Saturday, December 26, 2015

Personnel Files: Charon

Charon is the most miserly being in existence. He is as greedy as Zeus is horny. If Zeus could only get laid by paying a whore with Charon’s money, the opposing forces would cause a black hole that would engulf all of creation (NOTE: This is science fact). Perhaps the only thing he values more than money is his title as “the most miserly being in existence”. He has even gone so far as to sabotage greedy mortals into Heel Face Turning, just so they don’t surpass him in greed. The most famous example of this is the tale of one Ebenezer Scrooge, against whom Charon exacted the most unusual revenge of teaching him the true meaning of Christmas. This all started with two pence, plucked from the eyes of Marley’s corpse, because Scrooge figured he didn’t need them where he was going. Charon has a rule that is among the hardest and fastest in existence: No fare, no passage.  So Marley was damned to wander the Mortal World as a seriously spooky ghost. Some folks on Olympus weren’t terribly thrilled about that, and one folk on the mortal world was terribly unthrilled about it, so Charon made a deal. Rather than money, he’d accept payment in the form of the only other thing he valued: his title. He’d ferry Marley across the river Styx if Marley helped him protect his title from Scrooge. Of course, Charon knew that Scrooge, a lowly mortal who often spent money to make money, could never step to him. Legend has it that the only thing Charon’s ever spent money on is the ferry that is now his claim to fame. But he wants to do more than just win. He wants to win so hard that it’s not even close. He’s not just going for the gold, he’s going for the silver and bronze, too, because them metals are precious too.

What followed was an epic haunting, seven years in the making. First, Marley visited him on Christmas Eve, exactly seven years (astute readers will note that seven is a pretty mystical number) after his own death. He rattled some chains, said how much his afterlife sucked. Standard, entry level stuff, really. But the real haunting hadn’t even begun yet. That was just an appetizer for the three course meal of horror that followed. Marley’s real purpose was to warn of three ghosts that would haunt Scrooge on that night. The first was the Ghost of Christmas Past, a candle lookin’ dude, who flashed him backwards to his memories of previous Christmases, and what he was like before he was a runner up to the Biggest Asshole Award. In particular, he showed how Scrooge’s love of money drove away the love of his life. It was pretty brutal. Ebenezer, unsurprisingly, didn’t like this one bit, so he extinguished candle-ghost. This… may have killed the ghost? I know ghosts don’t usually die, but I don’t really know that that guy technically counted as a ghost. I mean, none of the other “ghosts” were actually ghosts, we just called them that because it’s not like Ebenezer would have known any better. In any case, it’s not really my problem.

 The second “Ghost” was the ghost of Christmas Present, played by freakin’ Zeus himself. I never really pried into why exactly he agreed to it, but it I’m not going to go around pretending that it was anything other than an elaborate scheme to get laid. He pulled off the role surprisingly well. He showed Ol’ Ebenezer some scenes of how his greed was shafting everyone around him. Ebenezer’s greed, that is. When Zeus shafts everyone around him, it’s in an entirely different way. Particularly screwed over by Scrooge’s greed was Tiny Tim, some kid with rickets, which was majorly sucky back then, especially since Scrooge was too busy literally telling the poor to hurry up and die to help get Tiny Tim treated. Zeus actually threw those words back in his face when Scrooge started taking pity on Tiny Tim, which was a nice touch. There wasn’t any lightning or thunder involved, which was probably for the best, but Zeus was kinda bummed about it.

The third Ghost was the real Coup de Gras. We called him “The Ghost of Christmas Future”, but Ebenezer, total dweeb that he was, said “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.” The ghost (played by none other than Captain Thanatos himself) would have corrected him, but his whole schtick was that he didn’t say anything, so he just kind of rolled with it. I wasn’t really a fan of him being silent, insisting it would be more effective if he said, “SCARY Christmas to all, and to all a good FRIGHT!” Instead, he mostly just stood around, looking exactly as he normally does, (Drop-dead spooky) showing Scrooge all the trash-talking people would do once he finally up and died. But he wasn’t the only one who up and died: Tiny Tim followed suit, all thanks to Scrooge’s greed. And since he didn’t specify which God he wanted to bless everyone, his whole “God Bless us every one” thing didn’t even count.

After being spooked proper, Scrooge became super nice. I mean, he did things that were super nice. Whether or not that makes him actually nice is something best left to philosophers, not me. Like, if someone puts a gun to your head and tells you to donate to charity, and you do it, does that make you nice? I don’t really think so. But, like, you know, whatever. In any case, Charon got the satisfaction of clinging to his title, and I get the satisfaction of knowing that Scrooge has read these very words, telling him how hard he got tricked. Even if he didn’t realize it. Merry Christmas, ya old bastard.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Miscellaneous Files: Rogue Reapers

The phrase “Rogue Reaper” commonly refers to any being which kills mortals in a way that is not in compliance with The Bureau of Death. There are two classes of beings commonly referred to as “Rogue Reapers”, only one of which fits the official definition of a Rogue Reaper as set by The Bureau of Death. This definition, which a surprising number of those under the employ of The Bureau fail to understand, is that a Rogue Reaper is a Reaper who has gone rogue. id est, a reaper, formerly under the employ of The Bureau, who has willfully broken The Rules of The Reaper and refuses to face judgement for their transgressions. This rarely happens, as The Moirai are very selective of who they choose to be Reapers, but it is not unheard of. Reapers were often powerful people in their mortal lives, and such people often have enemies. Occasionally, grudges from one’s mortal life will persist even in death, and the Reaper will abuse their power to seek vengeance. If you find yourself troubled by memories of your mortal life in such a way, you are advised to seek out Lethe, who can cast your unpleasant memories into the river of oblivion. It goes without saying that you are very much advised to NOT act on these desires. Rogue Reapers are detained by The Special Task Force and you do not wish to find out what becomes of them once they are detained.

The second class of beings known as “Rogue Reapers” are more properly called Extra-Hellenistic Reapers (EHR). An Extra-Hellenistic Reaper is any agent of Death not associated with The Pantheon. Though other mythologies are largely thought of as extinct, having been exterminated by The Pantheon after we claimed victory in The Divine War, the truth is that some fragments of these mythologies yet remain. Though none are powerful enough to pose a severe threat to the dominance of The Pantheon, some, such as The Asgardians, remain a thorn in the side of The Olympians. Their Valkyries are dangerous EHRs who tend to claim the souls of those who live a life of battle. If you should ever meet a Valkyrie, you are strongly advised against attempting to fight it, for they are extremely adept warriors. Report to a Higher Ranking Official immediately, and a Special Task Reaper will be dispatched to handle the situation as soon as possible. Note that, while the term “Reaper” typically refers only to those employed to directly facilitate the death of mortals, one who oversees death in a different theology can be considered an Extra-Hellenistic Reaper. exemplī grātiā, Hel, the Asgardian Goddess of Death who oversees the land of the same name, (It seems that the irksome habit among gods of naming one’s domain after oneself is not limited to The Pantheon) would be considered an EHR, even though Hades, her analogue in The Pantheon, is not considered a Reaper.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Personnel Files: Zeus

The King of the Gods. The Head Honcho. The Big Cheese. The “Citizen Kane” of deities. When it comes to the gods of Olympus, Zeus’s authority is second to none. When it comes to the whole of the Hellenistic Pantheon, his authority is fourth to me and my sisters’, but hey, who’s keeping score, right? Though he has no official association with The Bureau of Death, as king of the gods, he has considerable sway in all of the celestial spheres. Fortunately, Hades usually does a pretty good job of making sure he doesn’t try to interfere with our plans in The Underworld. Though he’s not really the type to care about that kind of thing. We ever find him in The Underworld, it’ll probably be because he’s trying to fornicate with a spirit of the deceased or something wacky like that. Because Zeus may be the absolute king of everything, but he’s still best known for being the biggest horndog in all the known universe. He’s gotten it on with more types of beings than you’re likely to see during your eternity as a Reaper. Goddesses? Of course. Nymphs? Oh, hell yeah. Mortals? Check. Dudes? You betcha, even if it was just that one time. It’d be shorter to make a list of all the types of beings he hasn’t fornicated with: Extra-Hellenistic deities (I certainly hope not), The Moirai (I CERTAINLY HOPE NOT).

