Twilight in Heaven: Ch 4

Prior chapters

Chapter 4

I didn’t want to die.

I did some fast but simple thinking in the seconds while falling.

I didn’t want to die.

I had nothing else. I didn’t know what I wanted to live for now that everything had ended. I didn’t know what I would do. I didn’t know where I mattered or to whom.

I didn’t want to die.

But that was enough.

I fell from the high tower toward the river below and thought of rivers.

The River Alph had three daughters: Astras, Aelof, and Azenath. Astras you’ve met. Aelof never really left home. A high aqueduct met the Hundred Ribbons falls as the Alph came over the ringwall, and siphoned a small stream away. This stream, Aelof, ran across the arch that connected the Hakan to the wall, and once within the Hakan, drove wheels and turned vanes to power the city. When I’d first come to Shang Du on an errand, she and I had been introduced while I was waiting for Koru. Within thirty seconds, she was lamenting how much harder she worked than anyone else and how no one else helped. She did and nor did anyone else help, but we’d just met and I didn’t really want to hear about it. After doing all the work in this place, her words, the river vented through a hundred-headed rat sculpture on the south side of the pillar.

Azenath or Zeni, left her father shortly after Hundred Ribbons. An oxbow of the river branched off and filled a narrow, deep fault between black basalt and pale granite. The fault’s shape resembled a funnel. A stairway carved into the fault spiraled down until being lost in deep shadows. One could walk down the spiral until exiting to the other place and there read the meaning of dreams. Koru had bragged about it when giving me the tour.

I’d met Zeni last night. The river carried a great deal of brown silt, but by moonlight, the pool had cleared. I could see the stairway descending across white and black stone until it met the reflection of the moon and there vanished. She’d worn gossamer and spider silk, waited at a platform round as the moon itself, sitting on a round bench around a round pit, everything pocked with black shadows against white marble. There was no marble in the earth around Shang Du. We’d talked for a long time, but my dreams had been full of glory and thunder. She’d had little to say.

I was going to hit the Aelof’s outflow.

In my second year of Northshore, after I’d dropped out of my Sorcery major but before I’d started Unarmed Combat, a rumor had circulated that if you spoke Obesis at exactly the right moment, you could fall from any height and live. Right as you hit the ground, provided you were falling feet first, you could ghost-step onto the ground and walk away. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who had done it. A freshman had tried.

He died.

The faculty brought everyone together and explained you can’t actually do that. Hitting the ground happens really, really fast, hence the problem, so speaking Obesis at exactly the right time is basically impossible. Furthermore, that isn’t really what Obesis does. Obesis lets you stand on things, not survive getting hit by them at terminal velocity. I felt badly for the kid. We hadn’t been friends, but I’d known him. He rode a skateboard. His name was something Unnish, Franz or Frens.

I hit the Aelof’s outflow, and it was more like a thick mist than a waterfall. It rumbled but didn’t roar. I spoke Obesis as my foot found a trickle of falling water.

The impact wrenched my foot. My knees felt like breaking. My foot plowed through the stream, throwing dovetails, and I stepped onto them, shouting Obesis again with more power. My other foot went sideways beneath me, and the knee did break. The mist fell thick, and the spray made rainbows. I inhaled to try again, hoping to land on the mist itself when I hit the water.

The water of Alph, even in a deep pool with the surface agitated by the Aelof’s outflow, hit like nothing else. I’ve never eaten canvas on the mats like that. It was getting hit with everything, all at once, and there was nothing to slap or break-fall.

And then I was underwater in the dark, and I couldn’t breathe, but at least I had been inhaling to yell so I had good air in my lungs. My head was foggy. I couldn’t figure out why I was floating but felt like I was going down. The world was dark, and the black rocky bottom of the pool looked the same as shadows.

The brain-machinery started clicking again, and the first thought in line for processing was ‘Pain and death, that hurt!’

The second was ‘Swim sideways, then up.’

That was more useful.

I broke the surface, breathed, and groaned. “Oh, wow. Oh, wow.” Oh, that hurt. But the pool seemed still outside the falls, deep in the Alph’s canyon. The black rock of the valley floor reached together overhead. I couldn’t see the silvered domes of Koru’s palace. Spirals of bubbles turned lazily on the water surface like the river spiraled about the valley floor, and they spun me in gentle circles. I tended distinctly toward one side.

