Overview - Returning - History

Overview

Gypsy, in the old tongue of the Romany, means wanderer. Having chosen to put their people before material possessions long ago, they honor only one thing: the family. While there are clans of gypsy scattered throughout the world, all of them share the same longing for the warmth of the campfires.

The life of a gypsy is not easy, though; being a free and wild people, outsiders often do not understand their beliefs and customs. Because of this, the Roma are often wrongfully blamed for crimes ranging from the theft of bread and children to causing plagues through ancient curses and evil rituals. Years of being cast out, ostracized, and persecuted have resulted in many gypsies having a great suspicion of outsiders.

Because of this distrust of outsiders, though, the gypsy culture has grown to be rich with ancient tradition, lore, superstition, rituals, and beliefs. The undead which walk lands are viewed as leeches (or lehitor in the old tongue), being empty husks that corrupt the souls of the living to prolong their unnatural existence. As such, lehitor are never welcome among the campfires and the Roma have a pronounced aversion towards the undead and those who consort with them.

It is for this reason that any who claim to be the reincarnation of a deceased ancestor are looked upon as leeches or imposters. To the Roma, life after death in any form cannot exist without the involvement of dark magic and malevolent spirits. However, it is certainly acceptable for a Romany to train in a new profession.

Returning to the Campfires

If you feel your blood stir at the sight of the campfires or your heart sing with the gypsy music that sometimes drifts down the city streets, the blood of the Romany may run in your veins. However, there are some requirements for those who wish to return to the fires.

* Because of their aversion towards the walking dead, the Romany will never welcome lichnee or necromancers into the family.

* The Romany have only ever lived in this plane of existence; therefore, any githyanki who claim to be of Romany blood will be met with nothing but ridicule.

* Those who seek to return must be above the 20th level of training.

Should you feel the spirit of the Roma in your heart and long to return to the campfires, you must do several things:

* There is much wisdom to be gained from knowing the history of our people and our ancestors. Thus, it is imperative that you read the Book of Gypsy in its entirety and be prepared to explain the lessons that can be learned from the stories contained within.

* Although much can be learned from the lives of others, your experiences are equally valuable. Therefore, you must have a written account of the story of your life posted as lore for all to see; this will assist others in understanding what has made you who you are.

* Once you have read the story of the Romany and documented your own experiences, pen a scroll to the entire family introducing yourself and expressing your desire to return to the fires.

* Get to know as much of the family as possible. Not only do you stand to learn much about the unwritten history of our people, but it will ultimately be up to those you speak with to decide whether there is truth to your claims of Romany heritage or if you are simply a treacherous gadje.

* When you feel that you have garnered enough support in favor of your return, seek out the Elders of the family.

The History of the Romany

The Curse Malificent
Nefell Savannah
The Defender Krisatora, Shadow Dancer
Donnchadh Memories of Caelayn
Vlenarov  

The Curse

Once long ago, when the world was young, a large family gathered for its annual harvest celebration. This was no small family. It was more of a clan really, generation after generation born and raised to till the land. The clan's land stretched for many miles in every direction. The soil, rich and fertile, grew anything the elders agreed to plant. The realm always benefited from each year's bountiful harvest. The clan would send their hagglers into to towns around the realm to sell and trade. The King, being a wise and good man, would grant a plot of land to each female family member as a wedding gift on her marriage day. Vlenarov the Elder, on the eve of the harvest, would gather everyone together at the central cookfire and tell the clan's history. He would always start the story the same way, giving cause to many giggles and snickers. 'Ve are Romany! Ze dirt of zis land runs in our veins and sings to our souls!'

Though known and respected by those in the realm the family remained a close group. Keeping much to themselves, they rarely allowed the outside world and its politics to intrude. The elders, a circle of three, handled all of the family business. This night the elders sat huddled together. Worry lines furrowing each ancient brow. On the last full moon of the harvest, the King of the realm died without an heir. The elders turned and looked as one at the young man standing near the campfires, his lathered horse nudging him impatiently. The news the outsider brought was dire. The Queen died mysteriously and General Threbach was sending out a call to arms. The elders did not believe in war or bloodshed, and word of an army marching to take the throne was cause for great worry. Threbach was demanding a levy of men, weapons and food to hold back the invaders. Each elder looked across the campfire to a child or wife knowing that the general was coming.

One the elders stood and called the family together. Having seen the outsider, all were curious to hear the news he brought. Children piled together close to the front, while husbands and wives stood close, feeling the tension from the stranger and their beloved elders.

'My children...qviet please. Zere is grave news from ze realm.' Clearing his throat, elder Vlenarov looked at the worried faces, sadness bringing tears to his eyes. "Queen Kara is dead." He paused long enough to allow the cries to die down. "Threbach is trying to lay claim to ze throne and to do so he is calling us to arms." The women began gathering the little ones close, comforting them while quietly explaining what the elder was saying. The men moved closer, angrily voicing their concerns. Many wanted to stay and fight, holding back the general and any that would take their land. Those were the young men... the men that could not foresee their own death. Others felt that the treasure was not in the land but in the blood. The clan argued long into the night, knowing that time was running out. Food lay forgotten on the tables and the fires burned low as the sun tinted the early morning sky a blood red. The old women said it was an omen...that blood would color the Romany lands.

Before the sun had reached its zenith, the family gathered again, this time to part. The strength of the Romany would stay and protect the clan's retreat. The fleet of foot would scout ahead seeking a safe haven where the family would gather together again. Three caravans assembled each with a circle of elders and a handful of healers. The wagons moved out slowly. Sobbing quietly many knowing that it would be the last time they would see the Romany lands and their kin. Vlenarov stood near the dead campfire watching the family, anger searing his blood. 'I curse zis land!' he shouted, spitting into the cold firepit. Quickly drawing his blade across his palm he allowed the blood to mix with his saliva and the warm ashes. 'It will yield no crops and offer no protection to any, until the Romany blood returns! We are now gypsy 'the wanderers' but we will always be Romany.' Old women and elders made the sign of the evil eye repeating the curse as they lead their caravans to freedom and safety.

The omens did not lie and Romany lands were soaked in blood.

 
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Malificent

Malificent, the youngest son of the Elder Vlenarov, stood looking into the campfire wondering how his twin sister could have chosen to leave. They had never been farther than across the field from one another before. 'She will be all right my love.' Malificent looked across the flames and into the eyes of his wife. She smiled at him and he felt his heart lurch; no amount of arguing had made her leave with his sister. Her almond shaped violet eyes titled upward with her smile and the delicately pointed tips of her ears poked out through her wild blonde hair. There were many half-elves among the clan but only very few of the pure blood and Tatianna was one of them. He couldn't help wondering if his child would look more elven than human. Malificent's heart sank; he knew the truth of their situation.

