tempest reborn (jane true #6) Page 2


‘It would just find another host?’ Daoud asked, obviously uncomfortable with this line of thought.

‘I’m sure. I think that a negative result of the Original using the labrys on the Red and the White was to help sever their last link with their bodies. Meaning that now the process of finding a new host might be even more straightforward than it was before, as they apparently don’t even have to worry about their bones or anything. They’re spiritual free agents, so to speak.’ Ryu looked around, his words weighing heavy in the air. I saw Iris shiver, and Caleb put a muscular bare arm around her. Grizzie didn’t react at all, but she also hadn’t done anything weird. Nor had I heard back from the creature. Maybe she was just tired?

‘So if we can’t kill the body…’ Daoud said, bringing my attention back to the problem at hand.

‘We have to kill the spirit,’ Ryu finished.

[Which means separating the soul from the body,] came the creature’s voice, rich and bright in our minds.

‘Can that be done?’ I asked, my voice breathless.

My supernatural friends all looked at each other expectantly.

Crickets.

‘Well, I’ve never heard of anything like that,’ Caleb began. He spoke lightly, as if he should have been relaying more positive information.

‘Souls,’ Iris mused, looking up at the ceiling.

Daoud looked down at his pants as if he were wondering what he could pull out of them to help. As a djinn, he could create anything he understood at the chemical level – and then pull it out of his pants. I’ll never understand the physics of that trick, but it made for some alarming hostess gifts.

‘Is there anything in your history?’ I prompted. ‘Or your legends, that we could apply?’

Caleb shook his head. ‘I can’t think of anything. In terms of the Red and the White themselves, we’ve only ever attacked physically. And I can’t think of any other tales of souls, or spirits. We don’t even believe in ghosts, as humans do…’

My dad and Tracy glanced at each other when Caleb said the word ‘ghosts’. But they didn’t speak up, although they probably thought all of this talk was crazy. I turned to our big gun.

Creature?

[I’m listening, Jane. You want to ask your tall friend. The human.]

I looked at Grizzie. She still looked curiously blank, and she was rocking back and forth. Tracy had noticed, and was watching her partner with worried eyes.

‘Grizzie,’ I said, ‘you all right over there?’

Grizzie was obviously not all right, for Grizzie began to glow. It was just a faint, soft luminescence, but it was definitely not normal.

Instantly, we supes snapped into action. First Caleb was there, dragging Tracy to safety. Iris pulled my dad back, to join Tracy, and Daoud joined his shield with Caleb’s to keep the two nonmagicals safe behind their defenses.

Meanwhile, Ryu, Nell, and I fanned out in front of Grizzie. Ryu and Nell had mage balls ready, but I refused to pull a weapon on my friend. Yet.

‘Grizzie,’ I said. ‘What’s going on? Can you hear me?’

‘She can hear you, child, and she is safe. Do not fear.’

The voice that spoke from Grizzie’s mouth wasn’t hers. Instead of the usual husky, dark tones I was used to, this voice was resonant. It carried power, and although it wasn’t that loud, it felt as if it were booming.

‘And who are you exactly?’ I asked.

Grizzie’s form laughed, a rich chuckle that sent shivers up my spine.

‘I am all, my child. I am everything.’

We all stared. ‘That’s not very helpful,’ I said, frantically calling the creature’s Bat Phone.

[Hush,] was all I got in reply. [And listen.]

‘What have you done with my wife?’ Tracy yelled, struggling where Caleb held her in a tight grip.

‘I have done nothing to this vessel,’ Grizzie intoned, casting those eerily blank eyes on Tracy. ‘Your children will have its mother, have no fear. Both of its mothers.

‘I needed a mouthpiece, and this one was perfect. So open, so free, and so fluid in her identity.’

Were we about to have a lecture on Judith Butler? ‘Look, can you hurry it up?’ I said, losing patience. ‘Who are you and what do you want?’

The creature tsked in my brain, but I didn’t care. But neither was I ready for the response when it came.

