Swallowing Darkness – Chapter 36: Flesh Bomb

Chapter 36 begins with Siobhan stepping out of the mist. She’s wearing some bone armor and carrying a magical ‘killing’ sword, which can kill immortal beings. Merry notices that Siobhan’s sword is covered in blood, but she knows it isn’t the blood of her men, because she’d know if it were. Well, she’d know if it were Rhys or Doyle’s blood, because her heart could not survive them dying. Mistral and Sholto, however, well she basically states how little of a shit she gives about those two.

A group of Unseelie soldiers appear behind Siobhan. They are also covered in armor, and Gregorio seems terrified of them. Merry unsheathes her sword, Aben-dul, and kneels inside the Humvee. Siobhan starts taunting her.

“You surprised me when you used the hand of flesh on Rozenwyn and Pascoe, but I know to stay out of reach now, Princess. I don’t need to get within reach of that little hand of yours. I can kill you from a distance, and free faerie of your mortal taint. We will put a true prince on the throne this night, and your challenge will be forgotten.”

I doubt anything would free faerie from Merry’s taint.

“She’s bluffing,” I said aloud for the soldiers’ benefit. “She would have to drag me from the car to work magic, and she won’t touch me.”
“Why not?” Gregorio asked.
“She fears the hand of flesh.”
“What is that, the hand of flesh?”
I didn’t bother to explain, because in moments, if all went well, it would explain itself.

When does anything ever go well in this series?

Siobhan starts walking closer to the vehicle, with the Unseelie soldiers close at her back. Gregorio starts panicking, asking Merry to get on with whatever she has planned.

I opened the invisible mark on my hand that held the hand of flesh. That mark now touched the hilt of Aben-dul. It is an enchanted weapon, but when it finds its rightful wielder, there is no learning curve. There is only a sense of rightness, and knowledge, as if the use of the weapon were like breathing, or the beating of my heart. I did not have to think how to focus the hand of flesh down that blade. I simply had to will it.

Siobhan then starts fiddling with something in a pack she’s carrying, and Gregorio immediately screams “BOMB!”, despite the fact that they’re inside an armored vehicle that can withstand the power of a bomb, apparently.

Siobhan stood and reared her arm back to throw. Then the arm wasn’t quite as long as it had been. I thought, flow, twist, become…. The flesh of her hand flowed over the strap of the pack. I’d seen my father do this, concentrate on the part of the body he wanted to damage. He’d had to touch the body to do it, but the principle was the same. He’d been able to flow flesh to a degree, and stop if he wished. I didn’t have that control yet. No, being honest, at least to myself, I had a plan for the bomb, and it didn’t include stopping short of the worst that the hand of flesh could do. The plan relied on doing my worst to Siobhan.
She screamed and shrieked. The darkly glittering throng at her back stepped away. She stood there with the pack melding to her body. But she moved in a circle of empty space. None of them would chance touching her. They knew the story of what happened to Pascoe and Rozenwyn; no one would risk such a fate.
She began to run toward our Humvee. Even as I prepared to destroy her, I admired her bravery. She knew what I was going to do, and she would, with her last effort, try to take me with her. Her determination was flawless.
A rifle shot rang out, so close I was deafened by it. Our driver, Corporal Lance, was shooting out her window, and had taken out one of Siobhan’s legs at the knee. I hadn’t even been aware that Lance had rolled her window down. But I had to focus, had to keep the spell where I needed it. Had to….Siobhan’s flesh rolled, her face going under a wall of her own internal organs as if water were drowning her. But she was sidhe, and she could not die for lack of oxygen. You could drown me. It had been one of the proofs my aunt had used to call me worthless. But Siobhan would not die just because her mouth and nose were inside a ball of her own flesh. Sidhe do not die that easily.
Moonlight glittered on blood and shiny things that should never see the light of day. There was nothing left of her but a ball of flesh. Her heart was on the outside, pulsing, living, just like the last time I’d done this. I was too far away to hear her scream, but I had no doubt that she was screaming. Screaming or cursing me.

Some of the soldiers following Siobhan drop to their knees in surrender, but not all. Merry points her sword at one of them: Conri. He had apparently tried to kill Galen in a previous novel. As Conri starts turning inside out into a gooey flesh ball, the last of the warriors drop to their knees. Some even drop further, laying down in the grass in submission.

I don’t know what I had thought would happen. I simply put the bomb inside Siobhan’s body. Had I thought that her flesh would be enough to contain the explosion? I think I had, but I was no soldier. I wasn’t truly even a warrior. I made the mistake of someone whose main ability is magic. I didn’t think of the physical, and suddenly the physical was all there was.
The concussion of the bomb rocked the Humvee, splattering it with bits of flesh, bone, and shrapnel. My window was open. Something smashed into my right shoulder and upper chest. I was rocked backward, thrown onto the seat, and ended on the floorboards.
I lost my grip on Aben-dul. I managed to yell out, “Don’t touch the sword, whatever you do! Don’t let anyone touch the sword!” I forced myself to get up and grope for the hilt. If Gregorio or Lance touched it, they’d be turned into what Conri and Siobhan had….

So with her last bit of strength, she manages to slide the sword into its sheath and lock it in place. Then Merry notices that she’s covered in shrapnel. Gregorio reaches Merry and shouts for a medic. Merry is going cold, and finally the pain hits her. She tells Gregorio she needs Doyle and the rest of her men, but Gregorio wants to get Merry to safety and a medic first. Then Merry feels a pulse of magic tugging at her – one of her men is injured and dying.

I couldn’t think of anything else but that I had to get to him. Had to get to him. Had to…. I touched Gregorio on her face, and whispered, “I’m sorry,” then smiled at her. I called my glamour and let her see not what I wanted her to see, but anything she wished to see. Anything if it would get me out of here, and to that flickering light I could feel out there in the dark.
Her face softened, and she whispered, “Kevin.”
I smiled, and when she leaned in to kiss me, I kissed her back, ever so gently, and laid her down on the seat with a smile still curling her lips. She would dream of the man who had given her that kiss. It was a type of glamour that was completely illegal, under the same heading as a date-rape drug. But I had no interest in anything but getting out.

Jesus. Merry essentially magic roofies her protector so she can escape to get to her guards.

So Merry pours more strength into her glamour and slips out of the vehicle, and the chapter ends with her running out into the battle to whoever of her men are calling for her.

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