Chapter 1.24 – In which Percy bluffs (unconvincingly)


Month 11, Day 28, Saturday 4:45 a.m.

The Morrow chuckled meanly. “I crush that thing to bits, or I crush you and your girlfriend first, and then the artifact. Don’t be stupid, kid.”

“I wasn’t taking photographs of the fight,” Percy tried. “It was an accidental—”

“I saw the spell light going off,” the man interrupted. “Don’t play coy with me. Give it here. Unless you think you can protect it and the girl at the same time?”

Percy looked down at Viv lying unconscious on the floor still, a slight snore coming from her open mouth, and then to the Vista 500 hanging from his chest. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” he said before he could think the words through.

The man tilted his head to the side. “Oh, really?”

Percy swallowed hard, shock and panic flaring through him in equal measure. But he had already said it, and now he had to follow through. “I’ve taken out several other Morrows. The coppers had to provide emergency healing when they arrived,” he said, straightening his shoulders and deepening his voice with attempted bravado.

Minor thieves beholden to the Morrows still counted, right? And three was “several.” It didn’t matter how injured Percy himself was, or how accidental much of the damage done to them had been.

The man laughed, but the false mirth cut off abruptly as his hand flashed into his jacket pocket and pulled out a wand. He shot immediately, without even taking the time to aim.

Percy jumped out of the way twice in a kind of panicked double hop. The foggy, slowly expanding spell cloud rolled into the table behind him with a booming echo that threw up dust and shattered the vial of moonlight sizzle in a spray of glass and glowing potion.

A few drops hit Percy on the cheek, and the table’s wooden legs creaked and then slowly collapsed, thankfully not onto Viv’s prone form.

Percy shivered with fear, wide-eyed and frozen like a small animal in the face of a predator. If that spell had hit him, he might have actually died.

The man swung the battle wand toward Percy again, stepping forward further into the building until he was under the edge of the loft.

Percy stumbled back in panic. His arms caught on a lever attached to one of the structural beams holding up the high ceiling, and he shrieked as, with a rusty groan, the floor rose up underneath him.

The movement knocked Percy off of his feet, and he realized he was on some kind of lifting dock meant to give easy access to the warehouse loft. But when his end went up, the other end came down.

The end that just happened to be nearest the man, and which had been holding several old, precariously stacked crates. Unbalanced from the sudden lurching movement, they tumbled over and bounced off the sides of the platform.

The man cried in surprise as a crate landed right on top of him. The force of the blow was enough to knock him to the ground and send the battle wand skating across the floor.

Unfortunately, having been lifted several meters above the ground, Percy was in no position to take advantage of this opportunity. When the lift beneath him stopped moving, he stepped onto the loft, which was piled with boxes that left no obvious path more than a few steps forward.

There was nothing that would make an obvious weapon, and when Percy tried to lift one of the boxes in the hope of throwing it down on the man, it didn’t even budge an inch.

Percy looked back over his shoulder, to where the other side of the C-shaped loft ended at the staircase. Maybe, if he could make it over there, he could climb or jump down.

But picking a path through the darkness would take time. The faint moonlight glow potion splattered over him might have made him a clear target, but it wasn’t bright enough to illuminate a path.

A quick glance revealed that the man below was back on his feet and about to retrieve his battle wand. He seemed to be limping slightly, but the falling crate had failed to cause him any lasting injury. “Trying to run away on your own?” the man yelled hoarsely.

“Of course not!” Percy yelled back, looking around frantically for something, anything, that he could use to turn the tables.

His gaze caught on a balled-up sheet of fabric lying under a tipped-over box of some dark, sandy material. Percy scrambled to rip the fabric free, spilling granules everywhere as he heaved the crumpled sheet up. Some winged insects escaped from where they had been nesting under the fabric, but despite the fact that more might remain within its folds, Percy still hugged the sheet to his chest. It was heavier than fabric should be, or perhaps Percy was just that exhausted.

He stepped back onto the platform, looking down at the Morrow defiantly. The man was standing over Viv, but as he saw Percy, a slow smile spread across his face. He walked to the support beam and yanked down on the rusty lever.

Percy didn’t move as the platform shuddered beneath him and began to descend. “You can do this,” he whispered to himself.

When Percy got closer to the ground, he would throw the sheet on the man in such a way that it unfurled and wrapped around him. The heavy fabric should both obscure the man’s vision and temporarily restrict his movements. At that moment, Percy would jump at him, hit him feet first, and hopefully knock him to the ground again.

Then Percy would get up first and find something to hit the man with before he could escape Percy’s trick. If necessary, Percy would hit him several times. Until he stopped moving.

Percy’s eyes flitted around, hoping to land upon something in the warehouse that he could actually lift. He found no obvious solutions, though there might have been a good option among the jumble of junk and boxes hidden within the shadows.

Maybe it would be better to try to take the man’s battle wand, actually. As an artifact, it should be pre-charged with spells that even someone like Percy could use with the simple pull of a trigger or press of a button or something.

But before Percy could land on the perfect plan, the platform had descended too far, and he ran out of time.

The man was smirking even as Percy threw the sheet at him and began to leap. The fabric did unfurl, the reason for its weight suddenly apparent as more of the dark granule-like things flew out.

The man sidestepped both the sheet and Percy’s flying kick—perhaps Percy’s plan had been too obvious. But even as Percy’s feet hit the empty sheet, and then the ground, and he threw himself into a roll to avoid breaking anything, the man yelled out in pain.

Percy hopped back to his feet, immensely thankful for all the falls he had practiced in the backyard with Dad.

The man was wide-eyed, the tears streaming from his reddened eyes visible in the faint light of the spilled moonlight sizzle. Some of the dark granules had gotten in his eyes.

Percy shuffled his foot across the floor carefully, but the scraping sounds and sensation under his foot seemed off. The dark stuff wasn’t granules, exactly. It was…metal shavings?

The man’s red eyes and panic suddenly made more sense, and Percy shuddered at the thought of getting something so sharp and jagged in his own eyes. He’d gotten shattered glass in his eyes twice in his life, and still occasionally had shiver-inducing flashbacks to it.

The scar on Percy’s left cornea had caused him to need corrective lenses long before his eyesight degraded naturally.

“You little shit!” the man growled, pointing his battle wand at Percy again, one eye closed and the other watering heavily.

Percy dove out of the way as another foggy blasting spell flew from the tip of the man’s wand. It roiled outward, growing larger and larger until it smashed against the front wall of the building. Glass blew out of the few remaining windows, and the planks on those that were boarded up cracked. Where the spell hit the wall itself, it threw back stone dust and dry insect corpses.

Percy resisted the urge to look at Viv, who had been just outside of the spell’s path. He didn’t want to draw the Morrow’s attention to her. Instead, Percy started circling around in the opposite direction, toward the dark side of the warehouse where the remnants of the campfire lay.

As he shuffled through the darkness, it struck Percy that, while the circumstances were still absolutely horrible, this fight was going surprisingly well. Percy was totally fine, if slightly exhausted, while his attacker had sustained multiple injuries.

But of course, as soon as the thought passed through Percy’s head, his foot caught the edge of something that began to tilt under his weight.