Cold Embrace

Chapter One
The Birth

The smoke rose in steady form as the fire crackled. The soft crying sounds of the violin filled the air as the Cymreige sat around the bonfire like they always do each night. But on Saturdays, the elder men played their instruments. A few of the elder woman would dance the traditional dance. Keeping in time with the music, it was a haunting site to see, but no outsider has ever been allowed in a gypsy camp. With their vardo’s circled wide, the Cymreige reveled in the night as the deep bass from the deer skinned drums pounded the chests of the others. While the violins made their hearts want to cry.

Like most gypsies, the Cymreige were no different. They made their living selling trinkets and telling fortunes. They were excellent weaponsmiths, so setting up a small shop in a new city was common place. The woman were almost magical with their clothing craftsmanship. It was as if any woman or man who put on a piece of garment hand crafted by the Cymreige’s was transformed and became the center of attention. Something that has brought a good amount of wealth to the clan.

“Tatiana,” a voice whispered through the haunting music.

Gazing upon the fire, Tatiana didn’t hear the voice. Her head swayed from side to side in rhythm of the music, her arms slightly weaving the air like a spell. The smoke seemed to follow her movements, making shadow dancers in the night air.

“Tatiana.” The voice came again, but still no response. A hand rested upon her shoulder, startling her. “It’s time,” said Ruxandra.

Tatiana and Ruxandra are fraternal twins. Both are the last females born into the clan from the last generation. Though a new generation of females is growing, the sisters were always treated a little differently than the others of their generation. Held in a bit higher esteem, even over some of the older females of the clan. At times, this would cause some small commotions amongst the Cymreige clan. But in a day or two, all was settled.

“Sadhbba needs to speak with us.” Ruxandra whispered. Tatiana’s eyes grew wide then just as quickly, her happiness seemed to fade away. Madame Sadhbba was the eldest of the clan. It’s been said that she has been around many generations though she hasn’t seemed to age much after her early elder years. Sadhbba is also the clans seer. A seer that most other clans would fight the dangerous trek just to get her wisdom and insight.

As the two made their way from the fire through the trees, they grasped each others hands tightly. Very seldom did Sadhbba see anyone, even from her own clan. Those who did see her are a group of the elders that keep the clan going. When she wanted to speak with you, it was of great importance to the clans survival. However, this night would be different.
As all Cymreige must do, the sisters must also. It is tradition that all Cymreige clan members must undergo a ritual on their eighteenth birthday. And the rising of the sun would mark the eighteenth birthday of the twins. What neither really understood was why Sadhbba had asked to speak with them after dinner. As Sadhbba never got involved with the birthday rituals and celebrations.

As Ruxandra went to knock on the door to Sadhbba’s vardo, the door fell open. The smell of spices and incense filled their nostrils. Among all the vardos in the clan, Sadhbba’s was the most richly decorated outside as well as in.

“Enter.” A soft gentle toned voice commanded.

As the girls stepped in, their eyes gazed in awe at the bright colored decorations, the deepest colors of silk in the curtains. It was almost like a dream. Silk pillows covered a majority of the floor. A table with manuscripts and leather bound books off to one side, seemed to be the only place to do any work. As the sisters looked around, they saw no one. They just glanced at each other and continued to examine the treasure of what was the clan wealth. Even the cupboards around the ceiling were adorned with intricate carvings and inlaid with silver and gold.

“Please sit.” The voice came again.

The sisters looked around and took a seat on the cushions covering the floor. The large wooden oak door that separated the main area from the living area slowly creaked open. The eyes of the girls were fixated on the door and who was about to walk from behind it. As neither girl has seen Sadhbba since they were six years old. As the door finally came to a full rest, a tall, slender woman emerged. Dressed in the deepest of dark green silk with hues of earth tones as accents, Sadhbba’s dress made it seem as if she were floating on air. Her hair, wavy and curly came to a rest at the small of her back. It’s deep auburn color seemed to expand out of the dress she was wearing. Her cheekbones rest high like that of an elf, but she was human. Her jet black eyes cast a gaze upon the girls. She looked no more than her early forties, but everyone knew she was much older.

