The Empress has been given a pass by the Court of the Dead to return to the land of the living. There are people she must see, warnings she must give; typical portent business, but she has been granted a handful of days for herself to see how things are getting on.
Her empire, when she ruled it, was wracked with plague, choked with the dead. The wealthy fled to the hills to die, and the poor boarded themselves in their homes to die; the skies were thick with corpse ash, until even the tenders to the dead sickened and died. She has not been dead so long, but it is only the ghosts that still bear witness to that lost generation.
Near evening of her final day, she finds a small plague, set in the sidewalk. “Here,” it reads, “lie the remains of over 40,000 unknown plague victims, buried in haste in a great pit.” The street, bright with new stores, is so thickly crowded with the unsettled dead that she can hardly move for their pleading hands. “I would help you, if I could,” she apologizes, no more powerful in death than she was in life.