This piece will later be developed into a fuller, better extra chapter but this is the skin and bones of a story I’ve had about Tom’s past for a while now.
Intrinsic Value: What is “Human?”
“No, I haven’t seen Tom today, Amelia. He left this morning in a hurry, but he seemed fine,” the blacksmith said.
“Really? Okay. I was hoping to go exploring today, but if he’s busy, I guess that’s okay. Thanks anyways, Mr. Riversedge,” a teenage Amelia Worldwalker said, slightly crestfallen.
Just then, a man rushed into the smithy, gasping and visibly upset.
“Will!” the man shouted “It’s Tom! Come quickly!”
Without a second thought, William Riversedge grabbed a sword off his wall, readying himself to defend his son if necessary, and rushed out the door, Amelia hot on his heels. Upon arriving at the scene of the disturbance, however, the blacksmith stopped dead in his tracks. This was no simple scuffle. Thomas was standing in front of the door to a house, facing down a group of soldiers. Three of the soldiers stood out above the rest. The first Will and Amelia immediately recognized as the captain of the local branch of the guard. The other two were unknown, but the blazing cross on their chests identified them as Inquisitors. The other six members of the group were common guards. It took only a moment for Will to realize whose house Tom was defending. A few months back, a family from some western region moved in to Lilly Pond. They were a pleasant enough bunch, but their young daughter was off-putting. Before long, it became a well-known secret that she was an abomination. It was hardly a threatening disease, a simple case of telescopic vision, but apparently word got out to the Inquisitors, who set out to exterminate abominations, no matter how small the threat. William watched in horror as his son began to verbally lash out at his opponents.
“Get away from here! You have no right!” Tom shouted angrily.
“Move aside, Thomas!” the guard captain shouted back. “This comes from a higher authority than you or I have the ability to dispute!”
“I don’t care if a guardian issued the order, I would still fight it! This isn’t right!”
“Enough! Move aside or I’ll be forced to arrest you!”
“Fine! I’d rather be a righteous criminal than a spineless lawman!”
“Please, Thomas! I don’t want to hurt you!”
“But you’re okay with letting these two monsters forcibly remove a child from her home!?”
“We’re not the monstrosities here,” one of the Inquisitors coolly replied. “That child and all those like her are. They are not human. Now, step aside, boy.”
“She’s just a little girl, you bastard! She’s just as worthy of living a normal, happy life as any of the rest of us!”
“I’ve had enough of this,” the second Inquisitor said. “If he will not willingly move aside, we must force him to.”
The Inquisitor grabbed Tom and attempted to throw him aside, but the strong teenager didn’t give. Instead, Tom grappled with him, and eventually threw his opponent to the ground. The first Inquisitor, upon seeing his ally humiliated, lunged at Tom, fist aiming squarely for his face. Tom blocked the punch and returned a blow of his own, knocking the surprised Inquisitor off balance, giving Tom the opportunity to knock him down.
“Thomas!” the guard captain shouted. “You’ve forced my hand! Guards, arrest him!”
The handful of guards rushed Tom all at once, but he didn’t go down easy. The young warrior lasted much longer than they expected, fending them all off. He proved to be a tough opponent, enduring several punches and kicks and never staying down. He often dodged and maneuvered in such a manner that the guards ran into each other. For fear of causing unnecessary bloodshed, the captain had ordered them to not draw their swords unless absolutely necessary. Otherwise, this fight would have been a bit more grim for Tom. Finally, one of the Inquisitors managed to deliver a devastating blow to Tom’s jaw, knocking him to the ground. The guard captain drew his saber and pointed it at Tom’s throat.
“Coward! I hope what you’ve done today keeps you up at night!” Tom screamed, though he complied with the captain’s order.
The guard captain and the Inquisitors entered the family’s home while the other guards stayed outside with Tom, just in case he decided to start trouble.
“What are you going to do with our daughter?” the mother wept.
“We’re going to take her to the nearest Inquisitor base and see if we are able to safely remove the magical disease,” the first Inquisitor informed her. “If that is the case, she shall be monitored for several weeks to ensure that she is safe, and then she shall be returned to you. If that is not the case, then we shall have no choice but to keep her contained. She is not yet dangerous, but we cannot risk her becoming dangerous. If she becomes too dangerous, then we shall be forced to euthanize her.”
“Euthanize?” the father replied in outrage. “Don’t you mean murder!?”
“Sir, do repeat the mistakes of that young upstart. We lack the patience to deal with you as kindly as we dealt with him. Allow us to do our jobs.”
The family put up no resistance and the girl was taken.
“Sorry…” the captain whispered. Then he turned to his guards as he was leaving and said, “release the boy. He no longer poses a threat.”
They obeyed, and as soon as he was released, Will, Amelia, and Cheryl, Tom’s mother, ran up to him.
“Are you okay, Tom!?” Amelia asked, concern in her voice.
“Yeah,” Tom coughed. “My pride is hurt more than anything.
“Oh, thank the guardians,” his mother declared. “Why’d you do that, Tom!? Are you stupid!? You could have died! You had no business being there!”
“Mom, I couldn’t just stand by and watch them punish an innocent girl. It’s not right, it’s not right.”
“I know, son, but you have to pick your battles. You’re fighting an ages old institution, you’ll need to be a bit smarter about it than that. If you ask me, you should leave that to others. I’d like my son to stay alive and in one piece.”
“Never you mind your mother’s worrying, Tom, my boy,” Will comforted him. “You did what was right, and even though you may not have succeeded in saving that girl, you sent those bastards a message that they won’t soon forget.”
“Language, William Thomas Riversedge!” Cheryl rebuked her husband.
“Thanks, Dad,” Tom said, rubbing his jaw. “I need to go apologize to the family.”
Tom clumsily made his way to the house he was protecting. Before he could even get to the door, he received an unexpected hug.
“Thank you,” the mother said as she embraced him. “You may not have been able to save our daughter, but you tried. That’s more than anyone else can say.”
“We’re not giving up on our daughter,” the father said as he shook Tom’s hand. “You’ve shown us that there are good people out there, and we have hope. We’re going to find someone to help us. We have nothing but our thanks to give, unfortunately.”
“Oh,” Tom uttered, shocked by this warm reception. “That’s quite alright. I didn’t do anything special. I just wish I could help more. What happened to your daughter isn’t right, and I hope that your endeavors succeed. If I can help in the future in anyway, please let me know.”
“Thank you again. We’ll be sure to take you up on that offer if it comes to it.”