Part Four. (<Part One)
Marisa rubbed her eyes, “what?”
The women looked at each other until Marisa’s mind registered what had been said.
“No! I have to… I have to return to my village! I only left to hunt, I shouldn’t be here. Just let me leave.” She groped for anything, “I, I escaped, didn’t I? Yeah, just let me go, and tell them all that I escaped.”
Jolanin was disheartened, “it is a good idea, but it cannot be done.”
“Why! Why do they suddenly want to kill me? Before I at least had the option of being a pet.”
“I will explain. It appears that there is a young, but grey haired, Plainkind woman looking for you. As you know, we have reasons not to have others searching the mountain. The conclusion the Shriken has taken to is that planting your dead body will give her reason to end her search. I am to execute you.”
Marisa knew that the woman must be Yaska, but she wasn’t comforted by it.
“What if… what if you and I, we pretend I’m dead. Then you can plant me, and Yaska will find me not dead, but alive!”
Jolanin was going to object, that it would be impossible to pass a living body as a dead one to a Shriken, but before she could say anything, a third voice spoke.
“You really think that would work?”
Jolanin’s eyes shot about the room. Marisa thought she recognized the voice.
Death stepped into the room from between a shadow and the lamplight. She bared her teeth in a grin, her face was almost sickly in colour.
“How did you get in here?” Jolanin asked.
“You know how. What, don’t you Shriken have some knowledge of things like this?”
Jolanin’s eyes narrowed, “so, then, you are the Servant of Death. You do not look as I was led to believe.”
“What, did you think I’d be dead too? Quite an ineffective state to have to work in, don’t you think?” She grinned again.
Marisa’s mind raced through her situation. Had Death come to kill her? No, Death isn’t generally the cause of death, just the beneficiary. Was she here because of the execution then? Why would she bother? Was it because of the dream? Was she really even there?
The questions swirled in her mind until she blurted out, “do you know if I’m going to die?”
Death stopped berating the Shriken and turned to Marisa, frowning. “I already told you that I don’t know. Are both of you going to be this foolish the entire time I’m here?”
“If you don’t know whether I’m going to die why show up in the first place? Why are you even here?”
Death sighed, “could you at least show some reverence? I am an immortal Servant after all. Or at least fear? I happen to be a somewhat arbitrary killer you know.” She eyed the room, then continued, “as one you know, I’ve been paying attention to this situation. I find it interesting. I’m here to propose a trade.”
Marisa stared at her, “a trade? What could I, here, possibly have to trade you?”
“Just you, who is to be executed regardless, being a part of the trade is enough for me. Things don’t tend to go to well if I tell them too much ahead of time anyway.”
“Unacceptable,” Jolanin said, “on the Plainkind’s behalf, I must insist that your terms make for horrid negotiation.”
“Well, that’s not for you to decide anyway. Unless you want to take matters into your own hands and kill the girl now,” she bared her teeth, “at least, Marisa, let me tell you your end of the trade.”
“Fine. So far it seems you’re the person who least wants to kill me.”
“That is not true!” Jolanin said, “I just think it is best to understand first what—”
Death interrupted her, “Yeah, well, here’s your half anyway. In return for your part Marisa, you, well most of you, will be able to return to your village. And you, Shriken… Jolanin, will have your body for the council. Hell, I’ll even take the memories out.”
Marisa looked at Death in amazement. Jolanin looked with scepticism.
Death smiled, “I’ll leave you alone for a minute to decide.”
Before waiting for a reply, the Servant of Death covered herself in the shadow and was gone.
Jolanin said, “I do not thin it wise to make a trade with Death.”
“It’s too good to be true,” Marisa said, “but the only other option is to die, so…”
“I am certain there is some sort of trick behind Death’s paradoxical offers. But, to choose her offer over your execution is logical. Not that I would do it.”
“What would you do?”
“I would fight my way either to freedom or to death.”
Marisa was silent.
“Be wary that, more likely than not, something terribly unusual is bound to be done to you should you take Death’s offer.” Jolanin unsheathed the sword she had brought for the execution, just in case.
