“How many times will we have an opportunity like this Arthur?” Peter asked.
The four were walking through a traveling bazaar that had made camp just outside their village. It wasn’t as big as the one they had seen in London in the previous summer but indeed it was larger than the one they were used to in the villages in their approximate surrounding.
It was the fact that spring was starting to loom over the corner that had brought the bazaar to their region. After a week of nice warm weather the roads have dried and the wagons could make their way through without getting stuck in the mud.
Peter, the tall thirteen years old blond, was standing in front of a small dark tent. A symbol of a scary face above the entrance did more to repel people from entering than to draw them in, but the group had seen more than a few entering the tent.
The four got the afternoon off from their chores at the inn, helping John and Merry the inn owners to handle the growing flow of travelers who passed through their village. Alex, a beautiful maid they have saved from being killed a while ago by Lord Grey’s daughter, was waiting the tables while John handled the guests and Merry cooked in the kitchen.
Almost a head shorter than Peter, Arthur was looking at the tent suspiciously. He didn’t like fortunetellers. In fact he had some bad experience with one in the previous summer.
“It will be interesting” Peter said, “Don’t you want to know what would happen?”
Cathy was looking at the whole scene from a distance with Gwen. They were still talking to a merchant trying to buy a small herbal pouch for Gwen.
The merchant, a stocky bald chubby man, was starting to realize they weren’t going to cave to his prices and was about to sell them the pouch for half his asking price when a short cry sounded and a man came running out of the fortuneteller’s tent knocking Peter over, falling on top of him, quickly bouncing back to his feet. “The witch killed again” the merchant beside Cathy shouted. The man kept running towards the girls although it seemed he wasn’t seeing them at all. Cathy grabbed Gwen and swung her out of the way just in time for the man to hit the stand behind them at full speed, spreading the merchandise all over the ground.
A woman came out of the tent. She had long black hair and olive like skin, her face was delicate but now she was scared to death. “The witch killed again” the merchant shouted again pointing towards the woman standing beside Arthur and Peter.
Cathy tried to lift the man from the ground grabbing him by the shoulder, he wasn’t moving and when the merchant pulled his hand back it was covered with blood.
“SHE MUST BE PUNISHED” the merchant shouted again and looked around at his friends who started to gather around his messed up stand.
“Please help me, Arthur” The fortuneteller whispered, catching the boys off-guard.
“What?” Arthur mumbled.
“Please Arthur, I need your help” her whisper almost swallowed in the noise rising from the crowd.
“How can we help you?” Arthur asked, his eyes already scanning the surrounding.
“KILL THE WITCH! “Came a shout from the crowd and a stone flew in the air falling between the three.
“Please….” she pleaded, her brown almond eyes begging Arthur. “They will kill me, I haven’t killed that man.”
Peter raised his shoulders indicating he wasn’t sure what was going on, Arthur nodded towards the tent and Peter started walking slowly towards it.
The crowd was growing strong and the variety of objects thrown was increasing, a tomato hit Arthur’s shoulder and the fortuneteller was hit by an apple in her stomach.
“Meet us at the fort” Arthur shouted to the girls who were already overrun by the crowd and in no position to reach them.
Cathy grabbed Gwen by the hand and headed against the current of the crowd not before Gwen grabbed the herbal pouch, throwing a copper coin to the merchant and running away.
Grabbing her hand Arthur led the fortuneteller back into the tent, followed by Peter who kept looking at the crowd who slowly made their way towards them. The tent was warm and comfortable from the inside. It held a couple of chairs, a small table which seemed like they were mended lately and a few crates in one of the corners. The tent had a second opening from the other side which Arthur immediately ran to check out only to see the crowd heading towards it as well.
Arthur stopped for a moment. “Did you use this opening?” Arthur asked.
The fortuneteller only shook her head in response.
“We’re trapped” Peter said quickly unsheathing his sword quickly, ready to fight.
