Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dark Age of Enlightenment FGC (2012) #8

July 30, 1749.  Black Wednesday
Troops squelched through mud, opening flaps of tents and shouting orders. Sleepy eyed children were dragged by their hair onto the quagmire. Older, more wise youngsters who had taken flight as soon as they had heard the commotion in their camp were chased down by dogs and men on horseback.
The shiver of steel rang in the early morning mist as it sliced against resisting flesh. Rough shouts, screams and acrid smoke filled the air. Horses brought to pull wooden cages on carts, stamped and snorted as the fear seeped into their animal minds.
Margarina stared into the centre of her room dully as her hands automatically and  slowly shuffled cards. The beeswax candle beside her, flickered. Horses whinnied in fright, women outside cried in fear, in pain and in anguish.
The authoritative shouts grew closer. Margarina drew her cards, laying them out carefully. A small grey pigeon fluffed its wings and crouched, cooing atop her chair.
Heavy footfalls stopped at the entrance of her tent. More followed and hesitated before also stopping.
The door flap abruptly flew open.  She looked up through her long eyelashes and smiled slowly. “I’ve been expecting you, Captain.”
The men blocked the light from outside her sanctuary but non dared to enter. He cleared his throat. “Its Commander.”
She held a card up. “The hanged man. An auspicious omen for someone in your position, of your ambition.”
He straightened, his hands shaking as he unfurled a parchment. “By decree of King Ferdinand the Sixth, upheld here by Marquis of Esnsenda, you are hereby ordered to be detained. All your belongings now belong to the crown.”
“What would the King want with some incense and my cards?”
The soldier swallowed. “I have my orders. You must -”
“Of course, the Gran Redada de Gitanos” She looked up at his astonished face. He quickly rolled his parchment up not daring to ask how she could know of the secret decree. “ I will accompany you willingly.” She glid out of her seat, her curled long hair rippled behind her. Her candle snuffed leaving the tallow wax smelt drift into wisps.”Senorita, I’m truly sorry. I - “
“Captain.” She smiled. “Everything will turn out in the end. If it hasn’t, its not the end.”
15th May 1747 
Tiny red sparkles flickered across the stonework in the great hall.The gold encrusted ring continued to dance as it clung to the fat finger. “These people, these gypsies have little respect for the laws of our land. Their conduct and customers are socially dangerous, morally and spiritually wrong on all counts.”
“Criminals and deviants your excellency. Most of them idlers and a drain on society.”  His advisor bowed his head. “They worship false gods, fill our peoples head with false prophesies. Heretics, the entire race.”
The Marquis of la Ensenada set his wine goblet down and shook his head. “I’ve had no such trouble from these people. My provenience flourishes with the influx of these skilled trade people and craftsmen.”
The fingers continued to tap.
A servant strode in and bowed. “Father Francisco Rávago, Confessor to our King Ferdinand.”
Gaspar Vazquez Tablada flourished his hand in frustration. The ruby ring glittered in the sunlight as it danced in the air. “Don’t let his holiness wait. Show him in immediately.” The servant bowed stiffly and rushed out through the doors.
Tablada leant over to the two men. “We shall see how my messages to our King have been received.”
“Father” Tablada stood extending his hands toward the priest who approached, “Welcome to my humble estates.”
The priest’s lined face showed little emotion as he thrust his hand out towards the three men. Tablada knelt and kissed the ring offered and crossed himself before offering a seat to the visitor.  “We were just discussing the challenges the faithful are having with the influx of Rromani on our lands. With their movements now restricted to only 75 regions, we are finding that they are setting up permanent camps, squalor and moral damage runs rife amongst these places.” He poured another glass of wine for all at the table and shook his head theatrically. “I fear for our innocent.
Without touching the wine offered, Father Rávago nodded “These discussions have come at a most fortunate time, Bishop. Your passion and dedication to the purity of the blood and morals of our people has not gone unnoticed at the Royal Courts. Your suggestions to our King have been taken most seriously.” He pulled a scroll from beneath his robes. “I have in my hands a Royal decree giving you full powers to root out this bad race, which is hateful to God and pernicious to man. It is the King’s belief that whomever achieves this will be making a great gift to God, our lord, if they manages to get rid of these people.”
Tablada’s mouth hung open. “Father, this is truly unexpected. I am honoured to be a tool for God and his wishes.”
Father Rávago handed him the scroll. “This gives you absolute power in these matters. The Kings wishes are clear. These gyspies must be ejected from Spain and from our bloodline. I cannot impress upon you the need for secrecy and swiftness on this matter. There must be no way they are alerted. These evil people have ways to vanish into thin air. They are truly damned, harnessing the powers of Satan to entertain and impress our simple minded but innocent people. The populous are but children. It is our duty to guide and protect them. God is with you Bishop.”
Tablada knelt and kissed the ring Father Rávago stretched out toward him. “In Gods Name I will do this thing.”
“Forgive me.” interjected  the Marquis of la Ensenada, “I understand that most important act is to protect our people against the influences of these pernicious and deviant delinquents, but how is it that we will decide who they are? In my provenance much of our industry is upheld by hardworking Rromani who have made their permanent homes, married good families, had many children; own land and businesses.  Are we to drag them away from this? To send them to some colony or into France or Italy? I am concerned about the relations we may have with these countries if we sweep our rubbish from our door step into their house.”
Father Rávago gave a thin smile. “I cannot advise on this. The Bishop has full control and with Gods Will and His gift of wisdom, he will find a simple solution.”
Tablada rapped his fingers on the chair. “We will find a destination for these gypsies to be sent. Britain is seeking new lands, as are we. It will be Gods Will that Spain will find a new land to be populated before everyone else.” His brow wrinkled and straightened. “Perhaps put them to work on our civic projects and church buildings so that they can repent on their wrong doings.These people who are proven to be different to the others may retain their former belongings and status.”
“I see you have your mind already working, Bishop. I would estimate you will have just under ten thousand workers at your disposal. Imagine the monuments to God Spain will have after this.” The thin smile lengthened. “Forgive me, but I have many errands and must take your leave. I look forward to your proposal to our King in early July. Formalities only, I assure you.” He indicated the scroll.” You have the Kings instructions already, but this needs to be seen to have come from the people. He will support what his people are crying out for.”
Smiling, Tablada nodded. “Of course the council must ensure we keep to our legal agreements. Even the King must listen to the people. I’m honoured to have the invitation to speak to the court and present my proposal. I’m sorry you cannot take advantage of my hospitality, Father. God speed your journey. I look forward to our next meeting.”
The three men watched Father Rávago stride out and waited till the doors were closed. Tablada clenched his fist. “Marquis, I will need to assemble a council to set out this proposal for the King. You sit beside me and will work out who these ‘good’ gypsies’ are and have some sort of definition to distinguish from the ‘bad’. I would suggest that we begin with Gods edicts and find those who have been married in Christian ceremonies and have conducted themselves in pious works in the community.”
The Marquis inclined his head. “Thank you for appointing me on this important council. I will do God's work”
3rd July 1747
Margarina swung her skirts in time with the music as she wove around the crowd. Small fires burnt in the midst of dancing, huddled groups and loud drumming. Laws and restrictions had hampered gatherings and celebrations such as this  traditional Gitano wedding. It had been years since she’ seen so many of her people together. Despite the lighthearted atmosphere, every set of dark eyes she met, had the set resolution in them, recognising that this may be the last time they are able to meet as a people.
“Margarina. We welcome you as our Drabardi. You would  honour us in the pañuelo to be our appointed Ajuntaora.”

