The Greatest Change Of All (The Barrowman Remix# 3)
Everything is not alright“, is my first thought as I return to the land of the awake and living. For one I am cold. Colder, relatively speaking, but much colder than I should be. And I can’t breathe, not like I should. As I inhale, I hear this sound, like two cogs grinding against each other, only it seems to originate from my chest.
I try scream. “Her…..” My voice doesn’t work properly, and my shout dies before even leaving the room. The edges of my vision grow darker, and I start to panic and trash around. “Hermann…!” “Her”- I clear my irritated throat.
The last thing I see before I lose consciouness is Hermann’s frantic face.
Hermann starts his day like usual, albeit with a small caveat. Because it’s Saturday he allows himself a small treat. He opens one of the cabinets in the kitchen, and withdraws a small pouch. He takes out a tea-mesh infuser, and places it on the whistling teapot. He pours the content of the pouch into the mesh. Seven minutes later he pours a timble of the dark-red fluid into a glas-cup in order check the color. Satisfied, he adds water.
He sips from the cup and remembers a different time. Perhaps a more barbaric age, he thinks, but an age of splendor, chivalry and beauty.
Maybe I should save some for Rune? “HERMANN!” And speak of the devil. “What?”, he responds. He waits. After some time he shouts again. “What is it?” No response. “What?!” He can’t keep the irritation out of his voice. He closes his eyes–
— and startles. Inside his head there is a map, or the closest analogy is that of a map, really, courtesy of Abu Musa, his Father, Creator and personal Shaitan. At the time of his birth, Hermann himself hadn’t understood exactly what it was, only what it could do, not until the advent of sonar. After that he’d made some calculated guesses. The map allows him to feel everything within the vicinity- be it physical, magical or otherwise- a measure which Abu Masa exploited and used to turn him into a bloodhound, in those long, dark centuries ago. And as he extends his radar, he can feel something beneath him, a sense of strange magic.
He grabs a kitchen knife and descends down to the lower plane of the villa. “Rune?” He stops. Still no respons. He kicks open the door to Rune’s room. He is lying on the floor inside a sleeping bag. That explains the movement I felt in the middle of the night atleast. “Rune?” He crouches down next to him. Rune’s single eye is closed, and his breath is laboured.
Hermann extends his sonar once more, for a better look. The source of the strange magic is Rune- it permeates him, with no end, and no beginning. It is only through centuries of living that Hermann is able to remain calm. I must be certain. He takes the razor-sharp knife and slices through the sleeping bag. What he sees horrifies him. Rune’s dark skin is marble-pale, paler than ever, and black veins crisscross his body. He doesn’t recognize the flavor of the magic, something Norse certainly…. The barrowman! And here I thought that Jacob Tregaro’s killer was just some garden variety-sociopath!
The feedback of his sonar tells him that the strange magic is killing Rune. He looks down on his left hand, a hand clutching a knife with such force as to dent the metal handle. I cannot heal him. I don’t have that kind of ability in me. But I know someone who might have an idea.
He makes a call.
His right knee vibrates. “Hmm.” “Go away”. The knee vibrates again. Without opening his eyes, he growls. “Too early, too early.” A third vibration proves its charm and he answers. “What?!” “It’s Hermann. Rune has been infected by the barrowman. I think. I do not know.”
Greyscale bolts out of the couch at sound of Hermann’s voice… a voice which is calm in the way that the eye of a storm is calm. Before all hell breaks loose. “I’ll be there in a heartbeat.” He looks around. Where am I ? Oh. The warehouse. The warehouse for my smithy, the warehouse specifically choosen to be my smithy. Located in downtown Fallowfell, my smithy. That smithy.
He gets out of the warehouse, through all the slag metal lying here and there, and gets his old pick-up moving. Fifteen minutes of a bumpy ride later and he is at the villa.
Hermann opens the door before he has had even time to knock. “Come inside, and hurry!”
Struck by the urgency in Hermann’s voice, he hurries inside. Rune lies on a loveseat on the upper floor. Unasked Greyscale puts a hand against cold, sweaty skin. He extends a bi-sected tongue which tastes the air. His acute raptor-eyes track the blacken veins. Now what to tell Hermann…. The last time he lost someone like this, Napoleon also lost one of his lieutenants, and I had to bail him out of France.
“Okay I have some bad news, and some good news. Bad news; this is definitely the work of the barrowman. But the barrowmen of old, the ones I saw used, they never had poison as part of their arnament. And I don’t have a clue as to the cure.”
Hermann’s expression changes, subtly. When most people think of monsters, they think of beasts, creatures with fangs and scales. And all too often, they forget the monster inside. Hermann’s eyes grow cold and chill- like nobody’s at home, a mannequin made flesh. His stance shifts, with the weigth of his body being carried on the balls of his feet.
“But there is good news! I have seen poisons like this before and so have you.” Hermann looks at him incredulous. “It’s not the exact same thing, but doesn’t this infection remind you of how vampires Turn people? And while I can’t stop someone from being Turned, I can’t certainly hinder it.” Without losing a beat Hermann answers him. “Do it.”
Greyscale sighs. “What I am talking about might kill him, and in the end it’s only temporary.” Hermann’s eye glistens with an unnnamed emotion. “Still. Do it. If it does not work, he will die. And if it buys us time-” he takes out his phone and starts to dial a number, several numbers-” I have a couple of favors to call.”
Greyscale looks down at the young man. If it doesn’t work… no, better not think like that.
He looks at Hermann, who while speaking, nods. Here goes nothing. He opens his mouth and blows a stream of fire at his hand. He speaks a few words in Ancient Swedish; brinnande punkter, samles. The fire surrounding his hand coalesce and gather at the tips of his fingers.
In a quick move he slams down his hand on Rune’s chest. The effect is instantaneous : from five burning points, liquid fire erupts beneath Rune’s skin, traveling along the same pathways as his blood. In a matter of seconds, the black veins are clear. The fire inside his systems seems to abate, and Greyscale and Hermann breathe easier.
“Now then?”, he asks Hermann.
Hermann looks at his phone. “I have called in every favor I am owed in Fallowfell- they’ll be here in minutes. Now…
… all we can do is hope. Hope and wait.”