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Die Eule

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For the entirety of her life, Marie Kessler was underestimated. It was probably the best thing to happen to her.

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Marie got the family misfortune young. When she was fifteen, her grandmother died and the sight fell like an anvil on top of her.

Her father was still alive, then. He was good about it, made her hot cocoa and did her chores for a month.

Nobody pushed her into anything.

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Marie read Grimm's Fairy Tales 300 times, then taught herself German and read Grimms Märchen a few hundred times more.

She became a librarian.

Nobody suspected librarians.

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The first time Marie went out hunting with the family, she killed two Blutbaden.

First, with a knife to the throat as he was charging toward her brother.

Second, with her bare hands and a rock.

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A few weeks after getting the job at the library, Marie was in charge of the children's story hour. It was summer, so the crowds were large.

She borrowed a small loom from a friend and picked nettles on her walk to work.

Before she began to tell the story, Marie explained how the loom worked, then passed the nettles to the children. She recited The Six Swans from memory, held the book open, and watched their eyes as she did it.

One older girl cried, "Miss Bernhardt, these have thorns. When she wove the thread, it must've made her hands bleed."

"That's right," Marie replied.

As it was a successful story hour, Marie took over all of the library business regarding fairy tales and folklore.

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Women couldn't exactly keep a knife on them at all times. And when Marie put the knife in her purse, she kept reaching for her wallet and accidentally slicing her fingers.

She got a thigh holster and started wearing loose skirts.

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Her father had a code when it came to non-humans.

"If it's bad, kill it. If it's not, I don't fucking care."

Marie adopted it as well.

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Marie became the resident spinster librarian and her coworkers endlessly teased her for it. They said she took it too far, that she was living the cliche.

But she didn't want a boyfriend to explain herself to. Marie kept odd hours, and she wasn't going to be chained to the stove. In fact, she didn't like cooking much at all, unless it was brownies from a package.

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She didn't like the Grimms outside of her branch of the family. They were usually either two steps away from becoming genuine serial killers or drunk on power and willing to kick a non-human just because it existed. Or dangerously incompetent.

Nobody heard much from the Grimms locked up in institutions. And they heard even less from the few Grimms who decided to ignore the sight, mostly because they were usually torn apart by the first thing that recognized them.

Marie didn't make many friends.

And it didn't end up mattering, because most Grimms had very short lives.

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Marie was a collector of antique weapons. An odd collector, and not just because she was a woman.

She took up the practice after her father died, since somebody had to.

There was really only one criteria, that the weapon be usable in actual combat.

Of course, she couldn't just say that. There were ways to talk around it. She learned to tell the feel of a good weapon in her hand, the proper heft of it.

After the first few years, the sellers stopped hitting on her entirely.

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Her brother had a hard time with the book. He could never seem to interpret it properly. Some things were easy, of course, like hexenbiests and poisoned apples.

Marie understood it.

The book was written to warn children, not to list the monsters.

How they escaped was just as important as what they escaped from.

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"I don't understand it, Marie," her brother said. "You're beautiful. And you're smart, and any man would be lucky to have you. The guys must be lining up outside the library to get to you. And yet, no boyfriend."

"I'm sullen and unpleasant," Marie replied.

He laughed. "You're sarcastic and a terrible cook."

"I constantly take mysterious trips that I can't justify or even talk about. I live a dangerous life. I'm covered in scars, and I'm too busy for men." Marie could've ticked the reasons off of her fingers, but she didn't.

"I don't want you to be lonely," said her brother, reaching for her hand.

He was a man, he didn't understand what it was like to be trapped by expectations.

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There was one doctor within driving distance who treats them after Grimm business, but he was very old and very busy. He was also extremely crotchety, and prone to asking too many questions.

Marie very rarely got worse than a knife wound. She was fast, and everyone went for her brother first.

She bought good medical grade thread and proper needles and learned to stitch herself up.

It was a useful life skill.

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Eventually, Marie had to get a boyfriend. It was just too suspicious otherwise.

She told everyone that she was just very picky, but that she had gotten lonely and decided to try a new approach, play the field a bit more.

Marie dated a dozen men and never let them see her with her clothes off.

She fucked them with her clothes on, in cars and in bathroom stalls, sometimes outside if it wasn't too cold. She told them she was an exhibitionist.

Most of them didn't know what "exhibitionist" meant.

Marie picked them around for their cocks, not their brains.

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Once, a young Jägerbär accused Marie of unnecessary cruelty.

Marie did not laugh in its face. She had only beheaded its father and lit the corpse on fire.

"Do you know about my ancestors, the first Grimms?"

It nodded.

"I am descended from men who took a barrel and lined it full of nails, then took a witch, stripped her naked, and locked her inside of that barrel. They dragged her down the streets by horseback inside that barrel until she died. Needles can't penetrate very far, it took a long time." Marie paused, and crouched down to its eye level. "I'd suggest you reread their book and then make it so I never have cause to see you again."

-

And then Marie turned 23.

When Blutbad parents wanted to scare their children, they started using her name.

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Rosenrot had long fingernails, sharp like knives.

