Friday, March 6, 2009

The Last Safe Gatherings

Prompt: A woman has a gun for home defense, but later she can’t find it........

Margerinas dark eyes tore around the small caravan space. It had been there this morning and seemed inconceivable that anyone in camp might have stolen it. She hadn’t even wanted to put the thought into that action. She shivered.. She sat on the floor, leaned her head against the door frame and looked up at the stars, wondering how she was going to tell Benno his prototype was missing.

Victor waved at her, mug in hand as he saunted towards the Celebration tents. “Margerina, have you heard? A huge week long celebrations are to be held on the Castle grounds of the Marquis De Lume. They are auditioning for the finest acts to entertain the gentry.”

“I am sure that will interest a great many gathered here, though I doubt the nobility would be interested in my talents.”

“Come on Margerina, the inquisition have long since died out. People are more open in their beliefs and the catholic churches teachings.”

“Who hosts a winter celebration in Italy??

“It’s a funeral for their dearly departed father tragically lost these past two years in the new world.”

“From your tone I am guessing you are planning to audition?”

“Right you are. I’m gathering a few from our tribe for rehearsals on a new routine. With Lica gone, we need to work around what we have. Though in saying that, we have a few new talents beginning to shine. We will have to see how they go tomorrow.”

“I was sorry to hear of her passing.”

Victor took a slurp of his foaming mug. “ We live the life, we take the risks. She out of all of us knew that.”

Margerina stood and smiled at the huge man affectionately. “I wish you luck at the auditions, though I seem to know you are not going to need it.”

“Coming from you Margerina, I take that as a huge boost and an indication we stand a very good chance of performing in front of nobility at the Castle.”

“The future is always in flux Victor, unless you put in the rehearsal time and the effort, you will not achieve your goal.”

“Will I see you over at the tents tonight or perhaps later?” Victor watched her form hungrily.

“Perhaps, though I have some business to attend to, so I can’t promise anything.” She gave him one of her lingering smiles and began to walk away.

Crouching over the weak light of the candles in his caravan Benno was making alterations to intricate drawings on the table in front of him when Margerina found him. He pushed his bone rimmed looking eye glasses further up his nose, setting them to a more stable balancing position and peered up at her . The quartz lenses gave a little more magnification to his failing eyesight, but he didn’t need to rely on this to know she was upset. Her usual musky lavender aroma which embraced her curvatious body had been replaced by the stinging scent of fear.

“Its gone Benno.”

Her tight tone informed him it was not time for flirtation or jokes.

“What stranger has come into the camp of the Rromani and stolen this away, stolen it from me? ” Free spirits they were and despite their reputation, not one of them were thieves.

“No-one would knowing steal even a seed from you Margerina, not if they valued their life. Don’t worry, who ever has it, its not really ready to use. It doesn’t actually work – it was just a dummy – a model for the real thing.” He was oblivious to her enraged face as he continued, “ Look – I’ve found another problem with the firing mechanism – but think if I add this here,” as he pointed to his sketch, “it will be even more reliable.”

His new invention replaced the wheel lock guns and their ineffectual wicks. German gunsmiths had scoffed at his ideas and he had been forced to take his sketches and manufacture his prototypes elsewhere.

“This new mechanism works by attaching the flint to a spring-loaded arm. When the trigger is pressed, the cover slides off the flash pan, then the arm snaps forward striking the flint against a metal plate over the flash pan and hopefully produces enough sparks to ignite the powder. Its much simpler and less expensive than the Wheel Lock.” He looked up at her excitedly.

Margerina stifled a yawn as her head swum with the technical terminology. “What are we going to do?”

Benno sat back on the wooden chair. “ Nothing. Whoever took it will want to use it or test it out soon – but they need to get gunpowder and shot to use in it. We need to thank the great goddess that it is not you trying it out as I am certain the barrel will distort or explode. We will hear it – don’t worry.”

“You hadn’t tested it before you gave it to me?”

