“Put the weapon down.”
The hideous, inky, winged creature was standing right in front of T’lar. It was horrible and grotesque, looking like black smoke was dripping off its body. Under all the nastiness, there was a strange, celestial glow in its yellow eyes.
“WHAT IN THE NAME OF THE LORD ARE YOU?”
“I’m the personification of Death. Put the weapon down.”
The small, furry creature did as he was told. T’Lar was a rather weak Goatan as it was, his antlers hadn’t even grown in yet. If this thing that had appeared out of thin air and said it was death was telling him to put his rifle down, then that was what he was going to do.
“What… Are you here to take me? I… I wouldn’t blame you…”
A smile flickered across the monster’s face. “No. I was actually here to take the twenty or so fellow students you were about to kill. But I saw what was going on… Well, to put it simply, I’m kinda breaking a few rules. Why are you aiming a high-powered rifle at those other Goatan?”
T’Lar was shaking. His legs had turned to jelly. The monster kicked the weapon to one side and looked out of the window. Below, five hundred Goatan students were about to graduate from college and become fully fledged adults. The mood was joyous. There was chattering and laughing and smiling. A stark contrast to the mood in the small, dusty room.
After realising he wasn’t going to get an answer from T’Lar straight away, the creature decided to speak.
“I haven’t been doing this for very long, but I have noticed a few things. When it comes to violent deaths, sometimes vok are forced into things. They are pushed down dark paths, often never to return. What pushed you down this path?”
“T-them…” T’Lar stood up awkwardly and pointed out of the window, down at a particular group of females sitting in the centre of the seating area below. “The… the herd… Her… She… she hurt me…”
The monster leaned against the wall, sighing. “What’s your name?”
“My name’s Arkay. But you can call me Telos or Death or Thantofor or whatever you want. How did she hurt you?”
“I… I can’t… It’s too… demeaning…” T’Lar paused, then decided to just talk. After all, he was looking at Death itself. “She raped me. I said no. She wouldn’t let up. She put something in my drink. I couldn’t say no any more. She used me. Then she claimed I’d attacked and raped her. Ruined my life. No one believes me. I can’t study. I can’t work. I can’t do anything because I can’t afford a law-speaker to defend me. They all think I’m a criminal monster now. I wish I died that night. So I wouldn’t have to put up with any of this.”
T’Lar sat back down on the floor in a defeated heap. To his surprise, Arkay came and sat down next to him.
“You know, if you shoot them all, you will be a monster, right?”
“I… I guess… But the pain…”
Arkay put an arm around T’Lar. “I know. It hurts, having your life ripped from you. I should know. When I was alive, I was raped… Quite a lot actually, now I think about it. My life was nothing but suffering and I considered many, many times to turn against my fellow vok. Hurt them the way they hurt you.”
“No. Because even if I hurt somevok who deserved it, I’d end up hurting others that don’t deserve it. Just like how, if you go ahead with your shooting, you’ll end up killing one of those teachers and a bunch of other students who have nothing to do with your tormentor. And it’s not like she’ll be punished when she dies. It’ll be a quick death. She won’t even notice and will go down the Rivers like every other mortal in this universe.”
T’Lar hesitated. “Why… if it makes no difference… why are you… stopping me?”
Arkay tutted and looked away. “I’m not supposed to. Not supposed to interfere. I’m not exactly doing this job willingly, so if I see an opportunity to make someone’s life less miserable than mine was, I try to take it. Unfortunately… well, let’s just say you’re one in a billion…”
T’Lar looked at Arkay. He didn’t seem particularly happy any more.
“Just… My life was shit. My death was painful. My duties as a being in the service of the Eternal Cycle are painful as well. The job of a death-bringer only ever brings pain and suffering to others, so if I can spare ten minutes to stop one mass murder, then I’m going to take it… Even if it means that Kinisis is going to beat the piss out of me when I return to the Rivers.”
With a sigh, Arkay patted T’Lar on the shoulder, then stood up, dropping something in T’Lar’s lap.
“That should be enough for a law-speaker. Or enough for an assassin. Or enough to start a new life. Or enough for a fancy tombstone and a coffin. Do what you want with your life. Just don’t make other people suffer. Because that’s not fair.”
T’Lar looked down at the large, heavy thing that had been handed to him. It was some sort of beautiful crystal, sparkling in a multitude of colours. But by the time he could look up at Arkay and thank him, the strange, hideous creature was gone.
“Thank you…” T’Lar muttered as he packed his stuff away and disappeared off into the shadows. He had a life to fix and a graduation party to go to.