From the Untitled story featuring ‘Hutch & A’ris’
– Copyright Trish Marie Dawson
It was foolish of her to think she could simply walk to the next town. She knew that only an hour into the journey. Fortune bestowed upon her a cavalcade of displaced gypsies on the road that she blended in quite well with. But the furthest she had ever walked was around the castle grounds – a trip that took less than half an hour.
Her feet ached, as did her shoulder that held her canvas tote, but still she pushed on, afraid to let any space grow between herself and her dusty companions. If a squadron was dispatched outside of the city to look for her, she needed to blend in with a group, not be standing alone on the cracked road like bait.
For three days they spent the hottest part of the day under tents. A tattooed man with seven wives allowed her to share space under the patchwork fabric in exchange for a gold ring. She had several tied around the inner waistband of her slacks to use exclusively for bartering. If she traveled with money, she would likely garner more attention than she wanted. And gypsies loved gold.
“Will you tell us more about your quest today, red one?” The man asked, while puffing smoke out of a long tube.
“I’ve already told you of my need to reach the Outer Provinces of Calypso,” she smiled.
“Aye, that you have. An ill aunt, you claim. Calypso is full of illness. What I can’t fathom is why such a sprite as yourself would travel on foot to a town ravaged by disease. Have you a cure for the Spot that we simple nomads haven’t heard of?” The man took another long drag off his pipe before handing it to the raven-haired woman draped across his left leg.
“No. There is no cure for the Spot, as you surely know.” A’ris shifted nervously on the thin rug beneath her, glancing out at the flat land that surrounded them. “She is dying. I am her only relative come to claim her,” she lied.
“Is that all?”
A’ris risked a defiant stare at the gypsy. He was challenging her, feeling her out to find a weakness. She wouldn’t give in. The story of a dying aunt in need of a family member to process her out of this world had seemed sufficient back at Ernoth, but actually discussing the details showed how thin her story truly was. And the gypsy knew it. No one, especially a young and un-claimed woman as herself would dare venture to Calypso for such a thing.
“My business is my own, gypsy,” she said coolly.
With a nod, the man ran his slender fingers through the hair of the woman on his lap, and twisted one of the dozen rings he adorned with his thumb. “Aye. In Calypso, you will find death, yes? Are you prepared for that?”
“Of course,” she lied again.
“You don’t smell ready. You smell innocent.” He sniffed the air between them with a laugh and A’ris smiled weakly before looking away, back into the expanse of dry land.
“Is anyone ever ready for death?” A’ris mumbled to no one in particular.
Of course there was no dying aunt, but there was a man. A map-reader. And she hoped the Spot hadn’t claimed him, for if he was dead, she didn’t know where to turn. But the Gods knew she would not go back to Ernoth. Not even the plague could scare her back into the iron arms of her father.