Going Once, Going Twice was the third short story in The Book of the Peace, written by Jacob Black. It was a partial sequel to Black's short story A Bloody (And Public) Domaine in The Book of the Enemy as well as to the audio series The True History of Faction Paradox, introducing new facets to the history between the Great Houses and the Osirians.
The story was also notable for featuring the apparently final death of Godfather Auteur, who met his end by being consumed by Apep during a foolhardy attempt to escape his imprisonment in the Shadow Spire.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Plot
- 2.1 The Shadow's Overture
- 2.2 Child of Earth
- 2.3 Son of Mars
- 2.4 Tell it on the Mountain
- 2.5 The (Bidding) War
- 2.6 Souls of the Spirekeepers
- 2.7 Just Another Homeworld Lost...
- 2.8 Enter the Serpent
- 2.9 The Madness of Godfather Auteur
- 2.10 Heritage
- 2.11 The Reign of Apep
- 2.12 The Closing of the First Auction in Heaven
- 3 Characters
- 4 References
- 5 Notes
- 6 Continuity
- 7 Footnotes
Auteur tries to take advantage of the Crime Lady Cortalian's First Auction in Heaven to merge with the ancient being Apep and escape the Shadow Spire. However, his plans are derailed by his own insane arrogance and by Kifah and Gustav, two of the low-ranking Faction Paradox refugees now living with him in the Shadow Spire, who would rather take their chance at the Auction to rescue their lost comrade (and Kifah's boyfriend), Intrepid.
The Shadow's Overture
Locked in the Shadow Spire, a laughing Godfather Auteur writes frantically, weaving together several separate events past and future as he prepares his master-plan: the duel between "the Jackal" (Sutekh) and "the Falcon" (Horus) which destablised Mars's place in history, the youth of "the Warrior", an event which will see Brothers of the Faction helpless as the world around them shatters, and finally the rise of the Snake.
Mother and Father watch, impassive, as Auteur continued his work, lightly tapping a rhythm of four and humming a forgotten theme tune. However, Father eventually speaks up, approving of Auteur's choice to involve Gustav in the masterplan, as he believes that Gustav's strength and loyalty may be useful if "the bonding ceremony" goes wrong. Mother is more skeptical, believing that Gustav's race memories of serving the Osirans may override his loyalty to the Faction when he learns the nature of the artefact, but Father insists that his faith was shattered during his initiation.
Mother predicts that Gustav, if asked to come with Mohter and Father on the mission, will also want to take Kifah along. Although reluctant to entrust the Little Brother with this responsibility, the two Spirekeepers are reminded by Auteur that "beggars can't be choosers". Auteur also notes that they could easily lie to Gustav and Kifah about the nature of the mission if it will make it easier to make them obey.
While Auteur's attention is elsewhere, a foreign, inky narrative begins to "snake its way" into the pages of the story he had been writing.
Child of Earth
Asleep inside the Shadow Spire, Little Brother Kifah experiences vivid nightmares, which often happens to him when he sleeps in the Spire, as the "gentle cooing whispers from the floor" have a tendency to get into people's heads and stir up their bad memories. Hence, Kifah dreams back to the destruction of his old planet, "Home", and to his first meeting with Faction Paradox in the person of Cousin Intrepid. His dreams then take him back to his initiation, his terror at facing "the One-Armed Man" and the way in which Intrepid's smile helped him make it through the ordeal; he flashes forward to the blossoming of their friendship into a romance.
He relives Intrepid telling him about his own history, how he was kicked out of the Homeworld's great Academy because he was half-human and hybrids had fallen out of fashion on the "polite society" of the Great Houses — and also Intrepid's speculation about how Kifah survived the Great Houses' assault on his Home, and about the reasons for it. Out of sadism, the Spire then twists the dream into a nightmare, a wild, exaggerated imagining about Intrepid's final fate, based on the battle reports Kifah has read about the Battle of Cratosi Fields during which Intrepid went missing.
