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Patrick Ness is the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling Chaos Walking trilogy, as well as the Carnegie Medal–winning A Monster Calls, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd. Among the numerous awards he has received are the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he lives in London.
" WE HIT TH E SPACKLE HEAD ON !" the Mayor shouts at the men, aiming his Noise right in the middle of everyone's heads.
"They'll be gathering at the bottom of the road," he says, "but that's as far as they're going to go!"
I put a hand on Angharrad's flank beneath me. In under two minutes, the Mayor had us up on horseback, Morpeth and Angharrad coming running from round the back of the ruins of the cathedral, and by the time we'd hopped up, stepping over the still unconshus bodies of the men who tried to help me overthrow the Mayor, there was the army taking messy shape in front of us.
Not all of it, tho, maybe less than half, the rest still stretched up along the southern road to the hill with the notch on it, the road to where the battle was sposed to be.
Angharrad's thinking and I can feel spikes of nerves all thru her body. She's scared nearly half to death.
So am I.
"BATTALIONS READY!" the Mayor shouts and immediately Mr. Hammar and the later-arriving Mr. Tate and Mr. O'Hare and Mr. Morgan snap salutes and the soldiers start lining up in the right formayshuns, twisting thru each other in coils and getting into order so quickly it almost hurts my eyes to watch it.
"I know," the Mayor says. "It's a thing of beauty, isn't it?" I point my rifle at him, the rifle I took from Davy.
"You just remember our agreement," I say. "Yer gonna keep Viola safe and you ain't gonna control me with yer Noise. You do that and you stay alive. That's the only reason I let you go."
His eyes flash. "You realize that means you can't let me out of your sight," he says, "even if you have to follow me into battle. Are you ready for that, Todd?"
"I'm ready," I say, even tho I ain't but I'm trying not to think about it.
"I have a feeling you'll do well," he says.
"Shut up," I say. "I beat you once, I'll beat you again." He grins. "Of that I have no doubt."
"THE MEN ARE READY, SIR!" Mr. Hammar shouts from his horse, saluting fiercely.
The Mayor keeps his eyes on me. "The men are ready, Todd," he says, his voice teasing. "Are you?"
"Just get on with it."
And his smile gets even wider. He turns to the men. "Two divisions down the western road for the first attack!" His voice snakes thru everyone's head again, like a sound you can't ignore. "Captain Hammar's division at the front, Captain Morgan taking the rear! Captains Tate and O'Hare will round up the rest of the men and armaments yet to arrive and join the fray with the greatest dispatch."
Armaments? I think.
"If the fight isn't already over by the time they join us-" The men laugh at this, a loud, nervous, aggressive kind of laugh.
"Then as a united army, we will drive the Spackle back up that hill and make them regret the day they were EVER BORN!"
And the men give a roaring cheer.
"Sir!" Captain Hammar shouts. "What about the army of the Answer, sir?"
"First we beat the Spackle," says the Mayor, "then the Answer will be child's play."
He looks across his army of men and back up the hill to the Spackle army, still marching down. Then he raises his fist and gives the loudest Noise shout of all, a shout that bores right down into the very center of every man hearing it.
"TO BATTLE!" the army cries back at him and sets off at a fierce pace outta the square, racing toward the zigzag hill. The Mayor looks at me one last time, like he can barely keep from laughing at how much fun he's having. And with- out another word, he spurs Morpeth hard in the sides and they gallop into the square after the departing army.
The army heading off to war.
Follow? Angharrad asks, fear coming off her like sweat.
"He's right," I say. "We can't let him out of our sight. He's got to keep his word. He's got to win his war. He's got to save her."
For her, Angharrad thinks.
For her, I think back, all my feeling about her behind it. And I think her name-
And Angharrad leaps forward into battle.