The Host of a Thousand Princes
Part Four

Sorrow's children stare down iron sights and modern scopes, carefully selecting their targets as they emerge from the gate into the Hedge. One volley after another scythes into officers, hobgoblins, privateers, loyalists and Gentry alike. Every sharp report signals the end of dozens of lives. Winter rarely misses.

One of their spotters, a small Wizened covered in dust and grime, signals to the Maiden of Frozen Hopes. Without word, he points to one of their previous positions, where a veritable stream of hobgoblin footsoldiers - strange, cat-faced things wielding long lashes made of thorny vines - is pouring in. Before the Maiden can make a judgement call, the building's entrance explodes with a cloud of bluish-white shrapnel, sending goblins scattering and arcs of black blood flying high into the air.

The girl with the stained glass hair walks out, delicate wings made of frost forming on her back and a thin sheen of ice coating her skin. The ground freezes with her every step, spreading fast and wide as the ice devours the rain-slick ground, and the look on her face bespeaks frozen anger boiling over and breaking free. A troop of goblins charges her, only to be cut down as the droplets of rain falling towards them lengthen into razor-sharp icicles.

"What - what is that?" the spotter whispers.

"I don't know," the Maiden answers curtly. "Raise the Lords Unbidden on the radio. They need to see this."


Natasha Romanov is having the time of her life.

She'd had to pull the set of turntables out from inside the tank and set them up under fire. She'd spent more than a minute dithering about her music selection while the combined forces of Spring, Summer, and the United States Army fought around her. But now she was spinning the disks and singing for all she was worth, the speakers carrying her voice across the battlefield.

"We've had enough of your agg-ravation! We've had it with your disc-a-pliiine!"

Her voice is entirely wrong for the song and the sounds of explosions, gunfire and screaming battle-cries are wreaking havoc with her concentration, but that doesn't matter to Natasha. Glamour laces every word and sound, bolstering her troops and surrounding her in a warm halo of Springtime light and laughter.

"Saturday night's all-raight for fightin', get a little action in!"

The armies of Arcadia begin to notice the magical song and target Natasha, but her men cut them down even as they raise crossbows. A stray bolt hits Natasha in the chest, sinking deep in, but the Darkling only barely pauses to rip it out, her music wrapping around the wound and staunching it with the healing power of Spring.

Feeling like the head of the world's deadliest rock band, Natasha leads the charge into the Host.


Silence reigns over the ritual circle. Most of the participants are dead or dying; the few that are not crawl, exhausted, toward the healers of Spring.

Seraphina is nowhere to be found.


Jillian Fury fights for her life, bitterly cursing the wrath that brought her this deep into the enemy's ranks. She ducks, weaves, and dodges blows from the circle of hobgoblin nobles and Gentry lords that surrounds her, slashing at arms and stranger, more alien limbs as they foolishly stray into her reach. She just has to hold out until her men get there to support her.

Jillian's prayers are seemingly answered as a half-dozen Apache attack 'copters arrive, spraying fire into the ranks that surround her, but her jubilant cry is cut short by a massive, earth-shaking roar. A gigantic steel dragon hauls itself from the portal, the magical entryway almost too small to admit it. Its eyes smolder with the flames deep in its gut, and it stretches wings so wide they blot out what little, weak sunlight there is on the battlefield. It spits molten steel at one of the helicopters, swatting it from the sky with one idle gesture, and then takes wing.

A helicopter lands, its crew spitting suppressive fire while Jillian sprints aboard. It begins to take off, but Jillian smacks the pilot upside the head and screams into his ear.


Short and sweet, trying to set up for the final snippet.