“Yeah.” For once, The Other is not smug, nor sneering. He looks across at the divine youth whose soul mothered him, fathomless red eyes lacking their usual flame. That upstart god is gazing skyward, a similar air of emptiness captured in his mien and posture. A wind, the source of neither of their powers, comes to sweep through their hair. Helvegen’s is thicker, distinct with streaks of grey that match his billowing spider-web cloak. The Other’s black leather jacket is also ruffled, though less dramatically, as he draws one knee up to his chest and rests his left arm over it. “Are you surprised?”
“No, not really. Always knew she was keeping something from me. But… phew, something like that-”
“It’s quite the revelation,” The Other agrees. “And of course, by now, you’ve seen the key factor in all of this.”
Helvegen’s blue eyes hollow out a little more. “It made her happy. Proud of him. Of them.” It is something that, perhaps, he has not made clear to her – that being just how much he despises the Primordials. Of all the hateful, callous, arrogant, misanthropic, self-important, narcissistic creatures he has ever encountered, they are by far the most reprehensible. It is a hatred he shares with The Other – one of many things, he now realizes, that are simply reflections of one another. Meeting The Other is like looking down into his shadow, to find his shadow looking back.
It disconcerts him, but also makes the most awful sense. Beings wholly separate and singular, but the product of one splintered soul. Not to mention the fact that they aren’t the only two.
“So… the Ringed Reavers-?”
“All part of the plan,” the red-eyed boy cuts him off evenly, tossing his head to flip some hair away from his face. “Don’t worry; they’re not here to destroy Paracosm. Truth be told, Helvegen, I’m a little stuck right now. I’ve been waiting for the right moment for a while, you know? I’ve given everyone the exact impression of me that I need them to have. Magicia thinks I’m a murderous wannabe politician who’s more trouble than he’s worth. The Primordials think I’m some harmless idiot. Kida thinks I’m a warmongering cliche for-the-evulz villain.”
“And the Dragon?”
The Other chuckled. “The Dragon sees all he needs to. Nothing more, nothing less.” Helvegen let that sink in for a moment, and then began to get up. His shadow made no attempt to mirror him, or to stop him, simply staring ahead and waiting for the questions to keep rolling in.
“So here you are, with this big reveal. Magicia got off on Providence being blown to kingdom come. She’s just as much of an evil looney as her ‘dad’, who is totally using her as a puppet. She’ll become just like the rest of them, so on and so forth.” The Other hums in acknowledgement. Yes, he had said all that, and it was all nearly certainly true. Helvegen’s eyes narrow. “Is it so I’ll break up with her? You should have figured out that I’m not going to do that. You’ve seen through my smiles, I guess. You know that on some incredibly silly level, I would still prefer to see justice- not even, just goodness– prevail! But I also love her a great deal more than I love anything else. It doesn’t matter what I want.”
“It’s not a proper relationship if your own wishes are irrelevant,” says The Other tonelessly. His voice, like iron grating across stone, contrasts with the life-filled voice of his mirror image.
“It never has been,” Helvegen snarls. “I swore myself to her, remember? It has never gone two ways. She loves me too, I think, but the notion that there’s ever been even ground beneath us is a courteous pretense at best.”
“You think?” The Other clicks his tongue. “That doesn’t bode well.”
“Doesn’t matter what it bodes, trash panda. Even if this whole romance thing is a hopeless game, I am still her promised protector; her guardian, her confidant, and her fool.”
“Even in madness, you won’t break your vows?” The leather-clad boy howls with laughter. “Makes sense, when the vows are just as mad as you!”
“Is that all you’ve come to say?” Helvegen’s voice is literally sharp with frost. A shallow cut appears on The Other’s cheek, and hoarfrost patterns etch their way across his face. Swiftly restraining his laughter, he holds up two hands defensively.
“Whoa now, Helvey. Who do you take me for? I’m more than a demagogue, bud; I’m a facilitator. An insurrectionist. A schemer. A, uh, doer of things. I wouldn’t have come at all if that were the extent of my spiel.” Now he has risen, too, sliding his hands into his pockets and casually transferring his weight onto the back foot. And with that, Helvegen knows he has lost; The Other is calm, composed, and- oh, there it is, that nasty smirk cracking the frost and splitting his face from ear to ear. While Helvegen is tense, annoyed, and, worst of all, in almost total agreement. He loves the very sort of person he once sought to destroy, and it kills him, but he won’t break his promises.