Sadhbba strode across the floor with grace and elegance. Her hands held waist high, the jingling of metal on metal from her jewelry entranced all those who witnessed her beauty. The sisters started to bow when Sadhbba chuckled, “Please, there is no need.” Her voice soft like an early morning spring wind.

Sadhbba took a cushion across from the girls. As she looked into each of their eyes, she smiled. Gently, she caressed each of their faces and ran her slender fingers through their hair. As she rested her hands on each of their faces, it was almost as if her happiness turned to sorrow and despair. Though jet black, her eyes shifted and drew deeper away. She tilted her head slowly, not breaking gaze. She leaned over and gently kissed each girl.

“As you both know, tomorrow marks your eighteenth birthday.” Sadhbba slowly spoke while lighting the incense burner hanging next to them.

“However, unlike the others, you won’t be celebrating here.” she continued.

“What do you mean?” Ruxandra asked, giving Tatiana a curious look.

“Tatiana dear, would you mind getting the wooden box from the cupboard there.” she continued, blowing out the match.

Tatiana slowly rose, her face still showing the shock she had just heard. No celebration for their big day. As Sadhbba gazed into the smoke from the lit incense, Tatiana pulled open the cupboard door to reveal a small, ornately carved oak box. Ruins lined the top, while fancy scroll work encased the outer edge. It had a smell of freshly cut wood, but from the looks of it, it was a few hundred years old. In her spare time, Tatiana had a thing for learning and had studied the ancient language of the gypsies. She recognized a few symbols, but the others were unfamiliar.

Handing the box to Sadhbba , Tatiana sat next Ruxandra and grabbed her hand. She squeezed hard enough that Ruxandra flinched. Something she normally doesn’t do. Even the time she had to have an arrow pulled from her thigh. She just bit down on the wooden rod given to her and that was that. No tears, no murmur, nothing short of a smile some say.

Sadhbba lay the box out in front of them. She gracefully traced the ruins across the top. Carefully she opened the lid and smiled. Her deep black eyes lit up like the stars under a full moon. Tilting her head, she smiled deeper. Her lips parted and a sentiment of excitement escaped her lips. She pulled out something wrapped in leather and tied with a silk bow. She set the box aside and put the package on the floor.

“You both have heard the stories of the First Great War. The one that saved mankind and caused the choking mists,” she said.

The First Great War, was the battle between the ultimate good and evil, the Elder Ones. The war lasted several millennia and tore apart many families. It scorched the lands and left most of it in ruins. It wasn’t until a special weapon was forged, that the armies of chaos were about ready to land full victory. But this weapon turned the tide. In doing so, there was a price. Part of that price was certain lands, including the homeland of the gypsies, Sayovania, was shrouded in an invisible choking mist. A mist so vile and deadly, that no one could leave unless they found the portals that randomly appeared, never in the same place twice.

The girls noded.

“You see, the weapon known as Ariyne had disappeared, put in a safe place.”

“But why are you telling us this?” Ruxandra asked carefully.

“You see children, the weapon was hidden until it was needed again.” she said standing.

Sadhbba walked over to the table and pulled a few scrolls from a tube. She laid them down and began looking through her books. “Ah, here it is.” She gathered her history and sat back in front of the sisters.

“You see, back then it was known that, the evil would once again rise. Not the evil we see in the lands today. But pure evil, unfiltered hatred.”

“But what does this have to do with us?” Tatiana squeaked.

“What I’m about to tell you child will not set well with either of you. What is about to happen, has not happened in four hundred years.”

Tatiana squeezed Ruxandra’s hand so hard, that not only did Ruxandra flinch, she pulled away from her sister.

“Forgive me madame,” Ruxandra interrupted. “I, we don’t understand.”

“You will dear.”

Unrolling the scrolls, she laid them out flat. Turning, she grabbed the biggest of the two books she retrieved from the table and pulled a key from under her neckline of her dress. Inserting the key into the lock, Sadhbba  gave it a gentle twist. A sharp twang and the lock sprung open. As Sadhbba opened the book, a cold feeling filled the air. The hair on all their arms stood up on end. A feeling of eyes everywhere filled them all with a sense of fear and desperation. Even for Sadhbba, the feeling was one she was not accustomed to. Nor did she like not having control of her senses.

