Skipping forward in time now to the following Monday at tea time. The top of the four o’clock hour. If you were to look down the lane, you would see none other than old man Charney returning from his tenpins tournament in Callister. He is especially happy because he did quite well on the bowling lawns this trip. Not only that but he is practically drooling over the thought of the young lad and his uncle’s flock. The one that would soon make him a very handsome profit.
Only this time instead of having just one ram with him, the boy was knee deep in black sheep of every size. He had said about twenty-five sheep but Old man Charney counted at least thirty very healthy-looking rams, lambs and ewes on the hoof. His greedy old heart skipped a beat just then, you can bet on that. The young lad had spied him as his buggy crested the rise and the boy was now waving his hat at him but Old Charney did not bother to wave back.
When Charney finally drew up in his buggy, the lad removed the green cap he was wearing and bowed down low before the old miser. “Good day to you your worship. I trust that my lords business in Callister went well ?” he said.
“Are these all of the black ones that yer uncle can provide me with or do you still have more?” the old skin flint wanted to know.
“Aye sir these are the lot of the black ones that my poor uncle owns and there are no others I can assure you of that, sir.” The lad said
“Aye, I count thirty and two head here, including four lambs” Old Charney said “So then, is your uncles price the same this time? Don’t even try to tell me he wants four crowns for these lambs either or the deal is finished” he warned
“Oh no good sir not at all . My uncle has instructed me to sell this lot for four silver crowns on the head for the ewes and the rams and two silver crowns for the lambs and that I may not accept even so much as a single shilling less.” the lad explained with a smile.
Old Charney did the math quickly in his head. He may not be very smart when it came to most things but he was keen as a razor when it came to estimating the size of a flock and its fair market value. “That would make it 120 silver crowns by my reckoning, lad,” he said after double-checking his figures.
“Aye your worship that is the true sum of it.” The lad agreed, ”120 crowns”
“Will that be enough for your uncle to pay off the mortgage on his farm then boy?” Old Charney asked, trying to sound more concerned for their welfare than he was not.
“Aye, sir. That it will and then some.” The boy assured him.
Just then a young boy 2 or 3 years older than the shepherd boy came running up to them from the direction of Callister. He seemed to have been running for quite some time because he was sweating profusely in the afternoon sun and he was out breath. The boy approached old man Charney and removing his hat first, he bowed low before the old man and said “My apologies Mister De Rothschild but I was delayed by a sick ewe. I came as fast as I could.”he said between gasps for breath.
“Well its high time you got here boy. I was just about to fire you and hire this boy here to drive the flock home for me instead.” Charney said , the poison dripping from every word. He ignored the boy altogether and turned his attention back to the young shepherd boy and his (Charney’s) flock of black sheep.
“Now then. Since it appears that all is in order here and we’re all set, let us conclude our business so we can all be on our way.” He said to the young lad as he pulled out his purse which was heavy with silver and gold crowns.
He told the boy from Callister to get the ram out of the buggy’s boot, (which turned out to be far easier than putting him in there the second time had been) while he counted out 10 golden crowns and 20 silver, (note: 1 gold crown back then was worth 10 silver crowns) and then he handed them all over to the young lad to count for himself. When Shane was satisfied that the sum he had been given was correct, he put the coins into his own purse which was tied to his belt and bowing down low to, Old Charney he said, “May the good Lord bless you, your worship, all of your days. You have brought salvation to my good uncles name and saved our farm , sir. Most assuredly fortune shall smile upon you always, sir.”
Old man Charney was about to tell the boy where he could stuff all of it but when he looked up from hiding his purse the boy was already out of earshot and skipping happily through the freshly mown hay of the sun dappled meadow. As the old man watched the boy turned around and waved back at him and then he dropped down behind a hillock and was lost from sight, never to be seen again by Charney of Kilcairn. Nor by anyone else for that matter.
Old Charney got his newly found flock of black sheep to his home pens without any problems and he sent the hired boy back to Callister with instructions to return in exactly 2 weeks so he could drive Charney’s flock of 45 black sheep to the port where he [lanned to sell them.
Tthat was Monday. The following Thursday night as it so often does in Wales at that time of the year, it rained. It was not a heavy rain, but it was a good old fashioned gully washer just the same. By the time the sun rose on Friday morning, however; the rain had stopped and the skies were clear again.