“Look around, little snake,” purrs The Other, making a wide, sweeping motion at the land stretching out beyond the crystal mountains on which they are perched. There is Paracosm, beautiful and resplendent as it always is. “You promised yourself to this island, found a home here and got bound to it as its tutelary. But the fact is, you’re next to useless. Quite expendable, and completely unnecessary. Anything you can do, they can do better. I know they would agree with me. If you were, say, killed for good…” A dangerous sensation next to Helvegen’s ribs tells him that The Other’s hand has become a blade, capable of unmaking anything it touches, and that it is now hovering next to his heart. “…Magicia would mourn you for, like, a week, and then either one of them or the maid would find some way to cheer her up. And you’d be less than a memory. Any one of those Primordials could one day decide, ‘eh, screw that kid,’ and you’d be gone from history and her mind. You’re twice the tool she is. I don’t know how you’ve managed to trick yourself that what you’re doing here is in any way important or useful, but straight-up: you’re a fucking joke, and it’s about time that you be in on it too.”
“…So?” Helvegen whispers, his rainstorm-blue eyes stone-hard. “I like it here. She likes me here. Isn’t that enough?” A question. Uncertainty. The Other feels his eyeteeth lengthen behind his lips, and his smile grows.
“Well, sure. But! But. You could, say… take a bit of time off. Come along with us.”
“Us.” The beating of great wings herald the arrival of the Raven Child, alighting near the two of them on the mountaintop without the slightest disturbance of the thin snow scattered across the crystal. “The Other contacted me on the subject of our mutual stasis. I was, like you, disinclined to answer. At first. But…”
“But it would be bloody productive for us, wouldn’t it, to put aside our admittedly irreconciliable differences and spend a bit of time together. We’ll go on a good old-fashioned adventure, hey? Hop in a faster-than-light spaceship, touch down on a few planets for some jolly cooperation, unravel the secrets of the multiverse. And at the end, something that might actually interest you.”
Helvegen remains tense for a moment, but it doesn’t take long for his shoulders to sag. Once again, The Other has him defeated without landing a single blow. Shameful, is what it is. But he’s intrigued and annoyed enough to ask. “What’s that?”
“Not ‘that’, Helvey boy- IT. The proverbial ‘IT’. Tetralogy. The Forever Flame. The Dawnflower. Hocus Pocus. The fucking jackpot, Helve.” The glint in The Other’s eyes speaks of genuine excitement. “We’re going to find The Source of It All.”
“Ah.” That sounds like some mind-scrambling object of indefinite but overwhelming power. How cliché. “And why haven’t you gone to find this thing yourself?”
“Aw, shucks.” The Other pretends to blush. Neither Helvegen nor the Raven Child are particularly impressed. “Well, I figured it was the least I could do, y’know, since we were all the same guy once. Thought I’d let you two bunglers have a look at it, before I put it towards some unspeakably horrible objective.”
“We’ll stop you,” says the Raven Child, in a calm voice so frighteningly self-assured that The Other actually stops smirking for a second. He regards the towering knight in black and purple for a moment longer before chuckling.
“Sure you will. Anyway, here’s our ride. Ta-fuckin’-dah.” And here it is, what must be the rattletrappiest old clunker of a starship ever built. Helvegen knows that The Other must have gone out of his way to find this piece of shit; it looks like the spacefaring equivalent of an RV Camper. In fact, upon a bit of closer inspection-
“You just stuck a pair of wings on a godsdamned trailer, didn’t you?” The tutelary’s tone is beyond accusatory. This ‘vehicle’ is an affront to his beloved technomancy. The Other nods gleefully, rubbing his biker-gloved hands together, and promptly kicks open the door. The Raven Child looks on in distaste as what appears to be an infant shoggoth bashfully sludges its way out the door.
“The maids’ll have that for breakfast,” Helvegen muses idly, before his malevolent lookalike drags him and the huge knight into the space trailer.
“Come on, you idiots, no time to waste! Beyond the last frontier, and on the other side of infinity, lies The Source of It All!!!”
“This whole affair is going to be an exercise in impractical timewasting.”
“Oh, shut up.”