A/N: A one-shot written around page 158 of LFG. I don't like this one as much as the previous, but hey, crackhead is what crackhead does.
'Life was so much simpler before.'
It was the one thought that rang through Richard's mind, unusually rattled by the events of the kangaroo court. He tried hard to ignore the memories; he fought to wipe away the imprints they left on his mind, and to pretend that he was still the same as he had always been, and shall always be. Forever and ever, Amen.
He failed. Every time.
No matter what he did, who he killed, or where he went, the mouse--smothered by his innate darkness--and his treacherous mind continued to blindside him when he could least afford the distraction. He had hidden it well, certainly--he wouldn't be the Lord of Darkness, otherwise--but to his own self, the damage was only too evident. He was becoming someone else. A stranger, and yet, himself; who he had been before. It was quite possibly the most disconcerting situation anyone could ever find themselves in.
He hated it.
He hated the feeling of loss, of incompletion--that he was only a part of a person. Before he had run into Cale happily skipping along like a schoolgirl in the forest, there had only been Richard, Emperor of the Black. Now...things were different. He loathed not knowing fully who or what he had been.
He loathed not knowing more.
Richard was half tempted to yank his own brain out of his head and splatter it on one of the shattered walls, just so it could shut up for five seconds. He would have done it, too, save that his undead body still needed the damned thing to keep running properly. (He recalled blankly the last time Pella had decided to use her trademark axes to lobotomize him. He couldn't speak a coherent sentence for almost four hours. The looks he got were priceless.) Frustrated, and agitated at the turn of events, he stood in the silent courtroom in the Plane of Suck, and wished something would break the monotony of his own inner monologue.
"Will you..." the Judge rasped, "...tell me why?"
That was not the kind of monotony-breaking question he was looking for.
He glared at the Judge darkly, lying broken in the center of the demolished court floor. He had decimated the entire place for demanding that very answer, and this fool was going to waste his dying breath on asking the same thing? What kind of idiots ran this demonic plane, anyway?
He looked away, reproachfully, as words unbidden bubbled up his too-dry throat. "I'm beginning to remember." How odd; was that a hint of shame he felt?
'How to tap-dance; what do you think?' he snapped internally, scooping up a cooling skull from the rubble at his feet. He needed to keep his hands busy, and he wasn't certain why. Pensive, he raised the remains to his face and stared into the vacant sockets. "My life," he admitted. Oh yes, that was definitely shame. "Before I was turned."
How many centuries, millennia, had it been since he had felt shame? Or pity? Or anything other than a vague, all-encompassing boredom? This plane sucked so very much, and the sooner he could put it behind him and forget this entire fiasco happened, the better.
His imaginary gutter mouse pillaged his insides, making a respectale-sized sitting room out of his intestines, before it shifted and took a nice large chunk out of his spine.
He straightened, gazing upwards in defeat. The demon-rat won this round. "I recall my home," he clarified; to himself or the Judge, though, was unsure. "My family."
Richard smirked sardonically, perpetually hidden beneath his cowl, as one of his first memories fluttered about. His father. That spiteful, stubborn old bull. "I recall my Lord Father's distaste of my chosen profession." Distaste was a gross understatement; raging, uncontrolled hatred would have been a more accurate descriptor of the Lord Ashendale's rants. He also remembered that the hatred was reciprocated. Eagerly.
Had that been what started it all?
He tried hard to forget, but there were times he tried even harder to remember. The cold-blooded, gleeful killer in him wanted to drop these nonsensical things from his mind, purge them and return to his pure state. Yet, his thirst for the knowledge was insatiable. On the rare occasion in which he allowed himself this most embarrassing, selfish indulgence (usually the few periods in which he wasn't fwooming with glorious, reckless abandon), he would scour every scattered memory, event, sound, and color that had presented itself to him.
He regretted trying; it left him with nothing but a headache and a sense of inadequacy, that was sated only by making random creatures suffer in delightfully malicious fashions. He once killed a rat by singing to it until its head exploded. Or perhaps that had been the miniature bonfire he'd set in the creature's stomach.
"It comes in flashes," he explained to the Judge in confidence, knowing the demon would be telling no one this, "waves..." The warlock tapered off as a telltale tingling began to form, languidly sprawling itself along the base of his skill like a spoiled indoor cat. Or Sooba. "In colors."
The wave he spoke of crested in his mind, barreling through the thick, chalky ink of his...his...was it his soul? His essence? It didn't make as much sense as it used to. Well, it had never made sense; mysticism had never been his strong suit, but then, he'd never cared about it until this point. Truth be told, he wasn't entirely sure he cared now--
The mouse begged to differ, it appeared.
Whatever it was, it offered only a token resistance. Eyes wide, momentarily stunned at its raw strength, he murmured, "It comes." His body went slack with resignation as the onslaught of new memories rushed over him.
For a moment, but a fleeting heartbeat--figuratively speaking, of course--Richard no longer felt fragmented. He knew who he was, what his purpose was in life, who his allies were, what he wanted to do, and where he wanted to go. A girl with scraggly blonde hair, a waif, almost cute--
The image dissolved.
He felt something akin to pain.
'Life was so much simpler before.'
His eyes cracked open in dangerous, baleful slits. "And it's changing me," he growled. He was the manipulator, not the manipulated. Who or what sought to twist him into something he was not, oh, they would know no end to their agony. 'Unless, of course,' the thought sprang up, 'I was already twisted--'
He forcefully shut the thought away, stuffed it down into the recesses of the murky darkness, and turned to face his fallen adversary. "Like Cale, I sense that I am on a path. I don't know where it leads, yet I am compelled to follow." He faltered for a moment, before stating, truthfully, "For the first time in hundreds of years, I have a goal."
A small weight was lifted from his shoulders as the words left his mouth; as if saying it aloud had been the only way to prove its voracity, it's severity. Richard had a goal, and he would be damned (again) if anything stood in his way.
The demon raised a hand and pointed in harsh judgment. Hadhe not been bleeding profusely and very near death, Richard may have almost been impressed at the display of authority. Actually, he would have just set his head on fire, instead. He missed his beloved Fwoom. "The court finds you guilty."
He knew what the implication was. He was going soft.
He grimaced. So be it. "I accept the verdict." He lunged forward and gripped the Judge's head, promptly severing it from the rest of its body. That felt good. Fwooming would have felt better, of course, but circumstances being what they were...a good decapitation was just as satisfying. "But I deny the sentence." Wiping the blood on the corpse's clothes, Richard turned his back on the broken shell of the courtroom and headed for his convenient, hand-made exit.
"I have a destiny."
Hidden behind a charred section of ceiling, Hctib Elttil stared at his horrid master in a mixture of awe and horrible, derisive pleasure. Never in a million years would he have thought that terrible Warlock would have given him such information! And so sincerely!
Oh, he was going to have fun with this.