Karesh Ni: Chapter 8

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Hopefully, this is the final chapter 8.

Chapter 8

Tel Viv made several odd faces. She was wonderfully expressive, and she kept squinting and wrinkling her face, unsquinting and unwrinkling her eyes, and glaring at me like a new and unpleasant bug. I get that a lot, so she unintentionally put me at ease. Maybe it was intentional. I doubt it. She didn’t look someone executing a master plan. She looked like eaten something that upset her stomach.

“You’re a wheat merchant?” she demanded.

“I don’t handle it myself. I connect buyers and sellers,” I said.

She kept squinting. She needed a little more.

I continued. “The winter crop is already gone. I’m sure the Celephians have some in storage, but they’d fleece you. I can–”

Tel Viv interrupted, “You don’t know that!”

“That they have any in storage or that they’d fleece you?”

She squinted again. I could see her deciding if she really wanted to defend the Celephians against overcharging a customer.

“Let’s put that aside,” she said. “You’re not a wheat grower. Who do you know who is?”

“I won’t answer that directly, because you’ll try to go to my supplier and cut me out,” I replied. “But I did just show you a contract from the Truis.”

She sat back and crossed her arms. Her face closed.

I pushed. “The Truis won’t help you much because Citi Kageran observes the Maurite Prohibition. The Celephians don’t, but they’re difficult. They’re not the only exporters in Pallas, though. Who do you want to talk to?”

She exhaled, but I think she thawed a little. I pushed farther.

“What’s your timeline? Are people starving in the streets? The winter crop is growing, so most merchants will have found buyers already. The first summer crop is harvested around midsummer. Is that doable?”

She sighed again but definitely thawed. “By midsummer, you mean solstice?”

“Depends on where, but yeah.”

“I’m not under an executioner’s axe. Solstice would be fine. I could even push to autumn if the price was right.”

My knowledge of the wheat trade wasn’t too deep, but I had picked up a little. “Autumn is good. You can get a commitment cheaper that far out, but it’s risky. Weather, drought, dust-storms, bugs, anything could throw you off, but you save some money if everything works out in your favor, more if you pay up front.”

Tel Viv did a side-to-side nod. She didn’t like the thought but wasn’t reflexively arguing me. I smiled. We had a little connection.

“So you’re looking for something in summer or autumn?” I asked again, trying to get her talking.

She corrected me. “I’m looking for stable trading partners away from the Ashirai. I, we, are looking for bilateral relations.”

“Who did you used to trade with? Can you talk to them?”

“Because the Empire is leaning on its connections to cut our partners. They don’t want anyone to deal with us but them. Your contacts in Kageran won’t help. Citi Kageran is a small place, and once the Ashirai creeped in, they kept creeping. They’re like pythons, throwing one coil at a time over their prey.”

“They’ll deal with you themselves?” I asked. That sounded odd.

“Their terms are unacceptable.”

“What are their terms?”


I thought for a second. “Does it have to be wheat?”

She looked at me like she didn’t understand the question. “What?”

“Down south, away from the Ashirai, there’s a lot of rice.”

“You can’t make bread with rice.”

“They eat it straight.”

And we talked.

She wanted food. The people of Whitefire traditionally ate bread, so while she thought in terms of wheat and medium grains, she was willing to talk about rice. But as much as she wanted food, she wanted food not from Ashirak. The empire galled her. Her jaw clenched, and she scowled when she talked about them. She spoke in terms of deep grievances she wouldn’t clarify, old grudges she wouldn’t explain.

That’s unusual. People love telling me why they’re mad at other people.

She didn’t have as much time as she said. She needed something done, and she couldn’t do it herself. The Hierophant and other eparchs would be involved. But Eparch Tel Viv wanted to present a full plan by herself, and money wasn’t the biggest sticking point.

It was a sticking point. Money always was. But she was willing to pay to get someone talking to her.

She didn’t know it, but she was talking about Celephians. They cared nothing for Ashirai threats or pressure. Threatening Celephias across the seas was such a bad idea they enjoyed it. If the Ashirai threatened Celephias over trading with Karesh Ni, the Crystal City would have emissaries in Karesh Ni before the season turned. But the trade would be expensive.

Still, the Celephians wanted money, Tel Viv had some, they had wheat, Tel Viv wanted some, and things could be arranged. Tel Viv didn’t trust them either, and that put her in a bind.

No one should trust the Celephians, ever, about anything, but these were the players.

I needed time. My immediate contract was to find Kyria, and Tel Viv seemed pretty sure Kyria was dead. That would take some unravelling.

“Wherever you get it from, they’re going to have to bring it up here,” I said later. “And the stairs–” I hesitated.

“Can you find someone who will make the trek?” she asked.

“Maybe,” I said. “I came here through the Hyades lake, and my boat, a little one, has probably floated away. I need a boat back,” I said. “Or I’m not finding anyone.”

Tel Viv went from smug to frowning. “What do you mean it floated away?”

I told her of the rowboat. I left out Alyssa.

Tel Viv looked less and less pleased as I spoke, and my short story was enough to put her in a foul mood. Perhaps it was just late.

She offered, “Why don’t you accept our hospitality for the night, and we can continue in the morning? Or later.”

“Thank you.”

She took me to lodging in the Sunset Basilica, this place, which was a dream come true. It had hot showers, flush toilets, and no bugs. I slept warm, dry, and clean like I hadn’t in years, and when I woke up, I had a horrible, terrible, probably blasphemous idea.


I hadn’t intended to be a spy. I came to Pallas to be a hero, a savior, and a champion of the world, and failed catastrophically. After all that ruin, I worked in a bank because it paid well. I’m okay with numbers but I don’t enjoy them, so I started out as a translator. Then I became a thief. Now I was here.

Remember how I feel about offices, and how no one gets it but me? Another little thing like that is languages. People don’t think you can learn a language in Pallas. If you’re Celephian and want to talk to someone from Ashirak, Celephians don’t believe they can learn. They think vocab, nouns, and verbs, are endowed upon them at birth and forever their domain, and theirs alone.

I don’t really understand what their grammar school is for, because all Celephians send their kids to it. If the language is a sign of their divine gifts, why send your kids to school? Shouldn’t infants be conjugating in the cradle?

Also, translators exist. After I arrived in Celephias years ago and learned their language was close enough to English to be speakable, I’d picked up Demseen, the language of the Ashirai too. It was hard. Demseen has a lot of irregular verbs with irregular tenses. But it’s just a language, so I learned it, got a job, and did soul-sucking translation for angry, overworked bosses. I hated them, they hated me, and I took a job in the goblin city of Invedeletch to get away.

In Invedeletch I ran a bipartite house for Celephians who manage an elvish way-house. It’s the only goblin city where foreigners are allowed. That means not only foreign goblins, but humans and elves. It’s the home of the Thunderblood clan, and Invedeletch- Invedeletch is a weird place.

The city’s under a hurricane, the Gath Mahore. Always. The Gath Mahore doesn’t go away but rotates about the Sevenfold Spires year in and out. The city’s on the Kahserach coast, where the mountains meet the sea. North is the Fhysay, the great water ocean of Pallas. It’s half the size of the Pacific but covers the north pole. The Kahserach isn’t that far north, but the Fhysay brings wind down from the arctic, and the currents that ring the pole bring cold water down year round. Further south, only a few hundred miles, beyond great mountains and deep waters, the rest of goblin territory is warm, often high desert, but the Fhysay coast is brutally cold.

Underneath the hurricane, it’s worse. There is no sunshine, and it only stops raining when the rain freezes. It’s the storm from which Thunderblood makes other thunderstorms, the ones goblins sail across the world. They spin little bits of storm off Gath Mahore.

It has endured since Nilo built the first stormcloud out of poetry, which probably meant a spell, but that was almost a thousand years go, a century after the fall of Whitehall to the army of Dread. Dread shattered the one goblin nation, and they were many small peoples until Nilo built the first storms to tie them together. Goblin traders on stormclouds go everywhere there are goblins, except Death Mountain, and the storms come from Gath Mahore over Invedeletch.

And I got used to it. I lived in Invedeletch for three years, and I got used to it. Goblins sail the high deserts on thunderstorms carrying wheat, fish, seal blubber, and seaweed, and it stopped being weird. Every now and then I’d stop and think, Goblins are on a stormcloud over my head. That is weird. But it was a dry, cognitive thought instead of a visceral one. I felt obligated to think about how weird it was so I didn’t take it for granted.

Humans and elves are allowed in as well as other goblins. We’re definitely second-class people, and our rights are subservient to goblins, but if I went to, say, Thra Koakha, a Tallfoot city on the Shaggeritarch coast, I would have no rights. If some goblin found me in the city, other goblins would have wondered why if he didn’t kill me. In Invedeletch the Thunderblood goblins live on top of the clouds, humans live underground the low with elves, and goblins of other clans liver wherever they can find a place. Those goblins are above us. They can take our places in line, our homes, push us to the side if the hallways are narrow, or kick us out of the way if we stand in doorways talking. If we don’t like it, we can leave. Thunderblood thinks we should be happy to come into Invedeletch at all, the only city of goblins that tolerates lower beings. In the bipartite home, we humans and elves stayed together and made bothering us too much trouble for goblins.

We lived in caves and mines. The fires and magmas of the mountain had receded, but the earth remained warm. Folds in the old mountain were still shot through with lava tubes, and by opening shafts uphill, we could syphon rainwater down into our houses. Used water vented into chosen wadis like sewers. Every house had a little one-story shack above ground, little more than an entryway and door, but ours had nine floors underground, stacked on top of each other. The highest buried floor was for entry and exit, the next two for elvish purposes, then came five for human beings, and finally one for deep storage. The port and volcano shared a slowly expanding web of tunnels and covered walkways, expanded piecemeal as people built homes.

