The Best Coffee Mage in the Woods

The Best Coffee Mage in the Woods

The Vow, Chapter 1

Milo plans to meet his best friend Zick at his aunt’s coffee caravan in order to break the Vow he made to Milo when he was twelve years old. Milo doesn’t want to break the Vow and push Zick away, but he has no other choice. Zick’s life hangs in the balance.


Milo was cursed.

Not the kind of curses that Evil Wicks cast upon their enemies to make them miserable, or the ones that people uttered when they hit their toes against the side of a table.

No. It was the kind of curses that life threw upon Wicks at birth.

Curses existed in different forms and shapes, and there were as diversified as spells. One could transform young and healthy Wicks into sick and old people. Another could make someone’s teeth fall, never to be grown again.

Being cursed, it sucked.

Milo never knew he was cursed, growing up as an ordinary Wizard living an ordinary life filled with happiness, homemade desserts, and a few bruised knees. He had to learn the truth of his fate the harsh way.

The only way that marked someone for life, really.

One day, Milo was enjoying his life to the fullest, playing and laughing without a care in the world. And the next?

All the people he loved died.

Again, and again.

To get rid of his curse, Milo visited countless Curse Crushers, Life Keepers, and Elixir Mixers. But they all told him the same thing.

Milo wasn’t cursed.

He didn’t believe them. They were all wrong, obviously. So Milo, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

At twelve, Milo chose to never love anyone.

Ever again.

He started pushing people away. Never making friends.

Never falling in love.

It had been difficult, but not impossible. However, despite his best efforts, two people close to him never left his side. His aunt Kamala and his best friend Zick.

By the end of the day, though, one would be gone.


Milo sauntered into the Clearing where Sunflowers Dance under the Sun, his aunt’s coffee caravan looming in the distance. Furniture was stacked on top of its roof like a crooked tower of stools and tables, and thorn roots twirled around the caravan and the furniture, protecting them against thieves and Wicks embracing bad ideas.

Milo crossed the clearing and passed by a rocky mountain dipping its flank into a small lake shimmering under the sun rays. The water looked appealing, but Milo didn’t have time to take a dip before the start of his shift.

Not today.

Colorful flowers greeted him, their petals fluttering under the warm breeze, and birds fluttered around him alongside squirrels darting in all directions and rabbits munching on grass without a care in the world.

Save for these small animals, the clearing was empty. No customers were hanging around the clearing, annoying Milo before he had a chance to open the coffee caravan.

He had peace and quiet, just how he liked his mornings.

Milo stopped in front of the caravan, wiping a hand over his forehead. The sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky, and despite the early time of the day, Milo was already sweating as if he’d bathed in a pool of sweat, which he didn’t because… gross. He grabbed his shirt and fanned himself with the collar.

Milo hated the Summer Season.

Unlike Zick who thrived under the sun, Milo couldn’t handle the sweltering heat. It made him grumpier than usual, and yes, it was possible. Milo lived in a world filled with magic, so if he could cast a spell to wash his dirty socks, he could certainly get grumpier because of the weather.

Milo summoned his wand from his NeverSpace, a place that existed in another dimension and where Wicks stored food and objects, and he readied himself to lift the warding spell that his aunt cast last night on the caravan. Milo’s wand wasn’t the finest of them all. It did allow him, however, to cast amazing spells… and sometimes, not to cast amazing spells. But Milo wasn’t ashamed of his duds. He was still improving his spellcraft, and mistakes were a part of the learning process. After all, no Wicks learned how to cast a proper haircut spell without first growing a beard.

Milo screwed his eyes shut and gathered his magic, his body humming from head to toe. He was ready to imagine the fantasy that brought the spell to life, which was composed of a series of steps visualized in a specific order.

In other words, he was ready to cast his spell.

Milo stepped into a magical clearing, gigantic trees looming all around him as their canopies hid inside the clouds. The song of birds echoed in his ears while orbs of light floated in the air.

Sunrays streamed through the trees, plunging the area into an ethereal glow.

A rogue image of a bird flying above his head slashed through the fantasy. Milo brushed it away. The bird vanished.

