Fire Spike is the thirty-first chapter in Gunnerkrigg Court. It starts .
Surma walks into Gillitie Wood, calling out to Reynardine, whom she calls Renard (as this is before he took on the name Reynardine). Renard, in his original fox form, greets her. Surma shows him her new trick- levitating. Renard praises its impressiveness and points out that he has a good view since he can look straight up her skirt. Surma says 'Easy now, Reynardine!' prompting Renard to ask why she called him that. Surma says teasingly that it's the name of a demon that steals the hearts of young girls. Renard asks if that means that he's captured her heart, but Surma ignores the question. Renard exclaims that he loves her, but Surma ignores that too, telling him 'Watch how high I can go!' and flying toward the sky. Renard follows her up.
Back in the present, Annie asks Anja if that means that Surma tricked Renard into believing that she was in love with him. Anja replies 'Well... yes." She explains that Surma was, at that point, the Court's medium and thus spent a lot of time in the Wood. When she discovered that Coyote was trying to give Renard his powers, the Court deemed Renard to be a risk. They wanted to lure him into the Court, but they didn't think he'd kill someone in the process. Annie asks how Renard could be a bigger risk than Coyote. Anja replies that when the Court and the Wood split, Coyote promised to leave everyone in the Court alone. Annie raises the topic of Ysengrin, but Anja shoots it down claiming that Coyote would never give him too much power and in fact barely recognises his existence. Anja tells Annie that Reynardine can't ever find out that he was tricked, so she can't take him with her when she and the Donlans leave. Kat, who was working in the background, asks if Anja really thinks Reynardine could be dangerous now. Anja reminds her that Reynardine did nearly kill Annie- and besides, it's the Court's decision, and they want him to stay there. Annie excuses herself, saying that she has to finish packing for the vacation, and she also has some homework to finish. Kat says that she'll come by later so they can go out to eat.
Annie waves goodbye and walks through the Court, coming across Jack, who looks much healthier. They awkwardly greet each other. Annie asks how Jack is feeling. He says that he's feeling much better and he's also been having lots of good ideas- he thinks the spider made him smarter. However, it was only a side effect- any longer and Jack would be dead. He thanks Annie again. Jack asks about Annie's vacation plans, and she tells him that she's off with the Donlans- they're going to Scotland, then Paris. She asks about his plans- he's staying with his father, who's working on a research project. He adds that his father knew Annie's mother, and apparently said that she was very nice. Annie excuses herself, saying she promised to help Kat with her homework. She and Jack part- again, quite awkwardly- and Annie walks back to the dorms. She walks into Kat's room and takes Kat's homework book.
In Annie's room, she begins to greet Reynardine (and in a slip of the tongue, calls him 'Renard'), only to be cut off. He criticizes her efforts on her homework, asks her how she intends to finish it by tomorrow and finishes off by saying 'And don't tell me you are going to copy Katerina's work again!' Annie informs him that Kat said she could. Reynardine calls her bluff. Annie angrily asks him what right he has to look through her work. Reynardine says that it's a good thing he did, and that Kat shouldn't let Annie copy her work so much or Annie will never learn to think for herself. Annie tells him 'You're not my father, Renard, so stop trying to act like it'. Reynardine says that if he was, he would have done a better job than Anthony Carver did.
Reynardine continues, saying that he doesn't know what Surma ever saw in Anthony and alleges that Anthony must have used trickery to lure Surma to him. Annie exclaims that they loved each other, to which Reynardine responds, 'Ha! Your father was incapable of feeling anything other than disdain!' Annie argues that he spent his life trying to cure Surma. Reynardine asks what good it did Anthony, since he couldn't do it and begins to insult Anthony again. Annie cuts him off, saying, "She never loved you. She tricked you! The Court wanted to capture you and you fell for it!" Reynardine asks why Annie would say such a cruel thing. Annie shouts back, "It's true! How could she ever love a creature like you?" Reynardine stutters that he knows Surma loved him, but Annie ruthlessly says that since Reynardine can only speak the truth to her, she wants him to say it now that he knows it was a lie. Reynardine tries to say 'Surma loved me' but he can't. Horrified, he tries to change into toy form but Annie orders him to stay in his old form.
