Celestial Worm

Epilogue One: Taylor

[A/N: this chapter commissioned by Fizzfaldt and beta-read by the author of Ties That Bind and The Long Way Home, Karen Buckeridge.]

[A/N 2: For those who have already read the story, chapters 26-28 have been revised, from a little to a lot.]

2023 (Twelve Years Later)

"... and that's it." Sagun closed the leather-bound tome and made it vanish into a pocket dimension. "We're done here. Every plan has been implemented, every government is in compliance. And whaddaya know, it only took a bit more than a decade."

Taylor, wearing the high-priestess garb she'd been sporting for the last nine and a half years, grinned from alongside him as they observed Earth Bet from high orbit. "With only the occasional break to rescue a cat from a tree."

"Hey, I have a soft spot for cats in trees," Sagun protested. "I know what it feels to find myself in a situation I don't want to be in, and no way to get out of it without help."

"Been there, done that." Taylor rubbed her upper arms and shuddered, then looked for a way to change the topic. "So how's Edeena doing, anyway?"

"She's getting better." Sagun smiled. "We bloodlink every day. While she still has bad days, they're getting fewer and fewer. She still doesn't want to visit, for reasons I can absolutely understand, but it's always good to see her face and hear her voice. She's really pleased with our progress here, too. And of course, there's everyone else we've got to thank."

Taylor rolled her eyes, but smirked anyway. Sagun had been getting more and more excited about finalising the Plan over the last few weeks. She figured it was only fair to let him have his moment. "Yeah, yeah, rub it in. Go on, tell me how much Dad helped."

Sagun gave her a serious look. "You know he did. Some of the advice he's given me over the years was just what I needed. And you know you're going to have to let go of that grudge sometime. He did what he thought was best for you at the time."

"Hey, I'm civil to him," she protested. "I know he thought he had a good reason for doing it. I'm just pissed off that he totally took away my agency in the process."

"And your new best friend," he reminded her. "Or is that the main reason you're still unhappy with him? That we haven't heard from her in all this time?"

She grimaced. "Maybe? I mean, has she totally forgotten about me? Was our friendship like me getting attached to one of my bugs or something, just a few weeks and it's over?" If she was being honest with herself, Sagun may have just hit the nail on the head. It was never about Dad. Well, mostly.

"No." He shook his head. "We both know she's not like that. Maybe they're not letting her contact us in case you've still got a worship thing going on for her."

"Well, no." She snorted. "I like her and I admire her, but I'm your high priestess, not hers. I don't care where she's a goddess of, just so long as I can find out if she's okay or not."

"Well, there is something I can try," he said. "No promises." He took a deep breath, ignoring the fact that they were both standing—and conversing—in what was effectively hard vacuum. "I'm Zeus's bastard, which means I have access via bloodlink to the Olympian pantheon."

"But you're also a hybrid, which means they'll want to kill you on sight." She shook her head. "Not a great move. Just saying."

"Normally, no." He grinned. "However, I've had Edeena asking Lady Columbine questions on my behalf. Turns out that Chance's daughter Emmalyn, their Goddess of Festivities, had a fling with Dionysis once upon a time. She had a kid called Yitzak, who ended up as Mystal's god of the drink."

"So the goddess of Festivities hooked up with the god of Booze at a party and got pregnant." Taylor rolled her eyes. "Why am I not surprised."

"Trust me, nobody was astonished at that revelation." Sagun raised a finger. "But it does mean that I've got a direct line into Mystal."

"Let's just hope you can make sense of what he's saying." Taylor snorted. "From what I've read of Dionysis, he was absolutely plastered ninety percent of the time."

"Yeah, well, apparently it's the other way around with Yitzak." Sagun shrugged. "Alcohol doesn't affect him unless he wants it to. He's always exactly as drunk as he wants to be, and so is anyone around him." Poising his hand, he looked at Taylor. "Did you want me to make the call now?"

Taylor felt her breath catch in her throat. "Could you?" Her heartbeat threatened to hammer out of control.

In lieu of replying, Sagun made a waving gesture. "Yitzak," he intoned. With his other hand, he clasped Taylor's.

She found out why a second later, when the image formed in front of Sagun. A tall, well-built celestial in the Mystallian uniform looked back at them; she fancied she could see a little of Chance's features in his cheekbones and jawline, though that may have been wishful thinking.

"Ah, so you're Sagun," the Mystallian said, his eyes narrowing with interest. "Lady Columbine notified me that you might be calling on me. Is there something I can help you with?"

