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Erissa first dwelt at the Celestial Court, among distant and lofty deities who took no interest in the affairs of humankind. She gracefully attended these gods as a cupbearer.

One day, a wisp of thought formed at the far reaches of the Court, where she was picking berries. It whispered in her ear, its voice gentle and beguiling. "I am not born yet," it said, "but when I am, I would do anything if you would accept me as your husband."

Erissa could not help but find this flattering. But wisdom took hold of her and she said "You are not fit husband for me until you exist."

Young Gods arrived at the Cleestial Court, and distant celestial deities delighted in the change they brought. A lissome youth dressed all in black appeared to Ersisa as if he were one of them. He said, "I have been born now, and am more enthralled by you than ever. What must I do to win your hand?"

Erissa saw that none of the other inhabitants of the Court, young or old, could perceive this being. So she said, "You are fair to look upon, I will grant. But if I werei nterested in marriage, it would not be to someone who has yet to become himself."

Young Gods began to contend against one another. Some invented swords, others spears, and still others arrows. Violence broke out between them. They injured one another, and Erissa saw her purpose: the ability to seal up cuts, to reknit bone, to reverse the damage from bruises.

More handsome than before, the young man came to her said,"I told you we were meant for each other. My name is Pain, and I made those injuries possible. Existence is more complete now, and you are too- by learning to balance what I do, you have made yourself one of the Young Gods. Now we honor that balance by entering into marriage."

Erissa thought to give Pain a taste of his own cruel gift, but then saw that it was against her nature. But her refusal wounded him more than any blade could have done.

Another of the new gods, Soldier, came to Erissa to say that Pain had given him a gift. She warned him not to trust Pain, but saw that the gift was Soldier's unrevealed nature, and that nothing she could do would stop him. So Soldier used the gift on Grandfather Mortal, the first human. Grandfather Mortal collapsed and before Erissa could reach him to heal his wounds, he did something unprecedented.

He died.

And when Erissa's suitor came back to her, he smiled and said, "I have become myself completely now. Do not call me Pain anymore. I am so much more than that. And I have increased your importance a thousandfold, now that it is possible to die when bad injuries go untreated."

Erissa felt his pull. Although she loved everyone, her love for him stood above the rest. The paradox stung her bitterly. She did not wish to feel this way about anybody, least of all him.

"Don't worry," Death said, "I can end all others. Eventually. But you I will never hurt."

"Now that we both know who we are, you must also realize that can never be." Erissa found this hard to say.

Death wept, and his tears landed at her feet. She gathered them up to make into medicines.

When the Rebel killed the Emperor and darkened the sky, Death sought her again. "See what I put into motion? Now all the mortals will wish to worship you. Because much more of my gift is coming."

Instead of saying yes, Erissa went to the sky gods, who were deep in mourning after Yelm's murder. They tore at their garments and laid down their weapons and refused to eat. She saw that the name of this sickness was despair. Using this insight, she cast it out, healing their will to live.

"You shouldn't have done that," Death said. "I did that on purpose."

"Are those words meant to woo me?" Erissa asked.

Death sighed. "If you marry me, I will let you determine who will be spared and who will die. Though you cannot pick the number of deaths."

Instead Erissa went to the Golden City to join Elmal's household

When Hippogriff fell from the sky and a troll god loyal to Death ate her wings, Erissa was ready. She granted Hyalor a healing blessing, and he used it to show Hippogriff she was now Gamari.

Death was drunk the next time he showed up. "You helped them make something new. That isn't supposed to happen any more. Please marry me, so that I may guide you to use your blessings only in accordance with the great ending."

"Is that kumis on your breath, or the ale the Rams drink?" Erissa asked.

"I made a thing called war, and wished to celebrate." Death hung his head and slunk away.

"In any war," she called after him, "I will heal both sides."

When the glacier, also loyal to Death, came to crush the city, Erissa told the Riders she would go with them.

Death appeared, sober and composed, with a hundred cows and a dozen horses. "Here is my final offer. You heal all kinds, but you especially favor these Riders. If you marry me, I will spare them. Many terrible deaths otherwise await them. But I will see to it that no Rider ever dies, not until all else does."

Erissa almost gave in then. But the words "until all else does" rang in her head like a bell, and she saw it was a trap. Her suitor, who did love her, had not intended it as such. But all he could weave was destruction. Accepting his proposal would kill her, hastening the final end Death pursued.

Saddened, she touched his face. For the merest instant this contact began to heal him. Then the force of this contradiction threw him halfway across the world. She climbed onto her horse to leave with the Riders, knowing he would keep coming back.

And every time she said no, it would increase her peaceful might.