Lethen sat with his back to the wall. He couldn’t believe the day was finally here for him to receive his daemon weapon and begin his training in the exclusive Hikari academy. There he would learn how to control himself and the daemon entrusted to his care. It was a great honor to be chosen, especially for one such as him.
He watched the proceedings from the side of the ceremony. He would be allowed to participate, but not to sit with the others. He was to wait for his name to be called, walk up, accept his weapon with a bow, and silently excuse himself back to the shadows where he belonged. His kind weren’t to be casually mingling with humans, especially a half-breed like him. That was just unnatural. He couldn’t help that he was half grizzard.
It’s not like it was that obvious anyway. He was a little shorter and a little hairier than the other guys at the ceremony. He had been working hard to measure up to the standards they would expect at Hikari, and that’s all that should matter. He had been tested and had been found to have the willpower necessary to keep a daemon in check. He hadn’t exactly passed with flying colors, but he had passed.
He could add that to the list of disadvantages he would have once he was inside, but he didn’t care. All that mattered was that he was inside. He would then be able to prove his worth. No one would stop him from getting stronger. Strong enough to protect his little sister; strong enough to protect everyone. History would not be allowed to repeat itself. Never again.
Lethen watched as Marnie, the only friend he had ever had, accepted her weapon. It was magnificent. It’s current form was that of a pencil thin rapier. It looked like the kind of sword you’d imagine a king wielding. It had gold filigree inlaid into the hilt, and even the blade itself. It had been in her family for generations and Lethen was sure that it had several other forms that it could take once Marnie learned how to access them.
He smiled as she looked over to him in a gross breach of etiquette. Luckily the glance seemed to go unnoticed. Very few people in the town were accepting of his presence, and almost none agreed with Marnie’s attention toward him. It wasn’t a romantic thing, but just the idea of a daughter of the Watertown Jericks would willingly associate with something like him was unbearable to some. He’d been beaten several times for being around her, but he took it quietly. No amount of beating would cause him to abandon any of the three people who’d ever shown him kindness.
He heard his name and walked behind the gathered townsfolk to make his way up the aisle to claim his prize. Not being from a family of daemon knights, he wasn’t inheriting a powerful blade with many forms like Marnie, but a newly created daemon weapon, most likely made from a weak and ornery daemon. There were whispers and gasps from some of those in the crowd when they saw him walking forward.
As he reached the front, he came face to face with the headmaster of Hikari academy for the first time. He had seen him in passing before and had always thought he looked like a dour old bastard. At this close range he could see that dour wasn’t the right word. Unyielding would be better. Perhaps even obstinate. The look on his face now told Lethen everything he needed to know about what the headmaster thought of a half-breed entering his school.
A sneer came to the man’s face that gave Lethen a bad feeling in his gut. “Lethen the half-breed,” he started. “Somehow you manage to pass our entrance requirements and have wormed your way into Hikari. Clearly our standards have dropped since the days of Lorelei the Great. I, headmaster Turiel, have allowed this purely out of sadistic curiosity. I want to see the moment you break, and break you shall.”
Lethen smiled back at the man. Even Turiel’s disgust couldn’t spoil this day for him. He had grown up idolizing the daemon knights and not even that old man’s sneer could detract from it. Plus he knew the headmaster was full of crap. He hadn’t allowed Lethen in for any reason other than Marnie’s dad. Lethen didn’t know how the man had done it, but somehow he had, and Lethen would be forever in his debt.
If Lethen’s smile bothered the headmaster, he didn’t show it. “I have selected a unique deamon weapon for you. One that I think is most suitable for someone of your lowly station. It was bound in this form just this morning, so it may still be a bit feral, so I’m sure you will be able to relate to it.”
Lethen’s smile faded just a hair when he saw the object being handed to him. It didn’t look like any weapon he’d ever seen before. In fact it looked more like a short handled shovel than an instrument of war. He assumed he was being made the butt of a joke when he reached out and took it.
The moment his hand touched the shovel he could feel the wild daemon’s spirit rail against him. This thing wasn’t just a bit feral, it was insane and mad as hell. He could feel the daemon’s hatred of humans, hatred of him, wash through his body in waves. He could feel the beast strain against his will and his physical strength at the same time. It took everything in him to not let it start swinging of it’s own accord. As he fought against it, he realized he was the butt of a joke, just not the one he expected.
Lethen bowed and turned to go back to his wall. He would make this work. He wouldn’t let them get the satisfaction of knowing that he was disappointed with his daemon. He was almost to the back of the crowd when he heard the headmaster call out to him.
“I’m sure your new companion will be helpful to you when you’re digging the latrines for the other students when we camp. You might even make some friends. Everyone likes the guy that lets them take a crap.”
