Live To Serve
I floated there, only vaguely aware, lost, aimless.
Then the fluids around me receded. I settled slowly to the floor, suddenly awake, exposed.
There was a man standing before me. I did not know who he was, but I knew in an instant what he meant to me. He was My Master, perfection, flawless, my everything.
I stood without question, my body shuddering in his presence. He took out a hand and stroked the side of my face.
"Yes, yes... All that extra quintessence did the trick. You will do well as one of the elites, my pet."
I attempted to speak, but coughed, a strange fluid running from my mouth. "Yes... master... " I said with a croak. All I knew how to do was obey. All I wanted to do was obey.
"Hmmm... If you are to be one of the elites you need a name."
"Perhaps Ephidel. The name of one of the powerful dragons of old. Yes, like the ones whose power I seek."
I stood there in shocked silence then nodded vigorously. Any title this being gave me was an honor.
"Good. Now take these, dress yourself. We have work to do." He tossed a heavy cloak and some other garments to me. Somehow, I knew how to put them on.
"I am Nergal. You will serve me and only me, now and for all eternity. Understood?"
I had no desire, no drive, to do anything else.
I stalked through the night, down the dark corridors, into the depths. I had only one goal in mind.
We Morphs weren't very imaginative most of the time. Only when thinking of ways to serve Nergal.
Nergal is our lord. Nergal is all.
The mantra echoed and echoed and echoed in my head as I kept going. To a mere mortal, it would be maddening, excruciating. To me it was power. It drove me, where my weak semblances of emotion couldn't.
Eventually I reached a guard, who backed away at my approach.
"E-Ephidel, sir, he's in the sixth cell to the left."
I could tell he was afraid of me. Not just of my power, but of how off I seemed, how uncanny. Humans have an instinct for such a thing, and that is the one weakness of us morphs when it came to things like this. At the same time, that ability to inspire fear could also be a sort of power.
Isn't that what I wanted? Power? Power in particular to serve Nergal?
"Excellent," I said, tucking my cloak around me and delving deeper in the dungeon. In the specified cell lay a chained noble, battered and beaten.
"You... " he said, craning his head up weakly, "what do you want?"
It was all too easy to see the imperfections of humanity in this wretched individual. The skin, the eyes, the hair, so far from the cold, unflinching Morph ideal.
"You know what I want," I said with a smirk. "Spit it out."
"I need information on how to influence Lycia's government. You will give it to me."
I let out a chuckle. "If you insist."
I extended a hand from my cloak.
"Do you want to know something interesting about morphs?"
"Too bad. We are made with quintessence, and need quintessence to survive. And we will take it by any means necessary."
My hand glowed. The man screamed in pain as I began to drain the sweet, sweet quintessence from his body.
"I'm going to make this slow. If you know what's good for you, you'll talk."
"I - I -"
"I'll talk, I'll talk! Just make it stop!"
I lowered my hand.
"Very well. What is it?"
"There is a marquess... Lord Darin. He has always had unease toward Ostia. Influence him, and you'll get what you desire."
"Excellent," I said. "Your service is appreciated."
I raised a hand again.
"And now I can finish my meal."
The glow resumed. The man screamed again, and writhed in utter agony until he twitched and fell still.
Having had my fill of his quintessence, I left the cell and stalked out. I had everything I needed for this fall of Ostia.
Now to talk to this Darin...
Is this really the man I was directed to seek?
Darin was pathetic. Disgraceful. A whiny child. I was almost disgusted. But I could not feel true disgust, and I was better for it. Emotions were unnecessary in the servitude of Nergal.
"Are you certain Pherae’s heir is here?" said Darin.
"Yes, Father. We’ve just received word from our lookouts. He’s still beyond that hill, but he’ll be here before long." said Erik.
"Lord Ephidel, what is the meaning of this?" said Darin.