But, despite all the shit we give him, Zeus isn’t a bad guy. After all, there is a reason that we rigged that game of chance deciding who would rule what so that he’d become king of the gods. (By the way: Don’t go around telling that to people.) He may be a little arrogant, but I certainly wouldn’t call him “ambitious”. He’s strong enough to lead when he needs to, but his libido usually prevents him from abusing his power. (Except for in one extremely predictable way, which, while unfortunate, may be the one thing that is beyond even Our power to stop. If there is one thing in this universe more certain than Fate, it’s that Zeus will always be mackin’ on the ladies.) He loves being the guy in charge, but hates having to actually take charge, so he mostly leaves the gods to their own realms, except when emergencies arise. When that happens, his desire to get on with getting it on usually motivates him to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

If, for whatever reason, he or one of his agents starts bossing you around, it’s usually easier to just go along with it. Most of the gods have learned this by now. Unless, of course, his orders conflict with The Rules of The Reaper. If he starts getting cheeky with you, name-drop Atropos, and that’ll usually shut him up. The two don’t get along well; Zeus hates being reminded that he’s not the strongest, and Atropos hates how he cares more about his erotic escapades than her Grand Design of Fate. Which is why I’m writing this section instead of her. I know this hasn’t exactly been a glowing review, but you don’t want to read what Atropos has to say about him, and I certainly don’t want Zeus to read what she has to say about him. Zeus is like that one wacky coworker whose hijinks should’ve gotten him fired years ago. His continued employment is a mystery to all, up until circumstances force him to step up to the plate, and he knocks it out of the park. Because, while he may be a goofball, he’s a goofball that’s damn good at his job.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Personnel Files: Loki

The entirety of this paragraph is to be considered a direct order from Atropos, which must be obeyed without exception. All Reapers are to do everything in their power to minimize their interactions with Loki. Under no circumstances are they to intentionally speak with him, or in any other preventable way communicate with him. Reapers must not knowingly let his words or actions in any way influence their words or actions. If you believe that Loki is speaking with you, or in any way attempting to communicate with you, please notify a Higher Ranking Official of the Bureau with all possible haste that does not require sacrificing the performance of your duties.

                Loki is among the few Gods not of the Greek Pantheon permitted by The Fates to act with some freedom. The reasons for this number two. The first is that he is something of a tenuous ally of ours. Without his treachery, it is possible that Zeus may never have been able to wrest the dominion of thunder from Thor. The second is that we know not if we even have the means to bind him. Though he is far less powerful than his brother, he is something far more dangerous: He is cunning. A trickster god whose antics put even Eris to shame, his tongue has more silver than all the riches of Hades. In the rare instances that his charisma fails him, he resorts to deception. As a shapeshifter, he can assume any form, allowing him to easily impersonate any on whom he has laid eyes. It is for this reason that The Fates never speak with him directly; the damage he could potentially cause by impersonating one of The Three cannot be overstated. It is also for this reason that no image of him is provided here to identify him. Though he has a form that he commonly takes when he is not taking measures to disguise himself, it is unknown if this is his “true form”, or even if any of his forms can be said to have more truth than the others. Even if you do not see him in a familiar form, you can never know with certainty that Loki is not among you. Though few among the Olympians can claim to have never fallen prey to one of his japes, they are never so cruel that we all cannot have a laugh about it. And yet, as surely as we know that Death comes to all, we know that he is up to something. The most dire possible scenario is that he is secretly conspiring with the Norns to overthrow us. Yet we believe this to be unlikely, for there is only one thing we know with certainty about Loki’s next move: we won’t see it coming.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Location Files: The River Lethe

There is an important distinction to be made between the removal of memories and the destruction of memories. The former is an easy, almost trivial task. Even with no external stimuli, the mind is constantly losing its own memories. This phenomenon can be artificially induced by either physically exciting the neurons of the subject, or directly manipulating the spiritual essence of the memories. The destruction of memories, on the other hand, is a difficult undertaking. While not outright impossible, it is certainly unfeasible in most cases. Though the following explanation is something of an oversimplification, a memory can be thought of as a message, encoded in light aether and dark aether, in a way that is somewhat analogous to the binary code used by mortals. This message is then “laminated” in a film of quintessence, making it extremely difficult to destroy or otherwise manipulate the contents of the memory. (A full description of the accuracies and inaccuracies of this analogy is far beyond the scope of this handbook.)

In all but the most extraordinary of circumstances, the destruction of memories is cost-prohibitive. It is for this reason that The River Lethe exists, as a means of discarding memories which are confiscated. The obvious drawback to keeping forbidden memories intact is that it is possible for other to retrieve them by merely drinking from The River Lethe. It goes without saying that there are countermeasures in place to ensure that this cannot be done without proper authorization. The waters of The River Lethe are cursed, such that no cup can contain them. This also applies to glasses, chalices, goblets, and any implement which might be used to contain water, regardless of whether or not that is its intended purpose. It follows that, if one wishes to drink from the river, they must drink from it directly. (To do so is to receive The Kiss of Death –Clotho) Any who do so, be they mortal, God, or otherwise, are stricken by an irresistible thirst. This compels them to keep drinking, even as they are overwhelmed by a torrent of paradoxes. False secrets, which contradict the truth, are regularly planted into The River Lethe, so that any attempted offenders cannot distinguish what is from what is not. This continues until their very being is overwritten, and all that remains is a shell, filled with memories. This shell petrifies into a fountain, which slowly returns all the stolen memories to The River Lethe, where they belong. (These fountains ensure that those who gaze upon The River of Oblivion will never forget the price paid by those who cross The Moirai –Chloe)

NOTE: this is by no means an exhaustive list of the countermeasures put in place to ensure that information discarded into The River Lethe remains classified. Consider this a warning: If you somehow manage to circumvent the security system described, you will be caught by a different one, and you will suffer in ways that you are incapable of imagining. It is left to you to decide whether or not the previous statement is vacuously true.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Personnel Files: Lethe (Part 2)

Lethe is, hands down, the flakiest person in existence. Her memory is shorter than Erebus’ temper. She can forget something more quickly than Zeus can get laid. I said, she’s so forgetful, her car keys retrace their steps to find her. OK, sorry, don’t mind my savage burns just then, they were pretty mean. But they were also kind of true. Except for that last one. I don’t think that one actually made any sense.

While it is true that Lethe forgets everything, it’s really not her fault. If anything, it’s kind of ours. When it became clear that we’d need a deity of forgetfulness and oblivion, it was kind of a tough sell. Gods are fated to embody the domain they oversee, and no one wanted to live an eternity with no memory to show for it. Just when it seemed like we’d have to force the role on someone, a young woman volunteered. My favorite niece, in fact. Really, the only offspring of Eris that I particularly cared for at all, if I’m being perfectly honest. She had big dreams. Not of power, or fame, but just to help. She was pretty young around the time of The Divine War. She didn’t see it all, but she saw enough to know for damn sure that she didn’t want it to happen again. We all did. So she wanted to do her part in ensuring that the reign of The Pantheon went as smoothly as possible, even if it meant giving something up. Or maybe her memories of The War were so traumatic that she’d do anything to forget them. But that’s way too sad, so let’s just say it’s the first thing. To this day, her only persistent memory is of The Moirai, and her oath to carry out our will. She knows that, in the distant past, far beyond the grasp of her memory, some version of her would be happy to know that she is doing her very best to build a brighter future. And that’s all she needs.

