As the caravan travelled on over the next week, and between fits of sleep that rarely lasted as little as a single night, Oriana learned a great deal about her rescuers. She was still bedridden, so she had little to do other than meet everyone.
They were Romantics, of course, who had travelled here from the far side of the mountains in order to make a living off of singing and dancing, as well as peddling their hand-crafted wares. Wren said they called themselves travelling entertainers, but most other people called them gypsies.
There were nine of them all together; Wrench, her mother and father, her two younger brothers, her grand-parents, and her cousin and his wife. Oriana, who only ever knew her mother, couldn't imagine having such a big family. Wrench complained a lot about having no privacy but it was fairly obvious she enjoyed having everyone around.
Wrench's little brothers were named Crow and Jimmy, which Oriana was happy to hear. A niggling worry had developed when she'd learned Wrench's full name that the rest of the Romantics would all be named 'Fork' and 'Bedsheets' and 'Afternoon Tea'.
Learning the reasons behind the names not long after, though, she had barely stifled a groan.
Crow, who was Oriana's age, was so named because when he was much younger he would laugh non-stop, and apparently 'crow' was another way to say laugh where Wrench's family was from. Something—perhaps an act of rebellion against the name itself—had caused Crow to grow into a completely different person since then; he was probably one of the grumpiest Romantics in existence. Oriana wouldn't have even thought a Romantic could be grumpy, staring through a 'happy eye' all the time.
Jimmy, who was only just old enough to talk in full sentences, earned his name by somehow escaping from his bed when he wasn't (to his family's knowledge) even crawling yet. They'd found him in the grass nearby, laughing and cooing at a friendly neighbourhood dog. Since then, they hadn't been able to keep him contained to one area no matter what they tried, and couldn't hide anything from him, either; the boy was a natural burglar and a lockpicking savant.
Luckily, his parents were not the particularly secretive and seemed to have very few qualms with their children wandering around.
Said parents, Julian and Piper, were the happiest people Oriana had ever seen, and that was after she met Wrench. She didn't think anyone could possibly smile more than her new friend, but her parents had her beat. Her mother's eye could barely be seen past her cheeks due to smiling so hard, and she rarely spoke except to tell off her children or agree with her husband. Her father had ruddy cheeks, deep smile lines, and a permanent grin that seemed to interfere with his ability to speak.
"'ow's ya gettin' on dere maid lookin' like ya been 'auled t'rough a knot 'ole y'are," had been the first thing he said to Oriana, almost as if it was one long word.
Piper quickly chimed in with, "'e's righ' 'e is."
An empty stare her only reply, Oriana was eventually rescued by Wrench.
"He's askin' how're ya doin'," Wrench explained. "And says ya look tired."
From that point on, Oriana made sure to have one of the other family members around to translate for her.
The same system had to be implemented to deal with the communication barrier between Oriana and Wrench's grandparents—they were even more unintelligible than Julian. All Oriana could make out was random strings of vowels and grunts, and even Wrench seemed to have difficulty telling exactly what they were saying.
They were very friendly, though. Wrench's grandmother (who everyone just called Nan) was always coming around to check on Oriana, testing the strength of her limbs and tutting over her bedridden condition. Oriana could never make out a word she said, but by the tone and the gestures she could make out that Nan thought she was far too skinny. Oriana didn't really like this assertion, but she knew it was coming from a place of kindness and so she ignored it.
Wrench's grandfather, 'Pap', was nearly silent and rarely came by, but he was always smiling and would nod and wink when he passed her by. Once, he even brought her a statue he had whittled from a piece of wood. It was of Oriana, and the likeness was remarkable. She could barely believe someone had managed to fit so much detail into a statue that could easily stand in the palm of her hand. There was even a miniature bow and a quiver of arrows.
After days of mostly sleeping and getting to know the family, the statue brought her back to reality. She was starting to feel better by this time, and even managed to get to her feet and walk alongside the caravan for awhile.
It was only then that she realized it wasn't being pulled by anything. It was going at a fairly slow pace, but there were no people, no oxen, no donkeys, and no horses pulling it. She must have been gawking because Wrench quickly jumped in to explain.
"Never seen one a dese before, eh?" Wrench looked extremely excited about something. "Dey's pret-ty rare, can't say I blames ya."
"How does it move?" Oriana asked, trying to lean over and look underneath it. She had to stop, though, as the attempt nearly caused her to fall over. She still wasn't quite one hundred percent.