"Perhaps when they reached Santaruz Castle, Lord Helman was still clinging to life," I said. It was obvious, exceedingly so, but I didn't expect this numbskull to come to the conclusion on his own.
"You can’t be serious!" said Darin.
"He couldn’t have lasted too long, but... maybe he told them something." I said. Yes, lead him along.
"That’s terrible! Our plan! It’s all for naught, isn’t it?" said Darin.
"No need to be so alarmed, my lord. Even if he told young Eliwood something of our schemes, Pherae no longer has any power. All Eliwood could do is perhaps inform Marquess Ostia." I said. Regardless, he was a lowly rat deserving to be exterminated.
"Ostia?! That would be ruinous! Lord Uther may be young and new to the throne, but he’s dangerous. That addlepated Helman! He was a coward to the end! To betray us now, when we’re so close... We only need a little more time to complete our plans for rebellion!" said Darin.
"Then before Marquess Ostia becomes aware of any of this, you would do well to stop them here." I said.
He probably wouldn't but it was worth a shot. Plus, what kind of word was addlepated?
"Yes, you’re right, of course. We do have a chance! They have to pass through Laus to get to Ostia. We can still silence them!" said Darin.
"They must not pass. No matter the cost." I said. Worst comes to worst, their dead bodies would bide us time.
"Let us make haste. Call up our finest troops." said Darin.
"Father! Please, let me take the command." Erik said.
"Erik! Tell me, Son, can you succeed?" said Darin.
"That clod Eliwood and I studied together in Ostia. He’s a trusting fool. If he sees me, he’ll lower his guard. And when he does, we strike!" said Erik.
"I see." said Darin.
"I beg your pardon... Is this not too much for him? If, by strange chance, he fell, things could turn for the worse." I said. Not like I cared about his fate.
"No, I know I’m the lad’s father, but Erik’s quite clever, I tell you. Snuffing Pherae’s whelp will be no trouble at all. It’s settled! It’s up to you now, Erik. Bring me the head of Pherae’s darling son!" said Darin.
"Yes, Father! I will not fail you!" said Erik.
Idiots. Both of them. I wanted to suck them both dry and get it over with, but they were marginally useful. For now.
"Lord Erik is struggling! He requests reinforcements!" said a soldier, bursting into the room.
"Unbelievable... These numbers cannot stop them." I said. Even with Darin's incompetence taken into account, these rats put up more of a fight than I thought. Reconsidering my strategy, I turned to leave.
"Ephidel? W-Where are you going?" Darin said.
I had the small urge to roll my eyes before turning back to him.
"It seems that conquering Lycia might have been too much to ask of you after all. I must inform my master. The Black Fang will be leaving at once." I said.
"No! You... You can’t abandon us! Not at this stage!" Darin said.
Yes, I could. But not yet.
"Who was it that said Ostia mustn’t learn of our plans? Wasn’t it you, Lord Darin? The marquess of Laus himself?" I said.
"Y-Yes, it was. There’s no turning back for me. Not now! P-Please! One more... Give me one more chance. I assure you, I will not disappoint Lord Nergal!" Darin said.
I wished I could just leave the rats to tear out his throat, but he might have some marginal use for a bit longer.
"Very well... Assemble your men. We will regroup elsewhere." I said. I hope that I - no, that Lord Nergal wouldn't regret this.
"Eh? You can’t mean... My son... my home... Am I to abandon them?" Darin said.
"Would you fall in disgrace along with your son? Our master, Lord Nergal, is offering you the throne of all Lycia... Surely a few sacrifices are not too much to ask?" I said. I didn't care about them. Never did. But I needed Darin.
"Yes... You’re right. My destiny is greater than this. I was born to be king of Lycia." Darin said.
"And as for an heir? You’re still young, my lord. You will have time. You must not let a moment’s sentimentality cloud your judgment." I said. Good, good, humor his delusions of grandeur.
Darin was silent.
What was it that I heard one of the troops say? Hook, line, and sinker.
