Nathaniel, the shape-shifting being of light, took the form of a suit of armor as he entered the Archon's castle. If things got ugly, he would need to be prepared. Traders, children and townsfolk all meandered about the castle grounds, smiling and cooing at the blue, sunny sky.
Courtesy of my master, thought Nathaniel.
The suit of armor bore the symbol of the Archon, allowing him to slip into the inner walls of the castle. Satin drapes and the ripe smell of venison permeated the corridors. The Archon's lair was indeed luxurious, even more so than Jack's.
Nathaniel walked softly along the cobblestone corridor until he came to a brightly furnished room. Red and gold seemed to seep into the air from the drapes and furniture. Just as he entered the room in full, he spotted his query at a window, gazing down into one of the castle's courtyards.
"Funny. I don't recall requesting the presence of one of my guards. What's your name?"
The suit of armor transformed into a minotaur. It huffed and gnashed its teeth angrily.
Nathaniel spoke in a harsh voice, "I am no servant of yours. I am Nathaniel, faithful servant of Jack, rightful ruler of this land."
"Of course you are," the Archon said as he turned around, revealing a stunningly young visage. The man looked to be in his mid-twenties, with brown wavy hair and crystal-blue eyes. He smiled with guile.
"There's no need for that, now is there?" he said, gesturing at Nathaniel's appearance. "We're friends now, aren't we?"
Nathaniel transformed again into his normal scarecrow form.
"I am no friend to anyone who harms my master. I've watched you for some time, trying to figure out what it is you're doing, and none of it makes sense. The truth is plain and simple. You don't want my master to be with anyone. You want to keep him alone for whatever misguided reason. It's foolish."
The young man lifted a brow, "Is it? You know what else is foolish? Crawling after a woman who destroys your very essence. Crawling through a pool of blood... and roses."
"You... you have NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT."
"Let me assure you, faithful servant of Jack, that we are on the same side. We want the same end, merely through a different means."
"Taunting and tearing down my master's hopes will lead to no constructive end. I understand why you did what you did with Kathleen, but the others? He has enough to deal with as it is without you bringing him down."
The Archon cleared his throat, "Yes, I do agree with you. Jack does have enough to deal with at the moment. I don't take you for a dense fellow, Nathaniel. But surely you are able to see the logic in my decisions. He is not ready to have someone, and there has been no one worthy under my definition."
Nathaniel stared intently at the young man, eyes burning.
"All I ask of you is this: when the right one comes, you will not deny my master from her."
The young man chortled, "And what would you do about it if I did, hm?"
"I know I cannot defeat you. But I will die for my master before I let him be ruined by you."
"You're not a hero, Nathaniel. If you are, you wouldn't try to kill me and knowingly go to your death. God knows Jack needs you, and killing yourself would be the greatest disservice you could ever mount against him. There is no honor for the blindly courageous. You love him, that is clear, but even love can be false sometimes. That is why I exist. That is why I do what I do. The best thing you can do right now is keep the boy calm and sane."
Nathaniel said nothing, only staring into the dark pupils of the Archon.
"I've said enough," the Archon growled, "Go back to him, and don't show up on my doorstep again unless you want to talk about something sensible."
The scarecrow lowered his head, intense but reserved. He began to disapparate.
"I'll see you soon."
The scarecrow disappeared in a blue swirl of luminescence. The Archon turned back to the window and looked down upon his people.
"The Lady still lurks within you, Jack. I mustn't allow you to continue until she is gone."