The Death God in White
The arrival of a higher being in the first world was not subtle.
One-winged Lutcha stepped through the portal, which Megimon was strengthening with nearly every bit of his might, and a sound like thunder rolled across the desert. The atmospheric magic shuddered like a struck gong.
The scrubby plants and pitiful reeds around the little stream withered or burned or burst into bloom, depending on which random thread of the pixie’s taint touched them first.
“Well, well." Lutcha stretched her thin arms over her head. Her faceted eyes reflected the bright sun. “This is new.”
“It’s temporary,” Megimon said quickly. “We’re in the middle of nowhere, but this world doesn’t need something like you in it for long.”
“It’s niiiiicee here,” Lutcha said, arching like a cat and shivering with pleasure. “I thought the first world didn’t have much magic in it, but this place is definitely better than our swamp. What a pleasant chaotica.”
“Ah…I believe we’re standing on an unmapped convergence point. Most of the world isn’t like this.”
The pixie snorted. “Stupid human,” she said fondly. "This is no convergence point."
“Whatever the case, I called you here to ask for your help. If you can.” Megimon gestured to the naked, twisted form of the boy at his feet. The child’s breath was shallow and too fast now. He didn’t seem to be capable of anything resembling speech.
Lutcha stepped closer and bent over the boy curiously, her dark green hair brushing his skin.
“It’s dying,” she reported. “Badly.”
“I noticed,” said Megimon. “Can you do something for him? I’m aware it’s not exactly your purview, but…”
Lutcha sniffed the boy. Then, she tilted her head, and a disturbing smile spread over her face. “Sylph.”
“An aerial. A wind spirit. One has tried to break into being through this small human. His mana pathways are fascinating.”
“He’s possessed by a demon?” Megimon said, shocked.
“No, you fool. Didn’t I just say the spirit tried to give birth to itself. It didn’t succeed.” She gestured dismissively. “Anyway, proper demons would be offended to hear you class a sylph among them. It’s like confusing the spark from a flint with a bolt of lightning.”
Megimon had scanned the village with his magic. The ruins were full of corpses, stripped to nothing but bones. “Everyone who lived here is dead,” he told the pixie. “I thought perhaps the shredding plague had crossed the continent to find this place, and the villagers had no immunity to it whatsoever. But I suppose this explains it better.”
Higher beings could sometimes force their way into existence on this plane. Megimon was clear on that much even if he didn’t understand how the nothingness beyond the third world could spontaneously develop a will and become something more. The thought was too uncanny to ponder for long, even for a sorcerer.
Historically, a catastrophe was the result of such an intrusion into the first world. Beings like sylphs needed to consume vast amounts of life and magic to fully develop. Cities worth.
But thanks to the small size of this village, the general dearth of mana in the Erberen, and the absence of even any significant plant life…well, this was a disaster that had died before it was born.
He heard Lutcha giggle, and he looked down to see the pixie prodding the dying boy’s chest. “Some of his pathways have exploded. Magically, he’s just goo inside. Actually, a few other important things inside him are goo, too. That’s a nasty toxin that’s killing him. We should take a sample back with us. This wouldn't be entirely useless even in the second world.”
“I called you here to help me with the child, Lutcha. Not torment him and collect exotic poisons.”
The pixie poked the boy a few more times, then stood up. “I guess he’s the soul the Disc sent you to fetch? Since I don’t smell any other souls around here.”
“Someone threw the Disc into the flycarp pond,” Megimon said with a glare. “Do you know how long it will take me to fix the blasted thing?”
“Is it broken?” the pixie seemed surprised. “I didn’t throw it very hard.”
“Obviously you did something to it. It’s not supposed to find living children.”
“I watched you attune it. It’s set to find souls of a certain age with unusually high planar permanence, low sense of self, and moderately anomalous fates,” said Lutcha. “You didn’t actually tune it to find souls that had already detached from their corporeal hosts. It’s just that a soul usually doesn’t begin to lose its sense of itself until the body has died.”
Realization struck Megimon. “You mean the sylph trying to break through must have…”
“Yes, the boy’s soul is probably no longer sound. It should be in flux, almost as if he’s already died. What’s surprising is that the Disc didn’t alert us to him months ago, when it first happened. It must be the fate component. Perhaps he was supposed to live on, but now that he’s been gooified, it's reporting the anomaly.”
