Inés looked around. She wasn’t sure where she was. It was largely made up of blank space. There was a rose-covered arch nearby with soft cushions laid out beneath. An androgynous figure with a beautiful face, shimmering white hair and a dark cloak was lounging on the cushions.
Inés moved over. “Hey, can you tell me where…” the figure looked over at her, a kind smile on their face. Their crimson eyes seemed to look right through. her. “Where we are?” Inés managed.
We are between.
The voice was somehow both masculine and feminine. Not only that, but it seemed to come from everywhere at once. The stranger’s lips hadn’t even moved when they spoke.
“Between?” Inés asked. “Between what?”
We are between the world of the fallen and those who have yet to fall.
“So… I died,” Inés muttered.
Not as of yet. There is still hope for you. One of the Gods has given the clerics great power to save you. However, you may yet cross, should there be any mistake on their part or should the power be not quite sufficient.
“Athena, huh?” Inés smiled.
“So, this is some kind of near-death experience,” Inés stated.
Or a near-life experience. Which one remains to be seen.
“Whatever,” she said. “Why are you here? Who are you?”
I am the emissary. I guide the souls of mortals and half-mortals alike from one world to the next.
“Cryptic bugger, aren’t you?” Inés stated. “Just so you know, I won’t beg for my life. Even if you are the emissary or whatever.”
Just as well. It is not my duty to determine whether you should live or die. Your decisions, the skills of the clerics, the power granted them by your benefactor & the Fates themselves shall determine whether your journey should continue or whether you will join the fallen.
“I don’t suppose there’s any way I can help them from here,” Inés said.
One way. You must stay strong of mind. Stay determined. Should you lose sight of the desire to live while in this realm, you will surely be lost. The figure beckoned to the cushions. Please sit while you wait. Nothing will be served by you being uncomfortable.
“All right, thanks,” Inés said. She sat opposite the figure and tried to think of all the reasons she had to live.
Serena watched the clerics working from a distance. Inés looked so peaceful, almost like she was just sleeping and would wake up in a moment feeling just fine. It was hard to believe that her condition was so precarious.
“You should rest up, Miss Priestess,” Captain Omec said. “There’s nothing you can do to help.”
“I know,” Serena said. “But I want to be near her right now.”
“You two are close,” Omec framed it as an observation rather than a question.
Serena nodded. “Truth is, she’s the first person I’ve ever loved… romantically. I… I don’t want to lose her. I… really want to travel with her more. Talk to her more and…”
“There, there,” Omec said. “Dry your eyes. She’s strong. Stronger than anyone I’ve ever met. I’m sure she’ll pull through.”
“I suppose,” Serena said. But she wasn’t convinced. Her mind kept going back to her conversation with Sylvie that seemed like it had been so long ago and those words she still feared. Mortals who are granted divine strength don’t live very long.
“Hey,” Inés said. “Can you really afford to lounge around? I mean, if you’re the emissary who leads people to the world of the dead, shouldn’t you be leading a whole bunch of people right now? People die every minute, don’t they?”
I am with them as I am with you.
“You’re saying that you’re omnipresent?”
If you must put a label on it.
“Do you ever feel bad about taking people over? Like, maybe they should have another chance?”
It is not within my power to grant life. Nor do I take it. When the time comes for that inevitable journey, I am simply there. I will guide those who needs must take the journey with a kind smile and, should they be required, words of encouragement.
“At least you’re a kind emissary of death,” Inés muttered.
The figure rose, looking down at Inés.
“What?” Inés asked.
It’s decided. They held out their hand. Come.
“Fine,” Inés said. She rose on her own. “So, where am I going?”
The figure smiled, kindly. We two will meet again, eventually. Although you may not remember this. Until then, I will walk alongside you, as I do all who live.
“Thanatos!” Inés sat upright. She was surrounded by relieved faces. “Where?”
“Take it easy,” one said. “You were badly hurt, but the Gods, in all their wisdom, granted us the power to save you.”
“But you still aren’t well,” a second added. “You must rest. We’ll bring your friends to see you. Please, rest.”