The Account of the Damned Chapter 3: Shards of Red

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A week after I had been re-limbed, things were approaching…as normal as they were liable to get, though Enyo had to be beaten away with a stick before she’d leave me to resume my duties. And everyone else’s duties.

It felt like damn near anyone else of serious importance was laid up or drowning in paperwork, a terrible obligation that I had not managed to evade even the slightest by being conveniently crippled. Quite the opposite, really; since Arty was still out after her lengthy brush with the Grand Terrible Asshole of the World, and the High Inquisitor was ALWAYS up to her mosquito bites in paperwork even without the world ending beneath her, I had a stack that was literally as tall as I was waiting in the office once I finally returned.

Naturally, I had resolved to put THAT nonsense off as long as possible, load as much as I could on Enyo, and shred about half of the rest. The tactic had served me as well as any sword. No, for the time being, I…

Today, I decided I’d bug Arty.

Her room in the hospital wing seemed brighter than mine, as I stepped over the threshold. Her Majesty and the rest of the Pure Bloodline Crew had rooms set aside from them, the ones the sun caught just a touch better. The ones with slightly newer paint, slightly nicer beds. I would have resented that a few days ago, but I’d gone back to not caring now that I wasn’t stuck in a bed nearly soiling myself.

…Her hair was down, and it suited her. Didn’t see her that way often, it was…probably nearly as long as mine was, and you’d never guess. It looked a little pale, a bit too white – for that matter, so did she. Not quite all there at the moment, either, as she sat and stared out the window. It was hard to blame her - apparently the extraction team didn’t find her until a few days after Walpurgisnacht, just…standing there in the Point in a sea of grief seeds, murmuring. The squad with her was gone, but frankly, none of us were worried about whether Arty herself would come back.

And at the risk of sounding cold, we got a massive load of grief seeds out of the deal. Walpurgisnacht tended to be good for that, if nothing else.

I landed on the bed next to her with a pomf and a squeak, and she jumped, her hand snapping to where her scabbard would usually be. Whoops.

“Quite a welcome, Highness. You look, if I may, like hell warmed over.” I smiled and tried to play it off. She didn’t seem amused.

“It’s good to see you on your feet. In a manner of speaking.” When she spoke, it was slow and careful; she was biting back some barely-restrained irritation. Good, good. Arty was probably going to be alright. “We were…worried. That you wouldn’t be fit for duty anymore.” After a moment, she added, “Not that that’s…the only reason.”

“I know, I know. I’m not sure what I’d do, either, if it weren’t for…well.” I raised a blacksteel hand and wiggled my fingers. “…So, how’d it go? Run into any interesting witches? Mine, maybe? Always wanted to see what she’s like. Probably awesome.” Probably like a terrible monster of blood and steel and fucking chainsaws.

“That isn’t funny.”

“…No, it isn’t.” My smile faltered a bit, and there was a flicker of sympathy in her eyes.

“The truth of it is, I don’t remember much. Fighting with the puella I’d chosen to bring along with me, a…witch, of a rather personal nature. No, it wasn’t yours. …I’d rather not discuss it. And…” A flicker of hesitation, and the reassurance that Arty was still a terrible liar. “…I don’t remember much else before the extraction team arrived and I awoke back in the castle.”

I decided not to press her too much. Lord knows I didn’t want to talk about work too much, either.

“Didja talk to what’s-her-face yet, then? She know you made it out okay?” One of Arty’s…well, to be blunt, rare friends, apparently met her during one of those days we sent her off to the city to not work for a change. I think she was from the…Seventeenth? Sixteenth? Was there anyone in the Eighteenth? Couldn’t be the Fourteenth, probably wasn’t…bugger, doesn’t matter.

“…I’d like to wait for Doctor Liddell to finish picking my brain apart, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones with a lot to deal with.” I tried not to sigh, and made a note to get ahold of Frito or whatever her name was and let her know that Arty hadn’t kicked the bucket. Easier said than done. Without stealing Arty’s phone.

I made a note to steal Arty’s phone.

“She says you can’t avoid her forever, by the by,” she continued after a moment. “The doctor, I mean. I imagine she’ll start showing up in your doorway at night soon.”

I nodded absently – yes, that was about what I expected. Maybe best to bite the bullet. Or lock the-no, that wouldn’t work. Piss.


A few minutes passed as Arty returned to staring out the window, something inscrutable bubbling through her mind. I did the same, with a bit more scruting.