Old man Charney was at his table eating an austere breakfast of hot porridge and boiled eggs when his hired hand, a local boy named, Kreb, came charging into the house with his eyes about to pop out of his head. He looked as though the hounds of Hell were after him.
“What is the meaning of this, Kreb?!” Old Charney roared when he saw how much mud the boy had tracked all over his precious and expensive Persian rugs “What the devil is wrong with you have you lost your mind you blasted fool?” he roared causing Kreb to cower back a step or two.
“But But…. “he stammered trying desperately to finds word. “B,but..I…”
“But I, my wrinkled old behind” Old Charney roared back “I hope for your sake you have one devil of a good reason for tracking mud in the house and all over my carpets Kreb because if you don’t, I’m going to have you horse whipped you bloody fool! Now spit it out boy! What in God’s name is the matter with you?!”
Kreb was so scared that he didn’t even know where to start aso instead he began to hyperventilate, which didn’t help matters either. Finally, Old Charney managed to calm the boy down by promising not to horsewhip him as long as he had good reason for his unforgivable intrusion. Which of course was a bold-faced lie as you could probably guess for yourself. But it had the desired effect and at last Kreb was able to do more than just gesticulate wildly towards the front door.
“Master, master, oh master!” he cried when he got his breath back again. ” Sorcerers! Master, Sorcerers! Sorcerers have enchanted them all, Master!”
“What?” Old Charney asked in confusion. “What Sorcerers? What is enchanted?!” he cried. He was quickly losing his patience.
“The sheep! In the pen master, The black sheep! They’re all enchanted, Master! Enchanted I tell you!”
Old Charney had enough of the boy’s hysterics so he rose from the table, walked over and slapped the young man a good one across the face. Then as an afterthought he gave Kreb a backhand to the other side of his face just for good measure. Spare the rod spoil the hired help he always said. At any rate it was effective enough and he somehow brought the boy back to his senses enough so that he could make some sense.
“Master all of those sheep that you bought four days ago.” He said
“You mean the black sheep?”
“Yes, master the same ones.”
“What about them? Did they escape from their corrals and run away? Did wolves get past the dogs and get to them? What what?” Old Charney demanded.
“No master, nothing like that. A sorcerer has come in the night and he has enchanted all but a few of them. You must come and see for yourself, Master you must come and see!” he cried “Not in my bloody nightshirt I don’t you bloody fool, now go wait outside while I go get dressed!” old Charney barked as he shuffled his way back into his bedroom to find his clothes.
In just a couple of minutes old Charney was dressed and found Kreb waiting for him on the front step busily wringing his hands nervously. “Come on you danged fool and I’ll show you there is no such thing as enchanted sheep.” He told the boy.
Drek followed meekly in his masters wake through the mud back to the sheep pens on the other side of the barn. If you’ve ever smelled sheep than you would not wonder why they were kept so far from the main house.
When they came around the far side of the barn in sight of the sheep pens Old Charney stopped so short that Kreb ran right into him and knocked the old geezer face first into a puddle of dark oozing mud. The mud was that special kind of barnyard mud that doesn’t smell a whole lot like mud. If you catch my drift.
When Old Charney came up again, his face covered with mud and some of the other stuff one usually finds in a sheep lot, he was madder than a mother grizzly bear whose cub has been stolen right in front of her face. As you can imagine I’m sure, Charney was even madder than a wet hen. He was madder than…. Well you get the picture I’m sure. He was furious to say the least.
“Kreb!” he hollered. But to Kreb’s credit he had wisely decided to pursue alternative career opportunities in a healthier climate at a rapid rate of speed. He had run like his butt was on fire. It’s probably just as well that he did too, for when Old man Charney got back to his feet and wiped the crust from his eyes the first thing he saw was Kreb hurdling the low stone wall that marked the edge of his property. He thought only that he would not have to pay the boy the 5 crowns that he owed him for the past 3 years of work. The second thing that he saw though was something he wasn’t quite so happy about. In fact he fell right on his rear end in the mud puddle behind him and sat there staring at his sheep pen while the cold water soaked into his dirty underwear.
