"All towers secure," Coll croaked to Finn. The way Coll's voice had sounded bothered Finn a great deal since they'd performed the necromantic ritual on the dead Leprechaun. But he supposed the way Coll sounded had more to do with the way his vocal chords were vibrating against the arrow shaft still lodged in his throat than it did with the fact that he was...dead. Technically, undead, but Finn had always felt that was a minor technicality. An issue of semantics really. If you weren't dead, you were alive, and Coll was not alive.
He was as cranky as he'd been alive, but now the whole issue was exacerbated by Coll's ability to see other dead people in the form of shades and ghosts. A depressing lot, who matched Coll's temperament a little too well. Coll had taken to mumbling to them, which made him seem like he was talking to himself.
They were standing on the outer wall of the North Pole, a great ring of glacial ice surrounding the city of lights at the top of the worlds. Finn smiled. Elves had no stomach for combat, not like Leprechauns. "The fighting Irish," he said to himself. His small team had been joined at the gateway to the worlds by the rest of their forces; they'd entered the clearing through the tree with a shamrock on it and then entered into the world of Christmas. Then, arriving at the North Pole, they had overwhelmed each of the towers, one by one, leaving behind a fireteam of Leprechauns to guard each one.
"It's true," Coll was saying. "A whole day in heels is murder."
The plan was going well, aside from a few minor setbacks. When he'd first felt the presence of the Tree's avatar in the world they'd be exiled to, Finn had visited the site, to find that the new guardian was allied to Order. It meant that those allied to Chaos, like Finn and his men, were barred from entrance to the Tree. They'd enlisted the aid of a succubus to gain them access, but she'd obviously bolloxed things. A pretty mess that had been, thinking they'd be walking into the Tree nice and easy, only to find the shop in ruins, the succubus and the doppelganger dead. Finn had needed to think quickly then; it had slowed them down by a day, having to put on the pretense of helping the boy.
Andrew. And then he'd mistaken them for his guides or guardians or some damn fool thing. Sent by three men. Their redcoats had been the key to that misunderstanding, and it had worked fine until the boy had become too curious for his own good, needed to look inside the box.
Thankfully he hadn't opened the box. If he'd gotten the hare out of the box...everything would have been undone. Or rather, it would have remained done. Finn's goal was for things to become undone. But they weren't here to frame the elves for the death, whatever Eostre might have thought. They were here because this was where they would drain the power from Dieter to destroy the North Pole once and for all. The essence of Spring thaw inside the hare, unleashed on this place would melt the ice and destroy the old man's works, his helpers, and bring an end to one more great symbol of Order in the world.
And that was all Chaos really needed to start things unraveling in the worlds where Father Christmas still held sway. The destruction of a symbol is the destruction of the thing, really. Finn knew that much. The fact that no one remembered red coat leprechauns anymore was proof. Order had sanctioned the exile of his order, effectively destroying it...now he was going to destroy one of theirs.
"Is the device ready?" he asked James, who was kneeling beside the box. Other leprechauns were bolting down a large machine gun to the tower and training the barrels on the distant twinkling lights. The guns were unnecessary; once the thaw began, they'd be entirely pointless, but the men enjoyed them. And it kept them focused on destruction without asking the question of what was going to happen to them all when the ice thawed.
"Very nearly," James replied, holding up a wicked looking needle attached to a narrow hose, which itself ran into a series of brass piping, gears and cylindrical tubes.
Finn grinned. Victory was at hand, and the only creatures in all of the worlds who knew what Finn was up to were worlds away. Nothing could stop him now.
"Train coming," Coll growled.
"A great spectral train filled with a mess of dead buggers?" Finn asked, tired of Coll's conversations with the dead.
"No. Real train. Coming from the south and steaming hard. A black train."
A black steamer? Finn spun about and saw it even as the sound of the steam engine reached his ears. There was only one train that could be making its way here. Now.
"No," he whispered. Well, let them come, whoever they were. And Finn suspected it was the boy. "Come along then Andrew," he said. "We've got a warm welcome for ye."