Hey all! Wrapping up work on Halloween Jack and the Red Emperor, and I thought I’d give you a little sneak peak.
As he always did when surrounded by enemies with no hope of escape, Halloween Jack grinned his wildest grin.
“Oh no!” Jack said.
He fixed that grin on the beasties coming in front of him.
“Whatever shall I do, trapped and helpless like this?” He reached out with his right arm and dropped his stick. It clattered on the cobblestones a few times. “Stick, strike the first thing to get within arm’s reach, with four fingers.”
The demons stalking toward him stopped.
Then, still grinning, he glanced over his shoulder at the demons coming up behind him.
“Oh no! They’re coming behind me too!”
He dropped his jack o lantern, which landed with a dull thud. “Lantern, burn the skin off anything that steps too close.” Jack paused for dramatic effect. “Use your discretion with the definition of ‘too close.’”
The creatures coming up behind him slowed. They didn’t completely stop, but they slowed to a cautious crawl. That told Jack all he needed to know about these things. Now he knew they had no idea who he was.
Now he had them right where he wanted them.
With his hands free, and only a few precious moments to keep the demons at that perfect spot between nervous and terrified, Jack crossed his hands and pulled a card from each sleeve. He closed his eyes – a big risk, yes, but better for the sense of drama – and flicked one card ahead of him and the other behind him.
“Face up?” Jack said. Then he nodded, knowing the cards would be. “Yes, face up. That would be the Dragon and the Griffin.”
He repeated the gesture.
“Let me guess,” Jack said. “Face up again. This time the Knight and Dervish.”
Jack sped up his pace, flicking more cards out faster, without pausing at all, nodding, eyes still closed.
“Do you know what I love about these cards so much?” Jack asked. “Aside from the gorgeous artwork, that is…Truly breathtaking, don’t you think? It’s that under the right circumstances, the images on the cards will rise up and defend their owner from all harm. I got the deck in Egypt, from an ancient air spirit called a djinn. Nice fellow. Fairly clever. Unfortunately not nearly as clever as me. That’s how I got these cards, by being cleverer than an ancient air spirit. Just like I got the stick, the coat, and the lantern by being cleverer than a saint. You know. From heaven.”
Having cast all the cards around him, Halloween Jack opened his eyes. The monkey demons had stopped completely: the ones in front of him, the ones behind, and even the ones that had been creeping down the walls.
“But never mind my little toys.”
Jack gestured at his weapons which had terrified the dark creatures that lived beyond the Devil’s Gate so much that they feared him even more than Jack of the Lantern.
“Let’s talk about my cards. As I said, I’ve been waiting to use them. Should we start with the wizard?”
Jack pointed dramatically, thinking to himself, where are my bloody friends?
“Or perhaps some of you would like to face the Lion?”
After pausing a moment, Jack slid an expression of wonder and child-like excitement over his face, as if it were Christmas morning and he’d just received the gift he’d wanted all year long. The thought of what he wanted most bubbled up from the back of his mind, those shadowy places that he kept the dreams and secrets of the man he’d been before he’d become a legend. Halloween Jack refused to think about what John O’Brien wanted most. The Devil’s kin had taken what John O’Brien had wanted most years upon years ago on the darkest Halloween night ever.
“I’ve got it!” He scanned the cards, seeking one in particular. “Why don’t I wake the Emperor and bring all the cards to life at once?”
Jack looked over all the enemies surrounding him. He pointed at them each in turn, making a show of counting them.
“Yes,” Jack said. “Should be enough of you. The djinn said if enough beasties attacked me at one time, the Emperor would come and vanquish my foes.