Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 33


Chapter 33

Hyrthon walks in circles, muttering to himself, and having half-conversations where he yells at invisible antagonists. He’s talking himself up, getting madder and madder, when I climb the roof and peer through the ceiling. He’s posted up in the Aspen Forest, a guest room in the east wing. I didn’t know he was there until he appeared when Mom upstaged Merryweather, but there aren’t too many rooms a guest could keep their presence secret. It’s a secluded place in a hidden part of the house, where stonework trees stand like a forest. Their leaves are amber and emerald. I climbed the walls and snuck through the marble aspen trunks to the roof, and looked down through a ceiling full of small windows. Hyrthon is walking in loops around the table below me, getting angrier every time, until someone speaks.

“Relax your anger,” she says, and Hyrthon looks up confused. I didn’t notice her at all, and he doesn’t look like he knew she was there. For a moment he flushes.

“Don’t be upset,” she says again. “He wanted a reaction out of you. You are reacting.”

She’s tall and dark, though of skin or because she’s wrapped in shadow I don’t know. She has black hair that falls thick and shiny down her back, one liquid wave of it with a single reflection where the light hits. Her dress is dark in layers, an outer shear gown, straps inside that over her shoulders and around her torso connected by something like netting, and darker material over her bust and hips. She seems like she’s almost exposed, but I tried to sketch her and couldn’t see quite enough outlines to start anywhere.

The dark lady does not smile. Hyrthon reacts angrily.

“Don’t be upset? You promised me a kingdom if I took Fallor’s Castle, because it was you he insulted! Look what that got me! I’m insulted, and Aethionema-”

She interrupts. “Will give you everything when you take her to your bed.”

Hyrthon stumbles in his words and looks at her.

“She is weak and vain. Already her son is forgotten to her. The mortal reminded her, yes, but she thinks of nothing but herself and her stature. I promised you a kingdom if you took Fallor’s Castle, and you didn’t. However, do not question me. Know your place.”

Hyrthon looks like she poisoned him. He swallows and grimaces.

“Good,” she continues. “Fallor came to his destruction. I intended to give you his keep and kingdom, but more so, I intended him to die. He did. You tried to do my bidding, and I appreciate you. I have given you a rich heiress who is mad with lust for your rank, your titles, and your name. Do not question me again.

“But, like against Fallor, you are failing me. You challenged a mortal to a duel, elevating him to your level. You showed neither wisdom or skill, and I am not convinced in your skill were you to engage him. They are gone now, and I do not think they will return.

“Listen carefully. You will ignore him. Tell the world he fled before you. Tell them his every word is a lie. There is nothing he can do to you. I will ensure that he vanishes as a mortal does. A few decades from now he will be gone, and his life will leave no trace more on the world than a pebble after it sinks into a pond.”

“And his insult to me? His threats to me?” Hyrthon huffs as he talks.

She sweeps air aside with the back of her hand. “They are the rage of a mortal against a god. He is nothing. I would have made you a great king if you’d taken Fallinor, but I will still help you. I tell you now, ignore the human. He is irrelevant. If you do my bidding, I will make you powerful and strong. I will exalt you among the ranks of the divine, and you will rest on silver clouds.

“Do nothing to the mortal, Hyrthon Dawnchild. Let him spend his years in a wagon. Take your pleasures with Aethionema. She is a fool and besotted with wine. Go to her, tell her you cannot leave her, and bury your hot blood. She will forget, and I will give you everything you need.”

The dark lady smiles. “Obey me.”

“Yes,” says Hyrthon, and he departs.

She is gone too.

I feel sick and nauseated. I wish I didn’t have to hear that, and instead of following Hyrthon, I go back to my room. I don’t want to know what else is going on in White Hoof.


It is hours later. I don’t know what to do or where to go. I feel like something big is happening and I should react, but I don’t know how. Instead I wander the house, the lawn, check the rock garden, and finally climb the roof again. I’ve got a knife and a pencil, and I’m drawing nothings on my paper when Hyrthon walks back into the room. He’s changed his clothes to a brown robe, and he paces.

For a long time he walks without saying or doing anything. He winds through tables and chairs. He forms orbits among the statues. His circles constrict to single, tight loops about a bucket of cleaning cloths and expand to wander the entire room. He goes up stairs and down, walking with his head down and watching the floor.

I find watching him restful, but he isn’t rested in the walking. He’s working himself up again but very, very slowly. At first he walks with his hips, almost leaning back at the shoulders, but time and loops about the room continue until he’s leaned forward. His hands curl into fists. His jaw clenches. His circles constrict again to a tight, fast path around a couch. Finally he stops with his fists on the backrest.

“I am not convinced of your skill were you to engage him,” he says. I can hear the words perfectly.

“I am not convinced of your skill,” he repeats.

“Your skill,” he says.

“Were you to engage him.”

He’s talking to himself like there’s another person in the room.

“Do nothing to him.”

“Do nothing.”


He stares into nothing. His face is moving. There are expressions flickering across his skin so quickly I cannot read them. They settle into some quiet glare. He stares into a cold fireplace, and speaks a word of command. Cherry red flames leap from sandstone.

“Children of Olnedi, come to me,” he says.

The flames leap and bend. They reach from the fireplace and arch over the floor, and dribble fires into pools on the polished stone. One by one, figures arise, and they are flickering and thin.

“Olnedes, listen to me. Go out and go wide through the Simhalls. Hurry above the cities. Be seen by all the mountain peoples. Then find Laeth, the mortal, and Merryweather, his lover. Kill them and be not secretive about it. But tell no one who sent you thus, and let everything you see or do tonight burn away with the coming dawn. Go and kill him.”

The flames bow to him, and they turn to the fireplace. One by one they leap up the chimney, and I see them racing skyward when they emerge. Above the house, they are but bits of cinder, floating upward. I look down, and Hyrthon has disappeared.

I search the house quickly, and I find him in the worst of all places. He has returned to my mother’s rooms.

When I go outside, red and yellow figures appear in the far sky. They are scarlet and orange, riding horses of white and blue. They run across the dark night,
outshining the stars, and over the cities they pause. Their flaming horses rear; they leave trails of sparks in the air. They come from all directions, heading south.

I am scared now, very scared, and I leave White Hoof as well. I run toward Merryweather’s wagon.

I flipped to the back of the folder and paged through the index. A citation linked this page with a name: Arya, the Goddess of Twisted Ways, Lady the Labyrinthe. She was one of the ancient ones, a goddess from before the first rising of the Sun.


Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 32


Chapter 32

Perhaps it’s the energy drink, because I suddenly felt nervous. My skin itched and something like bug-feet crawled on my neck. When I brushed them away, there was nothing there.

I had been wearing one of those flappy formal dresses, but I have a super power. I can change from a formal dress into anything else faster than any other dryad alive. Dropping my foliage, I call it, except instead of winding up naked, I wear pants.

If you don’t mind me getting a little more personal, it’s impossible to keep a sword under your skirts. For some reason boys tend to think we can hide long swords, battleaxes, or crossbows under a dress. I can’t. If I have to move around at all, stand up and sit down, or any of that, a sword just won’t fit. I may have tried for a summer or so and other than bruising my ankles and feet, gained nothing from the process.

But wishing I had a sword, I left the reception, changed, and chased Merryweather. I snuck up on them as they got to their wagon. The kid kept trying to walk, but he couldn’t walk too quickly. Laeth finally carried him most of the way but at the wagon door put him down to play. Merryweather and Laeth didn’t say much along the way, and now they’re looking at each other like, ‘How do we start this conversation?’ I’m hiding behind some rocks.

Back to taking live notes.

“Well,” says Laeth.

“Yeah,” says Merryweather.

They stand still for another long minute.

“Kog was good,” says Laeth.

“He was. He didn’t fuss at all.”

“So what do you want to do?” asks Laeth.

Merryweather doesn’t say anything. She’s watching the peaks, the groves of aspen, and Mom’s little white and pink flowers that grow wild. For a while she looks in one direction, and I try to follow her gaze. I don’t see anything. I don’t think Merryweather is looking at anything.

“Do you want to just leave?” asks Laeth. “We dump your brother and go? He’s home. My duty’s done. Your mother recognized our marriage, and I know how much that means to you.”

“You challenged Hyrthon to a duel.”

“Technically, he challenged me.”

“Laeth,” she says.

“Fine. But I don’t think he’ll pursue it. What does he have to gain? If he wins, he killed a mortal, and if I even injure him, he’ll be humiliated. And stabbed. He’s not very good in close quarters. Your mother wants us to go. Hyrthon won’t argue if we do. Do you want to just leave?”

“And go where?”

“The world. We’ve got the wagon. We’ll travel lighter without the coffin.”

“Can you do that? Leave a duel?”

“Sure. If Hyrthon wants to find me, he can. Blisters on him. He’ll tell everyone I ran away, but I wasn’t going to win friends here anyway.”

Merryweather stares again, and I look again. This time I see a marmot, but the marmot doesn’t look back.

