Spoiler: Death and the Seamstress
A seamstress sat down in a garden she had found in the city. Nobody knew whose it was, but the small garden was always tended to, full of bright flowers. A small fountain trickled into a pond in the corner, and a brick path curved past a bed of gravel raked into waves.
She looked about in the garden until suddenly Death loomed through the gate, her wings shaggy like a vulture's and her cloak faded and worn and patched. She turned her amber eyes on the seamstress and gave her a solemn nod, then kneeled before a flowerbed and began to inspect the plants. Wherever she found a sickly leaf, she plucked it away.
The seamstress knew Death by sight, but she was a proud girl. She folded her arms and stuck out her chin. "Death," she said, "how is it that your garden is so ordinary? You should have a garden full of bones, or black flowers in black soil, or at least some dead bodies under the dirt. But all your flowers are... normal!"
Death turned to look at the seamstress. "Bones aren't very nice to have in a garden, and black flowers on black soil would be so plain. Just because I'm Death doesn't mean I don't want my garden to be pretty." In one pale hand, she plucked a stem. "Would you like some forget-me-nots? They're my favorites, and they match your eyes."
The seamstress was about to reply that forget-me-nots were rather silly little flowers, but her eyes caught on the stitches and patches of Death's cloak. Her brain fired into action, and she barely got out a goodbye before she was running home to get the designs in her head onto paper. She concocted a dress of elegant patchwork, the curves and lines of the pieces of fabric flowing and calculated, a dappled garment like no other. She put it together and within the week it was sold and had been worn at some cocktail party.
The seamstress came back to the garden the next week, looking at the small pool in the corner of the garden. The fountain made the water ripple and glimmer in the sunlight, and the fish flashed and darted in its clear depths. Death came again and smiled at the seamstress, and she sat at the edge of the pool with her great shaggy wings half-opened.
"Death," the seamstress said, "why is your pool so ordinary? The fish could be skeletal, or the water black as night, or all afire. You could fill it with tiny sharks, or have bones at the bottom." She wondered about telling Death how her cloak had inspired a dress, but wasn't sure how to bring it up.
Death looked back at the seamstress as the fish darted in and out of the shadows of her wings. "Bones aren't very pretty in a pool either, and black water would make it hard to see the fish. Fiery water would be a little irresponsible, I think, and tiny sharks need salt water, not fresh. Besides, if the fish were all skeletons, it'd be even harder to tell them apart, and I already have trouble telling which is which. I named them all, you know." She smiled, trailing her fingers in the water.
The seamstress rolled her eyes, but fixed on those great vulturine wings. Her brain went at it again and she was off like a rocket, crafting a masterpiece in her head. She started on a shawl that evening, tasseled and black and a little shaggy, but not disheveled. She even put a trim of black feathers around the edge. Some noblewoman bought it and showed it off at a ritzy soiree, and it was the talk of the town.
The next week, the seamstress returned. This time she looked at the little rock garden, grey gravel raked carefully into patterns of waves and swirls around large stones. Death came yet again and said hello to the seamstress, then started to smooth away all the paterns in the gravel and rake in new ones.
"Death," the seamstress said, "why is your rock garden so dull? Those large stones should be gravestones, or there could be bones, or the gravel could be human teeth. You shouldn't have to rake the patterns in yourself, they should form with a flick of your hand."
Death looked back at the seamstress and blinked. "You seem very set on the idea of me using bones in everything. I don't really want to have a garden that's all... 'Death Things'. I want to have a garden that's nice. And just making the patterns happen with magic spoils the fun. Raking the patterns is very relaxing. You should try it sometime."
The seamstress looked into Death's amber eyes and was struck by a thought that prevented her from thinking about telling Death how she inspired another success. Instead, she bolted off, knowing what her latest dress was missing. It took some looking around and haggling, but when the buyer saw the amber brooch and the smaller pieces of amber adorning the garment, the seamstress could see her fall in love with it.
Determined to finally thank Death for the three wonderful ideas she had inspired, the seamstress went back to the garden and waited. But Death didn't come. Every day for a week, the seamstress came. Every day for a week, Death didn't.
Confused and a little worried, the seamstress looked around for Death, which was not easy. For even though Death walked among mortal men and women, she rarely made herself known, and few had spoken with her as much as the seamstress. She looked in temples and boathouses, in alleys and markets, in ports and the grounds of the palace. Finally, she looked in the grave-fields, and found Death sitting on a hill.
"Where have you been?" She put her hands on her hips. "I had to water and prune your flowers, rake your rock garden, and invent new names for your fish. Why didn't you come to the garden?"
Death looked up at her, but only briefly. "Every time we met, you soon ran away. I was afraid I scared you while you were looking for inspiration in the garden, and I didn't want to keep chasing you off."
The seamstress snorted. "Scared of you? How? You grow tiny flowers, you talk to your fish, you rake waves in a rock garden, and I haven't seen a single skull around the place. I wasn't scared---each time, something about you inspired me, and I wanted to rush home and draw out the design from my thoughts. Now, stop being silly and come back to the garden."
And Death smiled and stood, and they walked together.