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A Masterpiece of Evil: Chapter 3

"Hold on there," Laneta said after Arigio toppled. She was the other guard, the one who went along Bertono. "The worst part is almost over, I swear."   The boy straightened up on the goat—each one of them was mounting one—and tried to keep steady.   The group had went out from Galcara three days before, in a carriage, and followed the road until the house of a man who raised mountain goats. They slept there and borrowed 4 animals, three for mounting and one for carrying their things, and were since that morning climbing the rocky mountain slope on them.   "If we had continued on the road, we'd have to go around the mountains to reach Lady Gernera's demesne," Bertono explained, "and we wouldn't arrive before a couple of days. But with these goats—he softly slapped the neck of his animal—we can take a shortcut and arrive before dinner."   It wasn't easy to ride a goat, but the word 'dinner' had given Arigio a good reason to try. In the previous days, in the carriage, he had eaten better than in his whole life, and the idea of eating even better was almost unimaginable for someone like him.   And so he followed the other two, Bertono and Laneta, that looked like someone else without the Galcara's guards uniforms. They had exchanged them in an inn still inside the city, and now were wearing simpler clothes; the blue eyes and high cheekbones of Bertono kept the same, but looking much less menacing, while the young and friendly face of Laneta was now framed by her long brown hair. Arigio was also different: he had taken a bath—a bath!—and was given a shirt, a coat, a belt, a pair of pants a one of boots. He was feeling very comfortable in the new clothes, and would take care of them with his life.   The three of them continued climbing the mountain until finally reaching an opening that was imperceptible from the road. Bertono signed with his arms to a person over the rocks, and, after a sign in return, they entered the breach one at a time: Bertono first, then Arigio, the load goat and finally Laneta. The passage reminded the alleys of Galcara, narrow and dark; the rocks, however, went much higher than any building that Arigio had ever seen, what made him worried. I hope that no rock end up falling over us, he thought.   A good time then passed until they finally reached the other side and the daylight shined strong again. And the landscape on that side was drastically different: the grey and rocky mountains gave now some room for green hills dotted with trees, that increased in number on the banks of the river flowing further below. There were some groups of goats grazing here and there, and Arigio was amazed with the whole view. It's a landscape much more beautiful than those filthy streets, he said to himself.   "We just need to follow the river and we'll be there soon," Bertono said, "but let's have a break; if we don't feed these goats now, they'll want to eat midway."   A short and slim man—his name was Marto—helped them to prepare the lunch and then went a little away to watch over the animals.   "You have many friends," Arigio said to Bertono while they ate. — Are they all mages too?   "Some of them are indeed," Bertono answered, "just like Marto here. But the other people helping us, like the goat raiser, the innkeeper in Galcara and the spies who watched you, are members of the Silver Eye.   "Silver Eye?" Arigio was surprised. "The inquisitors said they had expelled all of them from Colliori..."   "Ha! Expelling the Eye? That's a good one," mocked Bertono. "It doesn't matter where you go, boy, they'll be there somehow, and even the Inquisition can't change that. It's a relief that they sympathize with us."   They didn't talk much more about that subject, but Arigio asked himself what more could be happening underhand around him. Then, after eating, they finally continued on the way to their destiny.   The group caught sight of the demesne still in the middle of the afternoon, and it was bigger than Arigio had imagined: there were plantations, stables, a meadow with goats, a well, many small houses and even a mill. And, in the middle of all that, an enormous house, bigger than the house of any rich person in Galcara.   Bertono guided them to the field with the goats, where they left their animals under the care of a tall and strong woman.   "Nice to meet you, little boy," she said, greeting Arigio. "I'm Jolanda."   Now on foot, the group walked towards the mansion, passing by a street that passed between the houses; inside them there were people working with leather, iron and wood, much likely the artisan's street in Galcara.   "It's like a tiny city," Arigio said.   "Here we produce almost everything we need," said Bertono. "Food, clothes, boots, tools... and the best part of it is that many use magic for that, learning about their powers while practicing with something useful.   Arigio wondered what he could do with his power. Maybe he could hunt pigeons... or a more decent bird?   At the end of the street there was a small square, around which other buildings were settled. In the middle of it, some youngsters reunited around other two, that seemed to fight.   "Is that okay?" asked Arigio, remembering the street fights in Galcara. They never ended well for him.   "We have to train for combat if we are to defeat the Inquisition," said Laneta. "Don't worry about someone getting hurt, we are all friends—she waved to some people in the square, that seemed happy to see her—; and you'll know everyone soon."   Friends... that was something Arigio missed.   After the square was Gernera's manor, but, since it faced the river, they had to go around, entering by the garden; no wall separated it from the rest of the property, just a hedge that surrounded the place. A pond with fishes ornamented the entrance of the building, and from it small channels irrigated the flowerbeds of the garden, full of mountain flowers.   Bertono and Laneta entered the manor, but Arigio stopped, hesitant, facing the majestic building. He had never been in a place like that, and asked himself if he was doing the right thing; after all, he had been a beggar for his whole life. How can I simply accept all this? I'm not like them, this is not my world.   "What happened, Arigio?" asked Lanetta. "If you want to admire the house, do it later; now it would be good for you to take all this dirt from your body, they'll serve the dinner soon."   "Oh, right," muttered Arigio, recalling one of the reasons that made him get so far. "The dinner."


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