“We aren’t going to fight here” Arthur told him, they were both looking at him now. “Cut a small hole in the tent” he pointed to the far side of the tent.
Peter went to work while Arthur tied the flaps of the tent closing it shut. “Do you have anything you need to take with you?” Arthur asked.
The fortuneteller ran towards a crate returning quickly to the two which were already on their way out of the tent cutting a hole into the adjacent tent.
Remaining unnoticed the three managed to cut their way through three different tents before they were at the end of the line. Arthur peeked behind the tent towards the enraged crowd. Someone picked up a torch and threw it towards the fortuneteller’s tent which caught fire quickly. “It’s a good time to run” Arthur said, “Before the whole place catches fire. Aim for the trees.” the three took off not a moment later.
“HERE SHE IS” a shout came from behind them and the crowd started after them, and the three picked up the pace.
Arthur looked back just in time to see the fortuneteller slip and fall on the ground. He immediately ran to her, grabbing her by the arm. Her leg was hurt and she had trouble standing up. A teenage boy was running towards them. He was much faster than the crowd behind him and stood alone a few feet from them, holding a rock in his hand, still not sure what to do.
“Let us go” Arthur said to him calmly, “This will not end good for you if you throw it” he motioned to his sword and the lad backed down while Arthur supported the fortuneteller into the woods.
The crowd stopped at the woods and allowed the three to hide there, going deep into the woods until Arthur felt safe they weren’t seen anymore.
The fortuneteller sat down on a tree stomp panting and aching. She was looking at the boys who were resting although keeping alert at all times.
“My name is Peter, but you probably know that already” Peter introduced himself.
“My name is Ronda” she smiled, “Thank you” she continued. “Most people would have left me there.”
Arthur let out a short sigh “You still need to explain to us what happened” he said.
Ronda nodded. “Well… you see, someone is out to get me” she started.
“Who? ” Peter wondered.
“I don’t know” Ronda shook her head.
“How come? You are a fortuneteller” Peter insisted
“Peter… let her tell the story” Arthur said. “Please continue” he smiled at her.
Ronda nodded. “There are people who don’t like my people, I have seen this more than a few times before but this time someone wants me dead” she said.
“Your people?” Arthur asked.
“Yes, you see, I’m a Gypsy” she explained, “There are people who feel we don’t belong” she sighed. “This started a few weeks ago when we were up north. A man came to my tent a bit late and asked me to tell him his future. I’ve asked him to come over in the morning as I was very tired but I should have known it wouldn’t help. He insisted it had to be then. I looked at the cards and got scared, I was looking at a dead man walking. He didn’t have much time to live and I was supposed to tell him that” Ronda paused for a moment. “How can you tell a man he will die soon?” she asked them and continued without waiting for an answer. “I told him his future is vague and can’t see through the mist. He didn’t believe me, I sensed it. He got angry, broke my table and chairs leaving my tent in a total mess, not to mention my payment of course.
“Can you walk?” Arthur asked when Ronda paused for a moment, “we should leave before night falls” he explained.
Slowly getting up Ronda nodded her head. Putting her arms around the boys, they slowly lead her through the woods. Her left ankle had swollen into twice its original size and her face twisted in pain each time she stepped on it.
“You can go on” Arthur suggested trying to make Ronda forget of the pain for a moment.
Ronda took a deep breath. “This man died that same night” she said, “some of the merchants came to my tent, woke me up and wanted to kill me on the spot. Apparently before he died he told someone that if something happened to him I was to blame” she sighed. “I fled from my tent, barely escaping them. A couple of merchants helped me and stopped them.”
“So why did you stay with them?” Peter asked the same question Arthur had wanted to ask.
“This is my life” she said, “I thought it will be forgotten in time and I can keep living my life with as I always did.”
“What happened today?” Arthur asked.
“I don’t know, I went to take a cloak from my crate when I heard some whispers and a cry. When I turned I spotted a man leaving the tent from the second opening and by the time I ran outside after him he was already gone. When I returned to the tent it was already empty and that was when I came out and met you two.”
