15 March 2011 @ 09:53 pm
And here's 14.


Chapter 14


Skuld peered out the lace curtained playhouse window, her eyes shifty as she snapped the flimsy fabric closed.

The wooden playhouse that sat in the library's children's section wasn't exactly the best place to work but it offered them a little privacy. No one would question a couple kids hanging out inside a playhouse; no librarian would come and disturb them in an effort to help with their map reading or ask where their parents were if they were in any other section. And no one would really see them unless they came out. The girls could work in the relative privacy afforded to them by plywood and shabby fabric.

I don't think we're going to have much time in here, Verdandi,” Skuld muttered, turning to face her sister. She slid into the second chair at the table as her eyes moved to the map laid out in front of them. “A woman with five kids just walked in the front door.”

Verdandi snorted and looked at the map, shaking her head. “They can play once we're done.”

Skuld looked at the toy pots and pans on the floor, picking up one of the little metal pots. “Is it really wise to give little kids metal items to play with?”

Don't know, don't care.” Verdandi chewed at a fingernail as she studied the map. “What do you remember about hunters?”

They pretty much live off the grid.” Skuld thought for a moment, pursing her lips. “Almost gypsy kind of living; moving around a lot.”

Verdandi tapped her finger against the map, nodding. “I doubt that hunting our kind down pays well.”

What are you thinking?” Skuld questioned.

Hunters usually have a base, right? Some place they can sleep and do whatever else they do,” Verdandi muttered. She ran her finger along the map, following a road. “I'm thinking they have a motel room somewhere or they're squatting.”

Skuld examined the map, hearing the approach of children outside the playhouse. “So you think they have a base. But where?”

The kid at the store said he saw them head north. There are two motels and a number of abandoned houses that fall inside the town limits. We can start looking there.” Verdandi looked up as the playhouse door rattled, her expression annoyed. “Oh come on. This is the only toy they can play with?

I told you. Five kids,” Skuld said evenly.

Verdandi huffed, shaking her head. “Stupid brats.”

Skuld glanced down at the pot in her hand, the door rattling again.

We do have one advantage to searching for them. That car is gonna stick out like a sore thumb,” Verdandi explained. Her jaw set as the door rattled again followed by a whine. “NO SOLICITORS!”

We wanna play in the house,” a girl's voice whined from the other side.

Go away!” Verdandi glared at the door, getting out of her little chair. “We're playing in the house!”

Skuld examined the mess of toys on the floor, pursing her lips. “It's a popular toy.”

I don't care if it’s gold-plated,” Verdandi began, turning to yell at the door. “We're still playing in here!”

Skuld's eyes looked over the map for a moment before she caught a movement at one of the curtains, letting out a shriek. “HOME INVASION!”

Verdandi turned in time to catch the pot her sister held connect with the face of an older boy who was trying to look inside. The sound of metal hitting its mark followed by a kid crying made her cringe, her eyes closing. Suddenly metal toys didn't seem like a good idea.

We are so getting banned from this library,” she mumbled, Skuld looking toward her.

Sorry.” Skuld dropped her weapon, looking more than a little uncomfortable. “I'm a little on edge.”

I would never have guessed,” her sister said flatly. Verdandi grabbed the map from the table, looking Skuld in the eyes. “Think you can refrain from hitting another kid in the face?”

Skuld nodded, putting her hands behind her back. “Yes.

Verdandi let out a heavy sigh, tucking the map inside her shirt. “How do you manage to function when we're each on our own?”

I am perfectly fine on my own,” Skuld spat, poking her index finger into the older girl's shoulder. “At least I don't have to deal with hunters kidnapping my sister when I'm going solo.”

Verdandi was about to say something when they heard a knock on the playhouse roof, both girls freezing.

Whoever is in there, you need to come out,” a woman's voice stated evenly.

It's the Fuzz!”

Verdandi's hand connected with the side of Skuld's head at the comment, her eyes narrowing. “Shut up.”

Girls.” The voice was a little sterner this time, the woman outside probably a librarian. “I know you can hear me in there.”

