The reapers of the world are forever servants. Living as long as civilization itself, reapers are rare--only a dozen for the billions of Earth--and burdened with their unending task of shepherding the dead. Tied into the strings of fate, their sight allows them to see the past, present, and future of each soul. But if these threads are altered too suddenly, even cut short, the reaper tending to them will be scarred with the lash of a fate broken. A reaper can be identified by their scars and their scythes, but are adapt at blending into the back of a person's thoughts, morphing into mere forces of nature. Each reaper acts an avatar for the souls of the dead, taking on the mantle bestowed upon them by creation and with it, some of the qualities of these souls.
Ghost is amongst the oldest of these servants, coming into creation in ancient Mesopotamia and having lived through civilization since. Acting as The Reaper of Those Foresaken, he was brought into being alongside his twin sister by forces unknown. However, while his sister was worshipped as a goddess of death, he was branded as a demon, a devil, a monster. Foresaken much like the souls they collect, Ghost has lived much of his life since in a solitude, only rarely accompanied by souls that manage to be lonelier than he is. His rare companions are those who can see him for what he is--death itself--and not shy away from it. We will all die some day.
Alongside their mission of collecting the final breaths of the dead, reapers act as intermediaries between other servants of the afterlife, and Ghost often having the duty of passing along souls to the gates of hell.
xxxxxDying was an awful feeling, most of the time. Sometimes you got lucky, and it was peaceful. Drowning, as argued by survivors, was one of the more peaceful ways to go. Once the water filled your lungs there was nothing to do but accept your fate and go. Unless you were still spiteful about the whole thing right down to the minute your sopping wet body made a slapping sound on the cold ground as you dropped between the world of the living and that of the rightfully dead and gone. Which of course was exactly where Misha had ended up and his body was most likely now at the bottom of a lake, in the middle of the woods, slowly turning into fish food. Loved that.
xxxxx"...Why...am I still wet..." Were the gurgled words as he spit out a mouth full of distasteful water, pushing his hair back enough to be plastered to his forehead instead of his face and eyes. Soaked clothes were not a good feeling. Nothing about this was a good feeling to be fair, but he'd dealt with worse. It took him a minute to get over the disorienting feeling of being pulled from the mortal realm before he was finally to his feet. He'd need to find a reaper. While his soul would inevitably get drawn back into his reanimated body, it'd take longer if he got lost out here, and reapers were dutifully known for rerouting lost souls. He could only hope it was the one he was familiar with... And that singular hope would have to do as he now, still dripping, wandered through along with the rest of the confused, lost, and recently dead.
Ghost stood at the crossroads of life and death, the wayward souls scattered throughout the realm of purgatory. Most would find their own way to where they needed to go, but special cases needed to be helped along at times. He tapped the staff of his scythe on the ground and it let out a reverberating wave, the souls that linger and clutch to life losing their grip and fading off. To where wasn't Ghost's business, he was just here to move the process along--a cog in a sort of massive, bureaucratic machine.
The wave of passing was long and wide, leaving him alone in an expanse of white and to soak up the rare silence.
... What is that wet slapping noise.
Ghost turned to see the lone figure remaining slopping towards him, squinting to make out the face of a familiar harbinger. As soon as the recognition hit, he rolled his eyes and muttered something in an ancient language under his breath. Calling out, "You sure die often for a jailer."
Misha's expression scrunched up, despite his relief to see the man, turning his head to see the tall figure in the distance. At the very least, it hadn't taken him nearly as long to find the other as it had times before. Tied to an eternal contract, some Harbingers had been known to be lost in Limbo for years if they were unable to find a proper guide. On the ever rare occasions, decades, if they lost themselves. Time between realms moved on its accord, never matching one another. Being pulled back to Earth with years of advancement passing you by was not an easy transition, for anyone.
xxxxx"Demonic animalia possession..." He grumbled, before adding "Did you know moose could dive twenty feet in the water? Because I didn't." To be perfectly fair, his contract had started off normal. But when the possession was cornered, he hadn't expected it to slip out of the human body and into the nearest living creature. Regardless, here he stood, still dripping as he craned his neck to make proper eye contact with the reaper "You wouldn't happen to have a towel...?"
