Ryan came back into the room to find the final member of their little pseudo-pantheon had joined them. Cassandra was seated on some kind of counter in the Reliquary of Lost Souls, not quite comfortable being in the midst of the entire group. She nodded towards Ryan in acknowledgement of his presence.
How quickly we’ve grown, Ryan thought. Weeks ago, it had just been him, Crystal, and Athena. Now their number included Anansi, Dianmu, Isabel, Cassandra, Nabu, Arachne, and people Ryan considered honorary members – primarily among them Artemis and Resheph. And one more. “Arthur took the terms, and Uriel can transport the wormholes. I think that’s the best case scenario here. A few things I wanted to clear up. Has anyone heard from Horus since we got back?”
Cassandra grimaced. “Not since you all returned, but I know what happened to him.”
All eyes turned towards her.
“He came to Bast. He was working with her, Dracula, and me.”
“Wait, hold on just one second,” Isabel said, her eyes wide. “Dracula? He’s real?”
“Oh yes,” Athena said. “Artemis was involved in the hunt when he first underwent anthropophagogenesis. They never did find him – part of why vampires have been so successful. No one’s managed to catch him since.”
“Bast got him,” Cassandra said, pulling up her knees and resting her chin. “He was trying to use her to assemble some kind of new group, a pantheon of monsters. He mentioned a few names he was reaching out – Baba Yaga was the one that stuck. Bast didn’t want to be used by him – or anyone, for that matter – so when she was done with him, she killed him and destroyed his nanoverse.”
Ryan wasn’t the only once to wince. Destruction of a nanoverse was a nightmarish thing, snuffing out trillions of lives for the crimes of a single being. It was not to be done lightly.
“I’ve heard,” Dainmu said carefully, “that the nanoverses of anthropophages are terrible realms of constant suffering.”
“They are,” Cassandra said. “Or at least, Dracula’s was. He showed us what it was like. It was an infinite plain dominated by citadels the size of worlds. Those buildings would crawl around, subjugating everyone they passed over and left alive. Trust me. The people who lived there are better off dead.”
No one quite knew what to make of that, and Ryan broke the silence with a cough. “And Horus?”
“Right,” Cassandra said, collecting herself. “He was doing a complete ‘Nice Guy’ thing on Bast. Basically expected her to finally return his affection. She killed him and ate his heart. Didn’t destroy his nanoverse though. Left his body chained up so she could eat again. Apparently, god heart is delicious.”
“Apparently?” Arachne asked. “So you didn’t try it yourself?”
Cassandra ignored the question. “It’s what I wanted to talk to you about. How long does it take for a god to turn into an anthropophage from Hunger denial? Because Horus has been chained up there for a few days now, and if it’s been too long..” she let the rest of the question trail off.
“Nabu, love, any idea?” Crystal asked.
Nabu didn’t even need to pause to consider the question. The words were out faster than Ryan had time to process the realization that no one else even knew what Nabu was about to share. “It depends on how serious the reconstruction was. The fastest it’s ever happened took a week after resurrection. The longest is thirty-two days.
“How long ago did Horus die?” Ryan asked.
“About a week ago, I think.” Cassandra said.
“Okay.” Ryan frowned. “So…we might not be too late.”
“Almost certainly aren’t,” Crystal said. “We resurrect much more slowly outside our staging areas than inside them. Minimum it took him four days.”
Ryan let out a sigh of relief. “As soon as we’re done here, some of you need to go and help him out of those chains. Make sure he’s not an anthropophage first.”
“I’ll go,” Anansi said.
“I’ll join him,” said Arachne. When she saw everyone’s surprised expressions, she shrugged. “If we’re going ahead with your plan to announce ourselves to the entire world, I’d rather be doing literally anything else while you do.”
“Thank you,” Ryan said, meaning it. “Anansi, it might be best if you stay here. We don’t need two of you to break someone’s chains, and as…frustrating as Horus was, he was an ally and I imagine he’s not going to throw a fit that Bast is dead now.”
“He also was all but demanding Bast point out for him,” Cassandra said sharply. “I understand that she became a monster. But that doesn’t mean he should get away free with being such a massive jerk.”
Ryan sighed. “You have a point there, Cassandra. Really. But we can’t leave him chained up to become a monster, he didn’t do anything awful enough to warrant nanoverse destruction, and he…” Ryan trailed off on the thought. The logic of someone being a monster but at least on their side was how they’d ended up working with Moloch before. Saying that had had gone poorly was like saying an active volcano caldera was a bit hot. Horus was no Moloch but working with someone who would act the way Horus did was stomach churning. “Arachne take Cassandra let him out and find out what happened. Get his perspective. I’ll trust your judgement. If he’s going to be a problem to work with, or if he crossed too many lines, then tell him he can help by going to the new world and start triple checking that this place isn’t going to kill humanity. If we can stomach him, then we need him with us. All hands on deck.”
“Why on Earth would you trust my judgement? You barely know me.” Arachne asked.
“Because you’re a suspicious misanthrope. If Horus can convince you he’s tolerable, he’ll convince the rest of us.”
Arachne laughed. It was the first time Ryan had heard her genuinely laugh, and it was an odd sound. Like she was re-learning after millennia of having little reason to do so. “You have me there. Okay.”
“I’m not sure why I’m going,” Cassandra said.
“Because Arachne can double check his story with you. We need to know if he’s outright lying about what happened, and you’re the only surviving witness.”
Cassandra considered the answer and nodded.
“Should we go now?” Arachne asked.
“Not yet,” Ryan said. “There’s still the plan to discuss. Interrupting the United Nations meeting to announce we’re going to evacuate the Earth.”
And hope to God that it’s not a terrible idea if we do it.