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Authors: Kate Forsyth

The Gypsy Crown

BOOK: The Gypsy Crown
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Kate Forsyth is a bestselling author across several genres. Her titles include the Witches of Eileanan series,
The Starthorn Tree
, and the award-winning Chain of Charms series. Kate lives with her husband, three children and a black cat called Shadow in Sydney.

 

‘Kate Forsyth weaves a rich array of characters through historically factual events. A thrilling … six-book adventure.' THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S WEEKLY

 

‘The Chain of Charms is proving itself as a mantle amongst some of the finest works of fantasy literature.' BENDIGO WEEKLY

 

‘I am a big fan of your Chain of Charms series. I read your first book in three days, your second in six days and your third book in one day!' ALEXANDRA, aged 11

 

‘The Chain of Charms series is so exciting. I can hardly put them down once I have started.' NORA, aged 10

ALSO BY KATE FORSYTH

The Starthorn Tree

The Chain of Charms series:

The Gypsy Crown

The Silver Horse

The Herb of Grace

The Cat's Eye Shell

The Lightning Bolt

The Butterfly in Amber

ALSO BY KATE FORSYTH
AND ILLUSTRATED BY MITCH VANE

Ben and Tim's Magical Misadventures:

Dragon Gold

Wishing for Trouble

Sea Magic

ALSO BY KATE FORSYTH
AND ILLUSTRATED BY ROSALIE STREET

I Am

First published 2006 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
This Pan edition published 2008 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney

Reprinted 2008, 2009

Text copyright © Kate Forsyth 2006
Illustrations copyright © Jeremy Reston 2006

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication Data:

Forsyth, Kate, 1966–

The gypsy crown / author, Kate Forsyth; illustrator, Jeremy Reston.

Sydney: Pan Macmillan Australia, 2008.

ISBN: 978-1-7426-2538-6

Forsyth, Kate, 1966– Chain of charms; bk. 1.

For primary school age.

Other Authors / Contributors: Reston, Jeremy.

A823.3

Internal text design by Seymour Designs
Typeset in Janson Text by Post Pre-press Group
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group

The characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

 

These electronic editions published in 2006 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney 2000

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.

The Gypsy Crown

Kate Forsyth

Adobe eReader format   978-1-74197-121-7
Microsoft Reader format   978-1-74197-322-8
Mobipocket format   978-1-74197-322-8
Online format   978-1-74197-724-0
Epub format   978-1-74262-538-6

Macmillan Digital Australia
www.macmillandigital.com.au

Visit
www.panmacmillan.com.au
to read more about all our books and to buy both print and ebooks online. You will also find features, author interviews and news of any author events.

The GYPSY CROWN

KATE FORSYTH

ILLUSTRATIONS BY JEREMY RESTON

Pan Macmillan Australia

 

CHARACTERS

T
HE
F
INCH
T
RIBE

Luka Finch (13)

Emilia Finch (13) – his cousin

Maggie Finch, called Queen of the Gypsies – their grandmother

Jacob – Luka's father

Silvia – Luka's mother

Lena (14) and Mimi (9) – Luka's sisters

Beatrice (15) – Emilia's sister

Noah (9) – Emilia's brother

Ruben – Luka and Emilia's uncle

Sabina (10) – Ruben's daughter

 

Alida – a grey Arab pony

Zizi – a monkey

Rollo – a dog

Sweetheart – a brown bear

T
HE
H
EARNE
T
RIBE

Janka Hearne – the tribe's grandmother

Felipe Hearne – her eldest son

Sebastien (15) – Felipe's son

Cosmo Hearne – Janka's second son

Nadine (15) – Cosmo's daughter

G
ORGIOS

Tom Whitehorse – son of the Squire of Norwood

Pastor Spurgeon – the Puritan minister of the

Kingston-Upon-Thames parish church

Coldham – a thief-taker for Cromwell

Gerard Winstanley – a prisoner in the Stockhouse Gaol

L
ong, long ago, the kings of England believed God had given them the divine right to rule, so that it was an act of treason to question their actions, let alone oppose them. Many people were executed for daring to disagree with the king, and many others were thrown into prison.

