Chapter 4 - Cavros
The town of Cavros was bustling this morning, as bustling as a small farm town could be. Farmers wives and children were at the market peddling their fruits and vegetables, trading their food for basic goods. The local smithy took on repairs, handed out new horseshoes, and the thatcher wrote up new contracts to fix homesteads. It was the practiced dance of a people who had done it for countless years prior.
Cavros was self sufficient in every sense of the word. It was technically part of the Kingdom of Tivos, but the Kingdom had long forgotten them. Even tax collectors haven’t been seen in decades. The townsfolk just considered themselves Cavrosians. They set their own laws with a town council, judged their own criminals, and collected their own taxes. A miniature kingdom lost in the forest, forgotten by the world.
Eila had been taking Rhavin to town every few weeks since his untimely arrival six years ago. The trips to Cavros were one of his favorite things to do. It gave a moment's respite from Arnvold’s nature lessons, historical mentoring, and his bad jokes. Rhavin did have to give Arny some credit; sometimes during their nature hikes they would concoct pranks to play on Eila. She never appreciated them as much as they did though.
Eila held her own stall in the town. She peddled her potions and balms in exchange for food from the farmers. The women would gawk and gossip about her rejuvenating lotions in public, but slip by when others weren’t looking. The men all openly swore by her poison antidotes and salves, but quietly purchased her virility tonics.
Rhavin never saw her selling any of her strong potions. Nothing like the ones she used to heal his legs. But Eila never acted herself in the village. She always played the young lass, and had Rhavin play her younger brother. She wasn’t a visitor to Cavros before he arrived, and Rhavin assumed that she made these trips with him so he could socialize rather than a real need for food. She never sold the stronger potions as they might bring more questions than she wished to answer. He didn’t mind though, as long as he got to accompany her.
As Eila set up her stall Rhavin decided he would go find his friend Mykul. Mykul was the son of the town’s trapper, Tasus. Eila and Arnvold didn’t seem to mind the life of solitude they lived, but it wore on him. He still yearned for the days when he would go exploring with his brother. The itch of companionship was incessant, and solitude was not helping him scratch it.
For a farming village there was always a fair share of gossip. At first Rhavin tried to ignore all of it after hearing rumors about himself when he first appeared. He had become dubbed the “Gypsy Boy.” Rhavin didn’t really know what a gypsy was. Eila said it was a clever travelling man, but he always felt there was more to the nickname than she let on. She would tell him to ignore them, and that it was unfounded and only because he was new to town. Cavros rarely received visitors and they are naturally distrustful.
At first it drove him wild, like an inside joke he could never understand. Eventually it grew on him and he proudly referred to himself as a gypsy and began to pay more attention to the gossip. After the lonely months went on, he started to live for it and would sit with the village women when he came to town. Most of the rumors were unfounded, but nobody seemed to care.
They would gossip about what color different women’s skirts were, and what that meant she was doing. Nodelia wore a purple and yellow skirt when she went to get a cut of meat and apparently that meant she was looking to impress the butcher and have an affair. Rhavin wasn’t completely proud that he would spread the gossip with the other middle aged women. The term guilty pleasure was literal to him. To be fair it wasn’t only women who gossiped. Nobody was a bigger gossip than Tasus, and there was no doubt Mykul was Tasus’s son. Rhavin would tell Mykul all about the stuff he had heard and vice versa. No doubt Mykul told his father and eventually the town had a sprawling rumor mill with all kinds of misinformation floating around.
The new spring grass padded his steps as he walked through the town, giving waves and curt nods to those he passed. The villagers didn’t mind his unwillingness to stop and talk, they were all at the market or preparing for tomorrow, Metlass: the town’s celebration of spring. Streamers were wrapped along trees, the unmarried girls braided flowers into their hair, the men cut logs for the bonfire or prepared for the competitions, and the excess food from winter’s storage was being prepared for a feast.
Mykul’s house was on the outskirts of town. A courtesy his father paid to others, so they wouldn’t have to smell the tanning hides he kept around. The stench wasn’t all bad, it provided privacy. The only people who would even come near made sure they had urgent business. A nice tool to keep the unwanted pleasantries at bay.
Mykul was firmly planted in an old wooden rocking chair, strumming his second hand lute. He was roughly a year younger than Rhavin, wore a short beard, and had brown hair down to his shoulders. He was apparently a very attractive man judging by the amount of girls who braved the scent of tanning pelts just to talk to him.
“Mykul!” Rhavin called out as he trotted over to the aspiring bard. He responded with a gleeful smile and beckoning wave. Mykul was always glad to have company. It was a shock he wasn’t constantly surrounded by doting fans due to the man’s charisma. It was probably the scent of the hides.
