I B I D O L O R
Written on June 13, 2019 (♊)
Content Warning: 💀This ficlet, while it does not contain explicit sex, contains gore, implied incest, and just a really bad time all around.💀
Author's Notes: Title taken from the Latin aphorism "Ubi amor, ibi dolor" (Where there is love there is pain?). The language used in the ceremony for Altima is adapted from Rofel/Loffrey's incantation from the original game. If anyone caught it, the allusion to another fanwork of mine is intentional. :)
Zalbag did not know how long he had been made to stand before the black-bannered walls of Mullonde. He was grateful, however, that in the midst of whatever ceremony or proclamation was unfolding, the thing that had once been his sister was not within sight. He had grown accustomed to much since the calamity, but it grieved him still that the High Seraph had left Alma so like herself. What need had a God of his sister's awkward innocence?
What need had Gods of anything?
It was an insipid question, and one nobody in the world to come would dwell upon. What was necessity and what was caprice could not be disentangled now. He knew that they apparently had a use for generals whether they needed them or not. Somewhere alongside him, the polished armor of a templar caught the sun, casting crescents of white hot light onto the stones in front of them.
There was the roar of music. The crowds beneath him shouted; the clerics behind him prayed; the magic that tethered him to his wreck of a body flickered bright for a moment and then burnt its way into his muscles and sinew. He made some sort of gesture or salute that was doubtless meant to be part of the spectacle.
Faolos Altima feolio! Zorda Altima feolio!
There was the scent of fire somewhere on the wind then—of smoke and burning fat. Another shout went up, and he heard the clatter of symbols and the roar of horns. He knelt as was commanded of him and tried his best to remain deaf to what cries the music did not drown.
Dycedarg was beside him when next he recalled himself. The sun was red and low in the sky, and they were marching back to the high cathedral. He had no power to direct his gaze, and he assumed that it was the will of the thing that moved him that he should look to his brother.
"You are to be congratulated, General. The eastern cities have fallen as far as Zarghidas. They say the Ordallians fear your name once again."
He could make no response. He knew that he was being told these things that it might grieve him.
"I'm sure you will have much to tell me once we are back under Our Lady's roof. We have some hours we must pass together there."
If the seal that lay over Zalbag were to have lifted, even slightly, he would have tensed—flinched, perhaps—taken in some faint intake of air stopping short of a gasp. As it was, he merely thought of the myriad reactions that were not his to make, and allowed dread to sink into him.
They did not talk further, but Zalbag felt with every footstep how near to one another they remained: two breathless bodies in proximity.
He thought he had been in the gilt halls through which they passed before, but his memories were fractured, and he did not know if they had been rightly pieced together. Places and times would shuffle and realign themselves in all the lapses he forgot. There were battles; there were ceremonies; there was pain. The particulars were fast to fall away.
Dycedarg walked some ways in front of him now, and Zalbag marveled that he still moved with all the outward accidents of humanity. It was strange that the creature always registered, even now, as his brother. As many times as he had seen it in its full and unveiled awfulness—as many times as it brought him once more to darkness—Zalbag could not look at his keeper without giving it his brother's name.
He knew where they headed now as they turned towards the crypts, and the terror of what was to transpire blossomed into an almost rapturous anticipation as a hand, smoldering with unseen fire, grabbed the cold flesh of his wrist.
He would be free to struggle soon; he would be free to cry out. He would be free from the burden of fear, for there would be no more dread of waiting—no more apprehension of what was to come. He would be brought to some place worse than he could imagine and be thus relieved of all the terrors of imagining.
Zalbag screamed without screaming, throat ragged with effort as he writhed around the hands that had pierced him through to wring the dead air from his lungs. He was himself now—alive to movement and its agonies. He could play out the motions of struggle and resistance as best as he was able, and he could savor the finality of watching them fail.
His mouth turned bitter as a gout of black ichor spilt from his lips. He clawed wildly at the beast that held him as it lapped it away, and found it no shock that he won nothing for his efforts. It clutched him closer a moment before it dashed him onto the gold-flecked marble below.
"Does this console you," Zalbag mouthed to the floor, shaking as he tried uselessly to right himself. "Do you have need of something to torment?"
It made no reply; it gave no rationale. What need had Gods of anything? Zalbag was grabbed again then and pinned roughly atop some sepulchre. His skin burned where the creature's muzzle brushed his face. The air was chill against the parts of him torn open. He tried to recall whatever land it had been where he was a child.
He failed. That past would not resolve. As the beast pressed close against his flesh, however, he considered that something of Dycedarg must remain—that the horned animal above must contain some impression of a time when they had been men. There was no cause that he should suffer this but that it hated him.
As he felt the bite of its mouth against his, he trembled a little as if he might laugh.
Only Dycedarg had cause and capacity to hate this deeply.