Others of the clan that had chosen to stay behind returned slowly to campfire after setting flame to all left behind. Smoke stained faces could not hide the worry that creased each brow. Malificent spoke a kind word to each as Tatianna served them plates of stew and warm bread. Most of them ate sparingly, some claiming exhaustion as they set their untouched plates on the ground. All of them knew fear as the last of the daylight fell behind the mountains.

Malificent waited letting everyone rest a moment as he watched the smoke filled horizon. Absently he swiped at a tear clearing his throat. 'The general will attack with the sunrise.' the others around the fire shifted nervously, some gripping their weapons with white knuckles.

'We must use the only advantage we have, since he will out number us. Merrick you will take thirty to the old well and hide in the cellar there till the sun breaches Deacon Hill. At that point you will be behind Threbach's lines. Merrick, be wise.' Malificent pounded him on the back as Merrick gave a nervous laugh looking at the others around the fire.

'Tatianna will take the Shadows into the elven wood.' Tatianna stood up the refusal on her lips; he placed a finger gently across her mouth. 'I need you to draw them into the open. I need you and the shadows to get as many of them to chase you toward the wood as you can. I also need harassing fire from the trees. Threbach will not be certain that the elves haven't joined our cause and it will help to take his sunlight advantage from him since the sun will be out of our eyes.' Tatianna stared him down, they both knew why he was doing this and she was angry.

'Ivlad will take his men to the lake and I will take mine to Kerran's field. You will all know when the time is right, you will feel it.' He shivered violently; telling himself it was the cold. The others felt it too. 'The wagons will travel all night and as much of tomorrow as the horse and oxen can take. We need to buy them time. No matter how angry Threbach is he knows he can not afford to send his army after them.'

Merrick moved through the group laying a hand on those that would go with him. Each man and woman gathered up their gear and weapons, hugging a brother or sister, kissing a husband or wife. Malificent gave each a hug before they faded away into the darkness.

Tatianna watched the shadows as they finished their food or collected their gear. Malificent could see the fiery anger in her gaze; he loved her so very much. Embracing her from behind he held her stiff body close as he whispered in her ear. None know what was spoken but she turned in his arms and returned a fierce embrace. A passionate kiss and Tatianna slipped from his grasp. He trembled as she made the rounds hugging and kissing the others before she and her Shadows disappeared into the inky black night.

There was nothing left for the others to do except wait and pray as they sharpened their axes, and long knives. Some sat lost in the fletching of arrows as the night slipped away. Two hours before dawn the fire had dwindled to embers, giving off no light for any prying eyes to see men moving into the camp with bundles of hay under their arms. Silently the men created basic silhouettes before creeping off into the darkness. Malificent waited till the last man was beyond his hearing before he left. Glancing back, the silhouettes would buy them only an hour at the most before word would get back to Threbach that they were no longer there.

Time passed, as it is want to do, and Malificent found himself lying against the cold earth, the dew dampening his shirt as sweat made the grip on his weapon slippery. The gods had chosen to smile on the Romany this day as the thick fog clung to the recently harvested field. His men spread out in a long column to either side; he could only see the first in either direction. Suddenly he heard the whistle of a thrush, slowly making its way down the column. Tatianna was drawing them toward the wood. 'Gods be good. Save my love.'

They began hearing running preceded by the loon's call. Tatianna was close he could feel her, even though he knew the fog was distorting the sound of her retreat. Suddenly the loud cries of 'Romany to the Woods' or 'Elves release' seemed to be right on top of him; Malificent waited for what seemed an eternity for them to pass. The sound of arrows swishing from taught strings rang in his ears. He thought he would die with the waiting and then the Shadow were gone.

The ground began to rumble, pressing his ear to the rough tilled earth he could hear the light horses pursuing the shadow into the fog. The chitters of angry prairie dogs from his left made Malificent tense. The Foot were following too close behind the light cavalry. He and his men would find themselves pinched between two very strong fingers, but if he did not attack Tatianna would be overwhelmed. Malificent could only hope that she and hers could handle taking the light horse from the rear. With a loud bark Malificent rose slowly, the fog only coming to his thighs in the watery sunlight. The light horse had already passed and were focused on the easy prey running for the trees. He could see the last of the women making the tree line at the top of the rise. Looking back the foot were marching, deliberate, well organized. He did not see the heavy horse or the archers, perhaps Threbach had underestimated the Romany and this was all he had sent.

With a whistle his men rose from the fog like dead from their graves. An echoing whistle from across the open expanse and Ivlad stood; his men looking like ghosts in the fog enshrouded field. Taking up a loud hooting and cawing the Romany fell upon a somewhat surprised foot. The noise and the fog allowed for much of the confusion, but any that have done battle know that once in the thick of it, chaos is the only god that commands the field.

Malificent's heart' sank as he heard the horns from the light horse. The Romany would feel steel ride up their backs soon enough. He could hear the cries of men and women falling under angry blows. He knew some of the voices, those he remembered, reciting their names under his breath as he swung his weapon. Merrick's call and charge came just as the light cavalry returned. Malificent felt a moment of triumph before he heard the wailing of the greathorn, announcing the heavy horse's charge.

He did not even feel the blade as it slid up under his ribs from behind. Dropping to his knees Malificent could not seem to bring any air into his lungs as the knife pulled free. The blade returned with force knocking Malificent forward under the blow. Gaping for air he rolled away from his attacker only to feel the knife enter him again as he looked into the face of Merrick. The man wore a wolfish smile as he snatched the charm from around Malificent's neck. 'I was wise brother. I chose the winning side.' Pocketing the necklace Merrick quickly scanned the field before looking back at Malificent. 'Die already you old fool. The land will belong to me. I am Romany so the curse is nullified.' He laughed a bitter laugh that Malificent could hear through the pain.

Blood bubbled on Malificent's lips as air hissed from his wounds. With a final effort Malificent embraced Merrick. Pulling him close with surprising strength he kissed Merrick's brow, leaving a bloody lip print of his forehead. The darkness was enveloping him as he fought to hold Merrick close. 'I am elder of the Light and by my power...' He coughed, blood darkening his chin 'the gods witness...' Merrick knew the ancient rite, they all did, and he began to struggle. 'You are banished.' Malificent fell limply to the ground; the darkness washed over him. Merrick's howl followed him into its depths.

