Three hours before Rune arrives at Elena’s party
The Mistress walks through Ochre, like a shark through water, searching for blood. She walks up to the senior’s lockers, of which she is one. She leans on the red wall next to an open locker. Eventually the locker closes, and a girl turns around.
The Mistress walks up to the girl and kisses her on the mouth. “Cordelia, you are as ravishing as the last time I saw you, which hasn’t been recently enough.About that possible date….” The Mistress inspects the girl; she has brown shoulder-length hair, sea-blue eyes and is almost a head shorter.
“Alright. But you’re buying this time, Helena.”
The Mistress, or Helena Gravsten, which is her real name, leads Cordelia to a secluded part of Ochre. Cordelia raises an eye-brow at her antics. “Well nobody is watching here.Do your magic trick.” Cordelia sighs. “Where do you want to go?” “We haven’t been to Charlie’s in a while.” “Charlie’s it is.”
Cordelia takes out a waterbottle from her bag. She uncorks it and the water flows out. She makes a fist and the water forms a sphere in the air. With her other hand she makes several wavy motions, and the water thins out, til there is a screen of water, centimeters thick in front of them.
Cordelia’s magic fills the air, making the hair on Helena’s arm stand up, and a sound like a vacuum-cleaner fills the air. The vista in front of the two girls change, and they can make out a street.
Cordelia makes a bow. “You first.” “Why, thank you, miss Holm.” Helena steps through the portal—
–and out on a street near Charlie’s. She’s joined a second later by her girlfriend. They clasp hands and enter Charlie’s.
A minuter later, they sit a the upper floor, sharing a pizza that is halfway vegetarian, halfway meat. “You know, I have thought about you said last time. That ethical question.”
Helena swallows her slice. “And?” Cordelia thinks. “You said, and I quote, ‘what would you do if you knew the identity of Ogre of Ochre?” Helena spits out a piece of her slice.”Wait, they have a name for the killer now?” “Yea, but anyhow, you asked what I would do if I knew the identity of the Ogre. Especially in lieu of Tregaro’s death…”
She takes another slice and continues. “I would report the killer.” A small frown appears on Helena’s face. “Why?” “Because whoever killed Tregaro, they didn’t do it for justice. He was torn open, groin to face. Intenstines everywhere. I agree with what you said- he would never have faced trial here in Fallowfell, but if the killer wanted justice, a snapped neck would have worked. No, he was slaughtered for the sake of vengeance.”
Helena winces, as that part of Cordelia’s summation hits a little too close to truth. “And then there is Sihle Nabkei. Poor girl. Whoever killed her, well, it wasn’t because of anything Sihle herself did. Unless you think she offended the air?”
Helena chokes, having caught something in her throat. A glass of water, and that’s remedied. “No you’re right.” “And then there is the nature of the killer…” “I haven’t heard anything.” “It’s just a rumor in the supernatural community…..” “But?” ” But some people are saying that there is a barrowman loose. And barrowmen are weapons, directed by someone. They have no free will.”
Helena leans back in her chair. “Troublesome news indeed.” “Ha! To say the least.” Cordelia continues to talk, pondering in a offbeat voice. “But reanimation, controlling a barrowman, that could only have been done by someone who uses death-magic.” “Not many of those in Fallowfell”, Helena responds, and slowly eats more pizza.
“Yeah, I don’t even think there is anyone, not atleast who is publically known to have that sort of power. If they had, they’d be lynched.” Helena finishes her part of the pizza. “But that’s the part that is freaking everyone-” a human waiter walks past”- in our ‘community’ out”, Cordelia interjects.
“Someone is using this barrowman as a guided missile. It’s like hiring an assassin. Cowardly. Meanwhile, the real villain, this necromancer, this reanimator walks around us. He could be anyone.”
For the first time in the conversation, Helena smiles. “You’re right. It could be any man out there.”
Cordelia finishes her meal. Spotting the opportunity that she’s been waiting for, Helena opens her mouth and lays her trap.