The young man placed the lute against the chair taking enough time to make sure he didn’t add another scratch to the instruments collection.
“Rhavin! It’s good to see you! I’m so glad you came for Metlass! By chance did your sister come with you?” Mykul stroked his beard which held a wry smile underneath.
“Eyvos Mykul! Every time! Yes, she’s here at her stall. No, she still isn’t interested in you.” Mykul made it no secret that he was drawn to Eila, but that’s only because he thought she was just a young girl who loved picking flowers and making ointments. If he knew she was roughly the same age as his grandmother, with a razor for a tongue and wit just as sharp, then he’d… well he would probably still be interested. Mykul had no shame.
“One day the lass will see I’m a catch. For we are wine and cheese, a perfect match.” Mykul’s rhyme schemes always came with a toothy smile that made Rhavin’s eyes roll. “You are both staying for the festival right?”
“Eila will be heading back after tonight, but Alan has agreed to let me stay in one of the rooms of the inn tonight… As long as I steer clear of his daughter.” Rhavin gave his own toothy smile at the thought of Alan’s daughter. She was just slightly younger than himself. She was short, with dark flowing hair that almost matched her height. Sela could flash a smile to make even the most stoic soldier blush. She had dark violet eyes, something Rhavin had never seen before. She liked to hang around Eila and learn how to make the assorted tonics and lotions. Rhavin would have thought they were sisters with the amount of time they spent together; if he didn’t already know Eila that is.
“Well he’s right you know. He doesn’t want his only daughter running off with a magical gypsy man!” Rhavin had told Mykul a few years ago that he could cast spells. He never let him know the full extent but it was still no reason to say it where others could hear!
“Shut up Mykul. I don’t want some curious villagers asking questions because they heard your loud mouth.” Mykul just shrugged and went back to smiling.
“I didn’t know you were a literal magic gypsy boy. Maybe I should tell my father. He just wouldn’t know what to do if things literally disappeared into thin air.” Sela was walking out from the side of the house with a smirk on her face.
“How long have you been there?” Rhavin’s eyebrows gave away his surprise.
“Long enough to know you’re more interesting than I thought.” Rhavin blushed. Damn that smile.
“Well he can’t cast real magic, I was just talking about his charm. You know the effect he has on ladies. Take Vaera for example. You’ve seen the way she looks at him. Like a puppy admiring a bone, she could just eat him up.” Mykul had good intentions, but embarrassing him further was not helping.
“Vaera looks at a mutton chop with the same look. That’s not magic. No, I think you were talking about something else. I know you have secrets Rhavin, and I want to know them.” As soon as she had appeared, she had left. Sela had taken an interest in him lately, but not the kind he wanted. Always talking about secrets. Her gaze seemed to penetrate him, he couldn’t shake the feeling that she already knew he was different, and was just waiting for him to admit it.
Rhavin knew he wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about his abilities. Eila warned him about it plenty of times. “Cavros hasn’t seen magic in centuries, Rhavin. If you want them to accept you, you will have to act completely normal. Magic, and any beast larger than a greenie are myths and legend. The only thing these people know is their sickles and their ale.” He was sure Sela was going to go pester Eila about him some more. Luckily the girl didn’t seem to have the magical intuition to see into her secret.
“I think she likes you.” Mykul always knew how to make him smile when he was stressed. Probably one of the reasons Rhavin hung around him every time he was in town. Mykul was becoming family.
“Maybe. But I don’t want her to start talking to others about this. Should I just tell her?” Rhavin pulled a small copper coin out of his pocket. The coin started to hover above his flat hand before it spun in the air. Blue sparks danced around the coin.
“If you don’t want people to think your magic, then you shouldn’t do magic out in the open like that.” Mykul’s hand ran across his forehead, amusement fading from his voice. While Mykul was a true gossip, he was an even truer friend. He knew he could tell Mykul things in confidence and it wouldn’t turn into a rumor. There wasn’t a pact between them, just the bond of time. But that didn’t mean things about others wouldn’t get spread.
Rhavin’s eyes darted back and forth from the spinning coin above his palm to Mykul. Over the years magic had just started to feel natural. It was like another limb, if he didn’t use it often enough he would get restless. The sparks immediately disappeared and the coin dropped back into his palm.
“I’m just going to tell her the truth. Come on.” Mykul was stunned. His mouth agape he watched Rhavin walk away before scurrying over to catch up.
“You’re going to tell her already! You barely know her! It took you years to trust me enough, and she didn’t even show you her tits!” Rhavin’s demeanor was broken. A smile crept over his face, interrupting his attempt at a serious walk.
