Something isn’t right.
“He’s the god of war, so he’ll be safe.”
No. I’ve come to learn, never trust an assumption without proof.
As the caravans migrated, a young man slowed the camel he rode upon, letting other members preoccupied with thoughts and missions pass alongside him. Whispers and questions mingled about, the tap of walking atop sands growing fainter as the crowd moved ahead. Slowly he worked, making sure not to draw unneeded attention, and when the wandering eye fell upon him, the young man waved the stare off without concern.
“Don’t worry, I’m just checking a supply. I’ll catch up.”
“Wetian, get a move on!” One called from the crowd.
“I am, I am! Relax, it will be fine.” He responded, eyes rolled.
Besides, you won’t even notice.
Slowing further, Wetian deviated his camel to the side, entering shadows cast by overhead rock. With a gentle pet, he soothed the animal from making distracting noise, watching from around rock-edge as the caravan rode onward, distancing themselves. Whispers became hushed conversations, footsteps muted, those that turned over their shoulders to look for him finding nothing.
They don’t seem too concerned.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m overworrying, but if I’m not?
I’ve seen the way they look at him, speak to him, act around him.
I heard the tussle and arguments, I felt the tension.
I am NOT leaving him.
Once out of view of prying eye, Wetian turned the camel in retreat, rushing back toward the campsite. Wind combed the stray strands from his black and red ombre braid, linens draped over his shoulders for warmth.
Should I hit them? Charge the tent? Poison?
I sense I don’t have long, if it’s not too late already.
Wait, fire. Fires that can shield and distract.
I have a plan. If you can hear me, whatever watches over us….
The snap of wood, a sudden uproar, drew the attention of the men within their torture abode.
Fire? From where, how? Raiders?
The group tossed an unconscious Seth aside, settled in his spread blood, following the sounds of distressed camels and snapping woodframes. Collapsing carts fell beneath burning wood, fabrics and ropes caught flame in scattered piles.
“What the hell happened?”
“We don’t know-”
“Put it out, put it out now!”
With orders barked, the men scattered, searching for collections of water to extinguish flames. However, as they approached the jugs of water, a swiftly moving camel with Wetian on top crashed into their bodies, shattering the container. Before the men could get a clear look at their offender, Wetian rode faster, his frame, shoulders, and face covered by the linens like a reaper on horseback. Too quick to grab hold of, too dangerous to stand before, the men attempted to slow their invader to no avail. Smoke gathered in blooming plumes, blurring lines between shelter and opening, angry flames fed by neighboring supplies. For each fire reduced, two came to be, ignited from a yellow dust being trailed through the air behind the swiftly moving camel.
Precisely you idiots. My medicine can cure and kill, now get out of my way.
Pausing for a moment, Wetian scanned a collapsed cart, noticing a khopesh amidst the scattered tools. Though the blade wasn’t fully sharpened, it would suffice for the needs ahead.
I don’t have much time, too much inhaled sulfur will burn. I need to find him, and get out of here. I’ll patch him up later.
I know they did something…I smell blood, I hear cries…
Seth….hold on, I’m coming.
Hearing the outcry of angry men, Wetian grabbed the khopesh, swiftly turning into the nearby dustcloud. Holding his breath against the sulfur dust, he lowered his shoulders against resistance, approaching one of the men.
Don’t blink, the offender had no time before his head hit the sands….separate from his body.
The dust is building-
Wait, that scream. Seth!
Pulling on the reigns, Wetian retreated again, sharply turning back. With sword drawn, his eyes scanned the cloud dusted grounds, hearing the clatter and clash of surrounding escapes or planned attacks. A large fume rose before him, startling the camel, Wetian gripping the reigns to keep hold.
I need to move, I’ll just grab him and run. The rest I will figure out later.
Following the path of the overheard scream, Wetian quickly dismounted, using the linens to shield his face further as he entered. Trapped fumes and flames whipped about, Wetian ducking amidst turned over tables and scattered belongings. Flames ate torn and tattered fabric, hissing as fabric became ash, quickly darkening the surroundings.
