January – 1027 YD
The Crossroads, Lenyol
The new year came, as it always did, with the beginning of January. The heat had barely abated since the October fires and the soil was beginning to cake.
__It was over such cracked earth that Kesia alternated driving her cart with Mellena and Toran. They had departed Gesula as the light had come, and it was now midday. The Crossroads could be seen as they passed over the final highland crest, and they immediately noticed a plethora of colourful tents flanking the village.
‘Wanderers!’ Mellena and Kesia breathed.
__They drew toward the settlement. The Wanderers’ flags rippled in the breeze, bearing their symbol of the seven-spoked wheel.
__A young trio of olive-skinned boys approached quickly, clapping their drums and tugging strings of beads. ‘Bracelets! Anklets! Necklaces! You would like to buy for your women?’
__Toran, guiding the cart, laughed. ‘Let us find a place to stop.’
__The cart was placed where a pair of aged Wanderer women directed them. ‘We protect your beautiful things, and care for your mare. Please, come in; these boys will guide you.’
__And so they went with the boys, each taken by the hand and shown loops of painted beads while walking into the heart of the Wanderers’ portable village. To satisfy the boys, Toran purchased violet bracelets, and they were unleashed at the periphery of a small crowd. A play was beginning; they exchanged coins for tickets, and sat on small covered hay bales.
__‘This is a tale of water,’ a woman announced to the crowd. ‘From the region of Miggest.’ There was some negative murmuring from the audience. ‘We do not have your prejudice here!’ she scorned. ‘Many of us were born in that region, and I see here a woman who is the Black Dragon’s stock!’ She indicated to Mellena, who blushed as eyes turned toward her.
__‘Let us begin. Hold your seats, and raise your chins; though this is not a happy story, it is one I would like to share.’
__The cast appeared on stage bearing blue reams of cloth, trees, corn stalks, dolls, and projections from a capable weaver.
__It was the mid-900s. The rain had begun to fall; and it fell, and fell. The creeks rose; the rivers broke their banks; still it fell, and the land could take no more. Crops drowned, trees swept away, and villages were ruined. So few knew how to move in water that hundreds were taken by the flood. And as the rain slowed, disease and starvation continued to eat the population. The Line was hardened by the Custodin of Lenyol’s warriors, Miggestian messengers turned sharply away, Lenyol’s gates guarded. And the Candle ignited in all the temples, a rope in the beating current. The Miggestian Interpreter, Murran of Yardford, came to the capital with twelve Black Dragons. He set them to work with dragonfire, gently purging the city of damp, channelling fire and growth to heal those he could. More dragons were summoned from the mountains and sent to the four corners of the region—a hundred at least, people later said, when all reports came to be recorded by scribes of those events. The rot was stopped, and the hero remembered always. Never had so many dragons been seen across the land; never had the people’s belief been so roused and amplified. And never would they forget how the Lenyolite turned their backs before the dragons came.
The final scene ended well into the afternoon, when the hot sun had settled to scorch captivated foreheads. The woman announced that the dancing would begin at dusk, and visitors were welcome to stay with the troupe under the stars. A sweet drink called meá was offered for sale and after so glum a tale sold well. Roasted potatoes and corn were peddled on trays, and the three deserted their hopes of making Alendae that night.
The sun set and music began. The Wanderers began to congregate and dance, teaching their guests odd swooping movements in their peculiar version of the Western tongue. They also spoke the Eastern language, but to each other their words were in Gaeilge, and Toran succeeded in translating for his friends.
__Trilingual and interracial, the Wanderers were a people who moved throughout the seven regions. Theirs was only one such clan—how many there were in total was uncertain, for sometimes smaller groups came together while larger groups eventually split. Believing all dragons sacred, their holy text contained only the four books common to all regions: Seamai, Seachd, Driscoll, and Alverdias. Yet they knew the Monairc books of each region, and shared these legends and fables across the lands through their plays.
__Kesia took Mellena’s hand and together they explored the crafts in candlelit stalls. In a jewellery stall an array of brass pendants were displayed: hundreds of knots, region symbols, element symbols, dragons, legendary faces and more. Both purchased a number of charms and exited, locating Toran nearby.
__A young woman of perhaps sixteen stepped forward. ‘Orla min Nessa is ainm dom,’ she announced with an extended hand.
__Toran shook it, as did the others. ‘I am Toran,’ he answered, ‘and these are my friends __Kesia—’ who smiled— ‘and Mellena.’ Mellena curtsied. ‘This is Orla.’
__The girl’s clothes, while different and more eccentric than the already peculiar fashion which was common among her people, seemed to be of a higher quality than her companions; there was also an air of good breeding in her movements.
__‘I am Orla,’ she imitated his accent with flirtatious eyes. ‘I heard you speak our language. Where are you from?’
__ ‘This tiny place?’ She gave him a sceptical look. ‘But where do you learn my language?’
__‘Gesula is only for the very clever,’ Mellena interjected jokingly. ‘You need to pass a test before you live there.’
__‘Really?’ Orla’s large brown eyes grew larger still. ‘I never heard of such a thing! Perhaps this is not fair. You must have done very well: I think Lenyolites do not like Miggestians very much?’
__ ‘Only very clever ones.’
__Toran palmed his forehead and apologised. ‘Tá mé buartha. My friend is a smart-arse.’
__‘I like smart-arse.’ Orla winked at Mellena. ‘I like your friend. Come with me, I show you some things, then we will find a fire and have a good time.’
They found Kesia’s cart the following morning—closer to afternoon after dallying in their haze—and piled in. Toran had stalled and lingered, but Orla had not reappeared. It was time to leave. They thanked and paid the elderly ladies and began to depart.
__‘I think I will stay on when we pass by again,’ Toran remarked. ‘Reading and writing Gaeilge is one thing, but speaking it—it’s quite another.’
__Mellena glanced at Kesia. Kesia gripped the reigns and kept her eye on the road.
__‘Dia dhuit ar maidin!’ A white mare awaited them at the main road, captained by Orla in riding gear. ‘You are very, very slow to move.’
__Toran and she met eyes.
__And such was Orla min Nessa added to their party.
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