The Messenger From Fenner Bog
Greyscale keeps a lookout through the window. As soon as Rune has taken off he exits his house. A fast stride and he is knocking urgently on the door of his neighbour.
It swings wide open. “Did you forget something -” Hermann stops when he sees Greyscale. “We need to talk. Right now.” “Come in then”, Hermann grudges.
Greyscale marches inside. He turns. “Did you know that one of the places of power, the one with the stream is inhabitated?” Hermann chuckles. He walks by Greyscale and sits down in the kitchen. “You are refering to Mizu and little Tentacruel- or well, he is not that little anymore I guess. Yes, I am aware of the inhabitants of Fenner Bog.” “Fenner Bog?” “There once was man called Fenner, wasn’t worth a tenner…”, Hermann rhymes. He moves on.”It’s an old tale really. Old man Fenner–nasty piece of work. He liked beating women and having sex with young boys, so I gave him to Mizu to do as she wanted.” “You sacrifieced him to be eaten alive”, Greyscale states, a bit miffled. He sits down at the table, right in front of Hermann.
” She told me he tasted like garbage- but when one is hungry, one eats. I suppose it was all that drink. But to get back to the subject of habitation. Fifty years ago, little Mizu arrived here, hurt and weary after the war.” Hermann’s eyes, dark and full of horrors, meets Greyscale’s. “Do you remember the War, Greyscale?” Nidar shudders.
I try to forget, but some things can’t be forgotten.”All too well, Hermann. All too fucking well.” “The Japanese supernaturals had it even worse. Unlike the Ahnenerbe, who mostly used supernaturals like missiles, Unit 731 was led by one of us. They had inside knowledge, and they would purge anyone who didn’t work for them.”
“Mizu?” “She survived. Her parents didn’t.” Hermann opens the refridgerator and pours himself a glass of apple-juice. “When she came to Fallowfell in 1944– you should have seen her. A little waif, with a ragged kimono and one of those doctor’s bags, containing the pod of an unborn kraken. She starved and begged on the streets and nobody would look twice at her because of the War and because she’s Japanese.”
“So you went Charles Dickens on her.” “I did.” He pours himself a second glass of apple-juice, the first gulped up as quickly as poured.” Now don’t get me wrong. My help came with conditions. I have seen what an Old One can do in fury.” There is a lull in their conversation and they both fall silent, sitting at the table, locked in memories of a war won, but battles lost.
Eventually, after some time, Greyscale clears his voice. “I met her. The kappa, Mizu, at Fenner Bog.” He tells Hermann about the intruder in the forest, and what the kappa told him. “That explains the traces of odd magic I felt inside my head on my Monday-walk. I tried tracking it, for three days, but to no avail. I don’t think I have ever felt anything like it…” Hermann stops, rethinking what he just said. “No, that’s not completely true. I have felt something like it. The magic felt like that of a homenculus, but different somehow.” “Different how? I might be able to tell what it is with more traits,” Greyscale presses.
Hermann glances up at the ceiling and thinks. “The magic had the touch of a flesh-golem, of the vat-born, of a man who is, and yet not is. There was, as Mizu said, a rotting overtone to the magic and a smell of… of bedsheets that have been left out for too long. The magic felt old.” “How old? Romanticism-close-your-eyes-and-think-of-England- old? Bronze-age-roaring-fire-old?”
“Somewhere in between. Definitely before Middle Ages.” Greyscale leans back in his chair with closed eyes, an action which results in a high-pitched cracking sound. “Old magic…..rotting smell….artificial body….” He opens his eyes.” You know, I might have an idea.” “Do tell.” “It could be a barrowman.”
“A barrowman?” One of Hermann’s eyebrows arcs until it becomes a bridge.
“Indigenous creature, manmade by an old Norse archmage way way waaay back. They were human weapons, undead, flesh-crafted, used against Christian missionaries. Didn’t pan out- and when that archmage was done she had to do something with all those weapons. Couldn’t kill em, not easily anyway, so she stabled them in barrows. The mortals did the rest.” Greyscale stands up and starts to pace back and forth rapidly. ” Someone with the right lineage… or the right magic could control them, hell- the person wouldn’t even have to be an archmage.”
Hermann shakes his head and mutters something in ancient Arabic. Greyscale winces. “Sorry. Did I bring up old memories?” “Nothing I haven’t resolved over the long centuries.” Hermann peers down at the glass of amber fluid, reminiscing.” I just thought that it was folly to think that the alchemists of the Caliphate were the only ones who dabbled in lifemaking. But this– this barrowman, he acts not of his own accords then?” “Nope. He has no choice. He can fight the magic if he wants to, but it won’t do him any good, not in the long run.”
Hermann steeple his fingertops against each other. “Let’s us assume that this is a barrowman then. Why and who would resurrect one such as that?” “The ‘who’ you’ll have to answer, you’re the one who’s lived here for a close to a century. As to the ‘why’?”
He continues, answering his own question. “The barrowmen of old were weapons. You don’t load a gun unless you intend to shoot someone. Someone must really want to kill a bunch of people.” “These barrowmen.. they were savage?” “Only if ordered to be. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
Silence fall between them, once more.
Hermann pours Greyscale a glass of ice-cold, homemade apple-juice.
He frowns, as if remembering a detail. “One thing though. What were you doing up on those slopes anyway?” Greyscale stops pacing. He takes the offered glass and swallows it all in a large gulp. He looks out through the window and thinks for a second. When he turns toward Hermann, his face is placid, his bearing loose and looking at him you would never know his inner conflict.
“I thought that I should get a feeling for Fallowfell. Afterall- I intend to live here for a while”, he lies, without a single shred of hesitation.