Act 1: Chapter 7, Part 4

Posted on November 26, 2017

In Which Chris Saves Evan's Bacon a Second Time

Evan. First Day of School. Late.

With a casual, practiced motion, Gramyre put one foot on the twitching corpse and pushed, using the extra leverage to pull the sword out of its flesh. The flames became ghostly, fading until Chris held merely a sword glowing with the same white light as the moon; there was no sign of any of the Beast’s fluids on the blade. The light made the silver threads tracing out the sigils on his mantle gleam, but the color of the leather was washed out.

From where he knelt, panting, Evan stared at the sword. Surely it couldn’t be.

Chris scanned the area, a quick yet methodical examination of his surroundings, before his gaze came to rest on Evan. The sword sheath on his belt definitely had a hilt sticking out of it. That was baffling.

The other boy began walking toward him, and as he came, he said, as casual as if they’d run into each other at the market, “Hey Evan. Nice night for a stroll.” He raised one eyebrow, easy enough to see in the light cast by the sword and the gas lamps. “Think your leg there is up to one?”

Evan blinked and looked down. His left leg, he realized, was soaked in dark red liquid. He was bleeding. The Beast had done more than graze his hip as he’d dodged; it had sliced clean through his jeans and into the flesh over his hip without him even realizing it. He still barely felt it.

“Shit,” he said, softly.

“So what you doing out here, dipshit?” Chris asked as he reached Evan, friendly smile and pleasant tone belying the insult. He swapped the sword from one hand to the other, then extended his left hand to Evan. Evan looked at the hand, and then looked at the sword. The hilt, while not the best lit or easiest to see through the, you know, hand holding it, appeared to be bone white wood. Or possibly just bone.

Evan stared at Chris’s outstretched hand, and for the first time, that which had been roiling in the darkness beneath his conscious mind all day bubbled to the surface, revealing itself to be hot anger. “Hey, fuck you for real though!” he said, in not quite a shout, but not quite not one either. “None of us asked for you to sweep into town and get your, your fucking perfection all over everything, with your cool hair and your crazy eyes and your, like, fucking legendary sword! Fucking seriously, dude?! You’re holding Dyrnwyn right now? You own Dyrnwyn?! How could you possibly have come across Dyrnwyn?!” Evan smacked Chris’s hand away, and tried to push himself to his feet. He almost immediately collapsed back onto the ground, scraping his hands on the walk, pain shooting for the first time through the wound in his hip. “Interrobang!?” Evan spat it as if it were a curse.  

Chris’s smile stayed on his face for Evan’s first sentence, though it became significantly more brittle. As Evan kept half-shouting, his expression seemed to melt, until Evan said the word Dyrnwyn, at which point it collapsed completely. It flickered back for a second when Evan shouted ‘Interrobang’ but did not stick around. “Saints and stars, of course you recognize it,” Chris said when Evan gave him an opening, closing his eyes and rubbing his right temple with his left hand. “The Gramyres, my Father’s line’s tongue, that’s Cymraeg too. Just like you. Knew I was screwed as soon as I heard your name.” Then, of all things, he sat down on the walk next to Evan.

Evan stared at him, taken aback. He could now see that his own blood was all over the place here, and Chris had just plopped down in some. “Uh. It’s not just ’cause my line’s from Cymru. It’s freaking Dyrnwyn. They made a movie about Rhydderch Hael like eight years ago. It was called Whitehilt!”

“It flopped at the box office though,” Chris said, his voice, his unfairly handsome face glum. “No one could say his name right, so Cymraeg speakers who should have been the biggest fans boycotted instead. I’ve been hoping most people wouldn’t remember it.”

Evan opened his mouth to reply, but Chris cut him off. “Look, Evan, you’re losing blood here. I don’t know what sort of license your packing, but I bet it’s not for solo hunting. Not with nothing but a three-fifty-seven. You need medical attention, more than I or anyone in my family, even if they could get here in time, can provide. And you’re going to be facing some serious consequences for being out here picking fights with Beasts by yourself. There’s probably already someone on the way after that gunfire. I’m sorry my existence is so frustrating for you, but let me try and make amends. I’ll do my best to help you talk your way out of this.”

Evan closed his mouth, took a moment to acknowledge his position, and nodded.

