The king held his son in his arms. Burning tears spilled down his cheeks and landed on the face of his son, whose eyes were wide with an expression of shock and fear, and whose mouth was gaping. Blood spilled forth from the enormous wound in his son’s upper back, pouring down over his fathers hands and pooling on the stones below.

Fires raged all around the king and the boy. The king knelt by a fountain in what had previously been the central square, but all of the planted gardens, the bushes of roses and wildflowers, the trees of the park, were engulfed in flames. Smoke choked the air.

The king held his son close and sobbed over his body, feeling the boy’s breathing slow. His son made no sound, only kept staring vacantly into nothingness. The king grit his teeth, and gently he lay his son down on the bloody stones. He stood, his battle armor stained red and brown with his son’s blood. He whirled, and the blue cape clasped to his armor swirled behind him as he turned to face a woman who stood across the square, between two large leaping pillars of flame that had been trees.

The woman held in her hand a long, silver dagger, covered with blood. Her hair was long, blonde and in curls around her shoulders. Her red and gold embroidered dress was stained too with blood. Her lip quivered, and a look of fear was plastered onto her pale face.

“Why have you done this!” shouted the King.

The woman caught her trembling breath. “Possessed,” she called over the sound of the roaring flames, “Possessed by a daemon! Look around and see you the fires of Hell!”

The King threw his head back and a wail escaped from his mouth, a horrified sound, the sound of a heart breaking, tears choking his scream. “My son!” he screamed at the sky, and then he extended an accusatory finger toward the woman holding the knife, “You! Witch!”

“No!” shouted the woman in fear, grasping the knife tightly, “No, husband! It is our son! He was possessed! Flames shot from his fingers and all that his gaze touched was set alight!”

The king reached to his left hip and with a lound shink! He pulled his sword from it’s place in it’s jeweled scabbard.

“Husband, no!” Shouted the woman, though she gripped ever tighter the knife in her hand.

The King pointed the sword toward his wife. “Betrayer! Child-slayer!” he roared, “You have taken your own son’s life, rather than save it!”

“But he could not have been saved!” howled the woman.

“I’d sooner have thrown myself over his body and taken the flames on myself than drove a dagger through his back!” spat the King. “You have taken from me all that I love!”

“Not I,” shouted the woman, “No, not I! The daemon! The daemon who brought the fire! It has rent our kingdom apart!”

“You have done this!” wailed the King in a rage, “You have taken from me my son, my kingdom, and my wife!”

“I am your wife still!” shouted the woman.

The King did not respond with words, only a guttural roar, and he charged forward toward his wife, toward the inferno, away from the boy who lay, nearly dead, on the stones by the central fountain.

Footsteps from behind the fountain. Boots that clicked gently against the flagstones. A man who appeared young, but who was not young at all, a man whose hair was deep auburn, and whose eyes were an unnaturally deep shade of green. He wore a long cloak that had not been singed by the fires, and as he walked around the fountain he trailed a hand lazily against the side of the huge bowl, where water still poured freely. His lips were pursed and he gazed down at the boy, whose eyes remained open, whose breathing was coming ever slower.

He stopped in front of the boy and squatted down, a hand resting lazily over one knee. His expression was one of disinterest. He spoke to the child. “Little prince,” his said quietly, “It is not from account of your own sin that you are slain.”

The boy’s eyes closed slowly and opened again. His breath came in ragged, steadily slowing bursts.

“This is not the fate you deserve,” said the man in the cloak, “To be killed now before ever you blossom. The rose has been plucked when it is but a bud, not yet come into bloom.”

The boy drew another breath and didn’t move.

The man quickly shot his hand into the fountain and dipped his fingers in, and the water began to coil, serpentine, around his fingers. He shot a hand down to the boy’s back and the water trailed behind them, he laid his fingers in the bloody wound, and the water slithered out of the man’s hand and seeped into the wound, disappearing inside the bloody gashes, and more water still flowed out from the fountain and across his fingers, seeming to fill up the void within the boy’s back.

The blood stopped flowing.

The wound was gone.

The water wound it’s way back into the fountain and stayed there.

The man in the cloak reached down and lifted the child from the flagstones. In the distance could be heard the sound of a woman’s scream, and a man’s agonized cry. He stood, holding the child in his arms, staring down at him. The child’s eyes flicked toward the man who held him, though his expression was still one of shock, and his mouth remained gaping. For a brief moment there was recognition in his eyes, the boy understood that he was being held, that someone was looking at him, but he seemed lost behind his own eyes.

“You have more left to give the world, my child,” said the man in his quiet, collected voice, “There is more life for you than you could yet imagine. Death will not take you so easily.”

The man in the cloak turned around, his cloak swirling behind him, and walked into the roaring inferno. When he came near the fire it parted, and he passed through unscathed, holding fast in his arms the small boy, and the fire snapped back together, like a doorway closing.


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