The canyon was more of a series of connected pits than a single long trench, and at the end of it, the Alph vanished under the Hakan, a drop from which no one or no thing returned. This one place in the valley held none of Koru’s children. Rats can’t make it out once they are taken by Astras, the final plunge at Alph’s end, and I think I’ve mentioned that rats are strong swimmers. I wasn’t. I paddled to the side, found a bit of ledge, and slithered out.

I felt terrible. Oh, biscuits.

But I lived.


Several long, circuitous miles of crawling on hands and one knee brought me to Zeni’s oxbow. Her father had not appeared in flesh or foam. That had worried me, for the rats that did not see me avoided this place because they feared his drowning grip. Alph served Koru in exchange for being fed. Yet the river did not take form nor reach out to drag me down. I thought of so many reasons he should or shouldn’t be gone that I realized I was thinking in circles. I crawled in circles too as Alph spiraled in, and when I crawled up-stream, I spiraled out until I came to Zeni’s branch. The trip consisted of unpleasantness that cannot be described. Yet we had feasted on honeydew and ambrosia to watch the killing, and now, I endured.

The Sun set, the Moon rose, and I crawled to her pool and down. The winding stairway lead around and around, and I could breathe the water as if it was air. Soon I met her as she climbed to greet her visitor, and she greeted me like an old friend.

“Stop bleeding on my stairs!”

“We’re underwater!”

“So?” she demanded.

“Let the water wash it off.” I waved a hand.

“Who do you think the water is?” asked Azenath in a tone that didn’t imply she wanted a response.

When I need help with the ladies, a little sex appeal always gets me through. If that doesn’t work, I try flattery. If that didn’t work, I’d need a desparate plan C.

“Oh lady Azenath, fairest and most beautiful of your sisters-” I paused to think of something to say next.

“Yes,” she replied.

I hesitated.

She waited.

Boils and blisters on plan C. “Since I met you, I have thought of no one else.”


“You have stolen my heart. I yearn for you. My eyes see nothing but your face, and the blood in my veins beats to your name.”

“I do that to people.”

She smiled, facing upward at a slight angle, nodded, and waited.

“My love, I need your help.”

Azenath snorted. She made bubbles. “Oh, there it is. Why would you bring that in? You were doing so well.”

“It’s my leg.”

“I don’t care about your leg. Talk more about me.”

“You’re probably right. It’s for the best you don’t cure my leg, for if I could run, I would chase you, catch you, carry you down to the bier in the pool’s dark nethers, and have my way with you.”

Azenath stopped scowling at the distant sky. She looked down. “What now?”

“I dare not say it again.”

“Oh, you should.”

“It’s my leg.”

She licked her lips and stretched her eyebrows. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Technically speaking, it’s broken.”

“I can see that. You’ve got bones sticking out.”

“You did ask.”

“Don’t get fresh.”

“I’m trying to get fresh. That’s why I’m here!” I insisted. “If you cure my leg, I’m going to get even more fresh, and that’s something too impure to be conceived.”

Azenath cocked her head sideways but did not immediately reply. Nor did she cure my leg. She was a river-goddess in her place of power, so I wasn’t asking for the Moon here.

“Besides, it would be wicked. Your father wouldn’t approve.”

She shook her head. “He’s not here. Koru sent him off for something.”

Interesting. It explained why I’d survived, but I’d been involved in every step of planning the attempt, and Alph didn’t have any part that I knew of. Koru couldn’t have sent Alph out already. There was no time. That meant Koru had sent Alph out before. I couldn’t guess why.

I could guess I was about to lose consciousness.

“Zeni, may I tell you how beautiful you are?”

“Please do.”

“Your face is like–” and I dropped like a bag of soup.

Blissful, perfectly-timed unconsciousness. That’s the secret to women. Say enough to get them interested, then pass out.

The Miller Household

Occassionally I get culture shock when dealing with the family. We are so sarcastic that half of what is said is a bold-faced lie, spoken with the understanding that it will not be believed or considered. When I’m around other people, I really try not to do that, but I bet it slips out. When I go home and I’m talking with the fam, there is a biting edge of acerbic criticism that is so natural I don’t even notice it.


I feel sorry for all the girls who get made fun of for going to Target.

You can turn off the voice on Target self-checkout machines. Who wouldn’t want to go to Target?

Raft and Pool

The inflatable raft will be on the pool on my small yacht on my big yacht. The raft will not be in the pool, unless it sinks, nor will the little yacht be in the big yacht unless some dangerous, inadvisable, and probably illegal navigation has taken place.


