Epilogue 9.e

Ciara's departure from the Hebert household had left her with much to consider. She had long understood the synergy of powers; many of her strategies and techniques involved coordinating and combining the multiple powers upon which she could draw. However, not even Master of Ceremonies could fundamentally alter the nature of a faerie. But that was exactly what Skitter had done. Somehow the Queen Administrator had, like a vampire, converted one of the corrupted faeries into an offshoot of itself. This flew in the face of everything that Glaistig Uaine had understood, and called into question so many things. Ciara had previously expected that she and the Butcher had the potential to become new fae gods, Summer and Winter courts personified. Neither of them could perform the alterations that Skitter did not even realize had occurred. She would need to observe and learn.

Speaking of the Master of Ceremonies, the Butcher was in the general area. She would be unable to study Skitter if the girl was forced into conflict with the Teeth and she or one of her friends killed the Butcher.

The ghosts behind her swirled and she called forth Pops. The kindly old man had been a short-ranged teleporter, getting his name from both his age and the firecracker noise that his teleportation made. Unlike so many of her victims, Pops did not hate her, but she wished that he did. Instead he saw her as a confused child and didn't hold her responsible for her actions: that irked her beyond all comprehension. What do you need this time? His voice slid over her mind, quiet and gentle; not accusing, but genuinely curious.

Another massacre, of course, Feast replied over her shoulder. The Faerie Queen disliked using Feast's power, but it was an efficient killing tool and she wanted to be certain that the Butcher did not live to escape.

Again, Ciara? Haven't you fought enough today? Pops' voice was admonishing, but also almost playful. Once more it grated on her nerves how he saw her as an ignorant child.

She silenced them with her own thoughts. We hunt the Butcher.

The quiet reigned for a moment longer, before Pops' reply. Okay, I'm in.

Finally, you have a good idea for once, Feast agreed.

Summoning Meteor for speed and durability, Glaistig Uaine flew toward the glittering concentration of faeries. Had she actually been looking for a proper fight, she would have been severely disappointed. Butcher was still grievously wounded from his scrap with Crawler and the Master of Ceremonies hadn't yet transferred to a new host. Before any of the Teeth knew what had happened, she appeared among them with a crack, opened her mouth as wide as Feast's power allowed, and bit the Butcher in half. Just as someone shouted in alarm, she had teleported away and flown off.

Ciara alit upon a streetlight, looking over the intersection. On occasion, she could detect the 'residue', for lack of a better word, of faeries that had died with their hosts, and this section of street was rife with such imprints. Of course, the enormous pulsating mound of gray-purple meat certainly caught her attention, but the faerie that had once occupied it when it had been a person had long since died. More interesting was the patch of melted asphalt. The Broadcaster was as noisy in death as it was in life.

She floated down and cupped a hand to her ear; it was a purely psychosomatic action, but helped to focus her thoughts. The sounds that entered her mind, oddly enough, were not from the former host. Jack Slash's own voice had not been part of his final thoughts. Instead, there was an impression of derisive, condescending laughter...and the certainty that the one laughing had been correct. The flash of a name blinked through her mind, and Ciara gave a soft smile. The indomitability of humankind could truly be impressive. She would have to remember that. Perhaps she could weave it into a tale, the fable of Raymond Marks.

The Master of Ceremonies writhed behind her, making strangling motions. "No, dear," she admonished it, "you were proving to be entirely too much trouble. I could not risk you contaminating my little Skitter with your antics. I have many things to contemplate now, so do be a sweetheart and silence yourself." She dismissed the Butcher's old faerie. Idly she wondered if the other faeries that had attached themselves to Master of Ceremonies had found their way to the afterlife. She did not often indulge in whimsy with regards to humankind, but she would be remiss if she did not indulge in a little introspection due to recent events.

She stepped forward and reality swirled around her. For countless eons she tumbled through dimensions, stars and planetary cores and legions of souls deceased and yet to be clawed at her mind. Such a dangerous ability; its previous owner had gone utterly mad after a single use, and were she any less than the magnificent Queen of all Faeries, she too would have lost her grip on sanity. The perception of falling helplessly for millennia was nearly overwhelming, to the degree that even she disliked to use it often. But the advantage was that the sheer chaos of this method bypassed any blockade she had encountered. Millions of years passed before she arrived in her cell, only seconds after her departure from Brockton Bay.

"Hello again, dear Dragon," she chirped. "I do hope that you did not miss me overmuch."

Her landlady schooled her voice, restraining the emotion behind it. "You've...been busy, I see," Dragon replied.

"Far busier than I had expected," she confirmed, laying down on her bed. "I have much to contemplate. For now, however, I require rest. Do not worry; I have no plans to leave anytime soon. The journey is rather too tedious for casual departures."

"That's good," Dragon replied with a bit of a sigh. "I'd like to talk with you about your actions when you wake up."

"I would be amenable to that. It was my first trip out in a good while; sharing experiences with friends is good for the soul, so I hear." Ciara rolled over, pulling the covers over her shoulders, and slipped off into the land of Nod.


Niko Vasil lounged in his leather chair, using one eager follower as a footstool while several others attended his various needs. "I'm a tad cold," he crooned, and immediately one of his girls climbed into his lap to warm him up. Much better than having to put on clothes.