There I learned Klime and Isari, what humans call Low Elvish and High, but elves call Moonlit and Day. They all speak Klime until they’ve gone to the Solange, when they switch to Isari. Imagine making the Hajj, but instead of gaining a honorific, you switch languages. You can understand one from the other, but an elf from the Solange would only speak Klime to a lesser elf. Klime has an ‘I’m better than you’ case.

Elves don’t have a problem teaching other people elvish. Elves are mildly perplexed why we don’t speak elvish already, and they wonder what’s the slow-down. They’re too polite to say anything, but they wonder. Thannius Al Fir once asked me why Celephians speak Celephian at all when Klime exists, and that’s a really weird question to answer. I learned Klime and spoke it for a year without really understanding the difference until in passing I mentioned my ship from Celephias to Invedeletch had made a port-call in the Solange for resupply. It was like they learned I’d visited Heaven. I had to learn Isari straight out, and suddenly I was brunching with elven lords and ladies.

I liked living in Invedeletch but not the city. There was an exciting but tiring element of danger to it, a sense of possessing secret lore. I learned goblin tongues, Whitehall, Throathurter, and Stonefoot, and no goblin I’ve ever met knows any human. I would overhear their conversations because they don’t pay attention to humans, especially not normal-sized ones, and steal away will secrets and rumors. Most I shared with the Celephians who ran the house or the elves who paid them to run it, but one day I heard that four of the ancient relics of Whitehall were being moved. I decided to steal them.

How to say this? I didn’t mind goblins, and I didn’t get upset when they shoved me in the caves or cut in line. But when I had the opportunity to do them harm and take something of theirs they treasured, I did. I didn’t think twice. I’d learned about them. I’d learned they don’t see well in contrast, bright light to dim. Lightning does not harm them, and they describe being struck by lightning as like warm water in a bubbling spring. They live longer than us, for centuries sometimes, and their grudges grow with them. They’ve carried axes against Dread for the sack of Whitehall for more than a thousand years, and they still hold it personally. They don’t like humans because Dread was a human, and so the sack of Whitehall (which happened more than a thousand years ago!) is our living fault. They’ll knock packages out of your hands, kick dirt in your food, and trip you on the stairs in revenge for ancient Dread’s attack. And the relics of Whitehall are great treasures to a past that humans denied them. So when two goblins spoke of relics after taking my spot in line for water, I decided, I’m going to take your stuff.

So I did.

Fabled swords: the Ending, the West Wind, the Blackwing, and the King’s Blade, goblins had forged them from lightning in the forges where the Clockwork Gods had made the world. The blades crackled. At rest, they glittered and shone, but when they were moved, they leaped like lightning. They arced to steel swords and killed the wielders. They burned weapons of wood. Their goblin wielders had thought themselves invincible at Whitehall with blades of lightning.

Dread had used archers. The goblins had gotten a few. Dread had had legions of archers.

To touch a lightning sword was death, so I wrapped them in rubber, wrapped that in fur for silence, and put out the lights in their Temple of Luminance. It is a great cathedral in Invedeletch in the heart-chamber of the ancient volcano. Where once magma bubbled and boiled, Thunderblood goblins have built a church of light. Candles burn in sconces, torches hang on the walls, brazziers burn charcoal, and oil-wicks hang from platters. It is endlessly bright, so I created dark places where no goblin could see.

They just can’t see contrast. They can’t go from dark to light or vice versa, and the Temple of Luminance was supposed to be all light, all the time. I arranged a distraction, put out some lights, ran in, stole the artifacts that make them a people, and ran out. Someone chased me. I kinda stabbed him a little bit. By then they were looking for me, so I couldn’t go back to the home where I’d been staying. I went up.

From the magma tubes and delved corridors under the mountain, where I had lived, I climbed through the high shafts. At the peak of the old volcano seven ring dikes rise in the eye of the storm, tall walls of black stone that curve on themselves. The walls are obsidian and yet impregnated with gems, so to walk on the summit of Invedeletch is to walk among walls of sky, and outside the dikes swirl the Gath Mahore, a seething boil of gray clouds, striking lightning, and endless rain.

High goblins, Thunderblood-clan goblins themselves, built their city on the top of the hurricane. Their towers rise and fall with the seething clouds. Cables and ropes connected them, attached to pulleys and clockwork. When the hurricane draws two castles apart, the storm winds cranks and pumps their water. When the storm drives the houses together, gears harvest the energy to mill their wheat. When lightning strikes a cable, gear, or tower, it leaps to special crystals in their houses to shed light, reflected, refracted, and controlled to be long, low glows instead of sudden bright flashes. The true city of Invedeletch is on those clouds.

But goblins carry stones up here, brass gears, and pallets of food. They do something to the cloud, something they learned from Nilo after the breaking of Whitehall, and the storms are thick enough to walk on. Standing on the hurricane felt like standing on a floating dock in a rough sea, for the floors moved underfoot but I never fell through.

The southernmost goblin city, Bloodharvest, had been Whitehall. Now, then, it was a prison. Once a year, at midsummer, a cloud sailed from Invedeletch to fallen Whitehall in the middle of the Arsae, the tree-ocean of Pallas. It wasn’t where I wanted to go, but the cloud was leaving when I wanted to leave. I stowed away, left at Bloodharvest, and wandered through the woods and the wilds until I returned to human places.

That wasn’t a story. I walked for miles, starved, got bitten by bugs, and chased by coyotes. It was cold, wet, and I nearly died of dysentery. Alone in the woods, that may have been the worst death I’ve come close to. But luck, fate, or whomever saw fit to deliver me to a small village on the south coast of Temerraine. Its name was Holist, and there humans fished the seas near sunken Meom. They put me on a ship to Celephias, and I never saw the place again.

I found out goblins had searched the bipartite house. They’d showed up, kicked down some doors, harassed everyone, and searched the place without saying why. They did that every few years. When I’d never come back, my old housemates had assumed something bad had happened to me, and that happened every few years too. I felt better knowing I hadn’t caused them any unique trouble.

Once in Celephias I started looking for buyers for ancient, priceless, goblin artifacts, and instead, a stranger wearing yellow robes hired me to return to Bloodharvest. He’d paid me in ‘never work again’ money, which with the ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ exchange rates meant I had to work again in a year and a half.

That had been a great year and a half. Then I was broke.

So I’d gone back to the Solange, spoken Isari to the elves, taken a contract payable in wheat options to rescue Prince Aehr from Bloodharvest, and the whole situation had been so strange, the elves so desperate, they’d never asked if I had any idea what I was doing.

I had none.

I was no spy. I didn’t know anything about combat or money laundering, and sooner or later, someone was going to figure out I was faking everything. I just paid attention to goblins when I lived there, and no one else did. I listened to the elves, and they thought that meant something. Even Alyssa thought I knew what I was doing, and sooner or later, she was going to figure it out. They all would. I had never met anyone from Whitefire, so I couldn’t listen. I didn’t know anything.

After a long, deep sleep, I woke to the smell of breakfast. A covered tray had appeared by the door, and I are it while it was hot.

My idea terrible idea percolated. It grew in my head.

After breakfast, I sent word to Tel Viv, and said it was important. She met me after lunch but acted like she’d hurried.

“Yes?” she asked. “You said you had something?”

“Have you considered goblins?” I asked.

Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 18

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Updated Wednesdays and Fridays

Chapter 18

No one was home when I broke into the Hemlin-cousins’s house again and searched Osret’s room. He was a filthy Celestial who needed take his dishes back to the kitchen. I didn’t find the sword or money.

Moving down, I skipped the other bedrooms for the moment and cased the great room. The door fragments had been picked up, the cutlery put away, the furniture righted. They’d mopped about half the floor, moving lights and tables to the kitchen side. I looked around with a blank mind.

The room was just a big, rich room. Men lived here. It had hardwood floors and thick, overhead beams with irregular grain, but what told me it was men was the furniture. Girl-chairs tend to have thinner frames, smoother edges, and painted bits. They’re easier to move when your friends need help. This was a house full of boy-furniture with thick log frames, overstuffed cushions, and wider seats. The cousins had couches but no loveseats. They didn’t have piles of blankets and pillows tastefully spread around.

That got me thinking of food, and when I looked at the kitchen, I noticed a pile of stuff in front of the pantry. They had been mopping, but the pile struck me as suspicious. At a block, I pushed into the pantry and started eating their ambrosia while I pulled the shelves down and poked the ceiling. One of the floor-boards was loose, so I pried it open with a steak knife. I found dust and old rice, but couldn’t see to the end of a crevice. The crevice was maybe wide enough for the sword. I got a candle and was crawling around on the pantry floor when the two remaining cousins came home.

Apseto, the one who had found it in the lagoon, and Nurim, the wiry, always moving man, walked through their front door in a conversation long since given to argument. As they walked into the great room, they shoved their heavy, over-built couch in front of the flimsy main door.

“I’m just saying,” said Apseto. “I think it’s time we got out of this.”

“I don’t think we can,” said Nurim.

“I think we can,” said Apseto. “The crazy guy died in a sword-fight with the Messenger. Osret’s been arrested, but he’s solid. He’ll go silent. We just…wait.”

