Author Note: This novella takes place in the world of Splatter Elf. If you are interested in other Splatter Elf tales, check on my short stories "The Unicorn-Eater" and "River of Blades" on Amazon.
Chapter 1: A Love of Unicorns
Part I: The Snake Eats Its Tail and Likes It
Grundle sat on the hill of bones and broken stone. He watched the warlock drag something behind him. Blood trailed through the brittle grass and rocks. So he had killed again. Sloppy as usual. Not clean. Never clean.
Grundle took a long drag from his cigarette and snorted the bluish smoke out of his nose. The spicy burn made him sneeze. It had been a long time since he'd seen Wormwheel of Wandu. Yet there he was dragging a bloody sack. Come to think of it, almost every time Grundle had crossed Wormwheel blood had been involved.
"You going to kill him this time?" A quivering blue cube of gelatin floated in the air next to Grundle's head. It burped and spun in a vain attempt to get the hunter's attention. The old wizard Oshari, like all the other geezers of the Pearlescent Few, didn't have the guts to hunt in person. So he used a wiggly cube as his proxy.
"Nope," Grundle said.
"And why not?" Oshari asked. "He's right there. Take a shot."
"Not yet," Grundle said.
"I don't understand you," the cube said.
"Don't need to."
"Don't you think it's better for our working relationship to understand each other?"
"Our working relationship is you babysitting me with Ezel's Gelatinous Mouth." Grundle pointed his finger into the squishy cube.
"Please don't poke the cube. I hate that."
"What's the point of having Ezel's Gelatinous Mouth around if I can't poke it?"
Oshari hummed. "It's better than Dendari's Belching Maw. I could have chosen that one."
Grundle rubbed his hand along the scarred stock of his Yurgish rifle, Taoling, named after one of his ex-wives. The only one he could still remember. Many men, women, beasts, and gods had fallen to Taoling. Both the woman and the rifle.
"By the Snake Gods, kill him already." The cube buzzed around Grundle's head.
"Not time," Grundle said.
"Well, shit, when is it going to be time?"
"When it's time."
Damn wizards ask too many stupid questions. Grundle pulled down the hood of his dusty cloak. The edges had been eaten away by all manner of desert insects and years of wear. Yet he needed the cloak. Every hunter needed a cloak. His was special. The Cloak of Sightless Vigil, a gift from the Sweltering Guild. Dozens of eyeballs of various demons, beasts, humans, and insectoids were woven into it. Grundle had owned hundreds of cloaks over the years. Some silken, some cotton, some made of skin. He loved his worn-out brown one full of eyeballs the most though. It blended in with his skin. Made him appear like a pack of sand wraiths stalking the wastes.
"You thinking about your cloak again?" The cube vibrated with Oshari's wobbling voice.
"Yep," Grundle said. Cloaks made him smile. He needed a new cloak made of elf skin. Or maybe a nice woven nymph hair. Been awhile since he'd had a stylish cloak.
"You're talkative today," Oshari said. "You didn't say three words to me yesterday."
"I don't talk to wizards if I can help it."
The cube floated down in front of Grundle's face, weaving back and forth. "At least you're directly addressing me. You know it pains me not to be able to take out Wormwheel myself. The bastard. Or bitch."
"I believe Wormwheel's taken the form of a woman right now." Grundle peered through a busted spyglass. "No, a man. Can't tell from here."
"If only these old bones could manage," Oshari said. "I'd have killed him long ago. Strangled the dog piss out of him. That's right. I wouldn't even use a spell. Just my bare hands."
"Your old bones can manage fine." Grundle snorted out more smoke. "You just want to lounge in your tower."
"That's not true," the cube said. "I want to roam free. Dance in the sun. Swim in the sea. All that wonderful happy shit."
"It's not so wonderful out here." He licked his cracked lips. "When's the last time you've seen the sun or sea, Oshari?"
The cube went silent for a while. "Been a while."
"Then I guess you don't know that the sun is dying and the seas are steaming pits full of the dead. I see more skulls than I do trees."
Oshari chuckled. "Come on now."
Grundle raised up a finger. "I counted thirty-two skulls and fifteen trees. Not exactly vacationing scenery."
Oshari groaned. "You counted?"
"You want more sun?" Oshari ignored Grundle's grim descriptions. "More time in the sea? Once you bring me Wormwheel's head with a bullet in it, everything will be perfect. You'll be swimming in silverfingers."
