Non Timetus Messor

Osgary 30, 1014

The moment that she had seen Nimue and Gawaine off to school and Gareth to his blocks under the watchful eye of Michelle, Dindrane stole into her study.

Most of the time, especially when she knew she was alone, or close enough, in the house, she instantly went to her desk or to her table and began to work. Today she stood still, waiting to hear the final click that meant that the bookshelf had locked into place. Then she let out a breath she had not consciously decided to hold, but which nonetheless came as no surprise.

She shook her head. I must be mad.

But what could she say for herself? The days on the calendar had marched with inexorable firmness toward today, Osgary the thirtieth. The Church called it the Feast of the Cordials. The scribe or merchant called it the last day of the month, with all of its attendant duties. The laborer called it a day like any other day.

And witches called it a “thin time.”

And that, Dindrane told herself sternly as she began to pace back and forth through the small study, is why you are being patently irrational. There may well be “thin times.” There might be times when connections are more easily made between the living and the dead, or between mortals and the Fae. This may be one of them. But none of that, Dindrane, matters to what you are doing, or thinking to do.

After all, Sylvia Marie the Mashuga’s device worked any day of the year, thin time or thick.

She knew very well what waiting until today had been: a stalling tactic. No different than the drunkard’s promise to stop drinking — tomorrow, or the famous prayer of Don of Lothario: Oh Lord, make me chaste, but not yet. Since news had come about Lamorak’s death, she had seen this way open to her, a tantalizing possibility, but also … a fearful one.

She had not used the device since Thorn’s death and revival. Something that Morgan said had unfortunately stuck with her: “Did it ever occur to you that there is a balance? That there’s a reason for people dying when they do?” So even when her father died, she had chosen not to meddle.

But now that Lamorak had died, too …

How could there be balance in an act of senseless violence? What higher purpose could possibly be served by a life full of promise being cut so brutally short?

And if Dindrane’s suspicions had any basis in reality — there might be sense to it, there might be purpose, but it was no sense or purpose that Dindrane wanted to see fulfilled.

In that moment she realized that she had made her decision. She took a deep breath, walked to a certain spot on the floor, and closed her eyes.

Down, she thought, focusing her entire will into that command.

And when she opened her eyes, she was in the cellar.

It was just a small, walled-off room in the larger cellar. It was probably larger than it strictly needed to be, but Dindrane had needed to somehow work it into the plans of the house without causing the workmen to suspect that anything was amiss. She’d had enough of a devil of a time making certain that the door that connected this room to the larger storage and root cellar was “forgotten” during construction.

As for the rest — well, Morgan had devised the magical transportation from Dindrane’s study to the cellar below. She’d sworn it would only bring Dindrane and herself down to the cellar, though it would bring anybody up. “And the only reason I’m doing that,” Morgan had said, “isn’t to encourage you in your insanity — but I can’t think of a worse way to die than being stuck in a cellar with no door and no windows and no food, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody who managed to blunder their way down there.” After that, the two of them had manhandled the device down to the cellar; they had installed some candles and torches in the room so that Dindrane wouldn’t trip over the device — and then Morgan had washed her hands of the matter.

The device had not been moved or used since. Dindrane came down once a week or so, just to check that it was still here.

Today, however, would be different.

She strode briskly to the beige device on its altar of fire and skulls. Her footsteps did not echo on the packed-earth floor. But her every breath seemed to knock off the stone walls and go bouncing about the room for a time. Perhaps that was what made it seem that they were coming faster than normal.

She reached the device, bent, her fingers just brushing the bone-cold speaking part–

You rang? a voice as grainy and as swiftly-flowing as the sands of time asked from behind her.

Dindrane spun, her hand over her fluttering heart. “You — you –”

You did wish to see me, did you not? The Grim floated toward her. Dindrane tried, as she ever did, not to stare at the ribcage clearly visible through the tattered robes. It felt rude, and if there was any being with whom one ought to be scrupulously polite …

Dindrane swallowed. “How — how did you know?”

