Their bodies ached with every step they took, but there was not time to stop or even slow down.
The pair of them looked like they’d been hurled into a vat of red paint.
‘Pleasure being alive right now,’ King Solomon said, nodding thoughtfully.
Davey looked at him like he was insane.
‘Lot of us didn’t make it, Davey lad,’ Solomon said. His brave face dipped ever so slightly as tears filled his eyes. ‘And it’s my fault. Crushed beneath the weight of that fucking crown.’
‘Don’t blame yourself.’
Solomon shook his head, his expression mournful. ‘Well, I told you we’d get out of there, didn’t I? Thank the Gods for that bulldozer bringing down the fence next to us.’
Davey nodded. ‘For all the good it’s done. I feel like death warmed up.’
‘That’s just your nerves screaming out in victory, Davey lad. That’s the feel of a hard won fight.’
‘I didn’t see anything that suggested we won that fight.’
‘Well think of it this way. Cross and most of Serenity waded in there after us. What’s to say they ain’t chow right now?’
‘They had guns – with bullets. They were organised.’
‘They probably did get out. But I’m saying there’s a chance they’re all in someone’s belly right now. And ain’t that a relaxing thought?’
Davey laughed and shook his head. ‘Not really, cos we almost ended up in someone’s belly too.’
Solomon laughed maniacally. ‘And wasn’t it a fucking rush?’ He grabbed Davey by the shoulders almost hard enough to crush his collarbones to dust. ‘I feel so alive right now.’ His face cracked in a grin as massive as his frame.
‘Well, when you’re finished enjoying the fact that we almost got blown up, eaten alive and riddled with bullets all within the same half an hour, why don’t we make a decision on where the hell we’re going now?’
‘Easy, Davey lad. I made the decision as soon as I heard them dozers rolling in to demolish what I spent a good few years of my life building.’
‘Ain’t it obvious?’
Davey lost his rag momentarily. ‘No it isn’t fucking obvious or I would’ve figured it out by now, wouldn’t I?’
‘Alright, alright. Settle, Davey lad. Any dickhead can stand strong beside the strong. That’s the easy bit. The true measure of a man – and to an even greater degree, a king – is how well you can comfort the broken.’
‘Did you get hit round the head down there? Cos you’re making no sense to me at all.’
‘Well, the man leading the attack on the Freelands was unmistakably Reverend Cross. Which leads to a number of questions. But we don’t need to concern ourselves with those right now.’
‘So what do we need to concern ourselves with?’
‘Reverend Cross is back. He knows Deborah is dealing with us. How do you think he has taken it?’
The penny dropped for Davey.
‘Finally,’ Solomon said as the expression of understanding fell upon Davey’s face.
‘But we’d be walking right through them to get to Serenity,’ Davey said, his face falling.
‘Yes, lad. But I owe that woman my life. And I’m fucked if I’m going to leave her behind with Cross back on the planet.’
King Solomon’s plan followed his usual go-charging-in-headfirst-and-see-what-happens approach.
Most of Serenity’s inhabitants were doing their best to smash and burn the Freelands into the dirt. So naturally, Serenity itself was relatively unguarded.
Some of those who had fled the Freelands seemed to have already figured this one out; a horde of bloody, black-robed Grims were merrily ransacking the walls of Serenity.
Rifle shots rang out from the guard towers, but it seemed that only every other post was occupied.
‘Gods bless them,’ Solomon said. ‘They’re already seeking vengeance on our enemies.’
The guard tower went up in a rush of flames as one Grim hurled a glass jar full of blazing liquid through the air.
‘Fuck yas all,’ the Grim shouted, flashing dirty middle fingers as guards fell from the blazing tower. Smoke rose from their backs as they screamed their final moments out into the dirt.
King Solomon grabbed Davey’s arm in a vice grip and dragged him down as rifle fire began from the nearest occupied tower.
‘Watch this,’ he said, pulling something familiar but hard to place from his pocket.
Davey squinted trying to see it, but his attention was diverted by a vast explosion in the distance.
‘That should give those fucking guards something else to worry about,’ Solomon beamed, again with that crazy look in his eye.
Davey’s brow furrowed as smoke began to billow from the heart of Serenity, then he remembered the events on the day of the funeral, when King Solomon had told him about the bomb in Cross’s coffin.
‘That’s right, Davey lad. I knew that bomb would come in handy one day.’
Sure enough, the guards were spilling from the towers and racing to investigate the explosion so close to their hallowed church.
‘Much bigger than I thought, actually,’ Solomon muttered to himself, then pulled Davey over to the wall.
He grabbed Davey by the legs and shoved him up so fast he struggled to breathe.
His hands caught the top of the wall as he came down and he just managed to hold on.
With Solomon pushing the soles of his feet upwards, it was no struggle to get over the wall.
‘Get to the gate,’ Solomon said. ‘And open it for us.’
Davey nodded and began running along the fence towards the gate.