"Don't need money. I've killed hundreds of men for the Pearlescent Few. Yet here I am, sitting on another collapsed temple of some dead god."
"Getting introspective on me, old boy?" Oshari's voice warbled. "I didn't expect such sentimentality from you."
"This is my last one," Grundle said. "After this, I'm going north." He paused to puff on his cigarette. "There are things there for me."
"Pretty Ones, you mean?"
"You're still on about that?"
"Yep." Grundle had never stopped thinking about them. Ever since he heard rumors of a distant place the Pretty Ones fled to after the War of One Million Screaming Dead on Fire. "There's a home for them. I know it."
"You're going to waste your twilight years hunting unicorns and the like?"
"Not hunting," Grundle said. "Studying. Embracing. There's something to them we don't understand. Something to preserve this dying world."
The cube thumped like a beating heart. "It's best to cultivate what we have."
"There's nothing in Groteskia. Only death. Warlords bickering over patches of scarred land. The dead choke the old roads. Death upon death."
"Nothing makes you happy, does it?"
"Nothing here," Grundle said, watching as Wormwheel disappeared amongst the withered trees. The slug trail of blood was all that remained of his presence.
"So you're going to leave us? Go be friends with the unicorns and faeries?"
"There has to be something more," Grundle said, staring off towards the dying sun. "My birthday is today."
"Oh? Happy Birthday then. How old are you?"
"Me too," Oshari said. "Me too. Maybe once you get rid of Wormwheel I can talk with the others about letting you have a vacation."
"I don't need a vacation," Grundle said. "I need escape."
"Speaking of escape, you're just going to let Wormwheel go into the woods there? I don't want to tell you how to do your job, but there's a reason I have to supervise you."
"And that reason is?" Grundle stubbed out the cigarette on a blasted skull.
"You know why. You tend to stray from the script."
"I get the job done. That's all that should matter."
"Where do you think he's going?"
"To sell something," Grundle said. "Something he thinks is valuable or else he wouldn't be going to Barbatha."
"Barbatha? Of the all the shit-eating warlords. Damned bastard killed three of our hunters."
"That's why you sent me, I suppose."
"We sent Dearborn, too."
Grundle put his hand over his heart. "You insult me."
"Who knows? Maybe he'll get the job done and you can come back early. We have recognized your worth. We can find other more relaxing work for you. Maybe killing rats."
"The rats in Muldrum are the size of ponies."
Oshari's voice rose an octave. "More relaxing than hunting witches and warlocks, right?"
Grundle tried to smirk, but his scarred, leathery face couldn't manage. One more job. One more warlock's head on a pike. And maybe he'd find that unicorn that kept calling to him. That haunted his dreams. That consumed his soul.
"I'll get the job done," Grundle said. "And I only brought one bullet to do it."
"Confident, are we?" Oshari asked.
"Nope," Grundle said. "Just wanted a challenge."
Chapter 2: The Gift of Worms
Wormwheel carried a rattling cage in one hand and dragged a bloody sack behind him with the other. Gifts for the ever-screeching Princess Milandri. She wasn't even a real princess. Her father, the Dread King Barbatha, wasn't even a king. So many misleading titles in the land of Schetzera.
Barbatha leered down at Wormwheel from his throne of matted hair, a collection of scalps taken from his enemies. Bald men with raw, pink skin and pinched faces stood on either side of him, misting perfume in the air intermittently. The massive skin-woven tent smelled more of the graves of dead women than anything else. Wormwheel tried not to sneeze. Sneezing was a sign of weakness to those of the Motherless Horde. And so was bathing apparently.
"So?" Barbatha picked gristle from his teeth with a broken chicken bone. "Where is it?"
"In the bag." Wormwheel let the sack drop to the dusty ground. Blood seeped out.
"And the cage?"
The cage rattled again violently. Wormwheel gritted his teeth and shook it back in response. "An apology gift of sorts."
"Apology gift? You mean the nymph is in that bag?" Barbatha leaned forward, black leather creaking, filthy gray beard swaying. No telling what kind of rodents lurked inside. "I'm hoping that red juice leaking out is from strawberries you're feeding her."
"That's not juice," Wormwheel said.
Barbatha snorted. He seemed to be waiting for a further response, but Wormwheel didn't reply. The two stared at each other in strained silence.
