Fate is a bitch1. Uncontrollable, unpredictable, capricious, jealous, vengeful, and disloyal. Fate is like an abusive spouse, where the abused must be constantly on guard for the slightest mood change, fooling themselves into thinking that any affection shown means that things have really changed.

Long before the rise of men, the Elder Ones, Gods of Chaos, ruled. But their progeny, the New Gods, rose up against them and shackled them, bringing order to the Cosmos.

But one of the Elder escaped.

She has worn many guises, just look up fate in the thesaurus; Destiny, Fortune, Kismet, Karma, Luck, Serendipity, Providence, etc2., but she preferred Fate3. Despite their best efforts, she eluded the New Gods and continued to mete out her favor and malice according to her own inscrutable inclinations4. And what Gods fail at, what hope is there for man? Even Phobos didn’t even try to enslave her her as he had all the other Gods. Besides, she had always been good to him. Wisely, he continued to worship her, built her monuments, and offer her sacrifices5.

Stormpike, deep in thought6, pondered Fate. Words like control, placate, harness, and manipulate roiled about in his mind, each sounding laughable in relation to her. Finding the Darkheart of Phobos7 had Fate written all over it. Quests, with a capital Q, were her purview.

“What are you thinking about so hard?” Asked the upside-down severed head of Kaylec, knowing full well that it was one of the most annoying questions in canon of annoying questions8.

“Fate,” Stormpike absently replied.

“Her9,” snorted Kaylec before launching into a litany of all of Destiny’s lies, broken promises, and cruel tricks. He had a point. Axos had been the promised one, destined by Fate herself to destroy Phobos. But Axos was dead, Phobos was a God, and Kaylec was an upside-down undead head with a nose full of boogers and no finger to pick them with. Stormpike had heard them all before, and it even seemed that Kaylec had grown bored of the performance, skipping a large portion of the usual middle section10, and going right to the wrap up.

“And that’s what galls me! She switched her affections to Phobos just because he promised to build her larger temples? For that the universe must be plunged into darkness?” He tried to shake is head, but it just sent him into a slow wobble.

“You promised to build it after you won, Phh…,” he stopped himself from dropping the title with a long voiceless labiodental fricative. “Furthermore, the Dread God-King Phobos began building a temple to her before, he offered tribute, not payment for services rendered.”

“Bah,” Kaylec bah’d, as only an old man can bah.

“Don’t bah at me, you know I’m right. You treat her like a whore, and then get offended when she cuckolds you.”

“You really think that Phobos’s motives weren’t selfish?” Kaylec’s voice was rising in pitch, as it tended to do when he argued, which meant he usually lost arguments11. “You really think—”

“—Shut up,” Stormpike cut in. Kaylec sucked in a breath12 to launch into a rebuttal, but Stormpike had already launched himself out of his chair and was striding towards the head. “I said shut up.” He stuffed balled up rag into Kaylec’s mouth, kept especially for the purpose. “I need to think.” He began to pace. Something had sparked.

Again.

Two sparks in as many days. Maybe it was a sign? Maybe he’d been touched? Maybe it was something he ate? Maybe….

He shook his head, he had to focus and not get distracted. What was it? Something had triggered. Something the old wizard said… no! Something *he* himself had said! He paced, stopped… maybe pacing was bad for this, maybe he should go back to where he was sitting, retrace the conversation…

Focus! Maybe killing someone would help. What was it he said? Whore. Cuckold. What was it!?

And then it struck him, or re-struck him, or it had started to strike, hit pause on the DVR Cosmic so it could go to the bathroom, came back, hit play, and finished striking him.

