Chapter Six - Legacy
27 Dhazo 10.063 Z.C., Morning
Mav stared at the blackened shells of houses left in the wake of last month’s five-alarm fire, and they stared back into his soul. Glancing over at his father’s hand as they walked, Mav chewed his lip. He wanted to put his hand in the safety of his father’s much larger hand, but he wasn’t a little kid anymore. He was almost ten; he shouldn’t need his father to hold his hand.
Again, the husks drew his attention. He wondered if anyone had died here. If not, where were the people now? He’d never really thought about how high some spires had been stacked over generations of growth, until he saw them come tumbling to the ground...
“You’re awfully quiet. I know the burglary upset you - are you okay?” his father asked.
Mav scowled, looking down at his feet and kicking a rock as they walked. It skittered along the cobblestones ahead of them, ending up in a pile of scorched wreckage.
The burglary - yet another uncomfortable topic he’d rather not talk about. His best friend Splatz robbed them; Mav didn’t have any proof, but he knew it. A week ago his dad invited Splatz to stay the night at their house. Things had been tough for Splatz since the fire tore through the warrens. But the Viktorr estate was spared, and Ace opened its doors to his son’s friend.
And how did Splatz repay that kindness? Mav knew he would never forget the hungry look on the goblin’s face when he saw their lavish antiques and furnishings… And now most of it was gone, even that garish footstool left to them by crazy aunt Izolda.
“I’m fine … just- the arresters. I don’t wanna talk,” Mav mumbled, hoping his father would leave the subject alone.
It wasn’t every day your best friend robbed you, and Mav didn’t know how to feel about it. Splatz was a good guy, and a good friend. Why did he have to steal their stuff - didn’t he trust them enough to ask for their help? And why hadn’t he come back to see Mav since? He’d looked in all their usual hangouts, but hadn’t been able to find Splatz anywhere. The two hadn’t gone a whole week without seeing each other since they first met.
He couldn’t believe Splatz had betrayed him like that, but he was also worried something bad happened to his friend. Maybe they could patch it up if Splatz apologized, but if the Azorius arresters talked to Mav and used their law magic to squeeze the truth out of him… Splatz could be in real trouble.
So he decided to go to Sunhome with his dad for a few days. Ace was based at the Legion’s headquarters, where many officers treated Mav as something of a mascot. It was fun to be the center of attention when he was younger, but he didn’t like being called Lil’ Ricky so much these days. Still, better to be teased by his surrogate uncles than be interrogated by the arresters. No way the Azorius could get to him in the very heart of the Legion.
The pair kept walking, and before long they reached Splatz’ neighborhood. Most people in Ravnica considered the goblin warrens the worst part of any precinct, but Mav liked them. They were little cities of their own, a big extended family where everyone looked after each other. Two days ago he searched every hidden room and abandoned tunnel in the hollowed remains of the building; he hadn’t found Splatz nor would anyone tell him anything. As disappointing as that was, it was harder seeing how much the goblins lost to the fire that swept across the city.
Ace cleared his throat, breaking the silence that had stretched out for a few blocks. Mav looked up at him.
“You hungry, ‘Rick? I’m not sure what time you usually eat breakfast.”
Not wanting to inconvenience his father more than he already was, Mav shook his head.
“I’m not hungry,” he lied. “I got some breakfast from the kitchen before we left.”
Ace nodded, then steered them toward a busy market stall. “Well, I’m starving, so don’t die of boredom while we wait in line,” he joked, ruffling Mav’s hair.
Mav looked down, avoiding the empty gaze of the blackened buildings. Out of the corner of his eye, Mav saw the man ahead in front of them shift oddly.
“Mr. Viktorr?” he asked, his voice laced with disbelief. The stranger’s exuberant red and black garb marked him as a Rakdos cultist, the batons and twisted knives on his belt likely part of his act. The performer stared Ace dead in the eye, who looked uncomfortable as more heads turned.
The cultist gave him a half-bow, followed by a sloppy salute. “You saved my brother’s life sir! Please, you and your boy go ahead of me,” he asserted, motioning at Mav and then waving for them to go on ahead. “It’s the least I can do to repay you!”
Ace shook his head firmly.
“No, thank you. I was just doing my duty. I’m glad I was able to reach him in time,” he demurred, his voice low. The cultist identified his sincerity with a slow nod before looking down at Mav, giving the boy a wink and crooked smile.
