An Unfolding Tale

an experimental fantasy fiction by M.D. Ward

Dragon, Dragon Carvesh

Carveseh was on his feet in an instant, rushing out of the Mayor’s parlour and pulling Chara along until he realized that no further information would be forthcoming from the hysterical woman. He let go of her hand, snatched up his sword—which he had left resting against the wall near the entryway—and ran out into the streets of Kervale. As he went, a single thought filled his mind.

He needed to find Dane.

Somehow, the boy had managed to survive the shadowbeast massacre that had taken the rest of his family. He was all that was left of Hendrick and Connie. If anything happened to him now, Carvesh knew he would never be able to forgive himself. They boy could not have gone far. Perhaps he was still somewhere within Kervale itself. Perhaps he had just wandered off, as young boys were known to do.

“Dane!” called Carvesh. “Dane, where are you?” The only response he received were the worried expressions of other villagers—though weather their concern was for the missing boy or for his own seemingly maddened frenzy, Carvesh could not tell. “Has anyone seen Dane Rasmas?” he shouted, but they all shook their heads and turned away.

“Ashes and embers!” he swore. Maybe he went home. He’s still young. Maybe he’s confused and doesn’t remember what happened. Maybe… It was not much of a plan, but it was the best he had and he began making his way toward the stable yards.

“Carvesh, wait!” Even after so many years, the unmistakable tone of command triggered something in Carvesh’s mind. He froze in place, standing still and unmoving, even as his mind screamed at him to keep moving. Very slowly, he turned to find Lord Carwell standing only a few feet away. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to find him!”

“As long as he’s still somewhere nearby. I told you, though, I can’t let you leave the village.”

“But what if he’s not? We’re already approaching dusk. It will be dark within a matter of hours. I don’t think he’s still here, and we can’t leave him out there. You saw those things. They’ll tear him apart.”

“I’ll send out a search party.”

“He’s already seen his parents die. Your men will only frighten him.”

“Better afraid than dead, no?”

“I’m going after him,” insisted Carvesh.

“I’ve already told you…”

“I’m going after him! When he’s back and safe, I will submit to any justice you deem fit, but until then you will have to bind me in chains to stop me.”

“That can be arranged.”

“Damnit, Aurin!” yelled Carvesh. An anger the likes of which he had not felt since Tuen struck Anya was beginning to bubble in his heart. “His parents were my closest friends. They welcomed us when were strangers to this place. My father once told me that when you fought beside a man, he became like a brother to you. We may never have marched to war, but Hendrick and I toiled together, just the same. We worked the fields. We tended the animals. By the sweat of our brows and the strength of our hands we built a life for our families. And now he’s gone—slaughtered by those beasts—and all that remains of him is Dane. By the Sun and the Holy Nine, I will not be held back until that boy is found!”

Lord Carwell responded with silence. His green, Flameborn eyes widened, while his lips thinned and his frown deepened. Idiot, thought Carvesh. You’ve gone too far, and he is going to throw you in chains. You won’t be able to bloody thing for Dane then.

“I’m sorry,” Carvesh began. “It’s just that…” He trailed of when Carwell raised his palm in a command of silence.

“I can count on one hand the number of people who have spoken to me like that,” said the Lord. While his voice was stern, it held none of the anger that Carvesh had expected to hear.“My parents, my nurse, my late wife and Merek Rayderon. It would seem that Jayslen was not the only one to inherit his father’s spirit. Or his stubbornness. What am I to do with you, Carvesh? By all rights, I should have you shackled and sent back to your mother.”

“Let me go. I will come back. I give you my word. Just let me find the boy.”

“Very well, I’ll allow you to go, but I’m coming with you. If I keep you near my side, perhaps I can avoid the uncomfortable sense of having abandoned my duty entirely.”

For a moment, Carvesh said nothing. His first instinct was to object, but he quickly found that he could not. There was simply no good reason for the Lord of Sharenden not to accompany him—and a number of reasons why it would be a very good idea. Despite his age, Carwell was a better swordsman, with years more experience. In his youth, he had fought against the Titans on the Ice Range and helped Carvesh’s father put down the Second Easterling Uprising. He was also gifted in the Flameborn talents of Physical Augmentation and Earthwielding. If it came to a fight, he could defend himself with a greater efficiency than Carvesh could ever hope to match.

