Lots of homework this week, so no sketches today. 🙂 I think I’d re-write this chapter if I put Why Polly? through a serious edit, because gypsies are rather overdone and stereotyped in fantasy (and I hadn’t read enough to know it when I wrote this). But anyway…
The Story So Far: Polly, kidnapped by an enchanter and his trainee and thrown in with a princess, discovers that she and her new companions are all are being threatened by a malevolent magical being known as a jadess. Can she get along with the arrogant enchanter long enough to figure out how to survive with a jadess after them? And … why does the jadess want Polly? Chapter 1 is here.
Chapter 15B: The Market In Evening
Things went back to normal after that incident. About the only good thing that came out of it was that now Carmen and Mandarine were hesitant to fight. They contented themselves by sparring with words. Cassandra and I did too, though at times I’d have liked to yank that long dark hair of hers.
One day I was leaving court slightly earlier than usual, and I decided I wanted to see the market. Casper was not with me this time, so I asked the driver to bring me there, then leaned back against the seat. Paulina often went to market nowadays, and Stefan did all the time, but I was the only one who hadn’t seen it yet.
I looked down at my clothes. They were rather fine for walking around the market, but my black cape would cover that up pretty well. I took off my peridot necklace and earrings, for good measure, and put them in my bag, just so someone didn’t try to rob me.
It was almost evening, but the market was still busy. It wasn’t at all like the market in Angaria, where everyone sold their wares from the backs of their wagons or hand-carts, here each stall-owner had a little tent-like thing, made of colourful, rich fabrics yet probably still waterproof. Chattering voices echoed everywhere, hurriedly trying to conclude their bargains by the end of the day. Chaldean women with huge baskets under their arms scuttled by, most of them wearing large scarves over their robes that they could also use to hold their buys. The ground under my feet was mostly reddish-brown stone, but in places it was only dirt that got kicked up by the crowd walking over it. I pulled my cape tighter over my dress and ventured into the street.
The profusion of goods was amazing. It seemed nearly everything was being sold here, from stalls selling fried cakes and other prepared food, to vegetable stalls, to stalls with slabs of meat salted to keep it from spoiling. And then there were other goods, robes like Casper had bought me in every colour imaginable, skilfully embroidered, stalls that sold fans, and umbrellas like large shades to keep out the sun, booths hung all over with herbs and giving off a smell of mixed spices, rug booths, a stall that sold honey and well-aged wine, a stall that had live birds of every colour that twittered as I went by, junk shops, booths that looked like nothing more than a jumble of useless things muddled together. I went by them and looked and looked, for I had never seen such variety, or such strange things. Powdered spices and exotic perfume, sticks of quality incense, bolts of intricate fabric, lamps, crystals carved into round balls, yards of fringe, balls stitched of dyed leather and filled with rice. My stomach rumbled as I went by the stand that sold wafer cakes, so I entered and bought some, along with some figs. It tasted good fresh.
When I was done it was getting darker. I felt slightly nervous to be out alone, and my hand closed over my jadess protection charm. Not that there was much likelihood of her attacking me now, I was in more danger from cut-throats and thieves.
I began walking back down the street. Outside each tent-like booth a little lamp had been lit, so when I stepped through those glowing circles I had light to see by. It seemed a lot of the stall-owners slept in their booth, perhaps that accounted for their tent-like shape.
Something caught my eye as I looked down the row. At the end, by the grassy square, tucked in a corner, was what I’d at first thought was another booth, but on second glance realised it was a wagon. A lamp was lit outside it also, and beside it sat a man. A peddler, I thought as I drew closer. But when I reached him I realised he was even more than that, he was a gypsy.
“Good evening,” he said when he saw me. Though he was sitting could tell he’d be tall if he’d stood up, with the same roguish expression I sometimes caught on Casper’s face. His clothes were a mass of patches, patch upon patch. Then I realised half of them were probably pockets, useful for carrying things.
“What’s a court lady like you doing out at the market at night?” he asked. He had a clay pipe in one hand, and with it he would blow wide rings of smoke that floated up, up, into the moonlight.
“How do you know I’m a lady of the court?” I said, pulling my black cape tighter around me.
“Lady, I can tell these things,” he replied, leaning his head back and blowing out a smoke ring so it floated like a halo around the lamp. “Though you’re obviously not Chaldean.” He looked up at me with almond-shaped gypsy eyes. “I can tell these things. You see, I’m a gypsy.”
“I can tell,” I answered.
“So you are observant,” he laughed. “I was beginning to wonder.” He blew another smoke ring. “You never said why you were here.”