Son of Mars
Brother Gustav, too, is sleeping in his own icy corner of the Shadow Spire and dreaming. His are pleasant dreams as he experiences visions of Mars as it was in his prime: rusted and past its prime, but nevertheless full of Martian life. He remembers playing with his brothers and sisters in their family nest, attending rituals and great gatherings of the Martian clans.
However, the dream turns to a nightmare which has him shaking in his sleep, as Father observes. Gustav's new dream is a vision of a past event he never personally witnessed: an allegorical view of Horus and Sutekh's duel on Mars, respectively appearing as a gigantic, godly Falcon and Jackal. He sees the sky of Mars cracking, and the dream-Sutekh mocks Gustav in Father's about his not being real.
Gustav wakes up with a start when he catches a glimpse of an ancient emptiness in space trying to crawl into reality through the crack. Father, looking down at him in more ways than one, tells him to join Mother in the hall so they can discuss Gustav's next assignment.
Tell it on the Mountain
The more influential members of the Spiral Underworld collectively decide to take this window of opportunity to get their hands on the various "weapons, tools, texts and people" which became scattered across History after being mislaid by the Great Houses or the Enemy in the course of the War. Their reasoning is that, once both factions of "gods" retreat back into their higher spheres and cease interacting so closely with lesser species, these goods will all become significantly more valuable in the near future than they had been during the actual course of the War in Heaven.
Just as the various criminals and marketers come to this conclusion, invitations begin spontaneously appearing in the hands of "the right people". They advertise "the First Auction in Heaven Where Bidding on the Homeworld’s Misfortune Never Felt So Fortunate!", and, as soon as they are read, dissolve in the hands of their owners to implant a set of coordinates directly into their minds.
The (Bidding) War
Cortalian, exiled Sun Builder, watches as her bioengineered Servitors finish setting up the First Auction in Heaven within an environment bubble created by her timeship on the otherwise-uninhabitable planet of Kratoam.
Soon after, Kifah, Gustav and the Spirekeepers arrive at the Auction, whereupon Kifah complains about the sweltering heat even inside the bubble, caused by the planet's twin suns and the large amount of people attending the Auction. Gustav hisses that Cortalian must be doing this on purpose to make herself (who is, no doubt, wearing a heat-proof suit) more at ease than all of her guests; he speculates that, disgraced or otherwise, Cortalian still buys into the Great Houses' racism against "lesser species". The two walk through the huge bazaar-like Auction, taking special note of a few items, such as tents showing disembodied limbs and chunks of Homeworlders under bright yellow signs of "GROW YOUR OWN LORD OF HISTORY" which prompt Kifah to wonder aloud how a Homeworlder could possibly make a good pet.
Eventually, Kifah thinks to climb onto Gustav's shoulder to see across the crowd and try to get a glimpse of Cortalian; he indeed spots her, standing on a golden hovering platform. He witnesses the end of the bidding on one particular item: a trio of enslaved angels who have been bought by a corrupt Bishop. He also sees, floating high above the artificial canopy of the environment-bubble, a sphere of frozen time waiting to be auctioned off: the Frozen Battle of Cratosi Fields.
Back in the Shadow Spire, Mother and Father sit in the Shrine, preparing to join Gustav and Kifah at the Auction once the bidding on "the item" begins; in the meantime, they are completing a few last rituals to keep Auteur securely chained in the Spire while they are away. They discuss what they can perceive of the Auction, with both agreeing that the planet has never been touched by the Enemy and that Cortalian appears to be the only member of the Great Houses currently on its surface. Auteur jokes that this is hardly surprising, as the planet is normally uninhabitable.
When Auteur asks what the two Spirekeepers ended up telling Kifah concerning the mission, they assure him that they did not trick him into thinking they were here to rescue Intrepid; instead, Kifah has been made to believe that the Family will turn its attention to freeing Intrepid as soon as "the bonding ceremony" is complete. Even so, Auteur is skeptical of Kifah's promise not to do anything rash, singing that "Amour is a promise to dare".
Souls of the Spirekeepers
After witnessing the Baron of Trilermeriaq buying the Ochenissi Tablet, Kifah realises that Cortalian has spotted him and Gustav. Just as they begin worrying that she might be so prejudiced against Faction Paradox that she might kill them on sight, Father and Mother appear to Gustav's left and right, assuring them that all will go well but curtly telling them to adjust their posture and presentation.
