When Jaysh awoke, he did so in a dark place. He was lying on a dark bed, four dark walls surrounding him, and on each dark wall there appeared to be a giant, five-legged spider perched above a large and blotchy square.
     His eyes lingered on one of the four enormous arachnids, noting its placement on the wall and the position of its legs. He’d seen quite a few spiders in his day—and eaten quite a few spider webs as well, mostly the ones strung across the Shun trails in the midst of summer—and these four didn’t act like spiders.
     He turned his head to the side and squinted at them with his peripheral night vision. Their bodies were too skinny and their legs too long, and waxy. He squinted with his other eye and realized they were sconces—obviously none of them lit—and that they supported five finger-like candles.
     The blotchy squares below, he guessed, were draperies or curtains or, perhaps, a decorative tapestry. He might have guessed them windows, but they were not outlined in soft yellowing light like the solitary square in the wall to his right, the one made up of two slender rectangles he knew to be shutters.
     He turned his head and faced the glowing portal, hearing for the first time the dull roar outside. There might have been the crash of broken doors and the eruption of shattered windows, but there were definitely the cry of angry voices, the sound of city folk disgruntled with their plight and letting the world know.
     As he listened further, he supposed it was their voices that put him in mind of a riot, the rise and fall of their tempestuous cries as they gave life to the chaotic choir of rage and suffering. But what could have happened to put them in such a foul mood? Such a collective explosion of discontent would have required a major disruption, but he couldn’t recall even a minor disruption. Of course, now that he thought about it, he couldn’t recall much of anything.
      He sat up and threw his legs over the edge of the bed, rubbing his throbbing temples and wondering where he’d been. The room in which he sat looked familiar—four evenly-spaced brackets, four shadowy squares, two lonely chairs—but he could not say when last he’d seen it. Or for that matter, why he’d seen it.
     In one of the corners without a chair, the floorboard groaned with the shifting of immense weight and Jaysh spun his head to inspect, groaning at the giant silhouette he saw lurking the shadows.
     Welp, he thought dully, I guess I ain’t full-blown mad jus yet. I still member you. 
     He gave the hateful kryst one last dirty look and then turned quickly away, pushing himself from the mattress and staggering to the shutters. He had no idea what he’d find outside this window, but the one thing he did know was that he was going to need some vine and he was going to need it soon. Part of the ache in his head felt like dehydration and malnutrition, but another part felt distinctly like the call of the vine.
     His grabbed the shutter handles with thumb and forefinger and pulled, late afternoon sunshine rushing inside and blinding him to the bellowing crowds below. He shielded his eyes and surveyed the lunatic asylum that was the city of Onador, not that Onador had a lunatic asylum. From what Jaysh had heard, the king and council kept the mentally incompetent in the dungeons of the castle, somewhere between the dangerous criminals and the nearly-insane healer. But if they had an asylum—and the front doors had broken from their hinges and loosed its madness on the world—this was what it would look like. 
     To the north, a flock of young kids sprinted up the street with what appeared to be orange flames leaping from their fingers. Jaysh was sure they were holding bits of burning wood or strands of flaming grass, but it looked like a handful of flames.
     Likewise, it looked like the rest of the lunatic masses were killing each other. They were shrieking at the sky and jumping up and down, some swinging only their arms at their fellow citizens, others wielding dark objects that resembled hand spades. But they were no more assaulting one another than the running children were setting their fingers aflame.
     As the woodsman’s ears adjusted to the noise and his eyes adjusted to the light, he realized their war cries were actually ballads and that the screaming was actually singing. It was loud and tuneless, and more passionate than melodic, but it was singing. With the shutters open, he could pick out some of the words and heard something about a mighty king and an evil horde and something else about an axe.
     The Ballad of Arn?
     Jaysh thought that it was, partly because his beleaguered memory was slowly coming back, but also because he could see that weapon of choice being swung by the masses was an axe or hatchet. And instead of chopping each other to pieces, they were merely dancing their jigs and showing their support.
     In the land of the old ones, hacking at the air with symbolic weapons was the traditional display of allegiance to the king, regardless of whether the weapon was an axe or knife or just a straighten set of finger. This was acceptable because the purpose was not to see who had the biggest axe or the best axe, but to show one’s faith and loyalty to the magistrate.
     Just like that, Jaysh couldn’t breath. He felt his knees buckle and caught himself on the sill, grabbing the cold stone with one hand as the other tore at the front of his shirt, plunging inside and retrieving the walnut-sized stone he had somehow forgotten.
     He held it up before his stunned face and saw it was still attached to its black satin straps and still glowing weakly in the bright summer sun.
     They’re singin to me, he realized in horror. They’re singin them songs to ME! And he didn’t know why, but that thought terrified him as much as the thought of them rushing the keep and hacking him to pulp, it sickened him as much as the time he’d been so hungry he’d eaten that pheasant without letting it cook like it needed and had fallen violently ill in the midst of the Shun.
     They were cheering for him! Dancing for him! Going mad in the streets of their city because of him! And in Jaysh’s experience, when people were happy to see you—when they smiled and said hello or tired to shake your hand or give you the slightest bit of attention—they wanted something from you.
     Sure, a few of them—like Mums, perhaps—were honestly polite and friendly and sought no favors for their kindness, but most of them—like Iman—were soulless gold-diggers and looking for an excavation. So what could he expect if there was a whole city of people and instead of a polite nod or gentle smile they were singing your praises? 
     Jaysh dropped the Raya against his chest, took the shutters in both hands, and closed them firmly.