[Sorry for short chapter today, I am on vacation. Will make it up next week.]
So passed fifteen years. New factories rose up. New mines sunk beneath the earth. New roads crisscrossed the mountains. Laboratories, barracks, fortresses, granaries, airstrips. All preparation for the final crusade. Over the course of a generation, the Comet King’s war on Hell shifted gradually from metaphorical spiritual struggle to “we’re going to need a lot of guns”.
People from all over the Untied States and the world flocked to Colorado, ready to take up arms for the struggle. The Comet King disappeared a few months on a strange ship with seven sails, saying he was seeking the Explicit Name of God. Came back, said he had found it. Everything started falling into place. It was really going to happen.
On the final night, they lay together in the citadel, her tracing patterns on his chest.
“I wish you could come with me,” said Jalaketu, just as Robin was thinking I wish I could go with him.
“You know I can’t,” she answered, just as he was thinking But I know you can’t. “Somebody needs to stay here and put on a brave face for the kingdom.”
“And if I were to die,” he added, just as she thought And if God forbid he were to die. He trailed off.
“You won’t die,” she said, just as he thought And I very well might.
A raised eyelid. “The journey to Siberia will be hard even without military resistance. The Names will keep us warm, but miscalculations in our food supply could be a disaster. Morale is high, but a few bad weeks and we could turn against ourselves. Thamiel is dangerous and has many tricks. We haven’t yet seen the extent of his magic. And the Shem HaMephorash is – hard to use. I think I can say it and live, but it will be close.”
“But you’re not afraid.”
“Would fear help?”
“I don’t know,” said Robin. “I’m scared enough for both of us. I’m scared you won’t come back. Or I’m scared you’ll give up and come back too soon, with Hell still intact.”
“About that you need not fear,” said the Comet King.
“The astronomers used to say comets are unpredictable,” said Robin. “That everything in the heavens keeps its own orbit except the comet. Which follows no rules, knows no path.”
“They are earthbound,” said the Comet King. “Seen from Earth, a comet is a prodigy, coming out of the void for no reason, returning to the void for no reason. They call it unpredictable because they cannot predict it. From the comet’s own point of view, nothing could be simpler. It starts in the outer darkness, aims directly at the sun, and never stops till it gets there. Everything else spins in its same orbit forever. The comet heads for the source. They call it crooked because it is too straight. They call it unpredictable because it is too fixed. They call it chaotic because it is too linear.”
He hesitated for a moment.
“That is why I love you, you know. In a world of circles, you are something linear.”
She said nothing, just kept tracing patterns on his chest.
“A few months to reach Yakutsk,” he said. “A few months to get back. The work itself shouldn’t take more than a few moments. I will see you again by the winter.”
Sleep came to them there, together, for the last time.