She speaks hesitantly. “You know we’ll be leaving forever? My family’s not rich, but we do have a house, lands, people. It would be a place for Kog to grow up. If we leave, we’re turning our backs on them.”

Laeth takes her hands. “Yes. I know. It would just be us: you, me, the boy, other small, annoying people who might come along to break all my stuff and throw up in new and exciting places. Yes. Let’s just…go.”

“Okay,” she says as if it’s nothing.


They stare at each other. Laeth raises an eyebrow. Merryweather shrugs.

“Okay,” she says again.

“Good,” he says again, but after a pause adds, “We do have to drop your brother.”

“Oh, thank the Makers. Baby, we’ve been traveling with a coffin in the wagon for three years! Let’s drop him right now.”

“Do we have to bury him or something?”

“No, I don’t see why. We should take him to a crest or peak, though.”


She looks at him. “Because he’s named Ridgecrest. If we’re going to put him somewhere, it should be on a ridge or crest.”

Laeth looks around. They’ve drawn up their wagon outside the house grounds, and spires of the Simhalls reach up around us. A narrow valley to the north leads home, but here two river valleys meet and split. The pine forests are dark going north, but south, the valleys are wide and the grass is gold. The peaks around us are tall and stark.

“Can we pick a low one?” asks Laeth.

“No, let’s pick a tall one. He’d like it.” She pats Laeth on the arm. “Don’t worry. I’ll carry the casket. You mind Kog.”

“Oh.” Laeth stares at her as if he forgot something. “Yes.”

She smirks, and I see a hint of old Merryweather. She’s a daughter of Aethionema, of Lumina’s bloodline. For an instant I get Laeth. He sees her as his wife. He takes care of her, she him, and they’re probably in the middle of some long, married-couple fight about socks. Merryweather used to be whiny when she got annoyed, and I bet she still is. But she’s a daughter of Celestials and a dryad. She could lift that wagon and carry it into the high places herself if she wanted too. Laeth stares at her, pleased, amused, and above all happy.

And I get Merryweather finally. She’s my sister and born of the blood, but she never mattered to the family like she matters to him. She matters as a member of the family, not too the family. So she’s leaving.

He starts doing something with straps and bolts on the side of the wagon. It’s a big, boxy thing, and their two elk are grazing nearby. She grabs Kog, who seems to be trying to lick rocks. I could stay and watch, but I feel like I should leave. They’re deciding to leave us, me, and that hurts a little.

I understand, but I’m sad. I only understand my sister now that she’s leaving.

Quiet as mist flowing across the ground, I head back into the forest and go home.


Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 31


Chapter 31

I found an energy drink in my desk, six months past its expiration date. It would probably give me leprosy.

Sickness take it, I thought and drank the energy drink.

I was not unmindful of the irony of my curse, but I kept reading.

My mother is going to find a way to make this entire event about herself.

She always does this. I think the only reason I have so many brothers and sisters is she wanted someone to boss around. Well, the joke’s on her because we’re leaving. Only Merryweather came back, and Mom caved when Merryweather threatened to leave again.

She married a mortal and had a kid.

That’s insane.

She probably thinks she’s being brave, but I don’t know. She did make Mom back down. Mom wants to play with the kid while he’s still young enough to be an accessory, and with three of the brothers off to the armies and the rest of us moving toward the exits, she announced she’d recognize Merryweather’s marriage to keep her from leaving.

There’s some issue with names as well. Apparently mortals give each other their names when they get married. Merryweather is going to become Merryweather Tim.

I’ll find out tonight. I’ll take notes, but I don’t know what I’ll say other than, ‘And then Mom made everything about her again.’


Here we are.

I’m taking notes as the reception happens. We just finished dinner, which was tense but pleasant. Merryweather’s husband, Laeth, attended, and I got to meet him. He only has one hand, but I didn’t ask about that in case it’s rude. I never know with mortals. He said his family is of the line of Tenmen, but I couldn’t ask who that is either. A few generations back they’re all forbidden traitors. We talked about the weather.

I met the baby too. He was cute enough, I guess. I wouldn’t risk throwing away the family heritage for either of them. Sometimes Merryweather is a bit dramatic.

She’s well. Merryweather was always more pretty than beautiful, but she has a lovely smile. She smiles a lot more now. She always used to smirk too much. She spent most of dinner keeping the baby upright, because that kid wants to fall off things. But she enjoyed it, and Laeth sat by her side, and I guess I could see why she’d be fond of them.

We moved to the Aeschites Hall, and it smells of dust. Mom has taken the dais, the new family is standing in front of her with their backs to the rest of us, and we’re spread out through the tables. I’m pretending to draw, but no one’s paying attention to me anyway. The hall is made of blocks piled up to look like grandfather Painter grew it out of stone, but Mom doesn’t have the gift. It’s a dark old room with stone trees that hold the balconies, and the sunlight is filtered by glass leaves. Mom’s wearing a black and green evening dress, and Merryweather’s in an old dancing gown. The man’s wearing a shirt and pants of leather strips on linen.

“My dearest, my kith and kin, I adore you all,” Mom says. “You are here today to witness me blessing this union between our daughter, Merryweather, and this man, Laeth. She is one of our children, a blessed child of Lumina. She carries the blood of Argus the Painter, who crafted these mountains. He moved stone like clay, and lives in glory among the stars in a hall like this one Aeschites. All of us are blessed of Divine, and we carry the Titans’s glory. She’s marrying him.

“And if our station has fallen enough that one of our beloved children finds herself with a mortal, by our blessing we can elevate it to more than whatever he brings, so that their marriage is worthy of Merryweather. He’s the best that she can do. But we rejoice that she has found a husband at all, and so let the marriage of Merryweather and Laeth be blessed! Their son is of our house now. His name is Klog something.”

And somehow, Laeth is smiling. He looks like he’s struggling to hold back laughter.

“I am delighted to meet you all, and delighted that you’re so happy to see me!” he says.

I guess he doesn’t realize he’s being insulted.

Merryweather realizes. She looks like Diadred made flesh. I think she wants to murder people.

“Overjoyed,” says Mother. “We will tolerate your human custom of giving names, so family of Lumina, look upon Merryweather Tim!”

Merryweather is about to say something, when Laeth takes her arm, spins her around, and smiles broadly to everyone. She looks sick, but he’s grinning like a fool and kisses her. The boy is chewing on his fingers. The family applauds. Merryweather looks somewhat less enraged and more annoyed, but turns to the family and smiles.

“And now that we’re done talking about them!” Mom interrupts the applause, which have mostly stopped anyway. “Pay attention to more important news. Not all of us have lowered ourselves to mortals! I am delighted to announce I am affianced to a god of the Westhrom Realm, a great magician and warrior, one who is worthy of our station. I am–”

Merryweather has turned back to Mom like a sunflower turns to face the sun. She is mad with rage. Laeth is whispering in her ear very quickly, but I don’t think she hears him.

I missed a bit of Mom’s speech. “–to introduce my own, divine fiancé, Hyrthon the Dawnchild!”

And out he comes.

He’s wearing mail of silver rings, and his boots and cloak are scarlet. He has nice hair, slicked back and neat. I haven’t seen him since he came looking for volunteers to join his legion, and Ridgecrest went with him. I suppose that’s how he met Mom.

He comes out and puts an arm around Mom, and she beams. They snuggle up against each other on the dais, above and behind Merryweather and Laeth. Green windows in the shape of leaves cast sunlight on them, and perhaps by some trickery or maybe just good timing, the light dims on the Tims and brightens on Mom. Everyone applauds again, but louder.

Laeth has stopped whispering. He seems frozen. While the family applauds, he stares up at Mother and Hyrthon without speaking, an arm still around Merryweather. She’s trying to eye-murder Mom too but stops when she notices he went quiet. Her eyes flick from him to the dais and back, and I can read her lips.

Merryweather whispers, “Oh, baby, no. No, baby, no.”

“My dearest mother in law!” announces Laeth, louder than the cheers. Mom startles, like she’s just spotted a new bug. People are looking at him instead of her. “Delighted to meet your new fiancé! May I say a word?”

“Of course not,” she replies.

“Thank you.” He winks at her. “Hyrthon, we meet again! I marched with you at Fallinor and rejoice to see you alive! Reverend Mother Aethionema, I was there with Ridgecrest when he died in Hyrthon’s army, and I have come to bury him.”

Hyrthon looked first annoyed, then disturbed, but suddenly unwell. Mom hates being called Reverend Mother. It makes her feel old. She looked like she’d tasted poison when Laeth called her that, but he spoke the black magic name. She’s silent now.

“The assault on Fallinor’s Castle was a fiasco,” Laeth says. “We built no siege engines, no towers, no ladders. Hyrthon sent a squad out-of-uniform to take the gatehouse while we hid in the woods. They were to light a fire in the windows, and we would take the open gatehouse. I was in those woods, and Ridgecrest with me. We wagered everything on surprise.

“We had bad luck. When the commandos attacked, Fallor’s swordsman Hwang Twostones was in the gatehouse, and he held the door. No one could get in, he couldn’t get out, and for two hours he held the gate. Finally, a body fell down the stairs, and the alarms rang.

