...his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav'n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal'd the most High,
If he oppos'd...

- John Milton, Paradise Lost



She is standing facing him, and more eyes are on her than she knows. Hidden, veiled by a curtain of memory and time, he can watch her and never be watched in return.

He has come here so many times before... watching, always watching. Trying to know something he cannot understand. She is the Enemy, the Rival---a part of him says this, over and over. But she is not the one he is watching.

He is watching the one she is facing--the one in whose memories he is resting incognito--like a slide show he slides the memories back and forth under mental fingertips, undetectable in the presence of small gods and mnemovores. So fascinating, this boy's memories--so terrifying.

"Oh, what an easy life it must be," the Rival says, that face so used to smiling frowning now, eyes hurt and not understanding what he could understand too well, "just to follow orders..."

The memories slid back and forth, back and forth like an invisible pendulum, the arc defining the whole. (Rinoa,) he responded--not then, never then, because that was too true to be answered... (Rinoa,) he thought, still unwilling to open himself to her, still unwilling to tell her what he so desperately needed her to hear--(Even if you end up as the world's enemy, I'll... I'll be your Knight.)

"Call it what you want," he had said, but he had never answered--"All we want is for you to achieve your goal."

Achieve your goal. Such a simple phrase. Such simple words.

"...achieve your goal using our help."

"How sad... Act on my decision? That's your duty?"

(Oh, what an easy life it must be...)

-

He woke up with blood on his hands where there had been no blood before, but that was no small matter for a Sorcerer and he didn't wonder where it had come from. Old blood had a habit of resurfacing, these days--this blood wasn't real, not as so much blood before had been.

He stood up, stripped himself to the waist, and bathed in the cold dawn air. It felt good, somehow--right and at the same time terrible--to stand like that, heart exposed to the world where a knife or a bullet could make short work of him. Not that he would ever allow that--not that he had nearly the courage to face death.

Not his own, anyway.

But, really, there was death all around him, and the land was cracked and shattered.

(This is the Darkness,) he thought, looking deep into himself in the cloudy reflection of a dirty mirror, cradling the power within him like a sickly, whispering child--one that he had to hold and reassure, even it might mean catching the sickness himself. (I bear the light... fero lucem. I bear the Light, and with such power comes... such dire things.)

He stared at himself, looking at his own eyes, his own hair--all the things that were so subtly changing. His own mother--and who was she, again?--wouldn't recognize him now. He never recognized himself.

(I,) he thought, (am the Descendent of Hyne, inheritor of His immortal power--the prodigal son, usurper of things meant for the daughter.)

"Hyne's Descendent," he said, and then said it over and over in a sort of pessimistic tongue-twister. "Hyne's descendent, Hyne's descynedent, Dyne's hescendent--"

--and he caught himself, grinning at the flash of white teeth made grey by the mirror.

"Dyne's hescendent, Dyne, ascendant!" (I am the bearer of light which was stolen for me from Hyne's true daughters, wrenched from the true Dyne Ascendant. I am the mugger, murderer and rapist, and there is a peace in this certainty. I am the Damned.)

He was still smiling into the mirror, and even though he knew that it was wholly inappropriate, he continued to do so anyway.

-

(That's your duty?)

SeeD was formed to destroy the Sorceress. That much, everyone knew.

(Even if you became the world's enemy, I'll...)

Squall Leonhart was the Commander of SeeD. That much, everyone knew.

(...I'll be your Knight.)

Squall Leonhart was the guardian--body, mind, and soul--of the last true Sorceress. That much, only Dyne knew.

(What an easy life it must be.)

And he didn't know what he felt at that. A part of it was terror (I am not afraid!)--that much he could understand. Leonhart (Leonhart, lion's heart, heart-of-the-lion...) could kill him--it could be ordered that that was his duty. Kill the Sorceress--and if the Sorceress wasn't available for killing, say if the Sorceress had taken up your soul and your love and you owed her everything, then the Sorcerer would do just as well.

But a part of him, so much deeper, so much stronger and more subtle, watched from within itself, coiled in what he could only call envy.

He had a father and did not know he had a father; this Dyne did not envy. (And who is a father, anyway...? Lammers was a father, perhaps, but where is he now?)

He was in something deeper than love and would not even admit to himself that it was love; this Dyne did not envy. (And I loved her, and I loved her, and I killed her, and I killed her...)

He knew who he was when he looked into the mirror, and he was not afraid that he would close his eyes and never again would the same person open them; this Dyne envied--but only a little.

Dyne looked deeper into him every day, and told himself that he was sizing up an enemy--a dangerous beast, a terrible enemy he would one day slay, and had to understand. And he would not admit to himself that he was terrified of the prospect...

He called it envy, because he would not--could not--admit to himself what it was.

-

The Serpent was caged, caged so tightly in the back of his mind that there was no escaping--no thought, no murmur, could escape. But Dyne would reach back and brush it with trembling mental fingers, afraid that it had passed away. Like a treasure that he would keep forever and never find a way to use, simple possession seemed to be the most important concern of any there could be.

But sometimes, like a delicious temptation, he would surrender to the urge to look at the serpent again--to reassure himself that it existed and he had it--to let it get a glimpse of him as he looked at it, staring deep into a consciousness far deeper and darker than his own.

