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The Servant of Time

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What happens when mortals cease their living? Some cultures believe that their souls either go to a bed of clouds in the sky amongst the angels or a lava sauna in the bowels of the earth with demons; this, of course, dependent on how much of a douchebag one was in life. Other cultures believe in reincarnation and that life just repeats itself. And some still hold the belief that the only way to cross to the other side is to be ferried there by another; the kingdom of Doma with their Phantom Train and its Cadaver Conductor come to mind.

In most beliefs all along the multiverses, this being, this person taking the souls of the once living to the other side, is usually described as tall, foreboding, thin as bone, shrouded in robes and a cowl made of darkness and mist, armed with the choice weapon of medieval hay farmers. He is a god known by many names: Gan Ceann, the Cypress Arborist, Director of the Invisible Choir, the Dark Angel, Right Hand of Hades, the Grim Reaper. His most famous name, and the one by which He is known to most, is Death, the Harvester of Sorrows and Reaper of Souls.

Despite these emotive labels that mankind has given Him, emotions do not exist to Him as is He neither dead nor alive, just as He always was and always will be. He can be nowhere to be found and, sometimes, everywhere one looked. Death can be merciless in taking loved ones too soon. Death can also be compassionate when taking some away from their long-term suffering. As well, Death can be forgiving, allowing a lucky sufferer of Déjà Vu a second chance. But again, for reiteration's sake, emotions are lost upon Death. The living lack the proper vocabulary to describe He who Death is and The Duty which Death does.

Along with Life, Death is a servant to the Goddess of Time. Where Life breathes souls into mortal existence, Death leads them back to whence they came, faithfully doing The Duty in harvesting and reaping as Time dictates. Never is He late nor is He ever early, always there to meet the newly deceased upon their moment of arrival into His Domain, the Realm Sandwiched Between Realms. It is a simple realm of sand, approximately three meters or three yards in diameter, whichever happens to come first, and shrouded in the lack of light and darkness. A void in which no living or dead could survive before going insane, each new arrival having their own space within the realm created just for them before its destruction upon their departure. The Duty demanded it in case of malfunctions in the system. Rarely did that happen, but it was always better to be prepared than not.

It was in this realm within realms that Death first came into contact with the one known as Kefka Palazzo, Former Court Jester of Vector, Former Ruler of Gaia. Kefka was well known among the gods as a mere mortal who had had the avocados to dare usurp power from them. The frightening part, if Death could feel fear, was that he had succeeded in that. But like all mortals, his hubris had gotten the best of him and allowed him to be defeated, killed unmercifully by those he had wronged. Death cared not for what the man had done in life; such things were beneath His notice. The only thing that Death cared for was the successful ferrying of spirits, His Duty.

The glare that Death felt radiating off of Kefka was angry enough that it could have sent mortal men into a panic. At least, that was what He assumed. He showed no fear and merely stood His ground in a relaxed manner, scythe handle buried into the sand at His feet for support. He had no fear as there was nothing for Him to fear, aside from perhaps Himself, but that was beside the point. This man before Him was a mere mortal and a dead one at that. The worst he could do was be annoying.

Kefka cleared his throat rather dramatically and pointed to his large curled shoes. "There's sand on my boots," he said with the tone of a spoiled child demanding attention.

INDEED, THERE IS, Death replied.THAT TENDS TO HAPPEN IN THIS REALM OF SAND. MY APOLOGIES.

Kefka forcefully stamped a foot into the sand, causing more to shower on his feet. "Well?! Do something about it!"

THERE IS SAND EVERYWHERE. IT WILL BE A FUTILE EFFORT.

"Futile or not, I want this sand gone from my boots!"

I FULLY UNDERSTAND YOUR CONCERN. THIS IS WHY I GO BONEFOOT. SAND JUST GETS INTO EVERYTHING.

"Idiot! I don't tolerate insubordination! Lick them clean!"