In 1642, civil war broke out between King Charles I and his Parliament, who sought to curb the king's power. For the next seven years, England was torn apart by war, father pitted against son, brother against brother, friend against friend. Those who supported the king were called Cavaliers, and wore flamboyant uniforms trimmed with lace and gold braid, and big hats with feathers. Those who supported Parliament could not generally afford such rich clothes. They wore plain buff coats and metal helmets, and were called Roundheads because they cut their hair short.

In 1644, a Roundhead general called Oliver Cromwell won a big battle against the Royalists. He was nicknamed ‘Old Ironsides' because he was as hard as iron. Although the war dragged on for another five years, the Cavaliers were in the end defeated. Charles I was put on trial and executed. His son Charles II – who was only nineteen – barely managed to escape the country, penniless and wearing borrowed boots.

England was declared a republic. For four years Parliament ruled, with Cromwell as its leader. But in 1653, Cromwell dismissed Parliament, and set himself up as dictator. He was crowned Lord Protector, making him king in all but name. His rule proved even more tyrannical than that of the king, for Cromwell was a devout Puritan and wanted to make people live a ‘purer', more righteous life.

Under Cromwell, Christmas was forbidden, singing and dancing were banned, most sports were frowned upon, and people were thrown into prison if they did not go to church on Sunday. Lots of people hated Cromwell, and wished for the old days back again. Yet few dared rebel openly against ‘Old Ironsides', for he was ruthless in crushing anyone who dared plot against him.

Yet the young king-in-exile, Charles II, wanted his throne back. Despite the danger, there were those willing to try and restore him – even if it meant risking their own necks …

A Devil of a Man

T
HORNTON
H
EATH
, S
URREY
, E
NGLAND

11th August 1658

L
uka whistled as he walked along the country lane, his hat on the back of his head, his hands in his pockets jingling his coins. It was not often Luka had coins in his pocket to jingle, and he wanted to enjoy the sensation while it lasted.

On Luka's shoulder crouched Zizi, a small brown monkey dressed in a crimson skirt and jacket. She was eating a plum that she had stolen from an orchard a few miles back, and every now and again passed it down to Luka so he could have a bite too. The plum was sweet and delicious, and it seemed a fine thing to be eating stolen fruit on a hot summer's day with coins jingling in your pocket.

Zizi sucked away the last of the flesh and passed the plum-stone down to Luka, who flicked it into the hedgerow. She then took hold of his ear in affection. Her paw was sticky, and he wiped her leathery fingers with his kerchief, scolding her softly.

‘You think I want juice dripping down my neck, monkey girl?' he said. ‘You need to learn to wipe your fingers!'

Three small wooden caravans rattled along the road ahead of Luka, pulled by huge piebald horses with feathered hooves. A big brown bear ambled alongside the second caravan, a long chain fastened to a ring through her nose, while a pack of dogs ran alongside, occasionally barking in excitement.

Once the caravans had been vividly coloured, but nowadays there was no money or inclination for painting. In the fifth year of the Lord Protector's rule, it was not safe or seemly to love bright colours, nor music, nor dancing, nor magic, nor any of the things that the gypsies most loved, and which made them who they were. Life was always hard for the gypsies, who lived to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever.

Luka's mother, Silvia, walked behind him, a basket on her arm as she searched the hedgerow for berries and wild herbs. Giggling and gossiping behind her were Luka's sisters, Lena and Mimi, and his cousins Beatrice and Sabina, their lips stained with berry juice. A thin brown boy, Noah, dawdled along at the rear, rattling the hedgerow with his stick, a big shaggy mongrel dog at his side.

