User:Arrow Quivershaft/In the Hall of the Dead

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3P story universe

In the Hall of the Dead

Author: Arrow Quivershaft

I didn’t have to wait long. A translucent human being walked through the doors after a moment and looked us over. “What?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Blossom pull her hood up. Seems she didn’t want to talk, for once. Thank gods.

I looked at the...being a bit edgily. I didn’t really know how to address this being...and it was staring at me. It must’ve known I knocked. I paused, then opened my mouth. "Hello; I am Nathan Renfrew. I'm here in connection to the spirit of one Nick Snider." I tried to be as clear as possible in the speech to make sure nothing could be misinterpreted.

The being formed up a bit, taking on a vaguely male body shape, though still misty and translucent. He looked us over again. "About time."

"Apologies to keep you waiting." I said, sincerely.

The man looked back to me and spoke again. "Alright, here's the situation. You want to take him. We want him gone. Logically, giving him to you would make everyone happy.” He paused with a sigh. “But we can't do that. Not /on purpose/."

Great. So close, and still so far... "So you need an accident." I said.

"Or a loophole. Whatever." the man said with a nod.

"He marked himself to Bast. His soul is claimed by another. Does that count?" I asked. I doubted it would, but it was what I had readily come to mind.

"Not even close." The man confirmed my fears.

I nodded a bit. "Ok. I'm not the most versed in the rules of the Underworld,'re gonna have to help a bit." I paused. "Unless that's forbidden."

"Give the guy a cookie, he catches on quick." the man said. Shit, so we were on our own here.

"So you want us to take him back, but you cannot give him to us. What if we were to use force?" Blossom said, opening her mouth and suggesting a ill-advised course of action. Yes, let’s just start a fight with people who are already dead. Can’t possibly go poorly!

I stomached my sarcasm and looked back to her. "Blossom, please leave this to me at this moment." She looked at me curiously, but did close her mouth. Thankfully.

"I doubt you can even get through the door, let alone take down the Fates, the Judge, the Spectre, and all of the minions." the man said seriously, seemingly not offended by the suggestion of combat.

"Curious, why you want him gone anyway?" Timmy asked.

"Half of him belongs in Elysium, half in Tartarus,” the man said. “We cannot send him to either, as we're bound to the rules."

"Elysium and Tartarus?" Timmy asked.

"Paradise and eternal torment, respectively." I explained.

"...ugh." Timmy said.

"Hrm." Alex said, looking thoughtful.

"So this debate is gonna continue for eternity since his soul can't be split in half to send to each?" Dawn surmised. Well, that at least accounted for what happened to Nkosi.

"Effectively, yes,” the guy nodded.

"So how're we gonna get our hands on 'im?" Timmy asked. Blunt, direct, not too bright. Good muscle for the group, but not much else.

"Can we at least speak with him?" Blossom asked, turning on the charm.

"He promised he'd stay with Bast forever. That means that he should be assigned to the Egyptian afterlife instead of this one. He was simply unlucky in his location." I posited to the man.

"They're all the same afterlives, just by different names," the ghost said, shrugging a bit. So that wasn’t it either.

I paused, thinking. After a moment, I spoke. "We just escorted several lost souls down here. One of them we 'intended' to keep.” I said. “Possibility of a bureaucratic hiccup is probably too low to account for this accident, I'm guessing?"

"I have no idea what you're asking me," the ghost said. Apparently I wasn’t clear enough.

"We request that single soul back. You bring us the wrong one. We take your problem with us on the way out," I explained.

"That'd be nice, but it requires me to fuck up on purpose," the ghost said, rolling his eyes a bit.

I changed tack again. "Then I request Nick Snider's soul in payment for the service provided."

"Request denied.”

This was beginning to get irritating...we were SO close. "Fine. One moment."

"What about a trade?" Blossom asked. I looked at her curiously. Was she serious?! I heard a sigh from Alex.

"If you have claim on a soul that was not brought in from topside, you might have reason to go in and retrieve it.” the ghost said. He continued, “Trades don't happen. Purchases don't happen. You want a dollar value put on /your/ soul?"

"I didn't say anything about buying him..i suggested trading one soul for another." Blossom protested.

"Screw tradin', what'll it take for us to get his soul and run the fuck away with it?" Timmy said, seeming to be itching for a fight. Gods damn it, this was going to hell fast.

I turned to Timmy with a glare. "Do you really want a fight here? We're already pretty battered, and we still need to get out."

"How did you people get this far?" the shade said, echoing my sentiment.

"I'm just sayin', what's it gonna take? Lets stop beatin' around the bush an' get to the point." Timmy said.

