Chapter 1



     There it was again, a darting movement, barely visible on the outer edges of his vision. It was a small, gray, nearly indiscernible shape that was almost there, but then in the next instant was gone. If he persisted in trying to see it, he was never quite able to catch it. But let his attention wander and it would be there, tormenting him again.

     What is that,” he wondered, “and what does it want with me?” He questioned whether something was wrong with his eyes; or if he might even be going mad.

     Robin shook his head in disbelief. He was only fifteen years old and far too young to be suffering from the afflictions and confusions he saw in many of the village elders. He often found himself standing somewhere with absolutely no inkling of what he was there for. Sometimes his mind would wander off during his lessons, not in the usual daydreams of a boy his age, but of fabulous places other than the ones he knew, ones that he had heard of in the wondrous tales and songs of traveling minstrels.

     “Ow!” He reached up and furiously rubbed the back of his head where Father Waylon had thumped him with a bony knuckle. Suddenly he was brought out of his daydreams, the stern look he received from his teacher enough to make him bend his head back to the lessons before him. But it was only a matter of a few moments before his thoughts were wandering once again, his book dropping to the desk before him.

    “Robin!” His head jerked up at the sound of his name being called, to see Father Waylon standing at the front of the class, the other children watching on, gladdened to see the old monk’s ire directed at someone other than themselves.

     Robin sighed and gathered up his lessons, knowing from previous experiences what was expected of him. He left the classroom, making his way outside the Abbey. Father Abram would be working in the gardens there, and it was Robin’s fate to report once again to the kindly monk.

     He found the good Father on his knees, pulling weeds from about the stalks of maize that grew there, his hands dirty, his robe stained from the soil beneath them. Robin stood there silently, ashamed to have been sent out of the classroom yet again.

     After a few long moments, Father Abrams sensed the lads’ presence, and turned, a smile on his face… but Robin could sense the disappointment the monk felt at seeing him there.

     Father Abrams stood, brushing the clumps of dirt off of his clothing as he made his way towards a bench in the shade of a nearby tree.

    Sitting down, he motioned for Robin to sit next to him. They sat there, silent, looking out over the garden.

    “Robin, I cannot say anything to you today that I have not said to you many times before, and we both know this to be true.” He shook his head as he glanced over at the lad. “I wish that you would tell me what it is that is tormenting you so, that you spend all your time locked up in your own mind instead of learning and taking part in the class.”

     Robin could only look off into the distance, his fear of what might happen if he told anyone, even Father Abrams, of his thoughts and fears. He had realized quite some time ago that there were things happening with him that were quite out of the ordinary; a considerable number of these concerning him greatly. After all, he was but a young lad, so why was it his dark brown hair already had a speckling of gray throughout it? And how could it be that his eyes could change color?

     They were a dark brown normally, but when he got excited about something such as a fight or a horse race, they would turn a light brown, almost hazel. If he became angry, they would transform to an icy green, glowing with his rage.

     The first time that he had been aware of the transformation had been a few years ago, when he and Daniel, a friend of his, had been playing at sword fighting, furiously whacking away at each other with a couple of discarded barrel staves. Daniel’s “sword” had slid down the length of Robin’s, smashed his exposed knuckles.

     Daniel stopped his attack, watching as Robin dropped his stave, stomping about holding his right hand close to him. “Sorry, Robin!” he had exclaimed, then turned and ran as Robin looked up at him with eyes that had turned emerald green from the pain.

     This was the last time he was to play with Daniel, for the lad’s parents forbade their son to have anything to do with Robin. He soon heard the whispered talk of the other children, and began to take great lengths to control his temper, and became adept at not meeting anyone’s eyes.

     Robin’s greatest fear was that they would consider him to be mad, for in this Kingdom; madmen were shunned, cast out of the villages and left to their own devices and wits for survival.

     Sometimes one would meet one of these “outcasts” wandering about, nothing but skin and bones, unable to fend for themselves. King Varagon had outlawed begging, and those found doing so were promptly pressed into one of the labor gangs used to do much of the hard labor within the Kingdom.

