Author's Note: It's only briefly mention in the stories themselves, but The Power and the Glory takes place in the same universe as the Death series. So naturally I decided the main characters have to meet each other. Even if most of them will only meet in this AU.
As for the internal logic of the story... How did Shizuki and Siarvin end up on a diplomatic mission with Kiriyuki and her siblings? How did Irímé and Hailanyu meet? Damned if I know. When I tried to explain it the explanation made no sense. So I just kept telling myself it's a crossover. Things don't have to make sense in crossovers.
Birds of a Feather
Any true wizard, faced with a sign like 'Do not open this door. Really. We mean it. We're not kidding. Opening the door will mean the end of the universe,' would automatically open the door in order to see what all the fuss was about. – Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent
When you were Emperor of Carann you had to greet many strange and unwelcome foreign dignitaries. Kilan knew exactly how to deal with emissaries from Malish, Nirne, and every other kingdom on the planet. This was the first time he had to greet an emissary from another planet. And it was most certainly the first time an honoured guest saw fit to present him with a sea monster as a gift.
"How very... unusual," Kilan said faintly, staring at the creature. Behind him he just knew the court were wrinkling their noses at the atrocious smell. Only the fear of causing a diplomatic incident stopped him doing the same. "However did you manage to kill it?"
Never before had he seen a qirguth in real life. It was enormous, as was only to be expected of a creature famed for pulling ships underwater. It had so many long tentacles that the quay looked like it was covered with a grisly spider's web. Even in death its eyes were still open – all fifty pairs of them. Kilan had a horrible feeling it was staring at him.
Most disturbing of all were the bite-marks that covered its back and head. Judging by the size of those marks the qirguth had been attacked by something with jaws wider than Kilan was tall. It must be said that Kilan wasn't especially tall, something he was only too aware of. But even so anything with jaws that wide was something far too large for comfort.
Princess Kiriyuki of Seroyawa looked at her gift with badly-hidden pride. She gestured to Prince Nozomi, standing a short distance behind her. He bowed with the blank expression of someone who didn't understand what she was saying but knew she was talking about him. "My brother and I killed it ourselves, your Majesty."
Kilan looked at Kiriyuki. Yes, she was taller than him – as was everyone else around him, unfortunately. Her younger brother was half a head taller than her. Still they were both just ordinary people. They couldn't possibly have killed a qirguth.
Prince Nozomi whispered something in his sister's ear. She blinked.
"Oh," she said to the assembled court in general. "You don't know, do you?"
This situation had gotten so badly out of hand that Kilan honestly couldn't see a way to regain control of it. "What don't we know?"
Kiriyuki scratched her head. "Well... We're sea serpents." Seeing the looks on everyone's faces she hastened to add, "All of us are shape-shifters. I know foreigners find it hard to believe."
Nozomi said something in Seroyawan. Kiriyuki glared at him. "What do you mean, I should break it gently? I did!"
Kilan and Qihadal exchanged glances. For once they were united in mutual bafflement. Sea serpents, qirguth... Thank goodness Seroyawa was far, far away. Kilan's sanity wouldn't survive repeated encounters with these two.
"I didn't mean to be a traitor," Gialma said. Somewhat defensively, he had to admit, but this conversation was so strange he hardly cared. He didn't even know how his attempt at explaining Carannish politics had led to this discussion. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
Prince Mirio stared at him. And stared. And stared some more. "Please explain," he said slowly, "under what circumstances treachery would ever seem like a good idea."
That was the sort of question Gialma really couldn't answer. Mainly because he couldn't think of his past actions without wondering if he'd taken leave of his senses. "I... I thought Tinuviel was... wasn't ruling the empire properly."
The prince closed his eyes. He muttered something that sounded like, "And there I thought my family was a mess." When he opened his eyes again all trace of disbelief and shock had vanished from his face and been replaced with an expression of polite indifference. "I imagine such a mistake is easy to make. Since our relatives are–" He paused and looked over at his half-siblings. Princess Kiriyuki was engrossed in a conversation with Empress Qihadal. Emperor Tinuviel was showing Prince Nozomi a map of some sort, "–still preoccupied, perhaps you could introduce me to your friend."
It was a clear attempt to politely change the subject. It would have worked better if Gialma had the faintest clue what Mirio was talking about.
"Friend?" he repeated, puzzled.
Now it was Mirio's turn to look puzzled. "The woman behind you. You spoke to her earlier; I assumed…"
The only woman Gialma had spoken to was– He spun round. Varan shrank back and tried to make herself as inconspicuous as possible. It didn't work too well. No one could look inconspicuous when they had wings as wide as they were tall.
