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.


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