Chapter 6 - Fellwood
Updated: Apr 8
Lichen covered trees littered the area where Fell Wood’s village green once stood. Overgrown moss almost entirely hid the remnants of the old town. Crumbling brick sat in mounds in oddly organized rows. Fell Wood seemed to be an organized town, there was structure apparent among the rubble.
The missing human life was made up for in wildlife. Rodents and insects scurried about the rubble, hunting for food and bedding. The chirps of birds, and grunts of unknown foragers rang out through the woods.
Rhavin dismounted his horse as he inspected the ancient pile of rubble. His fingers grazed over the moss as a small frown crept over his face. Taking his hand from the moss, he held his head in his hands as he plopped onto the ground.
“I was expecting… More than this.” Rhavin said, running his hands through his hair.
“There’s not a damn place to sleep. It’s just rocks!” He laid back onto the grass and sighed to the night sky.
With his usual swagger, Mykul sauntered up to Rhavin and looked down upon him. His fingers scratched at the chin beneath his beard before speaking.
“Well, we still have promiscuous ghosts to look forward to! Besides it’s a nice night, let’s hobble the horses and sleep under the stars!”
Rhavin nodded to Mykul as he closed his eyes. He didn’t know how long they had ridden, but dawn couldn’t be far off. Once the sun came up they would be on the move again. He was right to get some rest now. The sounds of Mykul unsaddling his horse were the last things Rhavin heard.
The crackling of twigs woke Rhavin up. The first rays of dawn were peeking through the forest, shining upon the old village green. Instinctively, Rhavin pulled at the arcane energy he could find, illuminating his scars and filling him with adrenaline. Scanning his surroundings, the perpetrator was found.
A small deer peered at him, distracted from its breakfast by the sudden blue aura. Rhavin chuckled to himself and smiled at the small creature. Behind the deer Rhavin thought he saw the outline of a large man, but after blinking it was gone. He put the thought aside as remnants of a dream. Now at ease, he looked around and found Mykul—fast asleep against a large oak several paces away.
Rhavin decided he would wake him, dawn had come and it was time to move. He found a small rock, no larger than his big toe, and focused on it. Rhavin reached out, feeling for the magical tether he knew was there. Arnvold was always surprised at how much power Rhavin could hold with so little training. But it was still a coin toss if he got the expected results.
He couldn’t help but think of Arnvold. “Anyone can use magic, if they really tried. Magic is just a few hard years of studying away,” he would tell him. “But some people can touch more of it. Use the power to an extent all others could never dream of. You are one of those people. Well, when you’re actually able to!” He said laughing at him. Rhavin had come a long way in the six years, and was usually able to get the results he wanted when he tried hard enough. But it seemed that he only ever got perfect results when he was trying to work with the air. Any kind of geomancy and he felt like he just discovered magic yesterday.
Six goddamn years of training and I can’t even move a rock. If hate were a physical substance, Rhavin’s eyes would be clouded with it. Rhavin focused on the rock, his scars burnt bright. He focused all his willpower on the rock, willing it into the air. He pulled at the energy around him, clawing at all he could get his hands on. With all that power in his control he directed it entirely upon the small rock.
The rock exploded and sent a loud CLACK through the air! The bard jolted awake from the large explosion. Rhavin jumped back in surprise as well. All he wanted was for the rock to float, not explode! Rhavin released a resigned sigh and spoke.
“Come on Mykul, Tivos is still a long way from here,”
“What the fuck was that? It brought me back thoughts of Veara’s pa finding us in-” Rhavin cut him off with a wave of a hand.
“I was there when it happened! Well, I was outside the window. Don’t you remember dragging me along? You said, “I’m going to need a lookout in case the old man comes back”.”
“And you didn’t even look out! He walked right in while you nodded off. I didn’t know a man could scream that high of a pitch before.” Mykul rubbed his ears, hoping to assuage the damage from the audible assault. Upon seeing Mykul’s discomfort, Rhavin felt a pang of regret. He knew it wasn’t right to practice his magic where he could hurt Mykul with it—he needed to ensure there was nobody around to harm when working on geomancy. There was a long journey ahead. He knew Mykul wouldn’t take this too hard, but it was best not to make a habit of being careless.
