In his dream, Wylliam d'Arienzo was once again in the graveyard.
The sun slanted sideways and the shadows moved in an elongated loop across the leathery grass and over his outstretched body. It wasn't so much the notion that he was in the graveyard that drove a wedge of fear down Wyll's throat, but the fact that he could not remember how he had gotten there. Or worse yet, anything before the moment when his eyes opened—his eyelashes had been so heavy in that instant that they felt like boulders stitched to the thin flesh of his eyelids. He remembered the abrupt sense of loss, craning his neck in either direction, feeling his hands and his face but remembering nothing. Knowing nothing beyond the fact that he was alone.
It was the pain of his very own oblivion that caused the nightmares. It was the dread of knowing nothing of himself beyond the relics that were found with him, and single name, Wylliam, which had been burnt into his flesh by a brand long ago. The flesh around the scar had healed white and would forever remind Wyll of how little he knew of himself. His surname came from the town of Arenzo that bustled beyond the fenced in graveyard.
The dream always ended at the same moment when his eyes opened. As if unconsciously Wyll was reaching across time to recapture those forbidden moments before he became conscious again. His mind begging for more of himself like a man driven mad by an unbearable thirst that he could never quench.
When his eyes opened he found his fist clenched, and his teeth had been ground so tightly that his jaw ached.
Wyll was not accustomed to sleeping on the ground, and he shivered in the early morning chill. Gooseflesh dotted his cheeks and neck and when he rose up from the hard rooted ground he felt the aftershocks of the aches and stiffness that the long night, and his nightmares, had brought on.
A thin layer of dew coated his clothes like dust; the dampness sparkled as the arms of dawn reached out to him. The sun was a haunting orb of yellow and orange in bloom.
A lone nightingale jumped across the ground, startling him with its quick movements. "Good morning, lovely lady," he whispered to the strange bird as it hopped across the ground. He spoke like a lover, or a poet would, but the bird flittered away before he could say more.
Often times since he had begun his journey Wyll had caught himself speaking aloud—both to the solitude all around him and to himself—while he wandered listlessly through the greenwood. Notes for his fiddle erupted into his mind while he walked ever onward and often times he would sing to the birds, or skittish does as they crossed his path. He wrote ballads in the dirt with a bent twig and swore to himself that by nightfall he would reach a town.
Every so often he would try to calculate the days—either by counting on his fingers, or reflecting back on how many sunrises and sunsets he had seen. He always came back with the same unflattering confusion. Although to Wyll it seemed like he had traveled for years, rather than days. He wondered if that sense of displacement added to his heightened nightmares and fears.
After awakening that first day disoriented in the graveyard he had wandered into Arenzo. His bare feet trampling the newly sprung wildflowers that littered the pathway like wide-eyed, expectant young girls.
He had no money, making lodgings a complicated affair. Those first few weeks were spent sleeping in alleyways or hiding in cramped sheds. It was in these dreary first days where Wyll had noticed the scar spelling out his name. The etching coiled and roped long dead tissue slightly above his heart, plainly visible. But even as he ran his thumb and forefinger over the raised dead flesh he couldn't even recall the maddening pain that he must have felt when this was done to him.
That first day he pulled all of the contents from the satchel that had been found with him, examining each object. He concentrated on them individually, his brow furrowing, trying to unlock their secrets, hunting for anything that might spark a memory.
First he pulled out his fiddle and his bow, although it was never anything extraordinary. It was old, the wood dull and scratched. The outer threads on the bow's strings were loose and curled up at the sides. Deeper inside the satchel was an old cloth, thick like muslin, and very soft, with a heavier object wrapped inside it. Wyll examined the material, hoping to find some clue as to where it came from, or how he had gotten it. But the cloth was bare—almost as if it had once been a part of a blanket, or a woman's unfinished dress. Inside the cloth was a mirror. It was small and round, but heavy in his hand. He held it up to his face, but even the sight of his own reflection couldn't conjure any threads from his past.
Wyll yawned, the gesture of moving his mouth made him reach up to his face and scratch the stumble that seemed always to be growing, but never turning into a full beard.
His belongings were scattered all around the bed he had made with nettles and soft leaves the night before. When he first began his journey he was careful never to leave these things unattended. Nothing he owned was worth much, but they were all he had. He clung to these things like most people cling to their own memories and past.
Many weeks into his journey now, Wyll didn't bother to gather his things right away. He meandered through the tree line slowly, watching the sunrise's drowsy attempt to turn into day. There was birdsong somewhere in the distance, but his footsteps didn't startle them into silence. A few paces past the glen where he had made camp a shallow brook whittled its way through the dirt. Dropping to his knees he cupped the frigid water into his palms and splashed his face. He let out a loud moan when the icy water hit him. His fingers and his cheekbones burned.
As he bent over toward the water from the shoreline the opal pendent that he wore around his neck swayed in his reflection coming off of the water. Wyll stroke it with his wet fingers. It was another object that he had been found with. The stone glinted and gleamed in the harsh morning light. For a brief moment Wyll thought that he glowed unnaturally, but discarding his reflection in the water, and looking down with his own eyes he could see that it was still the satin smooth stone that it always had been. The webs of pink and blue veins curved along the strange shape like fancy letter writing.
The jewel looked feminine to him, and although he had no recollection of how he obtained it he had always entertained the notion that it had once belonged to a woman. His thoughts waxed over the idea of a mother – someone of high stature, for the stone was of rare quality, and probably the most valuable thing he owned. He moved his fingertips over its edges again – a lover, perhaps? Although he was sure it could not have been from a lover. The stone made him think of beauty and power and passion and he refused to believe that he would ever forget such a creature.
When he got back to his camp site he gathered his belongings back into his satchel. It had been over a day since he had last eaten, and his stomach growled in protest. He had tried to hunt small game but he hadn't been able to catch anything. His last meal was a pocketful of bitter un-ripened berries that he had found on the side of the path two days ago.
Wyll pushed the thought of food away, telling himself that by nightfall he would surely find another town. Someplace where he could play his fiddle and eat the lord's meat.
He thought of the castle that he left behind in Arenzo. It was a place where he had often times found himself huddled outside the tall iron gates playing his fiddle to the guards posted on the wall. Wyll couldn't even remember learning to play the fiddle, yet somehow his hands and head were filled with songs. The sound of his music sent a warm thrill through his veins but the men manning the walls just laughed at him.
He begged them for the chance to play his music for the lonely queen who rarely left the halls of her own home. Wyll even tried to bribe a few of them with stolen bread to see if he could learn which wall was closest to the gardens, or where he should stand so that she would have a better chance to hear him play. He hungered to play his music for Arenzo's sad queen, but he had been denied for so long. He longed to play his fiddle in her chamber and see a small smile creep across her lovely face.
Most of them were deaf to his pleading and questions. One of them even pulled their britches down, pissing over the side of the wall, narrowly missing Wyll who was able to slither away in time.
Wyll stumbled away from the castle for the last time after that. Letting its marble façade and vaulted towers be his last memory of the palace, and the town itself before he left it.
He had been traveling onward ever since. He quickened his pace with each new day and when darkness fell and he closed his eyes he managed to convince himself that by morning he would find what he was looking for. Somewhere there was a place where he could both play his music and call home. Somewhere where his questions would be answered and he wouldn't have to dream of graveyards and silent ghost-like queens behind high walls where heathen men stood sentinel.
Wyll scratched his aching chin, turning away from the sunrise. He moved west like he always did.
All work by D.J. Wilson (FictionPress id. 350994) is copyrighted under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.