"And I literally /can't/ tell you, dumbass." the shade shot at Timmy.

"Then why the hell didja come out here?" Well, that was at least a legitimate question.

"So I'll tell you what. Toss your camp on the floor here.” The shade suggested. “Nothing will come in to harass you, but keep watch anyways. Confer amongst each other and figure out what you need to. Knock when you're ready.” He paused, looking us over. "Maybe take a few naps."

I browquirked at that, but wasn’t about to argue. We could use the break. "As you insist."

"What about my question..can we trade for him?" Blossom pressed.

"I already said 'no'. You /can't/ trade souls." the shade said.

"Why can't we enter the doors?" Blossom asked.

"Let it go for now, Blossom. We need to brainstorm for a bit." I told her, trying to get her calmed down.

"Fine.." Blossom said impatiently "Nevermind then..."

The shade turned and left, and I started to set up camp. We needed a better idea and it wasn’t going to come to us without some food and rest. Dawn gave me an encouraging smile, and I returned it. It was in our grasp now. We were so close...we just had to figure out this last puzzle.

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After I finished setting up the camp, I started a fire and got busy with the cooking. The packs were getting a lot lighter now that we were carrying less wood and supplies and everything. I started cooking the food on it. Alex was taking a bit of a nap, Timmy was sitting in a corner, and Blossom looked like she was meditating.

After a while I finished, and brought food over to everyone on dishes. I extinguished the fire for now to conserve the fuel. We weren’t cold for the time being so we didn’t need it. Alex took his food eagerly, as did everyone else. I had to persuade Blossom a bit; she didn’t seem interested in eating, but it’d been 6 hours since we ate anything; it was time.

"Thanks, Nate." Alex said in between careful bites of his food.

"No problem, Alex," I responded, sitting down with my own plate. "While we're all here, we should brainstorm a bit."

"Hmm... yes,” Alex agreed. “So we can't go in ourselves, right?" I nodded.

"What if one of us were a spirit?" Blossom asked. "Could we then?"

I looked over at Blossom with an eyequirk. "If you're going to suggest killing someone, I veto that right now. That’s not a productive line of thought.” Alex shook his head in agreement.

Blossom shrugged a bit. "I was just thinking of what Dawn said, that the laws of death down here are different."

"For creatures that LIVE down here." I and Dawn reminded in synch. I paused for a second in shock at that, but it got the point across.

"Oh, well it was just a thought..." Blossom said with a sigh.

"Sorry, but it's not a good idea." I shook my head.

"I dunno... Maybe if Tim would volunteer...” Dawn said facetiously. Tim shot her a dirty look but didn’t say anything.

Alex hrmed. "If anyone has to die it'll be me, okay?"

"That's a bad idea too," Blossom said. "No one is dying." She paused for a moment. "If anyone was to die, it /will/ be me.." Oh god, now they were competing to die.

Alex saw that this wasn’t productive. "Any other suggestions?" he asked.

I glanced to Dawn. She shrugged, so I presented the only idea that’d come to me so far. "Well, I would think that if we can find a commitment for Nick, one which precludes death, that might count as a loophole."

"What do you mean?" Blossom asked.

"A promise, agreement, deal.” I suggested. “Something that's more important than being dead, or transcends death." I paused for a moment. I hadn’t known him that well. "He promise anything to any of you?"

"He promised he wouldn't leave me alone," Blossom said.

I stroked my chin. "That might work. Dunno. We should try and get a number of ideas, and cycle through them as we work."

Alex wingshrugged a bit.

"Guys... This is death we're dealing with here." Dawn said. "Casual promises... I can't see that doing anything at all."

"Okay, hmm ..." Alex said.

"So how do we get him back? They want him to leave, but can't give him to us." Blossom repeated, trying to reason it out. "We can't take him because we can't get inside, we can't talk to him either." She stood and walked up to the door, placing a hand on it gently.

"There's no way we can just casually stroll in?" Alex asked.

"Not to my knowledge." I said, turning to watch Blossom. The rest did likewise as she pushed against the door to see if there was any give or anything. There wasn’t; she returned to her seat a few moments later.

"So we need a serious promise or agreement." I resumed the conversation.

"That he's not of this world?” Alex said. “Not really an agreement but..."

"That might work, yeah." I nodded.

Alex sighed. "What other options do we have."

"I don't think there are a lot of agreements that transcend death.” Dawn said. “Not certain exactly what we have to work with here..."

"Neither am I, really.” I admitted. “I don't think anyone knows aside from people beyond that door."

"And they're not talking." Alex finished.

"Exactly." I agreed.

Dawn nodded, then looked thoughtful. "Analogy, then... Our friend is in jail, stuck in the courthouses..."

