Disclaimer: Hey, guess what? I don't actually own Roxane, Dustfinger, or Brianna! Can you believe it? I do however own Peter, Violets and Begonias. Roses, in case you didn't notice, is the cloth merchant mentioned on page 87 of Inkspell.
A/N: Okay, I just had to write this because no one seems to have written any stories set before Inkheart. This story takes place somewhere in the distant past, obviously because Brianna's only about three. Dustfinger and Roxane seem a bit ooc, but that's because I was trying to make them a bit younger and happier.Unfortunately, this tale is 100 paperclip free, as I'm not quite sure they used paperclips in the middle ages.
The Duckweed presents:
All Lined Up and Carrying Flowers
Peter was about to be reunited with the love of his life. At least, he hoped he was. The love of his life seemed to move around a lot, although Peter was sure he'd found her at last.
Her name was Roxane. She was a dancer--one of the Motley Folk who traveled from marketplace to marketplace. Peter had met her years and years ago, when her troupe of entertainers had visited the city of Ombra, up north. He'd told her that he would marry her, once he had enough money to buy a farmhouse and a plot of land.
It had taken longer than he expected to get the money, and by then the strolling players had moved on. Then began the long and tedious business of finding her. The first place he went was one of the grungy inns along the roadside. The bartender was only able to tell him that the lady and her friends had followed the road south.
So Peter went south too. He asked questions along the way, inquiring if anyone had seen a stunningly pretty, raven-haired young woman who sang and danced for gold coins.
The young man followed the gossip and rumors up and down the countryside. First she was living in a charcoal burner's hut on the south side of the forest, next she had moved back to Ombra. Roxane always seemed to have an assortment of eccentric cohorts--a tightrope walker, a girl who could stand on her head for hours, an old woman who could charm snakes. She would be glad to get away from them all, no doubt. How could anyone want to live life on the road, unprotected by any laws?
Then, only a few weeks back, he had met one of the strolling players in a tavern. He was a tightrope walker, dressed in the blue of the sky, and a bit drunk. Of course, Peter asked the man about Roxane.
"Oh, her?" the man had said, "I'm a good friend of Roxane's. What do you want with her?"
"I'm going to marry her."
The tightrope walker raised his eyebrows and grinned smugly. "Of course you are," he said sarcastically.
"No really! It's true! I met her up in Ombra, and I had to make some money first, so I—"
"All right, all right," the man interrupted, "I'll tell you where she is, but they won't thank me for it. They don't like your kind hanging around all the time, you see." The man sipped from his drink, then went on. "She's living in one of the player's camps, outside a village in Argenta. Not so far from the Spelt Mill. It's along the roadside--you can't miss it."
And so, after so much walking back and forth, Peter believed that he had finally found the love of his life. Wouldn't she be happy to see him, when he came walking up the road! She must have missed him even more than he missed her.
But where was she? The camp was quiet, since it was still morning, although it was approaching noon. The Motley Folk tend to stay up late and sleep late. Here and there he saw signs of life, women cooking over open fires, children playing in the dirt. Peter asked a young boy where he might find Roxane, and was directed to a moss green tent at the edge of the camp. Peter took a deep breath and walked over to it.
The first thing he noticed was that there was a small crowd gathered in front of the tent flap. A man dressed in the black and red uniform of a fire eater stood barring the entrance to the tent. He had almost shoulder length ginger hair, and his arms were folded across his chest. He might have been handsome, except for the three, pale scars crisscrossing his cheeks. A girl, about three or four years old, was clutching the hem of his cloak, peering shyly at the strangers.
Three men stood gathered around him, arguing about something. All three were carrying flowers of different varieties. Peter thought this was something of a coincidence, because he himself was carrying a simple but pretty bouquet of daisies he planned on giving to Roxane, when he finally found her.
Standing off to the side a bit, were four people, dressed as servants, carrying a large, jewel encrusted chest. But Peter's attention was focused on the arguing group of flower bearers.