“Fate,” he invoked, and that’s the only way to describe it, it wasn’t a call, not an address, but an invocation. “Fate, Mistress of Destiny13,” he thought it a good idea to use her title with the most youthful connotation. “Knowest thou mine heart and my head,” he prayed14. “You know what I want ( ropping the anachronistic pronouns and verb endings because he wasn’t sure if “want” becomes “wantest”15, so he thought it better to be safe than consistent. “I ask not for thy16 favor. I ask for no path forward, no divine aid, I offer no sacrifice, no tribute but this.” He dropped to one knee17 and squeezed his one eye shut18. “Whatever your will, success or failure, good or ill, I take whatever thou givest.” He spread his arms wide. “Do what thou willest,” he drew his sword and planted the tip down. “I accept it all.” Then, he ran his bare palm up the edge and gripped the riccaso19. Blood poured down, his blood, on his blade. Despite the reverent (albeit inconsistent) grammar and dramatic flourish, the most important thing is he meant ever word, and every word had an exact meaning. There was no wiggle room, no parsing the meaning of a word or phrase. He would accept Fate’s decree. But acceptance is not resignation. If he was going to fail, it would be trying to achieve victory, not in a que waiting for his number to be called. He would move forward and take what fate dished out. He’d take it as it is, as it was, and what it would be and he would do it his own way, and then what ever fate befell him would be truly his.

He rose, pulled the rag out of Kaylec’s mouth, and wrapped his hand with it20. “Interesting,” the head observed. “But you forgot the candles and incense, ” he added as sarcastically as an upside-down severed head can. Stormpike grabbed a dusty oilcloth from a table, which immediately altered the wizard’s tone. “Oh, come one, I was just joking, I—” he was cut off mid sentence as the oilcloth fell over him, and immediately started to snore. Stormpike relished the relative silence. True, the wizard’s snoring would eventually grate (he had the annoying habit of holding his breath after a snore and before exhaling. Stormpike would wait there, waiting for the loud exhalation to come, and it would never be a consistent length. Sometimes his snore would flow right into the exhale, others it would drag on before he exploded out, always with a “P” sound. It drove Stormpike mad21).

He returned to his desk, grabbed pen and paper22, dipped the quill23, tapped the excess ink on the rim of the bottle, jerked his elbows out, and limbered up the ol’ writing wrist, ready to plan in meticulous detail, dot every “I”, cross every “T”24. He made squiggles in the air above the paper25, like a sprinter runs in little circles before a race26. He rolled his shoulders, his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration.

Seconds stretched. Not into minutes27, but that time just before that, when the imperceptible moment becomes perceptible, that moment in line at the checkout counter when you decide to look at your watch28 or when you’re at the doctor’s office and finally pick up Highlights29. For Stormpike, that moment was when he realized he wasn’t writing a thing. Nothing was coming. He was drawing a blank. Literally, he drew a number one, period, and then a blank line ( like, 1. ) hoping it would spur something. Anything. He then added a roman numeral “I30” up and to the left. He pondered a bit before adding a period after the “I”. He mulled this over before adding an indented “A.” Under the “1”. Frustrated, he scribbled out what he’d written and crumpled the paper31. He smacked his forehead, hoping that some idea might dislodge from some corner where it was stuck and grabbed another sheet of paper32.

The ink on his pen had dried, so he dipped the quill, tap tapped the excess ink on the rim of the bottle, jerked his elbows out and started all over again.

***

Mokrado regretted not taking a bigger step into the room. She would have liked to take a big, Reggie Jackson style swing withe her ax, but she’d stopped just past the door frame (or where it would have been had she not smashed it), she didn’t have the room behind her. Quickly taking in the surroundings, her first thought is that her smashing down of the door had somehow caused a huge hole in the wall leading to the next room where a body lay in a pool of blood. She recognized the courtesan and the ‘fling kneeling next to her, but not the unconscious female nor the dark man holding her up. Then she noticed that it looked as if the woman head had been twisted around33. Obviously he had to die.

I assure you, there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this,” Jacek explained, reasonably. Mokrado stepped forward, menacingly, before menacingly swinging her axe in a menacing arc with one hand and slapping the haft into the other with a menacing smack.

