The Traders had returned with their goods. As they guided the team of horses their shoulders hung somberly; faces set with a mixture of dismay and anxiety that told a well-known, yet uncommon, story. Reva had been destroyed. The wagon had barely come to a halt inside the palisade before the tensions of fear and paranoia had blanketed the gathering mass. The bustle and noise suddenly was eclipsed by a hush respected by all but animal.
Argus ventured toward the crowd, leaving the wool and spindle entirely forgotten. With no thought of the usual scorn faced for abandoning a task unfinished; he was compelled toward the silent throng. Like the others he was pulled by a secret curiosity, there was a simultaneous allure and dread to the taboo and mystery that held their tongues. A word, and world, so rarely spoken of was in the front of everyone’s mind: Magic.
As the Chair Councilor hedged forward through the crowd she gave a permissive look to the father of the Traders.
Lubbock responded firmly a single word, “Alchemist”.
In unison the crowd gasped in horror, there were a few fugitive sobs which were quickly stifled.
Greta disheartened nodded back at him and replied, “So it is”.
Upon that brief exchange people took to work and the murmuring shuffle of dispersion. The horses were unhitched and taken to water. Others waved the Traders homeward with assurances that the wares would be managed and the wagon seen to. Clearly road-worn, Lubbock thanked them and led his sons toward their cottage. Abruptly the village nearly seemed normal once more; with the smell of hearth-fire and the typical sounds of rolling wooden wheels and bleating sheep.
Argus returned to his work; certain the topic would be further addressed in the evening. He sat back onto his upturned bucket and resumed carving the simple drop spindle. As he absently etched the aesthetic touches into the whorl, he allowed his mind to venture to that one word with all its implications. Reva was not that much larger than his own village, yet somehow one of its people had become corrupted. Somehow an alchemist had lived among them undiscovered. He wondered why one would fall prey to such evil, when all knew where it would inevitably lead. How could a member of a village, a family, knowingly lead all they love into ungodly annihilation? What was it actually like? All they knew of the various forms of magic were tales of their destroyed remnants. What was it that caused the scorched crumbling buildings and smoldering bodies left by an alchemist? He suddenly realized he was falling into the seductive nature of such curiosities, and guiltily chastised himself for it. Giving allowance to such thoughts was surely how it always had started.
He evaluated his carving. He was pleased as he slid the taper of the shaft into the whorl and tapped the fitting until the join was snug; testing the device with some wool he spun a length of yarn. Satisfied, he stood and righted the bucked. He placed the wool inside with the newly fashioned spindle on top and walked to the Shepherd’s cottage. Upon knocking he was greeted by Senya the daughter for whom the object was fashioned. Argus would have liked to have seen it received under happier circumstances than this day had provided; none-the-less, Senya looked at the carvings with appreciation. Taking the spindle she offered her gratitude with the grace Argus always saw in her. As he left to return the wool to the Weavers he took note of the gravity in the village, that for a moment he had forgotten. The chatter that could be heard was all in hushed tones; everyone he saw had a furtive glance in their eyes, and worried expressions at the corners of their mouths. He looked forward to the evening and the words of the council more and more.