Tea with Death is a series of stories set in the Phoviverse, following the hugely conflicted god-like being Tenuk as he meets up with the one being who can truly kill him, Death herself. Each episode is set at its own semi-random point in time. This story chronicles the first meeting between these strange beings. The rest of the series can be found in the Tea with Death section of the Phoviverse wiki.
This was supposedly the afterlife. Heaven. The shores of Kinigi, to go by its proper name. It didn’t look like anything Tenuk expected. No fluffy clouds or little angelic thropes… humans with wings, nothing like that. He was standing in about 20cm of water, in a lake or ocean that stretched on forever to his left and right. Ahead of him was a river, one of many, that ran on towards the horizon. A never ending gentle current of water, flowing down each river, the rivers all separated by dead trees and endless fields of dry grass.
The water itself was a light, pink-ish purple, glistening with bright streaks, the souls of the dead travelling down the rivers on their journey to reincarnation.
“If only I was so lucky…” Tenuk muttered. Unlike the deceased, Tenuk lacked a true soul. He was a Deitic, a Kronospast to be precise. A member of a powerful, god-like species that somehow survived a previous universe, entering this current one before the concepts of life and death had evolved. Which meant that life and death didn’t really apply to them. Tenuk’s light, silver armour, his bright blue eyes, his dainty little painted claws on his two-thumbed hands, none of that would be preserved or recycled when he died. Nope, he’d just turn to dust. Fun.
But unlike other Deitics, Tenuk cared for mortal beings. He’d spent long stretches of his life living among them, trying to figure out how he could get a soul of his own. His attempts thus far had been futile.
Hence why Tenuk was here in Kinigi. All he wanted to do was observe the process of reincarnation.
Something suddenly stood up from the long, pinkish grass. It had been watching him, checking to see if Tenuk was a threat. Most Deitics that came to Kinigi only ever wanted to cause harm, to steal souls or do illegal experiments. The creature though quickly deemed Tenuk as harmless.
“What do you want?” Tenuk asked the creature. It was a large, bulky being, with rings of light running up and down its armoured body. A pair of elegant curved horns grew out of its skull, and four terrifyingly large fangs hung out of its jaws.
“She would like to see you.”
“Our Lady of the Cycle.” The Veth beckoned for Tenuk to follow him, rearing up on its hind legs and walking in a much more upright position, probably so Tenuk could see him through the swaying grass. Normally Veth would spend their time hunting down and brutally killing Deitics, so the fact that this one wasn’t trying to do that worried Tenuk slightly.
As they walked, Tenuk spotted something on the horizon, the only other object apart from trees and the occasional cave. A huge, green dome, made out of some strange, organic substance. It was guarded by a worryingly large amount of Veth, of all shapes and sizes. As they approached the dome, the other Veth all stood aside and let him pass. A gigantic hole opened up in the side of the curious structure, and the Veth pushed Tenuk in, before disappearing. The hole closed up behind him, and Tenuk found himself trapped in the dark.
“Hello?” Tenuk finally shouted, wondering if he’d just been pulled into some elaborate Vethic trap.
“Hellooo!” a voice shouted back. Several bright, white lights snapped on, revealing the contents of the room Tenuk was standing in. The walls were a rather expected dark green, lined with various vines and other plants. In the centre of the room was a small glass coffee table and two wooden logs, probably meant to be used as chairs. On one of them sat a truly terrifying being, a tall, curvy creature. It had a reptilian head, a human-like body, scales all over its limbs and black, shadowy tendrils everywhere. It also had giant, bare tits and a gloriously curvy backside, to which Tenuk couldn’t help but snicker. The only items of clothing the creature seemed to wear were long, shadowy gloves and socks, and some sort of pointless shadow belt that left nothing to the imagination.
“Um, excuse me, miss, but I can see your… uh…” Tenuk quickly searched for an appropriate term and failed miserably. “… your hoo-hah from here…”
The creature burst out laughing. Its voice was high pitched and feminine, but the higher tones of its voice tended to trail off and become unlistenable to Tenuk’s straining ears. After a good minute or so of laughter, the creature settled down.
