A tale of Fortunes
By Taylor Gorham
Also by Taylor Gorham
Jewel of the Rivers
"Without imagination we have no wings."
A tale of fortunes
A tale of revenge
A tale of will render the careless to lend
A tale for a Harper to sing and to send
To places that don’t posses naught but an end
A tale, a legend, a myth for the ride
Along the blue shore with the blue winter tide
A tale for young
A tale for old
And still there are tales here yet to be told
Along the dusty paths of time
This tale will give you some truth to unwind
A tale does not have to be true
But not never it will find truth in you
A tale of fortunes
A tale of revenge
A tale to savor from beginning ‘til end
A Tale of Fortunes
She did not know that it was real screams that pierced her slumbers, she did not know that the home she once had was being pillaged and ruined.
That her small brother was carried away while she lay hidden, that her entire life was changed forever under her very nose.
One little twitch would have given away the small bundle in the bushes.
The bandits soon gave up on her camp and, not finding any valuables, moved off.
In time, the girl woke up and sneaked away from her parents on her own, to what end she had no idea.
Ramiel strolled down a woodland path in the Andruid forest, happily munching an apple.
When she was younger Ramiel had found an old lady who took care of her and taught her to speak. She had asked her name but the lady would only smile and tell her to ask later, so Ramiel had always called her Naj. After all, when she made the name she was only little.
She had always insisted that Ramiel name herself. It was sad though; Naj died before she told her anything. She suspected that she knew something of her parents,
still Ramiel kept some of her useful belongings.
Just then something crashed into Ramiel from behind, knocking her down.
The strange character hastily scrambled to its feet and strangely, began hopping around.
It said, "I’m very sorry miss!
I hope nothing’s amiss
If anything is I’ll help you miss
I will, oh yes yes yes!"
He smiled at her.
Ramiel blinked and stared, "Uh…yea! I’m ….good, for now at least." she muttered under breath
She stopped and then went on hesitantly, "Do you always speak like that or are you just confusing me?"
She narrowed her eyes. This one would learn what it meant to play around with a girl, especially if she’s bigger!
The weird little character hopped about and sang,
"Some say I speak in riddles,
some say I speak in rhyme,
that really makes no difference,
you’ll understand in time!"
Ramiel stared at him incredulously and shook her head.
He didn’t notice and went on still smiling,
"Oh lovely little miss,
please may I walk with thee,
for walking in the forest,
greatly pleases me!"
This was even more unusual, you simply didn’t ask a complete stranger to walk with you, it was plain common sense. Still, some one who spoke in rhyme wasn’t exactly common.
He answered again, "Sorry to keep you waiting,
My name is Tambilo
I hope you’re not offended
I would not have it so!"
Ramiel fought the urge to laugh, why she would be offended she couldn’t figure out, but he probably said just for lack of a better word.
"I’m not offended, it’s alright."
Tambilo marched down the path until Ramiel caught up with him.
He had been traveling the west path for 6 years before following the River Adjaloq, stopping and staying somewhere whenever he pleased. His was the traveling nature, over and under, where ever we go type with no roots.
He told her this all in little rhyming poems.
They came to a fork in the path and heard voices. Ramiel bade him to stop and crept forward, she saw through the foliage 3 men in scruffy cloaks. They sat around a sputtering fire spoke in low, gruff voices.
She scurried back to Tambilo, the men started talking louder, "See, I told you he would be useful."
Ramiel peered back through the bushes to see what they were up to.
A young boy had joined them, bringing a sack. One man looked in the sack and whistled, "pretty good, Midge. Now go get more fire wood or it’ll go out." he pointed to the fire.
The boy walked unknowingly towards Ramiel, she scrambled back to the side of the path before he saw her, Midge ambled on past her, but it was a near thing. Tambilo was nowhere in sight.
Ramiel slowly crept out of her hiding place, "Tambilo?"
He stood from under a fallen tree.
Ramiel breathed a sigh of relief.
Ramiel’s shelter was near the edge of the Andruid, it was almost sunset when they reached it, for Ramiel often had to stop for Tambilo.
The shelter was nothing more than a sophisticated tree house, but it suited her purposes. Though it took considerable help for Tambilo to climb the rope to the entrance.
She still couldn’t figure out why the boy was with the bandits. If they had families or slaves they usually left them in a secret camp with others to guard them. This was nothing but a small raiding party.
"You can look around, Tambilo, there’s nothin’ there worth hiding. And you kin sleep in the hammock; I won’t be needin’ it right now. Stay here!"
Tambilo was about to ask after her, but she was already gone.
He grumbled and went inside, "I’ve been taking care,
By myself all these years
She should be aware,
I can get on by myself!"
He looked around the tree house dwelling, it was small and bright, a tab messy perhaps, but very well done from scratch, he thought.
