• Jesse Sacdaddy Shinn

Ch 9: Earthborn Encounter

Updated: Apr 14

Rhavin sat at the small kitchen-side table, watching Sam lead Mykul around the grass, carefully holding his shoulders to keep him steady. Mykul’s face twisted, and he let out profanities under his breath as he stumbled to his knees. Rhavin had been watching Mykul’s therapy sessions with Sam for the last few days; his progression was remarkably slow. Mykul had been swearing considerably less today, instead telling Sam more stories about his time in Cavros which Rhavin assumed was a good sign, but he couldn’t see any improvements to Mykul’s gait.

Linwara had left yesterday, with the only explanation being that she needed to take care of something important. Rhavin felt it odd that she left so suddenly, but Sam didn’t seem to have a problem and assured them all was fine. There were more pressing problems for him to worry about anyway. Mykul’s recovery was going well, and as soon as he was able they needed to look towards Tiva.


Rhavin needed to meet this Madira. He desperately needed someone to help him control his power. Linwara revealed in a fit of anger, that Madira could be found in Tiva, somehow living among those who hate magic.


“She’s scared them all to complacence! Now they let her sit in her palace, causing chaos without any repercussions. Human memories are so short, if they knew half of her actions...” Rhavin didn’t feel the need to defend humanity at that moment. He learned what he needed about Madira, she was in Tiva, the last stop before boarding a boat; the real beginning of his journey.


Mykul was unhappy about Rhavin’s plans to find Madira, but he understood. The troll had given them both a lesson they were unlikely to forget— they were far from apex predators in the world. A way for Rhavin to get stronger, and understand his abilities was something Mykul was in favor of; Rhavin was his safety net on their travels as well. Sam had overheard their conversation about Madira and gave her own demand as well. She was coming.


Linwara’s failed attempt to remove the curse had inspired Sam to take charge of it’s removal. She was no longer going to wait around for her mother to help. She still didn’t know the origin of this curse, why Madira had done this to her, and she intended to find out. Rhavin liked that idea as well, if Madira really was the one who cast this curse, seeing how she reacted to Sam’s presence would tell him a lot of what he needed to know going into this blind.


Sam and Mykul worked their way towards Rhavin, each step forcing a wince on Mykul’s face. Mykul’s progress was taking too long. Rhavin didn’t know much about magic healing, but Mykul has had hardly any progress since the ritual in the water. Eila had used potions to heal severe wounds in his legs, and while it wasn’t as drastic as breaking his spine, Rhavin was completely healed in that instant. If Linwara hadn’t left, Rhavin would be suggesting another session in the pool.


When Mykul and Sam finally arrived at the table, Mykul took a seat next to Rhavin, with Sam deciding to lay back in the grass. The bard took several deep breaths, leaned his head back and sighed. “It’s going to be time to leave soon isn’t it Rhav?” He asked. Rhavin understood his disappointment. The serenity of the glade was intoxicating, it was easy to forget anything else existed outside of it. Rhavin didn’t know if it was magic or not, the twitching on his skin had subsided the first night, and hadn’t resumed since.


“We’ll leave tomorrow Myk. We need to find Madira, for more reasons than my own now,” Rhavin replied. Mykul glanced down at Sam who was rolling within the flowers, giggling as she smelt and placed them within her hair. “She at least deserves to know why.”


Mykul gave a somber smirk and nodded his head. “She does. Tomorrow then, and maybe if this amazingly powerful mage can help both of you, she will finish the job and put me back to normal as well!” Mykul put his hands behind his head and looked over the treeline. “It is a shame to have to leave this place though, ain’t it Rhav?”


“Yeah, it will be. But we’ve got a whole world out there to discover still, Myk. We might just find a place like this, maybe with zounds of beautiful women you’re always looking for,” Rhavin said chuckling.


“One can hope,” Mykul replied smiling.


***


The party left for Tiva the following morning. Sam had bundled herself up in a myriad of clothing to hide her curse. She didn’t know how Tiva would react to an elf, much less a cursed elf-bull hybrid. Rhavin felt that was the smart choice.


Mykul rode Loyal, while Sam and Rhavin walked on either side of him. Sam said it would only be several hours before they hit the main road, and she was right. Before they knew it the fir and pine trees thinned, and rolling grasslands took their place.

