41 The Insincere Farewell of Cordon*
In the few days that followed, a lot happened in the small Village of Cordon. The Knights who had passed on were all burned on Pyres, their ashes collected and stored in urns.
Arita also went to interview the surviving Knight. She demanded an account of every detail, and the Knight, though reluctant had obeyed. It was from this account that Arita learned the story of how the boy had changed to begin with, and the detail the villagers had all failed to acknowledge...he had to be fed, even a cup of blood would do, but it needed to be done.
Through all this information, Arita deciphered that the change he had undergone was permanent, and that the only reason the massacre had occurred was that some kind of ruthless, life saving instinct had completely overpowered the boy's will. Though no one seemed willing to accept that. This was the reason why, despite her beliefs, Arita did not release the boy from his chains. She only removed his mask. When she later ordered a hunter to bring something back alive, he was annoyed, but he obeyed the order. Arita then brought a Rabbit to Rassa.
When Arita entered the cell, the boy looked up cautiously. He seemed surprised that the Magician was once again approaching him, and this time with a meal.
"I heard you need to feed regularly to prevent what happened before," she stated.
Despite having his mask removed, the boy rarely spoke. His sentences were always short, and sometimes he just wouldn't answer at all.
"I cannot escape".
He gave a tug on the chains and Arita raised an eyebrow, "Will that still be the case when your instinct for survival overpowers you again?"
The boy turned away, unwilling to answer. Arita waited a moment, then approached Rassa, raising the Rabbit to his mouth. He gave a deep sigh, as if regretful, then Arita watched as two fangs extended from his top jaw and sunk into the rabbit's neck. The rabbit froze nearly instantly, it's heartbeat rapidly working in its fear.
Rassa frowned with concentration as he drank. How had Red Eyes made the Knights feel so Euphoric as he drank from them? How did he activate such an ability? Rassa drew a few more times, then he sensed that if he were to take any more the rabbit would die. For a split second, he considered just draining the rabbit dry. Afterall, the Anthrite made him hungry near constantly as it drained his energy. And in hindsight, it was just a rabbit, they were likely going to kill it for meat anyway. But compassion won out. He would have to learn control anyway. Why not show them he was not greedy at the same time? Rassa drew back, then to Arita's surprise, licked the Rabbit's wound.
"Why would you...?"
She trailed off as she watched the Rabbit's wound seal over.
"You're not still hungry? The Villagers mentioned that they found mass graves in the forest," Arita reasoned.
Rassa looked up at her for a moment, contemplating whether or not to tell her the truth, then he turned away once more.
"A monster cannot control his bloodthirst".
Arita's eyes widened, "So you are trying to show them you are not what they believe you to be?"
Rassa didn't respond, and Arita released a heavy sigh as she turned and left, the rabbit in her hands beginning to twitch as the paralytic wore off.
"It's a nice sentiment Rassa, but once people have made up their minds about something, you'll find it's increasingly difficult to convince them otherwise".
Following this interaction, Arita came back every day with another animal. Sometimes it was a rabbit, sometimes a warthog or a possum. When the hunt for the day had been bad, Arita bought one of the goats and took that down instead. Each one came back alive, though was a little woozy until the next day. Like Arita had said though, no one changed their opinion towards Rassa, if anything his continued consumption of blood fuelled their dislike of him.
His parents never visited. In fact, from what he had managed to hear from Jane, Phillip and Anna were keeping to themselves. Rassa couldn't blame them for distancing themselves from him, but at the same time, he dearly desired that they would come and say goodbye at least.
Alas, as it turned out, it was Rassa that was to leave first.
The blacksmith had recast the cage that Rassa had been trapped in. Upon Arita's insistence he'd also made it bigger. In the early morning 10 days after Arita's arrival Rassa was brought up from the Jailhouse and moved into the cage. The Anthrite Chains were locked onto either side once more, though Rassa had more room to move about than the last time he'd been in this cage. After that, Arita tied a burlac cloth over the cage. She'd been told he disliked sunlight, and she thought that the cloth would not only cast him in shadows, it would also block those on the outside from looking in.
Rassa was more grateful for that than anything. The last thing he wanted was to spend the height of summer in a metal cage being stared at like a circus freak.
Following this, his cage cart was attached to the back of the carriage that would carry Arita and Jane. Arita had wanted to wait for more combat magicians to arrive so that their small procession could be protected, but the longer she waited, the more likely it was that another interested party would turn up wanting to buy Rassa if not outright take him.
And so, as the small procession prepared to leave, Rassa watched from the shadows of his cage as Jane said goodbye to her family and friends, Falla included. The pretty merchant's daughter kept glancing at the covered cage, though never made any move to approach it. Rassa observed that she was not scared of him, rather, scared of what others would think should she approach him. He could not blame her for that. To the other side, Rassa could hear his parents, hiding in the shadows of a nearby house. He closed his eyes and listened to their heartbeats. For the first time, he did so not because of his hunger, but because he desired comfort. He hoped they knew. He hoped they knew he didn't blame them. That this was his fate and it was not something they could prevent.
The cart pulled away, and Rassa shifted ever so slightly to the side of the cage, the chains jingling so little that anyone would just assume it was the movement of the carriage and not the creature within that caused it. Looking out of the bars and through the small gap in the material, Rassa spotted his parents as they watched their son be taken away.
Rassa did the only thing he could do in that moment. He gave them the most genuine and reassuring smile he could muster.
To anyone else they would say it was the leer of a monster. But to Anna and Phillip, it was nothing but the smile of the kind-hearted boy they'd loved dearly since the moment he was born.
"Live well, Rassa. Forge the path that is right for you," Phillip said in a small voice, "That is all we will ever ask of you".
"We love you," Anna added, "And we are so sorry".
Rassa did not share tears this time. Grateful only that his parents had not said goodbye.