In celebration of the imminent release of Peter S. Beagle’s THE OVERNEATH, Tachyon presents glimpses from some of the volume’s magnificent tales.
Son Heydari and the Karkadann
by Peter S. Beagle
would never take them for brothers if you met them together. Heydari
is small and slight, and much darker than Farid, and much less
immediately charming. I think he makes a point of it, having seen
Farid making friends everywhere, instantly, all his life. He has
never been any use with the elephants, and we would be out of
business in a month if I put him in charge of my accounts. Yet he is
more intelligent than Farid—quite likely more intelligent than all
the rest of us—but I cannot see that it has thus far done him much
good. All the same, I confess to a feeling for him that I can neither
explain nor defend. Especially not defend, not after the time he
saved the life of a bloody karkadann.
old was he? Thirteen or fourteen, I suppose; when else would you be
that stupid, in exactly that way? As he told it in his own time—long
should have told it—he found the creature high in
those same foothills you came through, being drawn to it by the
urgent calling of a ringdove, which, for reasons no one has ever
fathomed, is the karkadann’s only friend. As curious as any boy, he
climbed after the bird and followed it to the entrance of a cave,
where the beast lay bleeding its life away, and good riddance,
through several deep wounds on its throat and flanks. It was barely
breathing, he said, and the yellow eyes it tried to focus on him were
seeing something else.
any man in this realm—any man but my son—I would either have
helped the miserable monster on its way, or merely sat myself down
and savored its passing. But not Heydari; not my softhearted,
softheaded boy. He immediately set about fetching the karkadann water
from a nearby spring, going back and forth to carry it in his cap.
Apart from the stupidity of it, it was a risky matter as well, for
the creature was in pain, and it lunged at him more than once with
the last of its strength. He treated its injuries with what herbs he
could find, and bound them with strips torn from his own clothes,
while the ringdove perched on that murderous horn, cooing its
approval. Then he went away, promising to return on the following
day, but certain that he would find the karkadann dead when he did. I
have said that he has never been of any practical use with the
elephants, but he has been a kind boy from his childhood. An idiot,
but always kind.
Well, he did return, keeping his word; and, unfortunately, the
wretched beast was living yet. It was still unable to raise more than
its head—which it did mostly to snap at him, even with one of those
wicked fangs broken off halfway—but its wounds had stopped
bleeding, and its breath was coming a bit deeper and more steadily.
My son was greatly encouraged. He brought it more water, and fetched
an armload or two of the fruits and vines that karkadanns favor,
laying it all within reach in case the creature’s appetite should
revive. Then he sat close beside it, because he is a fool, and
recited the old, old prayers and sutras
most of the night before he went home.
For more info on THE OVERNEATH, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story