At this point, Death returned.
“So,” she said, “have you decided?”
Marisa said, “yes. I will take your offer.”
“Wonderful! I haven’t gotten a chance to do this in a while.”
She approached Marisa and stuck her finger, as if she were a ghost, through Marisa’s chest, then removed it. Adrenaline rushed to Marisa’s heart, and with each pump seethed into her blood. Her anxiety levels, as a result, spiked.
“Ah! No! What’s happening?” Marisa shouted.
The Servant looked at her with dead eyes, but said nothing. Marisa’s eyes widened, then her body began to shimmer. The girl’s image was becoming distorted, as if through a desert haze. She dropped to her knees and her outline doubled, and then, as if crawling from the girl’s back, a second person split apart from her.
Marisa turned to face the second being, and looked into a face nearly identical to her own. Except for the black eyes and the fact that, while Marisa’s wore an expression of irrational anxiety, the double wore one filled with irrational rage. It emerged entirely from Marisa, kneeling behind her, and then it took the girl in a stranglehold.
“What is the meaning of this?” Jolanin said.
“Well, I’m actually not entirely sure why this keeps happening when I induce this. I have a few guesses myself…”
Jolanin stopped listening to her and went to Marisa, whose girl’s face had turned red, and tentatively thrust her sword towards the double.
The double let go of Marisa, her arm shooting towards the weapon. Taking advantage of Jolanin’s surprise, she wrenched the weapon away and swung it downward, impaling Marisa with it. Jolanin took her sword back and kicked the duplicate, launching her into the wall. She then rushed to Marisa and rolled her over.
For Marisa, the world had become slow. Her mind turned. She thought of what would have happened if she hadn’t come the cave. She thought further back to her times hunting, and living in the village, and other things.
“Jolanin, thanks for trying…” she said.
Jolanin watched her. The execution sword had fulfilled its task perfectly, and had destroyed hole through her chest. She swiftly died of the wound.
“And then I thought, perhaps everyone is angry when they’re born. Infants tend to be awfully loud. I asked the Servant of Birth about it, and he said that probably wasn’t it.”
“Have you not empathy?” Jolanin asked.
Death shrugged. She was indifferent. “Would you believe me if I said I see this all the time?”
Jolanin looked to the Marisa that was alive. She had calmed down.
She asked Death, “What is this person? Why did she kill Marisa?”
“Well, I’ve kind of been telling you this whole time, but I call it a double. She’s mostly the same as the original, but there are some differences. My best guess as to why the double immediately wants kill the original is that the double is mostly a creation of mine. So their first instinct would be related to me, Servant of Death.”
Jolanin looked at the girl. It was true that there were differences, at least physically. Here eyes were, in a sense, inverted. The whites were black, and the irises white.
“The little differences I’ve seen, other than the eyes, were personality, interests, things like that. They also take a name that’s similar to the original, but slightly modified. Look, what are you called?”
The double looked up from ground, “Mariça.”
“Now,” she turned back to Jolanin, “watch this. What can you tell me about the Shriken life cycle?”
Mariça’s expression faltered, “Uh, I guess they have children? Who grow up to… have more, and so on?”
“She doesn’t remember?” Jolanin said.
“Eh, more like she never knew,” Death said, “as promised.” She looked again to Mariça and said, “It’ll be nice to see what comes of you.”
Then, she returned to the shadow, and covered herself in the lamplight, disappearing.
Mariça and Jolanin were left to stare at each other. Jolanin looked at the body of Marisa, and then at Mariça.
“Well, I guess both our problems have been solved. And what has happened was as I had said, terribly unusual. All that is left is to take this to the council, and find a way to get you out.”
“Okay, but,” Mariça said, “where am I?”
This one was a struggle to put out, namely because my sleep got warped and I had a lot of readings to do. (And yes, those two are related.) Otherwise, this would have just been a really long conclusion. But, I think I have enough space to where I can have a decent conclusion with a decent arc. So, to part 5.