14.9 Mortem

by Matt P.

He knew that he was dead, which was the odd thing. He knew that there was a separation between his body and his soul and that if left that way, his death would become fatal. He would have chuckled about the idea of death becoming fatal, but he was not in a state of existence where chuckling was possible. Or appropriate, really.

He could see the power inside of him now, all of the different threads of it. They coursed through him like a river—like two rivers together that had long since overflown the banks and flooded the countryside. It was a wonder he hadn’t simply exploded and vented it all in to the atmosphere like a magical nuclear disaster.

That thought almost made him chuckle again.

They were beautiful, and he watched as they now began to flow out of his body. He tried to grasp at them but he could not. They fled from his touch as if repelled, and whatever feeling he still had went slightly numb at the effort. He resolved to not do that again.

What had his daughter been saying…he tried to remember. It had something to do with him not being a cup, but being a tube. He thought that if she was correct then he had to direct it, either out to a person or in to the air and world around him. That seemed like a waste.

It was easy enough to start. The power wanted to go somewhere, and some already head leaked away and sparkled around him like fireflies in the night. It wasn’t like connecting wiring as much as it was like directing a fire hose, but he aimed it all at the fallen Faerie Queen.

Magical energy flowed through him an an almost sinfully delightful experience. He could feel the joy of his body purging itself of the power that he wasn’t supposed to have, and he could watch it flow like the universe’s own pure essence in to the Queen of Summer. She gasped and bolted upright, glowing to his eyes as she was filled up with her power again.

As it flowed out of him it healed his body, for it was the power of life and the growths of the spring and summer. He knew that the Winter Queen’s would have as well, for their power was creative and destructive both—but the destruction had already happened. Wounds closed, cells regenerated, and his body looked better than it had in days. And then it was out of him, leaving his body perfect if dirty.

But it was not so easy to stop as it had been to start. Her power flowed away from what had been his body, but then the High King’s power started to as well. H tried to yank it away but it did not want to. It started to lash back toward the High King’s unconscious form, and he knew that was disastrous as well. He could not let it do what it wanted, so he grabbed it with all the might of (he supposed) his soul.

It lashed about him with agony and he felt what was left of him, of who he had been and who he was now and all his possible tomorrow selves, straining to stay together. It was pain in an existence that lacked pain, confusing and terrible, but he also knew he had to. And he did not need to move it very far. Moved away from the High King, the power seemed confused. It didn’t know what to do, and feared what was coming; those emotions crystalized deep within the power. Literally.

Glittering, gleaming, crystalline shards of power shot off in to the night all around him like an ice storm in reverse. He watched it with awe, for in his current state he could see it in a hundred different colors and hues that no mortal had ever observed. He could not see where they went, nor could he see how many there were—he thought no more than a dozen.

The beauty of it almost distracted him. Attached to the end of that shining power were bristling threads of darkness, snapping at one another. They seemed more like living pieces of feral animals that had gotten lashed together than any part of a power, but he realized what it was a second before it would have been too late.

The gaesa, or whatever it was. The thing that had been a part of the High King and kept the Fomor out, whatever the hell they were. It was a power and a curse and a snarling bit of nastiness. Power to keep them out, and a promise to maintain it—and a piece of whatever they were to act as a spiritual antibody. In that moment, in the state of altered awareness he was in, it made sense. He could direct it anywhere, and as long as it remained together it would remain intact. If it was broken, or if it was let to run out and away like the power of the High King, it would be shattered and lose all of its effect.

He knew he could send it to the Winter or Summer Queens. It had been the plan, albeit a plan that had gone deeply wrong quite a while ago. But there was a chance too much would be lost as he struggled to control it. He could try to splash it out and hope, or let it go and help them fight whatever would come from the great beyond.

But it was too risky, and uncertain. And it was giving up. He had done what he had done in full awareness of the fact that it would probably go bad. And that meant he had to live with all of the pieces of it, including his death and whatever came next. So he didn’t send it to one of the Queens, or let it go.

Directing the power had been hard.

Shutting it off was agony.

He closed it back in on himself, swallowing the power and the responsibility. And this, built with a self-contained energy and a bit of destructive antibody, stuck to him like a brand on his soul—but it stuck. Oddly, as the power and the antibody came together with his soul, it found a tiny bit of glue—a bit of something inside of him that he did not recognize. He knew it was some form of power, and in his state he recognized it had not always been there. But it was a part of him, now, and it helped bind it all together. And as it bound to him it drew him back in to his healed body, the soul searing pain fusing back together the parts of him.

**** ****

Walter Richards sat up with a gasp, his eyes wide and rimmed with tears and stained with blood. But it was a whole breath and a deep one, and the agony that came with it was from having stopped breathing for several long minutes while whatever it was he had just quasi-hallucinated had resolved itself.

Antigone and Siobhan both threw themselves at him and wrapped him in the fiercest hugs they could manage, which did not lack for fierceness. A moment later, heedless of any protocols of Faerie royalty or public displays of affection, Morgan did the same. Walter noticed that tears stained her cheeks as well, and she did nothing to hide them.

“Daddy, I thought we’d lost you,” Antigone told him through her tears.

Siobhan was more direct. “Don’t ever do that to me again, old man, I almost had a heart attack,” she murmured, all caustic bite buried under genuine relief and receding fear.

Morgan waited a moment, and laid a kiss on his cheek before she caught his eyes. “Congratulations, Walter Richards—you just killed a god and lived. Mostly.”

It hurt to breathe still, especially with the three of them crushing his ribs anew, but he was pretty damn sure he could live with having killed a god and lived. Mostly.