Margarina smiled and nodded. Despite her youthful face, she held many years of knowledge and training as prophet, advisor and healer of her people.  She followed the aunts and older women into the tent to meet the prospective bride. 
Margarina performed her ritual precisely, giving thanks to the gods and goddesses of the tribe and asking for guidance in the next years. She asked for blessing for the newly wed couple. After cleansing herself, she stepped out of her clothes to face the trembling girl, naked.  The other women stood around the edges of the tent in silence, their eyes fixed on the reactions of the girl.  One indication from the Ajuntaora that the girl was not a virgin would not only mean shame to her tribe, but a death sentence for the newlyweds. 
Margarina stared into the eyes of the young woman and slid her hands over the body in fluid motions, striping the energies of her past away from her future. She took her ceremonial knife and slit the girls bodice. She nodded and gave the knife to an aunt. The girl stripped quickly and lay on the stretcher bed and offered her body for inspection.  Margarina rubbed her hands together and ran them ritualistically over the young flesh.
Satisfied, Margarina stood and held her hand out for the rose petals and cloth to be taken out to the mens campfire. Solemnly she placed three petals into the middle.  The women broke into a cheer, crowding round the girl and began singing the traditional ‘el yeli’ as they rushed out of the tent. 
Margarina began to put her clothes on but stopped as she realised the bride still lay on the stretcher.
“You can get up and dress. Join your husband. You are now officially married. But we have a long celebration front of us, and you the exploration of a man’s flesh.” The girl blushed. Margarina held out her hand. “Its far more pleasurable and private than what you have had to go through just now. Come.”
She led her out of the tent smiling as she lifted the girls hand up with her own.
The men began to rip their shirts as they chanted. The young bride was lifted away from Margarina and carried towards her husband. Hundreds of voices joined the chanting of the "el yeli" as the drums began pounding. Margarina turned and began to walk back to her campsite, suddenly exhausted from the release of the energies she had performed. A small boy ran toward her and stopped, his eyes wide in terror. He’d heard stories about the mysterious Drabardi and hoped that she would eat his heart before she skinned him alive. “Seniorita, theres a man. From the town. He’s to see you.”
Margarina stared sternly at the youngster. “If you steal any more apples from the farmyard, you will be turned into a piglet. Now go!”  With a shriek of horror, the lad scampered away, swearing never to eat another ‘borrowed’ piece of fruit again.
Domingo Sanchez stood at the edge, shifting hesitantly from foot to foot. 
Margarina swirled her skirts as she approached, appraising him as she did. “You’ve asked to see me?”
 “Seniorita, forgive me.” He bowed his head. “I didn’t want to take you from your celebrations, but the matter is urgent.”
Margarina continued to stare at the tall man standing before her.  “This matter. It is not for you. Someone close. Though your shoulder wound troubles you still, does it not?”
He clasped his right arm and rubbed it. “Si. I’ve never regained full strength.”
She turned “Please follow me back to my caravan. We can talk there.”
They wound their way through partygoers and further to the darkeness to the edge of the campsite.  Margarina gave her tethered horse a pat. She lit a lamp and sat it on a small crate waving her hand to offer him a seat.  “Now. How is your wife or mother?”
“Senorita, I have no-where else to go, the doctors,” she waved her hand and madea  gutteral sound in her throat.
Domingo swallowed. “My wife. She lays there. Pale. No-one can help her. I beg you.” 
“You come to me despite the churches warnings?  Despite the laws against my people practicing what they have done for centuries?”
“Si Senorita, I have heard many stories of your healing powers, of your sight. I- “
“Captain, you endanger yourself and your family by being here. You should go.”
He gripped his knees but refused to stand. “You know me?”
“I too have heard of your heroic exploits with the military. We gypsies used to travel widely and share stories, its still happens, but not so publicly.”
“I can pay. My wife. Can you help her?”
Margarina looked into the darkness. “Tell your men to come in from the forest and bring her to me.”
“You knew she was here? That?”
She laid a hand on his and smiled. “ Both of us know that what truly happens and what the bards sing about us are often not the same story. We both enjoy the notoriety of the romance of imagination. In these times, our people need it don’t you agree?” Domingo nodded.  Margarina pushed her wild hair back from her face. “To keep mine intact, I have my sources, methods and ways of achieving my skills, as I am sure do you.  I think we can leave it at that. Now go and bring your wife to me.
