Defeat gives one of the four Fiends a chance to reflect on what she never had.
But the Fiends have been there; they are the only real exceptions, as much as they would have liked to claim that they never had to resort to hiding like cowards. They were hauntingly familiar both with and to that Place, and had spent centuries worth of time hiding there.
It was dull, to be quite honest, an endless sleep without the spice of dreams; it was hardly a place where they would have chosen to return to, given the choice. But sometimes they were too weak to return to the world. Sometimes, even the elements can be killed, or at least come close to death.
But even that lonely place was a comfort for the Fiend of the sky, at that moment. Valvalis drifted there, incorporeal - her body had been destroyed, and she did not have the strength to re-manifest herself even in that world, not yet.
It was an escape from the pain that had torn her apart, from feeling his spear ripping through her flesh as he'd leaped to attack her. As far as she cared, the others that had helped Kain hadn't been there - she cared nothing about them. But he... how could he?
She remembered the first night, but only because it was the first night; there had been nothing else particularly memorable about it. She had gone to his chambers, wishing fervently that she'd been able to coax him out under the starlight she loved so much, to let the cold winds whisper her endearments in his ears. But there had been no wind in the bedchamber, only roughened cotton sheets and a hard pallet for a bed, and a pile of discarded, damaged armor in the corner of the room as she'd touched him, whispering her own endearments.
"You're a monster." he'd whispered back. Utterly mad-"
And she'd chuckled, a deep and breathy sound, full of the cold night air. "Hardly," she'd replied, gently stroking his chest, watching as he'd tensed below her light, cool hands. "Perhaps we are the only two sane beings in this tower... I hardly consider Golbez to be -"
"Don't you dare say anything about him - !" But his words had been cut off by a sharp intake of breath as her body had slid firmly next to his. She had made love to him that night, for the first time; her eyes had never closed, watching his face the whole time, the lovely, blissful expression of ecstasy and desire on his face replacing Golbez's unnatural hatred.
She could feel how strong he was, how the old Draconic magic fluxed somewhere just below the roughened warmth of his skin. His body was covered in scars, all manner of them - training scars, scars from magical attacks, many that would have killed a lesser man either outright or by slow deterioration... and yet he was still alive. He had the sky's spirit in him, if such it could be called; there was no denying that. She did not have to wish for him to be hers; she merely had to open his eyes.
The Fiend wailed, knowing that there was no one to hear her in that dark place. She'd never had an obsession before, not one so horridly all-consuming and personal as this. It hurt so deeply that she could barely think of anything else but him, and of his stubborn refusal to belong to her. No, with her, because she had no intentions of allowing the consort for one of the Forces of Nature to remain as a simple mortal, powerful or not. He would not be her equal, but he would be far more powerful than he could ever imagine.
And like any obsession, it was impossible to sate. She'd tried, though - she'd tried far too many times.
The second night was everything that the first night should have been. She'd found him on top of the tower, looking out at the cold stars, that face twisted yet again into that horrible unnatural scowl. He shouldn't be scowling, she told herself tearfully; he should be laughing, joyous. He was, after all, her chosen.
She'd seduced him, then, the winds caressing and wrapping around their bodies, floating like gods above the earth. She had flown with him, had carried him over the clouds, shown him the play of starlight over their frosted backs that no other mortals had ever flown high enough to see. There had been no need for her words, for the first and last time; the elemental had spoken to him in another, more ancient language, and had been foolish enough to think that he was responding in kind.
It made her weak inside, the memory... the thought of his body against hers, an artful sculpture of scars and hardened muscle. His hands - still in the heavy gauntlets, she had yet to see him without them - had gripped her so tightly and so long that she had wondered if perhaps they would mark her, just that once. She could still feel them, even now, the cold iron fingertips throbbing against her smooth, golden skin. And just the thought of how he'd felt, the strength and roughness and the sweet pain of his bites against her lips and her neck. She'd been overcome; she'd fought with him as brutally as he had with her, two superior beings who struggled with each other because there was no one else that they could not subjugate.