Roars of laughter came from all around him, almost causing him to lash out. He couldn’t afford to get angry at them right now. It was taking all his effort to keep his mind clear of his daemon’s rage. If he caved in, he would start swinging it at people and would not only be kicked out of Hikari, but probably executed like a dog. The smile he wore as he sat back down was much more strained than it had been before.
He watched as the last few students were given their weapons. Dellman got a scimitar, Renala was given a massive halberd (Lethen had no idea how she was going to swing it), and Ventrus took possession of a crossbow. Any of those would’ve made Lethen happier than a damned shovel, even the crossbow. Lethen had heard that ranged weapons were much harder to control than melee ones, but even that was better than a gardening tool.
As the ceremony finished and the new students (the full human ones anyway) filed through the doors, Lethen knew it was time for him to leave. Technically he was invited to the feast celebrating the new knights, but he knew he wasn’t really welcome. He watched Marnie disappear with the rest of the class and pushed open one of the side doors, eager to get out of the auditorium as soon as possible.
“Where are you going so quick half-breed?”
Lethen snapped his head around and saw that Alliander was waiting for him outside. Alliander was the headmaster’s son and just as much of a dick as his father. Lethen stepped out and closed the door. If Alliander was here, it meant his cronies weren’t too far away. He couldn’t see them but they’d be there. Alliander was too much of a coward to face Lethen without his entourage. Lethen tried to walk past him, still engaged in a battle of wills with his daemon.
“I asked where you’re going,” Alliander said. “It’s rude to ignore your betters. Do you really think I’m going to allow you to defile Hikari with your filth? I’m going to take care of you right now.” Alliander took out his long knife ‘Bloodthirtser’ and swung it at Lethen’s face.
Lethen had to divert his attention from his internal struggle to step out of the way. Anger flared through him as the daemon’s ire went unopposed. He felt the shovel move in his hands and pain flared up from his knee as his own weapon slashed him.
Alliander laughed. “Even your daemon doesn’t like you. How did you ever think you were going to last? Did you think your little girlfriend was going to be able to protect you? She is a cutie though. Maybe I’ll make her mine. Maybe I’ll even give her a choice in the matter.”
At this last barb, Lethen snapped. He swung the shovel at Alliander. He expected the daemon to resist him but it didn’t. He could actually feel it lending its strength to the blow. It was sensing his anger and hatred and heartily approved of both.
Alliander didn’t dodge quickly enough and caught the swing in the ribs. He crumpled and gasped, having had the air blasted from his lungs. It took all of five seconds before his posse appeared seemingly from everywhere.
“What do we have here?” Marnie had appeared behind Lethen. “This is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. A third year who has to bring a whole group of goons to threaten a first year.”
Alliander glared at Marnie. “This doesn’t concern you. We’re just teaching this half-breed the natural order of things.”
“Oh really?” Marnie looked at each of the bullies. “I’d say the lesson is learned. The weak have to travel in packs to take down stronger prey.”
“He struck me. My father is the headmaster. He will be banished and stripped of his sad little daemon before the day is through.”
Marnie laughed. “I’ll come with you. I’d like to see the conversation when you admit to your dad that you attacked a first year and lost. Run along now.”
Alliander’s eyes shifted to Lethen. “We’ll be seeing each other again soon.” Alliander collected his vassals and slunk away.
Marnie looked at Lethen’s leg. “Did he do that to you?”
Lethen shook his head. “My own daemon did that to me. They gave me a shovel possessed by an angry raccoon or something. I’m not complaining, any daemon weapon is great if it means I’m here becoming a knight, but I must admit I can’t wait until it gets another form. This is a farmer’s tool, not a knightly weapon.”
Marnie smiled. “I’m glad you’re here, even with that ridiculous shovel. Alliander is only being an ass because he feels threatened by you. You’re different and people fear change. If you can become a great daemon knight, it will throw the doors open for other people that aren’t among the aristocracy. Maybe then it will be solely based on merit, rather than genetics.”
“Why aren’t you at the feast anyway?”
“Why would I want to be in a stuffy room full of people like Alliander and his dad? Especially when I finally inherited “Duskbane” here and I want to see what she can do.” She took a step toward the sparring hall. “Are you coming?”
Lethen followed. Spending the rest of the day with Marnie sounded a lot better than anything else he’d thought about doing that day. He was tempted to tell her about the momentary connection with his daemon but thought better of it. He had felt it when he was enraged and he didn’t want her seeing that side of him. There was darkness within him and keeping himself under control was hard enough without adding the shovel’s rage to his own. There were certainly some interesting times ahead.