Chapter Seven - The Last Bumbat
25 Griev 10.075 Z.C., Afternoon
Outrunning the arresters was no mean feat, but he’d done it. He finally lost them after an hour of weaving up and down a maze of alleys, skybridges, and deep chasms. The Tenth District was the heart of Ravnica. After the guildpact was established ten thousand years ago, it became the core of a city that each successive generation added on to, layer upon layer. It took a keen mind to navigate the convoluted byways of stone and all their divergent depths and heights.
Now in Precinct Six and feeling more secure, Mav trotted across the Smelting Quarter toward his apartment. When he got there, he paused in front of the building. Normally, he went up the east stairs to reach his apartment on the fourteenth floor. Years ago, someone had cursed the east stairs as part of some forgotten spat, and it was perpetually infested with giant spiders. They were a good fight, and he felt it was his duty to clear them out often so they didn’t surprise someone less capable. But today, he was tired.
He would take the east stairs when he went out for dinner later tonight, Mav promised himself. Walking around to the other side of the building, he started up the north staircase. The climb, made arduous by his stiffening shoulders and neck, wore away at his resolve. He found it harder to ignore the deep aching pain gnawing at him. He visualized applying some of the pain-reducing salve he kept under his bed for bad bruises like this. After that, he would drink his last bottle of bumbat and take a nap before venturing out again.
He reached his door and turned the knob halfway, shoving past the resistance of the rusted lock. The mechanism broke the first week he moved in, but he didn’t keep anything here worth stealing, so why bother replacing it? Splatz always came in through the window, but one of the other goblins might need his help and break the lock again to get in if he did replace it.
Walking tiredly inside, he kicked the door shut behind himself and leaned back against it, scowling at the familiar uniformed silhouette in the shadows of his apartment. The human lifted and tipped back the bottle in his hand, finishing the last of Mav’s bumbat. He sniffed and tossed the bottle at an array of other empties standing on the ground near the icebox. They scattered like piranha beetles with a loud crash, although incredibly none of them broke.
“You’re out of bumbat,” Brutus remarked.
Mav waited, flexing his jaw. Dressed in his Boros Wojek uniform, no doubt uncle Brutus skipped a crime scene to come see him, unless he stopped by just to visit. But at this time of day? No doubt Brutus came here to lecture him too. As a friend of his father, Brutus never relented, pressuring Mav for years about joining the Legion to honor the Viktorr name and follow in Ace’s bootprints. As an enforcer of the law, Brutus no doubt also felt responsible for reprimanding Mav when he got into trouble, whether or not someone else beat him to the punch.
Mav didn’t say anything, simply crossing the room to pick up the bottles, as if alone. Brutus crossed his arms.
“You wanna tell me what you was thinking, assaulting a senator, Mav? How many times do I gotta get messages that you’ve spent the night in the drunk tank, huh? You think I like going down there and explainin’ why my boy got locked up again? You think that makes my day better?” Brutus’ voice rose with each successive question, shouting by the end of it.
Just as Mav expected, Brutus came to issue another tonguelashing without asking for his side of the story. The pain in his shoulder pulsed in time with his quickening heartbeat.
“Old man was a minister, not a senator,” Mav started, straightening up and turning to face Brutus with an armful of bottles. “And he had it coming!” Mav shouted back, matching his uncle’s tone. “You know how those Azorius pricks are. He shoved first!”
“That don’ matter, bonebrain. You think your word will stand up against his? Think again. This ain’t what Ace would want to see from you. You know better than startin’ a fight just ‘cause some old man was askin’ to get spanked. Use your head for once!” Brutus’ shouts echoed in the tiny apartment. He shook his head while he paced. “You’re 22 years old for Aurelia’s sake, I can’t protect you forever. If that ol’ blueskin wants you, there’s nothin’ I can do. You’re gonna make this right, Mav.”
“But he hit me!” Mav yelled through a clenched jaw, pointing out his open window. “He would’a killed that goblin boy if I hadn’a been there and you know it.” Uncle Brutus was a stubborn old batterboar. If he’d already decided Mav would have to pay back the old man, fine, but the old man struck first. No way Mav would tolerate doing time for assault.
“You shouldn’a hit back, Mav. You know that. I ain’t sayin’ the senator did right, but neither did you. You dishonor your old man’s memory when you pull shit like this. Time was when people heard Viktorr it really meant something to ‘em. But you ‘Rick, you’re like some sideshow clown. You make a spectacle of yourself, and you’re damn lucky the ‘bloids haven’t dug up anything damaging. Folks are watchin’; you can’t just do whatever you want.”
