And here we have the final chapter of Theogony. Additional notes at the end.
Chapter Fifty-Five: Things That Are And That Shall Be
The heavily modified Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King made several fly-bys. It was flanked by a pair of Apache attack helicopters and, further overhead, a pair of capes who instead of costumes wore marine combat fatigues.
"Think they're bringing more blankets?" Shaquelle asked. She couldn't see the seal painted on the side of the aircraft.
"Nah," Ty told her. "But Pythia said supplies'll get here in a few hours."
"Hope so. Fuckin' cold."
"Get back to the Mound then, dumbass."
"Fuck you. Ya'll working, I'm working."
Ty Washington watched the End of Scion from right in the middle of the fight. He stood at the entrance of Telos' domain as the city crumbled and burned around them. He saw people desperately trying to reach the domain when they realized normal shelters wouldn't save them, only to die when Behemoth unleashed his radiation.
He watched buildings crumble and the world turn to darkness as Scion attacked. He watched from just inches away, but the power of his goddess protected him and all those within her domain.
A day or two later, he watched a pair of old Indian ladies make it rain until the clouds went away; he watched as one of them just walked out over the land while a cape followed her taking radiation readings. Wherever she walked, the radiation went away.
He heard from Pythia how the shockwaves of the attack and Leviathan's death caused tidal waves that should have destroyed the entire Atlantic Rim, from the East coast of the US to Europe, Africa and South America, but something actually stopped the waves in the middle of the ocean.
And three days after the battle, he was the first to notice that Telos' domain was collapsing. The day he realized it, Didomi looked at him with the most heart-broken expression he'd ever seen on a human face.
Pythia didn't even blink. "We need to measure how fast and get out everything we can. We need to bottle as much water from the spring as we can, collect wood and seeds and food from the garden."
The feds evacuated as many people as they could. The head Fed told them that the damage was so wide-spread that they wouldn't be able to help anyone who stayed. And yet the core of the Church of Telos stayed anyway.
In the week that followed, when a heavy blanket of cloud choked the northeast in two feet of snow and a bitter, unseasonable cold gripped the land, they chopped down every tree in the fast-shrinking domain. The Tinker, Prometheus, took the generator he'd made for Telos' house and set it up as a heater and energy source in the old FEMA tent.
Ty, Mom and Shaquelle worked beside Mr. Laborn and Mr. Franklin and a dozen other former Dockworkers to harvest the seemingly never-ending garden. They caged the dozens and dozens of chickens and moved the coops to the Mound. Every day the domain shrank by yards, but still held on as if the spirit of Telos fought to give them as much time as possible.
Most of the capes left after, but some stayed.
That tall chick with the horn and the white hair hung around with her new boyfriend. Ty tried not to feel intimated, but when the girl of the couple was seven foot and still the shorter of the two, it was enough to make a man feel small an inadequate.
Yet it was Glooscap who was teaching Telos's followers how to replant the seeds of their new community garden. He showed them how to make fires without matches and how to do other things that Ty never imagined could be done without gas and tools. He never raised his voice, and was stronger than even Glory Girl, and Ty knew for a fact that the cape could grow to twenty-feet tall and deck an Endbringer.
Pythia called him 'lord'. Even so, Glooscap was actually pretty cool.
Shaquelle slipped in the snow. Ty caught her, hoisted her back up. "Clumsy ass," he said.
"Fuck you," she responded. The words were bitter, but the tone familiar and loving. He adjusted the straps around his shoulders to ease the strain of his burden, and they kept walking through the snow until they reached the edge of the Mound.
Ty kicked the toes of his donated boots into the ice and pulled his load up until they reached the top of the broad hill. Once on top, Shaquelle sighed in relief. Ty just got the sled with almost two tons of reclaimed wood and lumber from the remains of the Hebert house up the slope when he felt Didomi's gift of strength fading. It didn't matter, though. He got the lumber where it needed to be.