While he was gone, Margarina set more lamps up to throw more light in her campsite. A stretcher arrived shortly after she had settled back in her chair. Margarina dismissed the nervous men. 
Domingo picked up his wife pale hand and gave it a slight squeeze. 
Margarina laid her hands on the woman’s chest and tested various points around her body with a small tap with her fingers. She looked up at Domingos pleading eyes. “It is a wasting illness. Your doctors were right that they couldn’t help her.” 
Tears welled in his eyes. “Thank you Margarina. For telling me straight away. I have gold for your time. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”
“Put it away for now. I didn’t say I could not help her.  She will need a number of medicines, fortunately ones I have.”
She snatched up a lamp and climbed the short stairs into her caravan.  Shortly afterwards, she presented Domingo with a variety of powers and dried vegetation, individually tied into calico pouches. “Your wife needs to drink teas made from these every two hours for the next two days. Stretch this out to four hours until all of this has gone. I’m afraid you need to force her to eat fresh fruit and green vegetables sparingly chicken in the first year.  I understand that this can be a costly undertaking and difficult. Her body is exhausted, depleted. I am afraid she will never be able to bear you children.This recovery will take along time, but she will regain her glow by the next time we see each other.”
Margarina demonstrated the amount required to make the tea, how to tie it up and allow to seep in a cup of hot water.  Domingo pulled out a small pouch of coins.  She laid her hand over it and pushed it away.
“Pay me next time we meet.”
“We will meet again?”
“I travel widely, as is my right as one of the tribal Drabardi. We will see each other again.”
“And, everything will turn out alright?”
“We Rromani have a saying, “Everything will turn out in the end. if it hasn’t, its not the end.”
“Thank you Margarina. Your kindness will not be forgotten.”
16th June 1748
Margarina pulled on her reins and hailed the sentry perched hidden in the tree.  A long bird call echoed into the forest. She clicked her tongue to encourage her pony into a walk, glad she was close to camp.
A burly man threw his arms up in welcome as she approached with her caravan.  He patted her tired horse on the flank. “Margarina is always a honour to have your presence. What news?”
“Antonio, it is all bad I am afraid.” Margarina shook her head mournfully.
“I had expected as much. The Kings decree has become stricter. The 75 towns and districts across Spain we were herded into have now shrunk to under 40. There are many places our people are hounded out from, put into prisons for the most minor occurrences. They don’t want our people to  be concentrated in any one region.”
Leaning back on her caravan, Margarina shook her head. “I hear the same stories where ever I go.  Romani settlements were broken up. Our people  dispersed, families split up. Our people forces to wed non-Roma. Our language forbidden, our ancient rituals and practices unlawful.” 
“These are bad times Drabardi.”
“Have faith in our people and our ways. In the end it will all turn out.”
Antonio replied automatically, “If it hasn’t turned out, then its not the end.”
Their thin smiles belied the true concerns each held.
Later in the afternoon, Margarina wandered into the town’s marketplace.  Stalls were packing up and produce stacked into crates. 
“Oi! Move along Gyspy filth.” A horse head butted her on the back, pushing her off balance awkwardly. Its harness caught on her bodice and snapped one of her laces. She stumbled on the cobblestones and was caught cleanly by strong hands.
After helping her up, the man stood to attention an appropriate distance away from her. She brushed her skirt but remained hunched over catching the laces in her bodice as they loosened and threatened to expose her bare chest to the street. “Thank you Captain. It would seem you came at the right time to save me.”
Domingo averted his eyes from her the gapping bodice.  “Its Commander now.”
Margarina smiled as she straightened, her bodice now under control. “An ambitious man who has been rewarded. How is your wife?”
“She owes your her life.” He turned and looked away. “I cannot be seen to be talking to you, but its improper not to thank you for all you did. Can you come to our villa this evening? Just off Saint Therese Way. Our villa is opposite the fountains.”
“I will be there.” Margarina raised her hand waving to an unseen companion in the distance.
Commander Domingo straightened his uniform and watched her disappear from the corner of his eye. His mind was burdened with responsibility and heart heavy with empathy for the plight of the gypsy people.  He hoped, as she had said to him over a year ago, that everything would turn out for the best.
3rd June 1749