“Hold on,” exclaimed Jacek as he tried to hold out his hand, but as there was no longer one at the end of his arm, his stump would have to suffice. Which it wouldn’t. The Orcish reputation as ruthless, implacable warriors34 rested in no small part in that holding up one’s hand was one of the many things that failed to deter them. She twisted at the hips, the energy in her backswing coiling like (a pre affair) Tiger Woods.

Jacek flung the witch out of his arms, catching her wrist with his, and spun, like a pair of ballroom dancers35, twirling out and under the axe blade slicing through the air just above his head.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Orc36,” He let the witch go and her momentum carried her towards the bed, while Jacek’s sent him in the opposite direction.

You’re existence hurts me,” she snarled.

“It’s all a misunderstanding, she’s a client,” he said, leaping over Mokrado’s low, second attack, before landing and sliding on a bunched up rug across the wooden floor. It all became clear to her. Some kinky sex game got out of hand.

“I’ll bet,” she said as she twisted and stuck out her back leg, stomping on the rug and flinging Jacek forward who immediately tucked into a roll.

“No, I mean her parents are my clients —” he added before Mokrado’s derisive37 snort cut him off. “Not like that!”

“We don’t have time for this!” he said (not knowing the daunting page count that lay ahead). Mokrado swung overhand, let go of her axe with one hand while loosening the grip with the other, the centrifugal force sliding the haft through her grip before clamping her hand down on the end just before there was no handle left and giving her attack extra reach.

It wasn’t enough.

Her axe sliced off 1/16th of his boot heels as he rolled passed before burying itself in the wood floor.

Parvo, meanwhile, was smearing an ointment38 the courtesan’s still frozen to the doorknob hand39. He knew that there are only two types of people, those who cower and those who act. He wanted to act, but he didn’t know what action he should take. He knew he couldn’t flee. Elves don’t flee, elves don’t surrender40, and they never, ever panic. Multum Parvo, human, was panicking, however. He wanted desperately to run out the door and down the stairs to safety (or as much safety could be afforded in a world ruled by an evil demigod). Since fleeing was out of the question, he thought he’d do the opposite, wade into the fray. But one whose side?

Jacek spun, and rocked back slightly as he stopped his momentum, ready to lunge and run the orc through, when three black darts came whistling at him. It was no chivalric impulse that had spurred Parvo into attacking Jacek, he just hoped that a word from Mokrado might get him a refund. Deftly, he slapped two away with his sword, the third he merely had to twitch his head a bit letting it miss by less than an inch. This was getting out of hand, he thought.

Suddenly, getting conjugated into got.

The air itself seemed to shudder. To Jacek and Parvo, it felt like a toothache, ear ache, paper cut, stubbed toes (big and pinkie) stepping on a lego in bare feet, burning the roof of your mouth with pizza and the cheese sticking up there, a leg cramp, and a kick to the groin all at the same time. For Mokrado and the courtesan, it was the same, except for the nutshot, but substituted by whatever the female equivalent41 is, cramps? The office thermostat is too low? No idea. Plainly, I don’t understand women, (For instance, why don’t they realize “Titanic”is a bad movie?42) but in any case, it was decidedly un-good.

“What was that?” asked Parvo. The courtesan’s response was enigmatic at best: she vomiting on him. Jacek’s while more coherent, was far more troubling.

“That was the Infernal Police43,” His words froze everyone (not that anyone was moving, but had they been it would have ceased, up to, and including, sneezing). “They just cordoned off the area and they’ll be here any minute44.”

Tales of the Infernal Police were legendary. They were the uniformed bogeyman, the sanctioned monster under the bed. Used by parents to threaten their children, used by children to threaten their parents45 . They tending to kill and ask questions later (which, they could actually do, death being no escape46). They were the Drodkip’s blunt instrument, the carpet bomb to Stormpike’s precision drone strike, the Thomas Kincade to his Monet47, the Guy Fieri to his Auguste Escoffier. The Infernal Police were sent in when subtlety was not desired48, but where if the mere display of overwhelming force wasn’t enough, overwhelming death would do.