Milo spotted the pedestal rising in the middle of the clearing, a treasure chest nesting at the top. Thorn roots were wrapped around both objects, securing the treasure within the chest.

Excitement ran along his spine, his body shivering with anticipation.

Milo ambled towards the pedestal, but the thorn roots sensed his presence and tightened their grip around the column, their spikes growing bigger and sharper.

Milo halted his step. He took off his shoes and dug his toes into the soft moss.

Once the thorn roots loosened their grip, Milo tiptoed towards the pedestal. The moss tingled his toes but he didn’t laugh. He kept walking until he reached the structure, wild thrill coursing through his veins.

Sweat dripped from Milo’s forehead. He ignored it.

Milo stretched his arm forward, his hand hovering close to the thorn roots. “Kamala is the greatest aunt in the Woods,” he uttered, the password ringing around the clearing.

The roots twirled back into the earth, freeing the treasure chest as a sense of victory crashed into Milo’s mind.

His spell was completed.

Milo flicked his eyes open. His wand glowed in a golden color. He aimed it at the caravan, which was still trapped under thorn roots, and he released his spell.

A jet of gold sparkles hit the caravan.

One by one, the roots slammed back into the earth. The furniture packed on top of the roof wobbled, and one stool tumbled on the ground.

Milo had just cast a perfect spell. If only his baking spells were half as good as this one, he’d be a happy Wizard.

Before dismissing his wand back to his NeverSpace, though, Milo cast the Spell that Animates Wooden Furniture, prompting the tables and stools to move of their own accord. Some stools jumped down from the roof with a flourish, others just fell flat on the grass without any grace. Once they all secured their favorite spot on the grass, they stopped moving and the spell wore off.

Milo rushed towards the caravan and climbed the three steps attached to the side before throwing the door open. The sooner he completed his morning chores, the sooner he’d be able to bake a batch of strawberry scones.

These scones, they were Zick’s favorite. And since Milo was planning to break Zick’s heart this morning, he wanted to give him something that he loved.

To give him one last gift.

When Milo was twelve years old, Zick made a Vow to him, a magical promise that could only be broken by the person to whom the Vow was made.

Zick had vowed to always take care of Milo.

After making his Vow, Zick had neither failed in his task nor shown any regrets, always assuring that Milo was safe, happy, and healthy with a smile stamped on his face. When sadness tugged at Milo’s heart, Zick was cheering him up. When worry settled in his bones, Zick was making him laugh.

Milo loved the Vow.

He loved the fact that it prompted them to spend all holidays, festivals, and celebrations together, and that it connected them in a more profound way than a simple friendship. Zick felt like a piece of Milo’s heart, the one that gave him the strength to believe in himself and to accomplish anything his heart desired.

Milo could fall and Zick would always be ready to catch him.

Milo glanced at the mark etched onto his left hand, proof of the Vow that Zick made to him years ago. He brushed his fingers against his skin, sadness tugging at his heart.

Milo never wanted to break the Vow. If it weren’t for the curse, he’d remain bound to Zick his entire life.

Unfortunately, the dream had to end.

When Zick got severely injured at work last week, Milo knew he was the culprit. Not the villain who had cast harmful magic at Zick.


For a while, Milo assumed that the Vow was protecting Zick from the curse. He was wrong. And the only way he could protect Zick against himself was to break the Vow and push him away.


Milo stepped inside the caravan, darkness welcoming him like an old friend. He activated the flamestone nesting inside a lantern with a quick enermagic blast, nearly poking himself in the eye at the same time.

Milo might be in a hurry, but he still had to be careful.

Milo dismissed his wand as an orange glow illuminated the interior, revealing two counters smacked against both longest walls. One counter was used to bake and prepare orders, and the other was used to take orders from the gap in the wall that was concealed behind a retractable awning.

Milo jumped on the serving counter and pushed the awning open. The awning didn’t budge.

It was as stuck as a bug tumbling in honey.

Milo pushed again, wincing when a splinter slipped under his skin. He popped his finger into his mouth, took out the splinter with his teeth, and hopped down the counter. He’d open the awning later, after he cast the baking spell.

