Broken Horizons – Vol 12, Ch 13

The god soul was burning within her and Tessa began to experience a terrible sensation. For something that on one level was just a reflection of the admin rights the EE personnel possessed, the ball of power in Tessa’s hand pulsed with glory and righteousness and cosmic insight. She knew, intellectually, that she needed to get rid of it before too much longer. Emotionally though? In the depth of her heart a terrible realization was being born.

I’ve figured it out, she whispered to herself. I don’t need to be afraid of this, and I don’t need to give it up. I’ve come so far. I could hold this and retain all the parts of me that I want to.

It wasn’t the same temptation she’d felt before. There was no terror or desperation pushing her to cling to the power she held. Calm certainty filled her, chipping away her reservations with tools she’d never had to resist before.

You feeling okay there?” Lisa asked, stepping in close to provide a little more support.

Nope,” Tessa admitted. “I have definitely been messing with these things a little too often.

Drop it then,” Lisa said, tightening her hold on Tessa’s arms.

Can’t. Not yet. We’re going to need it. I can see something, a bit of the future maybe? Not too far ahead. It’s not specific, but I know. We’ll need this,” Tessa said.

That’s the power talking. We need you more,” Lisa said.

I know. And I’m not going away,” Tessa said. “I can hang on for a bit more. I’m still me. Still human. Or still mortal I guess. Or, sort of? Are [Adventurers] even mortal? Really? I’ve died like a billion times today. And that just doesn’t seem like a ‘mortal’ thing to be doing. I think?”

“Hey, take a breath,” Lisa said. “You’re starting to sound scattered.

That’s not a great sign is it?

I don’t know. You sound a little more like yourself when you talk like that.”

“More like myself than when?”

“Than when you’re asking us to ‘Rise’! How did you do that?”

Tessa wondered that herself. She’d gotten used to hearing the weird reverb around names and other special nouns in the [Fallen Kingdoms]. [Rise] was different though. There was an almost irresistible imperative there, like it was more the god soul speaking through her than anything she was saying.

I don’t know if that was me,” Tessa said.

“Interesting,” Penswell said, eyeing Tessa from three different vantage points.

Tessa hadn’t noticed Penny calling forth echoes of herself. She also hadn’t noticed the [Adventurers] turning from the seconds of silence following her words to break into a cacophony of individual conversations.

“I like the idea that the world is fighting on our side,” Niminay said. “And that its on us to keep pressing the battle forward. I think it’s what we would do anyways, but it felt right when you said it.”

Tessa grinned. Niminay was taller than she was used to seeing her, but then she was used to seeing her through Glimmerglass eyes rather than her own.

“What I don’t like,” Niminay continued, and Tessa felt herself tense for an impending rebuke. “Is that the person who seems to be our primary foe is off on his own to the gods know where.”

It wasn’t a rebuke. Even to Tessa’s ears it didn’t sound like one, though she immediately wondered if there hadn’t been something she could have done to stop Byron’s escape.

“I believe even the gods themselves could not tell where Byron escaped to,” Penny said. “That was a god soul that he used to escape, wasn’t it?”

“It was,” Tessa said. “I think. I don’t know where he got it but there are a lot of possible places given how easily he can destroy things.”

“Every [Heart Fire] has one, don’t they?” Matt asked.

“Yeah, and he’s not afraid of pulling more of the Hungers through the breeches in reality that result when you take a [Heart Fire] apart,” Tessa said.

“He spoke as though they were a limited resources,” Penny said and then corrected herself. “No. He spoke as though he regretted the necessity of using the god soul he held.”

“Maybe he was fond of that one?” Rip said.

“It’s not the loss of the power he objected to,” Unknown said. “It’s the effect using that power will have on him.”

“Oh, wow! Yeah!” Tessa said. “He used a piece of divine power from the [Fallen Kingdoms]. He’ll have absorbed even more reality than before. He’ll be forced to change again.”

“Yes, though perhaps not as much as he should have had to,” Unknown said. “Using the god soul meant that it could bear the brunt of reality trying to assert itself, even if some portion of its power must spill over into him and change him in the process.”

“Then why use it to escape at all?” Niminay asked. “Couldn’t he have just teleported away on his own? It wouldn’t even be a unique skill. Plenty of bad guys can do that.”

“We can also use [Teleportation] to arrive in a timely fashion as well,” Zardrak said.

Every [Adventurer] present, Niminay included had their weapons in their hand, their spells on the lips, and their strongest cooldown abilities ready to fire before Zardrak finished speaking.

“Hold for a moment,” Penswell said. “Zardrak, you decided to leave your cell somewhat earlier than you’d planned?”

“No. I released him,” Azma said, stepping through the still open portal behind him, followed by Yawlorna, Baelgritz and the rest of the crew.

“And you came here?” Penswell said, wonder dawning on her face. “There are new terrors afoot? Or, no, a terror we’ve been expecting?”

Azma nodded, and Tessa felt like she was seeing at best ten percent of the conversation that was passing between them.

“They’re early too then,” Penswell said. “Curious.”

“Who are ‘they’?” Cease asked.

“The Consortium’s eradication fleet,” Azma said. “They’re here to detonate the local sun and then get serious about erasing any still coherent matter from the system. Or at least that’s what their original mission was.”

“But now they’ve been subborned by Byron,” Penswell said. “Which doesn’t change their goals of objectives, does it?”

