In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
September 10, 1993
“Are you all right?”
John opened his eyes to see Jared standing over him, looking healthy and well-rested in a pair of red shorts and a black T-shirt. Every part of John’s body was aching but that was to be expected if you were fool enough to fall asleep sitting in a doorway. Through the wood of the door he could hear Angie sleeping, her breaths coming in fitful half-sobs. “Just tired… and hungry. What time is it?”
“Almost three.” the High-Born replied.
“In the afternoon?” John shook his head. Angie had refused to have anything to do with the bedpan but as the sun rose higher her resolve grew weaker. Finally she gave in, her every breath carrying a curse for him. Someday she would forgive him, when she was better she would understand. He looked around for his cane only to remember that he’d left it in the bathroom. With a grunt he began pulling himself up to a standing position, his spine crackled in protest, Magwier’s makeshift stitches pulled and suppurated. His belly growled.
“Here.” Jared offered his hand.
The High-Born’s flesh was supple and baby smooth, John was afraid he would bruise it with a touch. Jared hoisted him to his feet, John offered him a humble smile, “Thank you.”
“No, thank you. You saved my life.”
“You’re a High-Born, what else could I do?”
“It’s more than my own brother would have done. Besides how many others would go into battle without the Metastasis?”
John frowned, “It’s not as though I had a choice.”
“Magwier says that we never have a choice, that we can only play the hand we’re dealt.” The High-Born pulled a butterfly knife from his jeans pocket and flicked it open with practiced ease, “You, Rungnir of clan Ashchilde, have been dealt a cruel hand in the cruelest of times, but you play it honorably. That is why I, Jared DelaWorg honor you now in the ancient way of our people.”
Slowly opening his mouth, John’s mind swam with disbelief. This was the stuff of legends! There was a flicker of discomfort when the High-Born slit open his gumline and tore the lower incisor free. The throb of the ache was equal to the rapid beating of his heart. Coppery-tasting blood filled his mouth. Jared pressed the slick knife into the old man’s hand, opened his own mouth and waited. John could only stare at the knife. Could he do it? Did he dare?
“It’s all right.” Jared said, his voice gentle. The High-Born winced slightly when the blade pierced his flesh. The incisor came out easily but John’s hands were shaking so badly that it nearly slipped from his fingers.
Reverently John pressed the High-Born’s tooth into the wound and held it there until his preternatural healing capacity allowed it to take root. Less than a foot away the Jared was doing the same thing.
Magwier bounded up the stairs, a copy of The Screwtape Letters tucked under his arm, “Gentlemen, I don’t mean to interrupt, but it looks like we have company. Official-looking company.”