Disclaimer: These people belong to their makers, not to me.

Author's note: I'm not always this, uh, purple, and Xel isn't always this depressed. Promise. But did anyone else think he looked really, really trapped when Gaav was beating him up? Another mazoku could have reasons besides punishment, too; I understand the word can read 'masochist' as well as 'evil race.' And opposites do attract!

Eulogy

by Nightfall

They called you King of Fire. Highest and most puissant you were, blazing with flaming glory, your clean mane dancing with the love of the fight, and the fight was your love. Fire is like that. It destroys anything, destroys it cleanly, sears it from the world, so that nothing remains but a blackened shell, pure and harmless; grey ash floating on the wind. Sooner or later, the fire turns on itself. When there's nothing left to burn, breathing is not enough.

I am not a blazing thing. Me, men call poison, corruption, pollution. They will never grant me honor, never yield me their regard. The fate I dole out is rarely swift; no bright flare of agony before the endless night. I am a craftsman, slow, steady, and sure. Craftsmen are beneath contempt; assassins are at least quick. The masked knife in the darkness was never my style. Let me work calmly, quietly, openly, and in the light, casting my unassuming shadow before the sun.

I tried the glory thing, Gaav. They remember, and have forgotten, and shudder at my smile without recognition. A thousand noble hearts burst as I swept my gaze across the sky; a rain of ichor from heaven, washing away my every illusion, the last vestiges of my innocence.

What can I say? I was young. As you were young. Do you understand? Have you learned now in defeat what I learned from victory, as you slave for your brother, his plaything, a toy to be trodden on as they tread on me? Does your mighty roar tremble the foundations of hell, does it shiver the walls? Does the silence drip from your stone ceiling, does it rust the strong bars of your cell?

Are you whole still, Chaos-Dragon, or have you grown up yet?

The Lord of the Flames must be dependant on no single source for fodder. We, eaters of darkness, children of the void--we are all creatures of flame in the end, every one. Those of us who think and live, we are those who can feed on ourselves. It is the dry tinder of our felled hearts that sustains us.

You must have been a mighty oak once, Gaav. Even stilled as we are, undead, you were beautiful in the autumn, red and gold and fierce and thrashing. None could tame you, none could contain you, none constrain you. You never bent, never deviated, never submitted. You were a glory and a power, straight and strong.

I ached with admiration for you; yearned with it. As for you, you despised me. And that was right and proper.

The oak can never love the grass. It presses close, and its very presence steals nourishment from the soil that should by rights belong to that far mightier being. It is a thing to be sat and trodden on, and torn apart by young fingers for whistling or less reason even than that. It bends at the slightest touch of wind, and has no thorns, no bark--no self defense at all. It can shield roots from the elements a little, and that's all. It has a certain charm, but it is a lowly thing. Worst of all, there's no end to the stuff, and no getting rid of it. It spreads its roots quietly for miles, amiably surrounds its neighbors, and quickly chokes anything that gets too greedy.

Would it really have been so bad to join me in the shadows? Would it have killed you to have swallowed your shining courage and shown a little restraint? Was your soul so bound to midnight you could not bear the twilight's touch? Brave fool, was it really necessary to proclaim your defection so proudly?

You were King of Fire, Gaav. But a puff of breath is death to a candle-- and I am the cyclone.