I will most likely post this to y!Gallery later, and I should post both current LJ storybits to DA as well.
"Are you sure you're not peeking?"
Ashraj nodded, but it took more than having his eyes closed to block out what was around him. He had existed for so very long without needing to open his eyes, but in this moment he was truly showing Seire trust that was hopefully not foolish. Something had changed about the albino demon whose initial advances were so heartless. Unexpected compassion shown when the nightmare was told about- I do not want to think about it. Seire had even allowed Ashraj to dominate their second intimate encounter.
"Alright, we're here. Open your eyes."
Grey eyes that faded into a soft lilac center barely opened, other senses allowed now to take in this new place. Ashraj gasped at the beauty of it, a great field of shimmering white flowers that surely held vast magical properties in all that glow. Whatever its value might be to a different sort of heart, the wonder of such a sight far surpassed any such thoughts in the deity's mind. Above, clouds of deep purple swirled slowly with unseen currents, flickers of red within hinting at lightning that made no sound.
"I came here when I wanted to be alone... and I often thought of you, once I had seen you the first time. Before, it was just a place to escape to. I... I had a home then, but it was... it was where I learned pain." The demon who looked human enough bowed his head, long white hair framing a face just as pale. That face held sweetness that so well masked a very dark soul.
Ashraj sensed unhappiness there, so incongruous to the idea of sharing such a pretty sight. But the demon rarely said anything about himself, so a gentle query was tried. "Do you mean that others mistreated you?"
Seire nodded, flopping down to sit amongst the glowing white blossoms that wavered with the disruption. He stayed silent even as Ashraj settled carefully beside him, kept soft pink eyes averted elsewhere although they did not take in the landscape meant to be enjoyed.
Ashraj sighed, running fingers through his own long charcoal grey hair. "I am trying to understand you, Seire. Truly I am... you must know this by now. It's just very difficult if you don't tell me things. I don't need to know every detail, but if you have had too much an example of suffering in the past... I can see, for some, how that would in turn make you lack understanding about the suffering of others. It would... it would not teach me that, but I am not you."
The albino shrugged, feeling defensive even though he knew he wanted to be able to communicate properly with Ashraj. It was just so hard trying to change so many things at once. "I... I don't really want to talk about it. I like... I like what you've shown me, about being kind and gentle. I can be gentle too, I know this... I've done it. But the more I look at the past, the more it comes back. I don't want it to come back. I'm just... I'm very out of my element, you know?" The words sounded stupid in his own ears, but it was the best he could do while he still couldn't manage to meet those barely-visible eyes.
A gentle hand reached to smooth along white hair. "I know you are, and that you are trying at all says that you aren't completely lost. There is hope for you..."
A different voice made gloating observation from behind the two so very absorbed in conversation. "Charming. I sink I vill be sick if I listen to any more of zis."
Ashraj gasped and turned in his flowery seat, Seire jumping up beside him to properly face off against someone who one of them knew was none other than the fire demon who had caused so much ill, especially the most recent and completely-invasive nightmare. Karl. He stood there with a smug grin on features just as handsome with just as hard lines as before, blue eyes below short blond hair holding derision matching the comment. Long sleeveless maroon leather jacket and black leather pants, bare feet crushing a few more unlucky flowers, he also chose a human form just as before.
Ashraj raised a hand to catch the hem of the albino's shirt. "Seire, it's him..."
Pink eyes looked quickly down for confirmation to exactly what that implied, then glared hatefully at the would-be rival. "I will kill you for what you did. How dare you!"
Karl rolled his eyes. "Vould not you razzer ask vhy I could find you? Qvite ze challenge, mein beautiful vuns. I expected only a single such treasure und I find zwei pretties to claim. Submit to me und I vill not hurt you... Ashraj can attest to zis."
Skin crawled as Ashraj looked away from the meaningful grin, but it was Seire who spat back a response. "I said, I will kill you for what you've done. Are you deaf?"
Fire blazed suddenly along a trail directly through the pristine flowers, aiming for Seire. Karl had not even moved but Ashraj rolled away and could not see Seire for the blaze in the way. Calling that name in fear, the deity suddenly had to shade his eyes against a bright outburst from within those terrible flames. Blinking in the aftermath, he could see Seire looking unscathed but furious, and Karl had moved a few steps back.
The fire demon growled, "I vill teach you not to turn mein abilities back on me!" Flaming scimitars appeared, one in each hand, and it was no longer a battle of elemental magics but pure strength and speed.
Seire's well-hidden reflecting powers hadn't gained him as much of an advantage as hoped. He could barely do anything to counter as he dodged the brutal attacks. There was another thing adding fear now as strikes came too close: just that first inferno hinted that Karl was ridiculously powerful. There was not just reflection but the ability to void magic attacks, but how much of this could those skills hold out against? Right now, it was just the damned scimitars. Hopefully it would stay that way.