“Who do you think could have done this?” Arthur asked, “Could this have been a coincidence?” He tried although he knew it probably wasn’t.
The sun was already setting when they finally saw the inn. They were still keeping to the woods when they noticed that a crowd had formed in front of the inn. It appeared to them that someone had tipped the crowd where they lived. They could see John standing in front of the inn, trying to calm them down calling to them in his low, loud but calm voice.
“I’ll go contact the girls” Arthur said, “I’ll let them know we are okay.”
“I can go” Peter said, but Arthur shook his head and started towards the inn, trying to keep the inn between him and the crowd at all times.
Quickly reaching the back side of the inn he made his way towards the stable, trying to reach their cabin in the inn’s courtyard from a secret passageway. To his dismay the way into the stable was blocked as well.
Starting back, he stopped when he heard his name called from above him. He raised his look and Cathy was looking down at him from a window on the second floor.
“Is everyone okay?” she asked.
Arthur nodded. “More or less” he said, “Ronda can barely walk.”
“Can you meet us in the bazaar after the crowd dispersed?” Arthur asked.
Cathy nodded. “Should we bring anything?” she asked.
“Can you bring a long cloak with a hood?” Arthur requested.
“Of course” she said, “What for?”
“I’ll explain later” he said, already heading towards the woods.
Cathy pulled her shoulders and turned when Arthur called her again. “Can you try to identify who is leading the crowd?” he asked and Cathy nodded again, heading quickly down the stairs.
The way back in the woods was much slower this time, Ronda needed a lot of rest and her leg seemed to have swollen even more. The fact that the sun had already set and darkness filled the woods around them didn’t help at all.
Spotting the place where Ronda’s tent should have been they slowly made their way over, supporting Ronda, hoping that the darkness will help to conceal them.
They had passed a tent when a hand tapped on Peter’s shoulder. He swirled in his place, his hand instinctively reaching for his sword.
A man was standing in front of him but right behind him Gwen was smiling at him in the entrance to a tent.
“Arthur…” Peter whispered, making Arthur and Ronda stop and turn as well.
Ronda let out a loud sigh, falling on the man’s neck, weeping. “I didn’t kill him” she told him.
“I know” he said, leading her into the tent quickly, hoping no one had heard their encounter.
The tent looked similar to the one they had seen earlier that day, although this one seemed a little less mysterious and a bit more of a home. Cathy was smiling at the three although Arthur easily noticed she had been worried.
It was a long day and they were all tired. Ronda specifically looked exhausted and Arthur regretted he needed to ask her to put herself at risk again but they needed to find out what was happening and who was trying to hurt her.
“Ronda, I want you to tell me my future” Arthur said calmly, confusing all the people around him.
“I… I… I don’t have my cards here” she said, “they were probably burned in the fire” she was more confused than everyone else.
“So we shall look for them” Arthur replied.
Turning to Cathy he motioned for her to bring him the cloak she had brought.
“Is this the time?” Cathy whispered.
“It is the best time” he answered. “Keep an eye on us as close as you can, be ready to jump in.” He continued, letting her plan the rest.
Before leaving the tent Arthur covered himself, concealing his short sword under the cloak. He then followed Ronda outside and although it had seemed strange to her, they walked in the bazaar as if they weren’t hiding at all. Arthur looked like he wanted to be seen.
Where once stood a nice tent now was only darkness and emptiness. Ronda looked around in the darkness and then towards Arthur. “There is nothing left” she whispered.
“What about your cards?” Arthur asked in his regular calmness.
She shook her head. “No” she finally said after realizing he might not see her.
“Than try to do your best without them” he said and picked a spot on a burned chair.
Still confused Ronda took his lead and sat down in front of him. The table between them was burned to the ground so they were sitting very close.
“I got the sense you didn’t believe in fortunetellers” she said.
Arthur pulled his shoulders. “I have my issues” he said.