“I – wanted to see the market,” I explained. “And in daytime I’m at court.”
“Ah, court. Yes, of course,” he replied.
I looked at him sitting there, reminding me strongly of the Enchanter. “I know someone with gypsy blood,” I told him.
He sat up a little straighter and looked at me. “Who?”
‘He’s the Rajah’s Royal Advisor,” I answered. “Maybe you’ve heard of him. He’s the only Enchanter in all of Chaldea. His name’s Casper.”
“I do not know much about Chaldea,” he said. “This is the first time my wagon’s made its way here. We usually stay north. But,” he shrugged, “I’m south now.”
“He was adopted by an Angarian noble family,” I told him. “He’s tall, with a longish nose, reddish hair, determined chin… He has almond gypsy-eyes.”
“I do not know every gypsy in the World!” he answered. “We’re a rather isolated lot. I seldom converse with other wagons. But it has happened before that gypsy children have been adopted into other families. A shame, really. It seldom works out.”
“It didn’t really with Casper,” I agreed.
“We’re too different from you people,” he explained, setting his pipe down. “We’re nomadic, not settled. Our blood is made to move, to feel different winds on our faces, to see different sights. You cannot understand that. The closest anyone has ever gotten to us are the sailors, bound by their love of the sea. And when a gypsy child is adopted by one of your families they cannot understand him. They do not have his blood.”
His words had a strange effect on me, wide, rhythmic and calming. I felt I could follow a gypsy wagon if one left right now. A little thrill ran down my spine.
“I do not understand,” I told him, “But I can feel your love for it.”
He studied me keenly, and nodded. “Strangely enough, you do.”
I thought of Casper, shackled to the Peak, and sympathy twinged at me. He was still an exasperating Enchanter, but he did not deserve to be treated like this. But of course the Rajah didn’t understand. If I ever had a chance I would like to make him see.
Suddenly I thought of magic, and the forces of magic that had tangled me in their web and brought me to Chaldea, and I looked towards the gypsy. “Have you ever been to Sabea?”
“That I did, once,” he replied. “I spent a few years there. Rather an amazing place, all mountains and stunted desert. They live in cities among the rocks, you know, ride the purest horses you’ve ever seen across the desert sands. Very proud and noble.”
“And they have magic,” I said.
“Yes,” he nodded. “They’re born with it, and don’t intermarry with other nations if they can help it. They don’t want to lose their gift. But they make all manner of magical objects to temporarily lend its power to others, so they don’t get jealous. I’ve even had a few of those in this wagon of mine, thought I’ve traded them all away. I have no use for power like that.”
He picked up his pipe again. “I’d be willing to bet this gypsy-enchanter friend of yours has one of them.”
“Oh, I know he’s not Sabean,” I replied.
“Not likely,” the gypsy agreed.
I knew I really should get back to the Peak, but I found the gypsy fascinatingly interesting. He made me want to see lands I’d never thought of before. Before I’d never thought of leaving Angaria. And a little itch started in my feet and travelled up my legs. I could see what Casper meant by feeling restless, I’d up and out of Araba tonight if I could, but I couldn’t. Gypsy blood didn’t race in my veins at the thought, my blood didn’t race at all, but there was a decided itch in my feet.
“You’re a remarkable young lady,” the gypsy said, looking at me.
I had seen gypsies in Angaria before, but I had never talked to them. They kept to themselves, each to their own wagon, and mostly the merchants only talked with them to trade with them. Gypsies had goods from all over the world, all the lands they travelled and they peddled them for good prices in the cities. I wondered that I’d never thought to talk to one before.
“Well,” he said, and got up. I had been right, he was tall. “I’m moving at the next sun-up, so I’ll be leaving you now. Been nice talking to you.” He moved towards the doorway of the wagon.
“Wait,” I said, “Are you sure you don’t know the Enchanter? He’s – tall, and he wears a long coat of blue and green diamonds.”
The gypsy stopped and turned. “I told you I don’t,” he said. Then he paused, “A diamond coat, you say?” He stared into space, seeming to be thinking. “Long diamond coat embroidered all over in signs… I haven’t heard of one of those in a long time. “ His almond-shaped eyes burned into me. Suddenly I felt uncomfortable.
“Well, I was just wondering,” I said. I lifted a hand. “Um, I’ve got to go now too. So – good bye.”
He nodded, still looking at me. I turned away and hurried down the street, eager to get back to the home-like Peak and sink into bed. The night suddenly felt cool and eerie.
All the way down the street I could feel the gypsy’s eyes burning into me.
Go to Chapter 16A