His eyes were bulging all the way out and his jaw hung slack, gaping wide open . There in the pen where all 45 of his precious black sheep had been the day before, there were now 6 black sheep and 39 white ones! As white as the driven snow they were! Well not quite. Actually, they were more of a grayish color thanks largely to the remaining dye residue in their wool. But compared to the black ones they were white enough to pass for snow as far as Old Charney was concerned. They were not black sheep, they were white sheep.
“Who…. What….When?…..” he sputtered as the ‘mud’ ran into his open mouth. He spat violently and followed that with a blue stream of curses that I will not, for decency’s sake, relate to you dear reader, but leave instead to your own imagination. Inevitably anger gave way to anguish and then slowly anguish became acceptance as the greedy old man began to realize that he had been had.
“Why me Lord?” he cried to the heavens above but naturally the heavens, as usual, declined to comment.
He fell back down, frustrated, back into the mud and lay there sobbing on his muddy arms while his now white sheep and the six black ones stared at him in the stupid way that only sheep can manage.
“Why me Lord? Why me? “kept drifting out in muffled sobs from under his crossed arms that cradled his muddy head.
At first, Charney was inclined to believe, just as his former assistant Kreb had, that his sheep had been cursed by a sorcerer. “It was probably that black hearted son of a cur dog, Farron the Terrible from up north.” he said to himself.
He didn’t dare say it too loud though, lest Farron the Terrible should still be lurking about nearby. Cursing a sorcerer was not all that uncommon, but doing it where one of them could hear it was just plain stupid. Unless one actually preferred going through life as a plow horse or a bullfrog that is.
But then he began to think perhaps it was the work of Philemon the Great from down south “He’s probably working for that no-good dirty scoundrel Durran, and Durran still owes me money!” Old Charney grumbled.
But when he got closer to the pens, which scared the bejesus out of the poor sheep, Charney could see large puddles of black water and mud not only inside of the corral but all around it as well. He knew he had been had and had good too. He wiped one of his fingers off on one of the very few dry and not so muddy spots on his shirt and stuck it down into the black water at his feet. When he pulled it out it was stained jet black just like the water.
“Dyed!’ he screamed, which caused the sheep in the pen to all bunch up together on the far side of the corral away from the crazed mud monster that was in a rage and might be in the mood for mutton.
“They were all dyed in the wool! Arrrgh!’ he cried “How could I have been such an old fool?!” he bawled as he fell back down on his hands and knees in the mud and pounded his fists into the muddy black water.
“HOW, HOW, HOW, WHY?! WHY ME, LORD, WHY!?”
First, he cursed Heaven, then he cursed the” Queen of all bloody England” and her “Bloody stupid black wool bloody wardrobe!” then he cursed all sheep in general until they were sufficiently cursed until the end of time. After that he cursed the unknown young lad and his liturgical uncle whom he vowed to the moon and stars that he would find even if it took him a thousand years.
Old man Charney died and was buried in a lonely grave less than a year later. Despite a whole plethora of rumors and speculation as to the perpetrator or perpetrators of the fiendishly clever scam, and the ensuing investigation that followed, the culprit was never identified.
Until now Shane’s father was the only one who ever figured out the mystery of the black sheep but he never told anyone what he knew. Not even Shane himself.
It all started out as a joke that his good friend Tayvian had told him one day about some black sheep. I forget now what the joke was about but it planted a tiny seed of an idea in young Shane’s brain. One that eventually grew into the tree of great practical joke. One that he would play on mean old man Charney who had so often cursed at him and threatened to horsewhip him for no good reason. On at least one occasion too many it seems.
The first thing he needed to find was some sheep that he could use for his little scheme and that came together right after the spring lambing season. One night he overheard his father telling his mother that would be good for their graze land and for the flock if they were to take some of their older animals and sell them and allow the flock to replenish its numbers the natural way.
They agreed that it was a good idea and that they could do fine with a thinner flock even if it meant that they would have a little less wool to sell for the next tow or three seasons. The only problem they had, was; to whom would they sell the extra sheep? The surrounding sheep ranchers had all the livestock that their graze could handle already. Nobody that Randal had talked to about it had expressed any interest in taking on any more sheep for the foreseeable future.
Shane slept on it that night and in the morning as the cock announced the dawn, Shane awoke with a plan in his mind for wrecking his revenge on mean old Charney.
