“The ocean pulls me close and whispers in my ear
The destiny I’ve chose, all becoming clear
The currents have their say, the time is drawing near
Washes me away, makes me disappear
And I descend from grace in arms of undertow…”
Nine Inch Nails, The Great Below
So, I guess I should explain the reason Camila said I owed her. Gunnar and I had just come back from being out and there was some stuff sitting on the dining room table. Dorthen said he didn’t know what it was about. Not sure whether I should be worried there, I mean, Camila is pretty sneaky.
Anyway, she left that note, and a container thing and another letter that was sealed and all official looking. Gunnar went to break the seal, and I told him not to at first. I’m probably a hell of a lot more paranoid than I need to be. I think I was just worried we’d have problems delivering that letter if it needed to be sealed. I mean, I’m glad he did open it though, because Hades is a dick. I just didn’t realize how much of a dick until we were already on Agwe’s ship but I’ll get to that.
So yeah. We headed for New Orleans not too long after that, and I told Nate I’d be sending Nevermore with him off to Germany. Nate’s going to Germany because Brendan and Ciara are in Germany. Brendan and Ciara are in Germany because Ciara’s mom, The Morrigan, asked them to go check on why prayers she used to hear have just stopped all of a sudden. Ciara said something about goblins, which are not blue skinned so I’m still not sure what was up with those blue things I’d seen in my own vision. She was told to take silver. So goblins and werewolves in Germany. I figured Ciara would be able to keep O’Shea alive well enough from the way the kids said she was able to fight.
Maybe I was wrong, since now Ogma and The Morrigan have asked the rest of us to go check on their kids and that’s why it’s unfortunate that the rest of us is currently Nate and Nevermore. Camila’s gone, Jack’s gone and that leaves Gunnar, Nate and I. Gunnar and I are going to Guinnee and I might even take the bird with me if he were more waterproof but he’s not.
Never knows about the boys and I’ve already told myself that I’ll be really fucking surprised if he goes more than an hour without telling Nate. It’s hard to keep anything from him since he’s so nosy. Before we headed off to New Orleans I was working on acquiring some of the equipment I’m going to need for the lab but since the lab doesn’t technically exist I just set up the ultrasound machine in one of the bedrooms that’s currently unused. For the record, doors don’t stop that bird.
When I sent him off to Nate I’d told him to keep his beak shut, and I made it clear I wasn’t just talking about for the plane ride up to meet Nate. “Seriously, Nevermore. Be careful and be quiet.” I emphasized the last word.
“Oi, sure.” He grinned. Birds can grin. At least this one does. “Uh, Mum’s the word?” Yeah. I saw what he did there and no I didn’t really think it was funny.
“I swear to the gods, Never, I will slap you so hard your feathers fly off without you.” Then we shipped him off and headed for the cemetery.
Luc couldn’t really tell me what to expect. He was only able to give me the details on how to get to Guinnee, and even that info was a little sparse on the particulars. There was a cost, he said, to pass through from this realm to the other. I guess that was what that shimmering feeling was. Sorta like when I make Gunnar all Die Hard, but stronger. And I had to find someone who was one of the Baron’s ghedes and use their tombstone to open the portal unless I wanted to wait until November and of course that wasn’t going to happen. As luck or fate would have it, I’d just attended the funeral of one such ghede a couple of months ago. Other than that I needed red chalk, to draw three X’s on the tombstone and I needed to hold hands with anyone going with me.
So I wetsuited up and strapped my gear as much to me as I could. At least I don’t think I’m going to have trouble getting at my axe through the wetsuit, that will be one less thing to carry. We headed to Brigitte’s grave, I grabbed Gunnar’s hand, made the mark I was supposed to, stepped onto the plot and landed in saltwater. That was a little unexpected.
Also unexpected was the big ship turning and heading towards us. At first I thought it was a bad thing, some sort of danger, but it turns out when Luc said “Agwe will take you to Guinnee” he meant “Agwe has a physical form and uses it to captain a real ship and that is how you are going to get to Guinnee.”
A ladder dropped down before us. Gunnar went up first. I hopped up behind him and onto the deck of the ship. Agwe himself greeted us, remarking after our introductions that it was rare he had such guests. We didn’t even have to give him any pennies or anything. So far, I’m liking the Loa.
