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.