"Well, now you know not to dive into lakes while being chased by moose. I suppose you swim better than you climb?"
Ghost leaned over Misha as he drew closer, looking him over from every angle for any damage that needed to be fixed before he was sent back. Not to his body, but to his soul. Involving demons in the mix can fray the edges of fate, and after careful scrutiny, Ghost squatted down to peer at a rip in Misha's self that would need suturing. As if in response, a cut on his hand--an existing one, mind you, for Misha had caused enough damage to the reaper's body to scar deeper than other surface wounds--opened up, dark blood seeping out. Ghost didn't react to it, the experience normal to him.
"No towel." He does not offer the harbinger his coat.
xxxxx"Size of a skyscraper but not a bit of cloth to spare, huh?" Misha pouted, folding his arms as the man examined him. Perhaps being human, or as close to as one could get while still being distinctly not, Misha seemed to have more acknowledgement of the blood trailing down the man's hand. He knew Ghost paid it no mind, he was used to it, he however seemed to give it a quick wipe away with his thumb- at least what he could. Taking two seconds to examine it before simply rubbing it off on his clothes. It was Limbo, the stain wouldn't follow him back to the real world anyways "Fixes souls, can't dry a guy off. A wonder that one." He stated, somehow still managing to whine after he'd refocused his attention.
Ghost blinked at being touched, truthfully not even noticing the blood dripping from him. He frowned soon afterwards, an instinctual reaction at having concern paid towards him. Maybe it was the lifetimes of existing in the background, or the servitude towards life itself, but Ghost (and commonly other amongst his kin) often felt more of a burden towards those who felt for his plight than appreciative of any concern. He muttered something else ancient, reaching into coat and pulling out often-reached-for bandages to wrap himself up with, a quick and practiced action.
"You show more concern for being damp than you do the gaping hole in you."
xxxxx"Oh, that? Well, I'll admit it's not exactly a roller coaster of euphoria. Opposite, actually. But let's be honest, I've been," Misha held up fingers to count as he went "Mauled, beaten, burned, drowned, electrocuted, eaten once- don't want to talk about it- strangled, shot, lethally injected. That list goes on. What's one more unfortunate circumstance? I'm about as concerned about that as you are about your own wounds." Misha pointed out. He'd been around the man long enough to notice that Ghost's concern for most wounds, if not all, that he gained was about a solid zero out of ten. Perhaps it made Misha a hypocrite since he'd learned to push down the nightmares, paranoia, and insomnia that his job brought him but- even if the other was used to something, that didn't make it any better. Wiping off the blood was the least he could do considering Misha didn't intend to hold any concern for himself.
"Now you are bragging about unimpressive things." Ghost cracks a smile, something rare to most people who'd notice him, but not entirely uncommon around Misha. The man amused him, his bombastic nature around such matters as death and demons being a charming change of pace.
Ghost reached up to the blade of his scythe, running his fingers along the edge until he pulled forth from it a needle. He leaned back down to the fraying hole in Misha's soul, posing the needle and its thread of fate, ready to suture it closed.
xxxxx"Unimpressive? People at parties think those stories are a riot thank you! Right next to thinking they're bullshit." He shrugged, seemingly satisfied that he'd seemed to pull at least one smile out of the man. Despite his rather unlucky life, sometimes, it seemed- fortune found it's way winding back to him in small, quick moments. He'd gotten used to appreciating the little things. He left that to the good memories folder in the back of his brain, however, as he was now fully aware of what was about to happen. He very well doubted this would be the last time the man was required to stitch him back together again. He could dream though... All pain was temporary, he reminded himself. It wouldn't last forever. It'd just be brutal for the time that it did take up...
"It is unimpressive because dying is unimpressive." He figured conversation was the best distractor to the pain that could not be numbed. Ghost began to sew the soul back together, pulling the edges taut with tugs of the string of fate. It felt as if Misha's soul was being pierced over and over again, then drawn tight as Ghost continued. The sutures would fade, but the pain from the wound would linger at least until the harbinger's next death. And, truthfully, Ghost was never the best at this task, his sister far superior in her handiwork. But she never exactly took the time to teach.
