Tuesday pass without any incidents, if you don’t count the glares Amanda gives me. You see before every lesson I make sure that I am sitting in the contested seat before her. Ha- bitch. Our last lesson, languages- and that’s French for me, ends at 14:40. I pack my things and wait outside A-114, for Kai.
While I do that I consider the wisdom of what I agreed to.
It’s Wednesday, and we’re on our lunch break. I am sitting in the library, reading an old tattered fantasy novel about a hero named Sparrowhawk, and his quest to stop a shadow. I am so focused on reading that I don’t notice the person sitting in front of me. Pontus.
“So”, he says. I look at him. “What?” “Nothing. It’s just that I have been doing some thinking.” I put down the book, giving him my undivided attention. “There are only three guys in our class. With so many girls, we guys have to stick together. Except I don’t really know you and Kai.”
That’s because you’re popular, and were born with a proverbial silver-spoon in your mouth, a voice whispers in my head. I squash it promptly. And who was born with a silver-spoon in their mouth? I am not exactly poor, if I might say so myself. I shrug one shoulder. “You, I and Kai hang out in different circles.” “Yeah and I want to remedy that.” I look at him , a bit curious. ” Say, what you’re doing next Tuesday?” “I don’t think I have anything planned.”
“Great, because I thought that three of us could, I don’t know, do something.” I nod. “I can’t talk for Kai, but I am game.” “It’s a plan then!” Pontus slap me on the shoulder in that macho way and walks out of the library.
I continue to read my Earthsea novel, but a small part of me is wondering what the hell I have gotten myself into.
The door to A-114 opens, and the German-language students pour out. I hail Kai, and we walk to our lockers. “Did Pontus say anything about what we were going to do?” “Nope”, Kai responds. “Are you excited?”, he asks. I try to put what I am feeling into words. “It’s just…. I mean Pontus is a really nice guy, but his kind doesn’t really hang with people like us, you know?” Kai agrees.
We don’t have cliques in Sweden like the schools in North America seem to have, but there is still a certain… lobbying for position. Of course it helps that half of the hockey-team plays WoW, and the rest plays Dota. “Now where is he?” “You know Ricardo. Always pushing the limit.”
Something passes between the two of us. We both know that Ricardo Corazon is something, something that looks human, but that he truly isn’t human. And in that moment I realize that Kai knows that I am not human. I wonder if other supernaturals know how to identify different people. I mean, if I can do it, then others should be able to do the same, right?
“I am sorry guys.” Pontus walks up to us. “Ricardo ‘El Basura’ Corazon keept us late with his goddamn homework.” He opens his locker and grabs his duffel-bag. “I thought that we’d go home to me, order pizza, watch a movie. That sounds good?”
Me and Kai nod.
We grab our bicycles, and Pontus leads the way. After fifteen minutes of tramping we reach a house in the nicer parts of Fallowfell. We don’t really have bad parts in Fallowfell, more like rich, very rich, solid middle-class and working class areas. Pontus live in a solid middle-class area. A house with two cars, a lawn dotted with various toys.
We enter and and a small bear launches itself at me. I scream high and use Kai as a body-shield. ” Riker, down!”, Pontus shouts. What I mistook for a small bear is in fact a gigantic Saint Bernard. They’re supposed to get big, but this particular specimen has to be straddling the border of gigantism. I think I could ride it to war!
Kai , Pontus, and apparently ‘Riker’ are all looking at me. “What? I am bit afraid of dogs”, I add a touch defensively. “A little”, Kai says with a completely straight face. I make a note of never playing poker with him. “Okay– I am really scared of dogs.” “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have penned him.” Pontus almost sounds a bit hurt. “Anyhow we’re -” “Suuup, little brother?!”
A short girl/woman with long black hair puts an arm around her brother’s neck. She inspect me and Kai. Malena Malmberg is famous all over Fallowfell for her beauty, her hair which nobody is allowed to touch, and her love of pranks.” So, baby-brother, you have brought in some new friends. Should I tell them about that time-” “No don’t!”
She smirks at him. “Don’t you have some homework, or something more important to do than bothering your little brother?”, a voice asks. The owner of the voice appears through the hall. With his tawny mane, big blue eyes, and tanned skin Elias Malmberg would be famous for his looks alone, but he also happens to be a moderatively famous hockey player, which his broken nose attest to.
