A/N: EDIT: Improved some missing bits, added more and the like. Hope folks enjoy it.

The explicit version of this chapter is now available on A03! Be sure to give it a look after reading/reviewing this!

Well, here we go! Yet another early update as promised! Amazing what a bit of feedback can do. Really spurs me to write faster.

If this chapter gets a ton of feedback as well-hopefully!-then I'll do my best to ensure a weekly update again. If not...I don't know. I really don't.

I nearly retired with all this nonsense going on with the site, but I'm still writing...for now. We'll see.

In other news depression's starting to hit real hard these days. Sometimes I wonder why I do anything at all. I can't claim to understand what's going wrong with my head. I don't even know why! One moment I'm fine, then my mood craters for a few hours, then I'm back again for a bit, and the cycle repeats. Its rather annoying; as though I've become a prisoner in my own mind sometimes. Sure, what's one more mental problem on the pile. Not like I don't have enough, what with already being this old. Feels like every day is a battle sometimes. My doctor is of no help at all.

Trying to find another one is absolute hell, and its driving me bonkers. *siiiigh* Don't mind the rambling of this geezer...

With my fifteen year anniversary on this site finally here, I find myself reflecting on the little things in life. What was once a lazy pastime meant for me and a few friends really grew and evolved over time. There are days when I look back on the last fifteen years here and I wonder if anyone will remember me; if I made an impact, despite never making a single cent on any of these stories. Some days were happier than others, and some stories I enjoyed writing WAY too much; to the point where I'd stay up all night working on them.

And of course, there are times when I look to the future and wonder what will become of things when I'm gone.

Of course, I try not to dwell on the latter overmuch; I'm still alive and still writing. In an ideal world, I'd like to keep doing so for as long as I can. But old age is catching up to me and these days, the world is filled with so much madness and death. Feels like everyone's lost their minds sometimes. Even before that, so many friends and fellow writers I once knew are gone, now. Will I still be here in twenty years? Ten? Five? Its a chilling thought. But for now, I'm still here, still writing.

No questions this time. Someone complained. Ah, well. I think I've kept you waiting long enough already, dear reader.

As ever, I own no quotes, references, themes, or memes. Not a wit or a one!

They're tributes to legends far greater than little old me.

Here we go.

"Love. Ha! What do you know of love, Tarnished? There is nothing so dangerous in the Lands Between as love.

Some seek love and and a lucky few even manage to find it, albeit at a terrible cost to themselves.

Others pine for another unrequited, only to be rejected by the object of their affections.

And then...oh yes, there are those who love yet never know love at all.

Yet nevertheless, we seek it endlessly.

Love is dangerous. For you see...

...love drives us insane."


What I Cannot Have

Lansseax seethed.

Those fiends. The absolute fiends.

Those cads, the dastards, the bastards! How dare they!

She would tear the flesh from their very bones, rip them asunder and parade their shattered souls before Lord Placidussax himself!



...alright, perhaps that last bit was a tad excessive, but she couldn't bring herself to care at the moment. Fire and Blood. Lightning and death. Vengeance and fury. These were the things she knew, the things she wanted, the things she craved here, now, in this moment.

And by the Skies, she would have it!

Her prey had no way of knowing, but this was field was precious to her beyond words; it was the very place where she'd first met her dear beloved Vyke, then later, brought a bouquet of fresh Fulgurbloom -Dragon's Kiss in her tongue- to him, only to be summarily rejected for her efforts. How that memory stung, even centuries later. Now she'd found a human and a dragon rutting here in this most scared of places. She'd heard them first, smelled them second, then saw them, and once she did...her rage knew no bounds.




She slashed a claw down and them then howled her fury when she missed again. Her prey was slippery! Cloaked in red lightning, she nevertheless fought on. Her screams conjured crimson bolts from the sky, her wings created a hurricane, and her breath, death. The dragon in her rejoiced at the prospect of battle, even as her human half raged at the futility of it all. It was like trying to fight a hurricane; one full of grins, snappy retorts and laughter, so much laughter! Every time she thought she had him, he slipped through her claws with otherworldly grace and got right in her face.

All the world was a red sea and she was drowning in it; such was her ire.

"Greyroll!" she swiped at them anew, "I shall peel off your every scale and leave thee to bleed! This I swear!"

