A/N This was written rather quickly and I'm not sure I like it. However, it is due today for the TPE: Writing Challenge, so here goes! Reviews with criticism or suggestions would be especially welcome on this piece.

The Tamora Pierce Experiment: Writing Challenges is a forum which posts a new challenge every month. It's a great place where you can try new forms of writing, meet Tamora Pierce fanfiction writers, 'rent-a-beta', and vote on previous contributions to the challenges. A new challenge will be posted on July 1st, so come check us out!

Forum (dot) fanfiction (dot)net/forum/The_Tamora_Pierce_Experiment_Writing_Challenges/70302/

There were three wars, where mortals killed mortals and he walked the battle fields collecting the dead in groups that trailed behind his shifting cloak of shadows as they passed through from the land of the living into his realm, where they could find their peace.

There was a farmer, killed in an accident with his horse on the road. He asked about his child, who had been in the wagon as well, but the Black God could give no reassurances other than that the child would not follow them to the Peaceful realms today. The child was not his responsibility, not today. Neither was the horse spirit, who stood waiting on the roadside beside his master. He had served faithfully, this horse, and he nudged the farmer affectionately before following the shadowy form of the black mare onto his own journey.

There was a fire, and there was murder, and there were accidents and falls and old age and illness and through it all the Black God collected his souls and guided them carefully from their bodies, led them gently through the mists and into the arms of those who went before them and who, always, would be waiting on the other side.

They were all the same to him. Whether he collected them on the battlefield, a city street or here, in the opulence of a king's chamber, they were all the same to him.

The soul turns towards him, immediately aware of his presence, that it is time to be called home. He bows and says, "I am ready to follow you, Great One. This girl says she's mortal."

The Black God had not noticed the girl behind his soul before she was mentioned; she was not dead, though she did not have a body. This was one of his brother's or sister's affairs, and they could deal with it as they wished. It was not his place to deal with the living; only the dead were his responsibility. But as he steps forward to collect the former king, he looks at her again.

Pauper or empress, priest or villain, they were the same to him. But this girl... this girl he recognizes.

It had been a long time, but he always remembered those who truly served him. Some were the ones who wore the black robes and said his names in prayers, but most often they were not. Most often it was the midwife who tried most vigilantly to guide mother and child into life, or one well-versed in herbs who was called to bedsides, or the soldiers who fell for causes they didn't fully understand, but who faced death regardless.

Or, sometimes, it was a blue-eyed girl with a baton who fiercely defended the poorest of her people, fending off injury, when possible, and avenging their deaths when she could not.

The kneeling girl does not look like her. He thinks that if she looked up to meet his gaze again he would be able to find nothing of the woman who had served him, though they were of the same blood. Too much time had passed. Still, he puts a gentle, comforting hand on her shoulder as he notices how she trembles. There were some services rendered that could not be forgotten, not even as centuries had passed and bloodlines were diluted.

He guides the dead from the room, leaving the living girl to whatever god she had chosen to serve in this lifetime of hers. He would see her again, after all. In the end, it was always his responsibility to guide them home.

The End