Authors: Rachel Rossano
Romany Epistle Novel
Published by Rachel Rossano on
Copyright 2013 Rachel Rossano
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This novel is a work of fiction.
Though actual locations may be mentioned, they are used in a fictitious manner
and the events and occurrences were invented in the mind and imagination of the
author. Similarities of characters to any person, past, present, or future, are
Cover by Rossano Designs (©2013
Other Romany Siblings
~ Written by Rachel Starr Thomson
~ Written by Charissa Taylor Lees
works written by Rachel Rossano
Crown of Anavrea
a novel of Rhynan
King of Anavrea
I shivered in the shadow of the trees as darkness lengthened
in the late-day sunlight. Soon the light would be gone and the delicious warmth
of new spring would cool into temperatures reminiscent of the not so distant
winter. Still I remained where I stood, leaning against the back of the barn.
Most of our family home, a compound of low lying structures, still shone
brightly in the remaining light.
The main house, built by our parents, lay in the center. A
structure of stone circles clustered together, it offered adequate shelter from
inclement weather, but not enough space for comfort in the winter months. I
always believed my parents intended to build more rooms eventually, but never
got the chance. They were killed because of their belief in Deus shortly after
the youngest of us was born.
Maeron Duard, the man who raised us, had summoned us all to
meet him in the common living area. For the nine of us, four brothers and five
sisters, to gather in one place at this time of season meant he wished to
deliver important news. We were a restless bunch, more prone to pursuing
outdoor pursuits as soon as the river ice broke and the snow receded. Our
environment encouraged activity. Picturesque foothills and miles of forest
beckoned us. We wandered, often in solitude. But we always returned.
“Wren?” Sam, my youngest brother, approached from the
gardens, his knees and boots coated in layers of mud. His hands
uncharacteristically empty and clean hung awkwardly by his sides. “Have you
been in yet?”
“I am waiting.”
“For all the rest to arrive?”
“No. Until the right time.”
He studied my face for a bit.
“Just don’t be last.”
Then crossing the muddy yard, he removed his hat and ran his
fingers through the thick strands as he tramped. I wondered at how he had grown
in the past years. Almost a man now, he needed to stoop to walk through the
door just like our three older brothers. My thoughts wandered to how much
things had changed over the last few years as the youngest of us gained
My thoughts snapped back to the present when I realized the
sunlight was almost gone. The gray twilight of evening deepened swiftly. Though
still reluctant to face whatever Duard planned for us, I needed to join my
When I slipped into the central room, most of my siblings
already darkened the shadows far from Duard’s gaze and the flickering glow of
the firelight. Duard’s attention usually meant reprimand, and with the added
pressure of a summons, the punishment would be grave indeed.
Choosing my usual perch on the heavy wooden trunk at the
back of the room, I melted into the dimness.
Silence lay like a heavy blanket, a sharp contrast to our
Aquila moved quietly past our siblings to my side. The
smallest and my closest sister in age, she seemed to find comfort in my
company. Aiden, the oldest, planted his feet just beyond the edge of the light.
The second oldest, Taerith, lingered to his right. Though they were opposite in
personality, they stood together between the rest of us and our guardian.
Daelia and Ilara favored the far wall to the left of Duard. Arnan haunted the
corner to my left. His stance of practiced ease frayed into small twitches of
his fingers. I glanced in his direction, but he avoided my gaze. He knew
something. Sam, the youngest, shuffled his feet slightly as he waited. He still
had not mastered the art of silence. His other half, Zoe, remained unaccounted
for, but the rest of us waited. Finally, Zoe slipped in and took her place
beside her twin.
“You wonder why I have sent for you,” Duard said, pulling
his dark cloak around himself. “I will not keep you waiting. The time has come
for you to go. Braedoch is no longer home to you, nor are you any longer a
family. You will each depart alone. You will have nothing more to do with each
other from this day forward. You are not to communicate, and absolutely not to
see each other. If you do, I will know, and terrible consequences will follow—I
am warning you now.”
For a moment, I couldn’t breathe.
Leave our home forever?
I studied Aquila and tried to grasp the concept of never seeing her again. My
being rejected it.
“Make whatever preparations are necessary. You leave in
Arnan refused to meet my gaze.
Only three days to say goodbye.
Taerith spoke slowly, weighing the words on his tongue. “You
are banishing us?”
Duard turned on Taerith with an intensity that made my heart
falter. His expression usually preceded a rebuke. “Do you question me?”
I reflexively shook my head. Questioning him brought
Taerith's voice, low and calming, broke through the silence.
Without a word, Duard scanned the room, piercing the dim
shadows with a fiery gaze, challenging us to defy him.
I slipped indifference over my features while my heart cried
out to Deus.
Wind rustled the leaves, shushing and nipping as it passed.
It smelled of winter and my prey. Perched high above the forest floor, the
scents of unwashed male and sour ale still turned my stomach. The birds ceased
their chatter. A squirrel sniffing the air on the branch to my left remained
subdued, scampering off without a glance for me, the stranger in his tree.
Curses and the sharp cracks of broken branches broke the
silence. He stumbled along the widening path, berating the bush for jumping
into his way. Matted hair splayed out from his head. He limped across the
clearing, dirty bottle in one hand and a rusted sword in the other, and stepped
solidly into my trap. I signaled Brone, my horse. He leapt forward and the
noose cinched closed.