"Show me then, warlock. You test my patience."
Perfume misted into the air again. Wormwheel coughed into his fist and unlaced the bag. A sweet, sickly smell mixed in with the other sweet, sickly smells in the tent. He dumped the withered nymph out of the bag. Her neck was twisted all the way around, eyes wide with horror, mouth agape. Her pale skin was scratched and burned, hair tangled with a mass of twigs and congealed blood.
"What the fuck is this?" A screeching voice came from behind Wormwheel. "Some joke?"
Wormwheel didn't bother to turn around. He'd heard the screeching enough times to know Milandri had swaggered into the room. Such an unmistakable screech. Not unlike a dying harpy or a drowning naga.
The princess gave him a death glare as she passed. She stomped her bare feet, looking down at the dead nymph with cold eyes. "You're worthless, you know that?"
Wormwheel’s nose twitched. "You've shared this sentiment before."
Barbatha reclined back in his throne. The cage rattled again, breaking the silence. Wormwheel finally placed it down. He expected Milandri to lunge at him and tear at his eyes as she normally did. Eggs overdone? Scratch eyes. Music box isn't working? Scratch eyes. Feels like it? Scratch eyes.
"I brought you the nymph as you requested," Wormwheel said. "She didn't want to come along with me. So this is what you get."
"A dead nymph? What am I supposed to do with that?" Milandri put her hands on her hips. Her long black curls bounced as she stuck out her chin. "Make a doll out of her?"
"I could do that, if you wish." Wormwheel picked up one of the nymph's arms, moving it about. "She will look alive. You can play with her just the same. You have to use your imagination is all."
Milandri strode over and jabbed her finger into Wormwheel’s chest. "I don't want a nymph that looks alive. I wanted a nymph to comb my hair and make it silky smooth. To clean my feet with her river magic. I didn't want a dead one, you fucking—whatever you are. What are you anyway? You were a woman when you left. Now you look like a man."
She knew very well what he was, so he remained silent. Instead of unleashing a venomous rant, Wormwheel dumped something else out of the bag. "I brought you a dryad's head, too, if you're interested."
"No, I'm not interested." Milandri scrunched her face in that awful way that made it look like a withered root troll. "Father, can you just have him burned already? He's utterly contemptible."
All around the tent, the warriors of the Motherless Horde shifted in their leathers, eyes hard. This wasn't the first time Milandri had someone killed for displeasing her. A young merchant suitor from Dynak had been tossed in the Everburn, a giant pit of tar the Horde worshipped. They believed the sticky maw to be of the God of Ash, Daigaira. Wormwheel found it quaint. How convenient it must be to dump people who don’t agree with you into a pit of boiling tar and claim: "It's for Daigaira."
"Father?" She strode over to the throne and yanked on his beard. "Hello? Are you listening?"
"I'm listening, sweet child." Barbatha's neck muscles tightened and he pulled his beard away from her. He looked past her to Wormwheel. "What else do you have, warlock? I hope it's something to prove you are not as worthless as my daughter claims."
Wormwheel swept back his hair. It changed from black to red. A little flourish to distract and awe. Usually people gasped, but Barbatha only leaned on his fist and shrugged.
"Well, I thought it was impressive." Wormwheel knelt down to steady the rattling cage. "I'm going to let you out now. You must be good though. You are a guest here. Understand?"
The cage rattled so hard it fell on its side. Wormwheel unlatched the door and a small figure, about shin-high, came stumbling out. Her wings were weighed down with round lead balls. A gag was stuffed in her mouth and her hands were bound in front. Her bobbed pink hair tinkled with tiny bells made of carved wood and silver, only audible if one strained to hear. She stared up at Wormwheel until he removed her miniature gag.
"You piece of shit!" The little figure wailed. "I could have smothered to death in that cage. Pixies aren't birds, you know?" Her silver eyes darted around the dark tent. "Where in the bloody green hell have you brought me?"
“The Rala Plains of Schetzera,” Wormwheel said. “Your new home.”
The pixie spat a brown substance on the ground. Acorn or something worse? “Schetzera? You brought me all the way to Schetzera?”
“Should I not have?” Wormwheel asked. “I was unaware I was taking requests.”
Milandri watched in stunned silence, mouth slowly forming into a smile. “What is this?”
