|“||They tried to stand off the soldiers, but the men fired and killed them both. So the song's wrong about the jail, but that's put in for poetry. You can't always have things like they are in poetry. Poetry ain't what you'd call truth. There ain't room enough in the verses.||”|
– A singer's commentary on 'The Ballad of Sam Bass'., A Treasury of American Folklore
In Chapter Eighteen, Whiskey Jack retrieves Shadow from the afterlife so Easter and Horus can bring his body back from the dead. Laura kills Mr. Town and Mr. World before Shadow arrives in Rock City to stop the war. He reveals to the gods it was all a con between Mr. Wednesday and Mr. World before freeing Laura from the gold coin's entrapment.
In the void of nothingness, Shadow hears a voice call to him. Whiskey Jack warns Shadow that they are coming for him. Shadow doesn't want to be bothered but accepts Whiskey Jack's offering of a beer. They are on Whiskey Jack's porch as he tells Shadow about Henry Bluejay's death from a diabetic coma while driving. Whiskey Jack explains to Shadow how America is no place for gods because the land is god here. Shadow tells him that the gods are planning on going to war with each other but Whiskey Jack says it will be a bloodbath instead. Shadow realizes the truth and that it is not a war between Old gods and New, but a two-man con. He takes his leave with Whiskey Jack reminding him that gods die when they are forgotten but neither he nor the land are going anywhere.
Easter arrives at the World Tree with Horus. They get Shadow down off the tree and Easter encourages Horus to help her warm Shadow up by flying into the sky and removing the clouds from the sun. Easter breathes into Shadow's lungs and gently kisses his face as his side wound bleeds red slightly before stopping. She tells Shadow it's time to get up and he awakens in confusion. She apologizes for bringing him back after he was done but that was what she had to do. Now it is his turn to do what he must do.
The gods start marching up a hill at Rock City and a sniper takes out a kitsune, starting a skirmish.
Laura and Mr. Town continue their drive from the World Tree, superficially discussing a variety of topics, including her husband and his fallen coworkers. They pass a sign for Rock City and Mr. Town tells Laura that is where he is heading. She decides to accompany him to have an adventure. Town fancies himself in love with her and tells her he will pay for her room for the night. They reach Rock City and he asks her to wait in the car while he delivers the stick in the backseat to his boss. Laura asks him for a hug before he leaves and, as he comes in close, she asks him if he wants to know what really happened to Woody and Stone.
Shadow meanders about the meadow at the World Tree as he gets used to being alive again. He reflexively reaches into his pockets looking for a coin but only finds Mr. Wednesday's glass eye. He gets dressed and Easter takes him across the meadow to the thunderbird she had arrived on, telling him she is done and needs to rest. Horus tells Shadow he was the one who brought the thunderbird. Shadow climbs on the thunderbird's back and they take off off into the sky, with Shadow feeling as if he is riding lightning.
Laura takes the stick from Mr. Town's car and heads through Rock City unimpeded, reaching a cavern in an off limits part of the attraction. Mr. World welcomes Laura for bringing him his spear. When she tells him she is Shadow's wife, he comments that she is looking better than she should. He warns her that drinking from Urd's Well is only temporary and asks for his stick. Laura asks him for a cigarette and answers before she will give him his stick. He tells her Shadow was a distraction and it's all about patterns and symbols. She asks him what side he is on and Mr. World says, "the winning side." She turns away from him, briefly glimpsing out the window the skirmish below, as Mr. World approaches her from behind.
Shadow is consumed with joy flying on the thunderbird. He remembers his dream where he was hunting the thunderbird for a feather and then sees an image of a brown, female thunderbird, lying dead. A woman removes an eagle stone from its skull and uses it to resurrect her dead infant son. Shadow tells the thunderbird that he understands.
Laura waits until Mr. World is close behind her and touching her before she takes his stick and says, "I dedicate this death to Shadow," and rams it through her chest and into Mr. World behind her. They are stuck together on the stick and Mr. World takes out a knife and starts stabbing her in the chest before she knocks it out of his hand. He flails about, trying to free himself as he cries and wails before they both fall down.
Shadow arrives in Rock City and finds Mr. Town dead in his car from a broken neck. He catches Laura's scent in the air and follows it, feeling a brief moment of pain in his side. He hears a man call out something, only capturing, "...to Odin!" and begins to hurry through the seemingly abandoned park. He finds the off-limits cave and hears Mr. Wednesday speaking to him from behind. He tells Shadow that he was the misdirect and did everything he was supposed to do. He is proud of Shadow because the power in the sacrifice of a son was enough to "get the whole ball rolling." Without turning around, Shadow tells him it was all a crooked setup for a massacre before asking where Laura and Loki are. Mr. Wednesday doesn't answer.
Shadow walks further into the cave and encounters Loki, propped up against a cage with a blanket over him. Loki tells Shadow he is too late and he has thrown the spear and dedicated the battle to Odin. Shadow tells him he figured out the two-man fiddle con but didn't realize Low Key and Mr. World were the same. He demands Mr. Wednesday to show himself, who can't because he is a ghost. It is Wednesday's death that drew all the gods together for their blood sacrifice. Loki and Wednesday plotted a massacre of gods because Wednesday feeds on death that is dedicated to him, like Shadow's death on the tree, whereas Loki feeds on chaos. Wednesday needed a son to die for him and finally tracked down Shadow, locked away in prison. They had orchestrated everything to get Shadow to play the part of the fiddle in their con. Shadow asks what caused Loki's fatal injuries and Wednesday tells him it was Laura but the war will bring Loki back just as it will bring back Wednesday.
Shadow leaves to find Laura and wonders at the emptiness of Rock City before realizing the battle is being fought Backstage. He shifts his perspective and sees the "moment of the storm" with the Old and New gods readying themselves for the oncoming war. He enters the center of the arena and hears the Buffalo Man's voice encouraging him. Shadow tells the gods that it's not a war and wasn't intended to be a war. He exposes Wednesday's and Loki's plan to con the gods in a game of "Let's You and Him Fight." The winning and losing don't matter because only the deaths matter since that is what gives Loki and Wednesday their power. Shadow finishes up by saying he'd rather be human than a god because humans keep going regardless of whether or not anyone believes in them. The Old and New gods begin disbanding, realizing they've been had. Mr. Nancy tells Shadow he is proud and they exit from Backstage. There are several gods injured from the initial skirmish and helicopters come to clean up the mess left behind.
Shadow returns to the cavern in search of Laura, finding her bleeding all over the floor of the cave where she stabbed Loki. He tells her he stopped the war from happening and that she successfully killed Mr. World. She asks if he ever found a way to bring her back from the dead and he tells her he found one way. She says she thinks she has earned the opposite of that, meaning death. Shadow concurs and takes the gold coin from around her neck and disappears it. Laura is finally truly dead and Shadow kisses her cheek before walking back out into the night. The storm has cleared and Shadow looks forward to the beautiful day tomorrow will bring.
Coin Tricks Edit
- Mr. Nancy
- Isten of the Hungarians
- Whiskey Jack
- Mr. Town
- Low Key Lyesmith
- Mr. World
- Mr. Wednesday (ghost)
- Baron Samedi