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    JMH
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Tower of High Sun - 5. Chapter 5

 

Chapter Six: For a Life Saved

 

While Jack was fighting the battle for his life, Thaddeus was in the library, deep in his studies of Lord Fredrick’s books. It was a collection of legends dealing with the Midnight Wars. As it was a children’s book, he was sure it was not a detailed account and some of the tales were more fiction that fact. Still, he enjoyed reading the tales and legends from the age of heroes. Some, however, he enjoyed less than others.

One in particular was as intriguing as it was terrifying. The title was “The Fall of the Assassin King”. It dealt with creatures called Changelings, creatures of Midnight capable of mimicking the appearance of anyone, man or beast. All it needed was a single drop of the person’s blood. Many of the greatest heroes of the Midnight Wars had died at their hands.

This tale told the story of how the father of the first God Emperor died at the hands of the most terrible of them all, a changeling the book referred to as the Assassin King. The book did not say how the changeling obtained a drop of the God Emperor’s blood but somehow he had. While the God Emperor was away, the Assassin King took his form. In disguise, he was able to reach the site where the Tower of High Sun was being constructed. The God Emperor’s father, a man known as Axler, had been the architect of the Tower and chief overseer of its construction.

To delay, if not prevent, its construction, the disguised Assassin King asked to meet Axler in private to review his father’s blueprints and notes. Meeting at the highest point as he was asked, Axler brought the sole full copy of the design and his main journals. Once the changling had these in his hands, he pushed Axler off the parapet. It took three full minutes for him to reach the bottom.

Putting the blueprints and journals to the flames, he discarded his disguise for that of a giant bat. From the Tower’s highest point he spread his leathery wings and jumped. From the incomplete tower, he flew over the Sun Mountain to the midnight lands in the East.

When the God Emperor learned what had happened, he swore revenge. First, however, he needed to find a way to prevent the same thing from happening again. Turning to his mages, he commanded them to put all their efforts into finding a means of detecting the assassins among them.

What they came up with was the Bond. With the Bond, the Emperors and the Upper Nobility, could sense those of Changeling blood. In a matter of a few months, every Changeling in Rygis was destroyed. Then, with an army of pure nobility soldiers, he marched on the Changeling lands. It was to be an act of genocide. Every Changeling, young and old, was to be gutted, quartered and given to the flames.

Never great in numbers, it did not take long for them to cleanse the world of the treacherous Changling blood. What few of the Assassin King;s followers fled to their mountain fortress.

The God Emperor besieged the castle through spring, summer and autumn. With winter approaching, he had to either retreat or command his followers to charge the castle. He chose to attack. Hundreds died, many of whom were among his dearest friends.

Having retreat to the throne room, the Assassin King waited. He knew the God Emperor had reserve his death for himself. While his life was forfeit regardless who won the duel, if he could kill the God Emperor before his death, his name would forever be remembered by the other Lords of Midnight.

The two met. The God Emperor wielded the sword of Ever-Sun against the Assassin King’s most powerful form… a Shadow Dragon. Compared to the lesser Shadow Wraiths, no Shadow Dragon had ever been killed. The tale didn’t give many details of the duel but it did say how it ended.

The God Emperor thrust Ever-Sun into the still mortal heart of the Assassin king. While he could take the form of the dragon, his Changeling heart remained mortal. Though it cost him Ever-Sun and his sword arm the God Emperor had his revenge. This marked the turning point in the war. While the fighting would continue for another twelve bloody years, the death of one of their own gave the other Lords of Midnight a taste of fear.

Thaddeus had just closed the book when he heard Lord Fredrick speak to him. “Interesting tale, no?”

“Aye… also a very frightening one.”

“True… but all that is in the past. The Emperor’s purge of the Changelings among his people was quite thorough.”

“But what if one escaped?”

“If one survived, he surely died by now. Unlike their king, Changelings age as men do. Come it is well past midnight. Time for you to go to bed.”

But I don’t feel tired. “Have you seen Jack?” He didn’t know why he asked of him at that moment but sensed something was amiss.

“Nay, but I’m sure he will show up eventually. He always does. Now off to bed with you. The books will still be here in the morning.”

Thaddeus knew he was right but for some reason he could not stop worrying about his friend. Like an itch he couldn’t scratch, he could not fathom what the source of his fear was. It left him agitated and unable to sleep, even in his soft bed.

He had to find his friend. Though he was sure it would displease Lord Fredrick and his daughters, he snuck out through the bedroom window and over the manor’s walls. Now where do I go? He didn’t have a clue where Jack might be. Jack never told him where or what he did at night. Thaddeus was not one to pry so he never asked.

While his mind didn’t know where to go, his feet did. Some invisible force pulled him towards the western edge of the fief. What started off as a slow walk eventually grew to a full run.

He ran and ran, longer and faster than he ever had before. Through fields and orchards, his feet sent him ever west. No matter how fast or far he ran, he never got winded or needed to rest.

It was not until he entered a large corn field that his feet let him slow down. The sun had risen giving him a better idea where he was.

The first sign of his friend he found was his knife. Jack cherished his knife as much as his right arm. It did not bode well that Thaddeus found it minus his friend. Near where the knife had been dropped, he found a trail of blood.