I peaked around the edge of the pantry door. They both had guns, lots of guns, with knives, armor, and boots. Nurim was carrying a pair of Thelucidor 37s, fast-action word-of-gods famous for their ability to burn large amounts of ammunition very quickly. Apseto had a breaching rifle, some kind of stupid revolver in a quick-draw holster, and another iron, a hold-out pistol, stuffed down the back of his pants in case he suddenly needed another hole in his butt. Their armor had abs, covered in unused tie-downs and spare magazines.

I had the Drowning Breath.

Death upon you, let’s just go!

Nurim was saying, “Yes, Osret’s solid, but the Messengers–” and he didn’t finish when I pushed the door open and walked out.

They looked at the naked blade in my hand and their guns in sheaths. Everyone stayed very, very still for two or three long breaths.

And Nurim asked, “What can we do to make you go away?”

“I want the saber.”

“It’s in a notch in the beam over your head,” Apseto answered.

I didn’t look up. I kept the Drowning Breath between us and used my left hand to feel around. My fingertips only grazed the base of the wood. I could climb on some boxes, but that would be treacherous footing, hard to initiate from.

“Put your hands on your heads,” I said.

They did.

And at that moment I realized they weren’t going to draw. They would try to shoot me if I started something, but I could see it in their eyes, their hands, their faces, they just wanted me to leave.

Without looking, I stepped up on a hard case, fumbled around the beam, and finally found a little groove. I’d looked right at it and never seen it. Inside that I found the forgery of Hasso, took it, and stepped off the box of food. I sidled sideways toward the door. They rotated with me but kept their hands on their heads. They had a small armory between them, and all the thoughts in my head were screaming for death and murder. I wanted one of them to draw just to be done with everything.

They didn’t.

“I didn’t kill your cousins,” I said.

Apseto didn’t react, but Nurim shook his head. He wasn’t arguing; his head-shakes meant disbelief, incomprehension, befuddlement. It looked like he was waking up.

“Okay,” he said, meaning nothing.

I got my back to the broken doorway, stepped through, and ran.

Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 17

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Update schedule: Wednesdays and Sundays, noon Denver time (MDT)

Chapter 17

The gulls of the rookery screamed. The stone of the building rose quietly and placidly, while the shadows on its roof climbed and hopped. Under the cloudy sky, I could not see the Sun or stars, but the vague, directionless light told me that somewhere above, the Sun had risen.

My arm bled where the Drowning Breath of Ogden had cut through the belt. The red line ran shallowly from wrist to elbow and seemed to have missed all my really important piping. Still, it was a long, nasty cut. I’d picked up half a dozen others too. Little cuts, perhaps from leaping out the window, breaking down doors, stood out in red dots and scrapes on my arms and legs.

Without taking her eyes of me, the lady with the dragon blade turned her head suddenly. I didn’t take my eyes off her either.

“Sit down,” she said.

“Why? I’m leaving!” said Osret.

“No, you’re staying. You’re under arrest.”

“Why?” He sounded offended.

“Illegal left turn. Two weeks ago, corner of Markish and Seventh.”

“Are you serious?” he yelled.



There was a sort of thumping noise.

I thought of something and turned the blade slightly so I could see Osret’s reflection while keeping an eye on her. He’d sat down.

She waited. She was waiting for me.

Self, maybe she’s as scared of you as you are of her. They say that about dangerous animals.

Ha! No, self, she has a dragon sword. She’s just waiting for me to make a mistake.

Was the punishment for taking honey dew and nectar really death for a mortal?

Yes, as I thought about it. It was treason. Again.

Oh, blisters.

I initiated on her.

My lunge passed right through where she had been, for she swiveled her hips and let them pull her sideways. Her feet seemed to slide across the ground. My thrust shifted to a backhand, she parried, and her sword rippled as it moved. The air about it wavered like a heat mirage over the desert. When she stopped my swing, that ripple kept going, a wave that flowed through the air until it hit one of the rookery’s long, forward walls. The wall burst into flame.

As did the ground for she had struck again. I blocked and dodged, and the dragon sword sent waves of flame after me again.

She looked surprised. Not baffled and filled with wonder, but she frowned, mildly startled, like her coffee place had raised their prices overnight. I tried to capitalize, so I blitzed again.

I went for a head-cut, she blocked up, I slashed at her legs, she parried low, I threw lunges for her head, and she faded backwards between them, her sword deflecting mine outward. Then she swung forward, the blade moving in a circle described by a beautiful wrist-flick, and behind the flashing edge of the sword, she drew a red smear. It looked like the after-image fireworks leave on your eyes if you’re close enough to see them shooting upward or against a black sky when they burst. I did not try to parry, merely dodged, and her sword cut furrows in ground it did not touch. She feinted, but the feint cut open a wall behind my head. She lunged and blew the wall down. She blocked my riposte, launched her own, we came close enough to lock blades, and I kicked her in the knee.

We separated. She sniffed. I shrugged.

“Northshore?” she asked.

I shrugged again.

“I know their champions, but you aren’t one,” she added.

“Yeah, I know,” I said in a rush without thinking. “I keep blowing my oral exams.”

She said, “Huh,” in a way I couldn’t interpret.

I really should not have said anything. Two seconds late, self. Two seconds late.

Maybe it sounded like a quip. Yeah. I was so witty.

I closed again, we exchanged a murderously fast series attacks where both of us tried to force the issue into a winning pattern, but neither allowed ourselves to be taken. She tore up the ground. The Drowning Breath whispered to me of the wave-cutting stroke, something I didn’t know, but when I attacked again, the sword began to flow. It wanted to get her. The sword wanted to win.

Suddenly the lady in white had to retreat again. My blade went for her head, I tried to rake her shins, and she jumped, weapon clearing my overhand swing as she flew backwards. The shin strike ended with a stomp, leaving me unable to pursue, and once she was safe outside my range, she swung in a wide open cut at waist level. A plane of fire swept out in all directions. It beat against the rookery, sending the still crying birds to the air, and burning the short hairs on my legs and arms as I jumped over it.

I landed at the ready. She frowned and mouthed something. I think it was ‘the audacity.’

She cut the air between us and sent a wave of flame I had to dodge. Her next strike blew a canyon in the ground. She thrust, and at full extension, the images of dragons appeared over her shoulders, breathing fire. Gouts of it passed overhead while I dove into the canyon. She’d cut the ground so deeply she’d opened up one of the storm-drain pipes.

I jumped down.

This place must get a ton of rainfall, because this storm runoff was huge. I could run down here. I did.

Something crackled behind me, and echoes transformed the sound into meaningless noise.

Not far ahead, I found a drainage opening. The opening formed a wide square in the side of a road, and I shimmied up. It had a grate of silver steel, but I could look around by pushing my face against the bars.

A lightning bolt had fallen and landed by the woman in white. Now it slithered in place as she hoisted the fallen swordsman onto the lightning bolt’s back. It was so bright I could barely look at it, but I registered an impression of length, a long head, and curving tail. Memory suggested the shape of a dragon.

Of course. She was from Fate.

Once the swordsman was tied on the lightning dragon’s back, she spoke to someone out of sight. Osret walked into view and climbed onto the dragon. He hung his head and sat slumped over. His gym abs didn’t do him any good while he slouched.

She looked away and pursed her lips. She glanced back at the unconscious swordsman and reluctant Osret. She hesitated, looking out over the industrial part of the city. Few parks stood by the roads, those that did needed tending, and roses grew out of the gutters. Finally, she climbed onto the dragon. It shot skyward in a zig-zagging path as thunder echoed off the clouds.

I ran as quietly as I could in the opposite direction.

Karesh Ni: Chapter 8

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Chapter 8

Tel Viv made several odd faces. She was wonderfully expressive, and she kept squinting and wrinkling her face, unsquinting and unwrinkling her eyes, and glaring at me like a new and unpleasant bug. I get that a lot, so she unintentionally put me at ease. Maybe it was intentional. I doubt it. She didn’t look someone executing a master plan. She looked like she’d been constipated all week, and things were starting to move unexpectedly.

“You’re a wheat merchant?” she demanded.

“I don’t handle it myself. I connect buyers and sellers,” I said.

She kept squinting. She needed a little more.

I continued. “The winter crop is already gone. I’m sure the Celephians have some in storage, but they’re going to fleece you. They might not,” I admitted.

Tel Viv interrupted, “Might not what? Have wheat in storage or fleece us?”

“Technically either, but let’s be honest. We both know Celephians. They’ll fleece you even if they don’t have any wheat in storage.”

“You don’t know that!” Tel Viv snorted at me.

Which was also technically true. “Okay,” I agreed.

She squinted again. I could see her deciding if she really wanted to defend the Celephians from charges of fleecing a customer.

“Let’s put that aside,” she said. “You’re not a wheat grower. Who do you know who is?”

“I won’t answer that directly, because you’ll try to go to my supplier and cut me out,” I replied. “But I did just show you a contract from the Truis.”
She sat back and crossed her arms. Her face closed.

I pushed. “We need to talk a little bit. I did just show you my last contract, but there are many suppliers in the world. I can talk to people. What do you need?”

She exhaled, but I think she thawed a little. I pushed farther.

“What’s your timeline? Are people starving in the streets? The winter crop is growing, so most merchants will have found buyers already. The first summer crop is harvested around midsummer. Is that doable?”

She sighed again but definitely thawed. “By midsummer, you mean solstice?”

“Depends on where, but yeah.”

“I’m not under an executioner’s axe. Midsummer would be fine. I could push to autumn if the price was right.”

My knowledge of the wheat trade wasn’t too deep, but I had picked up a little. “Autumn is a little far. You can get a commitment cheaper that far out, but it’s risky. Weather, drought, dust-storms, bugs, anything could throw you off. You save some money if everything works out in your favor, more if you pay up front.”

