C U S T O S   F R A T R I S   M E I

Written on July 4, 2020 (♋)

Content Warning: 🍋This fic contains explicit sex🍋 | 💀This fic also contains explicit rape, incest, monsterfucking, and violence. This is a Dead Dove: Do Not Eat situation, to use some lingo not from 2002. Do not read this if this is not your thing.💀

“Zalbag has gone mad! My brother has taken leave of his senses!”

Perhaps he had, seeing that dark-visaged creature stand where his brother once stood; perhaps this was all the fantasy of a mind wrenched out of its natural order. In the silence of the windowless chamber in which he now lived--deep within Igros’ belly--how could he tell himself all that had befallen them and not doubt?

His own men did not heed him any longer. It would be a comfort to think it was a failing with his faculties and not with their loyalty.

Zalbag's present condition, of course, left him with ample room to doubt. If his mind were diseased, there had been no priests or healers summoned to treat it. Dycedarg--or whatever it was that now passed as him--had not been disposed to kindness upon thwarting his brothers' attempt on his life. Zalbag had found himself bound and confined to one of the lower dungeons long out of use; there had been some talk, if he recalled, that Gallione could ill afford it being known that its general was a lunatic. He took some comfort in imagining that it was only a small portion of Houkten who knew him to be here. 

In the beginning, he had raged. He had explained again and again the treason he had uncovered--demanded that he be at liberty to right his father's murder. When he found the guard set to watch him unresponsive, he had attempted an escape that saw him more securely fettered. After that, he supposed he had fallen to some madness, albeit briefly. He awakened at one point, face battered and bandaged, and was told that he had charged at the door howling an hour earlier. The man who woke him explained firmly that they had taken it as a suicide at first—that he’d near dashed his brains out in whatever he was attempting.

Zalbag grew more docile after that.

He began to feel more animal than man as the course of however many days it had been passed uncounted. They’d shackled his arms behind him, and the skin on his wrists was painfully abraded. When he ate, it was often without aid of his hands. Not every man who watched him had the patience to feed him. At least one was overtly contemptuous. A close friend of his had apparently died the night Zalbag was taken prisoner. “You cut down a man like a dog; you can damned well eat like one.”

As time continued its march, Zalbag tried to find some means of reckoning it. There was no real light in the cell to which he'd been confined, but if he lay on the floor and watched the crack between it and the edge of the door, he could just make out the flickering glow from the sconce in the hallway. He could wait until the inevitable moment when the torch would burn out and all things would go black until it was replaced. Zalbag did not know how long a period that was, but it was a measure of some sort--a way to know that the hours were passing.

He never settled on a formula to render the lives of torches into days and weeks. He merely took solace in seeing and marking something that would change. Time was passing, and this all would end. However awful that end might be, he was moving towards it, even if it was in the darkness and face to the ground, watching a single line of light along the floor.

Often, although he feared its inutility, he prayed.

It was scant comfort it all afforded him—counting the torchlight and praying to a God he now doubted—but in time he slid into a sort of numbness regarding his predicament. The one remaining source of disquiet was that Zalbag had not seen Dycedarg since the battle. Even now, even with all that had transpired, even with all he had seen, he could not imagine that something even partly his brother would keep its distance so long. Dycedarg was guilty of many things, but Zalbag still did not believe he would wholly discard him.

He supposed they had never truly been close--not in the way that siblings who shared a childhood might be--but there had been a singular sort of sympathy between them. With one parent dead and another forever on the field, they had each assumed a silent responsibility. They recognized that they were in some ways always going to be alone. They had recognized they had needed one another.

At least, Zalbag had imagined that they had.

Perhaps it was another sort of madness. If his brother still existed somewhere, he was still a patricide--a fratricide too if there was truth to the cant among the changing guards that Igros’ gates now had a heretic’s flyblown head hanging above them. He realized, as he thought of poor Ramza, withered and gone to feed the rooks and magpies, that there was a bitter and terrible comfort in thinking that he wasn’t atop a pike as well.

There was a comfort in knowing that Dycedarg, be it out of love or spite, had spared him.




Weeks, months, days, or hours—some indeterminate time had passed when he heard the footfalls of a small party approaching echo through the dungeon. They were three men or more if he could still reckon such things: more than the typical changing of guard at any rate. Zalbag stood up in the darkness when he heard them, stretching his arms against the irons that bound them. He winced as he realized how deep they’d cut into him. If he should ever be free, they would scar at the very least. He’d heard of some men long kept prisoner who lost feeling and could not use a sword thereafter. He shook his head a little as the door opened, trying to move his hair away from his eyes.