Ashraj knew he should help. Knew he could help, surely? His own powers might help turn the tide of battle but he could not move. It was not just that he didn't know exactly how powerful the enemy could be. The enemy was Karl, the nightmare involving that very individual far too fresh. Petrified, the deity could only watch, weakened in a way that revitalized body and soul could not yet overcome. It was very true that cruelty did not teach him to be cruel in kind. It would seem Karl's particular brand of cruelty created an unfair hold on the deity instead, keeping him immobile now.
Whether Karl guessed the potential problem for his albino enemy or not, flames returned to the battle. Then darkness engulfed the area, Seire unable to see and having to rely solely on other senses. He felt a searing blade hit the back of his right arm, more blows falling and slicing and there was fire in the darkness that could not be seen. It burned, it burned and that meant it was finding its way through innate defenses both reflective and magic-nullifying. Failing, all of it. Then the ground was under the albino's back and he could feel the tip of one of those scimitars held against his throat, just barely breaking skin.
The heat vanished and the darkness faded to reveal Karl grinning down in triumph, the once-beautiful field charred and smoking. "Are ve done being foolish? I could kill you immediately, but zat vould be a vaste of such a pretty body."
Seire coughed, felt the blade jar against unhappy skin with the movement. His body was no longer in pretty shape, though none of the damage had affected his face. "Fuck. You."
"Nein, you have zat backvards." Cruel smirk was interrupted as the fire demon suddenly dodged away.
Seire thought for a heart-stopping moment that Ashraj had tried to attack. True, the deity had regained enough power that perhaps the battle would not be so one-sided, but would it be enough, or would they both end up helpless? But no, that was not what pink eyes viewed now. All confusion broke out as it appeared Karl was being attacked by another Karl. Twins? They were even dressed the same. Then Ashraj's touch, careful of burns and injuries, drew Seire into a protective hold.
Darkness fell again, but for reasons of the new fight... at least, so Seire hoped. Nothing new struck him and Ashraj remained only tense, fierce battle elsewhere in the pitch black. The albino gasped a whisper through agony. "Can you get us home?"
Ashraj whispered back, "Yes, I think so, but what of them?" It was impossible to tell what was going on, except that roaring flames and clashes of steel made whispering almost pointless.
Seire coughed again, grimaced at the extra pain it caused. "Does it matter? We can't fight either one of them without more help. I'm sorry I brought you somewhere so vulnera-" More coughing interrupted, brought a wave if dizziness with it.
"It's not your fault. You didn't know..." Ashraj held the demon a little tighter, trying not to cause extra pain but wanting to be sure Seire would stay with him as powers sought out the way home... or tried. Nothing changed, and there was fear in the deity's whisper now. "I can't get us out of the darkness."
Talking was difficult. "Go. Walk away... get out."
Ashraj clung more tightly, shaking his head though no one would see. "I won't leave you."
The albino took a few deep breaths, or as deep as he could managed. "Help me up." It would hurt like hell, but if they could walk out of this together then Ashraj should be able to spirit them both away. It would just take more time, and it was debatable on how much time was available, nevermind whether it would make a difference if the strange mirror-image newcomer won over the other.
The attempt to rise did not happen, for instead a wave of intense heat surged through the darkness and it was everything Seire could do to summon the scant remainder of his powers into a shield protecting both himself and Ashraj. There was no way to move like this, not so brutally weakened, and if it did not end soon, the shield would give out as well. The albino held on to the forces controlling that protection with every last bit of willpower remaining, could sense the unseen flames eating through. Then the fire was gone and so was the darkness, but all went black for Seire as his mind gave out.
"Seire?" Ashraj felt the demon's spirit failing, glow of life diminishing to a feeble ember. Tears, more tears, there had already been many in the darkness though the heat had dried them. Leaving now was vitally important but the deity had to look up, to see who it was that reigned victorious. Eyes indeed beheld that this was no stalemate.
One of the Karls was on his knees, bowed not out of respect but for clutching at the place where where his right arm should be. Skin and clothing rent, burned, while the copy standing with blade pointed at vulnerable forehead looked to be in much better shape. Only the jacket sported a few slashes that had not been there before.
The standing one spoke. "Vhatever you are, you are dead." With nothing more to say, blade raised higher and to the side, then swept through to cleave head from broken body. Blue eyes turned away from the falling corpse, a neutral tone finding the heavily-accented voice now. "I sank you for veakening him, as near as I can tell he vas mein eqval in more zan mere appearance."
Ashraj looked down at Seire, sniffing, confused. "I... I could do nothing, Seire did everything. You... you're not Karl?"
Scimitars vanished into thin air. "Mein name is Karl, ja, but if zat vas his name as vell, it vould make sense... as much as any of zis makes sense." Karl stepped closer, noting the dangerously-low flicker of life within the fallen albino demon. "You should find him help before he vorsens, I am not a healer."
