There was little for a girl to do on the winding road to the Capital, even if she was in the company of a band of travelling gypsies. Musicians, performers, artists and soothsayers – wandering free folk that went were the magic drew them. Surely someone could dazzle the imaginative young mind of a merchant’s daughter. Yet, neither their art, nor their stories were left to beguile her in all its carefree whimsy. For all the song and merriment that usually coloured their passing, the gypsies had been fairly quiet on the last leg of their journey.
Toying with his collection of enchanted trinkets and baubles, the young girl had asked her father why the melodies of minstrels no longer swayed betwixt their painted carts and wagons. The merchant never answered. He merely stared ahead, listening to the muffled fall of horses hooves on the beaten dirt track. But he need not have offered response. She was sure she knew. The distant rumble of a roar a few days past had all but hushed the company of itinerant traders; who then reserved their worry for campfire whispers and crystal gazings on which she had easily dropped eaves.
But the girl did not mind. Instead, she skipped along the birches of passing groves, only to dash back as the caravan got too far ahead. She picked wildflowers and dandelions, found pretty stones among babbling brooks, and if her feet eventually got tired, she would lay on the back of one of their wagons to cast her eyes upward…
Idly drifting amid that white fluff of summer’s breath, her young mind moulded shapes from the clouds that dotted the roof of the world. So many tales were to be told amid the sky, as whispy destriers dashed across the blue prairie, or stags and does grazed through white meadows. Her soaring imagination took her through the many images she had encountered along their trek, until myth and magic added to the whimsical arsenal of the pearly cloud canvas. She saw griffins, great giants, and the charge of valiant knights…
And lost amid those swirling forms, distinct and still so faint, she imagined she saw the figures of two boys. Or perhaps they were young men, she was not sure. They were poised as if to run – to run off on some wild and exciting adventure – hand-in-hand. And as the epic possibilities of that scene gripped her, she caught herself humming the tune she had heard…
…a fortnight ago.
In one of the markets, on one of those nights, as lantern light suffused the square and cobblestones in its warm and surreptitious glow, a bard had played his poems to the gathered company of vagabonds. She had remembered the sad melody, the rise and fall of its resting timbres, and the words that regaled the legend – that tragically beautiful tale of two tenacious wanderers…
And soon she heard herself singing; singing softly amid the crunching cartwheels and footfalls of the caravan…
As the stars settled down in its blue dappled light
The moondust lad met the boy draped in night.
Without thought, without cause, by mysterious laws
Their celestial eyes did so meet in that pause.
I heard, I heard, for what fate had to show...
The moment those hearts had seen their shared woe.
And there, oh there, in the fold of his cloak,
The moondust lad drew his heart he had broke.
And then, and then, the boy draped in Knight,
Took both heart, and his hand, holding each of them tight.
He unfolded great wings... that shifted their stars
Their sorrow, their songs, their blight and their scars...
And as those stars all fell down, in their faded white light
The moondust lad left, with his boy draped in night.
Hitting a rock, the rattling wagon shook the girl from her soft reverie, to sit upright, steady herself, and softly sigh. So nearly it was that she had lulled herself to sleep there, in the breadth of that ballad that young minds barely understood.
As the merchant’s daughter looked down at pebbles shooting across the track, taken by old legends and the ballad of a bard, a column of cloud was parted by a great black wing, gliding silently overhead; unnoticed by the downcast eyes of wayward folk and gypsies alike.