Meeting Cortalian's fiery gaze, Father than holds up a battered timeship key — a future version of Cortalian's own, which he and Mother have drawn from a future point when she misplaces it, via ritual. The Spirekeepers explain their plan — to bank on Cortalian's wish to ensure that she never loses access to her ship outweighing her hatred of the Faction. Indeed, after glimpsing the key, Cortalian averts her gaze and carries on with the Auction.
A caged temporal predator, a Homeworld hybrid trapped in a bottle, red reality-warping rockets and a piece of the Celestial Omnibus are all sold off. Shortly after a fight breaks out between a technosapien and a member of the Cephalopodic Coterie, the time comes for the auctioning-off of the Frozen Battle of Cratosi Fields. As Cortalian makes the bubble of frozen time descend closer to her platform, Kifah and Gustav are able to see clearly the House soldiers and Skulltroopers trapped mid-battle in the second of frozen time. Among them, giving Kifah a start, is Intrepid.
Although initially trying to control himself, Kifah loses his cool when several individuals begin bidding who obviously have no intention of unfreezing the Frozen Battle (the Ice Heiress, a Centaur, a moustached starfish and a mantis). He wrenches the future key away from Father and attempts to bid it on the Frozen Battle. However, Fathe retracts the bid and reprimands Kifah. While Father orders him to return to the Spire, the Frozen Battle is won by the Ice Heiress, who bid the Diamond's Brood.
Just Another Homeworld Lost...
Later, back in the Shadow Spire's Shrine, Auteur guesses that Kifah "dared". Angrily, Kifah throws his Faction Paradox mask at the Godfather, who takes no notice, and goes back to scribbling something in the dust. Kifah cautiously asks Gustav if he meant it when he said he denied that the so-called "Family of the Shadow Spire" was "family".
Removing the skull part of his helmet, a hesitant Gustav explains that he did not join the Faction out of religious conviction, loyalty, or "familial spirit", but simply because he had nowhere to go due to the temporal instability of Mars's history (which Auteur acknowledges, blaming it on the Falcon and the Jackal). Gustav then reveals that he hoped to use the Faction's way to ensure his specific kind of Martian (whose existence had become "uncertain") would continue to exist on some level of reality — and that he has been bitterly disappointed by the lack of interest by other Faction members in this quest.
However, Gustav notes that while he does not consider the Faction to be his family, he does consider Kifah in particular his brother in all but blood. Kifah is pleased, noting that he always wanted "a big brother". Gustav expresses sympathy for his heartbreak regarding Intrepid, but Kifah admits that he was stupid. Gustav denies that Kifah should feel any guilt, however, instead accusing Auteur of having deliberately sent Kifah to confront the temptation of saving Intrepid, out of sheer cruelty.
Auteur, "as if on cue," coughs.
Enter the Serpent
The narrative shifts back to earlier events at the First Auction in Heaven. The "item" that the Spirekeepers had been coveting is finally revealed: a huge obsidian sarcophagus whose carved face has been smashed in. The Bishop and his angels recognise it as Osirian, and a chill passes over the crowd, with only the Faction-members even bothering to bid on the item at all.
Back in the Shrine, Mother and Father berate and abuse Kifah for having tried to go against their orders to rescue Intrepid and the other Skulltroopers of the Battle of Cratosi Fields. Their row, during which Kifah spits to their face that they have indeed become nothing more than mindless shadows with no will of their own, is interrupted by an irate Gustav who confronts them about their having hidden the Osirian nature of the weapon from him.
Mother and Father, soon joined by Auteur, thus begin to explain to the two younger Faction-members the true nature of Apep; created out of paranoia as a failsage when the Great Houses and the Osirian Court learned of each other, Apep was taken beyond the Houses' control by the Osirians, who "unanchored" him from the Spiral Politic but drove him mad in the process. Sealed inside a sarcophagus, Apep was subsequently lost in the war between Sutekh and Horus, ending up on Cratosi; it was this very item whom Intrepid and the other Skulltroopers had originally been sent to retrieve before the House Military interfered.