Lethe is a Maximal Sweetheart. Not because there does not exist someone that I want to hug more than her, but because such a person cannot exist. Her obliviousness has allowed her to remain unmarred by the bitterness and cynicism that claims most who spend too much time down here. Unfortunately, that same obliviousness tends to frustrate a lot of people, who tend to get real nasty. These people really piss me off. Every time someone yells at her, she is surprised, because as far as she remembers, it’s never happened before. It’s scary, and it’s awful, and she’s worried that she’s ruined everything, that she’s broken her promise to the one memory she has. But even when people are being rude at her, she always does her best to try to help them. That’s why I ask that you please be patient and understanding when dealing with her, and not get mad at her. At least, don’t take out your anger on her. Actually, you know what? Screw asking. I order you to be as compassionate as possible when dealing with Lethe. You are to, in no way, intentional or unintentional, cause her emotional distress. If you do, I will find you, and so help me Gods I will fight you. Then we’ll see how you measure up.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Personnel Files: Lethe (Part 1)

Though the rivers of Hades number five, there is but one with which most are familiar. It cannot be disputed that any other than the River of Hatred, which takes its name from its cruel mistress, Styx, is the most well-known of the rivers. Yet it can be said, with equal certainty, that The River Lethe is of the greatest importance to The Schemes of The Moirai. Our understanding of Fate is our greatest strength, and our greatest weakness. If, at any time, there is any being with a greater understanding of Fate than is permitted to them, the consequences could be ruinous. This is why every precaution is taken to ensure that the secrets of The Bureaus of Death and Life do not fall into the wrong hands. Yet “every” is not always enough. When this is the case, it is Lethe who sees to it that our secrets are snatched from the wrong hands with all due haste.

When a god of The Pantheon is charged with overseeing a domain, that domain becomes them. Gods of beauty are themselves beautiful, just as gods of terror are terrible. It is fitting, then, that Lethe, Goddess of forgetfulness and oblivion, is herself both forgettable and forgetful. There are few among the residents of Olympus, or even The Underworld, who seem to remember her name, despite her unparalleled contributions to the continuing functioning of The Bureaus of Life and Death. And just as everyone and everything seems to forget her all too easily, she seems to forget everyone and everything with no more difficulty. This makes working with her somewhat challenging, as all business is urgent business. Attempting to make an appointment with her is as futile as asking The Unturning Atropos for mercy. This would severely limit her usefulness to We, The Moirai, if not for her unquestioning devotion to serving Our will. If We command it, she will going to any length, even casting her own memories of forbidden knowledge into oblivion, as unnecessary of a measure as that might be.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Equipment Files: The Loathsome Shears

Though The Grim Scythe is the Primary Reaping Tool of all Bureau Recommended Equipment Loadouts, there are several options for the Secondary Reaping Tool. The Loathsome shears are among the most popular choices, for beginners and experts alike. To a novice, their primary utility is in rectifying the incompetence of those who wield the scythe poorly. If one fails to strictly adhere to the protocols laid out in Equipment Files: The Grim Scythe, an Incomplete Tear is likely to result. Finishing a job like this with the scythe is not advised; The Loathsome shears are specifically engineered for such situations, when life hangs only by a thread. To a veteran, their primary utility is in their versatility. Though they are specifically engineered for rectifying errors, that is far from their only use. In general, they are more effective at cutting through physical matter than The Grim Scythe, and can be more easily wielded with one hand (This is usually not recommended). Though they are an unconventional weapon, this can, in some cases, be advantageous, as enemies rarely know how to counter it. In practice, using The Loathsome Shears is no different from using any other pair of scissors. It is hoped that none reading this need be introduced to the idea of scissors, but instructions are included here for the sake of completeness.

At the bottom of the Shears, you will find two ring-like handles. Grip these, so that your hands are inside the rings. For the purposes of functionality, the shears may be assumed to be entirely symmetrical across the line segment where the blades meet when the shears are closed. Thus, the handedness of the user need not be taken into consideration. Once both handles are firmly within your grasp, move your hands apart to open The Shears. Position the shears such that whatever you wish to cut is between the blades. Swiftly bring your hands together, as if clapping. One might even say that you are applauding the now deceased mortal on their performance on the stage of life, or some such foolishness. This will bring the blades together, and, if done correctly, sever the spirit of the mortal. If another Incomplete Tear results, open the blades again and attempt the same procedure, preferably aiming for a different spot than the previous time. Do not attempt to complete the tear by wrenching the shears about. This will only cause further damage.

It is common practice for Reapers to be equipped with replicas of the Hephaestus-forged artifacts used by the Gods, created by the Cyclopes, Journeymen of the Forge God. Regrettably, this leads to some confusion, as the replicas are often referred to by the same name as the originals. This issue has been circumvented with The Loathsome Shears, which have been given a name such that confusing them with Atropos’s Abhorrent Shears is quite unlikely. Unlike other such artifacts, the Abhorrent Shears are not of Hephaestean make. The nature of their origin is classified, but it suffices to say that they are beyond even the Forge God’s capability. Though the Loathsome shears are incredibly sharp, Atropos’ own are of an entirely different caliber. To even quantify their sharpness requires greater precision than the production of any replica. To assert that the Abhorrent Shears are the most lethal artifact in the universe is no mere boast. It is as true as any of the axioms which govern the mechanics of Heaven and Earth.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Personnel Files: Persephone (Part 3)

OK, look, I know that this section is kind of dragging on, especially since Persephone, admittedly, doesn’t do a whole lot within The Bureau of Death. But I think it’s kind of BS that the freakin’ Queen of the Underworld gets a bio that’s just a bunch of stuff that happened to her in the past. It’s true that her kidnapping had a great and lasting impact on the political atmosphere of “The spheres of the divine” or whatever, but she’s more than just a history lesson. So I want to give you an idea of what she’s actually like, as a person.

Persephone is kind and gentle, especially compared to other denizens of The Underworld. Most see her as a either as a figurehead, a pretty face too weak to belong in The Underworld, or a poor little girl cruelly consigned to an eternity in The Underworld by circumstances beyond her understanding. But she is none of these things.  She can be quite forceful when she needs to be, and abhors nothing more than being pitied as a tragic figure. She has learned to use people’s expectations of her to her advantage, and often gives the impression of being less knowledgeable than she actually is. Now that I’ve written that out, I realize that it kind of seems like she’s some manipulative schemer, but I promise, she’s a total sweetheart. But you don’t want to get on her bad side. Just ask Hades. Not a lot of people know this, but he’s actually super whipped. He knows better than anyone that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and we’ve got, like, three Furies down here. Officially, Hades has the final say on judging the eventual destination of the souls of the deceased, but Persephone has supreme veto power. She has been known to occasionally pardon or damn souls, especially based on their treatment of animals or respect towards nature. And, while she technically doesn’t have the power to do so, Hades always knows better than to go against her wishes.

A thing you should probably know about Persephone is that she doesn’t really like Reapers. That’s not to say that, if you’re a reaper (which you totally are now, by the way) she won’t like you; it’s more that she doesn’t like the idea of reapers. She doesn’t think it’s fair that we force mortals to agree to do our dirty work forever, before they really have any idea what it entails. Maybe she pities you for being forced to an existence bound to the underworld, viewing the place you once called home only in glimpses. That would be rather ironic. And I get where she’s coming from, but I disagree. Being a Reaper is way cooler than whatever you’d be doing right now if you hadn’t chosen to read past that first paragraph. Trust me. But she’s still pretty friendly with Reapers. If you see her, don’t be intimidated by her just because she’s The Queen of The Underworld, and don’t treat her like she’s some delicate flower who might get spooked by a talking skeleton. Just say hi. But don’t make it weird or anything. Just play it cool.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Personnel Files: Persephone (Part 2)

The most outspoken detractor of the methods employed by The Bureau of Death was the Goddess Demeter. It is possible that she truly cared for the well-being of mortals, and thought it morally reprehensible that their suffering is nothing more than a means to an end. Yet it is equally possible that she just felt slighted that she, the Goddess of harvest, as well as the cycles of life and death, was so ignorant to the goings on in her own domains. Regardless, there can be no doubt that the blame lies with her for being too foolish to put together the connection between her two spheres of influence. (In her defense, a lot of Gods have unrelated domains. Like, what does The Sun have to do with music? –Sis) (Perhaps the connection is a secret we’ve decided you can’t be trusted with? –Chloe) She proclaimed that this trespassing within her domain was heresy, and demanded that Hades be punished for it. Hades wanted nothing more than to return to the way things were. For reasons that are lost to history, he believed that kidnapping her daughter, Persephone, would achieve this. (If I keep having to write notes every time we’re unnecessarily mean to someone, my notes will take up half the book –Sis) (Then stop –Chloe) (Editor, see to it that this childish bickering is left in, that new Reapers may know what to expect of the younger of The Moirai –Atropos) Demeter grieved, and intentionally began to neglect her duties as The Goddess of Harvest. Crops withered in the fields, and mortals starved. Yet Hades was unswayed, as he stood only to gain from the accelerated death of mortals. Even against the pressure of the other Gods, he remained steadfast. Eventually, Demeter conceded. If her daughter was returned, she promised to allow the harvesting of mortals to continue as it had.

