It just fell into my head one day I had gotten careless and started thinking about everything and nothing. Thanks for betareading again goes to Iviaedhros, and now I really should get back to betaing his work, before I forget again.
Also, ironically because life happened, I have now gotten a lot more time on my hands, and I intend to end my two other stories and get serious with my writing here in general. Well, as serious as a hobby should ever become, anyway.
- Grey Skin -
Time had run out for the great city-state of Azarath. Now it floated majestically in all it's shinning splendor and dignity. In a matter of minutes it would burn and crash spectacularly, just as soon as Trigon (First of Demonkind, Destroyer of Worlds, Incarnation of All Evil, Source of All Darkness, ad infinitum...) figured out what to do with this latest of unforeseen obstacles.
He had seen her as soon as he breached the dimensional wall, his four unfocused, all-seeing eyes instantly taking in the entirety of the planet. Where he entered was not important. He could have materialized somewhere inside the planet, he didn't really check, but in the space of another moment he was before her, sensing her soul and mind and confirming his suspicions.
"Unbelievable..." The word left him like a disbelieving curse. His terror-inspiring visage screwed up in disgust.
Raven, interrupted in her meditation, calmly opened her eyes to meet his gaze, unflinching. It was a condescending look that said 'believe it' and flipped him off simultaneously, much like her appearance right now.
Her robes were so lily-white that dust seemed to flee from the fabric, the beast-like power he had bestowed upon her at her conception was chained and tamed, and he sensed the heart-deep benevolence within her, rooted in wisdom more than innocence. It was all palpable to him like a stiff breeze and would have made a lesser monster disintegrate spontaneously from the proximity.
The Seed of Evil, his one-way ticket to the prime plane, was, in a word, pure. Balanced and at rest within herself, untainted despite of her heritage. No, it would be more accurate to say that she was this pure *because* of all he had given her with his essence.
That his own flesh and blood could be twisted into *this* was not only unbelievable, it was shaming.
They were in the innermost sanctum of the central temple complex of Azarath. To these halls, only the most trusted of the High Priestess Azar held admittance. Marble and sky-scraping ceilings abounded, with pale light-rays entering through high windows at appropriate intervals, but it was still more than well-lit. 'At least it's spacious,' Trigon thought to himself. He could comfortably stand 30 feet tall in here without scraping against the columns.
She spoke, and her words were predictable: "I knew you would be here today. You have come to destroy Azarath and to take me for whatever purpose you sired me for." The girl stood down from her floating lotus position and set her feet on the ground. "You will not succeed in either. Azarath will not die easily, demon. She will fight you to the last breath, and so will I." White tendrils emerged from her fingers and eyes as she spoke.
Trigon scoffed. "There will be no fight, daughter."
Raven nodded insistently. "Yes, there will. You may have sired me, but I am not your daughter, and you are not my father. You can't control me. I would kill myself before I become a tool for you, even if it means breaking the precepts. There is nothing that you can do that will make me bend to your will," the young girl said, and the demon-lord knew it to be true. Her voice was even and controlled as she spoke. No fear or loathing. Nothing to work with. The monks had done a thorough job on his child, that much was for certain. No matter. He was Trigon, he was going to break a thousand-year city state in fifteen minutes, and then he'd further his plans for a world's destruction, with time to spare before he would have to return to the prison plane. He had ways to deal with things like these.
The demon-giant crouched in front of his gem. The movement was like a crimson landslide before the slight frame of the fourteen-year-old, and Raven was a small girl even for her tender age. "Your heart is very pure. It is purer than any human heart I have ever seen," he started soliloquizing rhetorically.
Seeing that there would be no altercation for the moment, Raven stopped glowing in preparation for battle, but silently kept a wary eye on the towering figure before her.
"Yes it is. You are so pure I wonder if there is anything at all inside you," Trigon continued. "Azar has raised you to deny me, even the part of me that is inside you. And in doing so, you have denied and unmade yourself."
