Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 21

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Chapter 21

I took him to Doctor Lammet and hid in the bushes after I knocked on the door. Lammet was a dryad, associated with some form of willow, and the bushes were dumb hyacinth. Most people don’t realize dryads can’t talk to all plants. Lammet saw Jermaine in a pile before his door and reacted immediately, pulling Koru’s son inside. He’d be distracted. I snuck out and went south.

Hyperion was too grand, too magnificent, to perfect for factories, warehouses, and smelly places to pile up the horse dung that the divine stables created. The gods pushed all that stuff south.

I’d fought Osret and the two from Fate almost due south. The tower had stood at the mouth of a small ravine that cut into a sandstone headland. On the other side of that headland, toward the sea, and even further south, Hasso lived.

I’d been there a few times. He’d made things that weren’t precisely legal. He didn’t break the law, of course. That was impossible. But he’d manipulated it in his forge. Five buildings gathered around a small courtyard, two of which contained furnaces. High brick chimneys had risen far above slate rooves to carry smoke and embers away. I’d seen piles of pig iron, fine steel, gold, and silver, among them, as well as baskets full of loose stars and more treasured ingredients in jars and sealed pots. He had escape hatches in case his heavily enchanted firewood ignited. Every stack of lumber had been wrapped in expensive fire blankets. His forge had been splendid.


Scattered rubble lay in piles, the rooves of buildings had crumpled, and Hasso lay in the courtyard. He’d been beaten to death, and his corpse was frozen, broken, and shattered. The impacts of terrible fists had ruined him. Nothing else moved.

Hoarfast had been here.

Cracks reft the first chimney, and the dead embers held no heat. The other chimney had been broken, but its base still stood. The forge was dozens of feet across, made of blocks of speckled gray stone. Its embers still glittered. This was the forge where the blades had been made. Unmaking things in the place of their creation had a way of undoing them. It was more final than mere breaking.

But if someone knew that, they would watch this place. The smokestacks would tell anyone with eyes that Hasso’s forge was active, and someone, Hoarfast, would know there should be no Hasso to be active.

I thought as long as Jermaine had, and that had seemed a long time. I bet it had felt very swift to him. My hesitation certainly seemed to take no time at all to me.

I dropped the counterfeit blades on the work table and started heaving staves of mahogany and dragonwood into the furnace. Hasso’s woodpiles were almost full. Soon the chimneys burped smoke and sparks.

The overcast remained. The little smoke I was making would be hard to see.

I snorted a bitter, quiet laugh and kept building heat.

Making Habits

They say it’s easier to make a habit than break one. I’m going to try to breathe three times on a three count.

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Sidethought LotR

You know something invisible about LotR? You always knew what people were trying to accomplish and why.

Broadly: What was the overarching goal? Throw the ring into Mt Doom.

Specifically: What was Boromir trying to do? Save the Minas Tirith and Gondor.

Niche: What were the three hunters trying to do in Rohan? Save the hobbits, followed by save Rohan, followed by save Gondor.

What was Treebeard trying to do? Nothing when he wasn’t that important a character, and defeat Saruman when he was an important character.

What was Shelob trying to do? Eat people.

And so on and so on. It’s so simple it’s invisible, but you always knew what the characters were trying to do if they mattered.

What was Gimli trying to do? Show up the elf.

And it’s invisible. That’s mastery.

Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 20

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Chapter 20

I looked down, but the night was too dark to see Jermaine. But he had told me everyone else but him was dead, and he wouldn’t have done that if he’d thought ahead to the keeping of secrets yet. He wouldn’t yet think of treachery.

I hadn’t. Astras had caught me totally by surprise.

Just think of what they had done to me. I could kill Jermaine right now, and it would be justified because of how they had betrayed me.

“How bad are you hurt?” I asked.

“I’m okay. I can get through,” he said immediately.

Was he brave or hiding something? Could he read thoughts? Did he realize what I had realized?

A moment later he said, “I’m pretty bad, Kog. I’m not doing okay. Mallens has a power to him. He breaks things. He struck the earth, and I was too close. There’s ruin in me. Do you have anything?” he asked. He sounded disjointed, his words confused.