Mitsuoka makes shockingly ugly cars, and I love them.

Unrelated, I want to buy a superyacht. Not a Misuoka superyacht. A regular superyacht, but I want a smaller yacht on my big yacht, a pool on the small yacht, and an inflatable raft on the pool on the smaller yacht on the bigger yacht. Someone, help me make this happen.

Twilight in Heaven: Ch3

Previous chapters here

Chapter 3

Koru’s palace, Shang Du, stood on a tower of white granite, the Hakan. Behind it the folded Mountains of Tsme rose in jagged peaks, divided by deep, round valleys where the worms of Meru had crawled. The Hakan rose at the center of a bowl valley. At one time the spire had been joined to the greater peak Mt Nonac by a high wall of the same white granite, but the river Alph had cut a path through the junction. Now the crest of the rock formed a white bridge between Shang Du and the mountain, ornamented with lanterns and a wide path. The Alph entered the valley via a waterfall, the Hundred Ribbons, and circled the valley lazily until it passed underground. Koru’s palace up top was opulent and magnificent, horribly furnished, and carried a viewing deck that overlooked the valley and stood above the Tsme Peaks.

I stared at the other seven. Most of them stared at me. I wanted to think, but my mind struggled to comprehend Astras’s suggestion. No one quite moved. No one wanted this.

Maybe Astras did.

She kept talking.

“With the assassins gone, they will tell no secrets,” she said. “Nor will their remains be recognized. But they carried replicas of All Things Ending, and Kog had those replicas made. If Kog was gone, there would be nothing that connected any of us to him, and if we could all keep our secrets like the dead, we’d live.”

And if none of them said anything, they began to move.

“Take your hand out of your shirt,” I told Mithrak.

He’d reached under his jacket where I’m sure he carried a gun.

“I’m just scratching,” he said.


Hoarfast shifted his feet. Somehow, he seemed closer.

I faced seven of them. Seraphine wouldn’t fight nor Astras, Koru would have others fight for him, and Dr Simmons looked irrelevant. That left Mithrak, Cole, Agammae, and the terrible Hoarfast.

I wanted to fight Mithrak, but not him and Cole at the same time. Not if they had help. I never wanted to fight Hoarfast.

Who was this Astras who suddenly had so much to say? What was she even doing? She was a trophy wife. She needed to shut up, look sexy, and be kept. Now she seemed content to wait, but some noise kept building. Maybe the waterfall of Alph was getting louder.

Mithrak scratched himself again. His hand moved toward his armpit.

“Stop that,” I told him.

“I’m just scratching.”

“I told you to-”

Mithrak’s hand shot under his shirt, and I hard initiated on the lot of them.

He grabbed his gun, my fist met his face, and I followed through his head. His whole face wrapped around my fist with jaws and jowls moved in opposite directions, until I finished the strike and launched him a dozen feet away.

Agammae went on me. She threw her chair, I blocked, but the chair was a big thing. It filled a lot of space. She came in behind and kicked out my legs. I dropped.

Cole jumped at me and missed. Hoarfast went wide around behind the rest of the group. I had two seconds before he got here. Agammae spun around and jammed her leg between mine. I tried to leap from my back, but she got herself tangled up with me.

Hoarfast passed the spare chairs and drinks table, four steps away.

“Overe!” I shot my legs skyward again as I slip-broke from Agammae’s grip. My body moved like a wave, and I ended on my feet. Cole tried to tackle me. I retreated, Agammae sprawled out to snatch my feet, I retreated again, and Hoarfast arrived.

His parentage showed. Lines of gray followed his veins. His knuckles had turned to steel.

He feinted, threw two shots, and somehow, he’d gotten between me and the door. His assault was beyond the rest of them combined. I countered low, he blocked, and we exchanged strikes that didn’t connect. Mithrak got up, leaning like the deck was pitching and he’d lost his sea legs. Cole kept trying to grab me. Agammae’s hands appeared with knives. I slipped around Hoarfast’s jab as his off-hand tagged me, and my side went cold.

I dove off the balcony as flashing knives flew overhead.

Shang Du’s balcony overlooked the deep forest. At the bottom of the granite pillar, Alph passed into a dark cavern. Fog and froth filled the pit, and sometimes Koru’s children fell in. None of them ever emerged, and rats are strong swimmers.