"Your body may be gone, I'm gonna carry you in
In my head, in my heart, in my soul
And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both live again
I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Don't think so.
Well that is that and this is this.
You tell me what you want and I'll tell you what you get...
...The ocean breathes salty, won't you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul
And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both grow old
I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I hope so...
...Well that is that and this is this
You tell me what you saw and I'll tell you what you missed
You missed when time and life shook hands and said goodbye
When the earth folded in on itself..."
Modest Mouse, Ocean Breathes Salty
I breathed saltwater for a couple of days. Dove to the bottom of the ocean with just a wetsuit, my husband and a give'em hell attitude. Got my ass handed to me by a squid. I am done, for now, with Guinnee.
Conclusions? Fuck titanspawn. Fuck giant sea serpents, fuck normal sized sea serpents and fuck squid who steer indestructible ghost ships.
Anyway, the Baron was, for the most part, still a righteous dude. And we got to see Brigitte again, which was actually really nice. She looked... um, emaciated, but happy, and she gave me a big hug and told me to say hi to Horace and come back whenever we wanted. I probably will do just that when I'm a little more capable and a lot less pregnant. I want to settle some scores and see if the Drowned Road can bleed. Back to the point, though.
After the attack, I realized it was getting a lot harder to see. We were getting deep enough under the surface of the ocean that the light from the sun couldn't penetrate the water. It was kind of incredible, actually. How many other people get to see this kind of shit, and can tell you what the water feels like on their skin? Most people need a television screen, or the lens of some super camera to see shit like this. Incredible... and incredibly inconvenient. I asked Gunnar for the mirror thing he carried, so I could have some sort of light.
"What, you can't see in the dark?" He quipped.
"What, you can't breathe underwater?" I riposted playfully.
"Shut up," he pouted after a beat and handed the mirror over.
After I got the mirror lit up I talked to Agwe, who made it clear he knew exactly who I was and exactly what I was doing. I told him I'm getting used to people knowing those things, and Gunnar said it was getting obnoxious.
"I shot her-" I admitted to Agwe what I'd done to Marie, without really any coaxing.
"In the face-" Gunnar supplemented, um... helpfully. Yeah. I'll go with that.
"Really hard," I finished. I'm not tiptoeing around the fact that I killed a scion, that's why I wasn't really bothered by what Erzulie's goon did to my forehead. It's inconvenient as fuck, but I'm dealing. If I'd been asked, I'd tell the story of what I'd done and why I'd done it and I still think it was a good call based on the information I had at the time. Maybe if the gods wanted me to make a different call, they should give me better information next time they're going to have someone pointing a gun at one of my friends. Or having my friends pointing their own gun at... Whatever.
But yeah, Agwe pretty much told us to get the hell off his boat, even though as we found out shortly after he was headed exactly where we were. Still, he'd let us on the boat in the first place instead of making us swim, and he even gave us a ride back. For that, he's okay in my book.
When I was doing my research, and by that I mean when I was bugging Luc, Luc had told me that Agwe was Erzulie's third husband and I was like, "Well, shit Luc. That may be a bad thing for me. I'm doing this anyway because how can it be any worse than what will happen if I don't?"
Anyway. We got off the boat at the stop next to the biggest crab, fuck, the biggest anything I've ever seen, and started following some light. Well, Gunnar was following some light I could barely see and I was kinda following Gunnar. I did a lot of that on this trip, and I lived to tell the tale.
Kidding aside, letting him lead was really both smart and safe. He sees a lot better than I do and is a lot sneakier than I can be... well, I've gotten better at that but in the beginning I was so conspicuous. Plus, I can toughen him up a little. Well, a lot, now. So he gets to lead because he can see the hits coming and he can take them when they land. If I'd come here by myself I probably wouldn't have survived.
I give him a lot of crap for being reckless but I know he can handle himself. He survived upwards of two decades before knowing me, and more than that I trust him not to just get himself killed for no good reason. More than anything or anyone else in the world, I trust him. Just, so many of his stories end with, "So then I woke up in the hospital..."
But yeah. We headed down into a village, and Gunnar said he saw a big house in the distance. Made of tombstones. If I have my own underworld, and I have a house in my underworld, I'm so not making it out of tombstones, for the record. That bitch is going to be marble, or something wicked like the mansion from the X-Men. Or maybe some shifting amalgamation of light and awesome, if I get to build with abstracts. That'd be fucking cool.
We swam up, knocked, got no answer. So we started to swim over to where Agwe had brought his ship down - prompting us to wonder why he kicked us off when he did, but again, I'm just glad we got a ride at all - when we were interrupted by Brigitte. I'd say she looked well, but she didn't. At least she looked happy. She said she'd gotten to go up to the surface a few times since becoming a ghede for her dad, and she gets to be both useful and happy while dead, which I think is a pretty bitchin' set of occurrences. So she takes us to where the Baron is welcoming the new arrivals, and he told the ghosts he'd be back (I'm not sure if they remembered long enough to care) and came to talk to us. He was really happy for us when Gunnar told him we got hitched. I apologized for not inviting him, but it was probably for the best. I'd asked Gunnar about inviting the Baron, but we both decided that we'd rather not have him possessing anyone and grinding against our wedding guests. I'd mentioned, or maybe Gunnar mentioned, I can't remember, that Dionysus was there. The two apparently "go way back." I'm not sure whether curious laughter or suspicious terror is the more appropriate reaction there.
After all that catch up, we showed the Baron our letter from Hades, and I asked how Sara would do here in Guinnee. It sounded from the Baron's answer that she'd be safer and happier here than she probably would in Hades' realm and that was good enough for me, and it seemed satisfactory for Gunnar. So the Baron tells us to go talk to this chick who deals with the forgetful fish. She was a goddess named Anaisa Pye. She was very attractive, as many goddesses tend to be, and she was topless, which I'm hoping is not some sort of requirement I don't know about. I kinda like clothes.
