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Hellfire

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Sherlock raised his magnification spell and looked into the victim's eye, studying the pupils intently while Molly watched from behind him. He zoomed the spell in further, and it picked up the subtle colour difference between the black of a normal pupil and dark blue-violet.

"She's been put under a Coercion spell," Sherlock announced, dropping the magnification spell with a swish of his hand. "Let me see the other body."

Molly nodded, and raised her hands. Sherlock always thought that the motion she used resembled that of a puppeteer directing the movement of their dolls.

The rattle behind them didn't cause either of them any alarm, although an ordinary person, even an ordinary mage would have been terrified. The storage refrigeration unit behind them that held bodies awaiting autopsy rattled again and popped open. The rack rolled out by itself, and the body on the slab sat up, pivoted and made to stand.

"Oh, right. I forgot he doesn't have feet anymore," Molly sighed. "Sherlock, can you get me that cart?"

Sherlock wheeled the cart over, and the corpse shifted onto the cart without touching the stumps of its feet to the ground. He rolled it back over to the autopsy table, and the corpse got on and lay down. A moment later, it seemed to sigh and go lax as Molly ended her spell.

Molly was a necromancer, one of the main reasons Sherlock remained interested in visiting her, apart from the fact she had access to dead bodies for experiments. She helped him a lot of the time, and he was a frequent visitor to the mortuary at St. Bart's.

There was a knock on the door, and Sherlock opened it with a flick of his hand.

"No need to be such a show-off," Lestrade said as he came in.

"It's just easier. Saves me the waste of breath it takes to speak."

"You always say that, but surely it would save you some strife in public if you would just say your incantations out loud. It makes people nervous, you know, seeing you just cast with a wave of a hand."

"It's not my fault other mages lack the concentration to direct their magic without props," Sherlock said, rolling his eyes. "I've said many a time, it's a matter of willpower and not levels of magic at all. I'm rather ordinary in my power level, it's that I use my brain."

"You don't have to rub it in Anderson's face every time you see him that he needs to use a wand and you don't. God, even Sally has to say her incantations out loud, and she's my smartest officer on the squad!"

"It's focus she's lacking. She gets distracted too easily, especially with Anderson in the room."

"I won't tell her you said that."

"It's not difficult, you know, to focus your energy," Sherlock said, sighing and shaking his head. "I've written a blog post about it, if anyone wants to know. You have to be able to let no outside source distract you from your goal. Simple, but no one ever does as I say. Whenever Anderson is in Sally's presence, a portion of her mind is wondering again if he's ever going to leave his wife."

"Why can Molly do it, then?" Lestrade asked, and Molly blushed and looked away.

Yes, by that logic, Molly should be distracted every time Sherlock was in the room.

"Necromancers are on the other end of the magical spectrum, closer to telepaths and empaths if you must know," Sherlock said. "Besides, Molly has real focus. When she's working, she knows what she needs to do to do her job. Anyway, her slight obsession with me would actually help her focus rather than hinder it, as we are both after the same goal."

"Sherlock!" Molly exclaimed, face burning. "I-I'm not obsessed with you."

"False," Sherlock said, and turned to Lestrade. "So, recent case, or have you another?"

"This one," Lestrade said with a sigh. "Nothing in forensics is turning up anything."

"Are you telling me that no one picked up the Coercion spell's signs on her body?" Sherlock waved a hand in irritation and raised his magnification spell again. "Look, it's right there, clear as day!"

"What am I looking at?"

"Purple! Someone put a Coercion spell on her, you can tell by the discolouration of her pupil."

"How do you know it's a Coercion spell that does that?" Lestrade asked, leaning forward to examine the pupil.

"Experiment," Sherlock said. "Irrelevant. She was not responsible for her actions, from how far back I can't say from looking. As her friends and coworkers if they noticed a change in her actions recently."

"I can do that," Lestrade said with a slump of his shoulders. "How I ended up in a career where I ended up interacting with so many mages, I'll never know."

"You may not have mage blood, Lestrade, but you have a good instinct," Sherlock said. "It's served you well, mages nonewithstanding. That's why you're the Detective Inspector and not that other one, you know, with the greasy fringe and the big staff."

"I won't tell Gregson you said that."

"Sometimes I think you spend most of your time not telling people things I've said," Sherlock said. "Shame, really, because people would be a lot smarter if they would just listen."

"You say such nice things sometimes," Lestrade said and left.

Sherlock turned back to Molly only to find that she'd raised an army of disembodied brains while he hadn't been looking and surrounded him with them. Somehow, Lestrade had watched all this and kept a straight face. He was improving.

"How do you make them float like that?" Sherlock asked with interest. "You're not a mage in the regular capacity, so it's not a Hover spell." He went to touch one with the tip of his finger, and it lunged forward and caught him full in the face.

