We returned to Hom and, I of course was extremely confused about the current state of affairs. The whole thing didn’t make any sense. We had defeated Eshlazi, or so I thought, and as to what exactly happened to Bastion, well the last I saw of him was that he and the Z’Bri were sucked into some kind of vortex! Chigger was unconscious and being carried by the Joanite, which is where things get way beyond me; but I’ll try my best to tell you what I pieced together from Chigger’s account and what I saw.
During the time when we were confronting the Z’Bri, Chigger was drawing on her eminence of Vengeance to protect herself from the evil Atmosphere. The faces of hundreds of people were drawn from the River of Dream itself and were watching over her and focusing her energy. Now, we all know that Chigger was poisoned by a Yagan Flesher assassin just before our foray into the Hive. This is where Dahlia apparently stepped in to completely change the whole order of existence. Chigger (or her soul or mind or whatever) was given the option of leaving her poisoned and dying body to transplant herself into a different, long dead shell of someone else. . . someone who’s face was present and a part of her eminence at that very moment.
Chigger being Chigger, she decided that the life of a stumpy, loudmouthed, crazy-haired, oddly tattooed, banished Dahlian trickster of fourteen summer’s age was passe. So, she opted for the massive, hulking, imposing and did I mention intimidating body of a Joanite . . . with the markings of a Templar at that! Don’t ask me, I have no idea how it happened, or why, or even where to begin to figure it all out, all that I know is that for some mysterious reason, Dahlia wanted or still has some plan for Chigger. That’s what I think anyway. I mean, why else would She save Chigger?
So, we took Chigger’s ‘original’ body back to the Bin and waited for her to die.
It was very strange. Watching Chigger take her last breath. I mean that was it. She inhaled deeply and never exhaled. Her small, silent frame lay serene and quiet upon the table. But, then again . . . she wasn’t really dead was she? She was still alive and breathing and walking and talking and making stupid smart-ass remarks, even as we carried her dead body to the Sepulcher. It was so surreal. Worse, Chigger was now a man!
Veruka had us say our last goodbyes and as we gathered around the old Chigger that I knew so well, and loved and hated all at the same time, I saw on Cinder’s cloak a small glowing broach. It had the swirled symbol of Dahlia, inset with a white gem. I didn’t take special notice it, but I recall seeing it before. Around the time the girls returned from the Secret Rendezvous location on their scouting journey to be exact. Where did she get it, and why was it glowing like that? I dismissed the distracting thought from my mind, gave Chigger a kiss on the forehead and departed the Sepulcher. Chigger the Joanite Templar was the last to say goodbye to Chigger the Dahlian Jacker.
Chigger came out awhile later and was crying. I guess it would be strange to see yourself dead. It would put a lot of things into perspective. Cinder took her sibling into her arms and embraced ‘him’ with unconditional love . . .the kind that comes from within. I knew there was going to be quite the adjustment period ahead. One that I didn’t think I was going to welcome very easily.
Awhile later, we ran across Meg and Danelle from the River Dreamers. We never told them that the Joanite with us was actually Chigger. Meg was really sad over the news that Bastion had perished in the Hive. Her and Cinder held onto one another for quite some time and we intended to meet up with them later at Junks, to reminisce and help get over all of the changes.
Our intentions never panned out.
On the way to the Shelter we smelled smoke in the air. It was coming from the east side of Hom and large dark clouds could be seen from our vantage. It wasn’t far from the Shelter, so we ran as fast as we could towards it. The sight that greeted us was shocking. Squats were attacking Hom and setting buildings on fire with complete disregard for the effects it would have. Already the raging flames were spreading from building to building and the Fallen were too busy fighting the raiders to concentrate on putting out the fire.
Cinder screamed at me over the cacophony of the battle to run to Junks and get some help. Her and Chigger and Mana raced to a nearby well in the hopes of dousing some of the flames. I spun about and ran as fast as the wind. I tossed my cape to the side in order to keep myself from being hindered. When I arrived at Junks the word had already arrived and many people were preparing themselves for the upcoming fight. Seeing that I was unnecessary, I yelled out the current conditions and raced back towards the Shelter and the full scale melee!