Whispering Death (part 4)
The festival grounds were busy as people prepared to open fully to the public. The festival mostly ran during the evenings and late into the night since it was in celebration of the full moon solstice. A good time for Drina’s powers, yet also a dangerous one. She worked we way to the far back tents and carriages. This was where they had all band together to sleep, everyone’s portable homes lined up in circles. Several hounds roamed the grounds, keeping a close eye on her. Oh a gypsy life, she thought. If she wasn’t constantly worrying about money and food, she would have gotten a mutt for herself as well since they were a specific kind of hound. To the regular eye, it was a mixed breed of dog. For those who knew better, they were spiritual dogs. The glow within their eyes in the dim light revealed their nature of shadow and magic. These were the best guard dogs, yet the most expensive since they didn’t eat regular food. It was based on a pact with the owner to share their own spiritual powers. For Drina that would be no problem because the wealth of her soul-well was deep. The issue was she would not be able to contain it and her control would be limited.
The number of hounds guarding the main tent gave her the inkling that the owner was within. Stepping up to the doorway, the few dogs stood alert. Stopping to take a bow, one that was used within her kin. The hounds took note, not moving from their guard as she stood to pass through. Even with knowing the traditions of her people, it still shook her core. One wrong move, even with her blood and power would mean death. Pushing past the curtains, she heard several voices behind the particle wall that was placed up. She walked to the edge of the wall and took a deep breath. Shielding herself, she stepped out confidently. There were 4 men in the room, one of them sitting behind a desk cluttered with paper and stacks of coin bags.
Her sudden presence in the room had brought a startling silence. With as big of a smile she could muster she kept her pace, stepping up to the desk.
“Good day lads, I am here to find work.”
The man sitting glared, his face turning red while the others waited for his word. His common tongue was heavy with accent, a dead giveaway of his lineage.
“How did you get past the dogs?”
Crossing her arms with a smirk, Drina tried hard to play it tough.
“I know how to deal with your kind. I am no stranger to your ways.”
With a hard front, the man examined her clothes and hair. It wasn’t exactly the style from her homeland, since she had to change it around to avoid attention, yet he seemed to have calmed down. Anyone stepping past those dogs would know a thing or do when dealing with gypsies.
“We have no room for performers.”
“I am not here to perform. I can read fortunes.”
The man chuckled humorlessly. “Oh, like we don’t have hundreds of those.”
The other men chuckled along, ridiculing her. Drina had come to the understanding that the man calling the shots was Mr. Gafrald. Lulu had given her the name and by the rings and jewelry around his neck, he fit the profile of a businessman. Typical, she thought. Pulling out her fan from her side pouch she made sure they all could see it.
“Care for a sample before I take a booth?”
The look in the man’s eye softened as he recognized the embroiders. It was the travelers’ rose, a mark any gypsy would know at first glimpse. Not only did it have the mark of their kins symbol, it was a tool well known within her family’s bloodline. The few men around him shuffled uncomfortably as one man leaned in to whisper in his ear. He spoke in their mother tongue, which of course she could understand.
“Could have bought it at a market. A lot of mi’riquals are murdered and plundered.”
Mr. Gafrald sighed, leaning back into his chair, replying.
“Ay, she could be a fraud. Call the hounds.”
Drina felt herself losing her cool. How dare they insult her. Mi’riquals were a term used for those who ran away from their bands, giving up their traditions and living as the tyrant kings’ citizens. Meaning, they chose to give up their life and turned traitor to their kin.
Gritting her teeth, she interjected.
“How dare you insult me. I am no Mi’riqual.” The men all stiffened, sporting the looks of a guilty man caught cheating on their wife. Nothing was worse than insulting a fellow gypsy, but a woman who had power was worse. “You will give me a booth, and give me 90% cut of my profits.”
In her anger she could feel her control slipping, the whispers around her gathering once more. The men looked around, realizing she was no fraud. Holding up his hands, he signalled for everyone to calm down.
“Alright, look. 60% and you get a prime booth.”
Drina was not going to settle easily. She knew how men bartered and had dealt with them since a young lass.
“85% and I will give you a seance. I may not be a performer, but I will give you a show to the likes you never seen. All ticket sales are yours and I keep the tips.”
She allowed him to take a moment to consider her offer before offering her hand to shake. “Do we have a deal?”
The man tapped the desk a few times before bursting into a hearty laugh. Standing up he took her hand, shaking it with a firm grip. Looking at the other men, he pointed a finger at her.
“Ehh, a true gypsy here! Knows how to barter like a true Brynian.”
Drina chuckled. He must have been comparing her to one of his own bands. Each band had different names, giving them strength in trade while travelling. The stronger the reputation, the better deals they would get with goods. He sat down, pulling out a ledger and pen.
“Alright, and what name should I put you down as?”
This was easier than she thought, half-heartedly giving her a false name. “Drina Forest.”
Mr. Gafrald sharpened his gaze, his smile curling sinisterly. Drina felt chills run up her spine as she recognized that smile.
