Chapter 2 - The Dark Scar
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Eila sat on the lakeside watching the small ripples of water glide across the shimmering surface. The dancing of the spruce trees surrounding the lake seemed to be performing for her. Goosebumps coated her neck and arms; winter would be here soon. The grass around the lake felt stiff under her, it's life slowly fading to the chill in the air.
Eila looked at her old hands. Liver spots of age covered them, looking like a small flesh colored map. She wore a sturdy but bland wool skirt with a loose blue blouse. Knee high leather boots covered her calves, protecting her feet from the cold’s snare. Her flowing auburn hair reflected a younger woman than the one the crow’s feet spoke for.
Taking out a beige colored balm, she started to rub it on her hands. She applied the balm until it had covered her arms and face and the spots started to fade. The skin started to twitch. The twitching grew in strength until it seemed her appendages were convulsing.
Eila’s skin calmed, and she took a deep breath. Touching her face, the flesh felt like it should belong to a young lass. Her emerald eyes examined the now youthful skin; it was perfect.
Sighing, she lay back on the soft grass. The woman watching the sky now resembled that of one who had barely seen two decades, a woman who at first glance would be caught dancing and laughing over wine rather than the hardened medic of many wars she was.
Can’t do that much longer, Eila thought. Staring up at the sky she watched the clouds meander across it; shapes shifting and telling their stories. She started to close her eyes and let her mind drift to times filled with excitement. Thoughts of bloody soldiers screaming as she closed wounds with needle and thread. Thoughts of dancing after a victory. Meeting her husband as he lay on a table waiting for her nimble touch.
Her mind started to drift to darker memories; her son spitting up blood as he looked up at her for the last time. Her husband catching a dagger with his mouth, blood from the wound dripping down his torso.
Eila opened her eyes. Not things she could ever forget, but ones she wished she could. Putting her hands over her eyes, she sighed. “You’ve lived through quite a lot, woman. What will the bards sing of next?”
Thunder struck out across the valley. She bolted upright. A black rift in the sky appeared, dampening out the surrounding light. The dark scar spit out a figure, casting it into the lake.
Eila’s instincts took hold, and she ran for the figure, shedding her clothes as she moved. A well practiced dive sent her towards her target; it wasn’t much further to the apparent falling angel. Reaching the mysterious stranger, she discovered it was a boy. Deft strokes of a confident swimmer dragged the lifeless body to shore.
Eila made it to land with the boy, panting and dripping from the chilled loch. She bolted for the dock. Shuffling through a brown knapsack, she retrieved a small vial of clear green liquid. The vial in hand she raced back to her patient. Upon reaching the boy, she forced the brew down his throat.
“Breathe, damnit!” Eila’s expectant gaze seemed to work. She knelt, staring at the young man. He was stark naked aside from the broken elephant head medallion he wore. His legs were wounded. Puncture wounds were found among his calves, as if someone had forced rods into his legs. Sliding her hands over them, it appeared they worked through his legs like vines. Light jagged marks covered his shoulder and left arm: lightning scars.
What happened to you, boy? she thought. As if in response, the boy’s eyes opened and he coughed up globs of water. His breathing regulated, and he took in the scene around him with wide eyes.
Upon noticing Eila, the boy jerked away, frantically kicking at the loose sand of the shore. His legs gave out under him. Realizing he couldn’t move, he started to try to drag himself away.
“Stop that, you’ll hurt yourself. I mean you no harm... My name’s Eila. I just fished you out of that lake there.” Eila looked down on him expectantly. Contrasting with her outward girlish appearance, her eyes seemed to show a motherly tenderness that spoke to him. His frantic scrambling faded, and his face flushed red, from the cold or from feeling abashed it could have been either. Running his hands along his legs, he felt at the wounds and winced.
“The voice.” The boy looked at his legs, his face distraught. “I think I killed her. And then screaming, light. Flashes of light.” He held his head and winced. His eyes scanned the lakeside, not sure how he had gotten to where he was. His face was a mix of horror and relief. Several moments went by until he looked around, seeming to come to his senses.
“What’s your name, boy?” Eila asked, leaning closer to examine his legs. Her eyes traced the wounds as if she could see where the vines twisted and warped beneath the skin. Eila only knew one way those kinds of wounds were made: magic. And she only knew one mage who ever used such a tactic. Most would hold their victims by stiffening the air. It was easier on the mage and more efficient, but Mathanus always was one for presentation.
“My name? My name’s Rhavin.” Rhavin held his scarred arm and let out a low grunt. The flesh was warm and seemed to resonate when touched.
Shock covered Eila’s face. “Rhavin? Rhavin Eklod? I knew one of you would show up eventually. Nevermind that. First, we need to get you walking, and then we will get you a hot meal. Does that sound alright?”
Rhavin nodded. Eila seemed to accept the response and went walking back to her bag while putting the clothes she shed back on. The soft crackling of twigs under her boots were drowned out by her thoughts. What have you done now, Achim?
