Elena jumps into her purple Porsche and starts the engine with the press of a button. Gotta love the modern age.
She swerves on the gravel-driveway of the Orchard and makes for Fallowfell. She knows that Rune is upset, but the question is how much. She’d never tell him, but she has an internal scale which she thinks of as the Internal Rage Extent, or simply I.R.E, that she uses to judge his moods.
There was a time, when they were five and still in preschool, when a new teacher hugged him. If One on the I.R.E is mild discomfort, and Ten is being baptized in acid, then… Rune was baptized in acid.
This particular event, forcing Rune to confront Nevena, she figures, is a Two, or perhaps a weak Three.
Hermann enters the Company, the only type of store in Sweden permitted to sell alcohol. He needs to apologize to Greyscale, and for that he’ll need some kind of bribe. A couple of jugs of mead will probably do the trick, he thinks to himself.
He walks between the aisles, searching. “Can I help you, sir?” He turns toward the employee, a young woman wearing a green vest and grey pants, the traditional clothes of an employee of the Company. “Yes. Could you point me in the direction of meads?”
“Sure”, she says with the artificial smile of someone that works in retail. She points at an aisle slightly to the left of him, where he can see several old-fasioned earthenware jugs, courtesy of some hipster-artist. He inclines his head, and gathers three, no better make it five jugs and sets for the long line to the register.
On Saturdays, the Company closes at 14.00 sharp, meaning that the alcoholics and the party-crowd and anyone who wants to get drunk will have to buy their pleasure of choice before that, or remain sober.
Elena presses the button on the door for a fourth time. “Cmon Rune”, she shouts. “Stop masturbating to Hentai-girls.” The sound of her voice echoes across the street. “Hentai-girls….” “Hentai-girls…..” “Hentai-girls…”
That usually gets him going. She cracks her knuckles. Time to—dunk. She pauses. Dunk.Dunkdunkdunkdunk.
She follows the sound, around the side of the villa, and to the backyard. What she sees surprises her. Rune is holding up his left arm in front of him, right arm tucked to the side, and he is punching a sandbag.
It’s training for the non-dominant arm, something she herself did a long time ago. After the kidnapping. She strides up to Rune and gives the sandbag her best punch. Some karate-users looks down on the seiken, the feet-braced-single-punch that karate has made famous, but not her.
She’s repeated the punch… how many times? A hundred-thousand times? Ten times that? The bag shudders under their combined onslaught. Rune removes a couple of headphones, which are blaring classical music. She sighs.
“Hey Elenie.” “Hey Rune”, she says. His eye-patch is slightly askew, and sweat is pouring down his hooded sweater, but other than that, he seems fine. She looks at the scars on his face, and she remembers a time when they hadn’t faded.
She is standing in a white room, next to Hermann. A gaggle of doctors are removing the bandages on his face. “He needs a rock right now”, Hermann whispers. She nods at him. A rock, she can be a rock.
The last bandage is removed. She masks her reaction, that of disgust, quickly, but perhaps not quickly enough. Rune has two scars. The first one is straight, a vertical line, stabbing down across his left eye. She can’t make out that eye– it’s covered in gauze. The other scar moves up along his nose, and past his right eye.
“I look like something else, huh?”, he says in a drug-addled voice. She smiles at him, like only a friend can do, and puts all of the confidence she can summon in a single sentence. “Don’t say that. Girls dig scars you know?”
She opens her bag, and brings out….
“Ta-daaa. I present you, Rune Fallowfell, one-eyed misoant… misogyn, no that’s not it…. misosomething, the Murderboard!” The object in her hands, a former appointment board, is filled with pictures of various seniors in Fallowfell, and different colored strings, denoting level of suspicion, which she promptly explains.
“So go and and shower, and we’ll discuss the Murderboard in closer detail”, she states. He frowns. “Wait, I haven’t forgiven you yet, not for putting me in that situation.” She brushes it off with her usual tact. “Oooh”, she croons. ” My name is Rune, and my best friend just got me a date to the social event of the month; the year even, but noooo, I am going to continue to sulk like a little bitch about it, oooo”, she croons.
“You might have a point. A small one.” “Damn right I have a point. Now. Shower. The Murderboard requires my attention.”
Rune mutters and enters the villa, while she looks at the board and thinks to herself, which one of you suckers is a murderer?
In the house next to them, Hermann knocks on the door. He uses his sonar, and tracks Greyscale’s movements through the house. The door is opens. “What do you want?”, Nidar asks in flat voice. “I want peace for the world, but I’ll settle for peace with you”, is Hermann’s response.
He holds up the plastic bag. Greyscale accepts it with his left and punches him suddenly with his right. Hermann tumbles down the stairs, feeling every bounce with body. There is a click, and he knows the door has been locked. He re-sets his broken nose in a quickly disappearing daze. I guess I deserved that one.
He abandons plan A, and moves for plan B. He calls on his magic, and walks unseen around the villa. There is a door that opens to the inside, and he puts a paperclip against its lock. Some finnicking, and the door is opened. He dials up the magic further. It will make him unnoticeable, but there are limits.
On his way in, he makes sure that the door is closed. Employing his sonar once more, he trudges through the house, admiring all of the old weapons. He sneaks inside the office, where Greyscale is sitting with his back turned.
Hermann is about to say something, to offer the apology he has painstakingly composed in his head when a loud noise fills the room. Great wracking sobs; and Hermann immediately feels ten-thousand times worse.
“He was my brother you know”, Greyscale says.
Hermann nods, not caring how Greyscale detected him.
“My baby-brother”, he continues. He turns around in the chair. His face is blotchy and red, and it’s hard to remember that at one time, Nidar Greyscale was worshipped as a demi-god. He lobs Hermann a bottle of mead.
“I can still remember the first time he left the Hatchery, and flew…..”