Author's Note: I was supposed to be writing a history essay. Instead, I wrote another Death and the Emperor bonus chapter/side story. Unlike The Undiscovered Country, this is more a series of "what if?" drabbles, inspired by a line in Undiscovered. So here you go: a look at some of the possible futures that could have been caused by Varan's death.
Follow the Ashes
(or, Five Things That Didn't Happen and One That Did)
You play your part
I'll be playing with matches
And if you'd like a show
You can follow the ashes
– Icon for Hire, Theatre
It happens every day – a life cut off far too young. Varan's death is a lamentable accident. Death appears, takes her soul, and leaves. Kilan doesn't notice her. She never thinks of him again until the time comes to collect his soul.
"No! You can't take her!" Kilan cries, reaching for Death's cloak.
She is gone before he can touch her. She does not take him with her. There is no bargain, no ten years. He never sees her again in his life.
Death arrives to take Varan's soul. She freezes. Varan is not dead, or dying. Somehow her parents have reached her in time, and now a doctor is tending to her.
Varan's hourglass, which had been completely empty when Death last looked at it, is now almost full.
"What game are you playing, Fate?" Death grumbles as she returns to her realm.
She hardly notices the small boy standing beside Varan's parents. He does nothing to warrant her attention.
Something has gone badly wrong. That is the only thing Death can think as she surveys the scene before her. Varan is alive and well – but Kilan is dead.
"Fate," Death says aloud, "if I ever meet you face to face, I'll break your nose."
How this could have happened is beyond her. She knows perfectly well that Varan was to die today and Kilan was to live for a good long time. The whole mess just screams of Fate's interference.
Death takes Kilan's soul. He is so young that instead of remaining in the Land of the Dead, his soul goes Up. Varan lives, and becomes Empress after her uncle's assassination and her brother's abdication. Years pass, and the entire sorry business becomes just one more oddity Death has encountered.
Varan dies. Kilan makes a deal with Death. Varan lives. Everything goes exactly as it should… except it doesn't.
Kilan doesn't fall in love with Death. He sees her as only a friend. Death doesn't fall in love with Kilan. She sees him as an interesting break in the monotony of eternity.
Fate, invisible to everyone, watches events unfold and grinds Her teeth. This is not what she planned. The other possible futures were more or less for Her amusement, but this one is so near yet so far from what should happen that it drives Her mad.
Perhaps it's time She directly intercedes.
Varan dies. Kilan makes a deal with Death. Varan lives. So far, so good. Fate keeps a close eye on what happens next. Kilan will shape the future of his planet, and Death… Well, she's Death, and Fate's chosen servant, executioner, and general helper, even if she doesn't realise it. Those are very good reasons for Fate to take an interest in them.
Ten years pass. At first Death doesn't mean to attend Varan's funeral. Fate knows a moment of panic. If Death doesn't go, if Kilan doesn't see her, this timeline will go awry too!
But Death does go. Kilan does see her.
Fate smiles. Everything is going exactly as it should.