I could kill him right now, and no one would ever know about it. And they had been such parasites to me.

“If you slept for a while, do you think you could heal?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I tried for a while. I don’t feel better.”

That was dancing around the decision. Kog, kill him.

Kill him now.

Be smart.

But I have always been an idiot.

“Here. Eat this.”

I dug into my gym-bag. The doctors had packed it with bandages, medical gear, a really nice cutter, and tape. A small bag had bottles of willow bark, some pills, and an acidic cream. It smelled pungent. There were pages and pages of notes.

Toward the back of the bag, my remaining package of ambrosia wafers had been opened and carefully resealed. I needed those, but I gave them to Jermaine.

He ate quickly. After that he sat in silence. The ambrosia would quench his thirst and fill his belly, heal his wounds, but it needed a few minutes. My own aches and pains made themselves known. I’d picked up a dozen scrapes and cuts. I chewed some willow bark. The bark didn’t do much. The adrenaline wore off.

After a few minutes, I dug around in the gym bag for bandages and tape. “Let’s see if we can patch you up a little bit.”

“I don’t know if it will help,” Jermaine said. “Mallens was a lot stronger than we expected.”

“At least it won’t hurt.”

Good thinking, Kog. Bandage him well. He’ll never expect anything then.

Oh, shut up, I told myself.

“Are you okay?” Jermaine asked.

“Got shot a little,” I explained.

“Is it bad?”

“No, not really.”


It’s funny what you think of when you’re not thinking of other things. I didn’t want to take Jermaine to the doctor in case Dr Lammet really could detect the touch of Mallens. But without bringing Jermaine in, I couldn’t get medicine for him.

What would I say?

‘Hey doc, you won’t believe this, but I have a buddy who needs a whole bunch of honeydew and nectar right now. No, you can’t see him. I just need a bunch of the good stuff. Don’t worry. I’ll take it to him.’

There is no way that could be misconstrued.

It’s not like the truth was any better.

‘Hey doc, I may have helped in a little bit of treason. Now, I need drugs for another traitor. Don’t worry. He’s Celestial. The drugs are actually healthy for him. No, you can’t meet him. He’s hiding because of all the treason.’

The doctor was a dryad and Jermaine a Celestial, so the two of them probably hated each other anyway.

Still, ambrosia alone has a power in it. After Jermaine ate a package, he perked up. I explained my train of thought.

“We still need to get you to someone,” I said. “But I don’t know how to explain it. We’re going to have to get our stories straight, though, and we need to hide that. We can’t be going in there with a copy of Death’s scepter.”

Blisters, I realized another problem. “But he’ll know the touch of Mallens. He’ll know.”

Of course he would. Kog, that’s why you must kill Jermaine. Kill him right now and bury his secrets. Bury them right here.

Jermaine said, “It doesn’t matter. He has to believe me.”

I looked at him blankly. “What if he doesn’t?”

“He can’t,” said Jermaine.

I remained confused.

“The doctor,” Jermaine continued. “He has to believe me. It’s the law.”

“What are you talking about?”

“He’s a dryad, right?”


Jermaine said, “Dryad doctors must take anything a Celestial says as fact. It’s the law because we’re true caste. If I tell this doctor something, that I was out washing my cats when Mallens stomped, he has to believe me. I outrank him.”

“That seems like it could be exploited,” I said.

“Maybe, but who cares? He’s a dryad.”

I let the shadows of the water tower hide my expression. My mother was a dryad, while I was a lowly mortal. I don’t think Jermaine put the significance together.

“Hmm.” I grunted. “That does open up a few possibilities for us, provided we can trust him not to kill you during treatment.”

“He can’t do that,” said Jermaine. “It’s illegal.”

“Jermaine,” I said. “We’re criminals.”

“But the doctor probably isn’t. Besides, he’d be scared to try. It’s punishable by death for a dryad to lift a hand against a Celestial.”

“Jermaine, we tried to assassinate the Lord of Creation! It’s probably a crime for him not to kill us if he finds out.”

“No, no. I’m a Celestial. He has to believe me.”

I inhaled, held it, exhaled, and thought.