Gialma gave his idiotic cousin his fiercest glare. Of all the times for the Reapers to eavesdrop!
Wait a minute. He turned and stared at Mirio. "You can see her?"
"Of course." The prince had the audacity to sound as if Gialma was the one behaving oddly. "I didn't know you had raven immortals here."
Gialma repeated those words to himself. They still made no sense. He shrugged helplessly. "This is my cousin Varan. She's... Well, most people can't see her."
"Because I'm dead," Varan added helpfully.
If looks could kill, she would have died again from the force of Gialma's glare.
Incredibly those words didn't make Mirio turn and run. He looked at most mildly exasperated. "Oh, you have necromancers here too. Abihira will be delighted."
Gialma's only consolation was that Varan looked as nonplussed as he felt.
Normally an explosion in the kitchen would be the cause of great consternation, and probably of having to go to a restaurant for meals. In this case the kitchen in question was in an old and dilapidated house, uninhabited and far from any neighbours. There were only two people in the main part of the house to hear it. Both of them stayed still until they were sure the house wouldn't collapse on top of them. Several minutes passed and it remained as solid as it had been before. Raised voices in the kitchen indicated the causes of the explosion were alive and well. The two young men in the sitting room shrugged and continued playing draughts.
"How did you meet Kiroshnoy anyway?" Irímé asked curiously.
Hailanyu grimaced. "Magic. She can't control her powers as well as she thinks she can."
"Neither can Abi."
Another explosion in the kitchen confirmed his words. They exchanged alarmed glances.
"What in the world are they doing?" Hailanyu asked.
Irímé shrugged. He took advantage of his new friend's distraction to capture one of his pieces. "I don't know and it's too dangerous to try to find out."
Hailanyu, still not concentrating on the game, moved a piece to a square it wasn't allowed to land on. Irímé blinked, looked down at the sheet of rules, then decided it was unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
An unholy din arose from the kitchen. It sounded like someone had smashed all of a pottery shop's wares, interspersed with screams and swear words in multiple languages. Irímé looked at Hailanyu. Hailanyu looked at Irímé.
"Do you think it's safe to stay here?" Irímé wondered aloud.
Hailanyu shrugged. "Kiroshnoy can prevent any serious danger. She has enough control over her powers for that." There was a thud and a pained groan from the kitchen. "...I hope."
Kiroshnoy stared very hard at the fragments of pottery. Only a few minutes ago they had been a soup tureen. A very large, very ornate soup tureen that had been handed down from some long-dead empress, according to her new friend. She could just imagine the uproar that would follow if this hare-brained scheme didn't work.
"Why don't you use your powers for this?" she asked, looking over at the other side of the kitchen.
Abihira had gathered a restaurant's worth of pots, pans and cutlery. How and from where were things Kiroshnoy would rather not know. She stacked them all on top of each other until they vaguely resembled a person. Now she was trying to balance a kettle on the very top of the pile.
"Because I'm going to use them for this," she said. "Do you think it needs arms?"
Kiroshnoy looked at the mass of metal. "No, it'll collapse if you add anything else."
She turned back to the shattered tureen. She usually had much more faith in her powers than anyone else, but when she saw all those tiny shards of pottery – some little more than specks of dust – she really couldn't see how her powers would ever fix this.
Oh well. No time like the present. Perhaps she'd fix it so well it could never be broken again! ...Or perhaps not. Her powers rarely backfired in such helpful ways.
Kiroshnoy closed her eyes and pictured the tureen before it was broken. Luckily she'd taken the trouble to memorise its appearance earlier. I want it to be exactly as it was before.
After waiting a minute she opened her eyes just enough to see what had happened. At once they flew open much wider than she had meant to open them. The tureen stood before her in all its flower-patterned, blue and white glory. Not only was it intact, it was much cleaner and more shiny than it had been when she broke it. The paint's colours were more vivid, the flowers looked more flowery, and there wasn't a single speck or crack to be seen.
She expected congratulations. She didn't expect a terrible clanging and clashing to arise from the other side of the kitchen. When she looked over she expected to see the pile of pans had collapsed. Instead she saw something so unbelievable her mind went blank.
The pots and pans were still precariously balanced on top of each other. Their situation was made even more precarious because they were moving. Abihira and Kiroshnoy watched as they lumbered over to the sink. They all leapt in.
From the terrible racket that ensued anyone would have thought the house was falling down. Kiroshnoy winced and covered her ears. Abihira remained blissfully oblivious to all the noise. She looked absurdly pleased with herself for someone who'd done nothing but cause chaos.
"Now no one will have to waste time putting dishes in the sink again," she said. "They'll just walk in on their own. And with a little more work I'm sure I'll find away to make them wash themselves too."
