Who remembers Tetris?
Little blocks falling down, which have to be arranged in such a way that no gaps form.
Who remembers the function of Tetris?
To play a completely mindless little game while hoping that your subconscious will in the meanwhile solve your troubles – or they’ll go away.
Here’s a sad thing: I’m currently addicted to “Quadrapassel” (the Xubuntu version of Tetris).
Why? Because I’m trying to let the crew do all the work on one of the sequels in the Solar Wind series. It is a bridge; the next book is once again light, fast-paced and hot-blooded. But in this sequel, the tone changes, the whole setting changes, the characters undergo some serious growth.
(…in Transylvania, in the forest: )
And Federi listened up once more. There was complete silence; but they were not alone. He threw his head back, cupped his hands to his mouth and made a careful noise like a birdcall. Of a rock pigeon.
The breathless silence stretched. Federi began to wonder if he were wrong. But then another rock pigeon answered, not too far away. Aha. He led Paean in the direction of the call. They walked through the trees, the ground nearly level now.
Close by was once again an understatement, thought Paean as she trailed after him through the forest. The doomed camp was a good half-hour back by now. Federi was grim and determined, putting a lid on all her attempts to console him. Every now and then he stopped and uttered another rock pigeon call, listening for the answer.
He led the way through the forest, unable to stop the feelings of guilt. He had left the Tzigany to this. It was his fault. He ought to have returned years back, jumped ship the moment his skills were sharp enough, maybe made it a mission to take someone along, Jon or somebody, to help him clear up here. But he’d hidden himself away like a coward, leaving the Unicate monster dogs to decimate his people. They ought to cast him out for this!
He was going to find those Unicate dogs and put an end to them. But if he just called them to him – he couldn’t do that. There might be hundreds. Paean would get killed even before they tore him to shreds, and there was no guarantee that their bloody rampage would stop with his death.
And then what he had hoped to see, materialized before his eyes. Another bit of grey compounding tenting was barely visible through the trees. And a woman in flowing grey rags came walking towards them, suspicion radiating from her black eyes.
“Who the hell are you?”
Federi stopped. He took off the warm parka and revealed his purple flared shirt underneath, with the orange waistcoat. He handed the parka to Paean and turned his hands palms-up to show they were empty. Entertainer; harmless. And he peered at the woman. Cor, had she grown up…
“Almeira,” he said. “Guess you won’t recognize me.”
“So you know my name,” said the woman. “It’s not going to help you any. You look like one of us but you dress like nobody. You move like a psychopath. Your aura says you’ve killed. Your hands look full of blood. You bring with you,” and she glared scathingly at Paean, “a gadchey. You are none of us. Now leave before I put a curse on you!”
Federi sighed and held out his hand to Paean, who gave back his parka, biting her lip. He put it back on. He had sensed how the “gadchey” had rippled through her, leaving a mark.
“I’m Federi,” he said. “I was born in these woods, Almeira. Last saw you when I was a boy. You were younger than me, so I don’t think you’ll remember. Who was killed back there?” And he pointed back into the forest, in the direction of the mound.
She stared angrily at him. “You’re a liar, whoever you are! Federi is dead.”
Federi stared darkly back at her. The silence stretched.
“I can’t expect you to welcome me,” he said eventually, with a sigh. “I left my people to die, here in the mountains, and I ran. But I’m here to tell you that I’m back, and this curse following the Romanian Tzigany is going to stop. They call me the Demon.”
Almeira’s eyes widened and she started backing away.
“Yes,” he drove the point home. “The legends are true. And Federi did get away. And Falco’s curse sticks to me, can’t get away from it, so I’ve come to put an end to it.”
The Tzigany moved out between the trees like shadows, surrounding him and Paean. He glanced at her. She mustn’t be scared now.
She stared at them, scruffily clad figures with light eyes and black hair, each armed with a branch, a knife, a rock, a slingshot… no guns, but Paean didn’t doubt for a second that one well-aimed rock could kill her before she could even lift her gun.
In a way they were a lot more frightening than the Unicate hounds. These were humans. And they were wild, and angry, and borderline insane; and they were in a corner.
