There were some things that were clear-cut in this world. Food, water, and shelter were always needed. The ground wouldn’t randomly cave in underneath your feet without reason. Every person has motivation. There were also some things that weren’t as clear-cut, such as whether or not it was moral to kill someone because they were from a species that was supposed to be irrevocably Chaotic Evil, or to kill someone because they were one of the people who thought that of your species. Especially when things such as love and hate get involved, it was near impossible to really understand what the difference between them was. After all, love and hate were brother and sister, far from opposites. Their opposites were indifference.
Redcloak knew he wasn’t indifferent when he was staring down at the beaten and bloody elf at his feet.
Vaarsuvius struggled to its knees, loathe to let even a small whimper out, and glared up at Xykon rebelliously, wiping blood gently from its lip.
“Oh come on! What’s your Constitution score? Did you use that and Charisma as a dump stat? Seriously! This is no fun!” Xykon pouted in a way that only liches could pout, holding out his arms, blood sticky on his phalanges and remnants of dark magic sparking from the tips of the finger bones, making the empty stone room underneath the castle smell strongly of licorice. The only others present inside was Tsukiko, her mismatched eyes dancing while she stared at Redcloak, and the monster, though Redcloak wasn’t sure how he had gotten down there in his cage.
Vaarsuvius’s face was streaked with blood and its robe was stained with it, purple hair almost red. What wasn’t scarlet was starkly pale or black and blue. The elf’s hand remained firmly at its ribcage, lips white with pain, and it didn’t take much deduction to infer that its bones had taken on too much pressure over the course of the beating. Redcloak wasn’t sure if Xykon did this out of pure boredom or malice. Probably both.
“Xykon, why did you ask me to come down here to see this?” Redcloak asked softly, keeping his temper on a very tight leash and slowly kneeling so he was at face-level with Vaarsuvius, trying to check to see how deep the gashes were.
“I assume he liked showing off his sadism,” Vaarsuvius said scathingly. No more venom could have possibly been found in any other voice imaginable. The elf gently started to try wiping away the blood on its face. In that little movement, Redcloak caught sight of completely black burns traveling up and down the elf’s arms, possibly going further than that. Healing would be needed.
“Ooh, spark! That’s nice to see in prisoners these days. Usually it’s either sniveling or silence. Where’s the fun in that?” Xykon’s skull remained immobile, but Redcloak could tell that he was smirking. “But anyway, I figured that it’d be fun to see your reaction.”
“She kept from screaming, even when Xykon got the spikes out! Just like Mr. Stiffly!” the monster said cheerfully, jiggling his prison a little. “She got a little pale after she bled a lot, though.”
Redcloak looked up and glared at Xykon, ignoring the monster. “Remember the gates, Xykon? Yeah, we need information on those. Killing our prisoners won’t help.” He lightly put his hand on the elf’s arm. “Cure moderate wounds.”
Vaarsuvius avoided eye contact, hissing softly in pain.
“Don’t be a buzz-kill, Reddy. I’m bored with playing with the paladin.” Xykon shrugged. “Teevo has nothing good on. You’ve been coddling the elf for so long that I figured that it should get some blood flowing. He-or-she can barely walk.” He made a wild gesture with his hands. “Seriously! Push the thing off the stairs or something! It’d be totally hilarious.”
Redcloak scowled, moving to pick up Vaarsuvius. “Yeah. Hilarious. If you’ll excuse me, I’m taking the elf back to its room.”
Redcloak could tell that Vaarsuvius was biting back a protest. He was glad that the overly prideful elf had figured out that right then was a bad time to drag attention to itself.
“One last thing, though.”
The voice held a distinct strain of seriousness, something that usually was followed up by violence. Redcloak immediately glanced up, stiffening, and his eye darted towards Tsukiko and the monster briefly. The monster let out a soft whimper, but Tsukiko had no idea what was coming. Neither did Vaarsuvius.
The elf looked up sharply at Redcloak, noticing his tension and immediately put on edge by it. Its hand twitched in its lap, an incomplete gesture, and it cocked its head. “Redcloak?”
“Oh, how cute. He-or-she knows your name. And can tell if you’re upset.” Xykon’s smile looked very, very fake, as if he had a realistic mask and had put it on.
“Xykon, we need the elf.”
“Yeah, I find that you’re the only one that thinks that.”