With a wordless yowl that reverberated through my head, the
man whipped into the air and snapped upside down. Left foot restrained, his
right floundered wildly as he cursed and spun.
I kept out of sight, climbing down the back of the tree.
Brone turned his head to watch my approach, but remained
where he was. I ran a hand over his shoulder and checked the knot where the
rope was bound to the saddle. After securing the rope to a more stable anchor,
a tree, I commanded Brone to stay and turned my attention to my prize.
The stench seeped into my nose despite my best efforts.
He flapped and flailed spouting profanity. He wore rough
clothing, demonstrated limited vocabulary, and waved a rusted sword at me as he
spun. Why would a minor noble be willing to part with money for this man’s
life? Twenty gold flans was a sizable bounty, a high price to pay for a man of
obvious deficiencies and an easy catch. The contract didn’t specify his crimes
beyond a very cryptic mention of honor.
“Just wait until I get my hands on you.” He spat at me
before lapsing into profanity again.
A whole sentence,
I noted, the first sentence to not
contain a foul word in nearly a minute.
Brone nickered for attention. He inched into the clearing.
Ears flicking and alert, he nudged my shoulder. He probably didn’t like this
new stranger because he made too much noise. I found I agreed. I touched
Brone’s silken nose. He greeted me with a huff of air and nuzzled my face. I
spent a few moments leaning against his neck with my cheek to his gleaming
coat. The man behind me continued his diatribe. To soothe my discomfort, I
reminded myself of the money that would soon join my savings.
After almost a year and a half of bounty hunting and
tracking, I could almost buy a piece of land of my own. One more bounty like
this one and I could lay down roots. Winter was coming and I wanted to find a
fireside to warm me and a roof to shelter under the whole season. It wouldn’t
be my own place, too late in the season for that. But someone else’s walls
would do until spring. Waking for a few mornings in a row to the same roof,
kneading bread at a great wooden table, listening to my sisters’ quiet
movements and soft conversation, the images called to me. Homesickness crept
through my stomach, twisting it into an aching stone.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love my work. I did. I enjoyed the
challenge of finding and capturing the criminals, the thrill of the chase,
tracking through all kinds of weather and terrain.
The ruffian abruptly ceased speaking. I lifted my head from
Brone’s warmth. A disturbance in the air above announced the arrival of one of
my falcons. Shea, a gray-brown gyr female, descended toward us. Landing
gracefully on the limb supporting my dangling conquest, she cocked her head so
she could see me with one bright eye.
My gaze went to her bare leg and fear rose in my chest.
There should have been a message from Arnan attached.
“That bird yours?” the thief asked. He looked up his length
at the underside of Shea’s belly. “Is she going to poop on me?” He waited for
me to answer. I relished the break from his filthy words.
Reaching into my saddle bags, I withdrew a heavy leather
glove. I slipped it on before signaling for Shea to approach. She obeyed with a
lazy flap and a short glide, gripping my fist with her sharp talons as she
landed. I almost laughed as she ruffled her feathers and then lay them down
again with a smooth flap of her wings. A beautiful bird, though not as
remarkable as Gavin or Iolani with their white plumage, she liked to show off
for new audiences.
“A trained bird.” My captive eagerly watched her every move.
Lifting my arm, I examined her legs. There was no sign of
the pouch. Why had my bird returned without my message or a message from my
brother? I worried the most about him of all of my siblings. I heard rumors
about him among the bounty hunters. His last messages revealed little, nothing
to comfort my fears for his life.
With no mark or clue on Shea, my letter may have never
reached Arnan. The other option, that she lost Arnan’s letter, remained equally
plausible. There was no way to know.
Satisfied the bird was unharmed and I could gain no more
information from her, I released her with an upward throw. In a flurry of
wings, she took to the sky and disappeared. She would hunt down a meal for
herself before finding me later. By then, I would have a replacement letter for
her to carry to Arnan.
“Don’t you speak?” my prisoner demanded.
Pressure grew behind my eyes, a precursor to a headache. I
took a length of stout cord from my saddle bags and tossed a marking collar on
the ground. When I turned to face him, he looked frightened.
“What are you going to do?”
He waved his rusted weapon. Face scrunched in concentration,
he tried to keep the weapon between me and him.
I kicked the blade from his numbing fingers. Once it was out
of his reach, I picked it up. A cheap weapon, off-balance and badly made, it
wasn’t worth saving. I tossed it into the bushes.
“Hey,” he protested. “That was mine.”
“Not anymore. Present your hands.”
A sneer crossed his face. “You know, you aren’t a bad
looking woman. Maybe we can come to an arrangement. You must get pretty lonely
wandering about on your own.”
“Present your hands.” Drawing one of my throwing daggers, I
met his gaze with a cold glare. Understanding the threat, he meekly presented
his hands. I swiftly tied them. Retrieving the bounty collar, I then latched
the heavy leather around his helpless neck. It declared my claim on the bounty
“I will refuse to walk.”
“You won’t need to.”
Wrapping the rope around his body, I bound him from shoulder
to ankle. Brone and I lowered him the same way we raised him, though much more
gently. He ended up laying face first on the ground, flopping in the dirt like
a snared fish. Then after stowing the gear in the saddlebags, I lifted him onto
Brone’s back. The man spent the whole process cursing my ancestors, my mother,
and threw in some names I didn’t recognize.