I was four cycles old when I first met a gypsy. Royce was two and perhaps the most interested out of us kids. He hung over the banister as we hid and watched the gypsy leader talk with father. Cymberly was ten cycles and was in charge of minding Kendal who hadn't met her first cycle. Mona and Maraquesa were both older than me and were giggling together. That left me trying to keep Royce from climbing over and falling. I had to keep tugging on the back of his shirt the get him down but he didn't stay down for more than five ticks. I could understand why he was interested even though he probably didn't understand. Father had warned us about gypsies, saying they were bad people and practiced black magic. Magic wasn't forbidden in out kingdom but those who dabbled in the dark arts were sentenced to life in the cells. The villagers respected father and abided by his rules but there was the occasional person that would try to hurt him and toss him off the throne. So far none had succeeded. But yes, I was four cycles when I first met a gypsy. Royce was two, Kendal a baby, Cymberly ten, Mona eight and Mara six. None of my sisters had ever seen a gypsy before which is why Cymberly brought us over to the stairs to watch what was happening.

The gypsy leader was pleading with father while holding a boy in his arms. From what I could see the boy was very pale which was unusual for gypsies I thought. The gypsy leader and the other ones that were there all had quite dark skin. Mona said it was because they spent so much time outside in the sun. Cymberly didn't say anything different so I guess it was true. Father was shaking his head while Mother watched. All the gypsies looked upset and I think the gypsy leader was close to tears. It was only then when I looked to check on Royce that I noticed he was gone.

"Royce!" I hissed, tugging on Mara's dress. "Mara, Royce is gone!"

Cymberly heard me and handed baby Kendal to Mona. She stood up and looked around before gasping and quickly ducking behind a column. "He's crawling down the stairs!"

"Father will yell at him if he goes down," Mona said, clutching Kendal to her chest. "He said we had to stay up on our floor all day!"
I crouched down low and made my ways to the stairs. I heard my sisters following me and we all peeked around the column. Royce was now at the bottom of the stairs and getting to his feet unsteadily. None of the adults had noticed though some of the gypsy kids were watching him. I picked up my dress skirts and made my way down the stairs as fast as I could without tripping.

"Sharda, what are you doing?" Cymberly hissed after me but I heard more footsteps following. I ignored her and jumped down the last step. Royce was almost in sight of father and would definitely be in sight of the gypsies.

"Royce!" I hissed, hopefully loud enough for him to hear me. The gypsy kids were all staring at him now and tugging on some of the older gypsy's clothes. I tried again. "Royce, get back here now!"

He looked over his shoulder and gave us girls a childish grin before walking closer to the gypsy leader.

"Oh, we are going to be in so much trouble," Cymberly muttered before grabbing her skirts in one hand and my arm in the other and rushing after him. I tripped before managing to gather my skirts. Mona and Mara were following with baby Kendal snuggly in Mona's arms.

We were too late. Royce had reached the gypsy leader and was tugging on his cloak. The gypsies dressed quite differently from the rest of the kingdom I thought. All the talking had stopped as Father and Mother watched in horror. The gypsy leader didn't seem to know what Royce was doing and looked uncertainly at our parents. Then it seemed like he had an idea.

"If my son dies any way other than a natural death, your son dies with him."

"No!" I yelled, pulling my arm out of Cymberly's grasp and running over to my brother. I quickly picked him up as well as a four cycle old girl could do. "Please Mister Gypsy, he didn't mean anything! He's just curious. Please don't kill him!"

"Well, that's up to your father," the gypsy leader said, not looking at me.

"Father please!" Mara cried. "Do something!"

"Fine!" he snapped at the gypsy, clicking his fingers. A servant quickly hurried out of the room and up the stairs.

"You can have your medicine. Next time you should take better care of your son."

"Alroy, that's enough," Mother spoke up, resting a hand on Father's arm. Mother didn't speak out much but when she did her word was law. She turned to the gypsy. "I apologise, that was unspoken for."

The gypsy leader pursed his lips but didn't answer. It was very quiet in the room but it wasn't a good quiet. It was very tense and I found it difficult to breathe. Cymberly took Royce out of my awkward hold and lifted him onto her hip. She wrapped and arm around me and gently pulled me back to Mona and Mara. The gypsies had their eyes on us and it was making me feel uncomfortable. The gypsy leader was watching Royce and Royce was grinning at him. He definitely didn't understand what was going on. The boy in the gypsy leader's arms hadn't moved but I could see his chest rising and falling so I knew that he was alive.

We all turned to the stairs when we heard footsteps. The servant was back but looked as uncomfortable as I felt with all the stares on him. He gave us kids slight bows before hurrying over to the gypsy leader. The servant handed a fat purple bottle to the gypsy leader and made his way back to his spot. We all watched as the gypsy leader popped the cork and took a big sniff. He must have been happy because he gave a curt nod to Father and turned around. He and the other gypsies quickly started walking to the door. He pushed it open but paused before walking through. We all huddle closer to Cymberly when he looked at us. I was quite scared when he looked at me but he seemed most interested in Royce. I'll never forget the words he spoke.

"I'm sure we'll meet again."

With that he and the other gypsies left. I heard Father let out a long breath before walking to us. He took Royce off from Cymberly and walked up the stairs without saying a word to the rest of us. When he was gone from view Mara let out a sob and hid her face in Cymberly's skirts.

"Oh he's so mad at us!" she cried.

"I don't think he is," I told her, frowning. I turned to Mother. "He's just scared isn't he?"

Mother sighed and walked over to us. "You girls should return to your rooms." She took Kendal off from Mora. "But you're correct Sharda, he's not mad." With that she also made her way up the stairs.

I was four cycles old the first time I met a gypsy. It definitely wasn't the last.


A/N: Helpful words:
Tick-
second
Turn-
minute
Chime-
hour
Season-
3 months
Cycle-
year


Rating will change later in the story.