Soul Burning

by Lara Wilson

The pain lingers.

He heals, but the pain remains, a burning sting in his back and chest, an occasional constriction of his heart.

A tiny part of him knows it's his conscience, but for the most part he blames his enemies for making him spend time recovering when he could be pursing his vengeance.

Holed up in one of his safe houses, he has too much time to think, and the memories assault him.

His sword thrust through his back.

His back.

His son's.

Same sword.

It killed his son. It didn't kill him, but, that tiny, fading part of him wishes it had. The part that mourns his losses, feels pride in his children.

Even in his son for stabbing him in the back.

The one of his children least like him was the one who gave him the killing blow.

Only he can't die.

The pain has him in its clutches again and he curls into himself, squeezing shut his eyes as his heart stops beating. As everything begins to fade to black, a flame flickers behind his eyes, and he knows it for what it is.

His own corrupted soul twisting in the flames of Azareth deep inside him.

In that brief moment of recognition he knows the truth.

But, when his heart resumes beating, the truth flees and his need for vengeance, for causing pain to those he once cared for, returns.

He knows to those children, his own included, he's become a monster, but he doesn't care. This is who he is. How he reached this point makes sense to him. That truth burns in him as well.

He doesn't question if the truth is real. For now, that tiny part of him, his conscience, is silenced.

As he rises, stronger, colder, harder, he reaches for the sword and sheathes it on his back. Healed again, the pain finally fading, it's time for round two.

Looking in the mirror he sees himself, never-changing, and he smiles grimly.

If they want to see the monster, he'll show it to him.

By the time he leaves his safe house, the truth is long gone from his active mind.

And inside him, burning Azareth continues to work its will on him, turning him to its purpose, its revenge his.

End

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