Daemon Knights – The Headmaster’s Deception

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“Tortured?” Angus asked. “Are you sure?”

“Positive,” Cheyenne said. “The man who bound this daemon kept it locked in a cage with no food for a week. He also subjected it to a series of painful shocks and beatings. Most people believe that once daemons are bound into their weapon form, they no longer feel pain. Ordinarily that is mostly true. What actually happens is that when the final stage of the binding is completed, the daemon will feel no new pain while in weapon form. If it was in hurt or hungry when it’s form was changed, those feelings will be bound in place too. Lethen’s daemon was in agony and starving and will remain that way until it can resume it’s natural form.”

“So,” Lethen said, “my daemon is in constant pain?”

Cheyenne nodded. “But it gets worse than that. Not only does he have the constant agony he was bound with, the transformation wasn’t entire like it’s supposed to be. Your daemon was left with certain parts of his body left organic. No enough to dissipate the original harm, but enough that he will feel any new pain. They left a shard of bone inside the handle, and a thin layer of epidermis on the outside. A bladed strike to it will feel like a gash and sufficient blunt force will feel like a snapping bone.”

“That’s horrible,” Lethen said. “No wonder it’s always so pissed off. Why would someone do that? I know that daemons are naturally evil, but torture? Surely this makes us worse than them.”

“You’re not wrong half-breed,” Angus said. “The original purpose behind the daemon knights is to bridge the gap between man and daemon. Just as humans are born innocent and learn corruption along the way, daemons can learn the value of good. Many of the daemons possessed by our knights have long ago learned that promoting evil only makes things worse for everyone. Our side and theirs.” He turned to Cheyenne. “Do you know who did this?”

“Yes and no.”

“Cheyenne, this is no time to get all cryptic on me. If you can identify the binder who performed this travesty, we can get him removed from his position.”

“I don’t know the binder himself. He’s not one of the usual ones who do work for Hikari. He’s a freelancer, and one who clearly doesn’t mind the dirty jobs. The things he did to that poor thing. I wish I could un-see them but I can’t. That daemon wants vengeance something awful. If he ever sees that man again, I imagine Lethen will be unable to even slow him down.”

Lethen had been listening to the exchange but had a question of his own. “You keep saying he. My daemon is a boy?”

Cheyenne nodded. “A male badger daemon to be precise. They probably chose that type of daemon because they’re ill-tempered to begin with.”

“They?” Angus asked.

“Yes they. When I said yes and no it was for a reason. I may not be able to identify the binder who did the work, but I saw another face with him and this one I certainly did recognize. The binder may have been the actual one to perform the violence, but he was acting on the orders of another. The one calling the shots was Turiel, our very own headmaster.”

Lethen knew he shouldn’t be surprised. Angus had already told him that the headmaster should have been able to detect the problems in the weapon when he held it during the ceremony. Lethen had figured that Turiel had given him the unruly weapon hoping he wouldn’t be able to control it. Never had he expected that the headmaster would go to such trouble to hurt him. Binding a daemon was a risky and expensive process. Lethen knew that most people thought of him as an abomination, but to go through the expense and risk of creating this weapon, it had to be something more personal. Lethen wished he knew what he had done to warrant this amount of undesirable attention.

“What was he thinking?” Angus asked no one in particular. “He should know that if this gets out, he’ll lose not only his job, but also his position as a daemon knight. In fact, for something like this, he might be executed. This puts not only the half-breed, but potentially the whole school at risk. Lethen, tell me everything you know about your parents and your past. Anything that might shed a light on why he would target you like this. It must be one hell of a vendetta.”

Lethen couldn’t even respond at first. He had been going over the same question in his mind. It made no sense. “My dad was a reporter. From what I’ve heard, he went out into the war zones during the Grizzard War. He was becoming famous for his ability to get close to the enemy and observe their movements. Apparently that’s how he met my mom. Their relationship was a secret until he brought a half-breed child back from his last journey into their lands. Not long after, he was banished, but I was allowed to stay.”

“I already know all that,” Angus said. “Everyone in town knows that. For a time, your dad was the most well known person to have ever come out of Watertown. You were the biggest scandal in our history. Until him, no one even knew for sure if a cross breed was possible. I’ve heard of a few since then, but as far as I know, you’re the first. Do you know anything about your mother?”