She remembered screaming, that night, the long, primal scream of a cold mountain gale - screaming as the pain and the pleasure of it all became too much to endure without screaming, his perfectly-formed body fitting into hers, just where he belonged. Just where they both belonged. Her voice was a sirocco, a note of perfect passion - of fire and sunlight that she'd never felt so strongly before.
She didn't remember how she'd gotten back to the tower, how she'd managed to keep from falling to the earth then and there - she'd barely been able to stand, had been forced to grasp at the wall to support her weight. For at least one instant she had felt sated, her body trembling with the aftershock of such a cataclysmic feeling... her mind a warm glow of desire and delight. She'd looked up to smile at him, to look into his eyes...
No responding glow; no delight; nothing to indicate that he'd felt the same way. His eyes had burned with perhaps the purest form of hatred that she could ever remember seeing.
She had almost cried. No, this was impossible... she couldn't have imagined it, could she? Something that... that beautiful can't be imagined. It simply cannot be.
He'd whispered something to her, then, as he'd shivered in the cold, just before he'd started to at least pick up his cloak so that he could go back to his quarters to rest. The elemental could not remember what it was that she'd said to him - but it was the voice, the pure hatred contained in it that shook her to the core.
For the first time in what felt like an eternity, after he'd left to sulk or rant, or whatever he had done that night, Valvalis had cried, moaning softly to the winds above the tower, tears dripping from her face like a rainstorm. The night had been long, and cold.
Thinking about it was so hard, so painful; she couldn't bear to relive that night, but she found that her mind kept going back to it regardless, to a flight above the thick white clouds and an impossible peak of ecstasy. She simply could not stop herself from wanting it again and again, and yet that look on his face and in his eyes made it feel dirty, made her feel like a great self-deluded fool.
Perhaps she would have liked to say that it was the last time it had happened. But no, it was far from that. She had gone to him many times since, every night that she could spare; and she had spoken with him, had given him her words as a poor substitute for what she had shared with him that one shimmering night. She had tried so hard to tell him what he was to her, what he could be with her.
She needed to convince him that she wasn't just another extension of Golbez, that his darkness and hers were not the same. But his mind was full of that girl, of a face that he'd amplified a million times over and seeded with hatred and resentment. That damnable woman's face, the weakling's face.
She was a mere mortal, nothing compared to what would someday be the unbridled power of a goddess... but Kain stubbornly refused to listen to her reason. His own madness seemed impregnable; he didn't even seem to understand that he was being used, that Golbez would discard him in a matter of moments, just as he'd discard her and her siblings.
But she would have him someday. She was certain of that... and though she'd begged him not to betray them, she had been sure that in truth, he was unable to do so. Somewhere, deep inside of him, he knew the truth; he could feel the power, and lusted after it. He would not be content in following mortals all of his life, like a foolish child.
He would not betray her...
The others, perhaps, thought she was weak. Or at least her younger brothers believed that she had allowed her mind to be clouded by foolish, human emotion. Kainazzio was particularly contemptuous towards what he saw as weakness, but then the Water Fiend had never cared about anyone but himself. He'd seen her as a rival for centuries, as one more powerful than he, and had rejoiced at the fall of his own brother, as it meant that he would no longer be the weakest among them.
Milon... ah, poor Milon. She was not even sure if he was capable of contempt any more, or if he even knew what he had lost.
"We could choose to destroy you, and find another to take your place. But we shall be merciful, wayward child."
His true name was Scarmiglone; he had been her equal, once. He had held all of the life of the fertile earth within his beautiful body, warm as the newly-ploughed fields. She had loved him dearly, of course, as she had once loved all of her brothers. She still cared about him now, and pitied him for what they'd done to him.
No longer did he possess all of Earth's powers. He was as the dust, to which all life returned - twisted and rotten, little better than a corpse himself. Parasites fed on flesh that never seemed to be completely consumed, crawling under the tatters of his robes. And once he had been as articulate and honourable as Rubicant himself, but it was difficult to think with a rotting, diseased mind. He'd become an idiot, easily manipulated, unquestioningly following the orders of his oldest brother.
