Chapter 3 - The Lake
Glittering sunlight coated Rhavin, his chest rising and falling with each slow breath. His eyes began to stir as he regained consciousness. The heavy quilt pressing on him felt like a chore to push off.
“Where am I?” Using his arms as leverage, Rhavin pushed his way to his feet. A large goblet atop the nearby table seemed to call to him, whispering his name. In the goblet was only water, reflecting eyes as golden as the goblet itself. Bringing the water to his lips, his eyes widened. Fatigue drained from his body. The room became brighter, colors more vivid. Each fiber on the velvet curtains stood out to him like never before.
I need to be careful what I touch around here!
Working his way over to the curtains, he looked out the window. Green plains gave way to sharp cliffs overlooking an ocean. The rock stood defiant against the never ending crashing of waves. They were faintly audible from inside the house.
Rhavin turned to the redwood door, inquisitive about where he had ended up. As he opened the door, he was greeted by confusion; the forest outside was not the landscape shown through the window. Stepping into the dimly lit pine forest, he turned back to the manor, which ended up to be a small hut in comparison.
“What is this place?”
Stepping back and forth through the doorway, Rhavin looked at the door itself. On one side, it was a large red oak, and the other a small rotted pine. The doors were of different size, but Rhavin could not tell where one began and the other ended. The frame didn’t look to be sized for either door, but when shut, the fit was flawless from both sides. Rhavin’s fingers instinctively pressed against his temples in an attempt to massage out the confusion.
“Mother Eyvos! Is everything in this house magic? Might as well figure out where I’m at.” Rhavin started down the slightly overgrown path that led away from the forest dwelling. The eerily familiar path led to a clearing with a small lake fed by a waterfall of adjoining streams. The occasional ripples of trout could be seen on the surface.
A small wooden dock extended several meters into the lake. Walking onto it, he felt like he’d been here before. The faint itching of a memory just out of reach. The inviting calm of the water seemed to wash away the energy from the mystic water he drank.
“I can spare a few moments to relax,” he said aloud to himself. Moving to unlace his boots, he was greeted by two bare feet. His cheeks flushed red as he couldn’t remember why he was naked, or how he hadn’t even noticed until now.
“Well, it’s not so bad. There’s nobody around to see,” he mused to himself. A wave of playfulness overtook him; poses fit to impress an empress were struck on the dock. Flexing his scrawny muscles, he couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of himself. As the last few chuckles subsided, Rhavin slid himself down into the water for a quick swim.
The water felt cool but not cold. Floating around, he tried to remember how he had gotten here. The last thing he could recall was him getting upstaged by his brother. No matter how much time he spent with that bow, Dario was always better. Eventually it gets to the point of embarrassment.
“Damn Dario. Why does he have to be so good at everything? No matter how hard I practice anything, he can just start up and best me.” Rhavin’s grumblings were stopped short from another grumble. Pushing himself upright in the water, he scanned the beaches for life. Why did the birds suddenly stop their chirping?. The boy started swimming for shore, seeking safety from the eeriness in the treeline.
The cool water started to shake vehemently. His lightning scars lit up in a glimmering blue. Staring at the vibrant glowing of his arm, he realized he never remembered having any scars. Making his way onto the beach, small waves in the water caught his attention. The waves turned to small splashes seemingly made by spectres. Rhavin’s eyes widened as he backpedalled towards the treeline, alert for any unnatural visitors. I think it’s time I try to get back home.
Awkwardly waddling out of the water were little green creatures. The small webbed feet stumbled for traction on the beach. Short stubby mouths held disproportionately large nostrils. Rhavin smiled and let out a quick chuckle.
“It’s just a few overgrown frogs! You guys are just out here for a swim too I assume?” The delighted remark sent the creatures into a frenzy. Awkward waddling legs became coordinated and quick. Rhavin’s eyes widened, and he turned to run for the tree line. The frogs’ mouths opened, revealing several ridges of small sharp teeth. The creatures had gained ground and caught Rhavin, small teeth latching into his calf, gouging the soft flesh. Letting out a sharp shriek, the boy kept running, dragging the green creature with him.