"I-I know one, I can take him there now. I just..." I have to know if you're him. But this fire demon was surely not the one who had already caused so much terror, or the odds were there would be no conversation at all. Certainly no courtesy. Ashraj sighed, finishing the hanging words differently. "...I should thank you. The one you killed, he was... horrible."
Karl smirked. "I have been called as much many times, but zis is not your concern. I do not have a qvarrel viz you, und your friend has proven most useful against mein alternate. Go, find zis healer. I could ask you more about zis mystery but he is dead. Zare is nassing more final zan zat."
Ashraj nodded, sniffed again and held Seire close. "Thank you..." Then the field and all its destroyed beauty was gone, worlds passing by for the shining little point on a certain plane marked home.
Karl looked up at the sky, then to the edges of the field where unburnt flowers could be seen glowing daintily. His other self had made a disgusting mess of the place, just one more reason to end the fiend's life. One last thing to see to, thought of now though it was unnecessary... but fitting. Bare feet strode back over charred ground, hand lifting towards the dead demon but then pausing. The field was no longer empty.
The figure standing a good several paces away had long straight red hair and armor that seemed both modern and ancient at once. There was lots of black leather involved, red silk cape and other details in red and blue elsewhere. White skin and what looked like makeup in shades of blue graced a pretty face for a man, set with red eyes that hinted wisdom even while they showed alertness now. Tribal tattoos snaked along left side of chest, arm, and even up the neck and cheek. It was Asura, drawn here by the backlash of so powerful a battle.
Karl recognized the lord of the underworld and nodded politely. "Guten tag, Asura. Vun moment please." The hand still stretched towards dead body let loose flames to burn away the remains. It was over quickly, no power left within the sundered form.
Red eyes narrowed, that accent far too familiar. "Who are you?" It was not uncommon to be identified by others, but the demon was not known to Asura personally. The blond hair and blue eyes coupled with that voice, however, spoke volumes and also added volumes to the confusion of recent puzzles.
"I prefer ze designation of Karl. Zis sing zat smokes at mein feet vas a true copy of meinself, an alternate of some sort. You vould not happen to know anysing about zis, vould you? Ze vuns he vas making trouble for had need of leaving before I received any useful answers." Plus, he'd dismissed them regardless, but that was beside the point.
That did make sense based on other information, but Asura was unsure of one thing. "How can I be certain it is the copy who died? I seek one such as him, for I know how it was he arrived here... or at least, I saw the aftermath."
Karl smiled dryly. "I am ze only me zat should exist in ze multiverse. I sensed him arrive, und it vould seem he vas not paying attention for I vould expect him to be able to sense me as vell. He vas mistreating zwei beings here, vun much like yourself I do believe, und a demon albino."
Asura felt alarm, asked quickly, "Was it Ashraj? The one like me... very dark long hair, and his eyes are grey." Or what was seen of them in that short encounter at the rift.
The fire demon nodded. "Ja, vhy, is zis a recurring problem?" He looked down at the smoldering remains. "Make zat, 'vas' a recurring problem."
"...Yes. It seems you have solved it for him, and in turn ended my own search for the culprit of the recent instabilities amongst the planes. The Karl that Ashraj spoke of came through from a separate multiverse, and I already knew it should not be possible to cross between. Whatever he did to cross, he claimed to have broken the ability to do it again."
"Ah. Vell zen, I believe ve are finished here." Karl certainly was, if the underworld deity was not going to cause further trouble. That wasn't like Asura's reputation, but one never knew.
Asura could only hope that this Karl spoke true, but then there wasn't any sense of the strange wrongness given off by the rift elsewhere in netherspace. One last question remained, however, forgotten in the sharing of information. "Ashraj and his companion, are they alright?"
Karl shrugged. "Ashraj, ja, he seemed in good order. Ze ozzer is being spirited to a healer by zat Ashraj, und had I not intervened, zare vould be no such spiriting avay."
"Ah, well then I thank you, Karl." Very strange, saying those particular words in combination. Thanks was entirely different from trust, however. "I will return to my own concerns now." One of those was ensuring that the household had not been left at the whims of someone who was supposed to be merely a vampire but new doubts could not be helped.
The blond head nodded politely. "Of course. Auf Wiedersehen, Asura."
Karl stood alone in the decimated field once more. He knew Asura didn't trust him. Only a fool would, and Asura was no fool. The one element that could be trusted was that this side's Karl had indeed won victory over the imposter. The multiverse was not big enough for two of him... although, now he was curious as to whether or not there were other alternates of himself. It was somewhat expected in many cases, but usually such alternates would be different in various ways. Karl did know there were none at his level of power or he should have sensed them, and this knowledge was recent thanks to the other fire demon crossing that so-called uncrossable barrier.
Perhaps it would be best to seek out any other forms of himself, just to make sure there wasn't any real competition in regards to being Karl. The fire demon's sense of pride found that concept a worthy goal, and then there was no one standing in the field. Only great burnt swaths where once all was beautiful.
Ashraj and Seire belong to Nightweaver, Karl (all versions) and Asura belong to me.