The Price

End Games

As the others avidly discuss a course of action, Marco drives as fast as he dares. The Canadian countryside flies past as the van hurtles through the night toward Detroit.

Rocco shifts in the tight confines of the van. He asks what might happen if Tom used the wrong blood on the book. Miroslav says confidently that it just wouldn’t work. The book would be unaffected and the Quill would be unable to rewrite destiny.

After some thought, the Darkling announces he plans to write the book out of existence with the Quill. This will ensure the current timeline is unaffected. The rest of the motley advocate destroying the book but after some consultation with Hedge and Alice they agree that writing it out of existence would result in the least fallout.

The question remains however of which Artifact to seek first. Nikki suggests grabbing the Quill. They have the blood needed to power it and once they rewrite time their problems should be over, especially if they manage to remove the book from time before it is destroyed.

The others agree and talk turns to where it might be. Assuming Feral Tom took it from the Guild of Shadows, he could be anywhere. Rocco points out he would want to be nearby, since he still needs the blood to forge a Contract with Iron. But he might be at the Witch-House or his old camp in the Wilds or even in the Under-Hedge. It is also possible that he might not have the Quill. In that case finding the Queen of Shadows or her fetch would be the wisest course.

Up front, Marco’s vision glazes over for an instant and the night road turns into a series of the dark paths into the future. Many are closed. Some are vanishing. But the best lit trail leads to the Queen. He calls back to the others and lets them know they should find his mother. She is the key to this.

Nikki questions Ruzena about where the queen’s fetch might have gone if she survived the destruction of the Reds. The river fae suggests she might have gone back to her family, the Zerilli Mob. The motley quickly works out a plan to find her and the Quill. Miroslav gets some blood from Alice. With it they can use the Quill eliminate the book and the quill itself. That will ensure the current timeline remains safe.

Once they arrive in Detroit, the team splits up to take care of their respective tasks. Miroslav heads into the Hedge to find the remnants of the Guild of Shadows. If anyone knows what is going on in the city it would be them.

In a mostly vacant and nervous Night Market, he spies Molly Moth. The stealthy Beast motions him to follow her into the Under-Hedge.

Under a crumbling arch, she asks him what they should do. He asks about the others and she leads him to a hidden camp where a scratched up Erin Cobbleflesh is tending to the survivors.

Erin relays what she saw of the attack. She wasn’t at the gate but she witness the devastation wrought on her way out. Feral Tom himself led the attack, demolishing the gateway. Afterwards, he and his hordes of cats left the remains of the guildhall unattended. Besides the half-dozen fae present there are a few others from the guild still in hiding. She agrees to gather them at Charlie Cobweb’s Hollow.

As for the Queen of Shadows, she disappeared the day before the attack. Erin also conveys the rumors that the Court of Jewels has sided with Feral Tom, trading information for their lives. Miroslav takes Erin with him and heads for the ruins of the guildhall.

Elsewhere Rocco meets the new recruits of the Red Company. He instructs them to get nets and weapons. Then he grabs his brother Marco as he leaves his still weakened fiance, Charlie, at the house. The pair head to their grandparent’s house: the Zerilli mansion.

Nikki meanwhile drives out to Joe Zerilli’s house, hoping to learn more there. She calls him but finds him still half asleep. He groggily agrees to meet her for coffee at 8 AM. Nikki spends the time prettying up.

Creeping through the thorn laden Hedge, Miroslav arrives at the blackened distorted door frame leading into the guildhall. Smoke continues to spill out from the ruined interior. Stepping through he and Erin walk into a room of charred pages, ashes, and gnawed upon bones. The Darkling calls out to the ghosts of the fallen.

All around him dozens of specters drift in the smoky gloom. He addresses the nearest one, urging it to aid them in avenging the guild. One by one he gathers a spectral army.

Talking to the departed, he learns that the Queen of Shadows had business in the mortal realm. He immediately suspects she was behind the recent madness that afflicted the Zerilli crime family. He also discovers that after the attack, Feral Tom told his feline servants to “go back to the school.” With a clue to the True Fae’s location, Miroslav heads for the real world.

