Title: Old Gods, New Bonds
Characters: Illyria and Drogyn the Battlebrand (Gen)
Spoilers: Season 5, Power Play, you know the bit with the X Box
Word Count: 1700
Disclaimer: Illyria will accept no ownership from me. Characters were slightly harmed before the making of this fic, so don't blame me, blame Angel.
Summary: “You must adapt or return to your rest.”
Author's Note: I'm not very familiar with Crash Bandicoot as I spent about two minutes playing Crash Bandicoot 2 and got very bored. Oh why couldn't they have been playing Spyro? Therefore, I don't which game in the series they are supposed to be playing. My research concluded it had to be either Crash Nitro Kart or Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex,but neither seemed to entirely fit the script. Therefore, Crash fans will need a pinch of salt.
With no emotion showing on her stony face, Illyria watches the apartment door as it clicks back into its frame.
“Crash Bandicoot?” she repeats.
The parting words of the one called Spike confuse her and, like so often when she’s left puzzled by the riddles he speaks, he'd spoken of things she cannot possibly understand; wonders of sorts that she has not yet encountered but will most likely disappoint her.
This time he leaves her with the mysterious ‘X-Box’ and ‘Crash Bandicoot’ and already the sound of their names are annoying. They have no meaning she can guess from what she's learnt of this human world, although the vague memories that belong to her shell suggest a game of some sort, a pastime: another piece of useless human junk. Despite this, she still finds herself looking down at the controller in her hand. The object is shiny and plastic, like so much in this baffling new world, and it feels heavy and wrong in her palm. The half-breed had evoked promises of fun and amusement but neither the names nor the controller tell her anything of what that fun might entail. The woman called Burkle did not play such games it seems.
Why humankind uses such trivial nonsense to pass their insignificant lives is beyond Illyria’s understanding. Time, as Illyria understands it, is to be conquered, dominated and ruled with the might of her fist, yet more and more she discovers human pleasures waste time in futile ways, not one leading to a purpose that matters. Mortals do not understand that their lives are transient, fleeting, and are frittered away on such idle distractions. Few use their short lives with real purpose.
The device does not seem to promise Illyria domination of this dimension or any other. It’s not balanced like a weapon; it’s too light, too small, so she dismisses it as useless. She has no wish to spend her energy on the worthless task of finding out what makes it work. But, the smoothness of the moulded shape feels intriguing under her fingers nonetheless, and the brightly coloured buttons, printed with symbols arcane and mysterious, do beg to be pressed.
Many things in this world of men have buttons she’s found. Some of them are even useful, like those in the lifting boxes back at the Wolfram and Hart; the brightly lit ones that allow her to select the floor she wants to stalk. She presses these new ones gingerly, but when nothing happens, she lets the controller drop with disinterest.
“Old One,” Drogyn speaks softly from the couch. It’s a soothing voice, without the noisy chattering tone of the others. It’s one she might bear for a short while, if his only his words would contain any meaning. “Come hither.”
She turns to him. Stares. He is weak, reeking of open wounds and humanity long past its expiration date, of dirt and sweat and old wasted blood mingled together. The only reason she regards him at all is because she recognises an uncanny strength under the spiking pain of his injury. She will take no order from one that would seek to contain her.
“I have no plans to return you the Deeper Well just now,” he assures her. “That was never my purpose here.”
Illyria is mollified for the moment. To him maybe she can stand to listen. Here is one that does not live a fleeting mortal life, over in a blink, a heartbeat, an exhalation of breath. He has a wisdom born of age, suffering and war. She could identify with such a man, a warrior with eyes haunted by violence and the lives he has taken; even if he would have her reinterred and forgotten in the furthest depths of the Well if was within his powers.
“Old One,” her former jailor says again, gently, reverently. He knows how lowly he is next to her, even diminished as she is. “Be seated. Tell me of what bothers you.”
She chooses to sit. Not because she is weary or because he asked her to do so, but because it suits her. She will not burden this man with what is really on her mind. Such a low creature as he would never grasp how small she feels, how lost or so utterly reduced she's become.
