The Bonfire Ball (Nidhogger remix)
The doors bang open, and the undead pour in. A moment occurs now. A moment frozen in time like something out of a Kafka-novel or a painting by Hieronymus Bosch; the normals sitting at the tables, the supernaturals not quite believing their eyes, and the myriad forms of undead hovering at the entrance. I note that several undead have appendages, or have been altered in a Frankensteinan way.
Then Louise Grenadrin, a girl that works part-time in the library blasts the undead with an arc of lightning.
Pandemonium ensues and they’re on us.
Rune Fallowfell might fight, but he does not fight alone. 1A is with him.
Amina Pavlov flips a fork into the air, and she brings up her hands. Two things occur simultaneously- there is a boom and the fork is launched- and a undead has its head destroyed beyond recognition. The smell of black powder is rife in the air.
In quick succession, Pavlov lobs the nearby cutlery like artillery, bringing down dozens.
In the fracas, a gun goes off. She whips her head around, searching for the source, but finds nothing.
Linnea Hexer quickly hums notes of forbiddance, and three undead pause around her. The pitch of her voice deepens suddenly, and the undead crashes to the floor, bleeding from every conceivable orifice.
She shields two of her normal classmates, ignoring their questions and wondering how they are going to fix this. The Council will have our heads, she thinks to herself.
A gun goes off in the background and she and the two normals look.
Kai Blut inches back, leading a man with the head of a ox towards the punch. He opens a small bottle from one of his breast-pockets and pours the content down the bowl of punch. He tips the aforementioned bowl onto the floor, thus creating a small sea.
Kai Blut is no stranger to violence. After all, this is a boy who drowned his father in cold blood. He concentrates and a small spark ignites the alcohol, the now vodka-filled punch which the oxen-man stands in.
The man screams, and yet Kai Blut feels nothing. He is in that place, that place with soft melodies and where he can’t be hurt.
He absently notes the the sound of a gun.
Chiyo Sawamura is graceful. If you were to ask a stranger in Fallowfell what their impression of Chiyo Sawamura is, they would say that she has the kind of grace that most ballerinas can only dream of.
This is why it is so surprising that she rips the hem of her dress for better movement and kicks the nearest undead in the ribs. She twirls around break the nose of another undead with a high-kick. A third kick caves a chest in and she grows horns, small horns, but horns none the less.
The tell-tale sound of gun fills the cafeteria and she frantically searches for Kai.
Stella Rakaya immediately forms a string between her two hands. She flings the gossamer-thin thread at the feet of a nearby undead, severing its feet and ensuring that it isn’t going anywhere.
A revolver goes off, and she identifies it as a revolver through its sound, an action that would make her adoptive father proud. A Smith and Wesson, 36, maybe?
Most normals freeze up in the face of the unknown, and what can be more unknown then dead bodies moving on their own accord? But Pontus Malmberg, to his credit, assesses the situation in a cool manner.
Drug-addicts, he decides. The people that are attacking Ochre are drug addicts. This is what he tells himself, to save his sanity, but it doesn’t answer why some of the ‘addicts’ have animal head or other body-parts that doesn’t match up. It doesn’t answer why some of the addicts are slobbering with cold eyes that seem to lack… soul. It doesn’t answer why some of his classmates are fighting like superheroes from a cheesy movie, now does it?
A gun goes off nearby like something out of Die Hard movie.
The moment the door bang open I grow a set of extra-sharp nails. I rip them off and take aim. /Steady./ I fling one such nail, and hit one undead in the shoulder. My second and third nail miss, but my fourth nail embedds itself in what I think is its rib-section, and it goes down.
I… did I just kill something? /It is already dead, Rune. Can you kill what is already dead?/ I focus on that. Dead, these people, these creatures have already died once. They’re using borrowed time, and what I just did, well it was nothing that wouldn’t have happened. The rationale sounds weak, even to my ears.
Around me, multiple undeads swarm and fight the supernaturals and the rare normals, of which Pontus is one, that have banded together.
In the periphery of my sight I make out a man wearing a hoodie. The barrowman. It brings up a gun and my eyes follows its line of sight, and I gasp for air. Hannah Duchamps stands with her back to it, seconds away from being shot. I shout and a girl throws herself in front of Hannah, protecting her with her own body as a shield.
Bang. The gun fires once.
Bang. The gun fires twice.
Bang. The gun fires thrice, and Merith, the school-nurse is on the barrowman. But my eyes are all for the blond girl, the blond girl with the three expanding blooms of blood. Elena meets my eyes. She mouths what I think is a ‘sorry’ then she falls. I pull eight full strains from Verde and I catch her before her head makes contact with the unforgiving floor.
