Hermann knocks on the door. A male voice calls out. “Come in!” As he enters, he wonders about the feasibility of supernatural marriage. For those supernaturals that don’t age, marriage is rarely a good idea. Until death do us part is a good rule– with the understanding that you and your spouse is supposed to die, eventually.
But, he remarks, Perenelle always had a way to make those marriages last. First Nicholas, then Richard. He removes his jacket and shoes, and starts to walk to the center of the house. Sitting in the living room, are Richard, Gomagog and Perenelle.
He grabs an armchair and sits down. “So, who is the necromancer? Who are Cordelia Holm’s friends?”
“Are you certain… are you certain she is dead”, Perenelle asks. Hermann sighs. “She is dead. Her heart may beat, but its rythm is too uneven, her body-temperature is few degrees colder than it should be and there is a strong flow of magic flowing inside her body, magic that has a touch of the grave.”
“Helena Gravsten. Mari Ignok. Eli Oghamn– these are her best friends”, Gomagog summarizes. He continues. “It won’t be Mari. Her and her kin are witches, something to do with greenery, maybe wood. They can’t do shit with the dead. Don’t know about the others.”
Richard clears his throat. “If Eli Oghamn is a supernatural, then he has managed to hide his scent for the last three years, fooling us all.”
“Which by process of elimination leaves Helena Gravsten”, Hermann concludes. It feels strange to think of her like that. She used to visit the villa with Alexandra when they were younger, and he never ever, not even once, detected a hint of magic. Which makes her dangerous. “She smells like human though”, Richard says. He scratches his head. “The scent of magic is hard to hide, and I have never smelled it from her”, he adds.
“Your not infallible, none of us are. She could have found a way. This barrowman certainly has; why wouldn’t she?” This from Gomagog.
Perenelle adds her cents. ” And do you remember that incident three years back? At Tregaro’s house? Gravsten was the girl who was raped”, Perenelle says, in a slow voice. “And”, she says, hesitatingly, ” she used to be friends with Kajsa Gran and Sihle Nabkei, in fact were friends, until their freshmen year, before Gran let one of Gravsten’s most important secrets out.”
“Which one was that? I don’t keep track of the gossip of the students”, Gomagog almost sneers. “The one secret that she is a lesbian, you know, the sort of thing a sixteen year old girl might not want people to know”, Perenelle almost screams in Gomagog’s direction.
Hermann holds up a hand in an attempt to calm things down. “As the one who doesn’t actually teach at Ochre, Gravsteen seem to be in thick of things– don’t you agree?”
They all give him various nods. “If she is the necromancer, we should apprehend her in force. If she isn’t, then she is still quite suspect. So here’s what we’ll be doing….”
Helena Gravsten lies back on a sofa in the attic. Mondays, she reflects, are a bitch. Nobody like Mondays. They’re the black sheep. The unwanted third child. Mondays are picked last in Gym class. They’re-
Corvus caws inside her head, a claim for attention. She peers through his eyes, seeing four individuals, each coming from a cardinal direction. Apprehension fills her. She instructs him to move closer.
Gomagog strides from the east.
Perenelle Corazon, who in fact is Perenelle Flamel is jumping over roots from the north.
Richard Corazon, once the king of great island nation, now a Swedish teacher, is walking from the south.
To the east comes Hermann Schwartz, the man formerly known in the supernatural community as the Assassin.
They’re coming for me. Alright, I have planned for something like this. Contigencies upon contigiencies.
She uses her magic, hard, burning it one large burst.
On Lagerström Street, Cordelia Holms wakes up suddenly. She is being called. Without thinking she opens a watery window to her master, no her best friend’s house.
She closes the hole in reality, and walks up to Helena. “There is no time for explanations. Open a hole in the vicinity of Mount Skari; we’re leaving”, Helena orders. With a minor use of her magic, a portal, a gateway to a distant mountain appears.
She launches several things through the gateway. A tent. Toiletries. Toothbrushes. Some jerky. Thicker clothes. The things seem to Cordelia to have been prepared in advance.
“What about the coffin, and the barrowman?”, Cordelia asks.
“He is out somewhere, who knows where– leave the coffin, we can’t carry it”, Helena answers in a hurried voice.
Helena grabs her arm. “Come!”
Cordelia dutifully enters the hole and exits in the shadow of Skari. Meanwhile, Helena has one foot on the side of Skari, and foot in the attic. She is looking at something with a conflicted look. Eventually she steps through.
“Close it.” The portal winks out of existence, and the two girls stand in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of kilometers away from civilsation.
Hermann told them to be prepared for anything, so that’s why Gomagog isn’t too surprised when two hands erupt from the dirt and seizes his ankles. He raises one large foot. “You’re not the barrowman. But you will do.” He slams his foot down, grinding some poor man’s hand to dust. Then he does it again. “Oh, you’ll do alright”, he says with a nasty smile.