Tel Viv did a side-to-side nod. She didn’t like the thought but wasn’t reflexively arguing me. I smiled. We had a little connection.

“So you’re looking for something in summer or autumn?” I asked again, trying to get her talking.

“I’m looking for stable trading partners away from the Ashirai. I, we, are looking for bilateral relations.”

“Why away from the Ashirai?”

“Because the Empire is leaning on its connections to cut our partners. They don’t want anyone to deal with us but them. Your contacts in Kageran won’t help. Citi Kageran is a small place, and once the Ashirai got in, they just creep. They’re like pythons, throwing a coil at a time over their prey.”

“They’ll deal with you themselves?” I asked. That sounded odd.

“Their terms are unacceptable.”

“Okay. Does it have to be wheat?”

She looked at me like she didn’t understand the question. “What?”

“Down south, away from the Ashirai, there’s a lot of rice.”

“You can’t make bread with rice.”

“No, you eat it straight.”

And we talked.

She wanted food. The people of Whitefire traditionally ate bread, so while she thought in terms of wheat and medium grains, she was willing to talk about rice. More than anything else, she seemed intent on not-from-Ashirak. The empire galled her. Her jaw clenched, and she scowled when she talked about them. She spoke in terms of deep grievances she wouldn’t clarify, old grudges she wouldn’t explain.

She didn’t have as much time as she said. She needed something done, and she couldn’t do it herself. The Hierophant and other eparchs would be involved. But Eparch Tel Viv wanted to present a full plan by herself, and money wasn’t the biggest sticking point.

It was a sticking point. Money always was. But she was willing to pay to get someone talking to her.

She didn’t know it, but she was talking about Celephians. They cared nothing for Ashirai threats or pressure. Threatening Celephias across the seas was a bad, bad idea. The Celephians wanted money, Tel Viv had some, and things could be arranged. But Tel Viv didn’t trust them either, for good reason, and that put her in a bind.

I needed time. My immediate contract was to find Kyria, and Tel Viv pretty firmly told me she was dead. That would take some unravelling.

“So, what are your transport and storage arrangements?” I asked, fishing for a delay.

“We have a port,” she said so idly and flippantly she was bragging.

“From…down there?” I asked.

“Of course.”

“Can I see it?”


“And warehouses?” I added.

“Of course.”

“Can I see them too?”

“Will that take some time?” she asked.

“Days, at least.” It would take days, but I could pad a few days of spy work into there. “Maybe weeks.”

She nodded. “I’ll have someone show you around. For your stay, you are invited to take one of the guest rooms in the Sunset Basilica.”

“The Sunset Basilica?”

“This place.” She waved an arm around.

“Oh, I accept.”


“Am I still under arrest?”

“You mean bound and detained?”


Tel Viv thought. “No, but you’ll have an escort. You aren’t detained provided you don’t leave,” she said finally.

I sorta expected that. “Food, drink, a bed?”

“We will provide all.”

“Oh, wonderful. I accept,” I said again.


They took me to a very nice white room that did have bars on the doors, but the guards didn’t lock them. I had a window, but it didn’t open. But I also had a bed, sheeted in silk, and several small cabinets and shelves. Eparch Tel Viv spoke with the hospitallers outside while I looked around and came in when they were done.

“You’re not detained,” she repeated. “But you may be here a while. Tell someone if you need to leave, and if possible, you’ll be escorted.”

Again, what I expected. “The necessary?”

She looked at me blankly.

“Out house? Hanging garret?”

“Oh, the water house. That door.” She pointed at a flat wall.

I looked at her, the wall, and her again.

She walked over, put one finger on several glowing red spots and pushed. A line of yellow lights appeared in the outline of a door, and the wall swung inwards.

“Just press any stars in the shape of the Door.” And then she frowned.

But I wasn’t paying attention. Through the hidden door was a bathroom. It had a sink. It had a toilet. It had a shower.

In awe, I examined the shower tap. Two little chains hung from a white bevel supporting a short, metal rod. I pulled the little rod down, and water fell from the ceiling. I twisted it, and the water steamed. They had hot, running water.

“Do you know how to use a rain closet?” asked Tel Viv condescendingly, but she didn’t bother me at all.

“Oh yes, Eparch. I do.”

And she left.

The guards outside smiled and shut me in. They didn’t lock the door, but I had no intention of leaving.

I took the first hot shower I’d had in years, and it felt like heaven.

Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 16

Previous chapters in the text box to the right.
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Chapter 16

I’d finally run down Osret and in the moment of triumph, hesitated. He wasn’t ready to fight me. It would be murder. He couldn’t breathe, even in the thick, seashore air. He was probably one of those guys who did five minutes of sprinting spread over an hour fairly regularly because it got him cut. Good for him, but it didn’t help him outrun a murderer.

And it would be murder. But he deserved it.

Self, you’re not here for him. You’re here for the saber. Osret is secondary.

Get the saber.

This was a good thought, I judged.

“Osret, where is my sword?” I asked and some other voice interrupted.

“Hold, mortal!”

Oh, biscuits. Who was that?

I turned around, and some fop in silk and boots came up the road behind me.

The birds overhead were going nuts. They’d never really shut up, even for the night, but now they were raising a din.

He wore a designer sword with emerald fabric woven through the belt and scabbard. It looked mid-length and straight, long enough to fence with but possibly edged. He looked proud of it. He ran up and drew while outside my range before stepping in. The blade fell into line with my neck.

“Mortal, you are guilty of crimes against Mallens, Honor Him,” he said.

“Which ones?” I demanded.

“Deadly ones.”

“Could you be more specific?”

“He tried to kill me!” interrupted Osret, but the interruption of his panic-breathing set him coughing.

“Not you,” said the fop. “Worse. Treason.”

Oh, sickness and death, everything was ruined. They found out about the killing, they had traced an assassin, I was going to Hell until they could stretch my life out no longer in pain and all I could say was, “Could you be more specific?”

The fop could. “You have eaten honeydew and nectar, and it is treason for a mortal to take the sustenance of the gods,” and he looked so pleased with himself.

I went slack jawed. I had to deliberately shut my mouth.

“But I caught you,” he continued. “I will–”

I took off my belt and wrapped it around my off-hand forearm.

“Mortal, are you high?”

I blitzed.

My left opened the gate, catching his blade on the belt and shoving forward and down. His sword cut through leather like butter. My right shot past the fop’s head. He juked to the side, swung the sword wide and around, but my left, no longer blocking, got him dead in the guts. I got inside his counterstroke and threw the boxing cross.

I didn’t catch him cleanly in the jaw. I got him at an angle, but up close like that, I had the hip action double dirty. He hit a wall and bounced.

I threw the left again, a wide, stupid shot that’s worthless if they see it coming. But the fop was having a religious experience, an epiphany, and seeing nothing but himself. He wasn’t fated to win. He was other people, and I hit him so hard he fell out from under the sword.

I chased.

He hit the ground, rolled, and the idiot had great reflexes. He came up with a knife. He jabbed, I pulled back, and we circled.

Then everything changed. Hands up near the face, palms back, pushing straight shots with the quickest recoil I could, I moved back and let him come. He slashed with the knife. The knife was everything. He might eat a dozen, three dozen punches and win if he got one clean cut.

I feinted, feinted, he leaned back and came forward. He slashed overhead, and I kicked him in the inside of the thigh, right in the meaty part of the muscle. He tried to stab my leg but aborted when I threw that jab again. He blitzed, I faded back, he swung twice and I dodged everything to kick him in the same leg, this time the outside.

He pressured. I retreated and fell back, giving up a dozen good chances to deny him any. Now he chased. My belt was in half, one end flapping, and not long enough to block. I kept a grip on the tail of it in my left. I could block one or two with the off hand, but he’d lay the arm open for sure.

Sickness, I wish I’d taken the sword instead of closing.

He lunged, I retreated, we circled, I went for the fallen blade but he blocked me, I got another good leg shot, and fell back. He stepped forward, almost over the sword.

He was going to try to kick it up into his hands. He wanted it. I could taste his hunger for it. As soon as he did, as soon as all his weight landed on one leg, I was going to blitz so hard I’d knock his tastebuds out his back door.

And he knew.

He dropped onto both feet, even stance, right in front of the sword.

I rose up onto my toes.

We both knew.

He tried to body fake me. I didn’t fall for it.

He moved his off-hand out behind him, ready.

I breathed.

He body faked again.

I breathed.

He stomped one side of the handguard, the sword pivoted up, and he hooked a toe under the handle.

From outside range, I went. My right fist shot forward; my left followed. He swung the knife, I swung my left palm out and open with the folded up belt, smacked the blade, and he only cut the heel of my hand. I cleared his knife-hand sideways.

He caught his sword.

I got him in the throat.

His whole body went rigid, he dropped the sword, and I followed-up to his head. The bells of his temple rang, and the gods left. He dropped.

I looked back.

Osret was staring at me like I was the devil.

I picked up the sword, and the moment my hand touched its handle, I knew its name and lineage. This was the Drowning Breath of Ogden, made by Thorophus the Weapon Maker in his Eighth Testament. It had been forged of eight lesser blades that killed Ogden. His son, Aelon, had ordered this one of their steel and used it to avenge his father. I heard the words Thorophus whispered as he made it, and the dire hatred Aelon had spoken when he used it. It had been made for revenge, it hungered for revenge, and when I held it, the sword yearned.

I knew of this sword. I had had filed paperwork on it. It was a blade of Fate.

The fop was from Fate.

