-Riya's point of view-
Embers danced in a way that I had seldom seen them before: in a gloomy fashion. They would usually be seen in our fires, giving us food and warmth but now they shimmered in the remains of our small encampment. I hid amongst the tree branches along with a few of the others who had survived. We remained quiet as French soldiers moved the cooler wood, trying to find any survivors and make sure they would no longer see the light of another day. The sunrise seemed highly depressing and struck fear into my soul. It would be easier to see our colored clothing with the light shining onto it.
My heart leaped into my throat as a child about the age of five or so was uncovered from beneath the side of a wagon. He stayed unmoving as the soldier approached and poked him. The boy's eyes opened and he scurried backwards into another soldier with his sword drawn. An arrow shot from one of the other surrounding trees, taking down the soldier with his sword drawn. While the other jolted back in confusion, the archer shot another, swiftly killing the other soldier. The boy ran through the trees before the rest of the soldiers made their way over. As fear came over them since they didn't know where we hid, they began to slowly retreat. After an hour or so to ensure our safety, we dropped down, searching by ourselves for survivors.
I searched with the others until I found the one body I was hoping to never find among the rubble. A now cold hand hung out from beneath pieces of wood. I moved them frantically only to find my husband's paled face, his expression peaceful. I felt tears spring to my eyes as I scanned his face over and over as if I was convinced this was not my husband but there was no use denying it. My eyes fell to his arms where he held a bundle in his arms, our son. I unwrapped the blanket delicately and pressed my ear to his small chest only to have my heart broken again. I kissed my love's cold lips and my baby's forehead before gathering with the rest of our group near the road.
Our leader, wearing a brightly colored headdress along with the robe he wore. He was the eldest out of all of us, his hair going from gray to white on his mighty beard that was down to the middle of his chest. His eyes were beginning to turn lighter as he was going blind though he was the wisest and most resourceful man I've ever known. His aged eyes looked over the scene with sorrow before it returned to us, all silent including the children who hadn't eaten in a few days. We waited eagerly for advice from our leader since all of our food had been burned along with all shelter.
He sighed lightly before beginning. "We will have to move, as many of you may have guessed. We have no food sources left here and not we are forced to go to the closest city unfortunately. We must be extremely careful for the barbarians that did this to our encampment have gone the same direction we are going. The city of Paris is not that far from here. If we get moving now, we may be able to get to Paris in the next three hours." That was it. We left empty handed, some childless, some widowed, but we were alive.
After only a few minutes of walking, conversations started once more. I heard my name being called from the crowd behind me. I continued walking, not wanting to get in the way of our progression but I glanced behind me to see one of my friends jumping this way and that trying to get around everyone. He finally caught up, walking beside me. "How have you been holding up?"
"Not very well but I appreciate the concern, Anand" I muttered.
A sad smile was placed on his face as he reached down to my hand, stroking it lightly with his larger fingers. "Everything will become better soon." I glanced to him as he held his head highly, confident about this new place as excitement buzzed about him. Step after step, I began to think that he might be right. My mind began to think of my future ahead. I had to now find a new husband who I could have a child with. I wondered what these new people would be like. We were from India and had moved progressively upward to Versailles. We rarely, if ever, associated with the locals so it was hard to tell what the Parisian gypsies would turn out to be like.
By the time we arrived in Paris, it was close to midday. A light mist had started an hour ago but it quickly turned into a storm, causing us to cluster together. Someone gave a cry in the front of our group and everyone separated as guards ran at us. The sounds of rain hitting metal was very close to me as one captured me from behind. Several others were captured alongside me and we struggled but these soldiers seemed experienced in capturing gypsies. I felt the edge of this soldiers armor dig into my wrist and I cried out, twisting to try and get my wrist away from him.
He fell limp as someone had attacked him. I looked around and realized that Parisian gypsies had joined the fight. There were so many buildings everywhere, I felt lost and had no clue which way led out of the city and which way led to safety. A soldier ran at me, his sword ready to swing. I quickly dove down and sliced his leg with my dagger. As he suffered in pain from that, I sliced his face. He fell back, running to his horse and retreating along with the other soldiers who didn't desire to die tonight.
Some of the French gypsies began to speak to our leader, telling him different entrances to the Court of Miracles, our safe haven. He eventually turned to us and said in a very hushed voice who was going where. I was to take a ladder with Anand and a few others in a tavern located nearby. We separated quickly, not wanting the French guards to return. A woman that was not one of us seemed to be leading since I was only following Anand. Her hazel eyes continued to look back at us to make sure all of us were still with her. There were only five in our group: three men and two women not including this woman.
We arrived at a tavern but she guided us to the back of it and opened a hidden door after a quick look around. She motioned us inside and closed the door before opening one on the floor. "Ladies go first, then gentlemen. It's very dark down there and there's water and sewage so it will smell and be wet but just turn around after you climb down and walk forward so all of us can fit in the passageway but don't stray to far. I'll be down shortly and light a torch." We nodded and I was the first to go down. I did as instructed and she did as she told, meeting me in the front of our line with a torch which revealed many skulls and vermin.
She paused in the middle of a passageway and twirled the torch, causing it to blow out, then relighted it to our confusion. She turned to us. "Once you learn these passageways, you have to use this move in order to tell our guards you aren't outsiders." She continued to walk and soon we were in a very bright and colorful place which was really unusual for something underground. Many eyes fell on us, none of them very territorial but more curious on our presence.
Our leader approached us with a smiling, though somewhat toothless, smile. He guided us over to where some of the others were gathered. A man dressed in all purple approached our guide with a grin. "What took you so long, Camille? We thought you got lost." He voice held no worry or concern but only teasing on our tardiness.
Camille glared at him. "So what? You got the easy group. The cemetery is pretty much abandoned but the tavern was filled over the capacity so excuse me for trying to not get us caught," she growled.
The man held up gloved hands in defense. "I'm only expressing my deepest concerns for my best friend."
Camille rolled her eyes. "Oh, okay," she muttered in disbelief.
The two laughed a little before the man directed his attention at our leader. "Nikhil, is this all of your people," he asked in a pitiful manner, obviously showing concern for our losses.
Our leader nodded. "Yes, sir. These are, unfortunately, all that have survived."
The other man, who seemed to be the leader of all these people despite his young age, looked over to the children of our people then guided his eyes to his people as he gave orders. "We have invited these Indian gypsies into our home and, with this great blessing, we will have a feast tonight. Anyone who is not busy, please help to either set up the banquet or help with making them feel at home. As usual, there will be no hostility," he spoke up, glancing at a few people specifically.
Everyone began to move in order to obey their leader's orders. "King Clopin," Nikhil addressed, "I thank you eternally for this."
The man waved his hand. "No need for the title and you are most welcome. We gypsies must be united especially in these types of tragedies." Our leader nodded in response. Clopin turned his eyes to our people. "Please make yourself at home. If you need anything let us know." A smile was brought to his features which seemed to be perfect on his face as if he were a puzzle and that was the remaining piece. He began to bound away quickly as he helped to prepare for our stay in this new and strange place.