INTERLUDE 1: “They’re Calling Again.”
April 1st, 1619.
If one had to put it to metaphor, the island of Egg Roost was a bloody mess of tossed salad and scrambled eggs.
Hergie grimaced as she and Hecate searched the island for anyone who had survived the sudden zombie outbreak. Well- not so sudden as Kyiahlnah had wanted them to believe- but still sudden for those who had not been turned to begin with.
It was both encouraging and discouraging to see that a vast majority of the survivors were the island’s child and teen-aged population. Encouraging in that the eldest of the survivors had done well in keeping the youngest safe from the zombies ravaging the island… Discouraging, however, in that it seemed that very few people over twenty were left alive- whether that was because they’d seen the light and taken the first boat or way-gate portal off the island, or because they’d simply all been turned, Hergie couldn’t tell, and she didn’t really want to know.
“Found another bunch,” Hecate quietly grunted as they paused beneath a tree house that some kids were trying very desperately not to be heard from inside of. “Mostly pre-teens, I’d guess from the pitch of their breath.”
“Hey!” Hergie called up to the tree house. “It’s alright! We’re here to help get you all off of the island safely!” No response. “Ah, what was that passphrase again?”
“The Bird’s name was Janet,” Hecate recited, loudly enough for the kids above to hear. There was some shuffling from above, and then a young Undine boy peeked his head out of the treehouse window. For a moment, he seemed distrustful, but upon seeing Hecate’s current form- a golden, glimmering metal skeleton in Wolf form- his eyes widened, and he exclaimed: “Woah! It’s Hecate! How did they get Hecate down here!?”
“What!?”s and “Really!?”s echoed out a moment later, and a few other kids- a Gnomic boy, and a Spriggain girl first among them- peeked their heads out as well. “Oh wows!” followed, and normally, while Hergie would smile at the awe the kids had for Hecate’s shape shifting powers.. She had a bad feeling today wasn’t over just yet- the flow of luck felt very much in their favor, and yet… something was nagging at her.
The main three kids who had set up this network of hiding spots- Tori, Taka, and Gahli- were currently elsewhere on the island leading their own search and rescue groups. They’d come back with Ahven reporting that Detective Mayoi was in the hands of the doctors there, and everyone else from both of today’s disastrous missions were safe and sound as well- though conversing about some disturbing news someone had dug up from a grave about the Mages Guild.
It wasn’t a surprise now, of course, knowing what was known about the Mages Guild’s involvement in Egg Roost’s now resident Zombie Hoard. But, still, it was good to know that someone was looking into it.
And yet, the nagging feeling remained for as long as it took them to get back to the Island’s Way-gate.
It was there that one of Hergie’s higher up managers came running out of the gate, panic clear in their eyes as they said two words neither Ascendant wanted to ever hear:
From there, the sinking feeling in Hergie’s gut began to grow like a rapidly inflating dinner roll being pumped full of waste water.
When had the alert first come in? Five minutes ago.
Was contact still established with the Agency Chief? No.
Were the populations of the islands evacuated off? Unknown.
Were the Way-gates active? The Waiting Room couldn’t establish a link, which meant the island gates were busy connecting to something, but as of where they were connected to? That, too, was unknown.
It was as Hergie and Hecate were half-way through the Cat’s Tunnels that they felt a static shock from a spell they’d cast on themselves after learning that Zuzol had died and none of them had really been aware of it- it was a spell to alert all remaining Creators of the world that one of their number had died. A different signal was used for each of them, and the static shock signal corresponded to Yaovi.
Yaovi- the Reaper in Green- was dead.
When they finally reached the way-gate that was being used to try to connect to Mystryal, someone had finally managed to get a connection re-established with one of the two island’s gates.
Hergie and Hecate braced themselves- unsure as to what they would find- and then crossed over to the island Kono Yisela.
They emerged into a crowd of panicked people- most of whom seemed to be staring upwards at the sky.
Hecate, too, was immediately drawn in by the view, but Hergie’s attention was pulled down to earth- towards the Ascendant that had literally juts been birthed.
Yaovi’s assistant- once long ago her daughter- Cah’le, had just inherited the Powers that came with the Mantle of the Reaper.
Said girl was dazed, lying in the arms of a Dragon boy Hergie had never really met before, but was well aware of who he was- Tyler Obonz, the coroner who had been on Egg Roost when Kyiahlnah had returned to the world.
Kneeling next to them was Chief Nahgi Llewellyn, and seemed to be checking up on Cah’le’s aura using the Sight that all Lamias were gifted with.
Hergie had her own version of that spell at her disposal- but had no need to activate it. She could see the results for herself. A slightly clouded look to the eyes and a peculiar, almost imperceptible shift in hair color to be something slightly darker than the girl had been born with in this lifetime.
Yaovi was well and truly dead, then.
Hergie elbowed Hecate, drawing their attention down from the sky, and back to the situation at hand.
“Chief! What the fuck happened here!?” Hecate demanded as they stepped forwards- voice fluctuating wildly from male to female, and young to old, in no discernible order as they spoke.
“The Mages Guild is what happened,” Chief Llewellyn snarled as she rose to her full height. “They tricked my father into putting two tracked items into the Restricted Vault- which they used to steal artifacts and plant a bomb that-”
“They broke onto the island!?” Hecate’s form shifted firmly into that of an armored knight- voice becoming loud, booming, and excessively masculine as he interrupted the Chief. “What did they use? How did they manage it?”
“I Don’t Know!!” Chief Llewellyn roared back at him with just as much frustration as the Pathfinder himself felt. “We only literally JUST survived the damned explosion that nearly killed us all! So you’ll have to forgive me for not knowing anything- ALRIGHT!?”
Hergie knew Hecate well. She knew that very few people had the guts to yell back at them when Hecate was in a mood. Almost nobody would dare yell back at one of the Creators of the World. It was almost unheard of… And yet, here it was, happening. But there was a look on the Chief’s face. It was an expression that, as Hergie looked around, she saw on just about everyone’s faces. Further, she saw the nervous twitches, the hesitant glances side to side…
It was the look of those who had just stared Death in the Face and come out the other side. Some were handling it better than others- no doubt the ones who had many similar near death experiences in the past. She’d seen the same look on Hecate’s face many times after they’d first met. And a few times after that, as well- especially after the Cataclysm War. She knew Hecate recognized it too.
Thus, Hergie also knew that Hecate’s reaction to being yelled at- to shift into that of a young, teenaged human girl and try to make herself small as she apologized for her anger- was as legitimate as possible.
“Sorry… I forgot.” Hecate said, bowing for forgiveness. “I only just found out about this and-”
“It’s fine.” Chief Llewellyn interrupted Hecate with a terse interjection and a tiny growl in the back of her throat. “Look. Just… Give us a minute to sort things out here- okay? We only just started a head count to see who made it.”
“Alright,” Hecate nodded. And that was that.