It was a solemn scene of tragedy and death that two figures appeared in the side of the battle against Thanos on Wakanda. The first figure was shapeless, tall and imposing, with shadows and darkness oozing from its very presence. A tattered, inky black cloak wrapped around them, floating softly in a breeze that did not exist. Their very ubiquity seemed to radiate an oppressive feeling of something inevitable, something that no one could avoid. Oppressive darkness crept and radiated from the bottom of their cloak, immediately killing off the grass in a perfect circle around the being.
The second figure was the opposite of the unrelenting entity, with a mass of black curls that seemed to float and defy gravity, with an appearance of the softest of materials, as if someone could run their hands through the softest of silk and come wanting compared to the strands of hair. Underneath the overwhelming mess of hair laid a sharp and aristocratic face blended together from years of nobility lineage that only showcased the most prominent feature that was the second entities eyes, shining orbs of the brightest and strangest green illuminated in the dusty air, seemingly glowing from a distance. The clothing they wore was similar to its companions, a long black cloak that wrapped snuggly around their form that should have been more constricting and suffocating but looked comfortable instead, and illuminated the natural curves of a young woman. Her skin, however, was an unnatural pale color, as if the very life that humanity carried under their skin had been sucked away, leaving a shimmering pale color behind.
“Death,” The woman spoke, frowning softly at the battlefield in front of her. “How many have died today?” With every second that passed, she could feel life forces of both human and not being extinguished with nary a thought or care.
“Altogether?” Death asked softly, peering ceaselessly into the carnage before them. “Over 37 Trillion lives and with more to come if Thanos continues. Only a few of my chosen shall survive, my Merchant, my Servant, the abomination, and of course, you, my Master, will be among the few.”
The woman tsked under her breath at the thought, eyes seemingly glowing brighter. “And this abomination believes he is courting you?”
The entity turned its head to gaze down at the woman as if weighing the thought of answering before the dark hood gave a single nod in answer.
Huffing in agitation at the thought, the woman turned back to the scene before her, watching the monster erase those who opposed him. She watched the teamwork and the tears, the horror and the determination to not give up. “Absolutely unacceptable. I will be invoking my right today.”
A soft chuckle filled with malice was her answer as if she had expected any other answer from her companion. With a decisive nod, the woman stalked forward with intent, seemingly ignoring the various violent actions going on around her. Her bare feet stepping on the ground but not leaving a single print as the shadows that had been seeping from under her companions cloak jumped to her own shadow before radiating on the ground where she stepped. “Of course, Mistress.” It waved a hand, conjuring up a throne-like chair before sitting down, its long, sharp scythe, resting against its chair.
Once the Mistress of Death had walked close enough to be seen by the fighting occupants, she paused briefly. “Thanos!” She called out, hands folded behind her as she walked forward, gaining the attention of the remaining rebellion and the abomination himself. “You wanted my attention, here I am!”
The fighting ceased for a moment as those still left fighting gazed mutely at each other in surprise. Thanos lowered his fist and the human in his grasp, before dropping the man of Iron to the ground, turning to look at the woman who walked without hurry, without a change in her pace towards him.
The purple Eternal-Deviant hybrid tilted his head to the side as he gazed at the shadows at her bare, pale feet that stole the life force of the ground under her. “Death,” he crooned softly, taking a step towards her and ignoring the rebelling humans around him. “I have hoped that you would eventually come to me.” He held out the non-gauntlet covered hand towards her as if to take her hand and whisk her away.
A cruel laugh was his answer as she stopped several feet away from him and for a moment, the world stood still. The humans found their breath caught in their chests, frozen in primal fear as a terrifying visage overtook her attractive features; something haunting and inevitable, like the ending of a day, the goosebumps of something not right, instinctive and yet, merciful in the sweet, final release. Even Thanos took a step back, eyes widening momentarily before a matching cruel grin echoed on his face. “Even I cannot fault you for how you are, Lady Death. To do otherwise would be foolish.” He said.