It had been some time later. The rats had advanced even further than I thought.
"Lord Darin, it’s time to give up this madness. Further resistance is meaningless. For what you’ve done, you may never be forgiven, but it’s not too late to try. Tell Eliwood everything. He’ll intervene with Marquess Ostia on your behalf... " a man I will refer to as Hausen said.
"I... I’ve... lost... " Darin said.
"Hurry! Eliwood will be here in no time. Let me speak for yo-" Hausen tried to say.
It was then I emerged from the shadows, striking Hausen down with dark magic then lunging with a hand to his throat. He choked and squirmed as I drained the quintessence - the life - from his body. It was only after I was done feeding that I stood up.
"None of that now. Marquess Laus needs no troublesome advice." I said.
"L-Lord Ephidel?" Darin said, a horrified look on his face.
"There is no turning back for you now. You should know that. First, Marquess Santaruz... and now Marquess Caelin. Both deaths are on your head." I said. Yes, pin it on him.
"What? It was by your hand that they both died! I-I never asked for this." Darin said.
"Yes, I killed them... for you." I said. They were delectable.
"To... trap me?" Darin said.
Of course. "Don’t be absurd. I follow my master’s orders. My only wish is to deliver your dreams to you. The crown of a united Lycia... . And once that is done, dominion over the entire continent. Is that not what you desire?" I said.
"... Yes... Yes, of course. That dream is still worth a few sacrifices, isn’t it?" Darin said.
"You’re exactly right. Our plans may have gone drastically awry, but as long as we have the master’s power behind us, we cannot be defeated. We’d do well to leave now, before those meddlesome worms arrive. You will leave everyone from Laus behind. We will use them to delay our foe." I said. It was almost annoying that we were still biding time.
"Everyone... My soldiers? But... who will protect me?" Darin said.
"The Black Fang and I will more than suffice for that task. There is nothing else you need, I assure you." I said. I wished I didn't need him.
"Yes... I... I see that now. Where do we go from here?" Darin said.
"To the Dragon’s Gate... Our master awaits us there. The master has informed me our hostage may be all we need. If all goes well, we may be able to perform the ceremony with him alone." I said. Yes, My Master's plan is coming to fruition... I had to stop myself from shuddering with a strange sort of ecstasy.
"Oh! Is that so? I suppose we’ve nothing to worry about." Darin said.
"That is correct. Now please, begin your retreat. I have two or three orders to give, then I will be right behind you." I said.
Darin left my field of vision, and I sighed.
"Pathetic imbecile," I said, thankful to finally voice my opinion of that wretch. "Leila? Where are you?" I said.
"I’m here." Leila said, emerging from the shadows much as I did earlier.
"While Eliwood is occupied, finish off Marquess Caelin and hide the body. The enemy will waste precious time searching for him." I said.
"As you command... " Leila said.
"You know, you’ve only been with the Black Fang a short while. However, you are quite skilled... I look forward to watching you." I said.
"Yes, sir." Leila said.
She did have potential. Alas, it wouldn't last.
"Shame on you, Marquess Pherae. You freed the boy and the girl?" My Master said.
We had met on the Dread Isle, and were interrogating a... particular prisoner.
"I will not let you move unopposed!" Elbert said.
"Wh-What shall we do, Lord Nergal? With both siblings gone, we can no longer hold the ceremony." Darin said.
"How many times must I tell you, Lord Darin? You are being used by this man! By helping him bring dragons back into this world, you are helping him destroy mankind! Do you understand?!" Elbert said.
"Destroy mankind? Dragons may have been a threat to mankind in ages past, but with Lord Nergal’s power, we’ve got nothing to fear! Lord Nergal can control dragons!" Darin said. His confidence would be amusing if it wasn't so aggravating.
"Lord Darin... You’re already lost." Elbert said.
