I delayed this a lot. First, because I needed some time to get my head in the right place, and then (more insidiously) because I started second guess myself.
I think I’ve always known what a massive story this was, but it became glaringly apparent as I’ve tried to wrap up book one. I obsessed over whether I was delivering the goods, following my world-building rules, or evolving my characters while also staying true to their flaws. I know that the key to pulling myself out of this desperate place is to actually do the thing, but I was stuck. Pandemic Times is hard in general. It’s doubly hard if you’re non-neurotypical. I feel like I am in a constant hostage negotiation with my brain (Me: can we do the thing? My brain: No, I don’t think we can).
But then came death—a dear family member who went in with COVID and did not make it out.
Death is clarifying. It has a way of making all your prevaricating seem insane. Do the thing. It will never be perfect. The timing will never be good. Do the thing.
So I present to you the final six chapters of Baking by Death Book One.
Yes, I forgot Grim’s eyepatch. Please fill it in using your imagination.
No, that wasn’t a sex joke.
Oh, and my simself makes a guest appearance in chapter 2.23 of the incredible Almost Eternal. If you’re not reading it, what the heck are you waiting for?
Selvadorada, Library of Magic
The lobby of the Library of Magic was not at all what he expected. After running through the jungle, fighting in the temple, and jumping through a wall of infinite smoke (which still had his stomach doing flip flops), William expected something ancient and dusty.
Something with reverence and solemnity.
“More cappuccino? And we can bring you another pillow if you want to rest your neck,” the barista offered.
“N-no, thank you,” William’s tongue slipped over the words.
“You seem displeased,” Morgyn observed as he continued typing something into a datapad.
“I was expecting—” William lowered his voice when a few witches turned their heads, “I was expecting something with a bit more gravitas.”
Morgyn hummed. “I wouldn’t call this lacking in gravitas. There’s a spa and a movie theater.”
William was not one to eschew the joys of modern life. In fact, he generally availed himself of all the comforts that modernity and unending wealth had to offer. But this felt wrong.
“There! I’ve made dinner reservations. We have plenty of time to shower and visit the archives. We won’t meet with the Rare Book Curator until tomorrow.”
William growled. Tomorrow? A whole night in this place? His brain did not agree with his body’s excitement. “You’ve been typing for nearly thirty minutes, and all you did was make a reservation?”
“Well, they have delicacies from every realm; that’s a lot of menus to sort through,” Morgyn pouted. “Let’s just check into our rooms and enjoy the evening. We’ll be all about business tomorrow.”
“I cycle off the board for ten years, and this whole place goes to shit!” Titania screeched, “Look at it! It’s a dump!”
Akira snagged her arm, “Will you keep your voice down?” he glanced around the room, trying to make sure they weren’t drawing too much attention, “Why don’t you announce our presence a little louder, so the Fates know exactly where to send the assassins?”
Titania scowled, “They are not going to send someone to kill us, you idiot. Look around, we’re safe as houses. Now,” she motioned at the front desk, “Which one of these peasants is going to validate my portal permit?”
Akira rolled his eyes. Fifteen years ago, the Library of Magic was desperate for Titania to retire from the board. In fact, they drew down half their endowment paying bribes to contract killers, and when that didn’t work, they begged. In exchange for a voluntary leave of absence, Titania got all the perks of board membership—including direct portal access—without any of the work.
Which was what she wanted all along.
“Look around you, Tania. In that corner is the head of the Willow Creek witches who you lit on fire. Over there is the Centaur King, who I’m pretty sure is not happy about the time you levitated his entire summer home and dropped it off a cliff. And you’d have to be fucking blind not to notice the Sage of Untamed Magic or William Redding, neither of whom I’m eager to tango with.”
Titania raised a shoulder, “The summer home thing was just a joke. And William doesn’t have a reason to kill us. He’s probably on some errand for the God of Death.”
“Errand. Yeah. Like the Book of Longings.”
Titania put her hands on her hips and Akira groaned, “Can you just for one second take my advice?”
“Fine.” She stormed over to the counter and glared at the attendant. “Even though this place is a veritable empire of sub-par, we need three rooms and an appointment with the Rare Books Curator for tomorrow morning.”
“Three rooms?” Akira cocked his head.
“If you think I’m sleeping with Oberon, you’re even stupider than I thought.”
“Y-yes Miss…uh…Queen Titania,” the attendant squeaked, “We’ll open the Chairman’s wing. Would you like to make dinner reservations?”
“No, have it sent to the rooms,” Titania growled, “We’re keeping a low profile.”
The woman gulped and nodded.
Titania was clearly done with this interaction but Akira was not. “Tomorrow morning?” he wrinkled his forehead, “Why wait? I thought this was an in and out sort of deal.”
His sister released a long-suffering sigh. “You, nameless staff person. What’s on the new acquisitions list for the morning?”
The woman rattled off a list of titles, including the Book of Longings.
“See, dummy? It’s not here yet. Now text Oberon our room number so he can bring up the luggage.”
Akira wanted to ask why she was forcing Oberon to carry the luggage when it could easily be transportalated in, but one look at the dark glint in Titania’s eye, and he shut his mouth.
“Stop looking over your shoulder,” she snapped as they headed towards the elevators.
“Oh, stop looking for the three most powerful beings in the Universe to show up because we are fucking with their plans? Oh yeah, fine. I’ll do that post fuckin’ haste.”
Titania turned on her heel. “They aren’t going to kill us because they need this timeline.”
“What are you talking about?” Akira demanded, “We don’t know how this time bullshit works! “
“Of course we do,” Titania flapped a hand in dismissal, “I figured it out ages ago. Miko was obviously creating parallel timelines; that’s why she disappeared. The harpy didn’t step on your heart a thousand times; she stepped on the hearts of a thousand different Akiras. You just happen to be the most recent one.”
Akira winced and then sighed. “Alright, fine. Your genius is unmatched. How does that prove they won’t kill us?”
“The Fates don’t do anything by accident. The manuscript is on this week’s acquisition list because they want someone in this timeline to have it. And speaking of timelines, the only reason they let Miko create a thousand of them was that it served some purpose, and since you’re bound to her, you serve some purpose too. They might kill the other Akiras, but they aren’t going to get rid of the one in the timeline they need.”
With that, she marched up to the elevator and jammed her finger on the button. “Who the hell installed an elevator in here!” she shrieked, “I told them I wanted spiral staircases!”