Though Hades accepted the offer, he would not relinquish his queen so easily. He plotted to use The Old Rules of The Underworld to his advantage. In particular, one which states that “he or she who partakes of The Fruit of The Dead is bound to The Underworld, to remain among The Dead for all Eternity”. Though the law has since been repealed, largely due to the backlash surrounding this particular incident, Persephone is still subject to it, as it was Eternally Binding at the time that she ate the seeds of the pomegranate.  The ensuing case, Hades v. Demeter, ended with the following verdict: Since she had eaten only six (6) of the pomegranate’s seeds, she would be bound to The Underworld for only six (6) months of each year. At the time, she went on record claiming that she was deceived into eating the seeds, yet a later audit revealed that this claim was, itself, a deception. To this day, her motive for eating the seeds is known only to her. There is no ongoing investigation into the matter, and none is planned. The official stance of The Fates is that Persephone is trustworthy, and unlikely to act against the interests of The Bureau of Death. One can speculate about her reasoning all they like, but it is ultimately a personal matter, of concern to none but Persephone herself. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Location Files: ???

                Though this world is fraught with mysteries, all are dwarfed by the mystery shrouding the worlds which lie beyond. Even among the most powerful and learned of The Gods, there are few who know that our universe is but one of many born of The Primordial Chaos. Seeing into these alternate realities is difficult, and entering them from ours is all but impossible, yet there can be no doubt of their existence. Some parallel ours very closely, differing in only enough ways to unsettle those who dwell in this plane of existence. Others are anti-parallel, as different from our world as the night is from the day; there are worlds in which those whom we know to be gods are goddesses, and vice versa. Where the Pegasus is a hoofed bird, and Medusa herself is turned to stone at a mere glance. Yet even these worlds of opposites still parallel ours. There are others that are perpendicular, bearing few, if any, similarities to what we know. They are as different from ours as the night is from an olive tree; any attempt to even compare the two is futile.

                You may wonder why we are discussing esoteric cosmology when there are more pressing matters to attend to. Surely, you might think, if none from our world can cross into the others, and none from the others can cross into ours, these worlds can play no part in The Crisis of The Dead. But this is not quite accurate. Though it is very nearly impossible, there is a single known incidence of a being crossing from one realm to another. Unfortunately, this event was the cause of the predicament we now face, as it was our very own King of The Dead who crossed into a world beyond. To put it rather mildly, this led to some complications, which even The Fates could not foresee. There’s no time to delve into specifics, but you deserve to know the gravity of the situation. Tartarus has been compromised. Though The Fates maintain that Tartarus’s security is absolute, as they always have, we have seen that even they can be wrong. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re wrong about Tartarus, but it does mean that they aren’t necessarily right. And if there is even the smallest chance of a breakout from Tartarus, it is a chance that must not be taken lightly, as it could bring about a calamity yet more ruinous than The Godly Crusade.

                But we cannot abandon all hope. He who brought about our damnation may yet be our salvation. Though The Throne of The Underworld lies empty, it is not abandoned. Its rightful heir will return once his mission is accomplished. Even now, he lives in a world nearly identical to how ours once was. He is as ignorant to how much our world has changed since he left as the residents of that world are to the fact that a foreigner sits upon their Deathly Throne. Though he bides his time as Hades, the day is fast approaching when he will act as Orcus. He will overthrow the gods of that world, and take their power as his own. When he returns, he will return as a hero, and all will venerate his true name: Pluto.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Personnel Files: Persephone (Part 1)

Many see Death as the one certainty of the universe, for all which has a beginning must have an end, and that end is Death. One might say that the gods, being immortal, are the exception that proves this rule. But there is a force to which even the gods succumb: Love. For even those beyond the reach of Thanatos find themselves firmly within Aphrodite’s grasp. Hades himself is no exception, and it is for this reason that he shares his throne with his wife, Persephone. As Queen of The Dead, Persephone’s authority in The Underworld is second only to her husband’s. However, her power to influence the domain of The Dead outstrips her desire to do so. By her own choice, her active role in The Bureau of Death is minimal. Yet it cannot be said that her role as Queen is not vital to The Underworld. Her place on The Throne of The Dead is of great political importance, if nothing else. A reaper such as yourself might wonder what cause he has to concern himself with the politics of the Gods, which are often no less petty than the squabbles of mortals. Yet it is vital that all within The Bureau understand the consequences of their actions, for Death holds great sway within the spheres of the Gods. Even the lowliest Reaper has powers that the Gods themselves would kill for. Yet they do not, for the power to do so is what they lust after in the first place. There are those on Olympus who mistrust Death, see us as deceitful, and search for any opportunity to turn against us. All employees of the Bureau must understand the political environment of the Divine, so that this opportunity is never found. An incident crucial to the formation of this environment is the tale of Persephone, a tale of a girl split between two worlds, held together only by red tape.

In the ancient past, The Meaning of Life (Refer to Miscellaneous Files: The Physiology of Mortals for more details) was known only to the Moirai, who guarded their secret against even the Gods themselves. But this changed when One of the Three, who shall remain unnamed, made an error in the measurement of the thread of life. This alone was of little concern, but in apologizing for her mistake, she revealed something not meant to be known. (Look, I already said I’m sorry, and that I’m sorry for saying that I’m sorry. No need to pin all the blame on me –Sis) (We did no such thing. You pinned all the blame on yourself –Chloe) The rumor spread as though carried on Hermes winged sandals, fast enough that the currents of The River Lethe could not keep up. It was not long before Olympus was in an uproar. The Pantheon was split between those who approved, and those who thought the harvesting of souls reprehensible. Some feared that an all-out war would break out, with sons turning against fathers in a ghastly echo of the Titanomachy. Perhaps the only thing preventing this was fear of another Divine War, spurred by a perceived weakness of The Pantheon.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Location Files: Tartarus

In this universe, there exist beings whose power is such that Death alone is not enough to stop them. Tartarus is*. Tartarus is a maximum security prison, not because there does not exist a more secure location in the universe, but because such a thing cannot exist. To escape from Tartarus is no more possible than adding the numbers 2 and 3 to get 7. To do so would contradict the unshakable certainties on which Fate is founded. Much of its nature is highly classified, known only to The Fates. Perhaps the least imposing of its fortifications is the presence of the three Hecatonchires, a name which translates to “Hundred handed ones” from the Old Script. Whether this translation is literal or metaphorical is of little consequence, as those who lay eyes on the Hecatonchires rarely survive long enough to count them all. Though there are more terrifying countermeasures in place, you are permitted no knowledge of them, save the assurance that they are beyond your capacity to imagine.

