Sunday, April 15, 2012

When It All Goes Wrong Again

Eventually they did come get us. Eleven days later.
Before they came to get us to talk to Marie, Osiris wanted to hear from Gunnar what had happened in the marketplace. He explained what the spindle was and what the consequences of its use would be. Osiris and Isis wanted Gunnar to leave the spindle in their care. He was understandably disinclined to accept their offer.
The gods were displeased, to say the least. They saw the spindle as a tool by which they could secure victory against the titans, but I suspect Gunnar knows the truth: victory can’t be as simple as making a wish. Before the war with the titans is over, the worlds around us are all going to look very different. I believe he made the right decision in not handing such a powerful thing over to gods who would likely use it to keep things the way they are, the way they have always been.
I thought maybe I would have to do some of the talking, but Gunnar is actually surprisingly well-spoken. It shouldn’t be surprising, but I guess first impressions take a long time to fade and it’s been a long time since I first met the hot-headed daredevil Gunnar used to be.
I think what surprised me the most was Gunnar’s explanation of what had happened with Marie. He didn’t say “Laurel killed her,” it was “we.” “We killed her,” “We were told to put her back together,” “We decided to come here.” He shouldered blame he didn’t have to. It means a lot to me.

So when they finally came to get us, we were led into a big chamber where Osiris and Isis sat in their thrones. The throne room was sparsely decorated, like everything else in the palace. The furniture was beautiful but functional and necessary. There weren't any of those superfluous side tables with obnoxious flower arrangements or anything.
Um, but yeah.
Marie knelt between the two thrones, dressed like an Egyptian handmaiden. I guess part of the deal for her resurrection was that Osiris would keep her here. I hadn't been here when the deal was made, and even if I had been, I don't know that I could have done any better. I mean, Erzulie just told me to get her daughter back and I had nothing else to bargain with.
I told Marie I was sorry. It was one of the first things I said to her. I feel better, having explained to her what happened. And, you know, when you've spent forty days in the desert with someone who's scrubbed your back, it's hard not to feel bad for killing her.
Shit, not that I didn’t already feel bad about killing her. I did feel bad. Maybe not at first. At first I wanted to believe I had done the right thing, like maybe believing hard enough would keep me safe. But I think they call that denial, and I’m not good at it.
So I felt like shit about killing her. And not just in a “well this has inconvenienced my whole year” way, and not in a “crazy bitch’s mama’s gonna take my babies,” way, either. I felt bad in a “this is a person who had shit to do that was actually kinda worth doing, and I went and fucked it all up when I blew her head off” way.
So I told her I was sorry. I didn’t know what else to do, so I told her I was wrong. I didn’t know anything about her except that she was working with Kane and she was threatening one of my friends and I flipped and it was wrong.
She actually accepted my apology, which is probably the biggest miracle of this whole trip. More than that, she said I did her a favor on two different counts. The first was getting her away from Kane, which she seemed to realize was a huge favor, and the second was going to so much trouble to bring her back from the dead.
She was also really nice, though that could have been the fear of the gods that Isis seemed to have put into her. Seriously, all Isis did was cough and Marie snapped to attention.
She told us what she knew, which wasn’t a lot but it was still worth it. She told us what we already knew, that Kane was working with Mikaboshi, but she also said that Mikaboshi is controlling which way the Darkness spreads. She told us names of people who were working with Kane, and one of them was actually a name we hadn’t had before. She told us that Kane is trying to find the “Path to Oblivion,” words I think Kas heard when dealing with the Sphinx. When Gunnar and I consulted the stones we were able to find out where the new person was, and what the Path to Oblivion was. It doesn’t help all that much, not yet.
She also told us that Kane is trying to jumpstart Ragnarok. That, combined with the vision I had of Malsum handing Pandora’s Box over to Kane, is a little frightening. Malsum is collaborating with Kane to help start Ragnarok, he must be.