“Your old man is a hero. And you’re going to be just like him.” The stranger tapped his own head slyly without breaking eye contact. “I know; Rakdos tells me these things.”
The attendant called the cultist to the counter. The Viktorrs waited in silence, each content in their own thoughts, until they were called up next. Ace ordered breakfast for both he and Mav, despite his son’s earlier protestations. They ate on the road to Sunhome, without further discussion.
Mav went to Sunhome with his dad at least twice a month, on their live-in’s days off. Although familiar to the sight, it always filled the young man with awe. The high towering walls, dotted with waving banners emblazoned with the stark red-and-white fist of the Legion, and the gleaming armor of the soldiers dazzled him. High above, angels and skyknights circled - nothing escaped their vigilant gaze.
Ace waved and casually saluted others as they went through the gates into Sunhome, heading up to the roc aerie high up one of the towers. Mav loved going up to the skyknights’ stable, and treasured every chance he got to meet the giant eagles. For years he could only see the fierce and fiery raptors from a distance - older now, the nest wardens allowed him to approach close enough to touch. The boy once heard his father’s wingmates joke about Lil’ Ricky being about the right size for a roc treat. He still felt chills of fear and excitement whenever the large birds eyed him.
After greeting his wingmates, Ace led Mav over to his own mount, Lucky. He greeted the aerie staff, and they left the stall. Together, Ace and Mav took over the daunting task of grooming Lucky. Knowing the tasks, father and son worked together for some time before Ace broke the silence again.
“So Mav,” he cleared his throat before continuing, “It seems like you need to get something off your chest. I promise you, you won’t get in trouble. I just want to know the truth.” He paused again, looking his son in the eye. “Is there something you want to tell me about the robbery?”
His father’s quiet words carried easily to Mav, filled with firm reassurance. Mav kept his eyes on his work, brushing Lucky’s golden feathers. He knew he ought to talk with his father, but he didn’t usually put his feelings into words, and he didn’t want to get Splatz into any more trouble than he might be in. Still, he didn’t want to disappoint his father - he knew how much Ace valued honesty.
“Was probably goblins. Can’t trust ‘em anyways,” he grumbled, just loud enough for his father to hear. Ace grimaced.
“Why do you think that?” Ace controlled his tone, neutral and encouraging.
Mav hesitated, struggling with the idea of lying to his father. In the end, he settled for a different truth.
“I heard one of the wojeks say it,” he mumbled.
Wincing, the skyknight picked up a clean cloth and rubbed down Lucky’s scaly legs and razor-sharp talons with a protective oil.
“Listen, Mav,” he started after a long pause. “Just because someone says something, even a wojek, that doesn’t make it true. There are a lot of people in Ravnica, from all different backgrounds, with different situations in life. You’re a very lucky kid. Not everyone has the kind of support you do, or a good family with money and estates. It’s especially hard for goblins because so few of the guilds really respect them as people like you and me. Being poor and guildless in Ravnica brings people into very desperate situations, and that can tempt them to make bad decisions. But that doesn’t make them bad people.”
Mav studied a loose feather while his father studied him.
“What would you do for your family if we lost everything in the fire?” he asked, his voice calm and firm.
Mav felt his heart sink in his chest - he hadn’t thought about how badly Splatz and his family needed the things he stole. The burned husks flashed in his mind again, haunting him. Time seemed to slow down as Mav considered the answer to the question. When he finally met Ace’s eyes, his father went on.
“As Viktorrs, we command more than just wealth and possessions. We carry a proud name, and proud traditions. Our name holds a lot of influence and respect, Maverick. When we speak, others listen. In this city of immemorial guilds, that is a great power. And it should be used to help other people. Especially right now, when so many people have lost so much.”
His father’s gentle words uncorked the emotions Mav held at bay. His guilt over the fire and the theft, his anger at Splatz’ betrayal, and the ever-present sorrow from the loss of his mother overpowered him. His eyes watered and he shoved the feather in his pocket, looking at his feet so Ace wouldn’t see his tears.
Ace stepped closer and put an arm around him, hugging him tight.
“It’s the duty of the Viktorr family to serve others, Maverick. That’s why so many generations have enlisted in the Legion, and some in other guilds too, because they put their service to this great city before themselves. I’ll be proud of you no matter what you choose to do with your life, as long as you put service to others first. We are incredibly blessed, and with those blessings comes the duty to protect those less fortunate than us. That’s what makes you a Viktorr,” he said, giving Mav’s arm a reassuring squeeze.