Though much effort has gone into fortifying Tartarus, it is not technically correct to assert that Tartarus was built to contain the greatest threats to The Hellenistic Pantheon. Tartarus was not built at all. Rather, he one of the very first Primordial Beings, coming into existence shortly after The Origin. The location Tartarus† has been used as a dungeon since the so-called “Golden Age” overseen by Cronus, but it was only under the rule of The Olympians that it was augmented into a perfect prison. These augmentations were enacted as a countermeasure, to ensure that The Golden Age stayed in the past. Tartarus is also home to the several primordial deities, like Tartarus himself, who were cast there when Cronus first usurped The Heavenly Throne. Among them are Nyx and Erebus, parents to many of those who now call The Underworld home, as well as Gaia, Uranus, et cetera. And though they are the most fundamentally powerful beings in all of the Hellenistic Pantheon, they are not the greatest danger lurking in the depths of Tartarus. This distinction belongs to the war criminals of The Divine War. Their names are highly classified. Few are permitted to know them, and even those with sufficient clearance are forbidden from uttering or writing them. The motivation for this taboo is, itself, classified information. (For an exhaustive coverage of the limited information about The Divine War to which Reapers have clearance, see Miscellaneous Files: The Divine War) Ultimately, there is very little that Reapers need know about Tartarus.  It suffices to say that Tartarus is an extremely unpleasant place, where extremely unpleasant individuals are kept. If you do not wish to learn just how extremely unpleasant Tartarus is, it is advised that you refrain from being extremely unpleasant.

* enough to stop them (The aforementioned beings). This sentence was cut short for dramatic effect in a way that is grammatically correct, yet somewhat ambiguous. Hence, the inclusion of this footnote.

† The relationship between Tartarus, the entity, and Tartarus, the location, is fundamentally unlike that between Hades, the entity, and Hades, the location. The Underworld is merely named after Hades; the being of the God and the being of his realm are entirely discrete. Tartarus, on the other hand, is a singular existence, which manifests itself both as a location and a personification. However, the metaphysical subtleties involved in this distinction are far beyond the scope of this handbook.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Miscellaneous Files: The Physiology of Reapers

This section briefly returns to the question posed at the start of this Handbook: “What is a Reaper?” In a sense, this question has already been answered. A Reaper is, by definition, one who is employed by The Bureau of Death to actively facilitate the departure of mortal souls from the mortal world. Yet, in another sense, one might claim that this question has gone entirely unanswered, as there has been little description of the physical or spiritual characteristics possessed by Reapers. The purpose of this section is to provide this description, so that you may better understand your current form, and understand how you are seen by others.

Excluding Captain Thanatos and a few other Reapers of Divine origin, all Reapers were once mortals. Based on criteria that are Classified, The Moirai judged their souls to be suited to the task of reaping. Their deaths were carried out by Special Tasks Reapers, who ensured that they be given a Handbook, much like the one you are currently reading. They read through this handbook, as you are right now. However, since the spirit of a Reaper is fundamentally no different from that of a mortal, it is susceptible to The Scourge of Mortals. Under normal circumstances, a mortal spirit whose body has ceased functioning will be broken down by The Scourge in hours, if not minutes. Reapers wear spiritually augmented apparel that acts as an Aegis against The Scourge. (Nice –Sis) While they are reading this Handbook for the first time, fledgling reapers have no access to such protection, so other countermeasures are put into place. With a source of energy, usually provided by the metabolism of the body, the spirit can fend off The Scourge of Mortals on its own. For a first time reaper, this energy is still provided by the body, but in an altogether different manner. The Handbook acts as a catalyst for a reaction, not unlike combustion, which consumes the flesh, providing the soul with the energy it needs. If this is your first time reading through, there is no need to be concerned. The energy output of this reaction is quite large compared to the amount required by the soul’s immune system, so there is no restrictive time limit on the reading of this Handbook. All remaining flesh is stripped during the Reaper’s first trip to The Underworld, leaving only a skeleton behind. One side effect of this process is that the remaining bones are charred black. Though this discoloration was originally unintentional, no effort has been made to remedy it, as the pigmentation of the soot has proved quite beneficial. Uncharred skeletons are white, which contrasts with the blackness of The Grim Robe, diminishing its concealing properties. (It also looks Hella cool. Like, I don’t know what kind of person you were in life, but I am 100% certain that you would have thought that exploding into the afterlife as a pitch-black skeleton that is also on fire was radical. -Sis)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Equipment Files: The Grim Robe

The signature black robe of the reaper is the second of the three most iconic features of a reaper, with the first being their scythe, and the third being their skeleton face. (By the way, if this is your first readthrough, then you are becoming a skeleton as you read this very sentence. Well, the skeleton was in you all along, but… you know what I mean. It gets explained later.) The Grim Robe became standard issue for Reapers because it is a very practical piece of equipment with several uses. Its first use is that it’s highly fashionable. Mortals have a habit of saying that “pink is the new black” or “orange is the new black” or whatever, but they’re lying. Black is the once and future black, now and forever, to have and to hold, ‘til death do us part, amen. I may always wear green, but make no mistake; black is my favorite color. I just wear green because no one can tell us apart unless we color-code ourselves like freakin’ Power Rangers, and [Atropos] called dibs on black. Anyway, black stuff is cool, and stuff doesn’t get much blacker than The Grim Robe. Stained with the blood of Nyx herself, (sorry mom) it is darker than the cold, disappointed stare of Erebus. It’s actually darker than the mortal eye can process, lending the Reaper some degree of invisibility. That’s not to say that a mortal can’t see you, they just can’t look at you, if that makes any sense.

The robe is also rather durable, despite its near weightlessness, so it can protect you from some injury. However, if you have reason to suspect that you will be fighting, you’re better off wearing something else more suited to that. In addition to protecting from physical damage, (even in death, breaking a bone kinda sucks) the robe offers all-important defense from The Scourge, which, as the former spirit of a mortal, you are otherwise vulnerable to. For this reason, it is strongly advised that you not leap out of your robe as a spooky skeleton to frighten mortals in their last moments, no matter how hilarious or awesome such a prank would be.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Equipment Files: The Grim Scythe

Few things spring to the mind as readily as the image of The Grim Scythe upon hearing the word Reaper. To say the scythe is iconic is a woeful understatement. It might be argued that, among mortals, the scythe is more commonly associated with death than it is with the actual harvesting for which it is designed. Yet for the Reapers, these two purposes are as one.

The Grim Scythe is the Reaper’s signature weapon, as the spear is to a hoplite. A soldier may carry other weapons for versatility, but it is with Spear and Phalanx that the Caesars came to dominate much of the mortal world. Similarly, the Reaper has many tools with which to part a mortal from its soul, but The Grim Scythe is what allows them to act with the ruthless efficiency for which they are known and feared. The most important thing to remember when holding The Scythe is that it is a tool, not a weapon. While it is rare that a Reaper must engage in combat, they must always be prepared to do so. Since The Scythe’s shape makes it ill-suited to this task, Reapers are recommended to carry a proper weapon with them at all times. The Scythe is also wielded in a manner much unlike most weapons. Attempting to swing it like an axe will do no more good than attempting to shoot a sewing needle like a crossbow bolt. Rookie Reapers often make this mistake, resulting in an incomplete cut that does not fully sever the soul from the body. Paradoxically, a soul that is hanging only by a thread is often more difficult to reap than one that is whole. The survival instinct of the soul is no weaker than that of the body; when it knows it is in danger, it clings to life all the harder for it. If the value of a clean cut were only in saving time, then it would be of little concern to We, who have all the time in the world. Yet it is not so. If the soul is not skillfully severed, it is more swiftly sundered by The Scourge, spoiling the spirit we sought to sow. It is of dire importance that this not happen. And though it is the Conspiracy of Fate that some mishaps cannot be prevented, that does not mean that one should throw their hands up and accept failure. Even if it is not 100% effective, one can maximize the chance of a clean cut by following the proper procedure. When the time of harvesting is nigh, hold the scythe out so that your victim lies closer to you than your blade. Bring the unedged portion of the scythe to rest on their soul, taking care not to agitate it. At the moment when their part is played, yank the blade towards you, forcefully removing them from the stage of life. (Oh, like the hook in those Vaudeville acts! Nice –Sis)

In truth, there is but one implement truly worth of being called The Grim Scythe. Forged by Hephaestus, it has been wielded by Captain Thanatos since ancient times. It is sharp enough to cut the very fabric of the mortal world. By carving shortcuts through space, Thanatos can travel at speeds rivaling even Hermes. The scythes wielded by common Reapers are but replicas, forged by The Cyclopes of the Forge God. Though not as sharp as the original, their sharpness easily surpasses any mortal implement.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Personnel Files: Hades

At the dawn of the era before the one in which you lived and died, three brothers drew lots to determine how the universe would be governed. To one, rulership of the sky was to be granted. To one, rulership of the sea was to be granted. And to one, rulership of The Underworld was to be granted. It is for this reason that Zeus reigns from his heavenly throne on Olympus, his rule enforced by his almighty lightning bolt. It is for this reason that Poseidon reigns over the vast seas, over its currents and its tides, and the many plants and animals within it. And it is for this reason that Hades reigns over the dead, sitting atop a lavish throne in the otherwise dismal land of The Underworld. Yet this partitioning of the powers was not left to mere chance. It was guided by the hand of Fate.