Molly giggled and put the brains back while Sherlock wiped his face off with the sleeve of his black robes, grimacing.

"Was that really necessary, Molly?" Sherlock complained. "You know I like this robe."

"Entirely necessary," Molly replied sweetly.

Before Sherlock could say anything else in reply, there was another knock, and the door swung open without either of them making a move to admit their latest visitor.

"Mycroft," Sherlock spat, and turned away.

"I see you're very much occupied with crime solving," Mycroft said, leaning on his umbrella.

Sherlock snorted and didn't answer. Mycroft liked to remind Sherlock that out of the two of them, Mycroft had the higher power level. Sherlock liked to remind Mycroft, that out of the two of them, he had the better focus and that Mycroft disguising his focus object as an umbrella didn't make it any less a focus object. Sherlock's power lacked subtlety whereas Mycroft's spells often went unnoticed, especially his surveillance spells.

"I have a case I think you might be interested in."

"Political intrigue again? Dull."

"No, not this time, Sherlock. We've found something that we haven't seen in centuries, and I'd like it if you looked at the crime scene and told us what you think."

"Crime scene?"

"Well, yes. Unlawful Summoning, Confinement against One's Will and Dark Ritual practice would be among the charges laid... if the perpetrators had remained alive."

"Dark rituals often end in a befittingly messy manner," Sherlock dismissed this assertion with a wave of one hand.

Sherlock and Mycroft stared at each other, unmoving, although Sherlock noticed that Molly had wisely abandoned the area, even though it meant leaving some of the brains out.

"Have you ever put any thought into elemental magic?"

"None. I cannot perform it, so it is useless. Human elemental mages are rare, and creatures that exhibit these traits often avoid humans, so I generally don't have to think about these things."

"What if I told you that we'd found a human Fire Elemental?"

"Impossible," Sherlock said. "Humans, being the destructive and hateful creatures they are eradicated human Elemental hybrids years ago. The last Dryad in Britain died as the Industrial era wiped out all our natural landscape."

"Not all."

"Surely you realize there are no truly wild places left in England. We keep places like this, carefully cultivated 'wild areas,' but as we've tamed them, they are no longer truly wild. Elementals avoid our highly urban landscape. Why would one come to England?"

"We've found a human that we believe has Berserker blood."

Sherlock, in the middle of what was meant to be a dramatic turn, stopped. His breath caught in his throat and he whipped back around to glare at Mycroft.

"Liar. There haven't been any Berserkers in this land for centuries, not since England's last great Mage Army wiped out the Wallace clan."

"And yet it's the only possible explanation we can come up with," Mycroft said, spinning his umbrella. "Unless you come to the scene, there's nothing else I can tell you to persuade you."

There was no question as to Sherlock's decision.

"Take me to the scene."

ooOOoo

Sherlock looks around the abandoned warehouse, and although Mycroft and some of his agents enter with him, they stand back and let Sherlock take in the scene.

The first thing Sherlock sees are the scorch marks. They're all over the warehouse, marking up the walls in streaks, as if the whole room had been on fire. Sherlock walks further into the room slowly, looking for the source of the fire. The pattern suggested it had originated in the center of the enclosed space.

In the middle of the room, Sherlock comes across a circle on the floor drawn in deep red along with crimson runes drawn along the outside. It's about six feet in diameter and completely clear of scorch marks. Another four feet out, there's another circle and runes marking the places where those taking part in the ritual were meant to stand.

"This crime scene is wiped clean," Sherlock commented. "Do you have any memory reels of those that saw the scene as it first was? Where are the bodies?"

"There were no bodies, brother."

"But there were twelve people taking part in this ritual," Sherlock said, walking around the outside of the circle. Surely they didn't just leave your Berserker here by himself after taking all the effort to Summon him."

"They didn't leave him. He killed them."

"I think I'd better see the memories. I'd also like to see this supposed Berserker of yours."

Mycroft nodded, and Sherlock was escorted out. Mycroft created a portal back to his office, drawing it in the air with his umbrella.

"First the memory reels," Mycroft said. "Although, there's not much to see. Just the Berserker. We have some photos of the Summoning runes they used. That's how we know that they were trying to Summon a Berserker in the first place."

The photos were unhelpful. Sherlock recognized the runes already, of course. He even knew the Summoning book that must have been used, as it was a Dark rituals book that he'd come across more than once in his line of work. He was surprised no one else had thought to try and Summon a Berserker. It could be that Berserkers were nearly impossible to control and dangerously powerful besides.

The memory reels were slightly more helpful. There was a small, compact man collapsed in the warehouse, although his form was outside the ring. That was very strange. The ring was meant to contain the Berserker it Summoned, even if it could not control it. He would have to examine the runes again, but he didn't think they'd made a mistake.

He couldn't tell much else from the memory reels. Sherlock wasn't fond of memory reels, as they lost detail over time, and didn't notice details that Sherlock could usually see. Sometimes people observed things and didn't recognize them, but more often, they just didn't see the things Sherlock did.