I still wanted to pay Elcarys a visit, and…Enyo and I really needed to have a talk that I had no idea how to touch. This was a lot easier when we just killed witches, wasn’t it? …I wasn’t sure I had time for either today, or even in the immediate future. I’d have to check in with El before the Grand Post-WPN Dickwave, at least.

“…The flesh of the fallen angels,” Arty murmured, snapping me out of my little reverie. I had to ask her to repeat it, to make sure I’d heard it correctly. “You remember it, don’t you? From training?”

…Of course I did. It was part of the…rhetoric that the old High Marshall had been spouting, after she went nutters but before Gerty booted her and her cult out. The Lady Ahriman’s gospel. At length, I nodded, and she nodded back.

“It’s been on my mind lately. Since…” Her voice was uncharacteristically quiet, and I nodded again. …I could swear I’d heard whispers of it in my dreams, too, under the screaming. The little, niggling sounds that don’t even strike you as memorable until suddenly they’re crystal clear.

“…It isn’t normal, Raleigh.” She pursed her lips, and…well. I’d known Arty Pendragon a long time. We’d contracted at nearly the same time; we were basically kids when we started training in the Templars, and even then, I’d only seen fear on her face twice.

Three times, now.

“…The Realm’s hard on everyone. Walpurgisnacht, doubly so. You’re a bit fucked in the head right now because…Lady knows how long you were actually in there, or what actually happened. But you made it out, yeah? Just…” I tried to think of something adequate to say. A kinder lie, something at least a little convincing.

“Just don’t dwell on it. Something in there struck a nerve, happens to everyone. Even me, now and again.” I winked at that and patted her shoulder, and she bristled a little. Good. I had no idea what I’d do if she started crying or something. Probably check to see if I was in a barrier. Or if I’d died and hadn’t…I could be a witch RIGHT NOW and not even realize it.

No, that was not a rabbit hole I was at all comfortable with going down.

I forced a smile and pushed myself to my feet.

“I’ll be acting in your stead as an aide and whatnot, so if you need anything done in an official capacity…I can grossly misuse my new power and make it happen. Until you’re feeling fit to fly again, at least.”

She didn’t smile at that, either. As expected of Her Majesty.


It was cold, I realized. A delayed, dim sort of realization that sinks in after the weight of a situation fills you, after dread has ever-so-slightly loosed its grip on your heart. It was cold, and I had to laugh. Around me, splotches of red blossomed like scarlet flowers in bloody springtime. My hand…I could still feel it bleeding, feel a distant, awful pain, but there was no blood. Of course there was no blood. I couldn’t bleed anymore, not from there.

I could hear it – the awful, mechanical whir, the noise of senseless destruction. Now, though…now it was beautiful. It was the sound of dark salvation, a path for only the blackest of hearts. She was my savior now. She was as the Lady herself, silhouetted against the soft glow of the world around me.

“High Marshal, you...I need a decision.” Her voice echoed from the stygian darkness, and my lips cracked into a macabre smile.

“Burn them, Enyo. Every single one.” My claws were flaked with red, and each little movement of my hands made me want to stain them all the more.

“I…I can’t, High Marshal. We can’t.” Enyo’s deep, brown eyes, normally cold and intense, pleaded sweetly. “If we do this, the Second will…”

“Damn the Second, man!” I picked at the wax seal, trying to even it out a bit. It was too splotchy, and even if the Sixth wouldn’t notice it, Arty AND Gerty would, if they saw it. I eyed the paper shredder and wondered if I could throw the damn letter in from here. Probably. I could probably make it.

…There were shards of red wax all over my desk and I was pretty sure I’d accidentally mashed some into the wood hard enough to kind of stick. It only made me angrier.

“The High Inquisitor’s already signed off on the other letters of summons, but as her aide-“ Enyo started to parrot Officio policy at me, and I scoffed as loudly as I could to interrupt her, then scoffed again when she tried to continue.

And again after that.

“I know, I know. Bloody hell, though, can’t you take care of ANY of this? What if a fire just started? It wouldn’t be our fault if, you know, a wheel started sparking against the floor, or…whatever. We’re both cyborgs, those things are bound to happen.” We stared at each other for a second more, then she snickered.

“I’ll fake your signature on as much of it as I can.”

“Consider it an official command from your High Marshal.” Most of it, really, was crap Arty couldn’t sign off on right now – Second nonsense that oughtn’t have been my job, and nonsense that was keeping me from getting to more important Templar business.

Somewhere under the sea of requisition forms and protocol violations was a load of personnel files – roster information from our sister Officios, hopefully candidates I could get away with requesting. The Templars were down to two damned people, after Vivian’s temporary retirement and…

…Two. Even if only a couple of requests went through, we’d be in a much better place.