Nonplussed, a sour Kifah begins walking out, stating his intention to go rescue Intrepid and ironic wishes of good luck to the Spirekeepers and the Godfather for what they want to do with "their snake". Father tries to prevent him from leaving, but Gustav slices his arm off with his shadow-scimitar. The two walk out; Mother reflects that "Gustav reacted badly to the Osirian after all", but is contradicted by Auteur, who points out that Gustav left for Kifah's sake, not out of a personal distaste for the Apep scheme. He shares his belief that the two enjoy each other's company because Kifah possesses enough of the Observer Effect to make Gustav "more real", and that having evolved an Observer Effect of their own was the reason the Houses wiped out Kifah's original homeworld.
On the ground, Father's severed arm writhes in a serpent-like manner before vanishing.
The Madness of Godfather Auteur
Mother tells Father to halt the ceremony; she argues that it is too dangerous to do it while the Shrine is still on Kratoam now, as Kifah and Gustav's rescue mission will likely spark a battle that could disturb the proceedings. The two argue, with Father insisting that it would be too dangerous to perform the ritual inside the Shadow Spire itself, until Auteur interrupts both of them, summoning down one of the three loas the Faction-members had brought from the Spire.
At Auteur's command, the loa attacks Father, ripping him to shreds. Terrifyingly calm, Auteur recites the story of his life to the two Spirekeepers as they are both devoured by the loas, with part of Father's blood being absorbed by Auteur into his shadow. Before long, both Father and Mother are dead (their final words being "I love you" and "Shut up", respectively) and their biodata is sucked into the sarcophagus as well as the loas themselves. Auteur, maddened and ecstatic, howls a stream of nonsensical incantations from "Grandfather keep me!" to "Woop-dee-doo and hullabaloo!".
Apep begins to rise, and Auteur spreads out his shadow over the huge golden serpent, claiming that he is now going to bond his shadow to Apep and thereby ascend to becoming a God well above the laws of Time. However, opening its eyes, Apep chuckles and tears Auteur's shadow-skin off of him with one flick of its tongue. As shadow and loas merge with Apap's withered, rotten flesh to make him whole again, a baffled Auteur, whose body is beginning to break down without his shadow to protect it, simply babbles that he "never saw this… didn't write this". Apep replies that indeed, Auteur did not — Apep wrote it instead, corrupting his master-plan.
As Apep's awakening causes time to twist and contort, Kifah begins to have visions of past conversations with Intrepid during which they'd discussed Auteur's origins, and also feel like he is back in the Spire. Resisting the temporal mutation, he focuses on the existence of Kratoam, holding hands with Gustav to better ground himself. They finally arrive back at the Auction, where they feel that there appears to be the temporal equivalent of a storm building. Finding the Ice Drones in the process of loading the Frozen Battle of Cratosi Fields in the Ice Heiress's Star Speeder, they dispatch them using their own shadow-weapons.
Just as the begin to wonder what to do next, they spot cracks in Time beginning to form all over the Auction due to the appearance of Apep. One of them cracks open the Frozen Battle's bubble of frozen Time, unleashing the warriors on the Auction, while the tremors knock Cortalian's hovering platform from the air, causing her to plummet to her death.
Waking up, Intrepid has visions of different versions of the recent past of Faction Paradox. Trying to steady himself in the whirlwind of mutable time, he manages to "half-use" the Observer Effect, enough to ground himself but not so much as to solidify all events around him. He has a vision of his previous incarnations standing behind him, and even of a blurry image of his future, just on the edge of his vision.
He also hears Auteur's voice, goading him to give in to his Homeworlder heritage. He argues and reminisces with the phantom Auteur about his past — his early life on the Homeworld and his tutorship under Auteur himself at the Shadow Spire — and how he's been struggling with his hybrid heritage ever since then. Auteur's presence seems to vanish at last as Intrepid's surroundings become clearer; one of the last things he tells Intrepid is the confirmation of Kifah's presence on this new planet, which he realises is not Cratosi at all.
