but you don't really care for music,
It was easier than it should have been to get Mallory's body out of the hospital. I thought hospitals were supposed to be crawling with techies and meds. Doctors. People.
I think they knew she wasn't going to make it; and that was why they left me alone with her.
I didn't think about it. I just waited until Mallory's hands went cold and then I picked her up. The needle slid out of her arm. Scarlet dripped onto the floor, and for some reason I was reminded of that old song from the Disney movie.
"Drip, drip, drop, little April shower," I sang to myself, as I wrapped Mallory in the sheet and closed her eyes. The blood had stopped flowing from her wounds, so if I was lucky perhaps someone would think she was sleeping.
Oh, gods, how I wished she was just sleeping.
There was a horrible pain in my chest, but I ignored it as I stepped out of the room and started down the hall.
I didn't meet anyone. I slipped out a back door that it was just my luck to find. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was fate, maybe someone up there just liked me.
I placed the body gently, very gently, in the backseat of the rental car I'd commandeered when it became obvious Trippy wasn't going to make it either. She looked peaceful there, as if she really was sleeping. It was like she was taking a nap in the backseat, just like last night—
My stomach twisted. I couldn't think about it. I got into the rental car and started the engine.
I drove. Drove mindlessly, with no real emotion. It was like someone else was controlling the hand that shifted gears, the foot that slid the car to a gentle stop. It wasn't me who got out of the car and put more gas in, who went inside to pay. The girl at the counter was pretty, I suppose—a bleach-blonde with sparkling brown eyes who smiled sympathetically at me when I slid the bills over the counter.
Then I went back to my car, got in, and started driving again.
I don't know when I started talking to Lory, but I did. I just started talking to the body in the back like she was sitting there reading a book and not really listening. I told her about my sister Pease, who was almost as old as me and she was on the Gamle-Sti council with me and her name was really Peaseblossom, but everyone called her Pease. And she made us pronounce it Peace, because she thought it was amusing that the representatives from the Týr cabin were called "War and Peace."
I told her about what we had done last winter when the settlement was barely made, when Sierra's half-brother had dragged in a huge pine tree that Sierra and some other kids had helped cut down, and we'd run around in a panic to find Christmas ornaments for no reason other than because we could, until finally we'd pushed it upright in the middle of the settlement and the younger kids were so happy with it because the older ones, me and Pease and everyone else on the council had gone out to the closest town and bought Christmas presents for them all.
I told her about my family, the ones from Gamle-Sti and the ones I knew from home. I told her about stupid escapades from my childhood like the one time I'd sledded down a snowy hill and smashed straight into a tree and I'd had a bruise on my leg for weeks.
I just kept talking until my throat was sore, and even then I put on a CD I'd salvaged from Trippy and just sang along to Hallelujah, the Rufus Wainwright version, until my voice was so hoarse I couldn't sing at all. And then I pulled through the Gamle-Sti gates, disguised from mortals by walls of runes—I'd never had a chance to teach her runes, never got to teach her how to say the name of one and finger it in the air and have it flare to life—and then I staggered out of the car and Pease caught me.
Her eyes were red and purple just like mine, and they held the worry I hadn't been able to shake off for days now, ever since I first met Mallory. She looked at me and smoothed my hair back and she asked quietly, "Are you okay?"
I'd left barely two weeks before to go find Mallory, to find the place where the Brood was converging now, and now I was returning. The Brood hadn't won.
But I had most definitely lost.
"She's dead," I said bluntly, and those words practically hit Pease like a punch. She collapsed to her knees, put her head in her hands.
"Car crash," I continued. She cried out, a sound that sounded something like "no" but in some language I couldn't understand, the language of pain, and that sound brought Sierra running over.
Her eyes were green and flashing and she looked so furious with fear.
"Where is she?" she demanded. "You didn't lose her, did you? Holy shit, Warren, I only had to save her last night—"
"She's dead," I said again, and all the fight went out of Sierra. She drooped.
A few curious young Idun children came running up, and Pease pulled herself together. "Everyone's okay, guys," she said hoarsely, getting to her feet. "Warren just has some… bad news. Did you bring it?"
"Don't let the kids see it," she said limply, and shooed the young ones away with cheerful words and a bright smile. I could tell it was forced, but just—just—barely.