“You remember that, don’t you Hyrthon? You waited back among the trees with us instead of going ahead.

“But when the alarms rang and the plan failed, you ordered us to attack. And we went. But the gate was closed, and they met us with arrows. We were defeated, captured, and somehow, you escaped.

“Reverend Mother Aethionema, I was taken prisoner with your son Ridgecrest after Hyrthon escaped. Let me tell you how he died.”

And Laeth tells a horrible story as Mom falls to the ground. Only Hyrthon remains standing. When Laeth is finished, the Dawnchild speaks.

“You, mortal, are a damned liar,” says Hyrthon.

“You’re a coward and traitor to your men,” answers Laeth.

“Fight me.”

“I accept.”

“Mortal, silence your worthless noise!” shouts Mom, and she hasn’t even gotten up yet. “You won’t duel anyone above your station–”

“Mom, you whore!” yells Merryweather. “He killed Ridgecrest! His cowardice killed my brother.”

Mother scrambles back, fighting with her dress get away. She looks for a moment uncertain, even uncomfortable.

“He didn’t say that,” she says, pointing at Laeth.

“This fool’s cowardice killed your son,” says Laeth.

Mom looks stricken, and for once, I don’t think she’s faking. She doesn’t cry, and Mom always cries when she wants attention. She goes down on her elbows and stares at the ground.

“This is irrelevant,” says Hyrthon. He turns to Laeth. “You’re both lying and wrong.

“The campaign at Fallinor turned into stalemate. We couldn’t get in, and they couldn’t get out. The walls of the keep are strong and thick, and even now, Thorophus has just begun his work. We had no cannon. I challenged Fallor, either alone or with champions, and he refused. We assaulted them for two years, and they spoke such blasphemies in their defense that the city was cursed. I decided to break the siege.

“During all this, Ridgecrest was with me. He had always been there, wherever the fighting was hottest. When we probed the walls, he was the first in line. When we tried to gain access through secret ways, he went in front. He made his name and honor a dozen times.

“But in the end, it was Fallor’s vanity that turned us away, because he spoke unforgivable things. Mallens he blasphemed, and Mallens does not forgive. At a final meeting, your son was there–” he turns away from Laeth to address Aethionema “—we realized that even if we won, we could never hold Fallinor’s Castle. Eventually word would get reach the Lord of Creation’s ears and bring down ruin. So it was we left.

“I’m here in part to tell you what became of your son. Though undefeated, we hadn’t come to victory, and Ridgecrest is at times… impatient. He’s made a name for himself with me, but he is also ambitious. I have contacts in the southern lands of Tuerte, and I sent him down as my emissary. It is a dangerous mission, and I fear for his safety. But he has a stout heart, and I have great hope for him.”

Aethionema looks up at him, and there’s a hunger in her eyes but also doubt. She looks to Laeth.

For a long time the mortal thinks. Finally he answers, “Ridgecrest is dead. I brought his body back to bury him with his family. He rests in my wagon.”
Mom says, “Both of you be silent,” and she stares at the ground. That’s a bold thing to say to Hyrthon who stands higher than any of us, but this is her hall. I can see him thinking, but he holds his peace. Laeth does as well.

Mom slowly gets to her feet. She seems unsteady. Turning to Laeth, she says, “I do not believe you. Go to your wagon and get your proofs. Get…whatever you have.”
Laeth doesn’t react immediately. He looks at Merryweather. She nods. With that, he nods as well, bows to Mom, and they leave, taking the little one. Mom turns to Hyrthon, stares at him, and turns her back on him to walk away. She goes through the stone trees among the tables and leaves the light that falls through the window-leaves.

Hyrthon looks out at the family, and we’re all quiet for a moment.

Then Snowdrift asks, “Why doesn’t someone just go to Fallinor’s Castle and find out?”

Hyrthon says, “Because Mallens crushed them six months ago. The city is not there, and the mountains and valleys sink into the earth. I told you of their blasphemy.”

The family begins to fight, and Hyrthon sits down. Someone brings him some wine. There’s already shouting among the tables.


Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 30


Chapter 30

My file continued:

Biographical information: Kog

Born: First week of ascending autmn

Sun sign: Aeschites

Father: Laeth Tim (Mortal)

Mother: Merryweather (Tim) (Dryad: Lumina)

Antecedent Information:

Merryweather was the ninth of seventeen children born to Aethionema, a mountain dryad of Lumina’s line. Her great, great grandfather Argus the Painter was rewarded with divinty for crafting the Simhall Mountains. He dwells in the house of Aeschites, four small stars with Argonius, a blue white star on top, and Argoni, Argonai, Thorum, red, yellow, and brown respectively, in a line below.

However by the birth of Merryweather, the line of Aethionema had fallen from Argus’s greatness. A small daughter of a small son, Merryweather’s mother lacked the size and relentlessness to be a great warrior or maker. She had moved to the peaks of the White Hoof Massif in the Simhalls, and there dwelled with the mountain oreads, falling out of the ranks of Celestials and becoming a mere dryad.

Merryweather was born into a crowded house and left almost immediately. Two of her siblings have thus-far gone to Aegon’s service to achieve some renown, and one, Ridgecrest, to Hyrthon’s legion. She did not. She laughed too loudly, argued when she should have acceded, and fought for attention with rude songs and quick games instead of sharp elbows. Among seventeen children, there was no sunlight for her. She left home and soon took up with the worst sort of people: mortals.

Laeth Tim had failed out of Northshore by age twenty and joined the Hyrthon Legion on the disasterous march on Fallinor Castle(footnote). After their catastrophic assault1 and subsequent capture, Fallor ordered all with the blood of gods, titans, or spirits removed and taken to dungeons for ransom. The mortals were to be annihilated.

They stood together.

Assuming this meant Hyrthon had marched with an all-mortal army, a believable outcome given the fiasco of their assault, Fallor commenced their systematic ellimination. The first Celestial to die, Cormorant, spoke his final curse as he was beheaded, and from his blood poured salt water and lava. His dying cursed twenty three acres of Fallor’s fields. Thinking it an aberation, Fallor moved to somewhere else and executed ninety seven mortals in short order until Landrace died, cursing Fallor with his dying breath as well. The winds in that field have blown hot and dry ever since.

Fallor halted the executions and demanded all Celestials step aside, offering them freedom. The mortals were still to be annihilated.

No one moved.

Fallor grew proud, seeing his authority challenged by the defeated army. Drawing the square-headed sword of his line, Judgement, Fallor went among the shackled prisoners himself, slaying them as they stood bound to logs with iron manacles. Witness testimony reports he turned his attention to Laeth Tim and reached out to cut him down when Ridgecrest tried to fight Fallor. Shackled, defeated, and injured, Ridgecrest struck Fallor twice in the jaw before the king slew him by cutting open his stomach. Ridgecrest’s intestines poured out and got tangled with his manacles while he spoke his final curse on Fallor himself, who had thus-far been insulated by the use of executioners.

Ridgecrest’s curse was deep and terrible, recorded by the Pattern Spiders and redacted here. However it is known that Fallor moved from high apartments of his palace to low rooms at ground floor, and has never again walked the pathways of the mountains. Fallor rarely rides horses or ascends past the second floor of modest buildings. He does not like tall places.

Demanding again that all Celestials remove themselves from the prisoners, Fallor was again denied and this time turned aside.

Hyrthon’s legionaires were deprived of their sword hands and released. No distinctions were made among them.

It isn’t known if Laeth and Ridgecrest knew each other before their final moments, and given the distinctions between officer and enlisted, it’s highly unlikely they did. However, Laeth took it upon himself to inform the house of Aethionema the manner of their son’s demise and bring the latter home for burial. After binding his stump, Laeth turned his feet north to the Simhalls.

Laeth met Merryweather at a bed-and-breakfast in the southern city of Temaron. It is unknown how their courtship transpired. Since he was mortal, records were not kept, and their relationship was unplanned. Attention from a strange, one-armed man may have been deeply appealling to Merryweather, especially from someone carrying important news. Lauth sought information leading to Ridgecrest’s family, likely not knowing where Ridgecrest was from, who his family was, nor where they lived. Merryweather provided all of that.

However, we must be careful to avoid the too-common fallacy of dry cynicism which strips the psyche from all events in favor underlying elemental causes. Laeth liked to sing, tell jokes, and needed help adapting to the use of one hand. Merryweather also liked to sing, laughed too loudly, and neither of them shirked from an argument. She was pretty, he was interested, and soon they wed and headed to White Hoof Massif to tell her family Ridgecrest was dead. Merryweather had gone far to get away from her family, and they didn’t have the money to fly. The journey by wagon took several years. Along the way she bore the subject.

Kog was born when Horochon rose in the house of Aeschites, a good omen on his mother’s side. Their early days were quiet. The small family lived in a wagon, travelling toward White Hoof, but stopping frequently to work. Documentation of the subject during this period is mostly incidental reports from agents of Fate. An Operator in deep cover as a ferryboat captain recorded their destination as the Simhalls with ‘cargo for burial,’ a surveilance station observed them on the Joo Highway, the family took Kog to a community doctor operated by Destiny Service for minor medical care, etc. See Appendix 1 for details. The baby was largely unremarkable.