“Sexual escapades aside,” Rhavin said, “It looks like we’ve got a week journey from here to the outskirts of Tivos.” Rhavin scratched his head and looked at the rubble around him, “If this one’s still standing.” Mykul leaned back against the tree and gave Rhavin a wave. “What does that mean? You want to be a bard damnit, use your words!” The lack of sleep had done a number on him, not being an ass was going to be more work than Rhavin anticipated.
“How is it that normally you’re shy as a bat in sunlight, but when it comes to me, you start to sound like a sheepfucker in a room full of dogs.” Rhavin’s face contorted into a mix of confusion and shock.
“What does that even mean? And we’ve been best friends for almost six years, you’re potentially my only family left.” The sadness in Rhavin’s words were responded with a nod of acknowledgement from Mykul.
“We’ll find them Rhav. I’m with you until we do.” It was comforting to know that no matter what he found out there, he’d still have a brother in Mykul. It was time. Time to tell Mykul the whole truth. He’d been keeping secrets, secrets that didn’t need to be kept. Mykul was willing to cross the world with him, it’s only fair he knew exactly why.
“Eila’s not actually my sister.” Mykul stood up and started stretching. He wasn’t phased by the statement at all. The young bearded man just braced himself against the tree and cracked his back. “You can’t say you already knew?” Rhavin shockingly asked
“Yeah I knew. Eila’s a much better actor than you are—she played the sister flawlessly, most likely has done some theatre work. You, on the other hand, treated her with a cautious respect and obedience that isn’t normal for a brother and sister almost the same age.” Rhavin couldn’t help but be amazed. Mykul had never once let on that he knew. Those eyes held a social perception the voice hid carefully.
“Well, why didn’t you ever say anything?” Rhavin sputtered out. He wasn’t mad that Mykul already knew, he just couldn’t believe it. Almost six years he played Eila’s little brother, and he knew the whole time.
“If you wanted me to know you would have told me.” Rhavin felt an overwhelming wave of respect for Mykul. Not a feeling that happened often, he found himself comparing others to his father. A man who wasn’t around long enough for his child-like admiration of to fade. There was always the standard level of respect people got, but occasionally it held a hint of condescension. Probably a side effect of being able to summon lightning at a whim, and Arnvold’s constant reminders that he’s magically gifted—it was something else he had to work on.
“Let’s saddle up the horses. I’ll tell you everything as we ride. Tivos awaits.” The two saddled up and rode down the overgrown path—Rhavin told Mykul his story, from what he could remember to what he was told by Arnvold and Eila: the small bits he remembered about the attack on his family, his sudden teleportation, who Eila and Arnvold really were. He even went so far as to tell Mykul about the specific survival lessons Arnvold had gone over with him, sap licking and all.
After he had finished his story, Rhavin felt a weight lift off his shoulders that he didn’t realize was there. No more secrets, he didn’t have to hide who he was anymore. There were no villagers to keep from frightening, no shacks to worry about setting ablaze, no appearances left to keep, and no clerics to lynch him—it was only Mykul, and the wilderness around them.
The two rode on, retelling nostalgic stories about their youth—stories of previous festivals, flirting with girls, and being chased by the fathers of said girls. One day turned into two, two to three, and eventually the travelling companions had found themselves a week into their journey. They only stopped to rest when they found fresh water, and large trees that could shield them from elements. The laughing and light hearted conversation slowly died off as the travelling went on—replaced by silent riding, and the songs Mykul would sing.
As their journey progressed Rhavin would find himself gazing at the forest around them. Occasionally he thought he saw a large man following them far away. He would only catch the silhouette for a second before it disappeared from sight. Rhavin felt like it was just his mind playing tricks on him. It would have to be the world’s largest man wearing a horned helmet. There’s nothing like that in the forest anyway, Rhavin reassured himself.
Night started to creep upon the two still moving through the seemingly endless forest. Rhavin was starting to get worried. He and Mykul had spent countless hours examining the map, making sure they were on the right track. But if the map’s scale was correct, then they should have been out of the forest by now. They had been supplementing their provisions with edible greens Rhavin found in the woods—a benefit of the training Arnvold gave him. But the greens only went so far to fill a hungry belly, and they were almost out of the dried meats and bread they brought.