"Most would brag about their successes, not their failures."
xxxxx"Mmhmhmhmm...." Misha let out a strangled breath through his nose, humming along each time the needle pierced his very soul. Unpleasant was an understatement. He knew he couldn't go back without being strung back together again but sometimes he wondered if it would be better to take his chances. At the very least, the phantom pain that the sutures brought him in the mortal world was much more bearable. Ah, phantom pain. He'd save that one for a joke later. He'd more than likely get a groan, or an eye roll, than a laugh but he'd take what he could get.
xxxxx"Successes? Haven't got too many of those...Mm- I don't think a man with many successes makes a deal with the devil. At least, the former doesn't come before the latter, usually. I'll get back to you on that when I pay off my debt- that, is-" Misha made a sound a lot like what someone might consider a squeaky toy would make when squeezed hard enough and runs out of air.
"Aye, yet you act as a man with many." A few more threads across and Ghost finished up the stitches, tying off the top and breaking the string with his sharp teeth. The needle gets tucked back into his scythe, him standing back up to his full height, looming comfortably over Misha. He had known the harbinger longer than most of his kind, either because the others had their time pay out by now, or their deals were broken and they were dragged into hell themselves. "And how many years left on that debt, now?"
xxxxx"That does not get any less painless..." Misha sighed with his whole chest, now arching at an odd angle despite the discomfort to view the man's work and his lack of broken soul. He looked decently pleased, before straightening back up himself, offering a crooked sort of smile "Hoping to get rid of me sometime soon? And here I'd thought I'd come to grow on you. Unfortunately I have to inform you, you're stuck with me for quite a while longer. In fact don't be surprised if you're stuck with me forever, either." Forever was an exaggeration, but it was only such a stretch. Misha never bothered to mention the deal he made, at least not more than exactly once if you did manage to get it out of him. Despite how common it was to bargain for the life of a loved one, it was also an incredibly expensive commodity, and Hell took advantage of that. Supply and demand held reigns even among the infernal region. It was easier to trick mortals into longer, more gruesome deals when they wanted something desperately enough. Grief was a powerful thing, and hindsight was 20/20.
Ghost huffed a breath of air that could be interpreted as a laugh, if one was being generous. "Grown on me like a mold, maybe. At the rate you die, I feel already prepared for that forever."
Perhaps brought on by pity, or perhaps knowing the truth of Misha's situation from either an wise guess or a past moment of weakness from the harbinger, Ghost looked at him for a quiet moment. He let out a sigh of annoyance, mostly at himself, before taking off his coat and setting it over Misha's shoulders. It was big enough to hang off of him like a cloak, the fur lining immediately warm to the touch.
"... Warm up before you come back, otherwise you'll spend the next life in cold."
xxxxx"And yet, grown on you nonetheless." Misha stated, proudly at that, for better or for worse. More than likely, probably to Ghost's exhaustion, which he seemed to find some amusement in "Ack-" The sudden weight on his shoulders was an unexpected surprised however, and he held his arms out. Mostly to steady himself, not that it made much of a difference, not an inch of the coat was actually lifted off the ground, seemingly just shifted around on him. He blinked, and not a moment later sunk into the warmth, putting quite the effort into swaddling himself right there. Looking quite smug at that, too.
xxxxx"Ahhh, like mold, huh? Admit it, you like me. Even just a little bit." The man took some pride in that too. He imagined had his deal not been as long as it was, he wouldn't have gotten half the chance to get to somewhat know Ghost. This visit was a lucky one, he could tell you that at least. Perhaps, because of the reaper alone, he didn't mind his sentence too much. Being practically immortal didn't give you many companion options, but it was comforting knowing you had at least one person.
Ghost frowned at the smug look on Misha's face. "I can always take it back and leave you soaking wet and freezing for a lifetime."
And still, though he'd never admit it, having someone as forsaken as he was that he occasionally came across in eternity was something the reaper couldn't deny appreciating. He, too, was bound in a forever servitude, but not out of a debt to pay. Instead, his existence was brought forth to do this one task, forever until humanity died out or time itself ended. Recently, it was looking more likely to be the former.
