“—saving everyone was your job!” the Godmind's voice climbed to a roar, and then quieted with a sudden fury. “Saving anyone is mine. It's more important to guarantee that someone survives than to risk annihilation to save a few good people.”

“I refuse to believe that,” Solomon snapped. It was the sort of thing the Godmind expected him to say. The doubtless Ranger, never hesitating to step up to the plate when someone else's life was on the line.

And just look where that got him, the Godmind reminded himself as he felt those doubts rising to the surface, once more. Maybe he'd feel more comfortable being lectured by someone who hadn't sacrificed himself in a futile last stand — maybe, but he doubted it. They were talking about murdering Samsara, of all people; it was a piss-poor time to stop and listen to one of her Saints.

At this stage, he wasn't even particularly interested in what his Chosen One might have said, even if Will had managed to edge a word in between his confused back-and-forth glances and frightened uncertainty. The Champions were simply too young, at this stage. As with children, you could humor them; you could explain the situation in simple terms, and hope to get them to understand the sheer scope of the task they faced. But ultimately, they were going to grow up in their own time, and there wasn't much you could do to speed it up.

Singularly, he was interested in what Jaba had to say — curious about what she could see in this room, more than what she thought about it — but he didn't think the party fully understood how her abilities worked. It seemed a frivolous thing to risk a fatal case of Sensesickness so early in their journey, especially since he knew it wouldn't change what he was about to do.

Across from him, Viridian still stood, silently seething. Waiting for Telani's spell to wear off. This man was probably the last Good deity left in the Pantheon: Samsara was dead, and Vigil was missing. Meanwhile, two of the Horsemen still ravaged the lands. Even with Vermillion dead, much of the world was going to burn before he could even begin to stop Trelmarixian and Szuriel.

Had Trelmarixian predicted this?

Then Solomon spoke again. “You said we could change this—”

“Yes,” the Godmind cut in sharply.

“Then we will. And you won't have to do any of this.” And without another word spoken, the Champions faded, leaving him and Viridian alone in the chamber.

The man's voice had been small, but not timid; quiet, but firm. It was a determination that resonated with the Godmind. It reminded him of—

Viridian cavitated his other arm off, ripping away flesh and bone to reveal the twisted mathematica maintaining the shape of the missing limb. More followed, peeling away skin and muscles as the Godmind stood in pensive contemplation. Perhaps the Champions would really do it. He didn't know how many times they'd had that conversation, or if it had ever borne results. Maybe it was the first, maybe the trillionth. If they succeeded, he wouldn't remember. Maybe they had already failed. He was living in such a world, after all. Clearly, they had failed at least once.

But maybe, he wondered to himself as Viridian's skin turned to a pulpy slurry and sloughed to the ground...maybe the world could do with a little hope. Even if it turned out that they couldn't change what had been done so far, they would at least know what was happening here. They could plan accordingly. They could make the most of everything that came after.

He had to think rather loudly to drown out the screams, at first, but then they turned to soft, wet gurgling and finally an indistinct bubbling. The puddle managed to maintain its shape for several seconds, and even wobbled around like it was trying to run away — a period during which the Godmind wagered the Emerald Heart could still bring Viridian back — before it finally popped like a misshapen soap bubble and spilled out across the ground. The thick slush lost its alabaster-and-emerald color almost instantly, becoming a blend of pink and red and black creeping across the sandstone tiles.

Buried in the center, the Emerald Heart glimmered softly. Confused. Hesitant.

The Godmind sighed and plucked it out, still dripping. He had a schedule to keep.