Frozen air and a gleaming scythe, lighting a lantern and lending a coat. The child’s body tugged through an opening I hadn’t known was there, into a space I didn’t know had room for her.

“I am a monster born from dusk to dawn. What are you?”

“I am Rue,” the child says, all heat and hope. “Are you here to save me?”

It is hard to believe, this strange exchange with a child I was sent to kill.

I tell her of the outside world through these spitting words wrung in irony and tipped with anguish, with emotions that will one day swallow up the whole world.

The child takes them all in and says, “You look no more than a boy but better a man than most.”

My age­-old loneliness begins to crumble under pale hands and impossible smiles.

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Caw hurls the 143rd corpse onto the platform, his face contorting in disgust. His hands are all slippery, reeking of human stench. He cannot, for the love of his future, understand why he’s picked to intern for a lowly Mortician when, taking Caw’s rank into account, he could have chosen any prestigious job. Instead here he is, hauling corpses after corpses onto the Body Dock, before the waves manage to wash them up on Bone Beach and scare the sunlight out of the tourists.

Where do these dead humans come from anyway?

It isn’t until he takes off his hat and calls it a day (night, whatever) that he notices a barrel bobbing in the middle of the black ocean. The Mortician never told him about floating barrels, and for the three months Caw had been labouring his haughty arse, a barrel is the last thing he expects to see.

He decides to check it out.

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The moment Liam falls into Neverearth, the Mirths take him in. Berndt Mirth, a brother only in title, tells him that his attempts to return to his past life is more trouble than they are worth. And he would be lying to say he hasn’t once thought the same, back in Dolemrok, when he had been upset and alone with a dying mother, three siblings and an estate to look over. He had been barely of age when father abandoned him to serve the country. He couldn’t understand it then.

He refuses to understand it now.

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