Author's Notes:

It's great to be posting Shining fan fiction again. This story is one I've been meaning to write for a long time, and now that we're celebrating the 20th anniversary of Shining in the Darkness, this seems like the perfect time for it! Hope you all enjoy, and do share your thoughts on the story either way.

The milieu and characters of this fanfic are property of Sega. This story is set in the midst of the final scenes of Shining Force Gaiden: Final Conflict.

Dark Nativity

plot - Martin III

script - Martin III, Hiroyuki Takahashi(original dialogue taken from Final Conflict)

The contractions became sharper, harsher, as if her own body was trying to grind her innards to jelly. Mishaela gasped, convulsed, and grasped at the sides of the stone slab in an effort to endure the sensation of being pulled apart from the inside. It so consumed her awareness that she could no longer even feel the presence of the revived Lord Darksol.

But she did not curse her fate, or her enemies. True, if Max and Ian's self-styled "Shining Force" hadn't interfered with Lord Darksol's plans, she wouldn't have had to use her magic to induce an unnaturally early labor, and her pains would have been much less. For that matter, if her child were anything other than the offspring of a Devil King, she would be facing only normal labor and not the unholy agony that came with a naturally evil child being pushed out through her narrow loins.

But she did not curse. This birth was a victory. More than that, it was an honor. More than a century of loyalty, hard work, and devotion was at last being rewarded...

No; such a claim is too crude, Mishaela reflected. Even if I devote another five centuries to the service of Lord Darksol, it wouldn't be enough to merit such a reward. To be chosen as the mother for the son of Lord Darksol himself is a glory greater than I could have hoped for.

So the pain tore at her, over and over, but she held on without wishing for anything else. While she did fear that the unnatral labor would kill her as much as she had ever feared anything, her life was an acceptable loss. A single devil waited on her near the entrance to the cave, not only to help deliver the child, but to take care of him should anything happen to her. Mishaela's only worry was that she might be deprived of the honor of holding and nourishing Lord Darksol's son, of seeing him grow towards his glorious potential.

The contractions slammed into her, over and over, blinding her with the pain. She endured, focusing on the image of Darksol's victory. She had assigned all the devil army, save the one attending to her, to fighting the Shining Force, and it had paid off. Perhaps an hour ago, her being had flooded with the invigorating sensation of Lord Darksol's full presence in the mortal world. Though she could no longer feel it now that her contractions had intensified, there was no question that she had succeeded. That was enough to make her pain seem trivial.

At length, the contractions subsided. There was no telling how long it had been, since the excrutiating agony made it feel like an eternity, and in a birth as unusual as this, no amount of time could be said for certain to be too long for her labor. But she could feel that this respite would not be long. Soon would come the final push, and that could be expected to be even more painful than any of her earlier struggles.

A sound made Mishaela start. A footstep. Not just any footstep, but one that was unexpectedly close. It was right by her side. Someone must have entered the chamber and approached while she was in her labor pains.

She struggled to sit up on her elbows, expecting to see her attendant - and yet, somehow knowing that was not who it was. The footstep did not sound right, and that may have been why she sat up with such urgency.

Or tried to. A hand pressed sharply, firmly against her chest, pushing her back down against the stone slab. Her breath quickened, tightened, and she fought in vain to get up.

"Don't bother, Mishaela," a soft voice said. "You are no match for me, not in your current state."

"Oddeye," she gasped. "How... Lord Darksol...?"

"He's gone." By tilting her head a certain way and straining her eyes, Mishaela could make out Oddeye's face. His voice was calm, and vaguely... sympathetic. "Can't you feel it yet, Mishaela? He's been resealed into the confines of Arc Valley."

"That's... impossible!" Her disbelief could not have been greater had she just learned that elves were capable of breathing fire. Yet she knew Oddeye spoke the truth; she could no longer feel Darksol's presence.

"Nothing is impossible for Lord Zeon. You were a fool to challenge him in this way, Mishaela. You should have kept a low profile after Darksol's defeat in Rune." He shook his head. "Then again, you are not half the fool that Max is. To fall for that doll trick twice, both times thinking he'd killed you... first in Demon Castle, and now again at Grans Tower. From what I'm told, you've actually tricked that robot slave of his with dolls three times. Heroes never learn, it seems." He passed his fingers lightly across Mishaela's forehead, as though showing affection for one already deceased. "But there's no question that this is the real you. The best of your dolls can do almost anything you yourself can, but there is one thing no doll could ever do: bear a child."