Though Hades cursed his fate to rule over the dead, his position is, in truth, by far the most important of the three. The Dead play a role of utmost importance in the grand design of The Fates. It would be impossible for The Moirai to carry out their schemes without the knowledge and consent of He who rules the dead. This is why Hades was chosen. Of the three brothers, he is the best able to keep a secret. This is imperative, as the god of the dead must be privy to sensitive information, shared only with The Moirai, kept hidden from even the king of the gods himself. Hades is also far less prone to letting his base desires rule over him than his brothers, though there is one historical exception to this, which one may read about in Personnel Files: Persephone.

Though it was never his wish to rule over the dead, it was always his wish to prove himself, to his brothers, the other gods, and himself. Thus, he takes his job as serious as the grave, and jealously guards his realm from those who would pervert the sanctity of Death. Though he longs for the acceptance of his peers, he tends to keep to himself. (I know you three technically outrank me, but could you leave my personal life out of this? You don’t see me blabbing to my servants about Lachesis’ inferiority complex -Hades) (What? I have no such thing –Sis) He loathes nothing more than outsiders trying to meddle in the affairs of The Underworld, be they from Olympus, the mortal world, or any of the other celestial spheres. There are but four beings in all the cosmos to whom he will acquiesce unquestioningly. It goes without saying that we, The Moirai, who weave the Fate to which all men and gods must answer, are among these. Yet the fourth is not Zeus, King of the Gods, as one would naturally expect.  Perhaps the identity of the fourth is a secret that Hades has requested we keep. Or perhaps it will be known to you, all in due time.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Miscellaneous Files: The Physiology of Mortals

The beings referred to in this handbook as “mortals” are actually two (2) discrete entities: a mortal body of flesh, and an immortal soul of Quintessence. The body shares a symbiotic relationship with the soul that is no different from the one that it shares with the bacteria that assist it in digestion. The body provides the soul with a corporeal form that allows it to inhabit the mortal world and experience sensation. In return, the soul provides the body with true cognizance. The bond between the two is so close that neither can survive long without the other without extensive external assistance.

Without the input of the soul, much of the body’s nervous system shuts down, and the body becomes incapable of voluntary action. The body can perform homeostasis, but unless intensive “life” support, if it may be called that, is provided, it will quickly experience physical death. Without an immune system to protect it, the body is broken down by bacteria and other microorganisms that return its elements to the Earth. Similarly, without the protection of a body, the soul falls victim to The Scourge. The body, of course, offers no physical protection against The Scourge, as they are incorporeal, unimpeded by the matter and space of the mortal realm. The body does, however, provide the soul with energy necessary for the functioning of its own immune system. Without this immune system, the soul decomposes, just as the body does. Reapers ensure that this does not happen by preserving the soul as soon as the mortal is Due (the body experiences physical death) and transporting it to The Underworld.

This distinction, between the mortal and the immortal, is key to the greatest secret kept by The Bureau of Death (at least, the greatest secret to be known by one such as yourself). When a new human is born, they are imbued with a soul, and a seed of quintessence is sown by The Bureau of Life. When this human dies, their soul is taken to The Underworld, and a fruit of quintessence is reaped by The Bureau of Death. To the gods, the mortal world is little more than a farm, a vast field growing a crop of quintessence. This quintessence is of priceless to The Gods, its value surpassed only by its rarity. It is the aether through which sentience propagates. An incorporeal substance whose motes of light, strands of shadow, and plumes of dusk form the atoms of thought and emotion. Yet it cannot be manufactured artificially, at least, not by any process known to men or gods. It can only be grown organically. This growth is carried out by the soul, and it is fertilized by hardship and pain. This is the reason for every heartache suffered by mortals, for all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Needless to say, it is of paramount importance that they not be made aware of this.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bureau Files: Rules of the Reaper

Among mortals and immortals alike, nothing commands more respect and fear than Death. Most see death as an absolute, immutable law of the universe, beyond the reach of even the Gods. We at The Bureau of Death know that this is not the case, and The Rules of the Reaper ensure that we are the only who know this.  The Reaper is not an individual, but part of the greater whole that is Death, and it is by following these rules that The Reaper acts in the way that Death is expected to act. The Rules are listed in descending order of priority. That is, a Reaper is to break a rule if, and only if, the following of that rule would break a rule of a lower number.
  1. A Reaper must obey any order from Atropos.
  2. A Reaper must obey any order from Clotho.
  3. A Reaper must obey any order from Lachesis. (There is a mistake in the order of these rules –Sis)
  4. A Reaper must do everything in their power to ensure that no being possesses information related to The Bureau that is forbidden to them. The term “being” here includes, but is not limited to, mortals, deities (of The Pantheon or otherwise), Higher Ranking officials of The Bureau of Death, other reapers, and yourself. (And Sis –Chloe) See Bureau Files: Clearances of Classified Information and Personnel Files: Lethe for further details.
  5. A Reaper must do everything in their power to prevent harm from coming to The Fates*, other Higher Ranking Officials of The Bureau of Death, deities of The Pantheon, themselves, or other Reapers, in descending order of priority. (exemplī grātiā If a Reaper must decide between protecting The Fates, and protecting another Reaper, they are to prioritize protecting The Fates)
  6. A Reaper must do everything in their power to kill a mortal whom they know to be Due, in the present or near future, or otherwise see to it that the mortal is killed.
  7. A Reaper must not kill a mortal who is not Due.
  8. A Reaper must do everything in their power to ensure that harvested souls are delivered to Charon with minimal spirit decay.
  9. A Reaper must obey any order from a higher ranking official of the Bureau of Death (See Appendix for more details on what constitutes a “higher ranking official”)
  10. A Reaper must never let any memories of their mortal life influence any decision they make related to the business of The Bureau of Death.

*Reapers are not, under any circumstances, to perform any action which may, intentionally or unintentionally, harm The Moirai, even if ordered to do so by one of The Moirai. This can be thought of as a “Rule Zero” that supersedes even the first rule. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Reaping Files: Special Tasks (ST)

OK, so, basically, “Special Tasks” is just an umbrella category for all the stuff that doesn’t fit into the other two categories. (Assigned Reaping and Patrol Reaping) I guess if we’re running with Chloe’s whole “the world is a stage” thing, Special Tasks would be… the boss battles? No, plays don’t have those. Probably the special effects. Like, the big pyrotechnic displays or cool laser lights. While AR and PR are both just as important as each other, ST is totally more important than both of them. Like [Atropos] said earlier, the Special Task Force is the best of the best, because special tasks are the kinds of things that we can’t trust to just anyone.

Like what, you may ask? Well, like I said, a Special Task is really be anything that a Reaper is assigned to do that isn’t AR or PR. So, like, if Hades asked a Reaper to go fetch him a glass of pomegranate juice, I’m pretty sure that would count as a Special Task. But that’s not what it usually means. I guess one common example of a Special Task would be Mass Death Events. (I’m not sure if that’s actually the official term or not) A Mass Death Event is when a very large number of mortals die in a short amount of time, like The Hiroshima Incident of 1945, or The Great Antimatter Catastrophe of (Double-check the date on this one –Chloe). Stuff like that is usually handled by ST, using specialized weaponry called Heavy Ordinance. (I’m pretty sure we don’t use the acronym for that one.)