“I think we’re still going to be in the forest another day, we should probably find some shelter,” Rhavin said. He hadn’t realized how spoiled he was throughout his life. Both of his homes had been so lavish he hadn't realized just how awful sleeping in the elements was. Last night he had found a centipede crawling on his arm. Mykul awoke with a smile on his face, believing the scream to be a fair maiden who needed rescue. Rhavin was sure he would never hear the end of that as long as he knew Mykul.
“Aye. You see those cliffs over there? Shouldn’t be more than an hour to them, I’d bet we can find a cave to sleep in.” Mykul replied.
“I’m with you, those clouds are looking terribly dreary. It would be a shame to get rained on again.” Rhavin didn’t really think they would find a cave, but it was worth a try. The small mountain was the first thing they could see through the treetops since they left Cavros.
“Who knows, maybe we’ll find some busty Dwarven women to keep us company.” Mykul sang the words like lyrics from a song.
“With your way of thinking, you are going to live in a constant state of disappointment. When has there ever been women, in any of these situations?” Rhavin couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. Eventually there’d be a time where Mykul actually found beautiful women, and he hoped he was there for it—it would be glorious.
“It’s more like being consistently optimistic about the future. Smile at the prospect of what could be, not what should be.” The more time Rhavin spent with Mykul, the more he wished he could think like him. Doubt and anxiety were feelings he was all too familiar with. A fun side effect of trauma he was slowly remembering more vividly. The tavern philosophy Mykul let flow occasionally did stick with Rhavin. Nothing like hours on horseback to reflect on yourself.
The patterns in the trees repeated over and over. It had probably only been a few hours since the two set out for the mountain cliffs, but it felt like days. Occasionally when Rhavin looked back he thought he saw the silhouette, but whenever he blinked it was gone.
The horses didn’t like trotting off the path. Constant calming gestures and reassuring words were needed to keep them moving. The underbrush was almost dense enough to rake their bellies. Rhavin kept a lookout for the man he thought he saw. Is there really someone following us, or is my mind just playing tricks on me? Rhavin thought.
With the cliffs finally before them, the adventurers responded with glee. Whether it be dumb luck, or the grace of the gods, a cave had appeared. Mykul’s face split so wide, you would have thought he found his dwarven succubai. Rhavin merely let out a polite thank you to Mother Eyvos, a habit he picked up from his mother.
“Look Rhav! What did I tell you about optimism, it might not be beautiful dwarves, but I’ll be just as happy to sleep under her tonight!” Mykul pushed his horse at a canter towards the cave.
“I can’t argue with you there,” Rhavin said, pushing his horse to catch Mykul. The cave was what one expected when you thought of a cave. Rhavin had never been in one, but this fit the descriptions he’d read of in books: dark, wet, full of bugs, and a plethora of odd noises crept about. As he dismounted and explored the cave entrance, Rhavin felt an unwelcome wave of fear wash over him. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was here in the cave with them. He didn’t know how he knew, or what it was, but there was no doubt. They weren’t alone.
“Myk, I don’t think we should camp here tonight.” Rhavin whispered, watching the unmoving darkness from further in the cave.
“We’ve only got about an hour left of sunlight, and I’d bet my grandmother's knickers it’s going to rain. We’ll not find a better spot!” Mykul didn’t share in Rhavin’s foreboding feeling. Rhavin knew he could feel it, knew he had felt it before, the small twitching on his skin, the uneasy feeling in his gut. Sensations that brought one of Arnvold’s lectures to mind.
“With more practice, you’ll be able to feel magic. You’ll feel it on your skin, in your stomach. The stronger you get, the easier it will be to detect.” Arnvold said.
“How am I to know what the feeling is if there’s no magic around for me to feel!” Rhavin replied.
“Here there is nothing, but in the world you’ll find creatures, and other mages that will make your skin crawl, make you feel like you need to retch for no reason.” Despite how much Arnvold explained, after six years, Rhavin felt like he learned nothing.
Is this magic? Rhavin thought. It’s just as Arnvold described! Rhavin looked away from the dark part of the cavern to look at Mykul, he was happily humming a song and clearing debris for his bedroll. If it is magic I’m feeling, it would make sense why Mykul can’t feel anything. Rhavin pushed the unease in his gut down. Throwing on a smile, he decided that if there’s no way of knowing for sure that it’s magic, he’ll just assume he ate some bad greens.