Kiroshnoy stared at her. "Yes, but what will you do to stop them breaking?"
Abihira's smug smile disappeared in an instant. "Oh. I hadn't thought of that."
Few things struck terror into a mother's heart quite like going for a walk in the garden and finding her daughters playing with a snake. As soon as Qihadal realised what that bright green thing was she broke into a run. Her usual dislike for one daughter and indifference towards the other vanished in the face of this threat.
As she got closer she stopped abruptly. Her eyes widened as she took in the scene. Suddenly she found she had to revise her view of what was happening. Lethil and Linyie didn't need rescued from the snake. If anything, the snake needed to be rescued from them. Somehow or other they'd tied a bonnet on the poor creature's head. Now they were braiding daisy chains around its body. It lay curled up on a picnic blanket with much more meekness than Qihadal would have expected from an animal longer than Lethil was tall. It remained completely motionless as Linyie began to doodle on its coils with her crayons.
It must be dead, Qihadal thought with a mixture of relief and revulsion.
The children were in no danger from a dead snake. But why had they ever decided to play with the horrid thing in the first place?
She shook her head and resumed her walk towards them at a much less frantic speed. As she drew nearer she heard Linyie happily babbling nonsense to the snake. Lethil was absorbed in making another daisy chain.
Then Qihadal saw something that froze the blood in her veins. The snake moved. It turned its head to watch Linyie.
"Get away from that thing!" she screamed.
She was promptly put on the receiving end of three disapproving looks, from both the girls and – impossible though it seemed – the snake.
"Don't call him a thing!" Lethil protested. Linyie went back to doodling on the snake. "He's our new friend."
Qihadal took a deep breath. She forced herself to suppress her instinctive reaction of grabbing the children and pulling them out of harm's way. Do nothing to startle the snake, she told herself. Don't be angry with them. They don't realise the danger.
"Snakes can't be your friends," she said with feigned calm. "They're animals, not people."
Lethil shook her head emphatically. "Zuki isn't a snake all the time. Show her, Zuki!"
Good grief, Qihadal thought. They've given it a name.
She was just about to drag the children away whether they wanted to go or not when something happened to drive all coherent thoughts out of her mind. The snake slithered away from Linyie and... stood up. Suddenly it was either a very snake-like human or a very human-like snake. Qihadal blinked and rubbed her eyes. Her mind must be playing tricks on her! When she looked again the snake was gone entirely. In its place was a young boy of about ten. A boy with bright green eyes, even though the shape of his eyes and his black hair showed he was at least part-Carannish. And– Were those scales on his face?
His shirt and one of his hands were covered with crayon scribbles. The same scribbles Linyie had made on the snake.
"Huwwo," the boy mumbled. When he opened his mouth she got a clear view of his sharp teeth and forked tongue.
Qihadal had dealt with walking corpses, personifications of death, and a wide variety of human monsters. By now a shapeshifter was practically normal. She pulled her knife out of its holster and held it at the boy's neck.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" she demanded.
Lethil piped up again. "His name's Shizuki. He's here with the foreigners. And his step-father's a thingummy of whatsit."
"A representative of Saoridhlém accompanying the Seroyawan emissaries," Shizuki corrected her.
He suddenly looked far more human than he had a minute ago. His scales had disappeared and his tongue was no longer forked. Qihadal stared at him suspiciously. He stared back. She couldn't suppress a shudder when she realised he never once blinked.
"If you harm these children it will mean war with Seroyawa," she warned him.
Shizuki finally blinked – very slowly, like he was imitating something he had seen others do without fully understanding what he was doing. "Why would I harm them? I like them. They aren't scared of me."
Qihadal grimaced internally. Both the princesses were sorely lacking in self-preservation if not even a shape-shifting snake could scare them, and she would have to do something about it.
Absolute silence reigned in the room. It was a very awkward silence. Even the dead body on the floor had a surprisingly embarrassed air for something that should no longer have been able to be embarrassed. Of course, this wasn't exactly a normal dead body.
Varan looked at it and winced. It was much more decayed than any of the other walking corpses she'd encountered. Then she looked at the other person in the room and winced again. This was going to be a nightmare to cope with, she just knew it.
Why do these things always happen to me? she lamented.
Ilaran was the first to speak. "What the hell are you? Another of Abihira's bright ideas?"
Varan glared at him. Did he seriously think a mere necromancer could create a Reaper? It was lucky for him that Death wasn't around to hear him. "Of course not. I'm here to... well..." She looked down at the corpse again. It looked back. "I'm supposed to un-necromance this thing."