“Let’s see. Ah yes, here it is.” Sadhbba  chimed, as she flipped the pages carefully. The pages seemed so brittle, that just looking at them, one would wonder if they should even be touched. Sadhbba started tracing the lines on the pages.

“In the final days of the third millenium of the war, a child was born. Not a normal child, but a child between Elder and human. A child so pure, that she had no hatred or love for anything. A child with the powers and perception of the Elders and the understanding of the human race.  After copulation, the human male was killed. As it was forbidden for the Elders to ever have contact with a human, this broke all rules that have ruled the Elders since the dawn of time.”
Sadhbba flipped through a few more pages before continuing. She glanced up at the girls to see fear and confusion in their eyes.

“Dying during birth, the Elder was also taken away and buried in secret. As if this information were to come to light, it would have torn the fabric of enlightenment of the Elders of Light. The child was given to a Elder shaman to watch, raise and get ready for battle.”

Sadhbba skimmed a few pages before proceeding. Each flip of the page, she caught a glimpse of the girls eyes. And with each page, they grew wider with unknowing certainty.

“During the last few months of the fourth millenium of the war, the child, now full grown, the weapon known as Ariyne was released. It didn’t take Ariyne very long to gain the surrender of the Elders of Dark. She had caused so much chaos and torment, that she had almost wiped out the entire Dark Elder population. Upon the end of the war, the Elder shaman that raised Ariyne took her away never to be seen again.”

Sadhbba closed the book and reattached the lock. Everyone sat in silence. The fear and desperation left the vardo, but not from Ruxandra and Tatiana. They still did not see what this had to do with them, their birthday. What was the reason behind this invitation to Madame Sadhbba’s solitude?

Sadhbba cleared her throat to break the silence. “According to prophecy,” she picked up one of the scrolls. “Ariyne was so pure, that after the war was won, she had dispersed. She gave the miracle of birth to a human woman who was to be childless.”

The sisters now grasping each other tightly, looked with intent at Sadhbba. They both had tears welling up in their eyes. But neither one took the moment to wipe them away. As Sadhbba kept looking through the scrolls, an empty feeling of total despair entered their stomachs. A feeling neither had ever felt before. Even for Ruxandra who was a formidable fighter who had almost died on a few occasions at the blade of one of her marks.

“The prophecy goes on to state that, the child born of this human woman bore a birthmark of a star on her shoulder. It also reads that, every generation, such a child will be born from this bloodline. That each child will bare the birthmark of the Elder Ariyne. But here, here is what’s the most important of the prophecy.”

Sadhbba pointed to a portion of the scroll and handed it to the girls to read for themselves. “It states that when the generation of females stops, the evil will return once again to claim control of all realms. The only chance for survival for the humans as well as the Elders of Light is the return of Ariyne.”

Tatiana and Ruxandra just sat there. Words twirled their lips, but nothing could come out. They looked at each other with a puzzling look. They heard what Sadhbba had said, but they weren’t sure if they totally understood it. Was she saying the prophecy was coming true? No prophecy they’ve heard of has come true. It was all childrens stories to keep them in line. But this was a prophecy they had yet to hear until tonight.

Sadhbba saw the girl's uneasy feelings. She stood and walked over to a cupboard. From within, she pulled a bottle of wine and three glasses. Uncorking the years old drink, she poured a little in each glass, just enough to wet the lips and bring the girls back to now.

“The last part of the prophecy is a little confusing though.” Sadhbba quipped. Picking up the last scroll, she started murmuring as she read. “As it mentions the child born with the mark of Ariyne, it doesn’t mention twins anywhere.” Tatiana dropped her wine to the floor and Ruxandra started choking on hers. Coming to the aide of her sister, Tatiana began pounding Ruxandras back with clenched fist.

“What did you just say?” Ruxandra blurted.

“Calm child, calm.”

“You expect me to be calm when you’re telling us that were some sort of long forgotten prophecy to save the human race?”

Sadhbba took in a breath. She knew this was going to very hard for them to follow and understand. She kept reminding herself to be better prepared. But no matter how hard she tried, with all her wisdom and books, how does one tell a child they are here to save the world?

