The attacks came, often, but my routine prevented them from getting to the emperor. There was no way to tell where the attacks were coming from, but with me running interference, Haines could devote more time and manpower to the investigation.
Months passed and some arrests were made, but they didn’t seem to be making a difference; even the name of Ronok, which surfaced a couple times during interrogation, didn’t pan out to anything useful.
I had another birthday, but aside a letter from my parents, there was little in the way of a celebration. I was twenty years old now and a cocky little shit, if I do say so myself. I was confident in my guard over the emperor and so cock-sure that I could stop any attack that I made a mistake. It was fortunate that my magic did not make the same mistake.
I know, I speak of my magic as if it had it’s own identity. In fact, I believe that to be true. I was just the host. It had to be my magic that caused Creg and me to stumble at the same moment and bump shoulders behind the emperor. It also had to be the reason that the emperor tripped and almost went to his knees. There could be no other explanation for three such occurrences to happen in that place at that moment. There was nothing there to trip over.
We had just passed a workman on a scaffold; only he wasn’t there just to work on whatever might be there to work on. I hadn’t given him a second thought. For him to be this close to the emperor’s quarters, he had to pass a dozen security measures. He wasn’t my concern at the moment. My mistake.
As soon as we were past, almost like a machine gun going off, he fired some kind of silenced gun at us. Two or three projectiles screamed passed Creg’s ear causing him to begin to turn. The next one took him in the head, dropping him to the floor instantly. The next got me in the neck effectively silencing any warning I would have uttered, then another one slammed into my shoulder. By now, I managed to complete my turn to see where the projectiles were coming from, but not before three more embedded themselves in my chest.
Ignoring my wounds, I drew my sword and let my magic roar. I sliced the scaffolding out from under him and the gun went careening from his hand to embed itself in the wall. Then I pulled him into a hold he could not escape from. After he was tightly wrapped with the remains of the scaffolding, I took the emperor’s arm and escorted him quickly to his quarters. It was the safest room I could think of, and it was close.
With the chaos behind a closed door, the emperor could see the blood running all down my front, but I wouldn’t let him touch me. I didn’t have time for wounds. I still had to protect him from any other attacks; I refused to believe the man had been alone. Creg had been left behind; I didn’t know if he was dead or alive, but from the way he dropped, I figured he was dead.
The emperor made several phone calls, but I didn’t pay any attention to what he said. A few minutes later, Haines was pounding on the door I was still leaning on. The hard vibrations reminded me that I was badly wounded, but he was here now. I slid the heavy weight of my body aside leaving a trail of blood on the door.
When he entered and saw it, he said, “Liam, my god man, what happened?”
I opened my mouth to answer but my throat wouldn’t work.
“Forget it. The evidence is clear enough. The doctor is here now. You’re going to the infirmary.”
Another man, the doctor, entered the room with others who had a gurney. My captain had dismissed me and trusted reinforcements swarmed just outside. I pulled in my magic and with it went my strength. The medics caught me before my knees hit the floor and helped me onto the gurney.
The doctor had a needle out but I stopped his hand and shook my head. Haines supplied the words I couldn’t. He remembered one of the things I had said before. “Drugs won’t help him. They don’t work.” He stepped forward and laid a hand on my forehead. “Liam, trust us, you need to sleep. I’ll tell you when you can wake up again.”
An order from my captain - I could do an order. I don’t remember ever leaving the room.