The huge Viking, Kurt Waters, came walking to them. "Great job, Ty," he said with the same enthusiastic smile he seemed to wear every day. "Shay keep you on the trail?"
"Sure did, Kurt!" Shay declared. She unzipped her coat but kept it on as she carried her own burden—the last of the walnuts they were able to harvest from the Domain—toward the tent. Kurt meanwhile stepped around Ty and grabbed a hundred or so pounds of lumber and hoisted it on his shoulder. He didn't need a boost from Didomi—the man was just that strong.
Ty grabbed a smaller load, and other men from the church arrived to grab their share.
The two trees rose before them, completely free of snow. The difference in temperature was striking. On the Mound that the two trees had preserved despite the rest of the land having dropped almost four feet during the battle, the temperature never dropped below freezing. The hill was large enough because of the tree's immense roots to hold a long FEMA tent, a new garden, the chicken coop and the foundation of what would be a new church.
Right now, the lumber was going to temporary housing.
Ty saw Tate hanging like a dog around one of Mr. Franklin's daughters, while Hassim stood in the rafters of a timber frame with a hammer in hand waiting for more lumber. As soon as the lumber was unloaded, Ty had every intention of being up there with him. It felt good to build things; he'd never known that before. Growing up in old tenements in the east side of the city, Ty never had a chance to work with his hands.
But with Glooscap and Mr. Waters teaching him, he discovered a joy he'd never have believed in making things. In seeing his labor take shape into something knew. He was building a home his sister and mother were going to live in, and it felt good.
His mom and sister were helping grow the food that they were eating, and it tasted good.
Across the field he saw Didomi granting a gift to one of the DWA men handling a manual plow for the garden. She met his gaze, and even in the distance he could see her cheeks redden and the hint of a smile.
"Yeah, you won, don't have to rub it in," Kurt said from beside him.
Ty stumbled. "What?"
The huge man grinned, then to Ty's surprise patted his shoulder. "Your dad was a good man, Ty. He didn't deserve what happened. But you? You're ever bit what he hoped for. But flirt later, we got work to do."
Ty found himself whistling as he climbed up the timber frame to join Hassim.
Sarah never paid much attention to politics as a kid, but her parents did. She remembered how upset her father was when his chosen party picked Wilson instead of Jeffries. A month before Sarah ran away from home, Jeffries's entire career ended with a few leaked photos, and Wilson went on to win in a narrow, heavily contested election that saw the lowest voter turnout in history.
At the time, Wilson seemed to be a young, vibrant candidate of 45. Three years later, the president who climbed down the steps of Marine One looked like a tired, worn out sixty. In the two weeks since the Titanomachy, as the press was calling it, the President visited every destroyed city in the country, starting in LA and moving East from there, until finally Marine One landed at the site where the fate of the world was decided. Given the damage DC and other East coast cities suffered just from the Earthquakes, being out of the capital was probably a good thing.
Sarah stood waiting in her robe of office, protected from the bitter cold by the lingering magic of the runes. She knew it still retained a faint shine to it that was most noticeable in gloomy conditions like what blanketed the Northeast.
Beside her, Marie hastily ran a hand over her own robes.
The President came half-buried in a parka and flanked by four secret servicemen; behind them four select members of the press followed. Marine One wasn't large enough to carry any more. The whole party climbed up the sand-strewn steps carved into the ice that surrounded the Mound only to suddenly find themselves in a sheltered spot at least forty degrees warmer than what they just left.
Tired or not, Nancy Wilson was a consummate politician. She pulled back the hood of her parka and looked around with a closed expression before stepping forward.
"Madam President, it's an honor," Pythia said. "Welcome to the Mound."
"Thank you," the President said without offering her hand.