The road was a simple path of flattened grass. Wagon wheels, boots, and hooves had pressed the flora into a tight embrace with the earth. Rhavin was surprised the main road wasn’t paved, he had heard tales of the riches of Tiva, and expected to find the brick pathways of yore. He thought it could just be Sam’s inexperience with the world outside the forest. She mentioned that she rarely left the treeline, for when she did, she was ran from, or worse, ran towards.

Sam regaled Rhavin and Mykul with stories of the Silver Forest. The vast Elven empire that spanned its own continent. Rhavin was surprised to hear that the Silver Forest was not only an actual forest, but a name for their entire nation. The elves weren’t so different from humans, while the usual stories of them being connected to nature was true, they had cities and towns just like humans. Metallurgy and masonry were not uniquely human.


Sam had only lived in the Silver Forest for a short time, and only several short months after her arrival in Tivos, she was cursed. Time was muddled for her, and most of her time as a minotaur she hardly remembered, saying it felt more like a dream as the days went on. Her stories were endless, but their journey had a destination, and as time went on the party began to notice farms and homesteads littering the plains.


The further they walked, the denser the buildings became. When the towers of Tiva came into view, Sam became ecstatic, talking about how the towers reminded her of home, albeit one with less elegance in its design. Rhavin was excited himself; his father has spoken often about the wonders of Tiva, The Jewel of the Coast. The city has prided itself on appearances for hundreds of years.


Tiva was adjacent to the world's largest marble quarries, and the city itself reflected that. Sailors' accounts rave that the city's lighthouse would reflect upon the marble walls and towers, glowing, in what they would say is divine favor. Rhavin knew the stories were true, the sunlight sparkled off the walls in the distance, beckoning him closer.


Approaching the walls, Mykul’s excitement became clear as well. “Think of all the taverns, Rhavin! There’s got to be some I could sing at. The people of Tiva will know my name, that’s for sure!” Sam gave Mykul’s leg a quick squeeze accompanied by a warm smile.


“I think I’m most excited for the food!” Sam said. “Foraging is great for a while, but I haven’t had a dish properly spiced in.. well in almost sixty years! You can’t find that stuff outside of the city.” Rhavin laughed but couldn’t help but feel the same. The small enjoyments were easy to forget about.


“I’d bet there’s taverns in the city that would feed us in exchange for a song! Maybe, they’ll even have plump maids as well!” Sam gave Mykul an incredulous look. Mykul gave her a shrug and sly smile. “You know, just for the whole city atmosphere.”


“You know Mykul, I could get on board with that. I’ve been thinking about Sela lately,” Rhavin said.


“Sela is a simple farmgirl, Rhavin. Imagine what city women are like! Boots up to their thighs, short dresses, and most importantly, adventurous.” Mykul’s large sweeping hand gestures really emphasized the adventurous part, Rhavin thought.


“They really would have to be adventurous to consider you an option, Mykul,” Sam said. The three laughed together and continued their walk. With every step bringing the walls of the city closer, the three’s conversation was filled with more and more laughter.


The city's gates were filled with travellers, coming and going. Rhavin couldn’t tell if Tiva had a specific type of fashion, those on the road came in a myriad of clothing styles. Plain and baggy clothes looked to be most common, but Rhavin felt that was more due to them being comfortable to wear for travellers. He did notice several women wearing veils, and in the warm spring evening, Rhavin didn’t see a use for it outside of fashion. Nevertheless, nobody paid any heed to the few companions.


Rhavin thought it odd, it was almost like they were invisible. Sam had been worried that her disguise was not going to fool anyone, but nobody gave her a second look.

Several guards manned the gate. White linen was accompanied by chainmail, spears, and polished sabatons and gauntlets; attire fit for representatives of The Jewel of the Coast. Despite its popularity, Rhavin could tell this entrance was not one of the city’s main entrances. The gate was small, at least compared to the buildings inside, and the walkway continued to be grass almost until the wall where it turned into the paved stone Rhavin would expect.


