Twilight in Heaven: Chapter 22


Chapter 22

Each log of firewood had been carved with ancient runes. They burned white, blue, and green. The dragonwood smelled strangely sweet. I heaved a good number of logs in, and the little licks of flame started crawling upward.

The last time I’d been here, to commission the swords I was now destroying, the fires had taken a long time to build. The heat needed to get into the stones of the furnace so it baked the ingots from all sides. They caught fairly quickly, but instead of roaring in flame, they smoldered. So I threw more logs on the first, and the fire climbed slowly. It was like little red ivy doing a century’s work in hours, but those hours were a long, long time.

I searched the forge and found Hasso’s assistants. They’d come to the same end as Hasso. He’d been beaten to pieces that bore the marks of knuckles and hands. His parts were still frozen. Once the fire got going, I threw them in. The furnace burned too hot to smell anything but wood and magic, for which I was immensely grateful. After that I tried to think of something to do or say, but other than the monotheists, no one prays in general. Still, I cremated the dead in their own forge, and I didn’t think they’d invoke their last curses on me for it.

How had they come to this?

Hasso and his assistants had been Celestials of Androche’s lineage, distantly relate to Hoarfast. Androche’s son Coeus had left the family to take apprenticeship under the Clockwork Gods, and he had built himself a wife of gears. They had one hundred and forty three clicking, clanking children. Their children had married other Celestials, gods, and spirits as they could, or bred with them as they willed, and Hasso had had no gears or springs in him. When we’d met before, I’d thought he had oread blood in him. It was too late to figure out now.

It was too late to figure any of it out now. Who had they been? They’d all been related but not like an extended family. They had been a small company of Croeite Celestials, all cousins or uncles if you go back eight generations.

Who was I to talk? I’m human on my father’s side. We are all related if you go back seven generations. Ten generations would include the outliers, the kids who have kids at age 14.

My parents had been older.

I suddenly felt deeply uncomfortable and realized how much time was being wasted. I had three contraband swords here: two had been used for treason and one in defiance of Fate. I guessed that was treason too.

I’d been waiting for the forge to heat up for an hour, and I suddenly felt every past minute. The furnace was still not hot enough, but I had to do something. There was a small ledge inside one of the furnace doors, and I slipped the three blades inside. When the two replicas of All Things Ending went in, I felt relieved, but the Drowning Bream hissed when it went into the furnace. I felt a moment of terror that I’d cremated one of Hasso’s assistants alive, but that wasn’t true. They had been dead.

I didn’t want to think about my parents. I knew nothing of Hasso. I wondered how he and his kith had come to this ending. I wondered how Koru had come to this beginning. I knew that. I hadn’t been there for

it, but I’d been around when everything was still young enough that the stories weren’t stories, they were recriminations and apologies from yesterday. I ran back to the Drowning Breath of Ogden, which I had taken from an agent a Fate. The woman had said he was from the Bureau of Sanction, and that was a lie.

Fate didn’t tell anyone, but they had decommissioned the Bureau of Sanctions eight years ago, twenty years after the last revolt of the gods. The Forgotten Gods were dead, and it was illegal to remember their names. Sanctions were no longer required. Mallens said there would never be another insurrection, and I believed him.

Why would I think that given Koru’s hit on Mallens?

For a few reasons, the first being Koru wasn’t trying to overcome some great evil. He wasn’t a noble revolutionary. The King of Rats carried a grudge because his children couldn’t fly. He’d asked what right did the birds have to the air? Why were his children bound to the earth?

Mallens had said that because the birds could sing, they had wings. Laughing, the Lord of Creation offered to let Koru give his children that gift if he could teach them song. The King of Rats tried, but all he could grant his kin was thin squeaks. All of heaven had laughed at him, and Koru decided to kill the Lord of Creation.

When I’d gotten involved, I’d thought we were going to liberate the gods. I’d thought Koru meant to unbind Fate, let the gods make true decisions unbound by the ancient oaths. I’d thought the King of Rats would free all the gods so he could make his children fly. Koru had said that was the plan all along. And all along, it wasn’t.