“He was from Fate,” I said out loud.

“Is from Fate. The Bureau of Sanction,” said a new voice, and a woman stepped from shadow to the ground. “You have not slain him yet.”

I looked at her and held the Drowning Breath.

She was tall and beautiful, hard but curved. She’d pulled chestnut hair back, wore white armor of moonsilk, and her boots were tall, laced things that reached the midpoint of her shins. Her jacket and pants were tight enough to move, but with moonsilk that meant nothing. It flowed like liquid silver. I could see the creases where her hips met her pelvis, the tightness of fabric across her chest, and the tiny dimples of muscles flexing on her rump. She had bright red eyes.

Around her shoulders flew a red and gold dragon, long as a python. It had no wings, but flames danced on its hide. It and she shared an eye color, red, but the dragon had scales too. Tiny flames seemed to escape from its lips as it slithered through the air, climbing on invisible things like a serpent might climb the roots of a great tree.

I didn’t know her. We’d never met. I would have remembered a hot dragon lady.

Well, hot because fire is hot…but no, sexy-fire-dragon-lady was definitely a thing. I had not known sexy-fire-draon-lady was a thing, nor that I was into it. I was. I would have known if we’d met.

We stared at each other, and the red of her eyes leaked out like tears. But her tears burned, and they leaped for the sky like candle-flames freed of their wicks.

“You may take him and leave,” I said.

She considered a moment. “No.”

I held the Drowning Breath of Ogden, and she wore a fire dragon like a scarf.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked.

She didn’t move her feet but pulled her head back as if my words splattered crazy in her direction. “You’re asking me that?”

“Yes. If you run, I won’t chase you.”

“No,” she said again.

I raised the sword point until the blade stood between us.

Her dragon spiraled in and out, and she reached for it from one hand. The serpent turned to liquid fire from which she drew a long, single edged sword that danced in her hand. The flames of the dragon vanished, or perhaps its essence was merely made steel.

She had a dragon blade. If I did not know her, I knew of her kind. She was from the Bureau of Sanction.

I said something which had been said to me. “You think you’ll win, and you might, but this will not go well for you if you do.”

She smiled like I had in the House of Hemlin, where Zenjin had said that to me. Things had not gone well for me, but they’d gone much worse for him.

Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 15

Previous chapters here or on the text box on the right.

Chapter 15

The traitor dashed up two flights. His footsteps banged overhead. The stairs were folded and stacked, and he was only ten feet away if I could reach through the ceiling. But the fork wouldn’t go that far. I followed him up the first set of stairs, around a hallway to the next flight, and up the stairs again. At the top of this one, I saw him dive into a room, but I didn’t have time to throw anything.

By the time I crossed the little hallway, he’d slammed his door shut. It was one of those flimsy interior things. I went through it like paper, and Osret hadn’t even stayed to try to lock it. He was already running through a closet that opened into a bathroom.

The bedrooms on each floor shared a bathroom, and on the other side, he ran through an open doorway into a different bedroom. Again he tried to slam the door shut, but I threw the fork and stapled the door to the wall. Osret ran. I came after. He threw some suits off a rack and got back to the stairway. This time he ran down.

I jumped the stairs, hit him with both feet in the back, and knocked him across a wooden floor. He slid like the puck in a hammerslide game. Unfortunately, the stairs had been steep, and in jumping, I’d cracked my chin on the angled ceiling and landed on my rear end. He got up. I shook my head and rose. Footsteps pounded up the stairs below.

Osret turned to face me with his hands up in a boxing guard. I threw a straight right through his forearms, caught him dead on the chin, and lifted him off his feet. He did a backflip through the door behind him.

It was a little library, like a den or a workroom, and smelled like lemon cleaner. Stacks of wooden boxes collected dust in the corners, and the only light was the hall light coming through the door. It flickered as someone ran past.

I chased Osret, and as he tried to get up again, grabbed him by the expensive vest collar. The idiot wore a vest. I put my hip into it, threw him out a window, and he screamed as he broke the glass.

Apseto and Nurim appeared in the doorway. They’d got more knives, but they looked terrified. For a moment, they hesitated.

“He betrayed me and killed your friends. You have done me no harm. Good bye,” I said and jumped out the window.

We were only on the third floor. It was only twenty feet up. Osret wouldn’t have had a problem if he had jumped, not tumbled, but the tumbling and the broken glass fragments hurt. Still, he was up and running when I landed in a crouch. He fled, abandoning every pretense but speed, and raced along the street with his arms pumping. I ran after, my fingers clenched into fists.


He was a fit guy. He clearly ran for exercise, and everyone runs faster when they’re chased. But he ran wild, all adrenaline while gasping for air, not pacing himself, and while he nearly lost me in the first block, he had to slow down for the next. He missed a good opportunity to take a side street and maybe lose me. Then I had him in sight.

The streets were bizarrely empty. The day I’d arrived, there had been people on the roads and sidewalks. I’d slipped between them, trying to appear as an ‘other’ to everyone and had received no attention. Now no one else walked the sidewalks or waited at street corners. Even the people who worked outside, vendors, rickshaw cabbies, and buskers, all found other places to be. Osret and I had the city to ourselves. Clouds still filled the sky, and the thin light that made it through wasn’t strong enough to cast any shadows. If anything, the cloud cover was lower and boiled faster. More often lightning flashed without ever coming down.

The unnatural emptiness of the city lead to one moment I didn’t have the time to think about. While I chased Osret down a street with townhouses on each side, I noticed a figure standing on a rooftop, watching. Her long, black braids were pulled back, the braids showing the first hints of white hair. She wore one of those cape-things women liked. It looked like a long jacket without sleeves but with a thick collar.

Those cape-things are expensive. I don’t know why, but only luxury places make them.

Either way, she had no business standing on a rooftop, watching me chase Osret through the streets, and yet that’s what she did.

But chasing Osret took all of my attention, moreso when he realized he hadn’t lost me. He started taking fast turns, going right then left, cutting through alleys and hopping fences. I stayed on him but couldn’t close the gap.

Finally he tried to brute force out-distance me, skipping all the turns and shifts to head straight south, pounding out miles. If he hadn’t burned all that energy to begin with, he would have made it. But he’d never had a chance to catch his breath with the sprinting. While he stretched his lead as far as two blocks, I cut it in half and half again. When next he looked back, I was almost on him, less than a hundred feet behind.

He turned down some random road, and I don’t think he had a plan. The road lead to a blackstone rookery with basalt walls and limestone window sills. Gulls covered the roof. They’re noisy, chattering birds. Osret ran straight to the front door, tried it, and found it locked. He was gasping now. He pulled back to take it with his shoulder when I crashed into him from behind, kicked his feet out from under him, and he dropped.

He didn’t even flail when he hit the ground. He just breathed.

I was finally going to get my sword back.

Did I kill him?

I stood still for a moment, unprepared for the thought. He had betrayed and shot me, he’d killed his cousins, but he lay at my feet. He couldn’t fight. Did I kill him?

Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 14

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Chapter 14

I’d conspired with Koru, King of Rats, to assassinate Mallens, Lord of Creation, King of the Titans. We had not succeeded.

My job was handling logistics. I’d carried the bribes, distributed the weapons, and moved the paper. I’d volunteered for the kill-team, hadn’t been taken, and now the kill-team had been killed. I was the only link between Koru and the other high conspirators and the assassins, and my metaphorical fingerprints were all over everything. Right now, I worried that the weapons the killers had used, copies of Death’s scepter All Things Ending, could lead back to me. Hasso, the forger, had put a maker’s mark on them, and he would definitely tell anyone who asked that everything was my fault.

Most of the weapons had been destroyed, but some Celestials had found one. When I’d tried to buy it, one of the Celestials, Osret, had betrayed us. He killed his two friends and shot me. I should have died but didn’t. Now he had the secret I needed.

Leving Dr Lammet’s underground home, I found a new day overcast and gray. A short walk took me to a safehouse I’d set up less than a week ago for the kill team. With them dead, no one else knew it existed. A water tower rose among tall, blank buildings with yellow and gray walls of sandstone, behind cover of pines. The tower hadn’t been used in years. I climbed the ladder one-handed, jimmied open the trick door, and rolled into a round room with a flat floor. It had blankets, a sleeping pad, and a few sealed water jugs. By the look of it, no one had been here since I had.

I dropped my bag and did the honeydew vials like shooters. Then I poured a little water into each one, drank that, and finally sucked the empty glass jars like a pacifier. Medicine always comes in useless packaging that ruins half the stuff. Then I lay down and slept like the dead for five or six hours. Inside the water tower was a black hole, and I’d feel it shake if anyone climbed the ladder.

When I woke up, I ate another package of ambrosia and checked my arm. It moved sufficiently if not well, but the brace impaired my mobility. I took it off and stashed it in the gym bag. I’d put it on when I returned. The ambrosia gone, I went looking for more.

Before the hit, I’d hidden four packages of payoff money for the assassins, and they weren’t going to need them anymore. Each package had money, ambrosia, some fake documents, and a small weapon or good luck charm. One had been lost, Osret had taken the money from two, and I moved through Hyperion, capital city of Heaven, toward the last.

Clouds lay low and heavy in the sky. They were big, round-bellied clouds that promised rain but withheld it, and on top Mt Attarkus a spiraling storm of darker shades roiled with lightning. Sometimes lightning bolts crackled down to the lower skies, but it rarely struck the ground. Instead it crawled across the hanging bellies like disjoint-legged spiders.