During these years, Laeth began to train extensively with a sword in his left hand. No official requests for intuition have been logged regarding what was to come at White Hoof. Pattern observations do record a sense of foreboding, but that was not the doing of Fate. Fate had no part in the events that followed.

Arriving at White Hoof, Merryweather and Laethe’s reception was complicated. Merryweather was welcomed back as family. That she brought a husband counted slightly in her favor. Being a mortal counted firmly against Laeth, though it was repeatedly noted he’d have been a good find if he wasn’t mortal. The balance tipped heavily toward Merryweather and Laeth because Aethionema desparately wanted grandchildren, and Merryweather was the first of the seventeen to bring one home. However Aethionema hated all her daughters’s husbands, suitors, and boyfriends, and generally despised mortals. Kog did appropriate toddler things and puked on Aethionema. For unknown reasons, this endeared him to her immensely.

Laeth’s general ostracization meant that he did not tell Aethionema of Ridgecrest’s death for several weeks. Nor was Merryweather and Laeth’s marriage recognized for that time. Ultimately Merryweather told her mother she was either staying with her husband or leaving with him, which lead to the matriarch agreeing to Merryweather taking the Tim name. It was arranged to take place at a reception after dinner.

Merryweather’s second youngest sister, Nivale, had been born twelve years after Merryweather. While not estranged, they had grown up without being close. Unknown to everyone, Nivale had been a Fate informant since her early years. Not the baby of the family but far toward the end, Nivale had received even less attention than her siblings, and Fate often pursues such contacts as mutually beneficial. Nivale was willing to work for free, which suited Fate’s budget constraints, interested in having a secret, ‘feeling special.’ Informants are provided with drop boxes or contacts, however Operator Intercepting Fist showed up on a black horse at midnight on the eve of eclipses to receive her reports. She was still provided with a drop box, just in case, but until the events disclosed had never used it. Because the drop box was never used, it was infrequently monitored.

An unusually long period between eclipses was ongoing at this point, and Intercepting Fist was not expected to contact the informant for seven months. This seemed to cause Nivali some discomfort, and she began utilizing the drop box. The following account consists of Nivali’s descriptions of events beginning three weeks after Merryweather’s arrival, starting with the dinner reception mentioned.


Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 29


Chapter 29

I stood like a statue, dart in hand, as I contemplated the completeness of that thought.

I should burn my file.

Some of it. The bad parts.

I don’t know what would happen if I burned my whole file. I might cease to exist or lose my soul or something similar. It sounded like a bad idea. And the files didn’t chronicle everything. Day to day life was often summarized, and the interns used to joke about people who’s whole files were summaries. ‘Lived eighty years, worked as a shoe maker, died.’ A long and empty life had a thin, empty file.

But I could certainly delete any notes I didn’t like. ‘Committed a little treason. Offenses indexed in Addendum A.’ That part could get burned.

It wouldn’t stop anyone properly motivated, but it wouldn’t help.

The dirty secret of Fate is that people’s files got lost all the time. I worked there, and I know I made mistakes. A missing file wouldn’t be a shocking red flag. Files passed through dozens of hands, and I was just some mortal. No one cared about mortals.

I put the darts down and walked out the back door without telling Aubrey where I was going.

The tower shopette had tobacco and a lighter, The latter was a red-burning star fragment in a silver holder, one that blazed to life when exposed to air and ether. The air up here was mostly ether. The tobacco smelled terrible, and I don’t know why anyone liked this stuff. I also got some cheap papers and a pouch. For money I had to go outside and scrounge the hills for loose rubies and emeralds, but this place wasn’t as opulent as Hyperion. Cover established, I left the Emerald Hinton.

I’d worked in the basement of Tower Azure Nadella. There weren’t any interns now, during winter, so the corridors were largely empty. The potentate who ran the tower loved changing things for the sake of changing them, and constantly rebuilt stairways, moved walls, and shifted doors. He never updated the wall maps, so the place felt deliberately confusing. The ‘You Are Here’ signs lied.

Still, I knew generally where to go: down. I took stairways towards the smellier, moldier parts of the tower, and soon found the empty intern offices. The ‘File Request’ room door opened on the end of the hallway.

Inside, several long, knotted, silk cords ran from floor to ceiling. Within the walls, they traveled in jade and silver tubes, but in here they were exposed. Boxes of file requisition forms lay piled against the wall, unminded and left alone since the last batch of interns left. I didn’t even worry about disturbing the boxes. We’d piled them up here on the last day of the internship, and we’d done a terrible job!

I snagged a form and pen, it was dry, found a pen that worked three pens later, and requested my file.

“Kog, born in the House of Aeschites, Ascendant in Autumn.”

I clipped the form to rope and sent it on its way.

Somewhere out in the deeper bowels of Fate, automota made by the Clockwork Gods themselves would take it, read it, and process the request without thinking, questioning, or considering. The Clockwork Gods had not been fans of their servants thinking, questioning, or considering. They weren’t fans of free will at all, and weren’t happy anyone, humans or gods, had it.

The gods weren’t supposed to have it. That’s what Creation’s Oaths were for. They bound the Gods of Flesh to eternal servitude to the Gods from Gears and had since the Forbidden Revolution.

Us mortals were too weak for oaths. We might swear, but would it bind us through temptation and duress? Not always. We were only mortals, after all.

I thought of Creation’s Oaths, what Jermaine had promised to burn when I’d first gotten involved in this little regicide thing. They were here, somewhere. I couldn’t requisition them. I’d asked. Curiosity had urged me, way before I’d ever considered treason, regicide, or criminal behavior beyond underage drinking and speeding. Still, it seemed a shame to be so close to what we’d wanted so badly and not be able to touch them.

And I had fire right with me.


They were probably– definitely guarded.

Something creaked and flapped in the cord tube, and a file appeared, paper-clipped to the cord. I took it down.

“Kog, born in the House of Aeschites, Ascendant in Autumn”

There was a small note attached.

“The treason addendum has been requisitioned by Judicial Director Priam.”

Sickness and death.

That was what I wanted! That was the important part! That was the whole goal, the objective, the reason I’d come…what exactly did they have on me?

I stared at my file for a little bit. It was pleasantly thick. I had some documents in here, not just summaries. Without opening the file, I looked around it and saw official copy ribbons folded among the papers like bookmarks. The Office of Duplication used those when they made copies as official as originals.

It was, coincidentally, super illegal to requisition your own file. I hadn’t done it when I’d worked here, but criminality had become somewhat less concerning to me recently.

It was even more super illegal to read your own file. That was a different crime. And I was here.

I hesitated. My chest hurt.

Blisters and blindness.

I took the file, ran back to my office, and smelled the old scents of mildew and moist carpet, spilled food that never quite got cleaned up, and stale air. The blue walls had turned a sickening green, tiles of the ceiling had splotches of water damage, and the door didn’t quite shut because the frame had warped. I’d turned in a work order my first stint, another my second, and my door still didn’t work.

Death on all that.

I sat in the half-broken chair that slumped to the right and had given me back problems, slapped the file on my lap, and opened it. This was probably more treason. They could add it to the list before I burned the list.

The first page was a sheet of parchment. It read, “Executive Summary: Kog believes the cover story that his father killed his mother and tried to kill him before taking his own life. This causes him to overcompensate via a desire for fame. Revealing the truth to the mortal is not necessary. He is unlikely to affect Destiny in any meaningful sense and is not scheduled to be famous.”


Twlight in Heaven: Chapter 28


Chapter 28

The door opened and a new guard walked in. He looked like the other two had: different boulder, same rock. I snoozed without sleeping, and wasn’t so much awoken when he appeared as alerted. He pushed a cart to the edge of my bed and left it.

“Historiography just came in clean. You fought the dragon. You’re free of custody.

“Most places around here are controlled, so don’t go wandering off. You’ll be debriefed when someone gets around to it and escorted back to Meru when someone makes the trip with an open seat. You’re not allowed to stay in Medical, though. Clarification on where you can wait is coming.

“Eat up, some clean clothes are in the cart, and take a shower.”

That seemed straight forward. I had no questions, he had nothing else to say, and that breakfast wasn’t going to eat itself.

In an hour or so, I was ready for the day, and orders had come down.

“You’re going to be stuck in Emerald Hinton Tower until someone’s ready for you. Emerald Hinton has the gym, the library, a cafeteria, and a few nice parks. You can kill some time there.”

Boulder Number 4 had come in when I was dressed. The clothing they’d provided was gray and loose: pants, undershirt, a sweater, textile belt, and sandals. Everything was made of silk or wool. I’ve never had silk underwear before, but I could get used to it.

He dropped some green cards on the bed. “These are your meal cards. You won’t get more until tomorrow, so don’t lose them, but you should be back in Meru by then, so it won’t be an issue. We’re going to Snow Winston to see if they’re ready for you, but if they’re not, you are officially confined to Emerald Hinton and the grounds. You also can’t walk out of here, so saddle up. The staff wants you gone so they can clean the room.” And he rattled the folding wheelchair conspicuously.