Mishaela gritted her teeth. "Then go ahead... Stop gloating and be done with it! Finish me!"

She could not hold back the anxiety from her voice; as angry as she was at Oddeye, she was angrier at herself. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could ever wipe away the blot of this abject failure. Her lord had entrusted her with his first child, and she had failed to even carry it to term.

"I was not gloating," Odd Eye returned, sounding faintly surprised. "Forgive me if my wording made it sound otherwise. And forgive me once again, because I am not going to kill you just yet."

Mishaela frowned. "Then... when?"

"Isn't it obvious? As soon as your child is born." She stared at him, realizing what he intended. "I will take your child under my care, and the care of Zeon's other greater devils. We will raise him to be a proud general of Zeon's army. His life will be devoted to the furtherance of Lord Zeon's goals."

"You bastard," she hissed through clenched teeth. "You bastard! I swear by the foulest depths of Arc Valley that you'll pay for this!"

"How? With your death, Darksol loses the last significant follower he has left in this realm, and he himself is confined entirely to Arc Valley. Your cause is lost for all time. What hope have you for vengeance?"

Her eyes closed in frustration. He was right. "Damn you," she whispered. There had to be a way out of this. Not for her sake, but for Lord Darksol.

She focused her will, fighting to suppress the anxiety over her impending final labors. Her magic was almost entirely drained from her preparations for Darksol's revival, but she had more than enough for a good Blast spell to knock Oddeye back. He wouldn't be expecting her to manage such concentration in the midst of childbirth, and with Darksol's blessing, she might be able to disarm him. It was a faint and foolish hope, but it was all she had. She cleared her mind, blanking thoughts of her child.

I am Mishaela... supreme wizard in service to Darksol... and this fool will be punished for interfering with my plans.

She murmurred the words of the spell.

Nothing happened. She blinked, confused. It was not weakness - she felt no connection to her magic whatsoever.

"If you're wondering why you can't use magic," Oddeye remarked. "...I've cast a spell sealing off your powers for the next few hours. Ordinarily I would stand no chance of pulling off a trick like that on someone like you, but again, in your current state..."

She glared up at him. "Yes, you've certainly managed to get the better of a woman in labor. I wouldn't have thought you were one for such cowardice."

The blow struck home; Oddeye's face, always as handsome as an ivory bust, and as unrelenting, formed a set of fragile cracks.

"This is not something I would have chosen to do on my own," he said. His voice sounded as though he were the one who had been defeated and shamed. "This is by Lord Zeon's orders. I objected to some points of those orders, but he would not relent."

"That doesn't change the fact that you are executing those orders," Mishaela retorted.

"I never said that it did." He raised his hands. "But it is that, or disobey Lord Zeon. Bind!"

An intangible energy flowed into Mishaela's body, entering through the small of her back, shooting up through her spine, and then rippling simultaneously into her skull and arms above and her buttocks and legs below. The only part of her it left inviolate was her womb. Purely by instinct, she tried to pull away from the energy, and found herself unable to move, even though Oddeye had removed his hand from her in order to cast the spell. She was secured quite firmly to the stone slab on which she lay. For the first time in her centuries of life, she was really and truly helpless.

It was no longer a matter of how she was going to escape this fate; there was no hope for that. Whatever defense she could devise, Zeon would have planned for it.

"Very well," she admitted. "You have the power now. If you give your allegiance to Lord Darksol, he will give you the highest rank of any of his servants. You can name your piece of his future kingdom... even claim me as your consort, if you so desire..."

"I would sooner be a foot soldier under Lord Zeon than any place under Darksol," he returned, completely unmoved.

"What do you want! I'll give you anything! Anything!"

"Do you think I'd be doing this if I wanted anything other than to serve Lord Zeon?" His voice was angry now. "Your lord is not the only one who can command unwavering obedience."

A sudden pain shot through her, as though a sword fresh out of a blacksmith's furnace had just been thrust up through her vaginal opening. She gasped, her whole body tensing at once. The final moments were upon her; no more chance for futile efforts at escape. There was only one thing left for her to do.

"Oddeye," she panted, anticipating the next contraction. "My baby... his name is..."

