Title: Return Through Darkness
Word Count: 1,542
Warnings: Gore, dark themes, black magic nastiness
Summary: Magic AU, written to self-fill a prompt on the sherlockbbc-fic. Features Necromancer!Moran and some Lovecraftian themes.
Despite that he knew it was coming, it's still a shock to see Jim like this. Death is strong in the air, not merely the physical smell of it in clotting rank blood and fading ghosts of gunpowder, or in the visceral visual of brain matter spattered in with pooling black-brown giving it texture. No, this is a thing of the soul, an old friend to a man like Colonel Sebastian Moran. Some call it a psychic echo, others a malign influence drawn to the violence of murder, but to him it has always been the sensation of the deepest, the oldest, kind of black magic.
Jim's eyes are open, empty and black like glass marbles. Sebastian can look right down inside him and there's nothing there. He's soul-gazed Jim before, when they first met, and it had been like tumbling into a fire, into Hell, the sense of being consumed by something elemental, a force rather than a person. But then Jim could never be described as an ordinary human being. There was something atavistic about him. A nightmare. A fairy-tale. A thing born in the dawning of the world when the sun was young and things beyond human ken woke in caverns and deep seas that life had not yet touched.
Sebastian had fallen in love then. Not a romantic kind of love, no, nothing so normal. It was worshipful, an urge to prostrate himself before this man – if man he could be called – and praise him, to offer sacrifice in blood and bone. He had come to meet a warlock and a mastermind, but instead he had found something so much more.
He retrieves the pistol from Jim's stiff grip, slipping it into the empty one of his shoulder holsters. Magic can read impressions left behind, view images of crime scenes if they have something so intimately connected to work with. No sense in leaving evidence. He slips his arms under Jim's cooling body, lifting it carefully. One of their people is waiting at the bottom of the stairs with a covered gurney to smuggle him out of the building and away. This they have planned for. This Sebastian knows how to do.
A word of power activates the charm around his neck, the essence of fog and a scrap of chameleon skin threaded on a length of human tendon for strength. Illegal, as are all the shady magics criminals use, but that's of little care to them. Only one with exceptional Sight could see through this. Holmes could, but he's gone. No charm or spell to stop such a fall, and his little doctor friend knows nothing of the Dark. Yet still Sebastian checks the skies before they leave the roof. There is more than one man with the name of Holmes, and the older brother has his Ravens.
Sebastian considers the beginning of things. When he first joined the Army he knew the same magics most everyone did; basic cantrips for luck and protection, household charms, long life and health. Training taught him Shadow magic, so closely regulated under government control. How to move silent as a ghost, how to borrow eagle's eyes and cat's reflexes. How to lay a curse and how to drain strength and instil fear. How to counter the same from their enemies. Once abroad he had started to seek out darker paths, blacker magic. Resources were hard to come by, but for a man with few morals...
Yet he had still been a beginner, and so he had been caught. Dishonourably discharged. It had been a blow to his pride but nothing more. It hadn't stopped him. He'd travelled, delving ever deeper, killing as he went until his path circled back towards home, towards England, towards London great city of Power and History and Significance, and there he had heard the stories. The rumours. Of a man called James Moriarty. Black Warlock and King of Crime.
That is ancient history now. Sebastian has learned much in the intervening years and it is time to put it into practise. The freshness of Jim's body matters of course, the fresher the better, but a ritual of such delicacy of this demands its own conditions. It is a long wait and vigil through the night as Sebastian kneels before the circle holding Jim's body, gathering himself, gathering all his power. The alarm on his phone goes off a half-hour before dawn is due, warning him. Sunrise is the time proscribed, a liminal place, a moment of transition. The birth of the day.
Fresh blood for the circle, new over old. His own, and Jim's, and a sacrifice. A virgin of course, for potential. Sebastian slits the boy's throat and lets the liquid fall into the channels cut into clean stone. Jim always did prefer boys.
The cardinal points are marked out. Sebastian opens the chilled container keeping the organs fresh. To the north he places the womb of a pregnant woman, half-formed foetus still floating inside. Life. To the south, the cancerous lungs that had killed an old man. Death. To the east the chrysalis of a moth, to the west the shed skin of a snake. Rebirth.
The elements too are all represented here. Water in amniotic fluid. Fire in cigarette smoke. Air in the moth. Earth in the snake. And finally spirit. Ashes of a phoenix, nearly impossible to source in this day and age. Still Jim had his ways. Sebastian tips the little vial into the ruins of Jim's mouth.
The air all around is heavy with potential. Even the least sensitive would be able to feel it. Jim has taught him the words and Sebastian recites them now – Latinate roots, Etruscan, Babylonian, older words in older languages going back through the mists of time. Like circles spiralling in towards a point it draws the power in until his very skin burns with it, his bones throb, his eyes register ghost-images of things there and yet not there, of past-present-future-possibilities and shadow things not meant for human eye. The path of Night is not for the weak, but Jim has proofed him against such horrors.
The sun rises. The power peaks.
A crash like thunder, like giving birth.
Sebastian gasps for breath. His limbs are weak, his head spins, his blood feels thin. Yet he finds the strength to raise himself up to see what he has wrought. The body in the circle twitches. The head rises, slowly, painful seeming. The left side of the body moves with it; a spasm of leg, an arm reaching out in support.
Jim's voice is hollow, a drawn-out moan, like the tomb, like a final breath. Sebastian could laugh for the joy of it, the triumph. But there is work to do yet. Magic without substance, without substrate cannot repair a damaged brain, nor return a soul to meaty flesh. He pushes himself to his feet and casts about for his knife. Outside a man is waiting, still living and undrugged, trussed up and ready to be devoured. He goes to fetch him.
The electric saw cuts cleanly through bone and Sebastian pushes the twitching new-dead lawyer over the line of blood to his master. Jim falls on him like a ravenous hound, fingers of his left hand sinking deep into fresh tissue, bringing it to his mouth. He swallows, greedy and gluttonous. The bullet went through sensory and motor cortex of his left hemisphere, paralysing his right-hand side. Soon enough re-grown, with the right materials.
While Jim is distracted Sebastian must take the final step. From its protective wrapping he draws the egg of a shrike, butcher bird, pierced through by a slender silver needle.
"For safekeeping, Sebastian my love," Jim had said to him, pressing it into his hands. "My soul. Do keep it in one piece."
"Wasn't sure you had one," he'd said in reply, and his master had smiled, rewarded him with a kiss that burned like acid.
He slides the needle out, leans in, and breaks it in two over the top of Jim's breastbone, sinking the two halves into flesh slicked with blood and spinal fluid. Jim gasps. There is a glow like lava splitting and rolling, slow, sure and deadly. Empty eyes fill again.
"Oh Sebastian," Jim purrs. "You've done so well."
In his eyes is a thing inhuman. There are tales of those raised coming back wrong, but Jim was never right. There is no further for him to fall, but he swims in the deeps and is satisfied there.
Once years past in India, so they say, Sebastian Moran killed a tiger in a storm drain and stole its stripes for his own. Once, they say, James Moriarty spoke with the Elder Gods and promised them the world in exchange for secrets. Once, they say, there was a master and his servant, a dead man and the necromancer who brought him back, a god and his high priest. They knew the secrets that the heart of the earth had spoken in days when the stars were young, knew how to listen to the songs the planets sang as they moved in the heavens.
They were monsters out of legends and they made the world burn.