The first thing he had to do was to obtain his father’s permission to sell some of the sheep off for him. Shane knew then, just ever as every kid knows now that the best time to ask your parents for anything is whenever they are really busy.
So, he waited a few days before he went to his mother who was busy fighting off the weeds that were trying to take over her vegetable garden.
“Mother” he said as she pulled the offending weeds out by the roots by hand. “Do you suppose it would be alright if I was to sell off some our extra sheep that father wants get rid of?”
His mother stopped pulling out weeds and straightened up to look at him “And how do ya know that your father wants to sell off some of our flock pray tell?” she asked him “I overheard you and Da talking about it the other night is all. I didn’t mean to but I couldn’t help it” he explained sheepishly.
“I see. “ Temperance said as she bent back down to her weeding again. “I guess your father and I will certainly have to be more careful about what we say in the future then.” She said half to herself. Shane wasn’t listening to her though since she wasn’t saying the words he wanted to hear.
“Does that mean it’s okay then?” he asked hopefully and then he got exactly the response that he had been fishing for the whole time.
“I don’t know Shane” she said as she wiped the dripping sweat out of her eyes “Why don’t you go ask your father?’ ” If Da says it’s okay with him is it okay with you?” Shane asked her already knowing what she was going to say. “Yes Shane. If it is okay with your father, then it is okay with me” Shane grabbed her around the neck and kissed her on top of her head before he went tearing off in search of his father. Or in this instance, victim number two.
Randal, as Shane already knew, was out in the woods nearby chopping up firewood for this coming winter so that it would have the intervening months to season and dry out.
He was a big strong man and Shane liked to watch him as he wielded his double bitted axe. It always bit exactly where he aimed it and bit in deeply sending great chips of ash, oak and other hard woods, He was so skilled at felling trees that he would place large logs about 2 feet long along a trees own shadow. Once they were laid out in a straight line he would drop the tree right on top of the logs that he had laid out. It was much easier for him to cut the tree up into firewood that way after the tree;s branches had been hewn off.
When Shane found him that day, Randal was just about all the way through the bole of a large oak tree that would provide his little family with enough firewood to last them for two weeks. He could see where the tree was going to fall simply by where the back cut was made so he found himself a handy rock nearby on which he could sit and watch. The oak was pretty thick but Randall’s axe was sharp and sure and the mighty tree fell on top of the logs with a splintering crash and then lay still.
Randal in the meantime had pulled his great axe back out of the oak stump and had set to chopping away the branches starting at the bottom and working his way up. The bigger ones would become stove wood to burn his wife’s big iron stove. “I hope it’s something you can ask me while I’m working son.” He said as the ax severed a limb the size of his own thigh in four strokes.
“I can.” Shane promised, as Randal positioned himself over the next branch and raised the ax again.
“Very well then you may ask away.” Randall said as it bit deep into the wood.
“Well the thing is I overheard you telling mother that you want to sell off a portion of our flock. Is that true?” Shane asked.
His father didn’t miss a stroke, “Exactly how did you hear that conversation when you were supposed to have been in your bed, fast asleep ?”
“I was in bed, Da, and I swear I wasn’t trying to listen in on you, I could not help but overhear you.” Shane explained.
Randal’s ax severed the second largest branch then he stopped with the ax handle in both hands and looked at his son funny for a moment. “I guess your mother and I will have to be more careful about what we say in the future won’t we?” he mumbled as he set back to work on the next branch.
“Funny, that’s exactly what mother said,” Shane observed with a laugh.
Randall paused only for a moment to glance at his son who was grinning back at him innocently from his perch on the rock. He looked away again quickly, but not quickly enough that Shane could not see that his unflappable Father’s cheeks were a livid shade of red. Since grown ups were still pretty much a mystery to him anyway, Shane paid no mind to his father’s odd behavior and instead helped himself to some more of his mothers Apple cider rather than try tofigure it out by himself.
Randal cut off several more of the lower branches before he paused to spak on it again. “Yes son it is true that we are looking to sell off a third of our flock. But since nobody wants to buy them it’s pointless to even discuss it isn’t it?” His father said as another large branch gave in to his axe. “Why do you even ask anyway? Randal St. Cloud wanted to know as he moved to cut off the next branch.