You are mortal. I know where every mortal is at all times. And this … The Grim waved a bony — literally — hand toward the device. I keep a special eye on where this is. When you and the Resurrect-o-Nomitron intersectΒ  The Grim shrugged.

The Resurrect-o-Nomitron. Dindrane filed that away for later. She had never seen that name anywhere in her historical sources — but hearing what it was called from the Grim Reaper himself …

Yes, Dindrane, and whom will you tell that you had this conversation, hmm?

She took a deep breath. “I — see.” But curiosity would not be so easily stilled by practicality, so she asked, “You … know where all mortals are?”

Yes.

“But the Church tells us that only the Lord knows –”

It’s not the same as omniscience, interrupted the Grim. It’s more … omni-location-science. Or perhaps, a better way to think of it is that I know what I must know in order to do my duty.

There was little that could be said to argue with that. Dindrane nodded.

And by the way, the Grim added, if you think the Church is the best place to go for information about me, well, I’ve got some fine riverside property in the Dousa Desert you might be interested in purchasing.

Dindrane blinked. “Nobody ever mentioned that you were sarcastic.”

I didn’t used to be. Then I spent a millennium shuttling mortals from one side to the next. The Grim shrugged again. We’ve all got our coping mechanisms.

“I … see.”

But enough small talk, the Grim continued. You wanted to talk about your brother. And your father.

Dindrane’s breath caught. Her father … she’d watched him die, she’d thought he was at peace when he finally left. But … but the illness had been so sudden — and she knew he wasn’t ready to be finished, not yet, or at least he hadn’t before he had gotten sick …

“I could — get him back?” Dindrane whispered.

You could. But it would not be for long. Dindrane nodded; she understood that. He had been an elderly man. But what the Grim said next had not been what he had in mind. It would be a few days — maybe a week. Maybe. His sands had run out.

Dindrane slumped, and she had to close her eyes and turn away so the Grim wouldn’t see the tears gather. So — so that was that. “How — how is he?”

At peace. Happy. Waiting for your mother and the rest of you to join him — but not until your sands all run out.

Dindrane swallowed and nodded. “So he’s … all right.”

He was a good man. Limited by the standards of his time and place — a prisoner of his own prejudices — but also a man with principles, who never tried to hurt anybody if he could avoid it, and tried to help when he could. Yes. He’s all right.

Dindrane bowed her head. “Thank you. For — for telling me that.”

There is nothing to be lost by kindness, answered the Grim. If anything, I wish that … well, never mind.

She would not ask. He had told her that her father was at rest, at peace — how could she presume to seek to satisfy mere curiosity when he had already given her such a gift?

“So … my brother.”

Yes. Your brother.

“If — if I were to ask for him back …?”

He would live until his sands ran out.

“But … he died.”

His sands didn’t run out, the Grim countered. Somebody took his hourglass and threw it against the wall.

“Is that what happens with all who die young? That they still have sand left to run?”

The Grim’s hood bobbed back and forth, like a man tilting his head from one side to the other as he pondered a difficult question. Sometimes … sometimes not. Not all hourglasses are created equal.

“And how do you tell the difference?”

How do I tell the difference?

Dindrane’s cheeks burned. That had been a stupid way to phrase it. “How does someone on my end tell the difference?”

You don’t. Unless I tell you.

She swallowed. “But you say that Lamorak still has sand left to run. Which means — I could bring him back.”

Yes. For a price.

Dindrane nodded. Of course. There had been a price for Thorn, too. “How much?”

Another life.

Dindrane blinked. She took a step back. She couldn’t — she couldn’t have heard that right. “Another life?”

Yes.

“Are — are you mad?”

No. The Grim didn’t even sound angry. Or frustrated. Or even resigned. There was simply an endless, bone-weary patience to him. There must be balance. If you bring back Lamorak — then another life will be the cost.