Marie got into a proper fight with one, on her own. They both fled to the forest and it took almost an hour to take it down. She ended up having to bash its head in with a heavy log.

She had gashes all along her ribs, on her shoulders, down her back.

After walking half a mile, Marie collapsed from the blood loss. Hikers found her, called the paramedics, and she woke up drugged in a hospital bed.

"I can't remember," Marie said, when she was questioned. She blinked a lot, like she was holding back tears. Nobody commented on the old scars.

Police officers called it an animal attack, probably a mountain lion.

It made the papers.

-

Marie started dating one of the officers on her case. He had a mustache.

He knew about her scars, and he was very careful with her, like she was fragile. He was considerate, too.

Marie brought him to meet her brother and pretended that things were getting serious right until a Gänsemagd ate him.

She was quite upset, but Marie kept dating.

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Her brother told his girlfriend about the family business. Marie had wanted for him to wait until she had the ring on her finger, but he was stubborn.

She took it surprisingly well, considering.

Marie took her out for lunch and didn't answer any questions.

"Here's the truth," Marie said, "Everything about our lives is dangerous. Something will always be trying to kill you and your family. We can't live normal lives. But you don't need to be a superhero to survive. You just need to carry a weapon with you, always. Act like you're not a threat, surprise them." She took a sip of tea. "I'd suggest a knife. Guns can go wrong 20 different ways, but the only thing a knife does is cut. And everything bleeds."

Her brother's girlfriend nodded.

"And if it doesn't bleed, set it on fire," Marie told her.

-

Marie took to showing up at town hall meetings where concerned parents talked about banning books.

Marie fundamentally disagreed with the practice and she was very persuasive. Well, and she had always been stubborn.

There was not a single book banned from her library in all the years she worked there. Nobody seemed to figure out quite how Marie managed it.

-

She found newspaper reports of little girls mauled to death, so Marie drove to Vancouver and their very large pack of Blutbaden.

Marie walked up to the leader of the pack in the middle of his restaurant and waited for him to recognize her.

"Here's how it is," she said. "I don't care which one of you has been eating those little girls, but it is going to stop. One of us is going to find who is responsible and one of us is going to kill him. I'm not here to make your enemy, I don't care what you're doing. If a Blutbad eats little girls, it dies."

The Blutbad nodded, nostrils flared with aggression.

Marie found the guy but the pack killed him. She didn't much care if she was the one getting rid of it or not, so long as it was gone.

That made her something of an oddity among Grimms.

-

Marie came back to an empty apartment and a pool of blood on the staircase. Her boyfriend's corpse was at the top, shredded.

The blood was old.

The killer had left a note on her kitchen table.

How many dead boyfriends will it take
Until Marie learns not to date?

More than two, apparently.

-

Her brother got married. Marie was a bridesmaid and she danced at the reception.

Her brother's wife got pregnant very soon after that.

Marie wasn't jealous. She wasn't going to have children. Female Grimms, after they had the Sight, almost never did. They knew monsters too well, and they did not lead easy lives.

Her brother's wife was just unaware enough to be completely happy.

Marie helped her brother hide weapons underneath the floorboards.

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When Marie became an aunt, she didn't care much for the baby.

Not until he started talking. Then, she was in love.

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Marie bought her nephew a big illustrated version of the book and started reading him bedtime stories whenever his father was out hunting, and sometimes when he wasn't.

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She met a guy at a bar. A light-haired biker, slowly nursing a beer. It was easy enough to get him to notice her.

"You've got a backbone on you," he told her. "I like it."

They got a hotel room and spent a very long time kissing. When Marie removed her shirt, he just raised one eyebrow.

"That looks like it's a story," he said.

"Knife fight," Marie said, keeping her voice light, as if it was a joke.

He played along, didn't ask any more questions. Didn't kiss her scars either, which was so nice. Marie hated when they tried to kiss her scars.

He was considerate in bed, and the next morning Marie wasn't ready to leave.

His name was Henry, and he stuck.

 

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Marie's nephew liked to rest his head on her neck, breathing right into her collarbone. She usually came away covered in snot. His hands were always sticky, and he usually smelled like spit-up.

Marie adored him. She didn't see him very often.

His parents didn't hunt as much any more, and somebody had to pick up the slack.

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Marie spent a weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma and killed 7 Rosenrot that had formed a pack and gone on a religious crusade.

She came back home and realized she was in love with Henry.

It was very sudden.

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Henry took the news well enough, once he had proof.

"This means no children," Marie told him.

"That's fine with me," Henry said.

They eloped.

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Marie Kessler was a fine name.

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Over their honeymoon, Marie and her husband took a tour of the southwest.

Everything but Dallas was quiet and uneventful. Dallas had too many hexenbiests.

While her husband slept in their hotel room, Marie pulled a young one aside. She couldn't be older than 8, had probably heard stories of Marie Bernhardt her whole life. She was obviously not the one going on a murder spree.

Marie looked very hard at the girl. "You know, Grimms can see you. But that's not all we can see. We know when you're lying."

"I'm not lying," the little girl's voice went high and alarmed.

"I know you're not," Marie said, using one of her librarian voices. "Your father is. What is he lying about?"

