“You!” Abigail’s voice came out in a shocked hiss.
Gideon smiled, trying to avoid exposing his incisors. He knew that made him look slightly demented. He knew he was, of course, but he didn’t want to give that impression to the girl. Not right now, anyways.
“I see you recognize me.” He smiled again.
“You were following me! Who are you?” She backed up, and immediately bumped into someone, strange hands grabbing her tightly on her arms. She suddenly noticed that the small makeshift courtyard within the square of caravans had filled impossibly full with people. She saw a tall slim woman with wild hair, wearing barely anything except colourful tattoos from her ankles to her collarbones, and a thin wiry man who had a sword stuck in the dirt and was holding onto its pommel as if it was a walking stick. Next to him, was a man with a chest as wide as a tree, and a neck as thick as a large branch. He wore a loin cloth of what looked to be made of some kind of thick brown fur, and an almost matching beard.
Abigail wondered if he ever caught his beard on fire. In the loincloth were stuck two large sticks that she realized were unlit torches, because the man was holding a burning one in his left hand, like a giant match.
They had managed to encircle her, and the strange man in black. She was trapped.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of, my dear,” Gideon said, speaking slowly. He took a hesitant step forward as if she were an animal that would bolt if you moved too quickly. “Before we get to introductions, can I ask a question?”
Abigail stared at him.
“Has a girl been to see you? A girl in trousers and a young man?”
Abigail had been looking at something, looking away, looking through, not really seeing. She was thinking. But his question brought her back. “What? What on earth are you talking about?”
Gideon studied her face. It looked like she was telling the truth.
“A girl hasn’t come, asking about…your gift?”
Abigail shook her head fiercely, dark greasy hair flying.
A wolverine. The image came to him. Her long dark hair was wild and mussed, and it looked like she wanted to lash out, with anything available to her hands, teeth. But he knew she could lash out with something even more powerful, and he wanted to see it. A woman with stained and broken teeth grabbed her and held her tight and smiled at Gideon – a mixture of fear and respect warring on her face.
He bowed, low and theatrical, bringing a hand to his chest and swinging another out behind him. “I am Gideon Hendry,” he smiled even more widely as he saw her start at mention of his name. Her name. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Abigail Hendry,” he emphasized her name again. They were tied with that name. He wasn’t sure exactly how she was related to him, a niece or something of the sort. But they were related.
“I hear you can do something remarkable,” he said, again speaking slowly, as if to a young child.
Abigail shook her head. “No.”
Gideon raised a thin eyebrow. “No?”
“It’s not remarkable. Something is remarkable if it’s good. And this is most definitely not good.”
“Well, I think it’s a pretty nifty trick,” he gestured to the assembled onlookers. “And I think these fine ladies and gentlemen would think so too. And I’ve been told you can give us a demonstration, with this lovely lady over there,” he swung an arm in the direction of Jenna. Abigail turned and saw that only her face was peeking from the doorway of the caravan now, and that quickly disappeared as all eyes turned to her. “Though, if I’m being honest, and really, I always am, honest as in blunt, that is,” a laugh burst loudly from him, “your little playmate is looking a little worse for wear, I must say. So I think this demonstration of your abilities can’t come too soon. I think she’d be better off…this new way. Don’t you?” He turned eyes that gleamed like copper pennies to her and she shivered under his gaze.
She glanced at the man that was to be her saviour. The one that looked like a rack of bones covered in skin, and she wondered briefly how on earth a man like that could swallow such a long sword. She let her eyes rove across the mostly assortment of carnival professionals, though she knew now that they were really nothing more than con men (and women) and nothing like the brightly coloured circus performers in her favourite book.
She tried to sound dejected and resigned but she felt just the opposite. An unnatural excitement fizzed through her veins. If she and Jenna could pull this off… it would be the end of her imprisonment, and the start of a new life. The life of a girl in charge of the undead. The only one in the world. She would be unique. She would be memorable. She wouldn’t be the scared little girl that would run away at the tiniest hint that she had don’t something to make her father mad, or interrupt his work on his precious wolves.
“A new life,” she muttered, a smile beginning to tug at the corners of her mouth.
“What was that?” Gideon leaned in, a hand bent around his ear.
She lowered her voice, and tried to sound despondent, as if she had given up, as if she were under their control.
“I said okay.” She lowered her gaze, but then raised it, trying to look as timid as she could. That look was second nature to her, and she pulled it off gloriously. “But I’ll need some things before I can get started. It’s not easy, what I do.”
Gideon’s mouth turned down in a scowl, and he sighed, irritated. “No, it never is, is it?” He waved a hand in annoyance. “Fine, what is it you need to carry this out?”
Abigail smiled, and tried not to let the truth out in it, like a beacon. But then her smile faltered, the light dimming. It wasn’t what she needed, it was what Jenna needed to do magic!
“I’ll need a table. And a cloth to cover it, uh, her. And a sword. No, two swords.”
This time both Gideon’s eyebrows rose. “Two swords?”
“Yes.” She tried to sound as confident and decisive as she could. “Two swords, I need two.” She could see his eyes glaze over, he was getting bored and impatient already. He waved a hand at her. “Okay, fine. Two swords, whatever is required. How soon will you be able to do this?”
She looked up at the sky, willing some answer from the heavens. The sun had just begun to rise. “Once the sun is right above us.” That would give her and Jenna a few hours to work on their plan.