L Y I N G   I N

Written on June 11, 2019 (♊)

Author's Notes: I have a lot of thoughts regarding Dycedarg Beoulve, the psychology behind why he eventually destroys his family, and what his life was like before his primary activities seemed to be hiring assassins every few hours and drinking from a comically oversized wine bottle. This piece was me trying to sort through some of that through the medium of a fever dream.

Graphic Imagery: Warning for animal death.

The Romandan bullet had been easy enough to remove with a healer's arts, and they'd gotten to him fast enough that he had little noticed the wound until it began to fester. Even then, Dycedarg had refused to believe it was serious. Even when the fever set in, even when Larg ordered him recalled, even when he found himself confused and sweat-drenched in the back of a supply wagon leaving Zeakden--he told himself that he remained in control enough of his faculties to see out his plans. He was not prepared to allow the mishap of some idiot cleric render him useless and absurd--not with the tide so near to turning.

By the time he was once again quartered at Igros, he had forgotten how he had come there. Aside from a narrow, shifting pane of sunlight that crept through the balistarium in his chamber, there was no means by which he could register time and the changes that came with it. As the web of purple veins creeping across his shoulder burned hotter and hotter, the slippage of days turned to one of years, and he found himself a child running down the paths of the castle's stone breastwork. Why did everything seem so different under what had been the same Gallione summer sun, beating down upon him during what must have been the same war?

He tried to remember nearer things: his plans still in motion or emerging. Time didn't comply. The honey-brown fields turned black with blight. The foot of the somber Lady Beoulve touched lightly outside his door, hand on her swollen waist as she sang. He saw himself playing quoits with the dukeal heir, fingers dirty from the gum of the saplings they'd bent into the shape of Ordallians. Over and over his mind fell to an incident of no importance, lying amidst the straw of the stables as a squire nominally entrusted with his care rolled a clutch of giant eggs, one by one, before a pillar candle. There were only a few culls that day, but he had looked long at the crushed issue of the Duke's steeds before they were added to the offal for the hogs.

As he lay there, his blood poisoned despite the application of magic and medicines, those shapes returned to him: black, twisted, and featherless as they bled out. In the pulse of the fever's darkness, he kept thinking that they shuddered as he watched them, imagining again and again that one would open its sealed eye to gaze back at him.

A sound cut across the reverie, and he woke to the trembling cold of a world once more filled with light. A familiar figure sat silhouetted in light of the arrowslit, and he recognized the shrill cry of a grass flute being played.