The mother of dragons dodged back and grinned at her, still wearing naught but a smile. "My mate might have something to say about that~!"

Oh, blast, she'd forgotten about the blond one again-

A golden fist thundered into the side of her skull and her world inverted. Down she went, cratering the earth, tearing great chunks from the soil. She tried to right herself only for a boot to stomp down on her head and render her face intimate with the Fulgurbloom once more. Lightning crackled across her snout and and she sneezed furiously.

She craned her head back to glare at him. "You dare? Do you honestly think you can best me?!"

The blond human -Tarnished- cracked his neck side to side, uncaring for his naked upper torso and grinned at her. "C'mere and find out."

A bold of red lightning sizzled to life in her claw. "You will die slowly!"

"Been there, done that, didn't stick!"

She struck down, only for him to strike back with a roar of his own...and it was she who was rebuffed. "How?!"

A merry laugh was her reward."Wind trumps lightning!"


"Pretty possible, actually." his grin didn't waver as he diverted another clawed strike with a rush of wind. Scarlet lightning struck him and fizzled out harmlessly, allowing him to slug her and send her spinning to the ground in a heap once more. "Haven't you ever heard of elemental matchups?"

She flared her four wings with a shriek. "STOP TALKING AND JUST DIE!"

He didn't, of course. Nooo, of course not.

That would be too easy.

Preposterous! He was just a tarnished! He wasn't even a demigod or touched by dragons! It just wasn't possible! What was he?!

He alighted atop her head, grinning like a cheshire cat. "Just a man."

Was he reading her mind now?! "Wretched Tarnished!"

"I have a name, ya know! Its Naruto!"

"I don't care!"

He backflipped under her raking claws, dove low, then skidded between her legs, striking wildly as he went. Her limbs decided they couldn't be bothered with this bull anymore and buckled. The moment she did, she felt a weight settle upon on her tail. Her panic mounted as surely as the smiling shinobi cradling the most sensitive part of her. Draconic eyes bulged and she tried to protest, too late.


Naruto did no such thing!

He spun her around like a certain spiky-shelled-lizard-who-shall-not-be-named and tossed her with a triumphant cry.


Lansseax struck the ground like a falling star. Momentum wasn't merciful. She had enough thought to tuck her wings in to avoid breaking them befor she completely lost control of herself. She must've blacked out at some point, because when she awoke, her body lay sprawled in the grass, surrounded by torn dirt and mud. Her eyes widened at the sight that awaited her.


Her great scaly bulk had carved an ugly swathe through the Fulgurbloom, destroying them all.

No, no.

She adopted her human guise in an instant, scales shimmering into human skin, but it was already too late.

No, no, no!

Red eyes blazed as white hair swayed in the hair and white robes billowed out behind her but she may as well have been naked in this moment, such as her pain. Trembling hands fumbled for the battered blooms, only for the crackling flowers to crumble in her grasp. Still she clutched at them, trying to save what she could. Each time, her deeds were met with failure.

A shadow fell over her.

Lansseax knew to whom it belonged.

She glared up hatefully at the Tarnished.

Monster!" she flung the scattered petals at him with a shriek. "How could you?! Look what you've done! These were all I had left of him!" another handful of crackling flowers struck his face, eliciting a wince."All I had! And now its gone forever!" he stared down at her wordlessly, inflaming her fury to new heights. "This was the place where I lost him, and for what?! A fool of a girl who died anyway! Now you've even taken the memory of him from me!" It all so pointless that she wanted to weep. "Whyyyyy?!"

He didn't answer. Somehow, the silence stung more than mere words. Damnit. Damn him. Damn this TARNISHED!

She surged upright with a feral snarl, conjuring a glaive of purest red light to her human hand.

He had no room to dodge. With this, it would end. She would slay him and...



...that was a very big fox!

A massive beast of gold and black burst into existence between her and the baffling blond. It was large, far larger than it had any right to be; it would've dwarfed her even in her dragon form. Without so much as a sound, it callously caught her glaive and shattered it. Broken shards of red lightning splintered in every direction; the sheer shockwave of such sundered her robes and slammed her down into the muck all over again. An awful crack filled her ears as she felt three of her ribs break.

