“You don’t remember anything about yourself?”
“Believe me my dear, I have pondered this question endlessly, but my memories elude me.”
They arrived at a creek and watched the fishes leap playfully in the water as Grim began a recollection.
“Perhaps I was once a spellcaster like you, for my earliest memory was that of a Reaper surveying the aftermath of the Red Decade. It was aptly named so, for the blood, the countless curses and counter-hexes painted the land and sky crimson. I journeyed across what’s left of the magic realm to perform my duty.”
“The Red Decade had reduced the Magic world to a flaming rubble – barely a few rocks suspended in mid-air. Their once magnificent streets abound in a sea of corpses. Wails and tears pierced the air as the few who remained mourned the deaths of their loved ones. I walked by unseen. It suited my purpose in providing reprieve for the dead, who were just as tortured, confused and sorrowful as the living.”
“Reapers collect the souls of Spellcasters too?”
“That’s right. For that reason, our kind can traverse space and time. But do not for one moment think it a luxury, for there was never a time of rest. My duty is consistent across the realms.”
“So you don’t remember anything before, yet you knew what to do with these souls.”
“Strangely, yes. It came naturally to me to use my powers to connect with and quell their innate fears, their guilt and remorse. I have contemplated on my memory loss as well. If I was once mortal, perhaps I had entered a binding agreement in which my memory is suppressed as I take on the role of a reaper.”
“Did you reap both sides – the good and the bad? The ones who called themselves Aelrendth?”
“Oh yes! An arrogant, cruel, and foolish lot. Even in death, they believed themselves above judgment!” Grim shook his head. “Disillusioned they were that they tried to banish me with their spells. Amusing at first, but after the thousandth time I was quite ready to reap the rest without any form of comfort, but doing so will condemn them into night wraiths. I simply performed my duties honorably and perfectly.”
“So, none of their knowledge was passed down? Did you reap High Elder Morgyn?” Athena asked her most curious question.
“I should like to; however, it had been done.” Grim sighed as if he had wasted an opportunity. “I heard the severance of his soul from his body required the powers of five reapers, for he had transformed so greatly that he was even a threat to us transcended beings! The reaping was successful, but his soul was so fragmented that to this day, we wonder if some debris of him still remains among the living.”
“Is that a problem?”
“If so, he will forever remain in between the chasms of the mortal and spiritual world. Never in one or the other – a state of oblivion, doomed to suffer eternally, for his soul shall never find salvation on the Other Side. A fate I wouldn’t wish for anyone, even if Morgyn did cause the suffering of many and all for knowledge’s sake.”
Athena sighed. “It’s all gone then… Morgyn’s elemental spells. What a pity…”
“Why do you want to learn his spells?”
“To protect myself and my friends,” she said. “My friend is looking for someone – a dangerous person. I intend to help with Morgyn’s advanced magic.”
“I implore you to abandon that notion!” Grim said. “If I’ve learnt anything from the Red Decades, they all begin the same way – a cause to seek power until power corrupts them.”
She scowled at the comparison. “I don’t plan to rule the world. I just want enough to protect the people I care about.”
“And when it is not enough?” Grim argued. “What then? I also happen to know that the friend you speak of is the unclaimed soul! I beseech you, stay away from him. Should his time come again, leave him to his fate.”
“Curtis doesn’t deserve to die. He’s… good. I can feel it. He’s involved in some bad things but innately he’s kind.”
Grim shook his head. “There is truth in your words, but your feelings have blinded you of reality. And do not deny it.” He said quickly as Athena was about to interrupt him. “I have seen his path that he has shielded you from. He is virtuous for he shields for your protection, but it has fueled your ignorance!”
He caught her indignant expression and sighed. “You will not be persuaded, I can see that.”
“Show his path to me then,” Athena replied. She didn’t like that he judged her and Curtis. He didn’t know them. He’s just an outsider looking in. As long as they catch the guy, Curtis will abandon his crime ways, she was sure of it! Grim hesitated.
“You want to see the path he threads? It is too dangerous!”
“You were the one who said I needed ‘enlightenment’.” She challenged. “And you said I could look to you as a mentor. Wouldn’t showing be better than telling? Besides, I’ll be with you. You can hide me.”
Grim wrestled with his thoughts as Athena continued to convince him, succeeding in the end. He cast a black wisp that encircled her.
“You may follow me to Mirage Park and see with your own eyes. I shall convince you that the unclaimed soul is unworthy of your company. But you must do everything I say. Nothing else.”
Athena nodded, trying not to look concerned. Mirage Park was the first place she met Curtis – the place he called his ‘turf’ when he protected her from Steve. He had warned her never to go there. But she had been doing just fine in Canton. It can’t be worse. Right?