nd now it’s your turn to wreak
Such were the words Yolanda heard all day long. Usually they
were delivered in form of a whisper, accompanied by a twinkle from Ghunde’s eye.
So she obeyed and did what she was asked to, and wrought her magic. According to
old Ghunde it was a very, very important thing to do, almost as important as
selling the stuff. Selling of course was Ghunde’s job.
Now as far as
Yolanda was concerned she didn’t do “magic” at all, not even in the figurative
sense. You see, she was just the flower lass at the market stall of the old hag.
It was an unimposing place where one could get herbs and ointments and potions
and wreaths, also the one or the other tiny figurine, inexpensive necklaces and
bracelets too, and bits and pieces of handicraft – all those little things that
brighten people’s days but don’t serve any particular purpose. Ghunde’s und
Yolanda’s work was split: The old crone did her best to convince customers what
they were lacking; and once someone bought even a thimble or a single star made
out of straw, they had earned themselves something extra: a flower. To be used
as a boutonniere, or simply to have something to smell on the way home, so said
Ghunde. But that was all there was to the “magic” part: Yolanda’s task was
simply to select one such plant for each paying customer: a bright yellow
sunspark, or a purple lantern, a phoenix lily, a cerubell, or one of the
beautiful ynia she liked the most. What a beautiful flower that was! And what a
heart-wrenching story about Erissa and her tears it stood for, such a touching
tale about loss and repentance… – Anyway, that’s how it was: From time to time
Yolanda bobbed a curtsey, picked something she thought suitable from her basket,
and didn’t even need to say a special word to wreak that “magic” of hers. The
ones she liked best she awarded with an ynia.
The “magic” of course, thus
figured Yolanda, was to make customers remember their little stall. Plucking
dainty flowers wasn’t much trouble if you knew where to look, and a flower
almost always succeeds in bringing – or should we rather say ‘conjuring’ – a
smile to people’s faces. Those who bought only cheap junk probably felt that
they owed the considerate shopkeeper a more fruitful purchase next time. And
those who already got something worth their money became almost as good as
friends with the two upon receiving a token of appreciation. It made them feel
extra special. “Wreaking that kind of magic has never ever hurt anyone”, old
Ghunde used to cluck. “Friendliness is a virtue, my dear, it will get you
places! Now consider a wizard’s magic in comparison to what you can do
with nothing but a flower and a smile, young lassie! A nice gesture is much
warmer than any fireball, I can tell you that! It comforts and makes one think.
And if a friendly gesture falls on fertile ground, give it time, and it will
thrive and blossom!”
Yolanda however was far from convinced. She found it a
long-winded way to earn some hard cash. As the orphan that she was, the girl was
contented to have a home and work though; and she felt appreciated by her
guardian for what she contributed to their small enterprise – whether Ghunde’s
fancy ideas worked or not was another thing. Hands down, the old hag was a bit
of a witch, of that she was certain. The crone had her secrets. Maybe she could
do some real magic too! Which was why Yolanda found it especially odd that
Ghunde wanted her to perform “magic”, magic that was anything but the real
thing. On the other hand: If such magic didn’t help much to sell their wares, it
wouldn’t hurt either. Yolanda understood this very well.
something to pin their hopes on in their oftentimes dreary life, something to
look forward to when returning to towns and villages they had already visited.
You ought to know, their caravan traveled with the market, and the market always
was on its way, moving through the king’s lands on its circular route around the
capital. From the town of Onved they journeyed through the Mistdale and along
Wyrm’s Spine, through the Almatrar Forest and the villages of the Bullwinkle to
the lush fields of Maccadam and the Manticore Heights and then back to where
they had started out. One of the main rules of a traveling salesperson is: Make
an impression the first time around! Folks have to remember you still a couple
of months later when you come back. Well, and so it was that Ghunde’s and
Yolanda’s caravan clacked and lurched through the lands along with all those
other caravans of the market, bent on earning their share of coins – also
perhaps helped by a kind of “magic” wrought by a young girl.