The killing of anything expected to have the ability to fight back is also considered a Special Task. These can be mortals who are unusually attuned to the spheres of the divine, or demigods, born of a union between a mortal and a God (Zeus. Let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that it’s probably Zeus.) They usually don’t put up much of a fight, but Death doesn’t take chances. There are all sorts of other things that are occasionally assigned as special tasks, but you don’t really need to worry about all that right now. Special Tasks are advanced-level reaping, and this Handbook is really meant more as an introduction. More information about Special tasks will be revealed to you in time, if you prove yourself worthy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reaping Files: Patrolling Reapers (PR)

However, not all mortals have a prophesized moment of death. There is only so much thread available to Lachesis, and even one of The Fates can have trouble keeping up with the sudden explosion in mortal population. (Could you make it sound a bit less like I don’t know how to do my own job? –Sis) In the analogy that was so colorfully introduced in the previous section, these mortals would be the chorus: shuffling on and off of the stage freely, drawing little attention to themselves. Though they are important, their importance exists only in relation to the main characters. Their deaths have little bearing on the so-called “script” of Fate, and so, their times of death are not prophesized. Such deaths are handled by the PR. At all hours, a network of PR is deployed around the mortal world such that every mortal is within range of at least one (1) PR. Naturally, this network is designed so that areas with high mortality rates, such as hospitals and areas of ongoing conflict, have a high PR density. PR must use specialized equipment, (to be described in greater detail later in this handbook) as well as their own judgement, to determine when a mortal is Unexpectedly Due (UD).

Though the mortals subject to PR are, in a sense, less important than those subject to AR, this statement should NOT be misconstrued to mean that PR work is, in any way, shape, or form, less important than AR work. Given the unpredictable nature of PR work, it is far more reliant on the faculties of the Reaper than AR work, which requires nothing more than following the orders of Fate. Thus, it is more prone to errors. As it was so elegantly put in the previous section, Death is unerring. There would be dire consequences if mortals, or even the Gods of Olympus, were to suspect otherwise. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that PR be efficient and flawless. Actions which constitute errors include, but are not limited to: killing a mortal who is not Due, failing to kill a mortal who is Due, being spotted by a mortal, or failing to obey an order from a Higher Ranking Official in the Bureau of Death. A more exhaustive list of punishable infractions can be found in the section Bureau Files: Rules of the Reaper.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Reaping Files: Assigned Reapers (AR)

Death is unerring. It is the inescapable hand of Providence which escorts actors from the stage of life at the precise moment their role is fulfilled. The stagehands who coordinate these timely exits are the Assigned Reapers, or AR. Though AR have the least trying job of the Reapers, their role is arguably of the greatest importance. For it is they who see to it that the mortal world is in accordance with the script penned by we, The Moirai. For The Fates, who weave, measure, and cut the very thread of life, the moment at which a mortal is meant to die is as apparent as the Sun in the sky. The deaths of the future are known to us as clearly as the births of the past; we need only measure the length of the thread. One can imagine the thread as a curtain, which is drawn over the stage when the actor’s scene is finished. Or perhaps the life threads of all mortals, past, present, and future, are woven into a single curtain, which obfuscates the stage in preparation for the real show. Though, if the mortal world is not the main production, then what could possibly lurk backstage? But you needn’t concern yourself with these matters. All you need understand is that, when one’s thread of life runs short, an Assigned Reaper is dispatched, with scythe in hand, and winged sandals on foot.  They patiently loom in the shadow of their prey, striking only at the appointed time: not a moment too soon, and not a moment too late. Unfortunately, the custom of placing coins under the eyelids of the recently deceased has fallen out of fashion, yet old Charon remains as miserly as ever. Thus, it is often up to the Reaper to scrounge up the fare to ensure the departed’s passage across Styx. Once the soul is in the ferryman’s care, the Reaper’s job is complete. Yet Death is rarely afforded the rest that it offers to mortals. It will not be long before the AR [sic] is given another task, and the cycle begins anew.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reaping Files: Categories of Reapers

Death is the one thing that unites mortals, and it is the one thing that distinguishes them. It is a journey with countless paths, but only one destination. Every man dies differently, but the Underworld that awaits them all is unchanging. And just as Death varies, so too do the Reapers who carry it out. A Reaper is much like a cloud; though each one is unique, with its own set of skills and experiences, it is not impossible to compare them, as all may be described as belonging to one of three distinct classifications.

All working Reapers fall under one (1) of three (3) broad categories: Assigned Reapers (AR), Patrolling Reapers, (PR), and Special Task (ST) Reapers. New Reapers are typically employed as AR, while the more experienced typically serve as PR, with ST typically reserved for only the most distinguished Reapers. Unfortunately, this terminology has become a loathsome mire of ambiguity. The abbreviations AR, PR, and ST were originally intended to refer to Reapers themselves. However, they may also refer to the type of work carried out by such a Reaper (to be described in further detail in the upcoming paragraphs). Furthermore, note that the categorization of a Reaper is defined solely by their current work, exemplī grātiā, A Reaper is considered an AR if, and only if, they are currently assigned to kill a particular mortal, id est, they are performing the duty of an AR. Even if they tend to be given such assignments, a Reaper is NOT an AR if they are not currently carrying out such assignments. It is not uncommon for a Reaper who is usually given AR work to be erroneously categorized as an AR, even when they are between jobs. A Reaper who is between jobs does not fall under any of the three (3) categories, as they are, by definition, reserved for working Reapers. One might maintain that there could be a 4th category for Off Duty Reapers, but this is not the official stance of the Bureau of Death.

This section would be incomplete if it did not mention the Special Task Force, (STF) a group closely related to, yet distinct from, the ST category. STF membership is conferred upon Reapers deemed capable of taking on Special Tasks. In all but the most dire of emergencies, Special Tasks will be assigned only to members of the STF. STF membership is different from the ST categorization in that it persists, even when the reaper is not currently assigned a Special Task.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Personnel Files: The Moirai

  The Moirai, AKA The Fates, are three (3) sisters who govern Destiny by spinning, measuring, and cutting the threads of life. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that they are also the authors of this very Handbook. As the very personification of Providence, it is reasonable to suppose that they are the most powerful beings in the universe, with King Zeus himself as the only possible counterexample. 

Atropos (no known aliases) is the eldest of the sisters, she who brings death by cutting the thread of life. She has ultimate authority over not only who dies, but when, where, and how they die. As such, she is the Highest Ranking Official of The Bureau of Death. She represents the certainty of Fate. She knows Fate to be a thing of unyielding perfection, demanding that all things be exactly where they must be, across all of space and time.  All objects, actions, people, ideas, and even Gods have an exact place in Fate. She cannot stand others who fall short of this perfection, even if they are her own kin. However, that is not to say that she hates her sisters. Even though it is improper form, I will speak in 1st person, just this once, to go on record saying that I do love you, my dearest sisters, Lachesis and Clotho.

Clotho (known by those close to her as Chloe) is only young in comparison to her two sisters. 
She spins the very thread of life; every man, woman, and child on Earth is placed there by her nimble hands. At least, such was the way of ancient times. These days, she oversees The Bureau of Life, that which exists opposite to The Bureau of Death, which completes the task in her stead. Yet Death and Life are but two ends of the same thread. Accordingly, she is also a significant figure in The Bureau of Death. She sees fate as a chaotic sea of all that is and all that might be, sailed by the lonely ship of reality. The rudders may nudge the ship this way or that way, but the ship is ultimately at the mercy of the unpredictable currents and eddies of Fate, beyond the control of any mortal or God. Will they steer the ship to safe harbor, or a maelstrom of ruination? Perhaps this is the secret of the Moirai.