"Oh, come on," said a man carrying begonias, "Are you pulling my leg, you fool?"
"No," said the ginger haired fire eater.
"You can't honestly expect us to believe you!" shouted Begonias, "Let me speak to her face to face, or I'll cut you to ribbons!"
Peter hesitated. He hadn't meant to walk in on a fight--he couldn't stand the sight of blood.
"With what, your fingernails?" said the fire eater, "I don't see a knife. Unless you've got one hidden in your begonias, which I doubt."
"Can't I just talk to her?" said a man holding a bunch of violets. "Just tell her I'm here, and surely, she won't object."
"Are you quite sure about that? I tell you, I'm under her strict orders not to let anyone in, especially if they're carrying flowers. She sends you all her gratitude for your consideration, now get lost."
"Her strict orders?" said a timid looking man holding violets, "Goodness, is she very bossy?"
Peter was starting to feel quite curious as to what could possibly be going on. He came closer.
"All I want is for Roxane to show her lovely face and accept my humble gift," said the last man, who was carrying roses, "Then I'll be on my way."
"Weren't you here yesterday? I recognize your footmen," said the fire eater, with a glance at the jewel encrusted box. He finally seemed to notice Peter, standing behind the man with the violets. "Not another one," he sighed.
"I'm here to see Roxane," said Peter.
"Tough luck. Men carrying flowers are not permitted beyond this point."
"I could put them down, if you like," said Peter, bemused, "But I must speak to her. I'm here so she can marry me."
"You and the rest of the world. I'm saying this for the last time: Roxane's already married."
Peter gasped. "No! Who's she married to?"
"Me. Myself. I. Yours truly. He who is standing in front of you."
"I said it was ridiculous," said Begonias.
"If the girl had any sense she'd marry someone with money," said Roses.
"Or someone good looking." That was Begonias.
"If I'd known all that, I wouldn't have come," said Violets.
"I don't believe you," said Peter, "I want to talk to her in person."
"That's what everyone says," said the fire eater, "Perhaps you lot have a point. Brianna, will you go tell your mother that these idiots are her problem, and not mine?"
The little girl relinquished her hold on the man's cape, and slipped through the tent flap, calling "Mummy! Dad says the idiots are your problem!"
A few seconds later, an annoyed, female voice said, "Idiots? Oh, them..." Roxane looked almost exactly the way Peter remembered her, as she pushed open the tent flap and looked at the small crowd of flower carriers.
"Dear," she said to the fire eater, "I deal with them when your away, and then there's usually twice as many of them. If I have to keep arguing with my suitors day in and day out, I'll never get any house work done."
"I never could understand why you're so into housework," said the fire eater, "We don't even live in a house."
"Tent work then. Call it what you like. Are you lot still here?" she shot the odd assortment of people an angry glance.
The group of flower holders stood and blinked at her, as if they couldn't believe their eyes. All except Roses, who said, "Nice to see you again, lovely. Will you accept my humble gift of roses, and the contents of this box?" He gestured to the box-holding servants.
"If I do, will you go away and never come back?"
"I will leave you, for now."
"I'll take what I can get. Thanks very much."
The rich man handed her the roses, and his servants set down the box and followed him out of the camp.
Begonias was not so easily put off. "I challenge you to a duel!" he yelled at the fire eater. "Whoever wins will get Roxane's hand in marriage!"
"Lot of good that will do, as I've already got her hand in marriage."
Begonias fell silent, as if he needed time to work things out.
"Did he force you to marry him?" asked Peter indicating Roxane's husband.
Roxane looked alarmed. "Good heavens, no! Does he look like the forceful type to you?"
"Don't you remember me?" said Peter, softly, "I'm Peter, from Ombra."
"No, I have no idea who you are."
"But I asked you to marry me, and you said you couldn't wait!"
"Did I perhaps say it in a slightly sarcastic tone of voice?"
"Umm..." Peter struggled to remember. It was hard to think straight in Roxane's presence.
"I think he¹s having a hard time thinking straight in your presence," said the fire eater, with an evil grin.