This was it, then. Her final hour. Death came for her.

...why wasn't she dead yet?

She looked up.

As she looked on the Tarnished -Naruto!- dispelled that terrifying golden beast and alighted before her one last time. His body shone with ethereal light. Freed from her rage for the moment, Lansseax finally saw him for what he was. His body shone. Not just with golden light, but those of so many Great Runes.

One lay engraved upon his neck, another to his chest, two more to his arms, and even one upon the back of one hand. So many Runes. Even her Vyke had only ever held two, except...he wasn't her Vyke, was he? For a moment, just a sliver of a second, she could have sworn she saw Him standing behind Naruto. Overlapping him, tall and strong in the light of the Erdtree. He too, offered her his hand.

"Its over. Time to throw in the towel."

Lansseax rasped a bitter laugh into the mud.

Such a vicious joke. Life was cruel. Somehow, she doubted the afterlife would be any different.

Why? Why couldn't her Vyke be like this? But...he wasn't HER Vyke, had she? He never was. He never had been. He never would be. If he had, he would've faced her in combat. He would have been her mate. He would have made her happy. He wouldn't have left her broken and bleeding in the mud like this one.

It was too much. Her heart broke. She burst into tears.

"Why does she love you?!" her fist slammed down, cratering the ruined soil and the scattered flower petals underfoot. "Why do you have what I don't?!" another punch sent a jolt of pain racing up her wrist, but she was too bereft to care. "Tell me why!" Here at last her strength failed and crumpled to her knees, clutching her ribs. "I don't want to die, I want to be happy, I want to be loved...

Naruto's hand descended.

Lansseax braced herself for the final blow. Let it be done. No more torment, no more pain, no more anything. Just sweet release. She knew she wouldn't see Vyke in the afterlife and no longer cared. Just make it stop. She would accept whatever punishment was bestowed upon her in the hereafter. Anything was better than this.

A hand closed around her wrist.

Ah, so he was going to tear her apart then. So be it.

Naruto tugged her to feet and pressed his lips against hers.


It was a brief fleeting thing as his mouth caged hers, yet it ignited something in Lansseax all the same. Finally. She'd been waiting for a kiss like this for centuries. Her eyes fluttered shut and she found herself melting into him momentarily, tilting her head to the right for a better angle and returning it before she came back to her senses. Once she did, embarrassment was quick to follow. Embarrassment...and a spark of desire so powerful it left her aching for more. She jolted backward with a yelp and reeled away, one hand touching her lips.


He flicked her forehead. "Because this Vyke of yours was an idiot."

Her eyes widened in absolute outrage at such vulgarity. "How DARE you speak of-

"Lemme finish!" he held up a hand, forestalling her outburst. "Whoever he might be, he was an idiot to throw you away. You're beautiful, strong, loyal, and you're probably going to live damn near forever. Am I wrong?"

She tried to must her anger, only to fail spectacularly. "No...?"

Certainly, she was all of things and so much more, but...oh, my. Her head spun. She was still reeling from that kiss. It had been her fist kiss. She'd wanted something like that for so long and had despaired at not having it, yet now she wanted another. No, more than another, her blood was up now and she wanted...she wanted...what did she want now, exactly?

To kill the Tarnished before her?

Or perhaps maybe...

...just maybe...

Naruto took her hands in his and she damn near jumped out of her skin. Close! Too close! What was she supposed to do when he was so close?! Her heart hammered in her ears like the drums of a great hunt and her very blood sang, aching for contact. She wanted to be touched, she wanted to be held, she wanted him over her, under her, behind her, in her and a whole host of other things she didn't dare say alout.

"I meant what I said." his voice rooted her, hypnotized her, drew her in. "He was a dumbass to cast you aside. Only an idiot would do that."

Her legs quivered.

How long had she waited to hear those words? To hear someone say it wasn't her fault, that it had never been her fault? Her resistance began to crumble. She wanted to weep all over again, not from sorrow, but joy, such was the relief she felt in this moment.

"Well said." Greyroll swept in from the side, uncaring for her nakedness. "And what of you? Has your heart calmed now?"

"I...suppose?" Lansseax looked away. How should she feel?! Her blood was up and that kiss had only riled her up.

