Into the Wild – Chapter 29
Chapter 29 – Mat
“Home again,” growled Mat.
“Dare I ask what the hell happened back there?” remarked Devon ignoring Mat’s sarcasm. Together they walked the cave looking for signs someone had been there. “It seems the shields held; we’ll need to check them before we leave.”
Mat grunted. He was still trying to wrap his head around what the fuck had happened? It was a good question. It had started as nothing more than a guild check-in in a local village but turned into god knows what, a cluster fuck was the first description that came to mind. If anything, his plan had only succeeded in transforming itself into something new, what that was he had no idea. As Mat busied himself chewing on his inner lower lip, he watched Devon bring the old logs in the fire pit back to life.
Devon turned his attention back to Mat and raised an eyebrow. “Oh, so that wasn’t a rhetorical question? Well, in all honesty, I think it didn’t go quite as I’d hoped.”
“You think, not sure what the plan was, but whatever was happening when we left seemed a bit much even for you. Where is Lok?”
Looking up to the opening high in the domed ceiling, Mat made a face and closed his eyes for a second, focusing outwards. “He should be here in about ten minutes.”
“Yes, where else do you think I’d send him.”
“You’re bringing him back to our secret bat cave?”
“Well, yea sorta.”
“But he won’t be leaving, I guess,” prompted Devon as he started pulling supplies from his bag.
“Who knows, he’ll have a hand in making that decision. But if you want my guess, no, he will not. Is that going to be a problem?”
Mat saw the flash in Devon’s eyes. It was a tiny burst of light, similar to when a fuse sparks to life just before the explosion. That ‘oh shit’ moment onlookers see a millisecond before they are little more than memories and brain matter. Mat had seen it a couple of times in Devon and was startled at its intensity. The resentment and anger which flowed from his friend’s body had breached like a dam allowing his fury to radiate out as several items in the room burst into flames. Seeing the reaction to his emotions, Devon took a deep breath, and as the fires died, he said, “No, it will not be a problem. Look what he did to us..fuck us, look at what they did to you. No, they told us when they sent us here that we, you, whoever, had a purpose. Well, I’m not sure what it is, but I will not fucking stand by and allow us to become the whipping boys for overzealous idiots like Lok.”
Mat made an approving nod. “So they finally breached that reasonable façade. Well, then it was almost worth the beating,” Mat said then cringed. “Can I assume your anger means I can finish this misstep my way?”
“I can’t say yet since I don’t know what you’ve got planned but based upon the beating. The fucking imprisonment. Most of all, the reaction of the whole village to what that maniac had planned, I’m pretty sure I’ll overlook a lot. But try to remember, we’re the good guys, Mat. He is not. This is his bed, and I’m content to let him lie in it.”
“This isn’t what I expected,” barked Mat as his dam broke as well, and he started pacing, stomping between words. “We were supposed to go to a fucking medieval world, and so far, it’s been nothing but challenge after challenge.” Devon’s face held no more surprise than his own at his outburst. His anger was so intense and buried so deep even he hadn’t seen it surface. For a long while, no one spoke until finally exhausted Mat collapsed beside the fire. Devon sat down beside him. When Mat couldn’t take it any longer, he said, “What?” His question carried a tired calm.
“Think of it two ways,” started Devon
“Please don’t tell me you’re about to be practical. I cant deal with practical right now,” said Mat weakly.
“First, it’s exactly what we should’ve expected. The town has rules, what with the guilds and all, but so did our old world. And yes, the Druids guild..” continued Devon ignoring Mat’s pleas for continued irrationality. He felt hands on his shoulders and winced as Devon motioned for him to turn around so he could reach his back. Looking over his shoulder, expecting Mat to continue, he saw him take a deep breath and knew he was reaching for that pool of energy he carried inside him. With palms flat, he touched Mat’s back, causing him to wince as a wave of healing energy coursed into his body. Closing his eyes as the pain faded, he took in and let out a long slow breath.
“Ex-Druids guild,” corrected Mat weakly.
“Yes, the ex-Druids guild was nothing short of a Jim Jones compound but still. The village and stuff have been pretty cool,” continued Devon as he continued healing.
“Yea, I guess,” shrugged Mat as he took another deep breath of relief. “Oh, that feels much better.”
“Good, but I think it’s going to scar.”
“That’s fine, I want a reminder of how sloppy we…I’ve been,” said Mat.
“The more I think about it, the less I think it’s that different. We’ve both read tons of fantasy books, and horrible shit is always going down. The books are just from the main character’s point of view. But think about it, all the struggles, the warlords, the crazy monsters, and insane wizards. The villagers wiped out by the rampaging hordes; those are people with families. The plot moves on. The reader’s focus turns away, but for them, their lives are still shattered, and they were left to pick up the pieces. So this is the world we’ve read about, but now the consequences are also there for us to see. They’re no longer words on a page or screen, and we don’t have a rez point just around the corner,” said Devon.
“We might want to step back. I’m not sure Darth can make it through the hole in the roof,” commented Mat as they both took several steps away from the opening high above.
“And if he can’t?”
“Then I’d bet on a high probability it’s about to be raining pissed off druid cows.”
“Mat! He is still a person.”
“HE BEAT ME DEVON. HE BEAT ME,” barked Mat, his voice cracking.
Taking a deep breath, Mat put his arm around his friend as they took several more steps back. Much calmer, he added, “This was a hard lesson but a lesson none the less.
As a shadow passed over the opening, they watched a figure drop through the air and hurtled downwards, crashing to the ground with a disturbing thud. Rushing over, they found the crumpled body of Lok laying half in the fire. Pulling him out, they put him on his back as Devon knelt, rubbing his hands together.
“What are you doing?”
