|The sunset of this day of rest is festive in the small village of Sobell. The people celebrate with wine, bread and venison, for the harvest went well. Dovel is the center of attention with his songs and stories. Nobody even knew him until he came looking for work a few weeks ago. At harvest time an extra hand is always welcome. Melpel hired Dovel and let him sleep in the small barn behind his cottage. He was not a good worker, but he did just enough for Melpel to keep him around. Everyone but the young men liked him for he made them laugh and sometimes even dream. The young men did not understand the girls fascination. The girls absorbed his excitement; could they not have just one dance before their lot in life would be nothing more than a struggle?
Dovel drinks deep from the gourd of wine. Its taste enables him to feel the possibilities within the reality that surrounds him. Lipsky has had enough. He wants Melpel's daughter for his own. Even if they wanted to, none of the other young men objected, for Lipsky was meaner than most. He walks up to Dovel with his friends following. No one noticed, they were all captivated with Dovel's story of when he went to the Festival of the Knights.
"I don't think you have seen the Festival of the Knights. I think all that you say Dovel, is a lie", Lipsky says looking back at his friends for support.
"My friend Lipsky, do you think I could make this up? How about you, Lipsky, do you have visions? I do not think so, rocks do not dream", Dovel tells him while tapping the side of his head with his finger taunting Lipsky.
He knows not to show fear, it will only excite the pack. He is a traveling man and has been cornered often, and has learned his lessons well. The laughter enrages Lipsky, yet his courage flees in the face of Dovel's confidence. He is confused and is unable to come up with an idea. Cornered, he has no choice but to charge. Dovel trips him while easily stepping aside. The crowd roars with laughter as Lipsky falls into the mud. Dovel knows he cannot let this go on, for soon Lipsky's friends will jump in. Dovel grabs a gourd of wine and a chicken leg from a man standing next to him.
"Lipsky my boy, you should clean yourself, you are embarrassing the swine," Dovel says as he turns and walks away.
Dovel walks into the forest thinking about how many fools he has met. He finds a spot by the stream, the peace and quiet relieving his mind. Under a tree he thinks about the places he has been. A sound startles him until he sees it is Carmon standing by the tree. She looks as sweet and ripe as fresh fruit as the twilight silhouettes her.
"Come and sit with me, Carmon and wish that the stars have a good night," Dovel says sliding over to make room for her.
She is a little afraid to be alone with him, yet that is part of the attraction that made her follow him into the forest. Carmon cannot resist his mystery as she sits beside him. He half turns, leans close and strokes her raven black hair. When he quenches his thirst from the sweetness of her lips, she surrenders without a thought of right or wrong. He gently unties her blouse and reveals her heaving breasts, for she is lost in passion. He slowly slips his hand between her spread legs. For her the ache of wanting him is all that matters now. They roll in the cool grass. Their two passions are lost in the desire to become one. The stars and the trees silently witness the end of loneliness.
When done they quickly straighten their clothes, for with reality comes the shame. Even though they only did what human nature demands, it is forbidden. Carmon has no time to enjoy what will be her only real moment of love, because now she is forever marked.
"Why the tears, my sweet Carmon? We have just shared the true beauty of life. Be gone with regret, ride upon the wonders of love," Dovel says holding her as if she were a child.
"I cry for my heart has made me give you what you should not have. I love you Dovel. You must marry me, for now you own what is only a husband's right. Dovel, without you as my husband I will never be more than whore. I will die before I accept that lot in life," she says holding him tight in fear of what the answer will be.
"Carmon, how could one so sweet want me, the thought of a girl as beautiful as you even thinking she loves me makes my heart sing." Dovel rocks her gently.
Carmon hears her dreams within his words.
"Oh my dear Dovel, you do love me. Our life will be all you will ever want. My father's land and house will be ours," Carmon says as she looks deeply into his eyes.
"Your father will not accept me and what about Lipsky? You are his woman, are you not? Carmon, you are a bright light for me, all my life I have wanted a place where I can belong. Now I can have all my hopes and a beautiful woman to make my dreams come true. Listen to me my love, my light. I am not worthy of you. I know a lot about life and with me yours would be wasted," Dovel says as he puts his arms around her and rubs her back.
"My father likes you. Dear love, would you wish me a life with Lipsky? You and I are destined to live by our hearts, not the scruffs of our necks. Come, lets tell father." Carmon stands and pulls Dovel to his feet.
