5 - Shadow The Walls
Ram's head continued to ache, but it was ebbing, falling away like a tide, and this time confronting Nix, he knew exactly what he was facing.
Well, sort of. In a way. The thoughts hadn't all shaken themselves out yet, and he still felt like the idiot with the time bomb for a head. The memories he had were borrowed from Lor, and yet they felt a bit like his own, like they were trying to blend in with his real memories. But, if Lor wasn't standing right beside him, he may have thought he was Lor. His mind was only partially adjusting to this change in the status quo.
Before he had a chance to tell himself he was himself and could handle all of this, he was back in the throne room with the humanoid slice of starscape that was the goddess of night. He knew she wanted him to join Lor in fighting Erebus, but he couldn't see how. He had no choice but to believe this "half magic" bullshit, but it was still hard to take. Also, he wasn't a fighter. Even if he did have some kind of power - and okay, yeah, he did fry that mantis frat boy - he had no idea how to control it or use it.
"Do you understand what we're trying to do here, boy?" Nix asked, her voice like a breeze through ice crystals.
"Not exactly. You're some sorta self-appointed god cop or something …" he rubbed his temple as he tried to sort out the thoughts, but it wasn't helping any. Why did people rub their heads when they hurt? It didn't help. "You try to keep balances, but no one asked you to, and it's almost pointlessly difficult …"
The burning stars of her eyes focused on Lor. "How does this information help him?"
"It doesn't, but there's no censoring in a straight data dump. I had to give him all the information I had."
"All of it? This boy is a toddler compared to you."
"I am not a toddler," he snapped, the sudden surge of rage making his head hurt worse.
"Compared to him, you are," she replied coolly. "Compared to me, you're pre-natal."
Ram had no response to that. Mainly because what the fuck was he supposed to say? 'Good for you'? 'You don't look a day over an eon'?
"He should train faster now," Lor said. It almost sounded like he was trying to get her back on topic. "But I imagine there will still be … some difficulties."
Ram looked at him sidelong - what the hell was that supposed to mean? - but Lor was looking at Nix. Since they'd come in the crystal room, his eyes seemed to be focused on her alone. "You won't do it alone. Ymir has offered to help train him."
A briefly startled look flashed through Lor's eyes, but his expression remained otherwise immobile. "Others know of him?"
"Do you think I'm an idiot? He only knows I have a new fighter I wish to mold, no more. And I'd advise you to say he's an apprentice only, and never mention who and what he truly is."
"I'm not an idiot either. But neither is Ymir. He will figure it out."
"I'm not concerned about him, and you shouldn't be either. Simply do your job." And with that, the shadow of Nix seemed to withdraw into the crystal throne and disappear. Lor finally cast his eyes down at the floor.
After a moment, Ram asked, "So, uh, what's your job exactly?"
Lor sighed quietly. "Protecting you and training you, same as it is here." He turned sharply on his heel and left, which surprised him because up until this moment he seemed to have nothing but infinite patience. Apparently someone even as old as him could still get a bug up his butt. Ram scrambled to follow him.
"So who's Ymir? Why don't you like him?"
Lor stopped in the hallway, so abruptly that Ram almost walked right into his back. "Like doesn't come into it. Why do you think it does?"
He stared at him in disbelief. "'Cause you stomped off like a diva who's just discovered they didn't pick out the brown M&Ms like she requested, that's why."
When Lor didn't understand him, this adorable little line appeared between his eyebrows. It was there now. "I don't think I understood a single word of that statement. What did you just say?"
"Why didn't you take some of my mind or memories or whatever when you were in my head?"
"I glimpsed … some things. But I am not accustomed to taking. Why would I?"
"'Cause then maybe you'd understand me. It'd make things easier."
A strangely haunted look filled his wine dark eyes. "For you, perhaps. Not for me. I've had more pain than I require."
He hadn't expected that response, and he didn't know what to say. "What, you think I'm some sort of mope queen? A Goth asshole? What gave you the impression that I was Morrissey?"
That line appeared again, but faded fast. "It isn't you. We all have our own pain, and it's our own. It shouldn't be shared."
"Oh shit. Look, man, I wasn't tryin' to butt in or anything -"
"This isn't about me," he snapped, an unaccustomed edge in his voice. "I'm irrelevant. Stop thinking I'm not."
He started to turn away, but Ram grabbed his arm and stopped him. "You're not irrelevant to me. Okay? So what's up with Ymir?"
For a moment, he thought Lor wasn't going to tell him. But he relented with a heavy sigh, his shoulders sagging in relief. "He doesn't like my people. He tried to kill me once."
"It was a long time ago."
"So?! Nix can't expect you to work with him!"
"Yes, she can. I only follow orders."
"Fuck that." He was going to go back into the throne room and demand that she assign them elsewhere, but then he remembered she was supposedly everywhere. He looked up at the stone ceiling and demanded, "Hey, Nix! We're not gonna see that asshole, okay? So send me somewhere else!"
Lor put a hand on his shoulder and said in a low voice, "Ramsey, don't -"
A shadow appeared on the wall beside them, and although she didn't exactly appear, her voice came through loud and clear. "You presume much, little boy. You dare to order me?"
"You want my help, right? You hafta work with me then."
There was a noise that was hard to discern as a low, slightly menacing chuckle, but that's exactly what it was. "No, I don't. Right now, I can make you do anything I want. Would you like a demonstration?"
