Book Three of the Divinity Saga
A Worm/GOW/Game of Thrones Crossover Novel by Darth Marrs
Chapter One: Foremost Fates
"Machine spirit, what is the status of the interphasic shielding?"
"Interphasic shielding is holding. Warning: temporal compensators are non-operative. I am observing extensive exterior time dilation. Power reserves down to 20%. Teleportation capacity will cease at 5% power reserves."
Taylor heard the voices as if from a great distance, or as if from the other side of a thick wall. For the longest time, the sole span of her existence was the two voices. One sounded masculine and deep–too huge a voice to be housed inside a mortal body. It was the voice she imagined a god would speak with. Not Zeus, but perhaps a Jotnar?
The other sounded feminine, gentle but with strangely artificial overtones. Almost like Dragon.
Wait. Oh. I died.
Memories crashed into her consciousness in a tidal wave of dead gods.
Eledumare was I. I was Olofin-Orun, Lord of Heaven! Olodumare, almighty and supreme. I was he who sees the inside and the outside of man. I could do all things. I am fallen!
She remembered them as if she were there once again. She could see the shimmering eternal wall of crystalline flesh that formed the true body of the Destroyer of All Things, Scion. He choked the life tree, Yggdrasil, and held the souls of all the gods he'd killed captive. The crystalline flesh was neither organic nor stone, but rather a scintillating, barely comprehensible wall of energy spilling across multiple realms of existence.
Vahagn was I, the dragon reaper! I am fallen!
One hundred and one names, had I! Yazad, Worthy of Worship! Harvesp-tawan, All-Powerful….
Sennecherib was I…
Khaldi was I…
Ryujin was I...
She remembered falling–diving with the reforged Haevetienn in her hands off the edge of Yggdrasil into the very core of the Destroyer. No clear memories followed except fire, pain and the echoes of her screams.
With the memories came a more immediate agony. She held her eyes closed against a brief, terrible memory of the bifrost crystals of her eyes melting. But even as she had the thought, she saw a shimmering field of bronze even through those eyelids.
The fact that somehow she retained her bifrost eyes despite the memory did nothing to alleviate the pain that pressed her body down. The agony settled about her like a heavy, suffocating shroud.
For the longest time, she could neither move nor even think. The whole of her reality was pain–she lost track of the voices as her mind was overwhelmed with the agony. A part of her waited for her body to begin healing, but the wounds remained throbbing as if she were a broken mortal. Everything felt wrong in a way that she could not even begin to describe.
Her ears rang with the memory of Scion's death, and the hundred thousand golden avatars that tore her apart as she clung desperately to Haevetienn and stabbed it deep within Scion's metaphysical being.
I killed him. I had to have killed him. This pain couldn't have been for nothing.
In time, the pain settled into a familiar, throbbing agony that was always there-a threshold in her awareness that she could not escape. But once she pushed her mind past that terrible reality, she became aware of other things as well.
Her wings were gone. Her back burned and ached with wounds both surface level and deeper, but the one thing she did not feel were her wings. Instead, it felt as if she were laying on synthetic sheets that refused to stick to her many burns. Against those sheets, she could feel ridges of what felt like raw, bleeding scars across her shoulder blades.
She tried moving, but the effort of even lifting an arm exhausted her, in addition to sending a sharp, stabbing thrust of pain above her threshold of tolerance. Panic threatened to overwhelm her. Her breath quickened as the unending darkness pressed around. Was she mortal? Had Scion torn her godhood from her, somehow? If she was mortal, could Panacea heal her then?
In the back of her mind, she could almost hear her father's voice. Calm, child. Panic helps no one. "Panic helps no one," she whispered aloud, trying to calm herself. "Assess the situation."
She slowly opened her eyes and felt the crystals rub against the back of her lids. Overhead, a bronze-colored dome that she thought gray at first filled her vision. Even with the bifrost, she could not see beyond it.
She sensed a soul to her right. Slowly, she turned her head and her crystalline eyes until she saw an impossible sight kneeling beside her bed.
Even kneeling, the giant was nearly as tall as her father standing straight. His shoulders seemed impossibly wide; his arms impossibly thick with knotted muscle like bands of steel. He draped himself in a robe patterned with cloth of gold and violet symbols that radiated an odd, unnatural magic that made her head ache with a whole new discomfort to add to the litany she already felt.
His bald head was the size of a pumpkin, but lean and hairless, rather than swollen. One eye appeared mechanical, somehow, and stared at her with a corrupting green light from his otherwise bald head. There were other mechanical implants in his skull as well–they looked almost like ports of some kind. The only thing he carried was a staff of black stone veined through with quartz and gold, and topped by a symbol that made the air around him snarl. He held it with his right hand while kneeling beside her.
