Lisa enters the weirdest love tangle ever with two versions of the same boy. Her phone starts showing a dark world full of grotesque creatures – except one is a boy, who looks like Calen! Only it can’t be school Calen, because he’s right here and he’s finally coming onto her.
The foremost Greynhym loomed over her. One of its arms hung crookedly, poorly fleshed and mis-shapen, the other grasped a long club with which it pushed her hard in her spine.
Her own crushed leg ensured there could be no escape. She wouldn’t cry out.
There were deep unhealing wounds in the creature’s thigh where its breeches were torn. Its companions were made up of several diverse creatures. They shambled alongside clumsily, snatching nervous glances at the salt water they abhorred.
They were poorly armed, rough spears and coarse clubs, but enough to prod and pound her to death. They would kill her because they were low Greynhym spawn and it was all they knew.
She ransacked her mind for all scraps of Greynhym lore. Greynhym inhabited the dead. She believed in the One-Eyed Cormorant that deals death. It did so in three pecks: its first peck stills the heart, its second empties the mind, its third expels the soul. She had heard that the Greynhym steal in after the second peck enslaving the mind while memories still smoulder within.
She knew Greynhym slowed decomposition in their borrowed corrupted bodies and retained some senses. They valued touch only in their cold fingers, cared not a whit for taste, preserved sight over hearing, but prized scent above all.
The corpse animators could not abide water, nor yet survive the touch of the sea. She could hear the returning tide swishing up the beach behind her, but it would come too late to save her.
There was one more thing, a thing she alone knew; the gobbet of knowledge that had drawn her to this lonely cove; her message for the warrior Corund. It was a secret that had come to her unbidden; snagging on her like burrs upon a jerkin sleeve; a secret she had pledged to pass on.
Words of such import; how best to use them? The few she consulted all said the same: ‘If your words bear upon the Greynhym, find Corund-the-Borderer’. Only he is cold enough to turn the dead. Only he reminds them of their place. Only he keeps them at bay. Find Corund, the realm’s northern shield.
It took her many moons to trace him here.
She had learnt that Corund was campaigning near this wide empty strand sheltered below plunging hills. She had made her way to these ebb-lands where Greynhym marauded and no side held sway. Arriving on the darkened beach she had scanned the gorse-crowned hillsides for the warrior’s fires but saw none.
There was little hope that she would find the Borderer.
Half-light tinged the bay as she disrobed. She crammed weed from a limpid pool into her mouth, and selected a rock. Breathing hard, she shattered her leg. The tide fled before her as she crawled toward it, trailing her useless broken leg. Blood stained the flawless sand. Dawn smeared a barren grey chill on her struggle and a sullen disk of sallow sun limped after it. She forced herself flat against the imperceptible contours of the beach and spread her tangle of hair over her nakedness.
The Greynhym came soon upon her as she had known they must.
She raised her head to stare defiance into the leader’s dull lifeless eyes. It hoisted the club above its head… then grunted and stared down at where an arrow tip had sprouted rudely from its chest. Apart from juddering forward a little at the impact, the creature seemed unconcerned at being pierced by the arrow. It twisted around, curious to see who had loosed it. She saw the answer as it did. Between its legs she spied a figure racing toward them, flying boots raising puffs of sand.
The Greynhym leader stepped toward its assailant and its followers paraded out upon each side, clubs and spears to the fore. In the Greynhym’s back an arrow shaft protruded, fletched with three feathers, crimson barred with white. All in the Five Realms knew these colours. The arrow was Corund’s.
He discarded his bow and unsheathed a slim sword as he ran. She knew it for an argentum blade. She had learnt its name, Peacebringer. She was well aware of the power argentum wielded against the Greynhym.
They were 15 and he one but they were lost; he was Corund.
Peacebringer crashed through the Greynhym’s nervously extended weapons. Their leader’s club lashed down then flew away with half a forearm attached. The creature screamed but the cry was cut irrevocably short as its torso toppled onto the sand. Argentum expelled the Greynhym presence from any host flesh it bit.
Two more of the dead animators crumpled. The rest were edging backwards. One tripped over her useless leg and gurgled its fear at her from the sand. She was only aware that another two had gone down from their curtailed howls. The rest were blundering away, discarding broken and un-bloodied spears. A black and white bird shied away from distant rocks piping its warning into the wind.
Peacebringer plunged down beside her, returning the fallen gurgler to a state of unlife. She twisted around to watch as the warrior harried any who tried to turn back. Leaderless they strayed too close to the tide in their mindless terror and the surf surged forward applying carnage at ankle height, its touch every bit as toxic as the sword to the Greynhym spirits that inhabited the spent and misused bodies. They fell before it. Lost desperate presences seethed in the air around her. She had no home to offer them.
Fifteen scream-seared moments later, the final creature crumpled; its blue-lipped mouth agape in a desolate cry that expired as the Greynhym essence left its host and the empty carcass fell new-dead into the hungry frothing water. Peacebringer was quieted again. It was wiped and sheathed.
He had found her. Her gamble had paid off.
His ice-pale eyes wandered to her; to the prize he had rescued from the spear-tips of his putrid enemies. His pupils were flecked with the countless souls he had freed on Peacebringer’s edge. She felt her blood rising under his appraising gaze; through fear only, she told herself.
She rose up clumsily on her elbows, covering her nakedness as best she could. She spoke her words in the common tongue; words she had trained herself to utter. ‘Lord’, she stuttered, ‘I am come to warn you’.
Her words were too quiet. He removed his helm; blond hair flowed onto his shoulders. ‘Lord,’ she whispered.
He bent his head close.
‘The Greynhym have a new weapon …’ she swallowed, her voice was betraying her.
Her teeth plunged into his strong neck.
Blood burst around her ripping teeth, spraying and falling in rivulets from her chin. Her arms clamped round his head.
The famous warrior was thrown, unbalanced and in such shock that he beat at her with barely one tenth of his strength. Even so, he broke one of her arms and it was a miracle she held on.
When, finally, he toppled onto her, she pulled him tight, and caressed his hair with her good hand. ‘I have such a beguiling secret,’ she whispered and bit again. Her voice crooned soft in his ear, ‘My secret is you.’
Only when his blood slowed to a seep, and the tide lapped at her mangled legs did she heave herself out from under the weight of him. She pushed at and straightened her broken leg, smoothing it back into use, concentrating to will it mended. She stood then and did the same with her arm.
She looked down. Long black tendrils of her hair lay matted against her body, steeped in his thick strong blood. She would not wash for half a moon.