Storms from the Magic Wastes were common, Mags and Edwin didn’t pay them any mind. Storms that dropped bodies at the house, that was different. Especially when the bodies were familiar. They were dead, of course, but not as dead as they should be. Edwin’s wife Anna had been nearing eighty when she died and had been buried five years ago. The body on the ground was young. The other was Edwin’s former employer, Lord of the Hills. He and his wife were interred decades ago, and yet here he was, fully intact.
“Well,” Edwin said, “this is strange.”
After the incident last year with a Mage summoning and capturing a god, the Magic Wastes had been much more active.
“Should we send for the Kings men?”
Mags shook her head. “Can you confirm they are who they appear to be?”
He pulled the man’s shirt up. There were several scars across his torso. “This is what killed him,” he said. “It appears to have healed quite well.”
Despite her advanced age, Mags made it down to Leah’s house in record time. “We need the god,” she said as she approached.
“He lives with Bruce, further south. What happened?”
“Bodies in the storm. Fresh ones. But we buried them years ago.”
Leah scribbled a note for her apprentice. “Can you keep going? Only another half hour.”
Mags nodded and they headed out again.
“These bodies, they were friends of yours?” the god asked.
“Of Edwin’s yes. His former master and his wife. Both dead for several years. The injuries that killed his Lord seemed to have scarred and healed, yet he doesn’t look a day older. Anna is decades younger than when she died.”
He sat in quiet thought. “Were they talented in the magical arts?”
Leah answered. “Anna was one of the strongest witches around. I don’t know about Howe. It was his son who trapped you here.”
Sev shuddered at the memory. He was exiled from his home and trapped in a body that ill suited him. “Let me try to speak to my father. If it is what I fear, this may be just the beginning.”
The heavens had opened and deposited another body outside Bruce’s home while Sev meditated. He came back from his hut pale. “It is as I feared,” he said, examining the body. “My home is falling apart.” He had lived in what these people called the Magic Wastes, the source of magic. His family had ruled there for eons. Many had died or disappeared, becoming enamored of this mortal world. By the time he had been trapped here, unable to return home, the realm was unstable. “Those with a strong connection to magic, when they die, come to my realm. They are given form according to their wishes. Many of them keep the forms they had in life, though often at their prime rather than with the infirmity of age.”
“Anna,” Mags said. Sev nodded. “So it truly was her?”
“Yes. But since I was trapped here and my brother exiled for his retribution the family cannot sustain it. Some of the dead from this realm feel they can return. Their bodies survive the journey but their souls are trapped. My family is trying to rein in the free souls and keep the magic under control. That takes more who are supposed to rule over the dead. More escape which destabilizes the system further.”
“Is there nothing we can do?” Mags asked.
“Unless you can find a way to relesase me from this form, no. I must return home to do any good.”
There was a squawk outside the door. Mags stepped outside. Her familiar was there, a raven. “What is it, Daniel?” He hopped around and croaked a few more times. “Alright. Did you hear our conversation?” The bird nodded. “Good. Go tell Edwin.” Daniel flew away and she went back inside. “Bodies are piling up. It’s all the birds are discussing.”
“You speak to birds?” Sev asked.
“I speak to Daniel. He speaks to the birds.”
Bruce invited them all to stay over for the night. It was too late to return to Leah’s safely.
There was an obvious solution to the problem, Leah could see it. She understood Daniel well enough to know that he had told Mags the same thing. It seemed heartless, but Sev was easily the strongest magic user in the entire world. If he were to die it would free him from this body and send him back to his family where he could help stabilize the realm.
Mags caught her eye and shook her head. Sev was here. He was doing well here. There was no call to murder him on a possibility.
The problem hung in the air. Sev could see the silent conversation between the women. He had come to the same conclusion they had. This body must die soon. He couldn’t arrange his death, those who did so weren’t allowed into the realm. “It is as you suspect,” he said to them. “I will take a potion and sleep well tonight. I trust you to do what must be done.” He headed to his own hut.
“What’s he talking about?” Bruce asked.
“He has to die,” Leah said. “Free him from this body, send him back to his home.”
“Not in my home.”
“He has his own hut,” Mags pointed out.
It was done quickly as Sev slept. A quick slit to the throat by Mags. Before dawn she slipped away for the long walk home.
Late that afternoon she saw a golden stag following her. She stopped. “Sev?”
It approached her, bowing its head and nuzzling her neck.
“You’re welcome,” she said. “Be well, Sev.”
The stag faded from existence as she continued along the path. There would be plenty to explain to Edwin when she got home.