By: Tymber Dalton

Chapter One

It was a gorgeous day for a joust. Sunny, not too hot, and with just enough of a cool breeze blowing through the woods surrounding the grounds to keep things comfortable without wreaking havoc with the tents or blowing dust everywhere.

Rebecca sat in the shade of her tent and took a moment to watch the people walking the grounds. Elegant ladies modeling their finery, handsome knights, a few knaves and wenches, even the occasional pirate. And, of course, plenty of common folk. The scent of roasting meat and other delicacies hovered in the air, on the breeze, as well as the hint of horse manure.

The latest project she was working on lay safely nestled in the folds of her skirt, forgotten as she focused on a jester annoying a couple trying to eat their roasted turkey legs in peace.

A woman who’d been browsing some of Rebecca’s wares held up a bracelet.

“Excuse me, do you take credit cards?”

“Sure do, m’lady.” Rebecca had a small table set up next to her to hold the chainmaille rings and supplies she needed. So she transferred the project in her lap to the table and reached inside the tent to grab her tablet from the messenger bag she used as her purse.

Turning it on, she brought up her credit card software, swiped the woman’s card through the reader hooked into the earbud jack, and then e-mailed the woman a receipt while she put the bracelet on.

“Oh, what an adorable dog!” she said, making Rebecca glance behind her.

Chewi, awakened by the discussion, was standing at the opening of Rebecca’s tent. The little four-year-old, short-haired tri-color terrier-Chihuahua mix wore an ornate chainmaille vest of many colors. Just over fifteen pounds, he frequently acted like he weighed a hundred and fifteen.

“Thank you. Chewi’s my baby. He goes everywhere with me.”

Chewi sat and sneezed at them.

“Do you sell online?”

“I sure do.” Rebecca reached over and plucked a couple of cards from a business card holder on her table, handing them to the woman. “I have an Etsy store and a website.”

“Great, thank you!” The woman tucked the cards into her purse. “Have a nice day.”

“Thanks! You, too.” Rebecca sat in the camp chair again and reached over to pet Chewi. “Well, that was another couple of weeks of your kibble,” she joked. “Guess I can keep feeding you.”

This was an old private joke between them. He simply glared at her, as if the idea of her not feeding him was ludicrous.

Here I am, thirty-seven, and I’m talking to my dog.

Worse, there were times, frequent times—as in every day—that she held full conversations with Chewi, including an entire mythos about him trying to rule the world.

And he talked back.

I need help.

No, what she needed were more friends, or…well, maybe she did need therapy.

Over in “the pit,” as everyone called it, she heard a roar from the crowd as the jousting display kicked off. That likely meant business would be slow for the next thirty minutes or so. Once the crowd broke up, they’d head for the main row of food tents located just past her, meaning a flood of people.

Including ones with sticky fingers.

She was lucky she lost very few items to theft, and then usually only small things like earrings or bracelets.

For good measure, she pulled some of her more expensive pieces off the table and slipped them into a glass-topped display box with a few intricate and ornate pieces she never left in the open. Then she thinned out the bracelet display, removing a couple of duplicates, as well as some of the earrings.

Never hurt to be safe.

By the end of the day, she’d made over five hundred dollars in sales and didn’t appear to have lost anything. Not her best day, but not bad for a Friday, and at least she’d almost made back her vendor fee for the event. Tomorrow would be busy, and she’d tip over the scales into the black in terms of what she’d shelled out for the vendor space.

After noting which pieces she’d sold so she could remake them, she packed her merchandise and supplies in totes to stack on her cart to take back to her RV. All the while, Chewi sat and watched her with a baleful glare.

“This would go faster if you’d help me, you know, instead of giving me dirty looks,” she shot back at him.

He sneezed at her.

* * * *

Some of the other vendors boondocked on the grounds at the South Carolina park, tapping into an iffy electrical system or using their gennys, but Rebecca didn’t want to do that. Not at this venue.

Not when there was an excellent RV park literally five minutes away with all the comforts of home, including free Wi-Fi.

And, since she worked from her “home,” she could deduct part of her costs as business expenses.

She loaded her stuff into the back of the Toad, her green Honda CRV, got Chewi’s safety harness on him, strapped him into the passenger seat, and hit the road.

The RV park was a nice one she’d stayed at plenty of times before, always booking herself a space in advance as soon as she had the next Ren fair’s dates in her calendar and had confirmed herself a vendor space. For this fair, which lasted three weekends, she’d spend the entire time living there at the RV park. It meant catching up on shipping orders for her Etsy store, replenishing her supplies because she’d be in one spot long enough to receive a shipment, and being able to actually sit and make new products instead of driving to the next venue.

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