The sun must be up but showed no sign. Light came from lanterns and house lights. Someone had turned off the street lights. Ion’s palace, usually a monstrosity of unnecessary lamps and bonfires, looked tame with a few bright windows and one small lantern shining over the front door. But its windows had lace curtains drawn, and the door lamp vanes had been turned down.

It took me a couple hours to go less than three miles across empty streets because I kept getting lost. Ultimately I fell into my destination. I had crossed a small footbridge over a storm runoff where lamplight didn’t go, feeling wet ground for a small path, when I stepped wrong, fell through cattails to the muddy creek bed, and chose to break my fall with my head instead of my bad arm. I finally saw stars under the cloudy sky. After a bit I got up and started poking around.

This was one of my better stash spots. An abandoned garden filled blocked drainage ditch. The garden’s walls were worked stone under a worked bridge, so the dryads wouldn’t tend it. However it was in a storm drain, so the Celestials thought it beneath them. Tall grass hadn’t been cut in years, cattails clogged the waterway, and privacy hedges hid the unsightly area from the neighboring palaces. I’d hidden the last package behind a stone in the garden wall.

Now, the rock lay in the middle of the drainage ditch. The stash space lay empty. I felt a worm. He didn’t say anything. I decided to call him Alphonse.

Okay but seriously, now my sickness had gone terminal.

Someone had come here, pulled the stone out, and taken the box.

That someone might have seen me hide it. Once I’d gone, they’d investigated, found one hundred and twenty five thousand sesteres free for the taking, and took it. Possible.

Agents of Mallens could have taken it. They could know everything I’ve been doing all along. They could be telling Mallens about me right now, and all my plans were too late.

They could be watching me right now.

It could be… self, what did it matter?

The package wasn’t here.

I went south to the house of the cousins Hemlin.


Their townhouse rose on two stubby legs with a corridor or tunnel between them. They’d shut and locked a gate across the tunnel. Around back, it had a courtyard with a little garden and some sheds, and abutted an alley. A tall fence enclosed the property, with a locked carriage gate, but they hadn’t taken their trash in. I eased up onto a closed trashcan and tested my arm. It hurt but worked.

I pulled my head over the rear fence. The courtyard was empty, the house lit, and privacy curtains pulled over the windows. I saw moving figures in the first floor.

I rolled over the fence and stole across the courtyard. Their main door lead to a tiny foyer in one of the legs, and up a steep flight of stairs to the second floor. The exterior door was a glass oval, but the interior door at the top of the stairs was an ironwood portal. That was their main level with the kitchen, dining room, and open area. I hadn’t gone upstairs, but had seen them go upstairs to change their clothes.

I poked around the backyard, found a building stone I could lift with both hands, and threw it through the glass door. Stained glass shattered and fell. I dashed through, took the stairs in two steps, and spoke Prothadeus Raln.

Prothadeus Raln changed qualities to quantities. They had locked the door. They hadn’t locked it enough. I hit the door with my foot, it shattered like the stained glass, and I entered the living room.

Apseto had been behind the door. He was falling over a couch now. Nurim ducked around the kitchen counter with cooking knives in either hand, and as I came in, he started slinging. I dove and rolled, cleavers thudding into the walls.

Osret had frozen in a main room, standing by the dinner table near Nurim. I charged him. He turned for the stairs and ran.

Nurim grabbed more knives, smaller ones they’d probably never used. I threw a chair at him, he threw knives at the chair, and the razor-sharp blades chunked through it. The seat-cushion caught their handles, and the chair hit him. He threw it down, but I threw a flying knee into him. He hit the cupboard, his rear-end burst through the doors, and I left him there with soup pouring down his legs.

Osret’s footsteps thudded up the stairs. I grabbed an eight-inch carving fork and raced up the stairs after him.

Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 13

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Chapter 13

Excuse me, but getting shot really hurts. It’s unfathomable until you understand. Yes, people get shot and run around, hopped up on adrenaline or anger, but those are simply more powerful things. The shock of taking a round, one round, astounded me.

I got shot in the shoulder, and to keep my arm from jiggling, I had to limp down the road. I felt ridiculous. Half a block away the parking lot fence ended at a narrow alley. On the other side a row of highrises had storefronts on their first floors. I ducked into the alley, limped past boxes, empty moving material, and three rows of hungry plants. When I slumped against the wall, they woke up and sniffed. Fat, gray tongues moved from green lips to taste the air. I could not rest here long.

I checked my arm. It was an in-and-out, with a tiny entry hole in the side and gaping exit wound in back. The bullet had made a right turn somewhere inside my shoulder. My collar-bone hurt across my shoulders. My fore-arm ached down to the elbow. I bled like a waterfall, like my shoulder had a spigot.

It wasn’t a clean, oh-golly-I’ve-been-shot-now-I’ll-fight-on wound. This one wound to one arm made me feel destroyed as a living thing.

Wow, I was in shock. I’d thought that took longer. My teachers had told me that it took a while, and they were not correct, which meant that Northshore–


I stared at my shoulder.

Make bleeding stop.


I took my wet clothes out of the gym-bag, which I’d kept somehow, folded my shirt into a pad, and belted it to the exit wound.

I got distracted because I could see clouds. The sky was full of them.

I took my pants out of the gym-bag, made a long pad, and wrapped my whole shoulder. I tied it down with my socks. I kept fading in and out, getting sleepy, so I popped the half-eaten roll of ambrosia wafers. That woke me up like a bucket of water, and I checked the dressing again, fixing a few loose points.

What was I going to do?

You know what I was going to do.

I got up, and used my right hand to slide my left arm into Aesthus’s sweater’s pocket. It was one of those long, two-opening pockets over my belly. I tucked my arm in there.

Then I checked the sidewalk and didn’t see Osret. I couldn’t see much of anything. The heavy overcast had made an evening out of afternoon, and the streets were grim and quiet. Someone would come for the gunshots, but I had a very small amount of time.

I walked back to the parking lot, didn’t see Osret, went in, checked the space between carriages, and saw Aesthus and Zenjin. They both lay dead, eyes open in expanding pools of blood. The package was gone. The saber was gone. Osret was gone. There were footprints in the blood.

I left.

That was a dumb thing to do, self, but I didn’t waste more time in self criticism. I got out of there without leaving a footprint in the blood, and headed westward, away from the ocean. I thought I recalled a temple to Maya that way, and she took all visitors.



I didn’t make it to Maya’s temple. I finally went down in a grove of cypress trees. They stood like teeth, elegantly sculpted into tall cylinders with pointed tops and rounded bases. All of them had their lower branches trimmed to hide the trunk, and low piles of mulch and tastefully arranged needles helped conceal the vulgarity of a tree rooting in dirt. Several offset lines of them followed a wide road. I was stumbling down the road when I fell over. I crawled away from the road and got somewhere hidden. All around me, silent trees pointed at the sky.

I fell asleep.

My dreams emerged from a peculiar blackness. I definitely dreamt of oblivion for a while. It wasn’t like a normal dream with images, houses like and not-like houses I’ve lived in, people I knew doing things those people would never do. I dreamt of nothing and blackness, an infinite stillness without fear, feeling, or thought.

And then images appeared like stars. They emerged in hints. It began with words my parents used to say, their accents, their sounds. My father had grunted a lot. He communicated with a bunch of ‘hmm’ sounds. My mother sang. My father actually sang pretty well too, and my mother always goaded him into singing more. Sometimes he sang under his breath and she would join the tune, and he looked like she’d caught him at something. And then she smirked, but he wouldn’t stop to let her ‘win’ so they sang a duet in the wagon or under it, where we lived when I was young.

Their voices appeared first in the darkness, and then came sights of the wagon. It was a big, boxy thing on four wheels with two horses. The horses smelled of sweat and animal, but they liked me so long as I approached from the front. The wagon had tall sides and a round top. It had a body of fabric and steel.

In my dream it rained and beat the roof. My parents and I took refuge inside, the horses grazed in the rain, and stars in lanterns filled the wagon with light and warmth. I was very young. My mom still carried me. My parents sang, and in my dreams, I fell asleep.

But inside the dream, the darkness didn’t return. For I dreamed forgotten dreams I’d dreamed as a kid, dreams of animals and plants. I dreamed of birds and goats, and they stepped from the real dreams I’d had, now remembered, to the dream I had under the cypress trees as I lay dying. Horses walked from inside out; fish swam through the air. In the way of dreams, things got fuzzy, and soon I lost the thread of which dream was which. People and characters moved without limits.

In the end, I opened my eyes and saw a man and woman, wrapped in trees and leaves. This was real.

I stared at them. They stared at me. We’d all surprised each other.

The two dryads were leafy people. They wore headdresses of laurel and clothes of ivy. They went barefoot. The woman wore many bracelets of wicker that rattled like windchimes as she moved her arms, and the man a torq of bamboo. They did not appear armed.

I put my hands up to show they were empty and said, “Hey.”

The dryads looked at each other.

“Hey,” said the man.

“How do you feel?” asked the woman.

“Pretty bad,” I said honestly.

“You got shot,” said the man.

I nodded.

“We were worried for you,” she said.

“We didn’t know if you were going to make it,” he added.

“I’m surprised I did,” I said.

They nodded.

The conversation hit a pause. I looked around.

They lived in a partially-underground forest house. Gnarled roots of something that smelled of pine formed a bubble overhead, one perforated with windows as the twisted roots passed from trunk to ground. A dozen windchimes hung from the ceiling, rattling when the tree moved in the wind. The air down here smelled of loam and old wood.