Lucem Fero, it addressed him, and its tone was mocking--undefeated by captivity, undaunted and enraging. (I will have you,) a part of Dyne screamed, (I will have you and you will not mock me, for I shall make you mine--)

"I am the bearer of light," he said to himself in a spoken confirmation. "And I am Dyne Ascendant."

You are Lucem Fero, the serpent replied, the name of an ancient injustice.

(I am the mugger, murderer and rapist.) "You are more ancient than I am."

You are the Bearer of Light, and the Light far precedes me. Given that, all Bearers are equal.

"You are mine," he whispers, as if whispering it could make it true.

I am not the one you want, the serpent responds cooly--smiling in a serpent kind of way, one that said "You have been lying to everyone and yourself, but I will tell the truth." I am not the one you need. You have me, and it is nothing.

"I don't need anyone," he whispered. "I don't want anyone."

You want someone more than you can express, the serpent told him. All all you have to do is reach and take. But you won't do that, will you?

(I do not want anyone, and I will make you mine, never to taunt me or tempt me again--) "You," he said sternly and shakingly, "are a tempter and a deceiver."

And you, the serpent replied, are a liar and a fool, covetous Dyne Ascendant, Lucem Fero.

(Lucem Fero means "I bear the light,") he thought, (not "Bearer of Light.) But he said nothing.

He pushed the serpent away, and the last thing he heard was a hissing hating laughing. And, with a shudder and a whimper, he vowed once again (I shall make you mine.)

-

Leonhart is sworn to kill the Sorceress, and the Sorceress knows this. She knows this better than he knows this, and what is more, she understands.

"Squall's sword will pierce my heart," she says, and her face is made beautiful by the terrible acceptance.

His is not. He is at ten different kinds of war with himself, and in none is she the enemy. Even if she became the world's enemy--

"All we want is for you to achieve your goal using our help."

She would like to look disgusted, but she does not. She looks hurt, shaken, betrayed by some naive belief.

"Don't you ever worry about or even think about the well-being of your comrades!"

(I don't believe in relying on others.)

Oh, what an easy life. "Don't you understand!" Squall's sword will pierce my heart--

(...whatever.)

He will never, ever hurt her. Sincerely, he believes that he will die before he does.

Sincerely, Dyne believes so, too.

-

Dipping into Leonhart's mind was like dipping into wine--one could become lost and forget oneself so very easily in the time between one memory and the next. And, when Dyne did come back to himself, the sensation was...troubling. Something akin to putting on a filthy robe after taking a long bath.

He stepped into his own mind apprehensively, feeling the sickly magic and the sleeping serpent within him. And, cradling himself in the warmth of thin blankets, he thought again to himself (I am Dyne Ascendant.)

And all the world wished him dead. (Not that I became the world's enemy--)

And he was terrified.

Only your death should please us, the sleeping-waking serpent said, and his cold calm reason seemed to stop Dyne's heart. There is no room in the world for Sorcerers and Guardian Forces.

(Then I shall make you mine--) "Sorcery is absolute and interminable," he protested. "It will remain until the stars themselves die. You are mortal."

Humans are mortal, and you are still human. But we are not human... any more.

"Why do you want to kill me?" he moaned. "I've never done anything to you."

No, the serpent agreed, making a mockery of him and his sad attempt to imprison a beast he could not hope to contain. But you could, perhaps.

"Perhaps? Perhaps?" He pulled the fabric tighter around him, trying to reduce the world to himself and the blankets. "All the world hates me. Because I could do something? Because I might?"

That is the truth of Sorcery, the serpent hissed. You are the world's enemy. And it is not for anything you have done, but for anything you may.

"No. Please..."

This much is absolute, the serpent said, and smiled in such a serpent way.

-

"SeeD will come kill me, right?" She is beautiful and hatable, standing so perfectly and mocking him so well. "And the leader of SeeD is you, Squall..."

She bears the Light. Does she not? Does she not fear death?

"Squall's sword will pierce my heart."

(Even if you end up as the world's enemy...) "I'll never do anything like that."

"It's OK if it's you, Squall. Nobody else."

"...the sorceress I'm after is not you, Rinoa." The prospect of her death terrifies him.

The prospect of her life terrifies Dyne.

"It doesn't mean anything. Don't worry about it."

"How sad... that's your duty?" SeeD was formed to kill the Sorceress. Squall Leonhart is a SeeD.

(I'll be your Knight.)

How sad...

-

He did not love Squall. He found it insufferable that Squall might not love him.

Squall would never love him, because he was not the Sorceress. (I am Dyne Ascendant--)

--and where love could not exist, he would settle for one of two things--absolute fealty, or death.

(And the three are, really, the same thing.)

Covetous Dyne Ascendant.

"He should die before he should hurt me," Dyne said to the emptiness.

He will kill you before he dies, the serpent replied.

"I have no knight."

You deserve no Knight.

"I..."

You shall have no Knight.

"I want him."

He cares nothing for you.

"I want him, and I shall make him mine."

He will kill you before he dies, the serpent--tempter and deceiver--said again. He and his Sorceress.

"I will kill him before he kills me. He will die before he hurts me," (what an easy life it must be...)

You, the serpent laughed, are a liar and a fool, Lucem Fero.

Dyne shuddered, and could not stop. "You," he whispered, do not bear the light."