"Bail..." I said. "But they denied that."

"Prisonbreak won't work because we won't get away with it." Alex said.

"I don't understand..." Blossom said, quirking a brow.

"Then maybe that 'error' thing might... Hm." Dawn said.

"Hmmm. Improper arrest? He died for no reason." I suggested. "In fact, he's not even dead yet."

"Isn ... yeah." Alex said.

"His spirit got dragged down here because half of him got killed." I nodded, feeling this might be a better answer.

"But I thought one part can’t live without the other one?" Blossom inquired.

"Biologically they should..." Alex mused. "A pity this place doesn't have visiting hours..."

I snorted. "That'd be too easy."

"I like too easy." Alex said. I could at least empathize with the feeling.

Blossom shook her head, then looked at us. "How can we cause an error?"

"Ctrl-Alt-Delete." Dawn joked. I smirked at that, though Blossom didn’t get it.

"I think the fact that he was dragged down here simply because his other body was killed, is a good choice," I said more seriously. "To use the courtroom analogy, lack of a warrant or reasonable cause for arrest."

"We can try," Blossom said with a nod, then looked at me. "What is a courtroom?"

"A building where your guilt and innocence regarding crimes you're accused of is decided," I said.

"A system for deciding how to punish criminals," Alex interjected.

"And that, too," I agreed.

"Well, once you're in the courtroom you're basically half guilty, they don't put you in there for no reason," Alex said ominously.

"Innocent until proven guilty,” I countered.

"Yeah ... I guess so..." Alex said, half-heartedly.

"What's a crime?" Blossom asked innocently, looking a bit dumbfounded.

"A crime is when you break a law," I explained. "Such as driving a car while intoxicated with alcohol, breaking into someone's house, or killing someone."

"So a crime is doing something wrong then?" Blossom asked.

"Generally, yes," I said.

"Could have just said that..." Blossom pouted slightly.

"Might have something with that 'mistake' thing.” Dawn said.

"So do we try now?" Blossom said eagerly.

I looked to Dawn.

"We'll give it a shot?" Alex said.

"Alright, I guess," Blossom said.

"So do we try it?" I said, to confirm. Alex nodded at me.

"Seems okay," Blossom said. "What do we have to lose?"

"We don't want to annoy them, really," I said.

"Blossom, let the others handle the talking, please." Alex quietly asked. I probably wasn’t supposed to hear that. She nodded solemnly in response.

"What are you trying to do, exactly?” Dawn said.

"I intend to ask for the soul back. Because Nick was never injured or killed; his body lives. He ended up here only because of an incomplete separation of his soul.” I said. “Because his body still lives, he still belongs on earth and not in the underworld."

Dawn shook her head. "There has to be something more solid than this..." She paused. "Or... Maybe there isn't."

"I'm out of ideas for now, sorry." Alex said.

"I don't have anything better at this point.” I admitted. “Worst that can happen is they send us back out here..."

Blossom nodded. "The only promise he made to me is to never leave me..." she said.

I nodded to Blossom at that, then headed for the door. Everyone stood up and came behind me as I knocked on the door, then stepped back and waited, masking my nervousness.

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A few minutes after I knocked, the wraith or shade or ghost or whatever exited the doors again, and looked at us. His expression was inscrutable.

"Hello again. I believe we've reached a solution," I told him.

"Ah, good," the shade said.

"Nick was never injured or killed by any means,” I said, with a deep breath. “Nkosi was, and due to the incomplete separation of his soul, Nick was dragged down here; his body lives on. As his body is not dead, he belongs on earth and not in the Underworld." I paused as I finished, waiting for a response.

"That's half the problem, kid. Literally,” the shade said. “But you can't send him up, and you can't send him down, because either way, you're doing half wrong. Do you realize that there is no longer any such person as Nick?"

I shook my head. "I had not, no. Nick-Nkosi, it is?"

"Pretty much,” the shade said with a nod. "Like a fucked up sort of neopolitan soul-cream."

I winced at that revelation. "Alright."

"This is the last time I answer the door for you folks. It's time for you to take back the soul you dropped off and go home," the shade said, ominously.

"We're trying. I know that doesn't sound the best, but we're doing the best we can," I said, trying to buy some time. I looked back to the others. Alex had a grimace. Dawn wingshrugged.

Out of the corner of my eye, Blossom got up and walked past me, right into the front by the spirit. "Alright. We will collect our soul, and head back now if you will allow us." she said. I pulled back a bit, expecting this to blow up.

"That's the spirit... No pun intended,” the shade said. Give me a moment...” He paused, for what seemed like an eternity, before nodding once. “Yes, you're clear to pull out the damaged soul you delivered to give it more time to recover before judgement."

