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"Y' know what it's like to die?"
The ghost in the wide brimmed hat laughs. "No, of course not. This is as far as you've ever gotten."
Two wisps of flame rise briefly from where his eyes might be hidden within the deep shadow.
"Let's have ourselves a little palaver."

"I serve a Lord and Lady," says the ghost. "An' they are cold and hard as the rocks in this cemetery. But they are just; and in their own way, merciful. The gift they give is peace to those as need it."
"An' it's become apparent to them that Lord Death has gone fully off his rocker."
"Thanatos was charged with a responsibility: See the dead to their destinations. And he accepted this grim task because it was his nature; for he was Lord Death, the relentless."
"But the gods of mercy and of life ate away at his power a little at a time. They allowed their chosen clerics to return the spirits of their worshipers; of anyone; they plead and bargained to break Death's hold on the world. And they were, by 'n' large, successful. So mortals might live in a kinder world."
"But every kindness has a cost, and this one we pay in blood. For as his job was stolen from him, Lord Death begain to grow restless and petty. Those folks as did die found themselves not in the home of their gods, or even in the quiet realm of my Lord and Lady, but in a tormented and silent twilight, broken at intervals by sudden shocks -- a scream, a flash of not-colour, a sorrowful memory."
"Ultimately Lord Death made his Reapers, and told them to kill. But the lack of real dyin' means that they can never be satisfied -- they kill and kill and kill, burn the bones and boil the fat, stealing a little bit of soul-stuff each time but never enough for mad Lord Death."

"Once upon a time this necropolis was a town."
The ghost in the wide-brimmed hat is silent a moment. "Once upon a time this town was my home. I lived here."
"Y'see, Lord Death made a bargain with Lord Pestilence, and his Reapers brought -- brought a thing into this town. First, though, they sealed it up tight... not even a soul's hair could slip through the web they made of fear and hate and sorrow and filth. And so tied to this ground, we died. And died. And died again. They killed, and their disease killed... An' that wasn't hardly the worst those monsters..."
The ghost growls. "So here we are, spirit. My Lord and Lady couldn't give me life, but they did give me death. And it's a gift I'll share with you, if you'd like."

The ghost fetches up a shovel from the dirt; you could've sworn it wasn't there a moment ago.
"I've got for you a shovel and a coat. They ain't much to look at, but they'll serve. These are your badges, if you'll take the office."
"Your charges are to bury the dead and those as should be dead. Put the ghosts to rest and silence the banshee's wail. Bring mindless walking corpses to Gaia's embrace and lay down those who try and raise them up. And Kill. Those. Damn. Reapers." The last is ground out between clenched teeth.
"Not all who walk the twilight edge need be lain down. My Lord and Lady leave you your judgment; and remember that you too are a walker of that edge, and know what battles aren't yours to fight."
"As for the gifts I give you, they are borne not lightly, but weight your soul like these rocks to the soil. You will not hardly tire. You will not eat food nor drink water; you will not breathe the air. Your body will not feel pain, nor will it be easy to break; nor shall it grow or heal while you carry this gift. Should you find yourself in shreds and tatters, dig a grave and abide a while there. The living earth knows your task."
"The words of peace and banishment will come to your lips when you need them, and your dead eyes will see the flowing world's secrets. And subtly but truly will my Lord and Lady watch over you."
"Do you take this charge, spirit, and accept the title 'Grave-digger'? Expect no great love in the world -- for it is not love I offer, but purpose."
"If you will have it, take this shovel."
The ghost in the wide brimmed hat stretches out an arm and the battered shovel clatters to the ground before you. You sense dimly that it is more than just a thing your ghostly hands would pass through, and that you could take it if you so chose.


As your spirit flows into the corpse, you feel no warmth nor blood stirring in you. A ghostly voice whispers, "...when you leave your body, then alone will you see me...".
You shrug on the long tattered black coat.

Ed Harcourt - Undertaker Strut
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