Meet a major secondary character in Shadowkeeper, this happening years before the novelette took place (and completely unconectted. It was a fun experment as I worked on their voices and I thought you might enjoy it.)
Tanel stepped through the barracks wall. The misty outlines in the rift clung to him, but he slipped free with a quick twist. The room was dark. Light played about his fingertips, but he muted the glow. It would only scare the one he’d come to find.
Besides, the shadows were strange, protective creatures. Halcion liked to cloak himself with them. Tanel on the other hand…
Tanel liked to speak with them.
Faint mist overlay the gloom as Tanel peered into both rift and the physical world at once. Sleeping figures stretched on their beds. A few soldiers clustered around a low fire, their laughter inaudible. Dice and small bones gleamed in one man’s hand. He tossed them to the ground and the others bent over.
The one he looked for wasn’t here. The lights of these men were steady.
Maybe one of the sleepers then. Tanel’s thumb traced back and forth over his fingertips. They were young men, most of them. Some sprawled on their back, peaceful faces tilted upward. Others curled on their sides, a blanket clutched to their chest.
He trailed misty fingers over the ends of the bunks. Several stirred. No one woke. The strange tug that had drawn Tanel here pulled him further, past the makeshift cots that spilled over to the floors.
A postern door stood cracked at the end of the chamber.
Tanel stepped through it, reappearing on the other side of wood like a ghost. He supposed they all thought him a ghost now.
A single figure sat hunched against the doorstep. The faint gleam about him twisted and warped. His shoulders bowed, his hands clamped over each forearm.
Tanel’s pace faltered.
The man was waiting.
Waiting for him.
It’s not hard. Just a touch. A whisper. The shadows echoed in his ears.
Light trembled between Tanel’s fingertips.
He stepped from the rift, taking on a fully physical body. Gritty air brushed his skin and filled his lungs.
The soldier glanced up. “Already?”
He was young. Early twenties, maybe. But the eyes held the haunted gaze of someone three times that age. The olive cheeks were sunken and pale.
Tanel sank to a crouch. “You’re not… afraid?”
The man didn’t blink. “All the ones I loved are gone. Raiders slaughtered them.” His gaze searching Tanel’s. “Doesn’t seem like there’s much to fear. I just… I figure… I’ll see them again, won’t I?”
“Hush,” Tanel whispered. He reached out one hand. “You’ll see them, yes.” He brushed his fingers against the man’s cheek.
The soldier blinked slowly, then his eyes slipped shut as he exhaled a shuddering breath. The muscles slackened. The light flickered out.
“Rest.” Tanel rose slowly to his feet and retreated a step. The shadows wrapped warm arms about him.
The man lay, head slumped to the side. Breathless. Lifeless.
Resting, finally, in a sleep from which he’d never awake.
Tanel pivoted away, the light flickering stronger around his fingers.
Only mortals got to rest.
He was Death, and his night had just begun.