An Unfolding Tale

an experimental fantasy fiction by M.D. Ward

A Rising Fear Carvesh

It did not take long for hysteria to overtake the small village of Kervale. With children running in every direction, word of Dane Rasmas’ frightening appearance spread like a brush fire, igniting fear in the hearts of mothers and children alike. By the time Carvesh put his arm around the frightened, blood-stained boy to lead him back to the healer’s home, a sizeable crowd was already beginning to form nearby.

A crowd which included the village mayor.

“What happened to the lad?” he asked over a chorus of frightened whispers as Carvesh and the boy approached. A short, roundish sort of man, Gregor Corbit was as plain and unassuming as the brown woollen shirts he always favoured. He was neither charming nor imposing, and to those who did not know him well, he may have even seemed shy and timid. He was well respected in Kervale, though, and came from an established family that had been farming the surrounding lands for generations. In the eight years since Carvesh had come to carve out a life for his family, the mayor had always been kind enough, with a friendly words and occasionally a sweat treat for the children.

“Nothing good,” replied the farmer, throwing Gregor a telling look. He was not about to discuss the matter here, where half the village could overhear. “I’m taking the lad to see Quelana to make sure he’s alright.”

“I heard you’d already been there!” cried someone from the gathered crowd, a middle aged woman that Carvesh did not recognize. “They say that one of your farmhands got attacked by something. Tore him up real bad!”

“Quelana assures me that Trent will be fine.”

“You tell us what’s going on Carvesh!” another voice demanded.

“I don’t know,” he snapped. “All I know is that Dane here needs to see a healer, get himself washed up and have something to eat. After that, we’ll try to learn whatever we can.” As he continued forward, cradling the silent, shaking boy under one strong arm, the crowd parted for him, but all eyes remained fixed in fascinated horror on the child and his blood stained clothes. Faint murmurs spread among the people, but no one dared to speak. As they passed the Mayor, Carvesh motioned for him to follow closely.

“Do me a favor, Gregor?” he whispered.

“If I can manage it.”

“Find three or four men that you trust and meet me outside of village in about an hour or so. We need to get down to the Rasmas farm. And tell them to bring weapons. I’m afraid something terrible has happened. Make it seem like your own idea if you need to, but I would really appreciate it if you could find me those men. I’m heading down no matter what—someone needs to—and would feel a whole lot better if I wasn’t alone.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“My thanks,” replied Carvesh as the Mayor turned back to toward the staring crowd.

Moments later, they were approaching the healer’s home again. Anya came hurrying down the steps, an old tattered cloak in her hands. When she reached them, she quickly wrapped it around Dane, picking up the poor boy and cradling him in her arms.

“Are Jayne and Alek here?” asked Carvesh.

“They’re inside,” his wife replied. “What happened to him?”

“I think he may have encountered the same thing that Trent and I saw last night.”

“The Light preserve us,” said Anya, her voice breaking over the words. Tears were beading in her eyes. “What of his parents?” Carvesh said nothing, but he knew she understand the troubled look he offered her. Holding Dane close, his wife began to weep. When they had first arrived in Kervale, Hendrick and Connie Rasmas had been among the first to welcome them. They had helped clear the land and plant the fields during those first, difficult years. Through it all, they had become fast friends. The loss of either would be heartbreaking.

The loss of both was beyond imagining.

When they entered into Quelana’s house, Carvesh did not even wait for her to ask the inevitable question. As Anya began stripping Dane out of his bloodied clothes, he took the healer aside and quickly recounted how he had found the boy, and the foreboding words he had whispered about his family.

“You’re certain those were his exact words?” she asked.

“Positive. He told me that the shadow came, and that it killed them all. And just before that he was naming off each member of his family, muttering that they were gone. I think… I think he may have seen them all killed.”

“By the Nine, I pray that you’re wrong. Now let me take a look at him.” The boy had been stripped to his small-clothes and Anya was already heating the water with which to bathe him. It was obvious that he was not physically injured in any way, but Quelana insisted on a thorough examination, just to be certain. When she was fully satisfied, she nodded wordlessly to Anya who, together with Jayne, proceeded to scrub the boy clean, while a solemn-faced Alek wrapped up the bloody clothes in a tight bundle.

“Not a scratch on him,” said the healer. “Which means that the blood came from someone else. And he is definitely showing the symptoms of a major trauma. If what you’re saying about his family is true, the mental wounds will be severe. He may never be the same again.”

Carvesh could only nod in response. “I’m going down to the Rasmas farmstead to have a look around. I’ve asked the mayor to round up a group of men to go with me.”

“I’ll come too,” offered the healer.

“What about Trent?”

“I expect him to sleep for at least another half a day, and if Anya is willing to stay, I can show her what needs to be done if he does wake. Besides, I think you’ll need me.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because if we find what you think we will, I may be the only hope for any survivors.”

“There may not be any survivors.”

“Then at least I’ll be there to look at whatever remains. Like I said, I’ve never seen wounds like Trent’s before. If we find more of the same, then whatever attacked you must also have attacked the Rasmas farm.”

“Are you beginning to believe?”

“No, Carvesh. I’m beginning to fear.”

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