This time he didn’t need to be urged forward. He followed the trail of red to the irrigation pump in the center of the field. There he found Jack. His once new clothes were a shredded mess and soaked with blood. He was deathly pale. His body shivered as if buried in snow.

Thaddeus ran to Jack and took him in his arms and wept over his deep wounds. “Why… why?”

“… because I love you.”

“You fool, you stupid, stupid fool. Half your life is not worth the whole of mine.”

“I beg to differ.” Jack let the tip of his fingers brush against his friend’s cheek. Where he touched he left a smear of blood.

“I won’t let you die. Not now not ever.”

“Funny… I won’t let you die either.”

“This is no time to make fun of me. I am serious.”

“So am I… So am I.” Jack eyes closed.


At first Thaddeus thought he had died but placing a palm over Jack’s face, he felt his warm breath. He placed a hand on his heart and found it still beat strong. As serious as his wounds were, they had yet to prove mortal. Thaddeus looked up and thanked the stars.

Though he had not had to in many years, Thaddeus knew what he had to do. Taking Jack’s knife he sliced open is left palm. He squeezed his hand tight over Jack’s mouth causing the blood to stream past his parched lips. “Come on… don’t you dare die on me.” Jack’s color slowly returned. When he was sure Jack was not in imminent danger, he wrapped his hand with one of the shredded remains of Jack’s shirt.

Cradling him in his arms, Thaddeus carried Jack towards the farmhouse he had seen on the edge of the field. The freeman and his wife who stood at their door looked as if they would faint of fright.

“The Stars have mercy on us all.” The wife swore several times as she saw to Jack. If Thad had not made sure to wipe all traces of his blood from Jack’s lips, her reaction would have been far worse.

Once he was bandaged up, the farmer drove both of them back the manor.

Riding in the back of the speeding wagon, Thaddeus doubted that the farmer was racing for the sake of his friend. More likely he wanted to get the pair as far from his house as possible. When they reached the gates of the manor, his theory was proven true as the moment he got Jack out of the wagon, the farmer raced even faster the way he came.

When the two guards at the gate saw the state of the boys, one ran to find Lord Fredrick. The other attempted to take Jack inside but, when he saw the look Thaddeus gave him, he backed away. If anyone was to care for Jack, Thaddeus was going to insist it be him.

The girls were the first to run out. When they saw their blood stained clothes, Mary screamed and ran back inside. Lisa and Amber remained but only Lisa dared to approach. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. I found him in a cornfield thirty miles from here. He didn’t tell me what happened. Even if I ask, I doubt he will tell me.”

Fredrick came storming out. “Thaddeus… my dear boy. What were you thinking by sneaking out in the middle of the night?”

“I had to. If I didn’t, Jack would have died.”

“Be that as it may, you shouldn’t have gone on your own. Come… Cook is as skilled with needle and thread as she is with her butcher knife. She’ll get him sewed up. Once you’ve seen him safely to bed, you and I will talk.”

Whatever Lord Fredrick wanted to say to him Thaddeus knew he wouldn’t like it. That didn’t matter. All that matter was seeing Jack get better.

Once Cook had him stitched up, she wrapped him up with bandages dipped in an ointment made of honey. She told Thaddeus it would keep the wounds from festering.

After seeing Jack to bed, he didn’t waste any time going to see Lord Fredrick. He found him in the study. The fat man’s usual jolliness had utterly deserted him.

“You did a foolish thing going out on your own. A very foolish thing! I thought you had more sense than that but it seems that I too am a fool.”

“Sir Lord, he’s my friend. I had to go to him.”

“And how did you know he needed you.”

“I don’t know… I just knew.”

“What if whatever attacked him had still been out there? Would you have my daughters suffer the death of another brother?”

“I had to Sir Lord… I had to.” Thaddeus didn’t know what more he could say. After all, he didn’t understand how he knew his friend was in danger in the first place. He just knew and no questioning by his lordship would get him a better answer.

“One of the last things Sir Levi told me before he left was his belief that your friend was unnatural. He feared him and was half convinced your friend wanted to kill him. I do not think your friend holds me or my family any ill will but that does not mean I don’t agree with Sir Levi.”

“He’s not unnatural. He’s special!”

“He may be special to you, of that I have no doubt, but it begs the question of what your true nature might be. Members of the Emperor’s personal guard do not frighten easily. For that knight to fear Jack more than a Midnight Day… well, it doesn’t bode well for any of us. You might be ill born but you still carry the blood of the Upper Nobility in your veins. There was a time when such blood was believed to possess unnatural powers. Is it possible that you may be ‘special’ as well?”

So Lord Fredrick had noticed his bandaged left hand and guessed the meaning behind it. Even so, Thad would not betray his friend’s true nature.

“Your friend, however, is something else. I could share with you my suspicions but there are so many that there is no point in sharing them until I learn more. I love you as a son, so for now, you may continue to enjoy my hospitality. If I decide your friend poses a danger to me and mine, I will have no choice but to send him on his way. Understood?”

Thaddeus did, all too well. Jack would be expelled from the lord’s lands and would not be allowed to return on penalty of death. The same was not true for him. If he so chose, he could remain… maybe even as his legitament son. For the briefest of moments, he was tempted by the offer but to live in comfort did not outweigh Jack companionship. “If you send him away, I will leave with him.”

“Your loyalty to your friend does you honor. I pray to the stars that it will never come to that.”

Copyright © 2012 JMH; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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