I was alive. Barely. The stream of eternal life that had coursed through my blood was completely drained. Before I even had the chance to adjust, I felt as if something else was ripping itself from the core of my being. It was excruciating yet at the same instance exhilarating, a wrenching of body and spirit I have not felt since my demonic ancestor was exorcised from his complete control of my body, allowing me to again pursue my own destiny.
My eyelids refused to open. My ears caught fragments of Qlippothic's distress call, shocking me to a limited form of awareness. My ears, however, continued to deceive me. Familiar voices in impossible context...my father Jeremiah and the Founder himself...in conversation?
"Jeremiah! We have no time! Your son always carries an extra set of clothes on his expeditions."
If I could move, I would have at the very least scowled at the sound of my possessions being ransacked. "No boots...I can't trudge through this swamp in patent leather shoes!"
"You will not need footwear. We must take wing."
"Did he get here by ornithopter? I don't see a seaplane..."
"You do not understand, Sixth Son. I am now a spirit only. I need a host, and Darien does not have time to recover."
"Are you suggesting...? NO! I nearly destroyed the world just to..."
"Because you had lost your conscience, Sixth Son! Which you have now regained!"
There was a short silence that seemed to dilate time by its very weight. "I...do I get a choice on this?"
"Not if you wish to save your grandchildren, and the Captain and the ship upon which he raised you."
Now that was a bit jarring. I would have dismissed it off-hand as part of my delusions but that it did explain the missing chapters for his early biography, and his obsession for the antiquated styles of airships.
I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise as Bloodwing drew magical energy from the bayou around us for the ancient rite. The Founder spoke again. "It is tradition for the Host to recite the Mason's Oath before the merge."
"Founder...after you cured me, my heartsong...changed. This is what I must recite...
And I believe that we'll conceive
to bring this Earth closer to Heaven
Restore the world - the Promised Land
a Paradise of hearts and minds
until I see this Kingdom's time
I'll turn from Darkness to the Light
I'll heal the blind
God's will be done
until the day I see His Kingdom
has now come.
The shattering crack of lightning around us came with an avalanche of light so great that my eyelids did nothing to deaden the pain of its brilliance. My eyes finally blinked and opened wide to see Jeremiah lifted in a spiral of primal energy, overlaid with the image of the Founder himself. Bloodwing's somber tone suddenly dissolved to jubilant laughter.
"Your soul remembers, Sixth Son! It remembers my vow with the Fallen Angel! The Matron of our line!"
Jeremiah's features flowed like wax, growing in musculature and weaving tattoos recalling ancient scars across now-pallid flesh. He shuddered in the air from which he was suspended as wings erupted from his back. His nails stretched to black claws in his shaking fists, and upon his head where his hair now fell about him in a crimson mane, horns spiraled outwards from his skull with the sound of sharp cracking of bone.
At that final phase of transformation, his scream rolled across the bayou, striking more terror in my heart than the lightning. The trauma of my own first transformation was revived within me, and seized my brain, snatching me with its talons and scarlet wings back into the realm of nightmares.