Wiping his eyes with the back of his wrist, Mav tried to smile up at his father but couldn’t stop his bottom lip from quivering.
“‘Ey Firebird, you in there? The mages have mustered. It’s time to show ‘em what we can do!” shouted another skyknight from further down the aerie. Mav recognized his voice as one of his father’s wingmates, Ynigo. Ace put up a hand and signalled to Ynigo he’d heard, and patted Mav’s back.
“Alright, it’s time for you to head to the gymnasium. I’ll come get you when we’re done for the day.” They headed out of the stall together, walking towards the aerie’s imposing doors. “You can pick dinner tonight, okay? Think about what you want while I’m gone.”
A Sunhome guard beckoned to Mav, and led him through the maze of stairs and passages leading down from the aerie to the gymnasium complex where on-duty officer’s children and other kids got sent for supervision. Mav looked around the large room the guard escorted him to, then they nodded to him and left. This was a different facility than he usually went to, with lots of intriguing exercise equipment. From the looks of it, the older children played and trained in this gymnasium. Mav suspected he was among the youngest here today.
As he walked in, several of the Boros trainers who were overseeing practices looked up. He could sense them watching him with the curious kind of hunger he often felt in his father’s shadow. A sense of expectation. They wanted to see what the next scion of the Viktorr family could do.
He spotted a group of kids sitting on the floor in the nearest corner of the room; they seemed to be playing a game with cards. Instead of training, he walked over to join them. When he got closer, he recognized the cards from the popular game Demi. There were four children playing. One, a nerdy-looking elf, was all legs, arms, and ears, topped with a blond mop of hair. Next to him sat a vedalken boy wearing goggles, his blue skin clashing with his Razia-red tunic. The other two looked like siblings, or maybe from the same warren, one a boy and the other a girl. The goblins lounged in what Mav recognized as handout clothes, while the elf and vedalken sat tall and straight.
“Can I play, too?” Mav asked.
The goblins looked to the elf, the apparent leader of the pack. The young elf shrugged.
“Sure,” he said, sizing Mav up.
Mav stepped closer to take a seat, before the vedalken held up a hand to stop him.
“These are my cards,” he said, his tone dry and nasal. “You will have to wash your hands before touching them.”
Mav glanced at the other kids and then his own hands, which looked fairly clean from helping his father groom Lucky.
“Can’t you just enchant them clean later? There’s gotta be a spell for that,” Mav protested. The vedalken looked horrified at the proposal and shook his head, pointing toward the washroom. Sighing, Mav did as asked.
After freshening up and washing his hands, he dried them quickly on his pants and returned to the table. The vedalken inspected him through the thick lenses of his goggles when he returned, then nodded approvingly. His slender blue fingers held out two stacks of cards as Mav sat down on the floor between him and the goblins.
“I have two decks left, giants or soldiers,” the other boy stated matter-of-factly.
Without pause Mav claimed the soldier themed cards, the elf boy rolling his eyes. Mav pretended to ignore this, and listened attentively as the other kids explained the rules and how to play. Demi required a lot of reading, especially for a new player. Mav felt comfortable reading, but he preferred physical play to laboring through books. Still, the goblins didn’t seem deterred, and Mav quickly learned they didn’t know how to read at all. He decided to just play with his gut and have a good time.
Mav felt lucky, getting an Agrus Kos card on his first draw. He’d heard a lot about that old soldier, a Boros wojek from the turn of the decamillennia. The model ‘jek, many of his surrogate uncles idolized Kos and his famed exploits. There was even a statue of him in Precinct Two. Mav had a good feeling about this game.
The young vedalken was clearly the best player, but that wasn’t surprising since they were his Demi cards. He played an arrester deck and seemed focused on taking the goblins out of the game, totally ignoring the elf. The elf, playing an elf-themed deck, destroyed Mav before he could even get started. Mav ruefully looked at the unplayed Agrus Kos in his hand as he lost the first game, running a finger along its edge.
The elf clicked his lips. “Wanna play again?” he taunted.
Frustrated at not being able to play his Agrus Kos card, he settled in to beat them at their own game.
“You’re on,” Mav replied with a nod, determined to win this time.