Sealed scrolls laid across the table.  Gaspar Vázquez Tablada  sat on his huge wooden chair staring at them. His fingers tapped tunelessly.
“My Lord?”
“Dispatch these at once to every outpost. Ensure that the commander has explicit instructions to follow the directions exactly as they are written.”
The servants bowed. “At once.”
25th July 1749
Troops were mobilised into towns with gypsy settlements. The sealed set of instructions were guarded by some with secrecy, others as a joke. Many of the towns the soldiers were sent to, had a large contingent of military men stationed, so it didn’t seem unusual for towns folk for new battalions to arrive.
Commander Domingo kept his tucked inside his tunic, allowing a professional curiosity only when the campfires were flickering.  
29th July 1749
Domingo sat starting at the scroll on the table in the small quarters afforded by the resident officers. His back ached from his immobility. He’d carried the scroll for a fortnight, never allowing it to leave his sight; imagining what orders it may contain. 
Now that it was decreed time to open it, he had resisted, allowing the wax to remain intact. He taped the scroll on the bench and opened a bottle of wine.  With the tip of his knife he reluctantly teased the wax away from the edge and unrolled the scroll carefully.  
His blood ran cold as he read the orders. He drained the wine and poured another before pushing himself to his feet. He sent a runner to fetch the commander of the township.  Commander Javier had been a permanent fixture within the district most of his life and had felt more comfortable in a villa away from the barracks. Domingo remembered the stab of envy when he first arrived and visited his home. Javier announced that the military accommodation was no way to enjoy his bambinos or his wife. Domingo had wondered if he were right. He recognised Javier’s wife as Rromani, though neither men would question or focus on the mixed marriage.
“Commander Javier.” Domingo saluted as the older man strode in. Both sets of eyes focused on the opened document. Silence hung in the air.
“Forgive me for distracting you just before you and your family set off to visit family in Cordoba.”
The older man shook his head. “Family in Cordoba? What;”
“I thought I’d thank you for your hospitality while my men and I stayed in your barracks. Our business,” as he tapped the page,” Will be over tomorrow and I didn’t want you and your family to be detained in what might be an involved process.”
Javier’s eyes flicked from the scroll to Domingo’s pleading eyes.”Of course. Thank you, Commander. My wife’s mother has sent word. Very ill. We need to leave.”
“and will be away?”
“for some time I believe.”
“Commander, its been a pleasure.”
“God be with you.”
“And you.”
Domingo waited till Javier had left. “Sergeant, I need 5 teams on horseback to move out within the hour. Leaders in each team to report to me immediately.” 
As soon as the normal trade and farming folk had vacated the squares and made their way out of the town, Domingo ordered the gates to be monitored. He would close them, as the orders decreed, at midnight.
Woodenly he gave the orders which would see each roadway patrolled and blocked to prevent escapees. He positioned troops within the church to halt any sanctuary seekers. He acknowledge messages from the Governor that he prisons would be ready for processing from dawn. Patrols would camp out that evening laying their traps for the panic amongst both Rromani and townsfolk; which, no doubt would occur in the morning.  He would personally lead the patrol assigned to clear the camp which lay beyond the fortifications of the town. The cleansing had begun.


