Saturday, February 2, 2013

Raggle Taggle Gypsy

I know, I haven't posted in a long while. I've been very busy... but to make it up to you, here's a short story I wrote. It was based off a prompt from one of my very good friends, Extreme Reader: listen to a song you haven't listened to in a while, and write a short story based off of it.

This is mine. The song is "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" by Celtic Thunder, which I posted in the beginning of this post. Here is the story.


Conleth awoke to a pounding at his hall door. He looked around, noting that he had fallen asleep writing poetry again. Sighing, he descended the stairs and went to the front door. His wife, Amalie—who had been reading a few feet away—timidly followed.
Grumbling, Conleth wrenched open the door. Three Gypsies were on the stoop, standing straight and tall, fire in their eyes and gold earrings in their ears.
Before Conleth could tell the Gypsy men to leave, they started to sing. It was the haunting melody of the Gypsy songs, accompanied only by the silver flute that one man played. One of the men had a very deep voice, while the other sang with a higher pitch. Conleth watched without interest, knowing that if he didn’t hear the beggars out, they would simply make a racket all night.
When the song finished, the Gypsy playing the flute peered at Conleth. Conleth was only able to notice the Gypsy’s eyes—piercing and eerie, like twin blue flames. His hair was black as coal, and he wore a scarlet sash around his waist.
"I am Rian. Can you spare some gold for three weary travelers?" the flute player, his voice quiet.
Fidgeting, Conleth cast a glance over his shoulder. Amalie was watching, her wide eyes fixed with wonder on the Gypsy who had spoken. Her lips moved as she murmured the last few words of the song.
"No," Conleth snapped, scowling at the Gypsies. "Leave us be, you wandering curs."
"As you wish." Rian flicked his wrist, gesturing to his two companions, who then turned and vanished into the darkness. Rian lingered a few moments longer, gazing not at Conleth but at Amalie.
"Go, be on your way!" Conleth barked. Rian gave him a placid look, then turned and disappeared into the night.
The next day, Conleth was away on business. Amalie and the servants were the only ones left in the household.
"Milady?" one of the maids asked hesitantly.
Amalie paused before answering, putting on the leather suit she used for riding. "What is it, Meela?"
"Where are you going?"
Amalie looked around, peering out the window and then the door before replying. "Can you keep a secret, Meela?"
"Yes, milady…" Meela said.
"I’m running away," Amalie proclaimed.
"To find that Gypsy man again?"
Amalie stared at her maid. "How did you figure that out?"
"It was not hard to guess, the way you both looked at each other last night," Meela murmured, diverting her eyes.
"Don’t tell a soul, you hear?" Amalie commanded. When Meela agreed, Amalie turned and left the room.
Meela remained silent until her mistress left the house entirely. But then several of the other servants demanded to know what was happening. Meela caved in, telling them everything.
A hushed whisper ran through the group of servants in the hall: Amalie was running away to live with the Gypsies.
Conleth heaved a weary sigh, hanging his coat up on a hook by the hall door. He went into the kitchen and sat down at the table with a huge yawn. A woman quickly brought him his supper and then hurried away.
As he ate, it occurred to Conleth that something—or, rather, someone—was missing. He looked about for one of the servants. His gaze fell onto a young man eating his supper in the corner. It was one of the stable boys.
"Lorne? Come here, will you?" Conleth said.
The young man, whose name was Lorne, jerked his head up to face Conleth. He hesitated before getting to his feet and walking over. "Yes, milord?"
"Where is Amalie this evening? She’s normally here to greet me when I return from one of my trips?"
Lorne’s face paled. "I—" He stammered for a few seconds, his hands trembling slightly.
"Out with it, boy!" Conleth snapped.
"She—" Lorne licked his lips. "She went…" Unable to bear Conleth’s furious gaze a moment longer, the stable boy turned and fled the room.
Conleth shoved his chair away from the table and stood up. "Everyone come in here this instant!" he roared.
Within minutes, any servant within earshot came running. Conleth glared at them for a long moment before saying with deadly quietness, "Where is Amalie?"
Silence greeted him, and he repeated the question, louder this time.
One of the servant girls—Meela, that was her name—tentatively stepped forward. "She… she ran away, milord."
"Ran away?" Conleth exploded. Then, realizing that he would get no answers if he terrified all the servants, he added more quietly, "Where?"
"She’s away with the Gypsies, milord."
Conleth sat down, stunned. Then the shock faded, replaced with overwhelming anger. He leapt to his feet again and stalked outside.
"Lorne, saddle my white steed," Conleth ordered.
The towheaded stable boy, still watching Conleth fearfully, rushed to do the bidding. Soon he came out, leading a milk-white stallion behind him.
Conleth swung himself up and into the saddle. "I’ll find Amalie and those traitorous Gypsies," he vowed.
He urged his horse forward. It whickered and galloped forward.
He rode for many days without seeing a sign of his wife or the Gypsies. Conleth was no tracker, and searching for anything larger than a quill pen was nigh impossible for him.
Conleth rode in all directions of the wind, becoming angrier and more frantic as time progressed.