‘Come along, girls,' Silvia called impatiently. ‘Do you want to set up camp in the dark? The Hearnes will be there already, and wondering where we are.'

‘Beatrice is shy, that's why she's dragging her heels,' Luka called teasingly. ‘She's scared her bridegroom will have a squint and a humpback …'

‘And bad breath!' Lena put in.

Beatrice blushed.

‘Leave her be,' Silvia said. ‘Of course she's a bit nervous, any girl would be. But young Sebastien's a good boy, by all accounts, and fine-looking too.'

Luka clasped his hands together, fluttering his eyelashes. ‘Oooh, such a fine-looking boy!' Zizi promptly mimicked him, her tiny paws clasped together and tucked under her wizened cheek.

‘Don't tease Beatrice,' Silvia said. ‘Just you wait until it's time for you to be betrothed, Luka, my boy. Your knees will be knocking too, I promise you.'

‘Yuck!' Luka said. ‘I'm not ever going to get married. Who wants to have a silly girl hanging on your neck all the time?'

‘You'll change your mind one day,' Silvia said, smiling, but Luka screwed up his face in disgust and fell back beside Noah, the only other boy in the family.

‘Ahoy there! Out of my way, you slow coaches!' A girl's laughing voice rang out behind him, accompanied by the thunder of galloping hooves.

Luka's cousin Emilia raced towards him, crouched on the back of a dapple-grey mare, a beautiful creature with an arched neck and a silky tail that flew behind her like a white banner. The mare ran so lightly and fluidly it looked as if she flew, and so she was named Alida, which meant ‘Winged'.

Emilia brought Alida to a prancing halt beside her sister, Beatrice. ‘Look!' she cried. ‘Meat for dinner tonight!'

She quickly showed Beatrice the rabbit she carried concealed in her skirts. Although the other girls squealed with pleasure, Beatrice looked worried. ‘Milly, be careful! Did anyone see you?'

Emilia shook her head. ‘It hopped right out of the hedge and into my arms.'

Luka grinned. From Emilia, this was probably no more than a slight exaggeration. Emilia was a wheedler, a charmer, a whistler of animals. She could cozen a halfpenny from the meanest fishwife, a smile from the dourest of parsons, and birds from the tree into her hand. It was a gift much prized by the gypsies.

‘Give it to Baba,' Beatrice said, ‘but let no one see you.'

‘Another fur for my bed,' Emilia replied exuberantly, and kicked Alida forward until she cantered beside the last caravan, an old stout vehicle with ornate, curled woodwork and a faded blue door. Emilia tossed the rabbit from her lap to the lap of the old woman who drove the caravan, a pipe stuck in the corner of her withered mouth. This was Maggie Finch, grandmother of them all, and often called Queen of the Gypsies, for her fame as a fortune-teller had spread far and wide. She was a thin, stooped, black-eyed woman with a high-bridged nose and a thick bun all grizzled with grey. Her hands on the reins were like a sparrow's claws.

Without even glancing at Emilia, Maggie drew a fold of her shawl over the rabbit. The penalty for poaching was cruel, for the landowners did not believe, like the gypsies did, that all creatures of the fields and forests were free.

‘Oh, it'll be a feast tonight, Baba!' Emilia cried. ‘We'll show those Hearnes how to celebrate!'

‘Today we feast and tomorrow we'll starve …' Luka said.

‘… and the next day we'll feast again!' Laughing, Emilia finished the familiar gypsy proverb. She kicked Alida into a gallop again, and raced on ahead.

‘What did she catch, Luka?' Noah asked eagerly, feeling his way forward with a stick, his hand resting on the back of his dog, Rollo. He cheered when Luka told him, and said happily, ‘Roast rabbit for dinner then. I was afraid it'd be nothing but cabbage soup again.'

‘Emilia wouldn't let us have cabbage soup for Beatrice's betrothal feast,' Luka said, ‘even if she had to steal old Ironsides' dinner out from under his very nose.'