The Reign of Apep
Kifah also experiences dream-like visions of different time tracks as Time breaks down around him. He sees Auteur at a point earlier in his timeline than when he joined the Faction, as a bearded old man bent over a grimoire. He thinks at first that it is only a dream until the past Auteur looks up and meets his gaze with a laugh.
Realising he is simultaneously in the past and still at the Auction, even if he is only seeing the latter, Kifah screams for Gustav. This jumps his vision to a different place and time, the battle between the Jackal and the Falcon on Mars. Trying to focus again, he has a brief vision of a Homeworlder designed for war being woven in a breeding-engine, then a glimpse of recent events: a cackling Auteur writing his new master-plan into existence at the Spire, not realising that Apep has woven himself into the narrative.
Getting another glimpse in the life of a Homeworlder, he realises that he is getting visions of the life of a House soldier at the Battle, who is lying, dying, at his feet. As the process of regeneration begins to twist her into a monster, she begs not to change but is unable to stop herself from turning into a monstrous creature. Kifah, unable to help, stumbles away to avoid having to look at the gruesome process.
The visions continue and come back to Intrepid and Kifah's romances with him. The sneering shade of Auteur jeers at this, insisting that "this isn't a love story", but Kifah ignores him and, with Gustav's help, finds Intrepid. In disgust, Auteur's shade vanishes from the present with one last grumble about "characters never staying too the f*cking script".
Meanwhile, the Battle has turned to chaos as the disoriented House soldiers attack the patrons of the Auction, who in turn defend themselves using the various artefacts meant to be up for sale. Apep himself rises into the sky, eyes glowing, and speaks, bellowing that he is alive and that he will destroy everyone at the Auction.
As they try to look for a way out, Gustave, Intrepid and Kifah come wihtin the line of sight of the wounded, enraged Cortalian. When she begins to threaten them, Intrepid kills her with his shadow-weapon and they retrieve the two version of her timeship's key. Gustav, even as he tells his two friends that he has an idea for how to take down Apep, notices that Cortalian's hearts are still beating; before she can renew herself, he stabs her again the chest using his scimitar.
The Closing of the First Auction in Heaven
Gustav uses his shadow-weapon to make Cortalian's body begin to unravel rapidly into strands of biodata. This new "food source" attracts some of the loas that had coalesced around Apep's form to serve as living armour. As a result, Apep becmes more exposed to damage from the House soldiers' weapons. This isn't enough, however, as a number of the loas stick with Apep to continue feeding on Auteur's biodata inside the serpent, which is "richer" than Cortalian's.
Realising that they need something more, Gustav fills his mind with the mythology that his people had concerning Apep, and his childhood dream of going down into the underworld to help Ra face Apep. Becoming a conduit for the strenght of the history of Mars itself, Gustav threatens the serpent, causing the loas to flee him. Without his protections, Apep is now raw, unanchored time, and he tells Intrepid and Kifah to avert their gazes from him, in a mini-attack of ignorance.
As Apep, falling prey to the laws of physics, thrashes about in agony, beginning to dissolve, Kifah, Intrepid and Gustav make their way to Cortalian's timeship and manage to take off. As they go, Apep's dissolution takes the entire First Auction in Heaven, the planet itself included, along with it into utter non-existence, all the riches gathered by Cortalian and all the people who had come seeking them becoming lost forever.
- Godfather Auteur
- Little Brother Kifah
- Brother Intrepid
- Brother Gustav
- Horus (Eliza)
- Baron of Trilermeriaq
- Baron of Trilermeriaq's lover
- Temporal predator
- Ice Heiress
- Moustached starfish
- Member of the Cephalopodic Coterie
- The Ochenissi Tablet is named after the planet Ochenissi, which was turned into fiction in the Four Seconds of Ochenissi.
- A member of the Cephalopodic Coterie attends the auction.
- The Baron of Trilermeriaq and his lover are both posthumans who resemble "vibrant yellow coral" with "swaying sacks of brain".
