Saturday, March 31, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Annie's Trail... Blending in :)

“After Magda dresses you then you can go to the public bath house on the east side of the camp,” Mother Hella said. “I’d rather no one saw you in townsy clothes, not with the priests looking for you. Our own people know we’re protecting you, but there are lots of people who will be watching us until we leave. Some have never gotten over their prejudice about us, believing us to be thieves and whores. Never the less, such public bathing houses are set up all along our trading routes and maintained by the Five Families.” Studying me a minute, she said, “I’ll have Magda do your hair and makeup too. I emptied out one of the cupboards behind you so you can put your things in there. The key is in the lock.”

“That was thoughtful of you,” I said, looking behind me. “When did you do that?”

“Not long after you fell asleep,” she said. “It was bothering my mind until I did it, since we don’t want your non traveler belongings laying around for others to find. Now, get up and put your blanket and sleep pads back where you got them, and I’ll be outside seeing to breakfast.”

The whole time she had been talking she was dressing herself, now she slipped past me and out of the caravan while I got up and did as she had instructed. Magda arrived a few minutes later, raven haired and blue eyed and dressed in flamboyant colors. She had me stripped quickly and re dressed before I could form a protest over such vibrant colors, and then I was following her through the lightening darkness to the public bath house where I washed up and sat patiently as she painted my face. When she was finished I barely recognized myself in the mirror.

“Beautiful,” Magda said, beaming as she stood beside me in the reflection. “Now no one but one of us would be able to tell you weren’t born of us. Come, let’s get back so we can eat and pack. We’ll be moving by the time the sun begins to rise.” She paused though, and studied me, not my reflection. “I know what you are, healer. Please be good to my people.”
“I would never knowingly do anything to harm them or allow them to be harmed,” I stated honestly.

“I hope you are right, healer, or else I may have to curse you with something very bad.”

Shrugging, I said, “Curses are easy to dismantle and clear away, Magda. It would be better for you to threaten turning me over to the priests if you want to punish me. That is something I can’t clean.”

Laughing suddenly, she said, “Mother Hella warned me you wouldn’t be afraid of curses, but I had to try, just so you know how serious I am.”

Smiling back, I said, “I understand, and believe me, I will do my very best to honor your people and your ways.”

“Good, now come, we don’t have much time,” she said, gathering her things and I followed behind her. “Watch how I walk and talk, healer, so you don’t give yourself away with your talking.”

“You need to start calling me Annie,” I pointed out, “or you’ll give me away by what you call me.”

“True,” she said, smiling. “Annie. It’s a good name. Now come. There’s a lot to do before we move out.”

We hadn’t gone very far when I saw three men holding the halter ropes of a young horse that was rearing and fighting against their directions. All I could see of it was his white face and chest and four white legs but the rest of him blended into the darkness until he turned. I gasped, stopping to stare at the flowing white of mane and tail and the thick feathering on his lower legs.

“Oh, Magda, he’s beautiful,” I whispered.

“He’s a demon child,” she stated, frowning. “Vanner horses aren’t supposed to be that wild and excitable. I’m afraid they may have to geld him to keep those genes from being passed on, which is a shame since Dabber’s Old Man doesn’t throw off many stud colts.”

“I see nothing wrong with him,” I said. “He looks magnificent and perfect in every way.”

“We can’t afford to keep horses, especially stallions, which aren’t easily handled,” Magda pointed out. “They can harm people as well as wreck the caravans. If he doesn’t settle down soon, then Mother Hella will order the men to geld him and maybe even sell him.”

“He’s in pain,” I said, tilting my head as I tried to focus on what the young stallion was feeling. “His right fore hoof is sending sharp pain up his leg when it touches the ground. Magda, could you ask them to check it out before someone hurts the other?”

“I’ll tell them to look,” she answered, frowning, “but this isn’t the first time he’s acted like that.”

Magda called out to them, telling them what I had told her, and all three men reached out and pulled the young horse down, which caused him to raise that right hoof. Then one of the men grabbed that leg and pulled it up so he could check it. We all saw him draw a knife from his belt before he bent over the hoof. As soon as he dropped the leg the young stallion calmed down and nickered before he reached out and nuzzled his rescuer on the arm.