The guards paid the party no heed either, motioning them to move quickly and avoid blocking the entrance. “Move along,” and “Quickly now, quickly,” were the only words Rhavin heard from the monitors. Upon walking through the gates, the most remarkable thing was the architecture. The buildings were made of marble, with most buildings only using dark cherrywood for support. How could even the basest of taverns be able to afford the stunning polished walls?


The city held a beautiful uniformity of it. The city was built to look like a large spike. Buildings closest to the walls were all one-story and all built the same height. Further into the city, rows of buildings began to arise in two and three stories. Royal manors were within that, and at the center of the city was the palace which held the tallest spires in Tiva.


“We need to find lodging, I still have the gold I saved for passage across the sea, but some of it should serve for lodging while we figure out how to find Madira.” Rhavin fingered the pouch of gold in his knapsack, he didn’t really have a sense of money as Cavrosians mainly bartered goods for goods, but how much gold could a room for a few nights be?


“It’ll be dark soon, so we should start looking immediately. I’m optimistic about being here, but I wouldn’t want to be caught in an unfamiliar place at night,” Mykul said. Sam nodded with agreement and looked down the passageway into the city.


“What does an inn look like?” She asked. Rhavin couldn’t even answer the question. He assumed it would look like Vo’Mir’s inn, but he honestly didn’t know what it would be like in the big city. His best idea at the moment was to look for a building that smelt of ale.


“Maybe we should just ask around, there ought to be folks here who can help us,” Rhavin said. The others nodded in agreement. Rhavin set off down the paved walkway, looking for someone to help. What that person would look like he didn’t know, but most of the folks in the streets walked with their heads down, refusing to make eye contact with those around them.


“Folks here look scared, Rhav,” Mykul said. “They won’t even look at us. Do you think it’s because of us, or something going on?” Rhavin did think the city folks' mannerisms were odd, but he had never been to Tiva before, this might be how they normally go about.


“I’m not sure Myk, let's keep going and try not to bring any attention to ourselves.” Walking through the town, Rhavin began to feel better about the arrival in Tiva. Not all of its inhabitants were shying away from them. Vendors stood at their stalls, shouting about their products and gesturing wildly in an attempt to get anyone, and everyone, to take a look at their wares. The feeling of normalcy brought on by the commercialism made Rhavin feel safer within the city. There would have to be something incredibly wrong to stop the commerce of a port city. Rhavin walked down the pathway searching for any raucous buildings, or the stench of ale. While most these folks seemed to be tight lipped, drunk men never were, and Rhavin needed to ask unwelcome questions.


The first prospect they found was a small building with red stained glass windows that contrasted with the white marble. The aesthetic cohesion was absolutely stunning, every building in the city must be backed by royal coffers. Rhavin heard singing, yelling, and the furious strumming of a lute. If this wasn’t a tavern, he didn’t know what would be.


Rhavin told Sam and Mykul he would check it out, before having to go through the ordeal of Mykul dismounting. Entering the tavern, the far wall held a stage with several performers singing and playing the lute. They wore bright, loose, baggy clothing in a myriad of colors. The clothing was adorned with small bells that chimed as they performed their jig. They looked just like the illustrations Rhavin had seen of acrobats. The performers were incredibly short, and Rhavin would have assumed they were children if not for the beards. Dwarves? The performers were playing dutifully over the shouts and slurs that were being tossed around the room.


The dwarves continued with a smile on their faces until a mug of half finished ale hit the lute player’s face. “Get off the stage, stonefucker!” Said the assailant. The dwarf dropped his lute and jumped off the stage. Stocky hands stroked the beard that sat atop his face considering his next move. The dwarf didn’t hesitate long, he kicked out a leg of a chair, picked up the splintered wood and pointed it at his assailant.


“If ya think I fuck stones, imagine what my cock would do to your ass!” The dwarf swung the leg of the chair at the heckler, the hard edge of a square end caught the man’s forehead. Blood rushed from the man’s head and he fell to the ground. The hecklers companions rose from their table and rushed at the dwarf. A tattooed hand caught the dwarf’s cheek, cutting his lip and coating the knuckles in blood.


The second companion was quick on his feet, the dwarf’s arms were grappled behind his back while the tattooed hand continued their assault. Luckily for the dwarf, his clean shaven co-performer was there. Wide, thick fingers wrapped themselves around the neck of the man holding the dwarf’s arms. The second dwarf’s sharp nails bit into the man’s neck allowing fingers to worm their way under his skin. A shrill cry erupted from the man as his artery was torn open by the dwarf’s bare hands.


