The Sixth

July 31, 2007

It was official – his younger brother had the spark.

“Not as though they’d ever say so out loud, though,” sneered Elliot, Tommy’s closest friend. And it was true – even if his brother Cecil had more than six years to his name, they would keep his gift as secret as they could. People would want things. Make demands. They always did.

But Tommy didn’t say any of this, in answer to Elliot. He simply glanced at his friend, and then returned to the figurine he was whittling. It was still crude and unformed, and he knew it wouldn’t be anything special when he finished – his older brother, Allen, had been the one gifted with art. He had died almost four years ago, but Tommy still remembered what he had taught him, and continued practicing the craft, no matter how terriblethe figures he produced.

“They don’t need to talk about it,” he finally answered his friend, “it might take the magic away. It’s just something you watch happening, and enjoy the sight. Like a rainbow after a storm, or the flash of lightning in the clouds.”

They had seen Cecil walking on the wind the day before. Not very high – just a foot off the ground. A foot that was infinitely farther than any other man could walk, though. He played with fire, too – in a literal sense. Lifted it up, shaped it into dancing men and horses (he liked horses), and then tossed it back into the fireplace.

He was the seventh son, and he had the spark.

Roger was the oldest, and he took after Father. Strong, determined… not too bright. But he cut a good figure, still, and people listened when he talked. He’d get the lands, and keep everything running just as Father had, and his father before him. Others could tally the numbers and watch the books – but he could find loyal men to do it for him, and work out surprisingly good deals in the market. That was the important thing.

Samuel was the second son, and they had known from a young age he’d be a soldier, or maybe even a knight one day. He wasn’t as strong as Roger – but he won every last scrap and tussle the two had as boys. Full of laughter, friendly and fun, he’d joined the King’s Men not six years past, and already ranked higher than men twice his age.

Derick they sent to the clergy. Maybe it was because his two older brothers were so close, born as they were less than a year apart, while Derick had three years seperating him from his siblings in both directions. Maybe it was the subtle guidance from Mother, who held religion close to her heart. Whatever the cause, the third son was guided towards the church, and embraced his calling. Three years ago he had taken his vows, and his brothers swore that was the first time they had truly seen him smile.

Michael came fourth. Unlike Derick, whose isolation resulted in him turning ever inward, Michael embraced his independance. Charming and fair, he had Roger’s charisma and Samuel’s laughter, and between the two made for a merry, mischevious youth. He had just headed off to the capital – Mother said he would be making a name for himself at court, but they had all heard the rumors that he had joined the Masked, the secret band of spies that served the throne from the shadows.

Allen was born fifth, and now was dead. Only a year apart from Tommy, the two were the closest of the brothers. Had he a chance to grow up, Allen might have been a sculptor or an artist – even Father, a practical man, couldn’t deny the gift he had shown.

“And Thomas was the sixth son, and was a nobody, lesser even than the youngest brat of the lot.” Elliot crossed his arms and smirked. Tommy frowned – his friend had been reading his thoughts again, and he didn’t like that.

“I can be special, too.” His words were calm. He always stayed calm. Allen had been like a part of him, but he hadn’t even shed a tear when his brother caught the Black Touch, and passed away.

The door opened, and Francessa, the maid, poked her head in. “Did you say something, Tom?”

The fourteen year old shook his head. Francessa looked around the room, brow wrinkling, and then glanced at the mangled block of wood in his hands, and the mess of wood shavings he had left on his bed.

With a strange clucking sound, she shook her head. “Well, you best make ready for dinner, you know Sam is eager to see you!”

She left, and Elliot shut the door behind her, his hands shimmering with a red glow as he touched the wooden door frame. He shook his own head in an uncanny imitation of the maid. Tommy frowned at him, and tossed his unfinished carving at Elliot – it passed through his friend’s frame, smacking against the wall with a dull thud.

“All so excited, aren’t they?” said Elliot, smirking. “About Sam, back from the campaign with honors. About Cecil, with his oh-so-special touch… but never about little old Tommy Nobody. Just a plain, ordinary boy. How sad.”

He sauntered over to the bed, and leaned forward to whisper in Tommy’s ear, in slow and deliberate tones, “You should kill them.”

Tommy looked at his friend… and then rolled his eyes. Elliot was always trying to get him in trouble. “Why would I do that? They’re my family.”

“Get rid of them, and then you would be the special one. Why, if you did in young Cecil, there are even… ways… you could take his spark for you own. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

Tommy nodded. “Yeah… but like I said. They’re my family. I’m not going to kill them. Geeze, you’re dense.”

Elliot frowned. “So you are happy being nobody? Happy not to have any power of your own?”

Tommy hopped off his bed and tossed his closet open. He should find something nice to wear to dinner – keep Mother from yelling at him for that, at least. He slipped off his current shirt, and carefully put on a fine woolen tunic.

Turning around, he found Elliot still staring at him, ember flames burning where he should have eyes. He gave a shrug.

“I didn’t say that. But if I’m gonna kill someone and take their spark, it isn’t gonna be from my brother.” He glowered at his friend, and then sighed.

Walking over to the door, he took one last look back at Elliot. “Besides, I’ve got a few more years of schooling, yet. So you can cool your horses and wait till then.”

Thomas, the sixth son, the dark child, let the devil scowling in his room as he walked through the door, and headed to dinner with his family.

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