Epilogue: Yl Is Dead; Long Live Yl
The city of Excelli felt strangely muted to Brixx as he walked along its winding streets. He was used to the madcap chaos of inventors testing their creations, of the whirring of mechanical behemoths, of the cries of street vendors as they desperately vie for the attention of the preoccupied engineers. Today was different. The streets were still full of people, the mechanical lifts and vehicles still functioned as well as ever (that is to say, about 70 percent of the time), and the ramshackle buildings still leaned precariously over the streets, but the excitement had gone out of the city. Even the occasional distant explosion felt half-hearted and melancholy. While the world celebrated the death of the Six and the rise of a new World Dragon, Excelli mourned for the death of their goddess.
Brixx sighed and flopped onto his bed. He shared a room with the other engineering apprentices, but they didn’t seem to be around. They were probably down in the workshop reviewing the latest airlock designs. He was supposed to be with them, but Master Hzeck was still mad at him for losing that wrench, and Brixx couldn’t summon the energy to face him. Everything just felt a little pointless, now.
His hand drifted toward the pendant under his shirt. He’d nearly died once, as a kid, when a piece of a motorized cart had broken off and come careening towards him. At the last second it had swerved to the side and slammed into a lamppost instead. Everyone had called it an act of Yl, and told him that he must be favored by the goddess. Ever since then he’d worn her symbol, a double-headed coin, on a cord around his neck.
He rubbed it between his fingers for a moment, then abruptly yanked it off, breaking the cord. It tumbled carelessly to the floor as he stood to head downstairs. Something made him stop, however, and look back – and everything froze. The pendant had landed, somehow, not on either face, but instead perfectly balanced between them.
He stared at it, hardly daring to breathe. Slowly, his shaking hand reached out and, almost against his will, tossed the coin into the air again. Once again, with a soft clink, it landed on its edge. He tried again. And again. No matter which way he threw it, the coin invariably ended up impossibly balanced between its two faces.
Brixx sat down, excitement bubbling up in his chest. It can’t be, he thought. Yl died. They all said she died. But there sat the coin, obstinately refusing to tip over. “You’re supposed to be dead!” he said aloud. And for a moment, through the clamor of the city outside, he could have sworn he heard a faintly mocking voice whispering in his ear. “Since when have I ever done what I’m supposed to?”
Brixx leapt into the air with a whoop. A grin split his face as he dashed down the stairs, melancholy forgotten. Soon his story passed from neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, until it seemed the whole city was buzzing with the news. Miles away, travellers stopped to watch the fireworks suddenly exploding from Excelli, illuminating the sky around the rising moon.
Theologians, politicians, and arcanists all agree (and they so rarely do) that Yl is dead. There’s simply no other way that the new World Dragon could have been born; the ritual clearly required six sacrifices. Her name was added to the lists of the fallen and struck from the records of the priests. But ask any goblin on Praxlarr, and they’ll smile, touch the coin hanging around their neck, and tell you a story about the god of cheating and her greatest trick yet.