Damnit, where is he…
This is what I get for traveling with unfamiliar weirdos-
Collapsed and bound on his side, Seth stared blankly into the burning surroundings, eyes darkened and empty. Wetian quickly approached, fanning aside smoke and flame, kicking away broken tools and jars. Rusted blood scent rose to his senses, heavy and caked, turning Wetian’s stomach as he gently shook Seth, tearing away at the digging and binding ropes.
“Seth? Seth! Wake up if you hear me!”
….Who are you?
Fire, blood, screams-
It happened again. And again.
I hear you, but I can’t see you. I don’t recognize your voice.
Not my “family”….
Not my “friends”….
Grabbing a nearby tablecloth, Wetian fanned away thickening smoke from Seth, coughing as clouds entered his throat. Crashing and cursing outside the entrance caught his attention briefly, his pulse quickening. The clang of swords and swoosh of torches hastened his duty, Wetian quickly wrapping Seth in the grabbed tablecloth.
Out the side. If my mount is dead, I’ll steal one of their own.
With a quick lift, Wetian shielded Seth’s face from the smoke as he barged forward through the remains of a burning tent flap, quickly scanning the surroundings for his mount. Flames had spread, rapidly covering the carts and fabrics, rising to block paths and views.
His grip tightened along Seth, feeling the fabric deepen with shed blood. He didn’t move, didn’t speak…
His eyes look….
No, we gotta go. Now.
Moving to the right, staying in shadows cast by smoke, Wetian sighed with relief seeing his anxious, but awaiting camel. It attempted to back away, yet Wetian’s grip on the reigns regained control. With a smooth tug, he commanded the camel to lower, adjusting his balance while holding Seth.
Son of a bitch, shit’s not easy when you need to do it yourself.
The right thing is never the easy thing.
They won’t find me, they won’t find him, that’s all that matters.
Mounting steadily with Seth’s wrapped frame shielded by his torso, Wetian cracked the reigns, moving with haste through fire and flames. Burying anger, keeping aside grief and self punishment, he focused onward, through any crack and crevice the smoke would provide.
I knew I couldn’t trust them. I knew something was off, something never felt safe or right.
They spoke of war, of death like the weather, of pain like everyday foods.
I watched and took plenty of notes, and now…
I’m just glad I turned back, I listened.
This, this I can fix….the wounds at least.
Wetian dodged and swiftly turned as enflamed objects were tossed to him, using his arms to brace Seth. Flames roared past his shoulders, turning to embers in the evening sky, begging with all his might for the camel to move faster. Angry voices grew to a distance, warm smoke-ridden air clearing to the chill of the desert, yet the smell of blood remained. Hooves thundered against sand, clouds curling to the air as the burning torture was left behind, Wetian following the stars above.
No map is needed, since I was a boy I was taught to navigate the skies. Follow the breeze, the weather, the clouds…
Wil you hold on?
Grief strangled Wetian as he looked to Seth’s broken and beaten features, bruising spreading across major joints. Black crept like tattooed ash across his left arm, marking skin beside numerous jagged incisions. Crust of blood and dirt intermingled atop his wounds, knotted hair curling over his shock-ridden face. With eyes partially closed, he fell limp, mouth quivering and slightly parted, a hint of blue across his lips.
Blood loss. Gods, he’s shaking, the shivering is from shock.
…I feel the blood through the fabric. I need to move.
“Seth….I’m so sorry.”
I’m floating, am I dead?
There’s nothing of Duat here, just….dark.
I’m..moving, I feel air.
I can’t see.
Merciless…was that really me?
Was that the monster I had become?
“Give me the cloths and balms, now.”
…………………….The screaming. Please stop, the screaming.
………………………………..Let me rest-
What was that?
A sting startled his system, followed by another, a marching sensation tensing and pinching his body, Seth too weak to respond. Darkness cloaked his vision, blurs of obscure light waxing and waning, a steady low hum of pain threading through his bones. Cold gripped his fingers and toes, his lips numb, throat heavy.
I can’t see, but…I feel?
“Pressure, hold pressure here. Good. Dressing, now.”