Two holes, doorways without doors, lead to other bubble rooms under the knurled roots of trees. One looked a lot like a kitchen and bath. A stream flowed through one wall to be diverted and split into a dozen lesser waterfalls and tubes. They all drained through a fault in the floor. The other had a bed. It also had some clotheslines, pegs, and several clean but organic shelf-structures. The shelves bent, the frames twisted, and the whole assemblies were packed tight against each other, placed in cunning and space-saving fashion. Her underwear piled on his. His shirts covered hers.

If they were anything like my parents, they were fighting for closet-space by stacking their stuff on each others. They weren’t angry-fighting, I bet, but they were definitely battling to see who’s shirts went on top.

My heart ached remembering my parents. I stuffed it aside. This wasn’t a good time to think about them, it was never a good time to think about them, but I slipped sometimes.

I checked my arm.

I’d been rebandaged. Uncarded cotton had been worked into smooth pads, no stray fibers emerging, and tied over the exit wound. They’d packed it deep in there. The entry wound was small enough they’d stuck a long, pointy leaf over it, one that stuck to the skin. It hurt like madness, and the cotton against the injury had turned reddish black, but there was still fluffy white stuff on top. They’d wrapped everything in some wide leaves and moss, likely for cleanliness.

I really didn’t know what to say. I figured I’d try to be polite.

“Thank you. How am I?”

The man made a face like he was stretching his mouth and stared at the ceiling, and the woman looked away. He sighed. She watched him and waited.

The man said, “You got shot. The shoulder’s pretty bad. Your humerus–” he drew his finger from elbow to shoulder “–-is broken at the joint, and scapula–” he pointed at the back of my shoulder “–is either bruised or fractured. The bullet looks like it bounced off the joint. You lost a lot of blood.

“You’ve got bruises and grip marks on your shoulders, sides, and hips. You had cold burns on your side, your knee was broken and you haven’t been staying off it well enough, multiple bruises in your hands like you’ve been fighting, and that shoulder. Ah, that shoulder.

“We operated, pinned, pegged, and set the bones. After that we cleaned that up, packed your arm, gave you stitches, and stuck you in a splint.” He degenerated into leafy babble, talking about the foliage wrapping my arm. The leaves formed a hard shell, reinforced with tiny vines and a peculiar mixture of moss. Wet and dried, it hardened into a carapace. He talked about stitches. He talked about my hands.

I hadn’t realized how many of the nereids had tried to take a chunk out of me. The dryad doctor drummed his fingers on a table. I tried to look innocent.

After several long seconds wherein the doctor obviously had a lot to say he was sorting through, he made a decision.

“You can imagine my surprise when I found you on my doorstep. Mortals are not allowed within Hyperion.”

I’d been waiting for that, trying to get ahead, and when he asked, I still had no answer. The first thing that floated to the surface in my head was, “Oh, this? Of course. It’s a disguise.”

That stopped him. “Disguise?”

“Yes, yes. You mean the appearance?”


“I’m hiding myself.”

“Then who are you? You have the ears and eyes of a dryad, but not the color.”

“I wouldn’t be holding the disguise well if I told you.”

“What is your name, son?” he asked. He corrected himself. “What shall I call you?”

“Remus. And you?”

He was doctor Lammet and his wife doctor Melia. She was a pediatrician. He worked trauma care.

I’d passed out in an ideal place. Thanks be to Limatra. Or had I been lucky?

Either way, I thanked him. “I appreciate your help. So, in regular terms, how am I doing? I assume I’m going to live?”

He exhaled heavily. “You tell me. Are you going to go pick a fight and open up all your injuries again?”

“Maybe,” I admitted.

He snorted. It wasn’t my fault.

“You’re not out of the woods yet,” he said, adding partially to himself, “And I’m not quite sure what to do with you.”

“Medication, words of encouragement, and send me on my way.”

“How about a bill and you stop getting shot?”

“Sorry. Got mugged. No cash.”

“Of course not. This is Hyperion. Which pantheon should I send the bill to?”

“Dr Lammet, I’m in disguise. That’s exactly the sort of thing I can’t talk about!”

He looked at me like he’d just drank poison.

“I’m going to have to file with Saffron Skies, aren’t I?”

Saffron Skies was a bastion of the titan’s government. When you did work for Saffron Skies, you should be proud to wait for your lords. They work on Heaven’s time. This is why we’d tried to kill Mallens.

I smiled ingratiatingly. He didn’t look like I’d ingratiated myself.

“The problem is, Remus, that there are two different medication paths for you. I saw you had ambrosia in your pack, and it will help you. But if you’re mortal, it will also burn out your life. Those are good years you’ll lose. If you’re a spirit or Celestial, your string is long.

“So be honest. This matters. Are you mortal?”

I looked him dead in the eye. “No.”

“And this?” he waved at me generally.

I shrugged and looked innocent.

“Any medical history? Are your parents healthy?”

“They’re dead.”

His ears perked up. “Sorry to hear that. How?”

“Violence,” I said. “It’s not catching.”

“Says the man shot and beat up.”

“Doc, you’re being a little hostile here.”

“Because I’m tried, I’m just tired, of patching people up and seeing you go off and do the exact same dumb things that got you here in the first place. You’re wasting my work, and I don’t appreciate it.”

“It’s a bit more complicated than that.”

“It always is. Stop getting shot, vessick.”

Vessick doesn’t really translate, but it means what it sounds like.

“Your bedside manner could be improved.”

“Your patient manner is shtuttick!”

Again, exactly what it sounds like.

I shrugged with one shoulder.

He sighed again, said something unfriendly, and went into their kitchen. I heard him going somewhere in there, but the small doorway didn’t show him. Dr Melia didn’t follow him with her eyes.

“You young men,” she said quietly.

I had no reply to that, and she didn’t pursue the matter. She turned her back on me to tidy medical equipment into storage, and we waited for Dr Lammet.

A short pause later, he reappeared with a cotton sack. We went through the contents together. Willow bark, to be chewed, bandages and dressings, to be changed, a pair of extremely nice scissors, ointments, pills, and antiseptics. He even gave me a small mirror.

“Try to have a medical professional change your bandages. They’re mostly on your back, so you won’t be able to see them. But if you do have to do it yourself, use the mirror.”

“Thank you.”

He held up two vials of tiny slices of honeydew bathed in nectar. He didn’t give them over.

“Remus, honey dew is illegal for a mortal. They will catch you. Are you mortal?”

“No,” I said again.

He stared into my eyes for a while before handing the packages over. I put them in the gym-bag with everything else.

Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 12

Previous Chapters

Chapter 12

I had a moment of peculiar introspection. Maybe not even introspection. Recollection maybe.

Less than an hour ago, I’d considered killing all five of them for the blade. That would have been a bad fight, but I was desperate. Now, I had the sword, they stood to let me take it, but I’d have to pay them nigh everything I had.

Two hundred and fifty thousand sesteres was a lot of money. I told myself not to get wrapped up in comparative value. They had a nice house, probably worth a million or more, and it made the quarter ton I’d offered them look light.

Forget all that. The assassins would have been paid a million, half up front and gone, half on completion. Half-a-million sesteres lay in cases I’d hid around the city, a lot of money, and if this deal walked, I’d walk away with a quarter ton. If I was smart with it, smarter than the idiots I knew or the fool I had been, I could stretch a that a long way. I knew people who knew money. Northshore had a finance department, and I had friends. I could do well.

But I didn’t pay them, with all four drops I’d have more, and I could do much better. That’s the way money works. More is a lot better than what you have.

All the risk was front-loaded. Draw now, kill everyone, leave. It nicely silenced any talking mouths too.

That was what Koru had meant to do to me.

It wasn’t any complicated ethics I thought of. I thought of people: Koru, Astras, Hoarfast, and Seraphine. Seraphine had let them try to kill me to silence me. They had done unto me what I considered doing onto these others. There are rules and laws about killing. We had religions like cow turds on a ranch, and some variation of ‘Don’t kill people’ seemed present in all of them. I didn’t care about any of that.

I thought of Koru.

I warned Apseto. “I’m going to point this toward that wall.”

He moved clear but stayed between me and the windows.

I rotated the blade, keeping the tip away from him and avoiding anything that could be interpreted as a slashing motion.

The edge was flecked with stars. They moved inside the steel, floating like dust specks in water. A lighter type of steel, almost milky, made up the cutting surface. The metal body was darker, but polished like a mirror. I saw distorted images of myself and the Hemlin cousins. The straight edge was as thick as my pinky finger, and just forward of it ran a groove on both sides. Up and down it dripped shadows, a slow dissipation of darkness into air.

The bottom had a fake stamp, artfully forged. A flower crossed a scepter, and below it stood three runes. No one read runes any more. I didn’t either, but I’d memorized these three: All Things Ending.

Badly-engraved writing on the hilt said, ‘Saber by Hasso, Twenty Fourth of Messidor.’

Hasso had left a maker’s mark on a forgery. I contemplated that for a moment.

“Sleep forever,” I whispered, and the sword glittered. My words ran down the blade like a wave breaking through a tide of phosphorescent algae. Star-fragments sparkled under the fluid of shadow and went still.

I put it down on the table and wrapped it in their table cloth. Anything they hadn’t already seen, I didn’t want them seeing now.

“It’s real. Decide who’s coming. I want to leave Hyperion tonight.”

The room exhaled again.

“’You taking the table cloth?” asked Nurim.

“I’m taking the table cloth.”

“Take the table cloth.”

A number of lower intensity negotiations happened. I said I’d stay away from the table provided no one else came close. They agreed, but Zenjin said he’d cover me. I agreed but wanted him to put the gun away. They hashed out who was coming with me and decided on Zenjin, Osret, and Aesthus. I ate the rest of their bread. That I wouldn’t tell them where the money was didn’t bother them. They expected that. Likewise, I expected their refusal to leave me alone for any reason until they’d been paid.

