Near the centre of the encampment they found the ambulance. Close by a small group of pirate captains, Reivers, Moss Troopers and clan chiefs lounged around a roaring campfire. A black iron kettle hung precariously above the flames and a slight, wild haired blond crouched where a tablecloth had been spread out on the ground with a chipped teapot and collection of miss matched mugs. Anna stood up when she saw them approach.
“Mr Boz, Ferdy …and Phoebles! We’re off to find Rotskagg in a wee while, but there’ll be time for a brew first. You’ll be setting yoursels doon?”
A short while later the entire group was clambering up the slope onto a grassed earthen platform of approximately one hectare in area. On it stood two, singular buildings. To their left a three-story timber frame hall was raised up on Doric columns of black and white oak. A colourful market was spread out amongst the pillars and a sweeping stairway led up through the floor to a Georgian doorway. The dun coloured lath and plaster infill between the dark frames was pierced wherever possible with leaded windows. This sober building was the Moot Hall, the place where serious issues were thrashed out and important decisions made. Facing it, and far more jocular in nature was the Mead Hall. Entirely constructed of heavy, deeply carved oak, the main structure was windowless with a steeply tiered shingle roof out of which sprouted a tower and flying grotesques. It was decorated with intertwining ravens, deer, boar and dragons, and painted in earthy reds and yellows and a vibrant electric-blue. Smoke seeped through gaps in the roof and a great deal of noise issued from its dark interior. On the green between the two buildings our merry gang found at last the Tamworth Ranters, dancing and carousing, a motley, unkempt band. Exposed skin, of which there was a great deal, was painted and tattooed, their scant clothing, brightly coloured and patterned, hair unruly, or elaborately entwined with ribbons and feathers. Many of the aged amongst the groups, wrinkled, sagging and tanned, seemed to shun clothing almost entirely. A manic hoop dancer twirled past, her plaited hair writhing like a medusa on speed. There was a hurdy-gurdy and a flautist in a huge floppy hat, standing on one leg. Several Ranters waved and called out, laughing and grinning.
“Come, Come and join us.”
Ferdy spread out his stubby wings in apology, “Later, we have business… in the hall.” He smiled sheepishly.
With Anna taking the lead, they approached the Mead Hall. At once a slender girl burst into the open like a faun breaking cover and came prancing down the wide steps that led up to its entrance. She was stained with red ochre and decorated in strange black Cabalistic symbols, an ankle length heavy woollen, tiered and pleated skirt hung from her hips and she had tiny bells on her toes. She was towing a golden youth, a naked youth, gilded from blond hairline to the tips of his toes, He was lithe, physical perfection with cornflower-blue eyes, yet unnaturally passive. The girl winked at Anna on her way past, bound for a small orchard down by the river.
“Isn’t he just too gorgeous?”
Anna smiled back without comment. Ferdy looked stunned and, ever so slightly, bemused.