“Why? Because I care about him?” Dindrane snapped. “Neil — Thorn — because I didn’t care–because I didn’t love them, because they weren’t my brother, you were content to take money, but because I love my brother, you’ll demand that I kill someone?”

Your feelings have nothing to do with it. Neil — Neil was a man brave enough to risk his life to venture into the unknown, hoping to come back to tell the tale. She appreciates that kind of courage. So, the exchange was in money. And Thorn …
The Grim brought up his hand; it disappeared into his hood. If Dindrane didn’t know better, she’d say he was stroking his chin. But he had no chin … or even a jawbone to stroke … did he? Thorn is complicated. There was no life that could be exchanged for his. And he was a child, an innocent — and he had an important part to play in the drama that would follow. So She decreed.

“Who’s she?”

The Grim laughed. Or at least, he tilted his head back, his ribcage bobbed up and down, and a sound like waves rushing over the beach, dragging acres of sand to sea, issued forth. Oh, Dindrane — you’re far too intelligent for me to tell you that. It would spoil all the fun.

“Who’s having fun?” Dindrane snapped. It was only the knowledge that Michelle and Gawaine were playing a floor above that kept her from shouting.

You would not believe me if I told you.

Dindrane closed her eyes and turned away. She would not let him see how that upset her. She would not. She closed her eyes and clenched her fists, and tried to tell her heart to slow down — somehow she thought that every beat was a grain of sand, and she was not ready for them to run out just yet.

When she had collected herself, she turned back to the Grim. “Can you at least tell me how Lamorak is? Or do I need to sacrifice a chicken to have that request fulfilled?”

Certainly not. Animal sacrifice is always so messy. And half the time they don’t even eat the meat. What a waste! The Grim shook his head. As for Lamorak … he is at rest.

“At rest — at peace? Like my father?”

No. Not peace. Rest. Your father is awake. Your brother sleeps. The Grim paused. He needs it, after what he suffered.

What he suffered … Would Lamorak have suffered overmuch, being slain by thieves? He would have fought until the end … but how long would such a fight last? What kind of thieves would risk robbing a knight they could not incapacitate quickly? Every moment of such a fight was a moment where something could go wrong. Best to cut their losses and run if things dragged on too long.

However … if what Dindrane’s bones told her was true …

The Grim said nothing. But the way he lifted his hood and bobbed it down in a quick, sharp motion — if a hood could wink …

However, though he needs the rest he has gotten, the Grim went on, he will be happy when he wakes. If you are willing to pay the price.

Dindrane started. What? No! Not Lamorak!

“You — you liar!” Dindrane hissed.

The Grim stepped–floated–back. She would have called the reaction genuine surprise, had not the Grim proved what he was. Liar? Me?

“Yes!” So maybe it was true, what the Church said about him — that he was evil, that he lived to trick Sims to their demise and damnation. He had said to discount all that, but he would say that, wouldn’t he? Why had Dindrane been so blind? “I know my brother better than that!”

Better than what? The Grim’s hood tilted to the side.

“Than to think that my brother would be happy to be brought back at the cost of another life!”

The Grim’s hood jerked back. You think your brother is that saintly? That he’d be willing to forgo the rest of his life for that? Your father can watch you, you know. And your children, and your children’s children. Lamorak does not even have that pleasure where he is. He would never get to see his son — or his other child — again.

“A saint? Lamorak? Of course not!” Dindrane snapped. “Were it not for Aglovale and me, I’d say he was the least likely of all of us to be nominated for sainthood! But Lamorak knows right from wrong — and he would never, never be happy to live out the rest of his days if he knew that the price was an innocent life!”

Oh. Certainly, no, he wouldn’t.

Dindrane shook herself. “What?”

Now what?

“You just said –” Dindrane shook her head. “You blatantly contradicted yourself!”

I did no such thing.

“Yes — yes — you did! One minute you say he would be happy to be brought back at the cost of an innocent life –”

I said no such thing.