"It's a machine, foller? Moves by itself!"
Oriana had seen machines before, like the one that had made her Seal, but none of them were nearly this big or did anything so impressive. And they all required a lot of muscle to operate, cranks and levers and foot-pedals, like the one her mother's stitching machine had. She couldn't imagine the work it must take to make a whole caravan move. Wouldn't animals be easier?
"How often do you have to crank it to make it move so far?"
"Don't! She runs on steam. Big ol' wood-burnin' boiler in dere heats up da water 'n da steam makes da parts moves instead of us wastin' all 'r time messin' around wit' it."
The more Oriana learned about machines, the more she was convinced they were just another kind of magic. How could steam possibly make something this big move?
"Dat's what da wrench is for," Wrench continued, hefting her ever-present wrench. "Got me some small ones, too, but dis guy right here is me true friend."
"What do you need a wrench that big for if you don't have to crank anything?"
Wrench stared at the front of the caravan. "Well... here! Lemme show ya!"
She walked to the front of the caravan and pulled on a latch. The front of it gave way and opened outward like a big door, and the caravan came slowly to a halt. Crow peeked out of the interior and gave Wrench an annoyed look, but she shooed him off and went back to what she was doing. Oriana followed Wrench around to the front to get a better look.
Inside was a mess of metal parts that nearly gave Oriana a headache just looking at them. She couldn't understand how what she was looking at didn't just fall apart, let alone pull an entire caravan along the road.
Wrench seemed to note Oriana's confusion and looked bashful. "Yeah, she's a bittuva mess. Fer hand-built, dough, she's not too bad."
"You built this?" Oriana's eyes seemed ready to vacate her head.
Wrench's smile quickly returned at the implied compliment. "Yeah! Well, me fadder helped a bit, but he don't have much a head fer machines. He mostly did da makin' of da parts an' helpin' me put dem in."
"How did you... think of it?" Oriana boggled. Did people just get up one day and decide they were going to put things together until they made a caravan that pulled itself?
"Oh, I didn't invent it or nothin'!" Wrench clarified. "Just took a good look at dem fancy ones all da hoity-toity proper Romantics got in da big cities back home an' tried ta make one fer meself."
Oriana seemed to have run out of questions, but only because her mind was so busy turning the idea of a city full of things like this over in her mind.
"Anyways, da wrench," Wrench said, interrupting Oriana's reverie. "Haven't quite perfected her, so sometimes I gotta let off a bit of pressure in da boiler so she don't explode. Plus I uses it for da big bolts on da wheels and hittin' stuff if need be."
Demonstrating the venting process, Wrench tugged on a gigantic bolt with her wrench, releasing a jet of hot steam away from the pair of them before tightening it again and cutting it off.
"'Explode'?" Oriana asked, not understanding.
"Yeah. Boom, burst! Noise like t'under, big bright light. Ya never seen a 'xplosion before or somethin'?"
Now that Oriana thought about it, maybe she had. When her mother had rescued her, back at the city, there had been a noise and a light just like that. And was it the same thing, only bigger, that had taken the guards' attention off of her and allowed her to escape?
"So is this machine like... alchemy?" Oriana was sure there must be some kind of connection.
"Alchemy? Ya mean like dem fancy drinks and explodey things and dat stuff? Dat's a weird question." Wrench gave Oriana a strange look, but seemed to be seriously thinking about it anyway. She was scratching her head with her wrench, which was a common habit and one that Oriana couldn't wrap her head around. The wrench came at least to Oriana's chest, yet Wrench moved it around like it was a twig.
"Don't t'ink so, no," Wrench eventually decided. "Dere's supposed to be some wagons what runs on da explodey kinda alchemy stuff but if ya ask me dat seems pretty dangerous when wood does da job jus' fine."
Oriana had to agree with Wrench on that one. Why anyone would want to ride in a wagon that moved itself by exploding, or how that could even work, she couldn't possibly understand.
All the excitement was threatening to drop her from her feet again. Wrench seemed to notice she looked a little weak, because she closed the front of the caravan again and grabbed Oriana's arm gently with her free hand.
"Alright dere? How's about we jus' walk fer a bit," Wrench suggested, as the caravan began to move again.
They spent the rest of the afternoon slowly trotting alongside the caravan without saying much, simply enjoying the weather and each other's company.