"I’d planned to start a war in Lycia. The war I was plotting in Lycia would’ve generated a glorious amount of force in one blow. You were not equal to the task, it seems. Not to worry. I’ve other means at hand." My Master said.
Elbert scowled, struggling. "Black-hearted fiend..."
"Hold your tongue. There is still a task you must perform for me. Ephidel! Limstella! My beloved morphs, my beauteous works of art. I’ve new jobs for you, my pets," he said, beckoning.
I stepped forward, shuddering in His presence - as did Limstella, my sister, the only other being I had any shred of loyalty toward.
"First, Limstella. You will go to Bern and contact Sonia. I want you to arrange a meeting with the king." My Master said.
"Understood." Limstella said. She would execute this without fail, I knew this.
"Ephidel, take this... man, Marquess Laus, and go. I want you to exterminate the mice who’ve landed on this island." My Master said.
"Yes, master." I said. I would not let him down. Ever.
As I was leaving, I noticed a certain girl, peeking in from afar at previous events.
"I can’t believe it’s come to this. I must inform Lord Hector of these events... If I hurry, I may be in ti-"
I swooped in in front of her.
"What?!" Leila said.
"Leila... Where are you going?" I said.
"Lord Ephidel... The sentries... I’m going to check on... " Leila said.
"You overheard, did you not? And I had such hopes for you. Jaffar!" I said.
A man in black, the Jaffar in question, swooped in and grabbed her.
"The punishment for traitors is death." Jaffar said.
The following spectacle was almost impressive to behold.
Jaffar stabbed her. Blood spurted everywhere to the sound of her screams, muffled by Jaffar's hand as she struggled. Her kicks and struggles quickly grew less pronounced before Jaffar's grip loosened and her twitching, dying body fell into a pool of her own blood.
" Ma... Matthew... " she said, before going still.
I did not know the significance of this name. I couldn't care less.
"... Impressive, Jaffar. Your power is beyond compare," I said.
Jaffar was silent.
"Take this woman’s corpse and leave it in the forest. Let it serve as a warning to those fools."
"... We’re here. The Dragon’s Gate... " said the red-haired brat, Eliwood.
The rats had finally crawled out of their cage and into the fires of the Dread Isle. The girl, the girl My Master needed, was silent. The others tried to console her.
"I... should not have... come here. Something awful will happen if I’m here," said the girl, Ninian.
All according to plan.
"Ninian!? Snap out of it!" said Eliwood, gripping her shoulders tightly.
"This place... No... I... I... "
"She’s getting worse! Let’s get her away from here!" said Eliwood.
"You’ll not be going anywhere," I said.
With a wave of my hand, I teleported in.
"That little bird has escaped this island cage twice. Now that she’s back, she’ll not be allowed to fly away again." I said. My Master needed her.
"Who are you!?" Eliwood said.
"We meet at last. I am Ephidel. Pleased to make your acquaintance." I said. Sarcasm.
"You’re Ephidel? I’ve been looking forward to this." Hector said.
"...Gallantly spoken." More sarcasm. "Of course, I know who you are. Marquess Ostia’s younger brother, Lord Hector. And here we have Caelin’s beloved princess, Lady Lyndis." I said. I was on a roll with the sarcasm today, to the point she was rendered silent. "By the way, the gift I left for you in the forest... Was it to your liking? The corpse of that filthy red-haired traitor?" I said.
"Monster! Stay right there! I’m going to crush the life from you with my bare hands." Hector said.
"Now I see! She was an Ostian spy, wasn’t she? Don’t worry, she did not suffer. It only took one blow." I said.
He lunged at me with his precious, precious axe, but I just teleported away and reappeared right next to the dragon girl with a chuckle.
"This girl is needed for my master’s ceremony." I said.
"Ninian!" Eliwood said.
"Let me go!" Ninian said.
I don't think so, I thought as I spirited her away.
As I was delivering the girl to My Master, I had a thought.