Redcloak’s heartbeat quickened, the pulse going loudly in his ears. Xykon didn’t used to be so volatile to the point that Redcloak was genuinely afraid of calling him out on something. He supposed, with dark humor, that losing his immortality guarantee would do that.
Vaarsuvius felt the faster beat in the goblin and pursed its lips worriedly. “Redcloak…?”
“You’re the only one who’s keeping me from making sure the little corksucker gets what it deserves for sending my frikken’ phylactery to the sewer. In the name of information. Guess what? I figure that information and tactics are more for stuck-up wizards. You see, Reddy, I forgot for a little bit there that I depend on brute force for a reason.” Xykon sauntered up slowly, holding out his phalanges, palms-up. “Namely that I’ve been able to prove over and over again that, at a certain point, tactics can’t do anything against it. Now, the elf has a few disadvantages.”
The lich held up one finger. “One, it’s a frikken’ wizard. I’m sick of those guys babbling about how hard they worked and how much smarter they are than sorcerers because we actually were born with magic in us.”
Vaarsuvius tensed up, watching Xykon warily, and Redcloak stood. “Xykon…”
“Two,” he held up another finger, “it’s an elf. Part of another stuck-up group that’s always looking down their noses at everyone. Yeah, that pisses me off.”
The monster whimpered again. Tsukiko’s grin seemed to freeze a little on her face, slowly realizing that everyone in the room was treading on thin ice. Redcloak stood in front of Vaarsuvius despite the small protest of ‘I can protect myself, Redcloak.’
“Three,” another finger, “it lost my phylactery.”
Magic started to gather inside of Xykon.
Vaarsuvius struggled to its knees, starting to grasp the real seriousness of the situation, and tried to pull at Redcloak impatiently. “Redcloak, get out of the way.”
“Four,” another finger, “it hasn’t paid for that yet, unlike the paladin.”
Redcloak braced himself. The elf fell silent.
“Five, you’re the one protecting it. And I happen to be more than a little angry at you right now, Reddy.” Xykon stood in front of Redcloak, face frozen in a perpetual skeletal grin and eyes glowing red. “I suggest you get out of the way now, bitch.”
Redcloak clenched his fists and set his mouth in a grim line. Vaarsuvius froze up, understanding what the goblin was really doing for it.
“Alright, then. It’s always more fun to do this with more than one person.”
A fist planted itself firmly in Redcloak’s stomach, crushing his solar plexus and making him double over with a gasp, struggling to breathe, and a cold, bony hand planted itself on the back of his head. “Fireball.”
Redcloak decided that he really, really disliked being on the receiving end of a pissed-off Xykon’s spells.
He slammed into the ground, fire licking at his back, but he kept his teeth firmly clenched.
“He is your subordinate!” Vaarsuvius instinctively draped its arms across Redcloak’s scorched back, perhaps not realizing what it was doing. “Why would you attack an ally?!” Vaarsuvius looked up and glared.
“Oh, look, someone else wants to play. And here I thought he was using you.”
Xykon backhanded Vaarsuvius, leaving a dark red mark on the pale face. The elf recoiled and glared. “Attack your enemies, Xykon. Not your allies.”
Tsukiko snickered and Xykon stepped over Redcloak to get closer to the elf. “Alright, then.”
Vaarsuvius threw its arms in front of its face with a muttered ‘Damnation’ just in time for Xykon’s meteor swarm.
The spell sent the elf hard against the wall, bruising any affected patch of pale skin. Vaarsuvius allowed only a grunt of pain to escape, slowly struggling to stand only to have its legs buckle, unable to handle the weight after the consistent abuse that they had been suffering.
The elf looked up and glared, teeth clenched against the burning, throbbing pain in its arms and back.
Vaarsuvius jerked its hands up again, slamming against the wall, stones bigger than its fist battering its delicate body, the jagged ridges of the rock opening up slashed and squeezing blood from the pale flesh.
More flaming rocks, burning through the skin and tearing open the tiny body. The elf fell down completely to its knees, unable to continue bracing itself, and desperately tried to stifle the sounds rising in its throat.
A sharp kick came onto the mage’s ribcage, eliciting a cracking sound and forcing Vaarsuvius to let a tiny cry escape.
Cold bones, still functioning as fingers, reached down and grabbed the elf’s matted hair, holding it up only by that, and a phalange, hot with magic, fisted on Vaarsuvius’s forehead. The wizard tried to stifle an expectant wince.
