Vehn Rous and The Strange Visitor
by Patrick Coughlin
THE STRANGE VISITOR
One day Vehn Rous, who is known as The Mouse, shortly after his inheritance of the scavenger’s cart, and some short years before his long imprisonment by his enemy, the Syntian King, was scavenging a spent battlefield when he came upon a soldier who looked dead, was truly all but dead, but was still a little bit alive.
Summoning his scavenger’s cart to his side, he loaded the poor bastard in and left that
place for healthier climes, a grassy spot next to a cold mountain stream, and sunny. Here the soldier’s fleeing life was encouraged to return by Vehn Rous, who was skilled in the Auslangie healing arts. Those known as scavengers in Vehn Rous’ time were in other times known as Auslangie.
The wounded man was nearly back in the pink when he was suddenly gripped by a fierce burning fever, and he told Vehn Rous about a secret hidden treasure he alone knew about, and with trembling fingers traced a crude map in the dirt.
Vehn Rous tied a rope around the two of them and the other end to the cart, and carried him into the cold waters of the stream, which had become quite powerful in it’s flow over the recent days. It was a brief battle between heat and cold, but the universal element overcame the human, and the soldier escaped death yet again.
That night Vehn Rous built his fire high and bright and hot, for he had been chilled to the bone of the bones. When he had warmed himself enough to feel a moment of Tinker pride in his fire, he saw he was not alone.
The strange visitor was sitting next to him, calm and quiet, and said,
– It is a warm fire. Auslangie always build the warmest fires.
– Have you visited with many?
– Many. Eventually all, of course. Always the best fires and the best food and the best conversation.
– Are you hungry?
– Not at the moment.
Then, regarding the sleeping soldier, the visitor said,
– I have come twice now for this one! I thought perhaps I was late, but no! It’s just that you have beaten me to him. Twice now.
– I’m sorry to put you out.
– It happens. All completely legitimate. Human beings are fully entitled to save each other’s lives. In fact, it is an act highly regarded by all. But I thought I would tell you some things you’re not aware of, and normally could never become aware of until it’s too late, unless I told you.
Vehn Rous was tempted to speak but bit his tongue, as he knew that was best. The visitor went on,
– First, as with all things, the third time’s the charm. When you save a person’s life three times, their life becomes yours. I can be summoned at any time to collect it, or never, but when you die, they die, no matter what.
The strange visitor went on,
-This man, whose life you have saved two times, is a dangerous person. His name is Maravo Murk. He murdered and stole to attain the treasure he drew a map of in the dirt.
– The map! I forgot! I built the fire so big I covered it up!
– When you sweep the ashes away in the morning, the map will still be drawn in the dirt.
– Why are you telling me this? These things I could never normally know?
– Because I’ve always liked you, Vehn Rous, and I always will. And I was already here so why not have a chat for once? it’s been a pleasure. I’ll se you around.
The flicking of long black fingers, the ringing harmonic hum, and the visitor is gone.
Vehn Rous fell asleep next to the fire, where on fact the strange visitor had hidden himself. As always the golden porcelain bowl is visible, but hidden among the flames so you can’t see it.
Maravo Murk woke first, and taking his knife, walked rather unsteadily over to the sleeping Mouse, and raised his knife, it’s point aimed for the heart. As the blade plunged, Maravo Murk froze in pain, dropping the knife and clutching at his breast as if he had been stabbed in the heart. The pain passed, and Murk, bloodshot eyes bulging wide in confused fear, backed away from Vehn Rous, who remained undisturbed, deep in the waters of dream.
Maravo Murk tried to steal Vehn Rous’ cart, but as we here together know, the cart is alive in it’s own fashion and does not allow interference. Murk was lucky to have intelligence enough to recognize it. However there were some horses Vehn Rous had taken under his wing from the battlefield and Maravo Murk took them, as well as the only food that lay outside the cart, a big bunch of bananas, and took off quiet as he could.
Vehn Rous sussed it all out soon after waking, except of course the attempt on his life and the strange circumstance of it’s thwarting.
– Nelly Nose! He took the bananas! Ahh! They were perfectly ripe, too! That ungrateful… Well, I guess that it’s bacon and biscuits again! Don’t even have one egg!
After breakfast, and packing up, Vehn Rous brushed the smoldering coals away, and saw the shakily drawn treasure map there in the dirt, frozen in time. He made a quick copy of the map on paper, and climbing into the driver’s seat, set off in the cart in the direction indicated by the treasure map.
As he rumbled along he rambled on, though no one was around to hear, except the creatures in the cart and we here together of course, as is the habit of Vehn Rous in these times when he is a solo wanderer. He was saying,
– He’s a fool! I would have given him any help he asked for! Did he think I’d want his hidden treasure? He gave me the location before I saved his life! Again! I could have just let him die and found the treasure on my own if that was what I wanted! I guess it didn’t occur to him! What’s the matter, not enough treasure to get your own bananas? PERFECTLY RIIIIIIIPE?