The thought occurred to me that if I did leave Jermaine with the doctor, and the doctor did kill him–no, no. If Jermaine died of his wounds during treatment–that would solve a lot of my problems.

And it’s not like it was my fault. Jermaine did need medical attention.

Kog, it’s the smart move.

There was a finality to it I found quite interesting.

I’d already committed a little treason to get here. A murder wasn’t that bad.

Boils and blisters, I’d meant to commit a murder already! That had been the plan. This would just be that murder.

And they had betrayed me.

I stared at Jermaine while he rested.

Doctor Lammet wouldn’t do it. He wasn’t the right kind of doctor.

But the nereids might, Kog. They hungered for a Celestial. And they wouldn’t be too concerned with how Jermaine came by his wounds.


I shook my head hard enough to made pressure at my temples.

“Do you think you can survive without medical attention?” I asked Jermaine.

He answered woodenly. “No.”

“Then this is what we’re going to do. Give me the saber. I’m going to destroy it. I’ll take you to a doctor who kept his mouth shut before. Tell him whatever you want. Don’t mention me. Meanwhile, I’m going to take this and that–” I pointed at the two All Things Ending counterfeits. ”–and destroy them. That’s what I’m here to do anyway. I’m getting rid of loose ends.”

Jermaine did not release the sword. “Loose ends like me?”

I heard a high-pitched tone like a viol string plunked and then tightening.

“I won’t hurt you. But you need to decide what you’re going to do next.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you want to rejoin the others?”

He sat without speaking, looking at the floor.

“Come. Give me the sword. I’ll take you to a doctor. He did good work on me.”

The son of Koru looked up at me but made no move to give up the sword.

I showed him the other counterfeit and the Drowning Breath. “I have two, one like that already. Give me the fake. Besides, you’ll be with the doctor while I destroy these. If something happens, you won’t have it on you.”

Jermaine thought for a long time, and I didn’t rush him. He gave me the sword.


Can you do it as one of several hobbies?

Ride bycicles? Yes

Ride motorcycles? Yes

Ride horses? Not if you live in a city

Fly planes? No

Ride the river? If you live near a river

Ride the slopes? If you live reasonably near the slopes

Ride the lightning? Once

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Amazon is making some changes to printing costs. I don’t know how this will affect us.

Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 19

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Part 2: Loose Ends
Chapter 19

My thoughts consisted mostly of fart noises and grunts until I returned to the water tower. I’d lost Osret. Fate had him, and their investigators were the exact people I didn’t want investigating me. I suppose Osret might keep his mouth shut, but he had nothing to gain by silence. He’d killed two people, but he could probably pin that on me.

Who was the lady in white? An operator from the Bureau of Sanction, I guessed. I didn’t know her, nor her name. My connection to Fate wasn’t useful.

But I didn’t think that was a weakness. I’d been a glorified file clerk. I didn’t know either of the two operators, and Fate’s profile on me consisted of attendance records, dietary preferences, and pay stubs. Mos Eir probably had a note in there that I liked bad coffee.

Look, I’m a college student. I like liking bad coffee. The longer I can go enjoying the swill I drink, the better, because I don’t have anywhere near enough money to appreciate the good stuff. My favorite flavor of coffee is lots.

‘Who was the lady in white?’ I thought again.

After admitting to myself that I had no meaningful information to base a guess on, I did some wild speculating. I didn’t know if Fate could monitor directly through the clouds. My file-clerking hadn’t exposed me to Observation much, but from paperwork, I had the impression they observed through literal watching from the stars. So maybe she had needed to be close and when things degenerated, she was already nearby.

She’d looked like she was wearing nothing but a splash of milk.

Self. Self. Shut up.

I examined the Drowning Breath of Ogden. This was a named blade, one with weight and history. I did know the weapon, and to touch it, something spoke that history in my mind. It was a blade for revenge that called itself justice. It wanted to be used.

I thought it was going to get its wish.

The water tower hadn’t moved, which was expected but still nice. I climbed the ladder, popped the door open, and found someone sleeping on my pallet. Feet stuck out of the bottom of the blanket, and a wrapped head lay on the pillow. The open door cast very little light. He wasn’t snoring but breathing hard.

