A rattling of thick chains fills River’s senses. He can feel their weight and smell their metallic scent. They are the chains that hold King Bodon, and the Old One commands His freedom. River knows that it is folly to let King Bodon through now; the sacrifices the Old One requires are not all in place. However, as River’s strength fails, he becomes desperate. He considers what has always been taboo — unleashing an Old One unfettered into the world.
Minerva’s concentration does not falter. She feels the power of the elements stream through her. River has proven himself to be much stronger than she had expected; she’s never seen a conjuror able to withstand such a prolonged assault. She suddenly feels a surge in the air. It is a familiar feeling, and she knows what it portends. She feels like her hand is being forced.
River is letting the gate between worlds fall open. Minerva has fewer and fewer options open to her; she feels like she is being left with no choice but to kill River. The temptation is there. It is the simplest solution: she kills River, the gate closes, and the world is safe.
“Do it!” she hears the voice of King Bodon in her thoughts. At first, it does not seem alien, and she is certain that the thoughts are her own. “Kill him, and you will have saved the day. It is as simple as that.”
“No.” she responds silently. She directs the Winds of Hell toward the ceiling of the cave, and debris immediately begins to rain down on River. River splits his concentration between his connection with the Other world and his shield; he thinks that Minerva’s maneuver is a ruse, and refuses to lower his magical protection. As a large rock tumbles out of place, he raises his arms to deflect it with his shield. He doesn’t see Tobias lunging towards him.
Minerva watches as her husband, still wolf-headed and coated in bloody fur, wrenches the conjuror’s arm unnaturally. The cracking of bone and snapping of sinew resonates in River’s consciousness. He lets out a painful cry as his concentration breaks like a china plate thrown against a wall. Minerva dismisses the Winds of Hell and begins a soft chant.
Her voice is sweet and angelic, slowly rising through octaves and cascading back down again. River recognizes the chant: it was recorded in a mural within the Temple of Summoning deep within the jungles of Honduras. The words hadn’t been chanted in many millennia. River couldn’t even conceive of how anyone would know the melody of the chant. In moments, he felt the connection between he and King Bodon fading. As the power of the Old One faded from his body, pain remained in its wake. Tobias crouched above River’s body, his knee pushing the conjuror’s skull against the ground.
Minerva touches her husband’s arm, slowly stroking his coarse fur.
“Let him go.” she says lightly, without command or condescension. Tobias yields immediately, leaving River quivering on the ground, battered, broken, and bleeding. Minerva reaches a hand out to River, and he winces. He thinks that it is his last moment on Earth and closes his eyes. But when nothing happens, he opens his eyes and sees Minerva sitting next to him, binding his wounds.
“Why?” asks River, “When you have the power of a god, why don‘t you just let me die?”
“Because I’m not a god.” responds Minerva, “And I couldn’t sleep knowing that I killed someone again.” River looks at her and for a moment sees her golden, glowing aura. Beyond, he sees the girl Kristabel talking with the police on a cellular phone. He shakes his shaggy head and rests it on the ground.
August awakes, prompted by Prabha’s hand on his face.
“I didn’t expect to see you here.” she says, her eyes smiling. She is dressed for her shift, her hair plaited carefully, descending towards her waist. “They told me you slept in the waiting room all night. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, just really tired.” August replies. He wearily stands, swaying slightly. He gropes his coat pockets, producing his cell phone. Unsure of how long he has slept, August checks the time.
“Don’t worry. Minerva came in late this morning. She and Tobias had some minor injuries, nothing that Contessa couldn’t handle. Right now, she’s checking for any residual spells; I think that they’re clean, but it is best to make sure.”
“What happened?” asks August, “Last I knew, Tobias and Minerva ran off without a word. I got caught up with the police, and one thing led to another. The first chance my body had, it just shut down.”
“The two of them tracked one of Lana’s victims to a cave on the edge of the forest, right by the Gorge. From what Minerva told me, Lana somehow talked the girl into going to a conjuror. The conjuror was supposed to change the girl into a hybrid of tiger and human, but in reality she was to be a sacrifice for King Bodon. The conjuror was almost successful, but Minerva and Tobias foiled him.” says Prabha. She notices the look of dismay on August’s face. He feels like he was left out and that he did not do enough for the investigation. Prabha takes one of his hands in both of hers, looks into his eyes, and reassures him that he did the best he could.
Minerva and Tobias arrive, talking loudly with Contessa, a nurse with limited healing powers. August sees them, and immediately notices the vitality sparking within Minerva. She seems to glow with joy when she sees August.
“If I knew you were on a date again,” she says, “I would have given you more time.” Minerva is filled with happiness; she feels like a whole person. Seeing August, seemingly happy with Dr. Kholsa, doubles her joy. However, when they all go to lunch to celebrate their shared success, she doesn’t mention that she used magic to subdue River.
Meanwhile, River lies in a locked room secreted in the bowels of the hospital. His breathing his slow and low, his eyesight is blurry. Machines ping and beep around him, standing like plastic and metal sentinels. A symbol of binding is written in blood on his forehead, preventing him from using his magic. However, he still feels power surging through him. King Bodon might not have crossed over, but something else did. That something sleeps in River’s innards, biding its time. River feels the same sensation of fear, joy, and pride that an expectant mother would feel.
He wonders how long before the fruit comes to bear, but reminds himself to be patient. As always, good things come to those that wait.