Perenelle Flamel’s scream splits the night as an old woman hugs her left leg.
They fall to the ground, the dead woman’s teeth a few inches from her throat. She puts an elbow under the woman’s head, and with her free arm, she takes out a small white gun.
Now, where to shoot….
The woman’s teeth inches closer, and so she places the gun against her throat and fires. The alchemelic tinkture acts immediately.
There is a crack, and the dead woman groans, and stiffens, like a statue made flesh. Perenelle shunts the woman aside.
“Puh”, she exclaims. “Haven’t done that in a long time.”
She looks down on the woman, the dead woman, who is frozen into immobility by a tinkture that works an almost geographical scale. “Now what to do with you…?”
Richard feels the vibrations moving through earth, and steps aside. A young man crawls up from the earth. It looks at him. Richard stares back, curious.
“I don’t suppose you-” The creature charges him.
He sighs. Killing young people, even if they’re already dead, feels too much like murder. It’s inherently wrong.
He swings Hauteclere in a wide arc, looping off the creature’s head. Too much like murder he thinks to himself.
Hermann’s sonar alerts him to movement underground. He crouches.
A head sticks up–
— and he slits its throat. The blades that he are using were made from the slivers of Zulfiqar, blessed be they by the Prophet himself.
The light in the eyes of the undead winks out.
He sends out feelers; Gomagog is inside the house looking; Perenelle is standing above a woman; and Richard is about the enter the house.
I am late. With that thought, he hurries towards the house. He notes the blood on Hauteclere, Richard’s sword. “You were attacked?”
“As were you”, Richard remarks, pointing at the dirt on Hermann’s knees. “This answers the question who the necromancer is then”, Perenelle asks, somewhat dejected, as she rejoins them.
“No doubt”, Gomagog tangents, exiting the house. “Helena Gravsten left the house in a hurry. She was warned somehow.”
“What about Alexandra’s body? Did you find it?” Hermann’s sonar ranges over the houses, but it’s too polluted, shrouded in sickly magic for him to make anything out. Gomagog gives him a curt shake of a head.
“How did she leave”, Perenelle demands. “We all went from one direction, and nobody saw her leave?”
Gomagog shrugs his massive shoulders. “I walked a lap around the house. There are no tracks. Some apportation-magic, maybe?”
Gomagog’s mention of a magic that allows for traveling jogs a memory of Herman’s. “Cordelia Holm’s grandfather was a wizard with dominion over water; he could view great distances through a lens of water, among other talents. Magic changes through generations– maybe Cordelia can travel using water? She could have traveled herself and Helena away.”
They all consider it. “If what you’re saying is true, then they could be anywhere”, Perenelle states. Hermann curses, first in Arabic, then German. “This is all my fault. I was careless.” A millenia ago I would have considered a possible escape plan, and I would have acted accordingly. Living in Fallowfell like this has made me complacent, not to mention soft. He continues to speak, to berate himself. ” I should have realized it sooner. If I had… we could have captured Holm, and denied Helena an easy way out.”
Strangely enough, out of all people, Gomagog puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “You couldn’t have known. None of us could have. Gravsten had us fooled for years, not to mention Holm’s more specific gifts.”
Gomagog continues, albeit more hesitant and uncharacteristic. “What… should we do with her family?” “Her family”, Richard queries. Gomagog’s brow wrinkles in disgust. “They’re dead. Gravsten killed them and brought them back. They just… they just lie in their beds and stare at the ceiling.”
Perenelle swears in French, Richard pales and Hermann closes his eyes. “We”, Perenelle starts, before being interrupted by Hermann. “We will give them a quick death.” “Hermann!”, she says sharply.
He turns to her. “What would you have us do? Let them suffer? Or perhaps you know a way to bring the dead back?” The question is rhetorical. There are only temporary ways of bringing someone back, never permanent. She refuses to meet his eyes.
“I… want… to… die…”They all look down, in the direction of the voice. A woman is crawling through the open doorway. Flies are buzzing around a wound on her right forearm, and her black skin is closer to yellow.
Hermann kneels in front of her. “Are you certain?” “Now wait-” “Be quiet, Perenelle.”
The woman’s eyes meets Hermann’s. In those eyes, he sees suffering. Pain. A wish for it all to end. He nods. “Mmyy… my…family.” A statement, not a question, but Hermann nods. “Any last words?”
“My daughter… please save her.” “I will do everything I can”, Hermann swears. He stabs her twice; through head and heart. The light, mercifully, goes out. He suppresses his emotions and enters the house. Some time later, he exits.
Perenelle is gone, Richard is upset and Gomagog has an angry expression on his face.
“Helena Gravsten has a lot to answer for”, Gomagog finally says.
“That she has”, Hermann says in a cold voice. He takes out his phone, and makes the second call for the night.
“Greyscale? I need you to burn something down for me.”