“Child, it’s not you who I speak of.” Sadhbba reaches out and grasps Tatiana’s hand. “It’s her. She is the one born with the mark of Ariyne. But you as well child are here to help. As she cannot do this alone. She is not ready. She is not a fighter like yourself. You must both go.”

Tatiana’s hand falls limp and escapes the hold of Sadhbba’s grasp. Stunned, she can’t feel anything. It’s as if the fear and despair from earlier has come back. A cold feeling in her stomach makes way to fire. Ruxandra is trying to pull her to her feet to leave, but she is limp. Why her? Why them? Was this the reason they were always treated differently from the others? Did the others know about this and keep it a secret? So many questions and no answers. All on the eve of her special day. Of their special day.

As Ruxandra and Sadhbba kept arguing, all got quiet outside. The elders gathered around the vardo. All others went to their vardo’s and locked up. Even The animals of the forest were silent. No one had ever spoken this way to Sadhbba. She was the leader of the Cymreige clan. She was an elder, one to be respected. However, from outside, it seems as if it was expected by her. As the argument hit fever pitch, everything was broken by a chilling shrill scream. The birds flew from their nests, the elders outside hid behind the nearest object. The argument had stopped.
Tatiana sat there crying. Tears flooded down her cheek. Her eyes swollen and red. Her voice no longer hers,  just a hoarse fragment of the sweet sound it used to be. Ruxandra starred in fright of her sister. She had never heard anything like that before. The look on Ruxandra’s face matched that of the feeling in her stomach.

The frail child that once was, just had her world ripped from her by the hands of some long forgotten prophecy. But it is a story she is familiar with. A part of her life that she has kept secret. Even from her own blood. She wished it weren’t true. However, now it seems the facts are laid out before her. She is the heir of Ariyne. She is an Elder unlike the elders she has come to love. Now the question is, will they still love her as they always have?
Chapter Two
The Dreams

The morning sun was just breaking the clouds. The nights fog was lifting and the woodland animals were on the move. By this time of morning, the entire clan was up and about. Making good of a hard days work, everyone had their chores to do, even the children.

Ruxandra and Tatiana even had theirs. Though today was their special day, they were not excused from their duties. However, it was made fit for all on their special day, that their load of work was lightened a bit. Today, the girls had to fetch water from the river and feed the livestock. A simple task, even for the children younger than them. At times, it was chores like this that most young adults and even the children wished for.

Since it was nearly fall, the grass was full green. The summer rains had given way to mostly cool days, unlike the hot and humid days of the summer. Even the nights were considerably more cooler this time of year. The forest was full of lush vegetation, the woodland creatures did their duties as well. Gathering food for the coming winter.

As the girls stood along the river bank, they stayed silent. They had not spoken a word to each other all morning. Some of the elders in camp shied away from them as they passed through on their morning journey. It’s as if they were some kind of outcast with in their own clan. The girls had been brought up by the elders as their own since their mom had passed during birth. It was part of the curse of the Elders. Every time a human woman gave birth to an heir of Ariyne, they passed during birth. This at times seemed drastic, however it was of two things. To keep the woman from seeing the true fate of her child and to keep the Elders from finding out.

Tatiana stood there with her bucket in hand, the other sitting next to her. She stared across the river watching a couple of raccoons gathering food. From time to time, they stopped and exchanged glances back. At one point, it was as if they were waving bye to her. A few fish jumped from the river to catch whatever bug was flying overhead and disappeared in a small splash. Everyone had their chores to do.

“You going to fill those buckets or what?” Ruxandra demanded. Her tone was harsher than usual. Even when she was mad at Tatiana for something, her tone didn’t normally sound this brass.

“Yeah.” Tatiana whispered to herself.

Bending over, Tatiana slid the buckets one by one into the cool water of the river. The Rilia river ran across the entire realm. It started in the mountains of Marquiessa and flowed all the way to the Ocean of Athokrho. Along the river sat many small towns and villages, but they were outweighed by the number of larger cities. The port city of Marquis could handle all the population of the villages and towns along the Rilia river and then some. It was a river that the girls had seen from start to finish in their eighteen years of living.

Ruxandra stood there with both of her buckets. She watched as Tatiana lifelessly filled up her second bucket. “These aren’t getting any lighter you know.”

