There was a light rain falling on the grassy hills of the gypsy camp. The rain never ceased in the north. The night’s fire smothered to smoke, the embers grey and glowing orange. The sun was rising as were the first to wake. Among the first to greet the sunrise, was a vixen fox slinking across the fields to her den in the wood where her pups waited for food. The larks scavenged the earth for their first meal. In the camp, the few farm animals were being cared for by their humans. The cows were milked, the hens were fed and their eggs were collected. The sheep and goats lazily grazed in the meadow.
Tents and wagons were set up along the tree line; all facing out towards the little villages in the valley at the bottom of the hill. There were two tents against the treeline. One housed two people and the other housed a maiden, and her cat.
In the maiden’s tent, the ground was blanketed by animal skins. Tapestries and drawings hung with dried flowers and feathers. The girl lay asleep in her bed, her black cat curled in a ball at the girl’s neck. She was too long for her cot, her dirty feet hung off the edge. She had long wild hair.
The girl opened her tired hazel eyes. Despite retiring to her bed early the night before, she could not sleep. She hadn’t been able to sleep well in a year. And now that she was one of the champion fighters of the Gypsy carnival, she was exhausted, always.
Reegan stretched her arms above her head, her back arched and her toes curled as she yawned. The cat groaned in protest, he flipped his head and pawed at her face, asking her to come back. “Good morning Wynny.” She scruffed up his fur in between his ears. He sweetly pressed his head into her hand, and then just as quick ferociously stuck grabbed her arm with his claws and gnawed on her thumb. Reegan climbed out of her cot; the hem of her nightgown brushed the top of her ankles.
The gypsies had treated them well. They were given food, shelter, family. They had a good life, living in tents and moving on village to village; their life was different than what it would have been. Compared to a life full of magic, sky ships, science, and a warring country; they were living like kings, they were free. Though these were memories and experiences she would never know.
At the age of nineteen Reegan had already seen much of HalidrainUlith. Reegan knew the world or as much as she had seen of it she knew. She floated the river Nine, she climbed the desert mountains, and she saw the giant white trees of the Aryn forest. If she could, she would have loved to live along the shores of the Reverent Sea. The skies were moody with change and the ocean had an ebb and flow, like a roar of crashing waves but had a peaceful nature Reegan adored. It was a cherished dream of hers to live there one day.
Reegan pushed past her tent opening and quietly stepped over to her parent’s dwelling. They were still asleep. Her hadame was on his stomach. His long dark hair was graying and his face displayed the wares of age and worry. His back was bare, but for the scars spreading down his back like the poison from a spider. Chunks of muscle were missing and his tattoos were no longer recognizable. His lower wings rested outstreched. Reegan stared at them. She often wondered how he was stripped of his great wings. Aries promised to tell her what happened to him and where they came from when the time was right.
Reegan’s gaze moved on to her mahamir. She looked peaceful as she lay asleep with her blankets tucked under her chin and her long silver hair, straight and smooth lying across her body. Her mother had been scarred as well. Her ears and neck were riddled in burns. Her mother didn’t talk of her injuries either, except to say that she was proud to have them, because in receiving them, she was protecting her child.
When Reegan was the age of the understanding of speech and speaking, her parents taught her how special and different she was. She was of both elf and fäerie, a rare wonder, a half-elf, a halfling, fäer-elf, a fäe. Reegan was a gift.
Reegan quietly left her parents be still, and returned to her tent. She dressed in brown pants and a red long sleeve shirt. The shirt was soft on her freckled skin. She kept her feet bare, always bare, fäeries never much liked binding their feet in leather. She quickly took up her hair, braids, and wraps, and weaved it all into one giant braid, leaving the beads and feathers out. She tied the end and then flung it over her shoulder. She draped a chain around her neck. It had a single pendant of an opal stone. There were shapes of light and color, every angle it appeared more different than the one before. It was her most precious possession.
At the foot of Reegan’s cot was a chest. She knelt next to it. Reegan traced her fingers across the carvings in the wood. Many memories were kept inside. There was a tree at the center, its roots entwined together, creating intricate knotted patterns. Feathered wings framed the outer edges. The front of the chest, was a technical lock mechanism made of gears and springs and other tinkerings. Her mother made it for her.
