|The Esacha Fen|
Designed by Kostia
Lifespan: 30 minutes
Medium Groups: 20-24
Large Groups: 16-20
In one corner of the meeting hall, Pater Jeypaz stood still. He was looking at a stained and faded portrait of his great-grandfather. Somewhere, in the back of his greying mind, was a memory of this man dandling him on his knee, and a feeling, a sense, of a gnarled and timeworn hand holding his own.
"It must be eighty years since then," muttered the gypsy elder to himself, looking at his own hand, which was now as twisted and knotted as any ancient tree in the swamp outside. He clutched his ledger and walked back toward his chair in the council chamber to prepare for the meeting.
After taking two unsteady steps up onto the dais, he had a clear view of the hall, and he could see those of his community who had chosen to attend. He remembered a time when the meeting hall rang with conversation and laughter, when children played in one corner while their parents made decisions on trade and security. A time when barges came up the canal from Enara every few hours instead of every week, when gypsies were born in the fen and spent their whole lives here. A time before.
In one corner of the fen, Yamka was anything but still. She was dancing on her toes, spinning around with the grace of the ballerina she was pretty sure she'd been once. People were cheering for her. Somewhere, in the back of her perfume-addled mind, was a memory of a mirror showing an old woman, a mirror that showed a round and wrinkled face with more than one chin. But that was someone else. She was young. She'd always been young.
"I wonder how Yaxley is," she said to no one in particular, draping a faded lace shawl around herself. "He must be nearly grown now." She could remember the time when she'd brought her son into the world. A time when he'd shown everyone that his talent as an artist was as great as hers as a dancer. A time when they'd made the best fruit salad for miles around. A time when there were so many barges coming in that you could get bananas and papayas all year. A time before.
In one corner of his barge cabin, a gypsy musician sat still. He was playing a love song, singing quietly as his long, narrow fingers trailed across the keys of his treasured harpsichord. The sheet music sat in front of him, though he no longer needed to read it. This song played in his heart every day. He no more needed a map of his own face than the notes and words of this song.
"The night the wind took us, the night of the clouds..." he sang quietly, watching his hands on the keys, their light touch drawing music from the ivory and wood. He stopped playing for a moment and traced the elaborate carving on the harpsichord with one finger, caressing the instrument as though it was the face of a loved one.
He could remember a time when they'd laughed, working on the barge, enjoying living in this part of the fen, watching the canal traders come and go. A time when the trees had been beautiful, not menacing, and when the occasional glimpse of sky through the canopy had been the promise of a new day, not a sad reminder of brightness long lost. A time before.
In the fen, Melaluca stood still. She smiled beneficently at the orchids and dragonflies. She could remember nothing.
In the cemetery, Gismonda was anything but still. She talked to the other spirits, she listened to the dreams of the gypsies in the fen, and she heard the cries and chants and curses of the ones out on the canal. She remembered a time when Enara and Esacha had been two sides of the same coin, when every bargeowner came here to raise a family, to make repairs to their crafts before going back out to trade. Of course, some still did. A few still lived here, a few had even moved here recently, but she could see farther than they could, almost to the end.
"It would have been a beautiful painting," she said to Alphonse.
In the cemetery, Jaroslava sat still. She was sulking. Every so often, between her usual daily tasks of muttering softly to herself and complaining about her lot in life--her lot in death--she reached down into the overgrown grass and attempted to pick up a piece of broken stone, only to watch her fingers pass through it. Somewhere, in the back of her slightly maddened mind, was a memory of this stone being whole, of white marble engraved with her name.
"Some remembrance this is," she said to the fence, looking at her hand, through her hand, at the spirits who wandered the cemetery. She envied them. They could go where they pleased, as she saw it, greeting each other like friends and steering clear of her own cursed grave as if she were some sort of pariah.
She could remember a time when she'd been the belle of every ball. A time when there had been balls to be the belle of. A time when Gismonda was off making her way across the stages of the world, and there was no one here to overshadow Jaroslava. A time when every young man for miles around, even the ones who weren't gypsies from Enara, would come to call on her. A time before Gismonda had come back and ruined everything. A time long, long before.
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