Tatiana snapped her head. The look she gave Ruxandra would be deemed a curse by any other means. But at this age, the children were not taught such things. She stood and threw her bucket down, water flowing everywhere. All over the front of Ruxandra.

“What do you want from me?” Tatiana screamed.

She knew Ruxandra had just as many questions as she had. But she had something that her sister did not. Dreams of what was to come. Or at least fleeting visions. She knew she was the chosen one of the prophecy's long ago. But she dared not say anything, even to her sister. Tatiana didn’t know how the others would react. More so, she didn’t want to be called a foolish child. Though many gypsies believe in their dreams and use them as guides, these types of dreams are usually the remnants of bedtime stories told to children.

Ruxandra’s mouth dropped. Her sister never raised her voice like that to her. Even when they did argue over petty issues. The tone of her voice wasn’t even her’s.

“I, I didn’t mean to be,”

“I’m sorry.” Tatiana cut her off.

“It’s just that last night. What was that?”

“Our future.” Tatiana sat down. “Come here, I want to show you something.”

Ruxandra set her buckets down, not taking her eye off her sister. What was she doing? What was she thinking? It seemed last night scared her more than it did Ruxandra.

Clasping Tatiana’s hand, Ruxandra kneeled. “What is it? Are you okay?”

“Not really. But there’s something you need to know, that I haven’t told you.”

Ruxandra had an empty feeling creep upon her. She did not like where this conversation seemed to be going. She sat and crossed her legs, never letting go of Tatiana’s hands.

“Okay, what is it?”

“First please don’t be mad at me. I haven’t known what to do until last night.”


“For awhile now, I’ve been having these dreams. Dreams I can’t explain. It’s like those stories we used to get read at night as children were coming true. At least in my dreams.”

Ruxandra smiled, “We all have those sweet sister.

“Not like these. I can smell and feel everything that happens. Theres been times that I’ve awoke to find parts of my dreams in bed with me. Be it cloth or paper. Things I can’t explain or get else where. I would hide them before anyone could find them. Then there’s this.”

Releasing her hands from Ruxandra’s grip, Tatiana stood. She looked across the river to the raccoons and smiled. She slowly tilted her head as if to get a better view. Mimicking the movements she did last night by the bonfire, there was a sharp pitch squeal followed by one of the racoons appearing into Tatiana’s hands.

Ruxandra fell backward and scrambled to get to her feet. “What in the name of the gods.”

“I’ve been able to for this for awhile now. But I don’t know how. At least not until last night and Madame Sadhbba.” Tatiana set the racoon down and watched it hurry away.

Speechless, Ruxandra backed away a bit and turned. Running her hands through her long mane of crimson hair, so many thoughts just flooded her mind. Her sister has been practicing magick without permission from the elders? Seems possible, as Tatiana always likes to learn knew things. No way could last nights foray be true. How could it?

“Rux…” Tatiana grabbed her systems arm, only to be shoved away. “Please. I don’t know what to do and you're the only one,”

“The only what? I’m your sister Tatiana. You kept this from me why? You’ve been teaching yourself magick haven’t you?” Her voiced raised.

“No never. I would never.”

“Well, you’ve been doing something. You and those books you like to read all the time.”

Tears started to well up in Tatian’s eyes. Even her own sister doesn’t believe her. But why should she? She kep a secret from her. Something that as young children, both of them had taken a personal oath not to do. “Why don’t you believe me?” she cried.

Tatiana was strong, Ruxandra knew this. Though she was not a fighter like herself, Ruxandra knew that Tatiana had inner strength to match some of the best fighters she had met. Not often would Tatiana cry, not even when facing broken bones or loss of friends and very seldom would she look so broken as she does now. Reaching for Tatiana, Ruxandra grasped her shoulders. “Okay, tell me everything. And I mean everything.”

Hiding in the brush in the distance, Sadhbba watched quietly as the girls sought out their differences. She could only fear for their well being. She knew this day would come, but she hoped that it would have been some other girl. A girl that Sadhbba did not think of as her own child.

The night the twins were born, the storms raged outside. Sadhbba knew this was going to be a difficult birth. As birthing twins always is. Collicha, the twins mother had been in labor for days. But it would be the night of no moon, a sacred day to the gypsies, the day of the scorpion, that the heir to Ariyne would be born.