The door opened, and Zalbag did not breathe as he saw the back-lit figure of his brother standing in its frame.

He’d guessed right. There was a small band of three with him--Hokuten whom Zalbag couldn’t place. He could not read anyone’s expressions in the dim torchlight, but he felt a sense that his present appearance left them uncomfortable. He imagined he must seem a rather frightful figure now. He said nothing as Dycedarg gestured for one of them to hand him a candle.

“Leave me,” he said in a voice that already seemed cruel. “I wish to speak with my brother.” 

Zalbag remained motionless as the door closed, and Dycedarg slowly walked towards him. His features were dark and seemed distorted in the dim glow of the taper he held. Zalbag tensed, but he remained silent.

“You have been waiting a long time here, haven’t you?”

Zalbag nodded. He kept his gaze fixed on Dycedarg, watching his brother’s expression as his eyes adjusted to the light.

“You’ve caused quite a bit of trouble, you know. It’s difficult to wage war without a general.”

Zalbag nodded again. Dycedarg drew closer.

“Don’t you have anything to say?”

It seemed suddenly to Zalbag that the room grew hot, as though he stood in the nimbus of a fire much greater than one that perched atop a candle. He looked to the ground a moment, still unresponsive. He had grown unused to speaking, and he hardly knew what he could say to the man in front of him now. 

Dycedarg knelt and put the candle on the floor, making a point of catching Zalbag’s gaze as he slowly stood up again.

“You can disappear, you know?" he said darkly. "You can be unmade if we decide it. It can be arranged that there is no such thing as Zalbag Beoulve: that you be decomposed into so much bone and tallow while your name is forcibly excised from human recollection.”

Zalbag looked at him a moment, stunned, and opened his mouth as if to speak. It dawned on him slowly that he was trembling. 

“Come, say something. Be assured we are loath to discard you.”

Dycedarg smiled, and something altered then. Was it the word “we”? Was it the warping and transformed tone of his voice, shifting ever so slightly outside the register of human speech? Was it his sudden scent of something like bone char or blood on the hot air between them?

Zalbag did not know what in that moment led him into useless panic, but he panicked nonetheless.

He did not have time to wonder if he were a madman. He did not have space to think. Instead, he reacted: pulled at his bonds, shouted, tried in flailing terror to lunge at the thing before him. Dycedarg caught him swiftly by the throat.

Even as he was dragged upward, choking and mute, Zalbag still kicked. Some stark and bestial terror overwhelmed any thoughts he might have. Whatever it was that held him was horrible in some manner he could not fathom, and it was all the more horrible in that it wore his brother’s face.

“Do you want to make another speech about justice?" Its voice was unnervingly calm. "Would you like to explain the triumph of righteousness?”

Dycedarg laughed as he pressed him against the cold stone of the wall behind him. His hand was still around his throat. Zalbag’s thoughts swam and sank around him, blood pounding through the veins of his neck and echoing in his head. As little as he was able, he still fumbled through the motions of resistance. Dycedarg ignored them.

“After all the fuss that was made about you, after over a decade of being hailed as the prodigy that saved Ivalice from Romandan rule, do you have so little to say on your ideals?”

Zalbag gagged as he felt the creak of a leather glove constricting about his neck. He could barely breathe, let alone find words for a reply.

“You’d have no answers for us even if you could speak; mortal men never do.”

The voice that spoke to him seemed to resound with the roar and crackle of an open flame--it seemed to make no pretense now as to its inhumanity.

“Why have you done this?” Zalbag finally choked out, nearly voiceless. “Why do you keep me here?”

Dycedarg lowered him such that the very tips of his boots might meet the ground, giving him just enough room that he might--with effort--loosen the pressure on his neck and gulp down air.

“We keep you because we see fit to keep you,” he said sternly. “Why should we need further justification?”

“Why don’t you kill me?”

Dycedarg said nothing for a moment. Then, he smiled, eyes blazing with a light that could not be mistaken for the reflection of the candle flame. 

“You remain better sport to us alive.”

He dropped Zalbag thereafter and watched as he crumpled. Zalbag, for his part, said nothing further. He lay on the stone floor, shaking and gasping as he waited for whatever was to happen next. There was what seemed a very long silence as Dycedarg looked to him, his gaze distant. It seemed then that he looked not at the man before him but at something a long way off--like an augur gazing at the tumble of birds or an astrologer at the motions of stars. 