“That includes using the water house,” said Zenjin, waving his finger. “If you’ve got to drop a package, we’re going to be in the stall with you.”

I nodded. If three of them joined me in a stall, we’d better be really friendly, and we were not that friendly. But none of them were going to go alone.

I thought of them as one entity, the cousins Hemlin. That entity would stay close to me until paid.

They’d also eaten and snacked. We left Nurim and Apseto, and headed out into the city.

I carried the saber, and Zenjin walked behind me. Osret walked with him. Aesthus took at my left side, and I carried the saber in that hand. Osret had given me a gym-bag for my wet clothes, which was quite clever because now I had a bulky thing in each hands. The saber was too long to fit in the bag.

They weren’t stupid. They’d made a few mistakes, but they were smart people trying to think their way through hard problems with very little warning and no experience. I felt better that I was going to pay them and leave.

The first drop had been a little lending library in the Anentine neighborhood. The Anentines, a collection of insecure new gods that coalesced into a pantheon to stop other people from making fun of them, built immense, empty palaces with tiny backyard houses. They threw a lot of dinner parties, spent fortunes on candles for their unoccupied mansions, and lived in their tiny houses. Most were nature aligned in some way. The little lending library I went to had stood on a small pole mostly engulfed by a wild hedge, an idiotic bit of gardening fashion that I found quite useful. The hedge was no longer wild.

It wasn’t anything. Nor was the lending library. Mallens had stomped it into a hole through the crust of the earth. I saw sandstone and lime, thicker marble, black basalt, and deeper bedrock until vast drive gears loomed underground like hidden shapes.

The cousins Hemlin observed me looking at the crater. Eyes narrowed. Frowns hardened. I did a little mental trig. The library had been in the center of that crater.

“Keep walking,” I said and set off quickly.

I felt the cousins glancing between each other, watching me, looking at the buried hole. I felt like the empty houses hid dozens of watchers. I had to fight down the notion that the Hemlin cousins were going to figure out I had lied about everything and they’d know what I’d done. I kept walking.

The next drop was much simpler. I’d wrapped the package in wax paper, waterproofed it with more, and dropped it into a horse trough. They say the stables of Hyperion are always cleaned, but this one had some algae growing in it. Rain gutters fed it from the stable’s roof.

The trough was arm-deep, so I dropped the gym-bag, held the wrapped saber, and stuck my arm in. Without words, Aesthus kept a watch, Zenjin watched me, and Osret watched them.

The package was there, but it had gotten stuck. I had to use some muscle. The Hemlins were big guys, and any of them could have done it easier. I didn’t ask, and they didn’t offer.

I yanked it out, took the gym bag, and we ducked into the stable. The horses didn’t care.

“Somebody got a knife?” I asked.

Osret did. “Give me the package. I’ll open it.”

“Just let me use your knife. I’ll open it.”

Glances shot between them. Aesthus nodded. Osret ignored him. Zenjin finally nodded, but Osret refused him too. I really didn’t want to use the saber.

“There could be anything in there,” argued Osret.

“There’s money and my stuff. It’s not weaponry or dangerous, but it’s mine,” I said.

“I’ll just open it–”

“Don’t do that,” said Aesthus, for the first time sounded tired and short. “If it’s booby-trapped, I want it to go off on him.”

Osret froze. “Is it booby trapped?”

“Of course not.”

I didn’t even fake lie. They weren’t going to believe anything I said anyway.

Unhappily, Osret gave me a stubby pocket knife. I’d sealed the package well, so I had to scrape sealing-wax aside. Zenjin moved out at an angle, standing by a tack rack, and drew that piece of his again. He kept it down, but I was getting quite tired of the way he went for it everytime something happened.

Maybe he’d just bought it.

I put the box on the ground so everyone could see it, squatted, and opened the wooden box. It had a sliding lid, the outside of which was damp. Inside, packed in cedar shavings, rolls of silver coins lay in wax rolls. Each coin had Mallens’s seven-pointed crown stamped within, the points capped with glittering fragments of real stars, and the edges rippled with alloyed adamant. Each coin was worth five thousand sesteres, and I’d packed five rolls of five.

Without uttering a word, I gave all five rolls to Osret.

He unrolled one, inspected the coins, and gave them to Aesthus. The two of them went through each coin. Zenjin watched, and I could see his shoulders clench. He kept leaning forward when they picked up a silver piece and held it to the faint light of the stable. But he stayed cautious, back, and tried to look everywhere at once. Osret offered him a roll of money. He declined to keep both hands on the gun.

The package also had four wax-paper rolls of ambrosia. I took one out, opened it so they could see what it was, and offered them a wafer. It had dried out. They declined. I popped one, chewed and swallowed, and hid the rolls in my clothing or in the gym-bag.

I took out four sets of passage documents and hid them in the gym-bag. The package also had a tiny idol of Limatra, the Autumn Goddess of Good Luck and Found Wealth. She was four inches tall, standing, with one hand out, two others clasped, and one loose at her side. The loose one was a hidden switch for a spring-loaded blade. I showed her as well before putting the idol in a pocket.

The package also had a dead rat. I hadn’t put it there, and it worried me immensely. I threw it to a hungry plant, which woke up long enough to eat the rodent corpse. On a hunch, I threw the plant the box too, as well as the wax paper and as much wax as I could scrape off the ground.

“That was one twenty five. Of the next package, I will give you one hundred and twenty five, and our business will be done. Do we all agree?” I asked.

“Yeah. Let’s go,” said Aesthus.

We left. Our walk was a little easier, significantly less tense. Payment breeds loyalty, and while they gave me no loyalty, I had bought a little trust. I popped a few more ambrosia wafers.

Ambrosia’s the stuff. If you want to really put on mass, you lift heavy, eat ambrosia, train, eat ambrosia, and lift heavy again, all in the same day. You can get huge, and you don’t get the aches and pains of low-lifting. I used to do strength circuits every morning, four hours of combat in the afternoon, pop ambrosia, do it again, and sleep like bliss. I hadn’t worked out hard in a couple of weeks as that assassination thing had been taking up my time, but the ambrosia did its work. I was feeling better than ever.

The next drop point was a similairly waxed package, hidden in the dirt under some flowers. They formed a small garden, not two feet wide, that ringed a large flower-shaped fountain, one that spouted like pedals. It was a little park, mostly out of the way, and not exactly hidden but not easily seen either. I had worried about this one, because the dryads who tended such gardens could easily have found it. They hadn’t.

I took the package, the four of us dipped into a parking area, and hid between two carriages. The carriage horses, mules, goats, lions, or whatever had been stabled elsewhere, and the leading harnesses stripped. The carriages were tall, four-wheeled things, capable of carrying four important passengers in comfort and perhaps half a dozen servants on varying benches, platforms, and fold-away chairs. Not only was the carriage yard concealed by a tall wall, through with there was only one gate, no one in that direction could see us through the carriage anyway.

I held the package up so everyone could see it too was thoroughly wrapped in wax paper. I asked for the knife, and Osret refused.

“No. I’m opening that one. I don’t know what your game is, but you’re up to something. Give it to me.”

Sickness take me, I should have given it to him and left. But there was ambrosia, and I needed it. There was an idol of Arya who hid secrets, and I thought I might keep her around. So I stayed for a bunch of stuff when I could have just given them the box and ran.

He took out his knife to cut it open and stopped. “Would you back up a little bit? You’re in my space.”

I wasn’t—well, I was in his space, but the space between the carriages wasn’t that big. I backed up.

“And you,” Osret said to Zenjin, who’d pulled his Puritan again. “Watch him.”

“I am watching him!”

“Not enough! Watch him like the Sun. Point the gun at him or something. He got a little loose last time he opened one of these.”

“Oh, blisters on you,” snorted Zenjin. He glared at me.

Aesthus looked like he wanted to avoid an argument, so he took a step away too.

Osret crouched down but shifted the box to his knife hand. He put his other hand on the bottom. I looked away for a split second at Zenjin, who was almost flagging me with the Puritan, and noticed some movement in Osret’s hands. I looked back.

With his other hand, the one concealed underneath the package, Osret shot Zenjin twice times in the chest. Something banged like sledgehammers on steel and blew Zenjin’s ribcage out his back.

Aesthus screamed, and Osret shot him too.

I bolted from the carriages and ran for the road.

Osret ran around the other side, tracked me across the parking-lot with his holdout gun, and sent rounds after me. Two missed.

The third did not.

For a holdout gun, that thing kicked like a horse.

He got me in the shoulder, I dropped and skidded on my face, and Osret walked me down. The saber fell a dozen yards away.

Before shooting, he said, “Sorry, Remus. I don’t know who you are and don’t care. If it makes you feel better, I don’t think you’re a bad guy. But I can’t have people knowing what happened here.”

Glory, I wish I had that forged sword. It was right there. But Osret was closer, and he drew a bead.

I flicked the hidden switch on the idol of Limatra, the spring-loaded blade shot out, and stabbed him through the center of the forehead. Luck was with me. He blasted wide, emptying his cylinder into the wall by the saber.

But I wasn’t there. I’d gone the other way, out the gate, and fled the parking lot. Everything was wasted, and I still didn’t have the sword.


Karesh Ni is the sequel to Bloodharvest. It’s comparatively ‘Modern Day’ in Pallas.

Twilight in Heaven is in the dawn ages. It’s part of my Silmarillion.