The truth of this creature spoke of eons, thousands of years more than her father ever saw. More than just the span of his years, she saw a burning, terrifying rage and guilt. Though his broad, powerful face was placid, within this being burned an anger to destroy stars and slaughter innocents and guilty alike.
"Do you understand me?"
The giant man's words were spoken in a deep, grinding voice like stone rubbing against stone. She did not recognize the language at all, but in this her magic once again provided meaning. She opened her own mouth to speak, but could not make a sound.
He reached with his left hand to a bronze-colored shelf next to the bed, and held a small pouch with a straw attached. "It is water. Drink."
She forced cracked, pained lips around the straw and pulled until room-temperature water filled her mouth. Already the worst swelling in her tongue receded enough for her to swallow. She drank again before the straw pulled away.
"Where am I?"
"I'm not sure my answer would have meaning for you." The man's voice, though deep, sounded speculative. "Your body resists the healing of this lost age machine, but your wounds are fierce. Is there anything I can do to aid you?"
Taylor thought of a passage her mother once read to her from an old poem of the gods: Bragi's wife is Idunn: she guards in her chest of ash those apples which the gods must taste whensoever they grow old; and then they all become young, and so it shall be even unto the Weird of the Gods.
Taylor had so many questions she wanted to ask, but just like it would be easy to lose herself in her pain and despair, she knew it would be just as easy to lose herself in questions. She forced herself to concentrate on immediate needs.
"Is there any fruit nearby?"
"Fruit? Such as?"
"An apple? A pear?"
"You are hungry?"
"I need fruit, yes," Taylor said. "Please."
The ancient giant regarded her a moment before nodding. A few minutes later, a door to the bronzed chamber that housed her bed slid open, and a nightmare shambled in.
She bit back a scream she hurt too badly to actually make. "What is that?"
A pale, soulless creature walked stiffly into the room with a small pear in its pale, skeletal hands. One eye glowed crimson, while the other looked milky white and blind. Scabrous skin peaked out between various tubes and mechanisms that seemed to sprout from the zombie's skull.
"The servitor will not hurt you," the giant said. "But if its presence offends, it will leave."
The technozombie handed the pear to the giant and then backed up a step before it turned and shuffled out of the space. In its absence was only the giant with thousands and thousands of years hanging off his shoulders.
"Shall I feed you this pear?"
"I need you to place the pear in my hands."
"If those blue stones give you sight, child, then you should see your hands."
That bad, huh? The panic began to beat at the edge of her consciousness again, causing her breath to hitch. Without the weight of the sheets, she could even then barely move her arms. She still had no feeling in her hands, but the agony around her wrists, and the memories of holding Haevetienn, gave her a good idea of what he said. Still, she tried moving them, and trembling, lifted her right hand enough to see…
Just like Officer Downey, when she'd first gained her true divinity. Her fingers were nothing more than burned bone, barely still attached with carbonized tendons. Though she couldn't actually feel her fingers, the sight of her hands elicited a low moan.
I have to touch the pear to impart the magic. She realized what her only option was, but it brought a deep, pained blush to her cheeks. "I...I need to hold the pear over my bare skin. My...my navel."
The giant leaned his dark-magic entrenched staff against the far wall, leaned over, and without any comment or sign of interest rolled the thin silk-like sheet down her torso until she was exposed to her navel. The burned, twisted mass of violated flesh left her more horrified than embarrassed. He took her forearms and gently positioned them around her navel before placing the pear there.
She closed her eyes and concentrated on the weight and feel of the pear cupped on her stomach by dead, burned hands. Please work! Please work!
She began whispering the ancient Vanir spell. The moment she did so, she felt the truth of the pear. She could see the tree that bore the fruit; could feel the sun and rain as it grew and flowered. Sure hands plucked it from its limb before it was ripe, and it traveled for many weeks. It was not fresh, but still it spoke of sweet juice and sustenance, and within it the promise of future life.
Her magic did not flow as it should; her hands were dead and could not carry the magic any longer, but her navel was the source of her earliest life energy and served as an able conduit. Her magic finally flowed. She could feel her power flooding into the overripe fruit with new golden purpose. To restore and to heal. To make whole what was torn apart.
The ancient, deep voice said, "I see. A remarkable spell. Shall I feed it to you?"
He righted the sheet, as if actually concerned for her modesty. Though the pear was dwarfed in his hands, like a walnut in hers, he took a paring knife and quickly cut away the edible flesh until only a small core remained where the seeds were. He cut the slices thinner before slipping one to her.