No longer able to endure the pain, Rhavin fell to the ground. Rolling to his back, he began to kick at the creature attached to him. The bitten leg began to feel numb. The loss of pain reinvigorated the boy, and he kicked harder. With repeated crushing blows to the face, the creature was torn from him, taking several small pieces of his leg with it. Small beady eyes looked back at him, red blood smeared over its green rubbery face.
“Help! Help!” Rhavin screamed for anyone to hear while he kicked at another of the twisted frogs advancing on him, berating its eyes with his calloused feet. Wincing in pain, the creature backed off, holding near its kin. It only took a moment for the assailant to begin racing at the boy and trying to gain hold of his leg again. Its accomplices were quick to follow.
A loud howl split the air, demanding Rhavin’s attention. From the treeline was the largest wolf Rhavin had ever seen. Its fur was patchy with a plethora of scars. Most noticeably was a large scar along the muzzle tracing from its mouth down to its shoulders. The creature began to sprint towards Rhavin, bloodlust filling its eyes.
“Oh Eyvos, please let me live!”
As if answering his call, the wolf raced past Rhavin to the creatures harassing him. Teeth larger than a man’s finger split the rubbery flesh of the monster. The frogs relinquished their hunt, turning all attention to the wolf., It only took one swift movement of the jaw to hear the crunch of small bones. It hung lifeless in the monstrous wolf’s mouth for only a moment. Before Rhavin could get to his feet, the wolf had moved to the other two creatures that had emerged from the water, ripping entrails and chunks of flesh from bone.
Rhavin tried to flee but couldn’t. His body would not listen to him. He lay in the same position he fell in, helpless in front of the wolf. He watched from his position on the beach, but unable to move his head, the wolf soon moved out of view.
After what seemed like hours, he heard footsteps. A man, naked, with greying hair and beard walked into vision.
“Never come out here alone, boy. If I weren’t here to hear your screams, the Greenies would have torn you to pieces.” The man in front of Rhavin seemed familiar. He knew he had seen him before, but he didn’t know from where. Rhavin tried to apologize to the man for coming out alone, but he couldn’t get his body to respond to his mind.
The greying man crouched down next to him and looked the boy over. He gave a smile at the odd position Rhavin’s body had frozen in.
“They inject a special toxin that leaves you paralyzed, drag you back to their cave, and then slowly eat you. The toxin allows them to eat their fill while keeping you alive for future feasts. A truly terrifying death.” Looking Rhavin over again, the man gave another hearty chuckle at the awkward position he had been paralyzed in.
“Remember when your mother said don’t make that face, it’ll freeze that way? Now you know she was right!” Rhavin’s face was stuck between mortal fear and anger, which, as it turns out, just makes it look like you really need to use the washroom. A comical sight for the naked man, not so much for the paralyzed boy. “Come on, let’s get you back somewhere warm. You are turning out to be a good bit o’ trouble.”
The man picked up Rhavin with ease and slung him over his shoulder. Rhavin could only assume the path they set out for was back to the hut with the magic door. He couldn’t be sure; all pine and spruce trees looked the same to him. But where else would they go?
“I’m Arnvold, Eila’s husband. I believe you were passed out before we could meet last night. Lucky she was out at the lake when you fell in, otherwise you might have been dinner for those things you just met.” Arnvold’s voice was comforting. About as much comfort as it can give to a naked paralyzed boy being hauled through unknown woods on the shoulders of an equally naked man.
The remainder of the walk to the little hut in the woods was carried out in silence. Rhavin wished the man would talk about anything to keep his anxious mind at ease for a little longer. How does he know me? He was the wolf? How did I get here? Where is here? What’s a Greeny? The questions all raced through Rhavin’s mind.
When they finally arrived at the magic dwelling, Rhavin was placed on a bed in what must have been the man’s room. An ornately crafted bed draped with silken linens was the centerpiece of the room. Putting on a pair of light trousers, the man left the room with Rhavin still paralyzed on the bed. Rhavin couldn’t help but think this was too familiar to the tales his mother would tell him as a young boy so he wouldn’t stray too far from home. The man returned with a small vial of blue liquid he quickly poured down the boy’s throat.