They shuffled their cards and drew new hands for the next game. This time, Mav drew several skyknight and roc cards, which he played as quickly as he was able, attacking the elf first to get an early advantage.
When Mav played his second skyknight, his rival gave him a strange look and a sly smirk.
“By the way, I’m Caeldrim. Call me Cael. My friend here,” he elfsplained, motioning to the vedalken, “is Trib.”
Mav nodded, and noticed the goblins defer to him. Uncomfortable, Mav coughed.
“Names don’t matter, let’s just play the game,” he muttered, looking at his cards. It sounded like something Kos would say. The goblins chuckled and nodded. When Mav looked up, Cael stared him down with narrowed eyes.
“Doesn’t matter, huh? That’s funny, you sure look a lot like him,” he said, pointedly tapping the skyknight card Mav just played. “You wouldn’t be Skyjek Viktorr’s son, would you?”
Mav choked - had he met this kid before and forgotten? He looked down at the card, examining the art more closely. He squinted, and even though Ace’s face was smaller than the head on an alms coin, he couldn’t deny that it was his old man. Cael pulled the card closer, tapping the text at the bottom. A small illusion projected from the card read, “The Legion needs your blade!” This popular slogan was as old as Guildmaster Aurelia, but the illusion credited the line to Ace Viktorr.
“Wow, your dad is the Firebird?” one of the goblins piped up. Their eyes widened, impressed. Mav’s cheeks flushed red with embarrassment, and he fiddled with the cards in his hand some more.
“I already said it doesn’t matter, let’s just play the game,” he said, a little more forcefully this time.
Cael snorted. “Yeah, okay. Maybe your daddy will help you win this time.”
Furious, Mav’s fingers tightened around the cards. He fought the urge to rip them up and throw the shreds in Cael’s angular gloating face. His father’s words echoed in his head; “When we speak, others listen.” Testing the theory, he glanced over at the goblins. Indeed, they watched him for reaction, eager to see how he would respond. Mav pushed aside the urge to surrender to frustration, choking back his molten fury at being singled out and having his father insulted.
Being a Viktorr isn’t about winning every match, Mav thought to himself. He hated losing, and he wanted to win, but something told him this was right. Something about the way the goblins looked at him.
“Will you end your turn already? I want to finish this game sometime before sunset,” Trib remarked snidely over his cards, looking at Mav and ignoring Cael.
Scowling, Mav ended his turn.
Hours later, Mav’s head ached from all the reading and unfamiliar strategies. They’d played at least half a dozen games so far, and he’d only won once. The goblin kids were still having a great time, admiring the beautiful art on the cards. They were at a serious disadvantage, not being able to read the effects on each card, and only won a single game between the two of them. Caeldrim appeared about as agitated as Mav, and when the game ended and Trib asked to play again, Mav and Cael shook their heads in unison, then glared at each other when they realized they’d done what the other wanted.
“I’m all through, but thanks. Good game,” Mav said, holding out his hand.
Trib blinked at him, looking at the offered hand like it was a mortipede. Cael rolled his eyes at both of them, but shook Mav’s hand firmly.
“Yeah, if you call that good,” the elf replied, withdrawing his hand from Mav’s grip as soon as possible.
The goblins whispered to each other, so they were no help with a comeback. Mav bit his tongue and tried to think of something to say to Cael. As he did, he looked around the gymnasium, taking stock of his surroundings. He’d lost track of what was going on while they played, engrossed in the Demi games.
On the far side of the room, Mav saw a vedalken wojek enter the room, followed by Brutus, another ‘jek and one of his father’s close friends. He watched, puzzled, as they both surveyed the room. Brutus spotted Mav and nudged the vedalken. As they walked toward the youngsters in the corner, Mav noticed Brutus avoided meeting his gaze. A pit opened in Mav’s stomach as Brutus approached, holding a bundle of cloth in his hands. Razia-red cloth. The heavy velvet material of a skyknight cloak. His father’s cloak.
- United States
The Boros Bachelor is based on a DnD campaign my husband is running. I've been writing since I was a young teen, and while I don't have as much time to write now that I have a career, my writing has certainly improved. In addition to being a talented dreamweaver and storyteller, my husband has professional editing experience. The Boros Bachelor is a joint project which combines our skills and talents to create something unique. We hope you enjoy our story as much as we do!
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