“Your real name. There is a lot on the line for this type of deal. I need assurance that I am not going to be played a fool.”
Pulling out a contract, Drina felt the blood draining from her face. It was a contract she was well aware of, the kind that was not just a legal binding of laws. This was a blood-bind. She should have known better. He held the paper out, waiting for her to take it before continuing.
“You’ll perform tomorrow night, at the full moon peak. After the show closes, the contract will expire and release you.”
Drina swallowed hard, looking from the paper to the men around her. “My name.. You won’t sell it, right?”
Mr. Gafrald snarled. “What kind of a businessman would I be if I sold my clients' names. I am not scummy like those back home. You have my word.”
His word meant nothing, just like hers. Reaching her hand out, she waited for him to pass a needle. It was a special kind, only for blood-binding. Poking the tip of her finger, it drank in her blood to fill with ink. Next, she held it like a pen, her hand shook as she held it over the signature line. Closing her eyes, she signed off quickly. After the last scratch of her name, the needle snapped loudly and shifted to dust. As it crumbled within her hand, she opened her eyes to see the red ink of her name on the paper. Lana Kisaiya Pearsley
It was done, he now had her name. If it had been another false name, the needle would have not broken and he would know she was lying. The man stood up, holding his hand out for the paper. Rolling it up first, she hesitated to pass it along to him. Not that she could do anything with it. Once it was bound, there was nothing left but to complete the agreement. Hers was to perform. Holding it tightly, she pressed it into his hand. They held a moment as she stared at him before letting go of the paper. Immediately after taking the paper, he tightened the roll harder then placed it on the desk to press it flat. Taking wax, he poured it over the seal and pressed it with his mark. Lifting it to show her, she could see the mark.
“If the seal is broken, your name will disappear but the contract will still be valid. This is for your security.”
It was an extra precaution, giving Drina a sense of comfort even if it could be another lie. He opened a chest, placing it on top of several others in the same manner. With the box slammed shut, Mr. Gafrald nodded to the man at his side. He reached forward and grabbed a bag of coins, tossing it at her. Catching it, she was surprised at how heavy it was. Opening it she fingered through the coins while the owner spoke.
“This is an advance. Buy whatever you need to prepare. Any money you don’t make up for with work, you will have to pay back out of this. Spend it wisely.”
With a cheeky grin, Drina pulled the strings of the bag closed.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be expecting another bag this size or more before this festival is done.”
Not waiting for his reply, she turned to walk out of the room. As soon as she was around the corner, her knees buckled almost sending her to the ground. How she was able to hold out as long as she did was unknown to her. Covering her mouth, she could hear the men in the room laugh.
“She’s impressive, I’ll give her that! I am excited to see how well she does, we must keep
an eye on her for sure!”
It was small praise she was not used to, making her blush a little. Pushing to her feet, she quietly left the tent. The cool air nipped at her skin, refreshing her from how sweaty she had gotten from the stress. Drina might have to avoid telling Ocan about signing her name away to work at the festival. For now, she needed to get ready. Taking a quick look at some of the vendors near the tent, she was able to buy a few things she didn’t have on hand. Candles, incense, and a scarf for her hair. She needed to look the part of a gypsy to help sell her talents a little. No one would take her seriously, either way, yet when it came to festivals everyone wanted the atmosphere. It was not her first time playing the fortune teller and she knew what the customers wanted to hear.
Finishing her purchase, she turned to count the change received, almost running into one of the men from the tent.
“Oh.. uh, did I forget something?”
The man nodded, his face hard as he crossed his arms. “Yeah, come with me.”
Nervously, she followed him. He didn’t lead her back towards the tent, instead towards the festival grounds. He had almost brought him to the entrance when he stopped beside a small tent. Pulling back the flap, he motioned for her to enter first. Entering within the tent was a small table and pillows to sit upon. The man entered behind her, offering a smile.
“This is where you will be working. Mr. Gafrald always keeps his promises.”
Drina was impressed. Prime real estate indeed! Close to the gates, easy to access, making coin was going to be easy. The man behind her continued. “We will make up a sign for you in the next few minutes and you should be in business. Fel’astie.”
“Fel’astie, and my thanks to Mr. Gafrald.” With a nod he left.
Once the flap of the tent closed, Drina let out a giggle while looking about her booth. This was going to be a snap, she thought. Quickly she set up her area to prepare for the first guest. Setting up her table, she brought out her pack of tarot cards. Usually, we would use her fan, yet with all the gypsy around, the last thing she wanted was someone to recognize her from home. She didn’t have to worry so much about the townsfolk as much as she needed to worry about her other kin. They may not be in their old region, but the oligarchy king still had eyes and ears. Wrapping up her hair in the scarf, she finally had finished. Looking about her table, she clapped her hands. All that was missing was some tea and she would be good for the night. This was a luxury she couldn’t afford, although it was a lovely notion. Now to wait for her work to walk in.