“What do you want to know?” she asked.
“Well, what do you usually do?” he asked.
Looking over her shoulder to where her crates once stood, “I bring my cards from the crate” She sighed.
“You should go look for them” Arthur said. He had spotted a movement from the corner of his eye, he was hoping his plan was working and distracting Ronda was the only way to find out.
Ronda seemed utterly confused but she did as she was told, getting up and heading towards the burned crates. She was moving things from side to side trying to find anything worth that had survived the fire.
All of the sudden a man was standing in front of Arthur, he was tall and a hood was covering his head obscuring his face. “I’m sorry” he whispered, a dagger appeared in his hand and he swung it with force towards Arthur.
As he was sitting down Arthur didn’t have much time to react and he tried to back off falling backwards in his chair, fortunate enough making the dagger miss him.
His attacker quickly changed his position and swung again this time straight into the ground, catching Arthur’s pants by its edge. “Stop moving, you’ll just make it worse”
He raised his dagger again, this time pointing it straight to Arthur’s heart. Arthur fumbled for his sword but he wasn’t fast enough to draw it. His attacker looked him in the eyes for the first time, holding the dagger straight. Arthur felt the tip of the dagger on his chest. “I’m sorry” he whispered again, pinning Arthur down with his body.
The man yelped in pain, looking down at his leg, distracted enough for Arthur to wiggle himself out. He rolled on the ground, jumping quickly to his feet, drawing his sword holding it towards his attacker who was struggling to his feet with an arrow sticking out from his thigh.
When Peter and Gwen appeared their bows were at the ready to shoot again. The man looked bewildered and not sure what to do once his plan was thrown out of course.
“Why are you doing this?” Arthur asked and the man started limping away. He didn’t get far when Cathy tackled him from behind the closest tent, slamming him to the ground.
Ronda couldn’t believe her eyes. These twelve years old were acting as grown up warriors would.
The four gathered around the man on the ground. A crowd started to gather around them slowly, but this time no one took a step closer, keeping themselves at a fair distance.
Kicking the dagger out of his reach, Peter ensured he was harmless. “Leave him alone”came a shout from the crowd. Arthur turned to see who it was but the crowd only murmured in disapproval.
“Slowly turn on your back” Arthur ordered him and the man complied, letting his hood fall back on his shoulders in the process.
Ronda gasped. “It is him” she cried, “The men who was supposed to be dead.”
The crowd mumbled their surprise and a chubby figure took off from the crowd, trying to run away.
“Peter, shall we?” Arthur asked and the two sprinted towards the running merchant while the crowd parted to let them pass.
“I can’t believe this was all for a small ring” Gwen said looking at the ring Ronda placed on the table in the inn.
They were all sitting around a large table full of all that Merry could conjure in a short notice to fill their hungry stomachs to Peter’s delight.
“It is a family heirloom” Ronda explained.
“So he must have seen it on you when he was in your tent?” John asked, mostly happy that his inn wasn’t surrounded anymore.
Ronda nodded. “Apparently he owed money to the merchant who thought of a good way of getting the payment back” Arthur offered his take after they questioned his attacker, “They tried to get rid of you and take the ring”.
“Thank you” Ronda said, “not many people would have helped me like this.”
“This is why we love them so much” Merry hugged the boys from behind, making them blush.
“Can you please escort me outside?” Ronda asked Arthur a short while later.
When they finally reached a quiet place outside Ronda turned to Arthur, “Do you want me to tell you what I see?” she asked.
Taking some time to think Arthur shook his head. “No” he finally answered confidently.
Ronda smiled. “I didn’t expect you to” she kissed him on the cheek and said: “If you ever need my advice, I will be honored to serve you”
Arthur smiled and turned back towards the door.
“What took you so long?” Cathy asked when he sat down.
“Ronda told you your future?” Peter asked, “she told my mine” he smiled.
Arthur smiled. “To a bright future!” he raised his glass.
Copyright © 2013 The Silver Wolf