Dindrane put both hands to her head. She was about ten seconds, she judged, shy of pulling her hair out strand by strand. But she ran through the conversation again in her head — just to make sure.

What I told you, all of it, was and is true, the Grim went on. Your brother will be happy to be brought back. That is a fact. And —

“Wait.”

The Grim sighed, and he tilted his hood heavenward, as if asking for strength — that was odd — but he waited.

“I said — I said knowing that the cost was an innocent life …” Dindrane’s fists clenched and unclenched. “Are you suggesting that I not tell him?”

Well, that would be up to you — but it wouldn’t make much of a difference if you did. Or if it did, it would be in the opposite direction.

“He would be happier to know that an innocent life had been traded for his?”

No.

“You’re not making sense!” Dindrane exploded.

The Grim shook his hood. Listen. Everything I am telling you — everything I have told you — is true. There is no contradiction.

However … the Grim continued, it is clear that you are not yet ready. So I shall take my leave of you.

“What? Wait –”

No. All the same, he seemed to hesitate. All the same — think on what I said, Dindrane. What I said may not be what you heard, or thought you heard. And when you are ready …

The Grim put his hands on his pelvis and chuckled. Well, I would say that you know where to find me — but in truth, I know where to find you.

And in the space between one eyeblink and another, he was gone.

Dindrane shut her eyes and clenched her fists. What he had said — it could not all be true. He must be lying somewhere. It just made no sense otherwise. She would think on her conversation, and she would find the discrepancy, and everything would neatly unravel in her hands, leaving her to pick over every thread at her leisure.

But standing here would do her no good. Dindrane returned to the magic spot and thought, Up. It took a couple of tries — she was too distracted at first to focus. But soon enough, she was in her bright study, the sunlight still streaming through the window like a cruel joke.

A cruel joke like what the Grim had told her. Lamorak would be happy to come back — even at the cost of an innocent life — but no, he wouldn’t be happy if it cost an innocent life —

Wait. Dindrane’s mind backtracked, and found something. A key to the puzzle.

But … if it was that …

Could it be? she wondered. And if it could …

What do I do next?

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15 thoughts on “Non Timetus Messor

  1. Grimmy never said it would cost another innocent life! He just said it would cost a life, right, right? I’m right. I love all the allusions to the Demigoddess in this. I bet you ARE having fun with all of this, not just playing with them but playing with us.

    Interesting on the difference between Pellinore with his being “awake” and Lamorak being “asleep”. I’m sure, however, after Mordred played with him before killing him, that he could use the time to rest, the time to heal.

    And the riverfront property in the Dousa Desert line was pretty good. I like sarcastic Grimmy, it suits him. *files that away in case somebody in River Sulis finds the bone phone*

    Also interesting that Morgan helped her move the bone phone and that she managed to completely wash her hands of it. I wouldn’t have thought that Morgan would have trusted Dindrane with it…

    Then again, I doubt Morgan wants it, either.

    • Damn right I’m having fun with this. 😈 Although I hope y’all are too. πŸ˜‰ The people on the other end of the screen were the ones Grimmy was talking about when he was talking about “the fun.”

      Lamorak could definitely use the time to rest and heal — mentally/spiritually, that is, if not necessarily physically. Grimmy can take care of “physically” all on his own. Pellinore … well, as not-happy as he is currently with the state of all things Gwynedd and Orkney, the nice thing about being in the Albion equivalent of heaven is that the Demigoddess can tell him everything is going to be all right.

      Plus Maude is there. πŸ˜‰ That ought to make anybody’s day.

      It’s not so much that Morgan trusts Dindrane with it, as she distrusts everyone else more. She wouldn’t give it to her family (the Pendragons), because mixing temporal power with the power over life and death just strikes Morgan as a Very Bad Idea. (Plus, she figures they need plausible deniability in case something goes wrong.) She sure as hell doesn’t want it herself. And there’s nobody else she’d even consider giving it to. And as for destroying it … well … she doesn’t know what is powering that thing, or who made it, or what it would take to destroy it, or what the side effects of destroying it would be.