“Cool,” Chris said. He laid the sword on the ground while at the same time digging out his phone. As he activated an app on the phone with his left hand, he dug a small jar out of one of the pouches hanging from his belt with his right. “Here,” he said. “Slap a bunch of that on there. It’s going to hurt, but it’ll staunch the bleeding. Don’t be dainty, either, you’ve bled a lot already.”

Now that Chris pointed it out, Evan realized he was feeling a little light headed, though maybe that was the impact with the window, but even so he nodded again, took the jar, dug in, and layered a big daub of the alchemic ointment over his wound. He yelped, the sound way too loud and shocked, as the wound flared into sensation, burning and freezing at the same time. It hurt more than any physical sensation he could ever remember.

Evan gritted his teeth, almost panting just because of the pain, but he slathered some more on. Chris watched him silently as he did.

Evan had to focus for literally several minutes on not being completely overwhelmed by the pain. Chris gave him the time to do so. Eventually, Evan handed the jar of salve back. Chris took it, tucked it away in his pouch, and said, “I don’t know what I did to step on your toes, but I’m sorry I did it.” He paused, and not looking directly at Evan, asked, “Is it about Megan? I mean, she’s crazy gorgeous. I totally get it.”

Evan opened his mouth to say it had nothing to do with Megan. Then he realized, in his pain hazed heart, suddenly and to his own great surprise, that it was absolutely about Megan. It was more than that, but Megan was definitely a part of it.

“Ye-es. I think so,” Evan said, gritting his teeth even still. Chris tilted his head curiously. “I don’t…” Evan started, and then sighed, looked down. “I don’t know... if I can explain it. Um. I don’t know if you picked up on it, but we haven’t been. Um.”

Chris was watching Evan patiently, so he kept trying. “Today was the first time we—me and Ryan and Angie, Ryan and Angie and I—really talked or hung out with Megan since a bit into seventh grade. After…” He shook his head. He couldn’t possibly talk about Virginia right now. “Lauren,” he said, trying again, but then hesitated, unsure if Chris knew who that was, but Chris nodded, so Evan went on. “I guess Lauren convinced her that… I don’t know, actually. For some reason Lauren didn’t want her hanging out with us, and Lauren got her way. Probably we’re not classy enough for Lauren, I don’t know. We were estranged from Megan until literally this morning. It was a big thing.”

Evan shrugged, not paying attention to Chris anymore, caught up in his own memory, focused on the morning rather than his current physical pain. “I don’t even really know what happened. Ryan went on ahead to meet with Angie sooner, I assumed for kissing, and I was being slow, so I waited for them at the trolley stop south of the school and when they showed up, Megan was with them. It had clearly been a big ol’ thing. Megan’s and Angie’s makeup was all smeared, they’d clearly been crying, so I tried not to make a big deal out of it, but… then once we got to school, you were there, and whatever it was happened between you and her, that I didn’t really feel but was a big deal to everyone else, I mean I sneezed, whatever that fucking means, but then you’re at lunch with us and she’s like entirely focused on you when it was supposed to be like lunch with the four of us, to see if we could even still be friends! And—” Evan realized he was babbling and out of breath, and snapped his mouth closed.

Chris nodded slowly. “Okaaaay. Something like what I suspected... toward the bad end, admittedly.” Sirens were approaching. Chris glanced that direction, and gently smacked Evan’s shoulder with the back of his hand. “Listen guy. I’ll tell you what. I’m going to need to do some fast talking here, and you’re going to have to go to the hospital. I won’t be going with you. I’ll meet you there and get you home, and on the way you can talk about this more if you’re feeling up to it.

“I’ma tell them that I brought you out with me, what with your amazing gunplay and such. I goofed up, you got hurt, but no big. I’ll tell them something about it being a charger, which is true, and I made the mistake of getting between it and you after you shot at it, and you were caught off guard when it charged and I got out of the way. You dived out of the way, which is true, and got hurt, which is true. You’re licensed and with me, so this kill will go to cover your hospital bills.”

He started fiddling around with his something on his belt as he spoke. “We just wandered around until my brand flared up, then fought the monster. Like a hunting party do. Best get that brand lit.” As he did, he lifted up the unused brand on his belt and triggered something, causing flames to flare out of the top. A moment later, the ambulance rounded the corner, all strobing light and screaming sirens. With it was another motorwagon marked with the emblem of the Bounty Authority’s Cleaners. Evan hoped it wasn’t his mom.

Evan, quite light-headed, the pain from his hip filling up every corner of his body, nodded as people piled out of the vehicles and swarmed around them.