Hell, I’d even considered trying to round up High Marshal Erebus’s old gang, and see who I could skirt excommunication with. I may still give it a try. I started making a mental list of the old guard still kicking around, but Enyo broke my train of thought with a cackle.

“Are you reading these? This…You need to see this one.” I snatched the report she offered – protocol violation, probably just chewing gum during a…service…

“Enyo?” I managed after a minute of staring, trying to parse what I was looking at. “…How do you even fit a prayer book up there?”

“Apparently that’s the easy part.” Enyo snorted. I snatched up my pen and twirled it a bit, then scribbled down ‘NO FURTHER PUNISHMENT NECESSARY –RA’ across the page.

“D…D’ya suppose it was rolled up?” I couldn’t help it, it was still on my mind a few minutes later. “Like, with the cover taken off? Wouldn’t the paper stick like hell?”

“I suppose I assumed she just…jammed the whole thing in, I guess. Do you…did you want to try it?”

“…What?” I just stared at her.

“If you wanted to…experiment…I’d be willing to help.” The moment Enyo realized how weird this was, her face flushed a pretty pink. “…It’s natural to start to think about it, isn’t it?”

“Lady’s crystal snatch, Enyo, let’s just never talk about this again.” Ugh. Damn it. She was right, you just sort of start thinking about it. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to shake the feeling away.

“…Sorry.” …She slipped her arms around me, her chest pressing a bit against the back of my head. …Her chest is bigger than mine and that’s not even something I thought about until…that, the weirdness from the other day. My hands came to rest on hers, and we just stayed like that a minute.

“…It got weird, didn’t it?” I murmured out after a moment. “Not the prayer book bit.”

I’d never had a girlfriend before. I’d never thought about it too hard, even; the reality, I suppose, was that we’d fight for a while, try to make sure the new generation could, too, and die in a ditch somewhere. Made pursuing romance a bit strange. I wasn’t entirely sold on it even now, but I didn’t…

Well, thinking about it wouldn’t help any. Best to just go with it. That was often the difference between a knight and a pantywaist.

“…Come on,” she mumbled into my hair after another minute before dislodging herself from my person. “I can handle the rest of the disciplinary garbage. I’ll bring anything that looks interesting or questionable up with you, and you can get to the personnel listings for now. We can be done in a few hours.”

Aside from the part where I’d have to kiss serious ass to get transfers from any other Officio right after Walpurgisnacht, that was true enough. I flashed her a grin, and she leaned down to kiss my cheek.

…Alright. Review the Second’s Eversor and Vindicare divisions, then the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and whoever else we could get records from. That’ll turn up a few, at least.

No problem.


“Gabriel, Rosalin.”

It never ends.

“Eighth Officio, Las Vegas branch. Eversor. A boxer, apparently. Nasty temperament. Personal space issues. Consistently writes ‘punching the shit out of witches’ under her interests on surveys.”

“Mental health issues?” I interrupted Enyo, and she stared dumbly at me. She was just as tired as I was by now – I’d meant to get more done today, but we’d both been stuck in paperwork double hell all evening. As of about forty minutes ago, I’d decided to recline on the couch, and she offered to go through my ‘maybe’ pile of personnel files again. This was our fourth time through, and we’d sorted through all the Officios aside from…ugh…the Eighth.

“American.” Shorthand for ‘enough violent psychoses to require careful handling’.

“Fucking Americans. Next!” I closed my eyes, covering my eyes with my arm, cool metal barely padded by the silk sleeve of my casual shirt. “…No, leave her in the maybe pile. She hates witches a lot, apparently. That’s good. That’s great.”

“High Marshal, we need to narrow this down. We’ll be lucky to get one person from the other Officios right now. I think it might be better to, ah…”

“…to avoid people that are liable to go berserk in a pinch. Wouldn’t want another Kharn fucking Valnikov, I know.” My wheels whirred, buzzed angrily…then I realized I wasn’t transformed. …I clearly needed to get to sleep soon. “No, then. Next.”

“Graceland, Maple. Eighth, New York division. Vindicare, uses a riot shield and whatever’s handy. Seems to have-“

“Trouble working with a team, like every other American. Oh Lady, does she bite? Does she have rabies?” Enyo just snickered.

“You’re half-right. Astonishingly, she doesn’t seem to have any recorded mental problems-ah. She’s Canadian, maybe that explains it.”

“They go just as crazy once they defrost, mark my words. Sounds…alright, though. I’m not sold, but alright.”