Mokrado immediately thought of the banned book in her vest. Even if she managed to not get executed, there was no way she was going to make her book club’s meeting tonight (and she was in charge of the snacks this week). Parvo had reasons of his own for not wanting to meet the Infernal Police. It wasn’t thoughts of death that haunted him, but something much, much worse; Shame49. Even if he made it through the questioning alive50, there was little chance he’d get to present his petition, let alone save his village. He thought of returning ito his village in failure, to live out the rest of his days confirmed as the pathetic joke they already thought him.

“I see neither of you have any desire to meet them,” Jacek said as he pulled the witch off the bed.

“What do we do?” asked Parvo as he stood, and helped the courtesan to her feet.

“Other room,” Jacek quickly seized control of the situation. He had to get his client’s daughter out of there, even if she was a witch, and there was no way he was getting her out of there on his own. Almost as fast as it takes your dog to notice you’ve got KFC (but just “almost”), he formulated a plan. It helped that it was combination of two of his contingencies (First half of #1B with #4C, to be exact) with a couple of slight modification. He stepped up to one such modification and handed off the unconscious girl to the Orc. “You,” he barked at the ‘fling.

“Multum Parvo,” he answered, putting a hand on his chest and bowing slightly.

“No names,” pronounced Jacek, causing Parvo to blush51. “Trapdoor, ceiling,” he jerked his head towards it, time being of the essence, while subject and verb were not. Parvo nodded and headed for the hole as Jacek turned to Mokrado. “Hand her up to him.” She hesitated, this was all happening too fast for her. Was it better to maybe be tortured and killed or definitely killed helping a witch? If she only had time to ponder, mull things over, to journal her thoughts. Jacek interrupted her thoughts about thinking with a shove. “Go!”

“Who is that?” she asked, referring to Jacek’s victim in a pool of blood. “Who is she? Who are you? What is going on?”

“She’s a witch,” said Parvo, poking his head down from the trapdoor. Mokrado , causing her to want to take a stutter step/jump backwards52 but she controlled herself53. She did, however, drop the witch.

“She’s not a witch —” Jacek replied, completely believable in that disturbing way that some people have (like friends who tell you, “You should write a book,” and you think that means they actually want to read what you write54).

“But —” It was as much Jacek’s stare as his hand drifting towards his sword that shut him up. Mokrado looked at the unconscious figure on the floor, still dubious.

“She’s a client,” he softened his tone as he bent down, beckoning the orc to follow his lead. She looked at the disheveled bed, and eyed Jacek, suspiciously.

“Is this a kinky sex thing?” She asked.

“No, I mean her parents are my clients —”

“A really kinky sex thing,” interjected Parvo. Before the banter could continue55, the sound of a commotion below got the last word in56.

“You know where the brimstone silo is?”

“No!” came the voice of Parvo from the dark of the attic. Jacek pinpointed the place where the sound of his voice had issued from and wondered if stabbed at the ceiling hard enough, he could thrust through and kill the ‘fling. Mokrado meanwhile, nodded in the affirmative.

“But the Infernal Police —”

“Can track you, but I’ve got decoy tracks set up that will send them on a wild bat57 chase,” The sound of the main door breaking and the blowing of Police Whistles quickened his speech. “Go west, across roofs, not on the ground, stay on roofs.” She easily lifted the girl over her head.

“Are you people insane!?” screamed the courtesan. Parvo’s head poked down from the ceiling, Mokrado stopped, the girl held over her head. “She’s a witch!” she said as she wiggled her hand, still frozen to the doorknob. “Why are you helping her? Why are you listening to him? She’s a witch, that’s why the police are here! You think what they’re going to do is worse than what they’ll do if they catch you? Or if she wakes up?” Jacek was worried, her words were having an effect. The ‘fling and the orc were thinking and that’s the last thing he wanted. He thought about killing the harlot, but that might be seen as an admission she was right.