She didn't smile; she couldn't. Her visit itself was a risk—a growing chorus of angry voices was trying to find a scapegoat for the greatest disaster the world had ever seen. Once the celebrations over the death of the Endbringers ended, people quickly realized that in the course of one day over two hundred million people died, and three times that were expected to die from trickle-down effects such as injury, starvation or disease. Granted, the majority of the dead were in the Chinese Union Imperial, which saw the death of the royal family as well as the obliteration of the YangBan parahuman enforcement of the CUI, but the losses across the Pacific due to tsunamis caused by Scion's passage and destruction of Los Angeles and the entirety of Southern California and the vaporization of a twelve-mile-wide swath through the center of the United States was difficult to measure. The Titanomachy had disrupted weather, food production and the economy, while seeing the death of tens of millions of Americans.
"If you come with me, we have a much more comfortable spot available."
Pythia's power had changed. It no longer pushed her to poke at everything the way it did before. She knew this was because of Telos. Even so, her power told her than Nancy Wilson did not want to be there; that she wanted more than anything to have the National Guard clean the Church of Telos out and cut the two trees at the center of the church down. She was a conservative Catholic—a sticking point in the last election—and viewed the new Church as a threat to her god, her nation and the world.
Only her love of the law, Constitution and the fear of the other party kept her from acting on her instincts. Sarah went into this meeting knowing she could not give the woman any excuse.
"Why is it so much warmer up here?" The President managed to hide the exhaustion from her voice. "Lingering radiation?"
"Localized air pressure differential," Pythia said. "Caused by the trees."
"Which sprouted from Telos Blood in November of last year?"
"That is correct, Madam President."
They arrived at the point between the two massive trees. Underneath where their foliage just touched, they came into a pocket of absolute stillness. No cold breeze blew; no snow fell. Sarah knew it was a constant 65 degrees, and her power told her it would remain so even in high summer.
Because the trees themselves were so large, from that center spot they could see the entire flattened plain that used to be Brockton Bay. The hills that flanked the western side of the city were gone, vaporized during the final fight with Scion. Only a flat plain and a hugely expanded bay remained. Snow and ice covered both equally.
To the south, the latest supply truck was making its way cautiously along the single-lane road that Cliona had created with her power before she returned with her family to Ireland. That road was their lifeline, and the church trust fund that she'd moved into actual legal banks and out of the Number Man's hands before the battle were their life's blood.
She also knew that it galled the President that the Church of Telos had not requested any additional FEMA aid other than the initial tent and food supplies. She had no leverage. She couldn't even evict them since they legally owned the land before Titanomachy began.
The reporters wandered around the mound, taking pictures and recording statements. Their Presidential handlers kept them at a distance. Marie was doing a good job guiding them and talking about the church. Sarah spotted when one asked about her past just from the way she blushed, but then she answered without hesitation, turning the accusation into a sermon about the love and power of her faith in Telos.
That's my girl.
Sarah turned to study the President.
"Where is Danny Hebert?"
With that question, Sarah finally knew who the President and Congress planned to blame for the destruction.
"Madam President, Danny Hebert never existed. The name was a fiction crafted by Lord Kratos while he and Lady Freya raised their daughter."
"Young lady, I'm not going to argue semantics with a teenager. Where is Danny Hebert?"
Sarah shrugged. "I don't know, Madam President. He left the area with Dragon and Prometheus four days ago. I've not heard from them since."
"He left with a literal Skynet and an autistic fire tinker, and I'm supposed to be happy about that?"
The President knew damned well that Dragon was no Terminator, and Prometheus was cured of the brain damage which caused his autism.
It didn't matter. "It is not my place to tell him what to do, Madam President."
"What is your place, Miss Livsey?"
The use of the name was a calculated insult. It was like meeting the Pope and calling him "Francis". Sarah smiled anyway. "My place is here, Madam President. I will never run for office or campaign for one who does. I will never allow myself or my goddess's church to try and tell non-believers how to live or think. Ours is not an exclusionary church, and our creed is based on hope, mutual assistance and the rejection of hate from our lives. Telos was a goddess of hope, and that is the goal we strive for every day."