Malificent floated in an inky void for what seemed an eternity; the only thing that seemed to pierce the darkness was knowledge. He suddenly knew the name of a babe born to a gypsy. Looking into the black void he realized he was not alone and that the void was a blaze with tiny pinpoints of light. Looking into each light he glimpsed another gypsy; he knew them all. For a time he floated in the darkness knowing joy for the new lives brought into the family and knowing the sadness of other lights that simply faded or winked out of existence. He wept for the lost ones and rejoiced at the small groups that had found each other again.

A soft voice caressed his senses in the darkness. 'Did you forgive him?'

'Merrick? Yes. Was it ignoble of me to banish him?' Malificent's voice filled the darkness.

'No. Do you know who I am, Malificent of the Romany?' The voice was warm and soothing.

'You are the creator, Rhian.' Malificent smiled sadly. 'Are you calling me home mother?'

'Do you see them?' The pinpoints of light shimmered at the sound of her lovely voice.

'Yes.' Malificent sighed into the darkness.

'They are lost and need a leader.' the void wavered 'They need you.'

'I failed them.'

'You have no choice.' the darkness dimmed and pain flared in his chest.

Malificent felt a stabbing pain lance through his closed eyelids. Reluctantly he opened his eyes to the blinding light. Regaining his senses he found himself lying in the dirt of a barren field. Standing up slowly, he looked around. He knew this place. Turning around he fell back to the ground on his knees; a sob wrenched from his throat. The field was littered with skeletons. Tattered bits of cloth fluttered in the light breeze. He looked up in the direction of the forest. Should he start there? Would Tatianna be alive?

General Threbach descended on the Romany that stayed behind slaughtering all. His victory a bitter one, the Romany had burned their homes and the grain silos, taken the livestock and weapons, leaving him nothing. Word of an advancing army kept the general from pursuing the caravans. Scanning the blood soaked field Threbach swore vengeance on the clan as he turned his men northward.

General Threbach lost to the Usurper King Aronn in a heated battle that led to the castle walls. At his public trial Threbach spoke out about the clan and what they had done. Aronn respected the general's strength and since many of his new people did also he chose to pass sentence on the family. For their cowardice, Aronn the Usurper revoked the Romany claims to any and all lands. The family would be forever known as gypsy, the land they left lying barren and cold, useless.

 
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Nefell

Tatianna watched her son stride across the clearing. He had grown tall and proud like his father, but he had her features. Tatianna looked up into the trees, scanning for something. She could just make out the silhouette of one of the testers in the leafy darkness above. Had Nefell seen him too?

'Another wine for the littlest warrior!' Airi pounded his fist on the heavy plank table. Nefell snorted at the comment. He made a few of them look like children when they stood next to him. The festive air spilled out of the treetop tavern onto the rope bridges that connected the trees. Nefell smiled at the blusterous elf as he got up and lightly danced his way through the crowd back to the bar. Airi was Nefell's best friend and had been there all his life. He had taught him how to use the sword strapped to his hip and the bow on his back.

Smiling, Airi waltzed back to the table with a dark green glass bottle. 'Only the best for my little brother!' The other rowdies at the table cheered. Nefell looked at each of the men and women around the table, all of them accomplished hunters and warriors. He had passed his final test and he was now one of them, but he felt no satisfaction.

Sianthara leaned over his shoulder from behind. Her silver hair spilled onto the table screening them both from most of the room.

'I've seen that look on your face before.' she whispered into his ear causing him to shiver. 'When will you leave?'

'Tomorrow.' Nefell smiled sadly.

'I would go with you.' her hand rested lightly on his shoulder.

'Airi has said much the same.' he took another sip of the elven wine. 'I will be at Grandfather oak come dawn.' Sianthara squeezed his shoulder before she stood and made her way down the table.

Nefell stood with a sigh, he could no longer delay telling his mother. He made his way through the trees to their home. Tatianna was waiting for him a sad smile on her face.

'I knew the day would come.' she opened her arms to embrace Nefell. He stepped into her hug returning it.

'I have to find the gypsy and return them home.' He held her closer.

'I have something for you.' She pulled away. Opening her hand she revealed a tiny silver charm. 'This was you father's. Merrick gave it to me before he left on his journey to find the others. He told me of your father's last moments.'

'Thank you mother. I know it is all you have left of him. I wish that I had known him.'

'You will. I have had a viewing. The road you travel is a long one but know that Rhian has smiled upon you.' Tatianna's eye grew moist.

'If father is dead then the only way I will see him again is to die.'

'I do not begin to understand all viewings but you were not dead in this one. You, your father and another, a young woman of the sea, will gather together the gypsy to become Romany once more.' Tears tracked down her cheeks.

'If I am to see father again then you must come with me. We will all be together again.' He was excited by the thought.

'No. I have another task. I must go to the King.' She looked away, clearly afraid.

'Taran, son of Aronn the usurper? Why?' He looked at her, the fear becoming infectious.

'In my viewing I saw my own role. I must get King Taran to pardon the Romany, so that they may return.' She was holding something back.

'You saw something else. I can see by the set of you chin that you won't tell me nor can I change your mind.' Nefell sighed. Pulling his mother into a tight embrace he burried his face in her hair.

'Life is full of adventure my son. Live it to it's fullest. Find the family and return them to their lands.' Tatianna broke from the embrace and left the house. He did not see her again before he left; though he knew she was there, in the trees, watching.

Nefell, Airi and Sianthara sat huddled around a fire in the shadow of a great wall that surrounded a city. The gates were closed to them for the night. Nefell looked across the flames to the small circle of wagons. They had found some of the gypsy. Lost and hungry, thieves and murders all of them afraid. It had taken the charm his mother gave him to get one of the gypsies to take his dagger from Nefell's throat. He absently rubbed the scar left by the sharp blade.

He would not underestimate his people again. Astonished at how low they had been brought since they had fled. He was proud that they had been so resourceful but he was afraid for them. Airi reached over and poked him in the ribs.

'You are so dark lately little warrior. What are you brooding about?'

'The gypsy. How hard it has been to find them.' Nefell threw a stick into the flames.

'What I worry about is the reputation.' Sianthara gave an evil grin. 'So far we have been driven from three villages and welcomed at two hovels. The family has not been much help. Love potions and curses.' Airi laughed at Sianthara.

'You are still miffed that the potion didn't work on me?' Airi fell back laughing.

'Bah. You are no help. Nefell, speak to them. This place, Visegrad, does not look like it will take kindly to thieves and gypsy dancers.' She placed her hand on Nefell's shoulder using it to stand up. 'I have been too long in the saddle. Morning comes too quickly boys.'

Nefell nodded, following her lead. He went to his bedroll under one of the wagons. Airi had first watch.