A rope hammock hung low from the ceiling, a brown rush mat lay beneath it on the bare, wooden floor. A large shelf jutted out beside it, several smaller ones were fixed above it. The small ones were crammed with barkcloth sheets and writing necessities. A hank of thin rope was squeezed in at the side.
The larger shelf/desk was cluttered with sketches and ink containers, a weathered book sat next to a wooden candleholder covered in bees wax.
In front of the desk was a small, three-legged stool.
A small opening was carved above the hammock, just large enough to see through, in fact, Tambilo was surprised he’d even noticed it. He peered through, and saw the path; useful, he thought.
There were three large windows, two, facing each other on opposite sides of the room, the other next to the door facing west.
Golden afternoon sunlight poured in, giving the room a rosy glow.
Tambilo lay back in the hammock and was soon snoring.
Ramiel clung, absolutely still, to a rowan tree above the bandit camp. The men had turned to arguing.
"The boy’s supposed t’ earn ‘is keep, not waste our time gatherin’ this trash! That was a good raid an’ all ‘e managed t’ find was this."
He kicked a sack of plunder next to him. It made a dull, clunking sound.
The strange boy lounged against a log by the fire while the man glared at him.
He seemed not to notice and pulled a leg from the beast roasting on the fire and bit it, letting the juice run down his chin.
The man turned crimson against his undyed shirt.
"See how rude ‘e is! Send ‘im away, we don’t ‘ave use for ‘im anymore!" he demanded another man who seemed to be in charge. He was wearing a green collared shirt and grey britches, a single brass hoop hung from his ear.
"Why should I?" answered green shirt, fixing him with a livid stare. Though that seemed to be the only thing keeping the other man from answering back.
The boy looked annoyed, even a little upset, but did not make an effort to stop the argument, as if it would be rude to protest on his own behalf.
There was something about him that was familiar,
but that was impossible, Ramiel had never met anyone except Naj, Tambilo and a few travelers. Not that she remembered her earlier days…
Naj hadn’t known where she had come from, was it possible that she’d known him from before?
She clambered silently down from her tree and slipped away to ponder this.
Tambilo woke before Ramiel returned, it was almost twilight, and blue and periwinkle mists had begun to descend. The last rays of sunlight penetrated them with pail bronze light.
To pass the time he started looking through the sheaves of paper on her desk.
A sketch of the tree house caught his eye; hints of green and brown made the shapes come to life in a style that caught the eye very effectively.
Ramiel strode up behind him, "Like my pictures do you?"
"I’ve never seen a greater piece
of such a humble dwelling,
In all my travels
Naught like this
Has crossed such eyes as these."
"You’re a proper liddle charmer aren’t you? ‘Strewth, Tambilo, I dunno how you get on with those poems ‘o yours."
He grinned mischievously,
"I may be a charmer,
but I won’t be charmed
You’re all birds of a feather
And I won’t be harmed!"
"Well, whatever. Anyway, the Andruid is dangerous at night, ‘specially with those scummy bandits pokin’ around. You’ll have to stay here. I’ll bunk on the floor."
She started opening a cabinet in the floor that Tambilo hadn’t noticed. He grinned,
"You have many secrets
that you keep from me.."
"As many as the
grains of salt from the sea."
He looked at her, astonished.
She replied, "See, I’m catching on."
She grinned at his expression and lay out the quilt she had pulled from the floor.
"None have tried to
mimic me before
I thought no one would,
Of that I was quite sure."
He put on a thoughtful expression.
"Well I’ve been known to surprise people quite a lot!"
He shook his head and climbed into the hammock.
It was just dawn, and Ramiel was stalking through the Andruid in the deceiving morning mists.
She thought of Tambilo, and smiled at the memory of the way the hammock sagged comically under his weight.
A hand gripped her shoulder, she froze, and it gripped tighter. This was not Tambilo, or any other friend for that matter. She twisted away and bolted for cover, like a startled deer, but something grabbed her wrist, wrenching her around. It was the boy, Midge.
She wrested her hand away, but stayed otherwise, in place.
"Were you following me?"
He stared at her strangely, she stepped back,
"Were you following me?!"
"I got orders from the boss, any trespassers git caught!"
Ramiel could tell that he was trying to put on a brave face, but he looked unsure of himself.
She glared at him, "Who says that I’m trespassing? This ain’t you’re land."
"Yew’re not gonna trick me."
He was obviously on to her.
Just then, one of the men came up behind him.
"Found somethin’ have you? Come back wid us missy, we’ll fix yer up good’n tight."
He smiled falsely at her.
Ramiel fought with a vengeance but she was outnumbered without a weapon, she was marched back to the bandit camp with her hands tied behind her back.
Some of the men looked pleased, but the disagreeable one sniffed, "Measly little thing, ain’t she."
Midge grinned, "She got tricks to ‘er tho, we ‘ad a time gettin’ this one tied!"
Ramiel glared at him and spat in the dirt at his feet.
