While the homes of the other five deities had all been luxurious palaces and intimidating castles, the home of Arkadin, the Lord of Death, was a simple bungalow cottage, with an open kitchen and dining area, a pretty living room, four bedrooms (one en-suite), a bathroom and an office. Outside, the only luxury was a swimming pool, filled with clear, blue water. The rest of Arkadin’s lands consisted of nothing more than various rivers all flowing from one lake and a mixture of grass plains and rocky outback.
“Oh my! A visitor!” a voice exclaimed from within the house. A sliding patio door opened up, revealing the voice’s owner, none other than the Lord of Death himself.
Tenuk froze in place, not sure what to say or do. Unlike his colossal siblings, Arkadin was shorter than Tenuk, standing at less than 2m tall. The Thantophor was humanoid, with a long, armoured, snouted head and large eyes, yellow armour plating covering his black, rubbery skin. Smaller, silver plates ran down his head, back and long, elegant tail. He looked like a Skyavok. Exactly like an old Skyavok friend of Tenuk’s who had died last year.
Arkadin glanced downwards, then back at Tenuk, smiling awkwardly. “Uh, this is awkward. Well, you were going to find out one day that your little Skyavok buddy was in fact the Thantophor himself… Probably could have told you under better circumstances, but hey, that was the only way I could have helped you all end the Great Deitic War…” Arkadin paused, then rushed over to Tenuk, grabbing his hand and taking him back inside the house.
The two beings sat down on a fake leather sofa. Tenuk’s eyes wandered anywhere but Arkadin’s direction. He couldn’t look Death in the eye. Not because Arkadin was scary, not at all. In fact, he was far more friendly and open than any of the other deities. But the being he looked like, Arkay, he was an old friend, someone Tenuk had fought beside. They’d saved the universe together.
“Would you like something to drink?” Arkadin offered, breaking the silence. “A cup of tea perhaps? I know you like tea. Milk and two sugars, yes?”
Tenuk nodded. Arkadin got up, wandering into the kitchen. Within moments, he had returned, with a cup of tea for Tenuk and a caramel soda for himself.
“So you were… deceiving us the entire time?” Tenuk couldn’t help but think. Except he’d accidentally said that out loud.
“I wish I didn’t have to deceive you like that. The other gods, they forbid me from interfering in the universe. I just do my job. I tried to ask Kairos to stop when he began his insane plans, but he wouldn’t listen. Pretending to be a mortal was pretty much the only way I could think of to help you all.”
“But you’re Death Itself. The Thantophor! Why would you not want the universe to die? After all, that’s your job, to kill things!” Tenuk was probably getting ahead of himself, but he didn’t care. None of this made sense to him.
“No, my job is to collect the dead and make sure they get recycled so that Yisini can use them again. I can’t do my job if Yisini is dead. I’d probably just cease to exist. I don’t want anyone to die, I want Yisini and her creations to eventually evolve to the point where I’m not needed for sentient life, that I’ll only be death for plants and animals and stuff.”
Arkadin tilted his head to one side, then swallowed half his drink. Was it Tenuk’s imagination or did Arkadin look slightly nervous?
“But… Why did you leave? You… I mean Arkay, he was shot in an alleyway, trying to stop a mugging. You’re Death, you could have…”
“I did all the good I could do as a mortal. I can’t see into the future, Kairos doesn’t let me do that, I didn’t expect to get shot. But I had fun being mortal. I had to come back here and resume my higher level duties at some point.”
“You broke Retvik and Elksia’s hearts.”
“I know. And I’m sorry. I really am. But I was shot three times in the stomach and once in the chest with a shotgun using anti-telekinetic bullets. If I’d gotten up from that, it would have been clear to the others what I was doing and what I really was…” Arkadin explained, wiping a tear from his eye. “I didn’t want to leave you three. I also didn’t want you three to be harmed by others because of my deceit. The only beings who know are you, Yisini and my Blessed Mother, who suggested becoming Arkay in the first place.”
“You could make everyone immortal though!” Tenuk shouted. “You didn’t have to die! No one has to die!”
Arkadin tutted, raising his hand and telling Tenuk to sit back down.
“Yeah they do. I don’t know how to make things immortal. Neither does Yisini. Heck, we’re not immortal ourselves. I can bring someone back from the dead if their body is intact enough, but they’ll eventually decay and die again anyway. All Yisini can do is keep on creating more and more life, in the hopes that some of that life will discover a way to make themselves immortal. All I can do is recycle the dead so that Yisini can keep on creating. You don’t die, you get made into something else, that maybe one day will discover immortality.”
Tenuk sighed, then took a sip of his drink. Exactly the way his old friend used to make it. Arkadin finished his soda and placed one of his dark, black hands on top of Tenuk’s.
“I don’t enjoy this, Tenuk. It’s lonely and horrible and everyone hates me. The only beings who want to be near me are stupid death worshippers who believe I’ll somehow give them power. You, Retvik and Elksia were the only friends I ever had. A Kronospast, a Rethavok and a Vrekan. And I thank you all for that. But I have a job to do, and I want to do my job well. I keep the cycle going so the others can keep on creating, so you all have a reason to keep on pushing onwards.”
Arkadin sighed, then got up to pour himself another drink. To his surprise, Tenuk got up too, following him into the kitchen.
“I’m sorry…” Tenuk whispered.
“It’s fine, mate!” Arkadin smiled. “I’m just happy to have a visitor! And I know you should probably get back to normal mortal civilization, but I would love it if you came and visited me once in a while!”
Arkadin rushed to one of his kitchen draws and rummaged around, before eventually pulling out what looked like a small sieve. He held it in one hand, then waved his other hand over it.
“It’s a tea strainer.”
“Yeah, I know. But I just blessed it. You ever want to visit, you take this, you say that you want to visit me, and it will bring you back here. Alright?” Arkadin grinned, paused, grinned again then hurried over to the fridge, grabbing a chocolate cake in a clear plastic box and handing that to Tenuk as well.
Tenuk couldn’t help but smile at how silly Arkadin was acting.
“One last thing…” Arkadin tilted his head to one side. “Don’t bother going back to Epani. She’s not worth your time, nor the fuel to visit her. I don’t know how much of either you have left, and I would rather you go home and be happy than have her waste your time. She does it on purpose, because she hates Kairos and the fact that he’s still relevant while she isn’t.”
“Well I was hoping Epani would teleport me home after I spoke to her…” Tenuk admitted.
“Oh, I can do that!” Arkadin smiled even more, his little black fangs showing. “She gives me ten teleports a year that I can use on mortals as I wish. I hardly ever use them though…”
“Really?” Tenuk was grinning now.
“Of course! It’s the least I could do for my old friend!”
The Lord of Death gleefully wrapped his arms around Tenuk, hugging him tightly. Tenuk shrugged, closing his eyes as he hugged his old friend back.
When he opened his eyes though, Tenuk realised his hands were empty. Arkadin was gone. Tenuk was back on his ship, parked outside his home on planet Portalia.
“Ser, what just happened?” Dessi asked.
Tenuk rubbed his eyes, then glanced out of the nearest window.
“Our old friend Arkay got us home, safe and sound…” Tenuk smiled once more. “Dessi, switch the engines off, switch to the in-house system and send a message to Retvik Rethianos and Elksia Ksiov. I’m going to have a drink and invite them both round…”