In case you missed it, I did update over the holiday – make sure to click the back arrow to read yesterdays part before reading today! And while you’re clicking things, why not get your free copy of Rumors here?
Stymied in his attempts to promise the Council that he would end the world, Ryan launched into the argument Nabu, Dianmu, and he had prepared that revolved around the confusion between Lucifer and the King of hell that had been found in the Handbook for Handling Requests from Fiends, Devils, Daemons, and other Infernal Entities, six hundred and sixty seventh edition. It should have been the six hundred and sixty sixth edition, Ryan thought as he wrapped up the argument. He had the fight the urge to flap his arms to clear the sweat that had gathered in his armpits. It would have been nice and symmetrical.
At least this time, the Council did not interrupt him or demand he justify promises made in high school and college. Instead, they sent out requests for the books. “We will recess while the original copies arrive,” the head councilmember said, her voice calm. “Recess will end when the claims are reviewed. If you wish to leave the building, please remember to fill out a Request to Disembark for Council Recess 23G.”
Ryan had zero interest in more paperwork. He instead headed out into the waiting area. “That could have gone better,” Ryan muttered to Dianmu once they were out of that oppressive chamber.
“Could have gone worse as well,” Dianmu said, pulling up a chair. “With the…notable exception, none of those promises you broke are particularly egregious.”
“That’s still a pretty big exception,” Ryan said, shaking his head. “Dianmu, I think the Curators are angels. I’m pretty sure they’re not happy with the whole ‘invasion of heaven’ thing.”
“You cannot beat yourself too hard for that, Ryan,” Dianmu said, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Answer me this. Could you have defeated Enki without an army to counter his forces?”
Ryan bit his lip to consider, then after a moment, shook his head. “No. If the three of us had to take on the Varcolaci without backup, we would have been slaughtered by sheer weight of numbers even if Enki had never taken the field.”
“I agree. Now, as a follow up question; do you believe that Enki holding the fate of the world in his hands would have been bad for humanity?”
Ryan had to think about that. Enki had been full of rage and hatred in those final hours, but he had wanted to save the world. He just wanted to be the one to do it. Wanted it so badly he had been willing to start a war over the right. If he’d approached me, right after Nabu had left, and not held a gun to my head…
It was almost, for a moment, like Ryan could see down a separate timeline. A timeline in which Enki had approached Ryan as a friend, offered him information and help. A timeline where Ryan would have been working with Bast and Tyr and Athena, and found himself at odds with Crystal, who probably would have still allied with Moloch. Maybe been able to recruit Dianmu earlier. And then the battle at the hotel – although it would have happened somewhere else most likely.
The battle where Enki had betrayed some of his allies to achieve his real goal, being the one to end the world. Ryan would have died there, and the fate of the world would be in the hands of someone who was so desperate to win they would crush anyone who got in their way.
“Yes,” Ryan said hoarsely. “I believe it would have been. I’m sure of it.”
Dianmu nodded. “Then you did what had to be done. Heaven is not some weak realm of pushovers, and angels are harder to permanently hurt than even gods. You did a bad thing, but you did it to prevent a worse fate. There are uglier choices to be made.”
Ryan sighed. “Thanks. I needed to hear that. I just…was kind of hoping it wouldn’t bite me in the ass that hard?”
“What sacrifice would there be in making hard choices if you never had to face the consequences?” Dianmu asked, her voice light. “There is no nobility in doing evil for the sake of good and escaping unpunished.”
Ryan snorted out a half laugh. “I guess I can’t argue that.” Someone walked up behind Ryan. He didn’t look over to see who it was. “No hard feelings about the promises, Nabu,” Ryan said. “I know you were just doing your job.”
“I’ll be sure to pass that along to him,” a feminine voice said. Ryan looked over his shoulder to see it was the councilwoman, still cloaked in her robes of beige.
Ryan jumped to his feet and bowed awkwardly. “Apologies, I assumed…”
“I noticed.” her voice had an amused note to it. “Might I borrow you for a moment, Eschaton?”
Ryan shot a look at Dianmu, who gave him an encouraging nod. “Of course,” he said with more confidence than he felt.
They walked into a side room, an office. It was bigger than Nabu’s, and better organized. One of the ambulatory filing cabinets was sitting in the corner of the room, vibrating with a metallic hum. When the Councilwoman walked past it, she ran a hand atop the cabinet. The vibration increased when she did, and Ryan could swear it stretched closer to her.
“I’m sorry,” Ryan blurted out, unable to contain himself. “Is your filing cabinet purring?”
Even though Ryan couldn’t see into the depths of that hood, he got a distinct impression of a smile radiating outward from it. “I discovered cats about five thousand years ago. I was distinctly enamored of the creatures, and had a fondness for them ever since. Mau is absolutely useless for carrying files – he takes them wherever he wants, and I’ll find them weeks later under a random desk in some far off corner of Officium Mundi. One time he managed to get into one of your nanoverses. I found him menacing Cerebos and a had to deal with a very put out Hades.”
Ryan stared at her. “You found the filing cabinet menacing a three headed hellhound.” It wasn’t a question, just a statement.
“If it makes it any better, I found a filing cabinet menacing a dog named Spot.” The councilwoman reached up and pulled back her hood.
Ryan hadn’t been sure what to expect. A matronly librarian, perhaps. Perhaps a prim and proper schoolteacher. He hadn’t expected the exact spitting image of Uriel, only with hair as black as pitch. “You’re causing a great deal of problems for us, Eschaton. I was hoping we could reach an accommodation.” She offered Ryan a hand. “My name is Jegudiel, archangel of hard work. Be not afraid.”
Despite Jegudiel’s calm demeanor, Ryan found he was, in fact, very afraid.