“Elena!” She gurgles something in response, and then she doesn’t gurgle anything at all. “Noononononon, you have to keep breathing…” I let Chiyo drag me away in a stupor as Kai and Stella does something to Elena. My eyes fixate on the barrowman, who is on the floor, one of Merith’s feet on his head. Merith is surrounded by a circle of downed supernaturals; undead, Amanda, another freshman I don’t recognize.
I feel a hatred like a firestorm surging inside my heart. This is the barrowman’s fault. If it weren’t for the barrowman, I’d be a normal teenager right now, I wouldn’t have to go through Greyscale’s Fight School and most important; Elena would be alive.
Ten strains- bones shift inside my face. I start to walk towards Merith. /Rune calm yourself. Eight strain is the current upper limit of what you can handle./ I am going to murder him. Twelve strains- my legs bend and warp.
Fifteen strains– and now a ripple passes through my skin. Scales. I hear a roar inside my head, screaming something, but I am too far away.
I made the math once, a long time ago. If eight strains represent forty percent of the power Verde can confer on me, then twenty must be the full hundred. I pull the full twenty strains, and the world explodes.
Greyscale pauses at the sudden magic that fills the cafeteria. He isn’t the only one. The undead and the various freshmen stop to stare at a Rune Fallowfell that is wreathed in a nimbus of green light. Uh-oh, he recognizes that particular behaviour.
A blinding flash of veridian light causes several people to close their eyes, and when they open them again, a wyrm the size of a truck sits on the floor that Rune used to occupy. Green. One milky eye. And judging from its screeching, severly pissed off. Greyscale shakes his head. Rune shouldn’t be able to assume the Great-Form, not now, not until decades have passed.
Rune’s screech seems to break the tranquility of the moment, and the fighting resumes. Greyscale watches as Rune bounds for Merith. Double uh-oh. The only thing neutralizing the barrowman is Merith. Spotting the eminent catastrophe, Greyscale makes for Merith.
As he watches, the disaster unfolds. Merith tries her void-magic on Rune, to no avail, and he bats her away, almost casually, before raising a serpentine fist above the barrowman. One undead throw herself in front of the barrowman and Rune hesitates. The undead in question has olive-skin, black hair- shit- it’s Alexandra Fallowfell.
In that hesitation, the barrowman acts. It calls out a cry for help in a female voice, and a watery portal sucks the barrowman, Alexandra and Rune in. A second watery portal, and a girl that Greyscale recognizes as Cordelia Holm disappears.
For the first time in a more decades than he cares to count, Greyscale feels panic. This wasn’t how it was supposed to work. Where is Helena Gravsten? And her army was much bigger than anyone thought and now normals have seen magic.
Gomagog and Perenelle enters the cafeteria, obviously having defeated or cleared the undead in Ochre itself. Between the four of them and the rest of the freshmen they wipe the remnants of Gravsten’s army. “Now then”, Perenelle asks in a worried tone. “Yeah, the normals will make their way out of Ochre any second now, and then the shit will really hit the fan”, Gomagog summarizes while removing pieces of brain from his t-shirt.
Merith clears her throat. “Me and Hermann planned for an eventuality like this, never suspecting that we would actually need it. But there is an equally dire situation; Rune Fallowfell has been kidnapped by the barrowman and Cordelia Holm”. Perenelle winces while Gomagog frowns.
“How will we”, Perenelle starts before Greyscale breaks in. “I will find him. I will bring him back. There is a final way to do this, one I hadn’t considered”, Greyscale says in harrowed voice. Each of them know to what he is refering.
Nevena Stanislaw watches as Greyscale detaches from the rest of the grown-ups. She obscures the air with a haze-make and follows him through the corridors and out on the fog-covered island. With a sudden leap Greyscale jumps into the Hermannstadt.
“What”, she starts — Magic scorches the air. Magic to burn the world and set the atmosphere on fire. Magic felt across continents and the seven seas. The same magic Rune used to change, but greater, more, magnified. There is an explosion of air and water and fog being displaced and she sights the outline of a tip of a vast wing rising in the fog.
She realizes that the one out there isn’t Nidar Greyscale. It’s Nidhogger, the primordial guardian of Yggdrassil who ate the evil-doers in ancient times.
She raises her voice. “Nidar Greyscale, who is Nidhogger. Take me with you! You will need someone to combat Cordelia Holm as you fight the barrowman and Gravsten!” A single beat of wings, and the fog clears. A wave of water hits her knees, and she buckles.
She glances up, into the eyes of a monster. A wingspan the length of the Crimson Bridge. Grey alien eyes. Smoky scales that blend into the night. A coiled, muscular body, capable of bringing down armies and nation.
“VERY WELL LITTLE ONE. A CHILD OF LAMIA IS A FRIEND OF MINE.”