“Alright Myk, we can rest here. But first we should go out and try and pick some food. I ate the last of my bread already, and only have a few slices of meat left. I’d rather not die of hunger the second week in.” Rhavin felt that was an adequate compromise. If there were any magical creatures in the cave, he figured he could just blast them with lightning, the one kind of magic he could summon at will. If it’s someone who themselves can cast, he was just going to have to hope they were friendly.
“We should search for berries, I’ve no meat left and want something heartier than a handful of leaves,” Mykul added. Rhavin nodded, without a dressing, the leaves they ate left them less than satisfied. In fact the more he ate, the more he told himself he would never eat a salad again.
Setting out to find a fresh meal of bitter herbs, Mykul felt the best way to pass the time was to sing a song. Rhavin’s feelings towards them came in waves. At first they were fun, and he sang along. After several days they started to wear on him and he loathed the rhyme schemes. At this point he had heard them so many times, he couldn’t help but sing along.
There once was a fair maiden,
her name Sasha Vate.
spent her nights at the tavern
Searching for a mate
She met a lad named Yappa
They sang and danced was great
Sasha took him to her hovel
Said, lie back and rest it’s fate
Beneath her dress she hid
A dagger sharp can make
Then she undid his trousers
And for dinner she had snake
“So she eats the man’s penis? Why would she do that? Aren’t there better parts of a man to eat?” The song was fun to sing along with, but he couldn’t imagine penis tasting all that great. To be fair, he had never tried it.
“It’s a tavern song, Rhav. Just made for laughs. Woman cutting a man’s dick off, it’s funny. Just the nature of it. It’s why they sing it. It’s the contrast between the levity of the song, and the seriousness of making someone a eunuch.” The one thing Mykul never took well was criticisms of songs. Rhavin didn’t really understand though, it’s not as if Mykul wrote it himself. Everyone’s got their peeves, Rhavin liked to say. This one was just Mykul’s.
The two found a large amount of leaves and a handful of berries. Rhavin suggested they fill a few sacks, if plans held true they would be out of the forest soon, and who knows how scarce food will be then. A sack full of bitter herbs is better than hunger. Dusk crept upon them faster than expected, the forest grew dim, and shadows twitched about, refueling the fear Rhavin had felt in the cave. Oddly enough, he wished to go back to it. There was only one place to hide in that cave, whereas out here there could be something hiding behind every tree.
They made haste back to the cave to find the horses spooked. They kicked frantically, shaking their heads about. The crawling of his skin returned. There’s something here, Rhavin thought again. He couldn’t live without investigating, but he didn’t want to just wander into the darkness. The only thing he could think of was sending a spell down the cave.
“Stand back Myk. There’s something in this cave, and I’m about to find out what.” Rhavin’s scars lit up blue and his static resonated around his arm. Mykul’s eyes widened and he stepped back behind Rhavin.
“Alright, but if it’s my dwarven women you better not roast them!.” A large lightning bolt shot from Rhavin’s hand flying into the unlit parts of the cave, illuminating them. The lightning didn’t make it very far before it hit something. The beam of light created a flash, illuminating it’s target for only a moment. In the flash of light, Rhavin thought he could make out a man. A man that looked horribly distorted. An ear splitting howl resonated through the cave.
Mykul had taken that as a cue to leave. He hastily grabbed his bags and fled to the horses at the entrance. Rhavin was not far behind, he didn’t know what that was, but it was angry. Loud footsteps quickly moved towards the two, chasing them to the front of the cave. The roars grew louder with every step. It would catch them before they could mount the horses.
I knew we shouldn’t have stayed here! Always trust your gut! Rhavin turned around and shot another bolt down the cave. It quickly hit the mysterious creature, it wasn’t far behind. The small burst of light illuminated a highly disproportionate man. It must have stood at nine feet tall, with long muscular arms that it used to help itself run. Its face held a large nose covered in boils and blemishes. A mouth full of pointed teeth opened up, howling at the assault of the electricity.
What the fuck is that? Rhavin thought. He had never seen or heard of such a creature. Mykul looked back, and upon seeing the creature he let out a shriek, scrambling to move faster than his legs would allow.
