Original 'verse this month. It stole the theme and wouldn't let go. ;)
Serenity of Purpose
1041 words without title
Steam rose from the cauldron and the water bubbled. An herbal scent permeated the room, sharp and fresh. The ritual was almost prepared, save for the final ingredient—Seth himself. The necromancer sat in front of the window, and absentmindly brushed his hand against the back of what had once been his cat.
Its fur was matted, but magic kept it from rotting. Sometimes, it would remember how to purr, but not today, not that Seth noticed. His mind was elsewhere, his thoughts fluttering like startled birds. Amon, his son, his world, was out there, where war was raging. The child he had longed to protect from the cruel world that took his mother, ran off and was lost to him, but still Seth had to protect him.
But he would not be able to protect him as he was. He was too weak, too lost to keep the war from ending his child.
A failure of a healer, a failure of husband, a failure of a father, a failure of a man—his mind sung and sung, and told him he would fail, but Amon was the last piece of a world that had crumbled, the single gem, the tether that held him back from going where he did not want, and oh just once, he wished he would not fail. Not just wish, wishing was not enough, but what else was left to him?
He swallowed, and tried to focus. It was of crucial importance that he was calm during the ritual, though serenity seemed an abstract concept. Where would he find the elusive peace? Memories of the green-blue eyes, set in a tanned face, and smile sweeter than summer wine only ever brought pain, and the image of a dead, dead body, a gaping hole where her womb was staring accusingly at him.
But with pain came focus. War was raging, and his son was out there, unprepared for the cruelty of the world. What other way did he have to atone for his failures, but to protect him? And to protect him, he needed more power, power that his body used for all those useless functions.
To save his child, he needed to die a false death, and remake himself. In death, all was lost, but sometimes a glimmer of once-had-been remained. If he could make his love for his child this glimmer… Death would take all burdens and distractions, but if he managed to keep this one feeling in his mind as he died, it would give purpose to something new. A creature that would know no fear, no pain, and would never stop. His love would live on in a new form: as the driving force for a creature of terrible serenity of purpose.
Amon would be safe, and the father who failed him would be no more.
He put down his once-familiar, and with a steady hand, Seth took a brush and dipped in a bowl filled with red ink. Slowly, he drew a pattern on his arm, swirling signs flowing down and down, until it was covered in them wholly. Then, he dipped it in the boiling water.
Pain came, but he held the limb submerged, until flesh started peeling from bone. Slowly, he drew it out, and carefully ripped the skin and muscles away, revealing the bone. Patterns, red like blood, swirled and dancing down the skeletal limb, and Seth knew he would be his son’s salvation.
His thoughts stilled.
Seth rose and stepped away from the cauldron, letting the water boil on. He cast of his robe and picked up the brush again. He dipped it in the bowl of ink, and resumed painting the same swirling patterns over his body. His movements were no longer slow, but remained deliberate. The brush glided across naked flesh, all where Seth could reach.
For a moment, he stood still, smiling to himself.
No longer did he fear. He knew it would work and he knew this time he would not fail. The certainty gave him purpose and clarity he had not felt in ages. It stilled the fluttering birds of his thoughts and focused them on the cauldron.
He steadied himself with his skeletal hand and stepped into the boiling water.
The pain was even worse, but the flowing patterns worked and Seth retained control of his legs, even as his muscles cooked. He knelt in the water, allowing his useless flesh to die, and with it his hunger, his need for sleep...
The sharp scent of herbs mingled with the smell of his own flesh boiling, and Seth thought that if someone had entered now, they would have been sick. The observation was a far away thing, almost as if it was about somebody else.
What did others matter? His purpose was all that mattered, a crystalline shining beacon, the tether that would keep his spirit bound to his body.
For the last time in his life, Seth remembered his son. The green-blue eyes, so very much like those of his mother. The solemn face. The steady low voice. The way he would bow over a tome, when he was reading.
“Father, I can feel death in my bones.”
The words that would return each time Seth taught him a spell.
“Father, I’m cold.”
Seth filled his mind with the thoughts of his child, and dove into the boiling water. The world was pain, and he welcomed it. Every terrible second made him anew, until all that remained was his purpose—there was no fear, no pain, no distraction.
He let his humanity die that day.
That which rose from the cauldron was a being of one purpose, unburdened by a man’s weakness and hesitation. It was no longer Seth, the necromancer, who failed to be all that he had wanted to be.
It was a guardian spirit that would never let its charge down. All that would threaten Amon, son of Seth, would meet its end—this was the purpose it existed for. It did not hate those that it would destroy, and neither did it love.
It was, and its existence was its purpose.
In death, Seth had found peace, and took it from his son once again.