For now, Milo had other tasks that requested his time and attention.

Milo squatted on his heels and examined the content of the drawers and cupboards crammed underneath both counters, making sure he had plenty of pastries, sandwiches, and coffee to start his workday.

After counting enough muffins, croissants, cookies, and gourmet sandwiches to feed a pack of Tree Sprouts for a whole day—not that he would by fear of losing a finger or two—he snatched a couple of pastries and placed them in the displays slouching against the serving counter. These displays, along with the drawers and cupboards, had all been charmed to keep the food and drinks in the exact same condition as when they were stored.

Once the displays featured all of the best pastries in the caravan’s inventory, Milo ambled towards the side wall where a small closet was hiding stools, cleaning equipment, and the occasional squirrel that enjoyed taking a nap on the bags of flour stacked on the ground.

Milo yanked the door open, grabbed two empty buckets, and trudged outside to fill up the buckets with water from the lake. After nearly falling into the water because a squirrel had decided to use him as its personal playground, Milo returned to the caravan and dropped the buckets in a corner.

Jars of coffee beans, which lined up the shelves nailed on the wall, shook like a Wick who ingested too much caffeine. A bitter aroma wafted through the caravan, and the scent of coffee, mixed with the sweet smell of pastries, tickled Milo’s nose.

His stomach growled.

Milo might be in a hurry, but he’d always have time for a pastry or two.

Milo fetched a wooden bowl nesting on the baking counter beside stacks of pop’cups, pop’bags, pop’boxes, and pop’napkins that crumbled and popped into a flower when thrown on the ground, and he tossed an almond croissant, a blueberry muffin, and an apple strudel inside the container.

He took a bite of his almond croissant and a nutty and buttery flavor melted on his tongue.

This pastry was definitely his favorite. No doubts.

Milo shoved his croissant inside his mouth, holding it in place with his teeth, and seized the chalk and blackboard propped against a display. He wrote today’s special before settling the objects back onto the serving counter and waking up at the same time the money chest that nearly chopped off his hand in retaliation.

Finally, Milo had completed his morning chores. And he still had all of his fingers.

He wolfed down the rest of his croissant and glanced at the timecloth hanging on the wall, which indicated that Skywink 8 had just begun. Milo had outdone himself and finished his tasks in record time. He’d be proud of himself if only his mind wasn’t dwelling upon Zick and his impending heartbreak.

Despite the poor state of his heart, though, Milo was still glad he had enough time to bake a batch of strawberry scones before Zick showed up.

Yesterday, Milo wrote Zick a wingnote and requested they meet before Milo started his shift at the coffee caravan. Today was Zick’s first day out of the Life Center, and Milo didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks by waiting a few days before breaking the Vow.

Besides, Milo doubted he’d still have the strength to push Zick away if he bode his time.

Milo wasn’t ready to end his friendship with Zick. He didn’t think he’d ever be ready. However, he still had some time to steel his heart for its imminent destruction since Zick was always running late to their meet-ups. Milo figured Zick would show up around 45 starspecks into Skywink 8, which gave him fifteen starspecks to recite the Vow Breaking Declaration and tell Zick he never wanted to see him again.

Fifteen starspecks. That was all it took to turn his life upside-down. To ruin the best thing that ever happened to him.

Milo chased the horrible thought away and summoned his baking spellbook, the one he inherited from his grandmother and contained the best baking spells in the Woods. He tossed the book on the baking counter and decided to focus solemnly on his current task. He flipped the pages until he landed on the Spell that Bakes Perfect Strawberry Scones for Tea Parties, and he gathered the ingredients and tools required by the spell.

Since Milo’s job at the caravan consisted of serving customers and casting coffee spells, he rarely used his grandmother’s spellbook. The truth was, the job of stuffing their cupboards with delectable pastries was appointed to Milo’s aunt because Milo always failed to cast a decent baking spell despite all the time and effort he put into improving his craft.

No one was perfect, right?