"Ah, a tough one ‘ave we? She’ll soon learn."said the green shirt. He grinned at Midge.
Ramiel was dragged to a corner of the camp and bound to a rough stake that one of the men cut from a fallen poplar, the bonds painfully tight.
Why hadn’t she heard Midge coming? Why wasn’t she paying attention? She thought furiously. Why had she left her knife at the tree house? I’m not thinking.
She took stock of the surroundings, the trees were too far away to reach, even if she could undo the rope, there was always a sentry when the men were all away.
Some of the men were setting up places to sleep- marauders and outlaws usually did their work at night- some went away to various chores outside of camp.
Midge seemed to be the one officially on guard, he soon was the only one left to watch her. He looked bored, tired even and underfed. Ramiel almost felt sorry for him, them scolded herself silently, he was an adversary, the enemy.
Just then a thought came to her,
"You don’t look like a proper bandit, too young."
"I am not!"
Ramiel looked at him slyly .
"You shouldn’t be here, you’re not a real bandit."
Don’t you question…"
"No you’re not."
"Yes I am."
"No you’re not."
"Yes I am!"
"No you’re not."
"Don’t yew question what yew dunno about see."
Ramiel raised her eyebrows.
"You’re not one of them are you?"
Her gaze was piercing, he looked taken aback.
"I…I..may not be one of ‘em but they mostly accep’ me an’ … an’I like it good enough where I is!"
She could tell that he was trying to be tough but his words were empty.
"If you let me go you can come with me."
He stared at her incredulously , "I ain’t goin’ with your tricks!"
He hurried away from her to sit on his log, looking unsure.
Ramiel tried to shift to a better position, but the rope was too tight, the rough wood scraped her back. Whatever they do I hope they do it soon, she thought.
She wrenched a final try against the stake and was rewarded with splinters caught in her back. She winced.
"Don’t yew be tryin’ t’ escape missy, it ain’ gonna work."
One of the men had crept up on her while she was preoccupied. Even from a few feet away the man smelled of old beer and woodsmoke.
Ramiel gave him a look of disgust. He grinned evilly from behind a scraggly beard.
"You’ll make a fine slave yet, lots o’ spirit. Ha ha!"
She spat at his feet, he stopped laughing and looked at her before walking away. He stopped by the man in charge,
"Make sure this one gits it extra hard, Joh, got to break ‘er."
Tambilo woke long after sunrise when a breeze from the window blew across his face.
He looked around, startled.
"Ramiel, if you are near,
please indicate that you are near!"
No answer came.
He climbed out of the hammock and walked outside.
have you left again?
Or are you here,
Hiding in the bracken?
Tambilo started to worry, if he looked for her he could miss her return, get hopelessly lost, or worse…
But if she was caught?
The odds weighed against him, and he sat on the floor with a sigh - and waited.
It was night. The marauders departed on another raid, once again leaving Midge on guard duty. Ramiel could see that they did not want him to come.
Midge wandered around the camp dejectedly, Ramiel stared at him until finally he looked at her.
"If I came with you where would you take me?"
"Away from this stink."
"Yea, but where?"
Ramiel gave him a look, as if sizing him up,
"To my place, down the path apiece."
Midge turned away, Ramiel fell into an uncomfortable sleep waiting, the ropes were cutting of her circulation. Though she would not have chanced it if the other men were there.
The scene before her was strangely familiar, a screeching bundle lay behind a woman.
She was the only thing between the babe and the man with the green shirt, though he looked younger. Tears streamed down the woman’s cheeks, she mouthed something that Ramiel couldn’t make out. The man drew his sword and ran her through, grinning, and she could do nothing to help her. Ramiel couldn’t move.
The woman dropped, on top of another dead person, a man, her eyes still wide open in fear.
The raider kicked the bundle and a tiny arm poked out, he seemed not to notice. Another roughly shoved the babe into a sack and carried it off with the others. Leaving the carcasses of two parents and a wreck left in their wake.
A while later another child crawled out from under an armchair and toddled away, she looked barely older than the other did.
The scene melted away and came back as Naj’s wrinkled face. She asked Ramiel where she had come from, the woman’s pained expression filled the dream.
Ramiel woke up with a start, she was still tied up, the stake still hurt, and her feet and hands were numb because of the ropes. Midge was crouching on a log by the fire.
It came to her then, tied to a stake with splinters in her back by her own brother. Naj had known what had happened but did not what to tell, the babe that crawled away was her, Midge just a high ranking slave in a stinking horde of outlaws, but he was her brother. The bond of kinship was clear.
Midge walked over to her looking resigned,
"I didn’t want to admit this but, I’m not overly prized as a raider. Life like it is is not that great.
He looked full in the eye, "I’ll come with you."
"Cut me loose."
They walked away from what was behind them, sister leaning heavily on brother, but walk they did, with no one the wiser.