Chapter Twelve – Wild Hunt

Faraday never thought he would say it, not if he lived another few thousand years, but watching Vasquez eat was damn near enough to put him completely off food for a while. Not forever, of course, because forever was a damn long time. But he was comfortable with saying that it might be a while before he was having venison again.

Maybe he could get the halfling, Teddy Q, to part with one of those apples of his. He had been listening to some of the townsfolk talk since they arrived about the mysterious properties of those apples. He had heard stories of little Teddy growing the tastiest fruit that could keep a man full for a day off a single apple. That sounded like a mighty fine thing, if it was true. That were the case, then he might take it upon himself to take a few of these apples to stash around town for Vasquez.

After all, the god had made a rather sizable dent in the local deer population tonight… and they were only one day into Rose Creek. There would be a lot more days and nights to keep him fed. If Chisolm’s guess was right, after all, they still had at least six more nights to get through.

“You seem to be thinking very hard, güero.”

He turned back towards Vasquez and offered up a smirk. Say whatever else he wanted about the monster, Vasquez was at least fastidious: not a drop spilled, not an ounce of meat wasted, barely even bones left behind. Granted, one of them was currently being used to clean between his teeth, but that was the way of things.

He had known Fae, mostly in the Unseelie Court, who were a great deal more messy… and that was with eating humans.

“Full now?” he asked… and laughed uproariously when the other monster only did a vague shrugging thing that only involved moving his head back and forth. Even though he knew there was nothing left to see of the meal the Old God had had, he still glanced around as if he could see the carcasses of the six or so mule deer that were no longer among the living. “In that case, can I be the first to say ‘damn’, because… damn.”

Unsurprisingly that got a laugh. Honestly, he had met a lot of monsters over his long years. Admittedly, few were as old as the Fae in general and himself in particular, but the ones that were even close to his age generally were sticks in the mud. For that matter, he had met a lot of monsters who were younger than him who fit that dour description. This particular Old God, however, had proven to be the exception to that rule.

Well, in truth, all the monsters on this little quest of Sam Chisolm’s had proven to be exceptions to that rule, but it was the Old God that was holding his attention, thank you very much. It wasn’t going to be easy keeping from making his interest plain. Then again… What was life without taking some chances?

Of course, before he could say anything, the Old God frowned and asked, “What is this Wild Hunt? That you were talking with the niño about?”

Well, there went any semblance of a mood there might possibly been towards something fun. Still, he managed to rally enough to smirk along with his drawled response of “That’s right: they’ve never had to run down towards Old Mexico way. Never any need as far as I can recall.”

Vasquez shrugged expansively. “We take care of that problem ourselves, my brothers and sisters and I.”

“If your brothers and sisters have teeth anything like yours, I can see how that would be.” The Old God chuckled again, with a grin that showed off too many of said teeth and sent shivers straight down Faraday’s spine.

Man, why did his type have to be hot as hell and just as dangerous? Damn his fucking libido and its very specific fucking tastes.

“A lot of the rest of us monsters don’t have the advantage of those teeth,” Faraday continued, unable to drag his eyes away from them. “We had to come up with another solution to the wendigo problem, so… the Wild Hunt.”

“And you told the niño you rode with it?”

As much as he wanted to grit his teeth, as much as he wanted to demand the topic be over, he forced a shaky smile. “Full of questions tonight, huh? Yeah, I ran with the Wild Hunt for a while. Off and on for a few hundred years, point of fact. Left it in ’58, I think ‘bout a year after the baby demon’s brothers… yeah.”

“You do not think that the third brother is alive.” It was a statement, and in answer, he shrugged. “The niño seemed certain that he was.”

“Baby demon didn’t see the same chunk ripped out of Ezra that I did. I don’t think even Antichrists can survive something like that. I think Goody’s… hopeful, but he’s still a baby, demon or not. You’re allowed to believe all kinds of ridiculous shit at that age.” He pulled off his hat and ran a shaking hand through his hair. “I… Can this conversation be over? I will pay you or blow you, whichever will get this conversation to end the soonest.”

One dark eyebrow shot up, expressively heading towards Vasquez’s hairline. “Really, güero?”

Shit… Had he said that out loud? Well, in for a penny and all that nonsense. “Unless there’s something better on offer, yeah.” He smirked and moved like water into the Old God’s space. “Is there something better on offer, Vasquez? No… Mictlantecuhtli?”

