Villain, 99

Expecting A Crazy Person’s Motivations Not to Be Crazy Is A Lost Cause

Ao3 Link

Sam was turning rocks into salt when the atmosphere of the tower changed.

He scowled. He had to practice with his stupid god power, and he’d made a point of coming up here to one of the towers they barely used so he could do it without anyone bothering him, and now there was this magical feeling in the air that he knew to associate with fucking Derel. Sam had been wondering when he’d intrude again.

Have you nothing better to do than create condiments, little sorcerer? Derel asked, his presence filling the room.

Sam snorted. “Do you only ever visit when I’m alone because you’re shy?” he asked back. “Or because you’re stupid and think I haven’t told anyone about you?”

Derel was quiet for a second. I cannot abide distractions or interruptions.

“And yet here you are, distracting and interrupting me,” Sam muttered. “How does it feel to hate yourself?”

Your attempt to avoid answering my question is as uninteresting as it is foolish, Derel told him.

“Because what? You might float around and be ominous at me if I don’t answer what was clearly a rhetorical question meant to make me feel stupid and small?” Sam asked. “I lived with Solomon for over a decade, if you want to be an asshole, you’ll have to do a much better job than insinuating that I’m a waste of space. At the very least your opening volley will need to be that I make the world worse by being in it.”

No doubt you do, Derel said, sounding irritated. Good. But that is not the purpose of my presence here.

Sam picked up another rock from the pile he’d summoned up here. Salt was a hard thing to turn rocks into without exploding them, because the density and composition of them were different. “So you have a purpose now, do you? Then why are you wasting time baiting me? Tell me what you want.”

You know what I want. You have made no progress on gathering the five stones.

“Neither have you,” Sam pointed out.

It is not my task, Derel said, and Sam imagined him shifting around angrily.

“Why, because you don’t have hands?” He was so tired of every god in the world making their errands his tasks.

Trust me, little sorcerer, had I the ability to touch the physical world necessary to obtain the stones myself, I would not require your help.

“Right, about that,” said Sam. He stood up, crumbling the salt in his hand. “If you don’t have the power to collect the stones on your own, then you don’t have the power to fucking tell me what to do. So how about this? You tell me what you really want and I’ll think about whether or not I still feel like helping you.”

Sam couldn’t feel anything but Derel’s power, but he could feel Derel seething. You think yours is the only manner of power, human, he said. If you defy me…

“If you threaten me, you’ll lose the only person you know who might be able to bind the stones and reconstruct the Web for you.” Sam paused. “Of course, that’s a big might anyway, isn’t it? So maybe you’re not so worried about that.”

Derel was quiet for a second. You, he said, finally, have met your mother, then.

“Unfortunately. You should have killed her when you had the chance.”

Did you?

Sam smiled. “You should know full well what I do to people who try to control me, Derel.” He wanted to kill Derel, but Sam didn’t think his power was there yet. So he had to make nice so Derel would come back again in a few months when he was stronger. “My allies fare better, though. I want the stones anyway. Tell me what you actually want and I’m sure we can work something out.”

In another silence, Sam was pretty sure he knew what Derel was thinking. He didn’t know what Hadrina had told Sam. He didn’t know what Sam knew, and he didn’t know what Sam’s powers were. The only reasonable option was to tell the truth, because if Sam caught him lying, that would be the end of his help.

But on the other hand, Hadrina had said Derel was insane. Maybe he wasn’t thinking any of that.

I want the same thing I have ever wanted, Derel finally said. The preservation of our species by any means necessary.

Well, even Sam had to admit that was a reasonable enough thing to want. “Reconstructing the Web isn’t going to bring back you or any of the other dead gods.”

I am aware. The gods lost the war against the humans long ago. Our numbers are no longer sufficient to win it back, even were all our members to come out of hiding.

“How many are in hiding?” Sam asked.

I believe thousands. Your father failed to find out for me.

Hm. “Or failed to tell you.”

Perhaps. There is one who knows, a seer. Solomon sent the centipede demon to find her, but she fled into her hold. It is irrelevant.

Sam didn’t think it was. If he was going to banish all the demons from the world, he didn’t want to have to turn around and banish a bunch of gods who’d decided to move in because he’d made it safe for them. “So you don’t win back the world. What’s your plan then? You find a mountain somewhere and take all the gods and go live on it?”

Not a mountain, Derel said, his presence much calmer now. Another world. You are unlikely aware of this, but neither humans or gods are native to this world.

Since Sam had no fucking idea what that meant, it was safe to assume he was unlikely aware of it. “If you’re about to try and tell me the Gated Land is real…”

No. Many thousands of years ago, humans and gods resided on another world. It was destroyed by demons, and we fled, coming to live here. The Web was constructed as a lock to prevent demons from accessing our world, but it can also be used to open a door to another world. One where the remaining gods can live.

Hm. That was strangely idealistic for someone as crazy as Derel. It was also suitably crazy for someone as crazy as Derel. “So you all go live on the moon or whatever,” Sam said, very intentionally not including himself because fuck every part of that in every available orifice and a few new ones he’d cut just for the purpose. “And what? Come back in ten thousand years once you’re strong enough to take us again?”

No. We do not come back. Using the Web in this manner will destroy it. If that does not in turn destroy this world, the full return of the demons will eradicate what remains of it.

Ah. Sam sighed. Why did everyone Sam knew want to destroy the world? What the fuck did they all have against the fucking world? Even the ones who wanted to conquer the world actually just wanted to destroy it, because they’d all be shit at ruling the world. “Preserving our species at any cost, got it,” Sam said. Not calling Derel a fucking idiot was one of the hardest things he’d ever done. “So you want me to gather the stones for you so that you can destroy the world and take all your friends to a new one. Except ‘all your friends’ is currently just you and me.”

Derel was silent for a heartbeat too long at that. Yes, he agreed. This is why I wished for Solomon to find Meryan. As I said, he failed.

“Maybe.” Sam thought about it. Derel had just lied to him, but he could be somewhat truthful. “I’m planning to speak to his spirit soon. I’ll ask him what he knew and find her for you.”

I was not aware you were proficient in necromancy.

“I’m a fast learner. Especially if you tell me how to do it. I know you know, you’re a fucking ghost.”

Derel actually laughed at that. I can aid you with this, yes. Is this why you have made no progress on acquiring the stones?

“When did I say I’d made no progress?” Sam asked. He waved his hand, blowing all the rocks and salt against the walls. His skin was so dry. “Tell me how necromancy works so I can have one last bonding session with my father, and then we’ll get to work destroying the world.”

I should have known that such a plan would appeal to your base sensibilities.

“Yeah, well.” Sam smiled. “You don’t know me very well, Derel.”

Sam didn’t know Derel very well either. But he was just another crazy megalomaniac. Sam would string him along and kill him as soon as he could. There wasn’t enough room in the world for all of these people, and the more of them were for him to balance, the harder it was going to get.

Honestly, Sam thought. Whoever had put him in charge of managing all the psychotic genocidal maniacs in the world must think they were really fucking funny.

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