Now trapped by shadows
A flame flickering to life
Hope lighting the way
It burns through the cold
Leaving behind winter’s chill
Welling from the darkest depths
Unspoken but there
Though her arms were already full of stuffed animals won by Gunn and Wesley on their afternoon of amusement at the boardwalk carnival, there was one more place that Fred wanted to go.
She nodded in the direction of the colorful window display and the sign proclaiming Madame Bosha could predict the future for an exchange of silver coin.
“C’mon, guys, it’ll be fun,” Fred grinned big and let out an eager giggle while heading straight toward the shop.
A pair of male groans accompanied their otherwise acquiescent move to follow. Gunn pursed his thick lips as he paused at the doorway, “Gotta admit I’m not exactly into palm reading and crystal balls.”
Wesley simply shrugged as he commented, “Considering the fact that we have our own seer, paying good money to a gypsy fortune teller at a boardwalk carnival does seem like a waste of time.”
By the time they reached the interior of the shop, which appeared more like a magic or herbalist shop rather than a simple tourist attraction, Fred was already ensconced at the small table in the center of the room.
The old woman sitting across from her dressed in the traditional garb one might expect of a carnival employee, the bright cloth somewhere between Romany design and a costume. Wesley noted it without really looking closely.
“The cost of a fortune is four carnival tickets plus one silver coin,” the woman placed her hand on the table to indicate that Fred should put the tickets and money there.
Fred stared at the gypsy’s hand for a moment as she dug into the pocket of her blue jeans to pull out the necessary coin. Curled fingers with brittle, but well-tended nails tapped upon the fringed cloth covering the table. Knuckles knobby with arthritic signs and the dark spots that marked the otherwise pale skin of the back of her hand gave the young Texan the impression that she was far past the time for retirement despite her active business.
Glancing into her fathomless black eyes, Fred saw the wisdom of ages. Gulping down her sudden nervousness, a feeling that had overtaken her enthusiasm the moment the woman’s greeting sounded in her ear, she grabbed one of the smaller stuffed animals that she’d placed in the chair next to her feeling the sudden need to hold onto something.
“I do not bite,” the gypsy laughed, a surprisingly melodious sound accentuated by a light Eastern European accent. “There is no need for Scooby Doo to protect you within my Ofisa.”
Gunn snorted from his position somewhere behind Fred and she resisted the urge to tell him he could wait outside. “I-I’ve never done this before,” she admitted as that gnarled hand reached across the table for hers.
“It is painless, though the future is rarely so,” the gypsy cautioned. “Prepare yourself for whatever may be revealed. Though the future may sometimes be clouded, my people possess the ability to peer through the haze of the unknown and gain a glimpse of what lies ahead.”
From a corner where he was examining a series of objects on a crowded shelf, Wes commented with a droll twist to his words, “The Romany have practiced majicks for centuries. We are acquainted with that. However, there are rare few who possess the knowledge of their elders.”
The old woman merely nodded her acknowledgment of his skepticism. Turning back to Fred, she smiled briefly as she held her hand palm upward, “Relax, daughter.” Her eyes never wavered from Fred’s deep brown orbs. “Let us see where life and love and past and present combine before delving into the dark waters of the future.”
“Okay,” Fred responded agreeably.
“You have recently returned from a long journey,” the gypsy hummed with interest as she turned Fred’s hand this way and that. “From a place beyond our seeing eyes.”
Nodding, Fred let out a little gasp of surprise, “Pylea.”
“Your mental health was not ideal for a while, but you have improved dramatically with the care of your friends,” she claimed before following a line on her palm with one finger. “This tells me you are in love.”
“Me?” Fred’s spine snapped straight as she sat back in the chair, but her eyes did not move from the gypsy’s face. She could feel the weight of other interested gazes upon her just before their conspiratorial whispering reached her ears. A stream of unintelligible babble followed.
“Gotta be Angel, man,” Gunn said under his breath to Wesley. “You know what she’s been like ever since she got back.”
Wes knew the story all too well. During the little time Fred had spent with them while Angel was on sabbatical in the Himalayas, the vampire was the one consistent thing she talked about. It got to the point that if he heard the story of her rescue one more time, he thought he would have to scream.
Still, the way she recounted the tale enchanted him despite the fact that she clearly kept Angel on a pedestal. “A champion riding in on a white horse does mak—.”
