Both Traditionalists and Technocrats need the time after the events of Black Monday to rest and heal.
Among the Technocrats, Xifeng and her team are treated as heroes—there is not a one of her amalgams who didn’t participate in some way, but the combatants especially. The Union had losses, for sure, but several deviants were taken down that day, including two Marauders and the leader of the Hermetics in the city. And Ben was successfully rescued.
Ah, Ben. By the time Xifeng has come to it’s already happened: Ben is in Quentin Ramsey‘s custody—who better to deprogram him than the Man in White who deprogrammed him his first time in the Union? This isn’t the bad news that Mackenzie would be, but it means sooner or later Ramsey is going to find out what he knows about Nephandi. And there’s nothing Xifeng or Morgan can do but wait—Quentin will start on him in a week’s time.
It’s going to take at least that long for the cabal to recover, even with healers like Cécile and Sapphira and Matt. Immediately following the battle, Cécile triaged the cabal and allies, which means that the most badly hurt members—people like Sonia, Daniel, and Jianyu—became the most recovered, and the less badly injured, like Will and Alex and Jacob, had to rely on what Sapphira could do for them, or recover the old-fashioned way. Even being healed, though, didn’t cut through their exhaustion, or help them with the loss of Jahan, or the trauma of battle.
Kristin is the first to depart. The demon—she confirms what Sonia and Matt overheard—really has no common basis with the mages outside of trying to take down a Marauder, though she is friendly. Like Jerusha, she inhabits a body vacated by suicide. Unlike Jerusha, the experience of human life and human memory has given her gender, human emotions and human sympathies. “I don’t know what she plans to do, but I could smell the stain on her soul for it. She’s going to kill a LOT of people. Thousands, maybe more, and she’ll never admit what she’s doing is wrong.”
“Could you sense anything else from ‘Anjerahael’?” Sonia repeats the demon’s name scornfully, making quotey-fingers in the air. She’s not expecting when Kristin’s hand slaps her hard enough to make her see black.
“Don’t ever say that name out loud,” Kristin hisses. “We have power when our names are called. She’s listening to this conversation, now. Maybe more than listening.”
They had little other parley before Kristin left, to deal with Jerusha in her own way.
Matt and Cécile stayed for a couple of days before departing, Matt first gifting Sonia with a katar, the pinnacle weapon of their Tradition.
“When you’re ready to use it—and you’ll know when—the katar will strike down the one who deserves it, whose karma weighs too heavily for them to avoid retribution any longer. No amount of magick can defer its judgment.” He shakes his head at her. “I can’t use it. I’m afraid my soul is too burdened—I could strike myself down trying to use it. But you’re innocent.” For all that Sonia would argue she isn’t innocent, the blade knows otherwise, and when she touches it she knows it knows it too.
Sapphira has spent enough time away from her daughter: she’ll stay with her for now.
Now that they’ve cleaned house of their Marauder, as Gabrielle instructed Alex, it’s time for them to go to Tippecanoe county in Indiana, once they finish licking their wounds. Alex has the sense they may need to fight again when they arrive.
The cabal has a quiet Christmas, joined by Jianyu and Sapphira. Jianyu confides to Daniel he’d like to join the cabal, but doesn’t want to be Jahan’s replacement Dreamspeaker the week after he dies.
The day after, though, on Boxing Day, Dylan stops the car to find a young woman sitting in the road. She introduces herself to Will and Dylan as Mahraz Shahabi. She is a Mokolé, a werecrocodile, the Memory of Gaia. Though she is 17, she has access to hundreds of millions of years of history. It is the purpose of the Mokolé to record and remember, and carry that memory over any cataclysm of the Earth. They survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, the Triassic extinction, and the great Permian extinction event, and they will survive the next one.
Mahraz gives no indication about what she knows about that event, but she knows she wants to speak with Will, and hear everything he will tell her about the internet, about net culture, about computers—anything that should be preserved for future sentient beings. She sits in his room with him and listens until he’s exhausted everything he can think of. Then she moves on, spending time with America, wanting to know details of America’s culture, her interests, whatever she feels is important.
Perhaps the Mokolé would have spoken to others as well. When she meets Daniel, though, she is visibly shaken, displaying emotion for the first time, and refuses to look him in the eye. She departs, traveling east to hear more stories, leaving the cabal with more questions than before.