The Storm 21-10 (Heretical Edge 2)

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“Wait, your sister?!” Shiori’s eyes were as wide as I was sure mine were. We were all staring at Denuvus. “What do you mean, your sister? What does Nevada have to do with–what?” 

Audibly chuckling, Denuvus turned and gestured for us to follow her while moving to a doorway that seemed to have just magically appeared at the back of the room. “You heard what I said. I want my sister back. You didn’t think I was going to give her up forever, did you?” She paused then, standing in that new doorway while glancing back our way. “Oh, come to think of it, you don’t know about that, do you?” She shook her head, looking rueful before turning back to keep walking. “Come along then, I’ll explain on the way. And remember, let’s keep playing nice if we all want to get out of this in one piece. We’re just gonna take a little walk down, see what good shape your friends are in, and then… well, then we’ll go from there.” 

The rest of us all looked at each other, but we didn’t have any idea what else to do besides just follow her. She clearly wasn’t in the mood to fight, and seemed to be actually explaining things. She’d already demonstrated that she could walk right through any defenses we set up against her voice power, but wasn’t using it anyway. Between that and the fact that she had plenty of other powers she could take us apart with if she wanted to made it abundantly clear that our best move was to just let her talk. Maybe she’d even end up saying something we could use later if this did evolve into a fight. Besides, now I absolutely had to know what she was talking about when it came to Nevada.

So, Tabbris, Shiori, Twister, Asenath, and I followed her through that doorway and onto a staircase leading upward. For a moment, I wondered what was going on with Judas and the others. Then I realized that was stupid. I didn’t have to wonder, I could check on them real quick. Sure, we’d lost the telepathy, but Rahanvael was still with them. That was the entire point of sending her. 

Focusing on my connection to the ghost girl briefly, I gripped the nearby railing for safety, then reached out while closing my eyes. There. Rahanvael was moving through an underground tunnel alongside Judas and Stasia. She immediately felt my presence, and informed me that they hadn’t found Robin and Persephone yet, but they were still following those footprints. It looked like there had to be at least a dozen other people who had come to take those two with them. And we still had no idea why the unstoppable robot and Revenant-Possessed Olympian had agreed to accompany them in the first place. There had been no sign of any struggle at any point. They were able to pick out which prints were Robin’s and which were Persephone, and they were just walking normally. Had these people, whoever they were, convinced them that they were there to help? And if they had convinced them, was it true? And who were they? Did they work for Denuvus? 

I had no idea, and neither did Rahanvael. So I simply passed along an update about what was going on with us, promised to check in shortly, and went back to myself. 

That whole thing had only taken a few seconds, all while I kept climbing those stairs. And yet, despite that, when my eyes opened, Denuvus had stopped and was looking back at me. “Your friends doing okay down there? I hope they haven’t run into the natives.” 

“The–what?” I blinked a couple times, trying to decide if she was intentionally screwing with me. 

“That’s what I call them,” she replied easily. “Not the people Fossor put under his control. There are tribals living in this cave system. As best as I can tell, they’re also descendants from those first Seosten who showed up. They’ve been here the whole time, since the original landing when their ancestors created the hidden lab. They weren’t part of the rest of their civilization as it grew, faltered, broke, and fell under Fossor’s control. They’ve just been living here in these caves, treating the sealed doors that lead into those labs like holy relics they have to protect. If they think anyone’s trying to get into those rooms, they attack.

“Let me guess,” Asenath put in, “they tried to attack you.” Her voice was tense. I knew what she really wanted was to demand Denuvus tell her why Rasputin was here and what he had to do with all this. But she held it back. How, I had no idea. It was all I could do not to start shouting about my mother, and we were literally being taken to see her right now. Asenath had been dealing with the whole situation surrounding her father for a hell of a lot longer. 

“They did try,” Denuvus confirmed casually. “And they can be a real threat, in their way. I hope your friends are safe.” 

She was clearly fishing for information, but I just stared back at her. “Are we going, or what? And you were supposed to be telling us about what Nevada has to do with your sister.” Yeah, maybe it was a bad idea to be that blunt with her, but after everything that had happened with Fossor and knowing how she’d still forced my mother to do her bidding, it was hard to care. 

For her part, Denuvus simply regarded me for a moment. I couldn’t read her expression at all. Finally, she turned to start climbing once more. “Yes, my sister. I’ll spare you the details I don’t feel like getting into. Suffice to say, we were very close…” 

And with that, the woman told us the truth about where Nevada had come from. She told us about how she had used the leftover energy from when the Heretics tried to banish Fossor to create a Djinn. But it also required the sacrifice of a loved one. Apparently it had to be a real sacrifice, someone you loved. The more you cared about them, the better chance the spell would be successful. And she had really loved her sister. But she wanted revenge on some monster who had imprisoned and tortured them, and killed her children. So she sacrificed her own twin, her twin, in order to create a Djinn. And that Djinn had proceeded to inhabit the body of that dead sister, creating a new being. 

