Nidhoggr

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Chapter 10: Threatening recovery

“..Rnel! –Arnel!” A familiar voice cut through the darkness of my mind. It felt so muddy inside my head. I couldn’t think straight.

How did I pass out anyway?

However, as the mud inside my mind cleared out, my memories returned. Oberon… The fight… And then, nothing. Anything beyond that was a black hole. Strange…

The mist inside my head started to clear out. My mind became lighter and lighter until nothing of the muddling feeling remained.

When I opened my eyes, I got greeted by harsh white lights. I recognized this ceiling, and those clinically-clean ancient-looking lamps. I even recognized the brown speck of dirt below the third row of lights.

This was a hospital room.

In fact, it was the same hospital room I was in after the mall-attack. I tried to move, but my body didn’t react. Only my fingers moved slightly.

“He’s awake!” A shocked voice resounded out of my sight. I saw a flash of blonde hair running away. Was that a nurse’s cap on her head?

A moment later, a small group of people burst into the room. I saw a flash of seaweed-coloured hair, followed by a splash of scarlet and short cropped blonde hair.

“Oh, C-Carnel! You’re alive!” Angelique’s soothing voice cut through my mind. I felt my lips curling up slightly when I heard the voices of my friends.

Strange, I was never the type to be attached to people. Or feel happy when I heard voices. I always loved to be alone. I wonder what changed?

Slowly, the power in my body returned. Bit by bit, I started to move my body. It still felt like a metric ton of concrete had been dumped on my limbs. Small steps, I supposed.

“We really thought ya were goin’ kick the bucket!” Lily snickered before Tanya rammed her elbow in her side. Lily grunted and bend double in pain.

“That’s inappropriate to say to somebody who’d just woken up from a coma.” The blonde teacher reprimanded. The redhaired vixen rolled her eyes before she stared at me.

“Yeah, yeah, teach. Weren’t you the one that kept telling us that if he died, he’d feel nothing about it?” Lily countered. Tanya clicked her tongue but didn’t respond. The redhaired vixen smirked and turned her attention back to me.

“Glad to see you’re still alive, though. When that black mist suddenly sprouted from you, I thought you were going to blow!” Lily said. I remembered that part; The mist leaked out of every pore of my body and recreated those spells. Then, it fired them all into my enemy.

Oberon.

“Ho-How is…?” Angelique put her soft webbed hand against my lips to silence me. She shook her head. Her smile never failed to soothe me.

“Not now, Carnel. Rest up, get better.” She whispered with a soothing tone while she brushed against my black hair. I grunted and softly let the warmth of my hospital bed wash over me. I groaned loudly while I felt waves of tiredness wash over me.

Soon, I was submerged in stillness once again.

The following was quite a blur. The doctors kept me in a still sleep while my body healed itself. On occasion, my Mark activated on its own and devoured whatever spell it could get between its jaws. It must’ve been as hungry and wounded as I was.

Then again, I couldn’t tell what it was thinking.

After that week, my body had healed enough to sustain itself once more. It still took an entire week to get back to full strength though.

When I finally get released from the hospital, I made my way back to the house Lily, Angelique and me were confined in by the governing board of the city. What were those geezers thinking, forcing us to relocate?

I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. The Fairy Court was one thing; They were just afraid to lose their power. Nothing more than saving their own faces. But the governing had nothing to win or lose by controlling and monitoring us… Did they?

“Back home. It felt like an eternity from the last time I was here.” I mumbled to myself. When I wanted to knock on the door, it suddenly opened without me having to do anything.

“Hi, Carnel!” Angelique said. She wore an azure-coloured apron that matched very well with her seaweed-coloured hair. She puffed her tentacles out of the way of her eyes and guided me inside. Judging from the looks of it, she was busy with flour. Lots of flour.

Her tentacles were covered in the stuff while her face and apron where highlighted by streaks of the white powder. Her big brown eyes looked at me as she smiled and welcomed me.

“Wha-What’s going on?” I asked, baffled. The squid-girl didn’t answer and dragged me into the kitchen. Lily lounged in the sofa while she emptied a cold one. There was one figure I didn’t expect though.

“Miss Chaffendale?! What are you doing here?” I wondered. The blonde teacher turned around on one of the barstools centred around the kitchen counter.

“The city board ordered me to move in with you.” Her too? This was getting more and more ridiculous. It was like… Like they were trying to group people that were related to me in one place.

But why? They didn’t have anything to gain, did they?

“Okay… That’s weird but welcome to your new house, I guess?” I replied unhandily. I sat down and watched Angelique run back and forth with flour, sugar and other things between her webbed hands.

“While we’re waiting for Angelique to finish, here.” Tanya suddenly said. She reached into her purse and dug up a couple of folded papers.

“These papers were found in Oberon’s office. After the entire… scandal, everything he had done got researched by the city council. These things didn’t have anything to do with any investigations, so they wanted to throw them out. But I thought you’d be interested in what was on them.” The teacher explained. I carefully unfolded the small pieces of paper.

One had some incomprehensible scribbles on it. It were all kinds of pictograms, signs and arrows. Some kind of code?, I asked myself. No matter how long I stared at the black ink, I couldn’t figure out what was written.

The second piece of paper was more interesting to me, though.

