LAST EDITED ON Jun-15-16 AT 03:25 PM (EDT)
THURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 2401
NEW OSLO, NIFLHEIM
1 MORT PLAZA
Teleute was sitting in her favorite overstuffed chair in the Starbucks in the lobby of the building that contained her office, when the sensation trilled across her mind.
She never used that office - it had been Hela's, and even cleaned of the skulls and candles and the throne decorated in carved death scenes, it still creeped her out. It was technically the seat of her power, but a couple of industrial thaumaturges had helped her reset it so that the entire building was the seat, instead of just the office, and so she and her executive assistant (a nice girl named Lydia, who had been a psychopomp before dying) tended to hang in the Starbucks. Everyone in the building knew that was where to find the boss, and after she and Forseti got the real Hela hard-core followers out and got a better class of people in to handle the work (Niflheim had a lot of career bureaucrats and functionaries who hadn't gotten to Valhalla), the place was a lot better to work in.
"Hey, Lyds," she said to her EA, "Getting a summon from Midgard. You can handle stuff, right?" Part of the mystic flow reconstruction included the ability for her to delegate temporary signing responsibility to someone else, so when Lydia said, "Got it, Chief," there was a small shift in power, and Lydia was temporarily handling afterlife routing. Teleute would have to do some approvals, but she trusted Lydia, so it was pretty much a rubber stamp. The handling of responsibilities finished, she hopped up and headed to the counter.
"Hi Cindy," she addressed the counter clerk. "Gonna need a to-go of coffee, five cups, and five brownies." The clerk efficiently put things together, and Teleute picked up the box and the bag.
"Back in a bit!" she said cheerfully, and then faded away.
The candles burned low, and the incense smoked. The foil under the candles was caked with the wax, and the sigil on the floor, drawn in powder, was still solid if a little bit blurry. The four people standing at the compass points continued to chant, three from photocopies and the fourth from a thick grimoire that he held in one hand. They'd been at it for ten minutes, and wondering if they should stop, when there was a sudden shimmer in the air, and suddenly someone stood there.
They all paused in their chanting, as they did not expect what they saw: a woman, cute and with a perky smile and chalk-white skin, wearing a black tank-top and black jeans, thick eye makeup and an ankh necklace, carrying a bag and a cardboard box with a handle. The one with the grimoire stared for a moment, and then said, quite plainly:
The four were all goths - the dark hair, dark makeup, and dark clothes all made that totally obvious to her. She liked goths - heaven knows she was one - but the ones that tried to summon her tended to be either a little crazy or have a reason to risk their own lives.
"So, who's idea was this? I want to let them know how bad it was. But first, hey, who wants a brownie and some coffee?" She then terrified them by walking out of the circle, and sitting down on the bed. "I brought plenty."
Then one of the four spoke, his voice hushed, and thick with emotion: "...you're not going to punish us for our arrogance or something?"
Teleute smiled. "I brought decaf. This time of night, that's punishment enough."
The quartet of summoners laughed despite themselves, then looked despondent. "Dammit," one of them said, softly but furiously.
"So," Teleute said, pouring a cup of coffee, "What were you guys thinking? If it was my predecessor in this job, you're have been a very special kind of fucked. As it stands, this is just kind of a bad idea overall. And where did you learn it?" Then she saw the book. "Yeah, okay, adding to your punishment, I am taking the Magdalena Grimoire with me."
The one with the grimoire gripped it tightly. "My name is Rob, and we needed to find a way to make a deal. Trying to save a life."
Another of the four spoke up now: "My brother's in the hospital. He was in a car accident and they said there was nothing they could do, just... the waiting." Her voice was hoarse from crying. The others just seemed numb.
"So..." Teleute took a breath. "You guys figured you could summon some aspect of Death, and make a bargain to, what, sell some of your lives to get him to live longer? Even if it was a terrible life, agonizing and unconscious?" Her voice was soft and terribly calm. "Condemn him to pain in a hospital, locked in his body? Or did you think maybe selling a little more for him to heal?" Their faces told her everything she needed to know - sadness, and grief, and a terrible determination. She reached out, mentally, and touched her power, and the burden that was hers to bear.
"It wouldn't have worked," she said, that same calm. "You haven't checked your phones, have you? None of you, since this started." She looked at the girl who had talked about the reasons they did what they had done.
"He died an hour ago."
And faster than any of them could reach her, Teleute was there, to catch her from falling and get her to sit on the floor. There was no wailing, no begging, no screaming, just crying.
The other three took no pause to join in, and hug their friend. The Magdalena Grimoire hit the ground, slamming closed of its own accord.
As the five sat there, four mourning, Teleute learned their names: Monica was the girl who'd just lost her brother, and her friends were Rob, Steve, and Cyndi. Rob -- both rich and an amateur occultist -- had gotten the Grimoire, and had the idea to try and summon Death..
"We'd do anything for Monica," he finished. "We've been friends since kindergarten. Elementary, middle school, high school... and then this morning, Anson was walking and got hit by a truck, and..." He shrugged. "It was crazy, I know."
Teleute nodded, patting Monica's hair as the girl's head lay in her lap.
"It was. And I'm adding to your price for doing this, because I can." She looked at all of them. "I want a funny story about Anson. From each of you."
Memories began to flow, laughter mixing with tears and coffee and brownies, and then, suddenly, there was a sound of wings, and she was gone, and the grimoire with her.
It would occur to Monica at the funeral that the incarnation of Death had pushed them to live, and laugh, and rejoice - she had, in fact, come with friendly care. It would leave her thinking about the way the universe worked for quite a while.
The door to the bookstore jangled cheerfully, and the proprietor slid the thin book he was perusing under the counter. "Welcome to Strangefate Books," Jason Blood said, "How may I- oh." He smiled. "Dropping off or picking up, madam?"
Teleute put a brown-paper wrapped package on the counter. "Dropping off. Magadalena Grimoire. I really don't want this thing running around, Jason. Have Etrigan eat it, or something."
Jason smiled. "I think between Raven and myself, we can find some way to keep it from being found."
"Okay, I'm back," Teleute said, walking into Starbucks. "Hell of a day." She settled back into her chair, and then waved at the counter. "Can I get another latte over here? It's been a long trip."
"How'd it go, boss?"
"Coulda been worse, but it was just misguided kids. And I got the freaking Magdalena Grimoire off the streets. so take the win, right?" The latte arrived, and she took a sip. "Back to work."
"And by work you mean Candy Crush."
A sunny smile was her entire reply to Lydia.
"Urgent Summons" - An Future Imperfect Mini-Story by Geoff Depew
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Geoff Depew - Darth Mephron
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