Then, she just had to wait until the little girl cracked under the pressure.

Marie was back in the hotel room before her husband noticed she was gone.

-

"Oh, Marie wouldn't hurt a fly," a coworker said.

Marie was very good at acting harmless.

She only turned it off for her husband.

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The 80s were a good decade.

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And then her husband was murdered.

Marie didn't like to think about it.

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Marie Kessler became a name to be feared.

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A Vogel Greif attacked her brother and his wife on the way back from the grocery store.

Her brother managed to call her, but Marie didn't get there in time. Not even close.

So she stabbed the beast through its eye and shoved the body in her trunk before she was sure it was completely dead.

Then, she reached over her brother's dead body and got the Burden from the chain around his neck. Pulled his dead weight into the seat of his car. Dragged his wife into the passenger side. Picked up the spilled vegetables.

Marie prepped the engine and got the matches. It would look like an engine fire, she'd done it dozens of times before. Just not with her brother. She'd thought he might look like he was sleeping, but he didn't, he just looked dead.

She had to dispose of the thing in her trunk, drive home, change clothes and act as if nothing at all had happened within the space of an hour.

It was a good thing Marie was a good liar, that's for fucking sure.

She only cried after she got the call.

-

So her nephew, Nick, came to live with her. That way, neither of them had to be completely alone.

She had to keep the family business from him, per instructions from her brother's will. He was guaranteed his innocence until he turned 18.

He was a sweet kid, 12, and had already learned most everything he needed to be a decent person.

Marie started buying frozen cookie dough and making him cookies every weekend. Henry had cooked for them, when he was alive, but Marie could operate an oven as well as anyone.

Nick wasn't plagued by nightmares, he didn't dream about monsters. The worst thing in his life was middle school.

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Marie started hearing about the threats to Nick almost immediately.

She dealt with a Gänsemagd just over the state border, and when he mentioned Nick's name with a smirk, Marie did not snap.

Her voice was very even, almost conversational. "Did you know that a Daumling once went after my great-great-grandfather Niklas? It ended up getting his first grandson, and naturally, my great-great-grandfather became very upset. Tell me, when was the last time you saw a Daumling? Well, they're pretty rare, so I doubt it. Have you heard of any living Daumling anywhere at all?"

The Gänsemagd gulped and spread her message.

-

Nick wrapped his arms too tightly around her waist, he hadn't yet learned his own strength.

"Don't leave me, Aunt Marie," he begged. "Don't leave me, I can't lose you too."

Marie ran her fingers through her hair until it soothed him, but she couldn't make any promises.

-

After she became head librarian, Marie mostly stopped hunting. She called all of the Grimms she could contact and told them she was on hiatus. They were quite upset.

She was only one woman, and she couldn't travel and keep Nick in the dark and dinner on the table all at once.

Nick thought she was the nicest woman on the planet.

Things were quiet.

-

The hardest times were when she came back wounded from the occasional fights she couldn't avoid.

Marie was covered in bruises from when the Jägerbär pushed her down the stairs, and she had a stray gash along one calf. She was getting old and her whole body ached.

She sat at the table, sipped her tea, and pretended that nothing had happened.

Nick suspected something was wrong, but he knew better than to ask.

Marie didn't wince when he wrapped a heavy arm over her shoulders.

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When she was alone and not hunting, Marie worked on the journals. Mostly in the middle of the night.

She made backups of everything they had, just in case.

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Nick went off to college, and Marie couldn't bring herself to tell him.

Every time he visited there was another excuse to keep the secret just a bit longer.

He looked so young. He had so few worries.

Marie hunted harder to make up for it.

-

Marie Kessler turned 50 with a decent amount of fanfare.

Seldom few Grimms ever made it that far. The Grimms that knew her phone number called to offer congratulations, all five of them.

One suggested that she get a commemorative plaque.

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She became more inflexible in her old age.

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Marie found a lump in her breast, a large one, six months after her fiftieth birthday.

She didn't feel like finding a new doctor and explaining the scars, so she just didn't. Not for a few months, anyways.

Not until she started getting the dizzy spells.

-

It was cancer, of course.

Grimms aren't actually supposed to live past 50.

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Marie retired from the library, but she waited too long to get to Nick.

Calling him was no good, it would be easy to track him over a phone line. She couldn't write him a letter and give away his home address. Couldn't fly and be followed.

He lived in Portland, hidden away, mostly anonymous. She couldn't compromise that, not when he would be so vulnerable.

Marie bought a trailer and drove the most circuitous route she could imagine.

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Once she lost her hair, Marie was very easy to track.

She decided against a wig.

It was a better advantage to have her enemies think she had gotten feeble and weak.

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Marie was dying, but that didn't mean murder would be the cause.

She got herself a sturdy cane and put a knife inside, for when they tried.

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Marie got to her nephew in time. He was a good man, he'd survive the Sight.

She gave him the Burden. She gave him the journals, all of the precious knowledge.

She'd read him the fairy tales all his life.

Nick was as ready as he could be. She refused to pity him.

-

Everything dies, and Marie Kessler had made a great number of enemies.

-

She died of cancer.