….Who is that? Seth pondered, unable to track the distantly echoing voice amidst the darkness.
Still, null, and void.
Breath caught in his chest as Seth coughed, pain jolting his frame as his eyes opened. Gasps poured from his lips, his blurry vision shifting to clear.
Oh god it hurts, I can’t move-
“Seth, it’s ok, please don’t move-”
Before Seth could process the words or pain further, he pulled back, jolting himself upright and back from the man next to him. His body protested in waves of pain, feeling a vice about his sternum, a twist beneath his skin. Wincing, Seth rested a hand atop a large wound on his side, feeling not open skin, but cleaned and gentle, secure cloth. Panic flooded his body, looking about through his knotted hair before seeing the blurred form of a man before him.
“Get back, get away!”
“Seth, you’re not at the caravan, you’re safe.”
Despite the pain, Seth pushed himself back, pressing his back against a nearby stone wall. Hyperventilating with anger and shock, Seth shook his head, clearing dust from his vision to identify who knelt before him.
They didn’t move to attack, they didn’t sound familiar….but I have heard the voice before.
I trusted them, god damnit I let my guard down-
Not this time, I’ll-
Slowing his breathing, Seth kept his back pressed to the wall, letting his guard adjust. Shadows were cast from overhead large leaves, woven together in a makeshift roof. The passing breeze carried the scent of water, clear and refreshing, its gentle whisper in the distance. Stone walls felt cool against bandaged skin, Seth looking down to study the damage wrought upon him. Cared for wrappings held him gently, freshly cleaned, a nearby pile of slightly dirtied ones in a small jar beside him.
Clean…whoever they are saw me like this.
“How dare you….”
“Seth, I’m a doctor, let me explain.”
Keeping his spine straight and eyes focused ahead, Seth looked to the man before him. His palms were held open and up, signaling he was unarmed. Breeze wafted through simple linens tied over his frame, Seth not finding hints of weapons, poisons, or threats. His hair was pulled into a simple braid falling against his spine, soft but strong green eyes being patient with Seth’s analysis.
“Seth, my name is Wetian, I’m a doctor.”
“Where am I?”
“An oasis, far from the caravan, as far as I could get you.”
Keeping his distance, Wetian slowly lowered himself to seated position, watching Seth patiently. As he stat, the surroundings behind him came clear. A moderately sized pool glistened beneath sunrise, gentle ripples from others utilizing the waters sparkling. Surrounding plantlife whispered, the rich green a welcome contrast against the shifting sands. Overhead birds perched and fed on what they could find, crossing before a quickly heating skyline.
“It’s going to get hot quickly. Let me get you some water. “
Wetian reached for the jars nearby, small cups to follow, tilting the jar to pour water before Seth. Doing the same for himself, he gently extended a hand with cup to Seth.
“Please, I don’t want you to overheat, and your wounds were extensive.”
Seth studied the cup before him, his brows furrowed in suspicion. Did he really think I would reach for a drink after-
No. I don’t, won’t think about it.
My body hurts….
“I’m NOT scared.” Seth barked.
“My apologies.” Wetian stated, gently placing the cup of water between them as he sipped his own. Looking over his shoulder, he signaled with a wave of the hand for another to refill the jar with Oasis waters.
“What can I answer for you?”
“…You healed me?”
“So, you knew where I was.”
“So…you’re one of them” Seth stated coldly, preparing to spit in defiance.
Wetian thanked the nearby comrade for the freshly refilled jar, shifting a bit to the pile of untouched bandages. As his hands unfurled the fresh linens, he spoke.
“We live here, away from main cities and paths. When people pass though, if they even find us, we may follow for work or to assist.
“So…you are all..healers?” Seth asked, catching his breath as sore and bruised ribs flared with pain.
“Yes, in some degree or another.”
“How did you find me?”
Wetian soaked the bandage linens, wringing the water as he continued.
“I saw them pass through, including what appears to be one of their leaders. Man with long brown hair.”
I’m familiar…and when I find him next….
No. No, not again.
“They were prepping for war, needed healers to fix bodies after training. All well and fine, not the first time any of us have been asked to help with military affairs. However, they…became suspicious, quickly. May I see your arm?”