The entire tavern erupted into a flurry of fists and screams. The dwarves were overwhelmed as the human patrons of the tavern worked together in subduing the performers. The captors were not concerned with mercy as they grappled the dwarves to the ground. Arms and legs flailed wildly, assaulting the small stout bodies. The dwarves did not give up without a fight, the lute player managed to grab a leg that was kicking him, and took a meaty bite out of the attacking calf, tearing a large chunk of flesh from bone. The dwarf held a bloody smile through the pain the other assailants caused. They’re going to kill them! Rhavin knew he had to help. He ran out to Mykul and Sam who were browsing a stall across the street.


“Come on! We need to help, they’re getting ambushed! They’re going to kill them!” Rhavin ran back inside the tavern without any more explanation. Sam followed right behind Rhavin, with Mykul struggling to get out of his saddle unaided. Entering the tavern again, the assault against the dwarves was continuing. Grunts and moans came from the small bodies as the patrons kicked and verbally berated them.


In an instant, Rhavin used his arm wrestling technique to let out a haymaker against one of the kicking men. The punch landed and brought the satisfactory cracking of the jaw coming loose. The body dropped to the floor and heads turned to see what had happened. Before any of them registered what Rhavin had done, he unleashed another punch. The others became aware of him and turned their attention from the dwarves who looked to be a bloody mess, to him.


One of them men dashed upon Rhavin, landing punches on his gut, pushing the air out of his lungs. Sam had made it by his side and began to kick at the man. One hoof connected solidly on his chest, cracking ribs. Sam was grabbed from behind and put into a chokehold while the free hand rained punches. Rhavin couldn’t help as he was fending off hooks from two of the goons. Luckily for Sam, one of the dwarves jumped on the man's back and bit off his ear, swallowing it whole in the process before letting out a scream of rage. The dwarf’s hands clasped around the man’s neck and strangled him. The man fell back, asphyxiated and flopped on top of the dwarf, covering him completely.


By the time Mykul had entered the tavern, Rhavin and Sam had fended off the mob with most fleeing the building. Mykul slapped a fleeing man on the back of the head as he ran out the door.


“Fuck! Did I miss it all?” Mykul’s jaw hung open as he looked around the mess of a common room. “Oh god, you killed some of them!” Mykul gagged, and leaned on a table for support. Rhavin couldn’t help but grin as he held his stomach with one hand. Sam immediately moved to the dwarves on the floor, pulling the body off the one who had aided her. They both stood and wiped what had to be a mix of peoples blood off their mouths.


“Ahg, you pissant humans can’t hit for shite you know that?” The dwarf said, brushing the blood and dirt off his beard. He moved to a table, and began drinking from a half full mug of ale. “Those miscreants wouldn’t know music if it was sucking their cocks!”


“Can’t believe they thought they could take an Earthborn with a few kicks to the gut, eh Haldon?” The dwarves looked towards Rhavin, Sam, and Mykul and toasted the cups of ale. “Contrary to what it looked like, we actually had it under control.” The dwarf kicked the body of the man with the gouged neck. “Earthborn require a little bit more than the strength these louts could muster.”


“Aye, Golun is right. We weren’t in real danger, but I appreciate your involvement nonetheless. My name is Haldon, and like I just said, my companion is Golun. Welcome to The Chipped Tankard.” Rhavin thought the name sounded familiar but couldn’t place it. Haldon held out his stout towards Rhavin. “You’ve got quite the arm on you boy. Really gave it to fucker.”


Rhavin let out a chuckle. “Thank you, you’ve got one hell of a jaw on you.”


“Dwarf, your wounds,” Sam, ran her hand over the bloody scrapes on Haldon’s arms.

“We must tend to them.” Haldon brushed her hand away and moved to the body of the man Rhavin knocked out.


“These are not wounds, and this man’s still alive. We need to move him and his dead friends before Sun’s Guard comes to investigate.” Haldon and Golun each grabbed the arms of the two bodies on the floor and began to drag them towards a back door. “If you really want to help us, clean up in here while we move these two, we’ll compensate you with drink.” The two dwarves dissapeared through the back door, leaving the party of three to stand dumbfounded in the middle of the empty tavern.