Consuming her quintessence... the quintessence of a dragon... It would be such power. I'd be a god among Morphs.
...No. I could not. My Master needed her. I could never betray him. He'd never betray m-
"Lord Ephidel! Is the girl with you?" Darin said, interrupting my thoughts.
"As you can see... " I said. Is he blind?
"The ritual can take place at last!" Darin said.
"Yes. However, we have an infestation of mice to deal with... They should be scurrying in here momentarily. They must be dealt with before the ritual takes place. May I entrust this task to you?" I said. Hopefully this time they'd murder him.
"Of course. Who do you think I am?! I am Darin, Marquess Laus! Ruler of this world!" Darin said.
"Very well, I leave it to you." I said. Please die.
"Ruler of the world!" Darin said with a laugh, exiting.
"Humans... They are so, very, fragile." I said, once again glad to vocalize my disdain.
With that I finally advanced further and brought Ninian to My Master.
"Ah... you’ve done well. Precious Ephidel. Shall we prepare for the ritual?" My Master said.
It was finally time. My Master's vision... would be fulfilled.
"You will not pass here." Jaffar said.
As the rats had finally tracked us to their trap, he stood in their way, at the Dragon's Gate.
"That man... is dangerous. You cannot defeat him on your own." Elbert said.
"Father, there’s no time. This danger must be faced."
"...Be a good boy, and listen to your father, young master Eliwood." I said, teleporting in.
"Ephidel!" Eliwood said, brandishing his sword.
"...You’ve done well, Jaffar. That is all. Return to Bern and begin your next assignment." I said. I could deal with the rats myself. Jaffar stalked off.
"Hear my word! I have an invitation from my master. In honor of your hard-fought arrival, he’s prepared a special show for you." I gave a mock bow.
"Stop it! You cannot release the dragons!" Elbert said.
"Father? What’s all this about?"
" ...You will know shortly. At the expense of your father’s life!" I said.
I extended my hand. Dark red clouds swirled around Elbert and Ninian's heads as the former let out unearthly groans.
They rushed to their sides, gripping them and babbling in a panic. To no avail. I grinned. Exactly as planned.
"Now, Ninian... at last. Open the Dragon’s Gate." My Master said, beckoning her to the altar..
She obeyed without question, walking to the altar and raising her arms to the sky, chanting. I watched in awe as an earthquake shook the altar.
"Here... Come, children of... flame. Come... to me... "
It was then a dragon of resplendent flame emerged from the gate, arching its back in a roar.. I looked upon it in awe. It would bring my joyous future. HIS joyous future.
"Is that... truly... a dragon?" Eliwood said.
Of course it was, you imbecile.
My Master laughed. "Yes! Use all your strength! Squeeze every drop from your body! You will call dragons!" My Master said.
"...I will not allow this!"
It was then a small boy with blue hair jumped into the fray.
"Who’s there?! ...You!" I said. No, not
, not now -
He started talking to her, playing some accursed music. This was not part of my - no, my Master's plan!
The dragon roared in agony. Ninian's grip was loosening on it. It was dying.
"Nils? Not now! Ephidel! Stop him!" My Master said.
"Desist, Nils! The power... It runs wild!" I said. He couldn't - he can't - I started to aim a spell in his direction but in the process I loosened my magic grip on Ninian, loosening my control.
With that, the rats finally fled.
I looked to My Master for what to do.
He simply vanished in the glow of runes, leaving me alone with the dying dragon.
I screamed. "Stop... You mustn’t come here! Lord Nergal! Lord Nergal! Please... "
Too late. My reason to live had abandoned me.
There was a blinding light, and pain beyond whatever I believed could exist.
My consciousness was stretched taut, across the void. Nothing but fear and anguish and pain ran through it.
He was gone.
He was never there for me.
My existence was a lie, and now that it’d ended, I have no escape. Only agony.
The only sound in the void from then on out was my echoing screams.