The Gauvin and the Gauvnot

    

As the moon waned and vanished from the night sky a cry rose in the marshes. Lights flickered inside the small mushroom houses of the pixy and leprechauns. The leprechaun men and their pixy wives raced to the center of the bog where a giant lily pad floated. There before them stood the young ones who had yet to be placed in an occupation.

    At the end of each month all the “upcomers” of the young ones would hold a talent show to display their skills in the field of their chosen trade. They would be judged, scored, and placed in a job opening suitable to their potential. It was the highlight of a young one’s life! With this ceremony they passed into adulthood and were eligible to work, own their own possessions, seek a life covenant with another, and fully integrate themselves into pixy and leprechaun culture.

    Most importantly, however, they would receive their marks of heraldry. Each leprechaun would receive the family crest on his shoulder. This tattoo, of sorts, was not ink but a sparkling dust that would endow the young man with the most noble traits of his fathers.

    The pixy would receive a sparkling dust of their own, but since they would marry into another household their dust was given in the form of a cosmetic glitter. A single color was chosen based on their respective occupation.

    Though, for some, this was not an exciting time by any means. Anyone who failed to score high enough to at least be a menial laborer was swiftly banished from the town, or burghal, as the pixy and leprechauns called their community.

    Worse than the unskilled, however, were the excessively skilled! The judges had a keen eye and anyone who seemed that they would be extraordinarily talented in multiple areas was tested thoroughly. If they were found to be multi-skilled, they were sentenced to the worst of all banishment. They were sent to the Gauvin…

    As it happened, three young pixy were chosen that night... chosen as failures. One sent to the slave colonies, one sent to wander the woods forever, and the third was sent to the dreaded Gauvin. The authorities read the verdict aloud for each pixy.

    “Shalisa,” the announcer started. “You have been sentenced to wander the woods forever! Your lack of skill and obvious shortage of dedication makes you useless to even serve in the slave colonies! Be gone!”

    Shalisa, head hung low, fluttered off towards the towering trees at the edge of the dark forest. Without as much as a single glance back, she disappeared, leaving a glittering trail of yellow sparkle that faded slowly into the thick brush.

    “Melarie,” the announcer continued. “You have shown desire to improve, but you lack raw talent. Because of your will, you have been given a second chance to prove yourself in the slave colonies. If you can work your way up to the top you may yet stand a chance of integration into our burghal. For now, go and prove yourself.”

    Melarie bowed her head and thanked the authorities for her second chance. Her green sparkles left a dissipating trail off towards the river where she would meet her escorts. From there she would be taken to the slave colonies.

     “Lastly,” the announcer said, turning his gaze to the remaining pixy. Her sparkling silver hair was arrayed in a decorative net of braids, light blue glitter graced her face, a shining golden dress hung to her ankles, and her wings shimmered a vivid blue and purple mix, like oil on the surface of a pond. The announcer cleared his throat. “Risha! You have been charged with exceeding your bounds in skill and fostering multiple abilities! Such crimes against the burghal are only punishable by one sentence… you are to go to the dreaded Gauvin!”

     A hush fell over the crowd and a few heavy sighs and sad moans could be heard. Whether they were bemoaning the fate of the young pixy or ashamed that someone from their burghal would seek to be multi-skilled was uncertain.

    The announcer continued as the crowd stifled their murmurs. “Beware! For the Gauvin lay deep in the dark woods and is a cruel beast. However, if you seek to avoid him, even greater dangers yet await you. For if not the Gauvin then the cruel Gauvnot will clasp you in its claws and your fate will be far worse. Fly swift...fly true! Fly to the Gauvin and accept your sentence.”

    Risha’s vibrant violet eyes sparkled like the night stars. Even she couldn’t say for sure whether it was a tear seeking escape or the glint of adventure shining from her soul that caused her eyes to mist. All her life she had been haunted by tales of the dreaded Gauvin and the cruel Gauvnot… haunted and fascinated.

    A shimmering trail of light blue, silver, and violet dust dissipated from her wings as she set course up and over the edge of the dark forest. In the distance she could see the Glade of Retribution. She flew above the trees, keeping a sharp eye out for the Gauvnot who was sure to be watching every move she made. If she but deviated from the path ever so slightly the cruel beast would snatch her up.

    Risha stopped above the glade and looked back. The crowds that had gathered to see off the outcasts were far beyond the tree line now and nowhere in sight. She calmed her pounding heart and cleared her throat. “Gauvin!” she called out. “I have been sent by the authorities of the burghal. I am a multi-skilled one. What fate awaits me, oh dreaded Gauvin?”

    A low moaning sound echoed from the forest below, almost as if the trees were creaking and swaying in a heavy wind. A formless image leaked into the glade like a thick liquid. “Argh!” its gravelly voice seemed muffled as though the creature had a throat full of mucus. “Is that defiance in your voice young pixy? Why have you not entered the glade?” The creature coughed and spat.

    “I am Risha,” she responded, shoulders back and chin up. “I do not submit my life to torture for my skills! So long as I do not enter the glade you can not take me and as long as I do not deviate from the path to the glade the Gauvnot can never touch me.”

    “Eh?” the Gauvin laughed, coughed, and spat again. “Ha ha!” The vague and globulous image below cleared his throat. “You think you can fly forever, hmm?” His voice grew deeper, a menacing and dark threat floated from his lips. The toxic substance floated towards Risha like an amoeba. On the winds that carried it Risha heard jumbled whispering voices. “None can escape!” “The Gauvin or the Gauvnot?” “Where will you run?” “None can escape!” “What hope have you child?” “The Gauvnot smells your blood.” “NONE CAN ESCAPE!” The last words screamed at her with thunderous clasps and echoing repeats.

