The jax and the wizard
Long ago in the age of magic and wonder there lived a jax.
He was an ugly creature, hunched and beaked with fur so black that if it weren’t for the beady yellow eyes that glow in the dark, he could be mistaken for a shadow.
This little fellow was the servant to a wizard master who was cruel and used the jax as a guinea pig for his experiments. Because of this, the creature’s skin was covered in red, painful sores and his long pointy ears where frayed from the little snips and snaps the wizard took from them.
But there was one pain that trumped all others, for as much as the jax did for his master, he’d still chosen to bestow him with the name ‘Expendable’.
You might wonder why Expendable didn’t run or hide from his master? Why he stayed despite the mistreatment?
Well, the wizard was the only one who could grant the jax his deepest wish.
To be a human.
To rid himself of his fur and feathers and become someone who wasn’t Expendable.
Someone who mattered.
And so he bore the cruelty, for it would all be worth it one day.
Then on the fifth day of the fifth year of servitude, his master gave him a task that he promised would be the last.
He gave the jax three items, a silver mirror, a golden ring and a black flower whose petals shimmered with pearly dew.
And the wizard told him “The king holds a ball tonight in honour of fifty years of peace. The flower is a present I mean to gift to him, however, I angered him some time ago and I’m afraid he will not let me attend. Therefore you will go to the palace in my stead.”
“But master, I am too ugly to attend a ball, they would not let me in.” the jax cried miserably.
The wizard shook his head and pointed to the items on the jax’ paws “Put on the ring.”
The ring was far too big for his bony finger but he obliged all the same.
As the ring dangled from the bony digit his muscles started to tense and ache. His bones started sliding up and down underneath his skin, popping in and out of sockets. He cried out in agony as his beak and tail burned away, ashes crumbling to the ground.
For what seemed like hours he lay there writhing on the cold stone floor until the pain died down and he asked his master with tears streaked down his face “why?”
The wizard shrugged and directed his attention to the mirror.
When the creature looked into it, he saw a face that wasn’t his. Instead, he saw a handsome face.
A human face.
And his tears of pain turned into tears of joy.
“Thank you, master, thank you.”
But the wizard stayed distant, merely restating “Your job is going to the royal palace, and gifting the flower to the king.
Once you’ve done that, you may take the ring and go.”
“But how will I get to the palace in time, if the ball is tonight?” The jax asked looking out the window to the mountains where they lived.
And the wizard took the mirror from Expendable and waved his hands over it, speaking magical words.
The mirror started to glow and shine with blinding light.
“Touch it.” The wizard instructed.
He did as he was told and the light engulfed him, blinded him and the floor fell away from beneath his feet.
Then, a moment later it was dark and cold and his eyes had to take some time to get accustomed to the night.
He found himself standing in the snow in front of a massive glass palace where cheerful guests in beautiful dresses made their way up the lantern-lit steps.
Like a moth to a flame, Expendable got drawn to the light.
Inside, for the first time the jax, now a human heard music, cheerful and full of energy, with drums and strings. The people were dancing in circles, chatting and laughing.
He wanted to join in. Longing to be with them.
All these people look so happy and nice. He wanted to be part of their joy.
But he had a mission first.
The king sat on his throne overlooking the merriment.
Expendable walked towards him and presented him with the black flower. The king was surprised, not used to such directness but not wanting to seem ungrateful he took the flower from the man’s hand.
And started screaming.
The sound was chilling, the music seized and everyone watched as the king started to froth at the mouth. The screams making way for choking noises.
The man fell dead, followed by a deafening silence until.
“That man killed the king!”
Expendable was terrified of the people around him and mortified by what he’d done.
He had to leave, had to run, now!
He dashed to the door only narrowly avoiding the people trying to catch him.
If he can make it out of the castle, get to a different kingdom.
Forget all this and start on over.
A great white flash stopped him in his tracks.
Blinded, he held his arms outstretched, mind trying to comprehend what’s going on.
Then two bony hands grabbed him by the shoulders.
“I have the murderer.” The voice behind it painfully familiar.
“Master, what are you doing here? We must go now, the king is dead.” Expendable sobbed.
But then the wizard’s words came trickling into his mind…and he started to understand.
The sound of guards rushing his way filled him with fear.
“Let me go, let me go, master!” But the wizard’s hands were like metal clamps, cold and unmoving. “Master, please. I have been loyal, I have done everything you asked.” Expendable whined and pleaded.
His voice was cold as the wizard told the man once a jax “Well done Expendable, I relieve you of your servitude.”
The guards kicked down the door.
“There he is!”
“The wizard caught the murderer?”
“The wizard caught the murderer!”
“Hand him to us and he will be punished.”
The wizard nodded and handed him off without a further word.
The guards took him away screaming and shouting “The wizard but me up to it, I had no idea the flower would kill.”
No one believed him of course
And so the jax became a human and lived out the rest of his days in a cold dark prison cell.
Abandoned and alone.