With her first bite the sweet taste and sweeter healing magic flooded her mouth. More came, and she chewed desperately as she felt her own golden magic sweeping through her body. She didn't realize how terrible her internal injuries were until she felt the magic restoring them. Perhaps she would have healed on her own in time, but she was so badly hurt that her magic could only just barely keep her alive.
With the enchanted pear, though, her magic tripled itself for healing, and she felt an intense agonizing ecstasy as nerves and flesh began creeping down her legs and arms, and restoring the damage within her body.
"Remarkable," the giant said. He watched her with clinical detachment even as he continued to feed her.
With the last bite, her magic began to restore her hands. With restored fingers, she sat up and leaned against the impossibly smooth, room-temperature wall behind her with the sheet wrapped protectively around her newly healed body.
Even sitting up, he towered over her, filling the room as no mere mortal ever could. Even so, he spoke softly. "I am glad to see you recovered so quickly. In truth, I feared your recovery would be a matter of many months. This is much more desirable."
Taylor looked around the chamber even as the nameless giant stared down at her. She reached over to the bronzed wall that she leaned against, trying to understand how it worked. It was not metal. The material defied description. It wasn't that she couldn't see the truth of it, but rather the truth was so far beyond her comprehension that it just came back as meaningless. It felt almost like Scion himself, with folds of creation wrapped around itself in a way that defied reality. The fact that her bifrost eyes could not penetrate it made her wonder at what kind of art went into its creation.
Did a god make this?
"I don't understand. How can I be here? Where am I?"
"I summoned you," the giant said. "I have been searching for you for thousands of years. All for some sign of Telos, the lost goddess of most ancient Terra. I found the last vestiges here. From across time and space, I brought you into this world."
The giant didn't answer. Behind him, a section of the wall seemed to melt away. It brought with it an intense smell of decay. Now that she was not overwhelmed by her own agony, she could see with utter revulsion and alarm the walking, breathing corpse that shambled into the room. Something vile had defiled its body, shoving harsh, nightmarish machinery into its skull and limbs. Crystal eyes stared without soul or animus as it carried a tray of what looked like food into the room and placed it on a small table opposite the bed.
For a moment, as she could truly see the truth of it, the sheer horror of what she just witnessed left Taylor speechless and immobilized. The creature wasn't just killed, but profaned in a way she wouldn't wish upon her worst enemy.
The giant watched her intently. "You are offended by the servitors."
"They're a sacrilege against life," Taylor said, fighting to keep the outrage from her voice. Without her wings-without her strength-this creature frightened her. "A profanity. What could possibly justify doing that to a human being? If you can do that, why not just make a robot?"
The giant sounded out the word 'robot' as if he'd never encountered it, but then nodded with understanding. "Mankind did just that, once. We built men of iron that helped spread our seeds across the cosmos. When Chaos broke into the materium and the ruinous powers screamed the coming birth of a new god of Chaos, the Iron Men were corrupted and turned on their masters. We do not build these 'robots' as you call them because the Ruinous powers corrupt them. We do not build thinking machines for the same purpose. The servitor was a failed acolyte, or a criminal. It doesn't matter now. He serves in death as he did in life."
It seemed impossible. But though she could not see the truth of his name, nor could she see any lies in his being. If anything, the events he described saddened and enraged him. "Why am I here? I should be dead. I sacrificed myself to save my world, and that sacrifice had meaning and purpose. Why take that away from me?"
He studied her intently. "This world, as far as I could glean from my studies, was the last bastion of your cult. They left Terra at the end of the Dark Age of Technology and founded a colony here. In this very craft, in truth. It is said that you had the power to heal all wounds; that you held dominion over souls. I have seen your healing power. What of souls? Can you restore broken souls?"
He spoke the question lightly, as if asking about the weather, but she did not need to see his truth to understand the importance of it to him.
"My mother was Freya, Princess of the Vanir and Queen of Asgard. Unto her was afforded the souls of half the worthy dead of their realm," Taylor said. "And she ensured I had that power when I achieved apotheosis. The souls of my followers are mine, and are precious to me."
The giant nodded to himself, pleased. "A god of the materium with the power of human souls. You may call me Sennecherib. And you ask why you are here? Why I have searched a thousand of years for you and traversed the width of the galaxy to find you? A great crime was done to my brothers-a crime I unwittingly played a part in. And so I have searched for thousands of years to save them. Their souls were trapped within their armor; their bodies reduced to dust. Tens of thousands lost. They are my brothers, and I would do anything to restore them–even summon a long-dead god. Will you help me?"
