Tribe elders taught that a man dies two times, but it wasn’t until I became an elder myself that I finally understood the lesson. I had grown up with war and strife, these things were common among the clans that vied for control in our region, and had seen many men die by sword, claw, and fire. In the end each lay as the rest – no matter the cause, death was death and that was the end of things. So I thought it always had been, and so I thought would always be.
After the passing of my fathers, I was elected to join the elder tribunal, my prowess in battle and many victories a testament to my insight and wisdom. It was our providence to guide the tribe and counsel them in the changing ways of the world. For a time we even had peace, a rarity in my life. The other tribes had grown quiet, and our people could farm and hunt without interference. It could have been a golden age for our people, until the Malevolence entered our lives.
He introduced himself as “Pete Modego,” speaking with a foreign accent and clad in strange purple robes, and asked if we had anything “interesting” to show him. He was bored, he explained, and the other tribes had little to offer him; he hoped ours would be different. The elders called a meeting, and as we walked toward the Wisdom Lodge, I looked back and saw putrid green flames licking at his fingertips, though he seemed to feel no discomfort.
The door had scarcely closed when the screaming began, the stranger’s voice booming through the town. “Bored now!”
What I witnessed from the window of our Lodge will haunt me for the rest of my days: the stranger, shrouded in an aura of power, was burning villagers with scarcely a gesture, their bodies withering as leaves in the Autumn. As they fell he lifted his hands high, chanting in a dark, indecipherable tongue. The bodies began to glow the same sickly green as his power, and rose again, animated by some terrible force beyond our comprehension.
Not satisfied with merely slaying and resurrecting our people, he then made them fight one another, anguished wails at odds with the brutal savagery of their combat. I was too horrified to look, too horrified to look away.
Only after their bodies had been torn, bitten, and clawed asunder did I see the spirits of my friends, family, and tribe members finally set free; I could see them rise from their broken bodies, rid of the demonic possession Modego had bestowed on them. I could see their ephemeral forms, crying and howling in pain and torment.
And then, one by one, the foul sorcerer pulled them into his hand with the sheer power of his mind, plucking them out of the air as if he were taking ripe fruit from an orchard. With no more souls to collect, each having gone screaming into his command, he laughed.
Pete Modego laughed, turning his back on our shattered tribe.
It was on that day I finally understood the words of my fathers’ fathers, so many years before. Not only does a man’s body die, but his soul as well. The second death is far, far more terrible than the first.