Upon the release of the novel, Death of Heroes, I was fortunate enough to receive a visit from two of the women so centrally featured in its pages, during which I was granted an exclusive interview the likes of which no one has ever been offered.
Jasmine Tashae is the most visually striking, though both women could honestly be described as beautiful. Jaz is the taller of the two, with bright green eyes, dusky skin, and a sharp, slightly hooked nose that fits her face perfectly. Her broad shoulders and easy grace were the only direct evidence of her athletic build, clothed as she was in a voluminous green shirt and loose black pants.
Nyx Deathweb is smaller, equally dark, though her ancestry is plainly Latin where Jaz’s is Arabic. She is perhaps six inches shorter than her partner’s six feet, but clearly just as athletic. Nyx doesn’t quite share Jaz’s modest bent, arriving in a tight halter top that left her well-toned arms exposed and showed her modest breasts to good effect.
They don’t often visit our continuum, preferring instead to travel to worlds where their unique talents are, as Nyx put it, “better appreciated.” Suffice to say that neither woman finds the prospect of being harassed or prosecuted for assault or murder to be particularly enticing. When it’s pointed out that they can simply avoid killing anyone, the smaller woman let out an undignified snort and glanced at her partner.
“Jaz considers herself something of an exterminator,” Nyx told me.“She sees it as her duty to put an end to vermin pretending to be human.” By the tone of her voice, I took it that she didn’t always agree with Jaz’s perspective on such things.
Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, particularly in these circumstances, I left that subject alone.
We met, as usual, at a pleasant outdoor location in Point Defiance along Five Mile Drive. Jaz has a particular fondness for the place and often visits in when she’s in an aspect where it exists. Sometimes she even stops by to visit the zoo.
“So,” I begin, taking out my tape recorder and pushing the REC button.“Are you up for an interview?”
“That’s what we’re here for,” Jaz answered. “Fire when ready.”
“So,” I say, “let’s start with something simple. Tell me about the Lady of Blades thing.”
The two women exchange glances and Jaz gives a husky chuckle. She has the kind of voice that demands male attention in much the same way her appearance does. “I thought it about time that we had an urban legend with a positive spin,” she says. “You know how it goes, right? Stand in front of a mirror in a dark room and chant “Lady of Blades” three times? That gets the attention of my Gray Robe and he brings me to you. But there’s a caveat. You have to be in danger, and you have to be an innocent. Anyone else pulls that trick and bad things will happen.”
I nod. That fit with what I had heard. “So that’s your job, then? Your mission? Protecting the innocent?”
“If and when I can. I don’t always succeed. There are a billion predators out there, and only one of me.”
“Two,” Nyx points out.
“Two,” Jaz agrees with a sigh. “Not enough people know about the Lady of Blades legend. I’m glad you asked that question straight away.I want more people to know about it. I can’t help if I’m not called.”
“I’ve heard that you two met like that,” I say, “that she called you and you came.”
Both women nod, exchanging another meaningful glance. Jaz reaches into empty air and pulls out a package, which she then hands to me.“Since you ask—this is a journal of our meeting. I’d like you to read over it and use it for your next novel about our exploits.”
I take the package. “It’ll be out of order. It predates Sword and Shadow by what—a hundred years?”
Jaz shrugs. “So? It’s a good story. It has airships and androids, young kings and captive princesses. And a love story like no other.”
“Sounds great. But what should I call it?”
“How about ‘Nyx and Jaz?” suggests Nyx. “Simple and catchy.”
I nod. “Okay. It might take me a while to get it up and running.”
“You’ll do fine,” Jaz tells me.
I shiver as a blast of cold wind rises over the bluff from the Sound. This time of year isn’t particularly hospitable here in the Pacific Northwest, but, then again, I’m partial to late Spring and early Summer. I hate the cold. Wet I don’t mind, but cold unmans me.
She gestures, doing something with those strands of magic I cannot see and I’m suddenly infused with warmth. “Thanks.”
They don’t seem to be affected by the cold at all, but that doesn’t really surprise me. One of the benefits of being immortal, I assume.“’Death of Heroes’” went to print last month, by the way.”
“That’s the one about Morrigan, right?” Nyx asks.
“Yeah—but you two are in it too.”
“I remember,” she says. “Kicking super-villain ass.”
“Doing what we do best,” Jaz murmurs. She glances up at my car, parked down on the street some fifty or so yards away. “I take it you don’t need us to get you home?”
I shake my head. “Nah, but I appreciate the offer.”
“The least we can do for our chronicler.”
“Hey, I get a lot out of this relationship,” I tell her. “I get to tell people that there are still real heroes out there—not just celebrities. Of course, they take it all for fiction, but what the heck? It’s all fiction until they turn a corner and find themselves looking at something they never thought might actually exist.”
“So we’re heroes now, are we?” She seems amused by this. “I guess it depends on how you define the word.”
“You protect the weak and take down the predators. That’s pretty heroic to me.”
She shakes her head. “There are a lot of types of heroism—you don’t have to wield a sword and blast bad guys with magic to be a hero. It’s easy taking on the big bads when you’re immortal. It’s a lot harder to deal with regular evil on a daily basis, or just deal with the ignorance and stupidity of ordinary assholes. Look around you, Saje. Anyone who tries to make the world a better place is a hero.”
“Well, that’s what you do, isn’t it?”
“Then there you are.”
Nyx glances at the mirrored bracer on her wrist that allows her access to the dimension of mirrors. Apparently it also functions as a timepiece, because she exclaims suddenly “We’ve got to go.”
Both women stand abruptly, leaving me sitting on the picnic table alone. Nyx produces a shining knife no larger than my index finger and tosses it into the bench beside me. What follows is difficult to describe, but both women seemed to fold themselves into its reflective surface and vanish. Only the knife remains. The knife and the package in my lap are the only things that prove they were ever there at all.
I climb into my car, set the package on the passenger seat, and start it up. I light a cigarette and stare out at the picnic area for a moment, then down at the knife in my hand. I place it carefully in the console and turn the stereo up. I pull out of the parking stall and cruise through the park, imagining for a while what it would be like to live their lives.
All in all, I think I prefer my own. Less danger, less surprises, and far fewer people who’d like to see me dead.
Everything has its price.