“Say, do you want to come home with me? Grab a glass of wine?” “I thought your parents were renovating the house?” Helena makes a dissmissive wave with a pedicured-hand. “No, they were finished. Done some months ago in fact….”
They sit in the attic, each holding a glass of red wine. “You said….” Helena trails off. “Said what?” Cordelia asks. The wine has given her a slight flush, a red brand across her face. “You said that the necromancer is a coward. But I have given it some thought. What if the necromancer isn’t physically strong. What if… she has no other ways to get her revenge, but to make the dead walk again?”
Cordelia swirls one finger around the rim of her glass in a counterclock movement.”I guess. But to me it feels like….” She stops. “It feels like the person doing this, he is watching. It’s personal. Tregaro was killed like an animal. And Nabkei….” She cranes her neck. “Kajsa Gran….!”, she shouts and stand up, excited.
Helena takes another sip of her wine. She knows. “I couldn’t come up with a good reason for Sihle’s death, nobody can, but if she was killed to hurt Kajsa, then it all makes sense.” She continues to voice her thoughts. “Kajsa is the uncontested queen-bee of the seniors, our very own Machiavelli. Burn her clothes, and she’ll buy new ones. Rip her shoes apart, and she’ll buy new ones. Slander her and she’ll turn it into her own advantage. But kill her best friend….
“It seems that Machiavelli was outsmarted”, Helena remarks, with no small amount of satisfaction. Cordelia stares at her, as if seeing her for the first time, appalled.
She empties her glass. Her eyes go momentarily unfocused, deep in concentration. She sways, like an oak in the storm. On a nearby table there is a big bowl with red apples. “You…” she slurrs. She blinks and tries to eliminate the slurr from her voice. “You said she, not he…” Her eyes widen with realization. “The reanimator isn’t a man, like everyone thinks. It’s you.”
She focus her eyes on a spot next to her head, and water, drawn from the atmosphere itself creates a makeshift-portal. The shaky, unstable portal shimmer into being—
— then implodes.
Helena finally speaks.”I did slip a little something in your glass. However, I didn’t expect you to come up with the truth yourself. Really, I mustn’t gloat like that in the future.”
Cordelia succumbs to unconsciousness and falls. Her head hits table, and single red apple falls down into her hand. “Biblic”, Helena remarks. She walks out of the attic, and into her own room, where she picks up a wooden box. She re-enters the attic, and opens the box. She takes out a vial, and a syringe.
She fills the syringe with a black fluid.
A sliver of hesitation hits her. Of doubt. She quickly kills it. Affection or not, Cordelia knows her identity. She can end everything. Beside… her abilities will be needed for the Bonfire Ball. She stabs Cordelia in the chest, and releases the blacken blood.
“I had hoped that it wouldn’t turn out like this. That you could have seen what I wanted to do. And you did, but not just in the way I’d intended.” Helena makes a decision.
The conversion starts immediately. In the first twenty minutes, Cordelia shakes and scream. For close to an hour after that, she bleeds red. She vomits up the last remnants of her humanity, and then she opens her eyes. They’re an icy-blue, with black veins going through them. “Helena… what have you done to me?!”
The connection between queen and servant, the connection between the undeads she has mastered are of two dimension. There are those that she killed and revived with her own power, like her family and those that she killed with the blood of the barrowman, like Corvus. In the latter case, the connection is soulforged; allowing her to see what they see, feel what they feel, know what they know.
Cordelia’s thoughs are a bundle: of confusion, betrayal, pain- both physical as mental. But it’s the betrayal that is the worst.
Fat tears run down Helena’s face. “Forget.” “I won’t-” “FORGET. FORGET EVERYTHING.” The command-magic hits Cordelia like a ton of bricks. She slumps on the floor, and thrashes around, her eyes closed, moving rapidly beneath her lids. The seizure lasts for maybe ten seconds, but each of those seconds are torture to Helena. Eventually she opens her eyes.
“Who… who am I?” Helena embraces her. “You’re Cordelia. You’re my friend. My best friend in this whole world….” The lie goes unchallenged.