The pixie spun on her. “Never seen a pixie, little girl? Of course not. You’re one of these plains-dwelling wastelanders. Probably only seen dead grass and cattle corpses most of your life.”
“Little girl?” Milandri’s face trembled. “I’m sixteen years old. I’m no—”
The pixie held up the rag used to gag her. “Can someone stuff this in her mouth? I’m talking.”
“Father!” Milandri slapped Barbatha on the shoulder. “You’re going to let this vermin talk to me that way?”
Barbatha’s eyes narrowed to slivers. “Warlock, why have you brought this thing here. And why is it attempting to act like my daughter?”
"I'm just now noticing the resemblance," Wormwheel said.
The pixie held up one tiny finger. “Excuse me. I’m Empress Nitz Taescrill, the true Empress of the Gossamer Copse Empire. You’ll address me as such or I’ll have your tongues out. I may even have a necklace fashioned from them to wear at dinner parties.”
Wormwheel cleared his throat. “This is Nitz.”
“Empress Nitz. If you’re going to repeat what I say like a trained parrot, at least get my title right.”
“As you can see, she’s a very rare kind of pixie,” Wormwheel said. “She has black wings. Only one in ten thousand are like this. I had to use Desphirian's Choking Ghost Crab to catch her. Not an easy spell to come by.”
Nitz tried to stretch her wings, but the lead balls clicked against the floor. “I assume you brought me here to become the pet of this mewling child? If so, we’re going to have a significant problem.”
“Father, I want them both dead!” Milandri pulled at her hair. “Dead! In the pit!”
"Must you shriek?" Barbatha roared. "Let me think, damn you."
Milandri stared so hard, Wormwheel thought her eyeballs might pop out.
Barbatha rubbed his temple with a gnarled knuckle. “Very well. Take them to the Everburn.”
The warriors started forward, but Nitz raised up both her hands. “Wait. What are we doing?”
Wormwheel knelt down to get eye level with her. He spoke slow and deliberate to make sure she understood. “We’re going to die now.”
“Die?” The pixie shook brilliant dust from her hair. “I’m afraid I didn’t travel hundreds of miles in a bloody cage to die.”
“I'm afraid you traveled hundreds of miles in a cage to die,” Wormwheel said. “Sorry.”
Before one of the warriors could reach her, Nitz backed away, eyes shifting. “You don’t want to hear about something that may change your lives forever? Something to make marauding, massacring, and flaying simpler?”
Barbatha raised his hand. “Stop.”
The warriors stopped.
“What would that be, little one?”
Nitz’s lips curled back, but she turned it into a forced smile. “The Pranksy Roads. You've stumbled across them, have you not?”
The warriors grumbled to themselves at the mere mention of the cursed roads. Wormwheel found himself grumbling, too. If he had the choice between being thrown in the Everburn or traveling the Pranksy Roads again, he’d choose the tar pit/god mouth.
“We find them bothersome, yes,” Barbatha said. “What of them?”
“They’re controlled by my empire. Most of them anyway. The Kanahadred spriggans wrested some of them from us, the acorn-shitting bastards. Wouldn’t it be better for you to travel without having to pay a toll or do a tribute dance to gain passage?”
“I do hate dancing for you foul, spiteful creatures,” Barbatha said.
“You’re negotiating with this little bitch?” Milandri grasped her father’s shoulder. “Kill her. Crush her like the fly she is!”
“Children have no business in this conversation,” Nitz said. “Please silence this girl-child or I’ll be forced to climb into her mouth and tear out her uvula.”
"The resemblance truly is uncanny," Wormwheel said, looking between Milandri and Nitz. Royalty.
Milandri let out a high-pitched squeal that Barbatha silenced with a guttural bark of his own. The tent became full of barks and squeals before Barbatha won out.
Nitz cocked her head. “Well, Dread King? Wouldn’t you like an end to all of that troublesome prancing?”
“Of course I would. What can you do about it?”
“There's a map. I can bring it to you. It'll help you navigate around the Pranksy Roads without worrying about having to be humiliated and drained of your precious coin. Only for you will I do this.”
Wormwheel sighed. “Can you toss me in the pit now? The suspense is killing me.”
Barbatha straightened up on the throne. “Wait. The pixie may have a point. I tire of having to deal with these tricks every time we want to travel into the woods. We have many wars to wage and enemies to skin alive. Dancing for pixies certainly cuts into our mutilating time.”