“Of course,” he said. “I would be glad for any help you could give.”

“So then, where would you propose we start? Do you have any idea where this boy might have gone?”

“I’m wondering if he might have headed back home.” Carvesh quickly explained how he had found Dane wandering through the village, bloodied, frightened and muttering about his family. Next, he described the carnage he had found at the Rasmas homestead. “The boy’s frightened, and could be confused. Maybe he thinks it was all a nightmare and that if he goes back home, he’ll find his family still alive and well. I think we should start there.”

“How far?”

“A half hour if we ride hard.”

“You have a horse?” Carvesh nodded. “Then we’d best hurry.”

Together they made for the stable yards, which were located along the western edge of Kervale. The yards were bustling with activity. Three maroon-clad soldiers tended to more than a dozen horses—at least two of which were visibly injured. Meanwhile, a number of townsfolk worked diligently at providing feed, water and blankets. They cast wary glances at Carwell as he approached and called for his mount and armour. Few of the townsfolk had any experience in dealing with a man of the Lord’s position and authority, and while he had a reputation for being fair and just, it was clear that they were uncertain of how to act in his presence.

For his part, Carvesh paid it little mind. He simply went about finding his own horse, Stepper, who seemed to have been moved from her usual stall. When he finally located her, he gave her a quick brush down before throwing the saddle over her back. He was just tightening the cinch when he heard the deep, rhythmic voice muttering to itself. He looked up to see the man called Ferron sitting against one of the stables’ stone walls, but quickly returned his attention to fastening the saddle’s buckles. Like everyone else in Kervale, Carvesh had long ago grown accustomed to the red-bearded man’s incoherent ramblings.

It was only as he began to lead Stepper back toward the yard’s main gate that his attention was suddenly drawn back Ferron—who was playing some intricate game of his own invention with his fingers. Something in his mutterings caught Carvesh’s ear, prompting him to stop, turn and listen to the awkward and fragmented cadence of the madman’s words.

Dragon, Dragon, flying in the night
Hidden from the black eyes, hidden from their sight
A son went a’running, fleeing from his plight
Dragon, Dragon, flying in the night

“Can you repeat that?” Carvesh asked quietly, not wanting to startle the man, who seemed thoroughly engrossed with his game. When Ferron looked up, his eyes were bright and grey and seemed to burn with a fierce curiosity that was nothing at all like his usual, muddled confusion. He held Carvesh’s gaze for a long moment, then simply shrugged and looked back to his fingers.

“Ferron,” Carvesh pressed, taking several steps closer. “You said that a son went running, that he was hidden from black eyes. Dane Rasmas disappeared from his aunt’s home, and the creatures that killed his family—did you hear about that?” He paused for a moment, as though expecting Ferron to answer. “Those creatures have black eyes. I’ve seen them myself. Do you know anything about them? Or about where Dane went?” The other man jammed his thumb into his mouth, biting down on his knuckle as he slowly began to rock backward and forward. “Ferron, please. His life could be in danger. If you know anything at all, I need you to tell me.”

Another moment of silence filled the space between them before Ferron began muttering again. He still held his knuckle wedged in his mouth, forcing Carvesh to strain just to make out what he was saying.

Dragon, Dragon, flying near the sun
Fleeing to the hallowed grounds, he you seek will run
Steel your heart and seek him in the place all mortals shun
Dragon, Dragon, flying near the sun

Carvesh fought back the urge scream, or to pick Ferron up and shake him. He knew it would not do any good. The other man always spoke this way, using strange, rhyming quatrains that included some reference to the mythical dragon. It was as though he were repeating some poorly written folk song, or the kind of nonsense a mother might sing to her child. There was just no making sense of it.

And yet…

“Are you coming?” called Aurin Carwell.

“On my way,” responded Carvesh, mounting Stepper and riding off to where the Lord of Sharenden was waiting for him. He looked back only once, to find Ferron watching him intently. He was still rocking, still muttering his nonsense. The last words that Carvesh heard sent a fresh chill down his spine.

Dragon, Dragon, flying in the shadow…

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