Witness the defenders of humanity, huddled around their garbage can fires and their steaming sewer vents, trembling in the cold and Winter wind. See them hide beneath cardboard boxes and exchange quiet words of reassurance to each other as Seattle drizzles its filth onto them.
It's been raining for twelve days.
Even the Blind are spooked; mortals stay indoors, closing their businesses and locking themselves into secure rooms with their families. Lightning hammers at the sky, booming its wrath down to the earth like the declarations of an angry god. Amongst the Lost, weapons are checked and re-checked, armor is polished and painted, and vehicles receive last-minute tune-ups. They number in the thousands, vagrants and corporate queens, warriors and liars, some muttering prayers to gods long dead, others communing deep with the Wyrd. Fear's children haunt the rank-and-file, giving an encouraging word here and a comforting hand there. Many cry; even more vomit from the stress. In the private corners, desperate lovers embrace each other one last time.
A quiet man with fleshless fingers and vines burrowing into his neck and arms whispers, "It's time." As if by unspoken signal, the Lost stand, offering parting goodbyes and sorting themselves into several groups with mad smiles and thousand-mile stares. Overhead, the one news chopper still flying reports on their activities. Millions around the world watch in utter confusion.
The clock strikes midnight on the thirteenth day of the storm.
Dawn rises over Seattle as the Iron Spear settles into their battle formations, each of Wrath's warriors aiming themselves at the park at Magnolia Crescent. Hundreds strong, they sit astride steeds made of witchcraft and motorcycles made from nothing more than toil and steel. The front ranks clutch at their weapons nervously. For some, this will be their first real battle, and they hold to improvised implements like they are holy relics. For most of the others, the fury they have nursed so long blazes brighter than any fear could possibly quench.
As the sun climbs high into the sky, a woman wearing a crown of lightning rides her steed in front of her assembled Court, waving a banner emblazoned with a simple black spear. Silence descends upon the ranks as she speaks in a clear shout that blazes with elemental fury, the rage of her words alighting the nearby buildings with Saint Elmo's Fire.
"We all knew this was coming!"
she decrees. "We have trained for this day since Sam Noblood first hunted Summer with a spear of Autumn leaves and forced it to sue for peace! They think they have us cornered! They think this will be an easy conquest! I say no more! This is the day of reckoning! This is the battle of righteousness, when the Lost shall confront their masters and prove once and for all that above anything else, we are free! Some of you have whispered that this mission is suicide, and I say to you this - it is. But today, at the head of the charge, the Iron Spear dies on its feet and not its knees, as free men and women!"
A large portal opens in the park, without fanfare; several of the Court fail to notice it at first. Through it pours a great host waving banners and beating war-drums, its foot soldiers armed with blades of stained glass and of frozen light, holding balefire guns and wheeling cannons that fire grief and death. The generals of this host ride forth on steeds made from nightmares and shadows, each a unique horror unto itself - look there, and see the Lady of Keening Death. Look left, do you not see Crackjaw, the giant that ate the Grand Canyon from the earth? Is that not Mistress Malice in the shattered mirror, smiling her bloody smile? The army marches forth in its splendor and its wrath, the music it creates both discordant and harmonious, weaving a song of death and doom that echoes through the city.
There is a great roar as the knights of Summer start their engines all at once.
"This is the day of wrath! This is the day of ruin! Let no man falter on this charge! Let no blade show mercy in this fight! We are the Iron Spear, the first and last defenders of humanity, and today we stand unmasked and shining in our glory and our fury, ready to fight the battle that determines the fate of the world! SUMMER!"
The answering chorus of the courtiers booms out, "WRATH!"
as they charge as one, lances lowered, automatic weapons spitting out streams of bullets as the great Host of a Thousand Princes charges forth to meet them. Sorceries cross the battle-lines, warping reality around them as Contracts struggle for dominance of the world.
The two armies meet with a mighty crash. Thunder booms, and the clocks strike once more.
The cross hairs settle on the face of a hobgoblin, a hideous thing that looks like a cross between a bear and a tree. Exhale
. Squeeze the trigger. The iron-tipped round blows through its skull and buries itself in the Fairest thrall behind it, sending both sprawling to the ground.
Winter's children do not speak.
Dozens of efficient hands move their weapons in near-unison, supporting Summer's charge with careful, deliberate sniper fire. Winter's bullets find sorcerers, officers, and beast-masters, sending chaos into the enemy's seemingly-limitless ranks. A quiet girl with dark green eyes and stained glass hair reloads her weapon with chill efficiency and begins to take aim when she sees a signal from her spotter. As one, the Onyx Courtiers stand and move, staying low, to their next vantage point, reaching it just before their previous perch is ripped to shreds by Gentry sorcery.
The quiet girl settles in and takes aim once again. A manticore's head floats into her sights. Exhale
. Squeeze the trigger.
"I hate you,"
the girl whispers fiercely as she takes aim once more.
No one else comments on the tears streaming from her eyes, or their own.