The greatest treasure of the Iceni is stolen from a citadel surrounded by trained guards, warriors, magic, and wizards.
Not only is it important for the royal family to retrieve their unique treasure—they must solve the mystery of who is behind the theft.
The lord of the Iceni decides it will take outsiders to help solve the puzzle, so he chooses four people of the elements, and one of them is a lovely Gypsy dancer.
Does he bring more problems into their compound?
Lord Berhard of the Iceni—a powerful faction of the Incenis people—was taking a few moments to himself. Since he had come of age, he was never alone, for he was expected to be among the warriors of his people.
He did have three of his special friends with him. As he approached the dark river, reflecting stars on its smooth surface, his three wolves moved down to drink. One of the dark-colored wolves had streaks of white down his back that almost matched the light color of Berhard’s hair.
Like all the people of the Incenis, his hair was pale, almost white. The hair colors of the Incenis were called golden, flaxen, yellow, and fair to white. Being out in the fields as they worked their bodies, they picked up dark tans from the sun that made their hair seem even lighter.
For Berhard, as he looked at his special friend with the white streak, he felt a closeness that he had never felt with any person. His tie to this wolf and its two brothers was unique and special, indeed.
Seeing sparkles from the tiny bugs in the forest, he sent a message to his three friends to guard him as he stripped and stepped into the cool water to bathe in the darkness.
He opened his inner sense and looked into the water to make sure it was safe in the depths of the river. There was no threat in the rippling movement of this tributary.
Berhard relaxed and used his strong, young muscles to swim both under and across the width of the river. He then swam upstream, against the current, using the push of the watercourse moving against him to add a small challenge.
* * * *
Florica watched the green glow from the plants in the underbrush to warn her and to make sure she was alone. The plants alerted her to rabbits, snakes, and even snails that were wandering about. Almost everything else was asleep or burrowed deep to wait through until dawn.
What worried her was that she saw a protection glow of very soft red, almost at the edge of her eyesight, outlining the citadel. There were so many charms and protective wards that could be applied, but Florica had never heard of one that held the color of Hell. Maybe the rumors about the Incenis carried some truths—that they did own magic.
Was it possible her troupe had come too far north? She needed to see one of the Incenis and take some message back to Donka. Then the fortune teller could do a future read and warn Florica’s people. As for Florica, she wasn’t afraid of wild tales meant to scare children into eating their vegetables.
The Incenis might have found some additional magic, or perhaps they controlled unique items. Her own tribe had the ability to attach small spells to small things like carved wood, and they sold these as charms. Were the frightening rumors of some silly Gadjos true? Did these pale people have control over stronger spells and magic?
Her pants caught on a long needle of a briar bush and she heard the rip as a small piece of material was left on a branch as decoration. She didn’t mind the tear in her uncle’s pants, but she was worried about the slight sound.
Grabbing onto the wooden skull head that hung on a leather thong around her neck, she felt the pulse of silence from it and hoped it spread far enough to protect her. At this point, she wasn’t sure the old citadel was even occupied.
Sneaking away from her wagon each night was easy, but finding time to catch naps throughout the day was more difficult. There were things to do at the campsite, and everyone knew she was an energetic young woman.
Florica’s own inborn curiosity made it imperative that she at least see one of the ghost-like Incenis. Her people were not finding it very prosperous to stay this far north, so she felt it was only a matter of time before the wagons were loaded and they headed southwest. They needed easy pickings and, eventually, meeting up with others of their own kind.
Now she could hear other noises, and she froze her forward movement. It took her only a moment to realize it was water. She must be getting close to a small river as well as the distant stone citadel that sent out a reflection of red intermittently.
The decision to move toward the water was still keeping with her movement in the direction of what others said was the home of the local pale-skinned magicians.
Going over a short rise, she lowered her body to the ground to look through the darkness to the other side. She was able to see the natural movement of grasses, as the healthy ones gave off a soft green glow. Blinking, she turned off that perception so that she could use her other special talents.
It was at that moment that she smelled a brief scent of wolf. Suddenly she froze against the wet ground, taking soft, short breaths so as not disturb the air around her. Wolves were one of the animals that Gypsies could not reach or influence in any way.
Wolves were territorial, but they were also vicious, with strong jaws, and muscles that would let them outrun anything on two or four legs. In packs, they were able to take down full grown bears and decimate small villages. Few charms were known that could deter these vicious beasts.
Like all Gypsies, Florica had a smart fear of the four-legged kings of the forest. She waited for a few minutes, wondering if the wolves were moving through or hunting or had a den somewhere nearby. Nothing changed, and the smell didn’t get any stronger. Since the breeze blew into her face, the wolves would not smell her approach.