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The Coward Heart is the thirtieth chapter in Gunnerkrigg Court. It starts here.

Synopsis

Annie and Parley inadvertently find out more about the secret atrocities the Court committed toward Jeanne. And Parley and Smitty finally admit their true feelings to each other.

Summary

The chapter begins with a blinker stone bouncing over ground and finally falling over the side of the cliff, dropping into blackness. Annie and Kat are standing on the steps of the Court leading down to the bridge across the Annan Waters. Annie pulls out of the ether and tells Kat that the stone fell into the water again. Kat is annoyed at this. She explains that the problem is that the stone has to fall straight down from the edge to land on the shore, where they want it, but they can't get close to the edge without setting off an alarm. Annie suggests that she could drop it the next time she goes to the forest, but she doesn't know when that will be. Kat suggests building a robot that could throw it exactly the way they want it. Annie says that she thinks she knows someone who could help.

A short time later, Andrew has arrived. Annie thanks him for coming and asks him to throw the stone. Andrew does so. The stone hits a bird, much to Kat and Andrew's horror, and falls straight down. Annie peers into the ether and gleefully comments to herself that the stone landed right where they needed it to. Looking around, she finds Jeanne's skeleton lying against the cliff, clad in decaying rags and clutching a sword. Annie sees the ghost of Jeanne approach. Jeanne picks up the stone, and Annie realises in horror that she is Jeanne's captive.

Back at the Court, Annie says that the stone landed right where they needed it, before spacing out. Andrew comments on this, but Kat reassures him. Andrew says that if they don't need him any more, he'll leave, but Parley teleports onto the stairs. Andrew comments that it's the third time in a week that Parley has teleported to him, and asks if she's getting the hang of it. Parley angrily tells him that she isn't, and she was in the middle of watching a movie with her friends. Kat slyly asks if the movie was a romantic film, which Parley affirms before asking who Kat is. Seeing Annie, Parley realises that Kat is Annie's friend. She tells Annie that she shouldn't be there before placing a hand on her shoulder and being pulled into the ether.

In the ether, Parley asks Annie what's going on. In Annie's view, we see that Parley's heart shines. Jeanne moves toward Annie and touches Parley's hand. She shows Parley (and Annie, since they're touching) her memories. Jeanne's flashback shows her fencing with a number of similarly-clad fencers in a much greener Court. After she is finished, she unfastens her jacket, lets down her hair and walks into the forest, meeting an Anwyn, whom she kisses. While embracing her lover, Jeanne glances over at the Court as though feeling someone watching her. We get a close up of the window of a building in the Court and see that Diego was watching them. Parley sees several images at once: a beast roaring, Jeanne and her lover embracing, a shadowy figure, a blonde man, a pigeon, the Court and Coyote (the way he looked in the ether).

We then see that Jeanne and her lover were separated in a parallel picture: Jeanne's lover reaches for her hand, Ysengrin and Reynardine by his side, while Jeanne reaches for his hand, several swords surrounding her. Jeanne's memories show that after she was told she had to go to the Annan Waters, she plotted with her lover to escape. Jeanne would write a letter, Steadman would attach it to an arrow and shoot it into the Forest. A bird from the Forest carried back her lover's replies. While Steadman acts like he's happy to help, as he turns away from Jeanne, we see him frown angrily.

Then we see Jeanne's memories of the night shown in Chapter 25. Jeanne is lowered into the ravine on a rope, looking determined. On the other shore, her lover waves to her. Jeanne looks delighted and hopeful, and he begins to swim across. Just as things begin to look good, Steadman fires. The strange arrow, looking like a beam of green light, hits Jeanne's lover as she watches, and he dies.

Back in the present, Annie and Parley are crying. Jeanne tells Annie and Parley that her heart was run through and left to die, her body ensnared by the green light and discarded over time. What remained of her spirit- anger and hate- became the sentinel of the Annan Waters. She calls Parley 'coddled child of that damned place' and accuses her of coming to the shore to mock her with her 'gleaming heart'. Jeanne, gripping the blinker stone, tells them that because of the circumstances of her death, the luxury of killing Parley and Annie should be hers. She attacks Parley and Annie with her sword. Annie tells Parley to knock the stone from Jeanne's hand. Parley moves fast enough to kick the blinker stone out of Jeanne's hand into Annie's, and Jeanne faintly remarks "A fine strike, fille"(fille=girl in French).

We see Annie and Parley's ether forms flow back into their real bodies with an explosion of light. Annie clings onto Kat and Parley cries out 'Oh God, what was that? What the hell was that?" before almost falling and being caught by Andrew. She embraces him tightly. Parley sobs that she felt everything Jeanne felt, and that 'she loved him so much...' Annie cries to Kat that 'She shouldn't have done that... a ghost shouldn't do that... it's not fair...' (referring to Jeanne showing them her memories). Kat asks what happened and if Annie is hurt. Annie says no, thanks to Parley, who saved them both. Parley says that a fencer like Jeanne could have killed them both in a heartbeat. Kat, realising the truth, asks if they saw Jeanne. Parley asks if that's what her name was (she didn't mention.)

Parley asks how they know about Jeanne. 30 chapters worth of exposition later, Andrew says that they need to tell someone. Annie reminds them that the Court killed Jeanne and tried to wipe out her memory, so bringing her up might not be a good idea. Kat suggests telling Jones, since she is impartial. Parley tells them not to tell anyone about Jeanne until Parley can see her again. Parley tells them that she knew what Jeanne was thinking- she thought that Parley was a coward because she wouldn't let herself believe that she was in love with Andrew- and nobody calls Parley a coward. Andrew comments that it's weird when she calls him by his first name.

Annie, being a moment ruiner, says that she thinks the device is keeping Jeanne captive down in the river. Andrew says that maybe if they can get it, she could move on. Parley says she thinks she can get them down to the shore, and after a few shots, says she thinks she has the knack now, which she demonstrates by teleporting around the stairs. Andrew calls her power incredible, and Kat wonders how it works. Just as Andrew and Parley are about to kiss, Annie the Moment Ruiner suggests finding information on Steadman. Everybody glares at her for ruining the moment.

Kat tows Annie up the stairs as she protests that they should be thinking of a plan, and that this is the right time because all four of them are there now. Kat asks if Parley and Andrew will teleport off somewhere, but they say they'll stay at the stairs. As a gleeful Kat tows Annie away, Andrew and Parley kiss. End chapter.

Characters Featured

Navigation

ve Gunnerkrigg Court Chapters
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6
Current Chapters
Extra Comics Bonus PagesCity Face (comic)Annie in the ForestTraveller

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