“Heheeh, I haven’t laughed like that since yesterday, when one of my Veth brought me an ‘angel’ and I tore its wings off!” the creature was still giggling. “Anyway, how can I help you?”
Tenuk blinked. “Your Veth brought me here and said you wanted to see me. Who are you?”
The creature smiled, its mouth full of needle-thin teeth, each one a slightly different shade of silver. “I am the Lady of the Cycle, the Mistress of Reincarnation and Recycling, the Queen of Existence and Non-Existence, the Arbitar of Chaos. But you can call me Death! Pleasure to meet you!”
Death got up and floated over to shake Tenuk’s hand. Tenuk delicately took it and shook her hand gently.
“Hi, I’m Tenuk Diplastron.”
“No, you’re not.”
Tenuk paused. “Okay, fine, I’m Tahnahos tou Avran, exiled son of the High Lord of the Kronospasts. AND I’m Tenuk Diplastron of the Dessaron.”
Death grinned again. “That’s better. Don’t like people who hide part of themselves. Would you like some tea?”
The Lady of the Cycle floated back over to her little chair, as a teapot and two glass cups appeared out of thin air. She poured herself a drink, then poured one for Tenuk as well, not waiting for an answer. A pot of sugar and a small jug of milk also poofed into existence. Not wanting to seem rude, Tenuk sat down and added a couple of spoonfuls of sugar to his tea, then took a sip. It tasted nothing like tea.
“So, uh, why did you want to see me, Death?” Tenuk asked, trying to do anything to get rid of the horrible taste in his mouth.
Death shrugged as she downed her tea in one go then poured herself another, this time adding seven teaspoons of sugar to it. “Oh? Ah, I just fancied it. You don’t get many Stasisborns coming to Kinigi just to stand around and do nothing. Even fewer of you Deitic scum actually go around killing your fellow Deitics. You’re probably one of like three who kill others in order to protect mortals and my realm…”
Tenuk blinked. “So you know…”
“I know a ton of stuff about you. I know a ton of stuff about most things apart from Deitics, but you, I know lots of. You helped out a bunch of mortals, some of which turned out to be silverbloods, accidentally got some of your fellow Kronospasts killed, your daddy decided he was going to kill you in revenge, you got saved by the silverbloods you helped and poof, first Deitic godkiller ever.”
“There’s more to it than that!” Tenuk blurted out, not wanting his life to seem too simplistic.
“I know, dear, I know. My question is, what is the Deitic godkiller doing here in Kinigi?”
Tenuk hesitated for a moment, before realising that he couldn’t hide anything from Death. “An old friend of mine, a Deitic, tried to make himself mortal. He died, sadly. I wanted to see if he made it here…”
Death got up from her seat and hovered round to Tenuk. Rather than put her clawed hands directly on Tenuk’s shoulders, she placed a sheet of fabric on them first, then put her hands down. “I’m sorry, little Tenuk, but I don’t think he did. Potaius, am I right?”
“Yes, that was his name.”
“Stasis claimed him, sadly. As is the way with almost all Deitics.”
“Almost all?” Tenuk asked. “I thought we were all doomed to become dust.”
Death smiled, teeth sticking out from the side of her jaw. “There’s always a few exceptions…” She moved the piece of fabric round Tenuk’s waist, then held him tight. The awkwardness of the gesture forced Tenuk to ask what Death was doing.
“Why have you got that piece of cloth?”
“Oh this?” Death let go of Tenuk and drifted away. “Sometimes I worry that if I touch a Deitic, they’ll instantly die. I don’t want that to happen to you. Not yet.”
“Why? Am I special?”
“More than you can imagine!” Death’s smile was beginning to creep Tenuk out. But without warning, Death’s mood abruptly changed. “I think you need to leave now. I have things to do.”
The Lady of the Cycle snapped her fingers, and two Veth appeared from nowhere. They grabbed Tenuk by the arms and dragged him outside, back down to the water’s edge.
“Come back soon, when I’m not so busy!” Death waved, as the two Veth smacked the Deitic round the head, knocking him out.
Tenuk woke up on the steps in front of his down-town apartment. In his hand was a small, glass cup, stained with the dregs of a brown, tea-like substance.