Twiligh in Heaven: Chapter 9

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Chapter 9

The day was dark, the sky heavy, and the seas had no waves. Even the winds seemed hushed. What had been a perfect beach of endless sea and beautiful golden sand had become a cacophony of rock, deep pits, and broken shore. Mallens’s wrath had lifted the bedrock. Sand had fallen aside, sandstone jutted up into the air, and basalt plates rose from the lagoons.

I’d heard the five cousins perfectly though they stood about fifty feet away. A little hint of a breeze blew in my direction, so perhaps that helped, and the flat water had no waves to wash out their voices. I was trying to find an alternative to mugging them but nothing came up.

My thinking time ran out when the five of them turned and entered the shallow water between sandbar and shore. They were talking deliberately lightly about how great everything was going to be when they gave Mallens the sword, the one thing I absolutely couldn’t let them to do. That had to be stopped. Violence it must be. I crouched, Nurim walked in front of the rest and said something about Jesephene, before he vanished as if the ground underneath the water sucked him down.

The others screamed, and dark scaled hands grabbed them from below. Like a surge of little plops, the cousins plunged underwater. They struggled. Several propped themselves up on knees and elbows, but their heads were below the shallow surface. It’s said an angry nereid can drown you in a palm’s worth of water, and these had almost a foot to work with.

The cousins struggled. I saw their backs heaving, and the sea nymphs climbing on top of them: a pack of predators focused on their prey.

The heavens parted. Lights appeared. Inspiration sang.

This was a problem I could solve by hitting people!

I screamed Obesis, ran across the water, and they heard me coming. I wanted them to. There were more than a dozen of them, and they paid little attention to one, shouting idiot charging.

They should have noticed I ran on the water, not through it, but they learned.

“Obesis!” I shouted again and threw myself down and forward, skidding across the surface like an ice skater. A nereid rose out of the water to grab me, and I caught her in the face with a deep fist, the low swing you use on a grappler when he’s shooting. That’s a punch that has to hit like a boulder stopping a rhino to be any good at all. Mine sufficed.

Knuckles hit scales. I pushed through. My fist dragged her out of the water and threw her a dozen feet through the air. She landed on sand but hard enough it still splashed.

The impact stopped me. I sank. Water swirled around my feet. I shouted Obesis again, jumped to the surface of the water, landed on the splash, and when nereid hands reached for my ankles, I reached for them. I yanked him fully up into the air by his own wrists, and he gave me that look of shock that came with a hesitation. The utter comprehension of how bad this was about to be made it inevitable.

I spoke Raln, and all things were blades, even my fist.

I punched about half his head off, and all of him dropped.

Surprise gone, they stopped drowning the cousins and turned on me. I beat them down. Blood underwater is black, and nereids soon floated on the surface of the lagoons. The cousins lurched to their feet gasping, and when the sea people hesitated, counting their losses, I started shoving the big, solid cousins toward the sea.

“Out of the water! Run!”

He argued. “We can–”

I interrupted. “You don’t fight nereids in the water! Run!”

He ran. They all ran. The nereids attacked. I put down two but probably not fatally, and turned before the rest. Maybe they didn’t really want to catch me, or maybe I could run across the waves faster than they could swim beneath them, but I made it to the shore safely. The cousins stood there gasping, and the six of us ran uphill.

For a moment the spirits of the sea watched. Then they slipped beneath the waves. The one I’d knocked out of the sea had vanished, leaving beside just marks in the sand, and the forms I’d thought were corpses sank beneath the waves. You’d be amazed what a spirit can live through in their place of power, but I doubted all of them lived.

Whatever. It was over. I stood with the cousins, panting, and trying to get my breath back.

After a minute or two they asked the most reasonable question: “Who in death and darkness are you?”

And of course I lied. “Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am Remus, and I am a finder of rare, exotic, and stolen weapons. I’m here for the saber.” And I pointed honestly at the sword Nurim carried.

“It’s not a saber. It’s straight!” said Zenjin.

“Yeah,” said Nurim. “Hold on. It says something here.” He peered at the butt of the handle and held it right up to his face. He could barely see through the gloom of the heavy overcast.

I couldn’t remember the handle saying anything, but since I was trying to erase all traces of it, I didn’t want anyone to know if it did.

“It is called a saber because sabers are weapons of the elite. They’re more expensive.”

Five confused, wary people looked at me. The one holding my forgery grabbed it. I think he wanted to look threatening, but all I noticed was he wasn’t inspecting any writing any more.

I continued. “The single curved cutting edge gives some justification for saber. Likewise, the shape makes it slightly point heavy to augment slashing. However the straight back, as noted, would normally bring it into the longsword category. All of this is missing the point. Curved swords are weapons of the elite. Straight swords are cheap. If the maker called it a saber, he could charge double for it. If he called it a longsword, he couldn’t. As such, it’s a saber.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Osret. “You can’t charge more for something just because you call it something it isn’t.”

I laughed at him.

“People who have enough money to buy it would know it isn’t a saber!” he yelled.

“Correct. But that is an extremely expensive weapon, so it’s not going to see a lot of use. It will be worn, not wielded. It can be called anything the owner wants.”

“When you say expensive, how expensive do you mean?” asked Apseto.

“Extremely,” I said. “It’s also extremely stolen, and those two extremelies are about equal. I’m authorized to pay you for it, and I’m authorized to kill you and take it. My customer doesn’t care.”

“Parasite, there’s five of us!” said Zenjin. He looked like he was holding a grudge.

I looked at them and the dark lagoon. “How’s that working out for you?”

I waited until the silence became uncomfortable and then began a slow, mocking clap. No one joined in. I stared him dead in the eyes until he looked away.

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