DEATH ANSWERS TO NO ONE ASIDE FROM TIME, BUT, IN THAT RESPECT, EVERYONE MUST EVENTUALLY ANSWER TO HER. ALSO, THAT'S VERY UNHYGIENIC. YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE PEOPLE'S FEET HAVE BEEN.

Kefka cackled like a lunatic. Strange. Most souls gained a clear head upon losing the baggage that flesh usually brought with it. Perhaps one Kefka Palazzo was that one in a million chance; the damaged soul. Becoming a mortal god had a tendency to do that to people. Maybe he had been like that from the very beginning. Not that it really mattered. "I am your god, slave! You answer to me now," he snarled with balled fists. "Take me back to my tower! Several idiots require my swift revenge!" His crazed laughter once again filled the void.

Death merely continued to stand His ground and silently wondered if perhaps Mister Palazzo had not heard Him. Perhaps Mister Palazzo didn't understand his current situation. Perhaps Mister Palazzo didn't care. Death produced a gravelly sigh and leaned heavily upon his scythe. He really disliked dealing with the difficult ones. They'd give Him a headache if He had a head that could ache.

I AM AFRAID THAT CANNOT HAPPEN, MISTER PALAZZO, He said. AS I SAID, I DO NOT ANSWER TO YOU. YOU ARE NOT A GOD. YOU ARE DEAD.

Kefka sputtered nonsensical nonsense like a backfiring motor vehicle filled to the brim with the wrong type of fuel. "I can't die, numbskull!" he shouted. "I am a god! Gods can't die!" He threw out his hand as if he had thrown something that plainly wasn't quite there. He looked at his empty hand as if puzzled by the lack of what should have been.

YOU ARE CORRECT. GODS CANNOT DIE. WE SIMPLY ARE AND ALWAYS WILL BE. YOU, ON THE OTHER HAND, ARE A MORTAL. MORTALS DIE. FUN FACT OF LIFE.

"My magic!" Kefka growled. "What have you done to my magic?!"

I HAVE DONE NOTHING TO YOUR MAGIC, MISTER PALAZZO, AS IT WAS NOT YOURS TO BEGIN WITH. I LACK THAT KIND OF POWER. I AM MERELY HERE TO TAKE YOU TO YOUR FINAL DESTINATION. ONLY TIME CAN ALLOW THE MAGIC TO RETURN TO THE PLANET.

"My final destination is to return to my tower so that I might cast My Judgment upon those pesky Returners! Especially on that bimbo Celes!" Kefka cackled once again, apparently ignoring everything that Death had to say to him. "I will have my sweet, sweet revenge upon all who opposed me! It is my destiny!"

Death tapped His bony fingers upon the wooden handle of His weapon, the hollow clacking the only sound echoing in this mini-realm (purely by design of course). He felt as if this argument was getting Him nowhere. This man definitely was a damaged soul; no two bones about it, a glitch in the system of souls. Unfortunately, there was no fix, correction, or repair for such a thing. Death would give Kefka one more chance to see the truth before drastic measures would be taken.

YOU CANNOT HAVE YOUR REVENGE. THAT IS YOUR DESTINY. YOU ARE NO MORE. YOU HAVE CEASED TO BE, EXPIRED AND BEREFT OF LIFE, NOW ON A JOURNEY TO MEET THE CHOIR INVISIBLE. YOU KICKED THE BUCKET, AS THEY SAY, AS YOU SHUFFLED OFF THE MORTAL COIL. YOUR CURTAIN HAS DRAWN BRINGING YOUR STORY TO A CLOSE.

This seemed to catch Kefka's attention. He silently worked his jaw as he processed this information, his eyes changing from the color of anger to that of disbelief. "I'm dead?" he finally sputtered out like a meek and lost child.

YOU ARE AN EX-LIVING PERSON; CURRENTLY LOCATED IN DEATH'S DOMAIN.

"No!" Kefka growled, his expression making a complete one-eighty. "I refuse to accept this! You! Bring me back to life!"