"No," Lor exclaimed, grabbing his arm and almost violently shoving himself in front of him, as if trying to protect him with his body. "We need to prepare for the journey to Ymir's realm."
But Ramsey wasn't going to be hustled away so quickly. "Ymir is a fuckhead who tried to kill Lor! Did you know that?!"
She chuckled even more deeply than before. "Everybody wants to kill the Fae, boy. They're pests. I'm sure that Lor isn't one to take it personally."
Before Ram could finish getting indignant for Lor, Lor grabbed his arm and started dragging him down the hall. "Hey, wait," he said, but Lor ignored him, and the shadow seemed to disappear.
Ram had to yank really hard to get his arm free, and then stumbled and nearly hit the wall. Lor turned back towards him, anger making his eyes look like they were glowing. "I can fight my own battles, Ramsey. Stay out of it."
"I'm trying to help. Why are you being such a dick? You're the warrior, right? So why don't you stand up to her?"
"She is a god. We are mortal. What about that don't you understand?"
"You're not," he replied icily. "Don't forget that."
He started turning away, and that pissed Ram off. "Hey, you're not my -"
Lor turned, so fast that he was a blur, and before Ramsey knew it he was slammed up against the wall, with Lor's arm pinning his throat and one of his legs pinning his legs. Ram couldn't move, and could hardly breathe. Lor's face was mere millimeters from his, and his eyes burned with anger. "Do you want to stay alive, Ramsey? Do you?"
It took him a moment to get his breath back. "Yes - "
"Then you shut up and let me do my job. If you want any chance of living through this, you need to do what I say when I say. Are we clear?"
Ram was now pretty pissed off at him - who the hell was he to bark orders at him?! Mr. High and Mighty, he was trying to defend his pansy ass! - but he was also just a bit scared, as Lor honestly looked like he could just snap his head off with a flick of his wrist. He certainly seemed strong enough; he kept trying to move, but Lor had him pinned down like a butterfly to a bug geek's wall. "Clear."
Lor gave him one last menacing look before releasing him and stepping back, as if he didn't want to soil himself with close contact any further. "Prepare yourself for transition. I'll go find Eid."
He was gone before Ram actually put together what he said. Why the fuck did he get so mad? He was just trying to help him! Why'd he get his panties in a bunch? "So you're just her bitch, huh?!" he shouted, hoping he heard it at the same time he hoped he didn't. He grimaced at what he just said. Yeah, he meant it, but he also knew that Lor didn't choose this - this life was chosen for him because he was born "wrong". He was Nix's "property". If he had no sympathy for him, then he was a complete bastard.
He had just finished dry washing his face and wondering if he had broken some ribs when footsteps sounded down the hall - only one set, of course - and Lor came back with a curvaceous redheaded woman in a slinky dark green dress that looked like it was made of foil. "Hey sweet cheeks, how are you liking things so far?" the woman asked.
He stared at her blankly. He glanced at Lor, but his face was a blank (yet vaguely hostile, and still handsome) mask. "Umm, do I know you?"
"This is Eid," Lor said.
Ram did what he was sure was a comical double-take. "What?" This was what the good looking shirtless guy actually looked like?
Holy shit - he'd made out with a girl! Wouldn't his step-father be pleased?
Eid shrugged expansively. "Hey, the one good thing about being a messenger is you always get to put on a new face."
Now he was really confused. "This isn't your real … face?"
Again he was met with a shrug, but less expansive. "Hell kid, I don't know what I look like anymore. I haven't seen myself in years."
What did you say to that? He didn't know. So instead he asked, "Will this be as bad as the first time?"
Eid's eyes were bright, but all black. There was no difference at all between the pupils and the iris. Was that normal for "messengers" or whatever the woman was? He wondered. He also wondered if it was polite to ask. She smirked, and admitted, "Until you get used to it, maybe."
"Can't you guys give me Dramamine or something?"
Eid and Lor exchanged a questioning look before Lor said, "We don't know what that is."
He sighed heavily, giving up. "Something to keep me from barfing and passing out."
They shared a puzzled look again. Apparently some things weren't universal … or pan-dimensional, or whatever applied to this string of crazy events. He didn't even know anymore.
Ramsey tried to brace himself, but how did you brace yourself for whatever the hell this was? Maybe he'd learn how to do it eventually. Lor came over and grabbed his arm - a bit more roughly than necessary - and then grabbed the redhead's arm. There was no warning at all, just a sudden sense that the world and himself were turning inside out, and then everything went black.
Ram was first aware of being very cold. Colder than he'd ever been; it was like he was locked in an industrial freezer. Just about every extremity he had was already numb. He then heard noises, pained grunts and dull wet noises, sort of like punches but somehow … meatier. There was also a crunching noise that he assumed to be the sounds of footsteps on snow.
Reluctantly he opened his eyes. He saw white on white, a landscape made of nothing but snow and ice, glacier like hills seemingly carved into daggers on the horizon. There was no sun in the sky, but there was a kind of filtered gray light that suggested the half-light of dawn or dusk.
He was laying on the ground, which was hard packed snow, except for the little liquid pool where he must have vomited. About twenty feet away, Lor was fighting a group of … guys? … clad in armor that looked like slick black rock. About ten were standing, trying to surround him, while another five were lying on the ground, surrounded by black liquid like ink staining the snow. Lor was holding what looked like a machete in one hand, and … was he seeing that right? Yes, he thought he was. In his other hand, he was holding a sword that flickered with blue flames.
See what you missed when you fell asleep? All sorts of crazy shit.