The younger dragon smiled. It was not a nice smile. "Good, that makes this easier."

"Makes whaaaaaaat?!" Her voice piqued a startled notch as the shorter dragoness embraced her from behind. "What are you doing?!"

"You lost, Lansseax." Greyroll wrapped an arm round her waist, even as her lips sought her neck, delicately kissing the pale expanse of skin there. "Your life lies in his hands. You know what that means; by oldest laws of our kind...

Lansseax gulped.

She did indeed remember the Old Ways.

Dragons sought strength in a mate, bonding to whomever could defeat them.

She'd simply never thought to find herself on the receiving end of them...or quite so willing toward such an arrangement.


Wait, wait.

Wait, wait, wait!

Surely they weren't going to...where they?

Greyroll's hand delved lower still, parting her ruined robes.

Naruto kissed her a heartbeat later, and no so gently this time. The dual pleasure drove her wild; both breaking and freeing her in the same moment. She melted into him and bit at his lip in return, draping her arms around his neck before he could even think to draw away. Greyroll took full advantage of her distraction, nibbling at her neck, running a hand down her flank, drawing a fresh body shiver. Her skin tingled anew in an almost sinful way now; her thoughts were growing fuzzy, obscured by the promise of pleasure. With a Tarnished at her and a fell Dragon at her back...really, she didn't know where to look!

In the end, desire finally won out; lust battered down the last wall of her self restraint with gusto.

"Take me." the word tore out of her in a gasp. "Stop teasing me and just take me!"

She tackled Naruto to the ground. Greyroll jumped her in return.

Lansseax would remember what followed most fondly.

Her world dissolved into depraved debauchery.

(...A Great Many Hours Later...)

Morgott heard him.

Or them, he supposed.

He was old, mind you, not deaf.

And those approaching were far from subtle about it. He heard their banter before they breached the gate of golden fog. They were bickering about something. Children? He only caught the tail end of it, and he certainly wasn't curious enough to make a meal of the matter...



... For you see, he was somewhat nonplussed to find that he recognize this particular Tarnished.

"Oh, hey." He found himself recognized in turn. "You again, huh? And here I thought I'd seen the last of you...

"And so we meet once more boy." he stomped down the steps to meet him, clearing them two at a time to reach the thrones. "You shall not triumph this time."

The whiskered Tarnished had not come alone; indeed, he was flanked by two women bearing horns. Ah. So he had allied himself with Dragons. A pity. There was another, some faint nebulous presence tickling at the edge of his senses. Where was its owner? Were they hiding from him, lurking in the shadows, sheltering themselves in astral for perhaps? ...hrm. It was of no consequence to him.

"And now you consort with Dragons? How you have fallen."

One of them beamed. "Oh yes, we do much consorting. Very loudly."

The taller of the two palmed her face, now cherry red, with a groan. "Greyroll, no...

"Greyroll, yes!" her companion only laughed, much to Morgott's confusion. "It was a very reproductive time for us."

Naruto heaved a rueful a sigh. "I think you mean productive, there, Grey...

She licked her lips happily. "Hmhmhm. I know what I said."

...such depravity. It stirred something ugly in him.

"I suppose you think you love another." he scoffed at the lot of them.

Naruto met his stare evenly. "I care about them, yeah. Does it bother you that much...?"

"Love. Ha!" a bitter laugh rumbled out of him. "What do you know of love, Tarnished? There is nothing so dangerous in the Lands Between as love. It is a poison, a plague, a pestilence." he clicked his tongue, scoffing at the two glaring dragonkin. "Some seek love and and a lucky few even manage to find it, albeit at a terrible cost to themselves. Others pine for another unrequited, only to be rejected by the object of their affections." Oh, how one of them flinched at that! "And then...oh yes, there are those who love yet never know love at all. Yet nevertheless, we seek it endlessly." a fist clenched at his side, biting into his palm until his own accursed blood threatened to flow freely from his fingers. "Love is dangerous. For you see...love drives us insane."

He expected an outburst, anger, seething denial at the very least, a contest of his claim.

A shrug was, by far, the last thing he expected. "Meh. Then call me crazy."

Morgott blinked. He blinked hard. "I beg your pardon?"

Naruto tilted his head. "Did I stutter?"