Eventually, he knelt to where Zalbag lay and ran a hand through his hair. It had grown unruly in however long it had been since he had first been confined, and he carded his fingers through it as if to set it back to order. The gesture was one that had all the outermost accidents of affection. It made Zalbag painfully aware of what a sorry thing he had become and how long it had been since any other human being had laid a hand on him.

He closed his eyes and tried to find some memory that was not this--some recollection of a Dycedarg who might have some wish to console him. They were never truly children together, but he had been a child once. His brother had been a persistent presence. Motherless and alone at Igros, what else did they have to cling to?

He fell back into fevers half-remembered—to the figure that watched him in the absence of anyone else. His breath was fast and ragged as his brother, straddling him, cupped a hand under his chin and brought him back to the clarity of the present moment. Dycedarg turned his face upwards towards his own.

His brother smiled very slightly as their eyes met, and Zalbag felt a sinking dread as he remembered what it was that now held him.

“Yes...” His voice was wrong—sharp—something like the scrape of metal against metal. “We will sport with you now, hero.”

With that he buried his fist into Zalbag’s hair and wrenched him into a violent kiss, holding him fast as he struggled against it. His mouth burnt like a brand and tasted of ashes. Zalbag’s arms tensed against his bonds to the point he imagined his wrists might break in them. He had no room to writhe away as Dycedarg ran a hand along his slender frame, trailing down to reach under his tunic and towards the laces of his trousers.

The kiss broke, and Zalbag felt suddenly as though he were very far apart from himself again. He looked to what had been his brother and tried as desperately as he could to imagine some trace of pity within his features.

He had found none by the time the blow landed. 

Something like a shout rasped out of his throat as he hit the stone floor again. There was the taste of blood on his lips. He tried to still his trembling body, tried to imagine himself elsewhere, tried not to focus on the horrific shame of what was about to befall him. His breath hitched as he felt Dycedarg grip his cock and begin to stroke it. The pads of his hand were wrong--hard--as though they were made of horn or hooves.

“Brother… please…” he gasped out in a choking sob, “please spare me this.”

Dycedarg buried his face in his shoulder, breath searing hot against his skin. He bit him but lightly at first, but it was all as if to indicate how willing and able he was to tear out his throat. After working his way up the length of Zalbag’s neck with progressive intensity, it was with a very human bitterness that he whispered in his ear.

“Did you spare me?”

He turned and moved to lap up the splotch of blood that had dripped from Zalbag’s mouth. His tongue was rough--like that of an animal.

“No answers, brother?” He laughed. “Have you no words on filial duty now, either?”

Zalbag moaned hoarsely. He was hard now, and Dycedarg’s burning grip on him did not slacken. What was he to say? What rebuke could he possibly give that he had not before? 

“You killed him, Dycedarg, what was I to do?” He gasped, trying not to rut into his brother’s hand as it stroked him.

“How many did you kill in the name of peace and progress?”

“I didn’t kill our father,” he groaned, panting as Dycedarg began to vary his rhythm. “I didn’t kill our brother.”

“There’s a sea of corpses you men have fed the earth with these past few years--more than half a million souls gone in this war alone--yet you balk at two?” He laughed. “Such is the vanity of human reckoning. You could kill half the earth over and hold yourself righteous for holding fealty to whomever put in the ten minutes’ labor to sire you.”

Zalbag lost himself a moment to sensation and rocked his hips up to meet Dycedarg’s strokes, shuddering as his brother leaned close against him.

“You used me,” Zalbag whispered. “I only did…”

His protestation was cut short by a sharp gasp as the hand around his cock suddenly tightened and picked up speed.

“The truth is that somebody was always using you, Zalbag,” Dycedarg continued dispassionately. “Your father used you. The Church used you. Ivalice herself used you. You’ve made yourself a lauded hero and an exemplar of piety... all so that some men might remain in power and a great many other men might die.”

He abruptly left off stroking him, leaving him to thrust against the empty air. 

“There is a refreshing honesty, perhaps, in telling you directly that we now intend to use you as a whore.”

Zalbag, humiliated and panting, began to shake as he felt hands moving to tear at his clothing. Everything was unreal; it was as though time and motion were running against themselves. He thought on how much better it was to have been Ramza and to have died to decorate the steps of Igros.

We , Dycedarg?” he asked, laughing nonetheless in the thick of his own despair. “Who… or what, might I ask, is using you ?”