Annie mocks him for thinking he's smarter than Anthony, especially because Reynardine was tricked. She reminds him of the man he killed to enter the Court and points out that Surma and Anthony left, leaving him behind. She finishes, saying "I know he loved her because he thought of nothing else but working to cure her!"
Reynardine mutters something. Annie tells him to speak up. Reynardine says that he knows why Surma was sick. Annie begins to ask why. Reynardine cuts her off and screams, "You are the reason Surma died! When I said you had a fire within you that belonged to your mother, I was speaking the truth! You took that spirit, that fire, when you were born, and the stronger you grew, the weaker she became! That's why no guide would claim her! There was nothing to take! We all knew it would happen! Even your damned father! Especially him! He knows she died because of you!" Annie, horrified, falls to her knees beside her bed. Reynardine, seeing the effect, goes from being angry to upset.
Annie asks, "They knew? Anja... Eglamore... my father." Reynardine replies that they all knew it would happen if Surma ever had a child. Annie runs out of her room, crying, through the Court and outside, toward the bridge. As she runs, her vision blurs, making the things around her distort. Annie bolts down the stairs, setting off the alarm, and across the bridge. Eglamore runs after her and screams something she doesn't hear. Annie uses her blinker stone to set fire to the bridge. Eglamore retreats from the fire and draws a symbol on the bridge in purple chalk. A huge bubble emerges, dispelling the fire, but by the time he reaches the Wood, Annie has vanished. In vain, Eglamore mutters, "Damn it."
In the Wood, Annie cries alone on a tree branch. Ysengrin appears and lifts her off the branch, walking away with her. As they walk, Annie begins to apologise for trespassing, only for Ysengrin to cut her off, telling her brusquely, "You are here because you are weak. You are crying because you are weak. I have no patience for weakness." Annie is angry, but she drops the subject. She asks why she never sees any other life than Shadow People in the Wood. Ysengrin says that they're scared of her. Annie asks why, to be told that it's because she's from the Court. Annie says that she'd never hurt them, but Ysengrin says that they don't know that. Annie looks sad, and she falls asleep.
In her dream, a young Annie walks around Good Hope, biting the end of a pencil and carrying a book. She walks into her mother's room and stops. Anthony kneels by Surma's bedside, and Surma is almost crying. Annie drops her pencil. Anthony hears the noise and looks around, glaring at her. He gets up and leaves without saying a word. Surma reassures her daughter that 'He still loves you very much." The last panel shows a coyote skull. Annie wakes up to find that her head is now resting on a fallen log instead of Ysengrin's shoulder. Coyote greets her with a cheerful 'Dreaming about your mother, I see!' Annie wearingly tells him not to look in her dreams. Coyote reprovingly tells her that she should warn them about her visits. Annie apologizes. Coyote begins to ask her why she's come, but Jones arrives, cutting him off.
Coyote greets Jones as 'Wandering Eye'. Jones says that she's 'here for the girl'. Coyote asks if 'Miss Jones' is the latest name 'Wandering Eye' has stolen. Jones, without taking her eyes off Annie, tells him to just call her Jones. She tells Annie that she should go back to the Court. Coyote says that it's strange for Jones to be making demands of people, and now he's interested. Jones says that he's making a mistake. Coyote says that Annie isn't going anywhere she doesn't want to, especially because he wants to hear what she has to say. Jones reminds him that if she wants, she can forcibly take Annie away. Coyote asks if they're getting into 'this' again. Annie blurts out that her mother tricked Renard into being captured by the Court.
Coyote asks, offended, "You think I don't know a ruse when I see one? Of course I know Renard was tricked!" Ysengrin is astonished. Coyote responds that Renard was a fool, blinded by love- it was his own fault. Ysengrin shouts, "How could you leave him trapped there?"