Oh, and then this was when Gunnar was able to see what else Camila had left us, and I learned how much of a dick Hades is. See, the container thing held a set of collared manacle type things. It had two people, or the ghosts of what used to be two people, chained to each end. One ghost was Victor Fingers, the guy who kidnapped Gunnar’s mom, and I got pissed as soon as I saw him and started telling his ghost off. I forgot at first about the bit in all of the legends of the Greek underworld where the shades of the dead drink from the river Lethe and lose all of their memories. So Victor didn’t know why I was yelling at him and telling him he was the biggest fucking douchebag who ever walked the planet and that if he wasn’t already dead I’d be collecting an asshole tax in the currency of his kneecaps. After a minute or two, he didn’t even know that I had yelled at him at all. I felt a little better, though.
The other ghost was a woman. She was a little taller than me, had short, light brown hair and unremarkable brown eyes. She seemed like she might be nice, if she could remember you’d been talking to her for more than a minute. Gunnar told me when he could finally see her that that was Sara O’Malley. Sara was the woman he’d seen die just outside of Vegas. Kane killed her but not himself, I mean he let the shinobi do it. I know that look on Gunnar’s face by now and figured we’d talk about it when we had time. For now, Agwe bade us go below deck with the other spirits and make ourselves comfortable. There was food there, and I ate with everyone else after obnoxiously asking Agwe a couple of times if the food was safe. Gunnar was still Gunnar, for now. He wasn’t going to use the Nommo eye until he had to and I don’t blame him. That thing looks really gross, kinda like a giant loogie.
Anyway, we talked some before the ship dove, about how in our underworld there won’t be any forgetting. At least that’s how Gunnar said he wanted it, and I can’t really disagree. I can understand how the Greeks could think that forgetting could be a good thing, but I’m a bit more convinced that death should not equal oblivion. Ignorance is not necessarily bliss, and I’m much more inclined to say that death should be a refuge for the kind and a punishment for the wicked. The only problem with that is that we’ll need someone who can help us tell the difference, if we can’t do it ourselves. Eternity’s looking like kind of a messy thing, something we’ll have to handle carefully.
That was as far as we got before klaxons started sounding. Yeah, semi-modern tech on a ship that pretty much looked like Jack Sparrow should be up at the helm. Whatever, I’m just gonna go with it. In the words of Indiana Jones, “I’m a scientist. Nothing shocks me.”
The ship tilted, started to flood and sped up. The other spirits looked a little unnerved by this but calmed themselves down easily eventually. There should really be a pamphlet about this sort of thing, like they have on airplanes.
After the compartment was mostly full of water I stopped trying to hold my breath and started filling my lungs with water. No, I am not a crazy woman. Well, maybe I am but I knew what I was doing at this moment. There were a couple of extra things Dad had given me, at the wedding but not because of the wedding. He said it was because I deserved them, because I was getting stronger. One of them, a ring made of gold with two pearls in it – looked just like the one from Clash of the Titans – had a note attached that said I would need it. I wondered how he knew, until I remembered that he’s in the business of seeing the future. So it wasn’t really surprising when I told him that Gunnar and I were preparing to go to Guinnee that he said, “Yeah, I know.” And then he gave Gunnar a long look that I’m still not sure what it was about.
So, yeah. I figured out, kinda by accident when I nodded off very briefly in a bubble bath, that I can breathe water when I’m wearing that pearl ring. Sudsy water tastes terrible, by the way, even in your lungs.
The other thing was a postcard with the name of a little tattoo shop not too far from where we would, not likely by coincidence, be staying for our honeymoon in France. Needles on your shoulderblades for hours straight, even if you’re a demigod, still sting like a bitch.
So yeah. Gunnar and I acclimated to our new environment and I got out my new axe and then we pretty much just went back to talking, pausing only to wave away the little Forgetful Fish (that is totally what I’m calling them from now on) when they tried to take our memories instead of those of the ghosts. At least I think that’s what they were doing.
It’s hard to understand a Nommo and at one point I thought maybe we would have to play charades instead, but Gunnar explained that his reaction to seeing Sara, and his declaration that using her as a bargaining chip was “fucked up” was because that whole thing where she died right in front of him was full of an unusual set of circumstances.