Pontus throws up his hands. “You know what? I am not dealing with this right now. Dad, Malena came home at four a clock in the middle of the night last Saturday.” Elias’ eyes bore in on his daughter, and she in turn gives Pontus a look of utter betrayal. We turn right and walk up to the upper plane of their house.
I can vaguely her Elias raising his voice. Ouch.
Pontus leads us into a room a bit smaller than mine, but much, much neater. The bed’s made, the few books, all on school-subjects, are stacked in a neat pile. The room is decorated with a bed to the right, a table to the left, with a laptop and window illuminating it, and a large forty-inch screen mounted at the ‘north’ end of the room. He turns to us. “Sorry about that scene there– I love my sister, but she can be such a….” He makes a strangling motion and a noise. I think of Alexandra, and while she was nothing like Malena, she would sometimes do similar things. I put a hand over my heart. This is the first time I thought about her, and feeling… not comforted, but more tranquil. They say that there is a Better Place Up There Somewhere, and I asked Hermann about it. He told me that the notion of a Paradise, a Heaven is ridiculous, but yes, there are several places like that. And so I hope that Alexandra is up there somewhere. I hope.
I whistle at the screen. “Yeah, she is something. Took me two months of summer pay to afford”, Pontus add with no small amount of pride. I almost feel guilty– I don’t want a large-inch screen, but if I wanted one, I could have one, easily. With the money my family left behind, and Hermann’s wilingness to spend it, I could literally have any screen I want. Well maybe not one made of gold, but still.
Pontus walks out of the room and brings back three sitting-poufs. “I thought long and very hard about what we could do, and I’d thought we’d watch a movie.” I breath a little more relieved. I was afraid we were going to play Fifa or something. I suck at soccer in real life, and I don’t think playing the game would make it any easier.
Pontus fires up his computer. He connects the screen with his laptop through the a chord and the famous picture of the green plain with the cloudy sky above manifests.
“Movies then. Suggestions ?” Kai gives Pontus three alternatives, which he checks up on IMDB. “The first one is a rom-com with a rating of 5.3. The second one looks better, and that actress is hot. The third one, ugh that actor who is always so weird.” He pauses. “We’ll vote. Who’s for the rom-com?”
I hold up my hand, and they don’t. “What? I like feel-good movies”. “The movie with hot actress then?” Pontus holds up his hand, with me and Kai vetoeing it. “The third movie nobody votes for. “Okay; here are my picks”, Pontus says. A couple of clicks and three new tabs appear on the forty-inch screen. “Movie number uno; featuring Al Pacino as the evil ceo of a lawyer firm out to corrupt one of its new additions, featuring also Keanu Reeves. And for number two we have a movie about Brad Pitt as Death and the honorable Sir Anthony Hopkins as his intended victim. My third selection is animated and is about the Emperor’s new clothes.”
Me and Kai shoots down the Al Pacino movie, Kai and Pontus shoots down the movie about Brad Pitt and I say nothing about the animated movie.
Then it’s my turn. Rather than mentioning three different movies, I mention a single one, and then quickly outline why we should watch it. Pontus looks at me. “I don’t think I have ever seen that movie.” Me and Kai exchange a look. Kai breaks it to him. “How could you not?! It’s one of the biggest blockbusters like ever.”
Pontus scoff one foot on the carpet. “I don’t know– superheroes isn’t exactly my style. But if you say it’s a good one, then we’ll watch it.” I nod, a bit smug. “Pizzas then?”, Kai asks. “I am hungry”, he adds.
Pontus searches for Charlie’s online menue, and we make our picks. “… I’d like one vegetarian pizza, with tomatoes, olives, cucumber, red bell pepper, sliced potatoes and …. cashew nuts.” I look at him, and then Pontus, who isn’t the least surprised. “I didn’t know you were a vegetarian.” Kai stares at me. “Been a vegetarian ever since I was fourteen. Haven’t you watched me eat in school?” “Well, no. Hand me the phone.” “I’d like to order a pizza with lots of meatballs, fries and bacon. And put some salad on. And tomatoes. And yeah sauce– garlic sauce.” I hand the phone to Pontus. Kai gives me a disgusted look. “Really, Rune? You’re going to have a heart-attack if you eat like that.” “Naw-” I pat my stomach”- I am still growing.”
