An Unfolding Tale

an experimental fantasy fiction by M.D. Ward

The Healer of Kervale Carvesh

Carvesh paced back and fourth outside the healer’s home. It had already been hours since he had carried Trent to her door, weak and almost unconscious from loss of blood. Quelana, the healer, had been less than happy to be roused from her bed by his shouting and violent knocking, at least until she had seen the severity of Trent’s wounds. Then she had quickly ushered them into the house, to a simple room, where Carvesh had placed him on plain but comfortable-looking mattress. After receiving a strange smelling tonic that seemed to relieve some of his pain, the wounded man had drifted into a slumber and Quelana had promptly ordered Carvesh out, insisting that he leave her to her work.

With nothing left to do, the big farmer had made the hour-long journey back to the farmstead, where he had fallen into bed with Anya. His restless dreams were haunted by shadowbeasts, and something darker and far more elusive, which loomed menacingly over everything he loved. With the first light, he had roused himself from bed, broken his fast on day old bread and cured beef, then set about organizing the farm. Without Trent, the other workers would look to him for guidance.

And explanations.

There were, after all, still several mangled carcasses scattered across the farm and he knew the workers and their families would naturally be wondering what was happening. So, he had gathered together his entire staff, doing his best to explain the events of the previous evening, while making it abundantly clear that he did not know what the creature was, where it had come from or if there were any others lurking nearby. He had advised everyone to avoid working alone and to stay inside after dark, keeping themselves armed and their doors locked. Then he had hitched up the wagon with two of his horses—both still noticeably skittish—and travelled with Anya and the children back into Kervale.

That had been over four hours ago, and he still had not seen his head farmhand or the healer who was working to save his life.

“Carvesh,” Anya said, “would you please stop pacing like that. I know you’re worried about Trent. We all are. But this isn’t going to help. Just come sit, and try to relax.”

“I’m sorry, treasure,” he responded, sinking down beside her. She wrapped her slender arms around his waist, holding him tight and laying her head on his chest. He could not help but smile, running his fingers through her long, black hair. Somehow, her closeness helped calm him. It always had, ever since they had first met, so many years before in distant Mesiania. “I just don’t know what we would do without Trent.”

“He’s like a brother to you, isn’t he?”

Carvesh laughed. “No. He’s nothing like my brother. But he’s been a hard worker, a good friend and…” He trailed off, unsure of exactly what he wanted to say.

“What is it, my love?”

“He reminds me of home. Of my old home.”

“Yes.” When she smiled, it touched her entire face. Even narrow blue eyes—which he had always found so beautiful—lit up like small lanterns, sparkling with joy. “I always thought as much. I expect he does too.”

“Do you think he knows? Who I am?”

“All of Kervale knows who you are—a good, strong hard-working man.”

“You know what I mean. Does he know who I really am?”

“If you mean who your parents are, he’s never said anything to me. But he’s an intelligent man, and he may well suspect. Still, does it matter? He has never said a word, and if he was going to do anything about it, he would have done so long before now.”

“True. Sometimes it would just be nice to know. Sometimes…” He trailed off again, surrounded by thoughts and memories of another life, and another time. There was almost nothing left of it now, only his name—which was far too common to identify him—and a yearly visit from his brother. But if Trent knew, if he really knew, he had been loyal enough to say nothing. Could he really trust him? Anya was wonderful and he loved her as fully as he knew how, but she was still a foreigner to the Realm. Just to be able to talk to someone who has been there, who has seen the white walls, walked the green fields, bathed in the cold waters of the Kharnine…

He was still thinking about it when the healer finally emerged from her house. She looked tired and worn. Her old, weathered apron was covered in blood. Most of her greying, red hair was tied back behind her head, but several rogue strands had broken free spread out like thin, fiery tendrils. Dark spots of weariness had appeared beneath green, Flameborn eyes that locked questioningly on Carvesh.

“How is he?” he asked, coming quickly to his feet.

“He’s lost a lot of blood, but he’ll live. He’ll keep the arm too, but only because it would have been harder on him to take it off. He’ll never use it again. He’s just lucky you were able to get him to me. If you had been much longer he would have been too far gone.”

“Praise the Nine.”

“Indeed. Now, Carvesh, I need to yo be honest with   me. In all my long years here in Kervale, I’ve never encountered wounds like that. Not once. And all morning he has been moaning in his sleep. Something about a devil and a shadow. What happened to him?”

He hesitated for only a moment, checking over his shoulder to ensure that nobody but Anya and Quelana were within earshot. Then, in slow hushed tones, he began recounting the story of the mysterious shadowbeast.

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