I twist and turn, unable to sleep. Maybe it’s because of all the candy me, Kai and Pontus have eaten, or maybe it’s because Pontus is snoring!
I stare at the offender, who is sleeping about a meter away from me on one of the mattresses we hauled in. Kai is sleeping directly behind me, propped up against one of the wall’s of Pontus’ room, and if I didn’t know it, I would never hear him. He isn’t making a sound. I wish he could have taught Pontus some of that.
My stomach makes sure I know that there will be an brown avalanche coming any minute now, and I bolt for the toilet, trying to manuever myself in the darkness.
Helena Gravsten walks towards the Astrid Lindgren Cemetery, carrying a shovel on her shoulder. She jumps over a short wall, and pauses to admire the full moon. She has Corvus flying over the cemetery, providing some much needed aerial surveillance. There are supernaturals out there who can hear the sound of heartbeats, but she is not unfortunately one of them.
When Corvus reports nothing in sight, she moves forward. She strides between the tombstones, reading them as she walks. “Here lies Mathilda Danielsson, mother of two, grandmother of three…”, ” Isak Ogiers, beloved by all…”, ” Karl-Åke Hager, who worked as a janitor in Ochre for thirty-years…”
She stops at a lot that is new. In fact, if she had to guess, she’d say it’s the newest lot in the cemetery. Three tombstones, made out of marmor, huddle together. She enters the lot, with slow, reverent steps.
On the center tombstone, it says with golden letters:
“I was born in strife, and in strife I will die.
Helena can’t help but smile. Alexandra always was stubborn. Helena takes up her phone with her left hand, she puts a pink headset on her head with her right hand, and she connects the two with a wire. Music fills her ears.
She puts the shovel against the ground, and starts to dig.
The toilet flushes behind me. A bag of potato-chips. Two litres of soda. A quarter of a kilo of chocolate. More cookies than I could count. Ugh, it feels like I am hungover.
“AAAA!!” Inadvertly, my claws come out. I retract them as quick as humanly possible, and turn around. Malena Malmberg laughs at me, the expression on my face, which I imagine to be suitably scared right now.
“Can’t sleep?” I nod.
“Want to talk about it?” I start to shake my head, before realizing that, yes, I actually do want to talk about it. I turn the shake of my head into a nod. “Come then.” We slowly make our way down a stairway, stepping as lightly as mice in the presence of cats, and arrive in the kitchen.
Malena pours two glasses of water, and hands me one. She jumps up on a steel counter, and points a toe at a chair. She opens her mouth.”So, what’s-” there is a noise that fills the world, and we both flinch.I spot a web of lightning through a window, soon followed by the steady patter of rain.
“So as I was saying before being interrupted-” she pauses, and makes a fist towards the ceiling and presumably a sky-deity, maybe,”- what is troubling you, young Fallowfell?”
I start to describe my nascent rift with Nevena in vague and general terms. “It’s like this you see…”
Helena digs in tune to the music. At some point it has started to rain. That doesn’t distract her. If anything, it spurrs her on.
Eventually she reaches the bottom. Her shovel hits something that sure isn’t dirt. She crouches on the ground and removes a sandy smudge. A coffin, built for a teenager lies in front of her. She inserts the ‘blade’ of the shovel into the small gap between lid and box and heaves.
Nothing. Agh, where is that goddamn barrowman when I need him?!
She tries again, putting all of her weight behind the shovel. Her muscles strain. Her breath comes out short and she pants.
She kicks the coffin hard, triggering some kind of mechanism and it springs open. “Oh.” The smell of decomposed body, a perfume one year old in the making saturates the air. Most people would vomit, or gag, but to Helena, this scent is familiar. Like the smell of marmelade in the morning, or the aftershave your uncle wears.
The corpse… looks bad. Stringy, fat hair. Smaller, thinner, gaunt. Holes in the flesh, and organs like leather. Broken up, like a human puzzle.
Good thing I can change that. When most people think of necromancers, they think of the revival of the dead. That’s where the ‘necro’ comes from, after all. But necromancers can do so much more. And Helena has experimented, trained her abilities for a day like this. Without anyone to tell her what she can, and more importantly, can’t do, she has had to find these things out herself.
She calls on her magic, calls on all of it, leaving nothing left. Enough magic to give her an headache. So much magic that it can actually be seen in the visual spectrum.
Purple sparks arc around her hands, like electricity. She channels it all into the corpse….
“… and that’s how it is.”
“Hmmm I think I got the gist of it”, Malena summarizes. “You… you are afraid of being vulnerable. That if you tell Nevena this great secret, it will unbalance your relation, that it will give her too much power over you.” I roll my thumbs, thinking, considering her words. “You make it sound so mercenary, like we’re two kingdoms fighting for the same river.”
She jumps off the counter and pours herself another glass of water. “It’s because it is like that to a certain degree, or atleast initially. There is, I feel, a moment in every relationship when you can bare your feelings and when the barriers can be lowered.” “And I missed mine.”
She rolls her eyes. “Stop being so fucking melodramatic. Is that what Elena has to live with?” She continues, ignoring my cry of protest. “Yes, you missed your chance. Big deal. You’ll have others. You can’t and you shouldn’t force these things. They will come naturally. Just be patient. I am your elder, and I know these things.”
She’s right. Patience– I can be patient. I will wait for the right opportunity and then I will tell her. I won’t build a relationship on a foundation of lies.
Me and Malena sit in silence. Eventually I feel the need to say something, to fill the silent void. “How are you holding up? Were you friends with Sihle Nabkei or Kajsa Gran or..?”
“Friends? I don’t know… I thought Sihle was kinda sweet, and Kajsa somewhat of a bitch to be honest. And Tregaro…?”, she trails off with a grimace.
” I have heard the rumors”, I say. ” The thing about Tregaro was that he was so damn sneaky. Making sure that there were only rumors, innuendo that could be ignored. Except that time”, she ponders, deep in thought.
I take another sip of tap-water. “That time?”, I ask. “It was all hush-hush at the time, and the details, well, nobody is certain about the details, and they’ve only grown in telling. But a girl arrived at one of Tregaro’s party. She drank something, or someone slipped her something. She was either raped, or there was a threesome of some kind, and the girl end up in the forest, naked and raving.”
I blanch. The forest around Fallowfell is old and deep. Walking through it while sober and wearing the right clothing can be tough, let alone naked and suffering the aftermath of a rape. “You know”, I tell her,” everyone I have ever asked says that Tregaro got what was coming to him.”
“Oh yeah, you were the one who found him. Do you think he suffered?” I am about to tell her that he was probably killed instantly or lost consciousness relatively early, when I realize that’s not what she wants to hear. “I think he suffered.” “Ha, good riddance.”
Silence fills the kitchen once more. Malena stands up, as if to go to bed.
“Wait, I never asked; what was the name of the girl?”
” Helena. Helena Gravsten.”
Her hair becomes full and lustrious. The sallow, partially rotten skin turns mocha. Yellow nails fall off, replaced by white ones. She still stinks though, Helena muses to herself, strained by the effort.
She cuts the flow of magic and just lies on the ground, gasping for breath. She is covered in cold, cold sweat, and she couldn’t possibly reanimate a dead grasshopper now.
She counts down from a hundred and once she reaches zero she gets up. There is still work to do. She carries Alexandra’s body over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry out of the hole she has dug, slowly, panting. She dumps the body in a wheelbarrow and makes her way out of the Astrid Lindgren Cemetery.
Old friend, I’ll get you up and running in no time. Just you wait.