     Those judged to be insane were exempt from this, and no one was allowed to give them food or even water. The children, often encouraged by the King’s men or even their own parents, stoned them out of any town that they ventured into.

     Sooner or later their body would be found alongside one of the King’s highways and unceremoniously buried in a pauper’s grave. Tales were told that some were locked up in one of the dungeons if they were considered to be a danger of any sort, either to the Kingdom, or to others. On a still night one could hear their agonizing wails echoing out over the flatlands that lay behind the castle.

     These fears lurked in the corners of his mind, constantly tormenting him with fears of going mad. Small wonder he felt it dangerous to confess the least of his concerns to anyone.


     Father Abram sighed, knowing that once again, Robin was off in his own little world. “Your grandfather contributes a great deal of coin to this Abbey for your lessons, lad,” he admonished the boy. “You made such great progress the first few years, but once you mastered your scribing, you have shown little interest in anything besides reading anything and everything that you might lay your hands upon.”

     Robin shrugged, the monk’s words truer than the old man knew. “I have little interest in numbers, Father, truth be told. I know enough to do any sums that I might need to. Once I read of something, it is mine forever. I can learn to do anything if I can only find a record of it somewhere.”

     “You could do great things with a talent such as that, you know.” The Father assured him. “Liaisons to other Kingdoms, advisor to a Lord perhaps…”

     “I think that you have been out here in the sun too long, Father.” Robin scoffed. “I have no plans for anything like that, even if it were available to one such as I.”

     “Then perhaps it is time you thought about such things. Since you feel no need to pay attention to the lessons, I feel I have no choice but to fill your chair with someone that will.” Father Abram stood, and walked off towards the Abbey, leaving Robin sitting there on the bench.

     He sat there, shocked at what the monk had told him. All he could think of was all the time he had spent here… and now it was over, so suddenly that he could scarcely believe it.

      He gathered his schoolwork to him, glanced about one more time, then began the walk home. But to make matters worse, once he was home and told his parents of what had happened, they informed him they were taking him to see the village healer, a hedge-wizard.

     “There is nothing wrong with me!” Robin assured his mother, but all his protests fell on deaf ears.

     “Then you will have nothing to fear, will you?” His mother looked at him with a half-scowl upon her face, one that meant she had said her piece. It also meant that arguing further would only cause her to turn to his father, who with one solitary glance would convince Robin it was in his best interests to heed his mother.

     They made their way to the Healers’ cottage, a dark, smelly little place that stunk as if it had been used to stable some odorous type of animals just a short time before.

     Ulfar, the Healer, promptly took out a large container of leeches; instructing Robin to take off his tunic and lie down on the table that stood in the center of the room. “It is the Blood Fever,” he assured them. “Seen it many times before, but we can fix him up right quickly.”

     Robin glanced anxiously at his parents, silently beseeching them to not make him do this… but the look on their faces caused him to sigh heavily, then turn and strip off his tunic, crawling up and onto the rough wooden table.

     Ulfar liberally applied the bloodsuckers to Robin’s naked back, where they fastened themselves to his flesh and began to draw out the “sickness”, or so the healer assured them.

     Robin could scarce contain his disgust towards the slimy creatures as they affixed themselves to his flesh, gorging on his life-blood. He shuddered… then he felt a strange sensation begin at the base of his

skull… a tingling, burning feeling that grew, spreading throughout his body as he lie there on the cold, hard table.

     As the tingling infused the areas where the blood-swollen leeches clung to Robin’s flesh, each of them in turn stiffened and died, sliding off of his body and falling to the floor of the healer’s cottage. His parents and the healer stood there amazed, watching as each of the wounds from the leeches slowly closed up, the redness fading away until the lads’ skin appeared as it had before they had started.

     Ulfar quickly sprinkled some foul-smelling powder over Robin, then turned and began sweeping the shriveled bodies of the leeches into a pile. “He… he is… everything is all right now, the lad is cured.” The man stammered, reaching out a hand to take their coin. He hurried them out the door, assuring them Robin was now “healed” and they should have no further concerns regarding his health. The walk back home was done in silence, none of them knowing what to say, but each of them lost in their own thoughts over what had just happened.

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