Wanderers/Townspeople/Farmers Encounter: The Horse Fair
Location: the outskirts of a small town
Date: Last Thursday in October
approximately 1000 people are gathered to buy and sell horses – and provide/enjoy other services and entertainment. There is a maze of stalls and small tents, several horse-drawn caravans and (of course) many, many corrals – containing various horses and other livestock
This is an annual gathering for three families of Wanderers (or as they call themselves “the lucky”). Soemetimes other Wander Families will attend – but usually only once every 5 years.
This is a time for the wanderers to arrange marriages, trade stories and goods – and find out where they can spend the Winter. Approximately 40% of the attendees are Wanderers and the rest are Townspeople or Farmers – who have come from up to 50 miles away.
Note: By tradition, ANYONE may trade in livestock or food at the fair but the craft stalls and entertainments are operated only by Wanderers.
There is a wide choice of services: fortune-tellers, musicians, animal acts (ranging from trained snakes to trick horse-riding), acrobats juggtlers and dancers. There are craftsmen such as jewellers, metalsmiths, woodworkers, sieve makers, comb makers, basket weavers and leather-workers (shoemaking seems particularly popular).
At this Horse Fair, are 3 distinct families of Wanderers. All can work at any trade, but they tend to be recognized as having specific talents:
1. “The Rainbow Children” specialize in animal training and veterinary services (they claim descent from the staff of a zoo). Unlike the other families, they sometimes accept non-wanderers into the family.
2. “Abizaids” – (call themselves ‘Lebanese’, respected for their skill as jewellers, metalsmiths and occasional gunsmiths)
3. “Sinti” – (musicians and entertainers – claim ancestry from the European nomads. They have the highest status amongst the Wanderers and are the most skilled in the ‘Wanderer’ language, which follows English grammar but has many slang terms and several Romany, Arabic and Spanish loan-words)
Note: The Wanderers believe that one reason to learn a secret language is to make ‘trickery’ easier
Shared beliefs of the Wanderer Culture:
All of the Wanderers have a sort of creation myth. Their ancestors were urban dwellers who survived Death Day and had to go out into the countryside “where the food was”.
In the countryside, farmers could not (or would not) give food, except at harvest time, when the wanderers worked as labourers. Therefore, the ancestors of the Wanderers had to find ways to ‘trick’ the farmers into giving them food. Wanderers do not ‘work’; they ‘trick’ or ‘gather’, they heal, they ‘trade’ or they ‘bring joy’. They admit to stealing when they have to, but claim that they never take ‘too much’.
Wanderers still assist in bringing in the Harvest – but never accept money for this (only food and perhaps a place to stay for the Winter).
Observers will quickly discover the fundamental difference between the Wanderers and their customers: attitudes to risk and profit. The Wanderers do not set out to make a profit in a trade; they ‘try their luck at it’. If no material profit results then perhaps there is profit in the excitement of the deal, or the forging of a relationship with the buyer. Wanderers will operate on tiny profit margins and take much bigger risks than farmers and townspeople can accept.
This cultural attitude seems to be based on 3 things.
- Economic reality: the wanderers can invest small amounts of resources in many enterprises and move on if a business enterprise is unsuccessful – they still have their skills and family (whereas a farmer could starve).
- The Wanderer self-image or belief: they are ‘The Lucky Ones’ – chosen by fate or deity to survive.
- The Wanderers need the goodwill of non-Wanderers more than they need money; they don’t grow their own food and they travel in groups that are too small to defend themselves against a determined attack (This is a conscious decision – they don’t appear threatening and they won’t use up a town’s foodstore if they have to stay over Winter)
Further Note: all Wanderers have a deep dislike of Slavers but the Sinti will attempt to kill all slavers that they encounter and will not trade in metal or electronic scrap because it might reach the KFS, who they refer to as ‘Transnistrians’.
(historical fact: Transnistria was only one of the killing grounds for the Roma in WW2. Approximately 500,000 died in the German and Romanian camps)