Elyse Flayme and the final flood

Molly shot me an acid look. “You know what I think about that kind of laundering.” 

I did; everyone did. Elyse Flayme’s best friend Meritxell was always coming up with ways in which they could keep using magic and delay Arrenia’s destruction, and Elyse was always saying, We have to choose what matters to us, Mer.

We talked into the night. Mostly, I listened. I came to understand that Molly Khan had been cooped up in that house by herself for way too long. Her false starts came spilling out. The horizon faded to buzzing black as she ticked through the various versions she’d tried and rejected. She went digging in the notebooks for half-­remembered lines. The truth is, they all sounded great to me, but Molly wasn’t satisfied.

All along, a certainty was growing in my mind.

Molly Khan emptied the second bottle of wine, and when I probed her about Elyse Flayme—asked what Elyse had kept hidden; what this avatar was capable of, in the end—she became animated. She had been rooting in the kitchen for more to drink, but this question brought her back out onto the balcony: she said one thing, then another, and another, all while I cheered her on. I was the only witness: there, in the dark above the ocean, out of nothing, came something: an ending.

Soon after that, Molly sat at her desk and started to type what she’d just explained. I collapsed on the bed in her little guest room. My last thought before sleep was that I had succeeded in my mission: unblocked the writer, secured the future of the franchise. Maybe I deserved a commission … just a tiny cut of that $20 million.

In the morning, I found Molly in the same place exactly. She had not slept. A low-slung district of coffee mugs had joined the tower block of notebooks on her desk. Her keyboard clattered like a subway car; she barreled down the track, not stopping at any of the stations. She was absolutely focused; no part of her moved except her fingers, careening toward their destination. Is this how she had written all the books?

I padded into the kitchen, afraid to disturb her because breaking the spell would be costly, and because I was afraid she would turn around and her eyes would be like Osric Worldender’s, shadowed pits crackling with black lightning.