The ground rumbled beneath the weight of the massive Feathered Serpent. Lucas could feel the vibrations in his bones, making his teeth clatter together, and he imagined that it felt like an earthquake to all those who were outside the Greater Temple of Diligence.
Feathers of every color imaginable laid flat against against His body as He slithered into a tunnel that would lead to the tomb of His Avatar, where His Body would rest until He was ready to come back to Gaia and fulfil His part of the Trials.
After several minutes, the rumbling stopped, and all that could be heard was sniffling and sobbing.
Lucas turned to the others. There were four who stood on their feet near him: Eun-Ji Kim, a short woman broad with muscles, Makani Manunui, a tall man with his arms and chest covered in tribal tattoos, Hai Yu, with his black hair tied back into a long tail, and Asim Fahkry, who looked naked without his usual head coverings.
Two people were on the ground: Angela White, who lay across the other and sobbed into his chest, and Rudolf Schuler, who lay on his back, arms and legs splayed.
There was a deep, long gash through his body that started from his shoulder, cut through his heart, and ended where his stomach would have been had it not been removed from his chest. He had died before most of his blood had poured from him, but gravity had caused much of it to pool within the wound. Some of it spilled onto the ground, anyway.
Angela pressed little kisses to Rudi’s temple, and the other five people turned away from them.
Lucas’s hand clenched around the Handle in his hand. It was one of the “gifts” of the Gods, a leather-wrapped crystal capable of letting him use his chosen God’s divine power, but now with one of the Chosen Champions lost, it was little more than a paperweight.
“It was the feathers,” Asim had said when they had first seen Rudi in his current state. “We were all together, and then suddenly, we were separated and covered in feathers.”
Lucas swallowed back the lump in his throat, the screams of rage, and the urge to march into the Serpent’s tunnels and shove his Handle up the God’s enormous rear end. Angela was crying enough for all of them. Screaming would do nothing to change their situation. Shoving holy things up Holy Arses would simply result in the Gods becoming more angry with them—with the humans, who the seven children had been trying to protect.
*Your anger is not unfounded,* a familiar, unwelcome Voice boomed inside his head, sounding near his ear but did not echo like it would have if He, the Sun God, were inside the Temple. *Mourn your brother. Take care of your brothers and sisters. They will need you as you wait for the next generation, and teach them the things you learned from your failures.*
“I’m not your play thing, anymore,” Lucas whispered to that Voice, but He said no more.