Chapter 61

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Somnazu stares out into the Chaos. For how long, who knows? Long enough for the most distant stars to take on a blue tint. The Chaos is wider than even his reckoning but at the very edges it stops expanding, holds its line, then begins to contract at a rate that makes a million miles feel as insignificant as an inch along a horizon.

This only happens because the spacial rift between the Chaos and the Deadwater is still open. Because this is a place of lacking, the Deadwater is an anomaly here, full as it is of aura, however weak. And so the vast expanse presses in like an oyster salving a grit of sand in nacre, only the Chaos will not produce a pearl. If it crushes Somnazu, well, he will be one more star burning in its darkness. 

Even if he closes the rift now, the Chaos does not forgive. It will press on, kill him, then crawl back out again, eating at whatever lays beyond the edge of understanding. Who cares. It will take a century for the Chaos to kill him, and he'll be dead by then.

So he leaves the rift open, staring at the Pettygod standing on a street where a storm is melting a desert. A small golden thread, like spider silk backlit by sunrise, runs from his stoneiris to Tello's. In spacial terms, it runs for a lightyear, but the rift cuts it to three hundred paces or so. That connection is the only thing that holds the Pettygod's burning bloodlust and keeps the pressure of his soul from flattening what is left of that melting town. 

Not that Somnazu cares for whoever's life that saves. He just doesn't want to damage his property before the small matter of how in the Voidhells it became so broken.

He looks down from the spatial rift to the top of Wenyanga's head. They are still bowed before him. Somnazu asked them a question, but they remain silent because he has not yet given permission to answer. When he lived in the Deadwater he was like this as well, giving his students time to marinade their words, not for pleasantry but efficiency. Really, he just enjoyed watching the most hot-headed of them sweat.

You are hungry, he thinks to say. Then remembers how humans are, how he used to be. So fragile and temporal, yet proud and a danger to themselves when threatened. Creatures armoured in grape skin with bones of glass.

"Are you hungry?" he asks.

Wenyanga considers a moment, or so Somnazu assumes because they do not answer immediately. "Can one hunger in a Void?"

"That depends if you're hungry or not."

The bow is just a courtesy. Somnazu's omniscience shows him the quirk of Wenyanga's lip, little more than a twitch and quickly killed. His own lips do not shift from the stoic frown he has chiselled over eons, but he touches his beard then rests his jaw on a fist. Flakes of ice drift from his beard into the expanse.

"If it pleases this God of Chaos, it would be my third greatest honour to eat at his table."

Somnazu has not raised an eyebrow in a decade, but he does so now. "Third greatest?"

"I married twice."

Laughter is not a natural reaction to one who has seen the kinds of things they must see to ascend to Voidgod. All Somnazu does is exhale once, but the breath is deep and hot enough to thaw the ice from his beard. After all, an elephant does not take offence at a hummingbird ruffling its plumage.

He blinks, and it is done.

A woven mat now fills up the empty space between him and the bowed mage. In the middle of it is a large flat bowl of roasted meat sitting on palm fronds. Two drinking urns flank the bowl, simple works of good clay polished smooth. The beer within is thick and frothy, the pale gold of sand at dawn. 

Floating over the bowl in perfect orbit are four spheres no larger than a child's fist. The first three are solid: salt, coarse pepper, fine cumin. The liquid one is a golden orb of honey from a Deadwater bee that draws its nectar from citrus trees. It is for the beer rather than the meat, though Somnazu is not so old that he forgets an old woman in his old village who enjoyed it on both.

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