It had started so simply, Carina thought. A careless word here, a wayward glance there.
Their love had once been so fierce, it had burned hot like a thousand summer suns. She trembled just to recall it. Their wedding was the joy of the colony, and all of the Roma had praised them on their prudent choice in a mate. Their caravan wagon was always the brightest colored, the happiest, and its blue fabric shone in the sunlight as they rode the hills with their people.
And then their love burned so far and fast that it turned to embers, and her heart to ash.
How different would things be, if they had never met that brown-bearded Wizard in the wilderness of Twin Thicket? If Jacobus had never learnt of the Legend as Carina tended the Magician’s wounds?
Years passed with him coming and going. She looked at the other men, and he saw it when he was home. It stung her more that he didn’t say anything; just let it pass without a word.
She prayed to Eirel, the goddess of Love and Marriage. She prayed to Mystriel, goddess of Mysteries. She prayed to Lena, the old Fertility goddess of her tribe, for a child, for something to bring Jacobus back to her bed, and her heart.
“You’re always with the Guild!” she screamed at him one night, trying to get feeling out of him, any emotion to show her that he still cared. She threw his books to the floor, scattered the papers across the wagon, slammed the wooden spoon against the stew pot. “Why can you not tell them to stay out of your life? To let you come home, to your wife?”
“This is my job, Carina,” Jacobus had yelled back, picking up the papers one by one, replacing them in order. “They need me to help them translate the Book. I’m the only one that can. I know Ancient Yenken.”
“There must be someone else that does too,” Carina shouted. “Or maybe you don’t care enough about your old life to return.”
And that time she thought he would slap her. His hand moved, she saw the twitch of his wrist at his side, and even though it was never raised against her, it still hit her like cold water on the skin.
She would never be as important to him as that Legend.
Whatever fire had been left between them burnt out that night.
Maybe she should not have prayed to the gods of the white men so freely. The old gods would never have let this happen. They were punishing her for her unfaithfulness to them, and her sinful thoughts of other men that were not her husband.
There was the empty bed between them the nights he came home, the chasm that grew wide as a ridge when she laid there at night, listening to him snore. She no longer turned to watch his black beard bounce up and down on his chest as he slept. She no longer studied the sharp curve of his nose where it met his thick lips, longing to kiss him.
There was the empty womb, too, forever unblessed. The other women made the sign against the evil eye whenever she neared, and she knew they thought her cursed.
She felt hollow.
She sought refuge in the old magic ways, in selling her jewelry to the small villages. But the growing idea to do something about her life grew too ferocious, and she went to the head wagon for help.
“If you ever want peace,” the Wagon Mother told her as she took Carina’s hands into her unsteady grasp, “you will leave Jacobus.” The Mother raised her aged head to the air, barely seeing through her blind eyes. “This Book…this Legend of his brings evil into the caravan. It brings death. I can smell it on the air like a perfume. You will leave him, if you want to live.”
Carina did not want to listen to her at first. But then, there was the mountain village. The night she saw Jacobus talking low and laughing with the redheaded beauty by a fence.
Perhaps it was nothing.
Carina had looked on other men in revenge many times. But somehow…it wounded worse coming from him, from the cold embers that lay between them. If he could feel nothing for her, how could he feel something for a white woman?
There was her cousin Gavin in Midvalley—the one that was born from a white man and a Roma woman before he was shunned from his village. He had a caravan there. Carina could join him.
And yet, as she placed the few things Jacobus still kept in their wagon onto the ground outside the inn where he slept and re-hitched the donkey, she wondered what it would be like if she just waited…if she stayed…if she burned his Book and the Legend with it. He would be no use to the Guild after that. She would have him to herself.
But he would never love her again, she knew.
The memory of the redheaded woman was fresh in her mind.
She walked up to the campfire burning by the inn, the flames growing in her eyes until they were all she could see, huge as mountains in her mind.
Curious locals watched her, raven hair wild over her shoulders as she raised the Book, eyes wide as she lifted it high above the flames–
But before could throw the cursed thing onto the fire, she hesitated, and lowered it into her palms.
She still loved him. Behind all the hate, there were the happy years. The times he smiled at her. The promises and the kisses and the memories.
She could not curse his smile.
She clutched the book tightly against her chest, embracing it like a lover, and began to walk away from the inn.
She could not stay, either. Her heart ached for someone to love her back far too much.
She would take the Book with her, and sell it. Someone would buy it—Magicians were always looking for new books and spells. What was one more? She could even sell his translations separately, too. That would fetch an even higher price, untangled into the Common Yenken as they were. She could save Jacobus from his fate.
A Book of gibberish and a pile of papers. That would be all that she had left of her last memories with Jacobus. Somehow it was fitting that it should be something so far removed from their roots as Roma, and as lovers.
Something cold and paper, and not at all like the heat of a fire.
She tightened the straps on the donkey and placed her hood over her face as she shivered in the cool night air.
She was leaving to join Gavin’s train, and she was never coming back.
She guided her donkey and the wagon back onto the King’s Road, and vanished into the dark.
This story contains original characters and settings from the backstory of my original YA fantasy series, “Ebony”, currently in submission to agents.
This week’s IndieInk Challenge came from Cheney, who gave me this prompt: “You’re getting on that train and you’re never coming back.” . I challenged Lillewith the prompt: “Your main character sees an old familiar face at a public event such as a concert or a sports game. They would rathe die than talk to this person ever again. Why? Do they meet today?”
I had to be a little creative with the definition of the word train. After all, I much prefer writing medieval fantasy!