One day, he came to a wide, open field. At first, his eyes skimmed quickly over it, instinctively expecting to find nothing. But then he turned his head sharply.
There, among wildflowers and long grass, was the Gypsy caravan. Upon closer inspection, he could see red-haired Amalie talking with another Gypsy—the pale-eyed, dark-haired Gypsy from nights before.
Conleth spurred his horse forward. One way or another, blood would be spilled this day.
The Gypsies spotted him coming long before he reached their caravan. Amalie leapt to her feet with a cry.
Rian took her by the hand. Without saying a word, he led her to one of the wagons and pushed her behind it.
"Stay here, and do not move," Rian whispered. "I shall handle this."
"Don’t kill him, please," Amalie begged. "His heart is in the right place, he just—"
"As you wish." Rian squeezed her hand once, then turned and strode out to the campfire. Several Gypsy men gathered around him. The women and children stayed back, watching with inquisitive eyes.
Conleth halted a few yards away from the Gypsies, dismounting. "Give Amalie back to me, you worthless curs!" he spat.
A few of the Gypsies laughed among themselves. They hushed when Rian stepped forward, tall and proud.
"She made the choice on her own. We did not steal her away." Rian tilted his head to one side to study Conleth. His gold earring glinted in the sun. "If you try to take her with you, she will not come willingly."
"Pah! You’ve put her under some Gypsy spell," Conleth growled, stalking forward a few steps.
Rian remained motionless. "Not only will you face resistance from her, but you will also have to get past me." His voice was quiet, but held an edge to it.
"You and me. No interference from them." Conleth jerked his head towards the other Gypsies.
At this, several men laughed. This man who so boldly challenged Rian would not stand a chance in the fight—Conleth was portly and already sported many gray hairs.
But Rian simply nodded once, the ghost of a smile on his face. "As you wish." He turned. "You heard the man. No stepping in to aid me during the duel."
A murmur of agreement passed through the crowd now standing in the field. Rian, satisfied, faced Conleth and unsheathed a slim-bladed sword. "Do you have a weapon, or did you plan on hand-to-hand combat?"
In answer, Conleth went over to his horse and pulled a shortsword from the saddlebag. He took it from its sheath and brandished it, a fierce scowl set on his face.
Rian raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure that’s your weapon of choice? It seems rather… well, rather small."
Conleth merely glared in response.
"Very well." Rian moved forward until he was only three paces away from Conleth. "Are you ready?"
Receiving only a glare for his question, Rian decided to continue. "Right, then. Commence."
As soon as the words left his lips, Conleth lunged forward with a furious shout. Rian easily sidestepped, sending Conleth stumbling off balance.
A roar of laughter flowed through the throng of Gypsies standing near the caravan. Rian simply grinned, graciously waiting for his opponent to stand up.
"You’ll have to be quicker than that," Rian pointed out.
Heartbeats later, the two swords clashed together with a metallic hiss. Rian held his grip for a few moments longer, then jerked away. Conleth paid no mind, doggedly approaching Rian and attacking yet again.
The battle went on for several minutes. Dusk began to fall, casting a faded haze over the field. Finally, the moment Rian had been waiting for arrived.
Conleth’s last reserves of energy dissolved. In the middle of another lunge towards Rian, he tripped and fell to his knees. His shortsword skidded away through the waving grass. When Conleth looked up, his expression of fury had melted into one of horror.
Rian advanced to stand over Conleth. The Gypsy’s sword raised, the blade glinting in the setting sun.
A cry interrupted the murmuring of the Gypsies. "No! Don’t!"
Rian cast a glance over his shoulder. Amalie was running towards them. Upon seeing her, Rian lowered his sword and took a step back. Amalie stopped next to him, placing a hand on his arm.
"Don’t," she repeated, her blue eyes showing her fear.
Rian nodded slowly, re-sheathing his sword. He turned back to Conleth, who still lay on the ground, panting. "I made a promise to Amalie not to kill you, and I shan’t. But be warned—I will not show you such mercy a second time, if you continue to pursue us."
Conleth opened his mouth to protest. "I—" He cut himself off, and then turned pleading eyes onto Amalie. "Amalie… please…"
She shook her head adamantly. "No, Conleth. I don’t love you, and I never have. Please respect my choice. Go back home; I do not wish you to be hurt."
"But—" Conleth broke off, his breathing becoming shakier.
Rian stared down at Conleth for a moment, and then turned. He took Amalie’s hand and led her back towards the caravan. As he passed by the crowd of Gypsies, he gave two of them orders to make sure Conleth left.
When night fell, a milk-white steed was returning to its home, carrying a crestfallen man on its back. Back at the field, campfires were lit and music began to play. Flutes trilled and violins sang out. The Gypsies who did not play instruments danced around the campfires. A few men told stories to the children.
From that moment on, the folk in Amalie’s old town would tell the story of a beautiful young woman who ran away with the Gypsies. Some find it a romantic and exciting tale. Others use it as a warning.
Never trust the Gypsies. Charming, sly, and mysterious, they never fail to catch the attention of adventure-seeking youths.

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