Sianthara whistled softly and Nefell was awake his long knife drawn and ready. 'Dawn comes and the gates open.' She spoke sweetly, her voice a comfort. Nefell sat back rubbing his tired eyes. The sounds of the camp stirring and shouts from the walls reluctantly roused Nefell. As he crawled from under the wagon he noticed the sky was overcast, it would probably rain today. Before he could tell her no the young Yilan began rolling up his pallet and gathering his gear. He watched her for a moment noticing how thin she was. Growling under his breath he went to see after his horse. Airi and Sianthara were there, the horses already saddled. Both were wearing grim faces.

'Trolls march the walls Nefell and the gate guards are a strange mix of mercenary and cityguard.' Airi checked the bedroll strapped to his saddle. Nefell looked up at the wall; a few trolls stood watching the camp occasionally shouting down something in trollish grunts. He turned to Sianthara noticing she had her bow strung; the quiver on her back bristled with arrows.

When the wagons were ready they broke camp heading east then south to return to the eastern gate road. People streamed in and out of the gate, none took any notice of the faded multicolored wagons the gypsy drove. The gate guards watched with little interest as the passed into town. The streets were filled with people, jostling each other and the horses. Mercenaries and adventurers mixed with men dressed in white robes and women wearing veils. Palanquins carried by heavily muscled men seemed to float by.

The caravan moved slowly, many times getting bogged down in mobs. All the gypsy riders had drawn weapons, keeping swords across their laps. They had very little gold and Nefell knew they needed supplies, he would get the wagons clear of the walls first then they would return on foot to the Market Square. The western gate loomed ahead when loud shouts rose from the crowd behind the wagons. Looking back Nefell saw guards shoving through the crowd, they were chasing someone. 'There!' Nefell followed Airi's line of sight and spotted the boy. He looked back at Airi and smiled. Sianthara growled at them both as she disappeared into the crowd.

Nefell whistled, the call of the loon echoed across the caravan and as one the wagons suddenly moved in different directions, gypsy riders shouting in feigned anger at each other and the animals that seemed to refuse to take another step. The small boy dropped under one of the wagons and darted into the gypsy, quickly finding himself snatched up and passed from one rider to another. Nefell watched as one of the gypsy riders settled the boy behind Airi, who threw his cloak over them both. By the time the guards got past the wagons the boy was gone, Nefell scanned the crowd trying to spot anyone that might reveal what they had seen. As he suspected no one cared.

'The lord Istvan will have your head Gork.' One of the troll guards grinned evily at a mercenary.

'You think I don't know that you filthy son of an ogre!' the merc ignored the dangerous growl from his troll companion.

'Move these rotten wagons outta here ye nasty vagabonds!' the troll smacked his meaty hand to the rump of one of the gypsy horses causing more chaos than he had expected. Almost as quickly as it had fallen apart the caravan gathered together making their way as quickly as they could to the western gate.

While the wagons were being set up in the shadow of the western wall of Visegrad Airi unloaded his passenger. Nefell and the other riders stayed mounted on their horses watching the boy.

'Many thanks wanderers.' The boy bowed deeply his palms pressed together, the fingertips touching his nose. Nefell had never seen such dark skin on a human; the boy wearing only a baggy pair of pants belted with a golden sash seemed more than an urchin.

'Who is Lord Istvan?' Nefell casually leaned forward over his saddle, as the boy looked up startled.

'He rules Visegrad Saab.' The boy looked down at the ground shuffling his feet.

'What would he want with you little one?' Sianthara dismounted and began adjusting her stirrup.

'This I do not know Mem-saab.' The boy refused to look up.

Nefell smiled and sat back in his saddle. 'You are welcome in our camp. We return to the city for supplies.'

'I would go with you Saab. I keep you safe.' The boy moved close and clutched Nefell's boot.

Nefell let the boy come and he ended up being a wealth of knowledge about the city and its workings. The gypsy set up camp and within hours some of the local women sought them out asking for elixirs and potions, spells and stories. The gypsies stayed camped outside the walls making money from fortune telling and potion selling. The boy moved in and out of the camp bringing food and gold to Nefell. Airi would often laugh saying that surely the boy was a gypsy.

Weeks had passed and Nefell started to get restless, he could feel it coming from the others as well. On the night before they were to pull up stakes the boy came to Nefell.

'Saab. You have been good to this boy. You have treated him with dignity and made him feel one of your own.' Nefell watched as the boy screwed up his courage to tell him something. Suddenly the boy shifted, his body convulsing under the extreme torture of his transformation. Nefell watched silently, aching for the pain the boy was going through. When he was finished a regal tiger stood before him. The tiger sat back on its haunches and looked at Nefell through emerald green cat eyes. 'You do not seem afraid.' The voice was the boys only deeper and with the strangest accents.

'I am familiar with lycanthropy little one.' Nefell smiled. 'You are welcome among my wagons in whichever form you choose.' He reached out a hand and gently scratched behind the tiger's ear.

'I have something to show you Saab.' The tiger turned and at a leasurly pace it trotted back toward the city. Nefell paused only long enough to take up his long knife before following the tiger.

Darkness wrapped her loving arms around the city. The tiger led Nefell through dark streets and darker alleys, until Nefell was sure that he could not find his way back. They reached a dead end alley the smooth stone of a dome shaped building blocking their path. The tiger paced at the wall a moment before it found what it was looking for. Nefell heard a soft snick before a small panel low in the wall swung open. The tiger dropped easily into the darkness, for Nefell it was not so easy.

Once inside the building the tiger led Nefell down into what could only be the dungeons. Nefell was shocked at what the tiger was showing him. In several small cells of damp cold stone men and women lay wasting away. One cell held corpses others the people inside were only a step away from being a corpse. The one thing that most shocked Nefell was the fact that they were all gypsies.

'What is this place.' Nefell growled, his anger nearly blinding him.

'The dungeon of Lord Istavan.' The tiger paced the wall of cells.

'How do you know this place.' Nefell had never been so angry and he dreaded the answer, as if he already knew it.

'I am Oman Shadra. I am the son of Istavan.' There was no pride in the boy's voice even coming from the mouth of a tiger Nefell could hear the shame.

'Why do you betray your family boy? Why do you deny your blood?' Nefell's heart was racing almost as fast as his mind. He had to free these people and get them to the wagons before dawn.

'My blood is tainted and I will never be king. My father hates me and has denounced my claims. This I do not as an act of betrayal but as an act of loyalty. You have given me the honor my father would not. I give you this, Saab.' The tiger paced off into the darkness and Nefell followed. The corpse of the jailer lay in a bloody heap beside a table, his dinner cold on its plate. Rifling through the corpse Nefell found the key ring.