This was written in response to Write Anything's Form and Genre Challenge ,  Historic Fiction

This was submitted for #8 of FGC. 

Word Count - 3996

I had a lot of fun with this as its a time period I wasn't really familiar with but one I have had an interest in.  I've written a few other pieces for my Rromani fiction.. but really not gone anywhere with it.. maybe this will give me the boost I need to keep writing it and get it ... published?

This  was also submitted to Friday Flash.


Becky Fyfe said...

I enjoyed reading this. I love the chracter of Margorina. :)

Barbara @ de rebus said...

There were some fascinating details in your writing! I couldn't believe that you haven't written in the time period before! The rituals, the repeated words... very well done!

I especially enjoyed the Captain's tale and how he trusted in the "Rromani" (or Romani? You spell in both ways) to save his wife and saved the man and his family in the end.

I would offer some constructive criticism, as you say it is okay! There were a lot of little grammar and punctuation mistakes, especially around the dialogue - sometimes it was hard to follow! If you are interested, I'd be happy to do an edit of a word version of the post. The narration was so fun, your characters are so lovely, that I disliked being taken out of the story!!

The way you cut the two timelines together was very nice - lent a hint of mystery to the piece.

Overall, it was a GREAT story... I hope that you continue it!!

Emma Venables said...

A wonderful, engaging story, Annie :) I really enjoyed reading it.