“You stay here, you die, simple as that,” Jacek said.

“So? It is our duty to our lord and sovereign, the Dread —,” the courtesan’s words were out short by the small dart that struck her in the neck and sending her slumping to the ground. Jacek looked up at Parvo.

“Nice.” Parvo smiled as he grabbed the girl and hauled her up. “Where was I? Oh! Roofs until you reach Damnation Park. Then anyway you can get to the Silo, do it. Inside is a pentagram, step over it with the girl, and they won’t be able to track you”. He had fully assumed that the victim’s family would hunt down the perpetrator, so he had spent almost 20%58 of his fee on covering his escape, with both a false trail and a way to obscure59 the true one. Mokrado easily leapt up and grabbed the edges of the trapdoor before hauling herself up. “You must have her with you, it’s tied to her, so if you ditch her, the ward won’t hide you.” This was a bald faced lie, but he couldn’t have them ditching her before hand.

“You’re not coming?” Mokrado asked.

“Someone has to hold them off,” he said as he turned and strode toward the door in a way that if this were a movie, it would make the trailer, the effect of which was slightly ruined when his boot slid in the pool of blood and then gingerly stepping until he was through.


  1. As in female dog. No matter how you treat her, she’s always with you, ever vigilant, even if you abuse her. Loyal to those she loves, vicious to her enemies (but a few treats can make them into loved ones) and will occasionally poop in the house.

  2. But “etcetera” is not one of them.

  3. She used to like “Destiny” until strippers started using it.

  4. Including the use of unnecessarily big words.

  5. Which really didn’t float her boat, but she appreciated the gesture.

  6. Which you could tell because he sucked his teeth and tore paper in long, thin strips, and then tore those into little bits of confetti

  7. I plan to offer 1:6 scale versions as paperweights. I remain undecided as to whether Christmas Tree ornaments are in bad taste, but if someone wants to sell unlicensed ones on Etsy, go for it.

  8. Along with, “Do you know how fast you were going?”, “You actually like him/her/it?” and “what were you thinking?”

  9. Fate is a woman, and that is not a slight on females, only that a male eventually grow bored and will eventually stop. A woman will never, ever stop trying to screw you over if you’ve got on her bad side. Ever. Trust me (and a word of advice, the more legitimate you think the explanation, “but that was a long time ago” the less she’ll find it.

  10. Which, admittedly, dragged, but Kaylec felt what it lacked in narrative drive, it made up for in stylistic beauty, and was loath to drop it permanently.

  11. Because most arguments are won on stylistic grounds, not on their merits.

  12. Which wasn’t strictly necessary given the fact he lacked a body, and therefore lungs, but teaching oneself to not breath ain’t easy

  13. She had various titles in addition to her many names, but this was the only one he knew.

  14. laying it on a bit thick, but it felt right

  15. It doesn’t.

  16. And the anachronisms make a comeback

  17. Called a genuflection, you cultureless swine.

  18. Technically, he squeezed both eyes shut, but one was behind the patch.

  19. The unsharpened part of the blade just above the quillons (which I could call the crossguard, but riccaso just goes with quillions.

  20. Which was highly unsanitary. Kaylec had hung there 10,000 years without the ability to brush his teeth, so we’re talking monitor lizard levels of teaming swarms of bacteria.

  21. And by far the worse part, is that there was no reason for it, Kaylec had no lungs, no need to breath even. At one point, Stormpike dropped the head in a glass jar full of water and marveled as bubbles, burst from Kaylec’s mouth. Where did the air come from? Were they magic, or was there some invisible portal bringing air in? Or a partial leading to some place where his lungs sat? Stormpike drank long and heavily that night.