Ruxandra came first. Of the two births, she seemed to be the easiest. When it was time, she came into the world kicking and screaming. A natural born fighter. About an hour passed before Tatiana made her debut. However this was very difficult for Collicha. At times, her screams echoed that of wolves on the hunt.

When Tatiana finally came out, there was no crying, no noise. At first everyone in the room had thought she was still born. But in fact, she was sleeping. Tatiana opened her little mouth and yawned, bringing slight laughter and the release of stress to the room of Collicha’s vardo. Normally to a gypsy, when a child is born, they can tell how that child will grow. What type of person they will be. For Ruxandra, Sadhbba knew she was going to be a fighter. She would be unruly growing up and defy the orders of her elders. But it would also make her a formidable woman of the clan. As for Tatiana, silence usually meant intelligence. Someone with wisdom and inner strength that few possed. It was very rare that a gypsy child was born that slept through the ordeal.
As Sadhbba  was cleaning off Tatiana in the back of the vardo, a commotion started in the front. She took child in hand, still wiping the blood away. Collicha was losing large amounts of blood and they couldn’t stop it. Sadhbba began barking orders. As she turned Tatiana over to wipe off the last bit of blood, Sadhbba froze. For on the shoulder of the little one, was a birthmark in the form of a star. Sadhbba knew what this meant. There had not been a child born in the Cymreige clan before that had bore this mark. Sadhbba felt overcome by both fear and joy. Though it was just a prophecy, it had been many millenium.

Sadhbba slowly walked over to the table where Collicha lay being attended by midwives. She could tell the pain Collicha was in was far greater than before. She could also see the spark in her eyes diminishing. She held Tatiana up for her mom to see her little face. Collicha was able to bring a smile through the pain. Tears flowed down her cheeks and mixed with the sweat in her hair. Sadhbba held fast as she turned the child around, showing all the mark of Ariyne. The room went eerily quiet for a moment. Collicha started shaking her head, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Suddenly the silence was broken by a loud shrill scream from Collicha. Following the scream, her breath began to labor and her eyes were closing. In a blink of an eye, it was over. The heir of Ariyne was born and like the prophecy had foretold, the human woman had passed.

Sadhbba turned just as Ruxandra and Tatiana embraced. Like always, their differences were solved. A smile escaped her lips. Though it hurt her inside, she knew the day the girl was born of the possibility. But it wasn’t until the twins six birthday and the news she had received about no more females being born in any clan nor to any outsider, that she knew what was coming ahead.

The twins giggled as they stood. Ruxandra wiped away the tears from Tatiana’s face. As she reached in to give her sister a kiss , Tatiana embraced her with more strength that she knew she had.  She could still feel the fear in her sibling. Though she just learned of everything, she was still wary.  The girls grabbed their buckets and filled them with fresh water and began their trip back to camp. The trip was a little more joyful than the trip out. After all, it was their day., regardless of some long forgotten prophecy.

As the siblings entered camp, it was bustling around. Midday was here and the others were preparing for tonight's festivities. Though everyone knew the fate of the twins was preordained by the gods, they still had tradition to keep with.

“Happy Birthday Tati, Ruxi.” squealed a little girl as she handed them both some wild flowers from the field on the other side of the camp. The siblings kneeled down and accepted the flowers, giving the girl a hug. A smile crossed both of their faces, something that had been short for most of the day.

Taking the water to the collection bucket, they emptied their chores and began to head to the makeshift stalls. They were getting smiles and waves and congratulations the entire time. It seemed a bit much at moments, as they knew what everyone else did. Plus the fact that Sadhbba had told them last night they wouldn’t be celebrating as the others did. They still had no idea what that meant. But in time they were sure they would be filled in. In the mean time, they had work to do that was required.

As night set in, the festivities had been underway all day. Everyone had eaten well, wines passed around like childs toys. It was a festival, a celebration of rite of passage. The men played cheerful and joyous music as the woman danced. Everyone danced. Two young men had taken the hands of the twins and led them out to dance around the fire. Laughing and clapping, the folk of the Cymreige clan were having a grand time.

“I’m exhausted, I need to sit a spell.” Tatiana said smiling.