"You certainly didn't." Greyroll huffed and clung to his arm. "The veiled king indeed." she sneered at him furiously. "Clearly thine eyes are veiled as well, Morgott!"

Lansseax crowded in on his other side, flashing her fangs. "Its a shame, really. You've closed your heart to the world...

So be it. A fool he was, then. Fools, the lot of them.

"Graceless tarnished." Morgott rasped out a sigh, desperately trying to steer the conversation back to less debauched waters. "What is thy business with these thrones?" his gaze roved over the empty seats, recalling a time when they had once been filled by loyal friend and allies. "Godrick the Golden, the twin prodigies Miquella and Malenia. General Radahn. Praetor Rykard." And what had these allies done? What had they become? "Willful traitors, all...and you are no different.

He slammed his cane down and shifted his grip, preparing for what was to come.

"Thy kind are all of a piece, pillagers!" his fingers cracked around his cherished weapon, freeing the blade within. "Emboldened by the flame of ambition. "I shall have it writ upon thy meager grave." he swept his sword outward with a snarl. "Felled by King Morgott. Last of all-

Then he saw Mohg's rune and his speech withered on his tongue.

Morgott cared for few in this world, but his heart shattered all the same.

He took one look at the boy's hand, saw his twin's rune, and brandished his blade with a hiss.

"My own brother! Thy greed knows no end, usurper!" tainted light shimmered across his blade, promising pain." You're no different from the rest! Smoldering with thy meager flame of ambition!"

"I didn't kill your brother!"

"Lies!" he brandished his blade! "You bear his great rune!"

The Tarnished flung up his arms. "Some crazy blond lady gave it to me!"

Those words gave Morgott pause for the merest of moment. A blond woman...Marika? But no, she was sealed within the Erdtree, unable to leave. Wasn't she...



...no. It changed nothing. He must die all the same.

This "blond woman" would be dealt with later. For now, blood demanded blood.

Greyroll stepped back, dragging Lansseax with her. "We'll just let you have the first round, then, shall we?"

Morgott needed no further encouragement. His loping stride burst into a lunge. This time, he would not hold back. He would take the boy's head in a single swing!

"Look, I really don't wanna fight you. Ya seem like a good guyyyyyyow!" to his credit, Naruto ducked a frenzied flurry of blows, hopped over his tial, parried his blade and slapped aside his hammer before countering with a hammerblow of his own. "Listen to me, damnit! I didn't come here to fight, but if you keep pushing me-oi!"

Morgott rushed him with a snarl.

Naruto met him in stride; if he had been fast before now he was a blur now.

Steel met steel. He was somewhat surprised to see that none other than one of Radahan's Starscourge Greatswords had stymied him. Ah, so that was his great rune after all. T'would seem the Tarnished had been busy in his absence. No matter. He could still keep up with-


Morgott failed to see that attack until it struck, but thought himself prepared for it all the same. He slammed backward, crashed down on one knee, caught himself with his sword, and...!


Pain overtook him a second later. Something came lose in him.

His accursed blood, contained for so long, rushed forth in a geyser around him, tainting the very earth underfoot.

"The thrones...stained by my curses." a low growl tore out of his throat as he dragged himself upright. "Such shame I cannot bear. Thy part in this shall not be forgiven!"

"Me?!" the blond bastard before him actually had the gall to look indignant. "What did I do?! I'm just trying to keep ya from killin' me! But you know what?! FINE!" he pointed a massive greatsword at him, lips curling in a scowl. "One way or another, I'm getting that Great Rune! You're either gonna hand it to me, or I'll take it off your cold corpse. What's it gonna be, Morgott?!"

They collided in a storm of steel, whirling and flipping, snarling and slashing, tearing at each other like a pair of beasts.

"Even now you fail to understand." He laughed bitterly at him as they clashed, lamenting his naivete. "Tarnished, thou'rt but a fool." his weapons clashed against the blond's Starscourge Greatswords in a deadlock, and he leaned over them with a sneer. "The Erdtree wards off all who deign approach. We are all of us forsaken." bitter laughter tumbled out of him. "None may claim the title of Elden Lord. Thy forsaken deeds shall be met with failure, just as I! We are lost! DEFEAT ME AND SEE FOR YOURSELF!"