I myself decided that if she was the type of person who would stand with him and fight against those shinobi things, she wasn’t the type of soul I could use as currency. Then I kept thinking about it. I couldn’t not think about it, about whether I want to be the type of person who uses anyone’s soul – yeah, even Victor’s… dammit – as currency. I pretty much reached the same conclusion I did when Erzulie offered me the chance to conceive and give her a kid instead of going to the underworld. People, in any form, are not supposed to be used to pay debts. Babies are not a form of currency, and I am not and never will be the type of person who trades in souls, not even for the sake of my sons. And anyway, there’s a good chance that sort of thing would piss someone off enough to punish my kids for the shit I’ve done and quite frankly that just won’t do.
So Gunnar said this didn’t seem so bad, as afterlives go, and he didn’t really want to drag a ghost around while we tried to find her somewhere better. I told Gunnar that if it looked like Sara and Victor would have a happier afterlife here than they would in the Fields of Asphodel, then I’d be happy to leave them in the Baron’s care. I think he might be a better steward than Hades, but that could just be bias because I’ve never witnessed the Baron scheming to kill a god. If it doesn’t look like this would be a kinder place, I will take them back to Hades – by myself, if I have to – and we can figure out some other exchange with the Baron. We’ll do shit the hard way if we have to, but we will do it right.
He’d just nodded, which looks a little weird on a Nommo, then his attention was suddenly elsewhere. The forgetful fish started acting weird, and then the side of the boat was rammed really hard. A massive fucking shark with a hide like a tank was attacking the boat. I guess because massive fucking sharks have nothing better to do down here. Well, that and the Drowned Road is right next door. Literally. If you look off into the distance in Guinnee you can kinda see the cutoff where the realm that is the Drowned Road starts.
Anyway. Riding the Megashark was a saltwater hooker, some call them sirens, and swarming around her were these weird monkey-fish things with hands for tails. We didn’t realize what the monkey fish wanted, and we didn’t realize how well organized this shit was because saltwater hookers are distracting. She started singing, and it was beautiful. More beautiful even than Susan’s voice when she sang for mine and Gunnar’s first dance at the reception. Gunnar and I both moved towards it, more or less helpless to resist. Yeah, I went too. What? I’m a physician, and I am perfectly capable of appreciating the beauty of the female form.
Gunnar was ahead of me, as usual, and this creature turned her attention to him. Part of my memory, the part that still worked the way it should, tickled. Sirens notoriously led men to their doom in the Odyssey. I mean, it’s not like there were many sharp rocks around for him to impale himself on and I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to happen if she got her hands on him, but I wasn’t going to find out. She kept singing, beckoning to us both as we drew closer. I managed a glance at my husband, the guy whose kids I’m carrying, and two words came to mind. He’s mine.
I shook off the effects of her song, just for an instant, but it was long enough to cut the bitch in half. Literally.
Fuck titanspawn who think they can mess with my family. You know, fuck titans too.
Anyway. The boat started leaving without us and we decided it was a pretty good idea to catch up after it became apparent we weren’t doing a godsdamned thing to hurt the Megashark. Bastard – or bitch, I’m a little fuzzy on shark genders – was easy enough to hit but I kept feeling like Mercy was just bouncing off of its hide. Seriously, it was like hitting a concrete fucking bunker.
When we swam back to the boat the monkey fish had taken all of the forgetful fish and Gunnar had the smart idea to go above deck and check on Agwe, though it took me a second to realize that’s what Nommo-Gunnar was saying. He swam ahead of me, as usual. When I made it above deck I saw that Agwe was fighting Nommo. Nommo are still fuckers. I also saw that Gunnar was at the helm of the ship all pirate like with his Nommo-self. I fell in love all over again. Yeah, even though he looked like a Nommo, because that was seriously badass. Think about it. How many other people can say they’ve steered the massive vessel which ferries the spirits of the undead to their final resting place? Well, there’s me, and Gunnar, and the various ferrymen for the underworlds and that’s all I know of. I say me because I kinda grabbed the wheel when he looked like he was losing control.
I’m blaming the lack of feet.