Hopelessness had made him brave, and when the next blow landed he allowed himself to be carried with it. Blood ran down his face where it connected with the hard granite. When he looked back at Dycedarg, who had wrenched his shirt half away by now, he saw in him a change. In that moment, Dycedarg’s features bore a rage and disgust that seemed etched down into his marrow. 

It was, for a brief flicker of time, as if he knew what he was about to do and regarded it with loathing.

That instant faded quickly as he set upon Zalbag again, pinning him down and wrestling him out of his boots and trousers. In the frenzy of his assault, he ripped the rest of the tunic asunder but did not tear it off of him, letting its remains bunch at the irons that held his wrists. 

He kissed him again then, grabbing his face against his with a wild hunger. Zalbag, still filled with the giddiness of despair, kissed him back.

Dycedarg paused, seemingly taken aback for an instant before he moved to strike him. Zalbag laughed once again as their lips parted.

“Is this what you want then, brother? This? ” 

He allowed himself to be pressed into the floor, still lost in whatever growing hysteria it was that had seized him. Dycedarg’s hand burned against his naked throat; his teeth felt like hot needles as they bit into the cupped flesh above his collarbone. Zalbag did not flinch when he felt his brother’s cock pressed taut and hard against his thigh. He returned each vicious kiss visited upon him, even as they drew blood from his lips and mouth. He arched upwards toward each caress.

Every move the two of them made felt strange--unnatural beyond the unnaturalness implicit in the act. Zalbag did nothing to resist Dycedarg when he wrenched his thighs apart and pulled them upward--when he pressed his fingers, slick with blood, inside of him. He leaned back instead, looking to the ceiling or perhaps to the heavens beyond it. Even though he suspected that there may be no God willing to listen to him, he managed to mouth out the shape of a prayer.

He took him very suddenly--more suddenly than Zalbag was anticipating. He moaned, tense with pain as his brother started to fuck him. The coarse linen of the tunic Dycedarg still wore dragged against his skin as he drove into him, and the bite of the irons at his wrists sharpened with each thrust. As they picked up a rhythm though, these little sensations seemed to blur into one another. The shadows on the ceiling danced and warped as Dycedarg stroked him, struck him, speared into him hard. 

Zalbag tried to breathe himself out of himself as he lay there--tried to will himself into some atmosphere above them both, where he would be apart from the bound and bloodied shape into which his brother pistoned. He failed. Some mechanism of their joined bodies kept him hard, touched on something sharp and thrilling that lay embedded within him. It inflamed him even in the midst of his anguish, and he remained tethered to his flesh, pained and hot as he writhed against Dycedarg’s thrusts.

“Is this what you wanted, you self-righteous prick?”

He hilted roughly into him as he spoke, and Zalbag shuddered as he moved with him. Dycedarg’s pace grew more and more feverish as he continued to mock him.

“Is this what’s been hiding beneath your insipid piety? Is this where all your prayers turned when you realized the gilt saints above you weren’t watching? Did you want your brother to take you like some Ordallian drab your men might catch in the field--to hold you down and make a wreck of your chastity?” 

Zalbag burned at that final word, wondering what response he could possibly offer. He gasped as his brother grabbed hold of his cock again, gripping him fast as he tried furiously to work him to orgasm. 

He wrenched his eyes shut. He tried to think of heaven. As he panted and rutted against Dycedarg’s hand, sick with his own lust, he wondered if he would kill him at the climax--if he would die here, impaled on his brother’s cock, caught on the precipice of a confession.

Neither had ever married. Neither had ever relied on anything so much as the other. There had been responsibilities… an obligation.

They had needed one another.

Zalbag opened his mouth as if to speak, and everything turned suddenly to heat and pain. He gave a choking gasp as he spilled onto his belly. Dycedarg rocked his hips fast against him as his body shuddered around his girth.

They lay there a moment, and Zalbag felt a hand caress his flank, resting on the inside of his thigh as Dycedarg removed his still rigid cock from out of his body.

“We thought as much.”

Zalbag breathed convulsively as something in Dycedarg’s voice cut through him, keen and sharp and impossibly wrong again. It was a voice that he could in no way mistake for his brother.

“Please…” he began. His face was still hot and flushed. Something stung in his throat.  

“We are not done with you.”

He looked up, and saw the shape of Dycedarg still leaning over him. Even in the candlelight, he could see that its eyes no longer bore whites or irises, having been eaten through by a cold and abyssal blackness. Somewhere behind it, a flickering shadow upon the wall seemed to twist into shapes it ought not.  

