Being newly dead was…odd. Helgenes had been alive one moment and then he wasn’t. He wasn’t even sure how he’d died, there’d been a brief glimpse of his body on the ground then he’d been in the afterworld. He supposed it was the afterworld but it and the transition had been very different to the promises that had been made in the scripture classes he’d attended as a child. As a Benarian and thus favoured by the gods, there should have been an angelic escort to protect his soul from the vard on its journey to Judgement. The Hall of Judgement should have been marble, ivory and gold but even dead Helgenes could recognise white stucco over brick. The priests had said that in death Benarians would be spared the limbo of waiting in the Hall and would be passed straight to the Judge for assignment to their places in the afterworld.
That was a load of crock. He was in with everyone else and he could tell that some of them had been waiting a long time, like the Zuccetan soldier in armour two centuries old standing at parade rest with the butt of his spear firmly planted on the ground between his feet. On his left there was a Lipotene sailor, dripping water, who kept trying to make conversation. He was not only in with everyone else, he was in with a low denominator of everyone else. The crowd slowly moved forward.
It took him a while to realise that the Zuccetan hadn’t moved, in fact he had to look back over his shoulder to see him. “That’s strange,” commented Helgenes aloud.
“What is?” The Lipotene was still trying to strike up a conversation.
“That soldier back there,” Helgenes pointed over his shoulder, “he hasn’t moved.”
“Maybe he’s not ready to face his Judgement?” The sailor shrugged. “Seems a long time to collect yourself to me, but what do I know? I’m no theologian.”
“I was promised an escort of angels,” Helgenes told him, “But it seems that the theologians were wrong about that.”
“Well, there are angels here,” pointed out the sailor, “but they’re not an escort.” Helgenes followed the sailor’s gaze and noticed the angels around the Hall for the first time.
“I wonder what they’re doing?”
“Lookouts is what they look like to me,” answered the sailor.
“For what?” Helgenes asked. “There’s no danger in the Hall of Judgement, or so we’re taught.” He paused. “Maybe the theologians don’t know as much as they think they do?”