"Wait, wait my love. I want to ask your father like a man. You go sleep nestled in the dream of what our life will be. With the sunrise the world will know of our love." He takes her face gently in his hands and kisses her with a passion that makes her tremble.
It is never the friendly that lurk in the shadows of the night, yet Dovel has no choice. With three rabbits, a bag full of apples, bread and a gourd filled to the brim with wine he moves slowly through the darkness. He must put distance between him and his broken promises. He thinks about Carmon's soft warmth as he tells himself he is doing her a favor. Oh yes, it is time for him to move on; for his dreams await. With the gentle light of the sunrise, Dovel is thankful for the end of the darkness, for the night is the master of the unknown. He must not stop. He will walk all day.
Dovel came from a village high in the Transylvanian's Alps. His father died when he was eight, his mother the next year. His uncle took him into his family. His uncle was a decent man but his life was all about hard work and Dovel was lazy. Dovel wanted to play and pretend to be things that will never come true. By thirteen, he left the village with a band of renegade warriors that passed through. He learned the ways of a sneak thief and things on which his dreams could grow. One night when he was fifteen he slipped away, taking with him the leader's purse. Since then, it has been one adventure, song and drink after another. There were hard times but someone of quick wit and light hands always seemed to make life look easy. In every village, town and city there is always a fool or a woman with a heart of gold to help him on his way.
When the sun slips off into twilight Dovel feels safe from what he has left behind. He has found a large road. I must be on my way to somewhere, he thinks. Something catches his eye in the far off distance. The tiny dot grows into cause for concern. Dovel glances into the forest in case he needs a retreat. Curiosity makes him linger. Two men on horseback gallop toward him. Something is not right, Dovel thinks as they get closer and closer. There is no sound. How can horses running make no sound, he thinks? By the time he sees that their hooves are wrapped in sack cloth it is too late for him to slip away unnoticed.
Dovel tries to control his fear as the silent riders pull up on each side of him. The riders were beyond what could be called human. Their huge arms, legs and faces are covered with coarse black hair. Battle scars ornament their bodies. Their armor is like nothing Dovel has ever seen. Around their necks hang flesh from what, Dovel cannot even imagine. The helmet one is wearing is crowned with a human skull. The other wore no helmet. The hairless scar that runs deep down the center of his head makes Dovel wonder how anyone could survive such a blow. Dovel feels like the horses that stand still in frantic fear that they might disobey. The thick smell of death that surrounds them turns Dovel's stomach as he studies his predicament. The one with the helmet leans down from his saddle inspecting Dovel like he might be something to eat.
"Why did you pick this road at the death of day, lonely man," he says breathing his foul breath directly into Dovel's face.
"Yes, tell us lonely man. The name befits you. Right now you are most lonely, are you not?" The split headed one says.
The odd pair's laughter is more like a roar as the horses nervously dance to the beat of their master’s amusement. Life, I love you, Dovel thinks as he takes another deep breath.
"Great warriors, I walk down this road seeking great treasure," Dovel says setting up his only chance.
The word treasure stops their laughter. Even the horses settle down as if they are interested.
"Maybe we can help you find this treasure you seek," split head says looking over at the other half of the nightmare.
"He is nothing more than a fool. Tell me now lonely man, what is this treasure?" The helmeted one roars, making the hair on the back of Dovel's neck tingle with terror as panic tries for control.
"Yes, you can help me, oh silent riders of the night. I am nothing more than a simple man, a teller of stories. The treasure I seek is just another day of life. With that great treasure I can walk the road and spread the word of what I have seen and whom I have met,' Dovel says closely watching the reaction of the gruesome pair.
"You might not attain your wish. You may be asking for something as elusive as touching the moon," split head says irritated at Dovel's trickster words.
"Please do not take my words as anything but filled with respect. I stand before you not knowing if you are real or gods that rule the night," Dovel says, understanding the power of flattery.
"Gods, yes we are gods. We ride the night in search of death," the helmeted one says as they laugh and their horses dance as if giddy with delight.
"Maybe you are right, most powerful. This might be the end of the road. Maybe it is you I have been looking for. In my travels I have learned that it is war that rules men and the land. I realize now that I am in the presence of war's two bravest sons," Dovel says bending at the waist in a bow of respect.