“Do you want him dead? Look at his fucking legs.”
Shaking his head in an attempt to control his rage at seeing the Druid leader again, Mat walked away. “No, see to him. His death is not in my plan, only the wish for it.”
Devon shot Mat a worried look then turned his attention to the broken body in front of him. The druid was in horrible shape, probably the worst he’d seen. Both legs broken, one just below the knee, or whatever a cow calls the bend in their leg, the other just below his groin. His right arm also bent in several new angles, and the left lost under his torso. Looking at Devon Mat could see him weighing options. The decisions, one after another, danced across his friend’s face until finally, Devon’s hands begin to glow. About halfway through the process, they heard a groan. Picking up a rock, Mat delivered a blow to the back of the Druid’s head. “Heal that was well. I want him unconscious until we can get him bound. He’s still a magic-user.”
“You go sit over there and get a grip on your anger,” barked Devon pointing across the cave. Mat knew his friend was right; he could still feel the torrent of fury raging so intense it was making his head throb. Stripping off his bloody tights and boots, Mat dove into the pool at the back of the cave. With a gasp from the cold, he floated for several seconds then swam over to the waterfall where the pool was deeper. Filling his lungs, he plunged under, letting his body sink to the bottom.
Finding a decent sized stone, Mat crossed his legs and placed it in his lap. Resting his hands on his knees, he closed his eyes as his body slowly consumed the oxygen in his lungs. He needed to give his mind something other than the rage to focus on, so he used the struggle to help clear his head. There he sat, for one minute, two, then more until he could only focus on his need to breathe. As he felt his mind start to slip away, he pushed the rock aside and shot upwards. Breaking the surface with a gasp, he sucked in a lung full of air as he wearily swam towards the edge of the pond and pulled himself onto the dusty edge, still panting. When he finally looked back, he found Devon watching him. With a nod, he let his friend know he was alright. Devon returned to his work on the druid.
Mat noticed that Lok’s legs were now pointing in the right direction. He considered and discarded the thought of breaking them again. He knew he couldn’t do that. It’d be wrong. He chuckled to himself, fuck wrong, Devon would be insufferable. He instead headed outside for some fresh air. It seemed he still had some anger issues to get under control. Climbing back up to his old perch, he let out a whistle and quickly saw the shadow of Darth, now smaller, appear over the rocks, and come to light on the ledge beside him. “Will you be disappointed if I don’t give you the druid?” Mat asked.
“I am here to serve, Master.”
“That is not what I asked.”
“No, Master, it will not upset this one.”
“Thank you. I’ll get you one soon.”
“Might I ask why?”
“Lok is a druid; he might have better uses. I want to keep my options open.”
“Will it aid you, Master?”
“I’m not sure yet,” answered Mat as he stroked the smooth dark head of his minion.
“The other Master is not pleased.”
“I know, he doesn’t approve of killing. Do you see what happened at the compound?”
“Yes, Master,” answered Darth as he started to explain but was cut off by Mat’s wave of a hand.
“I don’t want to know. Well, at least not yet.”
By the time, several hours later, Mat returned to the cave, he found Devon finished. Mat secured the newly healed but still unconscious druid and gagged him. According to his friend, it seemed, that dropping someone from such a height not only broke bones but played havoc with their internal organs.
“Was it a struggle to carry that much weight?” Mat asked as he and Devon ate.
“At first Master, but once I compensated for the weight, the trip was smooth. Are you sure I cannot eat him? What I picked from between my toes had a good flavor.”
“No, sadly, not this one. We will find you a fresh druid tomorrow,” chuckled Mat admiring his minions newly acquired sense of humor as Devon humph his disapproval.
“Thank you, master,” answered the bat. “Hungry now, is master in further need of me?
“No, run along,” answered Mat as the creature took wing and quickly vanished out the opening in the ceiling.
“He is advancing so quickly. How much more can you do with him?” asked Devon.
“I’m not really sure. From my understanding, he should be about at the top of his abilities. He was never supposed to have this strong of communication skills, only rudimentary. I think he’s been eating things he shouldn’t. It’s the only reason I can think of for the advancement.”
“Eating things he shouldn’t. What shouldn’t he be eating that if he did, might aid him in cognitive skills?”
“I think you’ve answered your own question.”
“Oh Gawd, he’s eating people?”
“In all honesty, eating might be a bit of an overreach. Think of it more as consuming their souls or at least a portion of it. Before you get started, I’ll talk with him. How is Lok?” asked Mat in an attempt to change the subject.
“He is as good as I can get him at this point,” remarked Devon as he stood and stretched. He looked tired.
“You should get some rest. You look like hell.”
“Too bad, no mirror, you’d see you aren’t much better,” commented Devon. “What are you going to do with him now that you have him?”
“I can’t answer that yet without some research.”
“Will I approve of any of them?”
“We both know that answer to that. Get some rest. We will talk in the morning.”
“Fine. Just remember, Mat, we are the good guys. It does not matter who they are. We don’t need to be like them.”
“Devon stop. If anyone attacks either of us or our property, I will defend us. Get used to that now, or this is going to be a tough road for you. This appears to be a world of warriors and wizards, just like we wanted. We have now seen first hand how force is used indiscriminately against others. As you pointed out, it’s the nature of the world. I’ve no more interest in being cruel or killing than you do, but if they push me, I will push back.”
“But what if word of all of this gets out? Did you think of what that will say about us?”
“Devon, what’s the best way of staying alive in the fantasy books?”
Devon frowned. “Reputation matters,” he added as he prepared his bedroll and settled down to rest.
“Exactly. Over time, through the judicious show of force, we will hopefully be required to show less force. Or reputation will do that work for us. See you in the morning.”