It’s a question that carries with it the endless fascination of a quintillion nervous dreamers.
“What happens when we die?“
Some believe we are judged by our actions during life, as a sort of moral litmus test to prove suitability for living the next.
Others believe we may reincarnate, our elemental spirit being reforged into a new body to go for another round in the grand banquet of life.
Still more believe that we simply cease, finally knowing the rainy-day peace we always longed for, but could never find the words.
Between these, there’s a thousand more even more specific views: some wonderful, others hideous, but all attempting to answer that one key question.
Today, curious traveler, I give you the answer you have been waiting for:
There you have it. You’re right. In fact, everyone’s right… sort of.
This isn’t to say the theory of Unitarianism is overtly correct in this case, because technically speaking everyone gets to go to their own place rather than everyone going to the same one… or at least that’s how it was supposed to go.
Let’s talk about Breathlend.
Composed of a wildly-overworked force of grim reapers and grand deliverers (the less popular but more-welcome cousin to the reapers) Breathlend works in the tireless pursuit of ferrying souls back and forth between layers of lower reality.
Did two lovers just hatch a new biological frame, and it hasn’t yet achieved sentience to create its own soul? Slip a reincarnation in there!
Did old man Jenkins finally take his final dive into the bayou? Yup, better go grab him and ferry him off to Heaven.
Now this may come as a shock to you, considering one would assume a “final destination” to truly be “final” but it turns out that the head of Breathlend, the rather quiet Cahl, is a bit of a golden heart and very much prefers getting people to their preferred destination.
“Any afterlife you want!” could be said to be their original motto.
Due to the continuous psychic ideation of sentient life, before long this outpouring of mana streamed into the collective unconscious and began budging out room in the undefined space of the Lower Realms. Like water digging over millennia into the faces of a mountain, sentient thought cuts its way slowly and with all certainty to create verses that gain a life all their own: an entire universe formed from the products of the mind.
For most sentient life, all this thought of the afterlife provides a “trail” to these realms that they’re defining with their imagination, so once they’re dead, the Breathlender assigned to them already has their road cut out for them: they simply ferry the detached soul along their personal little towing line, and deliver them.
That’s usually how it goes, but every now and again there are individuals that “uncoil” who have thought so little of the afterlife, or perhaps have thought so much of something in a certain way, that they end up manifesting something they do not desire as their after life, like knocking on the door to the wrong pub, or simply having nowhere to go in particular.
It’s not a perfect system. It’s been a topic of debate among the Upper Realms (particularly Inklend and Breathlend, considering the other two kingdoms aren’t… what we might say, very social) for some time, but Cahl won’t budge on everything…
Rest assured, a soul tends to reach their preferred destination eventually, but this process can take… well, millennia, depending on how the metaphorical coffin crumbles.
Breathlend is unique among the Upper Realms, as it is the only kingdom up here that recruits from the Lower Realms, aka the World of the Pools.
Prodigious preservers and deliverers of life, as well as the takers of life are all considered for employment, but no more are as revered (and reviled) as the mythical La’Coss family.
Starting out with Jack La’Coss in the last days of good ol’ Lati, he was a man who stacked bodies like no one else before him. Abusing stolen arts from the old academy, he accessed manners of directing and defeating the perception of other creatures until one day he had finally cleared out his entire city block.
His story is an interesting (and almost unbelievably violent) tale for another time, but it’s the end that matters here.
Jack’s final target came from someone who he was certain he had already killed, as he had practically assassinated every man, woman, and child under the false pretenses of his maniacal work.
Rounding the corner to his target’s purported destination, he found Cahl in the alleyway, who was more than a little displeased.
The Upper Lord of Life and Death took Jack to the local, also deserted public house to have a chat.
As it turned out, Cahl was more than a little disparaged working overtime on Jack’s account. Cahl in those days was already spectacularly busy – passing his astral force between all dimensions all at once to ferry everyone. As a generally good-natured fellow, Cahl understood the casual murder here and there, as well as the well-intentioned but ultimately misled leaders that might lead their countries into war, but Jack? Oh no.
Jack murdered constantly, sleeplessly, and with an efficiency that would put even the Librarium A.C.E. robots, not to be created yet for thousands of years, to complete shame. Jack mindlessly completed his tasks on the slightest pretense: first of desperation, then of duty, then pay, and finally: artistry. All he wanted to do was kill. It was his only way of communicating with people by that point.
For that, the first of the human reapers was offered an ultimatum, join Cahl and take his share of the work, or be murdered instantly, lifted up from his shattered coil into the upper etheriums of the Verses, and cast out down upon the Foundation of The Mountain: a land of which no person, being, or spirit has ever returned.
Far from a raw deal, Jack was motivated to live on and do what he had grown to love, moving spirits from place to place.
Equipped with a tools of spiritual manipulation that humbled even his own, Jack descended into the annals of history as the very first assistant of Breathland.
Cahl found him a lady of considerable efficiency, a fellow assassin by the name of Agari, and the two of created the La’Coss family of grim reapers: all bestowed with the same power and the same expectations of duty as their forefather.
Recruiting on among great preservers, creators, and takers of life, Cahl has significantly cut down on his workload. There are whispers that he did this to raise a private army of his bidding, one that could take the sword to the other three Upper Kingdoms, but personally I think he just was really tired. I can hardly split my psyche between two universes, let alone two billion, so I’d image he really deserved the break.
That said, it takes someone with an outrageous amount of pull to keep the reaper’s scythe at bay these days, because while Cahl doesn’t have to stretch about and throw souls around as much, he certainly has quite the efficient force of undertakers for any more “involved” work he might have for them.
Of course, he would never admit to meddling in the affairs of the Lower Realms past those within the line of his duty… but again, it’s hard for everyone to be watching, even Inklend.
When certain individuals in the Lower Verses attempt to bend the rules to take control of Cahl’s domain of life and death – perhaps he knows something that we don’t?
Cahl Who Waits in The Dark – art by Midjourney