Sethian closed his eyes and let out a long, slow sigh. He had read the same set of glyphs a half-dozen times now, yet they refused to stick. His mind kept wandering back to the encounter with the Collector.
The sands had been falling.
It was not the first time he had seen the final moments of his life trapped in the grains of an hourglass. Yet previously, each and every time since his wound, the sands had been motionless. His body was at death’s door, had been for well over a century. It had cost a lifetime’s collected magical items to enact the spell now holding his body in stasis and almost all the power of his cane was tied up in keeping the dweomer active. All to save him from dying, to make him timeless.
So why had the sands been falling?
The simulacrum holding his consciousness had been destroyed, but that had happened on multiple occasions in the past. Each time forcing him to spend an eternity waiting for a new one to be completed, but never before had there been any repercussions for his real body. The spell had not been broken or he would have been dead already; the last breath of his life had been spent before the enchantment took effect.
So why was he dying?
Sethian opened his eyes and stared at the obelisk intently, seeking to push aside the questions and focus on his work. He would have his answers when he returned to the physical realm, but to do that he first needed to complete his rejuvenation. His spirit had been gravely injured during his escape, but spirits do not bleed. They are either slain or they are not, there were no veins to cut that would eventually lead to death. He had survived and would recover.
So how was he dying?
The runes were refusing to cooperate, looking more and more blurry with each passing moment. This was the realm of the mind and his was distracted. He turned around and gazed into the swirling white. If he could not focus on the task before him, then he would need to turn his attention to something that could hold it.
What did he know?
Sethian was slowly dying. The spell lifting his body outside of time had not been broken. The simulacrum had been ripped from the world and thrown into nothingness, plunged into a void which held nothing. Likely not even time. His spirit had been injured when the simulacrum housing it had been destroyed. Meaning his spirit had been dragged in with it.
And, more importantly, so had that essence of his cane which was bound to him. The cane anchoring his spirit into time while his body was in stasis. The cane that was also the source of power for the shell itself. For a timeless moment, if such a thing could exist, the all-consuming emptiness had touched the enchantment.
The Collector had come not to claim him, at least not yet.
It had come to warn him.
The spell had not been broken, but it had begun to unravel. Time was seeping back into the bubble in which his body dwelled. A little damage, a small hole torn in its fabric. Time would be moving slowly at first, but would soon speed up until the enchantment failed completely. Sethian would need to work fast. There was a chance he could be free. No more simulacrums, no more magic tied up in maintaining the powerful enchantment, no more weakness.
Sethian would need to return to his own body, his spirit far from whole enough to survive away from it. Spirits might not bleed, but the physical realm was a hostile place for the Unbound.
The ritual would need to be cast immediately, or his body might die before completion. A day or two gifted before his return should buy him the time he needed to perform the full rites.
He traced a few runes on the obelisk with his fingertips, carefully intoning as he read them aloud while repeating a single phrase in his mind. A message to his retainer, to make sure everything was ready upon Sethian’s arrival.
He would be able to return to that ruin at full strength, instead of a weak facsimile of himself. He could taste the freedom, the power. It was his longing made manifest to his senses through the power of the astral, but it was a sensation to be savoured.