“I can’t believe this,” Milandri said. “Why are these two not dead already?”
Nitz pursed her lips. “If you want to see this dream of convenience realized, you have to make a deal with me first. We are in Schetzera are we not?”
“Yes,” Wormwheel said. “I told you that already.”
“Then tell me where the Pale Rat of Schetzera is.”
Everyone in the room gasped save Wormwheel. He suspected this is where she would take the conversation. Before he gagged her, she hadn’t shut up about wanting to see her sister, Empress Janai, skewered on a pike, spear, or some similarly sharp object. The Pale Rat would certainly make that dream come true.
“The Pale Rat doesn’t crawl out of his hole for anyone, little one,” Barbatha said. “Last I heard he's seeking out Clozia Vurnum, the Butcher of Ghau. No telling if he's even still doing that job."
“You’re going to help me lure him out then,” Nitz said.
“It’s not so simple,” Wormwheel cut in. “Finding the Pale Rat involves a lengthy process. First, you have to find him. Then, you have to get three notes of reference. Next, you have to have an interview. There are other steps as well that I can't recall. Something about making a special meal for him. It could take years.”
“Who was speaking to you, warlock?” Barbatha spat. “I have my ways of finding the Pale Rat. I'll tell you what I know if you bring me this map to avoid the Pranksy Roads, pixie."
Nitz gave an uneasy smile. "Fine. Deal."
Barbatha shifted his gaze to Wormwheel. "I still haven’t decided what to do with you yet. The pixie has at least intrigued me.”
Nitz grinned up at Wormwheel. “Yes, what do you have to offer?”
Wormwheel ground his teeth. The runes engraved on them sparked in his mouth. So much stolen magic from so many stolen teeth. Yet he knew this wasn’t the time to unleash a fiery inferno to turn the tent into a whirling sheet of ash. Maybe that time would come one day.
Wormwheel had to up the ante. “The unicorn,” the warlock said. “I can get you the albino unicorn.”
Milandri’s breath caught in her throat. “Oh?”
That got her attention.
Chapter 3: By Their Toenails
Wormwheel folded his arms, awaiting a response to a job he wasn't even sure he could do. Folding his arms made him look confident, he hoped.
"The albino unicorn?" Barbatha chuckled to himself. “A foolish gesture. First, you couldn’t do such a delicate job. Second, I already sent people to deal with that. Third, no.”
“Father, they’re not coming back,” Milandri said. “They’re rotting somewhere or counting your coins and laughing at you in some lavish beer garden in Dragon Sputum.”
Barbatha stripped a piece of scalp off his throne. “Don’t remind me. I should have known better to trust that shifty sword collector and his painting friend.”
"You sent Peter Mollock and Blue Daniella after the unicorn?" Wormwheel asked. "They're maniacs. Blue Daniella paints pictures with blood."
"Yes, I'm aware. I've commissioned her for some remarkable blood art."
"Gross," Wormwheel said.
Barbatha ignored him. "And no, they're not maniacs. They're just good at doing jobs by any means necessary. Which is more than I can say for you. At least they don't bring me back nymph meat."
"A nymph and a unicorn are certainly very different creatures to track," Wormwheel said. "I imagine a unicorn wouldn't try to tear off my testicles like that nymph did."
"You have testicles?" Barbatha asked.
"Sometimes. Depends on what mood I'm in."
“What unicorn?” Nitz’s nose scrunched up. Pretty Ones always hated to hear about other Pretty Ones. A game of jealousy that never died. Wormwheel had seen a unicorn gore a pegasus through the heart and a pixie burst open a spriggan’s head with a river rock. All due to jealousy.
“A special unicorn,” Wormwheel said.
Nitz screwed up her face. “What does it look like?”
“It’s albino with the shiniest horn in all of Groteskia.” Milandri sounded like a fawning child for once. “Can you imagine? A creature of such pure light and beauty?”
“I’m a fucking creature of pure light and beauty,” Nitz said.
“I’ll find the albino unicorn,” Wormwheel said. “In return, you’ll give me what I want.”
Barbatha dug his fingers into his beard. His voice was barely a whisper. “What you want?”
“Yes.” Wormwheel’s face changed from a young man’s to an older woman’s, wrinkles forming, hair going bright red. “Freedom. No more jobs, no more hunters being sent after me. You'll tell anyone from the Pearlescent Few that comes looking for me that I'm dead. And no more doting on our lovely princess here.”
