Ug Rung now looked spiky and forbidding. Holly’s engineers were constantly adding spikes, skulls, or bladed jags to the barbarian city.
During her first year on Elithia, the cheerleader had transformed the Indashi into an oppressive, brutish society. Now, she was ready to focus on secondary tasks. Specifically, killing anyone who objected to her draconian policies. Deep down, she knew that an army of yes-men wouldn’t make for the best military, but her need for control would always come first.
Peter Lee had seen to that.
Peter. Her lips curved into a sadistic rictus. I’m gonna cut out your ass-pucker. Turn it into a leathery medallion.
Captain Megamore Bliktuk walked into her tent, interrupting her reverie.
“Our forces have surrounded Krul’Dar’s rebels. They await you, my liege.”
“Awesome.” Holly donned her black-steel helmet and rose from her chair.
“Let’s show these bitch-fucks the meaning of justice.”
Holly walked outside and hopped on her mount, a war-raptor she called “Gucci.” No one had questioned the odd choice in name; she’d eliminated the dissenters from her army’s ranks. Accordingly, she’d let herself relax. She still used Indashi mannerisms (good for crowdwork), but she was more at ease when she spoke like an Earthling. Some of her servants had even begun to imitate her.
She halted Gucci in front of her generals: Nyrock Hellscythe and Yinhalka Thorkblade. They dropped to a knee and placed their fists on their hearts.
“Rise,” Holly commanded. “Status?”
They both rose. “We have them cornered.” Yinhalka nodded at a spare, rocky gully a hundred yards behind her. Krul’Dar and his rebels were inside the canyon, bunkered down in lightly armored tents. Archers were posted along the edges of the chasm, hemming the traitors in. The only entrance—and exit, for that matter—was a slender trail that led from the canyon’s western boundary into its center.
“Smoke ’em out,” Holly ordered. “Fire arrows. All ladders are placed and secured?”
She was answered by a nod.
“Deploy your skirmishers. Have your bowmen cover them as they descend. Blunt weapons only, aside from the blocking force. Capture as many as you can, but if any look like they’re gonna escape, split them open from asshole to belly button.”
“So the blocking force will employ edged weaponry,” Nyrock stated.
Holly glared at him, visibly annoyed. “Obviously, dumbass. Now fuck off and bag me some dipshits.”
As the generals started walking away, Holly grabbed Yinhalka by the shoulder plate. “Wait.”
Yinhalka stopped. The cheerleader jerked her chin at Nyrock, who had also halted. “Not you. Prep the attack.”
Nyrock strode away.
“What do you think of him?” Holly searched Yinhalka’s face.
“He’s a foam-faced jerkoff. You provided every detail, yet he still required clarification.”
Holly smiled. “Foam-faced jerkoff—I like that. Go. Make sure he doesn’t fuck things up.”
“Yes, milord.” Yinhalka placed her fist atop her heart, then walked away.
Outwardly, Holly remained impassive. Inwardly, she was fucking psyched. When she’d first arrived on this godforsaken shithole, all she could think about was getting back to Earth and destroying Peter. Now, however, things were different. Being a fantasy world despot wasn’t half bad…
Still—she had unfinished business back on Earth. Not as violent as what she was doing, but just as brutal, in its own way. There were legislatures to compromise, corporations to empower, debt structures to foster…
The skirmishers filtered into the gully. She urged Gucci forward, edging closer to the embankment.
“Krul’Dar!” she shouted. “We’re gonna burn you out, unless you order your men to stand the fuck down! Think about their families!”
Krul’Dar emerged from the central tent. He surveyed her forces with a grim eye.
“O’er a year ago, you told me you weren’t Kor’Thank. Back then, I didn’t understand what you were saying. Now I do, impostor.”
Holly scoffed. “What are you talking about? I’ve been anointed king by your holy pedo, Asslick Fuckfinger, or whatever the hell his name—”
Krul’Dar cut her off. “This is part of your becoming, Holly Dent. Wodec has said that things will be easier for you if y—”
“Wodec?” she sneered. “Bring him out—I’ll set his ass straight.” Finally. She hadn’t forgotten about High Mage Wodec.
Wodec walked out and stood beside Krul’Dar. “Holly Dent.” He parsed her face with his snowy-browed eyes. “Acknowledge who you are, and you stand a chance. Continue as you have, and you will increase your suffering by orders of magnitude.”