Well, that was nice, watching the other monster’s eyes darken like that. Yeah, that was good. There was a power to true names, after all, especially where monsters like Faraday were concerned, and seduction was a Fae’s best gift and weapon, all in one.

“Still do not actually know your name, güero…”

And that was almost funny, like his thoughts weren’t entirely his own… or at the very least, not private. He’d heard of seers who could do that—pluck thoughts right out of a being’s head—but never another monster who could, not even an Old God. He wished he could say that it lessened the appeal, but not really.

“The Fae don’t give out their real names.”

“Then you are a Fae.” And oh yes, he had said that he was… what was it… a little of this and a little of that when he introduced himself to the Old God, hadn’t he? For that matter, he had been tormenting the baby demon with it for days, and now that they were in Rose Creek, he had no intention of stopping.

“Close enough.”

There was a little something of death in Vasquez’s eyes, enough that it was both terrifying and intoxicating, especially this close: close enough to share each other’s breath but still not quite touch. It made him just itch to touch, to taste the Old God. It was like temptation incarnate was standing in front of him… and Faraday had never been good at resisting any form of temptation.

Vasquez whispered, “Tell me, güero,” the words little more than air against his lips, and Faraday let out a shuddered sigh, squeezing his eyes tightly shut.

“Damn it, Vas. That’s cheating.” At the Old God’s dark, deep chuckle, he squinted his eyes open again to glare. “Fine. You win.”

He leaned in close, hands sliding around the taller monster, and whispered the secret he had been keeping from everyone for at least a millennia: what he was.

Chapter Six – Junction City

Faraday had never been so glad to see a small camp as he was right now. It wasn’t that he was sick of all this already, but he had had the last day and a half narrated by a demon, and it was getting past annoying. It wasn’t the first time he had ridden with demons, and every last one he had ever met had been enormously fond of the sound of their own voice… but Goodnight Robicheaux might have just about taken the cake. Faraday was starting to develop a twitch in his right eye that no amount of alcohol was soothing, as well as a theory as to the demon.

The demons he had known in the past were all Antichrists, natural born children of Lucifer, and of the three of them he had known, Faraday had been friends with exactly one, predictably the one most likely to currently be dead, given the injuries he’d sustained in a fight against a wendigo, and capable to standing only one of the others, the one he knew for a fact was dead. But even a sample size that small did leave some room for educated guesses, if he was willing to assume that all demons were like Antichrists. That much, he didn’t actually know for certain, but for now, he would just work with the information he had.

As far as demons went, he was about ninety-three percent certain that Goodnight was young. How young he wasn’t so sure on. He didn’t know how demons reckoned age. It was all a bit beyond him. To him, even the oldest of demons was fairly young: a couple thousand years old or so at most. Hell, he remembered when demons were still new creatures and were called ‘shadow elementals,’ before the rest of the monster population found out the proper names for them.

No, it was more like ninety-seven percent a certainty that, whatever kind of demon Goodnight was, he was a young one, though whether that meant a couple of decades or a couple of centuries, Faraday couldn’t be say with complete certainty. The story of Goodnight Robicheaux the Confederate sharpshooter was less than twenty years old, so he was no younger than twenty. And Faraday didn’t think he was older than the Antichrists—Mordecai, Belial, and Ezekiel, though the latter had much preferred the nickname of Ezra—that he’d known. He wasn’t sure he could pin down just what it was that made him certain that Goodnight was younger, but that was indeed the impression he got.

Honestly, he didn’t know that much about demons, and he knew even less about angels. They were just too new and too insular, keeping mostly to themselves and between the two groups. Some days it annoyed the piss out of him, almost as much as all the prattling on he’d been hearing for a couple of days now, between Volcano Springs and here.

If pressed, he wasn’t sure he would be able to recall all the topics that had been so thoroughly covered. He remembered a long conversation in English—in order to let Teddy join in—about what it was that Sam Chisolm wanted, which he and Teddy had indeed answered as best they could. Then there had been another discussion, just as long or even longer, about just what Teddy was. That one had been in the Old Tongue, spoken purely monster to monster and, in this particular case, mind to mind, meaning poor Teddy had no idea he was being left out of a discussion. Granted, it was all about him, so maybe it was for the best. Faraday had done his best to ignore that line of talk. He knew what Teddy was, after all, and he saw no reason to share that particular bit of information. Should little Teddy Q decide he wanted that information shared, then that was on him. There was power in names, and sometimes there was just as much power, just as much value, in knowing little facts and bits of trivia.