I moved over. “Sally forth, Greevs!”

“Don’t call me Greevs.”

Greevs was a famous butler and chauffeur, and I needed something to call these guys instead of Boulder Number Whatevers.

Fate’s medical center took up the first few stories of the Chestnut Augustus Tower. Augustus had been a Fate operator years and years ago, famous for doing his paperwork well, and had died in battle. The periphery held people who needed long-term care (they got windows), and the inside held us short timers. Supposedly the interior is closer to everything, so if a critical patient (me) needed to be rushed to a specialist, I could get there faster than if I had a window-room across the building. I’ll allow it, but it seems awfully convenient as a way to deny me my window.

Greevs wheeled my chair out of Chestnut Augustus Tower and along a paved walking path outside the towers. Fate’s complex stood high in the mountains of the Firmament, the great sphere that held the Outer Ocean out. Beacons shined on the summits of each mountain, the great stars of Pallas’s sky.

I looked up. Pallas was dead overhead in the center of the sky, a huge ball of blue and gray. Her Sea of Clausius faced me with brown and green bits around the edge, while in the center clouds and fumes hid the Clockwork Gods working. Down there seawater fell over the edges of the unfinished surface of Meru to the underworld beneath. If I could look through clouds and mist, I would be able to see the scaffolding and winches, the huge gears that drive the continents, and the construction of islands and seabed slowly reaching across gap. Somewhere in there the geigun worked for the world’s Clockwork masters. They were something other than mortal or Celestial, but I knew of them only abstractly. They swung the hammers and moved the iron as the Clockwork Gods directed. I’d never met one. The Sea of Clausius was the last part of the world unfinished, and the clouds seemed to cover about half the ball.

I looked back down at the Firmament. On the shell of the sky, the Sun never set, but it did move around. Right now it was peaking around the mountains, and the shadows were dwindling. This was morning. I tried to think something deep about life, but only got, ‘Great things are a lot less great when you’re in them.’

They wheeled me around the hanger to the Snow Winston Tower. Winston was…similar story to Augustus actually. Good at paperwork, died in battle. Huh. Anyway, the Snow Winston was finished inside with marble and limestone, the floor was a form of hard white agate, and the ceiling had reinforcement spars of aluminum. The walls had more decorations than Chestnut Augustus. Framed pictures of people getting medals, giving speeches, or sitting at desks, working studiously, lined the halls. A lady with dark braids smiled above a plaque naming her, ‘Admiral Tiana, first operator to achieve 100% budget request submissions on time.’ She faced a portly man who was, ‘Grandmaster Marcus, on completing one century of perfect attendance.’ They looked pleased, honored, and motivated.

I had no awards. My attendance had been shtuttick.

In Snow Winston an attache with a clipboard took my name, ticked a box, and told Greevs to take me to Rec. I asked if I could walk. The attache, Ezekiel, said I could.

I got out of the wheelchair, and the other guard, call him Betty, took it back toward medical. Greevs escorted me to Emerald Hinton and handed me over to a young lady behind a desk. She actually had a name tag, so I didn’t get to make anything up for her. Her name was Aubrey, and she looked concerned.

“Is he supposed to be in jail?” she asked. “There are no cells here.”

“No, no,” said Greevs. “He’s free to go, but he can’t go anywhere controlled. Historiography and maybe Obscene Beasts is going to interview him later. He just needs a place to stay so they can find him.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, he can use the recreational facilities, and the cafeteria is in the basement.”

“Thanks.” He tried to smile at her, but I think his face would have cracked. He left. She looked at me as if perplexed.

She was actually fairly cute with light brown hair, a round face, and slim-fitting green uniform.

“I fought a dragon, you know,” I said.

“That sounds outstanding,” she replied and opened a book.

Frankly, she wasn’t really that attractive. I wandered off.

The recreation facility had a few dart boards, billiards tables, and various board games. There was a room for parties and an area for quiet reading. Up a flight of stairs, the library seemed unchanged from the one-time I’d looked in here before, during my internship. It had immense volumes on tax law and hierarchical etiquette, but nothing with a murder or a little smooching. Up another floor was the gym, and I did have some familiarity with that. Still, I had recently come to the edge of death. I spent half an hour stretching before getting bored. Nothing was going on in the martial arts area.

The cafeteria blew my mind. They had spreads of ambrosia and wine of nectar and honeydew. All things considered, I avoided the latter, but ate what might very well have been the best meal of my life. The counter lady looked at my meal ticket but didn’t take it. I felt better than I had since all this foolishness began, and that was with bruises, cuts, and a fatal cold bane hanging over my head.

Without much idea what to do next, I approached Aubrey and asked if anyone had come looking for me.

“Nope,” she said without looking up from her book.

That hadn’t seemed like an unreasonable question to me.

I didn’t quite know what to do or where to go next. The ambrosia was working, and I wanted to give it time. I didn’t think I could sleep right now, even in a quiet area, and I felt like I’d be wasting an opportunity if I just slept through my time up here in Fate. I had wasted a lot of time working, and I wasn’t working now. Should I be?

I was throwing darts for no reason when inspiration kissed me.

I should go to the files room, see what they had on me, and burn it.


Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 27


Chapter 27

“Sleep first or food?” asked the Celestial orderly, getting immediately to the most important of matters.

“Food.” I decided.

We moved through corridors of some brown material that looked like polished stone. It didn’t seem to be in blocks. Praus, the orderly asking the good questions, was a small swarthy man. He smiled a lot, but I was a job for him. His friend had left without giving his name, and Praus had said he was taking me to a guest room.

I doubted leaving the guest room would be encouraged.

After several turns, he stopped in a hallway with a counter. I smelled frying meat and butter, heard sizzles and drips, and splashes and sloshing. Praus tapped the counter. Before anyone said anything, a burlap wrapped package appeared. He hung it from a hook by my head and pushed the bed off down the hallway.

That bag smelled of rice. I sniffed. Vegetables. I sniffed again. Butter. More vegetables. I needed that package inside me.

Within a few minutes, Praus wheeled me into a small room. It had no windows but did have a water house. The walls had stripes of pastel paints over the brown stone. Praus poured three cups of water and laid them on a table that pivoted over the bed. He moved the package there too before cranking a wheel below my head. The bed lifted me into a sitting position.

“Try to drink all three. If you need help making it to the water house, someone will be right outside. If you can handle things on your own, go ahead. Eat, sleep, eat again, and we’ll see how you are later. Anything else you need, Vincent?”


“I’ll put a change by your bed. Sleep well.”

He left. I ate, drank all three glasses, dragged myself across walls, and hung on hand-rails to make it to the toilet. When I was done, I felt weaker than I ever had. But I could move.

Dr Thay had said whatever had left that injury on my side would kill me. Hoarfast had, and he was up here, somewhere, with me. Thus, after eating, contrary to doctor’s orders and my own desires, I did not go to sleep. Winching the bed into a more vertical sitting position took all my effort, but I was able to do a little thinking.

All right, self, what are we trying to do here? I thought.

No thoughts, no voices that sounded like thoughts, urged death and murder in my head.

That was terrifying, I admitted to myself. To suddenly find out the thoughts in your head weren’t yours, and they meant harm to others, meant to use you to do harm to others, it was mind-horror. That sword–

I was pretty sure the Drowning Breath of Ogden was dead. I’d stabbed it into the dragon’s head, and last I’d seen, fire had erupted around it. Could I kill a sword? I don’t know, but I was glad it was done.

And at least the sword died doing what it loved: killing.

What was I going to do about this side? What was I going to do here? Hoarfast had seen me. Would he talk?

I doubted it. I couldn’t imagine he’d say anything to Fate about our shared treason.

Someone knocked on the door and a moment later opened it.

The door opener was a big, meavily muscled man with extremely short hair, thick beard, and no neck. He went from shoulders to head with only a few rolls in between. He wore a white underlayer and gray armor: shoulder pads, elbow pads, knee pads, boots, a neck protector, tombstone chest piece, gloves that looked more like gauntlets, and an iron hanging from a carabiner by his shoulder. I didn’t recognize the gun type. He had a knife on his chest too, set up for a vertical draw. He even had shooting glasses: an amber, one piece lense that wrapped from temple to temple. He looked deeply, extremely bored, and his other hand held his place in a book with one finger.

“Vistor,” he said.

A woman walked in carrying a glass vase of lilies. She was a small person, fair-skinned, with her hair in a bun. She wore normal clothes: pants, laced shoes, and a formal sweater. The lilies were pink, yellow, and orange.

Smiling, she asked, “Good morning. Are you Vincent?”

“I am,” I replied.

“I’m Samsara. I’m with hospitality. These are for you.”

“Thank you.”

She put them on the table, fluffed the flowers, and breathed deeply a few times. “They’re nice.”

“Thank you,” I said again, slightly confused. “Who sent them?”

“Hospitality. We try to give everyone flowers, but we made you a special bouquet.” She wiggled her eyebrows and leaned close to whisper. “It’s because you don’t have a window.”