“Yeah you didn’t show me your tits either, no matter how much I asked.” He flashed a wink at Mykul.
“Well, you know me,” Mykul said. “Daddy raised a proper girl, and I don’t see a ring on this finger!” Mykul smiled at his own joke for a second before continuing.
“Seriously are you just going to tell her? Why don’t you just start levitating in front of her and call forth a ring of fire as well. I’m sure the villagers would love to see that.”
You’re going to see more than that come tomorrow, Rhavin thought. Now wasn’t the time to tell Mykul his plans for Metlass, although he did intend to tell him. Rhavin’s nose thanked him as they made it further from Mykul’s house.
“You forget how bad the smell of the pelts are until you start to move away from it.” Rhavin said under his breath.
Sela was with Eila just like he anticipated. The two seemed to be chatting happily. Rhavin didn’t think Sela had brought it up yet. As they drew closer Rhavin could hear Eila’s fake bubbly voice, she was gossiping. It was unnerving how well she played that fake character. Sometimes it made him question if he really knew Eila as well as he thought he did.
“Hey what are you guys talking about?” Rhavin called out.
“Nothing that concerns boys,” Eila said with a suspicious smirk.
“I was actually coming to talk to her about yo-” Sela was cut off by Rhavin.
“Sela we really need to talk in private. It’s important.” Rhavin grasped Sela’s hand and held it firmly between his own. “It’s very important.” His golden gaze caught her off guard. Sela looked away from him blushing.
“Fine. If it’s really important we can talk.” Sela led Rhavin off to the treeline.
“I’ll keep Eila company,” Mykul shouted after them with a grin. Eila quietly shook her head.
As Rhavin and Sela made it to the treeline he pulled his hand away; he hadn’t even realized they were still entwined the whole walk. He couldn’t help but realize how beautiful she was. That is, when she wasn’t trying to ruin his life by making a fuss of things.
“You’re not going to be able to keep me from asking her.” She dramatically planted hands on her hips as she looked at him indignantly. Rhavin ignored her and brought out the small copper coin. He laid it flat on his hand in front of him. “You can’t bribe me with a single copper either! My father owns an inn!”
“Not a cheap date huh, Sela? I have heard that Vaera is though!” Rhavin chuckled as he held his palm up. She rolled her eyes. Rhavin’s face swapped from the coy smile to seriousness. The coin started to float above his palm, and the blue sparks began to appear around it.. After rising above his hand it began to twirl in the air. Sela hardly looked impressed. Rhavin felt the need to show off. He wanted to impress her without doing anything that would scare her.
The sparks grew until a blue aura surrounded the coin. Small crackles began to resound around the coin as if a campfire was made near them. Rhavin’s lightning scars lit up with the same shade of blue that surrounded the coin.
“Touch it,” Rhavin insisted.
“I don’t think I should, the coin is blue and crackling like fire!” She replied
“It won’t hurt, I promise.”
Sela reached out and grasped the coin with two fingers. As her finger touched the coin she pulled it back immediately and looked up at Rhavin.
“You know, I’m still not sure why it’s cold, I always thought it would be hot to the touch.” He said. “Now you know why Mykul always makes magic jokes about me.” He smiled.
“Why does your skin glow like that?” Sela asked, eyeing his illumined scars wrapping around his shoulder and left arm.
“Something happened to me when I was younger. I was attacked. Well I’m pretty sure that’s what it was, and I got these scars from it. Whenever I do my tricks, they light up as well.” He said grimly, remembering bits of the violent intrusion that separated him from his family.
The blue aura around the coin faded. Left in Sela’s palm was just a plain copper coin indistinguishable from any other.
“I knew there was something about you gypsy! Can you do more?” Rhavin looked at her, he didn’t think it would be in his best interest to tell her any more, but with the plans for tomorrow he didn’t think it would hurt too much for a little more coinmanship. Plucking the coin back from her hand he tossed it in the air a few times, took a several steps away from her and threw the coin right at Sela!
Sela let out a yelp and jerked away, closing her eyes awaiting for the coin to hit her. After a few moments when she didn’t feel, or hear the coin hit anything, she looked up. In the air, only an arm length away the coin hovered in the air. As she went to grab the coin, it quickly darted up away from her reach. Rhavin let out a good laugh.
“So, just coin tricks? Is this what magic is? Or are you pulling one over on me?” She asked defensively.
“Well, I’m not a wizard like the stories of old. I can just do a few extra things that others can’t. It’s nothing special really. But you must promise me you will tell no one. If the village found out I can do things like this… Well who knows how they could react. And my coin tricks don’t hurt anybody.
