you can run from your demons until you are exhausted
but one day you will have to stop and find out what they wanted
–charlie’s inferno, that handsome devil
"You're fooling no one but yourself," said Miss Dearheart, and reached for his hand.
Moist shook her off, and ran out of the building, out of the city, and back to his old life, or lives, always moving on, selling glass as diamond, but somehow it just didn't seem to work anymore, the flair wasn't there, the fun had dropped out of it, even the cards didn't seem to work for him, the money ran out, and one winter in some inn that was no more than a slum he turned his face to the wall–
And an angel appeared.
“Adora,” breathed Moist.
“Anoia,” the lady in the doorway corrected. “Goddess of Lost Causes.”
“Oh.” Even with his mind muddled, suffused with grief, he knew this didn’t mean good things for him. Not that he was expecting much good to come to him anyway. “I thought you did kitchen drawers.”
“I did, yeah. Now I do lost causes, too. We gods are finicky like that.” She took a drag of her cigarette. “We can also be temporally transcendental, when it’s important.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Why did you run away, Moist von Lipwig?”
He looked away. He could see now, the obvious differences. The godly presence, that was it. It made the perspective go all strange. This was not Adora Belle, and he had been foolish to think so, even for a moment. That didn’t make the sight hurt any less. “I… I don’t know.”
“You were about to off yourself with that pistol bow,” Anoia said bluntly with a nod of her head. It sat loaded, on the table next to her. “What’s the point of lying when you’re at the end of the line?”
“Railways, Mister Lipwig.”
“Nope, still doesn’t mean a thing.”
“It will,” she said plainly. “Why did you run away, really?”
“I was scared. I think. Of the future. Of hurting Adora. Running away comes easy to me, and it makes the problems go away.”
“For a time.”
He nodded. You couldn’t run forever,he knew that. “What’d you mean, important?”
“You’re important, Mister Lipwig.”
He huffed. “I’m a crook, and a piss poor one at that. There’s nothing important in glass diamonds. That’s the whole point.”
Anoia sighed. The room stank of cigarette smoke, now. But there was an unearthly quality to it. The cigarettes didn’t smell stale, but their presence felt ancient. Smoke and fire. “I might as well tell you, since this is, like I said, the end of the line for you. You see, Mister Lipwig, without you, things would get a whole lot more difficult in the future. A future that I don't want to see.
“Time and time again, you turn lost causes into miracles of opportunity. You keep winning against the odds, you lucky bastard, and changing the world around you as it changes you. Maybe I should be angry with you, you keep trespassing in my domain. But I’m more inclined to see you as my champion, Moist von Lipwig. And as my champion, I’m invested in seeing you survive. This is my thanks for the promotion," she went on. "I’m not doing this out of the kindness of my heart.”
“I wouldn’t expect such a thing from you, er, your Godliness?”
Anoia flicked her cigarette, and the ashes fell to the cracked floorboards like a meteor shower. “No. Don’t push it.”
"But you didn't say what you were doing," he said.
Then, she was lifting up the pistol bow.
He felt his heart lurch in his chest, when minutes before he had contemplated the great leap without fear; it had been the only reasonable option. There had been nothing left for him here, he might as well see which god would find his soul after all this time.
"You can take it from me, if you want, and do it yourself," she said, "or you can accept my gift."
"And all its consequences?"
"Yes, Mister Lipwig. What will it be?"
He did not reach for the pistol bow.
Anoia, the Goddess of Lost Causes and Things Stuck in Kitchen Drawers levelled the pistol bow at Moist von Lipwig, crook, scoundrel, the man that revived the Post Office, the man who connected the Disc with envelopes and stamps and letters, and the man who will connect the Disc further with steel and rails and great, glorious steam, greasing the wheels as the world turned into the new century with his silver words and quick wit and a plain, simple knack for turning lost causes into opportunity and success.
“People keep believing in you. Even you can’t make them stop, the silver-tongued man in the golden suit. What do you think all that belief does to a man?” Anoia pondered, head tilted. “Well, I’m sure we’ll see each other again some day, Moist von Lipwig.”
She pulled the trigger.
“What just happened?” asked Adora Belle Dearheart as they stood on the balcony above the great hall of the Post Office.
Moist didn’t know. Something was fading, but it had never been there to fade in the first place, had it?
Perhaps you do get two… he thought, and didn’t know why he’d thought it.
“Only a passing thought," said Moist.