“Oh.” I was on full alert. She might be an enemy. I was prepared to falcon-dive in an instant, and with all the strength in me I’d… flail uselessly. She could beat me to death with her clipboard right now.

“Enjoy,” she said. “And try to get some sleep.”

‘Samsara,’ if that was her real name, left. She knocked on the door before going out.

Self, you’re being a little paranoid, I thought.

Was I going to kill Hoarfast?

The thought frightened me. Hoarfast frightened me. Thinking about killing someone frightened me. What if this was another impostor thought, the echoes of the sword in my head? It wasn’t. The thought felt like me.

But the decision exceeded me. What was I going to do now? Fight him? When I’d just admitted to myself the nice lady who delivered flowers could beat me up?
The flowers smelled wonderful, and the room felt warm.

What was I going to do if Hoarfast tried to kill me?

I staggered out of bed, shuffled into the change of clothes, and hauled myself to the door. I knocked twice and pulled it open.

The human boulder watched me from above his book.

On the other side of the door, another equally prodigious human boulder was filling out paperwork on a clip board. I glanced at the form. How Much House Can You Afford? it said.

“Are, ah, you guys going to be here for a while?” I asked.

“Yup,” said Boulder Number 1.

“Need something?” asked Boulder Numer 2.

“Just wanted to see if anyone was out here,” I said.

“We are,” said Numer 1.

“And if your concern is medical in nature, we can assist with that. We’re both medics.” said the other.

“Really?” I sounded way more skeptical than I meant to.

“Yep,” said Number 1.

“Fate has a surprisingly good education plan,” said Number 2. “Free ride to medical school if you meet time-in-service requirements.”

“What’s worrying you?” asked Number 1. He lowered the book to his lap, holding his place with a finger. I glanced at the title. He was reading Sweeps From Guard
With enough truth to hide my evasions, I said, “Everything, in general. I’m worried something is coming after me.”

“Is this a precognition, and if so, do you often have visions of the future?” asked Number 1. He did not sound like he was joking.

“I can find the worst possible girl to be interested in with precognitive accuracy,” I replied somewhat bitterly.

Number 1 went back to his book. “Yeah, join the club, buddy.”

“Get some sleep. We’ll be here,” said Number 2.

He was still watching me, but our conversation had ended. I shut the door and shuffled back to bed.

Weird as it was, I felt a lot better.

I gave myself permission to sleep and began to drift. I felt like a toy soldier in a leaf boat, floating over a deep pond. Through a patch of lilies, a stream emptied into the dim water. Ripples pushed my little leaf boat around, but I stayed above water, thinking of worries, enemies, and things that could go wrong. But a few drops made it over the railing at a time, the little boat settled deeper, and the ripples of the small stream kept building until the boat was gone. I sank from awake and worried to dead-to-the-world unconscious in half a blink.


Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 26


Chapter 26

The Bureau of Fate building is an ugly, bumpy thing in the mountains. It can’t even pick a shape. Seven-sided towers rise tall and wide, around central pillars of stairs and hoists. There are seven such towers, each forty nine stories tall, and you, gentle reader, might think that, Oh, we have a thing going here. Same number of sides and floors, so it’s probably a numerology theme. Pragmatically, seven-sided towers make for a lot of windows, and the bureau is on the firmaments, so the scenery of space itself, Pallas and its neighbors, and all the other stars are worthy of a lot of windows.

The problem is the middle.

All of the interior space between the seven towers is filled with one giant hanger, completely ruining all of views to the inside, and the hanger isn’t even seven sided. It’s square-ish. Why -ish? Because the seven towers are in a vague circle, and the hanger is just sort of shoved in there. Some of the towers stick out of it, some of the hanger walls have to bend to touch the others, It’s mostly shorter than the towers, except where the mountains rise it’s taller, and completely ruins the view.

Finally, well not finally because I’m going to mention the worst thing last but almost-finally, the ceiling leaks because the walls were clearly joined by idiot masons. Competent masons would have made things fit better. The damp gets into the walls, runs down through the stairs, and the basement is basically a dark swamp. Obviously, the dark swamp is where they keep all the paperwork, because only when you truly internalize that thought have you begun to comprehend Fate. My office was in the basement. It smelled of feet.

Personally, that’s the worst thing, but I’ve got to mention the official worst.

The hanger is empty. There’s no reason for it at all.

One of the other interns said he got drunk with his team, and while they were playing That’s My Butt his boss mentioned that while the world was being built, the hanger was a warehouse. The Clockwork Gods stored a lot of the cabling that held the world together before they’d finished the frames. After they’d build the frames, they took the ropes down and threw them back here in a huge jumble. The ropes got so tangled they formed two heaps, and the Clockwork Gods threw them out into space where they got caught on the feet of Canopus. That’s why you can, occasionally, find bits of thread or string if you look in the corners.

So why don’t they take it down? Its roof hangs from the seven towers, and it pulls them together so the towers leak. No one’s used it since the world was made. Just take it down!

There is actual paperwork to get that done, and it’s moving through the Bureau at the speed of bureaucracy.

I’m mortal. I’ve got at most eighty years, and my theoretical children’s children’s children will not see this useless building get removed. And that’s a best case scenario, because if I’m honest, the odds are I’ll die within a week, sans children, and I’ll die knowing this worthless building will still be here.

Forgive me. I have a lot to say about that stupid hanger.

Anyway, the dragons of lightning landed outside the hanger, the giant great-for-dragons hanger which the dragons did not use, and let everyone disembark. The dragons flew off.

I’d lapsed into near catatonia, dreaming of bad architecture, and they carried me off in a stretcher. I’m only peripherally aware of what happened next. It’s like finding out what you did when you were drunk. I might have been there, but that person wasn’t me.

My stretcher was carried to a place, where four people rolled me out of the stretcher into a bed. They must have been Celestials because they held me like I weighed nothing. After that several people cut me out of my clothes. Things were pretty foggy. Someone’s face appeared with lights like extra eyes, and a mask. The Celestials held me still. The doctor checked me over with long, thin fingers. Another doctor appeared, and the two conferred. They departed.

A woman appeared without the headgear, and she poked me too. Her hands felt normal and soft.

“My feet, my feet,” I remember saying and may have been saying for a while.

“No, not yet,” she said.

And she drew a sliver of metal like a bent needle from my body.

I sighed. I had felt nothing.

She pulled another and another. Someone placed a metal basin by her side, and one by one she laid dozens of those arced needles in it. They were coated in blood and dirt, and seemed to come from my hips. Into another basin she tossed wadded up bits of black stuff, and often rinsed her hands with a fluid someone provided.

I felt nothing when she began, but when she finished, I felt better.

She moved toward my feet. She didn’t attend the burns that throbbed and ached. Instead, she started on something else, something like little threads, and pulled black streamers from my body. It was a strange, splotchy network of threads, something like tangled hair, and while she tried to get it in one piece, it often broken in her hands. The tangled hair seemed to go from my ankles to my right arm, and she collected it all to discard it into the basin with the bits of black stuff from before.

After that she addressed my stomach and took out what I only saw as a green light. She tsked and blew on the green light like a soap bubble. It vanished, and several of her assistants smirked.

“That didn’t happen,” said the surgeon, and then, finally, she turned to my feet.

The burns…I cannot describe it. Words like ‘they hurt’ aren’t meaningful.

She reached down and began doing something around my right foot. I had to see. I sat up just a little, and a man didn’t quite stop me as much as immobilized me with my head just above my stomach. The attendants said meaningless reassuring things. My feet were ruins. They were black and gray. They were gone.

The surgeon got her fingers under the ruinous burns as if she was putting her fingers under a tight glove and slowly, carefully, meticulously pealed the burn off. It came loose in one floppy chunk like a gruesome sock. She tossed it in the discard basin.

I could see my unharmed foot. I could see my toes, toenails, the little hairs on my toes, and the tiny wrinkles in my toe-knuckles. My foot was completely fine. She had pulled the whole injury off, and it had come away like paint dried into a crust. I went from one kind of shock to another and watched her do it again. She just pealed the wound off. My foot had been burned to a nub, and she just removed the wound away like it was a mark on unbothered skin.

In moments, my feet were fine, and she went between the toes, checking for athlete’s foot. Her fingers were cold.

And she just wiped my injuries away.

When someone gave her a sponge, she wiped burns off my arms, leaving pale, pink skin. She wiped cuts off my face and hands. With a gentle but business-like manner, she removed remnants of dozens of impalements to my hips and lower stomach, where she’d removed the little needles. She was kind, compassionate, and caring, but this was very clearly her job. The procedure didn’t take too long, but would have been half as long if she hadn’t washed her hands repeatedly in a blue and silver basin.

While poking my side, she said, “That one you’ve had for a while.”

I was lying still, a little embarrassed to be naked around a bunch of people. Her question gave me something to do, so I asked, “Which one?”

“The cold burn,” she answered. “Right here.”

She poked me where Hoarfast had struck me several days ago.

She glanced up to meet my gaze.

“What happened here?” she asked.

