rating: +6+x

“There must be something you could do,” said the Warrior.
She was right, which was the worse part. Orcus couldn’t turn away, as much as his bones forbade. The body cradled in the Warrior’s arms was still warm, a faint impression of life that was sourly comical in comparison to the organs strung out from her open belly.
“I shouldn’t,” Orcus said, giving a halfhearted attempt to look away.
He’d seen many corpses - they’re nothing special and rather dull, but then there was this emotion before him. A warrior, heart hardened and a butcherer of many, crying over someone they loved.

Now he knew how his Parent felt. Orcus sihned, looking over his shoulder towards the growing shadows of the forest, then back to the couple with a sigh. He knew the correct response would be: “There are rules. As unfortunate as it feels, that’s a fact. Besides, why grieve? You’ll be dead in a few short decades and will be there with your sweetheart in quick time. Very quick time. It is so, very, extraordinary how quickly your Time comes.” However, mortality got the better of Orcus.
“Back away from her. I have a method,” He said.
The Warrior did as she was told, seeing a faint glint in Orcus’ dark eyes that sent ripples through her mortal-hood.
“Thank you,” The Warrior said.
Orcus nodded before he closed his eyes and extended a hand over the corpse. There was a voice in his mind, like a conscious, but more existential. It was a voice both as old, and yet far older, than Orcus. A voice that came from deep inside his bones:

+There are rules,+ It said, +Instructions carved underside into your marrow.+
Well, Orcus told himself, I’m not my parent. I am mortal enough, so shut it.

The darkness he saw behind his closed eyes became tangible, in a metaphysical sense. Orcus understood only through his bones, and instinctively he reached out and pulled. The darkness drew apart like a curtain, unveiling a towering room the size of the Universe. He remembered using that backdoor when he stayed here, but also remembered leaving that way in times after. Orcus walked down aisles upon aisles, passing the sand filled objects around him; hourglasses, whose measurements weren’t in grains of sand, but time. Occasionally, he’d pass a near-empty hourglass, which only hastened his steps. He then turned, but before taking another step, he sharply jumped at the sounds of clicking footsteps. The sounds vibrated around him, only hastening his steps. Orcus stopped beside one of the hourglasses. Under normal circumstances, the empty ones cease to exist, for it is the expected thing to do. However, Orcus commanded the shelves that he needed someone, and so the shelves obliged. Two hourglasses parted outwards, allowing an empty hourglass to slide to the front row. As he began to reach forward, the sounds of tapping feet sounded close by.

Orcus peeked around the edge of the aisle. There was a tall figure walking down the opposite direction of him. They plucked an empty hourglass off the shelf closest to them, with a scythe tucked plainly under their arm. Orcus, who would have gasped if air existed here, reached forward and grabbed the needed object off the shelf beside him and then opened his eyes. He again stood over the Warrior's Lover in the forest.

In his hand was an hourglass, with the sands it contained all fallen. He extended it outwards, and with his free hand, pointed at it. There was a ghastly spark followed by a portion of sand rescinding upwards. The Warrior’s Lover stirred to life, her body unblemished, and darted her returning vision at the world around her. The Warrior rushed forward and embraced her returned Love.
“I thought I lost you,” said the Lover
“I thought I’d never see you again,” said the Warrior.
The two kissed, and Orcus politely turned away. What they had said was incorrect, but sometimes Truth soured the mood, so he kept it to himself. Orcus folded the hourglasses into his robes and took a solid breath of air.

The couple eventually rose to their feet, the Lover approaching him proudly. She was a half-orc like himself, although in a very different and mortal way.
With a hand placed on his shoulder, she said “I'm so proud to see a fellow orc-blood achieving such greatness in magic.”
Her grip became slightly firmer, and Orcus smiled faintly.
Of course, Orcus thought to himself, all this “fellow-blood” nonsense is all just a symptom of mortal-tribalism, but then he felt a warm snugness at this sensed kinship.
“I can never repay you for this. It’s one thing to save a life, but to steal it from right under Death’s notice is something else.”
Gods, I hope they didn’t notice, Orcus thought to himself.
He must have made an expression, as the Lover shifted her hands onto his shoulders.
“Now, seeing how I owe you a debt, how about a drink for me. Put some hair on your chest.”
Alcohol made Orcus think of brain cells and livers, and then he thought about his Parent.
This offer seemed to alert something mortal in the Warrior, who said, “Yes, enough drinks to forget all but your fantastic achievement boy. May I ask, how old are you? You’re all alone, aren’t you?”
The Lover threw her a look, then turned to smile at Orcus.
“Someone trying to swipe a drink from you, ey? I say you’re never too young to drink. Especially for a talent such as yours!”
The warrior shook her head and said, “We’ll at least give an adventure like you a hearty meal with that drink. You’ve got the height on you, but you need some meat on them bones!”
The Lover laughed heartily, giving Orcus’ shoulders a solid pat.
“Agreed. These shoulders could cut glass!”