The President bit back an obvious retort. Beyond the eastern tree, Wilson saw the temporary frames coming up to house the church until heavier equipment could be brought in. Already they had plans for water and sewage planned by a Thinker cape named Accord. The man was a notorious villain known to kill anyone who upset his perception of order.
And yet, thirty minutes between the trees afforded him a week's worth of peace. In return, he drew up plans for an entire community. Sarah had no doubt the President was aware of that as well—that a supervillain had publicly converted to Telosianism and gave up his villainous ways.
Near the gardens, Sarah heard their newest ordained priestess, Paige McAbee, singing. Her voice sounded like honey. It was a simple song, talking about love and Telos' smile. In the back of her mind, Sarah made a note to get a recording of it. It would be their third hymn since Paige joined them.
"You're not getting any assistance," President Wilson finally said, forcing Sarah's attention back. "I'm not going to waste taxpayer dollars on a cult that refuses to leave a condemned area."
"I understand, Madam President. The Church is grateful for what assistance we've received. We can take it from there."
The woman looked up and around at the two massive trees. "How can you worship a dead cape as a god?"
The question was born of exhaustion, frustration and a genuine pain at her inability to change anything. This, Sarah's power told her with a compassionate whisper.
"Madam President, you are standing in Her embrace. Can't you feel it? No wind, no cold. We planted a garden twenty feet from a snow bank, and it's already producing enough food to feed twenty people. Telos is not dead; her power surrounds us as we speak. Her voice is in my heart and her compassion in my soul. And so long as these trees stand, so will Her church."
"If Danny Hebert comes back, anyone aiding him will be prosecuted."
"Madam, Kratos is a god. Anyone in his way will die. More importantly…he is still the supreme command for life of the newly formed United Federation of African States. Any attempt to detain him would result in an unfortunate international incident with a young, fast-growing economic powerhouse. They really like him, there."
The President had a fierce glare. People did not reach the White House by being nice. Sarah knew exactly who engineered Senator Jeffries downfall. She met the woman's gaze evenly until the leader of what remained of the Western World turned without a word and left.
In June, with the arrival of earth movers and more workers, the first pilgrims came. Among them was an older Spaniard with balding hair. Sarah met him personally in her robes; he took her hand and kissed her knuckles as he might the Pope. He wore two necklaces—a crucifix, and a Cruciform Telos.
"Mr. Bunuel, it's an honor to meet you," Sarah said.
"The honor is mine." His English, though heavily accented, was very understandable. "You have done amazing work here."
"My new business manager is very good," she said.
She nodded to the temporary hall, built from reclaimed lumber, where Isabella Fortuna handled the Church's fast-growing business holdings. "If you'll come with me?"
They'd laid down paver stones on the path to the Heart of the Mound. Ahead, other pilgrims knelt down on the provided cushions, their heads bowed as they absorbed the utter peace and stillness from it. Bunuel stared at the others for a time, a fedora in his hands.
"Her father is not here?" he finally asked.
"No, I'm sorry."
The old retired general smiled wryly. "He saved a continent as a distraction for his daughter."
"Even a gods' distraction can change the world."
Bunuel laughed. His eyes glistened for a moment. "I still see her in my dreams, you know. Sick and wasted, and yet still trying to help those around her. I carried her in my arms, you see, when Miss Militia came. Did…did Miss Militia survive?"
Sarah shook her head. The sadness in her voice was not feigned—Miss Militia was a true believer. "No, none of the Brockton Bay Protectorate survived, I'm afraid. Even the Wards wanted to help. Behemoth and the Simurgh killed most even before Scion arrived. But Miss Militia was a follower—her soul as at peace with Telos. I don't just believe that, I know it."
The old Spaniard nodded as he looked at the trees. "I can feel her. Is that not strange?"
It still amazed Sarah how much joy a simple statement like that could bring her. Those who could feel Telos in the trees never left. And for this man, who was one of the few alive to carry her in her arms while still mortal, to stand here meant something. He could add his voice to Telos' story.