'Go back to the camp and bring me Airi, Belra, Sianthara and Tianlyn. Be quick and quiet. Pray the Gods are with us Oman.' The tiger disappeared into the night without a sound.

Dawn kissed the top of the dome turning it blood red. Nefell shivered in the cold damp dawn, he hated this place. Airi came out of the secret passage the limp body of a little girl in his arms.

'The corpses burn. The dead are free to ride the dawn little brother.' A cough of black smoke belched from the tunnel causing them both to choke and gag. Nefell helped the last of the living to stand and they all made their way back to the wagons.

His family had been efficient and quick, finding room for the new refugees as well as food and clothing. A late night raiding party supplemented the supplies they had already purchased. The horses stomped and snorted, sensing the excitement of the people around them. Nefell helped the last man into a wagon and quickly mounted his horse. His arms and legs ached from the endless night.

Oman sat down next to Nefell's horse, still in the form of a tiger, looking to the west.

'Will you come with us Oman?' Nefell looked into deep green cat eyes.

'I am no longer Oman Shadra son of Istavan lord of Visegrad. Call me Raja.' The tiger looked away from Nefell and stood 'I will go with you.'

'Do you know this realm Raja? Where can I lead my people that they might be safe and heal?' Nefell followed Raja's gaze. 'West Saab. A great city of gold lies to the west. Some say there are riches beyond any man's dreams others say it is just a city like any other. West Saab to Arinock. The tiger flicked it's tail and began to saunter from the camp. Nefell put his heel to the horse and they were off again. Seeking a place to rest and regroup, in one night he had doubled his family and he had doubled his responsibility.

He would not fail them. He would make his father proud and bring the gypsy home to Romany lands.

 
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Savannah

Savannah stood on the beach looking out at the sea. The salty wind gripped at her clothes and hair like the rough hands of a lover. Poised between two worlds she could not decide. Looking back over her shoulder Savannah smiled sadly. Her mother's pyre flared in the early evening, casting fearful shadows on the faces that stood witness. Those were her mother's people all that remained anyway. She sneered at the memories that tried to break her.

The local village blamed the gypsy for the plague that swept through, killing more than half of the population. Had it been only a month ago? Savannah shivered in the cool wind. Those fools didn't care that the very same plague wiped out all but a handful of the gypsy clan. They didn't seem to remember that she had been born on this beach and her clan had supplied them with fish for more than thirty years. No instead they burned the wagons, stole their livestock and stoned them from the village. Thank whatever ambivalent gods that watched this wretched realm; her mother did not live to see it. The plague had not been merciful, to those that died from it or those that survived.

Growling she turned her back to the fire and the desperate faces of her family. Looking out at the darkening surf she knew her father's people were close; she had chosen the hour on purpose. The tide moved a little closer. Water swirled around her ankles like something alive, causing her to shiver. All her life she had honored her mother's wishes and stayed a land walker. Savannah never spent a moment in the ocean. The villagers had been stunned when her mother refused to throw her back into the sea on her birth. They watched her grow with much fear and superstition.

A loud cough from the surf brought Savannah back from the past. The merfolk stood hip deep in the surf watching her. The only time landwalkers ever waited for them here occurred when a child was to be thrown back. They waited quietly for Savannah to invoke the traditional speech.

'Where is the babe?' a small woman with short silver hair whispered to their leader. He slashed his hand through the air roughly silencing her.

'I am Savannah of the gypsy, daughter of Romany blood and child of the sea.' She tried not to shiver as the water swirled around her calves.

'She is a landwalker! No child of the sea!' the woman with short hair pointed her trident ferociously at Savannah.

'Silence Idra!' the man did not take his eyes from Savannah's face as the woman Idra growled.

'You be the daughter to Zanialla of the gypsy?' He spoke almost tenderly and at that moment Savannah knew he was her father.

'Yes Zani was my mother.' She glanced over her shoulder toward the pyre avoiding the looks of fear from her people.

'Was.' He looked past her toward the flames. With a sharp nod he turned his band turning to follow. Savannah reached out a hand not sure what she wanted to say. The Merman stopped and looked back at Savannah.

'Will you return to the sea child of mine?' he offered his hand to her. Loud protests rose from both groups. Savannah looked back at her mother's people.

'Landwalker child!' Idra sneered 'She can not even swim. Look at her puny legs.' The merman's hand lashed out quick as lightning, silencing Idra.

'I can not go with you father. They need me.' Savannah stood taller the water now at her knees pulling her skirt. With a curt nod he turned and moved further into the water. 'I would like to know your name father.' She shouted.

He paused and without looking back he replied 'Kethran of the Bluefin School.'

Savannah watched the water long after the merfolk had left, but from the safety of the higher beach. Out of respect her people, they were her people now, waited quietly by the pyre. The moon slipped behind some clouds and refused to return. Savannah turned away from the pitch, black waters, she would lead her family to safety. They would seek out the others and return to the land her Mother spoke so fervantly of.

 
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The Defender

-thap- The bow string made its nearly silent cry as the white-tailed arrow began its journey. After clearing only a few inches from its launcher, the arrow's target raised her head, the sound, however slight, having caught her attention. With 30 feet between it and the bow, a quarter of its short travel, the arrow's destination began to turn her head toward the sound. The arrow, already decelerating and having completed a few rotations around the axis along its shaft, continued ahead, uncaring of the actions of its target. When it had traveled half of its journey, the projectile reached the apex of its trajectory, weightless but for a brief moment, the same time its target's head had stopped turning. At only 10 feet between its target and itself, the arrow began what would be its final rotation, coinciding with its target's eyes widening as it had finally seen the feathered projectile and its path.

-THUNK!- The arrow stopped, completing its short journey two inches deep in the dark bark of the red-leafed tree...and two inches from the head of the young kine hunter, catching her lost breath from the close call.

'Hullo there. young maiden. I am afraid to say, but you have entered lands claimed by my family long ago.' The playful voice of one who has the upper hand boomed from the woods, sending the doe who had been quietly drinking from the small brook scattering into the forest. 'Now, I would kindly ask you to return to the other side of the stream...else...' A slight pause in the speech was punctuated with another arrow in the tree, this one a mere inch from the novice hunter, sending a small cloud of wood chips into her face. '...I may have to defend my lands from trespassers, like yourself.' The lost hunter nodded once to the vastness of the forest, gathered the equipment she had dropped, and quickly ran across the stream. It has a bit over half an hour when she finally stopped.