Coyote says that he was previously interested in getting Renard back, but when he saw him with Annie, he knew trickery wouldn't work, as it's not the laws of man that keep him there, it's his love for Annie. He says that Reynardine's heart must have broken when he saw Annie minus Surma, because to see them apart meant that Surma was dead. Annie asks, "You know about that too? Why did it happen?" Coyote sidles up to Jones and asks her if nobody told Annie that she wasn't exactly human.
Annie asks what he just said. Coyote in turn asks her if she was always by her mother's side. Annie says that they couldn't bear to be parted. He asks if Surma's condition worsened as Annie grew. Annie doesn't respond but Coyote takes it to be a 'yes'. He says that it's the fate of Annie's kind- the fire that burned inside Surma was passed on to her- and it will happen when Annie has a child. Annie asks what she is. Coyote tells her that while she is mostly human, one of her ancestors was a fire elemental. He says that it must have been an interesting first meeting and that he admires man's ability to see beauty in everything, even a flame. He remarks that Annie is much calmer than Surma, and asks Jones if it was her father's influence. Jones nods. Coyote asks Annie if sometimes, deep inside, she feels her temper flaring. He says that perhaps if she had somewhere where she could learn to control her inner feelings...
Annie asks what he's saying, and Coyote offers her a place to stay in the Forest. Jones says that nobody has agreed that Annie could stay there. Coyote points out that the only people who would need to agree would be himself and Annie, and asks if Jones is only working in favour of the Court. He says that he will grant Annie every kind of protection and that Ysengrin will look after her. Ysengrin begins to object and Jones questions his sanity. Coyote says that he will find Annie a nice family to stay with for the summer. He tells Jones that it's a rare opportunity. Annie says that she'd like to stay, just for the summer. Coyote and Jones agree.
Annie asks Jones to tell Kat not to worry and to send her Annie's love. She begins to ask about Renard. Jones cuts her off and tells her flatly that she put many people- not just her friends, but everyone at the Court- in danger because she let her emotions get the better of her. She tells Annie that the trip had better be worth that much to her. She says that she will look after Renard in the meantime- and time stops.
Annie asks Coyote, the only other moving being, what is happening. He tells her that he stopped time and remarks that she doesn't have the tooth he gave her. She says that she left it in her room. He asks her to show her his right hand. When she does so, a black band with a red stripe wraps itself around her wrist. Coyote says that if she tells anyone in the forest about the tooth, even Ysengrin, the bind will cut her hand off. Before Annie can get any answers, he releases time. Jones concludes that she will stop by every so often to see how Annie is doing. Jones asks if it is acceptable. Annie says it is, hiding the band, and Jones walks off. Coyote says that he will go ahead and tell everyone about Annie's coming. He tells Ysengrin to bring her along so they can find her a home. Ysengrin picks her up and carries her along with him.
Annie looks upset about the band. Ysengrin tells her not to worry; as long as she does what Coyote says, no harm will come to her. Annie admits that she's a little nervous. Ysengrin tells her that she will be treated with kindness. Annie warily asks if said kindness will be 'encouraged' by Coyote. Ysengrin grudgingly says, 'Maybe'. He says that he was right before- Annie was weak, and she did run away- but it was understandable considering what she learned. He says that she can take the opportunity to strengthen herself using this knowledge, and informs her that she never took Surma's life, Surma gave it to her. Overcome, Annie embraces him. Ysengrin says that she is stronger than she was that morning, even if she doesn't feel that way, and that she will be stronger still, strong enough to walk on her own. He sets her down and she walks across a fallen tree branch, alone, toward a distant light. Annie crosses the branch, Ysengrin behind her, and stops. He tells her to show 'them' that she is not afraid. Annie nods and pushes some leaves aside, moving into the light. She stops, frozen by the sight, and the chapter ends.
Notes and Trivia
- This chapter marks the end of Antimony's year 8 and the end of the third published book Reason.
- After this chapter was finished, Tom took another two week break from the comic. In the meantime, more pages for City Face (comic) was uploaded.