Noah laughed. ‘I bet she could too,' he said, looking affectionately after his sister.

Noah was blind. He lost his sight with the smallpox that killed his mother when he was four. It was partly because of Noah's blindness that the Finch family had stayed so long in the shelter of the Great North Wood, and partly because of the strict laws against vagrants. It was only a few years since thirteen gypsies had been hanged in Suffolk simply for being gypsies. This was the first time in five years that Luka and his family had travelled the roads, and it made them all sing and be merry to see the highway unrolling before them, and the landscape changing with every step.

It was because of Beatrice that the family had ventured away from the safety of the Great North Wood. She was fifteen, old enough to be married. The Finch tribe was travelling to Thornton Heath to meet with another gypsy family, the Hearnes. If all went well, Beatrice would tonight be betrothed to one of the Hearne boys. Then, in a week or a month or a season, whenever the bride dowry was raised, Beatrice and Sebastien would eat bread dribbled with their own blood and swear by all the gypsy laws to be true to each other. Then Beatrice would be gone, and they would be lucky to see her again more than once or twice a year.

Emilia was doing her best to pretend she did not mind. She galloped up and down the road, laughing and calling out teasing comments until Beatrice did not know which way to look. At last, though, Emilia grew tired, and came to walk with the others, hooking up the reins so her mare could roam free.

Luka fell back to walk with her. They were only three weeks apart in age, and as close as brother and sister, having been brought up together.

‘I hope those Hearnes are nice,' she said to Luka, glowering.

‘They're horse-traders,' Luka said. ‘They'll drive a hard bargain tonight.'

‘Beatrice is worth every penny,' Emilia said.

‘They'll say beauty can't be eaten with a spoon,' Luka said. ‘You know what they say: Money in hand, Bride on horse.' He slipped his hand into his pocket to jingle his coins again. He had an awful notion that his father would demand he give up the money he had earned picking apples to help raise Beatrice's dowry. It seemed a dreadful waste.

‘We'll raise her dowry somehow,' Emilia said resolutely.

It was a beautiful afternoon. Somewhere a skylark trilled, and far above, a kestrel hovered, its wings sharp against the blue sky. Beatrice turned and smiled at Emilia, and fell back to walk with her, Noah clinging to her hand. Emilia hooked her arm through her sister's and hugged it close. The caravans drew ahead, and soon the others were out of sight around a curve of the road.

A small stream ran across the road. Luka felt the squelching of the mud between his toes and grinned. He jumped into the stream, spraying water everywhere.

‘Nay, don't, I'll be drenched!' Beatrice cried. ‘I don't want to turn up at the camp all wet and muddy!'

‘Here, allow me, my fine lady,' Luka mocked and swept Beatrice a mocking bow, pretending to hold out one hand to assist her, but then splashing her with water. She shrieked, rosy with indignation.

Just then a great black carriage, pulled by four black horses, came galloping around the bend in the road. At once the children pressed back into the hedgerow, Rollo growling deep in his throat.

The coach raced through the stream, a great gush of muddy water rising up and wetting the children from head to foot. Luka saw a black cormorant of a man lean forward, staring at them coldly from the window. His frowning eyes fixed upon Beatrice. At once she pulled her shawl about her face, pressing back into the hedge. The carriage rattled on, the cold-eyed man leaning out to stare back at them.

Emilia stood staring after it. ‘A devil of a man, a devil,' she whispered. ‘I wish he had not seen us.'

‘It's nothing,' Beatrice said, trying to smile. ‘A parson anxious for his supper, no more. Come on! Let's hurry. I'm hungry too.'

‘I'm starving,' Noah said. ‘I could eat five hundred roast rabbits!'

They all smiled, and crossed the stream, and hurried on. But somehow their merry mood was gone, and Emilia in particular was pale and silent.

BOOK: The Gypsy Crown
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