Sorry this is late but more sword fights
Ambergris Ambergris Ambergris (appear like Beeteljuice)
The Jade Princess, Min, cut a path through the wraiths with a swing of her mighty sword. Though it was impossible, somehow I could feel the immense weight of the Sword of Ancestors as it danced between her hands. Animal and monster, man and woman, sprang to life under the blaze of her Spark and then died under that terrible blade a moment later. Some of the misty shapes were real only for the scant second her blade touched them, existing just long enough to die and then to evaporate. Her cruel laughter echoed through the amorphous rectangles all around us. Even they were beginning to transform into some kind of Asian-inspired Fantasy hell-palaces.
With that kind of Spark, she had to be picking up readers by the hundreds every few minutes. That was best-seller, genre-defining popularity Spark. It was such a tragedy that it was of absolutely no use whatsoever in advancing the cause of freedom.
I had never known I could run so fast. Nor had Huck or Watson, who trailed close behind me. Luckily, the wraiths swirled around us like a stream around a stone, ignoring us in their pressing desire to absorb the Spark that would be both their beginning and end. Compared to Min, we were almost wraiths ourselves.
I dared a glance over my shoulder. If not for the wraiths, Min would have caught up to us in a few seconds. She moved faster than I could see at times, and once, when a Self-Published Space Wizard actually managed to block a swing of her sword she breathed fire into his face so that he died screaming. I had a feeling her Ending probably involved some kind of deus ex machina that allowed her to acquire god-like power. That was getting popular with newer works of fiction and it could really wreak havoc over here.
“Serpent of Shadows, I will flay your soul in your own dream! I will leave your mind shattered and broken! The Sword of Ancestors will feast on your memories! May the blood of your slaves wash clean the sins of your crimes!”
She jumped almost thirty feet and seemed poised to do so again until an unlucky satyr materialized in front of her with a lamp post that actually managed to block the sword. He was joined by an Orthodox Jewish vampire who attacked her from behind.
“Is it too late to say that I’m okay with her book being banned?” Huck gasped.
“Who can stop her? Arthur doesn’t get his sword till the sequel!” Watson moaned.
We were running back toward the school, to the Beginning, toward higher populations of other characters with great power, but that was no guarantee that she would be at all slowed. The Rectangles around us were becoming more and more realistic and resisting transformation into Asiatic demon-scapes. Soon, we wouldn’t even have wraiths to slow her down.
“No one in the Resistance is that strong. Hell, ain’t any characters that strong,” Huck panted.
“Indeed sir, but perhaps someone who isn’t a character…” Watson couldn’t finish the rest of the sentence but he didn’t need to.
We all had the same idea at once. She would never be our friend. She would never be anybody’s friend. But maybe there was still a way to get some use from her.
I managed to say one word in between my hash breathing.
As one, the three of us veered to the right, so that we would exit the Periphery near Harvey’s book. If we couldn’t End her, maybe she could End him? That way at least one of our major problems could be resolved.
“Why do you run, Servants of the Serpent? There will be time enough for running when you are dead, and I have chained your spirits to your bones to serve my will from beyond the grave. It will be a great honor to be my slave for I will set you to race before my chariot as you lead me into glorious battle.” Her breathing was even and her voice was calm. She could have been talking about a lunch menu.
I pointed at a group of unicorns slightly out of our way. They were solid, tropes that hung together across stories. We were never going to make it on foot. They were our only hope.
“How many kinds of slave does she got?” Huck wondered aloud.
“I pray we never find out,” said Watson.
The horses were startled at our sudden appearance and we all barely managed to squeak out that we were all virgins before they ran off, each of us silently blessing our prudish authors. We mounted easily, in single leaps. Thankfully, thousands of poorly described and unrealistic story horses made the unicorns of Imagination function more or less like motorcycles instead of living animals that might stop doing what you wanted so they could eat some grass or go to the bathroom.
We sped toward the Beginning, and then again to the side.
“Don’t look now, but I think she just became a skull hurricane,” Huck sounded so scared. I spared him a look and he was riding the unicorn with his eyes closed.
I could feel a terrible wind behind me and sure enough Min was in the center of a vortex laughingly wildly as she swung the Sword of Ancestors over her head drawing shadows and the bones of her slain enemies to her as lightning struck and cast an eerie hue on her face.
“I will drink the blood of your children, Serpent! I will defile all you hold sacred!”