“Excuse me, did you say there’s a fleet here that’s intent on blowing up the sun?” Cease asked.

“We have plans to deal with this eventuality,” Penswell said. “The question is which ones we move forward with.”

“I was hoping to make use of that,” Azma said, nodding towards the god soul that was still burning in Tessa’s hand. “But I see that isn’t an option.”

“It’s not?” Cease asked and turned to look at Tessa. “If that thing has admin right, can’t you just delete the Consortium or something?”

“In theory, sure,” Tessa said. “In practice though? If they’ve got even one of the Hungers with them, it’ll eat the [Divine Edict] and just grow stronger. This thing isn’t how we fight them.”

“Then what good is it?” Cease asked.

“I’ll show you in a bit,” Tessa said. Her vision of the future wasn’t anything clearer or more solid than her imagination, but her intuition was all but screaming at her that she had something important to do.

“So, we’ll need a fleet of our to oppose them then?” Penny asked.

“And an army to take control of the fleet,” Azma said.

“We have an army,” Penny said.

“And a fleet waiting for us,” Azma said.

“The only problem being our fleet is in a far orbit still and is being overrun by more freshly decanted Hungers every moment.”

“That’s far from our only problem,” Azma said. “For as many [Adventurers] who have risen to serve, there is the need for a hundred more. With the force we have now, we will need approximately thirty four miracles to manage even basic survival.”

“Thirty four is a tiresome number,” Penny agreed. “How far can Zardrak reduce that number?”

“Oh my own? If I was truly motivated and you returned me to my throne? Perhaps half?” Zardrak said.”But, I have no desire to take my throne. And, I feel little motivation for a grand battle with an overwhelming foe. So perhaps I could manage three, or two miracles maybe?”

“Or maybe just one,” Yawlorna said. “But that could be enough.”

“They’re [Adventurers] now too,” Azma said, cutting through the coy banter due to a keen awareness of how little time they had left.

“What does that mean?” Cease asked.

“It means, we got a whole bunch of new powers to work with,” Baelgritz said.

“And that we will die permanently no more easily than any other [Adventurer] would,” Illuthiz said.

“Can anyone use the process you’ve come up with to become [Adventurers] too?” Tessa asked as she started doing some quick metal mathematics.

“Anyone who wants to,” Baelgritz said.

“Anyone who is sapient,” Yawlorna said.

“And we need to trust him on that?” Niminay said, her bow still drawn and pointed at Zardrak.

“You could let the world be destroyed if you preferred,” Zardrak said. “Do consider though that I have always professed a desire to rule the world and that is rather pointless when it is an ever expanding cloud of dust.”

“I ask again, are we supposed to trust him?” Niminay could have been cast from solid marble with how little her aim wavered.

“Of course not,” Azma said. “You may however trust Penswell. When Zardrak tries to betray us, she will select the most appropriate, or perhaps most amusing plan to stop him. By my estimation his betrayal will last no more than a handful of seconds.”

Penny huffed a small breath of disbelief.

“So little faith in me?” she asked, looking at Azma and not Niminay.

“Don’t show off and do it in less than one second,” Azma said. “No one will get to appreciate it if you stop him that quickly.”

“I can see one little problem with the ‘build a bigger army’ idea,” Cease said. “Those things can’t take over our minds, but they can still do a number on our bodies. I know ‘send more people to hit them’ is tried and true [Adventurer] strategy but if you send tens of million of us against those things rather than hundreds of thousands, I think all we’ll get is a pile of bodies that’s tens of millions high rather than only a few hundred thousand corpses tall.”

“I think that’s what I needed this for,” Tessa said and raised the god soul high enough for everyone to see.

Which involved calling its power into herself and floating off the ground.

The overwhelming force did not overwhelm her. She could handle it. Just like she’d thought she could.

In her hand, the power to define the cosmos blazed and Tessa felt there was no more than the thinnest of veils between her and a full understanding of it.

“Show us what you got!” Obby cheered from below her and Tessa turned her attention from the god soul to the small army around her.

As Pillowcase, it was her job to protect them, and as Tessa she knew how.

[Transdimensional Integrity],” she said not taking anything from the god soul but  instead sharing her own soul with it.

The light of the god soul didn’t shatter, but fragments of it kindled within everyone the light touched. Sparks of divine power joined with the souls of all those present, creating in them the same resiliency to the Hunger’s attacks that Pillowcase possessed.

“What was that?” Azma asked as Tessa descended, the god soul a much smaller and more flickering light in her hand.

“A gift,” Tessa said. 

“You gave us your talent? The one that keeps you safe from the Hungers?” Lisa asked.

“Not ‘gave’. Shared, like sharing fire,” Tessa said. “I can still use it too. You’ll be able to share it onwards too, spreading to everyone who fights with us. We won’t lose anything in making each other stronger and I think it’s what we needed to take the fight to Byron.”

“Our fight isn’t with Byron any longer,” Unknown said.

“What do you mean?” Azma asked.

“My principal divergent self is no longer here,” Unknown said. “I’ve searched for him and I find no trace of him in this sphere.”

“Could he be hidden from you?” Penny asked.

“He could but he never would,” Unknown said.

“He hasn’t been destroyed,” Azma said.

“No,” Tessa said, understanding why Byron had been loath to use his last precious fragment of a god soul. “He’s gone to Earth.”

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