"I liked this at first, but too many terms." Milandri frowned. "A shit deal."
“Not your decision to make,” Barbatha said.
"You'll let a failure of a Wandish warlock make impossible terms to you?" Milandri asked.
“I’m not ashamed that I am from Wandu,” Wormwheel said. Even speaking the name of his homeland made his body quiver. “The Pearlescent Few can’t be allowed to exterminate us all. This deal will make sure I live at least.”
“You’re Wandish?” Nitz laughed. “I can’t believe you’re not dead yet.”
“And I can’t believe you’re not as well.” Wormwheel’s hand rested on Incisora, the sword forged of the tooth of the dead rain god Delamdrone. Dull energy crackled up from the row of blinking eyes on its hilt. “You don’t have many friends these days.”
"Enough." Barbatha dug his fingernails into the arms of his throne. "Warlock. I'll grant your request if and only if you can make my daughter happy once and for all."
Milandri twisted her hair, eyes going from hard to soft. "If he fails though, Father?"
"He dies one way or another."
"That would make me happy, I think." Milandri smiled at that. "The deal doesn't sound so bad now."
"Fine," Barbatha said. "Go and do not return unless you're riding into my tent on the back of a pristine unicorn."
“I’ll bring the unicorn and those you sent looking for it,” Wormwheel said.
“The unicorn or the others?”
“Bring a dead unicorn here and you'll regret it,” Barbatha said. “Mollock and Daniella you can drag in here by their toenails.”
"Alive unicorn. Toenails." Wormwheel bowed with a flourish. “Your wish is granted.” He spun on his heels and made his way toward the tent flaps.
“Wait.” Barbatha’s voice boomed. “Where are you going?”
“To La Kizina.” Wormwheel had no interest in going to the deserted resort town. Especially after hearing that the Pretty Ones kept in cages broke out and started eating people. But the best place was the last place the unicorn was seen.
“Yes, but where are you going?” Barbatha looked down at Nitz, then stared at Wormwheel.
Wormwheel’s shoulders slumped. “I have to bring her? Why can't she do her job and let me do mine?”
"Because I don't trust either one of you," Barbatha said. "If you both fail, you both die. I want a map and unicorn. In that order."
“I’ve been in a cage for days now," Nitz said. "Can't I rest for a little while?”
Wormwheel’s fingers crept to his blade again. “I had to listen to her rattle in that cage—”
“If she wants information about the Pale Rat, she’s going to help you,” Barbatha said. “And if you want your complete freedom, you'll do as I say."
“What a wonderful day,” Milandri said. “Either way I get what I want. I get the unicorn or these two die horrible deaths in La Kizina. Beautiful.”
“Thank you for your kind words, Princess,” Wormwheel said, bowing deeply. “However, I'm afraid I don’t work well with partners.”
“Don’t think of me as a partner then,” Nitz said. “Think of me as your empress. Now take off these lead balls before I take off your lead balls.”
Wormwheel’s face changed to that of a middle-aged man with a mousy mustache. “I’ll bring the cage with us just in case.”
“You’ll shove it up your ass, you mean?” Nitz cocked her head.
Barbatha cleared his throat. “Warlock, come to me.”
Eyeballing Nitz as he passed, Wormwheel walked over to the throne. Barbatha beckoned him closer, so he leaned down to him. Hot breath whispered in his ear.
“If you fail this time, I will give you over to the Pearlescent Few. I don’t want to imagine the kind of tortures they’d have in store for a tooth-stealer like yourself. Do you?”
Wormwheel’s tried to keep his face a mask of stone. “I try not to imagine things that shall never come.”
“Good philosophy,” Barbatha said. “Let’s make sure you bring that unicorn back. My daughter will ask me about it every single day. Can you imagine that torture?”
“Yes, I can.” Wormwheel pulled away from the Dread King. “Then we’ll be off.”
“Safe travels,” Milandri said, giving a mock wave.
Wormwheel whipped his green half-cape behind him. He stomped his foot at Nitz as he passed her again. “Keep up.”
Nitz’s face turned red. “Really? You’re not going to take these things off my wings? What kind of asshole are you?”
Wormwheel wondered that exact thing sometimes. What kind of asshole was he? “Long live the Empress.”