It took some time, but in the morning Sheen, Kal, Mal, and Talan returned to Sigil through the portal and headed back to the house. H aden had clearly been waiting, because when they arrived he climbed down from a roof and hugged Sheen tightly. He handed a book to Mal. “I got this from Tarsem at the Circle,” he explained. “There’s more, but this isn’t the time to go into it.”
“What more?” Kal demanded. Haden sighed.
“Kalisa, Catriona and Joris went and rescued my grandfather, Faodhagen while we were preoccupied. Then Sauraphine showed up looking for you, so I left. Quickly. I’m sure they’ll both come looking for us once they’ve gotten themselves straightened out.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Mal opened the book and flipped through it, frowning. Sheen looked over his shoulder, but the writing was gibberish to her. “What is involved in this ritual, anyway?”
“The Hand of Chaos, for one,” Mal said. “Margone still has it. We need a minute to complete the ritual. The escape window is vague, but the ritual likely must take place at the Dis-Palace of the Jester.”
“What will we need to do in order to escape?” Sheen asked.
“Well, with luck Disigil doesn’t have the Cage’s property that prevents escape with conventional magic. But we might be able to convince the stones to help us one last time,” Kal said. “The timing is still going to be dicey.”
“This is exactly when you need a simulacrum,” Haden remarked. “Let’s go.”
They approached the house, but slowed when they spotted a Harmonium guard standing outside.
“I didn’t know you hired extra help,” Kal remarked.
“I didn’t hire them,” Haden insisted. He walked up to the guard. “What’s going on here?”
“The neighbors reported some trouble, so we came and chased off some Sensate hooligans. Apologies,” he added in a plainly unapologetic tone.
“But we can go inside, correct?”
“The Captain’s inside if you wanna talk to him.”
The foyer was a mess, furniture turned over and stacked against the walls, but nothing looked damaged, only rearranged. Haden stepped forward into the dining room and came up short—dead Hardheads were stacked three deep. Lady Margone smiled from the kitchen door. The Harmonium guard stepped into the doorway behind them and shimmered, revealing a massive devil carrying a length of spiked chain.
“You should have brought more men,” Haden snapped tensely, drawing his rapier.
“I don’t need men, darling.” The devil lashed out at Talan while Margone concentrated her will at Kal. The wizard shivered and cringed, but evidently resisted the spell. Talan and Sheen engaged the devil, wounding it badly in a single pass. Margone spit furiously and stabbed at Haden with her dagger. He backed away and slammed into Mal, ruining a spell.
“Dammit!” Kal yelled. He concentrated briefly. “I wish I had the Hand of Chaos!” The room rippled strangely and the dagger vanished from Margone’s hand to appear in Kal’s. “Well now, that changes the landscape a bit,” the wizard remarked.
“NO!” Margone screamed.
“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Kal said. Mal pointed toward the stairs and both elves ran. Margone tried to chase them but Haden blocked the way. Sheen and Talan were rapidly dismantling the devil—a Cornugon—and didn’t seem to need help. Frustrated, Margone drew another dagger and stabbed at Haden again.
“You know,” Haden said, grabbing her wrist and dodging the blow, “you’re beginning to annoy me.”
“We’ve got the portal open!” Kal yelled from upstairs. Sheen and Talan exchanged a glance.
“Go!” Sheen said, and the ranger dodged up the stairs. The Cornugon attacked him, narrowly missing with a sweep of the heavy chain. Sheen buried her claws in its leg and it toppled heavily to the floor. Sheen grabbed the spiked chain and pulled its head right off.
“Haden, you worthless son of a bitch, you’ve ruined everything!” Margone shrieked. Haden slapped her hand aside with his rapier, inflicting only a mild scratch. “Look at you, you can’t even hurt the person you hate most in the world!”
Haden took a step back. His expression was amused. “I don’t hate you, Mother. You’re not worth that much effort.”
Margone’s face twisted. Haden lowered his sword and waved Sheen away. She frowned, but complied. He then grinned and spoke a long, complex poem. Margone blinked and her eyes slowly glazed.
“Go back to your summer home and pack anything you want to keep, Mother. If I ever see you again, you won’t like the result.”
“That . . . sounds like a good idea,” Margone said dreamily. She returned her dagger to its sheath, dusted herself off distractedly, and meandered out the door.
“Let’s go,” Haden said to Sheen. They climbed the stairs and followed the others through the portal.