In The Arms of Morpheus (Part 11)

Xykon was a believer in enjoying the little things in life. What’s the point of being all-powerful if you get bored?

Blasting adventurers were one of the enjoyable little things. It was better when they actually posed a challenge, but it was still fun.

He threw down a meteor swarm, knocking away a halfling that was trying to get into the castle.

It was more fun to torture Redcloak, though. Maybe he would get a really good reaction out of him. Wasn’t he young for a goblin? Didn’t the Crimson Mantle freeze him in time? Something like that? It was creepy that he stayed so calm most of the time. Maybe he’d eventually blow something in his brain. Imagine how awesome that would look!

Oh, right. One of the adventurers was shouting at him. Should he listen? Maybe he’d hear something interesting.

“—But I will not stand by and let you—”

So much for interesting.

Xykon made a very fake yawn, floating up to the second story windows of the castle and throwing a practical wall of fireballs down on the adventurers.

The black, vaguely familiar guy with a sword—Grassblade? Swampsword? Something like that—leapt out of the way, swinging his glorified piece of metal and knocking Xykon’s ankle with it.

Hey… wait… that actually hurt!

Oh right. That adventurer kid from the Battle of Azure City. Didn’t he kill him?

Meh. Revival of adventurers was only to be expected.

Hey, wait…

“You’re the adventurer group with the purple-haired snob as a spell caster!”

Everyone froze up for a moment.

“Have you been listening to me at all?” the guy with the sword asked, actually sounding exasperated as he raised his blade at the ready.

“No.” Xykon flew a little higher so his legs were out of the swordsman’s reach. “Hey, if you’re here for it, you’re a little late. My goblin cleric killed it and bound its soul to one of my baubles. Good luck finding it.”

Not exactly the truth, but it was going to be the truth soon enough…

“What?”

Xykon almost laughed out loud at their faces. Most of them froze up a little, eyes wide. The usual reaction when he declared that a loved one was dead and gone—not so different from any others but always fun to see. The swordsman, for his part, actually raised his sword with his eyes smoldering.

“You know, I somehow doubt that Vaarsuvius would let himself go out without a bang. And even if you’re telling the truth, we can always dig around until we find the stone you put him in and revive him. And we’ll have even more reasons to fight. Haley, snap out of it and get him!”

Just like that, both the red-headed chick jumped back into action and arrows were practically rained on Xykon.

He spun up a little. The arrows were having little to no effect. It was rather amusing.

“Oh, come on. Don’t you want to hear more? The little upstart actually teleported in my main room and expected to be able to handle me. All he or she had were a bunch of flashy party tricks. It was funny to bash it into the ground until it couldn’t even think straight.”

The attacks were getting a little fiercer, but other than that, there was no reaction.

“It’s no fun to taunt people when they won’t say anything!” Xykon held out what remained of his hands. “Give me something to work with here! What would get you? Describing the torture? The hopelessness? The part where the little slut started sleeping with the leader of the goblins?”

“Wait, what was that last part?”

“Belkar, don’t get distracted! He’s probably just making a bunch of stuff up as he goes along.”

Xykon gave a skeletal grin. “Hey, I don’t make stuff up about Reddy’s sex life. He’s such a workaholic, he doesn’t have time for one. I guess the elf was part of his work, so it was okay to do him or her.”

The halfling looked like he was going to gag and the red-haired girl stuck her tongue out in disgust, the most obvious signs of discomfort from the adventurers.

“Don’t you think it’s an adorable idea? A frigid high cleric of the Dark One with a genderless stuck-up elf?” Xykon cocked his head. “Do you have any idea if it’s a guy or a girl? I have some questions for Reddy now…”

“Oh will you just shut up?! That’s disgusting!”

The swordsman jumped up, striking Xykon’s leg hard. The lich spun farther up, wincing a little in pain, but he was grinning. He had successfully goaded the adventurers. Maybe this fight would get more interesting.

—-

Vaarsuvius looked up in confusion when Redcloak entered, carelessly leaving the door slightly ajar behind him and therefore not activating the curse that made it impossible for Vaarsuvius to push open or shut. The elf was also confused by the fact that it was still the middle of the day—Redcloak had only visited once or twice during this time.

The most disturbing thing was the dark expression on Redcloak’s face—well beyond any that Vaarsuvius was used to seeing. Equal only to the brief glimpse the elf had when the goblin had opened up, even if only slightly, about the reason he was so bitter towards humans.

“Redcloak?” Vaarsuvius stood up, frowning in concern and leaning a little on the wall to help support the weight.

“Vaarsuvius, I…” Redcloak looked down and tiredly rubbed his temples. “Please don’t get up on my account.”