Eila reached her knapsack and rummaged through the worn leather. Her fingers moved from vial to vial until she came across a small tube of sanguine colored liquid. Her cream colored fingers slid over the glass. Staring at the vial, she looked over at the shivering boy. She grabbed the vial and ran back over to him.
“Drink this. It’s not going to taste good, and you will feel a burning sensation like you have never felt before, but it will heal your legs.”
Rhavin looked up at Eila with worried eyes. Finishing his apparent mental battle over if he should trust her or not, he took the vial and drank the concoction. Rhavin gasped for air. His eyes became bloodshot, arms and legs twitching and writhing. The wounds on his legs began to close; flesh came together knitting whole. Broken splinters and chunks of wood pushed against the skin forcing their way out. When the wood was expelled, the holes in the skin came together as if being sewed shut by an invisible healer. As he calmed, the whole valley seemed to be watching him. Silence reigned along the lakeside.
“Come on, we need to warm you up before your body shuts down. That should keep you moving long enough to get you to the house.”
Rhavin nodded. Stumbling, he began walking towards Eila, looking down at his legs every few steps. The two made their way through the forest, Rhavin keeping behind Eila with her walking in what she knew would feel like circles. Spruce and pine loomed over them as they trotted on the felled needle ground. The forest seemed devoid of life. The only movement was the two shivering companions.
They came upon a small dirt path. The path wasn’t used much as the only prints found were those of small deer. The trees lined their path, one of the usual ways Eila remembered where they were. As they trekked on, a small cabin came into view, a modest hut made of wood and iron fastenings. A small fireplace of red brick could be seen giving off light plumes of grey.
“This is it. My husband should have something on the fire for us to warm our bellies.”
The outside of the cabin was an illusion as the inside was furnished like a noble’s estate. The interior had to be at least triple the size that the shack showed from the woods. Several bedchambers, washrooms, and a large room housing a fine hearth and beautiful dining set. Fine furniture fashioned of oak and lined with silk were neatly arranged. The walls were constructed of polished marble rather than the rotting wood of the exterior. The floor was made of a sanded cherry wood. A large banner depicting a bear standing over a man hung above the hearth. Assorted tapestries of large cities and beautiful women hung among paintings framed in gold and silver. A large oak table sat in the corner of the main room adorned with goblets and beautifully crafted silverware.
Rhavin looked around with wide eyes, from awe or just shock from the teleportation, Eila did not know.
“What is this place?” Rhavin asked, his head turning as if on a swivel.
Walking over to the table and taking a drink from one of the exquisite goblets, Eila replied.
“For now, you can call this home.” Eila put the goblet down and started to take off her clothes as she walked into a connecting bedroom. Under her skirt and blouse, she was bare. Rhavin stared as she walked away from him.
“Look away, boy. It’s not polite to stare,” Eila chided from the adjoining room. She came back wearing a thick woolen dress. Holding a large quilt, she gave it to Rhavin. The boy instinctively wrapped it around his shivering body. “Hold that tight while I get a fire started. That elixir won’t keep you awake for much longer, and we need you warm when you sleep.”
Eila started a large fire in the redstone fireplace with a candle and a spritz of alcohol to hasten it, muttering about a lazy husband who left all the work to her. Leaving the room to grab a pillow, she placed it in front of the fire. Moving to the oak table, she picked up an end of bread and handed it to Rhavin. I hope that’s enough to keep him alive through the night.
“Here. It’s all we have made at the moment. Lay down. You will rest in front of the fire tonight if you plan on living. We will speak more in the morn.” With one last look at the boy, Eila realized the lightning scars were blue rather than the normal flesh colored ones. That wasn’t normal lightning. Eila had seen those scars before.
Unsettled, she walked off towards her bedchambers. The room was just as extravagant as the rest of the house. A large featherbed beneath a red canopy stood at the end; it was adorned with fine silk and linen sheets. The dressers were made of ornately crafted mahogany inlaid with gold. A large painting hung above the bed depicted Eila as the young woman that she appeared to be with a tall man. The man was clean shaven, had long black flowing hair to his shoulders, and was dressed in a black and white tunic in the elven fashion. The man had a large scar on his face tracing from the left side of his mouth to his ear.
In the bed lay the man depicted in the painting. He was wearing a modest black woolen shirt. His stark black hair had taken on streaks of grey. A black and grey beard lined his face, hiding the scar that lay beneath. He had a book held up to his face, illuminated by a single lantern sitting on an oak bed table. Upon seeing Eila enter the room, he lay the book on his lap and looked up at her.
“Who’s our guest?”
“Eklod’s boy; cracked medallion. I’ve never seen one crack, Arnvold. Whatever struck him almost killed him anyway.” She looked at him with worried eyes. She started to move to get into bed; ruffling the linen sheets. The featherbed responded to her weight, quietly creaking as she moved onto it.