“I was just wondering if it would be all right for me to sell them if I can, sir.” Shane explained.
“Do you already have a buyer in mind ?” his father asked with a dubious looking eyebrow cocked in Shane’s direction.
“No sir, not really.” Shane lied. But it was not really a lie since he had his fingers crossed when he said it. It was more like creative honesty. “But, I was thinking that perhaps I night be abke to find someone who would be willing to buy them.” He added which then made it not exactly a lie, but not exactly the truth either.
“Maybe you could, son.” Randall agreed.” Maybe you could.”
“So if I did, or if I could, would it be all right with you, sir? Shane asked hopefully. He was almost sure that he was on the verge of getting his father’s permission.
“Sometimes I think you are much too old to only be 11 years of age lad. Why don’t you go and ask your mother, and see what she has to say about it?” Randal suggested in an attemot to dismiss his pesky son.
“I already asked her Da.” Shane said pleadingly.
“And?” Another cocked eyebrow.
“And, mother said that it was all right with her.” Shane said, with all of his fingers crossed behind his back.
Randall stopped chopping again and looked questioningly at his son for a long minute. “Oh she did, did she?” he asked, his voice bespeaking his doubts and resignation at the same time.
“Yes sir she did.” Shane assured his father, and then he held his breath until Randal finally resumed his task.
Shane knew that his father was giving his question serious consideration before he gave his answer. Randal cut away at the oak branches for over 10 minutes before he finally spoke again. Shane sat there quietly and drank up half of his father’s apple cider while he waited for the axe to fall.
At long last Randall reached his decision. “You are 11 years of age son.”
“11 and a half years of age now, Da.” Shane reminded him.
“Right, right. 11 and a half. Going on fourty if you ask me but I can see no reason why you should not be treated, and trusted like a man in this family.” Randall went on until Shane interrupted him to ask,”So then I may?”
“As I was saying,” Randal went on, “since you have an equal interest in this farm and because you share in its burdens as well, there’s no reason why you cannot also share in its operations. So yes, Shane, you may help me sell off 35 head of our sheep as long as you can bring in 3 silver crowns for them and one crown and a ha’ pence silver for the lambs.”
“And if I can get more for them can I keep the difference, sir? Shane asked hopefully.
Randall did not for a moment believe that he would ever be able to sell them anyway so he told Shane it would be okay for him to keep the difference should he sell them for more than he was asking for. Shane then thanked his father profusely before he ran off into the woods with Randall’s wineskins slung over his shoulder. He was going to search for his best and oldest friend, Tayvian.
Randal watched his only son as he vanished into the trees like an old stag in flight and mused for a moment what those two miscreants might be up to now. Then again, knowing his son, it could be almost anything.
Randal hoped it was a sign that his pride and joy was growing up, he could not guess. Randal was sure going to miss that skin full of hard cider though. He knew that much for sure. He looked after the wine skin with a sigh of regret before he set his ax back to work on the oak tree.
When Shane finally located Tayvian, he was fishing on the banks of Hag Creek. He had a stringer with three trout on it giving testimony to his prowess with a cane pole and a worm. Shane outlined his plan for operation get the mean old fart back good, and they spent the remains of the day plotting, scheming and trying out secret code names for the prank which then became would eventually become the infamous Black Sheep Operation.
The next day both boys set out at first light for the Mayre Woods in search of an old hermit known only as, Choralys. He was said to be living in some kind of self-imposed exile deep in Mayrewood.
According to everyone they had spoken with about the old man, Choralys had once been the wizard of the famous King Charles II and they all said that he was one of the most knowledgeable men, if not then THE most knowledgeable man alive.
Of course they both thought of it as some crazy grownup tale because if the hermit who lived in the woods there was the same person they spoke of he would have to be way up there in years.
Mayrewood was easily a full day’s march from Kilcairn, and the boys would have to cover their tracks while they were gone lest they should be discovered by their parents. Shane asked his mom and dad if he could stay over at Tayvian’s house for two days so that they could go do some fishing, and hunting, and whatnot.
When they said that it was fine with them, Tayvian then asked his parents if he could spend the next twodays at Shane’s house doing the same. To which they readily agreed as well. They gave their parents the old switcheroo easily enough, but many a childhood dream has washed up dead on the rocky shores of reality when by an inconvenient chance agrown-up discovered the truth of their lies. Few of those past discoveries had ever been known to turn out well for the boys.