"I have seen you inside me, and I have conquered the darkness. I have destroyed and remade it, and if I've been remade in the process, then I have no regrets."
"You have shaped yourself, and shaped the essence that is the power I gave you. You are well prepared, pure and powerful enough to defy even me." At least enough to kill herself if he tried to dominate her brain by force... If the little waif hadn't locked away and sterilized her own emotions, she might have smiled at this admission.
... He would have to be more subtle.
"But have you ever wondered, daughter? For all those years you have meditated, the spilled opportunity to enjoy the time I have given you, and for all this purity you have gained... Have you ever wondered how dark the light is?"
She blinked, not understanding in the short time before the demon's eyes flashed with a deeper burning and she was seized by agony. Her chest convulsed violently, as if a parasite that had festered behind her ribcage for years suddenly grew and decided to end its tenure in this host. The psychic energies that ever danced within Raven like a otherworldly thunderstorm split in two, and one half burst through the crimson glow over the screaming girl's heart.
Two cold hands grasped Raven's head, and her cry grew quiet, perhaps in the dread of understanding what was happening.
It was not hands placed there to soothe, merely to find leverage. The colorless mirror-image of Raven pulled herself in front of her, the apparition's lower body still trapped within the white-robed body crumbled on the polished marble floor. Indigo eyes met baleful red.
"No..." Raven managed to choke regretfully with lungs that were warped by the conjuration.
"I was within you," the manifestation said, surprise widening its own eyes at this discovery.
And then, with a mutual, telekinetic effort, they wrenched themselves from each other. The apparition arched through the air before catching herself in the air where Raven could get a good look at her.
It had her face, her body and her powers, but no color painted it except for the red of the eyes. Raven's own skin was pale, but it still was human, still alive. This thing, on the other hand, was dead gray. The cloak was a deeper shade and the leotard black underneath. Even her black hair seemed darker on this copy.
It was her, but only a part of her that she had sought to erase from her soul for years now. And it too knew this. It was after all, a part of herself.
"Your silly teenage rebellion ends here, daughter. Your small life will end." Trigon had shrunk to a more human if still hulking proportions and put a hand on Darker Raven's shoulder. "And with your death, maybe your life can begin," he added to his new daughter.
The Darker Raven didn't squirm at his touch, but he sensed her discomfort. Purer Raven stood up and glowed with power at her Shadow. "I told you, devil: I would never kill anyone but myself," she reminded him with a hint of misplaced victory in her voice.
He smirked a bit. "And you will."
"And I told you that there would be a fight."
He smirked a little more, baring murderous fangs. "And you were right."
The Darker Raven turned her head to address the demon. "Father, it's unnecessary. I won't defy you, so there's no need to do this." Her voice was a toneless drone that further reminded Purer of a corpse. Already the smallest buds of bitter antipathy broke the tranquil surface of her mindscape's crystal lake. 'And just when she is no longer necessary...' Trigon thought to himself.
"Don't fool yourself, shadow." Purer Raven taunted. "It is the only joy he will ever understand, and besides, you are my enemy as much as he is. You are Him."
Darker Raven faced her parent incarnation. "All that light and all those teachings are blinding you. You see his power, how it dwarfs our own and all of Azarath, and yet you insist on resisting. It is hopeless to fight. At least this way, you will be spared."
"It makes no difference if I die, or if all of existence dies. So long as you never submit, evil will never win!" And with that, the beacon of light that was Raven poured all of her purity and all of her magic, her psychic powers and her skill into undoing her own Shadow. The colorless girl who spoke only in a monotone only watched her doom fly at her in a thousand tendrils of brilliant white, hesitating for a moment that stretched into seconds.
Three seconds had passed without her death. The crimson giant walked around Darker Raven to look her in the face. "And you say you understand the futility of trying to fight my will. But still you hope that she would destroy you and leave me childless." He brushed her with a claw, and shining runes burned into her skin like a disciplinary caress, but faded quickly. "I can't control you either." It was starting to become humiliating. "But I don't need to. Because if you won't dispose of this failed gem, then I'll do it myself."