It explains why we found Loki in Mag Mell, why Malsum offered to help Loki free Fenrir. It doesn’t explain why Malsum stole Tesla’s device from us, but I’m sure that fits in there somewhere, too. I dunno, maybe he was just trying to shake the world into oblivion with the earthquake and underworld machines, but it can’t just be that simple.
And I don’t know why he needed Pandora’s Box. Isis and Osiris didn’t have any guesses either, other than the fact that a known villain and Titan servitor has it is a Seriously Bad Thing.
And either Malsum or Kane has the Black Feather Shroud. And has been dealing with Utgard-Loki.
I know we’ll put all the pieces together, I know we will understand the plan. I just hope we pull it off in time to do something about it.
After that, Isis and Osiris encouraged us to let Marie get some rest. We could talk to her again tomorrow if we wanted to, but we decided to go ahead and get back to Midgar. Isis at first had made it sound like we would be leaving immediately, but there was another stint of waiting. Then Isis had clothing brought to us, servant’s clothing, and told us to clean up, and that where we were going we were “to be seen and not heard.”
Then, after more time had passed, we were led to a dock on the river Urnes where the Barque of Ra docked so we could board.
Understand something: the Barque of Atum-Re never stops. It continues on its perpetual journey without cessation. It carries the sarcophagus of Ra and it never stops.
But it stopped for us.
We stepped onto the boat, which was in itself a breathtaking sight. When first Gunnar and I had stepped into Duat we had made the mistake of staring right at the vessel of the Sun. Gunnar was blinded by it. I was okay, probably because my eyes aren’t as sensitive as his. The point is, the boat is brilliant, and huge. Men and women in armor line its decks, ready to defend the sarcophagus of Ra in the event of an attack.
The gods of the Pesedjet ride upon the boat, as well. Well, at least two that I could pick out.
Horus was at the helm, and the god Set stayed at the back.
We got to ride up at the front of the boat with Horus. We didn’t get a choice, it wasn’t a request. Isis whispered something in Horus’ ear as we boarded and Horus looked back at Set and told Gunnar to remain at the front, away from Set.
I asked if I could stay with Gunnar, and, though he probably didn't mean it the way I would have liked to have heard it, Horus said that he would never think to try to separate the two of us.
Horus was still grateful that I had prayed and seen his son out of captivity in Mutavilya. I would be too.
As we rode next to Horus he explained to us that the overworld was at war. Akhetaten was constantly besieging Duat and the Urnes. We could see war in the distance, edging closer as the boat cut the waters of the river. Angels and their eerie singing were drawing nearer and nearer to us. Horus told us that we were going to have to jump into the river and hold our breaths until we thought our lungs would burst, and then we would surface and find ourselves in the waters of the Nile.
And we would smell. Whatever the Pesedjet were fighting also boasted the powers of fertility and had made the waters smell worse than a skunk convention. It was a small that stuck with you, apparently.
There was no time for further conversation, as he just pushed Gunnar and I off of the ship. There had been an angel in a dive, headed towards us and Horus had saved us.
We were saved again from another angel, one which plunged into the putrid water after Gunnar and I. A massive crocodile opened its jaws and consumed the angel before it could harm us. Then it turned to us, gave us a thumbs up and a toothy grin, bits of light-creature poking out from the fangs.
It actually made me feel good to see him smile like that, especially when I realized that this was the god Sobek. Sobek had just saved our asses. So, for whatever good it would do, I tried to make Sobek a little more buff and make it so that he could take another half a hit or something. I hoped it would help.
And then it was a matter of waiting until I couldn’t hold my breath anymore. Fourteen minutes is a long time to wait, for the record.

But I was feeling pretty damn good when we came up out of the Nile.
Yeah, we smelled like shit. Worse than shit, like shit on the divine and epic level but that’s the best analogy I’ve got. Yeah the world was still being delivered to Hell in a handbasket. Yeah, every overworld seems to be under attack. Yeah the pantheons are still going dark.Yeah, one of the Fates was dead. Yeah, my own fate was probably tied to Duat tighter than Scarlett O’Hara’s corset.
But we’d done it. We’d brought Marie back. I was clear, and I was clean – and of equal importance, so was Gunnar. The journey through (most of) Duat had redeemed me, and Gunnar in the eyes of the Pesedjet. We were worthy.