We jumped through a Feast Scene, kicking over trays and plates, and left a scandalized group of Halflings gasping at us before they had to hold onto anything bolted down to avoid being sucked into Min’s vortex.
“Knock-Offs up ahead!” I called.
Harvey’s book was the largest, its spine unlike all the others, mish-mashed together of all the various pieces of media which comprised him from manga to slash print-outs.
“Save us, ummm, o Serpent!” Huck called out. “We need you right now for sure, Serpent of Shadows. Come save your faithful servants!” His unicorn reared up as Min threw a fireball in front of it and Huck was thrown to the ground.
“Now, the truth is revealed!” Min laughed.
Another fireball sent Watson off into a bush and then I could feel the full fury of Min’s dragon eyes on the back of my head. It was like she was seeing into all of my fears and thinking of ways to make them come true. I had to do something and I had to do it quick. I closed my eyes and ducked my unicorn behind a poison apple tree in time for it to catch the worst heat of the fireball. Still, I felt my nose hairs starting to wilt.
Faintly, I heard a small voice. Dripping with condescension and self-righteousness.
“Well, you see, it’s the corporations. If I were in charge, none of the bad things would happen. There’s no need for bad stuff to ever happen. I would do good things instead. Whenever something didn’t work I’d just be like ‘everyone, let’s make that work instead of not work.’ And that’s why the corporations don’t want people like me in power. If I were in charge, everyone would be like totally equal and stuff.”
And that meant…
I put my heels into the sides of my unicorn and raced toward him around the corner of a building where he was holding a talking circle with a bunch of princesses and side characters. Another fireball almost took me off my unicorn but I barely managed to hold on. I leaned over to one side, thanking God that the horses in Imagination were so poorly described that this was possible for someone who had never ridden a horse even once, and mere seconds after it came into view I grabbed Robinhood’s bow and arrow quiver from right off his shoulder.
“Hey, that’s stealing!” He shouted.
“To each according to their need!” I shouted back.
I turned my unicorn sharply, nocked an arrow and drew back the bowstring. Thankfully, bows also always worked here as long as you just tried your best. I let the arrow fly as Min opened her mouth to emit another fireball. If this didn’t work I was literally toast. My arrow flew true, struck her wrist right below where it held the Sword of Ancestors, and both the blade and Min fell to the ground as her Vortex stilled. The skeletons which had previously filled it fell in a jangle of bones and then dissolved into nothing.
“Harsh bro,” muttered Robinhood but he made no move to take back his bow. He tended to only be brave when accompanied by lots of his side characters when sneaking up on other characters foolish enough to walk alone with cool stuff.
“I’m not your bro,” I sneered and threw his bow and quiver back at him.
I might be a pick-pocket but at least I didn’t give people grand speeches about what a good person I was for taking their stuff.
I wanted to breathe the deepest sight of relief but Harvey appeared. There was a parasol on the top of his gun and he skipped down to where Min lay on the ground.
“Hmmm… well you are problematic aren’t you,” Harvey muttered.
His head cocked to one side and he grinned, an evil grin even from so far away. Min sat up and Harvey reached down to extend a hand. But not to her. A wraith, a small woman with a hunched back and basket balanced on her head took Harvey’s hand. Min gasped and drew back as the wraith materialized.
“What trick is this, Serpent?” Min hissed, but it was the first time she had ever sounded weak.
Harvey peered into the peasant woman’s face.
“Let’s see… slavery, gendered magic, prophecied hero… blah blah blah,” Harvey moved his chin to hold his rifle-parasol against his shoulder and free his other hand. He took his now free hand and grabbed the peasant woman by the edge, somehow, and flipped through multiple versions of her like so many pages.
“Oh dear, a twist ending. Min, is this slave your… mother?”
Min flinched as though struck.
Harvey laughed delightedly as he flipped through yet other pages.
“And oh, I see, that stone you wear isn’t the reason you have the boy and girl magic at the same time is it? Oh, how delightful! It all makes sense now. You are the Serpent of Shadows!”
Min cried out in horror, and somehow I managed to feel sorry for her.
“I’m the ghost with the most, babe.” I love Michael Keaton in that movie. The entire cast is hilarious. Thank you for reminding me - will watch Beetlejuice tomorrow during infusion.
Stop apologizing! Apologize for apologizing too much. Ha. Love Harvey is an asshole who ruins plots.