Trilingual Dark Fantasy writer hailing from the Kingdom of Belgium. Chaotic good. Weaver of emotions and heartache.
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Indeed she did! At what point exactly I couldn't tell you (what with like 30k years of history for the world, most of which still undetermined XD; ), but I do know it happened after she got this female form. It's this form, and some of its associated memories, that further evolved Death into a being with a certain intellect. :D
The world even was without souls! Or, rather, without a realm-between where souls remained. Originally, they returned immediately to where they belonged. It's only after the war between the goddesses, and Tenumbra/Zyud being broken apart, that this realm-between started to grow, and souls started to get caught in it. Thus the need for a Reaper... :D
'Death' as mortals understand it, yes. XD
The longer explanation is that Death is a Denumbra, a being born from the Goddess of Death herself, and she's the one who ended up being the most powerful among Denumbras after eons of evolution. Death realized eventually that not all souls managed to return to where they belong, so she took it upon herself to do it. To her, it makes perfect sense.
Those are excellent questions. :D
Death doesn't so much gather as sever the souls that linger on, usually by agreeing to last requests (which, lemme tell you, is something NOT advertised to the general public cuz she hates last requests but she hates more to leave a soul unsevered - laws of the world, a soul can't be forcefully detached, but the slightest jint of agreement to be severed is sufficient).
No going back in time, though I do know time flows differently when in the otherrealm.
The thing to remember is that she doesn't have to be there. Her job is never-ending, and yes, often she's late. She took on this job because she could do it, and does so because she chooses to do so, but she doesn't have to do it. So, if a hundreds other die? Well, a hundred others die. Mortals die. Makes no difference whether she goes there immediately or a month later.
(and I'm not even sure this story is fully canon anymore, because I know things changed in her methodology once the Necrolore rose in power - and it'd have been very powerful indeed by this time. So I'll likely need to revisit it sometime <<)