Arnvold sat down on the bed next to Rhavin and began to examine the bite marks on his legs. They didn't look as bad as they felt. Small amounts of flesh were taken, but Rhavin had endured more serious injuries play-fighting with Dario.
“Ah, those don’t look so bad. They’ll heal up nicely. And it’s just your luck that you fell out of the sky in front of a healer!” Arnvold’s infectious smile returned. Rhavin wished he could smile with the man. “That potion I gave you will take care of the paralysis. It takes a few minutes though, so I hope you like my wife’s decorating.” Arnvold chuckled to himself as he left the room, repeating his own joke to himself. “My wife’s decorating. Oh, Arny, that was a good one.”
“Ah bu glu,” Rhavin spurted, fighting the paralysis. Returning to the room with a small glass of water, Arnvold sat at the foot of the bed next to Rhavin.
“Who Ah Oo?” Rhavin managed to get a few sounds he wanted out of his mouth.
“Who am I? I’ve already told you. I’m Eila’s husband, Arnvold: proprietor of this homestead, saver of your life, and friend of your family. Didn’t Eila tell you anything last night?” Arnvold looked down at the boy, brows furrowing.
“I. I un omem eesing” Rhavin’s fingers seemed to be the next to awaken as they started twitching and grasping against the poison that held them captive. Arnvold gave Rhavin a curious look. He scratched his bearded chin in assumed contemplation.
“Ah! You don’t remember anything!” Arnvold’s face wore a victorious smirk like he had just solved an impressive word puzzle.“Well, trauma can oftentimes make one forget things. Your brain may have shut out the memories, which we assume were traumatic due to you being translocated to the sky above the lake, or one of Eila’s half-assed concoctions could have had an unwanted side effect. Nonetheless, all that I can tell you is that you were sent to me. You fell through a portal in the sky into that very lake you were just attacked at. Eila fished you out as she happened to be there when you fell.”
“As a boy, you were given a medallion, the one in the shape of an elephant’s head. I’m sure you remember that. Well, that was a very special amulet, one that was enchanted to teleport you to me if any harmful magic was cast on you. Magic was cast on you. Magic strong enough to break your medallion and alter your end location to the lake instead of within my house.”
Arnvold’s face grew grim as he looked Rhavin in the eyes. “Something bad happened to you, boy. Something very bad. Might be best you don’t remember.” Arnvold’s somber blue eyes shifted down to Rhavin’s cracked medallion, which still hung around his neck.
As Rhavin’s mouth came back into control, he knew what he had to ask.
“You’re a wolf?” Embarassed by how quickly the words were out of his mouth, Rhavin’s cheeks flushed red.
“Ha!” Arnvold let out a hearty laugh. “I tell you that you fell out of a portal in the sky, strong harmful magic was cast on you, and the first thing you ask is if I’m a wolf? Yes, but it’s not so simple. I’m a Blood Warg. A curse, or a gift, depending on how you look at it, from the goddess Scythis. Wolves as large as oxen. It’s quite useful when saving helpless boys, but you start to lose yourself... If you stay that way too long.” Arnvold’s voice grew quiet. His eyes wandered off as if looking at something far in the distance.
“Some never change back. They turn into the mindless beasts they look like.” Arnvold fingered the scar that marred his cheek. A heavy silence hung in the room that Rhavin did not want to be the first one to break.
To the young man’s delight, the large front door creaked open. Light footsteps were heard coming towards the bedroom. From the doorway, Eila stepped into view, and moved to lean on the doorframe.
“What happened to the boy?” Eila moved into the room and examined Rhavin. “I heard the screams while I was out gathering.” Her inquisitive hands started to shift Rhavin around on the bed looking for injuries. The cold of her fingers sent goosebumps down his spine. His cheeks flushed red when she started examining his legs. He didn’t have any experience with women and had definitely never exposed himself to one this beautiful before. He wished more than anything right now that the paralysis would lift so he could cover his manhood.
Arnvold motioned to the jagged wounds on Rhavin’s ankle and calf. “Greenies caught him as he was exploring. Luckily I was hunting nearby when he was attacked.”