For instance, he knew that there was a new monster at the bottom of this hill at that camp. What was down there, he couldn’t say for certain, only that he could say for a fact that it wasn’t a Fae of any sort. That was the extent of his certainty.

He had, after all, met a lot of different kinds of Fae and Fae-like creatures over his long years wandering the world. None of the ones he’d met had had teeth quite like that, though. Because those were some truly impressive teeth, and damn it, he wanted a chance to get up close and personal with the… being attached to them. Because, yeah, he had no idea at all what kind of monster that was, other than not Fae. It probably wasn’t a demon, an angel, or any kind of elemental.

Honestly, if he had to hazard a guess, he would think he was looking at one of the Old Gods, the kind that didn’t usually walk the world and certainly never outside the area they used to be worshipped. Maybe this was the kind of Old God he had always been warned lived in Old Mexico and was the reason he’d avoided the southern section of the continent.

All in all, that could mean there was another monster on this little trip who was of a similar age to him. It damn sure wasn’t going to be the baby demon or the angel, after all, no matter what physical appearances might dictate.

Speaking of the baby demon, Goodnight was riding slightly ahead of the group to cheerfully greet Sam Chisolm. Faraday tuned the loud conversation out as much as he could. It was so much better to put his attention to something more productive, like the paltry remains of his gifted bottle of whiskey.

Goodnight made a half-assed attempt at introducing Billy Rocks, and Faraday would note that he didn’t say the first word about what the other man was. Oh, now this should be fun. He was all for trying to pull one over on the monster hunter. This could be fun!

So he made a production of getting off his horse, acting a whole lot more drunk than he actually was; if he was really as drunk as he was acting, he probably would have killed the baby demon between four and seven miles ago. Chisolm sidled up to him, and though it was a hardship, he held back the smirk from forming on his face. “That’s Billy,” he delivered, slurring his words but keeping his tone deadpan, on the question Chisolm hadn’t asked yet. “He come with Goodnight.”

And I ain’t tell you a damn thing about him, monster hunter, no more than I’d tell the baby demon and the angel what Teddy Q is. You can just forget about that.

“He’s pretty handy with them pigstickers,” Faraday offered instead.

There was a tap at the back of his mind, the Old Tongue equivalent of clearing the throat or knocking on a door for attention. In the last day and a half, he had gotten very familiar with how the baby demon and to a lesser extent the angel sounded in the Old Tongue—the Angel had a sort of lilting tone, while the demon managed to carry the damn drawl over, because of course he did—and this sound like neither of them.

No, this voice was deep and rich, and part of his mind wanted to compare it to a strong, quality drink… or a good chocolate. At the very least, he wanted to curl up in it. And there was only one possible monster here it could belong to. And wasn’t that an interesting thing?

“Oh good,” he answered aloud and maybe louder than he should have, given their… mixed company, “we got a Mexican… something.”

The other monster chuckled, low and dark, like chills up the spine. Yeah, this was going to be fun, being thrown in with monsters like these.

“‘A Mexican something’, cabrón? I am older than this country.” The words slithered through his mind, and Faraday didn’t even bother to hide his shiver. There was power, old and hungry and a little cruel, in that voice, like he hadn’t heard in years. No doubt about it: this was one of the Old Gods or something not very far from one. Interesting. Very interesting.

“No doubting that, my friend. There is certainly no doubting that. But then, even the baby demon there is older than this country.” He offered a wink to go with the words, and the Old God chuckled both aloud and in Faraday’s mind, the sound curling lazily around him. “You are what I think you are? You’re older than a lot of countries on any map.”

“What you are thinking I am?” There was an almost tinniness to the voice now, meaning the conversation was being shared now, that it was no longer just between the two of them. And the man might just have been bragging, given the sheer pride in what he was saying. “I am ancient, and I have been worshipped as a god. The Aztecs, they called me Mictlantecuhtli.”

It took all of a split second for Goodnight to slip into the conversation, of course, once the option was opened up to him, even as he stalked back over rejoin the two of them, his angel on his heels. “I won’t even ask how to spell that one. What are you doing in this part of the world, mon ami? I thought your kind usually stayed where your followers are.”

“Not so many followers these days, cabrón. Spaniards kill too many of them.” And Faraday found himself nodding, just slightly. The same had happened with the Romans, years and years and years ago. “I kill a Ranger who harasses one of my worshippers, and I get a bounty on my head.”