put Ghunde’s wisdom to the test, so that you can see for yourself if there’s any
truth to it:
There was a man in Carmahrins for example, a lean fellow
with a goatee and a pair of round spectacles, wrapped in a long coat, his hands
always in his pockets. Well, it was a cold day back in Fallen Leaf when the
market pitched camp there. He was also sort of a loner and kept to himself, for
he didn’t talk much. When he moved around he scuffled with trepidation in the
tiny stall they had, looking at one thing and then another, and only after
walking back and forth a couple of times, he approached the old hag, pulling her
in a corner, whispering something in her ear. Fleet of foot he left with a
special brew, recalled Yolanda, and she almost missed her important task. Though
when she handed him a Dreamer’s breath, which was a rather common flower despite
its poetic name, he appeared more embarrassed than treated, just gave a brief
nod and was out and about.
Did they see him again next year when they
stopped again in Carmahrins? Indeed, they did! Yolanda remembered him vividly.
He had not changed much. His trepidation maybe was a little less obvious, and he
ended up again talking to Ghunde in the very same corner as the year before. But
he was as quick with getting out and receiving his flower as the last time. She
was certain however that the alinfa lily she chose this time didn’t do much for
this kind of clientele: He’d have come anyway for whatever secrete concoction
Ghunde provided him with, no doubt about it. Yolanda knew all that right away,
it was common sense. And there’d be many others just like him: Folks looking for
something they cannot get anywhere else or don’t dare to ask a local, because
they’re afraid of the embarrassment this may cause. A travelling witch won’t ask
any questions. – But magic? Pshaw!
So let’s pick another candidate then:
Like a sailor, who for reasons unknown had made it to Ghanham, the third hamlet
in the Bullwinkle. A sea there was none near the Rimmerins Ring, but maybe a
loved one, a niece or a daughter? After all he was looking through the
paraphernalia on the shelves and eventually headed off with a rag doll under his
arms. The stuffed piece of cloth had seen better times, but those beady eyes
made up for it. Who can resist the charm of beady eyes? Well, he was an affable
chap, that sailor, and jolly happy to put the well-earned cerubell in his
buttonhole too. He even waved good-bye as if he were embarking on a ship and
strode off with firm steps. Yolanda would have liked to see him again.
Did he show up the next year? As you might have guessed, no. Sailors aren’t the
kind of people who stay in one place longer than they have to, especially not
when they are on shore leave, visiting a tiny hamlet somewhere far inland… –
Yolanda wasn’t surprised in the least. And, sailor or not, many others were just
like him: stopping by for a quick look, happening to be there when the market
came through, never to appear again. – Magic? Pshaw!
Who else have we
got? A buxom seamstress perhaps, who was looking for a way to keep her features
fresh and young, trying a cart load of ointments on the spot there at the stall
before deciding upon a couple to take home with her. That was in Tramhill. She
was among the lucky ones Yolanda handed an ynia, the flower she liked best. The
woman was interested in half of their inventory, willing to try the fanciest
salves, and the most important of all: She had the money to buy them. So an ynia
it was, her ynia she had earned.
And next year? You bet, she was there
again. Of course she was! How couldn’t she? A woman as vain as her, as eager to
keep up with the latest recipes to preserve her dizzying beauty – or so she
thought –, would never miss the traveling market and her chance to go through a
witch’s latest elixirs. That was a given. She wasn’t the only one at that. –
Let’s look at one more: Like at that boy, well, a youth
alright, who was aimlessly strolling about at the market, finally stopping at
Ghunde’s little stall – if only for lack of finding anything fancier. That
happened in the small town of Clymnios by the way. In fact, the youth was
contemplating whether he should ask a girl of his village to have a walk with
him at the lakeside that evening. He dreamed about a romantic evening, walking
hand in hand with the beautiful Eysa, a good dinner – for which he had saved for
more than a month! –, lots of laughter and maybe, if everything went well, a
kiss. The trouble was, he wasn’t sure if she’d say yes to join him in the first
place. That’s why he needed some convincing to do, and to that end was looking
for a small present. Ghunde’s stall seemed to be the perfect place for that, and
after a bit of rummaging on their shelves he indeed found a pretty copper brooch
in the shape of a peacock. It wasn’t too expensive either, so he went right
ahead and bought it – oh, and got his flower. It was a lorahough that Yolanda
handed to him, a “fireblossom” as it sometimes called, a bright yellow plant,
and quite dainty too. She also bobbed a curtsey, for that’s what she did with
all their customers: gentleman, lady, sailor, bedraggled geezer or young lad.