In truth, he hoped Misha would one day soon get his moment of rest, for he knew that his own would likely never come.
xxxxx"Kidding, kidding!" He most certainly wasn't, but he also didn't look very willing to give up the chance of at least drying off before his infernal bindings finally caught up with him and dragged him back to Earth. It wouldn't be long, at least not now that he was all patched up "It's not like my 'lifetimes' last very long anyways. Like you said, I die often. Should really work on that...Or perhaps- my next success is setting a record for how many times a Harbinger has died while paying off a debt. Who says dying can't be turned into a win? I'll try not to get too large of a hole put in me next time." Somehow, it seemed, the man had taken the other's words and gone the exact opposite direction he should've with them. At least he looked motivated?
Ghost huffed another laugh, a sharp exhale through his nose. "I worry the devil himself will get tired of you before you ever reach that record. But I also doubt they have put systems in place for that."
He leaned on his scythe, the blade shining against the expansive white of purgatory. In the far distance, the barking off hell hounds. Ghost did not take his eyes off the harbinger however, focused on Misha and how comical he looked in the oversized coat.
xxxxx"I'd sooner take my chances with a thrown deal than see how far the devil's patience runs," Misha stated, although with how confidently it was said, it was almost questionable whether he had actually taken such a thing into consideration- or if he would. Then, just as quickly, and as if he'd never said the former at all he added on "Ah, they've sent the dogs. Like when they send those...there are such worse things to be dragged back by." If he squinted, he could make out the soft, warm glow in the distance. It almost looked welcoming. But he knew the closer they got the hotter, more chaotic those flames would become. A small, but deadly misjudgment.
Ghost followed the harbinger's gaze, eyes lazy and unfearing of their approach. The minions of hell would never harm a reaper, for they are the main suppler for hell itself. And even if they tried...
"Ehh. I could give you the faster way back?" Ghost tipped his scythe forward. Technically, as long as a harbinger dies in the in-between, they will revive back in the living world. It would just be a swift beheading, but the question of whether it's worth having your head chopped by a friend.
xxxxx"Oh that's real charming." Misha scoffed, although despite his seemingly unwilling answer he motioned with two fingers anyway "Hit me with it." The man would've had to have been in a good mood to have taken the offer of turning into Brom Van Brunt himself. He'd be back soon enough either way, the life of a Harbinger was a fast lived one. If it had to be played back to them at their time of final death, Misha imagined it would look like a badly edited video: choppy, gruesome, and just a tinge depressing. Besides, he'd take Ghost's way out over the devil's.
Ghost simply nodded, used to the motion and fully disillusioned with death--particular those of Misha. A quick motion, the scythe sings through the air, reverberating against the white void and slicing clean through the harbinger's soul. Unlike the frayed edges his soul harbored before, this was a clean cut from the blade of faith itself. No pain was felt, just the vision of the scythe oncoming and Misha's sight of purgatory being cut short. Ghost watched his soul fade like an after image, a mirage made clear. He turned towards the hell hounds, who slowed their aggressive encroach to a simple trot, whining at the loss of their prey.
After some pets and some silence, the reaper was on his way, alone once more.
xxxxxHis first time dying had not been so confident, nor graceful at that. The 17 year old had landed in Limbo flailing, trying to put out flames that were no longer there, but the singe marks and burnt skin was an unkind reminder that it had been. He didn't know what he'd expected, hunting demons. He swore he could still smell the sulfur with every ragged breath in, his chest moving in an uneven fashion, fearful as he turned his gaze back and forth. He didn't recognize this place. It didn't at all look like where he'd just been.
He sucked in a sharp breath upon first movement, realizing the deep clawed lacerations left in his skin were still very clearly there. Unbeknownst to him it wasn't really his skin. Misha hadn't the slightest clue that he was dead, only a soul now. In fact, he had no idea what was going on. He hadn't been given much of a job description past shoot this, bring it back. Half of him wanted to call out, the other half didn't want to make a single noise in case another infernal creature crawled out to continue the job. For now, he only wobbled to his feet, iron grip on the cradle he was holding himself in as he looked around- seeing the vague silhouettes of moving figures in the distance. Full of uncertainty, he followed after them. At least, he'd been trying to until a wave of- something, seemed to wash them away as if they'd never really been there.
Leaving only a tall man in their place, taller than Misha had ever seen. The teen kept his distance, for now, observing with a wary gaze glued to the scythe the man carried.