Verdandi pointed a finger at Skuld in warning as she moved to one of the windows, opening the curtain and looking out. “We're playing. Go away.”

The woman, a young looking thing Verdandi remembered seeing at the counter when they arrived, looked at the little girl calmly. She adjusted her glasses and shook her head at the girl's answer. “You have to share the playhouse.”

We were here first. We aren't done playing.” Verdandi kept her tone calm as she looked at the young woman, resting her hands on the window frame. “They can have it when we're done. And we aren't done yet.”

The look on the librarian's face was one of annoyance, even when Verdandi gave her a smile. “Now you two young ladies have to share or I'm going to have to find your parents and have a talk with them about your actions.”

Oh yeah. That's doable.” The comment was more of a mumble as Skuld walked up behind her sister. “Good luck with that.”

Verdandi took an almost diplomatic tone as the librarian peered into the playhouse. “We will let them have a turn but we aren't done yet.”

What have you two done in there? It's a mess.”

The pair glanced toward the toys on the floor, exchanging a quick glance.

A tornado came through,” Skuld blurted. She looked up, flashing an innocent smile. “And an earthquake. We're assessing the damage.”

Out here. Now,” the young librarian ordered.

Verdandi glared at the woman as the sisters backed away from the window.

This whole 'use the playhouse for privacy' idea isn't going so well.” Skuld backed toward the door, kicking at the toy stove that blocked the entrance. “We suck at being kids, you know that, right?”

Yeah, I know.” Verdandi let her eyes travel around the playhouse as Skuld pried the stove from the door. “Right now, I could care less though. I just want to get the hell out of here.”

How?” Skuld hissed, knocking the stove against the wall. “We can't change in front of these humans without exposing ourselves. Same with vanishing.”

Verdandi cocked her head slightly, raising an eyebrow as she spotted the child-size broom and mop beside the door. She reached forward, slender fingers wrapping around the broom's handle. She looked it over before her eyes settled on her sister.

What are you planning?” The question held the hint of apprehension that was painted clearly on the younger girl's face.

A quick out for us.” Verdandi gave the broom a twirl before opening the playhouse door. “Stay close.”

The girls exited the playhouse, one after another, coming face to face with the young woman who ordered them out. The woman Skuld had seen earlier stood just behind the librarian with a crying boy in front of her and a none too pleased look on her face. The way she was glaring one would think Skuld had killed the kid and not simply hit him in the face.

Now girls, the playhouse is for everyone to share,” the librarian started. She looked at each girl in turn, pointing to the toy in question. “You can't take it over and not let others play with it.”

Verdandi leaned against the broom, blue eyes locking on the woman. “We commandeered that house as our base and we had every right to use it.

The young librarian sighed at the answer. “You can't commandeer the playhouse.”

You should be talking to their parents,” the mother behind her fumed, glaring at the pair. “They hit my son.”

Verdandi chuckled, pointing at the crying boy. “Lady, that boy is in for a lifetime of slaps with that face. My sister may be the first but she sure won't be the last.”

Skuld cringed and moved behind Verdandi as the mother sputtered, peering over her older sister's shoulder. “I don't think that helped.

Trust me,” Verdandi breathed, keeping her eyes on the librarian.

The young woman looked at the girls calmly and straightened. “I'm going to have to talk to your parent or guardian.”

Skuld groaned as Verdandi took an even breath. “Oh god.

Very well. But let me offer a retort.” Verdandi swung the broom and connected with the young woman's forehead, knocking her backward. “FREEDOM!”

Skuld watched the woman stagger backward for a second before taking off for the door with her sister close behind. “That's your plan?”

Less talky, more runny,” Verdandi shouted as she raced out the front door after her.

Once outside the pair disappeared around the back of the brown brick building, using an unkempt bush for cover in case anyone followed.

Verdandi sank to the ground as Skuld put her back against the building brick wall, both trying to catch their breath.

Okay, new plan,” Verdandi huffed. She sat back on her heels, shaking her head. “Urd never finds out about that.”