Before Milo took this job, he never thought he’d love casting culinary spells. This realization came as much of a surprise as the time his aunt told him his baking spells sucked. Despite his lack of skills, though, Milo never stopped because casting these spells always triggered within him a feeling of pure joy and a sense of contentment.

This job gave his life a purpose, something he never had up to three years ago when his aunt had a career crisis and quit her job as a Crown’s Knight. At that time, Milo was selling loaves of bread by the side of the road, and he hated his job. And when his aunt offered him a job as a Coffee Mage, he jumped at the opportunity to improve his life.

Milo took this job on a temporary basis, planning to quit the moment he found his true calling. But this job sneaked into his heart like a thief robbing him of a meaningless past, and it became a part of his identity. And after Milo found his purpose through it, he put all of his efforts into becoming the best Coffee Mage in the Woods.

And he never regretted his choice.

Milo settled a bowl, a cooking spoon, a red-flame candle, and a platter on the baking counter. He snapped his fingers and the candle flame flickered to life the same way Milo did whenever he spotted Zick in a crowd of people. After adding a bottle of cream, a bag of flour, and a jar of sugar to the mix, Milo peeked inside the strawberry drawer, but emptiness welcomed him like a vendor who hadn’t made a single sale during the day.

Panic clenched his heart. Worry gnawed at his stomach.

Milo paced the small space between the two counters, gripping tufts of his hair. He needed the strawberries to cast his spell.

What if Milo fed Zick another treat? He had plenty of choices stashed inside the cupboards. Would any of these choices work? Impossible. Strawberry scones were Zick’s favorite, and this was Milo’s last time to bake him a batch.

Sadness ripped through Milo’s heart, his throat tightening. He would bake these strawberry scones. No matter what.

Milo grabbed a basket, stepped outside the caravan, and darted inside the forest growing all around the clearing where the weather was slightly colder since most sunrays were blocked by the canopy of trees. An earth and flowery scent wafted through the air, and Milo took a deep breath, allowing the pleasant smell to sooth his mind when a chipmunk whizzed between his legs.

Milo uttered a shriek, which spooked a few birds and rabbits, and he regained his balance after nearly squashing the small rodent. He rubbed the sweat off his brow, his heart pounding in his ears.

His mind would clearly not be soothed today.

After his heart rate dropped to an acceptable level, Milo crossed a bridge spanning a small creek. The wooden planks cracked underneath his weight. Milo veered towards a generous bush of strawberries while birds sang, squirrels quarreled over acorns, and some animals and Wonder Beasts roamed the forest.

Milo picked strawberries one by one and tossed them inside his basket except for a few that he popped inside his mouth, their sweet juice invigorating him.

A few starspecks passed.

Milo kept filling his basket with fresh and luscious strawberries, and once some started tumbling over the edge of his loaded container, he drifted back towards the clearing.

He only took a few steps when cries echoed in the forest. His muscles stiffened, his heart dropping in the pit of his stomach.

Someone was in danger.

Milo glanced around the forest, looking for the source of the commotion. He didn’t see anything unusual.

Cries retorted once again, and Milo’s heart rate spiked.

Whoever was uttering those cries, they needed help. Milo wasn’t a hero like Zick whose job entailed saving innocent lives. He wasn’t a heartless Wizard either.

Milo set off in search of the cries’ origin, asking if anyone needed help. When no one answered, Milo ventured deeper into the woods.

Worry gnawed at him and churned his insides.

So far, the Forest where Chipmunks Enjoy Spooking Travelers had been a safe place devoid of wicked thoughts. But what if an Evil Wick had decided to infiltrate these woods and attack Milo?

Or what if a Jinx was hiding behind a bush, looking for an easy prey to torment?

This situation, it made Milo wary and realize that danger could lurk at every corner. That magic could be harmful.

And lifting a Vow, that was magic.

Milo had neither lifted nor witnessed someone lift a Vow in the past. What if lifting Vows was a dangerous practice? Milo wanted to break the Vow to protect Zick and to prevent him from suffering a gruesome death.

Not to injure him.

If lifting Vows was a risky business, was Milo willing to take that risk?