There was absolutely nothing I could say to explain that. I didn’t have anything prepared. I was way too far off my footing to make something up. I stared at her like a dog confronting a doorknob.

“Hurts,” I said. This was somewhat true. It ached a little, but I’d forgotten about it with all my other pains.

She looked away, back at my side.

“I can draw my own conclusions,” she said suddenly.

And they all went back to processing me.

The surgeon went over me again with fingers and eyes. She poked, prodded, and explored. Her attendants and nurses wiped, bathed, and washed me down to make her inspection easier. They lathed and dried me, but finally provided a modesty towel. When she completed her inspection again, she washed her hands for the twentieth or so time and waved a dry, slightly raisined finger in front of my nose.

“I left some of the bruising. Bruises are tricky, and where nothing is broken, it’s far better you heal on your own. Likewise, some of the non-serious cuts I left alone. I got most of your lichtenberg scars, but you invoked that. You will bear some remnant of it for all your life. Your feet are fine. Your hands are fine. You have lost a lot of blood, and the best remedy for that is sleep and food. Pasta, rice, beans, and vegetables.” She waved her finger at me. “Lots of colors in the vegetables. The more colors the better.”

“Regarding your burn–” she paused to think “—it’s called a bane. It’s like a curse. It will fade slowly, but it will fade. Within a month or two it will be gone. In the mean time, avoid anything cold. Don’t play in the snow, don’t go outside without a coat, don’t drink anything with ice in it.”

“Why?” I asked. Everything was getting a bit much, and I was feeling foggy again.

She thought again. There were a lot of other people in the room with us. Assistants took care of equipment. Nurses pulled a blanket to my chest. Several assistants filled out paperwork. None of them seemed to be paying attention.


People were paying attention to me again, and my methods of becoming famous had not improved.

“You know how you got that,” said the doctor-lady. “You may not know what it was, but someone decided to kill you. I bet you know who.

“Cold banes are rare. Usually I see fire or lightning, but…” She obviously thought something and kept it to herself. “Cold will kill you, young man. Very quickly. Things that should never harm you, a brisk morning when you forget a coat, will make you injured or ill. True cold, like a snowball, a fall on ice, or whatever gave you that bruise in the first place, will bring you swiftly to a sure death.”

I asked, “And you can’t remove it?”

“Who cursed you?”

“Eh,” I stammered. “It’s foggy.”

“Ah.” She did not look convinced. “The bane will fade on its own. Every day, your body burns it away, and without a trigger, it poses you no harm. If we remove it suddenly, there is a chance it will activate. What’s your name, young man?”

“Vincent Rashak,” I replied. It was an Unnish name. I could pass for Unnish.

“Vincent, I’m Doctor Thay. I hope to see you again, just not like this. Get some sleep.” She patted my head like I was a dog, and two orderlies wheeled my bed out.


Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 25


Part 3: Fate
Chapter 25

Those were bad hours, alone under the building, filled with with pain.

I had never done anything like that before. Not fighting the dragon, though I never had. I’d never had to endure when there was no technique to execute, no condition to find victory, no skill to use. I couldn’t beat anything, I couldn’t win, I couldn’t even try. I lay under broken walls and breathed.

And it was miserable. Once everything began to hurt, it was like my whole body was screaming for help, and there was nothing I could do.

And it went on, and on, and on until I realized I could die down here.

The dragon didn’t come for me, so I assumed it was dead. I had won. And I might bleed to death under a building anyway. Winning hadn’t saved me.

A pain in my hips grew, and I shimmied to satiate it. The rubble overhead shifted. I shimmied again. A beam lay across my chest, and it constricted me on the left. I wiggled right, but the whole beam settled. Now I still couldn’t breathe well, and there was a rock digging into my right. I wiggled again. Something began to slide. I pressed it away and down. I wiggled my head.

I began to crawl like a worm, the least of things. Even insects have legs. The worm is deprived of everything, yet it moves underground. So moved I, heading up.
Hours passed. I felt every one of them. Never did time speed up or pass in absence. They went on as I grew weaker. I began to rest between shakes. I thought constantly, ‘Self, we can’t do this.’ I fought the thought, slithered away from it, shouted at it, but it remained in the dark with me.

And yet the hours still passed. Sleep was down there with me. She caressed me in the dark. She loved me, and I refused her. I rested and shimmied, slithering upward.

I was just another figure in someone else’s rumor. ‘I hear the building fell on someone, and he was trapped down there for days before he died. Glad it wasn’t anyone we know.’

And a child would ask, ‘Could it happen to me?’

‘No, loved one. It happened to someone else.’

With those clouds over the sky, there was no dawn. I slithered and crawled around huge building stones up into bricks.

Bricks were easier than great stones. I could crawl through bricks. I did, to lay gasping in dirty, dusty air.

I lay in broken plates, sheets of parchment paper, and a roll of towels, impregnated with soup and then flash-dried when the building caught fire. The smell defied comprehension. The perfumed aromas of Hyperion were gone. The gardens of sycamore and roses, the smell of lavender and sage didn’t make it down here. The air smelled of forge smoke, glazed with dragonfire. I smelled sweat and mud, my blood, the lumber of Hasso’s yards, his building supplies, and his parking lots.

But underneath all those smells, the free air that carried them smelled beautiful. It wasn’t a smell itself, just air. Thick, free, moving air blew around rocks, between the rubble piles, and over the wreckage. I looked out and saw one chimney still venting smoke. I could smell the smoke where I’d cremated Hasso and his kin, his works, and nearly been cremated myself. The smoke turned in circles as the winds changed.

The lights found me there.

Four glowing men and three fluorescent women walked through the center of Hasso’s courtyard.

All of them were tall and luminal, glowing in a mix of lights that seemed to emerge from hands, hair, eyes, and feet. Each had a general aura, a complex but distinct mix of colors that tended toward one shade, but that seemed to be controlled by the individual intensities of their individual glowing parts. Eyes glowed blue, hands green, hair white, and feet yellow for all, but the mix varied.

A woman stepped forward wrapped in vermilion and ruby. Her hands were brighter than any of the others, too bright to make out fingers clearly, and she seemed to have balls of steam on the end of her wrists. The red seemed to come from everywhere at first, but as she talked, I realized that all of them had a redness about the body and brownness about the legs and arms.

“Who are you?” asked the red and green woman.

“Help me,” I begged.

“What happened here?” asked a man wrapped in light-trails of brown and blue. When he moved, he left after-images behind him like the kind you get if you glance at the Sun.

“Bad things. I’m terribly hurt. Can you help me?” I said.

They obviously didn’t want to, but they did. Two, a man mostly blue, and a woman grayish and yellow, came over and went to work, obviously medics of some kind. The rest dispersed, picking through the building and searching.

I got a look at my two carers up close, and while they looked vaguely androgynous and naked, they were actually wearing white and prismatic clothing. It seemed to be of two layers, a heavier skin-tight one, and a looser outer layer. The base-layer muted the red and brown light, leaving only exposed areas to brightly glitter.
But those bright areas did shine. The man’s eyes were blue as the sea, not just his irises. From the top of his cheekbones to the hairs of his eyebrows, his eyes radiated.

I’d seen something like this before. The lady with the dragon-sword had had red eyes that dribbled fire, but nothing on her had been this polychroma.
The others found the dead dragon under the rubble. It had burned and boiled, reduced itself to a foul-smelling heap of slag. It looked like rusty iron or old submerged wood, recognizable in shape but utterly transformed. One man in gold and green climbed onto the dead snout, wrapped his hands around something, and yanked a heap of misshapen, ruined iron free.

If you knew exactly what you were looking at, it looked like a broken sword.

The man tossed it aside.

The woman was checking my hip area and announced, “You have metal splinters through your pelvis. It is a miracle you aren’t dead.”

“Oh.” What do you say to that?

The man, who was also examining me, asked, “No, you should be dead. Who protects you?”

“Nice gods?”

“I don’t think anyone likes mortals that much,” said the woman. She peeled the wrappings off my feet and whispered, “Dear Maya.”

“Ho! Stranger! Come forward into the light!” yelled someone else, and for a moment I thought they meant me.

But I was already in the light. The two glowing figures tending me made sure of that.

And shortly thereafter another figure did come into the light. It was Hoarfast.

He looked exactly the same. He wore another bluish-gray suit with a subdued tie. The jacket wrapped his shoulders and chest like a bit of towel thrown over a statue. He was immense, quiet, and when he walked into the main area from a side pathway among Hasso’s buildings, he still seemed to be the center of all attention.

The moment I saw him, he saw me, and we both stared at each other with such surprise no one missed it.

My two medics looked at me. They looked at Hoarfast. The various illuminated figures looking at Hoarfast looked at me. Hoarfast tore his eyes away and looked at the glowing people, and I made myself look down.

Every single thing I’d done to make Koru’s group think I was dead was now ruined.

The glowing figures considered the two of us. They looked over the ruins of Hasso’s compound. The fires had died down, and where the radiance of the seven touched the sick burning, the dragon fire burned itself out. But the buildings stayed collapsed, and the charred earth remained violated.