Although, that gets me thinking. I should probably renew my acquaintance with the gym…
Pontus cancels the call, having finished the order. “So while we’re waiting for the movie and the food to be done, let’s talk about something important. Especially important if you consider the internal order of our class.” He rubs his paws. “Girls.” I groan. He stabs a finger at me. “It has not escaped the Troika that a certain girl with yellow eyes have made… shall we say overtures in your direction, Mr Fallowfell.” He puts a hand against his chin and rubs a imaginary beard. “Has your virtue been compromised, Mr Fallowfell? Are you still pure? Am I going to have to bring out the shotgun?” I roll my eyes at Pontus’ antics. “She asked me out on a date.”
Pontus looks at me aghast. For a moment I feel like I’ve done something terribly wrong. Oh no. Maybe he likes her? Then he opens his wallet, and hands Kai a twenty-kronor bill. “Dammit Kai, your intel was right.” “What the hell! You made a bet? And against me?!”
Pontus shrugs. “I didn’t think she’d go for you, no hurt feelings.” He pauses. “Personally I like Hannah.” “Duchamps?”, I spit out. “How many Hanna’s do we have in our class? Yes that Duchamps.” “I don’t.. she seems kinda complicated”, Kai interjects. “Oh but the best girls are. I am still going working on that exterior though. She’s rejected three of my advances. So far.” I turn to him. “Maybe no means no?” “If she’d said no I’d back away in a heartbeat. But she hasn’t explicitly said no. She’s said that she isn’t ready, and that she’s busy with homework– which means that I still have a small, small chance.”
“Hannah was together with Alexander Gravsten, wasn’t she?”, Kai contributes in a small voice. The congenial mood between the three of us plunges. Alexander Gravsten was Hannah’s ex…. and he killed himself during junior high. Nobody knows why. He left no letter. No note, nothing as to why. There were, are, rumors that he was bullied, but nothing concrete. His big sister was a friend of Alexandra’s, and she took it really hard.
Pontus turns to Kai. “You then, Mr Blut? What girl do you fancy?” Kai glances briefly at me, and then at the screen. He mumbles something. Pontus sticks a finger in his ear and drags out a plug of wax. “Eww, dude!”, I shout at him. “I am sorry, I couldn’t hear you properly there, Kai.” “I like both boys and girls. I think.” To his credit Pontus barerly reacts. That’s more than I can say. Outwardly I keep my face calm, but inwardly I am disturbed seas. Which is ridiculous– this is 2014, not 1914, you can like whoever you want. It’s just that while I know that people are intellectually bisexual, it’s another thing to actually meet one.I chide myself for being intolerant.”Yeah, but that doesn’t answer the question.”
Kai is about to respond when Malena shouts. “Pontus! You’ve got three pizzas here!” We move down and pick em up. We split the cost three ways. Pontus checks his computer, and realizing that the transfer has been completed, he makes the final preparations for our viewing. He pulls down the binds on the window, we all make sure that we’re sitting comfortably, and the film starts to roll.
“Huh. That guy has an eye-patch, like you.” “Yes, Pontus”, I say, stressing the syllables on his name in a way to make him shut-up.
About thirty minutes in, Pontus speaks. Again. “So that guy… he is genius, flying in a robot-suit.” “Yeah.” “Why doesn’t he just invent a lightsaber or something?” “Pontus?” “Yeah?” “Shut-up.”
Ten minutes later he opens his mouth. “So those two brothers…. are they human or gods? I mean, they’re named after Norse gods.” “They’re from a different race, one that lived on Earth before the Middle Ages. Through their mastery of science and magic they become known as gods.” “I see…..”
About an half-hour later he remarks once more. “I think I understand why they said they shouldn’t make him angry.”
An half-hour after that he points at the screen. “That is one ugly metal-worm.”
And just like that the movie is over. “You know what guys? This movie really good. I am not too sure I understand all of their powers, but it was really good.”
I look through the blinds, at a sun that has begun to set. “Hey, what’s the clock?” When they tell me I am bit surprised. “That’s pretty late.” Pontus looks at his desk, and half a dozen calculations on paper. “Ah cmon guys, don’t go. If you go I’ll have to do my math homework.” We stare at him. He shrugs. “Well this was fun. We’re going to have to do it again, sometime.”