      So … with Dindrane it stays. For now.

      Thanks, Andavri!

  2. As far as Grim’s concerned, a guilty life is just as good as an innocent, isn’t it? Hell, he might have more fun tormenting a guilty one on the way to the cow demons! πŸ™‚

    (I loved cryptic, sarcastic Grimmy, by the way.)

    Oh man, this makes me happy. I’m looking forward to seeing the realizations take place. And then they can swap Mordred and Lamorak. πŸ™‚

    (And oh boy, do I hope we get to see Grimmy when Mordred comes his way! I can’t imagine it will be a quiet acquaintance…)

    • It’s not so much guilt vs. innocence that Grim is after … but more than that I won’t say. It would spoil the fun. πŸ˜‰

      Yay! Glad Grimmy was a hit. It’s hard trying to do a stock or stock-ish character and make it different. Glad he didn’t end up a carbon copy of Skell’s Grimmy or Pratchett’s Death.

      If/when Mordred gets his, I will definitely do my best to show Grimmy on the scene. Dunno how much talking he’ll be able to do, though. After all, I have to somehow not get pics of him chatting on the cell phone …

      Thanks, Van! πŸ™‚

  3. I love Grim! (Erm, that sounded… weird. :P) “We’ve all got our coping mechanisms,” lol! πŸ˜€
    But think very, very hard on what he actually said, Dindrane, not on what you thought you heard. The Demigoddess is a tricksy one, she is. πŸ˜‰

    Grim is only concerned with the numbers, right? He doesn’t care if you trade the life of someone who’s relatively sane for someone who’s completely batshit, as long as there is a trade? Because it would suck if there had to be equal quality as well as equal quantity. πŸ˜›

    • Yes the Demigoddess is a tricky one. πŸ˜‰ Dindrane should soon figure out the riddle. However, whether that means she’ll act immediately … remains to be seen. If what she thinks is true … well … that’s a complicated problem.

      It’s not that Grim is concerned with numbers — after all, pretty much everybody is going to be showing up at his door eventually. He’s more … saying what has to be. Balance is part of it, but only part of it. Actions have consequences. If Dindrane brings Lamorak back, certain things will inevitably happen, and that will carry a price.

      Besides, from where Grimmy is standing, quality doesn’t mean much. One corpse (or soul) is much the same as another. πŸ˜‰

      Thanks, Nix!

  4. Okay, so I’m exhausted (many reasons), but I feel you should know that now I must add Albion to the list of media where Death the Reaper has made it onto my list of characters who make me think, ‘oh, honey. Would you like a hug? Maybe a slice of pie?’

    It’s not a particularly exclusive list, it’s got everything from giant alien robots to superheroes to supervillains to plain old folk just trying to get through on it, but the anthropomorphic personification of death tends to sneak his-or-her way onto that list a lot.

    I seriously have nothing more intelligent to say right now than “HUGS AND PIE!”

    • Sometimes hugs and pie are all it takes. ^^ Thought I admit that that’s not nearly often enough the case. And I can only agree with you. I’ve got a list like that as well and Grimmy just made it on. Gotta be one hell of a job, for sure.

      • If nothing else, hugs and pie can’t hurt, and you can adjust the proportion of hugs to pie for characters who don’t eat or don’t like to be touched.

    • LOL!! Well, I think Grimmy might be able to handle the “pie” part better than, say, Ambrosius would. He’s at least got teeth.

