Chapter 40: Thaw

Gunther twisted around to stare up at Valois. “You’ve died three times? But… couldn’t you have used magic to avoid all of those? I mean, robbed and stabbed?”

“My darling boy, think what happens to those around a man who never ages. They grow old, hm? And yet he remains the same. The time comes when an immortal must move on, and what better way to have the world forget him than to ‘die’ in the mortal realm? In earlier times it was far simpler to be forgotten. Move across country and – with travel being so rare a thing – those that once knew you would never know that you still lived. In more modern times, however, one’s exit must be final.”

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6 responses

  1. I want to know more ways in which Valois has died. Surely he can feel pain right? Or maybe he used some spell to make everything painless. And would Gunther have even died considering he is immortal now?

    • There have been relatively few times that he’s needed to die because it was only in recent times (when travel became ubiquitous) that it was easier for those around him to discover that he was still alive if he moved on. Since he can, indeed, feel pain, he always endeavoured to make the deaths quick and relatively painless. It was easy for him to find out when something bad was going to happen (he’d slip ahead in time to find the armed thief waiting in that alley, for example, or find out which house would be hit by the bomb) and then go far enough back to insert himself into that location at the right moment, be it strolling through the alley richly-dressed on his way home from a theatre production, or even buying the house and living in it for several years before the war began.

      Sidenote: There are some things he can’t discover by slipping forward in time. We’ll get to those in due course in the story.

      He will tell you (since you asked nicely!) about the time he was knocked down by a coach and four in Edwardian times and about the house fire even earlier than that, which was his first ‘planned death’. The pain he suffered during that fire (so intense that it overwhelmed him and he was unable to cast any spell to ease it) was what made him swear to only endure quick deaths thereafter. He thought he’d planned it so it would happen while he slept, or that he would be overcome by smoke without waking up, but it didn’t work out that way. Looking back on it now he can appreciate the supreme irony of a witch being burned to death after he’d managed to evade that fate through all the centuries when it was common practice!

      The key to all of these deaths was that he informed the Veil in advance of his intent, so that it didn’t gather him to it at the first hint of danger, as it did with Gunther in the car. If the Veil senses that he’s in imminent danger, whatever that danger is will never happen to him. If, for example, he steps out in front of an oncoming train, seconds before it hits him he will literally vanish. If he informs the Veil of his intent to die by being hit by the same train, it will wait until he is dead to the real world – even to the extent of burial – and only then will it bring him home to itself. He has no real need to breathe or to eat (he does it out of habit and for pleasure) so to the outside world he is absolutely as dead as the proverbial doornail. His mind will wander in the Veil during that time, but his body will not go there until he is in the earth.

      (Incidentally, cremation – or any kind of burning, such as the house fire – has no ill effect. His body may be completely turned to ashes in the real world but it’s whole again once it returns to the Veil, even if his ashes are scattered.)

      For Gunther it’s no different. Valois was in his mind, tracking both him and his thoughts. He knew what Gunther was doing would have ended in the Veil taking him to itself. However, that’s not what he chose to tell Gunther, for various reasons ;)

  2. Thanks for explaining more about the Veil. I had originally thought, like Gunther, that the Veil was not a physical place. The ol’ it’s both and neither always boggles my mind. Physics was never my forte. It’s pretty cool that the Veil will just scoop you up if you’re in trouble. I had assumed Valois had guided Gunther to the Veil to keep him safe.

    So, Esther’s a witch, huh? Pretty cool. I wonder if she’ll figure it out on her own and go on to master her craft. Just imagine having two powerful witches in the Goth household. Not that she’d have nearly the power of Valois, but she could probably wrangle Mort fairly easily. ;)

    • I’ll let you into a little secret. There’s one more hidden witch that you don’t yet know about ;) Something will happen later in the story that requires four witches; something that Valois doesn’t know about (so he’s not one of the four). So yes, there’s another one lurking (and no, it’s not Cornelia; she’s out of the story now). You have met the fourth already, though. *grins*

  3. Wow, I really liked how insightful this chapter was, when Valois was describing the Veil. It’s so intricate and interesting. I also found it interesting that Winter was equivalent to Death in the Veil because I myself, despise winter, and I feel like everything’s shrouded in a hood of darkness around me, much like feeling suffocated. LOL.
    I also liked your take on immortality, how the ‘death’ in the real world can mean the exit out of someone’s life, rather than the other type of immortality where it’s like the person gets shot, but doesn’t bleed. I’m sure the explanation of that helped Gunther a lot more with what he was afraid of earlier, of burying Mort because he can never die. Now he can ‘die’ before Mort, and carry on as normal.
    I feel like the Veil is somewhat of a guardian angel for Gunther because he’s bound to Valois, just from it coming and saving him from hypothermia.

    • Hehe! You don’t even want to know the maths I had to do to come up with the whole seasons/age thing for the Veil. I mainly needed to know exactly when Valois was born, and it had to be over a thousand years ago in Resting Fade. Cue two sheets of paper, a calculator, and half an hour of head-scratching! XD

      As to immortality, I dislike that “Oh look, you shot me and I’ll keep coming atcha” thing, unless the immortal is something like the Terminator. It’s always more interesting to think of different twists on common clichés. I’ve done something similar with vampires in the past, but the Veil fascinates even me (and I’m the one writing the damn thing!)

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