A Woe, A Woe
A woe a day
Away we go
So intent was George on making out these lyrics that the Wanderers were nearly upon him before he
jumped back from the road to let their horse-drawn wagons pass. They nodded to him, taking the
opportunity to get a close, if quick, look.|
This was the first time George and the Wanderers had openly acknowledged each other's presence although they had been traveling the same trail since the first of the week. George had kept up with the band by day, staying within earshot but, until now, out of sight of the caravan. As best he could tell the company consisted of five wagons each drawn by one or two horses, and as many as twenty-five men and women as well as a number of children. The Wanderers seemed to prefer walking to riding in the wagons and at night they slept under the stars. So did George. Then he would hear the rustle of young Wanderer boys in the woods around him, testing their bravery to spy on the strange red-haired man.
Now as the caravan passed, George heard some of the Wanderers muttering Gorgio, Gorgio, under their breath. 'How do they know my name?!' George could not fathom it. He took it as a sign.
After the last wagon had rolled by, George fell into line and followed the band to the place they would stop for the night. The high wheeled wagons turned off the narrow path and lurched into open meadow. They formed a wide circle and stopped.
George did not follow them all of the way but stopped at the grove of trees which hid the meadow from the path. Sinking down into the grassy shade he watched the Wanderer People make camp. The younger men were leading the horses out across the meadow and down a hill. Some women were soon following the same route with pails and urns. George tried to take in everything. Just as the old crone had said, he had taken to the road and the Wanderers had found him. Now he must try to learn as much about them as possible so that he would not accidentally offend or frighten them.
The sun was setting and George watched twinkling fires leap to life in the Wanderers' camp. He lit a small fire himself and dined on some bread and wine and one pickled duck egg he had bought at a tavern the day before. He would have liked to have bought more, but he had already spent most of his funds on sea fares. The first voyage had taken him from his own tiny island to the larger Else Island. From there he had immediately taken passage on a ship to Omanipinamo, a very long voyage. George dubbed this leg of his journey the one hundred days at sea. It was actually longer but he liked the sound of The One Hundred Days at Sea and wrote a chantey in the best tradition of his seafaring Piper ancestors. 'And lucky for me sea and song go so hand in hand,' George mused over his meager dinner. 'I'd have starved before ever making land had not my fiddle made me so many a generous dinner companion on the ship.'
It had been George's intent to try to pick up some local currency in Omanipinamo, a thriving port town, before traveling further. The sailors on the ship had told him his fiddle playing would bring him great admiration in the seaside saloons. And George did find an audience in the first saloon at which he stopped. The innkeeper rewarded his playing with a sumptuous meal and a bath and a bed. The jovial man easily talked George into staying a fortnight. But on George's very first morning in Omanipinamo, he found a small Figure Eight carved on the exterior wooden wall of the saloon's outhouse. It seemed to point to the center of town. George said good bye to the disappointed innkeeper and moved on. At the town plaza, another Figure Eight appeared at George's feet, scratched into a brick at the base of a statue of some horsemen. Again George followed. By the end of the day George had found two more marks and had, in the course of following the direction indicated, arrived at the far eastern boundary of the town where a single dirt road pointed like an arrow across an empty plain. Reasonably well fed and rested, but with pockets still light and little chance of filling them, George was compelled to move on.
Now he was far inland on the continent where the Dromandy Mountains reached so high into the sky that their peaks, piercing the clouds, were always veiled in moonlight. This is what George had been told on his voyage. He tried to shake off a feeling of homesickness. Why was he here? What did he want with these Wanderers?
Laughter rang through the cool night air, and the strains of a mandolin. The nightly festivities were about to begin. George felt another tug of longing for his own people. He thought fondly of his last night with them at the Cory wedding. It had been their dancing that had sent him on this journey: the swirling spiral they created, his dream earlier as his head lay on the coil-etched stone pillow of the cairn, and the appearance of the old woman. Had she been a dream too? The Spiral is their map, she had said, they travel on the waves of Magic. Since arriving on this continent, George had felt himself swept up on such waves. 'I am more at sea than when I was at sea!' Something stirred within him. Hadn't he always felt afloat, waiting, waiting for his destiny? But a map - a Spiral Map - could one really navigate the vast sea of Time? And if one could, was this circumventing fate or only following its inevitable course? 'The Wanderers know and that is why I am here.' George turned his attention to their music. He heard ringing tambourines, reedy pipes and an orchestra of mandolins and balalaikas. George took out his violin and tuned it to the stringed instruments as best he could.
George stood and began to play softly. Once he gained confidence with the new rhythms and harmonies he played a little louder. The music spoke to him. It made him feel at home, different as it was. 'The road is my home now,' he thought. He hardly noticed the Wanderers' music grow quiet, as if listening to him, and then loud again. They played until the fires twinkled low. When the Wanderers finally put down their instruments and crawled under their goose down quilts, George played one last tune. It was an ancient Piper lullaby, just a few short measures rescued from the past; and when he had played the last note, George carefully wiped his fiddle and bow before laying down to sleep.
from THE TIME DANCER|
© 1991, Zelda Leah Gatuskin