At a nearby Starbucks, Nikki meets up with Joe. The muscle-bound thug is a bit worn down and responds well to her sympathies about Maeve Sheely skipping town on him. He reveals that life has been pretty crazy recently. The organization has been shook up and his family is in shambles. His dad and Aunt Evelina have had to take care of running things since his grandfather and uncle were arrested by the Feds.

Nikki tries to bring up the fact that she used to live in the same building as Evelina but Joe just comments that it is a small world. Nikki can tell however that something is bothering him. Joe’s eyes dart away anytime his father comes up in conversation.

She does her best bluff and hint that she knows what has been going on with his father. Joe relents and lets on that his dad seems to be losing his mind. It is his Aunt Evelina calling the shots now. Even she is acting strangely. Yesterday her whole demeanor changed overnight. She went from cold to sadistic. While Joe uses the bathroom, Nikki texts that the Queen of Shadows or more likely her Fetch is at the Zerilli mansion.

Fifteen minutes earlier, Rocco and Marco pull up in front of the palatial home. Rocco tells his older brother to say that the Elemental is here to negotiate his services as a hacker. The pair get out of Rocco’s bike and walk up to the front door.

Their second cousin Tony stops them and asks what they want. Rocco explains they are here to see their mom. He calls inside for someone to tell Evelina and then leads them into a well-appointed parlor.

A couple of minutes later Evelina McQueen comes down, not the Queen of Shadows. With her are a pair of muscular goons. She greets them cheerily and asks them to come upstairs. Rocco asks the thugs why they brought an impostor but Evelina keeps a tight rein on the situation and intimidates the men with the threat of calling Angelo in.

As the men move in to grab them, Marco and Rocco bolt for the far door. Marco throws it open and dives into the Hedge and Rocco slams it shut behind them.

They find themselves in an elegant hedge maze, decorated with Roman statues. Rocco starts looking for an exit, ideally back into the mansion. After a frustrating half hour, they find a door that opens into the front yard of a house further down the road. Checking their phones they find texts from Nikki and Miroslav. They text back that the fetch is in charge of the crime family.

While the Callaghans head over as fast as they can, the McQueen boys consider where their real mother might be. Rocco suddenly recalls two important facts. First the fetch had previous planned to trap the Queen in an enchanted mirror. The second is that their grandfather kept an ornate mirror behind his desk in his office overlooking the backyard.

The brother hash out a plan. Marco will create a distraction with some help from the Red Company while Rocco scales the back of the house and enters the office. Rocco calls the bestial Ulysses and convinces the arrogant Changeling to set off some Molotov cocktails in the parlor. He gives him the directions to the Hedge gateway and then slips around to the back of the house to wait for the smell of smoke.

Marco meanwhile creeps up into the driveway and begins to work on one of the cars parked there, setting up an explosive. He sets it to go off in a few minutes then goes to work on another.

As Nikki and Mir arrive on the scene, a series of gunshots ring out from inside the house. The parlor window brightens and smoke stream out. Without hesitation Nikki moves along the edge of the property, picking out the trellis on the side of the house. Quietly she sneaks up to it and effortlessly climbs up the side of the building. As she slips onto the second story, she thinks where the fetch might hide the Queen. She decides it would be someplace hidden yet public, a place where she could show off her triumph like a trophy. An opulent office would work perfectly. Based on what she saw of the rest of the house, an office that nice would be at the back. She makes her way quietly there and picks the lock on the nicest door she finds.

Around back Rocco struggles to climb up the wall and is spotted by a guard. “What are you doing there?” he yells.

Rocco quickly bluffs, “I want to see my mom but I can’t.” He hastily creates a story of wanting to sneak in to talk to his grandmother. Somehow between his improbable story and the growing chaos caused by the fire inside the house, he confuses the guard. He leads the Changeling inside as the fire alarms go off.

As the smoke moves into the kitchen, Rocco suggests he deal with the fire. The guard rushes off leaving Rocco unattended. Out front Miroslav sneaks up to the front door with Erin. Invisibly the ghosts trail behind him. Calling on the darkness to hide them, he slips through the unattended door. Down in the driveway, Marco rigs a second car bomb and then dives for cover.