They snuck out of the house immediately, taking along only a small rucksack filled with bread, dried meats and cheeses and a tinder box containing flint and steel , a sharp knife, and a clean change of clothes. Their single greatest treasure was a makeshift map that someone had drawn up for them they swore would point the way to Choralys’s cave.
They arrived at the edgeof Mayrewood footsore and dog tired just as night fell, so rather than going on in the dark they decided to set up camp and build a fire. They set out again bright and early the next morning after a quick breakfast of bread cheese and cold water that came fresh from a nearby stream. It was there that they filled their water skins for the day’s hike.
Their so-called “map” turned out to be about as useful as a twisted horseshoe nail so by nightfall of the second day out the boys were so hopelessly lost in the heart of Mayrewood that they didn’t know which way was up anymore. They made camp that night in the middle of a small Glade that had plenty of good firewood lying within easy reach. They thought it would burn all through the night.
When they had camped out the previous night they were on the edge of the woods so it had been relatively pleasant, but now that they were deep into the interior of the ancient growth forest, and hopelessly lost the night was dark and full of horrors.
Every little noise they heard that night sounded like a werewolf sneaking up on them. Iit seemed as though they could feel thousands of judgmental eyes staring down on them from the trees. The only sign of life in the darkness was a cacophony of unidentifiable bird and animal voices. And pf course the moon and stars above proved that the world outsode of Mayrewood was still there.
They sat as close as they could to the fire without bursting into flames, and vowed to keep it burning all night long as though they were signaling sailing ships far out to sea.
They talked about how they were going to get black dye without Choralys and how they were going to get out of Mayrewood again. They were scared silly but neither one was about to admit it in front the other.
“So what if we don’t find this Choralys fellow by tomorrow night, Shane?” Tayvian wondered. He was using a pointed stick to toast a big chunk of bread. He had wrapped the bread around chunks of dried venison and cheese and then skewered it with the stick. The smell of the roasting sandwich wafting on the night filled the air with many tantalizing aromas.
“Well. I guess if we cannot find him then we will just have to find our way out of these cursed woods and get back home.” Shane said as he gingerly plucked his own toasted ball of bread and cheese off of his stick, burning his fingertips in the process. “OUCH! HOT!”he cried as he blew on his scorched fingertips.
What if we can’t find a way out of here Shane, then what? Tayvian asked pensively. His worried thoughts were beginning to show through his tough-guy veneer.
“Don’t worry about it we will.” Shane assured him. “We came due east from Kilcairn to get here so all we have to do is follow the sun back home again. Shane explained. “It is as simple as that.”
“If you say so, but I’m not so sure about this fellow Choralys. I mean I don’t think he’s even a real person to tell you the truth. He’s probably just a myth. Or he is really some hermit who does simple magic tricks beside the road for spare change. I think the guy is probably just a fraud and nothing more. That’s what I think.” he declared with childlike finality.
Shane was about to remind Tayvian of an old saying concerning bad-mouthing wizards that goes; curse a wizard, die a lizard, when their campfire exploded into a fountain of millions bright red and yellow sparks before their bonfire went out as if it had been swallowed up by the night. Darkness closed in on them as swiftly as the jaws of a steel trap slams shut.
Both Shane and Tayvian had been looking across the fire at one another when the lights went out. All they could see were the bright yellow imprints of the sparks on their Irises. Both of them were as blind as a bat instantly.
Much like a bat they could hear what was happening around them but what they heard only caused them further confusion and panic.
Shane started to get up when he heard rustling noises in the grass on Tayvian’s side of the fire and he froze up. Then he heard the sound of running fee coming towards him.
Before he could call out to Tayvian, however; Shane found himself snatched up by what felt like several pairs of hands and each one had a grip like an iron band.
“Hey!” Shane croaked, “Who…?” he tried to say but his voice was cut off in the darkness while the phamtom hands had their way with him. They bound him helpless hand and foot in a matter of seconds. But he was not blindfolded so Shane could sometimes see a tall figure moving across the face of the full moon as their attacker went about his business. He heard the faint rustling of leaves moving away then and Shane thought it could have been his assailant moving towards Tayvian. He could not see anything nor could he hear Tayvian at all.