“What is wrong?” Vaarsuvius ignored the goblin and walked up to him, lightly placing hands on scaled cheeks. “You are upset.”

“Please don’t touch me. You’re making this harder.”

“If I remember correctly, you did not stop touching me when I said the same.” Vaarsuvius frowned and lightly trailed gentle fingers along Redcloak’s scales. “Is there a battle? I believe I can hear it through your wards.”

“Vaarsuvius, please don’t do this.” Redcloak gripped the elf’s wrists gently, careful to keep his claws from scratching anything, and held Vaarsuvius’s hands away from him. “Don’t be tender. Not now.”

“I recall hearing this conversation before.” Vaarsuvius’s brow furrowed slightly, lips pursing but voice still soft. “Redcloak, tell me what is wrong. This is not like you.”

“Vaarsuvius, please…”

To an onlooker, this statement would have sounded irritable and curt. Vaarsuvius’s ears twitched at the sound. To anyone who actually knew Redcloak’s voice, the words were tight with pain.

Suddenly, Vaarsuvius knew what was supposed to happen.

“He sent you to kill me, didn’t he?”

Redcloak took a deep breath, trying to find peace within himself, and averted his gaze, nodding. “And bind your soul.”

There was silence. The sounds of battle barely filtered into the room, muffled to the point where it could be shrugged off as a drill for the soldiers or a training exercise.

“Well, there is hardly a decision you must make, is there?”

Redcloak looked down at his partner’s face in confusion.

“Your entire life’s work, your purpose, rides on the success of your plan. I’m a detriment to it.” Vaarsuvius’s head cocked slightly, hands slipping out of the goblin’s grip. “The choice should be obvious for you.”

“Vaarsuvius…”

“I don’t mean to insult you or deny the power any feelings you have for me hold over you, Redcloak. I am pointing out the obvious. Your goal, no matter what I may think of your ways of achieving it, will always be far more important to you than anything else, myself included.” Vaarsuvius’s arms crossed, face tilting up slightly to meet the goblin’s gaze. “Any indecision you feel now is merely superficial. You know what you will do as well as I do. Perhaps you will be saddened by it, but it won’t matter to you in the long run.”

“You obviously don’t know me as well as you thought.” Redcloak looked towards the wall. “I remember the people I care about. I remember their deaths, whether it was because of me or not.” His eyes glossed with memories. “I’ve killed too many people I love for this.”

“You don’t love me, Redcloak, just as I do not love you. We are foolish, but not that foolish.” The words sounded hollow, even to Vaarsuvius. “Don’t postpone the inevitable. It is only painful for both of us. Do it, before we do something else we both will regret.”

“I…” Redcloak looked at Vaarsuvius, holding up his hand and hesitantly touching the elf’s cheek. “Perhaps if we had been under different circumstances.”

“Perhaps.”

Redcloak lowered his hand and took the blade Xykon had given him from his belt. “I’m sorry, Vaarsuvius.”

“I am sorry as well.”

The elf’s familiar promptly popped into being and flew right into Redcloak’s face, aiming for the one remaining eye with its claws. The goblin recoiled and tried to hit the bird away, giving Vaarsuvius just enough time to zip forward and snatch the dagger from his hand, hitting him at the base of the back of his head with the hilt as hard as elvenly possible.

There was an ominous cracking sound and Redcloak crumpled to the floor.

Vaarsuvius dropped the blade and hurriedly knelt by the goblin and checked his pulse, breathing a small sigh of relief when it was proven that the cracking hadn’t come from Redcloak’s neck.

“It looks like it came from the hilt of this thing. What kind of cheap material does that when a frickin’ elf with no Strength score uses it once?!” Blackwing perched on the edge of the bed and fluffed his wings. “It’s just bad craftsmanship.”

Vaarsuvius touched the goblin’s forehead, breathing heavily. “Redcloak knew I would do that…”

“He practically let you go. Did you notice the open door? I noticed the open door. We should go and use that.”

“I…” Vaarsuvius’s hand shook slightly as it grasped the broken hilt of the dagger. “I… I should do this first.”

The elf lightly rested the dagger on Redcloak’s throat, sliding the blade in between the protective scales. “He works for Xykon. If he is gone, a great victory has been won for the forces of good.”

“Then do it fast, Vaarsuvius. People are going to wonder where he went. He’s not going to stay unconscious forever.”

Vaarsuvius hesitated.

“Vaarsuvius, if you’re going to kill him, do it now. If you’re not, get up and start running.”

The elf nodded tentatively, biting a red lower lip and blinking unusually quickly. “…Yes. I can’t allow my feelings to come before my duty to the world and the Order.”

Blackwing respectfully looked away and waited for his master.

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