Contest Entry – The Tale of Camilla

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Character Name: Camilla

The Tale of Camilla



Mine was to be an arranged marriage decided upon many years ago. It was written on no parchment, bound by no laws, and, at the time, secured by no payment. It was merely an agreement by two old friends over tea when I was but a child.

I had been told about it when I became a woman. It was put to me in a most matter of fact manner, and with all the tenderness and compassion of a Plague Beast, and I dare not argue or fuss. Such arrangements were common. Such were our ways.

Many things were explained to me with the same answer. “Such is our way,” my mother would tell me. I knew not to press her beyond those words. Truth is, I cared not beyond those words. It was enough for me. A proud tradition of a proud people.

My brother, on the other hand, cared little for tradition. Nor did he care for the life of a gypsy. As a boy he would make believe he was a pirate, or a knight, or even a fisherman. Anything but the life fate had chosen for him.

I remember one time he pretended to be a tailor. He snuck into my mother’s tent while she was away and cut up all of her dresses and tried to sew them back together. It was a disaster! He was made to wash the kettle every night after supper for a month.

I guess that’s why he left. Soren could have been anything but a gypsy. His desire to know a life outside the commune could not be contained. One might as well try to tame a pixie, clip its wings, and lock it away in a cage as a pet.

In the summers, when the weather was warm and the traffic along the main routes was at its heaviest, the women of my commune would remain close to the road and wait for passers by. Many a curious stranger would wander into our tents, looking for a glimpse at what fate had in store for them in the next town. We would oblige of course, for a fee.

One such traveler approached with his entourage on the last day before we traveled west for the beginning of autumn. He was a sheriff from the city of Nujel’m who was traveling north to the mining town of Minoc for a conference. The man barked orders as they drew near, ordering his men to halt. He then dismounted and headed directly for my tent. He appeared to be of considerable wealth, perhaps seeking insight and wisdom for the meeting in town. I greeted him warmly, of course.

We stepped inside and I offered him a chair before taking a seat on the opposite side of a low wooden table. The candles around the tent cast a dim glow around us, and the scent of sandalwood wafted in the air. I proceeded to lay out the cards in my usual pattern, but before I had finished he grabbed my hand.

“I haven’t the time for this gypsy. Look into your ball and tell me what you see. Go on!” he demanded.

I was dismayed by his curtness, but I held my tongue. I scooped up the cards and placed them gently to the side. I then lifted the soft black cloth surrounding my crystal ball, casting a soft blue light against the walls of the tent. My hands traveled slowly around the sphere, and I closed my eyes, chanting softly before opening them once more and gazing into the crystal.

“My lord, the vision is coming to me. I see a room full of men. They are seated around a stage, and there is a speaker addressing the room.” I began, but was soon interrupted once more.

“Tell me who will be announced as the new Chancellor! I must know if I am to be called upon for this duty.” He growled. The rumble in his voice sent chills down my spine. He was asking specific questions, and expected specific answers.

“My lord, forgive me. The ball reveals what it will in its own time. Try to remain patient, and all of your questions will be answered…in time…in time…” my voice drew quieter, and I appeared to fall into a trance. I waved my hands rapidly around the globe, as if moving the vision forward with my will.

This seemed to calm the sheriff, and he leaned back from the table, folding his arms in his lap. I peered closer into the ball, as if straining to see beyond the vision provided. It was no use. I quickly covered the ball with the black cloth and fell back into my chair.

“What? What is it? Tell me now woman or I’ll have your head!” he shouted as he stood, reaching for his sword. I pretended not to notice, and instead sunk deeper into my chair as if exhausted by the strain of my calling.

“Sire, I’m afraid the ball is of no use to us. It reveals what it will in its own time. Mayhap we shall try my rune stones instead?” I suggested, hoping he would take the bait.

The sheriff relaxed again, and began to rub his chin curiously, as if to ponder the wisdom of my methods. Finally, he returned to his seat and waived his hand dismissively toward me. “What ever grants me the answers I seek woman, now be on with it!”

I reached below my table and clutched a small leather bag, placing it on the table. I explained that there are twenty-eight stones, each with a runic symbol engraved upon the face. I would draw three stones from the bag at random and toss them on the ground in front of me, representing the past, present, and future. For this, I would need something precious belonging to the one I sought answers for.

The sheriff wasted no time in removing the fine gold chain around his neck and placing it on my table. I was satisfied, but didn’t move too quickly. As I suspected, the man gladly gave more, adding to it a jewel encrusted dagger he kept sheathed under his tunic.

I snatched up the possessions and clutched them in both hands, closing my eyes and chanting incoherently before placing them into my pockets. I then reached into my rune bag and produced the first stone, tossing it gently on the ground in front of me.

“What? What is the meaning of that stone? Tell me!” he insisted. I waved his badgering away with my hand before reaching in and producing the second stone. This landed just beyond the first.

