Tuesday, November 16

Beneath Steelhead Bay: The Remains

I watched in horror from the portside window as the half-submerged boxcar at the water's edge finally collapsed, rolling end over end off the precipice and into the brackish depths. We lost precious seconds offloading the nurses Wren, Lo and the traumatized Dr. Beck, but the young ladies had to wheel Dr. Beck's gurney out of range of the Revenge's aft engines before we could pursue the disintegrating lair of Ya Yimawa to its final resting place on the silt layer. After those who disembarked joined Amarantis and the wounded Jagers at the bivouac we had prepared, Nova and Six spun our vessel back towards Steelhead Bay and dove into its murky depths.

That gleam in the ship's floodlights? I would have dismissed it as a scrap from an airship wreck, but a father knows his daughter's mechanical limbs when he sees them, even in that sorry state. Koen looked back at me, still in his black formfitting diving outfit. His ears drooped, and gloom spread over his scarlet-furred face. The widnening ebon-slitted corneas of his furrowed crimson eyes stared back at me in quiet desperation. I could not answer him yet.

Brilliant arcs swiveled methodically as we descended along the trail of rusted metal and human bones left by the boxcar's descent. Was that a flare sinking beneath the water ahead? No...it was the angel. The plan was for Velvel to observe from the roof of his tower, but his alter ego seemed to have a destination in mind.

"Captain Nova? We need to follow Xavael."

"Understood, Doctor."

The craft slowed to a halt, hovering several meters from the glowing angel. Xavael wore no breathing apparatus, wings pulsed slowly as particulates from the sea floor floated around the figure in white. The angel gestured to us. Hands clasped in prayer. A hand pointed to the mass of pearlescent ooze resting on the sea floor surrounded by a concentration of the boxcar's debris, including another piece of Qlippothic's chassis.

The angel gestured, and a glowing staff grew outwards in both directions from his utstretched hand. One end spread into a trident and stopped. Xavael prodded the mass, and his weapon's tines began to dissolve.

"Doc..." whispered Koen as he pressed his gloved paws to the glass. "Those objects Xav makes are extensions of his..."

Outside the ship, the angel's weapon continued to dissolve up the shaft as its owner stared in disbelief at the climbing ooze.

"...his own SOUL!" I shouted. I pounded against the glass, screaming at the top of my lungs in the blind hope that I would be heard through the ship's hull. "LET GO OF IT, XAVAEL! LET GO BEFORE IT DETROYS YOU!"

The angel's horrified face shot back towards me, and pale trembling hands released the weapon, which quickly faded into the darkness. A final flash of light, and a very mortal Velvel Danielovich was left in the Fallen One's place, drowning before our eyes.

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