“Your such a wimp sister.” laughed Ruxandra as she twirled around with her dance partner.

Tatiana sat on a bench, wiped the sweat off her brow. She grabbed her glass of wine and sipped slowly, looking around camp. She couldn’t help but notice how everyone knew what was happening, but they didn’t show it. Everyone was having a grand time. Smiling, she took another sip. A small flash of light caught her eye and she turned, she saw Sadhbba walk out of her vardo. Her hands started to tremble and she set her glass down.

She watched as Sadhbba  made her way slowly over toward the fire. The music still playing, people still dancing. She didn’t know what was happening, did anyone? Though she had a small idea, she was not one to jump to conclusions. Sadhbba was handed a glass by another elder and filled it with wine. Sipping, she smiled and glanced around camp.  She took up conversation with many, not something often seen. As very seldom did Sadhbba  leave the confines of her vardo. If she did, no one ever saw her. Especially during celebrations like this.

As the song started to come to an end, Sadhbba made her way over toward the men. They nodded their heads in her presence as she stood there listening. At the end of the song, everyone, including Sadhbba  clapped and cheered. The men stood and moved toward the other side of the fire. Sadhbba  took a stand and faced her people.

“My family,” she said with a smile. “Tonight is joyous. We have two things to celebrate this eve.”

Joyous to who thought Tatiana, as Ruxandra sat next to her. She could see a worried look on her sister, like she had been feeling all day, even through all of the smiles she put on.

“Today we celebrate the rite of passage for Ruxandra and Tatiana Cymreige. Two young ladies, who have filled our hearts with both joy and compassion. Two spirits so entwined yet so different. Girls please?” Sadhbba waved her hand for the girls to take place on either side of her.

Slowly, the girls made their way across the camp to stand next to Sadhbba. Along the way, they received praise and applaud. As most of this was normal for this type of celebration, however both girls knew there was more to it. They all did.

Wrapping her arms around the girls, Sadhbba continued. “As you all know, eighteen years ago, these ladies were given to us by the elder gods. We all know the stories of the prophecies and how one day it would be fulfilled. Well, that time is now.”

There was a burst of cheer from the rest of the camp. The girls tried to hide their fear, but Sadhbba  could feel them shaking. She knew she was about to throw two children into complete uncertainty.

“Tonight marks the beginning of one long journey into another. A time when futures are uncertain and wills will be tested and tried. Standing here tonight, before us, is not just one, but two heirs of Ariyne.”

The twins looked up at Sadhbba with a confused look. A gasp of confusion took over the camp as well. What was she saying? The prophecy only spoke of one heir.

“Something has puzzled me all these years family. It wasn’t until last night that I received word by raven that confirmed my research. Ruxandra, Tatiana, please remove your tops.”

Now the girls were really confused. They stared at each other. None of this made any sense. Slowly, the girls did as asked, removing their tops and covering their breasts with their arms. The fire danced over their olive skin, making it glisten. Goosebumps started coming as the slight chill in the evening air hit their skin. Tatiana lowered her head as if she was being shamed for something she had not done. Ruxandra stood there like a tree, her gazed fixed on their vardo. Slowly, Sadhbba turned each one around until their back were facing the fire.

The sudden gasp let out by the clan startled the girls. The star birthmark on Tatiana reflected itself to the opposite shoulder of Ruxandra, where all these years there was no mark. For that matter, no birthmark could ever be found on Ruxandra. Two true heirs to Ariyne. They quickly turned and hid behind Sadhbba, only peeking their heads around her arms.

“It’s okay girls, put your tops back on.” Tears began to well up in the twins eyes. They hastily put their tops on, staying behind Sadhbba.

“Please family,” Sadhbba continued. “Let’s continue this joyous celebration. Let wish Ruxandra and Tatiana our best wishes on their journey.” The members of the Cymreige clan all cheered. They all knew they may never see the twins again. They knew their fate rested in the hands of these two girls. What better time for a celebration. And prayer.

Sadhbba led the girls to her vardo, holding each one as close as she could the entire way. Once inside, Sadhbba handed each girl a glass of wine. Taking seats, they waited for her to return from the back. With her, she carried a large ,weather beaten leather bound book. Sadhbba grabbed her ink well and quill from the table and sat across the frightened children. As she began writing on parchment, the twins sat there in silence. They didn’t look at each other, say anything, not so much as a throat clearing. The nursed their wine as if they’ve had their fill for a lifetime.