After watching the girl disappear into the void of the woods, Shlain stood from his concealment, gathered his fired arrows, and returned to his cabin within his own lands, chuckling to any creature that could hear him along the way.

Journal Entry: 29 the day of Thunder

...Polev and I found a small camp, finally, we were among family again! We had traveled over 4 days south from Haubre, where we were chased off after 'causing unrest,' I believe the charge was. Many of those from the small hamlet did not wish to see us leave, those few who did held the seats of power though. There are only four others, two couples around our age, with our little Shlain as the only child. The men are talking about staying here, though I wish to continue our search, the other two woman, Klee and Leslie have told me they grow weary of travel...

Shlain stopped reading the journal, which was really a collection of loose parchment stack together. He had many that his parents, uncles, and aunts had written over the years. Most he had found after the last, his aunt Klee, had spent her last breath. They told many of the tales Shlain had heard as a child by the campfire, stories of hatred toward a band of wanderers from others. Detailed tales of cursed lands, fireside rites, and the promise of lush lands, though as a child, Shlain understood these stories to be made up by his uncles and father to entertain him. He had read them all, often he didn't even need the parchment in front of him to recall every word. Yet he found a strange pull to them he could not understand, and every night before falling asleep on a pile of furs in the corner, read a bit from them.

That night, like most others, Shlain let out an audible sigh no one save Him ever heard, placed the parchment penned with his mother's script beside him, and feel asleep, another day protecting his family's land completed.

The flutter of three or four birds made Shlain straighten up in bed. A second or two passed, and the sounds of a few more birds flying over his cabin was heard. 'Something has spooked them. Or someone...' Shlain did not need to finish the thought as he grabbed his bow, quiver, and pants, in that order, and was out the door, silently running in the opposite direction the birds had flown. After only five minutes, the faint sounds of small children could be heard. The woodsman ducked into a growth of ferns, perfectly still and listening for names, places, anything he could recognize.

'...momma....inish her breakfest....addy?' '...woods...need food...dinner. GET BACK, DON'T RUN OFF, WEDRITH!'

The mother was just starting to shout her son's name by the time Shlain's bow string held an arrow and was pulled back into a firing position. He had spotted a small path he assumed the child would run up. 'Don't kill the lad, Shlain' he thought to himself, 'Another near miss like the last one should be enough to scare 'em.'

The boy, just as expected, came over the small ridge, a mess of unkept blond hair first, green eyes next, a large grin completing the face of the tiny child. Shlain grinned, waiting for the time to fire for the best effect, when his eyes looked in the boys. A moment of doubt, of regret for even thinking about harming the boy crossed the woodsman's mind, something Shlain had never experienced, even when he had taken the lives of trespassers. The more he tried to fire his arrow at the feet of the boy, the more some mental force prevented him from doing so. With one final attempt, Shlain was able to release the arrow, only after he had returned the string to its resting position and had lowered the weapon.

'Um...boy, hullo there.' Shlain yelled out, standing from his concealment place. The boy slowed and turned to the voice, finding a shirtless man holding a bow and wearing a confused look on his face. The two stared at one another for what seemed a year, the silence broken by the ever increasing shouts of a mother yelling for a run-off son. Both Wedrith and Shlain looked at the parent as she crested the ridge, throwing her arms up in both relief and anger when her eyes found her son. 'Wedrith, how many times have I told you not to run off like that, els...oh.' Her eyes followed Wedrith's to where Shlain, still wanting to scare off the trespassers but unable to, blankly glanced between the child and his mother. 'Good day of Rhian, hunter, may I ask your name?' the mother, now standing over her son, asked. Shlain was able to grunt out his name in response, but only with great difficulty.

The mother, after sizing up the woodsman for a bit, slyly grinned and said, 'I think you should follow me.' Shlain blankly nodded and complied, following the woman, who had forgotten about chiding her son, to a set of wagons in the process of turning a caravan into a protective ring.

'Pa, ma, auntas and uncles...it's been some time. I'd blame it on the Family, not you guys, but...' A sigh of discouragement. '...I think you guys know what I mean. I was never around more than you six before, and now, all these people...I don't like being around them for long, except one....this Elder Innes of theirs...of ours....' Another small sigh. 'Those stories you told me when I was small...I understand them now. He told me what I am...what we all were. I'd be lying if I said I was upset we stayed here, that we didn't move on.' Silence. 'Aw, but I think I understand. I've lost count of the days since they've come onto our land.' A tense chuckle. 'I've still protected it, pa. Even after you all passed on, I've keep my word, pa. But now...' The rustle of a parchment stack being dropped. '...Elder looked at those, and asked me if I wanted to join their camp. They said...Elder said those said I...we are related to someone named Vlenarov...' The scrape of flint, the 'whoosh' of a flame catching. 'You should hear some of the stories they tell, pa. They talk of beings that drink blood, of the large places where throngs of people gather...I don't quite believe them.' The scrape of the lid of a clay urn being placed on the rocky surface. 'They also believe the dead should stay dead, and that they shouldn't be mentioned. I don't know about that, either way, I'm here now, right or wrong. I just wanted to say, you know, good-bye. I'm leaving with them when they go, they need a good huntsman.' An awkward silence. 'So, um, yeah. The land's yours now, again. I'll leave these with you...I have them in my head. Take care.'

With that, Shlain gathered the remains of the parchment and placed them in the urn. The urn was placed between those of his parents, on shelves in the cave-cum-tomb. With that, Shlain grabbed his bow, and began to start tracking some food. He had more than one mouth to feed.

 
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Krisatora, Shadow Dancer

Trollin gaped in amazement at the beautiful women brought before him. Yet he mourned her fate, this woman had been brought before him to be judged for speaking with the dead. Which to the Romany was a crime punishable by banishment and even death. The trial began like any other but, Trollin could not seem to resist the wiles of the woman. He spent much time speaking with her, trying to convince her of the error of her ways and to deny speaking to the dead so she could be saved. Then the fateful night came and Trollin relented and took Tora into a loving embrace. To Tora's dismay she conceived and was with child. On the day of her judgment she begged for mercy because she was now carrying Kris Trollin's child. Trollin was horrified and the counsel was outraged. But for the sake of child she was kept at a distance from camp in a wagon and was not allowed visitors.

The 9 months passed slowly for Tora with only Trollin visiting occasionally. Trollin's sister, Adora was assigned to feed and tend to Tora during the pregnancy. The time of birthing came and a daughter was born to Tora. The daughter was named Krisatora, because she was conceived during the Kris or Trial and because her mother's name was Tora. Krisatora was removed from her mother's arms the moment she was named and as soon as Tora could walk she was banished from camp. Shortly after Krisatora's birth Adora mysteriously died and Trollin was left to care for the baby girl.