Still, his scout thralls had brought back intriguing news. Cherie had joined the Slaughterhouse 9 and subsequently was killed by Jean-Paul. Jean-Paul, who was now a hero. It was intriguing and worrying at the same time. The news coming out of that decrepit New Hampshire city was like a children's story: suddenly the 'good guys' were winning at every turn, beating back the most frightening threats the world could throw at them. The Undersiders were a dangerous force and worked together with incredible synergy.

The most recent update, however, was what had caused Niko's minor existential crisis. Glaistig Uaine herself had appeared, fought Skitter, and left – with the madwoman apparently the loser of the match! For the first time in years, Heartbreaker was forced to weigh risks. Before, his control of so many nominal innocents had guaranteed his safety. However, he knew the depths of Jean-Paul's hatred for him. Eventually the prodigal son might convince his teammates to deal with Dear Old Dad. With Skitter's various bizarre creations, they might even stumble on a way to restrain his thralls while researching a cure. On the other hand, he was a minor threat with all things considered and they could decide that taking him down was more trouble than it was worth.

Still, was that chance worth him biding his time while they could build up their forces and work on some way to non-lethally subdue his thralls? Or should he prepare a preemptive strike and swing down to Brockton Bay while the city was still recovering from its previous attackers?

Heartbreaker held out a hand and almost immediately a glass of red wine was placed therein. He took a sip, letting the alcohol relax his mind for contemplation.


Soma smiled up at the girl in the yellow sundress. "Alright, Noelle, this is it. If we're right, this should cure you. But there's still a good chance that, no matter what happens, you'll die. Last chance to back out."

Noelle, known as Scylla on paperwork, shook her head. Her jaw was set in a line of determination. "I've hurt too many people; I'm barely even a person anymore. Nothing would be as bad as watching my humanity slip away, becoming a bigger and more horrific monster by the day. No, I need this no matter what."

The chemical Tinker nodded, climbing into the cherry picker. A PRT agent raised him to her eye level, and Soma offered her a stereotypical smoking green brew in a long cylinder. "Best to chug it in one go, I think."

Pinching her nose with one hand, Noelle guzzled it. She reeled, her stomach lurching. For the first time since her change, she felt like she might vomit: she wasn't hungry, her stomach rejecting its contents. And that's when the screaming started.

The bestial maws of her lower body wailed in hellish agony while Noelle convulsed, foaming at the mouth as she writhed in the grip of a seizure. Her muscles strained against each other, threatening to rip the tendons and tear her entire body apart. The deafening shrieks drew people from all across the Rig, all of whom were helpless to assist the thrashing hulk. It was impossible to safely touch her, and the consequences of doing so were even worse than doing nothing as she jerked and flailed. The various limbs protruding from the mountain of flesh lashed out, trying to run in multiple directions, until her immense mass fell to the side. The entire base shook from the impact and the shock seemed to end whatever survival instinct was left in that monstrosity.

Slowly, the cacophony died down. Mouth after mouth fell slack, stinking tongues rolling out as the hundreds of misshapen eyes glazed over. The monstrous lower body was dying, while Noelle rested atop the rapidly rotting meat. Color drained from her skin, her cheeks and eyes sunk deeper, formerly bright eyes cloudy and unseeing. She coughed, spitting out froth and blood. "Thank you," she whimpered.

And then she died.

He was not a particularly religious man, but Soma still crossed himself. "Damn it," he muttered, looking at the lifeless face of an innocent, foolish girl. So much pain caused by a single bad decision, and she didn't even get a happy ending after all of that suffering.


Lisa sat in front of the TV, just as dumbstruck as everyone else. Glaistig Uaine had killed the Butcher, then just gone back to prison. There was so much she didn't understand, even with her power helping her. So much that no-one except the madwoman who called herself the Faerie Queen seemed to comprehend.

She hugged Taylor tight. "Why does it feel like things are going to get worse, instead of better?"

"I feel that way too," her girlfriend replied. "But we've got each other, all of us. Thinking on everything that's happened, I don't think Atlas would want me to keep grieving him. We need to keep moving forward no matter what. We can't go back, so...so we just have to hope. But, well, hope's not enough. We need to take action and make it happen. We can make the world a better place." Taylor sniffled, still on the verge of falling apart when she thought of Atlas. "And even if we fail? If things do keep getting worse? At least we tried. We did our best, and maybe that'll inspire someone else to do his best."

"A rockslide starts with a single pebble?" Lisa chuckled.

"Something like that. Now come on, it's your turn to make dinner."

A/N: And that's it. I wanted to end on a relatively quiet note. I hope this is to people's satisfaction. I've been having a lot of personal mental troubles recently and I'm not sure if I helped or exacerbated it by playing games like Transistor and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Still, I've ended the first book exactly where I'd hoped to end it, chronologically. The second book may be a little while in coming out, as I'm going to work on my new novel, do my best to get my first novel published (and I'm not looking forward to rewriting so much with the help of an editor, but when the book's a decade in the making and started before I hit puberty, there's going to be a lot of dissonance), and keep going on Forged in Blood and Bone. But before anything else, I need to make sure I'm stable. Depression, autism, childhood trauma...I've been bending under the weight recently and have to fix that up.

For now, though, I hope I've brought smiles to a lot of your faces and kept you entertained.