"No!" Darker Raven exclaimed panicked, understanding the implications of that statement. He sensed his dark daughter's sympathy for her 'sister'. "She deserves mercy. I'll kill her."
Trigon left the fight between his two daughters to amble towards those who had discovered his entrance into this world. They had hurried so and were close by now.
That old woman, Azar, was flying herself and the elder monks in a rare display of 'arrogant power' to the sanctum that was now shaking with the forces unleashed there. Raven's teacher had lived long enough, he decided. She and her entourage promptly burst into flames in the courtyard outside the entrance to the Fifth Chapel, only two hundred meters to the east of their goal.
There was another that he would let come close enough to see his face again. She was a woman now, wiser and colder. But all that she had learned in this sanctuary evaporated when she materialized before him, all her hard-earned composure coming to nothing before him. Animated fire followed in his footsteps, devouring the stone-building and whispering and piercing her with four thousand eyes. She sank to her knees. Appropriate.
He picked her up so she could see him. "It is so good to see you again, lovely Arella. Almost makes me nostalgic. You won't get to speak to or touch her this time either. You are far too late to love our daughter. Of course, not that you ever really did in the first place." She buried her face in her hands, silent tears starting to drip through her fingers. She didn't have to speak, and she knew it.
He took her by her midriff, easily closing his hand around her and waking an old terror in the woman's memory. "But believe it or not: I'll let you leave a message for her." He took her hands away and made her look him in the eyes. "I'll leave it here for her to find if she should ever return. Perhaps looking for guidance, perhaps for shelter like you did. She will only find your echo."
His dark daughter would find only an echo left for another one to hear. Useless words suffused with all the hopelessness that Trigon could stuff into Arella as she drew her last breaths.
In the innermost, light and darkness clashed and cut through the tall pillars, rapidly bringing down the great structure that had taken most of a century to raise. Space and environment meant nothing in this battle. The Ravens bent the dimensions around them and tore gouges in the dimensional walls, matched their raw power in massive discharges of lumen and umbra and slipped through each others telekinetic nets, preventing each other from simply rotating their brains around inside their skulls. Emotions that they hadn't experienced for years threatened to burst their hearts with each empathic offensive, painting each other as beloved and despicable at the same time. All emotions were quelled as fast as they arose, but already they were resorting to feelings that no human had or demon had ever felt before, waking bizarre ecstasies, pains and desires to the both of them. The battle of minds that was fought at the same time as the physical and super-physical battles blurred the lines of individuality more than they already were, and often Raven found herself moving in perfect symmetry.
At least there were no battle of words, for they understood each other with an intimacy that no two true individuals could ever attain.
But true mirrors of each other they were not. One fought to end the battle she had fought her whole life against the inherent wrongness in herself, while the other fought for the sake of the other, that she might die a quick death. And that was why Purer was winning the battle, slowly wearing Darker's mind out.
So, still siphoning the last of Arella's soul through her mouth, Trigon extended a thought and tripped Purer Raven's concentration. Before the moment of Purer's slip of mind was over, her frail body was slung by a fraction of the monstrous forces clashing, and scattered across the ruins of Azarath.
"Happy Birthday, Raven."
Psychic body language told him that she didn't understand. He was the only one that was happy.
"On Earth, it is customary to congratulate each other on the date of one's birth. You should learn these things, because you are going to earth."
She understood. The colorless Raven floated, huddled in her cloak without looking at the mass of Azarath sinking towards the silver ocean far below.
"It's also customary to give presents to the birthday child."
She tensed, apprehensive.
"I don't have any for you, though. I don't make a very good dad." He laughed somewhere he found the primitive joke funny. "But, you're also supposed to wish for something in advance. How about you wish for something now?"
Raven hesitated. Then: "I want to have colors. Not these eyes. I want hers."
Thus, Trigon colored Raven with purple eyes and what other colors pleased him, but left her skin untouched. It made her look dead, which was appropriate for one who had committed suicide.