Krisatora's first steps were taken around a low burning campfire, where she seemed to dance with the fireflies that hovered about her. Trollin called Krisatora his little dancer. As she grew older she snuck off more and more from camp dancing whenever the melody of the birds inspired her. Then one day in her wandering she heard some delightful music and followed the melody till it led her to a small city. She had been warned to stay out of cities but the melody haunted her and she had to find the source. A small band of men were gathered in the town square playing for money. She was drawn to the music and before she knew it she was dancing before the men, much to the delight of the crowd. The men of the band had laid out a basket for passerby's to donate money to them and after they had played and Krisatora had danced the basket was overflowing. When the song finished, Krisatora stopped dancing and started to leave the city, when one of the men approached her and handed her a pouch of coins.

Seeing the Krisatora's thin appearance and gaunt look about her, the man had given her a share of the basket's money. He chuckled as he gave he money to Krisatora and said, "You deserved that lass." A smile crept across Krisatora's face and she fled the city to show her father what she had found.

Trollin was delighted with his daughters "discovery" but chided her to not be away from camp so long he had worried her. Krisatora continued to dance in the city with the men, bringing more and more crowds and more and more money. One day while dancing, Krisatora felt the presence of another Romany. She searched the faces of the crowd looking for a familiar face for fear her secret had been discovered. But no face she sought in the crowd was familiar so on she danced and as she departed from the city a hand was laid on her shoulder, causing her to shiver with recognition. The man introduced himself as Tearlaidh and explained that he had been sent on a mission to discovery Romany. She was distrustful at first and explained to the man that she would return to her camp and speak with the Elders. He bowed and went to leave her when she turned and said, "Don't follow me, I'll know and it wouldn't bode well for you." Tearlaidh stuttered, "I wouldn't have dreamt of doing such a thing." Krisatora nodded and said, "But your thoughts betrayed you." As Tearlaidh stood there and pondered to himself the powers of the girl to read minds. When he returned from his thinking she slipped up aside him and whispered into his ear, "Krisatora." His jaw dropped as he realized she was reading his thoughts and when he recovered from his shock she was gone.

The next day Krisatora appeared at Tearlaidh's camp accompanied by several strapping men. Krisatora appeared annoyed as she spoke, "Thanks to your appearance my father discovered how I made my wealth, needless to say he was quite furious and sent these men with me to "escort me." Tearlaidh was blindfolded and led to camp. At camp Tearlaidh met Trollin and they discussed many things. Tearlaidh aware of Trollin's distress and fear for his daughter suggested she be sent to visit his camp where Elder Shlain could you some assistance and could keep an eye on Krisatora. Krisatora hearing this was angered at the thought of being needed to be kept an eye on yet at the same time was overjoyed at the thought of traveling. His father had a vardo made for her and packed it with supplies for her travel. Sending her off he made her promise to write when she had safely made her way to this new camp. With a nod of her head she promised and made her journey to Arinock.

 
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Donnchadh

An elven man steps from his tent and stares to the west. He sighs softly to himself and begins to pick up his supplies. Whistling loudly, he rouses the rest of the camp for the morning rituals. Starting a small campfire, he sets out into the wildlands to find a suitable breakfast. As he walks through the rows of tents he is greeted warmly by those that travel with him. He smiles and returns the greetings threefold. All smiles and happiness seem to leave the mans face as he enters the ring of trees.

"Fourty-three people... I cannae believe we've grown so much." He grumbled slightly. Trying hard to keep his mind on the hunt. And trying harder to keep his mind off from his duties. He did not think he'd ever rise to be another leader of anything. Not since that fateful day...

In a fit of rage he entered combat. Both of his swords slice quickly through the enemies gathered around. Enemies fell, his skin was torn, and bludgeoned, and still he fought on. He swung his weapons high and low, until finally a piercing scream entered his ears. He stopped and looked around. He saw his sister, staring at him with a look of fear. He shook his head to clear the remnants of the bloodlust that had took him over. Glancing at the place where his sisters eyes would have met, he saw for the first time his unthinkable act. His older brother, cut down right there in front of him. Cut by his own blade... His blood, and the rightful heir to the kingdom of Ardee was dead.

He quietly remembered the quick trial. He remembered the pardon from the gallows.

"For your crime, beheading should be your punishment. But for the countless years ye've headed the King's Army, you shall be spared." The Royal Judge had proclaimed, and now it was done.

"I wish I hadda begged for the headsman's axe. I am a coward fer runnin' away." He said to himself in the coming light of day.

He had fled the kingdom as if the ghost of his brother were out for revenge. A few of his stalwart followers came with him. A few... did not. His own wife had turned her head at his trial. She did not once look while he left his homelands. He thinks the headsmans axe would not have hurt as much in that one moment, as feeling the pain of his lost wife day after day. He shook his head again. He saw in the distance a boar moving through the forest. He moved quietly forward.

Back at the camp, his meal having been caught and cleaned roasted over his campfire. He pasted his smile on his face and went about the morning chores. He looked to the west again, longing for his home.

The days toiled into weeks, which toiled into months, which toiled into years. His only vow, to forever keep his new family safe.

But alas, vows are almost always broken. One day of fruit gathering in a nearby orchard and hunting on the lands around it proved to be a bad move. Arrested for tresspassing, his whole camp was caught by a massive army. Took before the judge of deeds, they were all sentenced to death for stealing. He had failed again.

On the day of his execution, he summoned up all the faith he could in his old ways. He talked with the wind, and the wind did answer. As the axe began to fall, he closed his eyes and thought of his wife. He was still there on his knees for what seemed an eternity. Too long in fact... He opened his eyes and looked about. Nowhere to be seen were the executioner or the crowd who had been around. Nowhere was his new family. He called to a wolf whom was near, and the wolf did answer. The wolf said he did smell as if he were not from around. Donnchadh looked around and sighed. Had fate saved him, or simply exiled him to another land. He dusted himself off and walked. Free of commitment, free of time, free of life again. The wind did whisper to him, whispered words of encouragement.

Donnchadh slowly came to understand a little something of fate. He came to realize that all things happen, not because of his own actions, but because the design of life is so complex that one man cannot alone bend them to his liking. He did realize this in time.

But he wasn't about to give up. His life was defending the people he loved. And he would not give that up for anything short of death.

 
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Memories of Caelayn

Memory: 4 years old.

The swirling and melding of reds into yellows as they transition into a beautiful orange glow captures my attention for what could be days. I almost forget losing my favorite doll sometime along our travels. I keep asking when we will be finished traveling, but all I get is a smile and the answer, Soon. As the sparks dance up to join the stars, I close my eyes and fall asleep.


