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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

All That Heaven Will Allow

“You’re really a ghost now?” Ebreth looked uneasily at the girl whose life he’d destroyed more than a decade ago. One of... how many? “All right,” he said, resolutely, “so is there something I can do to--to free your spirit, or something?”

“How chivalric of you,” murmured Lita, her eyes twinkling. “No, I’ll be going on to my final rest as soon as Mina leaves this Hotel. She’s learned everything I have to teach her, and as for me... I have only one thing left to do before I can enter Heaven.”

There was another uncomfortable pause. Ebreth rubbed his neck. “Is this, ah, the part where you lay a curse on me for making you wander the earth as a ghost?”

“Don’t be silly, Ebreth,” she sighed, rolling her eyes impatiently skyward. “Oh, I’ll admit I was pretty angry at first. I even thought that might be why I was stuck in Limbo. That I needed to take you down with me before my soul could rest. But two years later you were dead anyway, and there I was in Limbo still. Could anyone really be angry enough to need revenge against a dead man so badly? Not anyone I could understand, anyway. No, there had to be something else. Something more important I had to do before I could find peace.” She looked off at the unnatural sunset. “And then Mina came.”

“Mina--came to Limbo?” said Ebreth, his brow furrowing.

“Yes. She was twelve years old, and very ill then. As she struggled on the brink between life and death, I met her in the realms between. And then I thought: maybe what I need to do is tell someone my story. Maybe I can’t just go on to the afterlife carrying that kind of burden in my heart. So we talked, and I told her everything. And though I still didn’t find release, I realized something peculiar. I wasn’t angry anymore.” She wound one of her long red curls contemplatively around her fingers. “Mina recovered from the spotted fever, and I chose to accompany her back to Ataniel. By then I thought that perhaps my purpose was to save her from some similar fate, you understand. But what happened between her and Roland was--completely different--and I fear my help may have made things worse, not better. So after six years as a rather inept guardian angel, I was about ready to despair. And then I overheard my mother talking to cousin Fiona. They’d been shielding Mina from how bad the Remnant situation was, but that wasn’t the important part. The Word had seen Jack at Tharrfest... and with him was you.” She turned to look at him, her eyes deep and penetrating. “You had returned,” Lita said. “And I hadn’t known it, but I was waiting for you.”

“I--” Ebreth shook his head dizzily. “But why, Lita? You don’t want revenge, you don’t need my help, you don’t want to come back to life... what could you possibly want with me, anymore?”

“To finish what I started,” she said. “To close this circle and shut this book once and for all. I’m not leaving until I save your soul, Ebreth Tor.”

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