"I guess we should…" Sierra started.
We looked around to make sure nobody was there, and then I reached inside for the body.
She looked so pale and thin in my arms. So dead. I bit my lip to stop the burning that was starting in my throat.
"I can't believe it," Sierra said softly. "After all we went through. I killed a dragon, we risked our lives, came out of shelter and she gets killed in a car crash."
"Life sucks, doesn't it?" I said bluntly, and we went down to the shore.
Gamle-Sti was on the very edge of the Saginaw Bay, and cold as hell in December. We had to pick at the soil for a while until it came apart, and then it took a while to dig a pit deep enough to place Mallory in.
The sheet came off while we were working, and when we placed her in, she was lying in all her fatally wounded glory. She looked like bulldozers had been working on her, and when I saw her peaceful face, I had to swallow the tears I knew were probably going to take over sometime.
Sierra stared impassively down at her for a moment, then threw the sheet in over her. While I stood, unable to move, she calmly started filling in the grave.
"We should place a marker there," I said hoarsely, when it was finished. "Or something."
"The little ones will be curious," she replied tersely. "They'll dig it up, see her body, and then we'll be responsible for scarring young minds. It'll have to do."
She left. I sat down besides Mallory's grave, staring at the icy sea.
I'm not quite sure when I felt it, but there was a prickle on the back of my neck that meant someone was suddenly there.
I glanced over my shoulder. A woman, almost as beautiful as Mallory, if not more so, was standing behind me. Though she wore a strapless black dress, she didn't seem to be cold: she didn't shiver, and she didn't even have goosebumps prickling her arms.
She bent down so her face was closer to mine, and I noticed her eyes were mismatched—one reddish-purple, the typical color of most Norse demigods, and the other bright green, a color you usually only saw on those related to Loki.
I suddenly realized who this was, and blurted—
"Warren, son of Týr," she returned, regarding me emotionlessly. "A pleasure to meet you at last."
"Where's Mallory?" I sprang to my feet, suddenly furious at the goddess. "You must have her, she's dead, she's in your domain now—"
"Mallory is running," she said calmly. "She is happy, happy almost like she was before the Blood began coursing in her. There is sadness in her still, but she is lost in the joy of death."
"The joy of death?! How can death be happy?!" I almost wanted to kill her, but that was impossible—and where would she go? Her own realm, of course. "It wasn't her time to die!"
"No." Her face hardened, and suddenly I saw past the beautiful woman and saw instead, the livid goddess. Rage bubbled in her like it often bubbled in me, and for some reason, this calmed me.
"The Fates, of course. Not the Norns, not those who have the right to govern the Norse. They wove her thread and cut it before they should have."
She threw her shoulders back, looking the very part of the vengeful goddess. "Hades will pay for this, of course. And we shall do what we can."
"What do you mean, what we can?" Hope was suddenly exploding in my stomach like fireworks. "Do you mean she can come back?"
"Remember the lightest," she said cryptically, and turned away.
I stood, bewildered, and then started after her. "Hel! Wait! What do you mean, remember the lightest? What are you talking about? Why do you care so much about Mallory's fate?"
Hel stopped momentarily, and turned to look at me with one eye—the green one, emerald as the eyes of her father Loki.
"Let it never be said that Half-Born Hel is an uncaring mother," the goddess said commandingly, and then black mist surrounded her and she disappeared.
I was alone.
Hel. Half-Born Hel is Mallory's mother.
… Well, gods-damn.
I laughed, for a moment, then I turned to look at the place where we'd laid Mallory to rest. The sun was going down, glinting off of the sea, and I just had to smile.
Mallory was gone. And maybe she wouldn't be coming back. But there were others who weren't, and others who weren't going to leave, and those were the ones who needed me now.
As if on cue, Pease shrieked from across Gamle-Sti, "WARREN! GET YOUR BUTT OVER HERE AND SEE IF YOU CAN DECIPHER THIS!"
"See you later, Lory," I told the newly turned soil, and then I turned to run to my sister.
Warren's and Mallory's story will continue in the sequel, Crumple Up the Moon.
for my friends. thank you for not abandoning this story, and i'll see you in the Wormhole.