- The Eighth Wave fought Faction Paradox skulltroopers in the Frozen Battle of Cratosi Fields.
- A quilled centaur bids the moon of Troth.
- Mother and Father have Faction Paradox masks made from the skulls of a Haast's eagle and an Argentavis, respectively.
- Mother and Father are refered to as the Spirekeepers.
- Cortalian has a Type 75 timeship.
- Apep knows the Great Houses as Sun Builders.
- Cortalian worries that she might end up "on the Homeworld Watch's hit list" if the Great Houses take too much umbrage at her setting up the illegal Auction.
- This story received three preludes in The Book of the Peace Dossier: The Story So Far..., Daring Initiation, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.
- Going Once, Going Twice was accompanied in the author-curated Spotify playlist by the songs Madness by Muse and Mars, the Bringer of War by Gustav Holst.
- Auteur and the Shadow Spire previously featured in PROSE: A Bloody (And Public) Domaine.
- The Homeworlders are referred to as "Chronarchs" (COMIC: 4-D War) and "Watchmakers". (PROSE: Christmas on a Rational Planet)
- The observer effect is discussed. (PROSE: The Infinity Doctors, The Gallifrey Chronicles, The Cosmology of the Spiral Politic, et al.)
- Auteur writes in a circular language that can program history. (TV: Rose, et al.)
- Remembering Mars, Gustav thinks of hives, (AUDIO: Red Dawn, TV: Empress of Mars) swords, and rituals. (PROSE: Legacy, COMIC: Descendance)
- Some people attending the auction heard cries of Peace from angels, (PROSE: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing) "skulled theatre troupes", (PROSE: What Keeps Their Lines Alive) and shadows that "seeped into their bedrooms at night". (PROSE: The Ugly Spirit)
- Cortalian's Servitors are biodata-altered versions of massive, snake-like creatures from a forgotten swamp planet. (PROSE: Daring Initiation)
- Kifah recalls that the War in Heaven has a history with auctions, usually "an exclusive event of a select few Wartime powers and one or two lucky lesser species" over "a bit of weaponry here, an ancient relic there". (PROSE: Alien Bodies)
- Disembodied body parts of Homeworlders are sold with under the tagline "grow your own lord of history". (TV: Journey's End)
- Items on auction include star systems in glass bottles, (PROSE: Dead Romance) red rockets "programmed to warp reality and knock entire cities into a postmodern nightmare", (PROSE: This Town Will Never Let Us Go) a Homeworlder hybrid shrunk into a bottle, (COMIC: Return of the Daleks) and the gear shaft of a bus-shaped timeship that crashed into the City of the Saved. (PROSE: A Hundred Words from a Civil War)
- A technosapien attends the auction. (PROSE: Weapons Grade Snake Oil, Happily Ever After Is a High-Risk Strategy)
- Mars is in a constant state of temporal flux (PROSE: The Ninnies on Putney Common, Iris Wildthyme of Mars) due to Homeworld experiments, the fight between Sutekh and Horus, (AUDIO: The Judgment of Sutekh) and the enemy's overwriting narrative. (PROSE: The Book of the Enemy)
- Following the death of the Eleven-Day Empire, (AUDIO: The Shadow Play) Faction Paradox is scattered and being picked off one by one by forces such as the Houses and the enemy. (PROSE: A Farewell to Arms, [additional sources needed])
- Apep was created as a "failsafe" when the Great Houses, themselves masters of stellar engineering, became frightened of the Osirian Court's potential threat to the engineered sun at the heart of their own empire. (AUDIO: The Ship of a Billion Years)
- Kifah witnesses the forced regeneration of a humanoid Homeworlder into a monstrous form. Such weaponised regenerations were documented by The Book of the War both in regen-inf soldiers and in born members of House Military such as Entarodora. (PROSE: The Book of the War)
- Apep was inoculated with anti-time. (AUDIO: Zagreus)
- Auteur summarises the schism and civil war among the Osirians. (AUDIO: Body Politic, Words from Nine Divinities, et al.)
- One of the Homeworld soldiers begs for orders. (AUDIO: Jubilee, TV: Dalek)