A look of profound relief briefly crossed Ilaran's face.
"Please do," he said. He didn't quite beg, but it was a near thing. "Please, before it eats any more of my uncle's furniture!"
Varan blinked. Puzzled, she looked at the table. Sure enough there were bite-marks along the edge. Next she looked at the chairs. Their legs were splintered and teeth-marked, as if an overgrown puppy had used them as a chew toy.
A walking corpse that eats furniture? Now I've seen everything.
She raised her scythe. Then she stopped. "Er... if you don't mind me asking, why is there a sword in the corpse's chest?"
It was easy to forget that not everyone had as much experience of the undead as she did. Even so, those who had already encountered reanimated corpses – whether they were Riyome and her ilk or Abihira's misguided experiments – should have realised by now they couldn't be killed. They could only be taken back to the Land of the Dead – in the first case – or put to rest by their creator – in the second. Or possibly both. Varan's mind briefly went down a rabbit-hole as she wondered what would happen if Abihira tried necromancy on Riyome.
Ilaran looked at the sword as if he'd forgotten it was there. "It was the only way I could keep the damned thing in one place."
The corpse itself played dead – well, in a manner of speaking – and pointedly ignored them. Only when it thought they weren't looking did it make an attempt to crawl away. These attempts inevitably failed. It forgot to remove the sword first.
Varan shrugged. It wasn't as if a case of impalement was the most disturbing thing she'd ever seen. She just had to deal with the corpse. Somehow.
Come to think of it, how was she supposed to deal with it? Its soul was still safely in the Land of the Dead. She couldn't collect something that was no longer there to collect. It was just a mindless puppet reanimated by the magic of a bumbling necromancer. Now, how was she going to break that spell?
The situation was all the more embarrassing because Ilaran watched her every move. He looked at her like a bank guard keeping an eye on a known bank robber. If she failed to un-reanimate the corpse, she'd do it in front of an already less than impressed audience.
She raised her scythe again and swung it over the corpse's chest. When she did that to a dying person it severed their soul from their body. The soul moved on to the Land of the Dead while the body died. What effect would it have on something already dead with no soul to sever?
Within seconds she had an answer: no effect at all.
Ilaran continued to watch with a disapproving frown. "What do you think you're doing?"
Varan shrugged helplessly. Good question, she thought.
"Don't suppose you know what Abi-what's-her-name did to this thing in the first place?" she asked without much hope.
It was Ilaran's turn to shrug. He said sourly, "She never deigns to share her methods with us lowly immortals. Just does whatever she wants and leaves everyone else to pick up the pieces."
That was hardly encouraging. "But do you know any way to kill it again?"
He raised an eyebrow and gave the sword a pointed look. "Stabbing it didn't work. Whatever you did hasn't worked. What's left to try? Beheading?"
The corpse made a spirited attempt to slide away. It managed to dislodge the sword from where it had been stabbed into the wooden floor. The point scraped over the wood as it tried to flee. That ruined its attempt at stealth. Realising it had been spotted the corpse froze and pretended to be dead again.
In spite of herself Varan felt rather sorry for the creature. It hadn't asked to be brought back and turned into a walking corpse. And it wasn't doing any harm.
She tried to imagine what Death would say if she returned to the Land of the Dead and left a reanimated corpse wandering around. She shuddered. It didn't bear thinking about.
Ilaran stared at the corpse intently, as if he thought that by looking at it long enough he could make it burst into flames and solve their problem that way. "I don't suppose you could take it back to... to..." He paused, looked at her scythe dubiously, and finished, "...wherever you come from?"
Now Varan tried to picture the scene that would follow if she brought the corpse to the Land of the Dead. There would be awkward questions to answer. She would be put on the receiving end of Death's snide remarks and disapproving looks. She would probably end up assigned to the other side of the universe. Yet all of that might very well be worth it in exchange for someone else having to deal with this mess.
She took a step forward. The corpse sidled away. Varan and Ilaran looked at each other. Ilaran took a step towards it from the opposite direction. It scurried towards the door. Unfortunately for it the door was closed. It didn't have the intelligence to realise this. So it continued trying to crawl through a closed door.
"Huh," Varan said mostly to herself. "I never thought anything could be so stupid."
Ilaran rolled his eyes. "They're as intelligent as their creator. Only an idiot would ever think raising the dead was a good idea."
That was unfortunately true. What was also unfortunately true was that idiots, simply because of their idiocy, could do things more sensible people would never manage. It was almost as if stupidity was some sort of superpower. Death would probably agree. Goodness knew she had enough to say about it when the Reapers did something foolish. Varan grimaced at the memory of some of Death's most bitingly sarcastic comments.
