Bast smiled as, in the background, another section of stone wall collapsed. Something metallic fell with it, landing with a deep brass note that rang like a gong in the still air of the island. These structures had endured decades of neglect. They had withstood storms and hails and winds. They probably would have endured for another fifty years without interference.
They had not been built to withstand two gods clashing.
I didn’t even have to break anything, Bast thought, stepping outside to see what had collapsed. It had been the clocktower, which explained that ringing sound. Bast glanced back indoors to where Horus’ corpse lay. She considered making a joke about the bell tolling, but without anyone to hear it, it seemed overly indulgent.
Footsteps reached her ears. If only you had been thirty seconds earlier. That would have been perfect. Bast shrugged aside the whim. “Cassandra.”
Cassandra started at hearing her name. She reached for a skirt she wasn’t wearing to start a curtsy that Bast had told her wasn’t needed, and caught herself. Progress, Bast thought with a smile. It wouldn’t do for her children to bow and scrape for her.
That was for mortals.
“Is it done?” Cassandra asked.
Bast motioned into the building. “See for yourself.”
Cassandra stepped forward to look inside. She saw Horus’ corpse, of course, and smiled in agreement with Bast’s treatement of the insufferable pig. Then she noticed the other details, and her smiled turned to a confused frown. There were chains driven through Horus’ wrists and staked into the ground, a collar wrapped around his neck and dug into his skin, and four sections of rebar driven through each of his legs. “You…aren’t planning to destroy the body?” Cassandra asked.
Bast shook her head. “He should resurrect in a couple days. I’ve tasted a divine heart Cassandra – it’s like nothing you can imagine.”
“I couldn’t have imagined the way it tastes to eat a regular heart,” Cassandra said, glancing over at Bast. “Is it like that?”
“And so much more,” Bast said, her voice low. “Once he resurrects, if you haven’t had the chance to feast on one before then, I’ll be sharing it with you.”
Cassandra did bow slightly here, and Bast didn’t bother to correct her. While Bast didn’t believe Cassandra should be bowing and scraping in her mere presence, she should be acknowledging when Bast did something worthy of respect. “You honor me.”
“You were the first of my daughters, Cassandra. I’ll never forget that.” Bast put a hand on her shoulder. “And since you’re still frowning, let me assure you – he’ll never get out of that. Until he can fill his Hungers, he’ll never have the strength to free himself.”
“I remember we once through that about you,” Cassandra said softly. “Forgive me for even mentioning it, but-”
Bast cut her off with a dismissive gesture. “Forgiveness has been given, Cassandra. I’ve taken steps to ensure that won’t happen here. And even if he started to gain strength…” Bast’s smile took on a predatory edge, “I don’t intend on letting him live long enough to recover.” Bast reached into her pocket and pulled something out. “Worst comes to worst, I have the option to end him permanently.”
Cassandra looked down to the black stone between Bast’s fingers. “Can those things truly be destroyed? Nothing we could come up with could even scratch it.”
“Because you were trying to destroy it within this universe,” Bast said. “It’s impossible save for an act of omnipotence. Which means if I take it into my nanoverse, I can crack it like an egg.”
Cassandra did seem to relax some at that reassurance. “Then…what is our next move?’
“The Eschaton,” Bast said, taking her hand from Cassandra’s shoulder and sweeping down the street. Cassandra hurried to keep up on her. “We need to locate him, draw him out, and force his hand. He has one twist that can alter reality on a fundamental level, beyond what even Enki could have done at the peak of his power. Beyond what I can do now after eating the hearts of two gods.”
“You’ve mentioned this before,” Cassandra said delicately, choosing her words with extreme care. “Can I know…what, exactly, do you want him to do?”
Bast stopped and looked at Cassandra, one eyebrow quirking in confusion. “Why, isn’t it obvious?”
“I would not presume to know your mind. You’re a goddess, and you see more deeply than I do.”
That got an appreciative chuckle from Bast. “That is true, but in this case, it’s quite simple. My motives are exactly what you suspect – he’s going to cure us of this Hunger. Of all Hungers, Mortal, Divine, and Phageous. We will need nothing, ever again. All of us.”
Cassandra had been nodding eagerly, but it cut off at the last three words. “All of us?” she asked.
“Yes. I’ve been thinking about it. Even with everything that’s happened, I cannot defeat Ishtar, Athena, and the Eschaton. I would not dare to try.”
“You’ll have me,” Cassandra said, her voice firm. “And Dale, for whatever that wretch is worth.”
“I know I do.” Bast turned and continued walking with Cassandra in tow. “And yet, that will not be enough. Not by half. It’s time, Cassandra, for you to have some siblings.”
Cassandra’s face fell. “You mean to spread this Hunger?”
“Only until the Eschaton can cure us,” Bast said. “Besides…after I’m done, we’ll be the only immortals left. It will be better with more of us, won’t it?”
“Of…of course.” Cassandra bit her lip. “It’s just…what if the Eschaton can’t cure us?”
Bast looked upwards where the sun beat overhead. “You feel how hot it is?”
“If the Eschaton can’t do what’s advertised, this world is doomed. Burned to a crisp in solar fire.” Bast shrugged.
“And if he helps us, won’t the world be doomed regardless?” Cassandra asked. “You said he only has one twist that can permanently alter reality.”
“Yes.” Bast sighed. “And if he does not use it to cure us, then they will hunt us to the end of the cosmos. I promise you, Cassandra, we’ll save as much of humanity as we can – and we’ll take them to a new world. A paradise, where they will worship us as they should. Humanity gets to live – and so do we.”
Cassandra nodded with less certainty than before, but it was enough. Bast knew she’d never fully sell Cassandra on this plan. Even the most dedicated carnivore turns up their nose at the slaughterhouse, and Cassandra still identified with the cattle. That will change. Bast intended to keep her promise to save some of humanity – what was the point of being a goddess if you weren’t going to be worshiped, after all? Cassandra would come to see that this was the best way, the only way, that things could end.
“But how will we draw him out?” Cassandra asked.
“Ah. That, Cassandra, is going to be the easiest part of this whole thing.” Bast opened the door to her nanoverse. “Gather Dale, then meet me back here.” She motioned to pull up her Zoisphere, showing her a map of the world, and rotated it to center on the United States.
“Of course. What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to send the Eschaton a message he cannot ignore,” Bast said, her lips curling in a smile that was full of Hunger.