“If you think this knowledge will hurt you, why take the risk of showing me? I just thought you were a gambler! You know how that kind of behavior can spread. One game of dice and eventually all the undesirables from Tivos will be pouring in!”
Rhavin felt sick. He revealed to this girl that he was magic when she only suspected he played dice secretly? He immediately knew he should have listened to Mykul. Why didn’t he listen to those around him? One punishment could get him strung up in the gallows, while the other would have the town gossiping about him, very unequal results.
“I thought you already knew and were going to spread suspicions among the town. I figured if I showed you what I’m hiding you would see it’s harmless and nothing would come of it. Please Sela, do not tell a soul about this!” Rhavin clutched her hands in his and looked for her acceptance.
“Well, at least you aren’t tainting all our boys with gambling… So I guess I can keep your secret. Coin tricks don’t hurt anyone. Alright, well you’re going to have to do something for me then. We need to prepare for tomorrow.” Sela leaned against one of the sturdy Firs beside her. “Father is having me prepare all the rooms of the inn! Apparently there’s a band of Clerics coming from Tivos to visit this year's Metlass.”
Rhavin didn’t think his anxiety could get any worse. Eila had told him about Tivosian clerics. To him, they were slavers. Men hell-bent upon controlling all and any magic they could find, and eradicating that which they cannot control. If these clerics found him here, he would face a fate far worse than lynching. He had to speak to Eila about it tonight. But right now, he couldn’t alert Sela that he was worried about it. If she became too upset, she could alert the Clerics without his knowledge.
“Well, they sound like important men. Let’s head back and get to work preparing those rooms. We wouldn’t want them to think badly of us right?” Rhavin led Sela back to the inn where they organized the rooms and prepared for the festival, but Rhavin was feeling everything but festive.
Rhavin sat in Arnvold’s study glossing over the plethora of books scattered across his desk. The news about the clerics put his plans to stay at the inn on standby. He has been in this position many times before while under his tutelage, but he had never felt more eager to hear what the man had to say.
“Every text about the Tivosian clerics speaks about their “intuition.” Arnvold said. “But there is no mention on whether that intuition is magic in nature, or just human guessing.” Arnvold held his head in frustration. “The Clerics have never come this far from Tivos before. I can’t believe that they would be here looking for magic.”
Rhavin sighed, the uncertainty is what killed him. Why Arnvold and Eila decided to make their permanent residence in a country that hates magic was beyond him. Could it really be a coincidence that mage hunters were coming to Cavros now that he’s here, after they haven’t been seen in Cavros for hundreds of years? Rhavin didn’t like those odds.
“The Clerics do more than hunt mages and control magic.” Arnvold said. “First and foremost, they are holy men. They seek to spread their religion, and provide ailments to the sick. This could just be a holy venture, nothing to do with magic.” Arvnold leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers through his hair. With a loud sigh he said, “It might just be better that you don’t visit Metlass this year. This could all be a coincidence they’re here, but there’s the chance it isn’t.”
This news sunk Rhavin’s heart. He had only been to the last three Metlass, and the festival was something he began to look forward to every year. And this year he had plans for it. The people here had started to feel like family. He couldn’t let this small fright turn him away now. Not this time. He would just have to avoid the clerics at all costs.
“I’m not going to let them scare me. It would be more suspicious if I made all these plans to go and then suddenly never appeared. I’ll just steer clear of these men.” Rhavin’s reply left Arnvold scratching his beard. Self preservation should have been the most important thing on Rhavin’s mind but it wasn’t. It was the people. He had found a sense of community and the thought of not getting to be a part of it hurt him more than he thought it would.
“If you go, I cannot protect you. Wargs are not welcome in Tivos, and most have been hunted down ages ago. If my secret were known, it would only bring pain upon Cavros.” Eila walked into the room, her long hair had flowers woven in for the festival.
“If you are set on coming, I’ll be at the festival with you. I need you to understand that I’m not a warrior. If somehow these clerics discover your talents, there won’t be much I can do for you. But here.” Eila reached into a drawer in the study, pulling from it a small vial with a white liquid. “This is a potion of invisibility. They are incredibly rare and hard to make.” Handing it to Rhavin she sat down in a chair next to Arnvold. “Use it only in dire need. It will only last about twenty minutes.”
Rhavin spun the vial in his hands before hiding it in his pocket. It was amazing some of the things she could concoct. You would think she was a mage herself with all the different effects her potions had. Her appearance spoke to that as much as anything else. He didn’t know how old these two really were, but you would be hard pressed to put her over twenty with how she looked.
“Let’s not be too glum about things! This is all for the worst case scenario anyway. It could be they are just here to visit and have a good time at the festival!” Rhavin smiled at Arvnold and Eila who returned it in kind.