“I say we help these foul mouthed manlets. I can feel the story brewing already. What a better start than saving two dwarves from a band of ruffians?” Said Mykul. He began to hum a tune under his breath as he immediately got to work hobbling around the tavern, picking up debris and organizing scattered furniture.


Samira shrugged. “They may have room and board.” Sam started her cleaning routine alongside Mykul, and Rhavin figured even if they didn’t have rooms, these dwarves surely spoke they’re mind and may be a reliable source of information about the city. Rhavin found a bucket of water with several cloths nearby and began to wash the blood off the tiled flooring.


Rhavin got the sense that this tavern wasn’t an upscale one judging by the brawl, and owner-entertainers, but the structure itself still held incredible beauty. The marbled walls held carvings depicting what Rhavin could only assume was the heroes of yore. The kinds of craftsmanship he would expect to adorn a palace was on the walls of nearly every building he looked at in Tiva. Rhavin wouldn’t be surprised if it was the most beautiful city in the world.


When the dwarves came back, they were dressed in plain clothes: baggy brown trousers, and leather vests each. They assumed cleaning without speaking to the party, organizing and arranging the common room at an impressive pace. While their stature made one assume they would move slow and awkwardly, the dwarves had an agility to them.


By the time the tavern was tidy enough to satisfy Haldon, dusk had overtaken Tiva. Rhavin sat in a chair and was nursing his fourth mug of a sweet honey mead. Not much had been said between the two groups outside small remarks about how to arrange the tavern, but they were tired from the fight. As they rested, the group began to get chatty, joking about their encounter as they sat together drinking Haldon’s supply of ale. The conversation about the fight began to fade and eventually the stories of the past began to flow.


Haldun and Golun talked about their time in Volumun, their home within the mountains. They’d grown up together, and opened this inn in Tiva several years ago. Rhavin felt that story ran deeper, but he didn’t feel it was the time to pry. Sam and Mykul countered with tales of their own youths and homes. The dwarves noticed Sam’s hooves and Samira spoke all about her hazy dreams as a minotaur, much to the dwarves glee. Rhavin was worried talk about a magic curse would be ruinous for the new relationship, but they took it in stride. Rhavin listened to the stories, laughed with the jokes, and kept drinking. He had Madira on his mind. Rhavin didn’t know what side of the fence these dwarves were on when it came to magic, Samira’s curse wasn’t enough to feel confident, and he didn’t want to find out until after he'd had a good night's rest.


The stories tapered off as the dusk turned to night and Rhavin felt he had a good feel for the dwarves. They were curt, brash, but honest. Rhavin thought now would be as good a time as any to see if they had rooms available, they did have a stable for Loyal after all.


“Do you have any rooms available, Haldon?” Rhavin asked. The dwarf fingered his beard and pointed to the wooden stairs at the back of the common room.


“I don’t think you’d want to stay here boy. This tavern was built for Earthborn. You may find the beds… lacking.” Rhavin hadn’t considered that there would be entire inns built for dwarves. Their presence at all was a surprise to him. Arnvold had told him the dwarves only left the mountains for war, and gold, and business here didn’t seem to be booming.


“At this point in the night, I think we’ll take what we can get,” Rhavin said. He looked towards his companions and didn’t receive the response he was hoping for. Mykul had a frown on his face, and Sam was already passed out with her head on the table.


“Well, I can’t say I’m excited about tiny beds, but I do think I’m a little too sloshed to search for a bigger one. I wouldn’t mind better looking company though.” Mykul raised his mug to the dwarves and let out a chuckle before finishing the rest of his ale.


“You’re a real fucking pisser ain’t you boy?” Golun said. “Take the night on us, I’ll show you up.” Golun gave Sam a rough shake of the shoulder, and led her up the stairs and Mykul followed, yawning.


“I have a feeling you’re avoiding something you want to talk about,” Haldon said.

“Sleep on it, and ask in the morning. You just might find some truth.” Haldon gave Rhavin a nod before lighting a cigar. Rhavin nodded back and followed Mykul up the stairs, ready for a good night's rest in a tiny bed.

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