He was an army man, obviously. He was in army fatigues and had an obvious tan from long days in a desert environment. Captain Watson was stitched over his breast pocket. A Scottish name.

There was a blackened hole in the left shoulder of his uniform, but Sherlock couldn't see the skin underneath from this angle. Someone had fired a levin bolt at him. Sherlock wasn't sure if that's what had brought him down or not.

He went into his Mind Palace and drew up all the information he knew on Berserkers.

Berserkers were Scottish in origin and had been a major part of Scotland's resistance to being annexed by England. England's mages had managed to eradicate them all, had gone on a witch-hunt in order to find all those that might be able to pass it on and killed them. Even people who had been related to those with Berserker blood had been found and executed.

Berserkers were human Fire Elementals. Their power fluctuated with their emotions, and rage was what brought out the worst of their destructive force. Berserkers, once sufficiently angered, were impossible to calm down and would only stop once their energy levels were low. They could not be controlled, and went on uncontainable rampages, often destroying entire villages.

Mages knew a few things that could stop them, but very little could. A high-level mage wielding ice bolts or lightning might be able to bring one down, but it often took a concentrated effort to stop them.

Surely that one bolt that had hit Watson wasn't enough to stop him? Or perhaps centuries of diluting the Berserker blood was enough to weaken him. No one would know, because even his existence was something considered impossible.

And yet. No bodies, not even ash had been left at the scene. That amount of power was immense, the ability to immolate an organic body to the point that not even DNA was left at the scene.

He came out of his Mind Palace to find Mycroft was waiting for him.

"He's impossible," Sherlock concluded. "Absolutely impossible."

"Come and see for yourself," Mycroft said. "We have him in one of our containment facilities. He hasn't woken up yet, and he's showing no signs that any major changes to his biology have taken place."

"Who is he?"

"Captain John Watson, army doctor. He was stationed in Kandahar at the time he was Summoned, and we've contacted his commanding officer to explain what happened. Apparently, he's never exhibited any signs of having an uncontrollable temper or having a grudging nature. He's a caretaker. He fights for his country and patches up his comrades, all with a good-natured humour. He's very calm, collected and doesn't break under pressure. He's got a good bedside manner and is calming to his patients. He's the exact opposite to what all the historical accounts of Berserkers have described them as."

"Let me see him," Sherlock fought to keep himself from pacing in excitement.

The man in the containment facility was very still, lying flat on his back in a hospital bed, wearing only a pair of white briefs for modesty's sake. There was a large knotted scar on his left shoulder where the levin bolt had made contact. It wasn't raw and looked to be years old rather than hours.

Sherlock stared through the containment field at his body and drank in the sight of him. He was so ordinary, this soldier from the desert. He wasn't overly tall and had a forgettable face. His haircut was military style, non-descript and unoriginal.

And still he had managed to kill all of his attackers and survive almost unscathed.

An army doctor. He was a cycle of regeneration and destruction in one person, a highly trained killer on one hand, and a healer on the other. He was the most extraordinary creature anyone would ever meet, an impossible, unimaginable creature, and he was the least extraordinary-looking person one could set eyes on.

Just looking at him, there was nothing that should hold Sherlock's attention, no movement, nothing to deduce about him. Sherlock couldn't take his eyes off him.

Sherlock stayed there for hours, forgetting all about food, drink and sleep. Someone brought him tea at one point, and he drank half of it before going back to contemplating the form in front of him.

Mycroft came by periodically, and Sherlock ignored him.

"How long do you plan on just sitting here?" Mycroft asked.

Sherlock said nothing. He would stay here until John Watson woke up, obviously.

"He might never wake up," Mycroft continued. "He's showing no signs of physical trauma or magically induced sleep. There's nothing wrong with him, he just isn't waking up. Sherlock, I understand what a conundrum this man is, but you need to go home at some point."

Sherlock was about to make a comment on Mycroft's expanding waistline when suddenly, there was movement. An alarm started beeping somewhere, indicating that John Watson was finally waking up.

The man clutched one hand to his head, covering his eyes as he sat up slowly and unsteadily. Sherlock watched, completely captivated. What made this man so different? Was he still a Berserker, or had his blood returned to dormancy? Sherlock leaned forward in his seat, hands buzzing slightly as they pressed against the containment field.

When John Watson uncovered his eyes and looked around the room, blinking in confusion, they were as bright as the sun and as intense as molten gold.

"Magnificent," Sherlock breathed. "Utterly magnificent."

And then John Watson turned towards them, and stared Sherlock right in the eyes. Something hot and quick filled Sherlock's chest and rushed through his blood, stirring up urges long dormant.

And Sherlock discovered that there was nothing he wouldn't do to talk to him, this strange contradiction of a man.