The Blazing Tower

Four very strange friends, Wren, Markus, Stone, and Jurn, find themselves the protectors of the very kingdom that shuns them, the differences that set them apart from everyone else serving as their main weapons.

"By order of his Majesty the King, the state of your abode will be rectified by sundown tomorrow or it will face demolition by Royal Artillery."

The King's messenger stood a few safe distances away from Wren and his companions, safely shouting his proclamation from behind a rank of hardened knights on steeds that wouldn't blink an eye at the "state" of Wren's "abode," unlike the frightened messenger.

"I don't see what he's so scared of," commented Jurn, a gigantic creature who resembled a man in everything but size and dress.

Wren turned and looked him up and down. "You mean aside from you being bigger than a couple soldier-horse pairings by yourself, and your charming necklace of human skulls?"

"Hey! These are barbarian skulls! I don't kill the King's citizens if I can help it, just like you said, Wren."

"I know, and you've done a stand-up job of it, my friend. But, as I was saying, aside from you, and the rest of us, we are standing in the shadow of a flame-engulfed Metusbreath tower that reaches the clouds. While we may call it home, not all are so comfortable with it."

Jurn thought about this for a moment before grunting his reluctant agreement.

"They have yet to leave, master. Perhaps they wish for you to acknowledge them before they part."

Wren noticeably ignored this comment, and it was a moment before the woman who had spoken it blinked and repeated it, only to be ignored again.

"Psst, Stone," Jurn whispered as well as he could, holding his hand beside his mouth as if it would stop Wren from hearing him. "Master."

Stone opened her mouth and closed it again without a sound. "They have yet to leave... Wren. Perhaps---"

"Thank you, Stone," Wren interrupted. "I think you're probably right."

Cupping his hands over his mouth, he shouted in the direction of the messenger. "I assure you, good sir, that the impossibility of dousing the fire that envelops our home is matched only by the ineffectiveness of cannon fire upon a tower constructed entirely from Metusbreath. I do wish I could be of more help."

After a moment's pause, a reply came from the messenger. "You are hereby advised to vacate before sundown tomorrow, lest the Royal Artillery fire and destruction of the tower injure you or your companions. Good day, Sir Wren."

Wren felt a tug on his clothing and glanced down to see the face of a concerned child looking up at him. "Fear not, Markus. You are new here, but you will see soon enough that the King and his men are not our enemies. They are grateful for our protection, and I'm sure the King sent his messenger here simply to please his advisors. Something about the sight of our blazing tower unsettles them. I can't imagine why." His eyes sparkled with mirth.

Markus pointed at the fire, then at himself, and then looked at his feet, as if ashamed.

"Markus, you really must look upon yourself with more kindness. Were it not for you, we would not even be able to live here any longer. We are all grateful for your help, and we know you did your very best."

"I think the fire looks neat," rumbled Jurn happily.

"It is an addition befitting the mystique of our group," agreed Stone.

"And," said Wren, "fire that is unable to burn you is not a bad thing to have around. We will have warm winters, for a change."

Markus beamed and hugged Wren around the legs, warranting a hearty laugh from Wren and Jurn and a small smile from Stone.

"Now, we'd best get some food in us and be off to bed," Wren said. "We will need the rest. I doubt we will get much of it tomorrow night."

And so the four misfit, blight-on-the-land heroes walked through the flame-engulfed doorway and into the misfit, blight-on-the-land tower they all called home.

The End

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