"Actually, yes, Lord Yitzak," Sagun said smoothly. "Lady Janesha visited my realm about ten years ago, and accidentally ended up being established for a few days. I was wondering if I could ask you for news of her. She's Lady Armina's granddaughter, if that helps."

"Oh yeah, I know about her." Yitzak nodded. "Poor kid, I'm pretty sure she's still in a coma. Lady Col's taking good care of her though, so she'll get through it eventually."

Taylor gasped. She'd had no idea. "Does it normally take so long to get over this sort of thing?"

She realised a moment later that she'd asked the question out loud, and that Yitzak could hear her. He frowned at her interjection but answered anyway. "Well, yeah. I've heard of bad cases being laid out for centuries, but she had a fairly light dose and the actual establishment wasn't really traumatic, so she should be over it in another ten or twenty years, easy."

Even with all the powers Sagun had granted her over the last nine years, Taylor had never been a precog. But right then, she knew the answer to the next question she was going to ask. "So, let me guess. It's Lady Columbine who's caring for her?"

"Well, who else?" He paused and peered at her. "Who are you, exactly?"

"She's with me, Lord Yitzak, Thank you for your assistance." Sagun shut down the bloodlink and sighed. "Have you ever had a day where you realise that you've just outsmarted yourself?"

"Occasionally," Taylor said with a smirk. "I have to admit, I didn't see that one coming."

He ran his hand over his face. "Here I thought I was being so clever, making sure I had a back-channel into Mystal, when I didn't even need it." He gave her a dirty look. "It's not that funny."

"Well, it would be if I felt like laughing," Taylor said, sobering. "So …" She didn't want to say it out loud.

"So do you think we should link through now, or give it awhile?" He rubbed his beard. "I don't see why not. Edeena will still be awake, if I recall her schedule correctly." Raising his hand, he made the gesture again. "Edeena."

Once more the link formed, to show a woman with long platinum-blonde hair, so slender as to be waif-like, kneeling beside a garden bed. The flowers were almost impossibly brilliant in colour, though Taylor thought she spotted a weed in one of the beds behind the woman. She decided after a moment that she'd been seeing things, because the rest of the garden was immaculately tended.

"Hello, Sagun!" Edeena stood up with a brilliant smile. "Do you like Lady Columbine's flowers? I was just admiring them. They're beautiful, aren't they? Oh, is this your high priestess? Hello! Taylor, isn't it?"

"Yeah, hi, that's me." Taylor essayed a wave. "It's nice to meet you properly at last. Sagun tells me you're getting better all the time."

"Uh huh." Edeena nodded vigorously. "And all the guards are really nice. If I need Lady Columbine, they take me to her straight away." She tilted her head. "But we spoke earlier today, didn't we, Sagun? What's up? Or did you just want to introduce Taylor to me?"

"It's nothing serious," Sagun assured his sister. "We were just wondering if you knew of another patient of Lady Col's. A girl called Janesha. She would've come in not long after you did."

"Oh, yes." Edeena's eyes dropped. "She's still here. Lady Col says she's getting better, but it's going to be a little while. Sometimes I sit and read to her. She seems to like that."

"Oh." Taylor leaned in to Sagun for comfort, and he put his arm around her shoulders. "So, um … would you be able to tell Sagun when she wakes up? If you could, please?"

"I can totally do that. Any friend of Sagun's is a friend of mine. It was really nice to meet you, Taylor." She gave her brother a suspicious glance. "Is Sagun treating you alright?"

Taylor mustered a weak smile. "Yeah. He's a good boss. We actually finished our main plan for fixing the world today. Now we're going to start expanding into the solar system."

Edeena beamed. "Well, good for you!" She lifted her head a moment later, at some unheard sound. "Oh, that's the dinner gong. I'll talk to you later, okay? Don't let Sagun push you around or I'll have to come and rough him up for you!"

Sagun snorted. "You're welcome to try."

"Bye!" Taylor called, just before the bloodlink closed. Then she closed her eyes for a moment, enjoying the comforting warmth of Sagun's arm around her shoulders.

"Well, she's getting better," he ventured after a moment. "That's good, right?"

"Yeah, but the fact that she needs to get better isn't." She heaved a sigh. "Can you take me home? I think I need to have a long talk with Dad."

"Yeah, probably a good idea." He gestured, and a portal opened. "Edeena looks happy, don't you think?"

"Yeah," Taylor agreed. "Yeah, she does." They stepped through the portal and disappeared.

End of Epilogue One