Seth paused for a moment, Wetian waiting patiently for Seth to extend his left arm. He made no insistence or show of force, still as the sands before a breeze, calm as the waters behind him.
If I wanted too, even in this state, I could…
No, no I really couldn’t.
That’s been made….clear.
With a heavily focused stare and deep sigh, Seth extended his left arm, bruised muscle and skin burning. Gently Wetian settled his hands around his forearm, taking care to unwind previous bandages without pulling or pinching on skin.
“I didn’t like what was happening, what I was seeing, how they….forced us to keep quiet. I was planning on leaving, slip away unseen, I had the perfect opportunity. Then….what happened to you.”
“I won’t talk about it.” Wetian stated, gently examining a meticulously clean wound. “But I will say, I came back for you. I knew something was wrong, and I was not going to see you suffer.”
“You…came back for me?”
“Like I said, I was leaving with the rest, I was going to slip away, but I knew something was wrong. I came back, got you out, brought you here.”
Wetian paused, lifting his eyes from the wound to Seth. For an instant, the warm green became sharp, ringing like polished metal, fierce like the initial flame of a roaring fire. His lips formed a stern line, brows narrowed in focus.
“We may be healers, but we protect our own. We protect those in need.”
What did he mean? What was that resolution in his eyes?
“One of those horrible men is dead. I suspect the fires took the rest.”
“I see you’re wondering.”
As Wetian gently wrapped the fresh bandage around Seth’s wound, he signaled with a tilt of his head to a nearby collection of makeshift shelves and jars.
“We gather nature’s gifts and compounds, one of which is sulfur. Combine it with salt, set it aflame next to something flammable, and the gas spreads. The fire will quickly build up, and the smell keeps people away.”
“You…burnt down their post?”
“Yes. You probably don’t remember, but I found you inside, wrapped you up, and carried you away from there. They won’t find us unless they can read the stars and skies very well, if any of them are still alive.”
Finishing, Wetian smoothed the bandage, gently pushing the cup of water toward Seth.
“Please, I promise, you are safe here. None of us mean harm to you, and we want to protect you. You’ve been under our care for 3 days already.”
“Blood loss. We kept you in the shade for that reason, made sure the wounds had safety to heal. Please be careful moving, some of them have stitches.”
Adjusting himself a bit, Seth pondered Wetian’s words, taking caution with a body now feeling like glass.
3 days, asleep, vulnerable…wounded…
They could have done anything, it’s clear to me I…cannot fight as I used too.
I don’t have the praise and power I once held…nor do I deserve it.
Their faces, so many undead, haunted, painful faces from my time on the throne….
“Are you alright?”
How in the world am I supposed to answer that?
Leaning forward a bit, Seth shifted his eyes from Wetian to the oasis, watching the waters dance alongside bordering sand. Healers capable of defense, of combat, and one of them came for me.
Away from it all, except the shadows haunting me.
Except a man with very fine patchwork skills.
He did all this, for me?
“Can I help you stand? The water will feel good, reduce the swelling”
Extending a hand to Seth, Wetian waited as he had before, still and patient. A breeze combed the knots of Seth’s hair, spreading red across bruised and battered shoulders.
I asked for this….all of this.
But this, this I can choose.
For once, can I make a choice without pain?
“Careful, on your time.”
Gently placing a hand with Wetians, Seth stood, the ache of healing skin and bruised bone reminding him of his given place. The ground felt soft, wavering, focusing on the water ahead as he regained his balance.
“I’m here, I wont move until you’re ready.”
….Kind for someone capable of such brutality.
Waiting for Seth to advance, Wetian followed him to the water’s edge. Overhead sunlight warmed sensitive skin, soothing through the bandages. Thirst dried his lips as Seth moved into the water, letting the temperate climate ease the aches he carried. Hearing the water shift, Seth turned to Wetian, who positioned himself behind him.
“Some of the larger bruises are on your back, we’ve done what we can thus far to keep pressure off of them. Can I put some water on them?”