And we were going to have another baby, which was reason all by itself to smile, really. It’s a pretty bitching experience to know that you are carrying a new little life around, getting to feel it grow and being the personal guardian of a single bright spot of infinite potential born out of love and all that other sappy shit.
Plus, it was Gunnar’s, which made me feel all warm and metaphorically fuzzy inside. For the next nine months, and it would be nine months this time, dammit, I get to constantly have a piece of him with me. A reminder (like I need it) of how crazy he is - for me. How very much he loves me and all the bullshit he’s gone through to help me. Not just with Marie, but that’s a big part of it. And every time our little girl kicks, every time she moves, I’ll think of him, because she’s a piece of him.
Whatever else happens, our kids will always be pieces of him, my gift to the world.

Don’t listen to what the bird says; that’s a pretty incredible gift. I mean, the man is now the guardian of the fate of Fate itself. He is mostly responsible for the death of one of the Fates. I don’t even know how that works, but I’m awe struck. It’s going to make my job harder, I entertain no illusions about that. I’m guessing people – gods, titans, fuck, whole pantheons – are going to be a little upset. And by “a little upset,” I mean, I’m probably never going to sleep again.
I owe him though. Even if it weren’t a matter of having promised to protect him, and loving the guy so much I’d probably break the world for him, I owe him. And it’s not the kind of debt you can repay with great sex or extra chores, not even if we had time for either. It’s the kind of thing I’ll be working on for a long time. It might be a forever kind of thing. Gunnar would probably just shrug and say it’s the kind of thing married people are supposed to do for one another. Maybe he’s right. Gunnar’s a pretty smart guy.

And he loves me, which is still kind of incredible all on its own. That’s a pretty good reason to feel all warm and metaphorically fuzzy.
And we’d gotten our vacation, the one I talked about wanting before I started getting ready to go to Duat. I’d gotten everything I asked for, and I was ready to get back to work on saving the world since we’d had some downtime in Duat, and now I could do it without feeling like I was ignoring any big, glaring threat or personal responsibilities.
Oh, and there was the whole “intel on Kane” thing. We’ve got names, and they’re names we didn’t have before. We’ve got the outline of his plan. We need specifics, yeah, but we’ve got a start. It was time well spent.

So I was feeling awesome, better and more complete than I have felt since my mom died. I was healthy and alive and pregnant and successful on an epic level. I was all smiles, even with the locals giving us weird looks.

Then things got a bit more normal.
I got that feeling I get when I know someone’s in trouble. It was a feeling that ran through Alex Vance, but didn’t stop with him. It was a feeling that went to him, and through him, and to his brother. The one that was supposed to be dead.
I didn’t know, well, I couldn’t tell, what was wrong. That’s never stopped me. Ever. It probably never will, not even after this.
So I take off right away. I stop in front of Gunter and Alex. They’re confused and so am I, because the feeling is still happening and it’s not happening to Alex. So I follow it, and I let it pull at me and I’m standing in front of Jaime, ready to swoop in and save the day. I’m not even going to ask how he’s not dead and why his arms look like they were surgically removed instead of ripped off like the other Vance boy had said.
That’s when something hit me – hard and sharp, biting into my skin and making my blood burn where it bit.
Then my legs went out from under me, and there was nothing but the void, the deep blackness of unconsciousness.

Well, okay, there were a few more hits and a fuck ton more poison and I think some slurs and expletives and instructions for me to just “fucking go down already” and Ixion’s face, and that’s about when I decided to say fuck this shit and just take a nap.

"Yes, I think it's safe to say
I feel good about the place
That I've been made in the world today
I get all sticky inside
When I close my eyes
And I open up wide

I see pictures in the clouds
So obscene I gotta laugh out loud
I look back to find my way
Reminisce and laugh about the good old days

Yeah, when I saw my brother above me
I remember the words he said
When you dream you hit bottom
Chances are good you're gonna wake up dead
I'll be up on top when the sky falls down
And it all goes wrong again."
Everclear, When It All Goes Wrong Again

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