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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Other Shoe Drops

“A-ascend?” stalled Khyrisse, trying desperately to chase the thousands of things she was trying to think at once out of her mind and pay attention to her former mentor. It wasn’t easy. There was also the trying-not-to-burst-into-tears factor. “I--I don’t understand...”

“I was sponsoring you for full godhood,” Marlukin said patiently. “Don’t you remember?”

“Of course I remember but--but the gods are dead!” Khyrisse pressed her hands into her eyes and worked on not hyperventilating. “And you’re dead,” she said in a small voice. “And I’m mortal.”

“Yes,” he said. “You returned to Ataniel in time to thwart Shadow, and then you found the inner strengh to make your way here as a mortal. This was your test, Khyrisse.”

“I--” Khyrisse blinked rapidly. “I passed?”

“Yes,” Marlukin said. The god rarely smiled, but his eyes did crinkle a bit. “I have to admit, I wasn’t sure you’d make it. You are not the most disciplined soul in the universe, ¯, and without direction I did worry you might get sidetracked by angst and aggression. But here you are.”

“But I--I don’t--” She shook her head. “Wait a minute, this was a test? You’re trying to tell me you sacrificed yourselves, drove half the world crazy, and damn near dropped a moon on the planet to test me? Are you all INSANE???”

“Of course not,” Marlukin said, his voice taking on the overly patient, subtly annoyed tone it did when she wasn’t comprehending something he found simple. “Judgment follows crises, not the other way around. You responded to this one. Contributing to the saving of the world under difficult circumstances is to your credit, but there are many such heroes in the world, and may there always be. Reaching the Hotel as the last of the old Gods, now that will stand out as nonpareil even in Morvon’s eyes.”

Morvon was, she remember dizzily, the stickler on the committee. “I don’t understand,” she said, her voice cracking. “There are no gods now... how can I Ascend?”

“Because this is the Hotel, and all things are possible here,” Marlukin answered. “We have all passed this way in our time. Take up the mantle and Bane will never have been, ¯. What was once can be again.”

Khyrisse sat down, hard, on the grass. “You can’t do this to me,” she whispered numbly.

Marlukin didn’t frown often, either, but he did now. “Stop talking like someone the world happens to, Khyrisse,” he said. “The choice is yours. You blamed Eric for making you a god, you blamed the Weird Sister for making you mortal. It’s time to make the decision for yourself.” His glittering eyes fixed her in place. “What is it going to be?”

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