|Favorite Wonder:||Hall of Kings|
|Traits:|| Adaptive (Initial: Industrious)|
My name is Elizabeth, and I was murdered on the first day of winter. My father was at the market. In the instant I died, he was buying ribbons for my hair. Later, he would put them on my corpse.
My father knew the man who killed me, a neighbor that talked to him about trade and argued about religion. As a follower of the Order, my father was quick to advocate it to anyone who would listen. The neighbor looked at me the way some men look at teenage girls, but he had never spoken to me until that day.
I was surprised he knew my name. I was removing the last of the vegetables from our small garden before the night's frost killed them. I stood and subconsciously straightened the worn dress I was wearing. I didn't answer him.
"Do you know anything about cats?" he said.
"I had a cat, she disappeared a few weeks ago."
"Was she white?"
"Yes, did you find her?"
I was an only child, my mother died when I was born and my cat Abagail was the keeper of my secrets and playmate for as long as I could remember. I searched for her and had almost given up hope.
"More like she found me, she's moved into my cellar. She's taken over a corner for herself and her kittens."
He returned my smile. His hand had been resting on his knife, most men in the city carried them, but now he relaxed and took his hand off of it.
"Would you like to see them? Maybe help me move them to your house. I want to make sure they get somewhere warm before tonight."
I followed him to his house, we walked across my yard and through a small field that separated our homes. At the time I was too excited to wonder why we didn't walk on the road. The field opened to the back of his house, which is where the cellar entrance was. He unlocked the cellar and opened it for me. This was the first time I had a suspicion that something was wrong. If I was by myself I wouldn't have gone down there, but I had told him I would and I didn't want to seem like a scared girl so I went down the wooden stairs. He followed and closed the doors behind him.
The cellar was a shrine to Agares, decorated in blood and jagged weapons. He attacked me as soon as I saw it. In time he would sacrifice me on the cellar's brown altar, but even worse was done to me before.
I wandered in the grey. I saw my father search for me, my body was found in the woods outside the village a few days later, covered with cuts and ritual marks. My killer came to my house and offered his condolences with the rest of the neighborhood, pretended to be shocked and upset. I watched my father come and go, cry and pretend to be okay when neighbors came over. Crushed by the thought that when his daughter really needed him, he wasn't there.
In time I became aware of something else. Abagail came trotting through a wall, meowing in that way she reserved for when I forgot to feed her. I rushed to her, picked her up and squeezed her as she nuzzled my neck with her head.
When I set her down she started walking, then looked back to see if I was following, which I did. We left the city, walked through forests, fields, mountains. I was never tired or hungry and only had a dim view of the world, as if I was viewing it through a haze. Some dark places we avoided and I could occasionally hear voices, usually angry or sad from those places.
We walked until we entered a city much larger than mine. We went through it to a grand palace at its center, decorated in bronze and black. We walked through to the throne room and the haze was gone from the center of this room. A man with ivory skin sat on a throne, listening to an argument between two merchants. The man was tired and I somehow knew that he was once one of the greatest of angels, now bearing the burden of mortality and time.
I had heard of an angel that had become human, the archangel Cassiel who had turned against the gods, who claimed that religion was servitude and wouldn't follow them. But after what I saw, felt, experienced... I couldn't accept that. There was an enemy, a religion that should be battled. I approached his throne, knowing he would see me even if no one else did.
He looked at me, I saw a great sadness in him. The same as in my father when he sat in my bedroom and cried. The arguing merchants quieted, realizing Cassiel's attention was somewhere else.
"Open your eyes."
He said it to me, he was pleading with me and commanding me at the same time. I tried to follow it, everything except Cassiel seemed distant. I could see Abagail at my feet, the rest was clouds of grey flowing into each other. I looked at these clouds, there were shapes in them, figures, faces. And I began to see other spirits in them. Men and women, orcs and elves, children and adults, all caught in their own grey worlds.
I talked to the spirit of a man who had been killed by an order Confessor for lying, a boy who had starved because his family couldn't afford food and the teachings of Kilmorph don't emphasize charity, an elf who had used wood from a sacred tree to rebuild his home and had been killed by the Fellowship for it. And thousands who had died in wars they didn't believe in for gods they didn't trust and who didn't accept them.
Later I went back to Cassiel, he was sitting alone on the roof of his palace.
"Are we forever doomed to this in-between place? I understand now that the gods are flawed, but if they hold the only way into heaven, what else can we do but follow them?"
Cassiel smiled at me. "The places they have made are not heaven, the true heaven is closed to everyone, even them. One day the doors will open and we will be rejoined. Until then we wait and we try to improve what we have been given."
After that I sat at the feet of his throne, played with Abagail and paid less and less attention to the occurances of the mortal world. Until I heard a familiar voice in the throne room, that of my father.
"Lord Cassiel, I have come from the Bannor empire, I have turned my back on my people and my god. The religion that once seemed so important to me, that I dedicated my life to, offered no comfort to me when I needed it. Only hollow words about faith and my own weakness. Now I come to you. Three years ago my daughter was killed, she was only a child and she was sacrificed in some unholy ceremony. Because of the manner of her death the priests say they cannot bury her in the cemetery, they burned her so that an evil spirit wouldn't inhabit her tiny corpse." My father fought to keep his composure. He took a deep breath before continuing.
"Now I come to you." He repeated. "To offer my help, I'm only a simple merchant but if you would have me I wish to join the Grigori."
Cassiel looked at him, requests like this weren't uncommon. They usually wouldn't even get to Cassiel himself unless the person was someone politically important.
"You will stay in the palace tonight. Tomorrow you will awake a new man, put your old life behind you and start a new one here. Your name will be Goodreau. In the morning you will go into the city, find a job and earn your place among my people. But for tonight you are still Tamur the Merchant. My sergeant will show you a room and provide you with food and drink. Eat and sleep well."
My father thanked him and followed the sergeant out of the throne room. I followed them and sat in the small bedroom they gave him. Traveling had been hard on him and he ate ravenously and fell asleep. I sat in the corner of the room just as I had in my bedroom when he cried after my death.
My father was awake, awake and staring at me.
He jumped out of the bed, terrified, but only terrified that he was somehow imaging this and I would disappear before he could grab me. But his arms passed right through me and he fell on the floor sobbing. I knelt down beside him, he stared at me, trying to memorize every detail of my face.
"Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry... please... I'm sorry... I'm sorry"
"Daddy, I'm okay."
We talked and I told him about the fake heavens and my life at the palace. How, if it had been three years, it seemed like only a few days to me. That I really didn't remember dying that well, but I remembered playing games with him and the walks we used to take. I lied and told him I didn't know who killed me, I didn't want him going back.
We talked until dawn. As I began to fade from his sight he pleaded with me to stay, asked what he could do to stay with me. I repeated Cassiel's words.
"One day the doors will open and we will be rejoined. Until then we wait and we try to improve what we have been given."
He said he loved me, that he would see me again and when I was completely gone from his view he left the palace and started his new life among the Grigori.