"That does happen to the dumber ones, occasionally," Roxane replied. She absentmindedly stroked the little girl's hair.
"I really do love you, my lady," said Violets, "But I can see that you aren't returning my affection."
"Exactly," Roxane said, brightening up, "You must be one of the more intelligent ones. Go ahead and leave, I don¹t mind."
"Of course I'll leave if you don't want me," Violets replied, mournfully, "But I'd like you to accept these flowers, all the same."
"That's very kind of you," said Roxane, taking the violets. The man who until recently had been holding them walked away down the road.
"How about a duel anyway?" said Begonias to the fire eater, "They can be quite fun sometimes, weather there¹s a prize or not."
"Sorry, but I don't fence. I tried it once, and I nearly cut myself in half."
Begonias stared at Roxane. "You married someone who can't fence? What kind of a woman are you?"
"One who isn't attracted to physical violence."
"Ugh. I'm leaving. You can have the flowers if you like." He dropped his begonias and stomped off after Violets.
Roxane and her husband turned to Peter. "I think he's still dumbstruck by your unearthly beauty," remarked the fire eater.
"Are you dumbstruck?" said Roxane, giving Peter a concerned look.
"I'm heartbroken, not dumbstruck! Roxane, I thought you loved me--" He felt his eyes filling up with tears.
She sighed. "I guess I'm just doomed to be the sort of person men tend to fall helplessly in love with at first sight. I'm flattered, really, but it's beginning to get a bit tiresome. Why don't you take your daisies, and go home?"
"You can borrow a handkerchief, if you like," said the fire eater, kindly. Peter glowered at him.
"I want you to have the flowers," said Peter to Roxane. "Whenever you see them, try to think of me, even if--" he hiccupped "--you don't love me."
"Thanks very much," Said the love of Peter's life, taking them. "You can go now."
Peter walked off, wiping his sleeve across his eyes.
Roxane watched him go, feeling a bit relieved.
"I hate it when they cry," said Dustfinger, "They all remind me a bit of me."
"You were never as quite as dull as all that, though I think the highly flammable flowers might have had something to do with that," she replied, her eyes moving to the abandoned jewel encrusted box. "What do you reckon could be in that thing?"
"Something sparkly that costs a fortune, no doubt." Dustfinger gave the chest a kick, and it sprang open to reveal what looked like rolled up fabric studded with pearls. "See, I was right."
Roxane lifted it up, discovering that it was some sort of ball gown. "Ooh! Pretty sparkles!" said Brianna, reaching out to touch the glistening material. There was a slip of paper resting on the bottom of the extravagant crate. Dustfinger picked it up.
"To my dearest Lady Roxane of the Motley Folk," he read, "I sincerely hope that you will enjoy this humble gift. Love, Sir Dunstan Dudley. Say, since when is that Dudley person a 'Sir'?"
"He's not. I think he just added that on to make up for his funny name. If my name was Dunstan, I think I'd kill myself." she examined the dress in her hands. "Well, he certainty knows how to give people useless presents. We all know how often I wear fancy dresses."
Dustfinger, meanwhile, was trying in vain to pick up the box. "No wonder that guy had four servants carrying this thing," he said. "Even empty, it weighs a ton. We'll just have to leave it here in the path, 'cause it sure isn"t going anywhere."
Roxane folded the dress back up, and laid it back in the box. "Now then, what will we do with all the flowers? We could have put them in a vase on the table, but for lack of a vase."
"And a table," Dustfinger added. He picked up a begonia and tucked it behind his daughter's ear. "We could always open a florist's shop."
"Very funny. Do you know what would be useful? A suitor exterminator service. No more lovesick young men, guaranteed or your money back..."
"I doubt they would get much business. Most of the general population enjoys being doted on."
"The general population is a bunch of idiots, then."
"Of course they are."
A/N: Whaddaya know? That story wasn't 100 paperclip free. I mentioned paperclips in the author's notes. Please reveiw. All flames will be goofed around with by Dustfinger.