Holly leveled her sword at the weathered sage. “Surrender now, or I’ll pike your bodies through your turd cutters. Unless you want a spear in your gray-haired asshole, I strongly suggest you stand the fuck down.”
Wodec smiled and said nothing.
Holly snorted in disbelief. “Y’all are some retarded-ass bitches.” She turned to Yinhalka. “Burn them out.”
Yinhalka called, “ARCHERS!”
Scores of projectiles—tipped with wads of pitch-soaked fiber—drew back on their strings. “Light-men” (younger soldiers tasked with ignition) scurried through the lines, holding torches up to nocked arrows. One by one, they caught fire with a nerve-jangling WHOOMP.
The greenest warrior knew what that meant: fire, helplessness, and the screams of friends as they burned to a crisp. Holly, on the other hand, found comfort in the noise. For some reason, it reminded her of when she’d briefed her cheer squad on her secret evil plan to drop Lizzy Prendergast on her stupid fucking head.
Holly lifted a hand, ready to slice it down and loose the first volley. A galvanic tingle ran from her crotch to her neck.
Wodec called, “Wait!”
“HOLD!” she yelled, simultaneously annoyed and thrilled. She was eager to kill, but she was really enjoying this; she welcomed the excuse to draw it out.
“Something you wanna say, fuckface?”
Wodec strode forward, his totemic staff thumping against the ground. “Your salvation lies in abandoning your designs. ‘In sterquiliniis invenitur’—that’s a saying from your world. And in your case, it couldn’t be any more accurate.”
Holly’s lip curled with disdain. “I’m about to fuck you with an enormous spear, and you’re spewing quotes from a long-dead language. How about some begging, dickcheese? I might shorten your torture if—”
Wodec grinned. “In sterquiliniis invenitur means ‘in filth it shall be found.’ Examine your ignorance—you will come to the light by plumbing your darkness.”
“Enough psychobabble.” Her arm sliced downward. “LOOSE!”
Fire-headed missiles leapt from their strings, marking the air with a quick-shrinking ring of flaming dots. Before they struck, Wodec closed his eyes and muttered something sibilant. Blue tendrils leapt from his staff, swirling outward in a luminous cyclone, tossing the flame-tipped arrows into an orange-dotted gale.
“WIZARDS!” Holly roared, shielding her face with a gauntleted forearm. “YOU TOLD ME THEY’D BE—”
Before she could say “powerless,” Wodec and Krul’Dar stiffened and froze. Their feet turned a rocky, dusty brown; the same shade as the scrub-marked ground. The transformation crawled up their legs, changing them from living men into earth-formed statues. Seconds later, the wind died down.
Holly slid off her mount and leapt in the gully, landing amidst a line of skirmishers. Her right knee protested—a painful POP sounded from its cap— but she pushed it from her mind; she was too fucking angry.
She shoulder-checked Wodec, breaking his likeness into fragmented sod. She spun around and drew her sword, scoring Krul’Dar with a dozen cuts. Due to the keenness of her blade, the Chronicler’s replica remained still and unmoving; she’d sliced through it so damn cleanly that it remained intact.
“FUCK YOU!” Holly screamed, kicking the statue between its legs. It burst apart in a puff of sediment. She stomped the head, then sprinted into the nearest tent. She knew what she’d find, but she had to be sure.
Light shone through netted-mesh windows, illuminating a legion of still, silent warriors. Every rebel had become a statue.
Every one of them had fucking escaped.
Holly threw her arms out to either side and voiced a long, anguished howl.
The cheerleader darted from tent to tent, pulverizing statue after statue. Once she was done, she climbed up a ladder and out of the chasm. As she passed Yinhalka, she hissed, “Burn it. All of it.”
“ARCHERS!” Yinhalka roared. “SET FIRE TO THESE WHORES’ DENS!”
The light-men lit another volley. Arrows loosed with a resonant twang. Black fumes poured from the tents, filling the gully with acrid smoke.
Holly rode away on her raptor, lit by the glow of rising flames. For the last two weeks, she’d dreamt of turning Krul’Dar’s cock into a grisly necklace. Instead, that cunt-faced sorcerer had pulled some arcane bullshit out of Harry goddamn Potter.