Death shook His head. WHILE IT IS TRUE THAT LIFE DOES INDEED COME AFTER DEATH, IT IS IN THE SAME WAY THAT MOSS AND FUNGUS SPRING FROM A DOWNED TREE. I NOR LIFE CAN PUT THE TREE BACK TOGETHER. THAT WOULD REQUIRE THE GODDESS OF PUTTING THINGS TOGETHER, BUT SHE CLAIMS SHE IS ALLERGIC TO FAUNA AND THAT CREATURES ARE FILLED WITH TOO MANY OOZING FLUIDS.

Kefka growled once again, this time with an animalistic tone, and lunged at Death with the intent of maiming. But, as such, one cannot harm Death. That would be like dividing by zero; it simply cannot be done. Sure, you can beat a dead horse, but you're beating the horse, not Death. Beating the horse meant nothing to Death. In this case, He had the last laugh; He had already taken the horse's spirit elsewhere. Because of this fact, Kefka simply passed through as if the inert Death hadn't been there and landed in an explosion of sand. "You!" he spat. "I blame you for this!"

Death, again, shook His head. I HAVE DONE NOTHING TO YOU. IT JUST IS THAT IT IS YOUR TIME. ALL MORTALS MUST COME TO THIS POINT. KEFKA PALAZZO, COME WITH ME TO MEET YOUR MAKER.

Kefka stood and defiantly wiped the sand from his painted face. "No! I refuse!"

VERY WELL. I WILL GIVE YOU A CHOICE.

"You will take me back to my tower!"

YOU CAN EITHER COME WITH ME AND MOVE ON. OR YOU CAN STAY HERE IN THIS POCKET DIMENSION WITH NO ONE AND NOTHING BUT SAND.

"I refuse both! Return me to my tower, and I might find it in my heart to not kill you!"

THE ONLY GRATIFICATION I SEEK IS TO DO MY DUTY. I HAVE TRIED TO PERSUADE YOU OTHERWISE, BUT I SEE THAT YOU HAVE MADE YOUR DECISION.

"Wait. What?"

FAREWELL, KEFKA PALAZZO. MAY YOUR ETERNITY SPENT IN THIS REALM WITHIN THE REALM SANDWICHED BETWEEN THE REALMS HELP YOU REALIZE THAT YOU HAVE MADE THE WRONG DECISION.

"You can't leave me here! I am a god!"

YOU JUST KEEP RIGHT ON THINKING THAT.

And with that, Death turned on his bony heel and made his way to the black, invisible boundary of the realm. He raised his skeletal hand to open the portal and hesitated when Kefka spoke again. "Get back here! I haven't finished with you!" There was no hope of Mister Palazzo seeing reason. Death shook his head and passed through the barrier. As he did, he could hear the resulting temper tantrum. "Son of a submariner! I am the god of all gods! For your incompetence, I will destroy you and everything you stand for! And there's still sand on my boots, you dunderhead!"

The system for the souls that the gods had put into place at the beginning of Time's reign was nearly perfect. Life breathed the souls into mortality and Death took the souls away when Time dictated it was necessary. Where they were before Life and where they went after Him were not His concern. Unfortunately, there was a small glitch in the system, something of which Kefka Palazzo, as well as the others, reminded Him. The broken souls. Whether it was Life who broke their psyches or Death Himself, no one could tell. It, like the Gods, just was. All Death could do was place the pocket dimension containing the damaged soul within an hourglass and carry it on His robes along with the five others He had encountered up to this point.

If there were one emotion that Death could feel, it would be pity. In fact, He wished He could feel for those caught in the sands of His hourglasses. He wanted to pity them. No one needed to spend an eternity alone in the dark, buried under the sand, no matter how horrible or broken they were in Life. But, as such, there was no emotion in Death. All He could do was carry on with His Duty and carry His hourglasses along with Him to serve as a reminder of those He had failed to ferry across.

Kefka Palazzo made six.