He clawed his way out the sarcophagus. Something about this place felt familiar. He looked up and spotted—”Lazav.”
Lazav smirked, “Welcome back,” and almost chuckled, tore a hunk of bread from a loaf, and took a bite of cheese. “How’re you feeling?”
The skeletal figure looked itself over. Arms, legs, and torso were a mix of bone, muscle, and magic. No skin. Couldn’t see its face, no mirrors in a graveyard, but had to assume it looked about the same as the rest of…Him? Maybe. Her? Hmm. Figure that out later. “Odd.”
“Yeah, I bet.”
“Feels like…Oh, that’s right, weren’t we talking about my family? What have you done with them?”
Now Lazav did laugh. “Oh my, yes, this again.”
What did that mean? The skeleton sat on the edge of the sarcophagus. Why were they here anyways? And why couldn’t it remember more than the past few minutes? A family, Lazav had questions, something happened, but the rest was fuzzy. Nothing stuck. “Again? What do you mean? Speak plain.”
“Of course, I only ever do. Ask your questions.”
“No, no…Ah, I mean, okay. Well, no.”
“My-my-my, so much trouble deciding. Yes or no?”
“You tell me.”
“But what is it you want me to tell you?” another bite of cheese, chased with a swallow of wine.
“What happened to my family?”
“But you have no family. You never did.”
“How…No, I must have”—that couldn’t be right. Memories of a childhood, sunlight, playing in Selesnya’s rivers, running with Boros children, watching Simic critters mutate. And holidays with…The faces become a blur. A family of four at a table, a warm fire, dozens of wealthy gathered in a tower overlooking Ravnica, it all bleeds together.
“Well, okay, so that’s not entirely true. You did have parents, but they died soon after you were born. Do you recall? They drowned. Or…Well, I guess saying they were drowned would be more accurate. Rioters laughing the whole while. The Gruul, not your parents.”
Memories flash through the skeleton’s head. Drownings, yes, but not their parents—others. And other deaths. Fires, stabbings, falls, old age, infanticide, war, murder, experiments gone wrong, training pushed too hard. It’s all mushed together, doesn’t make sense. “I need help.”
“Ah,” Lazav took another sip of wine. “Yes?”
“All these memories, I don’t understand them. How can they all be mine?”
“Oh, no, they’re not. You were dead for less than an hour. I watched the Golgari bury you. A flick of magic brought you back.” Lazav snapped their fingers, blue-black sparks flared to life, leaving a puff of white smoke. Near their feet a flower bloomed.
“The memories I’m seeing then?”
“Not yours. Well, not all of them. You probably have a few mixed in. Much like your physical body decays, so too does a mind, but it happens much faster. Another couple hours and there wouldn’t have been any you to return. Just an empty pile of bones. Think of a drop of ink put into water. The longer it’s in there the more a part of the water it becomes. I was able to pull you back before you dissolved too much.”
“How did I die?”
“Which…What? This has happened before?”
“Oh yes, plenty.” Lazav chuckled. “Sorry, I guess that isn’t too funny. Let’s see…Throat slit by…Wait, no, that was before you lost your skin. And before that you were pushed from a window ledge, about a thousand feet up, spying for me. This time it was an explosion. Sent you to look into what the Izzet are doing under that tower they built. There was a big boom”—Lazav shrugged, sipped some wine—”then the Golgari did their job, dragged the dead here. You were one of them. Ready to get back to work?”
“Whatever I ask of you. Odd jobs usually. Or I can put you back where the Golgari left you.” Lazav took a bite of bread, shrugged, and snapped their fingers. Blue-black flame danced.
“No, I’ll help.”
“Good.” Lazav stood, “Glad to hear it. Let’s go.”