It took them ages, asking locals if they knew where “Redij” was, but at last they found the location. They arrived at a crooked little shack at the farthest end of town. The roof sagged dangerously low. Bruno was reminded of the curved training bows back at the Palace. There was a swinging sign hanging above the open door that read “Redij’s Little Magic Shoppe”. As they got closer, Bruno noticed the wood of the door frame was rotted and black and wet. There were mushrooms growing out at the base. Bruno touched the wood out of curiosity. Much to Bruno’s amazement, a plume of purple powder puffed out of the squishy wood! Bruno was dumbfounded as he watched the wood restore to it’s original shape.
“Don’t touch anything!” scolded Matar. “You … never know with this man.”
“Who’s there?!” yelled a man from inside the Little Magic Shoppe.
“It’s Toten… ” Matar said hesitantly.
“Toten… Toten… That name sounds so familiar. Where do I know that name from?”
“You don’t remember me, do you, Redizio?”
“I haven’t been called Redizio in a long, long time. Not since… Not since the war… Oh no. It’s you. It’s you! No. Go away Toten. I want nothing to do with you. Go! Be gone!”
“Wait, Redizio. Hear us out.” Matar stepped toward the open doorway.
“No! I have no business with you. Not after what you’ve done. Don’t bother me ever again!” And the door slammed shut in their faces.
Bruno backed away with his head slumped. Matar explained more about the mission. They needed this man, Redij, or Redizio, or what ever he was called, to bring him to the Palace. He was a very good healer. The Palace always needed more healers. Yet here they were, at a dead end. They couldn’t bring him back to the Palace, and that meant Bruno couldn’t go back to the Palace. The Queen would never accept a mission failure and Matar certainly wouldn’t accept a mission failure.
Matar didn’t look too terribly troubled. He always had a plan B. Either that, or it was all part of a bigger plan. They walked aimlessly through the shady corner of town.
Suddenly from nowhere a man fell on Matar and rolled with him. The two grappled until finally the other man was on top with a knife to Matar’s throat. Bruno noticed that the man was dressed in all black. Matar and the man proceeded to have a conversation in complete silence, nose to nose. Bruno could only guess what they were talking about.
“What are you doing with that man, Redij?” Asked the man-in-black with an eye twitch.
“He’s an ally. We’re here to escort him back with us to our homeland.” said Matar with a wink.
“I suspected him of working with the La Roca’s. Now I suspect you.”
“Believe me, we want to kill everyone associated with the La Roca family. If this man has any links with those lot, taking him from here will surely break them. Help us and we’ll help you. Just like old times, huh?” Matar smirks.
“You know what I want. Fuerzo La Roca must die at my hands. No less. You think you can help me in that endeavor?” The man demanded, scrunching his eyebrows.
“Do you know where to find Fuerzo?”
“Yes, I just need a clean shot.”
“Then consider it done.” Matar said in his eyes.
The man in black glared for a moment longer, snorted an amused breath, then jumped up. The two brushed the dust from their clothes. The man in black indicated with a pointed finger over pursed lips that they should be quiet. He motioned them to follow. They snuck through the shadows, quietly tip-toeing around each corner until they arrived at the back door to the Shoppe. The man-in-black pulled a leather pouch from his belt and unrolled it on the ground. He pulled out a pair of shiny metal tools and went to work. The man stuck his tongue out reflexively as he worked. His deft fingers fiddled and finessed his shiny picks through the lock in the door. Moments later, the three of them heard a faint “click”. The sound was especially rich for Bruno. For some reason the sound echoed in his ears, pleasing like a reward, but for work he didn’t do. He made a mental note to think about it later.
They walked silently through the cracked door. Bruno let every detail soak in as he crossed inside. The interior of the building was pristine. One wall was covered entirely by brown leather bound books from floor to ceiling. There was a rolling wall ladder to access the highest books. A second wall was covered by shelves of various glassware. A third wall was covered by devices Bruno didn’t recognize. The ones he did recognize were the balance scales, a telescope, and a telescope mounted to a plate, standard weights, coils of wire, a pestle and mortar. In the middle of the room was a table with various liquids flowing and looping through glassware, being heated, boiling, whistling, popping, buzzing and bubbling.
“Hey! Who’s there? What are you doing in my shop?” Redizio turned around from his work at the table.
“Redizio, we need you to come back with us to our homeland. The Queen needs your services at the Palace. I humbly ask that you come with us.”
“No! I told you to go away! What part of that didn’t you understand! GO – AWAY!”
“Can’t we put the past behind us?”
“NOOOOOOO!” Yelled Redizio, breathing heavily. “I can’t tell you how many nights I spent awake after that night. The anguish! The guilt! Did you know I gave up healing after that night? Done!”. Redizio spat with disgust.
“I asked nicely… Don’t make me -” Matar was saying when Redizio cut him off.
“Oh here’s Toten, here to save the day again with violence.”
“Master,” interjected Bruno, “What is he talking about?”
“Not now, Bruno”
“No, tell the boy, Toten. I think now is a fiiiine time.” Said Redizio smugly.
Matar’s eyes clouded over with memories. “It was during the War, Bruno. Those were different times. We were in enemy territory. Just me and one-hundred or so of the Late King Tarafitto’s finest rangers. By that time we were whittled down to thirty-seven. Out numbered more than a hundred to one, cornered on all sides” Matar inhaled sharply and his eyes closed “I made a bold decision. We rushed the castle. I was hoping to catch the fat King Fafta by surprise. It was a gamble, I admit. I lost. They slaughtered every last one of us…”
Bruno was shocked at learning this. He knew that Matar had a colorful history, but no idea that he was involved in the War so intimately. “What?… How?… How did you make it out alive?” Bruno stammered breathlessly.
“I almost didn’t.” chuckled Matar sadly. I had been pierced by no less than three arrows. The arrows were barbed so I couldn’t pull them out myself. I laid there dying for what felt like an eternity. I was certain that I would soon be dead. I made peace with death and just waited for it to come. Then from nowhere, one of King Fafta’s doctors came searching soldier by soldier, looking for survivors and healing the wounded. He healed over one hundred men, including me and a handful of ours, with bandages and various fluids in tiny glass bottles.”
Redizio spat again, loud and venomously this time.
Matar resumed his story. His voice was loud, but not strong. “I got up, brushed myself off, and proceeded to kill the remaining soldiers of King Fafta that Redizio had just finished healing. With no one left to stop me, I continued to kill King Fafta, his queen, his children, and everyone else carrying the name of Fafta within the Castle. Every- last- one. ”
Redizio shook with rage. “I have regretted that day more than anything in entire my life. I should have let you bleed to death. I should have twisted the arrows in deeper. I should have mixed up which potion I gave you and melted your throat. I’ve been trying to keep track of all the things I should have done on that day, but I’ve lost count!”
Matar looked at Redizio in the eyes and said coolly, “You were under oath to heal the sick. You did what you had to do. I was under oath to serve my king. I did what I had to do.”
The two stared at each other for a long time. They each relived the moment over and over again.
“Leave. I have much work to do here in the lab. I am perfecting a potion that allows me to heal myself from any ailment. I don’t have time for you and your petty wars and your royal pleasantries.”