Faraday scoffed aloud. “Ain’t met a Ranger I like yet.” It was offered up almost like a peace treaty, and the Old God smiled, so obviously it was accepted. Good. That was good.

Goodnight glanced around between the four of them. “So we do have quite the motley crew here then, don’t we? An angel of death,” he nodded at Billy, who touched his finger to the brim of his hat in acknowledgement, “an Antichrist my own self,” which seemed to surprise exactly no one, “an Old God, and you, Faraday. Just what is that you are anyway? You don’t act like any Fae I’ve ever met.”

He snickered, careful to keep it solely between the four of them. “And yet you act like every Antichrist I’ve known, Goodnight.”

And now that? That was funny. He had been trying to compare Goodnight to the other demons he had known, all of which were Antichrists—literal children of the Christian devil, Lucifer—and here Goodnight was one of the same. In turn, that meant that all four demons he had passed time with now were all Antichrists. He wasn’t too sure where he was going to put Goodnight in that list of how well he liked them, not just yet.

“This is true, güero,” Vasquez continued Goodnight’s trail of words when Faraday didn’t give an answer. “You do not act like any Fae I have known. What are you then?”

“Me?” he asked, all wide-eyed innocence, the look spoiled immediately by the amused smirk on his lips. “I’m just… a little of this and a little of that. That’s all.”

Chapter Three – Trickster in a Saloon

There was a certain trick to hiding amongst mortals. If you played it too close to the chest, they assumed you were just as frail and near death as they all were. If you showed your hand too thoroughly, they either started fearing or worshipping you. And personally speaking, he was about sick of worshipping. Some of the perks from the worship were nice, but all in all, it was just too much of a bit much.

More than any of that, though, Faraday disliked hiding amongst mortals because they smelled like shit. Sometimes literally. The one-eyed bastard next to him wasn’t too bad, but some of the others at the poker table? If they had bathed a day since their mothers pushed them out into the world, he would be shocked. The one with the wild eyes and bad hat, the one who smelled so much of blood, he might not have even been bathed that day.

“These cards are shit,” he complained loudly, rather than let himself say what he was thinking. If he opened his mouth to say what he was thinking, after all, it was all going to end in tears and blood and someone dead. Again. Live long enough, after all, and these things did tend to start repeating themselves. Corpses had a way of coming home to roost.

He degraded his fellow players a bit more, dealing the cards out with a bit more flourish than they strictly needed. The off-key music on the rickety piano stuttered to a stop, and he followed everyone’s eyes to the batwing doors as they opened to admit a black man dressed all in black. He could smell the amount of iron and silver on the man from here, and that really summed up everything anyone needed to know as to the man’s profession: monster hunter.

Speaking as a monster his own self, this should prove to be most interesting.

A quick series of rapid gunshots took out Powder Dan’s friends. Most interesting, indeed.

Now, he’d had his eye on Powder Dan himself. Fire elementals weren’t exactly common things, and it paid—he had found—to keep a weather eye on the unusual.  It was, after all, impossible to say if and when the unusual might come calling to his door, in a manner of speaking. And depending on if Dan was affiliated with either of the Faery courts… That could potentially spell some trouble for him.

Even in the hush left after the gunfire that disabled but didn’t kill Dan’s friends, he didn’t think a human would be able to make out what the human in black was saying to the fire elemental. He could just make the words out himself… and he might have gone at a bit pale hearing the name of July Bully. He’d heard that name before, usually in regards to a wendigo. If this warrant officer had managed to to do what monsters had trouble doing and put down a  wendigo—and live to tell the tale—that was… Well, that was something. After all, monsters had trouble killing wendigo and living to tell the tale. This might well be the first human he has heard of to date who has managed it.

Given the number of years under his belt, he had heard of any number of humans and monsters try taking on a wendigo for whatever reason. There was a reason why groups were deployed against them—the Wild Hunt, groups of monsters, even angels—when more often than not it meant death.

And this human might have managed it all on his lonesome? Well, now this was interesting news.

The saloon was clearing out now, and Faraday had to grin, even as he chided the humans at his table to leave his winnings. His amusement only grew when one of them grumbled, “He’s gonna kill you, Faraday.” Because if he had a shiny coin for every time he had hear that, he would be the richest, most well respected Fae on the planet… and he damn sure wasn’t that.