Sarah took his arm. "She's calling for you, then," she said as she led him toward the Heart of the Mound. "If you want, there's a place for you here. All faithful are welcome, but you? You met her. You served her father. You'd be welcome especially."
"I am…not a good man," Bunuel said. "I have done many things in my life that bring me shame."
"What Telos taught me is that a beautiful soul is not one empty of experience. True beauty of soul is not innocence, but a desire to do good. Beauty comes from life; from the events, both good and bad, that shape us. I can tell you, Mr. Bunuel, that Telos found your soul to be beautiful. Otherwise, why would you hear her calling? She also took pleasure in seeing a soul that found its place. You're where you need to be. Welcome home."
Sometimes, when the pressures of the day became too great, or she lost sight of why she'd built the economic and religious empire she did, Sarah would leave her husband sleeping in his bed in the too-early morning. Her children were grown now, all three of them. Though her marriage was only made possible by how Telos shaped her power, even so the marriage was a matter of practical concern more than love. She loved her children, and she cared for her husband.
But her devotion was always to the church.
The Telosian Church numbered four million followers and was the fastest growing religion in the world. They had a huge following in Africa, where Telos' father was regarded much the same as a saint. Unfortunately their members were already coming into conflict with the established Islamists there. Sarah feared there would eventually be conflict, but in the meantime used her political cloud to stave it off as long as possible.
Every year, more and more people made the Pilgrimage, resulting in a rebirth of the state of New Hampshire. Twenty-five years after Titanomachy, the city once known as Brockton Bay was now called Hope Bay and had a bustling economy built around yearly pilgrimages. Though there were Telosian churches all over the world, there remained only one Temple of Telos.
She draped herself in her robe of office. In all the years she'd worn it, the magic never faded. So, when she left the rectory and stepped out onto the snow-covered lawn, the robe kept her warm. She climbed up the steps, lost in memory. Of presidents come and gone, of friends born and dead. Ty and Marie were expecting their first grandchild soon, as amazing as that was.
Her feet carried her up the familiar steps of the mound. She smiled at the ropes strung around the trees to dissuade people from touching them. Even two and a half decades later, she could feel the warmth that she felt all those years ago when Telos hugged her.
She could almost hear the goddess laughing. "I have a holy spring!"
Lost in her memories as she was, she did not see the hulking figure kneeling in the Heart of the Mound until she was almost on him. Her steps faltered, but only for a moment. With a deep breath, she continued until she, too, stood in the Heart. As always, the breeze stilled and the air warmed on her cheeks as she knelt down beside a man twice her size.
"I can feel her," Kratos said. His deep, powerful voice thrummed up from his broad chest. Even speaking softly, the power of it reverberated in Sarah's mind.
For a long time, neither spoke. Finally, Sarah asked a question she'd had in her heart for many years. "Do you think she would have…approved? Of this? Of…me?"
Dark, powerful eyes turned to regard her. He'd shaved his beard, revealing a painfully strong, sharp chin and a long, hooked nose. "What do you think?"
"Then you have your answer." He stood, unfolding like some gigantic machine of war. "There were two Entities."
"Fortuna says the other was dead."
"She spoke a lie she wished was true. Not dead, but not alive. It landed in the Himalayas. We gods have hidden it, and in time we shall move it away from this world entirely. When it is gone, no more capes will be created. The age of the parahuman will end."
"What of the age of gods?"
He bowed his head. "Being a god…is an eon of anguish and tragedy. A curse. Even gods must lose what they have. Truly, are we gods at all, when all we have is this endless, empty perpetuity?"
His head lowered again. In the landscaping lights that kept the mound constantly lit, she saw a glistening trail on his cheek.
Despite herself, Sarah hesitantly reached out and took his massive, calloused hand in hers. It felt like she was holding hot iron. He turned to her, as if in surprise.
"This church will last ten thousand years," she said. "The woman will die, but Pythia will remain. And you will always be welcome in this place. She is my goddess; you were her god."