That being, of course, was Nevada. Or the person who had eventually become Nevada. She wasn’t a Djinn anymore. She’d used her power to turn herself human. Or partially human. Or… yeah, I wasn’t sure how that worked. Either way, according to Denuvus, Gaia was behind that. The headmistress was the one who convinced Nevada to use her power to change the Heretical Edge so it would work on hybrids. And once that was done, she had transformed herself into one as well, taking away her own Djinn powers before going through the Edge herself to become a Heretic.

I had known before that a Djinn was used to change the Edge. Deveron had explained that much. But I never knew that Nevada was the Djinn in question. Needless to say, that was a lot to take in. I didn’t even think she was lying about any of it. The whole thing was so… absurd and ridiculous that I couldn’t think of any reason for her to lie about it. It was so crazy it had to be the truth. Unless she was just fucking with us, which wasn’t impossible. But I was pretty sure that wasn’t happening right now. Besides, it fit with what I’d already known. 

Twister was the first to find her voice after that. She sounded casual, but I could hear the fierce anger behind that, broiling just below the surface. “So basically you’re saying that you sacrificed your own twin sister to get power, treated the living person who was created from that sacrifice like a worthless slave, and then, once she’d built a new life for herself away from you, puppeted Flick’s mother into abducting her to get something else you want. You’re a real peach of a person, aren’t you?” 

We’d reached the top of the long stairwell by then, letting us all emerge into what looked like a massive circular tunnel that had been bored through the rock. The ceiling was a good fifty to sixty feet above our heads, while the sides of the round tunnel were at least that far apart. It was like something had drilled all the way through here. Or maybe like a giant worm had bored through. I wasn’t sure which, and knowing what I did about the entire universe, it could’ve been the latter as easily as the former. We had come out somewhere in the middle of the tunnel, and could see it head off for probable miles in either direction. 

Taking all that in while the woman was deciding how to respond to Twister, I piped up with a question that had been bothering me for a while. “Hang on a second. You said those people built these secret rooms and tunnels or whatever essentially as soon as they got to this planet, right? You said those tribal people were living in the tunnels outside the secure labs all this time. But Rahanvael says this volcano wasn’t here before. Everything out there used to be forests and fields. Fossor made the volcano just to destroy his old home. So how is that possible? How could these tunnels and secret rooms or whatever else have been here for hundreds of thousands of years, but Rahanvael doesn’t remember this mountain existing before? And while we’re on the subject, why would these completely unique secret tunnels be like five feet from his childhood home? What are the odds of that?”

Denuvus gave a soft, yet audible chuckle. “To answer the second question first, you are cracking the egg and making an omelet before ever getting to the chicken if you think of it that way. It is not that he was unbelievably powerful and just happened to find these labs right outside his door. The very fact that he grew up so close to the labs is why he possessed so much potential in the first place. I told you about how the founders of this world seeded their genetics with the potential for necromancy. But they didn’t simply leave it at that. They weren’t willing to risk what they saw as the fate of the universe on complete random chance. They installed machines in those labs I mentioned. Those machines would send pulses of energy through the world which were intended to catch onto those latent Necromancer genetics–for lack of a better term– and magnify them. In layman’s terms, these pulses of energy would come in random times and move in random directions. When they found a living being with the potential for Necromancy, they would boost that potential, making them stronger. That person would then have children, who would have children, and so on until another random pulse happened to find their descendants. And that pulse would increase the potential even more. The seed was passed on and nurtured repeatedly. Eventually, it would physically manifest in the form of the priests who cared for and helped their dead pass on.” 

“Wait, wait,” I quickly put in. “Rahanvael said their ghosts are particularly common, that they had to have the Necromancer priests to ensure they moved on to the next… whatever.” 

“Yes,” the woman agreed, “That exact quality, that resilience to linger after death is precisely why the Seosten-Turned-Fomorians are such a problem. Their ghosts stay behind and are thus capable of being pulled back and put into the new Fomorian bodies.”

That… that made sense, and it also made her claims about the connection between these people and the Seosten even more credible. I still had no idea how to feel about that, and a quick glance toward Tabbris revealed that she was reeling even more than I was. 

Denuvus was already continuing, after giving us just a second to think about that. “The point is, Fossor grew up on this land, in an area that had previously been closed off. His father built the farm out here in the middle of nowhere. He was the first person in many generations to live this close to those secret labs while having the potential for necromancy inside him. Those random pulses the machines were sending out? They hit him over and over again, because he was living essentially right next to them. Or rather, right on top of them.” 

That made me do a double-take, but it was Asenath who spoke first. “On top… you mean the labs were underground… before the volcano.” 

A small smile found its way to Denuvus’s face. “Precisely. And that is the answer to that first question of yours,” she informed me. “The labs were underground. Fossor raised them with the volcano. It wasn’t simply a matter of being petty and destroying his old home. He also wanted to bring the tunnels up where he could access them more easily, as well as disrupt the defenses the old tribals spent all those millennia putting together.

“And, of course, because he was petty.” 