Well, if she was going to have to face her employer's wrath, she was going to make sure she would do everything she could to avoid it first.
She tried using her scythe again. No result. She tried beheading the corpse. It calmly picked up and reattached its skull. She tried ordering the dratted thing to die. It just looked at her with the most befuddled expression a mostly-skeletal creature was capable of. No, there was no other way to deal with it.
Ilaran watched her with a mixture of bemusement and scorn. "Are all of Death's servants so incompetent?"
He had no idea how close he came to a premature trip to the Land of the Dead. Varan took a deep – and technically unnecessary – breath and counted to ten. Murder would not look good on her record. The last thing she needed was yet another reason for Death to be angry with her.
"Shut up and help me pick this thing up," she snapped.
She grabbed one of the corpse's arms. Ilaran gingerly took the other. He grimaced as his hands tightened around its bones. The creature wriggled and writhed in a futile attempt to escape. For a minute Varan was afraid it would tear its arms off. She looked helplessly at Ilaran. He gave her an equally helpless shrug.
"Why is Abihira so obsessed with necromancy anyway?" Varan asked. It seemed such a strange thing for anyone to choose as a hobby. Especially when it would inevitably put a person in direct – and likely to become violent – conflict with Death herself. Not even Qihadal was stupid enough to do that.
"Who knows?" Ilaran grumbled. "Now are you going to take this thing with you or not? Its teeth are too close to my throat for my liking."
When your job required travelling all over the universe and every day meant seeing people who had died horribly, you got used to gruesome sights very quickly. Death liked to think nothing could faze her now. She did not appreciate discovering she was wrong. She also did not appreciate finding her throne room overrun with decayed skeletons.
She looked around for someone to blame. Luckily there was an obvious culprit present – even if not quite the culprit Death would have expected.
Death opened her mouth. Before she could speak the intruder beat her to it.
"You've got to do something about it!"
No one liked a complete stranger barging into their house and giving orders. Death gave her an icy glare. The intruder flinched, but stood her ground.
"Do something about what?" Death demanded.
Kitri gestured frantically to the skeletons. "Necromancy! You're Death, aren't you?" She hardly waited for Death's nod before continuing, "You've no idea how much trouble I went to just to find you. There's a reason necromancy's illegal, so do something about it before that idiot destroys the world!"
Death listened to all of this with steadily-increasing bafflement. As soon as Kitri finished she looked around at all the skeletons. "Are all these, er, living dead?"
She'd assumed the necromancer's antics had been a random fluke. Troublesome, but never to be repeated. From the looks of things the situation was much more serious than that.
Kitri gave her a disbelieving look, as if she'd asked if water was wet. "Of course not. But they would have been if I'd let Abi get her hands on them. And while you're at it, could you do something about Haliran? I haven't met her myself but apparently she's a serial killer and worse. The last thing we need are more bodies lying around just waiting to be reanimated."
It was lucky for Kitri that Death was so taken aback by all of this. Under normal circumstances no mere mortal or immortal could ever order a personification around. Ever. Horror stories were told of those who had tried. As it was, however, she was still wondering what to do with all these skeletons. She only heard the last part of Kitri's comments about Haliran.
"I can't interfere directly with the living," she said absently. "I'll see what I can do about Abihira, and my servants can keep an eye on Haliran."
Kitri nodded eagerly. "Now, er, if you don't mind, how do I get home?"
Death stared at her, finally realising just how bizarre it was for a living person to be in the Land of the Dead at all. "How did you get here in the first place?"
"I don't quite know, actually."
Few things provided Saoridhin high society with more gossip material than a well-known and not exactly well-liked person going insane. Reports circulated that Haliran had been seen to cower and scream about winged monsters when there was nothing unusual in sight. She had even developed a bizarre fear of black clothes.
As usual no one thought to ask Siarvin. He simply shrugged when the servants came to him with another story of his wife's increasingly weird behaviour.
Eventually the Reapers began returning Haliran's ill-gotten gains to their rightful owners. Siarvin helpfully labelled the stolen items with the name of whoever they'd be stolen from. A few rumours circulated that a servant had seen him having tea late at night with a group of very strange-looking people. People with wings and wearing black capes.
Everyone laughed at those rumours. Haliran was simply having a nervous breakdown and her doctors said she would make a full recovery. There was nothing strange or sinister really happening in her house. Nothing at all.
 In case you're confused (like I am!) about family trees, Kiriyuki has three full siblings (two brothers, Nozomi and Seitomu, and a sister, Azurin) and a half-brother (Mirio). Nozomi, Seitomu, and Azurin haven't been named yet in The Power and the Glory itself.