“Who are you?” I demanded out loud. Sickness and death, be done with it.

The breathing stopped.

“Kog?” asked a voice.

His word took a while to cut through my thoughts. His voice took even longer.

“Jermaine?” I asked.

There was gasping, stuttering breathing, and someone fumbled on the pallet. I reached out and found an arm.

“Jermaine?” I repeated.

The son of Koru and leader of the assassins said, “Kog?”

It was he. He lived.

Jermaine sat up, unwrapped himself from blankets, and faced me.

He looked terrible. He been beaten within an edge of his life. He stank of sweat, burned hair, and sea salt. Jermaine resembled Koru the way Seraphine didn’t. His super power was growing facial hair. His scruffy beard was thicker than anything I could grow, and it reached down his neck to the chest hair above the blanket. Not length, mind you. There was just so much hair that there was no break between scalp, chin, neck, and chest. He had a big nose, heavy brows, and wide shoulders.

He’d slept with something in one hand, something long and heavy that whacked the floor with a rattle. It sounded like steel wrapped in leather.

I ignored it for the moment.

Jermaine sat and breathed. “How much did you see?”

“A little, from the distance.”

“It was one of his sisters. She saw us when we were too far away.” He sighed. “We went, of course. We had too. We even got Mallens down. But they say us coming. It was his sisters. They spotted us.” He paused before asking, “Did you find any of the others?”

“From Sunrise Group?” I asked. They’d have been the more easterly group, the group that had hid right on the edge of the water.




I asked, “What of Sunset Group? Any of them–”

“None. It– we– it ended suddenly. He struck us down. No one made it.”

“You—” I meant to say ‘you made it,’ but he cut me off too quickly.

“I hid. He didn’t get me. He can’t see too well in the dark, almost as bad as Otomo. We knew that. He stomped, and he missed. His foot broke the earth, drove rock, houses, and trees down. He broke the ground. He missed, but the shock of it nearly got me. I went down.”

“Oh,” I said again.

“I woke up and found my way here. I found the package, ate the ambrosia. I couldn’t find any others. Were you looking for it?”

“Just collecting things,” I said.

“Oh. The other packages?”


“The ambrosia?”


“I need it,” said the Prince of Rats.

I thought of Koru. I thought of his son, Jermaine. I thought of Osret and my secrets, the living assassin, and Mallens, Lord of the Titans.

Jermaine carried a blade in a black sheath. No doubt it was a heavy, single-bladed saber with a straight back, forged by Hasso. I’d just gotten another one. Jermaine was weak, injured by the strike of Mallens. I had been shot, but Jermaine was weaker. The Celestial had eaten ambrosia and slept, and he would mend. But right now, I was stronger.

He would never see it coming if I killed him. And they deserved it, after what Koru did to me.

It would be justice.

ME: Headcanon

At the end of the First Age, after the fall of Angband, Sauron was said to have truly repented. He was ordered to return to Valinor to suffer judgement, but his pride quailed. He would not endure a long imprisonment, and so turned away.

Many of Morgoth’s servants were given the same choice and some returned. Balrogs of Morgoth came back to Valinor, and their fire and shadow was burned away in the light of heaven. They were imprisoned for an Age and spend a thousand years learning new lore and new power. At the end of that time, their new masters sent them to Middle Earth to serve again, and wreak the destruction of their new master.

But since pride was their weakness, they were not to fight him themselves. They had to work through the free peoples.

Five there were, and with the lore of Valinor, they returned as wizards.

Two went east and lost themselves.

One strayed into Mirkwood and became a friend of the small creatures.

One recalled much of ancient Morgoth’s lore, but the Valar had burned away his aptitude for the dark powers. So he set about finding new forms of power and fell again into arrogance.

The last did not. He remembered Morgoth’s powers of illusion but made them gentle. He created fireworks instead of fireballs, and he served the free peoples. Only once did he unfurl his true power when he was tested against on such as he had been, a Balrog of Morgoth in Moria. In humility, he triumphed as in pride, he had once fallen.

Gandalf defeated his own history, and when he was given a chance to remain in Middle Earth as a power, he returned to Valinor as he had once before.