“I said no kids,” Vincent tells her.
“Hm?” Melanie says.
He’s such a strange and innocent young man.
“No torturing kids. No making gods. We work with the gods we have. We don’t do this any longer, Melanie. We don’t have to be the monster.”
She blinks at him.
He’s right, of course. She doesn’t have to be the monster. She doesn’t even have to be a monster. She could just turn around and—
[The Frog and the Thorn – CHAPTER ONE]
May 28, 2004
She can’t help giggling at the serious expression on his face.
“Vincent,” she says. “If you want to negotiate with them, you’re welcome to try. You can just walk in and say, ‘Kids, I know you don’t mean any harm, but you’re trespassing on a Central-owned facility, so please vamoose immediately and we’ll move in.’”
“I wouldn’t say vamoose,” Vincent says, even though the word, like his name, begins with V.
“Whatever,” Melanie says. “Or make a deal where she makes gods for us, in exchange for a share of the profits and someone to turn the electricity on.”
Melanie can’t actually order the electricity turned on at the facility at Elm Hill, since the property isn’t in her name, but she can point Threnody at the problem, and that’s practically as good.
Vincent is glaring at her.
“I’m serious,” he says.
He licks his lips. He glances down at Harold’s head. She’s lowered her arm to her side but the head’s still dangling from her hand.
“Like that,” he says, “it’s impossible. But we could— we could help them. Hide them. We could help them hide.”
“Well, go ask him, then.”
She’s gesturing towards the gates.
Micah has come out again.
He’s walking, pale and blood-soaked, from the doors of the facility and down the path to its iron gates. He is standing in front of them, on the other side of those gates, and he is looking at them and he is swaying like the ground beneath his feet has lost the trick of keeping still.
His shirt is different.
It isn’t the same as it was when he was watching from the balcony. There is something different.
He is pulling the gates closed.
She almost laughs at him, at his determination, at the stupidity of it, to close a gate of ordinary metal against Melanie and all her gods.
But she must not laugh.
Not for all the laughter that is filling her, she must not laugh. Not with him so close. She must take him seriously. Micah is weak and pale and shaped into the image of a boy, but Micah is a god.
So she takes Vincent’s arm and she walks towards the gates, and they get close, and he says, “The first of you to set foot past this gate will die.”
The sands dripped through the hourglass
And the hour of the wolf closed in at last
And life is sweet and the sun is high
But the flesh and the fire are born to die
“The first of you to set foot past this gate will die.”
The gate closes with a click.
He’s just a boy. He’s not more than twelve. More likely, he is ten. He looks tireder than she has ever been.
“She said it,” Micah emphasizes. “Liril said that it would happen. So it’s true.”
Melanie steps towards him.
Metal and death between the two of them, and he flinches.
“That’s a fine trick,” she says.
His poker face is bad.
“But she didn’t say that, did she?” Melanie asks. “She couldn’t have. Because it’s not my fate to die. So why don’t you tell me what she really said?”
“It was that!” Micah protests.
But it’s a bluff.
“We can talk,” Vincent says. “We don’t have to hurt you. We’re not him. We can . . . don’t make this a war, Micah. I don’t want to hurt anybody else. Don’t make this a fight.”
It’s like there’s a curse on Vincent’s tongue.
It’s the exact wrong thing to say.
Melanie takes another step, and Micah’s strength breaks, and he runs; but he stops before the doors. He stands there, frozen, because that’s as far as he can run, with Liril still inside, and he hears the gate creak open, and he knows that Melanie is looking in.
“After you,” she says, to Vincent.
Vincent tries to find the word “no.” He tries really hard. But he’s lost it somewhere along the way. Instead, his mouth works for a moment, and to his own horror, he comes out with, “But I wanted to be good.”
Melanie grins at him. She grins wide. She looks at Micah, her eyes brilliant and alive, as if daring him to get the joke; but Micah doesn’t smile.
And Melanie is thinking:
Such a strange and innocent young man.
See also: The Cautionary Tale of Abermund Plain