Just for a moment Shane faintly heard him moaning as though hewas farther away than he actually was. Then suddelny he cried out for help.
Just as abruptly as they began, Tayvian’s cries were cut off and aother brief scuffle could be heard that ended as quickly as the one that had left Shane hogtied and helpless.
The next sound he heard was a soft thud nearby. It sounded like someone had dropped a large sack of potatoes on the other side of the fire ring. Shane tried to call out to Tayvian but he could not speak thanks to the gag in his mouth.
The only thing that came out of his mouth were muffled grunts and groans. Apparently Tayvian could hear him because Shane could hear what had to be Tayvian making the same muffled noises from the other side of the dead fire.
Suddenly, from out of the darkness, a deep commanding voice rang throughout the glen like the voice of doom. It scared the boys more than they had ever thought possible.
”Silence, fools!” the voice commanded harshly, “See to it that ye speak nor breath too loudly lest ye die before the moon sets tonight.” It said then the speaker fell silent again. As did two now thoroughly terrified young men who suddenly realized, far too late, that they were far too far from home.
Thanks to the way that Shane had been left lying in the grass he was no more than 3 feet away from the dead fire. He could see much better now that his eyes had readjusted to the dark. He could see the trees ringing the glade against the starlit sky above them. Riding high in the night sky was the full face of the silvery moon without a cloud in the sky to hide it from their sight.
Shane could hear the rustling in the grass and leaves once more and the sound seemed to be coming towards him; but then it faded away again and he dismissed it as a trick of a terrified mind.
Shane began fighting silently to free himself from his bonds before he saw the shadow of a man’s hand moving across the face of moon above him. Shane could see the hand as it extend a very long and bony finger that was pointing straight at the moon.
Then a low sinister voice whispered in his ear, “See to it that you lay there as still as the stones, Master Shane, and be as quiet as the wind that stirs not the leaves. Don’t take your eyes from yonder moon so that then ye shall know and fully understand the nature of thy folly, and your close proximity to thine own fate.”
Those strange words meant absolutely nothing to Shane and sounded like nonsense to his ears. Even so, they sent chills racing down his spine and made him curious to see what the moon was going to do. What was it he was supposed to watch?
It was painfully obvious that the only thing pulling at the thick cords that bound him accomplished was to made them tighten that much more. He had no way of knowing it because he could not see him in the dark but his counterpart, Tayvian, was experiencing exactly the same thing.
He had no way of knowing that the mysterious voice had even spoken the exact same message in his friend’s ear. Tayvian had also found himself unable to take his eyes off of the face of the Moon. Both of the boys wanted desperately to be brave, but when you’re 11 and 1/2 years old, lost, and far from home in the middle of a strange dark forest, and somebody comes along and blows your bonfire out like the flame on a candle, then they hog tie you and whisper danger in your ear?
Let’s face it folks, you or I would have been scared out of our wits the same as they were.
As it turned out they did not have to wait very long to find out what was going to happen and how it involved the full moon. They had been lying there watching for no more than three minutes when something passed directly over their heads gliding silently along not more than 50 feet above the treetops.
For a moment it blocked the moon out entirely as it passed, and they could feel the down-rushing wind made by the beating massive leathery wings just as well as they could hear them flapping above. The beast flew directly over their camp with a sound that was very much like to great sheets of leather lufting in the wind as it fluttered across their surface.
A very soft whisper sounded in his ear, “Shh!” It hissed at him. Then a large bony hand fell gently but firmly upon his shoulder effectively holding him absolutely still with a lot of help from sheer terror.
Just then Shane could not have moved an eyelid to save his own life. In his world only three things could fly. Naturally all three of those things had wings.
The first were the birds of the air, the second thing were angels in Heaven, and neither one of those two were large enough to block out the Moon. So that left only one possibility which was what had turned Shane’s blood to ice water, and his muscles froze into stone. If he could have done so Shane knew he would have even held his breath until he passed out cold.
The only animal in his world that could do all of that was a dragon. But even as his brain screamed out that it had been many years since a living dragon had been spotted anywhere near Kilcairn. Everybody knew that. Or at least they thought they knew that anyway. Obviously the reports of dragons being extinct were just a bit premature.