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"What are you talking about?" I mutter. "According to Art, death always existed, even in the original universe."

"As a force," Raz says. "Death was like time or gravity. It was simply a thing that happened. Bec changed that. First she stole a piece of the Kah-Gash from Lord Loss. Then-"

"From Lord Loss?" I interrupt, startled. "Art said the pieces never turned up in demons who were alive before the Big Bang."

"They don't," Raz says.

"Then Lord Loss isn't one of the major demons?" I whisper. The demon master is by far the most powerful foe I've ever faced. If there are others even stronger than he...

"There are many greater than he is," Raz says gloomily, "but he has a unique power. The piece of the Kah-Gash nestled within him for thousands of years. That's why he alone of the masters is able to cross freely between universes.

"When Bec unconsciously stole Lord Loss's piece of the Kah-Gash, it was cause for wonder-that had never happened before. But then she did something even more incredible. When Lord Loss killed her, her soul remained.

"Death has always meant the end. When a body dies, the soul moves on, maybe to another realm, maybe to be reincarnated, maybe to nothingness-we can only guess. But no soul ever cheated death."

"Bec was just a ghost," I mutter. "Ghosts are nothing new."

"Ghosts are shadows of the living," Raz says. "They're after-images of people, like the temporary glow a light leaves when it's quenched. Bec was different. She was fully conscious, memories intact, a complete spirit."

I shrug. "She's part of the Kah-Gash. She used her power to stay, just as Lord Loss used it to cross universes. What's the big deal?"

"Death was an absolute," Raz snaps. "The Kah-Gash had no control over it. All beings had to answer death's summons. Until Bec."

The rocket we saw touch down rises with a roar that shakes the tombs around me. I think the structures are going to shatter, but as the rocket parts the clouds and powers away from the planet, they settle down again.

"We don't know how Bec cheated death," Raz says softly. "We're not sure if she chose to remain, or if the Kah-Gash kept her, aware of the side effects."

"What side effects?"

Raz is silent a moment. Then he moves away from the lodestone, through the tombs, back to the chamber. As I follow, he speaks.

"Death was a force, but when Bec defied it, that force developed a mind. It became aware of itself, the universes, its role. And unfortunately it reacted with anger."

"This is madness," I grumble. "Death's not a person. It can't react."

"It can now," Raz disagrees. "It constructed a body. Prior to Bec, beings died and souls passed on. But the new Death has the power to harness souls. It can deny them passage to whatever lies beyond. It built a huge, shadowy body out of-"

"The Shadow!" I cry, coming to a standstill, eyes widening with horror.

I'm trembling. It all makes horrible sense now. Beranabus was right-the Shadow is the greatest threat we've ever faced. Only it's far worse than he imagined. You can't cheat death and you can't hide from it.

"Precisely," Raz sighs. "Since death claims all things, Death knows where all things are. The body of Death can only thrive in an area of magic, so it resides in the demon universe. But its reach extends to all worlds. It can guide the Demonata to wherever there is life."

"But why is it working for them?" I moan.

Raz makes a humming noise. "This is speculation, but we believe the Demonata and Death share a common goal-the restoration of the Kah-Gash. If they achieve it, the lifeforms of this universe will cease to exist. The Demonata will return to their immortal ways. The Old Creatures will drift along sadly. And Death's task will be vastly lessened."

"What task?" I frown.

"The harvesting of souls. Death's job is far harder now than it was before the Big Bang-so many souls to process. It seems to think the job is too hard, and is working to-as you humans would aptly put it-lighten its workload."

"We have to stop it," I gasp. "We have to find the Shadow and destroy it. If Death has a body, it can be attacked. If we kill it, maybe its mind will unravel."

"We do not think it is possible to kill Death," Raz murmurs. "It will simply put another body together. There will never be a shortage of souls."

"The Kah-Gash," I snap. "We can use that."

Raz makes a face. "The Kah-Gash never had power over death. Also, as I said, it might have worked through Bec to grant Death consciousness in the first place. The Kah-Gash has changed. In the past, the pieces cut random paths through the universes. But since Bec defied death, the other parts have worked their way to your planet. They both cropped up there shortly after she died. We could do nothing about Bec's piece-she was beyond our grasp-but we directed the other pair into forms of our choosing and sent them far away.

"They escaped and returned to Earth, in Grubitsch Grady and you."

"You think the Kah-Gash wants to reunite?" I frown.

"It looks that way. Perhaps the Kah-Gash wishes to fight Death, to preserve the universes. Or maybe it too yearns for a return to simpler ways, and is using Death to achieve its goal. We don't know. We can only fear."

"I guess there's only one way to find out," I grunt. "We have to go back. I'll join with Bec and Grubbs, try to control the Kah-Gash, and hope for the best. There's no other way, is there?"

"Actually," Raz coughs, "there is. But you're not going to like it..."

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