Warnings and Disclaimers: A few quotes from the book. I dedicate this one to Alara Moonrunner, since she's the one who applied the necessary brownies for me to get this out…
Zane nodded, bemused. "I... suppose we should, then. Where is it located?"
The other Immortal smiled at him, the fine lines in the corners of her eyes creasing. "Why, in Purgatory, of course!"
Zane frowned, suddenly remembering a conversation. "Chronos said that I might ride my horse there, but not how I might go about the journey."
To his surprise, Fate chuckled at this, despite the worry in her eyes. "Thanatos, we are already in Purgatory." She pointed across the vast, green field. "That building there is Purgatory proper, where you must eventually go to register those souls you can not balance."
The man looked in that direction, and saw a large, university-like building off in the distance. "Now, why didn't I notice that before?" he murmured to himself, then shook his head. "So, that's Purgatory?"
"What did you expect, a medieval dungeon? We'd never get anything done if that were the case. Immortals must move along with the times just like everybody else." Fate moved towards Mortis, who obligingly began to trot over to them. "Now, come along. I imagine your staff must be annoyed by the disruption."
He wasn't sure which was stranger, as he climbed onto Mortis' back in front of the other Immortal. That such odd things kept happening to him...
Or that he was starting to take them in stride.
Astride the gallant Deathsteed, it was but the ride of a few moments before they came to a stop in front of... a funeral home. A rather nice funeral home, fronted by Romanesque marble columns, and Zane supposed that since he was Death, it made sense, but still.
A funeral home?
"Am I permitted to redecorate?" he inquired hopefully of the woman in front of him.
He couldn't see her expression, but he suspected that she was suppressing a smile as she answered. "I don't see why you wouldn't be, but I'd suggest settling into your duties before devoting your attention to other things."
Zane felt his face redden. "Of course."
Mortis came to a stop not far from the marble path. To Zane's surprise there was a mailbox with DEATH painted in large letters on the side. Who would write to Death? He dismounted and helped Fate off the pale house, before walking over and opening the lid.
There were four letters waiting inside. When he turned them over he found they were return addressed to Earth.
"Come on, Thanatos, let's not dawdle," Fate chided, already standing by the front door of the mortuary. Zane hurried to join her. Then he paused, caught in a conundrum. It was his home now, but he'd never been there before. Should he knock?
The other Incarnation took the choice away from him, leaning forward to press the bell. A deep gong rang inside, sounding like the toll of doom, and Zane couldn't help his little jump of surprise. A few moments later the door opened, and a black-suited butler stood in the doorway.
"So good to see you again, sir," the butler said, his voice genial but lacking any indication of what his thoughts were. "Let me take your cloak."
Feeling more than a bit awkward, Zane let him remove the cloak and hang it in a nearby closet. "I- I've changed," he told him. "I'm not the same man."
The servant nodded. "Of course, sir. We serve the office, not the man." He turned to Fate. "Your stole, madam?"
She unwrapped a thin silken stole Zane was fairly sure she hadn't been wearing before from around her shoulders. The butler took it and set it next to Zane's cloak, then removed slippers and a black bathrobe from the confines of the closet. "If you will put these on, sir?"
He donned the garments over the clothes he had tried to kill himself in; God, had that really only been a few short hours ago? So much had changed... Now that he was no longer wearing Death's cloak, Zane could smell something strange in the air. "What is that odor?" he asked, rubbing at his nose.
"That is myrrh, sir," the butler replied. "This mansion is scented with it traditionally."
"The House of Death has to be scented?" Zane muttered, bemused. The sensation in his nostrils was beginning to change; where before it had only been unusual, now it was undoubtedly starting to burn.
"Myrrh is associated with the office, sir."
The butler and Fate both jumped as the new Immortal sneezed. "Traditional or not, I think I might be allergic," he said through the hand he was covering his mouth with.
The butler nodded, for the first time showing an overt emotion. "...I see, sir," he said, consternated. "I'll have the mansion aired out immediately." The man turned to hurry out, only to be stopped by Fate's command.
"Wait! Tell us, have there been any unusual occurrences, this last hour?" Her middle-aged figure suddenly seemed to gain an imposing authority.
The servant gathered himself together. "Indeed, madam. You have a visitor, sir," he said, turning to Zane.
Zane blinked, his attention drawn from trying to prevent another sneeze. "Oh? Who is it?"
"I don't know, sir." At the startled looks he received from the two Immortals, the butler elaborated. "He was unconscious when he arrived, sir. I had him placed in a guest bedroom so you could decide how to deal with him. Were my actions incorrect?"
"No, no, of course they weren't," Zane hastily told him. The last thing he wanted to do was antagonize his servants. He'd never had any before, but he had a feeling it wouldn't be a good thing for him if they were unhappy. "Er, what's your name?"
"Henry, could you take us to see this visitor, then? Oh, and while the mansion is being aired, have someone change that awful doorbell," Zane added as the thought struck him. "Having pride in my office is all well and good, but there's no need to be morbid about the whole affair."
Fate regarded him with a mixture of amusement and approval as the butler nodded and stepped away to confer for a moment with a newly-arrived maid. "See now? You're already settling in. You just need to find your niche."
Zane gave her a grateful smile, and then sneezed once again.
Preferably, it was a niche without need for myrrh.
The bedroom Henry led them to was richly furnished, filled with age-worn oaken antiques. Zane's slippers sank deep into the pale plush carpet, and he had to step quickly to keep it from eating them totally. The bed itself was just as impressive; it was enormous, and looked like it belonged in some Victorian castle, with its four carved posts and dark red brocade hangings.
The figure lying in it was dwarfed by its size, but as Zane drew closer he realized that wasn't entirely the bed's fault. His mysterious visitor was a scrawny boy in black robes who couldn't be more than fourteen or fifteen. His hair was the same color as his bizarre clothing, and went all over the place. "This is the person who's rearranging all your threads?" he asked Fate, more than a little incredulously. "He's a child!"
"I can see that." His fellow Immortal bent over the boy, her hand reaching out to brush hair away from his face. "But he's also a wild card, regardless of age. And big things are made up of little ones. He might be just the thing to tip the scales."
Zane frowned. "The scales? What scales?"
Fate returned the frown, the lines at the corners of her eyes creasing. "I've already told you I can't say anything more. Do stop asking." Sighing, she straightened up. "Well, important or not, he certainly won't be waking up any time soon. I'd best be about my business, and you as well. I'm sure you have clients accumulating Earth-side."
Zane started. "Why, yes, I suppose I should. Would... would you like me to contact you when he wakes?"
She airily waved a hand. "Oh, don't worry about it. I'll probably know before you do. Now, be a nice, polite young man and see me out."
A/N: Not much to say here, except that this is the chapter length intended for this story, so don't complain about it. Next chapter, we're back to the HP world for a bit.
Our most sincere gratitude to Alara Moonrunner, Amaris Kincaid, Andromeda Snape-Malfoy, bellashade, damien, Fate, Firehedgehog, IritIlan, jollander, Lady Dark, Mithros, Selena, Shade Dancer (hugs), snowlight144, Von, and Wren Truesong (Hey, they said the Veil led to Death…) for reviewing.
17 October 2005