Poor child, thought Megimon. He’d been at the center of the disaster that had no doubt slaughtered everyone he knew. When Lutcha heals him, I’ll take him to one of the churches of Parneda.
The churches of the holy blacksmith were known for their compassion toward those suffering from mental trauma. No doubt they were badly overextended right now, with the plague sweeping the south every other year and battles breaking out between the more powerful family lines in the north and east. But Megimon would have his family make a generous donation so that the boy could grow up in relative comfort.
Of course, that depended on him being made well in the first place.
“Now that you’re done being fascinated by the boy, Lutcha, will you help?”
She shook her head and sighed. “Honestly, I can’t believe you risked tainting the world to call me here for this, Megimon Orellen. You really are the silliest sorcerer I’ve ever met. Couldn’t you just have taken care of it yourself?”
“Clearly I couldn’t,” he said stiffly. Lutcha knew he wasn’t a healer. She knew he was useless at any spells outside of the narrow skillset he’d spent his life mastering. She didn’t need to rub it in.
“Well, I’ll take care of it for you then, dear,” she said. “So long as you buy me better tea next time you go shopping.”
The pixie reached down and swept the boy’s dark hair away from his face with surprising gentleness. “Little human,” she said. “Can you hear me?”
She was infusing him with a bit of her magic to strengthen his mind. His eyelids fluttered open.
Megimon gave him an encouraging smile.
Elph began to cry.
The death god was here, wearing the long white robes he always wore in the stories. In his hand he carried a large golden circle of metal with strange symbols engraved on it. It didn't look like the golden blades Elph had imagined, but that was okay. Because the god had come.
Another face—tiny and pale green with frightening eyes—was very close to his own.
The lizard god. She had to be. They had both come from Mount Sayar together.
“Please,” he said, his voice little more than a whisper. “Please. Is it over?”
“You’ll be out of pain soon,” said the death god. “Lutcha will help you.”
He was…smiling. He wasn’t angry at Elph then. That was good.
“I didn’t kill any of your children,” Elph whispered to the lizard woman. “I’m sorry I took their tails, but I was careful not to kill them.”
The small green god tilted her head, then shrugged. “Thanks, I guess. Hey…is there anything you wish you could've change about your life?”
“I wish my family was still here.”
“Right,” said the lizard god. “But that one’s kind of out of the question. I meant more…did you ever wish you were a red-head? Or that your front teeth were larger? Or that you were born a female human instead of a male one?”
“Lutcha, stop picking on the child,” the god of death said, annoyance in his voice.
Elph didn’t understand at all, but it was surely wrong not to answer the lizard woman in some way. “I’m a boy,” he said. “And I don’t care much about my hair or my teeth.”
The god’s green face looked bored. That wasn’t good. You couldn’t risk angering such a being.
“Fanna had curls. Nobody else in the village did. When we were younger, I was jealous.” Elph hoped that was interesting enough. He knew his mind wasn't working very well right now. His thoughts seemed slower than they should have.
Small fingers patted his cheek. The fingers weren’t rough, but the muscles of his face still spasmed. He whimpered.
“We can’t leave it any longer,” said the god of death in a quiet voice. “He’s suffered enough.”
“I agree.” Green fingers drifted lower. “Child who almost became a sylph, look me up if you ever ascend to the next world. We’ll get drunk together. I’ll even buy the first round.”
Then, with a terrible strength that made no sense given her size, the lizard god snapped Elph’s neck.
Megimon bellowed with shock. “Lutcha! No!”
“What?” said the pixie, frowning over her shoulder. “Did you want me to do it some other way? A broken neck seemed efficient enough. And I even said kind things to him first.”
The sorcerer stared at her, his arms hanging limply at his sides. “I called you here to heal him,” he said. “But you…you just…murdered…”
The pixie’s mouth made a surprised “O”. Then she laughed. “Wow! I just assumed you were to much of a tenderbelly to extract the soul yourself. I misread the situation.”
She stood up and stretched her arms over her head. “Next time I’ll ask first. But really, if you want people to do something ridiculous and time consuming and probably impossible, you have to tell them, Megimon. How was I supposed to know you were in the mood for a miracle instead of the practical solution?”
She clapped her hands together and beamed down at the dead boy. "Now...suck out his soul, bottle it, and deliver it to your mad descendents." She paused for a beat, then added, "And remind the crypt guardians about the curly hair. His next life is bound to be even shorter than this one, all things considered, so he might as well get something pleasant out of it."