For a moment Xavier almost panicked. He was completely surrounded by threatening painted figures and for a second he was a child again, cowed and afraid in the playground and at home. But it didn't last long; he pulled himself upright and curled his lip in a contemputous sneer.
"They're paintings. What can they do?"
"More than ye think, ye great useless cretin!" Henry bellowed, drawing his claymore. Xavier laughed-and then the tip of the heavy Scottish sword was pricking his neck, and laughing was a hazardous exercise. Cold sweat sprang out on his forehead, and more fear than he'd felt for a long time formed a chilling knot in his stomach.
He hadn't realised that the paintings could reach out of their canvas.
It wasn't done often, that was true. If you're made of mere coloured pigments you're quite fragile, and there are drawbacks to being only two dimensional. But whether or not it was a 'real' sword, it was still quite capable of killing him. Images of objects took on more of the object's nature than many people realised.
"Now," Archie said slowly, shuffling forwards and meeting Xavier's ghostly white eyes with his own bright, angry brown ones. "Are you going to be sensible or are we going to have to do this the hard way?"
From somewhere within his fear Xavier managed to dredge up a smirk. His sweaty fingers slipped on Babbo's gilded frame and he almost dropped the heavy painting, causing it to squawk in protest. Archie winced at the sight, and Xavier's smirk widened. He wouldn't want his precious paintings to get hurt.
"If you try and fight me," he said, fighting to keep his voice level, "I'll hurt you more than you'll hurt me."
"Wanna bet?" one of the army members growled. He'd come from a painting of first world war soldiers in the trenches, and was armed with a rifle; as he spoke, he put it to his shoulder, aimed and pulled the trigger.
It was sheer luck for Xavier that he'd never actually fired his rifle before, and the aim was off. As it was the breeze from the painted bullet ruffled the thief's pale blonde hair as it passed, hitting the wall with a 'pock', inches from smacking into flesh and bone. The shock made Xavier's fingers slip once again, and this time he lost his grip entirely; Babbo slid to the floor, shrieking, and fell face-down on the tiled floor. Archie lurched forwards to try and save it, and as though that had been some kind of signal the entire army launched itself forwards, swords, axes and all, and piled on top of the would-be thief. Archie, dragging himself and Babbo away from the commotion, became suddenly anxious that murder would be committed in his museum. He didn't want a dead body on his hands, and he wasn't a killer by nature; even someone like Xavier deserved a second chance to redeem himself.
And Victoria had loved him, once.
"Don't kill him! Don't kill him!"
There was no way to tell if he'd been heard; it was absolute bedlam in the corridor. The yells and cries of the fighting paintings mingled with the screams and shouts of encouragement from the spectators, and Xavier's howls were audible in their somewhere. It seemed that for all his supernatural silence and inhuman abilities, he could still feel pain. Lots of pain.
Eventually, the fight started to subside. The fighters, some of them looking alarmingly tattered, began to scurry back to the safety of their canvasses; Archie spotted several with missing limbs, and it pained him. He had never meant to get his beloved companions badly hurt. He'd hoped that Xavier would see sense and give up when confronted by Henry's army; he'd never thought that the man would be stupid enough to continue defiance.
Or that his army would be so keen to get their hands on him.
Most of the army had returned to their paintings by now. Only Henry, who seemed to have escaped serious injury, and a man with a bristling moustache and a jungle helmet remained, guarding Xavier. The thief was stretched out on the floor, bleeding and ominously still. Archie regarded him anxiously.
"Is he dead?"
"Naw, we left 'im alive," Henry said contemptuously. "But he ain't gonna be doin' anything ta paintin's fer a while, or mah name ain't Henry o'Scotland!"
"I'm sure he'll steer well clear," Archie agreed, regarding the young man's rather battered body with some distaste. "But what are we going to do with him now?"