“Almeira,” said Federi, lifting his hands once more in a gesture of peace. “You don’t remember me. I remember you though. You were a little girl of five. Your mother was the Manya in those days. I made you a toy. A doll. From wood. It fell into the river one day and you were scared to get it because the river was so wild. So Federi ran downriver, climbed into a tree over the river, and picked your dolly right out of the current. I was eight. You were five. Remember?”
Almeira’s eyes stretched in surprise.
“It’s a trick,” she muttered.
“And you,” Federi pointed to one of the men. “Jehan. You were my age. Don’t you remember me?”
Jehan shook his head, worried.
“We figured out together how to build a kite,” said Federi with a smile. “From a piece of your parents’ tent. And then we tried to fly it and the wind took it away. Your mother was furious.”
Jehan nodded. The message was sinking in.
“And you, Aneşca,” continued Federi, pointing to another woman who had a baby on her skinny hip and a rock in her free hand. “We always teased you, me and Jehan. Because you were so pretty. Remember? Until one day you threw mud balls at us. Caught me -” he indicated his nose, grinning, “right there. Your aim was fantastic. I hope you’re not going to release that rock on us!”
Aneşca started laughing. “It is him,” she told the others. “Federi, welcome back! Where were you all these years?”
One by one the sticks and rocks were dropped to the ground; the slingshots and knives disappeared in pockets. The Free Gypsies gathered around him, shaking hands, clapping his shoulders and hugging him. Federi accepted the wave of greetings with a smile. Paean stood back, smiling too. She was getting used to this emotional home-coming type reaction Federi got from everyone. And he needed it so badly right now…
Almeira remained coolly outside the circle, watching all this with deep scepticism. Paean felt the iciness of the Manya’s stare whenever she was at the receiving end of it. When Almeira did open her mouth to comment, it was nothing good.
“Still,” she said. “Your hands are full of blood. Gypsy law decides that you are an outcast, because you have killed.”
The knot of Tzigany around Federi backed away, staring uncertainly at him and at the Manya.
“You are right, Manya,” he said acridly. “You are perfectly right. I have killed. More than you could possibly imagine. I have killed terrorists and hijackers and Unicate others and Romanian hounds, and merrows… I have killed a ship processor, and an immortal alien slime… every time something tried to kill me or mine, I killed it first. This is my style. I choose to live. So cast me out for surviving.”
“It is against the romipen,” she insisted.
“Yes. Apparently survival is against the romipen,” agreed Federi angrily. “The romipen comes from a time of peace and plenty. In case none of you have noticed, those times are past. We are dealing with an invasion like humankind has never seen before. Yes, my family; the Unicate is murdering everybody. They don’t distinguish between gypsy and gadjo, European or Chinese, rich or poor. I thought they were only after us. I thought they were gadje. Boy, have I learnt a lot of truths!”
They stared at him, spellbound.
“You surrounded us with weapons and rocks,” he pointed out. “What was this about the romipen? In the old days all of you would have been marimé for not greeting another gypsy properly and welcoming him to your fire. And that is the old romipen,” he added scathingly.
Shocked gazes all round.
“I’ll leave,” he promised. “But first, Almeira, I’ll sit by your fire and share some hot water with your family if that is all you can get yourself to offer me, and tell you my story. So that you know. You can cast me out a thousand times if you want. It doesn’t change what needs to be done. And I’ll supply your family with guns. Gadjo guns. You can’t keep risking the children like that. It’s irresponsible.”
Almeira snapped her mouth shut. He knew he’d snubbed her amazingly, calling her, the Manya, irresponsible. But she was, anna bottle!
She turned and stalked off between the trees, head held high.
Jehan put a hand on Federi’s shoulder.
“Come sit by our fire and share some rakija,” he invited. “And the girl is welcome too, even though she is a gadchey.”
“She’s a gypsy,” said Federi, drawing Paean closer and putting his arm around her as he allowed Jehan to lead him towards the camp. “In Ireland, gypsies have red hair.”
© Lyz Russo, 2011
…more Quadrapassel about to be played…