What a world this place is. Once legions had called her their god amongst gods; her life so glorious, they would fight and die for a mere glance of her face, Enemies would tremble just at the utterance of her name. All was hers to control. Now all that's left of that shining being is forced into this powerless shell, a worthless vessel that cannot begin to contain her. And yet these people, such as Drogyn or those that are no more than the walking remains of mortal men, who should shudder as they look up to her greatness, attempt to call her their equal. They issue commands as if she should care and comply, yet they robbed her of everything. They do not see how far she stoops to live at this human level.
Drogyn could never begin to understand so she will tell him not. Instead, she shares some of her more petty annoyances, of which there are many. “I know not what this ‘Crash Bandicoot’ is. You shall tell me.”
“I believe it is a game, a whimsy.” Drogyn leans forward and picks up the controller she discarded and offers it back to her. “Perhaps you should play.”
She doesn’t take it. “The half breed’s object does not function. I already tire of it.”
Drogyn presses a button and the screen before them bursts into life. “I believe it was the button named ‘Start’ that called forth the game.”
Staring at the screen, she sees nothing to interest her, just strange creatures in a world of garish colours that flash and blind. The sounds the game makes are noisy, raucous, sharp and too loud. Music, pointlessly crude and cheerful, blasts above the row.
Drogyn picks up another controller. “There appears to be enough for two to play.”
This seems to be the extent of Drogyn's limited knowledge, so together they attempt to figure out how to play. Illyria never does know if they are successful, but although the game is pointless and unpleasing, she's compelled to play on. There is violence, if you can call it that, but there is no pain, no agonies to relish, no death; just endless crates to smash and small creatures to squash. She has no idea of the meaning of the fruit or the valueless crystals nor even why she should care.
She deserves better than this, she thinks as her character breaks into another carelessly discarded crate; she deserves glory and honour and the majesty of titanic battles that would rage for centuries. But the world was so different now, stifling in its smallness. Wars lasted years not millennia, the fallen were counted in tens, hundreds or thousands, not in volumes too vast to count. There is no one to grovel at her feet to beg for an end to their suffering. There is no one here that notices her at all.
“I cannot tolerate the humanity of this place,” she confesses and Drogyn just nods, allowing her the space to speak her true thoughts. Indeed, he is wiser than most here. “I held their lives like grit between my fingers,” she continues, “mine to keep or discard. Now they do not see me or the males just stare at this shell, their filthy lusts open on their faces.”
“You must change, Old One,” Drogyn tells her. “You must adapt or return to your rest.”
“I do not wish to.”
“Perhaps it is not for you to choose.”
“I choose to play on.”
At that Drogyn falls silent once more and she listens to his breath, it's animal, physical, laboured with his pain. Human. Eventually he sighs, turns back to the machine and begins to play again.
Illyria knows she sounds petulant, but she doesn’t care. She was made to command and she sees little point in serving the wishes of others, even she deems to agree. It's just that she doesn’t know what to want any more. Human existence is as worthless as the Crash Bandicoot, perhaps she should choose death and reject this wretched humanness she's been reduced to.
Yet like the game, Illyria can’t help but be drawn into their valueless lives. Even those of the vampires that live a fantasy of immortality, lesser creatures marked with the tainted reek of men. They do not deserve her notice; they pretend they live when they do not die and they cannot know how real longevity feels. Yet they're starting to earn the respect she wants to deny them. She even sits here at the behest of one of these creatures, playing their pointless game, little more than a guard to one that had once guarded her, while they chase after those who play the real power games, scuttling around, buzzing like insects and just as significant. They are foolish to think they can win, but she admires them for trying. They fight a different sort of battle, but the struggle is still a war.
Illyria tries pressing another combination of buttons to see what they might do. The result is her character performing a violent jump. Drogyn's character is killed in the battle. This is satisfying.
Angel's people talk all the time of power; about its corruption and the good they think they can do with the backing of Wolfram and Hart, but they understand little of how to wield such strength. The power they know is a phantom, loaned to them by the Senior Partners for their own unknowable ends. This war then is not her own and she wants no part of it. She does not want to become like Drogyn and be dragged in regardless, yet if the alternative is guard duty and the ‘Crash Bandicoot', perhaps she will have to take a part.
In a world of the 'X-Box' and wars fought on corporate scale, maybe these small battles will have to do.