Maravo Murk, meanwhile, had found his treasure, a fortune in blank, pure gold coins. It was hidden in some ancient ruins, and Maravo Murk sat himself down on a moss covered foundation stone and set to devouring Vehn Rous’ bananas.
He felt so triumphant, and the bananas were so perfectly ripe and delicious, he was bolting them down, so that when he heard Vehn Rous’ rolling up in his cart, he started choking on a chunk.
By the time Vehn Rous reached him, he was just about dead, his face blue and puffy, his arms frozen in a pleading gesture. Mouse hopped down from the cart and popped him in the solar plexus just so, and out sailed the banana chunk and in flowed air and color and life.
Maravo Murk was a quivering lump of a man at this point, but Vehn Rous finally realized he trying to say thank you.
– So now you’re grateful. Let’s have a look at this treasure you’ve found. Pure gold coins, blank. This is scavenger coin. Which means that this is the secret stash of an Auslangie, like me. I know you stole and murdered for it’s location, which means you murdered one of my rare and gentle kindred. Third time’s the charm, Maravo Murk. I’ve saved your rotten life three times and your life is mine now. I can summon your death anytime I wish, and also, when I die, you die.
Maravo Murk remembered the pain he felt when he tried to do in the sleeping Mouse, and knew he was hearing the truth, and he was afraid of it.
There is always one minted coin in an Auslangie’s secret stash. The mark on the coin identifies the owner’s Tinker tribe. Vehn Rous found it, and a stern look crossed his face as he read the name. He took the singular coin, picked up what remained of his banana bunch, and got back up in the cart. He said to Maravo Murk,
– If I see you again I won’t hesitate to summon the strange visitor to collect your life!
He could not speak, but Maravo Murk gathered up handfuls of gold and, lurching to the cart, shoved the coins at our boy Mouse, who became infuriated and jumped down from the cart and began to throttle Maravo. He stuffed his mouth with gold coins and then belted him good, so that gold coins, white teeth and red blood scattered upon the ground. Maravo just stood there stupidly. Vehn Rous warned him again,
– You’re really pushin’ it, Murk!
Maravo Murk could only moan raggedly, pathetically, as Mouse set off once more, leaving him there with his ill gotten gains, minus the bananas, horses, and the single marked coin.
Maravo Murk went a little mad after that, holeing up in one of the lost kingdoms, becoming addicted to harmful, deleterious substances that dulled the pain brought on by his villainous life. Filthy and half conscious in a dank alley, his wretchedness caught the eye of a Grandma Tinker passing by. She offered to help him, but all he could do was place in her hands a dirty sack filled with pure gold coins, and breathe his last, gathered finally into the golden porcelain bowl of the strange visitor.
What Happened Later
The minted coin from the stash told what Tinker Tribe the murdered Auslangie was from, and one day, Vehn Rous happened to cross paths with their caravan, as is the only way you can find a Tinker Tribe, of course.
They were a small group, The Foxtail Tribe, having been reduced some years ago in a marauder attack. Their Chief was a woman of great and fiery beauty and bosom who, although he was the bearer of sad tidings, welcomed Vehn Rous with great joy, and that night around the great fire all the Tinkers listened to Vehn Rous tell his story of Maravo Murk and the Auslangie gold and the strange, all knowing visitor to his fire.
There was a silence following the story, that particular silence so sweet to the successful teller. In this sweet silence Margaret, the Chief, stood tall and asked Vehn Rous, so that all could hear,
– Mouse, what is your tribe?
– Turtle Root. Fira is my Grandfather.
Excited murmurs raced through the Foxtail Tinkers, silenced by Margaret’s raised hand.
– Then you are cousin to many of us Foxtail, including myself.
– This I am honored to already know, Chief.
– Of course. Are you the Turtle Root Tribe’s Auslangie, then?
Vehn Rous hesitated a moment, then,
– No. They have their own Auslangie. I was separated from my Tribe long before I took on the coat and the cart.
– So you are an Auslangie without a Tribe, and we are a Tribe without an Auslangie. Will you be ours, Mouse? Can we be yours? Will you tell us the stories lost to us when we lost our Elders? Will you instruct us in the healing ways? Will you consider our caravan your wandering home?
He didn’t take half a moment to stand tall and say,
– I will!
And the Foxtail Tribe assembled gave collective shout for joy that swelled Vehn Rous’ heart so that tears of joy fell from his glistening firelit eyes.
That night Margaret took him into her cart and into her bed, and the Fira flames burned hot in flesh and bright in eyes. And he shared with her his real name of Vehn Rous, as is the way of Auslangie and Chief. And he told her the danger of knowing it, which she accepted without hesitation, there in his arms.
So Vehn Rous took his place at the end of the caravan and rambled with his new Tribe, and told the old stories and secrets, and taught them the Auslangie healing arts, and he considered the Foxtail Caravan his wandering home.
As the Auslangie do, Vehn Rous left his Tribe to be about his business.
But he would return to them, when their paths happened to cross, which is the only way you can ever find a Tinker Tribe, or an Auslangie, and most particularly Vehn Rous, known as The Mouse.
Thank You Again