“You are both invited to the Halls of Fate for discussion, medical assistance, and a friendly talk,” said the first glowing figure, smiling at me and Hoarfast in turn.

That’s a tricky matter for a Celestial. Hoarfast might decline. But Fate had a way of getting what it wanted.

None of that mattered for me.

“Please help me,” I whispered.

The two working on me bent their heads down, and lights began to arc between them. Long streamers of fire climbed their hands and heads, reaching from one to the other like the flares that dance on Horochron’s head.

The other five figures of light turned to Hoarfast, and the gears inside his head turned furiously. He smiled faintly.

He said, “I accept.”

The agents of Fate nodded and called down the lightning. It came in the form of quicksilver dragons, too bright to look at, saddled with leather and silk. They didn’t tie my hands or feet, but assisted me with mounting. A large, competent looking woman sat behind me, and I lay against her. An equally large, equally competent looked man sat in front. Had I an interest in throwing myself off, I doubted I would succeed.

Yet I might. There is usually only one way to escape Fate.

But from the beginning, I’d only known one thing, and that one thing kept me in the saddle. The quicksilver dragon flew upwards, through the clouds of Attarckus’s veil, and to the stars beyond the sky. It took a zigzag path faster than a hawk can dive, and soon we had slipped the bounds of Pallas and approached the dome of the sky. The glittering constellations rose from darkness, huge lanterns on the mountains of the Firmament. The flow of galaxies that are the sky’s rivers flowed between hills and and forests on the dark country.

I looked back. The lady behind me smiled firmly, but I wasn’t looking at her. In the center of the sphere, Pallas, Horochron the Sun, and Tiptites the Moon circled each other. They had been joined by a vast white disk that must be Tollos and another, silver and blue, that I guessed was her sister Lumina. The green and blue orb of Pallas drew my attention, though, as it dwindled and shrank.

I turned back around and faced the growing blackness of the onrushing sky.

We approached the massive, bulbous office-building of Fate’s headquarters in the Mask. It was such an ugly, useless building, and the basement leaked.


Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 24


Chapter 24

In the center of dancing green flames, heat shimmers, and little cheery pops, the dragon smiled. I’d sliced a big, gaping notch in its skull, and the bones had some play. The back part flapped open and closed as it moved or talked. Tongues of flame licked the lips of the wound, vile green flames stained with black blood. Its scales glittered piano black, but the flames gave them a dim emerald look. Its eyes were bright as oak leaves and thick with veins. Its scales were hard and sharp. Its talons were long and broad. The dragon was an armored monster, but that wouldn’t matter if I got at its brainpan. For now, it leered at me from among the flames.

My right leg was pretty much boogered, and the soles of my feet were burned. I couldn’t run, but I wasn’t ready to anyway. This dragon and I were having a grudge match, and I carried a lot of grudges.

Meanwhile, it was lying. “Kog, my dear friend, let us come to an agreement. You want to kill Koru. I want to kill Koru. We can agree on this. I will help you kill him and take his daughter.”

I suppose I didn’t know it was lying. It might not mean me harm. Maybe trying to eat me earlier, setting me on fire, and breaking down the building were misunderstandings.

“Kog, stop thinking stupid thoughts,” said the Drowning Breath of Ogden. “It wants to kill you. Murder it first.”

The dragon smiled. “The sword, like a sword, is just looking for a fight.”

I wished they both would shut up.

I was getting my wind back. That takes a little longer than I ever expect. Exhaustion makes cowards of us all, but you never think it will happen to you. It’s not obvious, even from the inside. I felt like I didn’t want to fight the dragon because I’d been smashed, beaten, partially set on fire, and it was a dragon. Those were all good reasons.

But as I breathed, I started thinking, ‘Death on this dragon. I can take it.’

The dragon said, “Let’s talk as friends. I’ll move backwards so you feel safe.”

“Please do,” I replied. I needed the pause to get some air.

Right now Hasso’s courtyard was the area on fire between buildings. Before it had been the loading area, a recursively defined space that was where the buildings weren’t. Two forge halls, a lane in and out, kitchen, finishing hall, and supply yard made a circle in that order, starting with the one forge hall that Hoarfast hadn’t knocked down being behind me. The dragon had perched on the wagon ramps, a couple of broad, flat platforms the height of a wagon bed, each with a wide, shallow ramp down to ground level. The ground smoldered with flames as high as cut grass.

But contrary to my expectations, the dragon did move away after speaking. It shuffled to the narrow lane and retreated until its eyes were flames in the darkness. Between us burned the wide courtyard.

When I went after it, I was going to have to cross that, and go after it head-first.

Ah, death and sickness on it. Another veil of confusion got pulled from my face. I really should not have let the dragon take better position, but I’d expected it to charge. And as the fog started to clear, I realized that I had taken some shots in that fight. I had no idea how foggy I had been.

I shook my head like the dragon couldn’t. Heh. It was time.

All right, sword, I thought. We’re going to kill the dragon.

The sword didn’t say anything, which was probably for the best, but I felt its immense satisfaction.

The dragon spoke. “Now, Kog, mortal man of Koru’s house, they said you died. Astra worked your destruction. Seraphine laughed at you. They are Koru’s women, and he bid your death. When you kill him, you can take them.”

“Sounds unfriendly,” I said.

My feet were badly burned. I looked around for some means to getting over there without running across more fire. The broken forge hall’s ceiling made a pyramid of collapsed roofing, rubble, and stone, but all of it looked jagged and sharp. I took my shirt off, cut it in half, and wrapped both my feet.

“It will be what they deserve. Take them, and make them yours,” said the dragon. “His mansions are tall and filled with treasure.”

“Mansions?” I asked idly. “Are you great and powerful enough to know about the one in Hyperion?”

Koru didn’t have a mansion in Hyperion. He was a god of rats. No one wanted him in their capital city.

The dragon hissed or purred. I couldn’t tell, but it sounded smug enough. “Of course. I know all of the secret ways and the deep tunnels. I know where he burrowed to the shafts of clockwork underneath the city. I know his little pits and hidden chambers.”

“Truly, you are wise,” I agreed. My shirt had laces on the sleeves, and by cutting the shoulders open, I made little foot-bag shoes. It wasn’t good, but it was better than barefoot. “What is your name, grim beast?”

It smiled. Flame rolled out of its mouth. “I am the Fire, the Fear, and the Light.”

I looked down from the broken forge hall. “You gave yourself that name, didn’t you?”

“No. That’s what everyone calls me,” said the dragon.

“Of course.” I tested my feet on the rubble. Pain, I felt and swore, this was going to hurt in the morning. I flipped the sword to my left hand, and held the last remaining bit of shirt, the back panel, in my right.

“I agree with everything,” I said. “Come out of the alley, and we’ll go forth to wreak Koru’s destruction together.”

The dragon declined. “No. You come in here and join me. They will be so surprised to find out you live.”

“There it is,” I said to myself and took one last look at the beast. There was a pathway of rubble across the ruined building. My lungs were full and clear. It was time.

Sickness and death, I thought. Pattern spiders, hear me. I need a little more luck!

They didn’t reply. They usually don’t.

“Obesis!” I screamed, and ran up the ruined building.

The dragon blew flames that washed over the fallen building like waves taking a beach. They made fire-spouts over stubs of roof-beams. They flooded over the forgehall and climbed with a thick, waving plume of rising heat above. I took two steps on the side of a broken bit of wall, leaped up and over the leading edge, and thew the shirt down like spinning a pizza. It hit the hot air and danced.

“Obesis!” I yelled again, landed on the spinning shirt, and rode it down the hot air above the fires into the face of the dragon.

By the time I landed, the shirt was incinerated. But I landed on the dragon’s snout, sword in hand, and sank it into the dead center of the armored dome. The dragon roared and smashed the top of its head into the kitchen wall. I fell off first. Stone and rubble fell around the beast as it thrashed through the kitchen, ripping it apart as plumbing got caught in its legs.

I stood up with only my bare hands, watching the dragon thrash and destroy madly, seeming breaking the building for no purpose. The construction collapsed around it. Behind me, the fire infected the other ruined building, and the timbers and stone burned, stinking of disease.

The dragon’s head pushed aside stony fragments, leaking flames, and dribbling spittle. Its blood and fluids stank of acid.

I ran up a side of the building that hadn’t yet settled and spoke no words. The beast heard me coming, but its eyes didn’t quite work, It jerked its head sideways, trying to spot its target, and sulfurous yellow fire mixed with the vile green. It saw me when I caught the brow ridge, levered myself into position over its eye, and grabbed a chunk of broken rebar.

The dragon blinked. I spoke Ojhast, Thunder’s Lovesong, and stabbed it through the eyelid. White lightning grounded through its brain stem, its fluids, and down into the ruined frame of the building. More flowed through my arm, body, and out my feet, taking a thousand pathways like a river-mouth to the sea. Spasms threw me sideways. I hit the rubble, rolled, and crashed to the dirt of Hasso’s lane under an avalanche of building rubble and utterly destroyed food.

I drifted toward unconsciousness, but if I fell asleep now, I would die.