“Move Rhav! It’s a fucking troll!” Mykul cried out. When they made it to the horses it was too late, the troll had caught up to them. Illuminated in twilight, it was one of the most disgusting things Rhavin had ever seen. Its skin was covered in red festering wounds that let out rank emissions, making him gag. There was no escaping this… thing. He had to fight.
He summoned all the strength he could, pulling in all the energy he could muster. Lightning rained from both his hands in wave after wave of torrential bombardment. The howls of the troll shot confidence through Rhavin, he was hurting it. The troll used its massive arms to grab Rhavin’s horse, blocking the magical onslaught. With a heavy grunt, the troll threw the horse at Rhavin. The beast of burden flew through the air, landed at Mykul’s feet, and rolled over him. Pinned by the horse, Mykul screamed out. Not Wind! Rhavin could not forgive the beast from injuring his steed and friend in one fell throw.
“Run Rhav! Fucking run!” Rhavin didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t leave Mykul to the whim of this beast, but he also had to escape himself. Did he run? Did he fight? Indecision and fear gripped him. As if a statue, Rhavin stood, staring at the troll quickly gaining on him. Why couldn’t he be strong like his brother? Rhavin knew Dario would have rushed to fight the troll, fought it until he won, or expired. Rhavin could never compare, he knew that. Why did he have to be such a coward? He desperately wanted to move, to help Mykul, to fight the troll! But he couldn’t make his body move! Rhavin’s mind relaxed, he knew he wasn’t worthy, but he had to do something. Arnvold had taught him how to survive, but more importantly when to die—protecting others. “Move Rhav! Fucking Move! It’s going to kill you! Aaahg.” Mykul was too good a friend for him. The bard struggled against the horse that pinned him, fighting to free his legs. Rhavin closed his eyes and drew in what little energy he could muster. This is it, he thought somberly. An awful end to a hopeless journey. Exhaustion overcame Rhavin and he held his arm out to release the trickle he could manage in a final bolt, a final attempt to save Mykul.
A giant hand shoved Rhavin aside, throwing him into the wall of the cave, the pathetic bolt he had prepared struck the cave ceiling. The owner of the hand rushed past him and advanced on the troll. It was slightly shorter than the troll, a little over eight feet tall. It was hairy, with two large horns on the top of its head. Proportionally this contender’s body made much more sense. It looked much more like a man, albeit the tallest, most muscular horned man Rhavin had ever seen. Rippling and engorged muscles grappled with the troll, forcing it to the ground.
Mykul’s eyes widened! The bard stopped his struggling as he watched the two invaders fight. “Fuck! A fucking Minotaur?” Mykul screamed. Looking closer, Rhavin saw that Mykul was right. The large horned head was that of a bull. The shorter, but more muscular creature looked to be winning the fight. Rippling arms brutally ravaged the troll's torso, each punch forcing out the audible cracking of bone.
The troll howled even louder. It didn’t plan on losing. Its massive hands gripped the minotaur’s horns, forcing its head into the cave floor. Rhavin could feel the reverberations of the minotaur’s cries. It fought back, kicking wildly, hooved feet flying at the troll. One kick caught flesh and the hoof broke through the troll's skin, lodging itself firmly within its stomach. The troll let go of its horns, creating the opening the minotaur needed. It used the opening to reposition, jumping back to open distance between them.
Blood dripped from the bull head, its skin torn from the assault of the cave floor. The troll held one hand over its stomach’s open wound. Putrid purple blood poured from it, the giant hand unable to dam the flow. The minotaur wasted no time. it ran with its head down, aiming the mighty bone horns at the troll’s chest. With momentum of the run behind it, the minotaur forced the horns into the troll’s chest and roared. The minotaur’s head twisted and turned, using the horns like misshapen spears. The troll let out a low moan before life faded from its body.
“Fucking run Rhav, leave me! Save yourself!” Mykul cried out. He had resumed trying to free himself from the dead weight of Wind. His gaze was focused on the minotaur that now stood above the limp troll.
A war cry tore its way from the horned beast’s throat. Vibrations flowed through Rhavin’s body. The ox man’s hands gripped the troll's head, and with one hoof planted on the troll's chest, it ripped head from body. The beast walked over to where Rhavin and Mykul were. It held up the head, which was still dripping profusely with purple blood, and uttered one word in a strained guttural voice, “Safe.”