‘I represent the universe,’ the voice said, the glow encompassing Grizzie pulsing faintly.

‘The whaaa?’ I asked, completely nonplussed.

‘You humans are so small,’ it marveled, causing me to stand at my full (not at all impressive) height. ‘Do you have any idea what surrounds you?’

‘Apparently not,’ Ryu said, doing his ‘humble supplicant’ voice. He was good at these kinds of games, while I wasn’t.

‘You are part of something greater. You must know this after everything you’ve seen.’

I made a face. This was getting far too religious for me.

‘What do you mean, something greater?’ Ryu said so I didn’t have to. The Friend Formerly Known as Grizzie ignored him.

‘Forces must be balanced. There may not be good or evil as you know it, but there is power. And power must be aligned, or all will fall.’

I made a face. ‘What power?’

Grizzie’s blank eyes stared directly into mine, and my whole consciousness swam. ‘Power, child. Power. The power that propels the world!’

That last bit ended in a boom, and Grizzie’s glowing form shone even brighter.

‘Okay,’ I said. ‘And?’

‘You must restore the balance.’

What the fuck is going on? This is like being lectured by the Sphinx, I said to the creature. It sent a warm wash of thought through my brain, as if to comfort me, but I wouldn’t accept it. Tell me what’s happening, I demanded.

[I am exactly what I say,] came a voice in my head. But it wasn’t the creature’s, it was the same voice pouring out of Grizzie. My heart beat faster in my chest, but I tried not to panic.

But what is that? I asked silently.

[I told you: I am the universe!] With that, it took control of my vision.

I saw the birth of the worlds, the coming together of powers that exploded, rocketing outward. I saw the creation of first light and then matter – gases becoming solid, solids glomming together, the creation of suns and planets and galaxies.

That power radiated throughout this process, dancing in and through all of creation, as the universe bucked and spun…

Until here and there throughout the galaxies, in pockets where conditions were just right (and those pockets were very few, and far between), life flared.

With life came renewed interest from the powers, which promulgated around these bright beacons of existence. Some life, however, plodded along … never changing, never challenging, never learning. But others were not so staid. Across the universe rose beings that could manipulate the powers that had created them. They were the power, were of the power, and could use the power.

The universe shuddered with delight, sensing kinship and opportunity. Sometimes these new forms of life took too much, however, or tried to throw out the rules of the game. Then balance needed to be restored.

The Red and the White upset the balance, I put together, hints and images and echoes of thought. But how do we stop them?

This time, the universe changed tack. Instead of seeing the macrocosmos, I was made party to the microcosmos. I saw it all: how the universe interfered to right the balance. Creatures like the one underneath Rockabill, given power or knowledge at crucial moments in their fight against the Red and the White. Then, as those creatures faded, new creatures were made into weapons. I saw dozens, hundreds, including a stranger with a great destiny saved from a childhood illness. The blonde girl who’d been tricked into dividing her kind into factions made into a champion. An ax forged at the critical time with powers beyond the comprehension of even the being that had helped create it. A boy drowned on a beach while a girl hovered over him, keening to the skies…

What does Jason dying have to do with anything? And I already know I’m the champion, I pleaded. Where were the answers?

I saw then the not so lucky. The other beings – elemental beings, pre-Schism Originals like Blondie, Alfar, other strong supes – who could have led, who should have led, struck down before their prime. Suspicious accidents, outright murders … the Red and the White were creatures made of the same power that sought to destroy them, and they could sense the universe’s interference…

So truth needed to be hidden. Power needed to be contained as knowledge, and hidden away. And what better place to hide dangerous knowledge than in the ones who could only bear witness to the powers that bore them, never tapping into them themselves.

Humans.

A spate of glassy-eyed, gibbering faces ran by me: artists, hermits, saints, writers, soothsayers, prophets – all men and women made mad by the powers seeking to use their hands, their voices, their minds.

Using these humans, small secrets were buried here and there, as if the universe were a squirrel hiding away nuts.