  22. Technically it was parchment, but “pen and parchment”? Sounds off, right? A little douche, too.

  23. Raven feather, naturally.

  24. Neither of which existed in their alphabet, but its a good translation of “Slash every [thing that looks like a pasta spoon wearing a tu tu], and pierce every [squiggly sideways cat-eye]”

  25. Parchment (which is made from animal skin… and I’ll leave exact animal to your imagination, because, frankly, I’m getting tired of doing all the work here. You gotta hold up your end of the relationship! This ain’t slumping on the couch and watching TV with a laugh track telling you something’s funny. This is a participatory art, so participate!)

  26. Or like that Australian Hurdler girl in that video on the internet. You see that? That’s some good stuff, man. Yowza.

  27. Because if it had been that long, it would be boring and I would have cut it out with a “later…”

  28. Or cellphone, if you’re one of those (and why do so many of them say “I don’t wear a watch”, in the same tone as “I went to Harvard”? You don’t wear a watch, I do. So? They’re preferences with no relative valuation. That being said, get a watch, vulgarian).

  29. Only to discover some kid has CIRCLED THE HIDDEN OBJECTS! They say that torturing animals is an early indicator of a psychopath, but I say it’s ruining “find the object” (and don’t get me started on using a pen to do it, either). Seriously, though, you’re horrible parents if your kids do this (or if you’re the one doing it, your parents were horrible, and while I’m glad you managed, against overwhelming odds, to learn to read, I assume you stole this book).

  30. Well, the Eorðe equivalent, which in our world many would find offensive.

  31. Still parchment. Also, that animal I told you to come up with? A bit cliché. Come on, you can do better.

  32. This time, it really was paper. From a tree. A talking, sentient tree. Named Gysseuin. R.I.P. Gysseuin, we hardly knew ye.

  33. Backwards dress, remember?

  34. Considered so implacable, that the term “unrelenting implacability” was often used to describe the Orcish variety(and when a synonym is used as as its adverb, you’ve hit the big times)

  35. Where one is unconscious, the other only has one hand, and neither of them wears glitter, sequins, or spray tan.

  36. “Orc” was the gender neutral term for either a male or female Orc, not that equality was the reason, it was also their word for “he”, “she”, “great” (as in, “That steak was Orc!”), “right” (“You’re totally Orc”), and most importantly, their equivalent to “dude”.

  37. While it could be argued that adding “Derisive” is unnecessary, it should be noted that unlike humans, Orcs possessed a rich and varied repertory of snorts, nuanced with subtle shadings of meaning.

  38. Which Parvo himself actually bottled and sold under the pirated name “Prof. Piddlemulch’s Patented Magical Medicament & Linement (extra strength, daytime formula, morning breeze scent)”, there being no actual patent, copyright, or trademark laws any longer.

  39. Hidden pocket of his “survival” Jerkin, that he’d had for 3 years and this being the first time it’d come in handy (except for that time during the midsummer’s mummers farce when his allergies had flared and he’d dipped into his stash of giibberwort but that was just convenient and saved him from loosing his seat).

  40. As a result, Elvish lost entire armies rather than fall back and regroup, leading to catastrophic losses.

  41. It can’t be childbirth. While tied intrinsically to their sex it isn’t the same because 1) not every woman has experienced, whereas every male, to varying degrees, has and 2) the pain is linked with something else, that for many is worth going through again. If a man had to suffer a nutshot before procreating, the species would die out.

  42. Let’s face it, had Jack survived, they would have stayed in New York so he could pursue his “art” and would have started cheating on Rose with his “french girls” within six months. She would have had to get work in a sweat shop to provide for themselves and the child on its way. His resentment grew, as well as his drinking, until one night when it became physical. Ashamed, he rushed out of the tenement, before finding the opium dens in Chinatown. He’s called up for World War I, and she takes him back and helps him clean up, but his past comes back to haunt them both when he passes along his syphillus to her, before being confined to an iron lung due to a mustard gas attack. Also, their kids die of influenza.

