The Dreaming : A Dragon's Tale
by Everett A Warren
On one cool evening in the Month of the Boar, I wandered the Market at Fayleigh, in the cool light of the three moons. Set within the heart of the city, bounded by walls higher than those that kept the storms from the Olephian Sea at bay and higher than those which guarded the landbound approaches to Fayleigh, the market was of such legendary status that I had first heard of it long before I knew in what realm the city might be found. It is said, in more realms than one and in realms more distant than this one, that if it is for sale, it can be found in the Market at Fayleigh. It was on my first visit there, as I strolled by stalls and stores, perusing their wares, that I first heard Thaumaturge tell a tale.
He was just gathering a crowd about him, and, through it all, his eyes caught mine alone, although I was far from him. Unsure of who or what he was, I approached the back of the audience and lost sight of him. As he began to speak, I manoeuvred for a better view, and found one atop a disused crate by a closed stall. He spoke of strange and wondrous things, and I was as enchanted as any who stood listening. It was mythic, in a way, but held something that rang true, as if he spoke not of the heroic events from ages past, but of the here and now, or perhaps the morrow and beyond.
A brave hero fought valiantly alongside a powerful archmaji, and between the two, a great evil loosed upon the world was brought to bay. A common theme, I'll admit readily enough, but it was far from common in the hands and voice of this speaker. I merely smiled at the end, whilst the rest applauded and tossed a gold coin or more onto the cloth he had spread out for such a collection. His tale was well worth such a steep fee – for I had seen how highly the Fayleighans prized their miserly ways, where parting with mere copper was a difficult enough task – yet I could not bring myself to step forward, for I was slightly unnerved at certain elements in his tale and at the way his eyes seemed to find me, and glimmer, when he spoke of the hero, and the way in which his odd medallion seemed to share in this flickering secret, finding my hand tight upon my sword-hilt at each such occurrence.
It was then, as the old tale-spinner gathered up his collection cloth, as the audience faded into passer-bys, as the torchlights flickered as surrogate for the last of the sunlight, and as I myself turned my back to him to walk out of the market and find an Inn, it was at that moment that the thief chose to strike. He moved swiftly, I am sure, although I did not see where he had hidden himself, certainly it was not anywhere in the direct vicinity. Scooping the cloth and treasure therein, pushing the old man backwards, clutching the medallion about the story-teller's neck, and then rushing with treasures in hand swiftly up a banner hung from a small shop, so passed the thief. My senses already heightened by the odd inferences in the telling, I had noted the near silent approach and even still, I barely turned fast enough. All that I saw was the departing thief bounding over rooftop and away.
With but a look to the old man, who sat up before the admirers rushed back, squealing and afraid, to assist him, I doffed my cape and bounded to the rooftops with all the grace of my feline form. Eschewing the two legged travel I preferred in more civilised regions, I ran on all fours, sure that nothing could elude me in the hunt. I tried not to think on my last two images of Thaumaturge, one being similar to the glittering glances given I during the story, the other, just before I disappeared across the roofs was equally unnerving, for one does not generally smile when they have recently been relieved of a small fortune.
Copyright (c) 1997, 1999 Everett A Warren
You can read the complete story in my collection, Cautionary Fables: Warts & All, available on Amazon.com or by order from your local bookseller.