He hasn’t laid a finger on me without permission, has not protested the slightest resistance from me.
Control, a type of control I should have.
That I should have had.
Seth nodded, Wetain gently placing cooled hands onto patches of bruised skin. Keeping close eye on Seth, Wetian cleaned the swelling, examining the purple discolorations for signs of deeper injury.
He was gentle, meticulous, purposeful.
He noticed when Seth winced.
“Oh, is this one worse?”
“I’m so sorry, we’ll keep pressure off it then.”
Time passed in silent reverie, words would have cluttered the space needed for touch. No commands, orders, screams, or regrets. No nightmares, no arguments, no moments of life and death decisions.
Instead, the sounds of trickling water, gentle hands atop skin, and caretaking wind filled Seth’s ears.
Silence, a silence that feels…familiar.
This is why I loved escaping to the desert.
No buildings haunted by pain, no lingering unwanted company, no concerns about present needs or duty.
Just me…and the sands, the sands I miss so dearly.
“You look tired, come, lay down.”
Returning his thoughts to the present, Seth followed Wetian back to the shades, allowing his skin to cool from the water. Fresh linens were spread on large pillows, Seth settling his bruised spine against the fabric.
“You know the desert gets cold later, keep this around you so you don’t get a chill.” Wetian stated, using a smaller length of linen to dry Seth’s hair.
“You will have to pardon me for a moment, I need to fetch dinner from a town nearby. From what I remember, you enjoy watermelon?”
…How did he know that?
Turning a bit, curiosity drawn, Seth questioned Wetian as the young doctor gathered satchels nearby from the shelves.
“How do you know that, being out here?”
Pausing, Wetian turned to Seth, holding the gathered satchels. Sunlight flared against his shoulders as he tucked stray hair behind his ear. Water from their time in the oasis had soaked the front of his linens, the lines of a jagged scar across his chest peering from beneath the fabric.
“I wasn’t always from here, I came here. Where I came from, I knew all about you.”
…So you know.
His eyes downcast for a moment, letting a breeze rustle over his skin as connections formulated.
He knows, about the sins I committed.
He knows, and chose to work with an enemy….then save me from such.
He knows-wait, that scar.
“What happened to you?” Seth asked, pointing to the scar.
Smiling a bit, Wetian approached Seth, smoothing the linens draped over his shoulders. His hand trailed against the fabric, settling warmly on Seth’s shoulder.
“You may not remember, and that’s ok.”
“…I lived. It takes more then a sword to bring me down when I fight for you.”
Freezing, Seth’s eyes shifted between the scar and Wetian’s gaze, studying the face now up close.
The very blade you used to defend my name….was used against you.
You took it, willingly, by those who followed me when I…lost my way.
I remember now, I thought you were dead, and thought nothing of it.
“I remember who you were before all this. Father, protector, warrior. Lord of Strength. They didn’t hear me, they didn’t believe me, and they maimed me for daring to speak your name highly.”
Straightening, Wetian gently held Seth’s hand, brushing the fingertips sweetly and reassuringly with his thumb.
“I don’t regret it. I know what happened, I know you want to redeem yourself. What happened to you, is not what you deserve. I took pain, and created purpose, to heal. You deserve to heal too, enough is enough.”
I will still fight for you, I see the madness that has woven so deep into you. I see the truth breaking free, I see the beauty of the god I once knew.
“Heal here, body and mind. If you like, we can welcome you here.”
Turning, Wetain faced the sunlight, pausing at the edge of Seth’s shaded covering.
“Let them come for me, the gods. I’m not intimidated, I have nothing to hide. I will tell them, each of them to their faces…..I love you. I always have, always will. ”
Wait, what? He-
Before Seth could ask further, Wetian moved for the camel, settling the satchels atop his lap. A crack of the reigns moved the mount into position, toward the eastern sunlight. Seth pulled the linens across his sore body, watching as the animal moved across the sands in waves of dusted gold.
Someone actually, truly, loved me?
Love via bravery to take a sword, and use one….for me?
If I run now, escape, hide, what good would it do?
If he could remember who I was, somewhere under these wrappings….
…so can I.