"Lord Zeon has forbidden you from having anything to do with your son's upbringing. His name, as chosen for him by Lord Zeon, will be Mephisto."

She let out a wail of indignation at this cruel denial and agony at her next contraction. The pain was far more excruciating than any of her earlier suffering, and she knew she had only seconds left to make a last request; after that, the pain would consume her.

"Oddeye," she sobbed, abandoning her dignity. What use was there for dignity now? "Please, if you have any decency in you at all, let me hold him just once..."

"You invoking decency... now that is ironic." He held up two wads in his hands, and reached towards her head, saying with a regretful tone, "This is wax, to block your ears. Lord Zeon has decreed that you will know nothing of your child but the pain he brings with his birth, so you must be unable to even hear his first cries as he is introduced to the world. This is your payment for serving the one who, by foul trickery, confined Zeon to the prison of Arc Valley." He pushed the wax into her ears, and Mishaela's world went silent.

Then the final suffering began. She wailed, screamed, cursed whatever gods had made such agony possible, and periodically gibbered out pleas to Oddeye, with offers that were nonsensical, degrading, or both. Her voice could not move him, nor could his eyes see the tears and anguish on her face.

It took an age, but the last push came, bringing her torment to a sharp and unexpected end. There was a moment, then, of blind yet unshakable joy. She had done it. Against a world of pain harder than that endured by any mother before her, she had delivered her child. The fact that she had only delivered him to her enemies did not cross her mind for the moment. There was only the sense of accomplishment: she had created life, and pushed it forth into the world.

Weak though she was from her ordeal, the desire to see the son she had just given birth to would not let her rest. Pulling against the Bind spell, her arms reached as best they could for her child while her head lifted as much as it could to see him.

Her neck met the cold descending steel of Oddeye's sword. Only the Bind spell kept her head from rolling off onto the ground. Instead it lay there, as though still attached to her body, face still preserved in a state of blissful rejoicing at the birth of her child, the final sensation which Mishaela took with her to her grave.

That was only in a matter of speaking, of course; in accordance with Zeon's orders, Mishaela would have no grave, and Oddeye left her body for the worms. As for that inexplicable cry of happiness when she died, Oddeye resolved not to mention it to Zeon. It would displease him for no good end. No, he would tell Zeon that her final moment had been one of sheer terror. That would satisfy him.

The baby in his arms let out a particularly loud wail, startling Oddeye's thoughts away from such comparatively trivial matters. He ran his hand over the strangely deformed babe, the offspring of devil king and dark elf. He could feel sticky amniotic fluid splattered over him, adding to the grotesque impression of his gnarled fingers and the chill of his bloodless flesh. Truly, Oddeye thought with a strange wrench of his heart, a face only a mother could love.

There's no going back now, even if I should one day decide that I want to. My soul will be damned for eternity for what I have just done. Lord Zeon himself is not as reprehensible as I am. He merely gave the orders; I executed them.

Oddeye had no regrets about his actions. Damned he might be, but even damnation was attractive if it was in service to Zeon. He recognized the villany of his deeds, and embraced it wholeheartedly. Still, it did make him a bit uneasy. He had always followed Zeon's path by choice; now he was bound to it for the rest of his life.

And it did seem a shame... A malformed child, orphaned at birth. Without thinking why, Oddeye turned around so the baby could see the Ancient Tower and said, "Mephisto, this is the place where your parents sleep. Take a good look at it, and remember it well..."

Mephisto thrashed in his arms, still wailing and crying. No gentle mother's arms had greeted his arrival into the world outside the womb. No nourishing breast was there to feed him. Nor was there likely to ever be one. Oddeye planned to ask Cameela to serve as a nurse for the child, but he doubted she would go for the idea. The woman had her merits, but she was lazy, and there was no need for it. Greater devils could survive without things such as mother's milk.

"Hush," he whispered, rocking the babe. "There, there now, Mephisto. Don't cry." What sense is there in crying when your life is already determined? Mephisto's childhood would have been hard by his very nature, and the upbringing he is now to receive will make it even harder. His adulthood, on the other hand, is fated to be very easy. Power and a lack of moral compunction is a recipe for happiness.

Oddeye gave a contented sigh. "Well, Mephisto... we must go to the place where our comrades await us."

He turned and walked away from the tower, taking nothing from it but the child in his arms and the blood still wet on his sword.

END