    “Let the Gauvnot come!” Risha defied the creature with all the courage she could muster. “I will not surrender my fate to your cruel mercies!”

    “Hmm…” the Gauvin slunk back into the shadows further. “Come it has, small one…” his voice grew quieter. “Come it has…”

    Risha heard a faint hissing sound behind her and shivers ran up her spine. She turned slowly, trying to keep her composure as the hair stood up on the back of her neck. There behind her, only inches away, floated a creature so hideous that fear itself would flee at its presence! The odious Gauvnot.

    Its head was shaped like a mutated sand bur, spikes protruding in all directions from the square, silver plated skull. Its body was long and slender. It had an arm coming from each shoulder and a third protruding from its chest. Each arm was black as night, long and bony, and had razor-like claws on all eight fingers that shone in the night like a dim blue light. The creature had no legs. Instead, from the waist down, it had a spiral metal tornado-like tail. It almost seemed like a drill head that twisted and turned, bending back and forth as the cruel beast floated near.

    Risha curbed her instinct to jump away from the gruesome looking beast. Wide eyed, she calmed her rapid breathing and wiped sweat from her palms. “As long as I don’t move,” she declared. “You can’t touch me.” She said these words to reassure herself more than to inform the Gauvnot.

    “I know…ssss, the rulesssss!” the creature hissed, his forked tongue flickering out of his mouth like a snake’s. “But assss the Gauvin has ssssspoken...sssss,” the creature took a deep breath and a long pause while giving her a ghastly glare. “You can’tsss fly forever.”

    Risha closed her eyes and sighed heavily, her heart sinking in her chest. The two unusual creatures were quite right. No pixy could fly forever. “You’re right,” Risha admitted. “I suppose I will just relinquish myself to the Gauvin.” She hung her head, a tear slipping from the corner of her eye.

    “NO!” the Gauvnot cried. “It’ssssss too late for that! Sssssssssss…” It rushed over towards her again, its steel tornado tail spinning quickly to propel it through the air. “The Gauvin has leftssss. You belongsss to me!”

    Risha stopped in her tracks and snapped her head towards the creature. With creased brow she shook her head. “No! I don’t want to go with you! I would rather go with the Gauvin!”

    The Gauvnot exhaled a sick, wheezing laugh, and retorted. “Too, ssssss, bad!”

    Risha looked back at the open glade that lay below. “I guess...if the Gauvin will not take me, I have no other choice.”

    “Good. Sseeehehe,” the creature laughed. “Come with me.”

    Risha had just turned towards the Gauvnot when a shout rang out from the glade beneath. “Stop!” The objection sounded muffled at first, almost as if it were coming from underwater. Then, as if a speech bubble burst from the depths, broke open, and spilled its words for all to hear, the single shout rang through the glade and into the air. “The Gauvnot has no claim on you!” the Gauvin protested. “Not unless you have deviated from the path to the glade.”

    “But I haven't!” Risha pronounced as if it were a declaration fit for the day of heraldry, one of the greatest celebrations of the year in the life of the pixy and leprechauns.

    “Then you can still come with me,” the Gauvin told her, its voice wobbling like water in a jar. “Your life will be no flutter past the lilies but you will be alive.”

    “Don’t let him dessssieve you!” the Gauvnot interrupted furiously. “I do not kill my victimsssss and who isss to sssay your fate with him will be any better?” The creatures glared at one another now. “I can offer you a sssspecial place in my tree house,” the Gauvnot continued. “You will have no comfortsss, life will be hard,  but it will be better than the gooey bog-hut thisss thing will give you!”

    At this the Gauvin began to bubble and moved to the center of the glade, its deep gravely voice taking on a new fierceness. “You tree dwelling parasite!” The Gauvin paused his insult to cough and spit out a sticky wad of black… something. “You can’t be trusted! At least I have never eaten any of my victims! The same can not be said of you.”

    “And you, ssssssss,” the Gauvnot sneered, baring its needle-like fangs. “You wouldn’t know good eeeating if you ssssaw it! At leasssst I have never filled my captives with tar and turned them into detesssstable creatures such as yourself!”

    The Gauvin bubbled more, a giant belch emanating from between his eyes as a large bubble burst and sent a black vapor into the air that swirled aloft. “Now see here! I-”

    Suddenly both Gauvin and Gauvnot fell silent as they realized that the fair pixy maiden was nowhere to be seen. A snarl came from the Gauvin, a hisssss and a scream from the Gauvnot, and then the two commenced to blame one another for the loss.

    Rumors spread through the slave colonies of Risha’s escape… no one knows just where they started. One leprechaun says he saw a strange pixy with tri-colored sparkle in the middle of the night. Another says he found a note by his bed. A young pixy heard the leaders of the colony discussing it in hushed voices.

    To this day no one knows just how Risha escaped. No one knows where she went or where she is now. All they know is that somewhere out there, for those skilled enough to find it, waits a new burghal for everyone who is banished from their home.

    Tales have spread abroad that some of the banished pixy and leprechauns have been met by a strange guide who has helped them navigate the dangers of their banishment and find this new burghal. Tales that no dignified pixy or leprechaun is brave enough to test.

    One thing is known for certain, however. From that day onwards all those who were banished had a new hope. The hope of the “trixy pixy,” as they call her back home, the only little folk to ever outwit the Gauvin and the Gauvnot.

 

THE END

Excerpt from the book "Tales of Varsia" by Jason P. Hein

World and Stories @2014 Jason P Hein all rights reserved

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