It smiled, and Zalbag felt the same maddened panic rise within him as he had felt when this interview began. He did not move, however. He did not think, at this moment, that he could. He tried to look at the walls--at the door--to focus on the winking eye of the candle’s fire. The floor on which he lay suddenly felt very cold. Its rough surface prickled against his skin. 

Zalbag did not cry out when it reached for him again, its cloven hands driving bruises into his flesh. He did not struggle when he felt its matted hair press close against his body. When he finally brought himself to look at it again, he felt no great surprise or shock to see the visage of a great animal--a hollow-eyed beast whose horns seemed poised to scrape the low ceiling above them.

He flung his head backwards and gave a low, stifled sob. The whole of him went rigid as he felt the head of whatever member the creature bore press against him again. From where he lay, he could only tell that it was very large and that, like the rest of the beast, it burned hot as though it were filled with some unseen flame.

The creature leaned forward slowly, dragging one of its hands up his torso and up across the grooves of his ribs. Zalbag tried to measure his breaths--tried not to break down--as it lowered its head to address him. 

When it spoke this time, however, it said something in a language he did not understand.

The beast speared him after that, pushing its whole length roughly back into him. He screamed. How could he not scream? It bellowed as it began to rut into him, clutching his body tight. He thought he would be torn apart, that he would die in the crushing agony of its hands pressed against his body and its cock ensheathed in his flesh. He kept screaming. 

It joined his cries with a horrid, triumphant shriek of its own, throwing its head back as it moved its hands to the ridges of his hips and pulled him into its thrusts. Zalbag felt the lower part of his belly swell and bulge as he was filled, his thin frame ill-fitted to the size of the thing that impaled him. As they fell into a rhythm, the pain of their coupling did not subside. He tried to find ways to ride through it--to wait in thoughtless agony for the next crest of sensation when the beast hilted into him. If he could dissect time, cut things down to seconds and their fractions, he could reckon things out, he could measure one point to another and survive it.

Time was passing, and this all would end.

Eventually, his screams began to fade as he lost the breath and fortitude to make them. He realized, as he lay there--limp, wet with sweat and blood--that he was hard again. A wave of nausea passed over him as he thought again and again as to how he had pressed his body and lips to something like his brother a few minutes prior. Looking upward, he traced the shape of the two long horns that spiraled above them, trying to turn his focus somewhere distant from his own suffering or desire.

He thought he saw around their spires some glow of magic or flame--like the orb of the sun tipped behind an Ordallian minaret. Very distantly, he wondered if this was a punishment:if all the lust of which it had accused him had lain buried within him for years--if this was its harvest and price.

In the realm where I was king once, mothers tore still suckling babes from their breasts that their fat might sweeten my temple’s fires. 

The voice reverberated through him without sound. He moaned as it was punctuated by the beast suddenly driving hard into him.

All creatures dissolved their petty bonds to one another in fealty to me. All loyalties were cast aside for my patronage.

Zalbag tasted bile in his throat, and turned to look directly at the thing that addressed him--the being that seemed to speak from within the body it violated. He could not tell if it looked back, but he assumed it must.

I am the truth behind the Saints to whom you spent your life praying. I take those fetters in which men entangle themselves, and I sunder them.

Something in him seemed to tear and break with the next thrust. His skin prickled over, cold in the shadow of this burning creature.

Do you think I would spare you two, for the dubious distinction that you were whelped from the same womb?

Zalbag opened his mouth as if to speak, but he had no air in his lungs to shape into words. The beast speared hard into him again, and the pain peaked into a perfect absence. It was as if he had been pushed beyond the capacity to suffer in that instant. He moaned nevertheless, knowing that he would suffer still, knowing that it was wrenching him apart, knowing that he would like as not die here or else die hereafter. 

The tremors that ran through him grew practically convulsive as it quickened the pace, tearing into him as though it were intent to hollow him out--to carve itself into his body. He felt one of his wrists go bright with pain as he presumably broke it against its binding.

He tried to go slack after that, to let it rend his body as it saw fit without his useless interference. He tried to tense less and less each time it rocked into him and deepened whatever wounds it had made. He tried, most of all, to pray, but he found much to his terror that there were no prayers that he could remember.

All throughout, he thought of how it felt within him, hard and huge and alight with some unearthly fire. He thought as to how some miserable part of him took pleasure from it--just as it had taken pleasure from the ordeal when it had been Dycedarg fucking him and mocking him for it. He thought as to how he had nearly admitted to something as abhorrent as hell.