A clawed scaly hand grabbed Xykon’s arm, pulling the fisted phalange away, and looked up at what was undoubtedly going to be a very angry lich. “It’s done. You don’t need to beat Vaarsuvius anymore.”
Xykon glared at Redcloak. He slammed the elf’s head against the stone once before dropping it. “You’ve got a lot of nerve. This is the last time I let you sleep with a prisoner.”
He missed Vaarsuvius’s expression at that.
He punched Redcloak hard in the stomach. The goblin doubled over, keeping any sounds of discomfort from voicing themselves.
“Necromancer chick, get the monster back upstairs. I need to wash this icky organic matter off my phalanges, and I think I know what I want to do with the stuck-up elf.”
“Whatever you say, Xykon.”
Tsukiko smirked down at Redcloak and Vaarsuvius, letting the monster out of the cage for a moment, quickly giving him the umbrella to keep himself covered. The monster glanced over at the elf and goblin, dragging the cardboard cage behind him as he walked towards the door.
“Don’t say anything to them. Looks like their a bit busy concentrating on not ending up like Romeo and Juliet.” Tsukiko smirked and cheerfully jumped out after the exiting Xykon, practically glowing in her abdomen at the sight of his thoughtful, malicious expression as he went down the hall to find a sink.
“Who’re Romeo and Juliet? Are they friends of Xykon’s?”
“Seriously? Am I the only one who actually reads this stuff?!” Tsukiko rolled her eyes and both she and the monster were gone.
There was silence for a while. Only the sound of labored breathing.
Redcloak grit his teeth against the pain, instinctively sharpening his claws against his scales and standing, slowly staggering until he was able to kneel in front of Vaarsuvius. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.” A gentle clawed finger brushed the matted violet hair from the elf’s face. “Cure moderate wounds.”
Vaarsuvius gave a soft sigh of relief, looking up while the cuts on its face mended themselves. “You should heal yourself first.”
“I wasn’t the one who took several Meteor Swarms to the face.” Redcloak gently started healing himself.
“Why did you protect me?”
The goblin was silent.
“It was not for the possible information you can gain from me. I have been far from forthcoming and I am not an entirely useful resource. Either way, you could have always healed what was left before I died and taken me back to my room. Why did you protect me?”
Redcloak shrugged, wincing a little at a twinge in his back, and picked up the elf gently. “I don’t like the idea of you becoming another of Xykon’s playthings and getting hurt in the process.”
“Why not?” The elf scowled a little, but that was the only protest Redcloak got for picking it up. At least Vaarsuvius knew its own physical limitations.
“Why did you help me?”
Vaarsuvius didn’t answer.
“I say that we both ignore the question and get you to your room.”
“No.” Vaarsuvius squirmed, forcing Redcloak to let it down, keeping firm hands on the tiny arms to make sure the elf didn’t fall. “We ignore too much.”
“Vaarsuvius, you’re tired. Healing can do a lot, but the fatigue is still there. Let me take you to your room.”
“There you are again!” Vaarsuvius scowled, squirming a little. “You’re tender! You’re kind! You’re protective! Even at the cost of your own safety, you remain so. Please show me what to make of it, because I can’t simply think of you as my foe anymore after all this.”
“You will have to, Vaarsuvius.” Redcloak sighed, staring at the ground, away from the elf. “This is complicated.”
“I have a distinct feeling that we shall make it more complicated before this is done.” Vaarsuvius’s voice lowered, a gentle, warning hiss. “Redcloak, this is dangerous for us both. Physically and emotionally.”
“I realize that. I didn’t exactly predict this would happen. I’m usually able to deal with prisoners without being a complete monster while not getting… like this.” Redcloak tentatively ran a gentle claw through the elf’s hair. “I don’t get it, but I don’t get a lot of things.”
“It is only going to be difficult for the both of us.” Vaarsuvius looked away, frowning and squirming a little, yet not enough for Redcloak’s claws to break the skin unwittingly. “You should stop touching me.”
“I need to get you to your room. You can’t fool yourself into thinking that you can actually walk up all those steps.”
“Do not tell me that this is no more than necessity, Redcloak. Do not insult my intelligence.”
“Maybe it’s not. We’ve both done more than what’s necessary. Acknowledging it won’t make us stop.”