“Here. It’s crude I know, but it will have to do.” Sadhbba handed the parchment to Ruxandra. “It’s a map to get you started.”
Sadhbba opened the large bound book and flipped a few pages. “This book goes into much greater detail than the others do. Now, according to this,” She was cut off by the outbreak of Tatiana’a crying.

“There, there. All will be fine. You will do what you must and return to us.”

The words had no effect on the feeling of fear of either girl. Neither one knew what was in front of them yet.

“According to the research I’ve been doing this last fortnight, Ariyne had a weapon of her own called Honors Call. However, these pages do not give a description of it. From this passage, once you have located this Honors Call, you must perform Ariyne’s birth chant in order to gain the power from this weapon. That is all I know.”

Ruxandra didn’t seem to pleased. If that’s all the information that they had to go with, than what ever lay in front of them had a big advantage. “So where do we find this Honor’s Call?” Ruxandra asked.

“Honestly child, I do not know. none of the books say. But there is one person who may. The map, it shows you the way to Gaira the witch. She is located in the Wetlands.”

Tatiana’s eyes went wide. As a child the bedtime stories were sometimes things just made up to poke fun of non gypsies. But others, others were more horrid and caused nightmares. There were a few that were centered around the Wetlands. A place even the Cymreige clan never traveled.  

Sadhbba put the book down and pulled Tatiana in close to her. Hugging her, brushing her hair from her face.

“I love you both as if your my own, that I had given birth to you. I know there is much uncertainty ahead. I know you're both very afraid. Ruxandra, you have the power of a great warrior within you. You’re combat smart and fierce. And Tatiana my sweet, you have a strong will, you possess great wisdom and intellect. Not to mention that little trick you can do.” she smiled.

Tatiana raised her head in curious fashion, locking gazes with Sadhbba.

How, how did you know?”

“I’ve always known child. I was always there when your nightmares came. I would watch you from afar, like this morning.”

Tatiana sat up and wiped the tears from her face. She looked at Ruxandra, who then wiped away her tears. Who would have thought, that two small girls, gypsies at that, were here to help save mankind from some unknown force that was only known about in stories.

“As long as you both take care of each other, all will be fine.” Sadhbba reassured them. “Watch each others backs and think before you act.”

Sadhbba stood and put the book on the table. “Come.” she reached her hands out for the girls. “I had Dormi pack your bags and ready a cart. We’ll go out the back as to avoid the camp. We don’t need to cause you any more heartache then you have already.”

Sadhbba led them through the vardo to the back door just around from her sleeping quarters. The girls were in so much grief, they didn’t realize they’ve never seen this part of the vardo before. Not to mention the massed collection of art hanging on the walls. Or the portraits of each them as little children next to Sadhbba’s bed.

Stepping down out of the vardo, Dormi waited with a slight smile. He helped each one down and led them to the cart just a few feet away. The music could be heard as well as the cheers and laughter of celebration. Though as joyous as it was over there, it wasn’t enough to calm the twins.

Settled into the cart, Ruxandra took the reins for the horses. “Here, take this. It’s some money to help you along the way.”Sadhbba said softly.

“Thank you madame” replied Ruxandra.

“Please child. Call me Sadhbba. You’ve earned the right to.”

“Thank you Sadhbba.” Ruxandra could barely get the words out a second time.

Tatiana jumped out of the cart and ran to Sadhbba and threw her arms around her and squeezed as tight as she could. “We will be back.” she whispered. A smile crossed the lips of Sadhbba. Turning, Tatiana climbed back into the cart and settled in. A new life’s journey was about to begin and where it took her and her sister, only the map they had would tell.  Ruxandra snapped the reins and the horses started trotting. Slowly they pulled away from the camp. From their home that they’ve spent all their years growing up in. As they made their way down the trail in the dark, the music slowly faded off into the background. The only sounds left were the horses clops and the occasional night owl.

Their lives were now beginning. Sisters of Cymreige. Heirs of Ariyne, to save the mankind from something.


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