Agreed,” Skuld nodded, her head resting against the wall. She rolled her head across her shoulders, sinking to sit on the ground. She looked at her sister as she grabbed a dirt clod from beside her and chucked it at the girl. “And how about next time you don't assault someone who might come in handy for us later?”

The dirt clod struck Verdandi in the back, causing the dark haired girl to turn. But instead of an angry glare there was an odd smile that made Skuld uneasy. When a laugh worked its way through the older girl, Skuld swallowed nervously.

What's so funny?” she asked cautiously.

Verdandi smiled as she looked at her sibling. “Did you see the look on that woman's face when I told her about her son?”

Skuld rolled her eyes and pushed away from the wall as Verdandi laughed. “I can't believe you.”

It was the truth and you know it.” The older girl watched her sister walk away, finally getting to her feet. “He got a fair warning.”

Worst kids ever!” Skuld shouted back over her shoulder.

You say that like it's a bad thing,” Verdandi mumbled as she ran to catch up.


***


Urd watched quietly as Sam and Dean worked to unearth Marcus Ballard, pulling her knees up to her chest as they dug.

It had been a short drive further up the dirt road to the farmhouse even with Dean taking the pock marked road slowly. Urd had sat silently in the back of the car watching the field pass by while the brothers took in the surroundings ahead of them, neither of them really speaking. Only when the house came into view did anyone say anything; Dean's whole “that's not creepy at all” getting a small smile from the goddess.

The house had looked like a monster coming around the last broken remnants of a field-stone wall and a row of long neglected lilac bushes someone had planted. The wooden home stood dark against the encroaching trees and over-grown yard, empty windows staring out at them like a dozen vacant eyes. It had probably looked decent years ago when it was painted, no doubt white, before time had taken its toll and stripped away the color; the elements and age turning the exposed boards black. The wrap-around porch was covered in a tangled mess of ivy and blooming flowers that waged a silent war against the darkened wood and blotted out all but the barest hint of the “gingerbread” decorations at the corner of each post. One could only guess as to what it looked like after dark when the sisters had come across it.

Dean had brought the Impala to a stop in the over-grown yard and had looked long at the property before shutting the engine off and stepping out. Maybe his pause was out of habit, Urd wasn't sure, but his eyes had scanned every visible part before he stepped out with Sam not far behind. But from the backseat of the car looking out, she could understand the caution.

The house wasn't the only dark behemoth looming on the property but it was the first thing one noticed pulling up the drive. In the daylight it was easy to see the decrepit looking barn that stood in the distance, the massive doors worn at the edges and broken as the barest stain of red paint clung to the blackened boards. Broken pieces of fencing branched off from the barn and stretched out into a long forgotten pasture beyond, small bushes and patches of wild flowers dotting the landscape. As one’s eyes panned across the barnyard the remains of a handful of out buildings could be seen further back from the house. There was a stable, its once sturdy roof beginning to sag at its north end. Closer to the house was a chicken coop that had seen better days, a rusted water pump that had long since ceased to function and the rotted remains of a clothes line.

The boys had taken a look around while she had stayed with the car. Urd had seen it all before, both in sunlight and moonlight, and hadn't really been in the mood to explore it all again. So she had waited, feeling more comfortable staying with the car while they took a quick look around.

Eventually though the exploring had brought them to this point; Sam and Dean digging up a poor man's body from beneath an old Oak while Urd watched.

Dean tossed a shovel-full of dirt over his shoulder, pausing to rest against the handle as he looked at his brother. “Put your back into it, princess.”

Sam huffed as he stabbed at the ground, glaring across the grave. “Dean.”

What?” Dean gave a shrug as he nodded toward the hole. “I'm delegating.”

Dean.” Urd's voice held a hint of annoyance as she watched the pair, her eyes locking on the older man. “Bodies don't unbury themselves. So chop chop.” She emphasized the comment with a clap and a smile that made the man cringe.

He turned to look at the woman with a raised eyebrow. “You're the one that buried him.”

True.” She nodded and sat up with a sigh, pursing her lips. “We did bury him.”

Then shouldn't you be helping dig him up?” Dean asked evenly.