All of them, including Magda turned to stare at me as I let out a deep sigh, but I just smiled and continued back towards Mother Hella’s caravan.
As we wove our way in that direction, I found myself fascinated with all the beautiful horses. One thing I noticed was they came in three different sizes, some small enough they fit nicely in the harness of children’s carts, while others were large and solid enough to pull the heaviest caravans without strain. Between these two were those bred for riding, but all three sizes shared the same shape and many had the same colors, although there were a few nearly all white and others a golden red to break up the masses of black and white mares and stallions.

They were all magnificent as far as I could tell, although I sincerely hoped I wouldn’t be asked to ride any of them, since I had never been up on a horse’s back before.

Magda left me back at the caravan, heading off to do her own work, while I headed over to the cooking fire where Mother Hella was just beginning to dish up the food for everyone.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

From Annie's Trail... the Flash Flood

Late the next day we came to a ravine. There was easy access cut into both sides of the ravine for traffic to cross, but as we approached it, we were all uneasy since there was clearly a storm off in the mountains to our left. Approaching the edge of the ravine, the gypsy caravan pulled off to the side and then gathered to discuss the situation, but the merchants would have continued on their way but for the sudden appearance of a mercat atop a large boulder near the crossing.

At the appearance of the large spotted cat so close, there were yells and a rush for weapons, but I ran forward to put myself between the cat and the people. “That’s not an aggressive growl,” I said, raising my arms to the people, before turning to the cat, “What is it you’re trying to tell us?”

Images flashing through my mind and a rumble sounded in my ears.

Looking back at Mother Hella and Bardon, I said, “He says heavy water, dark water is coming and will be here soon. We need to wait to cross or we won’t make it.”

“Bah,” snorted the leader of the merchant’s caravan. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, listening to this crazy woman, but I have deadlines to meet.” With that, he slapped the reins and his team started out, the second and third wagons following behind.

“Mother Hella,” I said, concern sounding in my voice, “I don’t think they have time to make it. Please, can’t you do something?”

“It’s not possible to control other people’s fates, Annie,” she stated, frowning as she watched the teams head down into the ravine.

“But they’ll drown.”

“Such is the path they chose.”

“He might have chosen that, but the other two didn’t,” I protested.

“Hush, Annie,” she said, trying to sooth me. “They chose to follow him. Their fate is not yours to decide, nor can you accept any blame for it. You warned us, and he chose not to listen.”

“Where’d the mercat go?” Magda asked, looking around.

“He gave his warning,” Mother Hella said. “His job was done.”

“We’ve never had a wild animal give us warning before,” Bardon stated. “Why now?”

“We never had Annie with us before,” Mother Hella stated.

Just then we could all hear the rumbling, grumbling sound of approaching water rushing towards us. The merchant wagons were down on the flat headed towards the opposite side but showed no signs of hearing the oncoming water. Some of the gypsies tried shouting out to them, warning them of their danger, but they either didn’t hear or didn’t choose to respond until the rushing water raced around a bend and headed straight towards them. We all watched helplessly as the water struck them, pushing the horses off their feet and sweeping wagons and their riders away. They vanished quickly beneath the water and if they surfaced, it was far around the next bend, where we didn’t see.

I said a quick prayer to the creator and beings of light to gather in their souls and watch over them, then turned to find everyone staring at me.

“How did you know that cat had a message for us?” Bardon asked.

“I could hear in its growl that it was trying to give warning, not threatening us.”

“Have you ever spoken to animals before?” Mother Hella asked.

Shaking my head, I said, “My sister’s dog always obeyed me, even when he was young, but I never thought I was talking to him.”

“Well,” Mother Hella said, looking out over the churning water, “we won’t be moving on for awhile. Even when the water’s gone, we’ll have to repair the roadbed before moving over it. I suppose we’re having an early camp and not moving until morning. Let everyone know,” she added, looking at Bardon, “and send someone to retrieve the bodies if they can be found. It would be nice to tell their loved ones where to find them.”

“At once,” Bardon said before turning away.