"You lonely man have a perceptive eye, for we are war's most vicious. They call me Dalord. They call me this because even my own men tremble when my war cry howls from deep within,” the helmeted one says looking over at the other part of the twisted team.
"Do you lonely man who dreams for only a future want to hear the tale of my name?" Split Head bends down from the saddle placing his horrific head scar inches from Dovel's face.
"It has been two summers. The Turks attacked from the forest on our left before the sun had risen. Than they sent their horsemen from the right to smash us head on. The sun was high in the sky. I had lost my horse earlier that morning. I stood on top of a mountain of the dead and dying. Never had I felt that strong. The attack came from behind. My boiling hot blood covered my body. It poured down from the gushing wound that split my skull in half. I fell down among my victims. All control was lost as the Turk dog spit in my face and went back to the slaughter. I was no more a threat. My madness driven by revenge kept me from eternal darkness. I took a leather strap and rapped it around and around my head. I could not stand the pain as I struggled to my feet. I wandered in search of my murderer as the battle surrounded me. The warriors made room, for they could not believe I was alive. When the dog saw me coming for him his courage and faith abandon him. He begged that the spirit be gone as I hacked him to pieces. I disemboweled him and devoured his insides. My revenge was complete. My men were inspired and we were victorious. From that my name forever more would be Dead," he says looking over at Dalord.
Their laughter is like the roar of lions. The horses rear back on their hind legs. Their front feet swipe at the air as if chasing away the demons that rule the wind. Dovel steps back, stumbling over his sack as his legs give way. He sits between the freak pair. From his perspective, they now look to be both horse and beast.
"Let me prepare a feast for war's favorite sons," Dovel says getting up and opening his sack. When Dovel reaches into the sack the two stop their laughter and watch. They are pure warriors and paying attention is how they survive.
"I have rabbits. I cook them in a way showed to me by a mad monk. The flavor of the juices last long after there is nothing but bones left." Dovel pulls out the three rabbits, holding them high above his head in grand display.
"I have bread as fresh as yesterday's grain that danced with the breezes that caressed the fields. I have apples that are as sweet as the lips of a farmer's daughter,"
Dovel lays the rabbits down and juggles the apples. Dalord and Dead are amused. Dovel tosses them both an apple. Their reflexes are like a serpent's strike. The two devour them in three bites, core and all.
"What feast for the sons of a warrior god would be complete without the stinging taste of young wine." Dovel takes a deep drink from the gourd.
"Your invitation intrigues us, lonely man. You understand, lonely man the feast you prepare might only be a celebration of the end of your journey,” Dead says.
They sit and feast around the flicking flame. Dovel trembles inside as the pair tell tales as hideous as their appearance. Dovel does not understand when they tell him that they are the far away eyes and ears of a Dragon. A Dragon so feared that to look upon it is to see your own death. Tired, stomach full and a mind slowly drowning in wine, Dovel uneasily slips into sleep.
The warmth from the newborn sun separates Dovel from his dreams. It is the smell of death that snaps him back to the real world. Opening his eyes his mind screams in fear as he sees Dead and Dalord on their horses looking down at him.
"Lonely man, we grant you another day to travel down your road to nowhere. When this road offers you a choice, remember to follow the sun," Dead tells him before they ride away on silent hooves.
Dovel moves down the road. He cannot shake the chill that creeps its way up the back of his neck. The memory of last night with Dead and Dalord rumbles and tumbles in his mind. It was like conversations with the end of your life. The heat from the high noon sun makes Dovel feel his age. No food, no wine, no coins, again he was a man who had nothing. Dovel did not care, for right down the road are the rewards for the carefree.
The end of the day brings Dovel to a fork in the road. Which way, he thinks as the warmth of the sun rests upon his right cheek, beckoning him to follow. Dead's words slither back into his mind and Dovel makes his choice. Dovel turns left where the sun has already come and gone. Not following the sun to a new day is uncharacteristic for a dreamer, but he wants no part of Dead's advice.
The forest on both sides of the road is quiet. That is funny Dovel thinks. With the approaching night the animals start singing their songs. Just before the night defeats the remaining light, he sees a few people along the road. They scurry into their huts. The slamming of the doors tells Dovel this is no place for strangers.
PART 2 PICKMORE’S GOLD