  43. The Heolseward. Clad all in black save for a red sash and khamsa (upside-down hand with an eye in the palm) pinned on their chest. The sash wasn’t pinned to their chest, that was wrapped around their waist, oh, you know what I mean.

  44. In Eorðe, a minute was 120 seconds long, but an hour was the same length as ours which meant it there were 30 Eorðeian minutes per day (although their time system was trigesimal, their counting system was bijective-hexavigesimal).

  45. So feared, in fact that when they stormed a house, neighbors would not poke their heads out, or mingle about trying to catch a glimpse of the goings on, but would head to the cellars or attics or hide in cupboards. Imagine in our own world a crime scene where there was no one gathered around the police tape. No one. Crazy, right? That’s what the Infernal Police were like.

  46. In fact, much like sheriffs deputies must often times serve in county jails before graduating to patrol, The Heolseward was first killed and then spent time in the Shadowlands questioning the dead (it being easier than resurrecting each person they needed info from) before being returned to the land of the living.

  47. Or is it Manet? It’s not, Mamet, he wrote “Glen Gary Glen Ross”. The one with the lilies, but I’m thinking of his Notre Dame works as opposed to the “Painter of Light”.

  48. Like Stormtroopers at the beginning of Star Wars, with better aim… but with swords. And they wore black, and you could see their faces, so if you think about it, they weren’t like Stormtroopers at all except they always rushed through the breach, full speed ahead.

  49. Shame, that living death so terrible that, of course, no one can resist doing it to someone else.

  50. All “interviews” by the Infernal Police involved torture.

  51. To blush that way that only happens in novels. How many people in real life have you seen blush? Really, really blush? Sure, you’ve felt your cheeks get hot, but then you realize a) It wasn’t noticeable to anyone else, and b) everyone else is worried about themselves and wouldn’t have even noticed had your cheeks actually become red. But in novels, people always blush, even though it’s not a visual medium. Ever seen someone blush in a movie? I thought not. Novels can enter into someone’s mind, you could write, “he felt embarrassed,” if you’re being utilitarian, or “His face felt flush,” which gives us the sense of blushing, or you could even go so far as to write “He felt like a kindergartner who peed his corduroys during recess, hid behind a tree until the bell and ran home.” which would have the benefit of reflecting real life (but not my life. A friend’s life. Not me. Nope).

  52. like getting up in the morning, walking into the bathroom and seeing a spider when you flip the lightswitch

  53. like you have to do when you see the girl you’re dating without makeup for the first time, not that she looks bad, just different.

  54. Only to discover what they actually meant was, “I’m sick of hearing your nonsense, go write it down so you can try it get it published, fail, and give up on this pipe dream. (Unless it works out, then I’ll take credit. But I’m still not gonna read it).”

  55. Don’t worry, there will be plenty more banter to come. So much in fact, that much will be pared down or edited out completely only to surface again in various revised, expanded, definitive, anniversary, annotated, and omnibus editions that are sure to follow after its success. A success none of the successive works achieved, leaving the author bitter, until some young person, probably unfamiliar with his works, arrives and teaches the old man to live again, reconcile with his family and his legacy before succumbing to death which galvanizes the young person to pursue his/her/its (it being the future, the young person could be a robot, alien, or even a genetically recreated dinosaur) destiny.

  56. The most important part of banter

  57. Bats served much the same function in their world as ours, even down to similar expressions. For example, their domesticated bats ran about thirty pounds (any bigger, and the meat got too tough) and were often eaten at holidays. Ironically, their geese were known to suck people’s blood.

  58. As a new killwright, he wasn’t eligible for a discount

  59. Much like stealth technology only reduces a radar profile and doesn’t eliminate it, it wasn’t possible to completely eliminate one’s tracks, but for all practical purposes they would be safe, unless Phobos decided to personally investigate by reversing time to replay the incident, or invading the mind of every lenient being to discover the truth, but such for all practical purposes, they would be safe.