4: Princess of Shadows

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4: Princess of Shadows


"See," said Death, "these are the life-lights of mankind." (Godfather Death, Brothers Grimm)



"When is my mother returning?" I asked Death at the age of three as I toddled along behind him, making sure to keep a hold of his black robe. We were crossing the River of Departing Souls by way of the black bridge that stretches across it. Death has always warned me that if I were to fall into the river, my soul would be torn from my body and I would be forced to follow the current to wherever my destination may be. Death says even he doesn't know the final destinations of the souls that have lost their place in the Living World.

"Soon." Death assured me as we made it to the other side of the bridge, where his dark castle awaited. He gave me a reassuring pat on the head and I was instantly comforted.

My mother would return for me soon. I just had to be ready.

A few years passed and I believe that I was around the age of ten when I asked him the same question. "When is my mother returning?"

Death was busy lighting the Candles of Life. He says the Candles hold the life of every single person who lives above us. There are millions of candles in the room. They line the shelves against the walls and cast the brightest source of light in the entire Underworld. Death taught me how to light a new candle for when a baby is born and how to gently blow out the candle of a person who is ready to pass away. Death will never show me where my candle is, even though I've asked over fifteen times already.

"I'm not sure, Zenobia," Death said as he lit the fiftieth candle and placed it back on the shelf. He gestured at a short candle that I was standing near. "Would you please blow that candle out beside you? The Duke of Geraro's time seems to be up."

I obliged him, after slight hesitation, and with a slight purse of my lips and a small puff of air, the Duke's flame was gone. I jumped as a piercing scream tore through the cavernous Underworld. It was followed by a splash which signaled that the River of Departing Souls had a new inhabitant. The scream told me that he had died a sudden death and not a peaceful one at that. He must have been killed.

"Very good, Zenobia," Death said while patting my head. I was comforted again.

My mother would return soon. I just wasn't sure when.

I'm not entirely sure, but I believe I was fourteen when I asked Death for the final time about Hilda. You see, telling time in the Underworld is a very difficult task, due to the everlasting darkness. 

"Where is my mother, Death?" I asked as I stared at the colorful souls drifting below me. Death and I were in his long, black boat, the one he uses to traverse the River of Departing Souls.

When there are many people who die (which normally occurs during a plague or a war) we are faced with a rather large intake of souls. When this occurs, Death and I travel to the Gateway by boat and guide the souls to their proper channel. Death instructed me on which souls were to take which channel. The red souls, which were usually the wrathful and murderous, are sent to the left channel. The blue souls, those that generally tried to maintain a kind and docile lifestyle, are sent to the right channel.

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