Urd let her eyes travel to the patch of upturned earth she had led them to before glancing back to the man. “I showed you where he was. Besides, you only had two shovels in your trunk.”

Dean's eyes narrowed and his glare was cold, staring at the woman. “You could help a little more.”

I am,” she answered calmly. “I'm supervising. Help Sam and stop bitching.”

Sam chuckled, plunging his shovel in the dirt before he paused. “Dean. I could use some help here.”

Urd motioned toward the base of the tree, waving the young man off. “You'd think you never dug a grave before.”

Dean's grip tightened on the shovel's handle and his jaw clenched. “That's it.”

Dean,” Sam called, warning in his voice. “Come help.”

He practically growled as he turned, stabbing at the ground. “I will be so glad when this is over and we don't have to deal with her.”

I can hear you, Dean,” Urd muttered.

I know.” Dean's voice was dripping with sarcasm as he tossed a shovel of dirt over his shoulder toward her. “That's why I said it.”

Sam shook his head and shot an un-amused look at his brother, plunging his shovel into the loose ground. “I swear it’s like watching a couple kids with you two.”

Urd couldn't help the chuckle that escaped her at Sam's comment, Dean's expression falling slack. “Shut up, Sam.”

They started working at the dirt once more, hurling shovels-full of soil and rocks over their shoulders without so much as a word. There was still a tangible amount of tension in the air, namely between Dean and Urd, but it was easy enough to work around. It even seemed to make Dean work a little harder.

It had only been a matter of time before one of them would find something. Between the two of them and how much progress they were making one of them was bound to strike sooner or later. It was a sickening wet sound when Sam's shovel reentered the earth that finally signaled their discovery.

There he is.” Urd sat up as the pair cast the shovels aside. “Your missing man.”

Both men had cringed at the stomach churning sound but continued working to unearth the body. Climbing into the hole to carefully remove the dirt wasn't the most appealing idea but it was better than tearing him apart with the shovels; they both knew that. This was just another glamorous part of a hunter's life.

The smell was the first thing they noticed. The heavy scent of earth gave way to the distinct odor of rotting flesh as handfuls of dirt were pushed aside. It hung heavy around the grave as the first shreds of dingy white fabric appeared beneath the soil.

Urd got to her feet as the stained white sheet came into view and Dean climbed from the grave, Sam tugging the fabric from the still packed dirt. “He didn't deserve this.”

You wrapped him up?” Dean questioned.

The young woman gave a nod as the sheet was carefully pulled away from Ballard's body, looking toward Dean. “We weren't just going to throw him in the ground like he was trash. The man deserved better than that.”

Sam carefully pulled the sheet back from Ballard's face, cringing noticeably. “He definitely deserved better than he got.”

Time had taken its toll on the young father's body the same way it did on all bodies. His skin had become black in areas from bacteria building up and had split open at some point, the sheet covering him as well as his clothes helping wick some of the escaping fluids into the surrounding soil. Being buried had kept the animals from him and, by the looks of it, slowed his decay somewhat. His red-blonde hair was matted with a mixture of blood, odd bodily fluid and mud that plastered the locks against his head; the same mixture streaking his face. He may not have looked well for a dead man but at least he was recognizable.

Sam brought a sleeve to his nose as he examined Ballard, clearing his throat. “Poor guy.”

Not the type of closure his family is looking for,” Dean said gently.

Urd looked down at the body, her expression saddened. “But at least it’s something.”

The words, though true, were sad. In this line of work you couldn't save everyone and most times the bad news outweighed the good. But sometimes there was a chance at giving someone some type of closure. And while this may not have been the outcome Ballard's family wanted, it did offer them something.

Sam gave the body a quick once over before he climbed out of the grave, wiping his hands off on his jeans. “His throat is slit.”

It's slit?” Dean questioned, looking into the grave. “You sure?”

Yeah.” Sam nodded, grateful for the slightly better smelling air. His face was twisted in disgust as he glanced at his hands, wishing he had something to help get the grimy feeling off. “It's deep too. I'm surprised I couldn't see straight to the bone.

