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FREE TO WANDER by Cheryl Matthynssens Fantasy short story

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“Thief! Guards, Guards!” The vendor pointed at the young woman as she meandered through the market stalls.

Abrya took no note of the man's shouting. She was sure what ever thief was about would soon be caught. No, today she was in amazement. Last night she had received her full name, Abrya Moonsong. Today, was her first day to wander on her own. She had never been so excited in her life. Many did not get their first wander in a city.

The caravan traveled across the lands going where ever the dragons led them. Lately, it seemed as if they would wander alone in the wilds, forever. The caravan had been going north for a month now. She had no idea what lay north but the dragons were all headed that way. Usually the caravan stayed in the warmer southern lands.

Abrya cried out in fright when a large metal hand grabbed a hold of her arm. She looked up to see a large man with a mostly metal face. Her fear instantly forgotten, she attempted to reach up to touch the metal over his nose to see if it was riveted into his skin.

The guard caught her hand. “None of that.” He growled. He turned and pulled her back through the crowd to the stall she had been at only a short time ago. “Is this your thief?” The large man snarled.

Abrya looked from the man holding her just a bit too tightly to the vendor. “Thief? I didn't steal nothin'?” she looked at the vendor in confusion. “Surely, good sir you be mistakin me for another?”

“That is her.” The vendor snatched a lace shawl from off her shoulders. “If you are going to lie and claim to be innocent, you might not want to wear the goods.”

Abrya looked at the shawl in his hands and realized that he was upset she had not given him anything in return. “You said… You said to put it on,” she reminded him. “You never said I should be takin' it off.”

The guardsman chuckled despite his position of authority at the situation. “Jorce, you should know better than to let a wanderer try something on.”

“She doesn't look like most,” Jorce defended.

Now Abrya was offended. “I be a proper wanderer.” She stated furiously. She tugged down her short coat. It was a beautiful purple and she had decorated it with white threading. The pockets inside were filled with all her most precious things. Her belt held her knife and a few other pouches of things she thought she might need on her wander. Her pants were a simple leather dyed to a darker purple. She had worked on her first wander clothes for weeks. Her dark brown hair was in several braids; each looped up to form a series of circles around her head.

“Come now Jorce, lets say we drop the matter. You have your shawl and no harm is done, hmmm?”

The guardsman's smiled behind his mask of metal.

Jorce grumbled then finally nodded in agreement. “I guess no harm has been done.”

The guardsman let go of Abrya much to her relief. He looked down at her with a wry smile. “Is this your first wander lass?”

Abrya nodded, disappointed that it was so obvious. She had never been inside a city before and there was so much going on and so many amazing things around her that she had never seen before. She wanted to touch everything.

“Come, we will find a quiet space. If you are going to wander here, there are some things you need to know or I will really end up hauling you off to the justice.” He indicated she should follow him.

Abrya had a thousand questions and so she hurried to stay close to him. “Do it hurt much?” she asked excitedly.

“Does what hurt much?” The guardsman looked down at her as they made their way through the crowded market.

“Having metal attached to your face?” She could see more of him now. Strange linked circles interwoven fell from beneath the metal cap on his head. “Or be it part of your hat?”

The guardsman laughed loudly. “It is part of my hat,” he offered. He found them a table and waived for the girl serving the small eating area. He ordered some things that and Abrya had no idea what they were.

“All right,” He looked at Abrya. “What is your name?”

“Oh, I am sorry. Exchanging names is important to your people. I forgot. I am Abrya Moonsong.” She smiled proudly. Abrya had gained the name Moonsong due to her ability to sing the songs of the dying moon. She was often called to sing at fire.

“A right pretty name.” His compliment brought a bright smile to Abrya's face. “Okay, first rule while wandering here...”

Abrya interrupted. “There be rules to wander?” None of her teachers had told her of any rules to wander.

“Yes, in a city, there are rules to wander. You must not take, borrow or keep anything that you did not trade for.” He spoke slowly. “And the merchant must agree to the trade, you can't just leave something behind.”

Abrya looked totally disappointed. “Why if they be not using it?”

“The people outside caravans, the ones that live on farms and in cities. They value everything even if they do not use it and expect a fair trade if you wish to use it.” The guardsman spoke lowly.

“First, you didn't exchange your name and I be given you mine.” Abrya pointed out. “And why do they value things they be not usin'?”

“I cannot explain why in a way you will understand, Abrya.” He pushed a couple of coins to the girl who set some mulled apple cider in front of them along with two meat pies. “My name is Evin Farenoth.” Abrya stared at the food with large eyes. “Go ahead and take one. I'm sharing my meal with you.”

Abrya remembered his words about not taking anything without an exchange. She dug in her pocket till she found a beautiful golden feather she had found last week. “Then I be given you my feather in exchange.” She looked up at him hoping he would agree for that plate smelled wondrous.

“Very good, Abrya. Remember that always and if the merchant does not agree, you must leave the item behind no matter how long it has not been used.” Evin counseled then took a deep drink from his mug. “Promise me you will remember that.”

“Promise!” Abrya snagged one of the pies and flopped it hand to hand as it was hot. She continued doing so till she could handle it then broke off a small piece. She slowly put it in her mouth; her eyes closed savoring the wondrous flavors that were all new.

Evin just watched her with a smile as she ate and drank with wonder. She did not wolf down her food for she had ate well that morning. She took the time to eat it. Evin was done long before her. Even as she ate, Abrya's eyes were darting left and right. There was just so much to see and do.

“Abrya, I must get back to my duties. I will not have to grab hold of you again, right?” It was clear by the look on Evin's face he did not think she had truly been listening.

“Nope. Be given an agreed trade for anything I want to borrow.” She stated firmly with a bright smile.

“All right.” Evin stood. “You can't forget Abrya. I won't be able to help you the next time and you could be locked up never to wander again.”

Abrya's eyes got very large. What kind of people locked up others so they could not wander? She would rather someone put a knife in her heart than be denied the right to wander. The world was a wondrous place. “I not be forgettin',” she whispered, wiping her greasy hands on her short coat.

Evin nodded and flashed her a worried look, then turned and left her. Abrya slowly smiled. There were a lot of things to see, touch, and trade for in this city. She had all day to do just what she wished; longer if she found more than she could see in a day. Her pockets were filled with stones and feathers, yup, it was going to be a great day and she had much to trade.

To see more of Cheryl Matthynssens work, click the link to her website or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view her member details Visit Cheryl Matthynssens Website.

Images used for the story are Visit cute-sad-girl at
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Short Story written by Cheryl Matthynssens

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“Thief! Guards, Guards!” The vendor pointed at the young woman as she meandered through the market stalls. Abrya took no note of the man\'s shouting. She was sure what ever thief was about would soon be caught. ...

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Alador, a young man who cannot find a way to fit into the world about him, finds himself thrust...

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