Me and Kai make our goodbyes, we filter out of the house, and start to walk a northerly direction. We have gone maybe a hundred meters from Pontus’ house when Kai starts to talk. “So what really happened last Friday?” “What do you mean?” ” I mean– that last Friday you were a regular human. Then you got in a fight with Tregaro’s killer and three days later you feel like one of the First Flight.” I stare at him.
The problem with Kai is that I have this impression of him being kind, an impression further compunded by how he acts with other people. But his scent? Even Stella, who doesn’t smell like human doesn’t has that scent– a scent of blood and gore, which doesn’t match him at all.
Fuck! All of this stuff is so complicated. I decide to ask him front out. “Before I tell you, I need to know something. Something important.” Kai nods. “Why do you smell like you do?” He grimaces. “How much do you know?” “Know?” “Know about supernaturals.” “I know about magic. Witches-”
“Well I am a witch. Sort of.” He sighs. “Most magic-users have a connection to an external source. Like earth, or fire. Others-” he says with great emphasis”- are not that lucky. My connection, and the connection of the Blut family is blood.”
“Blood”, I say a bit incredulous. Kai bites his lip and smears blood on a finger. He gets down on his knees and sinks the bloody finger in puddle. I feel magic in the air, and the fluid of the puddle changes color, becoming a odd yellow. He motions to me to get down. I swirl my pinky finger in the puddle and taste it.
Soda! He’s transformed the water of the puddle into soda! “Kinda like Jesus.” “Transubstantiation it’s called.” “So that’s your magic? You can… transmute stuff?” “That and much more. As long as it involves blood.”
And here I thought that being able to dent steel with a punch was awesome.
“I’ll tell you what happened in Friday, but don’t tell anyone right?” Kai puts a hand on his heart and utters an oath :”I swear it by claw,spell, fang and sword. I swear it by the fastened roads and forgotten realm. I swear it by a prince of lies, a wyrm of midnight, a priestess of the temples and a firstborn of the blood.”
“I don’t understand a thing of what you just said.” “It’s a very serious thing to say. An oath where I promise to not say anything.”
I tell him of the barrowman, and my subsequent transformation.He shakes his head. “I knew our teachers werent normal, but to think it was Lionheart and Flamel, teaching here! In Fallowfell! And you know– if it were anybody else except them or the Greyscale, it wouldn’t have worked.”
“You make them sound famous.” “Because they are. Lionheart is famous across a dozen cultures. Famous for his looks, his one arm and his sword. Perenelle used to be married to the Nicholas Flamel, and she was the one who developed the later versions of the plague. And Greyscale! The wyrm who used to guard one of the World-Trees, a senior member of the First Flight, a living legend whose aliases can be tracked through dozen mythologies!”
I mull on that. The list of question I want answered never seem to be fully completed, but grows with each answer.
“Oh, I have so many questions for you. What’s a World-Tree? And why did Perenelle create the plague? And what the hell is the First Flight– it feels like I have heard that term so many times?”
“A World-Tree is tree whose roots spann worlds– a gateway to other places. Unfortunately all of them has been burned down or lost in time. The three Greyscale used to guard was called Yggdrassil. That’s all I know about that. Scuttlebutt has it that with Nicholas’ death at the hand of the viscious humans, well…. Perenelle lost it. The First Council threw her in a rotting dungeon for over a century because of that.”
“And the Flight? As I have learned it, the Flight consists of a family of wyrms, and other big lizardy things.” I try absorb that. That Greyscale is part of a larger family isn’t that hard, but the whole Yggdrassil-thing will take time to be used to. And Perenelle, my fucking French teacher being an old mass-murderer? How many millions of people have died because of her?”
“What do you know about berserkers?”Kai thinks. “Very little. A millenia ago they, and the valas policed the supernatural community in Scandinavia. They were real good at it too. But then Christianity came and screwed everything up. Wrong to have magic, wrong to think differently, and then there was fire.” He shudders. ” It was the Empire Strikes Back all over, or maybe the Clone Wars. You catch my drift?” “Yeah.”
We reach a crossroads. “I’ll be going to the left here”, Kai promptly announces. “See ya tomorrow. And this– the movie, you, Pontus and me hanging out, it was really fun. We should do it again.” “Totally. We’ll schedule something.” “Sleep tight”, he says and leaves.
When he is about forty metres down the road I scream; “And don’t let the bedbugs bite.” He waves.
I walk back to my villa, to Hermann and I think about what I have learned. I kick my heels. I have friends now!