I took my time with the third stone, pulling him closer into my ritual. I pretended to consider the stones carefully, studying the markings and positions on the ground in front of me. The third stone landed with a thud beyond the second. I stepped back in shock, and he jumped with suspense.

“Ah…yes…very interesting indeed! You see sire, the first stone I produced represents the past. The symbol engraved upon it suggests pleasure, decadence, and leisure. Mayhap a symbol of your home town of Nujel’m?” I asked rhetorically. “The second represents the present, and suggests a dramatic transformation. And the third…I paused…the third, my lord…I’m happy to say reveals a great success to come.” I finished, hoping to have satisfied the man’s hunger for answers. In fact the rune stones had told of many things, none of which I dared reveal.

For the first time I saw him smile. It was as if someone had pulled back the flap to my tent and let the sunlight over come the shadows. A great relief washed over me, and with that the man exited the tent and rejoined his men, proceeding forward confidently towards Minoc.

That evening I settled in early. I remember feeling as if I had stared death straight in the face. I was exhausted, and had an overwhelming feeling of dread I could not explain. With the scent of sandalwood still lingering in the night air, I drifted to sleep. Later that evening I was awoken by the sound of shouting. A familiar voice rang in the air.

“I hear by proclaim this gypsy commune a coven of witches! They are an abomination to the King’s laws and must be vanquished from this land. I command thee to lay siege to this camp and burn them all! Leave no survivors!” the sheriff announced, sounding the signal for his men to attack. The scene was pure chaos. Women and children fled for their lives and the soldiers followed their orders and proceeded to set fire to the camp. The men of my camp could do little to stop the onslaught.

Peering out of my tent, I could see the sheriff searching for me. He swiped his long sword at anything that would move. The rage in his eyes was that of a daemon thirsty for blood. I hastily gathered what little I could and crawled low to the ground to escape the thick black smoke that choked the midnight sky. I can still hear him calling for me in the night, cursing my name and vowing vengeance. It shall haunt me for many days to come.

I was awoken by a tender, soothing stroke across my forehead. My head throbbed and my body was ablaze with cuts and bruises. I had crawled for more than a mile through brambles and thickets before collapsing from exhaustion. I felt as if I could not move, and could barely open my eyes.

When I did finally manage to focus, I was aghast at what I saw. It was a ghostly image of brilliant white hair streaming over the shoulders of a man long since thought dead. The spectre wore a jester’s hat, and I was reminded of the Tarot meaning; something unexpected and uncontrollable was about to occur. He was a wild card, and the outcome was uncertain.

He picked me up and carried me through a magical portal, and suddenly we were deep in the mountains. I could hear the snow crunch beneath his footsteps as we made our way into his cottage. He placed me gently on a brown bear skin rug in front of the hearth and covered me in his cloak. I imagined that the spirit of my long lost brother had found me in the after life, battered and bruised, and had taken me to the place he had been hiding all these years. I welcomed the path my fate had chosen for me, and yearned to remain here with my brother for eternity. I drifted back to sleep.

The aroma of fried eggs and fresh bread aroused me from my slumber the next morning. He sat on the floor next to me and helped me to sit up.

“Where are we Soren? What happened? What of my people? Where have you been all of these years?” I asked, not pausing for an answer to any of them. My mind was swimming with queries of his life and my fate and the fate of my family. He responded to only two of my questions.

“My name is not Soren anymore Camilla. I am known as Lord Abracadabra now. I am the Head Master of Mages for the Royal Holy Knighthood. We are at my summer cottage in the township of Darkmoor, deep in the mountains of Malas.” He explained.

“Your camp was attacked by soldiers following the orders of the Sheriff. Apparently he had gotten the impression that he was to be named Chancellor of Britain. He made quite a fool of himself by boldly accepting his charge long before the announcement was made. Much to his dismay, the son of Mayor Jorgenson of Cove was chosen instead. You will be safe here gypsy, for now. ” He said before standing and walking back to the kitchen.

“For now? Am I not welcome in my brother’s home?” I asked. Such a long time had passed, but could he have really lost all love for his kin?

“No one must know you are here. I have spent my entire life running from my past only to have it thrust upon me once more. You will rest, you will heal, and then you will leave.” He said calmly, returning to me with a cup of hot tea.

“Well if I’m such a burden dear brother perhaps I should relieve you right now.” I argued, attempting in vain to stand. He braced me before I stumbled and returned me gently to the rug. It seemed he had not lost all love for his kin. Not all.

“You are in no condition to travel gypsy. You are welcome to stay until you are well. I shall return for you in the spring. My cupboards are fully stocked, but should you need anything there are towns folk to assist you. Tell no one you are my kin. If asked you will tell them that you are house sitting for me.” He instructed. His tone was sharp and emotionless.

I decided not to press the issue further this day. A time would come when he would be more receptive towards me, and I would wait patiently for the answers I sought. Besides, the township of Darkmoor sounded like the perfect escape from the cruel villain who no-doubt still hunted for my head. I only hoped my family had escaped his wrath as well.

Last modified: March 28, 2011

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