An Unfolding Tale

an experimental fantasy fiction by M.D. Ward

In the Raven’s Mind Dian

Dian hated flying. At least he hated the sensation of flying that he experienced through the Joining with his black-feathered totem, Azental. Only slightly less disturbing was the reddish pall that dominated the raven’s hyper-detailed vision. It seemed to suck all the life out of he world. Even the Fellwood—with its vast expanse of dead, petrified trees—seemed darker and drearier when seen from Azental’s perspective.

Unfortunately, being a Watcher meant seeing the world through Azental’s eyes more often than Dian would have liked, usually while flying.

And Dian really hated flying.

Oh come now, echoed the raven’s thoughts in his mind. It’s not so bad. At least my vision isn’t so limited and unfocused. I really don’t know how you humans make it through the day without killing yourselves.

Practice, Dian replied absently. That was another effect of the Joining. The human subject gained the ability to experience the world through their totem’s senses, and occasionally some other, related abilities, such as Dian’s own exceptional memory. The bond was symbiotic, however, and the totem took as much as it gave, gaining in intelligence, often to the point of being able to understand human speech. In Azental’s case, she had unexpectedly learned to speak to Dian through the telepathic bond they shared. He did not mind it most of the time. He just wished that she didn’t sound so much like his mother.

Would you pay attention, the raven’s unsettling voice snapped in his mind.

Yes, Azzy, Dian replied. She hated it when he called her that.

You really are incorrigible.

And you wouldn’t even know what that word meant if you didn’t have my mind to pick around in.

There are many other places that I would rather be, I assure you. The thoughts you have of Salmara are most unbecoming.

Fine, you win, groaned Dian’s mind. He hated it when she brought that up. If it had not been for the fact that he was currently Joined with Azental, the very thought of the Clanlord’s daughter would already be bringing a warm flush to his cheeks.

Naturally, replied the Raven with what Dian felt was a bit too much self-satisfaction. Regardless, he pushed the thought from his mind and turned his attention back to the task at hand—or perhaps at wing, given his present circumstance. Like so many who were Joined with feathered totems, Dian had become a Watcher, tasked with flying patrols. Worse, because he was the only person to have ever been joined to a raven, he was always assigned here, to the Fellwood. With its petrified, almost purplish trees and hard, stone-ridden ground, the only creatures that ever entered the forest were those looking for a quiet, secluded place to die.

And so, he was more than a little surprised when Azental’s keen eye caught sight of three pale-skinned humans far below—two men and a young woman. Relenians. Ancient hatred flared in Dian’s heart, and for half a heartbeat he was tempted to swoop down and peck their eyes out. But then something unexpected happened.

Even as the larger of the two men raised his axe, as though preparing to strike down his smaller countryman, a single flash of a knife seemed to invert the course of destiny. Dian knew the impression was ridiculous, but found himself watching in fascination as the larger man fell and then, moments later, fastened something around his killer’s wrist. There was a small flash of light and then the wounded was overcome by the stillness of death. His killer stared down at him for a moment, then turned, pulled the young woman to her feet and half-led, half-dragged her deeper into the Fellwood. With every step, they put more distance between themselves their own land of Relen’kar, all the while rushing closer and closer to Zayen.

High above them, Dian continued to watch as Azental followed like a silent shadow.

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