“The serpent of the End, huh…?” The entire paper were some kind of instructions. The burnt bottom showed that someone wanted to get rid of the information, but who? The most likely suspect was Oberon, but he didn’t strike me as somebody who’d stop burning evidence.

“The serpent of the End is on the move. He is a danger to us all. Eliminate this threat at your earliest convenience. You don’t have a choice.” I frowned when I read the message aloud. That was a weird message; Who was this ‘serpent’ anyway? And why was he such a danger to whomever wrote this message.

“They tried scanning it with magic, but nothing turned up.” I glanced at Tanya.

“How do you know all of this? Isn’t that confidential?” I asked her. The blonde teacher gently stroked her feelers while she flapped her thin butterfly-wings.

“Now that Oberon has… passed away, control of the Fairy Court goes to the highest ranked Fairy-Mark. Which is me, Titania.” The blonde explained. That came as a shock: Oberon was dead? B-But…

“Calm yourself. He didn’t die from your spells. His throat was slit in his hospital room a week ago. No one saw anyone enter his hospital room, though. They just found him in the morning, already dead.” I gulped. Who would go as far as taking out Oberon in a hospital? I ruffled my black hair; This was getting crazier and crazier.

“Anyway, now that Oberon is gone, his private collection of books has come into my possession as well. Here.” She said and handed me a small booklet. It only counted a hundred pages or so, and was slightly bigger than my hand. The worn leather rubbed gently against my hand.

“What’s this?” I asked while I carefully opened the booklet. It was filled with tiny letters. Most pages only contained text, but others also had weird magic circles drawn upon them.

No, not magic circles, I realized. Marks.

“As far as I can tell, it’s some kind of collection about the Marks of the Unknown. You should read through it, maybe your mark is included in the list.” Tanya explained. I wanted to immediately read it, but Angelique stopped me.

“B-But the food’s ready…” She mumbled in her soft voice. I smiled softly and put the booklet in my back pocket. Angelique smiled when she saw me focusing on her food.

It was surprisingly delicious. Angelique had apparently burned the meat destined for today when she stood gazing out the window. But a plate full of delicious vegetables wasn’t bad either. Especially not with Angelique’s pudding after to wash it all down!

“That was delicious!” I commented while I patted my full belly. Angelique beamed me a happy smile before she happily sunk into the sofa. I took it on me to do the dishes.

Afterwards, I retreated back to my room. I read through the small pages of the booklet but nothing on my Mark. I didn’t see anything that looked like it, anyways.

However, there was one passage that intrigued me. It was the last page. There wasn’t a drawing of the Mark but the explanation given for the mark was interesting, to say the least.

“Nidhoggr. Potentially dangerous Mark. No one knows its true nature, or its powers. Nor its true name. But one thing is for certain: it is a very strong Mark. Its level of power is not predictable, judging that it is an Unknown Mark. Expectations are that its powers are highly destructive, however.” I read the small letters aloud.

Huh. I didn’t know there were so many known Unknown Marks out there. Nidhoggr, huh?

“Well, no use worrying about things I can’t figure out.” I said. I dropped the booklet on my bedside table and quickly fell asleep.

When I awoke again, it was because I heard many footsteps behind my bedroom door. I looked at my clock. Ah, right, I must’ve touched it in my sleep again. My Mark had devoured the spell embedded in the thing. Again.

“How many clocks do I need to buy until you understand they’re not food?” I mumbled against myself. My Mark’s beast didn’t react. Maybe it was sleeping?

At first, I thought the footsteps were someone going to the restroom or something. But they continued to shuffle back and forth. When I heard the sounds of breaking glass, I rolled out of bed. After I plucked myself from the floor, I shuffled towards the door.

I took a deep breath when I felt the cold metal handle between my fingers. I only heard three pair of footprints behind the wooden door. When I swung the door open, I saw Angelique run past me in a hurry.

She was clad in green flannel pyjamas with bubbles drawn on them. The squid-girl gasped when I opened the door and quickly covered herself up. Not that her pyjamas showed much skin; It was more of a reflex, it seemed.

“Carnel? You were still in your room?” The squid-girl asked. I nodded and looked at her webbed feet. Why was she bleeding and… Were those glimmering bits shards of glass?

“What’s going on?” I asked and followed her down the staircase. There, Lily and Tanya were both hiding behind the couch.

The redhaired vixen was dressed in a black nightgown with a ridiculously deep neckline. I had already noticed she was proud of her body and wanted to show it. But it was kind of hard to focus on anything else…

The teacher was still dressed in her usual attire of a white shirt and tight black skirt. However, she was wearing comfortable indoor shoes with a butterfly motif. I wanted to ask something, but the blonde teacher’s feelers suddenly stood on edge.

“Get down!” Tanya yelled and pulled me to the wooden floor. A second after, something smashed in the wall behind me. When I turned around, I saw a small piece of metal falling to the ground. I looked outside, but didn’t see anything.

My heart immediately jumped to my chest. If that hit me, I’d have a hole in my head. No doubt about that. A second after, a metal marble pierced through the leather sofa. One inch from my nose. I gulped and quickly jumped backwards.

“Don’t move! Whatever you do, look around and evade any windows.” Tanya said while she looked around. I saw her trembling hands and heard the crack in her voice. Angelique whimpered; The corners of her brown eyes were stained with tears. Lily grunted while she looked around.

What was going on?!

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