There was so much Taylor didn't understand. Something about the giant made her deeply uneasy–a sense of magic that felt wrong to her. And yet she could see no lies in his bearing.
"Power reserves are down to 10%," a feminine, mechanical voice announced from hidden speakers. "Exterior temperature is exceeding 1,300 Celsius. Hull is compromised; estimate full collapse in five minutes."
"What's happening?" Taylor asked.
"There is always a price to pay when reaching beyond the veil of death," the giant named Sennecherib said. "The land we are in has been shattered by your rebirth. We are a kilometer deep inside the heart of a super caldera. Within minutes, the shields that hold us outside of time will collapse, and we will perish. But there is a means of escape."
The giant held out a hand as large as Taylor's entire torso. "Come with me, child-god. Come with me and restore my brothers, and you will be worshiped by a thousand worlds."
At that moment, she was more concerned about being buried in lava than being worshiped. She felt so weak! It felt as if her Olympian strength was gone with her wings, leaving only the Vanir magic. She still retained her magic–she could feel it. But as she swung her bare feet with their broken protective marks over the edge of the strange, narrow bed she sat on, she felt the air itself pushing on her weakened body.
No way to go but forward. She wrapped the silk-like sheet around her body as a toga, tying it off under one arm. Weak legs trembled as she approached the giant. "How do we escape?"
The giant nodded; his huge, flat face twisted with the hint of a smile. "The ancient machine spirit of this craft has a Dark Age teleporter. I landed my craft far north of here, on another of the continents. It will send us there, and we will be safe."
Standing next to him left her feeling shaken. He stood easily eight feet tall. He looked down at her as an adult might a small child, though he spoke to someone else. "Machine spirit, you have power sufficient to teleport us to my ship, yes?"
"Yes. Coordinate target has been locked in. Ave Telos, may her light illuminate this darkened world."
Sennecherib's head spun around in alarm as he stared at something beyond the walls. "What did you say?"
Abruptly everything was lost in a blaze of light.
A split second later, Taylor stumbled to the ground. She heard a terrible sound behind her–a tearing of flesh and a breathless roar. She closed her eyes and waited for any other sound, but the sounds that came were not of wounded giants or flesh-tearing monsters. Nor did she feel the heat of lava about to consume her all too frail body.
She heard wind whispering in the trees; she felt the spirits moving within, directing the breeze or being carried by it. Her hands and knees pressed against a rich, deep loam that sang with the primordial spirit of the earth. Birds began to chirp and whistle their caution over the disruption that momentarily broke the peace of the forest.
The sheet she'd taken from wherever that strange place was where she woke began to come undone. Her hands shook as she pulled it back into place. Her stomach cramped from hunger, but she ignored it as she pushed herself awkwardly to her feet.
Her bifrost eyes saw nothing but forest all around–tall, mostly coniferous trees scratched the edge of a cobalt blue sky. The sun stood high overhead, but angled toward the south. She must have been very far north.
"Alexandria?" Even to her own ears, her voice sounded weak and thready. "Can you hear me?"
No answer came; not even the spirits could answer her. She turned around to get a better grasp of her environment when she came face to face with the giant, Sennecherib. She stumbled back with a startled yelp.
The man's face, and part of his giant arm, protruded from the granite side of a stone formation. She could see where the stone had cracked from the sudden intrusion of his physical matter, but there was no magic, animus or life within the giant. She thought of his alarm, at the very last second.
Ave Telos. The feminine voice rang in her mind. In the instant it happened, Taylor didn't understand. She didn't understand any of this. But she could hear a tone of triumph and satisfaction that seemed odd coming from what she presumed was a computer.
The computer did this. The computer killed him.
Without even thinking about it, Taylor pressed a hand flickering with cold Hel wind to his lifeless cheek, intent to summon his soul back to answer questions.
Twisting, scintillating purple light exploded in her face and sent Taylor flying backward. She landed with a hard bounce despite the soil's attempt to soften her fall. She rolled and came up to her knees in alarm as the twisting rainbow mist formed a shape in the air before her. The shape held only symbols–letters that made the spirits of the air, trees and soil moan in agony.
nO No, lItTlE GOdLing, tHiS ONE'S sOUl iS MINE. gEt YoUR OWn!+
The mist faded, leaving hoarfrost on the shattered stone face where the giant's face once rested. Nothing remained. Taylor shivered not from the cold, but from the gleeful, utter evil of the god that held dominion over Sennecherib's lost soul.
"Where in the name of the Vanir am I?" Taylor whispered.