A startled cry sounded as the gypsy woman reeled back, dropping Fred’s hand in the process and staring at her with a look of horror on her face. “Armaya! The curse. You are human minions of the souled one.”
“Angel?” Wesley immediately stepped forward realizing that this gypsy was certainly the genuine deal. There was no way she could jump to that subject just by staring at Fred’s open palm. He didn’t bother to correct her assumption that they were Angel’s underlings. “You know about the curse.”
Wrapping her shawl more tightly around her shoulders, the gypsy reached for the coin Fred had placed on the table top. Pushing it toward her, she said, “Go now. I will say no more.”
“No,” Gunn came around to the other side of the table. “Now I ain’t putting no hurt on you, grandma, but you better tell us how you know so much.”
The woman stubbornly turned her head away. Wesley didn’t need to hear her answer as it was perfectly clear to him, “You are Kalderash Romani, descended from the clan that cursed Angelus with a soul.”
A curt nod followed, “This is true.”
“We’re not Angel’s minions,” Fred corrected her softly, “but we do help him with his mission. He’s a true champion.”
“A champion?” One hand clutched the shawl close to her throat. Disbelief dripped heavily as she spoke, her native accent thicker than before, “A vampire?”
Fred nodded vehemently, “Oh, yes. Angel’s a hero, a warrior for the Powers that Be. He helps the helpless.”
Despite her own skepticism on the subject, Madame Bosha appeared to be listening. “How can one such as he be blessed with such loyal companions? This is forbidden. He who is cursed by the Kalderash people to suffer eternity was not meant for such a life. You are…his friends.”
Fred didn’t like the talk of eternal suffering, but the gypsy woman had it all wrong. “Sure we are. Wes and Gunn and me, we’re all Angel’s friends. Then there’s Cordy, of course, but they have Kyrumption. And baby Connor, too, that’s Angel’s son. You never saw a more doting daddy.”
After a long pause, Madame Bosha questioned that she had heard correctly, “Son?”
It was Wesley who confirmed, “Yes, Angel has a son whose coming was prophesied in the ancient scroll of Aberjan.”
“He is human, this child?”
“Yes,” Wes nodded.
A puzzled look appeared on her face as if she was wrestling with her own thoughts on the subject. “Then he has a soul…like his father.”
Moving with slow surety, the gypsy grasped the edge of a silk cloth covering an object at the center of the table. She pulled it aside to reveal a large crystal globe. Gunn let out a groan upon seeing it, “Why did I know that was gonna be there?”
“Perhaps you are psychic,” she quipped sardonically. Then thought with complete certainty, Devlesa avilan,Gadjo. “God brought you to me. Do not diminish the importance of your coming with such closed-mindedness.”
Wes whispered, helpfully pointing out, “The crystals generally help the mystic focus inwardly upon their target subject. They don’t really see images in the crystal, but in their mind’s eye.”
Gunn looked less than impressed. “Just the same hocus-pocus mumbo-jumbo that got us trapped in Pylea in the first place.”
“But you rescued me,” Fred reminded even as the gypsy shushed them.
“Yeah,” Gunn nodded and his mouth curled up into a smile as he met Fred’s gaze. “We did.”
Holding up her hands, Madame Bosha reminded them of her need for concentration. After a few moments of staring into the depths of the clear crystal, she spoke, “The child is special. False prophesies surround him. Beware lest these lies drive you to a future surrounded by darkness.”
Asking for clarification, Wes made an attempt to talk, but once again, she held a crooked finger to her thin lips. “Hush. There is more. The child is in danger. It harkens at your door even as we speak. If you would aid the vampire in his cause to save him…go now.”
“Lady, you are freakin’ me out.” As she sat back in her chair, Gunn held out his hands as if warding off further sharing of information. This was somehow way more weird than Cordy getting a vision. Commenting to Wes and Fred, “I dunno if half of what she says is true, but I say we don’t stick around just in case she’s right. Let’s go.”
Fred jumped out of her seat, gathering up her prizes and heading after Charles Gunn as quickly as she could. Before Wes could follow her out, a hand clamped down over his wrist in a surprisingly strong grasp.
“Light itself will hide the truth. For it runs far deeper than the visible. Look for the Eye of Dakronn to reveal it.”
“Dakronn? Wh—,” Wes started to ask for more information, but the gypsy released his wrist and waved her hand in the direction of the exit.
“Go now,” Madame Bosha ordered sternly. “The danger draws near and I will say no more.”