Another quiet day at the banks of the River Styx, he thought. The warden of the afterlife idly leaned against the withered remains of a long dead tree, staring towards the crimson sky. He was watching and waiting. What for? The next soul, of course. He was the only one who could open the gate to the next life, after all. To escort the departed to their afterlives and harvest the souls of the dying; this was his one driving task, his duty, his fate. He went by many names and guises, the Grim Reaper, the Angel of Death, Charon, Thanatos, all mere masks invented by the mortals who feared his visage. He had forgotten his given name long ago, as he was the first mortal ever to find this passage to the various heavens and hells that awaited on the opposite bank. He gave himself permission to use all of the names given to him by the countless passing souls. The most common name he was given, the one he thought fit him best, was Death.
“Death”, he felt, was an ironic name at best. He was neither dead, nor alive at all. A vagabond, forever caught on the precipice of two planes, belonging to both and neither at once. As the first to die, he could not experience for himself what awaited those who came here, not until the last living creature, on the last of the boundless worlds, crosses the Styx. Until that day, Death would bear his infinite duty with the all stoic solitude he had become enslaved to for all these immeasurable years.
In his time watching all manner of mortals fall onto his riverbank, he was most fascinated by the races of Man: those strange little primates with such desire as to rival the gods. They certainly were the most defiant of the creations of the gods, constantly pushing their knowledge and abilities beyond their limits. Oh, how it amused him to watch them attempt to master their universe.
In crossing the river, he would relive the decedent’s lives with them, allowing the soul one last look at their former life. So often their brief triumphs and ephemeral victories would be replaced with even more ambition, and it charmed Death to no end to see their myriad deaths, to experience their tales and knowledge as they passed to their afterlives. He had seen mighty warriors, killed by the end of a blade. He had seen simple street-folk, struck down quietly by time. He had seen touted heroes and despised villains, lords and peasants, simple farmers and quiet hunters, all with different stories and ends. Indeed, the race of Man was an intriguing one, to say the least.
Then, there was that one human, that woman who dared to violate the laws of mortality. To acquire a status of godhood was a taboo forbidden to all but the most worthy of the most worthy. Though no god himself, often wondered if perhaps he was one in all but title. But even the gods cannot escape the inevitable, and their tales were almost as interesting as Man’s. Even so, in all of his time as the warden of Styx, only that one sorceress had succeeded in resisting him.
And she was standing right by him. Again. That defiant little-
“You seem angry today, Death,” he could hear her dulcet voice from his right, “Don’t you know stress is bad for your health?”
Death ignored her. He had given up on that one long ago. She called herself Famira in her mortal days, though he hardly cared what she went by now. The woman was a dark-haired, green-eyed, fair-skinned sorceress, appearing to be a young adult. Uncommonly attractive, by the standards of Man. Death was not the best at determining human age by their flesh. He knew far better by their mannerisms. Not that Famira interested him at all. In fact, she was beginning to irritate him. Again.
“Don’t be like that,” she cooed, moving directly in front of him, “You can’t hate me forever.”
He barely spared the raven-haired sorceress a glance. “I have held grudges spanning many millennia before. You have seen nothing, mortal.” He spat the last word with a venomous loathing.
Oh, how he envied her. Though now transcendent, she had retained the form and memories of her mortal time. Death, meanwhile had long forgotten who or what he was. Lately, he had adopted the form of an ancient, skeletal human male wearing nothing but a midnight-black cloak and wielding an obsidian scythe. He had used this form a lot when harvesting the souls of Man. He had hoped that this form, one that struck instant fear into Man, would convince Famira that the opposite bank of the Styx was where she belonged. She never listened, of course.
Turning away in dismay, he stared across the Styx again, following the black waters with his gaze. He flicked a pebble into the dark waters, watching as countless hands emerged and scrabbled and swiped at the stone. Staring out at the ensuing tangle of limbs, he contemplated why Famira had come here. Where had he gone wrong? Why had she and she alone defied the fate of all life? Death could think of only one answer, and he did not like the idea.
Maybe, she was like him.