What I’d realized too late was that he wasn’t trying to supplant Mallens for the good of the world. The other gods had laughed with their king, and Koru hated them too.

We’d never even made contact with Fate. Koru’s eldest son Jermaine had been supposed to look up the Name and Will, how the titans tied the gods to their destinies. Fate has the oath-rolls. That’s why they’d hired me. And we hadn’t.

First, Jermaine had said, ‘We need the weapons. We need herite swords, weapons sharp enough a mortal can wound the King of Creation.’

And we’d gotten them. I’d met the right people, carried the money, and taken blasphemous knives to Koru’s palace. True weapons only harm those within the wielder’s power. All Things Ending ignored the Mandate of Heaven for the Mandate of Death. Mallens himself had blessed Diadred so that his divine enemies could be removed.

Next we needed Mallens’s schedule. ‘We have to know where Mallens will be.’

So I found out, and I wish I had done something brilliant or sly. I didn’t. I listened.

Mallens told people what he did before, during and after doing it. If he went to appreciate a sunrise, he wanted a chorus along his walk, singing his praises. When he brought his wife of the day to his palaces, he wanted her to know how powerful he was. He wanted a crowd of spectators looking at her, and lest he feel jealous, a bigger crown looking at him. I sat by the Palace of Gold and Marble and let Mallens tell me where he was going to be. Then I told Jermaine.

And Jermaine said they would take the rolls of Creation’s Oaths from Fate in two weeks, but an opportunity appeared so they went early.

But Koru didn’t mean to save the world. He didn’t mean to let the gods make their own decisions. The only time someone tried, the Insurrection of the Forgotten Gods had failed before I was born, and officially it was dark treachery. But they carried a torch against the titans. They died trying to burn the oath-rolls. They dared greatly and risked everything, and if they failed, they failed in hidden glory. They died for something.

The world didn’t have that any more. Koru was just an angry old god who hated everyone who’d laughed at him, so he hired a bunch of assassins to get his revenge.

I put down the hammer. I startled to see it.

I’d been fiddle-smithing one of the swords, and it was now an unrecognizable hunk of iron. It felt terrible to see well made weaponry destroyed, but that had been my intent. Hasso’s maker’s mark was gone. Hasso was gone. I put that sword back on an ingot mold and took out the next one. Two heavy strikes, and it was no longer a masterwork sword. Ten more, and it was recognizable iron. I set about unmaking it.

Hasso and his work were vanishing in his furnace. He and his assistants were already gone. The furnace roared with flame. Old logs popped. They hissed, and crimson and orange flames climbed to the chimneys. The old runes burned long after the logs had turned to gray ash, and hints of runic letters in green and gold peered around drifts of soot.

I’d sought Hasso out without asking about him because I’d known of Hasso long before I’d gotten involved with Koru. Hasso would make anything for anyone, a black-market crafter in Hyperion. He was wise, sly, stupid, and vain. He’d been a famous black-market crafter who’d put a maker’s mark on a forgery of Death’s All Things Ending. I had brought him to this, and yet I felt like I should feel more guilty than I did. He was a famous black-market smith. This was always his fate.

I’d ruined the second sword now. It was twisted metal. I could see the remnants of the saber by looking for it, but maybe I was seeing what I wanted to find. The heretical gods of memory Baader and Meinhof were preying on me. A row of ingot molds sat on the shelf inside the furnace door, so I put this one by the other.

I took the Drowning Breath from the furnace with long tongs. The furnace’s roar sank to a quiet rumble. The sword wasn’t that hot. It must not have been far enough into the flame. I tested the handle gingerly, then picked the blade up and swung it a few times.

This was a good sword. It killed things.

But I had nothing to kill, and once this job was done, all ties from me to Koru would have vanished. The Drowning Breath tied me to my last little bit of treason. The smart move was to unmake it now.

Some strange urge pulled my eyes to the doorway, and outside the courtyard of Hasso’s smithy I saw a large shadow. It stood so still I almost thought it was a building, but buildings don’t have eyes of green, nor mouths of burning teeth. Its mouth flickered like torchlight dancing between columns.

I stared at the shadow, and the shadow looked back at me.


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