“Oh, you poor misguided soul.” She whispered softly at him, “You believe that having the gauntlet and those six stones grant you power equal to Death? The arrogance you show is astounding and normally found among the mortal humans.” The woman flicked a hand towards the still frozen humans who instinctively flinched away from her gaze.
“It is not with arrogance that I court you, Mistress Death. It is with pride, for who else could possibly measure up to you but I, now that I control the six infinity stones.” Thanos remarked with a smug smirk as if daring her to prove him wrong.
“I know of one such being,” came an even crueler smile than earlier that spoke of malicious mischief that spread across her supernatural visage, “The Master of Death.”
Immediately, Thanos scowled down at her, hatred singing in his eyes as his hand, which had been still reaching out, immediately closed in a tight fist. “Who dares call themselves Master over Death?”
“I do.” She answered with a wide smile, spreading her hands out as if in mockery. “But I did not hunt for the title, did not court Death to receive it. Instead, I greeted Death like an old friend.” There was a hint of something outside of Thanos’ jealous knowledge as the woman, the self-titled “Master of” Death who turned her head slightly to look behind her. Immediately, Thanos’ gazed came upon a familiar entity reclining in a throne several hundred feet away, with a simple hum, the entity and the throne upon which it lounged on, disappeared; only for the entity to arrive at the side of the woman, one skeletal hand placed delicately into the pale, human hand simply left facing up.
“My Master completed Our riddle, gathered Our prizes and foolishly thought she could give them back.” Death spoke, their voice raspy like someone having escaped a fire before it slowly shifted to the sound of jackals tearing apart flesh from bone, hair-raising and grueling to listen to, “We chose our companion, she did not choose Us.”
The titan's nostrils flared at the thought as the hatred in his soul festered toward the woman who Death claimed as their own. “If she doesn't exist, how can she be your Master?” He raised his hand to snap his fingers only for a sudden whoosh of air to pass by him. He blinked in surprise, gaze dropping toward his hand only to startle at the sight of a nub from his elbow down. His hand and the gauntlet now rested in the small arms of the woman across from him. It took a moment more before the pain slammed into him with all the subtlety of a spaceship to the face as unimaginable pain erupted throughout his body. It felt like knives under his skin, like his nerves were being fried continuously without reprieve or relief.
Just barely above the overwhelming pain that made it hard to focus, to think, as needles stabbed simultaneously over his body, he heard, “Death,” the woman softly crooked to her companion, “Please help yourself to his soul while I begin undoing his mistake.”
“Oh Master,” the slithering tone of hissing rattlesnakes caressed the air around them before blackness overtook Thanos vision, “You spoil Us. We have looked forward to tasting this corrupt one's soul.”
Hariel Lilian Potter, The Master of Death, Slayer of Basilisks, Girl-Who-Lived, Youngest Hogwarts Seeker in a Century, TriWizard Champion of 1994, Woman-Who-Conquered, Defender of Justice and Witch, wrinkled her nose in distaste of the hand bleeding freely in front of her and shook the gauntlet until the hand fell to the ground. With that done, the witch looked back towards the humans, who had yet to look away or move. Huffing at their delicate sensibilities, she called out, “Who among you is called the Merchant of Death?”
The man in a metal suit, painted red and gold, reminding the witch of her own house at Hogwarts, stood up from where he had been thrown to the side and walked toward her. “Uhh, I guess that would be me.”
“Merchant, when I place my hand inside this, you will place yours on top of the stones. I want you to think of every person you know who has been taken, every place that had been destroyed.”
“You do know I have a name right? Iron Man? Tony Stark? I'm sure you have heard of me.” He asked, raising an eyebrow in an attempt to feel more comfortable with the fact that the woman who controlled Death was speaking to him.
The deadpan stare he received back did not help his nerves as he watched the ethereal woman slide her hand inside the massive glove and for each stone to begin glowing as soon as it was placed on her hand. “I care not for the lives of mortals. Focus Merchant, on those whose lives have been lost.”