He felt sick when he climaxed again. He felt sick when it somehow managed to force its way into him even deeper: to pull him onto its cock in with a violence even greater than what had already been visited upon him. When it somehow wrung from his body another orgasm and another after that and another, he felt nothing; his vision had burnt into a field of unending white as it made of him a perfect circuit of agony and arousal.

He did not feel it either when it pushed into him one final time, when it flooded his body with its seed and roared out in grotesque ecstasy. He felt nothing when it spoke in words he could nor hear or begin to decipher.  

And then--somehow--he pulled away from himself, and he felt a deeper nothing still.




The room was black when Dycedarg felt the shock of cool air on his naked body again. The candle had evidently spent itself in the course of the creature’s lusts. As he stumbled to the ground, he did not catch himself. He fell, and it was a bad fall. He tasted blood upon his lips.

He shuddered as he lay there a moment, dizzy and shivering. He did not know how long or to what degree his benefactor had loosed its grip on him, but he knew that this moment of clarity was not for his benefit and that it would fade just as quickly as it had come on. For all he had once pretended that he was still Dycedarg Beoulve, master of Igros, the beast had quickly freed him of such vain and absurd delusions. At best, he could consider himself a parasite now: some middling shadow of a human being that rode alongside Adramelech’s greater mind. At worst, he feared himself to be an illusion, some memory of a man upon whom the Lucavi sometimes mused.

Whatever he was, the creature did not allow him any fantasy of control. He admired it a little--he supposed--in its cruelty, even if he was its victim. It had been nothing if not efficient in what it determined to do. Word had already come from Zeltennia of cities begging for surrender, afraid to endure the horrors to which the Northern Sky was now given. What was the fate of one man to that?

What, for that matter, was the fate of two?

Even in the dark, he closed his eyes as the memories of the past hour washed over him. He did not know who it was that bid his body move, but he found himself scrambling to his knees, clumsily feeling about in the darkness until he found the object at the center of his dread.

Zalbag was there, naked and motionless on the ground. His skin was still warm, but Dycedarg did not take it as proof he lived.

As he fumbled about trying to trace the shape of his body--trying to find a pulse--Dycedarg thought it a strange sort of relief that he could not see him--could not see what a wreck had been made of him or what expression it was he wore. He did not want to imagine his brother looking at him.

He placed his hand across Zalbag’s throat, trying to make out that place beneath the jaw where one could feel the heart beating, and he considered if it would not be best to wring his neck while he lay there. As dear as revenge had been to Dycedarg, he had surely surfeited upon it now. Ensuring Zalbag was dead would make everyone’s affairs less complex.  

It was when he moved to throttle him for the second time that day that he heard him gasp, ragged and pained beneath his grip.

He told himself that he ought ignore it--that he ought have done with this foolishness and make himself the last surviving son of House Beoulve. He told himself that in the coming world, death was the only remaining place of safety anyway.

As the cords of his muscles froze in place--locked themselves off and denied him their command--he told himself that it would be well done. 

He told himself that he would like it if his brother were safe.

He waited there suspended then, feeling Zalbag’s beating heart beneath his hand and the whisper of his breath on his face. He was still in the near blackness as he waited for the faint outline beneath him to move once more. Dycedarg knew, even without seeing, when his brother’s eyes were on him once again.

When he heard him moan--broken and pained--he could only fume and tremble inwardly. He could only imagine what it would be to have the power again to silence him forever.

“Dycedarg…” His brother slurred the name as he spoke it. “Do you remember…?”

He said nothing--did nothing. Adramelech did not even give him leave to alter the pattern of his breath.

“There was some time… some time once…”

Dycedarg wondered how long he would last without a healer. He still did not know the extent of his injuries but he could imagine them; he had felt what they had done to him.

“Dycedarg.” His voice suddenly took on an unexpected clarity, as dying men have before their moment of crisis. “There was a time when we did not hate one another.”

There was no response he could make, and any and all of the manifold things he might wish to say in answer vanished away from him as he felt his arm move without his volition, running down his brother’s chest and through the mess of blood and spend that lay there. Zalbag hitched his breath as Dycedarg felt the burn of some unknown magic course out of him--something that left him with the same chill as when a healer’s arts re-knit a wound. 

As Zalbag began to sob beneath him, he could offer no commentary. The beast worked to restore his brother’s body--doubtless that it might be made a horrific oblation all over again--and Dycedarg could not offer the barest indication of his presence. 

His eyes, however, had begun to sting from want of blinking. When he inevitably let fall a tear, he imagined--ever so briefly--that it was some expression of his own will.