“Dan, you dead?” he called out on a lark. In return, he got a look of amused tolerance from the human, and the smile on his face grew dangerously pleased. “Pity. I was just about to order a drink from him.”

The monster hunter pushed the untouched drink down the bar towards him as he gathered up his money. “Help yourself.”

“Money for blood’s a peculiar business, monster hunter,” he offered, not making a move towards the free alcohol. Been a while since anyone had gifted him alcohol. That was a nice thing. It was nice to be given offerings, even—or maybe especially—without the worship.

“Just trying to do right by folks,” the hunter returned, and Faraday raised a sardonic eyebrow.

“Human folks or everybody?” He didn’t give the man long enough to answer before asking another question. “You really kill July Bully?”

“That I did, Mister…?”

Names had power, even names made up. But there was less power in a name that he had invented than in his actual one, so he shrugged and answered, “Faraday.”

“I did indeed put July Bully in the ground,” the man in black answered. And Faraday was noting that he hadn’t offered up his own name. Rude. “Why do you ask?”

“Because ain’t many humans—monster hunters or not—who can take on a wendigo and live to tell the tale. Most monsters I know wouldn’t go near one if you offered them every little thing their hearts desired. How did you kill him?”

But before the man in black could answer, there were noises stirring outside, the nascent beginnings of a mob coming with the sheriff in tow. Too bad for the monster hunter, he figured, but it wasn’t like the man was asking for his help, and he wasn’t sure he would give it, even if he was asked; the gift of alcohol was nice, but a monster helping a monster hunter? Now there was a thing unheard of.

Might even be worth it to try, just for the novelty of it all.

Well, if the monster hunter was still alive and breathing after he retrieved his horse… He hadn’t seen Jack hitched outside the saloon when he’d come in, so he might well have done something stupid. Hopefully, it was the kind of stupid that a judicious application of the boring kind of human money—the paper kind that mortals so loved and he just found dull—there was no shine to it at all!—could get him out of.

Of course, he did end up walking right out the back door of the saloon and into the less than tender, loving arms of the Babington brothers… who promptly took his guns off of him. He liked his guns, damn it. He had had a lot of special work done to them so that he could use them safely. There weren’t a lot of Fae of any sort that could stand to use guns, given the amount of iron to be found in them, but these had been his for a long, long time—as humans reckoned time—and he didn’t tolerate people touching them.

He wowed the brothers with a card trick or two, anything to prevent having to go into that mine. Even from here, he could feel the iron cart rails, iron latticing throughout the entire structure. Even if it wasn’t fatal to him, as a Fae, it was uncomfortable and painful, and too much of it would leave him weakened. Not as much as it would for some, thanks to years of carefully doled out exposure to it, but it still wouldn’t be a good thing.

But he did have the third gun, the little banker’s special he kept tucked in a small holster at the small of his back, hidden between his shirt and his vest. He didn’t like using it. There was no pearl-inlayed handle. There was no wooden grip. It was nothing but the cold iron and it burned with a frozen fire, but it sure as hell put a bullet between the eyes of Dickie Babington, who had been thoroughly entranced with him plucking the King of Hearts out of thin air. If he’d had his Ethel or his Maria, he might have been more inclined towards mercy for Earl Babington. As it was, he was pained and rapidly losing his temper, and it was easy to give into the urge to show Earl Babington a new trick: one called the Amazing Disappearing Ear. After that, Earl Babington was more than willing to never cross paths with him again.

That promise secured, he tucked that little banker’s special into the back of his pants, letting his shirt hide it from sight. He rapidly unloaded Earl’s shotgun and tossed it aside, gathering Ethel and Maria and returning his girls to their proper places, before stalking back into Amador City, inspecting his hands as he went. Now he wasn’t the typical Fae, not by any stretch of the imagination and he might have built up a tolerance of sort to iron, but that didn’t mean that the stuff wasn’t uncomfortable as hell. A regular Fae would be burned black from holding onto iron that long, and their hand likely would have been rendered permanently useless; Faraday’s hand looked red and angry, but with a few days—maybe a week or two—of babying it, it’d be just fine. For right now, there was no need to waste his water or energy on healing it. It took a lot of water and energy to heal iron burns, after all, even if this was little more than an iron scald.

All the same… Fuck Amador City. It was time to go retrieve his Jack and get the hell out of here.