Lachesis (I call myself Sis but I’m not sure if anyone else actually does) is the middle sister. I measure the thread of life, which determines how long people live. So I guess that, in a way, I kind of determine when people die, but I guess Atropos’ shears have the final say. I’m the second highest ranking official in The Bureau of Death, and the Bureau of Life, as well as the highest ranking official (and only member) of the Lachesis fan club. Go me. I believe that Fate is what is going to happen because it was willed to happen. People, Gods, and even animals have desires for the future. They act so that these desires might become reality. The future is decided by those with the desire and power to shape it, whether it be the power of few, or the power of many. That is Fate. (I think.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Equipment Files: The Reaper's Handbook, Part 3

As a Reaper, much is expected of you, but honestly, we don’t actually expect you to have all the information in this book memorized all the time. I mean, let’s be real. You’d have to be the God of memorizing a bunch of stuff (We probably have one of those) to keep it all straight. This is another reason to keep your handbook with you wherever you go: it serves as a handy reference, just in case you forget anything. The PWM (Pretty Weird Magic) can make it a bit difficult to find stuff, so we included a neat trick to get around that! It’s basically a search function that allows you to quickly find information related to a certain topic. Here’s what you do: Hold the book, closed, between your palms, with the spine facing up. Then extend your arms so that they’re parallel to the ground. Then, think about the topic your searching for. Once you have a clear image of what you’re looking for in your mind’s eye, drop the book. (The book is water-resistant, not water-proof, so be careful around water! Or… whatever it is that flows through The River Styx, for that matter.) If the ritual succeeds, the book will land, face down, opened to the page you’re looking for. If it doesn’t work, it will bounce to the side. Pay attention to which cover is facing up! If the front cover is facing up, then your mental image was registered, but nothing related to it was found in the book. If this happens, your best bet is probably to ask a higher-up about it. But watch out! Death may be patient, but some of the people who make it happen aren’t. They’ll get mad if you waste their time. If the back cover is facing up, then your mental image wasn’t registered. When this happens, all you can do is keep trying ‘til you get it right!  Also, while the book has a lot of cool features, it isn’t indestructible, so repeatedly doing this can lead to wear and tear. For this reason, I recommend using bookmarks to keep track of sections you often visit. Just don’t think about the PWM too hard, and they should work.

Hey, this paragraph is kind of a secret, even from my sisters, so I ORDER you not to tell anyone about it, even them. (An order from Lachesis can only be overturned by one from Atropos. See section: “Bureau Files: Rules of the Reaper” for more details) I managed to hide a fun Easter egg in the book. Try the search ritual while imagining your own face from when you were a mortal. I don’t want to spoil what happens, but you’ll love it. But, for real, DON’T try this until after you’ve made it to The Underworld. If you try it before, you might corrupt the data and, I dunno, break the universe or something.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Equipment Files: The Reaper's Handbook, Part 2

The purpose of this Handbook is to provide new Reapers with all information necessary for successfully carrying out the killing of mortals. This ensures that The Fates needn’t take the time to personally explain everything to each new Reaper. This information includes, but is not limited to, the procedures of killing, equipment (including this very Handbook) and its purposes, and descriptions of notable personnel within The Bureau of Death. This is a great deal of information, far more than can conventionally fit in a book of this size. For this reason, unconventional methods are employed. Though the Handbook only appears to have fifty (50) pages at any given moment, its paper shifts with each turn of the page, warping ink to reveal the next section of the handbook. This feature of the book is known as the Page Warping Mechanism (PWM). It is important that the Handbook be small, as Reapers are expected to carry it with them at all times. The Handbook serves as identification, allowing anyone to distinguish a Reaper from a common shade with a sharpened curve of metal. It also identifies you on an individual level; Each Handbook is unique, stamped with an imprint of the memories of your mortal life. By the time you are reading this, it is likely that this process has already begun. Do NOT attempt to recall memories of your mortal life, as doing so may inhibit this process.

Do not be alarmed if this is your second time seeing this page during your initial read-through of The Handbook. This is not a malfunction of the PWM. This section initially appears towards the beginning of The Handbook, just after the introduction, so that new Reapers understand the purpose of what they are reading. Once it has been read and understood, the PWM shifts it to its proper place among the Equipment Files. If the first section you see in the Equipment Files chapter see is “The Grim Scythe”, then it is reasonable to be alarmed. This indicates that your understanding of the material within The Handbook has been found lacking. If you find yourself in this situation, the recommended course of action is to start from the beginning and read each page again. Repeat as necessary. All chapters of The Handbook begin with a Checkpoint Section like this, which first appears shortly after the introduction. It then relocates to the beginning of its appropriate chapter if, and only if, the reader has read and understood all prior pages.  Please keep this in mind, and keep an eye out for familiar sections at the start of each chapter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Equipment Files: The Reaper's Handbook, Part 1

As of this moment, the only thing separating you from an eternity of claiming the souls of the damned is the information in this very book, penned by none other than The Moirai, The Three Fates who govern Destiny. Within its pages, you’ll find the secrets of life’s beginnings and ends, the mechanisms that keep the great clock of the world ticking, and wisdom coveted by even the Gods themselves. When your knowledge is such that you yourself have become Death, open this book to its ultimate chapter, and perform the ritual detailed therein. Upon its completion, you will find yourself at the gaping maw of Hades*. Confidently stride through the queue of the deceased, heedless of the slavering Cerberus, and present this handbook to Charon. Begrudge though he may, he will ask for no coin as he charters you a course over the River Styx, across the River Acheron, towards your new home. But be warned, former mortal. Your career as a Reaper can only be born when your mind is pregnant with the seed of knowledge in these covers. Any attempts to reach The Underworld without having read every last page of this book will bear no fruit. For as you read this book, it too, is reading you. Your knowledge and ignorance are laid bare before it. If you are found wanting, you may just find yourself in a part of The Underworld that you do not wish to visit.

*In this context, Hades refers to The Underworld itself, rather than the King who rather unfortunately bears its name. In an effort to minimize this lamentable ambiguity, this Handbook will use “Hades” only when referring to the deity. The realm over which he rules will simply be referred to as “The Underworld”. Regrettably, this naming convention is all too common among the divine, who arrogantly posit that the petty ego boost of naming their domain after themselves is worth sullying the elegance of Fate’s decrees. In general, names that can refer to a being or location will refer to the former, unless otherwise specified, exemplī grātiā “The River Styx”.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Reaper's Handbook

Congratulations, recently departed soul! The Fates have deemed you worthy of being a Reaper. If you believe this judgement to be in error, place one (1) coin under each of your eyelids, and speak aloud the words “Memento Mori” three (3) times. You will be escorted to Styx and proceed to the afterlife with no memory of having read these words. If, instead, you wish to become a Reaper, you need only read on. By continuing to read after this sentence, you hereby consent to serve as a Reaper for any interval of time demanded by The Fates, finite or otherwise, during which you will obey all rules and regulations implied by service as a Reaper, under penalty of ironic torment.

Excellent! We are sure you have many questions, and The Reaper’s Handbook was written for the very purpose of answering them. Invariably, the first question asked by new Reapers is the most obvious one: “Just what is a Reaper?” An entire handbook could be devoted to the nuance and subtleties of this question alone; there are as many answers to this question as there are entities who understand it. That is, admittedly, not a terribly large amount in the grand scheme of things, but for the purposes of this introduction, one simple answer will suffice. And the simple answer is that Reapers are those who kill mortals. The mortals think death is something that they have control over, with their knives, and their poisons, and their guns, and their bombs, but they are wrong. These things only determine when the mortal is Due. Death, the actual separation of the immortal spirit from the mortal flesh, can only be carried out by a Reaper*. By a being like yourself.

*Though the term “Reaper” is commonly used only to describe those employed specifically to kill mortals, there is some debate over whether the term also includes any with the power to do so, Including, but not limited to, The Fates, some higher ranking Bureau officials, and the so-called “Rogue Reapers”. Throughout this handbook, the word “Reaper” is assumed to mean an employee of The Bureau of Death whose primary job is to directly facilitate the death of mortals, unless otherwise specified.