So much blood. So much it almost seemed fake. Already it had become dark, and the mist rising of the congealing pools creeping along the courtyard stones made the whole scene look as if it were out of some bard’s tale or book. Yet the smell was real enough. The air was thick with iron-taste, and he had shat himself, maybe as he was falling, or maybe as he landed. It was real, and although what remained was a crumpled body atop a pile of its own rent tissue, splattered viscera, and jagged bone, you knew it was Pig-bite. Your best, no your only, friend at Tower Duress.
Pig-bite hadn’t always been called that. You had known him all your life, as you and he were raised in Duress among the other orphans that were assigned to the tower. And until his accident, he had been called Sweet-Pete, on account of his fairness. Pig-bite was an extremely handsome youth, even amidst the grime and tattered clothes that commonly clung to the various types of servants in Duress. He was teased constantly about his comely appearance by the other servants, and so, among other things, “Sweet Pete” became what they called him.
Pig-bite’s beauty cost him more than cruel japes and jeers. It was Pig-bite who was pickedby a drunken Custodian Fiss for “Special Duties” in the Custodian’s room the first night in the servants’ barracks after you were deemed old enough to work. You all were too young to know what that actually meant, but when Pig-bite returned looking hollow and shaking, his handsome jaw swelling with livid red hand prints, you knew it was nothing to be jealous of. The next day Pig-bite said nothing, and went about his duties. A few nights later, when the servants’ barracks were once again barged into by that drunken lout, Custodian Fiss, this time selecting you for “Special Duties”, it was Pig-bite who asked to go instead. And every night Fiss would come, Pig-bite would sweetly ask to be taken, instead of the other boys. As the serving boys grew older they began to understand what “Special Duties” meant, they begun to tease Pig-bite more, calling him a “ponce” and worse. But they didn’t know the truth. They didn’t hear him swear to Gideon, in barely a whisper on the nights he had been with Fiss, that what happened to him would happen to no other. And no one but you knew that around the time Pig-bite had grown too old for the depraved Fiss, and the lecherous custodian began selecting some of the newer, younger, serving boys. That Pig-bite vanished from his bunk briefly the night Fiss allegedly drunkenly passed out in his tub, drowning himself.
And so it was with Pig-bite, always looking after the other servants, especially you. He would always a hand when he could, often after a full day of grueling work. He would share the measly bit of food you were given with others. And all the while, his kindness was repaid with mocking. A mocking that only increased after his accident.
A few years back as Pig-bite was carrying buckets of slop to the pigs, he said he slipped and landed in the pin, the slop splashing all over him. As soon as he hit the ground covered in their meal, the pigs rushed in to eat. Pig-bite got free eventually, but not before losing chunks of flesh from various parts of his body, including his right cheeck and the area next to his eye. Somehow, despite it all, Pig-bite survived, though no healing would be wasted on a servant. Instead his face was sewn up by Old Cess, the midwife. The aftermath was a scared mess of lumps that made it so that half of his face did not work. And just like that, “Sweet-Pete” became “Pig-bite.”
But how could Pig-bite fall from the crenels above? He was as strong and sure-footed a servant as there was in Duress? Having grown up here, he knew every stone of the tower walks. All servants did, they counted them as they hauled impossibly heavy burdens up them or scrubbed the aging cobbles day after day. What would Pig-bite even be doing up there? Since being moved to the stables because his appearance so unnerved the other Custodians, he had seldom left them save at the end of the day when he would return to the servants’ barracks.
This was no accident. Someone had killed one of the few good things in the Tower of Duress. The modest attempts Pig-bite had made to ease everyone’s’ suffering where no more. This vile place would be unbearable without him. Someone had murdered your friend.