The Dragonslayer
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Souls swept by in rapid succession. They were like a river as they traveled past Judah, who sat off to the side of the road. It waited patiently as it had for many years, looking for souls that could not find the path forward. The most common cause for this was unfinished business, but souls not realizing that they were dead was a close second. Judah was one of many workers who tirelessly guided the lost back onto the road so that they may find their way to The Realms.

For most of its existence, Judah had been a silhouette. It took on an ethereal appearance not unlike the Sovereign that it served. Althkyr’s contract involved giving up one’s form in order to gain the power to transform matter and energy. The limits of such power were strict, however, and Judah was usually just a shadow lingering in nothingness. It hung in the void between worlds, working to pluck souls out and save them from falling too deeply into that space.

After many cycles of this mindless work, Judah observed a soul fight back against the river of souls. A small boy swam back forcefully through the barrier and vanished into the light. Judah had not witnessed such a thing before and felt encouraged to investigate. It hesitated briefly due to being under clear instructions to only venture into the living realms with permission. Yet, Judah had already broken such rules many times over its long life and had never been approached about it. In fact, it had been several cycles now since Judah had spoken to anything other than a human soul.

Thus, the shadow crept forward along the road. It pressed itself through the barrier. The light tore and blew away at its formlessness, but it pushed through. The Afterlife vanished and was rapidly replaced with the Earth. Sol shone from above, but it did not harm Judah. The shadow crept along the Earth like a serpent, seeking that single soul. Given the multitude of souls lost to the void even when Judah was working, it was sure that its absence would not be noticed.

It found the soul traveling with a living man. The boy followed the man wherever he went. Judah watched them visit various homes over many days, then a funeral. Everyone wept often, especially the man, but the boy never broke down. He was usually smiling, and he repeatedly tried to hold the man’s hand as they went about their days together.

After the funeral, the man went hiking in the mountains with the boy’s ashes in a black urn. The boy sometimes walked, and at other times floated, beside the man as they climbed upward. It was then that Judah decided that it would approach. The shadow contorted and twisted until it had taken a shape appealing to people of the boy’s era and culture. Then, Judah crept out from the trees and appeared before the pair.

“Oh!” The boy exclaimed. The man did not respond, continuing to march up the trail. “Are you an angel?”
“Yes,” Judah lied in a calm voice. “I have come to take you home, little one.”
“To Heaven?” The boy asked.
“Yes,” It lied once again.
“I can’t go yet! Papa needs me!”

The boy pointed up at the man, who was drawing further and further away. Judah watched with a gentle smile perfectly placed upon its face.

“He will understand. There are others in your family who have already passed who would love to see you.”
“I don’t know anyone like that, Mr. Angel,” the boy replied. He had a firm tone as he raised fists up at Judah. “Papa is my best friend, and he is the only person in my life who didn’t abandon me, so I won’t abandon him!”

Judah was surprised. Most souls that lingered in the living realms were absorbed by the environment. Those that could maintain their self of sense tended to become destructive and were eventually hunted down and erased by living humans. To see one remain whole and not become malignant was quite interesting to the shadow.

Before Judah could respond, the man fell to his knees. The boy promptly vanished before quickly manifesting beside the man. The man was trembling as he held the urn of ashes to his chest, bitter tears falling from his face. The boy hugged the man from behind, pressing his face against the man’s back.

“It’s okay Papa. I’m here. I’ll never leave you.”

The man’s breathing gradually steadied until he was calm once again. Judah could see through his mortal form and behold the twinkling of his soul. It watched as the man’s darker shades were lightened in the presence of the boy’s soul. Judah could hardly believe that it was witnessing the rejuvenation of a human soul by another human soul. Judah had been taught that something like this should be something that only Sovereigns were capable of.

Judah considered reaping the boy’s soul in that moment. It was ultimately its job to put souls back onto the conveyer belt and send them on to the next worker. However, the sight of this miracle prevented it from acting. Instead, it merely watched as the man rose and continued to march upward. The boy beckoned for Judah to follow, and then both entities trailed beside the man.

A short time later, the man finally reached the mountaintop. It was not among the tallest, but all three of them could see the forest sprawl out in every direction for many miles. The noon sun blasted heat from above and the cool wind chilled the man’s bones. Even so, the man resolutely faced these challenges with a brave glare. He scattered the boy’s ashes across the mountaintop and into the wind as both the shadow and the boy watched.

“Your father loves you very much,” Judah remarked.
“Yeah. I love him, too,” the boy grinned. “He took care of me when I got too sick to go to school anymore. I was stuck in bed for months. My friends visited once, but only because their parents made them. Papa was the only one really there for me. He stayed home and played games with me.”
“What was your favorite game?”
“Teplem! I played as a hero and Papa was my sidekick. We fought goblins and trolls and then saved the kingdom of Asvaria from a dragon called Kindred. The people praised me and called me Dragonslayer! And then we traveled the world together in J-Maps, and he showed me the coolest places on Earth in 360. We went to Tokyo, London, and Egypt together as if we were really there!”

Judah listened attentively as the man closed the urn. The shadow watched as the boy’s face was captured by a brilliant joy that it had personally never felt. It was this that made the shadow believe that humans were perhaps the most interesting things in the universe.

“May I accompany you for some time?” Judah asked.
“Yeah, Mr. Angel, that’d be cool! Do you want to hear about how me and Papa defeated Kindred?” The boy shouted. The sun shone brightly upon all of them. The man stood tall under the weight of his loss, his tearstained face held up toward the sky.

Sunlight shimmered through the boy and Judah. When it passed through the boy’s form, splashes of color painted the ground. For the shadow, only shades of grey appeared. Judah saw this and thought that, perhaps, the universe was far different from how Management saw it.

“Yes. I want to hear about all of your adventures, Dragonslayer.”

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