Memory: 6 years old

It has been about two years and three or four months since Ive seen my family. She tells me to call her Mother, and, while not my birth mother, the name feels fitting. She says I will be starting my training soon. I ask her if I can please go home, but she doesnt listen. Shes gone in the blink of an eye, and I cant argue anymore.


Memory: 10 years old

Ive been working on my studies, knowing Im too weak to escape. In addition to teaching me the ways of espionage, I am to sneak around and try to learn as much about my captor as possible, without being noticed. When I believe I have succeeded, it is then she makes a comment, proving she knows where I am.


Memory: 16 years old

After much insistence on my part, my captor has finally agreed to teach me about my heritage, in addition to the lessons in stealth and eavesdropping shes continued with me. She tells me I am of Romany descent, and begins teaching me what she says are the most common words. Sastimos, gadje, lehitor, and soon, Ive got full sentences down, like "Si khohaimo may patshivalo sar o tshatshimo." (There are lies more believable than the truth.)


Memory: 20 years old

She tells me that my journey is to begin right on what would be the 16th year of my time with her. Before I can ask what she means, she places her hands upon my shoulders, and I feel my eyes closing. She mutters to me, Ashen Rhian, Caelayn. (Remain with Rhian, Caelayn.) I couldnt recall her ever saying my given name aloud before. I find myself surrounded by darkness, as beams of light, made shady with dust from an unknown source, stream around my body. I am not sure if the voice was spoken, or if I simply heard it in my head, but I am sure what I was informed of. Plucked from my Kumpania by the divine hand of Rhian, I was to be sent to a different band of Romany, a band who could use my help, and who could teach me what it was to be free.

 
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Vlenarov

Floating through the endless, chaotic void of the Dreamworld, Vlenarov was barely aware of the fact that he was dreaming until he felt something pulling at him.

'Vlenarov'. Vlenarov', he heard his name being called, but in the Dreamworld, your senses act differently. He didn't so much hear his name, as he felt it being called like a beckoning.

The beacon was getting dimmer and dimmer with each calling, and by the time he became aware of being within the Dream state, he beckoning was only a whisper. He snapped out of his daze quickly, coming to consciousness within the Dreamworld rather quickly. Frantically, he began to search for the source of the beckoning, searching for who was calling him.

It could have been someone in the living realm dreaming of him in their sleep that caused the signal, but this time was different. It seemed almost as if there was someone else within the Dreamworld searching for him.

Desperately he searched to find the source of the whisper before it faded away completely. Floating through the chaos in one direction, then another, he found the whisper again, and followed it. He pursued the source of the calling, following the whispers which still seemed to be growing fainter and fainter until he found their source.

In the Dreamworld, there are no faces or physical forms, just souls roaming aimlessly until they reconnect with their physical bodies upon awakening. He found the soul that was the source of the whisper, the one that had been calling him, and an image came to him in his mind: A merfolk woman, curled up on the floor in the darkness, gently rocking back and forth. She was calling out his name, but her voice was growing softer and softer until it was just a whisper. Hope was fading from her. He recognized the woman. It was Savannah.

'Savannah.' He called to her.

She was unresponsive. The whisper had faded completely now, and she seemed incoherent of anything around her, caught in a trance of hopelessness and futility.

'SAVANNAH.' He called again, and with all his force he tried to shake and rouse her soul from its unconscious stupor.

Slowly, she roused from the daze and with a weak effort, she asked, 'Vlenarov?' Her soul was weak and fragile, damaged.

Happiness filled him as he saw her regain her awareness and he replied 'Yes, friend. It has been a long time since I saw you last. Vat has happened to you?'

Savannah told him about what had taken place with Lilith. Her soul had been severed from her body by Lilith and she now floated in the void permanently, with no hope of waking ever. Her soul had grown exhausted from being in this state for too long, and she was in danger of insanity.

'Ve must find Rhian. Only She can help us now. Ve must find her soon before it is too late, my old friend.'

Savannah's being was weak and it took all her effort to summon a response: 'But how will we find her?' she asked him.

'Vell, zat's ze hard part. It's difficult to find Rhian. Ve have to make her find us.' He told her.

'I don't have the strength. I can't go on.' She was whispering so faintly now that he could barely hear her. Almost all of her strength was gone.

'You vill go on! Because you are Romany, you vill survive! It is part of who ve are, Savannah. Ve are Romany! Ve have always had to fight for our survival, and ve will keep on fighting, until our last breath! You vill fight again, and you vill fight now! Do it for your Family, zey need you. Ve need you! Now get up!'


Vlenarov sat before the fire of his camp, occasionally prodding the logs with the metal poker in his hand. His attention was not on the fire tonight though, he was thinking about Savannah and the journey they had made to Rhian.

Rhian had made him leave when he brought Savannah to her. What they needed to discuss was between the two of them, and the two of them alone. He had not been back to the Dreamworld until the next night, and Savannah was nowhere to be found. It had now been two weeks, and still no sign of her.

'What's wrong, Elder?' His younger cousin, Jaemel asked him as he sat down beside him on the log.

Vlenarov turned to his cousin, taking his attention away from the fire, and smiled fondly. Vlenarov was an old man, the Elder and holy man of his people. For years he had served as their leader and advisor.

'Zere is somezing... zat disturbs me. I cannot feel Savannah's presence in the Dreamworld anymore, and I vorry if she is alright.' He said solemnly.

'Do you think she is dead?' his cousin asked him quietly.

'I do not know. But I fear that if somezing has happened, our people vill be in chaos. I must go and find zem. I must find her.'

'You're leaving?' Jaemel asked him, a pained look in his eyes.

'In my old age, I only have one or two journeys left in me. This may be ze one that could unite our family. And Savannah may still need my help. If she is lost, her fires vill be in chaos. For ze sake of ze Romany, I must go and find her.'

'But what will we do? Now that you're leaving...' his cousin asked.

'You vill be ze head of the family vile I'm gone, Jaemel. You vill look after the family and be zeir Elder.' Vlenarov told him, resting a hand on his knee.

'Me?' Jaemel asked him, his voice faint with surprise.

'Yes. Ze family looks up to you, Jaemel. You are a natural leader and you are not old, like me. You vill be a great leader, like my father was.' Vlenarov told him.

'Will you come back once you reach the others?' Jaemel asked him, staring into the Elder's eyes.

There was a long pause, and then he said: 'I cannot promise I vill make it at all. But I vill send word if I arrive. Ve must unite ze family.'

 
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