Walking back into town, listening much more carefully, he could hear his Jack bellowing his annoyance, and that made it easy to track him down to a corral near the center of town. As he walked, he wrapped his hand in the bandana that had been around his neck. Following the sounds, he had to grin at the poor mortal trying to get his hands on a Fae horse like Jack and the leprechaun sitting on the fence urging him on. And damn it, he recognized that voice. Of all the leprechauns in the West, it would have to be the one—one of the ones—who hated his guts who currently had possession of his horse.

“You aren’t trying to feed humans to my horse, are you, Fergus? You know Jack’s killed men for less than that.”

The shorter Fae turned on the fence to face him, a dark look spreading across his face as he jumped down off the wooden rail. “Faraday,” he returned, and it wasn’t friendly. “And just what do you think you’re doing?”

In for a penny… “I require my horse. That horse.”

“Two days ago, your… horse against my Irish whiskey, behind the saloon, playing dice.”

Well, hell, that sounded like something he would do at that. Hopefully, Jack would forgive him for it or he was going to be in for some very uncomfortable rides in the near future. It galled him, but he instead offered, “In that case, I would like to buy my horse back… though I am light of funds at the moment.” That was true enough: all he had was that ratty paper money from the saloon, which was pretty much useless as far as either of them were concerned. “So it seems we got ourselves a Mexican standoff, only between two Fae, and I’m not sure how that ends.”

Fergus rolled his eyes. “With you walking away without your… horse.” At the last word, his hand settled on his gun, the threat loud and clear.

Faraday’s eyes followed the movement, his eyes narrowing in annoyance. “Now why did you have to go and touch your gun for? We were in the middle of a gentleman’s negotiation.”

A long beat… two… of silence, then…

“How much for his horse?” And that was, unexpectedly, the monster hunter’s voice.

Glancing up and to the side, Faraday could see the man in black astride an—unsurprisingly—black horse with two halflings riding up on horses behind him as Fergus set out his terms: twenty-five for Jack, seven and two bits for the saddle. It was highway robbery, even for a leprechaun, but he couldn’t help feeling a bit perversely cheered by the other Fae taking a hunter for all he was worth.

“Our paths cross again, monster hunter,” he greeted the man in black, just barely holding back a smirk. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Took a job, looking for some monsters to join me,” the other man returned easily enough, and this sounded interesting. So this time he was asking for help? Granted, in a roundabout way, but still…

“There any money in it?”

The halfling woman grabbed up a leather mailbag and tossed his way. It jingled pleasingly when he caught it and even more so when he shook it. Even Fergus was starting to look interested in the contents of the bag. “Who’s she?” he demanded first, though, nodding at the woman.

“Joan of Arc,” the man in black returned dryly, and he nearly gave into the urge to snicker.

“Emma Cullen,” she answered instead, “and this is my associate, Teddy Q.” The other halfling nodded at him.

“Well, I do have an affinity for shiny things,” he offered, and he tried not to smirk at the look of relief that crossed Miss Emma Cullen’s face as he tossed the bag back to her. Unless he missed his guess—and he didn’t think he was—the woman was part Fae. Maybe there had been a changeling in her family and not that long ago, as Fae reckoned time. The boy, he was a bit harder to pin down. While the woman was more human than Fae, he seemed to be half and half, human and something else, something that felt like the earth and trees. Elemental, maybe? Not from his area of the world, not precisely, but maybe closer to the Aegean? A dryad? Well, if they were both halflings, it was no wonder they knew well what to offer to a Fae to tempt them along. He approved. “Is it difficult?”

“Impossible,” the monster hunter fired right back, and if it were actually possible for his heart to skip a beat in sheer joy, it might have.

“How many you got so far?”

“Two.”

He turned to eyeball Fergus, not liking the interest in the leprechaun’s eyes. No, this was his shiny new sandbox to play in. Fergus could keep Amador City. More than that, he didn’t like the considering look the other was shooting the halflings. At least one of them was part Fae, and since they seemed to be attached at the hip, that made them both as good as Fae so far as he was concerned. It was an unspoken covenant that Fae walking the world should take care of any changelings and children of changelings that they might come across just as they would any other full Fae that they met. Speaking of which…

“What, them?” he nodded at the halflings as he asked.

“You and me.”