Dean motioned toward the body as he turned to the woman beside him. “And you're sure he's not one of yours, right?”

Urd straightened, an eyebrow arching as she looked at him. “We draw the line at personally slitting a man's throat, Dean. We found him like that.”

Middle of nowhere, throat slit.” Dean glanced at the property around them, eyes falling on the darkened house. “Creepy, rundown house. Now all we need is some guy in a scary mask with an ax and we have the makings of a horror movie.”

Urd hugged herself as she backed away from the grave with a shake of her head. “Yeah, well this movie sucks.”

No argument here.” Sam made one last attempt at wiping his hands clean on his jeans before he made his way toward the young woman. “Are you okay?”

Peachy. Thanks for asking,” she mumbled. Her eyes moved from the grave to Sam. “What happens now?”

Dean reached into his pocket to grab his cellphone, his tone somber. “We make sure he gets back to his family.”

Urd watched Dean open his phone before she turned her attention back to Sam. “So this is what you hunters do besides kill things?”

Sometimes.” Sam gave the goddess a small smile and shrug. “But in the end, it’s all to help.”

There was a snap as Dean shut his phone with a slight huff, Sam and Urd turning their attention to him. “I can't get a signal out here.”

Why am I not surprised by that statement?” She took a deep breath as her eyes moved between the brothers. “So we're just going to leave him planted here?”

Just until we can call the local police.” There was a pause as Dean looked around the property before glancing back at Ballard's grave. “Anonymous tip by some guy walking in the woods out here should do it.”

She raised an eyebrow and laughed at the comment. “Anonymous, huh?”

Dean's lips pulled into a cocky grin, moving for the shovels. “Hey, we go with what works.”

She rolled her eyes as Dean carefully flipped the sheet back over Ballard's face with his shovel, Sam picking up his own.

The shovels cutting through the soil and the thump of each load of dirt being thrown into the grave filled the air once more. This second more temporary burial was more rushed than what the sisters had given the poor man; the care the three had taken to lay the man to rest replaced with the purpose of police finding him. Even with that purpose in mind it was easy to look at the hasty job as somewhat disrespectful to Ballard somehow.

Urd watched the final shovel of dirt land on the grave, cocking her head slightly. “So you think they'll be able to spot this? I mean it’s not exactly easy to find back here.”

Sam slung his shovel over his shoulder as Dean finished up the burial. “Don't worry. They'll find him.”

Good.” She nodded quickly as she turned and walked to the car. “His family has been through enough. Last thing they need is to lose him out here because of a blind deputy.”

Dean knocked his shovel clean and followed the blonde, Sam falling in step beside him. “I think a fresh grave will grab someone's attention.”

The young woman stopped at the Impala's passenger door, brushing down the front of Dean's shirt she still wore as the boys deposited the shovels in the trunk. Her face turned skyward and her hands slipped into her pockets, the car's door warm against her legs. She could hear every move the men made at the trunk, pushing her hand through her hair.

So, Urd,” Dean called, closing the trunk. “When are you gonna give me my shirt back?”

Her eyes shifted toward Dean as he came around the car. “When you buy me a new one to replace the one you shot a hole in.”

Sam cleared his throat to get the woman's attention as he neared. “I know the collars are a sore spot but do you mind me asking something?”

Her answer was a simple nod, pushing her hair behind her ear.

A collar means a master and you said yourself that someone was using you as a hit squad.” Sam watched her nod again, carefully continuing. “Who's your master?”

Urd let out a chuckle as she pushed away from the car. “Some bitch named Kim. Homely as hell. Verdandi swears its a man in bad drag.”

Dean couldn't help the smirk that crossed his lips. “You've got to be kidding on that one.”

No.” She shook her head and looked at the men calmly. “She honestly thinks that. But with Verdandi, sometimes the filter between her brain and mouth shuts down so she has a bad habit of blurting things out that she shouldn't.”

Sam's eyes shifted toward Dean for a moment before he looked back to Urd. “I've known a couple people like that before.”