Tony Stark blinked in surprise before closing his eyes as he placed his hand on top of the gauntlet. Immediately he felt as if he was being sucked inside his own mind, suddenly appearing through flashes of distant memories: vague sounds, smells, images rushed past him, momentarily overwhelming the superhero before a lightweight touch of a hand on his shoulder caused him to flinch away in surprise.
He turned slightly to gaze at the woman who now stood next to him. “Tony Stark, Man of Iron, Merchant of Death,” the woman spoke softly yet clearly. “Three times you have avoided Death.” A familiar scene of the convey exploding and though he had been unconscious for it, he watched as the makeshift surgeons in the terrorist group put the first reactor in his chest. The scene swirled away in a flurry of colors before another scene arose, one where he is taking the nuke through the portal, once again, as soon as it ended, another began playing, when Captain America slammed his shield against his chest. A flash of disappointment, anger and something unknown but equally negative flares through him. “How interesting.” The woman pauses, gaze fixed on the scene. “I wonder if the Servant has also escaped three times.” A soft hum filled the air before that ethereal gaze focused back on him. “Merchant, when the time comes, I shall personally greet you. For it is not often that one is favored by Death. Besides the Servant and yourself, there is only one other, a mischievous young woman by the name of Hela. Death granted her a boon,” Here, the woman paused before intensely staring into his eyes, “My boon to you is the return of Earth to how it was supposed to be before the abomination began destroying everything. For what is Death, without Life.”
The moment the words crossed her lips, Tony was thrown out of his own mind and could only stare wide-eyed as the world shifted and seemed to pause before a sudden explosion of noise, color, light, covered the thoughts, vision and hearing of everything. And then, as if Thanos hadn't wiped everything from existence, those who had been lost returned to the same spot, dazed and confused but in perfect health. The land sprouted new life among the barren landscape, with grass and plants and trees growing quickly, bugs and birds and mammals appearing.
Tony could only choke back his smartass reply as a confused Peter Parker appeared, standing only feet away from the superhero. The billionaire couldn't have stopped himself if he tried, which he wouldn't have, as he suddenly jerked towards the teenager, his body speeding up before he flung himself at the kid, wrapping his arms around him and holding him tight.
Around him, he could hear the sounds of joy as those lost were reunited with those who cared for them. It took several long moments before Tony remembered that there was someone who had caused this all to happen. He spun around, blinking in surprise at the empty space where the woman had stood. Despite not seeing her, he couldn't help but glance up at the clear blue sky and whisper, “Thank you.”
Death turned to look at their companion, “What do you think of Our Merchant, My Master?”
“You have a thing for sequences of three’s, don't you?” She teased back, eyes flinging mischievously.
The entity stiffened momentarily, “We know not what you imply.” It said, gliding back towards its domain and turning it's cloaked back to their companion.
“Sure you don't. So it will just be a massive coincidence if your Servant has also escaped your clutches three times.”
Death sniffed imperiously, “My Servant has escaped more times than that. He frequently kills himself to flirt with Us.”
That brought the Master of Death up short, “What?” She paused as she considered the statement. “Really?”
“It is naught but the truth, my Master.”
“Huh, good for you.” The woman patted the entity on the shoulder, “When can I meet him?”
Death paused, turning their hood to stare at the woman who only gazed back with mischief clear across her face. “No.”
“I promise to be good.”
“I promise to keep my teasing to a minimum.”
“How does next Friday sound to you? I don't think there are any wars going on that day, we should be free.” The woman completely railroaded the entity whenever it tried to interject, “Dinners sounds good, somewhere nice where we can sit down and eat and get to know one another. Maybe we can even invite Merchant along with the next dinner. Make it a regular family get together, that sounds good.” The woman walked off, speaking to herself and making plans, leaving the entity of Death bewildered in her wake.