I looked at Blossom curiously, not really sure what had transpired. That said, if it worked, it worked. “Alright.” I said, feeling like a third wheel.

"Alright, shall I go with you to get our soul?" Blossom asked.

"No. Living beings cannot pass through these doors,” the shade said. He continued, “Tartarus, I don't even know if they actually open... It's really much simpler. Lay your hands or head or whatever on the door, and will the aura of the spirit back to you. Make sure you get the right one. No sense in accidentally pulling up some stranger."

Alex jerked at the last word, but Blossom nodded. "Alright." She walked up to the door and walked towards the door, placing her hands on it, a look of concentration on her face.

"Shame about your Nick though. You'll just have to accept the situation and go home." the shade said.

"After we collect the soul we dropped off we will," Blossom agreed.

At first, nothing seems to be happening. Blossom was just standing at the door, hands pressed against it, then suddenly her brow wrinkled in concentration. I couldn’t see what was happening, but it was demanding of Blossom, I could see that. After a few moments, her tail twisted around in frustration, swaying back and forth.

"Give him to me..." Blossom growled at the door.

The shade turned to me. "Well, you look like you're underway. I'm going to go back inside."

I nodded, putting on my best confident facade. "Thank you, sir."

"Y-yes, thanks." Alex said distractedly, as the shade turned and disappeared back through the door.

Blossom kept her hands on the door, focusing. “Selene help me,” she breathed softly, though given the quietness of the area, we all heard it.

After a moment, Dawn broke the silence. "What exactly are you doing?”

"I’m trying to draw Nick to me through the door," Blossom responded, not looking back.

"Not working?" Dawn said.

Blossom shook her head. "There is something resisting me."

"Nkosi." I said, realizing in a flash of inspiration what the problem was. "You have to want Nick/Nkosi, not just Nick."

Blossom paused, then nodded. She looked back to me with a nod, then turned to the door and started her efforts again. Nothing seemed to be happening at first, the doors were there, as imposing as ever. We just sat there in silence, watching. Blossom focused even harder, her brow furrowing and tail twitching as she focused...and then suddenly, a soul orb like we’d escorted down here phased out of the door, moving over to hover by Blossom. I focused on it, and I felt the unpleasant ‘taste’ of a mark to Bast with my marksense.

I stared, my mouth agape. We’d done it. We’d actually gotten the soul back. Now we just needed to get it topside to his body...easier said than done, but everything seemed so much more within our grasp at this point.

Blossom took her hand off the door, looking at the soul. "Nick?" she said, tentatively. No reaction came forth immediately. Blossom reached out trying to touch the sphere, but her hand simply passed through it. Alex eyed the soul at that, but he didn’t say anything.

"We need to get it back to the body," I said, although I was pretty sure everyone knew that already.

Blossom sighed and nodded. “I believe it is him,” she said. “I feel the mark.”

"That's about as good as we'll get," I said. Nothing in school had taught me how to deal with stuff like this, so it was all being played by ear.

Alex nodded. "Lets get out of this crazy place."

I started packing up what little camp we’d made. "We need to be careful,” I reminded. The soul-eating monsters were foremost on my mind. Alex paced a bit as we went, the blood stuck on his wings marring the shine, as Blossom, Dawn, and Timmy helped me finish the packing. Dawn’s actually pretty helpful with that, as long as it’s the lower dexterity jobs.

After we got finished, I hoisted my pack. “Everyone ready to go?” I asked.

"As I will ever be," Alex said.

Blossom nodded. "Yes, I am ready." The soul seemed to be staying close to her, like...always in arm’s reach as she moved. Like it was attached on an invisible leash. Hell, it might have been. I didn’t know.

I glanced to Timmy and Dawn, who both nodded they were ready. “Ok then, let’s go.” I said, and started leading us out again.

Timmy lagged behind a bit; his wounds were starting to catch up with him. That said, we were ALL hurt by this point. And all of us wanted to see the sun...we’d been underground for at least 3 days by now. It was hard to tell time. We were just trying to get out now...the hard part was done. I led us back up through the caves in accordance with my notes. The soul followed Blossom, and she followed with us, keeping an eye out for anything that might be dangerous.

We had to fight a few more times before we got back to the river. We had to strike camp one more time before we did, and then again the next evening after riding back with Pluto. It was maybe half a day after that that we finally saw the exit to the castle we’d entered, the cave walls turning back into stone masonry as we went...only for us to see another cerberus looking back at us as it spotted out light sources as we approached.

Preceded by:
Descending Into Darkness
Three Pantheons Succeeded by:
Out of the Darkness