Dean's smirk faded as he turned to look at his brother, raising an eyebrow as he straightened.

I bet.” Urd smiled as she eyed Dean. “Most of us with siblings do.”

Annoyance crossed Dean's face and his jaw set as he took an even breath. “Can we please get back to the whole master thing before I end up shooting you both?”

Urd's smile remained, rolling her eyes. “Again with the gun thing.”

Call it a bad sibling habit,” Dean growled.

Fine.” Her smile faded as she threw up her hands. “All we really know is her name is Kim and she lives on Pine St. When we searched her house, we couldn't find much on her.”

Both men gave her an off look at her last comment, Dean speaking up. “You searched her house?”

The first time we saw her, she had a book with her and these damn symbols you humans have associated with us.” She put a hand on her hip, motioning toward her collar. “Like the neck ware wasn't bad enough.”

Sam's expression darkened as she spoke, Dean catching the change out of the corner of his eye. The mention of a book and symbols of the sisters along with the collars wasn't painting a better picture of the situation. Dean may not have been the whole library research type but even he could spot a spell red flag when he heard it.

We've been looking for that book. So far, all we found was a bunch of cookbooks, an answering machine message with her name in it and a lot of frustration.” She paused, her eyes closing. “We've been around long enough to realize that damn book has something to do with us being here.”

The conversation halted as Urd's eyes opened and moved across the yard and buildings.

There were still no sounds around them; no bird songs or rustle of a breeze like there should have been. Just as it had been back at the road, the air was uncommonly still. Ballard's grave did little more than add to the heaviness that pressed down on all of them.

Dean cleared his throat, getting the woman's attention. “Hate to say it but you might be right about that book you're looking for.”

I was afraid you'd say that,” Urd breathed.

The collars, how you ended up here, and the boundaries all point to a summoning spell.” Sam motioned over Urd's shoulder toward the grave. “And I'm sure you've already gotten an idea about Ballard.”

Urd nodded solemnly. “My best guess was sacrificial offering. Like we eat you humans with a nice Chianti and Fava beans.”

A smile tugged at Dean's lips with the statement, Sam shaking his head.

Why you humans think all gods have a habit of snacking on you, I'll never know,” she mumbled, shaking her head.

At any rate,” Sam interrupted. “If we're right and it is a spell from that book you saw, then it can be broken.”

The wave of relief that washed over Urd was noticeable. Her eyes softened and her shoulders relaxed as she leaned against the car. There was even a hint of a relaxed smile on her lips.

But it may take some time,” Sam added.

And we'll need that book if we can find it,” Dean pointed out.

Good luck with finding it.” Urd pushed away from the car, kicking at a rock. “We ain't found sh-”

The casual conversation came to an abrupt halt as the pair saw the woman's eyes widen. Her lips moved to speak but no sound came out as panicked blue locked on both men. Her fingers moved to the ring at her throat, falling to her knees in the grass.

Urd?” Sam was first to close the gap, joining the young woman on the ground. “Urd!”

Dean practically slid to a kneel next to her, hearing her gasp for breath that would not come. “What the hell?”

Sam's fingers moved to the iron ring but found no room to grab hold of it. “It's the collar.”

Urd's expression became pained the moment before she vanished, leaving the pair kneeling beside the car.

Where'd she go?” Dean's eyes moved from where Urd had been to his brother as they remained on the ground. “What just happened?”

At first Sam looked just as confused as his brother. He stared at the imprints Urd had left in the grass, his mind working out just what they had witnessed. When the full scope of it had finally become clear, the confusion painting his face gave way to shocked realization.

Sammy?” Dean knew his little brother's facial expressions well enough to know he wasn't going to like what was on the younger man's mind. “What is it?”

She's been with us the whole day, Dean. She fought that collar before she vanished. The only reason she'd leave like that is if someone was going to die.” Sam pushed himself up, his tone deadly serious. “We've got to get back to town. Now.”

Dean rose and fished his keys from his pocket, heading toward the driver's door. “Think she's back in town somewhere?”

I think she's where ever that Kim lady she was talking about sent her,” Sam answered.



 
 
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