“Where am I?” Rhavin blurted the question out to shift their gazes from his exposed body. The two examining didn’t hear or didn’t care.
“Seems like he’s lost his memory. You give him some half-ass brew?” Arnvold gave Eila a taunting look.
Eila snorted. “I’ve been brewing potions that save lives since before you were a pup. It’s probably a side effect from the tainted portal he fell from.” Rhavin did not think she could have been saving lives for very long. Surely not longer than Arnvold’s been alive. She couldn’t even be that much older than himself!
“Tainted portal, my ass. There hasn’t been a tainted portal since before the Blue Horizon!” Arnvold scoffed with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“It was a black hole in the sky. If it wasn’t a tainted portal, maybe it was your ass!” Eila put a hand on her hip and looked at Arnvold indignantly. Her green eyes seemed to be glowing with that response.
I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of that woman, Rhavin thought.
Arnvold let out a hearty laugh. “Ha! Well, let’s hope for both mine and the boy’s sake that it wasn’t!” He gave Rhavin another look up and down. “We still have to figure out what to do with you.” His light hearted smile faded and moved to a mask of contemplation.
“Achim always said if the kids showed up, just to take care of them. He’ll show to pick him up eventually.” Eila didn’t sound like she really believed what she was saying. Her eyes kept darting between Rhavin and Arnvold.
Arnvold swiped at the cracked medallion on Rhavin’s chest and looked towards his wife with worried eyes.
“This changes things, Eila. You know that. But I agree that we should wait for a while. Realistically, it would only take a year or two for him to get here if he started right away.”
Rhavin’s eyes lit up. He couldn’t just wait around for several years with a werewolf and evil frogs!
“Years! You’re saying I won’t see him for years! Just tell me where I am, and I can make it back on my own! I’ve seen the maps!” Rhavin’s interjection took the other two off guard, their thinking interrupted by his outburst. Arnvold looked over to Eila expectantly. She returned the gesture with a nod.
Eila’s eyes grew soft, and she sat down next to Rhavin on the bed. “If you’ve seen the maps, then you’ll know that it’s a three months ride from your estate to the closest port, and then a four month voyage from Undik to Aufyr. And once you’re there, it’s another few months ride here. Those times all depend on a straight shot here with no breaks, no distraction, and no hiccups. With how you showed up, it’s not likely he is in a position to come here immediately.”
Once again, Eila confused Rhavin. She spoke with a motherly tenderness that couldn’t have come from a gal as young as she looked. Maybe she’s an enchantress? Rhavin couldn’t quite figure it out, and it gnawed at the back of his mind.
Rhavin stared at his feet, thumbing the scars on his legs with new control over his limbs.
“Will I remember? How I got here? How these got here? What happened to my family?” The disappointment and confusion he had rung out through those few sentences.
Arnvold scratched his beard and stared at Rhavin’s medallion for a few moments before responding.
“If it was a tainted portal, there is no predicting when your memory would return. Magic is a fickle beast. Without more magic intervention, nothing will change. If it was the potion, then it should come back within a few days. Well, it should.” Arnvold shot a quick glance and smirk over to his wife. “You’ll remember, boy, but in the meantime, I’ll keep you busy. Achim probably had you shooting arrows and hitting dummies with sticks, but I’ll teach you real skills on how to survive.”
Rolling her eyes, Eila moved towards the door. “The kid’s having a crisis right now. Give him some time before you start the lectures about following deer shit and licking sap.” Giving a light goodbye wave, Eila left the room, carrying both Arnvold’s and Rhavin’s gaze with her as she sauntered out.
“Don’t give her much mind. Licking sap has saved her life too!” Arnvold smirked. “I know it will be hard on you, boy. But you’ll remember. And you may not know me, but believe this, I know you, and I know your father. You will be taken care of here.” Ruffling Rhavin’s hair, Arnvold moved to leave the room.
“Why are you helping me?” Rhavin spurted out. He looked up at Arnvold inquisitively.
“Because a long time ago, I made a promise to your father. A promise to help make the world a better place. This is part of that promise.” Arnvold’s bright demeanor turned more solemn. Leaving the room, he muttered to himself “We made a lot of promises back then.”