Reegan did the combination, the lock clicked and the lid popped up. Inside were little things; drawings from her childhood, her baby blanket and her first doll among other baubles and trinkets and letters. Tied to the inside were dried flowers. She began to place them in her box when she was six years old. Her best friend gave them to her. She looked upon them in sadness. It had been three years since she last saw him and two years since she had received any word from him. For all she knew, he could have died in battle.
Reegan closed her chest when she heard footsteps. “Oh, good. You’re awake.” It was her mother, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“I could barely sleep.” Reegan laughed. She stood and picked up her armour, her arms over flowing.
“That nervous huh?” Constance smiled, the soft wrinkles in her face framed her eyes and gave them a twinkle she hadn’t had before.
Reegan laughed a little, “Yes! Of course! I am Champion but I take every battle as if it could be my last. I’m bound to be beaten some time.” She kissed her mother on the forehead and ran out the door. “I love you!”
Constance followed after her daughter. “I love you too. Did you eat breakfast?”
“No! I’ll be sick!”
Constance laughed as she shook her head, “Alright, see you soon. Good luck.”
Reegan ran through the camp, passing by her neighbors; dogs barked and chased after her. The camp was awake with the sunlight and the drizzling rain, all in a hustle to make the last day of the carnival a memorable one for the villagers coming from near and far. A group of children were kicking a leather ball to each other. As she ran passed, they smiled and ran with her. Reegan, with a glimmer in her eye and a sly smile, sprinted harder and faster, leaving the little humans behind. They gasped as they fell for her tricks again.
The tournament arena was built on the other side of the Gypsy camp. Flags and banners were strung up, wild animals were caged for battle and boxes for the crowds of onlookers sat above the stadium. People were already beginning to gather for the day.
The Tournament of the Champions was a Gypsy carnival sport never missed, especially when the most undefeated champion was female. This was Reegan’s second year as an acclaimed champion of the tournament.
There were six other champions. Two of them were elves, the others were human. Reegan trained with them, she fought them, she beat them; and sometimes, they beat her, but not very often. They were like family. Reegan had fought multiple champions in a single round. Reegan fought bears and wild cats. On occasion volunteers were called from the crowd to test their limits against a true carnival champion fighter, these she defeated with no difficulty.
Reegan came upon the waiting tent of the champions. “Reegan! It is good to see you this day!” A tall man clapped his hand on her shoulder.
The fäe girl smiled. She did not like to talk much before events as to stay focused, but she acknowledged him any way. “Good to see I didn’t bruise your ego too badly, Archer.”
Reegan and the Archer had fought the day before. She had beaten him quickly and with pain. But only some.
Reegan went to work quietly in the corner. She began by putting on her armor. She first pulled her chain mail shirt on and then her brigandine; it was a torso of small plates riveted inside a leather casing. Both were light but protected her well. She was ready. She took a breath. Now it was time to wait.
Reegan’s stomach did flips as she sat; the sweat was cool on her brow. Though this wasn’t her first faux battle, she still felt the uncertainty of what awaited for her at the end. She was a strong warrior, she had not yet to meet anyone who could beat her. The time seemed to creep by, the wait made her sick. In the battle, her nerves were at ease becoming electrified with invincible power, nothing and no one could stop her in that moment.
Reegan was the most anticipated of all the champions and so was the last to fight. The days before, she fought Teth champions, volunteers from the audience, and other champions from surrounding villages. All were won by her hand. Today she, the greatest of the champions of Teth, would fight another great champion from afar.
Reegan could hear the crowd cheering and crying out; they’re voices narrated the battles outside the tent, the loses and the wins. The anticipation made her heart race. Reegan watched her fellow competitors leave and enter the tent. She wished them all luck and then leapt to their aid when they returned wounded.
It was past midday when the call boy came for her. Her palms were clammy. She stood from her chair and took a deep breath. Reegan followed the boy out to the gate, all she could hear was her was the sound of her breathing. The boy left her and another came forward, he carried her banner. It was a red with a golden sun behind a white feather. The boxes were filled. There were two entrances for champions and another gate for the wild animals. To the left was rack filled with weapons of all kinds. She would pick among them just as her opponent would.
The Jester took to the middle of the ring. His voice boomed over the onlookers with his megaphone. “None have bested her! None have succeeded in taking her title! She is the greatest of all champions! From a far away land, I give you, CHAMPION REEGAN FÄE!”