Through the smoke Miroslav makes out a staircase leading upstairs. He and Erin wait a moment until the next guard rushes past to fight the fire. Then he makes for the stairs, coming face to face with Evelina and Uncle Angelo!

As she cries at the men to get the Changelings, Evelina reaches behind her into a mirror and pulls a shimmering blade from it. The gray-haired and twitchy Angelo draws his pistol but before he can do anything Erin hurls herself into Evelina, burying a knife into her. The blade, blessed by the powers of Hearth by Miroslav, cuts deep into the elderly woman. As Evelina backs away bleeding, pictures and vases fly around the room and violently collide with her.

As the mobsters go for their weapons a huge explosion from outside floors them. The windows shake and crack while outside Marco ducks behind a car, his ears ringing. mostly deafened, he feels something vibrate in his pocket. He crawls away to look at his phone.

Elsewhere Nikki slips into the office, propping the door closed with a chair. She hears a gentle tapping from the heavy wood framed mirror on the far wall. Checking the long heavy drapes at the windows as a possible rope on her way over, she slips the ornate mirror off its hanger and onto the ground.

As it cracks the Queen of Shadows spills out. Nikki rapidly texts the motley: “I got her.”

In the kitchen Rocco sees the text and begins write back some directions out of the house. Around him mobsters race to the front of the house toward the fire and explosions.

In the office Queen quickly explains that her fetch has the Quill of Fate. Nikki texts “the fetch has the quill.” Then she and the Queen head toward the gunfire.

Back in the front hall, Evelina picks herself up and stabs Erin with her blade. As the Ogre stumbles back, Angelo aims and fires. Erin collapses on the stairs bleeding as the ghosts continue to hurl objects at the fetch.

Miroslav call on the skills he bartered for at a Goblin Market in Europe. As the abilities of a paranoid survivalist infuse him, he trains his gun on Evelina and fires. The shot blows through a banister and through her midsection.

She looks down in horror as sawdust leaks from the wound, followed by bits of broken glass. She tries to brace herself as she falls back against the wall but her arm crumbles into a bundle of twigs. Crashing to the ground her head explodes into a jar of marbles which clatter down the stairs.

As Uncle Angelo remarks that she “lost her marbles”, Nikki and the Queen come up behind him. Nikki spots a silver pistol in the debris that was the fetch as well as a softly glowing rainbow feather. She snatches it while the Queen moves to the stairs. She texts “I have the quill.”

Placing her hand on Nikki, the Queen shouts to the room, “Fire! Get out of here!”

Instantly everyone’s beats faster as the horror of what is happening magnifies. The remaining mobsters flee while Uncle Angelo impulsively attempts to charge Miroslav. He slips on the marbles and falls down the stairs. Miroslav and Rocco stabilize Erin and carry her to safety, joining Nikki and the Queen in escaping into the Hedge.

As Marco makes his own way to safety, the others debate their next step. Nikki points out they don’t have time, they need to eliminate the book now.

Holding the quill, she takes a sheet of paper from the Queen and asks what to write. Mir protests that she can’t do it. He explains that given what happened to Hedge, he doesn’t want his sister potentially cursed by rewriting time. Rocco volunteers to write it, taking the quill and asking what Mir to put down.

After a moment he says. “Then the tome of ages ceased to exist and the quill lost its power.”

As Rocco finishes writing the quill fades and becomes mundane. Reality shudders and returns to normal.

The motley soon gather together with the survivors of the Guild of Shadows. In the weeks to come, they learn that Tom has retreated back to Arcadia to plot anew, leaving the corpses of Jennifer Conner and Eric McNeil to molder in the shuttered Spencer Academy. Ryan is never seen again and they presume Tom took him with him.

With the deaths, arrests, and madness, the Detroit Mob becomes a shadow of its former self, just one gang among the others. Hedge and Alice are left without their happy ending and drift away.

Charlie and Marco soon marry. Miroslav takes his place as the Queen’s right hand man. Nikki reconnects with her parents and continues as she has but with Mr. Skittles by her side. Rocco sees his Guild grow in power and scale.

A new day dawns.


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