2. The sound of omens.

Posted in Part 3: Extracts

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'The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.'
- John Ruskin -

MissionExtract from Chapter 2. The Sound of Omens.

Mañana's father Habby, sacked for saving Remera, returns to the camp to talk with Paco the chief elder. Paco also tells Habby a legend about an Eagle who once took the form of a human, and how the destinies of Eagles and Gypsies became entwined


pueblo  His ride back to the encampment had taken him into the village of Guadalvin where he slowed down the pace of his horse to an easy trot. As to be expected, the village seemed empty of most of its inhabitants, as the majority of the men and women would be busy working in the fields. Nearly all the families in this region owned a few olive trees, and if they were not harvesting their own, they would be helping friends and family with theirs. Only the Co-operative in the village showed any signs of life. Mules and their drovers were constantly arriving, delivering sacks stuffed with already harvested olives. These bags already lay everywhere, each marked with the owners seal and now waiting to be first weighed and then stored until they too could be processed. After depositing their loads, the drovers would spend a few minutes in idle chatter, before herding their mules and departing for the next load.
  Outside the Co-operative, and around the whitewashed houses nearby, old men and women had gathered to pass the day away. Naturally, the two groups stayed separated. The women, mostly dressed in black, huddled in small groups relating the latest gossip, while the men, smoking old clay pipes, were happy just watching the world go by. As Habby rode past the Co-operative, they all turned their heads to see who it might be. When they saw it was only one of the caldereros' (or tinker as they still sometimes called the Gypsies), they immediately turned away again to resume what ever discussion they were having. Some courteously nodded in greeting, and Habby duly returned the gesture.
  As he passed the co-operative, two children accompanied by a scruffy mongrel, suddenly ran from behind a house and across his path. The unexpected encounter startled both parties, causing the mongrel, in a show of bravado, to run snapping and growling at the heels of Habby's mount (but being careful not to get within kicking range). The horse became skittish, but with a few tugs of the rein, and some gentle words, Habby immediately calmed his mount. The children aware of the mischief they had caused, now stopped to stare with frank honesty at the Gypsy. The look they gave was a mixture of awe and fear. Here was a real Gitano, one of the dangerous people their parents always warned them about. To show there was no hard feelings, Habby smiled and nodded his head towards the children. This was to much for the children and with a look of pure terror, they scampered away behind some houses. The dog gave a final growl, then disappeared in the same direction.
Through all this, Habby rode upright trying and succeeding to affect an air of indifference. He was under no illusion as to what the villagers really thought of him and he was pretty certain, that come tomorrow, after news of today’s events had been relayed around the valley, the inhabitants would be a lot more hostile.
  Nearing the end of the narrow street that comprised the main body of the village, Habby spotted a Bodega that doubled up as the village tavern. It’s large double doors were wide open, indicating that it was open for the business of selling wine to thirsty villagers. Fixed into the ground outside the Bodega, two upright poles protruded, with a third pole lashed vertically waist high, so as to allow customers to tie their horses or donkeys, while they refreshed themselves inside. Habby dismounted and led his mount to the crude hitching post and, after securing the reins to the vertical bar, he took a two litre wineskin from his saddlebag. Shaking it once, he then removed the cork stopper and poured what little wine remained in it onto the dusty street.
  Although by no means a heavy drinker anymore, Habby still enjoyed the occasional glass of wine and it would relieve the loneliness of being away from his family, when he left the valley to find work. This Bodega stocked a fruity red wine casksValdepeneian wine that he particularly liked and now was as good a time as any to stock up. Entering the Bodega, his nostrils were immediately assailed by the smell of strong tobacco and earthy wine aromas. After the relatively bright sunlight outside, his eyes took some time to adjust to the new gloomy interior of the drinking establishment. In the far corner, three old men sat smoking pipes, sipping wine from tankards and conversing; their conversation halting abruptly as Habby entered. Besides the old men, the proprietor was the only other person inside. He was currently leaning against a large cask of wine, with the same look that effected innkeeper's worldwide; a look of pure boredom and disinterest.   As Habby walked over to the plank of rough wood that served as both bar and serving counter, the innkeeper's expression changed to a look of annoyance that someone should disturb his hard-earned boredom.

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