Enyo breathed out a sigh of relief at that, and I would have smacked her for it, but she was over there and I didn’t much want to get up.

“Takahara, Hakufu. Santa Destroy, fantastic. A wrestler, can allegedly beat a witch to death with a school bus. Still a rookie, though, her file doesn’t have much to help either way.”

“They don’t always have school buses on the battlefield. Seems a bit limited, really.” I heard her crumple up a paper ball, and It donked off of my stomach a moment later.

“At least try to take this a bit seriously, High Marshal. You seemed to like the idea of bringing a rookie on a bit ago…”

“Serious answer, then? There’s probably some promise there, but I don’t want someone that probably spent most of her life sitting on top of an Akashic Point loitering about unless I know for certain what brain problems she has. And if I really wanted rookies, I’d be drawing more from the Second.” I sat up and stretched a bit, then snapped up the paper ball Enyo threw and started tossing it from hand to hand.

“Anyway, this is an opportunity to take a peek at other Officios’ training methods, hm?”

“So that’s a no, then.”

“We’ll present her to Springfield with our other requests, maybe we can get a freebie.” I shrugged, and Enyo nodded before snapping up one of the last papers in the pile.

“Wright, Dorothy. Santa Destroy-“


“…apparently the Wonderland Corps’ support unit. Creates shields and swings a battleaxe made by…oh. Oh my.”

“Right, yeah. That’s the reason I kept her in there. Are you rock hard right now?” I grinned over at her, and she nodded again.

Dorothy Wright was the Eighth’s contact with the Fourth, from what I understood – she used a modified Ironform they’d spent a not insignificant amount of their budget on a couple of years back. It might be the closest Enyo and I would ever get to one of those bloody toaster women without starting a war.

“…You think we have a chance in hell of getting her?” It was one of the few times in my life I’d seen Enyo look like a puppy begging for a treat.

“…No, there’s no way they’ll part with a Rabbit. But they’ll be much more eager to give us something else if we present her first. And if they DO give her to us…”

“…then I get to take her body apart?” Alright, it was getting a bit creepy. I shook my head.

“We’ll talk to her about it on the off-chance we get her to transfer. I’m sure she can offer up an arm and a leg or…something. She’s a bit of a marshmallow, from what little I know of her, so I bet we could talk her into taking off her chestplate for us.” And Enyo would get a chance to look at that sweet, sweet Fourth tech without them being able to do a damn thing about it. Or it’d cause a horrible diplomatic incident, probably for the Eighth for being so bloody careless.

Enyo slammed Wright’s sheet into the YES pile, but hesitated in picking up the last two.

“…High Marshal? I, ah. Actually, I slipped these last few in myself. They’re from the Ninth.”

For a second my blood froze. One of my arms started to itch in a way it really shouldn’t have been able to anymore, and I pushed myself up into a sitting position.

“Toss them, then,” I forced out after a second. “The Ninth isn’t going to give us piss all after we let their Culexus squad get fried.”

“You don’t need to talk to the Warmaster, but I think-“

“Enyo. Toss them.” I’m ashamed to say my voice squeaked. It wasn’t…I wasn’t ready for this. I’d skipped over them for a reason.

“…It’s Sayaka Miki and Kyouko Sakura. The First Knight and, I suspect, the Blood Knight. Their incarnations in our world. …You…remember, don’t you?”

…Yes, I remembered. The portent of our grand fucking victory. Piss on the First Knight. …I didn’t say it, just breathed deep and tried to keep a grip. Enyo continued after a minute.

“They’re some of the Ninth’s best Eversors. If we could get them to part with them it would…it could do a lot for the Templars.”

“Enyo. Enyo we are the Templars. Two of us. Taking in a stray dog would almost double our numbers. Anyone could do a lot for the Templars.” I fought very hard to keep the irritation off of my face. I don’t think it worked.

I just wanted her to drop it. Why wouldn’t she drop it?

“…You know what I mean, High Marshal. This isn’t an opportunity we should pass up. …Their woman hurt us very, very badly. If we call this reparations-“

I snapped.

“I don’t want them here. I don’t want anyone from the Ninth here. I don’t want to-I don’t want to fucking look at them.” …It was a pretty pitiful sort of whining, and I was ashamed of myself before it left my mouth. I pushed myself to my feet all at once, wobbled a bit on unsteady legs, and made for the door.

…I wanted her to stop me. I was really hoping she’d stop me. I wanted her to hug me and tell me it was okay, or that I was a silly bint, or something.

She didn’t.