It would have been better, she thought, for him to have died. And she cursed the ones who had done that to him... although it was difficult to even remember them, anymore. They had been Strangers to that world - that much she was sure of. Not the ones that Zemus had spoken to them of, not his race, but another, and his mortal enemies.
"Why must this world be manipulated?" she'd asked her brother Rubicant one night, a month after Golbez and Zemus had made their presence known. "What is it that draws them to this place?"
"I don't know," he'd replied, troubled. His hand had found hers and squeezed it tightly, as if he were a worried father wishing to protect his helpless daughter from harm. Despite all that she'd attained, he still considered her a child, one who needed protection. She'd been the youngest of the four, once... before They'd come with their machines and their magic and their poisoned gifts.
Imagine - four children, playing in the fields, siblings from a poor family and unsatisfied with their lots in life. Imagine a stranger coming to them, showing them tricks and games that they had never even imagined before, and telling them that if they wished they could learn to wield such powers. What do you think the children would have done?
But the Strangers had not told them about the costs of their knowledge, or that they would be bound to the talismanic Crystals that they'd left behind. They had not said that the slightest, half-imagined attack against them would be punished so severely, or that they would leave one day and allow another race to use their talismans to imprison one of their own.
If they had known.... But Valvalis suspected that they would have chosen to take their powers anyway, if they had known. At least they had a chance of breaking free someday, a chance of immortality. She wondered if the Strangers knew exactly what the gifts that they'd been given were.... They'd thought that they'd merely made them into tools, extensions of themselves. But they'd given them mastery, had made them elemental spirits themselves...
And someday they would be free. She yearned for it; forces of nature itself could not be chained forever.
She was adrift, and still alone. This was not the kind of freedom that she'd craved for so long, this was torment. There was nothing in that Place, nothing to distract her from herself.
What good was power, when it could not be free? She needed to be free, with him.... She'd almost felt like she was free, like she did not need to hide part of herself for fear that those who controlled her would hurt her the way they'd hurt Milon. But his face... It was a lie. A lie, that I told myself.
She could not bear that place much longer. It would drive her mad.
It wasn't a voice as much as it was a presence, a manifestation. She looked up, to see Rubicant floating before her.
So he was there as well. She could not find it in her to be surprised. "They were too strong for us, then," she said softly into the emptiness. "Brother... have we failed?"
Rubicant reached out, took her hand. "Not yet, my dear sister. We will not remain here for long."
"What? Have you spoken to..."
He nodded. "I have. Zemus himself has granted us reprieve. He will grant us the power to return to that plane, and this time, we will defeat them. We will not make the mistake of allowing them to separate us." The flame-cloaked prince pulled her into his arms, one hand stroking her hair, as if he were comforting a child. "We cannot face them alone. No element can exist alone; we strengthen each other."
"I..." She didn't cry, and her voice was even. "I don't know if I want to go back yet." It was a lie, of course. She wanted to leave that place... but she didn't want to go back there. Not after Kain had been the one to kill her. She didn't know if she wanted to see him again, no matter how much she believed that she needed it.
"I know." He kissed her gently on the cheek. "But it won't be long, if we can defeat them."
Yes, he was right. When they defeated the human... they would be able to break away, soon, and find the crystals. They would shatter them - return the powers to the earth and sea and sky, where they belonged. And they would no longer be bound. When she was free, she would find him. She would find him, and she would fly with him, take the clouds from his eyes and make him see.
"The others are waiting for us, Valvalis," her brother said gently, voice rumbling in his chest.
She nodded. Despite all of her misgivings, she would not miss that Place. "Let us go."
A/N: ...yes, follow-up to Darkwinds. May someday expand on my ideas about the Fiends; I hope so, anyway. (Incidentally, most of my ideas about Kain and Valvalis came from some interesting dialogue in the unofficial translation. There's absolutely no basis for stories about them in the Chronicles translation. It's interesting how different the translations for this game are, isn't it?)
It's pretty old, and I didn't edit it as I reposted it, but I think it's still okay.