“Cracked? Did you ask the boy what happened?” Arnvold’s piercing eyes kept Eila from thinking clearly. Even through all the years she’d spent with him, his gaze was still intoxicating. If she didn’t love him for it, she would hate him for it.
“No. He said something about flashes of light. I had to give him a dose of Allroot. His legs were…” Eila’s eyes dropped down to her own crossed legs, tracing her own faded scars along them. Looking back up to Arnvold, she was relieved to see him just nodding.
“So he’s definitely been through a lot. Was it only the one?” Arnvold placed a paper marker in the book and set it on the nightstand. Alchemical Alteration of the Human Body was the title of the book. His eyes drifted to a large portrait on the wall, The Eklod Manor.
“It was. We need to find out what happened. But first, he needs sleep if he’s to live.” Eila brought her hand to Arnvold’s, giving him a light squeeze. Eila wasn’t surprised at her uninvited guest, but she was expecting two. She knew it would come one day, just not this day. Trouble always seemed to follow her.
“We don’t know how much of his father’s history he knows, if anything. Achim always wanted them to grow up in a better world. I doubt he told them much of the world he helped to end.” Eila nodded. Giving him a light kiss on the cheek, she turned to sleep. Thoughts of past adventures flittered through her mind: times of strife, excitement, confusion.
We were building a better world. We had to do it.
--- --- ---
Getting out of bed, Arnvold made his way through the lavish house to the basement. Lighting a lantern, he carefully trotted down the dark stairs. The creaking wood reverberated in the stone room. Making his way to an old oaken bookshelf, he glided his fingers over the dusty spines of the assorted literature, stopping on an old cracked leather tome. Pulling it from the shelf, a small rose engulfed in flame was the only thing visible on the cover.
Arnvold opened the book and carefully scanned the brittle pages. Moving to a small desk beside him, he set the book down and removed a small wooden pipe from a pocket in his tunic. Filling it with cabat leaf, he snapped his fingers, igniting a small orange flame above the tip of his index finger. Putting flame to the cabat, he took a large inhale. Smoke tendrils wormed their way out of his nostrils as he flipped through the mysterious book, brushing dust off the fragile pages. I never wanted to have to read this again, he thought to himself.
Hours passed as Arnvold read in the flickering light of his lantern. He scanned the pages searching for a clue to why the boy would be here. We were so careful, what did we do wrong? Arnvold, tired of reading, stood and paced the room. Alarond was dead, Daedron was dead, Madira would never sully herself in the affairs of mortals, Linwara had left for the Silver Forest, and Mathanus was nothing but a shell of a man. Who else is there?
“Why are you so stressed, my wolf?” Eila asked, striding down the stairs. Arnvold couldn’t help but smile, her auburn hair almost looked like a lit match in the low light. She wore a tight sheer nightie that clung to the curves of her body. He didn’t know how he could be so lucky to have ended up with her. It must have been a divine stroke of luck, how often does anyone find their intellectual equal, not to mention one who has the means to live a life as long as he. They were as unlikely a couple, as they were unnatural. How many women would accept him after all he’s done? How many would be able to save him from himself? He couldn’t imagine that many.
Eila wrapped her arms around Arnvold and gave his neck a tender kiss. “You knew this day would come Arnvold. Achim made—we made a lot of enemies. It was only a matter of time.” Eila sat down at the desk and glanced towards the book, “you won’t find anything you already don’t know in there. After all, you wrote it.” Eila was right, they were his own memories, ones he wasn’t likely to forget.
“I made those medallions Eila. There are only a handful of mages in the world strong enough to break them— two are dead, one is busy tormenting Tivos, one is across the world, one went mad, and the other is me, and I know it wasn’t me.” Arnvold pulled Eila in a tight embrace, burying his face in her neck.
“You know who it is, Arnvold. You saw the boy’s legs. Mathanus might be mad, but he was never stupid. We all knew the risk of keeping him alive, Achim included.” Arnvold hated to think of the things they did. Atrocities were committed in the name of justice, honor, and liberty. Where was the honor in poisoning children, and making their father believe he was the perpetrator? All to replace one despot with another.
Arnvold released Eila and sat back at his desk, drawing in several puffs of his smoldering cabat. “We cannot face him, we did what we did for a reason.” Arnvold scratched the chin under his beard, staring at the gray stone wall.
“Mathanus found Achim in his hidey hole across the world. What’s important now is to make sure the child is safe and wait for word of Achim. If Achim lives, we will know within a year or two. If he doesn’t… Well maybe his vengeance will be sated.” Eila sat in Arnvold’s lap and gave his chin a scratch of her own. “Right now, focus on what’s in front of us—a child that needs us to assure him he’s safe.
Arnvold nodded his head and wrapped his arms around Eila’s waist. He would make this child into a man, he owed Achim that much.