And yeah, Faraday couldn’t help being impressed. A monster hunter, willing to partner up with a monster? It must be some kind of job in that case, especially if he had used the word ‘impossible’ to describe it. There was no way he wasn’t going to agree in that case. And maybe this could do a bit to satisfy his curiosity as to how a human managed to kill a wendigo. Ride off, do a job with a monster hunter, find out just how he went about doing the impossible, and keep a couple of halflings from getting their fool selves killed. Yep, there was no way he was turning this job down. Back in the saloon, he might have debated the merits of it, but this time, it was a foregone conclusion: he would be helping.

So it was only a few moments later when he was finally putting Amador City to his back, riding with two halflings and a monster hunter. They didn’t speak until the city was well to their backs, and that was him moving Jack up closer—but not too close, for her safety’s sake—to the woman and prompting, “Sending out a woman to gather guns isn’t very chivalrous.”

“I volunteered,” she answered, pausing a moment before correcting herself. “Insisted, actually.”

“And just how much monster are you and your… associate there?” It was rude, but right now, he didn’t give much of a damn. He was curious, damn it, and he had waited long enough for an answer. “You’ve got Fae in you, and him?” He turned in his saddle briefly to examine the young man. “I’m guessing… elemental?”

The boy sat up straighter, his entire demeanor as serious as could be, like he had never been caught out as elemental before, but of course, it was the woman who answered. “My grandmother was a Changeling. She always said, if we needed anything, we should call upon the Fae for help.”

“Sounds like a smart lady” was all he commented, before turning his gaze back to the young man.

“My mother was a dryad.”

“So, earth elemental,” Faraday confirmed. He certainly didn’t need Teddy’s helpful nod in confirmation. “Any other halflings involved in this?”

The pair of them exchanged glances, clearly debating their answer silent between the two of them, before Emma replied, “There might be others in town. We never really… talk about this kind of thing. That’s why we asked Mister Chisolm to help us gather an army of monsters.”

Well, there was nothing else to say to that. He made a soft encouraging sound to Jack, urging him forward to catch up with the man in black. Once he was riding abreast with the hunter—Chisolm, if Emma was to be believed, and he thought she was—he commented, “Lotta fire in those two. Begs the question, whose execution do we seek?”

“Bartholomew Bogue,” Chisolm returned blandly.

He was shocked enough that he leaned back in the saddle, confusion writ large across his face. “Bart Bogue? You mean that uppity witch who fancies himself a robber baron?”

Chisolm turned dark eyes on him, gazing at him implacably. “I do believe the man calls himself a warlock.”

He waved a dismissive hand. “And I don’t doubt that he’s a lying, scheming witch, but he’s still just an uppity witch. Still, means there’s gold in the equation, but gold don’t do you much good when you’re buried with it.” Not that would be a long term issue for him or many other monsters, but halflings? They were as mortal as the next human. That would be a issue.

“You want out? Feel free to leave,” Chisolm returned. “Just leave my horse, ‘cause I paid for it.”

You couldn’t handle Jack on a good day, he thought with no small degree of personal amusement. He would eat you alive. Literally.

“Just speaking out loud,” he countered.

Chisolm favored him a look that said he wasn’t nearly as amusing as he thought he was… which was a bit of bullshit, because he was exactly as amusing as he thought it was. And then came his marching orders. “Twenty miles east of here, Volcano Springs supply station. You look for a demon, name of Robicheaux.”

“Goodnight Robicheaux?” Because he had only heard of one demon using the name of Robicheaux, and that had been one who came topside for the War, one that had even served in the War as a Confederate sharpshooter. At Chisolm’s affirmation, he continued, “The Angel of Death…”

“Meet me outside of Junction City in three days. I ain’t there, means I’m dead and… you can keep my horse.” He turned his attention briefly to Emma. “Let’s go.”

Faraday exchanged a glance with Teddy, the young halfling looking more concerned than he was strictly comfortable. “Three days,” he called back to Chisolm, both confirming the information and as an unspoken reminder to keep the halfling traveling with him safe.

Wherever the hunter was heading, clearly it involved gathering more monsters. Personally speaking, Faraday didn’t think a monster would hurt a halfling, not intentionally, not unless they thought she aimed to hurt them first, but it was hard to say. He didn’t think that would happen, but it was hard to say. He was old and he had traveled most of the world in his time, but he didn’t know every kind of monster. He suspected he didn’t know close to every type of monster. Maybe if they thought she was a monster hunter too…

There was no use worrying about it. He would have to trust the monster hunter to keep the Changeling safe, and he would do his part to keep the halfling with him safe… and collect the demon called the Angel of Death.