“Redcloak…” Vaarsuvius took a deep breath, looking up and slipping into a cleanly dispassionate expression. “This is too intricate. We should stop seeing each other. I am tired of trying to make sense of you. You do not fit in black or white. I doubt that your apparent attachment to me does you any favors as well. You are vulnerable, I am compromised, and we both are crossing inappropriate—”
Redcloak slid his arms around the elf’s waist gently and touched their lips together. Vaarsuvius stiffened up against him with a soft gasp, the little elven heartbeat quickening against his chest, but the kiss was returned.
The scientist and the person in Redcloak’s head both threw up their hands in defeat. They both loudly proclaimed that he had just screwed up any chance they had of pretending nothing was going on and that they clearly were unappreciated at the moment. They went to the back of his mind and started playing Parcheesi until the two were done making out.
“We should stop…” Vaarsuvius murmured, kissing Redcloak again, wrapping delicate arms around his neck.
“Probably.” Redcloak was understandably distracted. Normally, warmth in a body seemed foreign and unnatural. He was so used to goblins and skeletons that he didn’t really know what it felt like to really touch someone who didn’t need sunlight to give heat. Under any other circumstances, he was positive that he would hate it. Just then it felt… nice.
The heat and fervor increased. Tongues were touching. They both could feel each other’s heart beats quickening. The elf’s face flushed darkly. Neither could, by any stretch of the imagination, be called ‘innocent.’ They knew where this was going.
Both pulled away. Neither were ready for that.
“I…” Vaarsuvius shook its head sharply, dissipating the daze. “Please take me back to my room. I must think.”
“We both do.” Redcloak, had he been able to, would have blushed. Instead, he cleared his throat and picked the elf up gently, taking it out of the room and slowly walking up the stairs.
The scientist and person looked up hopefully from their Parcheesi game. Unwilling to put up with them, Redcloak slammed and locked the door before they could even stand.
Both goblin and elf were silent until they were inside the room. “I promise that I’ll do my best to make sure Xykon doesn’t do anything like this to you again, okay?” Redcloak gently put the elf down on the bed, looking up at the only window of the room, eyes adjusting for the sparse illumination from the Snarl.
“I have a feeling I know where this is going.”
Vaarsuvius didn’t even react. Perhaps they knew each other too well. “Ignoring this won’t help.”
“Sometimes it does.”
“I am not the sort of person who ignores things and hopes they go away.” Vaarsuvius frowned, hugging its knees and staring at Redcloak appraisingly.
“You don’t need to say that. I know.” Redcloak sat at the foot of the bed, looking down at his claws, a purple sheen dancing on his scales from the window, a small light show within itself, the colors mixing together until there were strands of jade, pink, and blue among the purple and green.
“It makes no sense. We are of different alignments, vastly different species, different view points, different personalities…”
“I know.” Redcloak shrugged, making the colors and lights dance. “Articulating it won’t make it go away, Vaarsuvius. Talking will only do so much. You need to actually do things.”
There was silence, rather rare when around such a verbose and prideful elf.
“Perhaps you are correct.”
Redcloak looked up curiously, frowning. Had Vaarsuvius just admitted to being wrong?
The elf crawled up to him, hesitated for a moment, then brought a pale hand up to his cold cheek and kissed him softly. “I cannot believe that I am allowing myself to participate in such gross misconduct.”
Quite frankly, neither did Redcloak. The scientist was banging at the door, screaming about how this could only end badly. He didn’t bother with it. He did too many things that could only end badly. What was one more? It looked like he was too deep to pull out at any rate. Ignoring it obviously didn’t work, he had no intention of cutting himself off from the elf, and if they both wanted this (even if they would die before they admitted it) they might as well.
And, secretly, he could admit that it wasn’t mere admiration that he felt for the proud, defiant, beautiful elf. And he could also admit in an even tinier place in his mind that what he felt was certainly not lust, as he sometimes tried to tell himself it was.
He kissed back gently, touching the back of the elf’s head and gently bringing it closer. Maybe they would act like nothing happened again once the kiss was over. That was fine with him. Maybe they would be back to whatever they were before tomorrow. That was fine with him. Maybe he was setting his heart up to be hanged. That was fine with him.
Maybe he would eventually kill Vaarsuvius just like Right-Eye.
He tightened his grip a little and kissed harder.