…I don’t care…
He smelled of blood, and sweat, and dirt, and brine. The floor was hard, but might as well have been the bed of a king for how exhausted he was. Talithey did not feel safe sleeping alone. And even though he doubted once he closed his eyes he would be able to do anything to protect her if someone came calling, still he walked straight into her room, extinguishing the flames that still burned on the inside.
It hurt. Everything hurt. So much.
He looked around the room, and fit his form underneath her bed. He wanted the dark space, to feel like he was in a cave. His body was too tall to fit entirely under the bed, his head and shoulders, half his stomach, the rest of his arch fiend transformation sticking out the other end.
He hoped it would be enough to let her sleep as well. He hoped his pack would rest together and be safe because…
… hadn’t he?
Take and Nethrali still on the ground, covered in blood.
…I don’t care.
Fuck. No. No. He did care. They had no idea… Fuck. Sariel…
Exhaustion claimed him, and finally, finally the pain stopped.
But only the pain.
His dreams tormented him. He stood in a stadium filled with larvae. Take’s dead eyes refused to even look at him, wanting nothing to do with him, the larve crawling over her face, into her mouth and nose. Nethrali lay on a broken stadium chair, the same tiny grotesque wiggling creatures crawling out of the water towards her, her dead eyes staring at him in accusation and anger.
You failed, Zildath.
Nyx stood behind him, shaking his head in sheer disappointment.
Horror slammed into Zildath his breathing erratic. “No… I didn’t. Asmoedus failed, not me I didn’t…”
Up was down. He was falling. He tried to snap out his wings but he couldn’t. He reached for something, anything and caught only air – then a hand grasping his own. Sariel’s. He looked up at her, his gaze desperate, but he saw only callousness in her eyes. “You don’t care. Your burning Othos.”
“I’m not… Sariel I do-” She let him go, and his shout turned to scream that expelled fire and set Othos’s body aflame. He caught his reflection in the water – the horns. The tail. His dragonborn skin broken and charred, pieces disintegrating, falling right off him, his eyes black and cold.
Tali. He could still save Tali – but she was nowhere. She was gone. Just a red ribbon and a dagger stained with her blood laying at his feet. Pain seized him, he needed to find her, to get her, before Balgrum…
….He couldn’t protect them…
“You can’t even protect yourself, brother.”
A blinding radiant light slammed into him and it hurt worse than the constant burning that tore him apart from the inside. It pushed him further back into darkness, into the Void. Zildath reached and clawed and tried to get purchase, but there was nothing, and no one.
Except Vorseth. Standing over him in the armor of a Paladin, his sword glowing with radiant light. “Stop trying to be something you’re not. You can’t stop the cycle. You can’t stop a being who eats worlds. You’re just a sad lost little Blood Hunter, who knows he’s going to lose. But, you don’t care, Zildath, not really. And guess what big brother? They don’t care about you. You failed.”
He couldn’t say anything, the despair choked him, suffocated him, sitting his chest and in the back of his throat. Vorseth laughed, his holy light blinding. Zildath closed his eyes…
…and all he felt was how much They wanted the worlds, the planes, all of it destroyed. How much they wanted to suck everything into the void.
Asmodeus failed to resist us. You’re going to fail too.
Burning. Disintegrating. All he knew was pain, and loss. And their voices, all their voices, his pack, echoing in his ears…
Zildath’s eyes shot open. He immediately felt the floor. Smelled dust. Pillows near him. A blanket. The pain was gone. He was in the bed and breakfast. He closed his eyes, pressing his face against the floor, remembering. Nethrali was alive. Take was alive. Sariel was alive. Tali was alive.
His heart was still pounding in his chest. He didn’t want to close his eyes again, but exhaustion clung to him like the flames of the fiend. He realized distantly that he felt like himself, that his body felt like it was supposed too. But he was tired. So very tired.
He crawled out from underneath the bed, bleary eyes looking around the room. He saw Tali, in the bed across from his own. Dragging the blanket with him, he crawled the short distance from the bed he was under, until he was underneath her bed. That tiny trek felt like the hardest thing he’d ever done. He pulled the blanket closer to him, forcing himself to move just a little more until he felt the wall against his side.
“I care… I do… I…” he muttered, before his eyes closed, and exhaustion claimed him again.
At least in this sleep, the nightmares came less.