Orcus smiled, feeling the warmness of the hands resting on his shoulders, the slight bickering of two in love, and that concern over someone so young. It felt normal and so mortal. Besides, he hadn't eaten anything for a month. It was easy to forget to eat, and other small things like breathing.
“I’d like the company,” he said with a smile.

The pub at the closest town was filled with laughter, songs, and enough alcohol to slaughter three elephants. Orcus didn’t want to reflect on how that calculation came to pass through his thoughts, and in turn, took another swig of beer and forgot about it the mortal way. There were stories of fights and duels, and some other stories of near-death experiences. Some were extraordinary, some comedically mundane, but all so warm and alive. Orcus dodged questions about near-Death experiences, avoiding reflections on his actions today.

During the evening, Orcus found himself speaking with the potted fern in a shaded corner of the pub. The sickly fern complained that, with the little sunlight it got in this place, it’ll be dead by morning. Orcus couldn’t help but pity it, so he poured it a few rounds.

When the party faded down, Orcus stumbled drunkenly to what he assumed was his room - it was empty at least- and closed the door behind him. He leaned back on it, trying to find grounding but couldn’t. He tossed his coat aside and let out a sigh. The thought of sleeping in a bed, as a person, was rather exciting. Sleeping tended to fall through the cracks, which was okay, considering Orcus’ struggled to figure out dreaming, which was the appeal of sleep, or so he’d heard.

He took a step forward towards his bed until a slight glint caught his hazy eyes. It was an hourglass sitting on top of a reading table. Beside it was a rocking chair occupied by a shade. A light conjured into existence above them, illuminating the hooded entity occupying the rocking chair.

Orcus frowned and, disappointedly, willed himself perfectly sober.
“Evening Parent,” He said.
Death’s voice was like lead.
“I mean the higher collective of whatever no offence, I merely-”
+DISMANTLED MY GOOD FAITH,+ Death said, tapping the hourglass with their bone-finger. The taps echoed like lighting across an empty valley.
“I can write an apology to whoever I’ve offended,” Orcus said, slipping his hands into his pockets.

Death lifted the hourglass to their eye-sockets, watching the sands fall with intention.
“No, Parent,” Orcus replied, cautiously correcting his posture.

Death placed the hourglass into their robes and reached for their Scythe, whose blade reflected the darkness as if to signify its overt presence. Death then leaned back in their rocking chair, and even an ordinary mortal could read their expression. An achievement considering.
“It is one life. Besides, I’ve seen other mortals bring people back from you with spells.”
Orcus went pale at those words; literally, Orcus’ green flesh faded for an instant to reveal bones.
“I’ll make it up to you,” Orcus said, ashamedly.

Death reached into their robes and conjured another hourglass, one with just under half a quarter of sand left to fall, and passed it to Orcus. He felt sickly as he held this Life-Timer, with an overwhelming sensation that this was going to take some time.

The orb of light drifted down to the duo, casting shadows that highlighted the family cheekbones. From inside the orb emerged an image; a mismatched group of travellers standing by a black and grey town.
+THERE WILL BE A DEATH,+ said Death,
“Will one of these people die?”
“How will I know who to take?” Orcus managed to say.
Death rose to their feet, shadows growing dramatically in response.
“Oh!” Orcus began “+Are you unable to speak to me as mortal’s do!?+”
Orcus stopped, blushing as he cupped his throat.
Oh lord. I sound like them.
Death appeared to be grinning, although grinning was the default expression for a skull. It was here that Orcus noticed a ghostly fern standing behind Death. He thought of waving at it, but decided against it.
Death, the fern, and the orb of light vanished from the room, and Orcus let out a hearty sigh. Well, he wasn’t sleeping tonight, not that he required it.

Orcus sat in front of his breakfast with that familial presence lingering over him. He sighed helplessly and began eating away at his splodge of milk and oat. The couple from before sat across him, both tending to each other’s hangovers.
“You look like death!” They said, smiling.
“Don’t remind me,” said Orcus, tightening his cloak around him.
“First time drinking?”
“First time in a while.”
“Well, it’s good to relax now and then.”
Orcus sighed again. “I’ll be needing to head off soon. Unfortunately, my Parent has given me a task in the family duty.”
The couple exchanged a look.
“I see?”
“They visited me last night,” He explained causally, placing the hourglass onto the table with a thud.
“You see, my Parent is Death.”
Orcus laid his sickle onto the table beside the hourglass. It was tastelessly bone-white, with a blade expectedly sharper than midnight.
“What? Training wheels?” said the Warrior.
Orcus moaned, rolling his eyes as he rested his head against the table.

What was to come would be an ‘adventure,’ as heroes would say. But Orcus was not a hero, he decided that years ago. Then came a simple mistake and now a quest laid out before him. He looked at the Lover and the Warrior and shrugged.

At least he’d have company.

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