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Dragoness peered down from the narrow window, watching the crowd passing by, yet hiding herself from view. Longing filled her as she watched the exotic, beautiful Goths gather for the festivities.

"You should join them." The Daughter of Yog-Sothoth regarded the lonely Dragoness from her corner. The Daughter always lurked in dark corners, and always had a certain sardonic half-smile. "They'd like to meet you, you know."

Dragoness whirled. "I cannot! I'm not really one of them; I'm not a goth! I don't belong!" She wrung her hands. "Oh, I can discuss philosophy and religion, and offer a few words from a distance, but face-to-face? It cannot be! I'm just a middle-aged fool who gets her life from a newsgroup and e-mail. I'm not the goth here; you are!"

The Daughter was clad in black from head to toe; she arched one sardonic eyebrow. A glimmer of green balefire shone in one eye, sharp teeth gleamed white between parted red lips. "You underrate yourself, my other self."

"You're the one who loves the night, who plays with vampires, who feasts with the ghouls and monsters! You're the one who thrills to men's death ecstasy, you are the necromancer who would summon the dead to do her bidding. You're the killer, the destroyer, the lover of death, the dispassonate one who stands apart from it all. You're the goth, here!"

"Destroyer? Who kept you going, when you were fucking dead all those years? Aye, I am a necromancer; I kept a dead soul animated. I preserved you until you found life; for that you call me 'destroyer'?" The Daughter's lips were thin and drawn back in a snarl.

"You could not give me life. For all your cleverness and perception, and dreams of power, you could not do that. Oh, you kept me going, but there was no life, and no hope of life in the strength you gave me. I had to reject your sham of life, I had to die to truly live again."

"Could you have done that before? Ten, twelve years I preserved your rotting, dead soul; what would you have done if I had not?" The Daughter stared icily at her other self by the window. The snarl was gone; her lips were compressed in a thin line of only mild anger.

Dragoness stared out the window, watching the darkly beautiful, the pierced and painted, all of them pass by. "I do not know," she finally answered.

"I'll tell you, then. You would have thrown away your treasure, and you would have faced your putrifying soul alone, houseless and friendless. Perhaps you would have found life anyway; perhaps you would have chosen death, either by your own hand, or by mine--even I cannot say. You did CHOOSE my form of death for over a decade, didn't you?"

"Yes, damn you! You with your cold distractions, your ghoulish lusts. Intellectual pastimes to while away the hours of an empty soul; games of imagination to hide the absence of real life. Fictional people with fictional cares to distract me from real people in real pain. 'Entertain thyself and ignore thy neighbor' instead of 'Love thy neighbor as thyself'. Pave your heart over with concrete, so you can't see how decayed it is."

"Your choice." The insolent half-smile was back.

"No, YOUR choice! I could not live until I died, and you cannot abide true death. You cannot stand to be less than perfect; you will twist reality asunder, and wrack innocents in that twisting, rather than see your own guilt, or your own sin. You revel in being unnatural, in posing as unconventional, but you refuse to be anything other than fully self-justified. He that pierces you with your own guilt is your mortal enemy, for that is a mortal wound to you."

"Aye, all true. It is my nature; how can I be other than my nature? All self-love must deceive, unless it has firm foundation to build upon. In our case, however, there was only slime and decay to lay our foundation on; so deception and cold necromancy was necessary. I kept you going, I gave you enough ego to function. In return I required that you preserve the deception of humanity. Is it my fault your emotions betrayed us? That you longed for your own dead soul, and kept breaking through the wall of self-deception I built for you? Had you played the part better, no one would have seen through my deception, and you would have been content."

"Content? Ego enough to function? Oh yes, you have ego enough for both of us. That you believe your own deceptions shows that. You are the necromancer, but the dead came to me without summoning; you would be unconventional, but I have the tattoo on *my* shoulder. I was wrong to call you 'the goth'; you haven't the passion or heart to be a goth. Nor are you vampire, though you would make the realm of the vampyres a playground for your ego. You're a precocious, evil child: no compassion, just sadistic delight in suffering; no imagination, just theft from the imaginations of others; no love, just feigned interest in those you can use."

The Daughter stalked from her corner, toward the Dragoness. "Nevertheless, I am part of you; you can never be rid of me. Deal."

"In that, you are very wrong." As she spoke, Dragoness flung her hidden spear, tipped with the Knowledge of Sin, and honed with Suffering Learned From. Driven by the strength that comes from the Spirit, the spear impaled the Daemon-Daughter through the space where a heart would ordinarily have been, pinning her to the wall.

"I cannot kill a dead thing that refuses to admit it is dead," Dragoness conceded, "but I can keep you from doing mischief until the day I am finally free of you."

She looked outside. "Perhaps I really will join them, but," she looked back at the captive demoness, "without you."

An ending