He smiled up at her.

“You were rather persuasive last night – how could I refuse you in the position I was.”

Margerina flushed with defiance, rather than embarrassment.

I need to protect myself. Once we have dispersed from The Gathering, I have no manfolk to look after my caravan and animals. We Rromani are in danger, especially when traveling alone.”

Benno put his hand on hers. “I’ve offered you a place with me every Gathering. You are a willful woman, Margerina.”

“So we just wait, ignore the fact someone stole from me - Margerina?”

He nodded, completely missing her tone. “I have the components for at least another four rifles here. Now I have designed the last modification, they will be perfect. That one won’t last very long before it blows up in the operators face or he discards it as he realizes that it is useless.”

Bennos V shaped glasses had slipped down his nose again. Margerina snatched them from his face in a fluid motion and angrily waved that at him.

“I would have gone to you tomorrow morning and taken it back from you. I would never have let you load it up or use it my sweet.”

Despite Benno having lived amongst the Rromani for years, he lapsed into his old Germanic manners and forgot some of the cultural differences, especially with the place of women. He put his arms out toward Margerina. “I can finish up here if you’d like to distract me.”

She glared at him again and threw his looking eye glasses at him before storming away toward her caravan.

She slowed down after stalking away for a dozen steps. The fires around the Celebration tent flickered mightily. She could smell the tantalizing aroma of the cooked meats intermingling with the sickly sweet Gluwien bubbling in various pots around the dancers. A cold wind sent its icy fingers down her back. In Gatherings gone past, it would have been she who lingered last in the Celebration tents; liaising with her past loves and flashing her dark eyes at newcomers. A grave sense of foreboding had gripped her most of this year past and her paranoia and eagerness to gain security heightened with every report of Rromani dragged away by the antiquated but lethally strong inquisition.

A solitary figure sat by one of the outer fires and she felt the need to wander past and engage in conversation.

“Gitano isn’t it?” as she approached the broad back.

He turned, a dark hair of curls accentuated the long lashes framing intelligent eyes as he looked her squarely in the face.

She put her hands on her hips as she thrust one slightly forward. “Manhood suits you.”

An awkward pause followed so she continued. “Why aren’t you at the celebration tents and choosing a name from the jar? I am sure there will be many young ladies very disappointed you are not there.”

“I could ask you the same Margerina.”

“Mind if I join you?” without waiting for an answer she sat opposite him in the dirt. “Its the last night before everyone disperses for another year. We should both bid our farewells.”

Gitano continued to break his stick and throw it into the fire.

“Are you afraid of me Gitano?”

“Everyone is afraid of you Margerina. You have the sight.”

She picked up a twig and twirled it in her hand absentmindedly. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“I’m not afraid of you Margerina, but I fear what messages you may carry.”

“Give me your hand, allow me access to your path.”

“I’m not sure I’m ready to hear any of that. I need to find out about my past before I can think about my future.”

“Such sadness and loneliness in one so young “ she stood and brushed the dirt from her skirts..” I am going to watch the Dancers. I hope you decide to join me.” She laid a casual hand on his shoulder but immediately jerked it away as if burnt. Her eyes widened as she stared into the darkness. She quickly composed her state to a dispassionate gaze.

“What did you see Margerina?” Gitano genuinely looked concerned as his eyes darted about the surroundings.

Her eyes had glazed over and she stared back at him. “The brothers come for you , they come for him, only the enemy of the father can save you both. Only death lies ahead for our kind. We must all travel alone or be hunted down.”

Gitano stood and put his arm round her shoulders. “You need to speak with Nelu about this. As head Matriarch of the Tribe, she will be able to decipher this message.”

Together they marched off toward the Celebration Tents in search of the tribe council members.

Authors Note: This comes from a continuing storyline research for "The Rromani" and forms part of a new parallel storyline to The Astonishing Adventures of Captain Juan - where from time to time characters may wander in and out of each others stories.