“Other than knowing she’s a grizzard, nothing. I don’t even know anything of my dad besides what I’ve heard from others. It didn’t take them long to cast him out once they knew of his ‘crime’ against humanity. I was very young. I would guess that we only knew each other for about a week. The only family I’ve known since then has been Marnie and her parents. I don’t live with them, but they’ve made sure I didn’t starve.”

“Damn,” Angus swore. “I was hoping you might know a little more than that. I’ve known Turiel for a long time, and although I think he’s a pompous ass, this isn’t like him. He loves himself far too much to put himself on the line for something as petty as racism. There’s more to this than we know. Lethen, go get your daemon.”

Lethen ran to the front room where his daemon still lay on the floor where Cheyenne had dropped it. No, he corrected his thinking, not it, him. Until Cheyenne had revealed what had happened to the daemon, Lethen had been thinking only of how tough it was to have a daemon that hated you. Now he was beginning to understand the rage. If he had been tortured and forced into a form that promised nothing more than misery, he’d be mad too. He brought the daemon back into the bedroom.

“Lethen,” Angus said, “you have a choice that you must make, but first I want to figure out what we are going to do about this situation. We know the headmaster is out to get you with a vehemence that I’ve never seen him display. I have no doubt that this is only the first of many plans he has in place to bring you down. As it stands, we have the visions of Cheyenne, which hardly counts as incontrovertible proof. I believe in her, but due to her gift, others find her odd and therefore, unreliable. No offense.”

“None taken,” Cheyenne said. “I know what others say when I’m not around. So do you go at the headmaster head on or not?”

“I don’t know. I’m thinking it might be more profitable for us to go after the binder. Could you tell anything about how powerful he is?”

Cheyenne consider her words. “Binding a daemon isn’t easy. Just from that I can tell you that he won’t go down without a fight, but neither would Turiel. From what I saw of his bindings, they were very impressive. They were made to look shoddy, but they’re solid. Not as strong as some I’ve seen, but he knows what he’s doing. I would say that he’s better at subterfuge than daemon arts, possibly making him an even more dangerous opponent. If he can get the drop on you, it might not go as well as you hope.”

“I don’t relish either of these choices, but I think it’s better that we go for the binder.” Angus said. “Facing Turiel at this point would tip our hand. A little subterfuge of our own might be in order. Not my best skill, but useful in it’s own way. It also looks like I’ll have to get you pups trained up faster than I’d expected. If we go after this guy, you and the others will have to be ready. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to find this man, but when we do, we’re going in as a team. We did well in the initial testing but that was partially a fluke.”

Lethen looked at the floor, knowing full well that Angus was referring to his submission to the daemon’s will. He needed to make sure that never happened again, effective as it may have been.

“I can tell you one other thing,” Cheyenne said. “I think he’s Russian. I caught glimpses of interactions between him and Turiel. His accent sounded Russian to me, but I’m not exactly a linguistics master. Could’ve been eastern European or something.”

“Same as Silva,” Angus muttered. “I wonder if the two are just a coincidence. You got your weapon before Silva hated you, and he didn’t seem to recognize it when you faced him. I think I may have to contact a few people. Turiel isn’t the only one with connections in other places. My network may not be as vast as his own, but I’m usually able to find the truth in things.”

“I will ask my daemon to keep her ear to the ground too,” Cheyenne said. “Daemons communicate a lot more with each other than any of us realized. While sitting together here, they have been in constant contact. Not so much with Lethen’s, he’s too wild. During a battle they learn more about each other than humans do in a year. Their communication is so much more efficient that ours.”

“Thanks,” Lethen said. “Both of you. I have no idea why the headmaster hates me so much, other than just existing. I don’t understand it, but I know now that I am not alone.”

“Speaking of being alone, that leaves us with the question I needed to ask you. It’s not going to be an easy choice, but it may mean the difference of whether you live or die.”

Lethen paled slightly. “What?”

“That daemon of yours is unstable and badly bound. You have to decide whether you want to have it destroyed and leave the life of a daemon knight behind, or if you want to keep it and pretend everything is fine while we search for the man who bound it. Neither path is ideal, but those are the options.”

“I would have to give up becoming a daemon knight?”

“You might be able to get into one of the other schools next year,” Cheyenne said, “but Hikari is strict. Next year you will be too old to join a first year class, and they would kick you out for not having a daemon. It takes months to do the binding job properly and you’d miss too much.”

Lethen’s response was almost automatic. “I’m not leaving Hikari by choice. If that old man wants me out so bad, he’s gonna have to work for it.”

 

Previous Episode – That Damned Shovel   Next Episode – Lethen’s Resolve

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