Something hardened in the young man's eyes. He recognized it too late.

"Fine." his head rose. "But just remember, you asked for this."

Naruto dropped his weapons.

Morgott frowned, baffled by the sudden switch.

He never saw the rousing uppercut that smashed into his chin.

In truth he didn't even realize he'd left the ground until his back struck the upper branches of the Erdtree. Agony seared up his spine as his body broke against a stern golden bough, then tenfold now as a golden meteor rocketed up to greet him. A fist slammed into his gut and folded him in half. He gagged, clutching at his gut in a vain attempt to stymie the pain. Mistakes were made. The moment his defenses dropped, the pain began. One, two, three, four now. On and on the barrage went, clenched fists beating him east, west, north and south.

'Oh.' he realized distantly. 'The boy's been holding back as well. I've blundered, haven't I?'

"Are you done, Morgott?!" a hand tore one of his horns off and slammed it into his collarbone, then dragged it down, eviscerating him. "Are you enjoying yourself?!" a fist smashed into his throat, rendering his words a startled croak, even as a third blow bloodied his nose and snapped his head to the side. "Is that what you wanted?!"another punch obliterated his nose and right eye in a shower of red viscera, darkening half his world forevermore. "Have you learned your lesson yet?!" his tail cracked out in a desperate defense and the blond tore it clean off. "Well?! Speak up! Answer me, damnit!"

Morgott croaked. "I...yield...!"

Golden knuckles filled his vision. Then...darkness.

After all the pain he'd suffered, unconsciousness was a blessed reprieve.

A/N: Ahhh, but did he live?

Suppose that depends on you, the reader.

Well? Did you like this story? Yes? No? Maybe?

By all means, speak up! Make yourselves heard! Your voice matters~! Silence hurts worse than any flame. Looking forward to reading your feedback when I get home from work~

If this chapter gets a ton of feedback-hopefully!-then I'll do my best to ensure another early update again. If not...I don't know. I really don't.

Once more, we're sticking with the "Embers" rule for this story.

If folks don't like this, it won't be continued. Meaning that if the story itself ain't popular? It will remain, but it won't be continued! Gone. Completely. I'm working two jobs to keep the lights on, as such I barely have time to write; as such, I cannot afford to write something folks don't enjoy. So by all means, speak up! Your voice matters! Make yourself heard! As ever, reviews are the fuel that sustain me. Without them I cannot write a single word. Simple as that.

So in the Immortal Words of Atlas....Review, Wouldst Thou Kindly?

And have some previews. Some are quite a ways off, but still...

Mind you, most of these previews are the same.

Wouldn't do to spoil what's coming up.

Vote for what you want to see!

And as ever:





With an awful crack of light, a Great Rune tore free.

Rya sat beside him. "May we talk?"

Sure, why not," he chuckled into his palms. "Just got the Irina bombshell dropped on me...

...what is that thing?"

Hewg offered him the Weapon.

"Its what she asked for. The power to kill a god."

"I'm so sorry!"


He grabbed the needle.

There was a blade in his chest. He looked down with a sigh.

"And you thought this would work because...?"

"Please don't go...please...I can't do this without you...

"What was this? A projection? He didn't think so. And yet...

"I am Malenia, Blade of Miquella. And I-


-am not in the mood." Naruto finished as he stalked over her prone form. "Buzz off."


Aw, hell.

"Whoa, now!" He waved up at the fire giant. "Friendly! Friend! No stomping, please!"

The behemoth squinted down at him in utter confusion. Progress.

Naruto beamed up at it. "Wanna be friends?"



Milicent flung up her arms in exasperation. "You are such boys!"

Once more, we're sticking with the "Embers" rule for this story, and others. If folks don't like this, it won't be continued. Meaning that if the story itself isn't popular? Well, it won't be continued. I'm working two jobs -might need a third soon!- so I barely have time to write; as such, I cannot afford to write something folks don't enjoy.

So by all means, speak up! Your voice matters! Make yourself heard! As ever, reviews are the fuel that sustain me. Without them I cannot write a single word. Simple as that. Working nearly all hours of the day keep me absurdly busy, and I can't bring myself to write something folks don't like.

Silence...silence only hurts.

Looking forward to chatting with you all when I get back from work~!