The veteran wojek knew how to target weaknesses. Used to dealing with these remonstrations, Mav just glared at his uncle. He embraced his anger to shield himself from Brutus’ hurtful words. Of course Mav made mistakes, but he felt Ace would be prouder for his saving the boy’s life. Mav tossed the bottles into a pile by the door.
“You’re gonna pay that old man back for the damage, and you’re gonna earn the money honestly. I’ll make damn sure of that. The allowance your parents left you is running slim anyways, and I’ll be a two-eyed cyclops before I let you dig into the Viktorr fortune, even if you convince Melo to let you blow it out your nose. You need to get a real job, something you can be proud of.” Brutus hesitated. “It’s time you enlisted in the Legion.” The wojek stared at Mav for a long moment, his voice lowering as he finished his speech. Mav felt recognized by his uncle for the first time that evening.
“You alright, kid?” he asked gruffly, nodding at the blackening bruise.
Mav walked past him into the small kitchenette, getting the last of his bread and cheese to share with his uncle. “I’ve had worse,” he quipped with a half-shrug, honestly enough. No doubt his shoulder would be discolored and swollen for a few days, but the injury felt impermanent; no need for a visit to a cleric. He wiped his belt-knife on a clean cloth and cut the cheese in half, then tore the bread in half as well, suppressing a grimace as the motion irritated his sore shoulder.
Tossing Brutus one half, Mav tore some crumbs off his own bread and cheese, leaving them out for his sentry, a large rat called Grubby. He’d found it easier to share with the rats than try to keep them out. Grubby was a big, well-fed rat. As long as Mav kept easy food out for Grubby, he’d claim this room as part of his territory and chase other more problematic and numerous pests out of the apartment.
Brutus shook his head, watching. “Should get yourself caracal,” he commented.
Mav shrugged, wrinkling his nose. “Cat piss stinks.”
They leaned against the counter as they ate. Mav’s spartan decor consisted of a small cot in the far corner and a few dishes. His three chairs broke one by one over the past five years.
The two chatted for a while longer before Brutus announced he needed to get back to his investigation, firing off a parting shot about Mav enlisting so he could do something worth a damn and Ace could rest in peace.
As soon as his uncle left, Mav relaxed. He stripped off his sweaty shirt and grabbed his medical kit from under the bed. As he applied enchanted ointment to the bruise, a quick scrabble of claws and telltale thud told him another visitor just showed up, this time via the window.
“What did he want?” demanded a familiar voice. The glass on the window broke long before Mav moved in. When he got here six years ago, he’d put up heavy cloth curtains to keep the cold out, but that didn’t deter his steady stream of visitors. Neither did being on the top floor. The intrepid goblins of Precinct Six, fearless and surefooted, often scaled walls when traveling around the neighborhood. His best friend Splatz was no exception.
Mav scowled, focused on his uncle’s words, and didn’t bother to look up. Splatz opened the icebox and closed it with a frown.
“He looked pretty mad when he got here.” Splatz paused again, watching Mav treat his injury. “Bump told me what you did for him today, pretty sure he’s told half the warren. You saved his life. Don’t let that crusty old ‘jek shake you up.”
Finished with the salve, Mav gingerly packed up his first aid supplies, kneeling to stow them back under the bed before looking over at Splatz.
“He wants me to repay that rotten excuse for a minister,” he growled, getting to his feet and pacing the small room. “That asshole would have damaged his carriage whether he hit me or the boy. I shouldn’t have to give him a damn zib.”
“Eh, I’ll help you raise the money for it,” Splatz offered. “You got in trouble for helping one of ours, after all.”
“That’s not the point,” Mav countered. “What he did was wrong; why should we have to pay for it?”
Splatz stared at him like he’d been mind-wiped. “Because he’s in a guild and you’re not. C’mon pretty-boy, your looks can’t get you out of every scrape.”
Mav sighed. “Brutus wants me to join the Legion so I can ‘earn the money honestly.’” He affected the ‘jeks gruff demeanor for the impression.
“So, whatcha gonna do about it?” Splatz quizzed, going through Mav’s cupboards and finding them all empty.
Mav pulled his shirt back on to hide his bruises and, after picking up the bottles by the door, he shrugged. “Maybe he’s right. It’s about time we found some honest work. Working with Krenko’s thugs isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” He opened the door with his free hand. “Let’s get something to eat.” The friends walked out, drawn to the smell of street food vendors warming up their grills for dinner service.
- 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!
Join us on Discord! Link above ^