So, did the youth return the next year? I hear you ask. Did the magic work?
Hmm… no, he did not return the next year. – Well, it is a bit more complicated
than that. Listen:
You see, something surprising happened on that very
evening when the two sold the brooch to the boy. Yolanda was just helping Ghunde
with stowing away the bouquets and closing the stall when there was a knock at
the shutters of the caravan. Yolanda opened them and peered out.
stood, the lad from the afternoon, an ynia in his hand.
“This is for
you”, he said, presenting the flower to Yolanda, just like she had offered hers
to him. He wasn’t very good at talking with girls, as his quavering voice
attested to, but he gave his best. Whether she’d like to have a walk with him
near the lakeside, he wanted to know. For there were Black Butterfly Rovers in
town, so he told her, brimming with a strange mix of excitement and uneasiness.
“The Rovers always bring their fiddles and lutes! Don’t you wanna listen? Have
you ever listened to some Rovers?” he asked. “They’re marvelous! We could pop in
the ‘Rusty Lantern’ after our walk!” He looked at her expectantly.
Now Yolanda hadn’t been out with any guy ever, and she never had even
considered in all seriousness going out with one either. Only recently she had
turned seventeen, and despite her being “not too shabby” – that’s how Ghunde
once put it –, she was very timid around boys of her age. Yolanda had no
intention of changing any of that. Besides, the fellow was humble looking at
best, with that harelip of his, and he had freckles too! Did he really think
that when she gave him her flower, it was anything but business? No, she said to
herself, if she’d ever go out with someone, he’d have to be a handsome one! She
couldn’t go out with just anyone, now could she? So it came that while Yolanda
took his flower out of politeness, she told the boy that she couldn’t possibly
join him, that maybe she’d agree to a walk some other time – well knowing of
course that their caravan was to be off the next morning. Well, and that was
But, you see, life takes the strangest twists and turns sometimes.
Maybe that’s how things are meant to be: Getting somewhere without struggling up
a hill or traveling some bends won’t make you appreciate the journey.
the market, and with it Ghunde and Yolanda, traveled on. But wherever they went,
the girl’s mind kept wandering, especially when she was supposed to wreak her
magic, when she handed out her flowers, giving them to men scuffling around and
making deals in a corner in the back, to sailors buying rag dolls, middle aged
women searching for beauty elixirs – or young lads looking for a gift for their
girlfriend, who wouldn’t go out with them anyway. Each time she picked a flower,
she remembered the boy, and the old hag’s words: A nice gesture is much
warmer than a fireball! It comforts and makes one think. And if a friendly
gesture falls on fertile ground, give it time, and it will thrive and blossom!
Ah, it was a long, long year for Yolanda, but a flower had fallen on fertile
ground, and it thrived and blossomed. It was a painful year for her, truth be
told. Again and again she saw in her mind’s eye that face in front of her, while
she was holding his flower in her hand – an ynia it was, she remembered that
very well! – and the words she spoke back then kept on reverberating in her
mind: “Maybe some other time…” All that went through her head before she woke up
from her reverie, handing out yet another flower to a perfect stranger.
Clymnios hadn’t changed much when the market arrived in the year after their
first visit, but something in Yolanda’s heart had. For she was out and about
already even before they had finished setting up their stall, asking around
about a freckled, hare lipped boy, and eventually someone from the ‘Rusty
Lantern’ indeed recognized him.
The day Yolanda arrived back in
Clymnios was a very special one indeed. For you must know, it changed her life.
It was the day when she finally began believing in “magic” – well, just a little