She was in the middle of... I think maybe talking to the fish? Or something, for us, when Gunnar and she both started looking nervous and then this big fucking serpent thing started circling Guinnee. It all happened kinda fast and I might be getting some of the sequence wrong. But somewhere in there the Baron started yelling for us to protect the spirits. I stayed near them, at first, Gunnar of course swam off towards the giant serpent creature. I tried telling the ghosts to head to safety, and of course they weren't listening. So I followed Gunnar.
The serpent thing was bashing into some shield around Guinnee, and Gunnar and I both got a couple of chances to try to hit it. It didn't do shit, for the record. Nothing down here bleeds. Well, except for that Siren. And Gunnar. He didn't bleed much though, and for the record, I doubt anyone else on the team could have taken the hits he did and handled it as well. But it wasn't the snake thing that injured him, it was this big boat that started stealing souls. Well, not the boat itself. There was a giant squid piloting the boat and the boat turned out to be the Henrietta Marie. Or maybe the ghost of it, if boats have ghosts. This one had plenty, because it was fucking stealing them from the houses of this village, but we aren't to that part of the story yet.
We couldn't hurt it, the serpent thing. And when the Baron started fighting the serpent, Gunnar and I decided to head for the boat instead. We couldn't hurt that either.
We sure as hell tried, though. I was hitting that thing with everything I had, trying to tear a hole in it and maybe get some of those souls back that it had just fucking dredged from the village. After getting some good hits in, and getting hit really fucking hard by the squid captain, the planks just melded back together. And when I say we got hit really hard, I mean I got hit hard enough to hurt and bruise me all over, which doesn't happen often. I got tentacle slapped, and lived to shudder about it. At least I only got hit once. Gunnar took three hits, and not gentle ones, and amazingly he just kept on tearing shit up.
After I got hit the first time, and thought maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be a good idea for me to get hit like that again, I went to the underside of the boat. This was when the planks started mending themselves, the ship was sailing upward, and I said "Fuck it." We'd lost, and not gracefully. Gunnar must have witnessed the same thing, because he was next to me shortly after that, asking me kinda casually if I'd been screaming.
"Uh, no..." I probably looked more than a little confused. That was kind of a weird question for a guy with such crazy good hearing and who's commented more than once on how tough I am. Well, once was to Never but the bird's got a big mouth.
"Good," he said. Then he said something about divorce, and when we've got time I'm gonna have to ask what the hell that was about. It was going to have to wait, though. I wanted to go check on the Baron.
The Baron was a mess. There was something wrong with him, something I'd never seen before. I asked him if he was okay, and then he looked like a lot less of a mess, but something was still wrong. Something still is wrong. I asked him about it, and he said that the serpent thing, Simbi Makaya, bound him to Guinnee. I would say that fucking sucks, but I'm betting a clever god won't really let that get too much in the way. I know I wouldn't, and I'm not even a god. Yet.
Then the Baron thanked us for our help and handed me a receipt, made of flesh. Human flesh. Whatever, I told myself. I'm a doctor. I handle skin all the time. Just not when it's fucking stationery. I did squirm a little on the inside, kinda like a little girl looking at a cockroach.
Despite the fact that we were pretty much useless against Simbi Makaya and the giant demon squid - and the ghost boat it rode in on - the Baron told us to just take Marie and go. We were good. I had a question for him, though.
"Baron, how do I bring Marie back?" I remember asking Agwe earlier whether just getting her soul would be enough for Erzulie. And yeah, it wasn't. But that comes later.
The Baron made this face, and basically said there was no way he would do that for me. I cleared up the misconception. "I'm not asking you to do it for me, I'm asking how I do it," I clarified. I don't ask gods for favors, it's kind of a rule of mine. I'm totally okay with earning them, though. He still didn't look like he wanted to tell me.
"Baron, I'm asking for my kids." Yep, I played that card and I'm okay with that, too. "This debt?" I pointed to my forehead. "I want this shit gone." But I'll be doing it on my own, I guess. The Baron said he didn't know how I could do it, because I don't have the power. I shot my mouth off, of course. I told him that yeah, he doesn't know what I can do, but he'll see. I'm looking forward to being a god and seeing jaws drop at the things I dream up. Anyway, that's still a ways off and in the here that is right now, I can't really say I have a clue what the fuck I'm doing.
So after that it was a matter of waiting until Agwe's ship had those giant shark holes in it repaired. In the meantime Gunnar went and talked to Anaisa for the Baron, who was pissed that she didn't help against Simbi Makaya or the big boat. He was also mad at Agwe, but I am not sure what about. I was gonna talk to Whatsherboobs about getting Marie's memory back, but I couldn't find her, and didn't wanna bug Gunnar about it and mostly was just really fucking ready to go home and not be in Bikini Bottoms anymore.
It was just our luck that there were some people in the cemetery when we showed back up out of Guinnee. I fell to my knees and spent the next minute or so clearing my lungs of salt water so I could breathe air again. I'm sure that didn't look strange at all, two very wet people just popping out of thin air - sort of like falling up - both of us holding huge fucking axes. And Gunnar was a Nommo, at first, but he spit out the eye first chance he could. I'll be surprised if it's not up on Youtube somewhere.
I heard Gunnar just say, "What?" as he headed towards the car. I finished uh... readjusting to the air (sounds a lot better than hacking up a lung, which is probably more like what that looked like), shook some of the salt out of my hair and followed Gunnar.
I was hungry.