Rather than speak a word, Kratos of Sparta, Son of Zeus the Aegis Holder and God of War, Mars the Warbringer, Father of Telos, grunted. But then he took his hand from hers and placed it on her shoulder. "You honor your god well, child. We will not meet again."
She watched as he walked away, head bowed in silent grief.
"Be with him, Telos," she whispered. "He needs you even more than I do."
She could swear the warmth of the heart grew warmer still, as if Telos were giving her a hug of assurance.
"…schild, I'm her grandson."
"Of course, sir. Her holiness is resting."
The door to the Pythian stateroom opened in well-oiled hinges and Sarah's grandson stepped in. Like his father, Peter was a strikingly handsome man, with that fine dark hair that his grandfather brought to all their sons, but with Sarah's inquisitive green eyes.
"Hey, Nana, how are you feeling?"
She could see her death in his face; in the way his eyes took in her withered limbs and the jaundiced color of her skin. "I'm fine, my boy," she said with her best attempt at a smile. "Best pain meds money can buy. Come sit with an old woman for a spell. Tell me how your mining ventures have gone."
Peter, like his grandfather, was a businessman. He settled into the padded chair by Sarah's medical bed and happily latched onto a safe topic. "Well, as you know the first mining satellites touched down on 101955 Bennu five years ago. Two others have joined it, and we've stabilized the spin and begun mining. So far, we've discovered nickel, iridium, palladium and platinum—enough to more than pay for the initial investment and in-situ mining operation. Our stocks are…it's time to wake up, Sarah."
Sarah blinked, surprised at the changed voice. Her brother Reggie sat beside her, his mop of blond hair hanging down over one eye just like dad hated so much. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"Coming to get you, brat," he told her. "It's time."
"Am I late?"
"No, you're right on time." He stood and offered his hand. "Come on."
She took it, pausing only a moment to look back. Her grandson was yelling for help as he held her hand. "I was so old."
"Yeah, 128. That's pretty good," Reggie said. "I only made it to seventeen."
"I missed you," Sarah said.
"I know. That's why I'm here. You carried me with you, all these years."
The two siblings walked through the Pythian Palace, the central structure of the Temple that dominated Hope's Bay. The city that grew around it did so to support the annual pilgrimage of hundreds of thousands that came every year for a chance to kneel at the Heart of the Mound.
They walked past officials, priests and priestesses who were rushing to pay their final respects. It was the temple's first true transition of power. Sarah hoped that the protocols she put in place would be followed. Dorothea Washington was her chosen successor—the granddaughter of two of Telos' personally favored disciples, who heard the call as a child and throughout her adult years could feel the warmth better than any of her generation.
"Don't worry about your church, sis. It's in good hands," Reggie told her.
They stepped out onto the immaculate lawn. Sarah was glad she made it to spring—Hope's Bay was always so beautiful when the snow melted and the trees bloomed. They walked up the familiar steps of the mound and in so doing, her breath caught.
"Oh," she said, the sound turning into a moan. "Oh, Reggie."
Telos stood waiting for her in the Heart, wings spread wide. She wore that infectious, excited grin of hers. Miss Militia stood behind, and as did Alexandria. Marie, Ty and Shaquelle all stood waiting for her. Her husband and three sons stood among them.
Behind them, Sarah saw an endless expanse of impossible green grass and a mountain that rose like a spear into a perfect cobalt sky. A thin stream of water fell down the side of sheer cliffs into a lake so pure one could see the bottom of it.
Her steps faltered, but her brother carried her until she knelt down at Telos feet. Tears streamed down her face. "Are you real? Is this…are you…?"
Taylor knelt down before her, wings braced aloft in balance. She took Sarah's cheeks in her hand and gently kissed her forehead. "We've been waiting for you, Sarah," she whispered. "Welcome home."
Thus Ends Theogony
A/N: The story of Telos continues in Titanomachy.