”

“Same.” I sighed, and we made it down another flight of stairs. “So what do you think, stay?”

“It’s your call, fearless leader.”

I thought about it. Gratitude was going to fight us every step of the way. I didn’t imagine we could get real jobs, or try and pretend we were anything but what we set out to be. Maybe, if we just toed the line. But I couldn’t do that.

There were good people in Gratitude. They just kept their mouths shut, and hoped to live through the night.

“We stay.” I said. “And give everyone a chance.”

Sela nodded. She reached down, and grabbed her mask. She tossed it into the first floor room. “Then we shouldn’t need those.”

Right. Superheroes may need masks. Defenders with nothing but heroing didn’t.

We kicked open the door. A crowd had gathered outside the spire. They looked expectant, confused. There had been a battle with the wyvern, and something had happened. But what?

I looked around. Lana landed a bit of a ways away. She struggled up to us, her leg freshly bandaged. The crow boy winked, and spun away. Another question for another day.

I sighed, and looked out at the crowd. “My name is Emelia. This is Lana, and Sela. We’re also the Green Witch, Darkling, and Lady Violet. We killed the wyvern.

“This place is safe now, all of it. If you want to come in, and work an honest day, know you have protectors. If you want to push drugs, or run a protection racket, or hurt anyone, look elsewhere.

“We just came to Gratitude. We like it here, and hope to make it even better. If any of you have a problem with that… well…”

I smiled. “We don’t care.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder