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This place wasn't heaven, and it wasn't hell.
In the beginning, he'd been grateful and more than a little relieved. He hadn't lived the most noble of lives and had committed more sins than he cared to acknowledge. He'd died with a mortal sin staining his soulthe sin of wishing a man deadbut no fire licked at his skin. No brimstone sliced into the tender soles of his feet. Demons weren't prodding him with sticks and pikes.
Of course, there were no angels singing eternal hymns of praise, either. There were no harps being plucked with a soothing melody. His weight wasn't borne by a fluffy cloud. Yet he had been thankful to be in this place.
But only in the beginning.
Time stood still here. There was food, but only salted pork and rough potatoes. They didn't taste bad, they simply didn't taste at all. There was drink, but only warm water. There was rest, but only on the hard ground.
He didn't have to labor.
That, in the beginning, had seemed a blessing, especially after the earthly struggle to keep his clan fed. Yet the boredom stretched from day to day to day. While there was no labor, there, too, was no amusement. He passed time aimlessly walking in a dusty field with no heather or clover to brighten the path.
He wasn't alone. There were others in the field, in this place with no time. They neither spoke to him, nor he to them. He had no will to give voice to his mind. His thoughts remained his own, but they gave him no solace. Memories were torments, reminding him of his lifeone lost in an act of betrayal and ending in agonizing pain.
Marking time was done in movements across the barren field. Left to right. Right to left. Too many times to count, yet he couldn't stop to do anything except eat, drink or sleep. Even if he found the will to stop walking, it wasn't long before he started again. He had no drive of his own.
Maybe this was hell after all.
"I can take you from here," a woman's melodious voice called from a great distance. "I can free you. You are what I seeksomeone who was also betrayed, who thirsts for revenge. Let me help you."
Now, I'm in hell.
Now, he'd have to endure the torture of promises that could never be fulfilled. Now, he would hear a beautiful, lying voice telling him this torture might one day end.
"Pledge yourself to me," she said. "I can give you the vengeance you seek."
He kept walking, staring at his bare feet as they plodded on the dirt and wishing the taunting voice would return from whence it came.
"Serve me," she purred, "and I will bring you back to the world to complete your goal. I know what lies in your heart. The man who destroyed you will die at your hand, just as the women who destroyed my plans will die. Be my weapon! Be my right hand!"
His steps slowed as a spark flared in his heart, reminding him of the hatred and the wish for another's demise that had followed him in death.
"Promise yourself to me, and I will make you whole again. I will give you all your heart desires."
He stopped walking and clenched his fists at his side.
"Worship me," she sang, "and I will give you what you never found in life. You will have your revenge. I swear it."
With a shuddering sigh, he turned away from the voice and shook his head.
A bolt of lightning sliced the air a stone's throw from him, striking another walker. The man screamed as his body was engulfed in flames before disappearing in a cloud of black smoke.
"I can do all I sayand more. Come to me."