Under my breath, I muttered, “He was good at turning his pettiness into something useful for himself.” Then I shook that off, considering how many other big things we already had to deal with right now. This wasn’t the time to get sidetracked thinking about Fossor’s many flaws. Instead, I looked around the tunnel once more. “Okay, so you killed your own sister–call it whatever you want. She died, and you created Nevada. She doesn’t have her Djinn powers anymore, so why did you make my mom bring her to you?” 

Denuvus simply gestured at that. “Well, obviously because I’m tired of not having my sister around.” She met my gaze before adding, “As it turns out, one of the many treasures the ancient Seosten gathered in these secret rooms in their attempts to create the very Necromancy-creating machines I just mentioned is something which will allow me to summon my sister’s spirit and put it back where it belongs. She will be alive again, while I will retain the power I’ve gained. So you might say I was able to have my cake and eat it too.” 

Shiori spoke up first, blurting, “But what about Nevada? She’s alive in there too, you know?”

Denuvus shook her head. “She is an interloper. Do you think my sister deserves to remain dead just so this intruder can remain in possession of her body? Is that fair to her?” 

“That’s not the point!” I snapped. “She’s a living person already. You created her, so she’s basically like your child. But not only did you treat her like shit the whole time you knew her, now you just want to throw her away the first chance you get to replace her with the sister you sacrificed to create her in the first place? Don’t you give a shit about her?” 

The woman stared at me for a moment before speaking carefully. “Do not attempt to judge me. Not until you have been through what I have. I told you, the creature behind all of this murdered my children, and I will see him die no matter what that takes. I was willing to sacrifice my own twin sister for that, but now that there is an opportunity to bring her back? You had better believe I will take it. The creature you call Nevada was never real to me. She was a means to an end. And now her use is over. She is using a body I need. I will use that to get my sister back, no matter which of you think you can stand in my way.” Her voice grew progressively more dangerous throughout that, as the air around us seemed to grow colder. And then, she simply pivoted on her heel and began to walk. “But, I am certain you’d like to see your mother.” 

The rest of us exchanged looks before turning to follow her. On the way, I felt a tug from my connection to Rahanvael. So, I took Shiori and Tabbris’s hands so they could guide me while I checked in.

Things down there had changed rather dramatically. Now the ghost girl was hovering a bit away from Stasia and Judas, who were literally standing right next to Robin and Persephone. All of them were standing inside a cave of some sort that was brightly lit by torches and several bonfires all along the walls. And they were surrounded by what looked like a bunch of primitive humans in furs. Or rather, primitive Seosten. But it didn’t seem like they were a threat. It actually looked more like they were… wait… worshiping Persephone? They were, like, bowing to her and bringing her what looked an awful lot like offerings. What–huh? 

Before I could focus anymore on that, or get any answers from Rahanvael, my attention was drawn back to my real body, as my mother’s voice called my name. My eyes snapped open, to find that we were in a large cavern. The Jitterbug was parked right next to what looked like an enormous vault-like door that was open, revealing smooth, polished metal walls beyond. The secret, hidden lab, obviously. 

Mercury and Nevada were there, along with Miles, all of them carrying crates up onto the ship. Then there was my mother, who set her own crate down and crossed the cavern to embrace me tightly. For just a moment, I forgot everything else and returned it. It felt really nice, but it couldn’t last. Not right now. 

“Mom,” I murmured, pulling back a bit to stare at her. “You’re okay.” She started to apologize, but I stopped her. “No, don’t. I–we get it. Believe me, we get it.” 

“You see? I am a woman of my word,” Denuvus announced, dragging my attention back that way. “They’re all safe and sound.” She looked to Asenath. “Which means if you want to know why Rasputin is here, I’ll tell you that too. And then we can all get what we want and get out of here.” Her gaze moved, scanning each of us in turn as though searching for which of us was going to make the first move against her. 

“Unless, of course, you would all prefer to do this the hard way.” 

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7 comments

  1. Hey lookie up there, it’s a new chapter! I mean, if you’ve gotten this far already you’ve probably already read that chapter, but still! I hope you enjoyed it, and that you’re looking forward to seeing just where this goes now that Flick’s been reunited with her mother and all that. Anyway, thanks for reading! If you’d like, you could boost this story on Top Web Fiction right here! Thanks for that as well, and your tags are: Amitiel/Mercury, Asenath, Denuvus, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Joselyn Chambers, Miles Cleary, Nevada, Quick Shove That Monkey Beetle Down The Back Of Denuvus’s Shirt. Trust Me‚ It’ll Be Hilarious, Rahanvael, Shiori Porter, Tabbris, The Hard Way‚ Of Course‚ Is Beating The Speeder Bike Level In The Original NES Battletoads In Co-Op, Twister

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Quick Shove That Monkey Beetle Down The Back Of Denuvus’s Shirt. Trust Me‚ It’ll Be Hilarious

    OK, I admit that made me burst out laughing. I reaaaaaaaly want to see that. It might destroy everything in the general area, such as the continent, but it would be hilarious.

    Liked by 3 people

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