      However, he could certainly use a hug or several. Grimmy doesn’t get much love — even though all he’s doing is a tough job that somebody has to do. The Grim doesn’t kill Sims, after all — players kill Sims. πŸ˜‰

      But all that being said … now I want pie … *thinks longingly of peanut butter pie in the fridge, but does not want to spoil her dinner*

      Thanks, Hat! πŸ™‚

  5. YAY! Operation Resurrection is a go, I daresay! *does bunny dance* And it seems it’ll be a trade, Lamorak for Mordred. The Afterlife is getting a pretty bad deal there, but I guess there’s always room for another one in hell. XD

    I can only agree with everyone before me: Grim is awesome! Love the sarcasm! I hope to see him again very very soon and in company with Mordred! Beause that’s bound to be good! XD I hope Grim has a LOT of fun at Mordi’s expense!

    Also, I loved the references to the Demigoddess. ^^ She’s a sneaky one, for sure! I’m curious though, will we ever get to see her? *can’t help but imagine the Demigoddess having a few choice words with a certain character ^^ cause it’d be fun!*

    • Lol! The Afterlife would have gotten Mordred eventually anyway! And you’re right, there’s always room for one more. Besides, Grim being the kind of Grim he is, I don’t think he’d mind relieving the living of Mordred’s presence.

      πŸ˜€ The Grim won’t be visible for a while yet … Dindrane still has to think through what she wants to do. After all, if she’s right about a) the Grim wanting a guilty life and b) who that guilty life belongs to … that brings its own set of problems. As much as part of her might be screaming for revenge, she’d want to think through the consequences.

      Well, the Demigoddess spends most of her time Underhill — so if/when we see her, it’ll probably be there. πŸ™‚ Unless she decides to directly intervene in the mortal world … but she prefers to use her little pawns to do that.

      Thanks, Ann! πŸ™‚

  6. What do you do next, Dindrane? You find the tallest tower in Albion, a posse, and maybe some rope to make sure he doesn’t catch a ledge on the way down. Pity you can’t toss him down in that cellar of yours and let him die Vestal Virgin style. *glares at Morgan*

    It was a relief, in a way, to hear that Pellinore’s time was up. I’m still sad about the way he went, but it had a purpose and now looks likely to be avenged. The contrasting imagery of Pellinore at peace and Lamorak merely being asleep was brilliant. Pellinore is in the afterlife, where he should be. Lamorak isn’t really in either place; he’s in limbo. I really hope he’ll be waking up on the living side.

    Sarcastic Grimmy was awesome. Maybe he’ll make a repeat appearance when Dindrane is ready to make a deal?

    • Hey now, as much as Mordred might deserve to die Vestal-Virgin style, if Morgan didn’t make her spells allow anyone to get out, how would Dindrane get Lamorak out of the basement? Plus, Mordred is a wizard and can teleport. Unless Dindrane de-magicked him first, he’d be out of there in five minutes. And he’d be pissed.

      Pellinore died at peace, thinking he was just ill and that was it for him — that means something. He was also an old man who had lived a full and, all things considered, pretty darn happy life. Even if his time wasn’t up, per se, I’m not even sure he would want to go back at this point. He can still watch his family from where he is, and he knows everybody is getting along more-or-less fine without him. He’d rather just wait for them to join him. πŸ™‚

      As for Lamorak … like you said, hopefully he’ll get a chance to live the rest of his life, once Grimmy repairs the hourglass and all. (I keep wanting to say lifetimer. MUST NOT SAY LIFETIMER.)

      Grimmy will definitely be back when Dindrane makes the deal! Don’t you worry about that! :mrgreen:

      Thanks, Winter!

  7. I always thought of the demigoddess as you, the writer.

    I love how you incorporate the game into your story, making sims characters saints and all.

    Sometimes your characters remind me of a book I read a long time ago. A girl was on a field trip, museum or science place or something, and she veers off from the group. An inventor had made a story you can go inside. She does, and her world becomes controlled by the inventor. She starts to dislike what the inventor writes into the story and wants out, but he won’t write an ending and let her out. She had to out think the author to figure a way out of the story. I will never remember the name but I’m leaving out the ending in case someone finds it so as not to spoil the story.

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