"I understood none of that," Ruby said.
Eddie didn't speak.
"He's God? And if he is, did you kill him?"
"I don't think he's dead."
"But he exploded."
Eddie sat down on the stone and buried his head in his hands. He didn't know what to take away from the exchange, but one thing seemed certain: Whatever had happened to the world, Eddie was connected to it. Something had happened to him. He'd walked through some kind of door, and he'd experienced an infinite number of lifetimes simultaneously. He didn't see any supreme being, and he didn't gain any power, but somehow, Tim did.
Galatina had said he'd gone into the past. Was that what the portal was supposed to do? Did they build a time machine? If so, was this the result they'd expected?
"Can anyone explain what just happened?"
Ruby turned. At the top of the stairs, Cornelius stood, flanked by Bryce and Montrose on one side, Jane and Ganny on the other.
Ruby shook her head. "Have you been here the whole time?"
"The doors opened a couple minutes ago," Bryce said. "We came up and found you two talking to an overgrown model of Tim. But until he exploded, we were stuck here. We couldn't move."
"What's this about the rasta man being God?" Cornelius demanded. "He said you and him broke the world." He moved to stand over Eddie and folded his arms. "What do you have to say for yourself, lad?"
Eddie didn't look up, his face still planted in his hands. "You know as much as me now."
The troll grabbed Eddie around the chest and throat and yanked him up off the ground. "Don't screw with me, lad," he shouted. "Last time I saw you, I was going to kill you. I didn't because I didn't understand what you were. I still don't, but that won't stop me this time."
The troll's caustic hands burned Eddie's neck and shoulders. He didn't care. He stared dully into the troll's face.
"You helped him destroy the world so he could get his wife back?" Jane asked coldly. "That doesn't make any sense."
"It makes no sense to me, either," Eddie muttered, not looking at her.
"What about my wife," she said. "Who is going to bring her back?"
Eddie said nothing.
"Everything here is your fault," Cornelius said, shaking him in his one huge fist. "Explain. Explain to me what happened to my swamp."
"Screw your swamp."
The troll's eyes grew wide. "What did you say to me, boy?"
Eddie grabbed the troll's fingers and began thrashing to pull them off. "Get off of me! Get your hand off!"
The troll dropped him. Eddie stumbled but righted himself. He scratched at the burning skin on his neck.
"You ready to talk?" Cornelius asked.
"I don't know. I don't know what just happened. I don't know what I did. All I know is that I'm not the Godsbane. Tim is. He's in a cocoon, waking up. He may destroy what's left of the world. He may experiment on people to see if he can bring back the dead. I don't know. But you know what? IT'S NOT MY FAULT!"
Everyone was silent. Eddie stared at the floor, uncertain what to do next.
"Where is this cocoon?"
Eddie turned to face Montrose, she stared at him, her eyes glowing with fascination.
"How should I know?" Eddie said.
"It's Northwest of here," Ruby said. "Maybe a hundred—hundred and fifty miles west from the north side of the caldera."
"Will you take me to it?" Montrose asked.
"No," Ruby said. "That place is evil."
Montrose stared at her a moment longer, then turned and left down the stairs.
Jane scowled at Eddie, then turned to follow.
"You're going with her?" Bryce asked.
Jane spun back. "Yes. I'm going to find the man in the cocoon. I'm going to talk to the only person who might understand what happened here. And then I'm going to kill him."
"But this is the guy that killed your family," Bryce said, pointing at Jarrock's body. "And he's dead already."
"He never existed," Jane spat. "Not until this idiot did something." She pointed at Eddie. "Now I've got no one left in the world. I've got no home. Not without my Loretta. So I'm going to kill someone. And if the guy in the cocoon thinks Eddie was responsible too? Then I'll be back." She gave Eddie one more disdainful look, then turned and left.
Cornelius remained, Ganny huddled at his side. He stared down at Eddie, then regarded Bryce, then Ruby. He nodded at her. "You're a natural leader, you are," he said. "And a fighter. You saved a lot of little people tonight, including Ganny."
Ruby didn't say anything.
He turned back to Bryce. "You're a fair fighter too. Brave lad. You can keep the car."
"It's been stolen by a toad. I saw him flying around in it."
At this, Cornelius laughed out loud. "That would be Marty. Don't worry. He'll give it back."
The troll cast his eyes on Eddie once again, who stood with stiff defiance, his eyes still on the floor. "What do we do with you?"
"I don't care," Eddie said.
"Do you want to die?"
"I don't care."
Cornelius stood back and frowned down at the boy. "Then I'd gain no pleasure from killing you. And I'm not going to go after some little god. Most fights I can win. There's no sense in seeking out the one I can't. I've got my Ganny back. I'm content for now." He pointed at Eddie. "If anyone can win a fight against that psycho, it's you."
"I'm useless," Eddie mumbled.
"I agree. But you hurt him tonight. I think you hurt him for real. Whatever happened between you two made him a god, but it made you his kryptonite." He stepped back. "Think about it, lad."
He turned and walked away. "Come on, Ganny."
"But boss, where's Gristle?" Ganny asked as she ran to keep up with him.
"Not far. Left him on a farm. We should get back there before he eats all the chickens."
Ruby, Bryce and Eddie remained on the tower. Eddie stared at the floor, not moving. Ruby and Bryce exchanged a look, then moved to the edge of the platform and looked down at the city. The prison remained bisected, each side angling down towards the churning rush of lava below. Dragons circled overhead, looking for any remaining victims to rescue. In the distance, soldiers fought with Ord priests, flashes of color marking their battles. Fires blazed throughout the city.
"What do we do now?" Bryce asked.
"I thought our problems would be over when we stopped Jarrock," Ruby said. "Now, it feels like we've got a much bigger problem."
"Maybe Tim will stay in his cocoon and leave everyone alone."
"He's a man with the power to light up the sky and can kill just by looking at you. And did you see that thing coming out of him? That 'fantom-Tim?' It's like he's got an evil twin inside him. An evil twin with terrifying power."
"Well, it's not up to you to stop him," Bryce said. "This one is beyond all of us."
"Not me," Eddie said.
They turned to him.
Eddie looked up. "I don't know what happened to Tim. I'm only beginning to understand what happened to me. But Cornelius is right. I can hurt him. And I can't wait around for him to kill everyone in the world so he can resurrect his dead wife. I have to stop him."
"How?" Bryce asked.
"I don't know. I won't until I understand what happened between us."
"There's no one in the world who can tell you what happened," Bryce said.
"Maybe there is," Ruby said. "I know a guy..."