The Bonfire Ball (The Captive Remix)
I groan. I am back in my normal human body…. and I am naked. In the air. Held by Cordelia Holm’s magic. Shifting forms…. how the hell does werewolves do it? Fuck, you could become traumatized by this stuff. My stomach growls. I guess breaking the Law of Conservation of Mass is no joke.
Memories come to me, vignettes of a person acting, me acting, but out of control.
I struck Merith in… in what Greyscale called the Great-Form once. Is she even alive? And Elenie… I realize now, with all the faculties of mind, that she might not be dead. Stella and Kai did something to her. And there are… let’ see, six immortals present at Ochre. Didn’t Hermann say that Perenelle wanted to use the Philosopher’s Stone on me after the barrowman affected me with that soul-killing disease? That might work– Elena was wounded by good old fashioned bullets, not magic. I think. Or might Helena have done something to the bullets?
I look to the left, where the barrowman is ranting in a female voice, and Cordelia Holm seems to be listening. To the right of us is the deep forest that surrounds Fallowfell. I take a breath, expecting to smell animals and pine and what not, but no scents register. I should be hearing the sounds of birds in the trees, feel the wind against my skin, that intimate soul-connection …. Verde?! I get no reply. Something about assuming the Great Form must have burnt out my abilities. Great. I am all alone, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by three undead.
Speaking about undead… I glance up, and meet the eyes of my sister. “Hey Alex”, I say. What do you say to your dead sister? I am sorry that I survived, and you didn’t? How is Dad and Mom? Is there a Heaven or Hell or some place else? And if so, do I really want to know? No, a simple ‘hey’ is the best start before my throat clog up and I start to cry.
“Hey baby-bro. I think I liked you better when you were all scaly and with the pearly nines. You appear to have changed somewhat in the year I have been ….gone.” “Ugh you will not believe the year I have had”, I state. Dammit, where is my eye-patch! And some goddamn clothes, I am hanging naked here you know.”Actually I know.” “You know?” I can’t keep the surprise out of my voice.
Alexandra sighs. “The dead knows. We know everything. It’s… complicated. But imagine a web of information. Of present. The past. And the future. An ever-changing web. Some of us are better at using that web, and some will never tap into it.”
“So you know about the barrowman? About Greyscale? About…How I am not human anymore.” There. I have said it. It might sound funny, but never does your lack of humanity become as apparent as when you have just shifted from a creature out of Jurassic Park to human. “Oh you’re human enough.” Alexandra delivers the comment like I am used to, a delivery without mercy or pity. She gives the barrowman a look and inches closer. “That one however… she is consumed with vengeance in a way that twists the soul.” She”, I ask, giving the barrowman another searching look.
“The barrowman is dead, or gone, or atleast out of the picture. Helena Gravsten is control of that body.” I shrug weakly. “That explains the voice. I’d offer to do something about it, but I cannot even uses my senses, let alone escape this water-thing.”
“I SEE THEM.PREPARE YOURSELF.” Nevena looks up into the triangular head of Nidhogger.
“Are you certain”, she screams into the wind, not certain if she is heard.
“I CAN SPOT A LEAF ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. I CAN HEAR THE MICE SCROUNGING FOR FOOD IN THEIR BARNS. I CAN TASTE THE SCENT YOUR MENSTRUAL BLOOD.”
“Okay, one; too much information,two ; you don’t have to brag, I get it.”
“… I would have made it, if it weren’t for those teachers and those meddling kids”, Helena Gravsten reiterates in the body of the barrowman.
Now that Alexandra has drawn my attention to it, I can see it. The barrowman’s eyes are grey, the voice is female and his body-language… the barrowman walked like a dead creature. There is a certain arrogance in her posture.
Helena walks up to me. I tense. I can’t defend myself now. I can’t hear Verde, or use any my senses. Crap, I am a sitting duck.
“Do you know why”, Helena starts in a neutral voice,” I have done the things I have done?” I nod, or rather I bob my head in the small space I am allowed. “Then you know that you are just like me.”
“Excuse me?” I am nothing like her! I school my face, aiming for that very same neutrality that Gravsten’s tone conveys. “When the news of the rape spread they called me a whore. A slut. A prostitute. I wasn’t my fault and yet I had to bear all the responsibility. The looks, the sideward glances in the red corridors of Ochre. You have a diagnosis. When they find out, and they will find out, because these things always get out, they will hate you. At first you will tell yourself that nothing has changed. But then, slowly and creeping, it will come to you. The way they whisper behind your back. The cashier at the cafeteria won’t meet your eyes. You will be a stranger in your own body.” As Gravsten’s rant continues, her voice loses its neutrality and I feel a prickle of fear. It isn’t that we’re alike, because we aren’t, but what she says, that is my worst fear.
“You and I are alike”, she repeats, ” shaped by circumstances that we cannot control.” She fingers her chin. “No, that’s not completely true. I can revenge myself on the people who hurt me. But who do you revenge yourself on, Rune Fallowfell? Genetics? A cruel and callous god? Dead parent?”
Before I have time to formulate a proper response, a roar shakes the world.