Posted December 30, 1997

Living in the Darkness

[My eternal thanks to Rayven (The Watcher/Starchild, piuthar/sister) for many, many reasons, including giving me permission to feature the DreamWalker here. =) This takes place before her "To Walk Through a Dream" This chapter is dedicated to her.
Also dedicated to my uncle...Love you, "Uncle Fido." Wishes of good health for you and Grandpa.]
*Gealach-oran means "moon song"

Chapter Five - Dream Moon

She saw the flash of light this time, she saw the curved metal as it slashed toward her. She ducked out of the way. But then she saw someone else who would be a victim of the silvery hook. She cried out, "Mama!"
Samira turned to look at her sadly. She reached out toward Samira, crying out again. But then an angry face appeared, and she turned on her heels and ran. Robuert would kill her, she knew it...But--
She had to whirl back around and see Samira. She could not leave her. Then the hook slashed at her and she ran. I cannot leave her, she thought in anguish. But there was no way to turn back now. I have to stop, I must go back!

"She gave you freedom because she loves you. You did not betray her by following your instincts," a soft, deep feminine voice suddenly spoke.

She wanted me to be free... The frightening darkness slipped away..

Shiriluna uttered a small sigh and opened her eyes. Then she cringed downward at the unfamiliar face hovering over her. She met the green eyes for a moment, then her gaze danced away nervously, noting the grey-streaked black hair, tanned skin, some white cloth that went out of her line of vision that was a blouse...Shiriluna came to the realization that the woman was a gypsy. Not like the ones she had known, but a gypsy all the same.
"Who-o--" the girl croaked, then cleared her throat to try again, voice still quavering, "Who are you?"
"Rayven DreamWalker."
Shiriluna's eyes widened slightly as she recognized the voice from her nightmare. "How--? What--?" She struggled to sit up. The woman placed a hand on her shoulder and gently pushed her back down.
"Rest, child. You are wounded still."
Shiriluna opened her mouth to protest, but then became aware of a dull pain in her head. She caught sight of a large purplish bruise on her arm and immediately gave up on getting up.
"You are in a sheltered spot not far from where you fell," the woman volunteered. She added, "You need not be afraid of me."
"I know." The words popped out of Shiriluna's mouth before she realized it. She sealed her lips quickly, blushing somewhat. As much as she did not recognize the woman, she seemed familiar all the same, and it unnerved the girl that she did not know why.
"You-you were in my dream," Shiriluna murmured in a puzzled tone. "But...I have never met you before."
The woman gave a mysterious smile. "I walk through dreams."
Shiriluna stared at her, then slowly nodded. "Hence Rayven DreamWalker." She timidly smiled. Then she said, "Did you find my mama? She was not far from where I fell. She was right behind me..." She realized she was babbling. She looked at Rayven's eyes, and her face crumpled. "No, no, you didn't. They caught her." She buried her face in her hands. "They caught her..." Her shoulders heaved as she began to weep.
"Hush, child," the woman soothed. "You being free has freed her as well."
Shiriluna wanted to ignore her, wanted to have been caught, wanted to be safe in her dark bed with her mother nearby. She lost herself in her sobbing, and did not realize how much time had passed. But when she opened her eyes again sunlight brightened her shelter.
Perfect low green archways of leaves entwined over her head. Impenetrable thick walls of stems kept out any cold and dampness leftover from the rain. The woman, Rayven, was seated at the mouth of the shelter, a breeze from outside causing sunlight to ripple over her. Shiriluna yawned and rubbed her eyes.
Everything was too bright. She had to be dreaming. Nothing was ever this light in the camp she had been born in.
Then she remembered that she had left the camp. And remembered that she had lost her mama. She began to cry.
The woman turned, her reverie broken, and she gazed at the young girl which she had found. She thought she knew the face, thought she had met what she had been following for a bit of time; perhaps a part of her quest, but not completely. That was still to come. However, she could not ignore the girl's existance. But she would not interfere.
"Child?" Rayven called.
She was answered by sniffles. She got up and made her way, limping, over to Shiriluna. "Child," she said again, putting her hand on the girl's shoulder.
Shiriluna looked up tearfully. "What do I do now? Where do I go? I don't know! I don't know!" She slumped over, weeping once more.
"Come with me," the woman said softly. "You have no home right now. Neither do I."
Shiriluna looked up at her again. "Why? Why would you want my company? I am an outsider," she said, bitterly, her hand sliding up to the scar on her left arm.
"You are not an outsider here," the woman stated warmly. Shiriluna's gaze turned questioning. Rayven continued, "Nothing they said can touch you now. It never had any meaning."
Shiriluna stared at the ground for a while. Then she asked, "But where are you going? Why don't you have a home?"
"This is my home." The woman gestured to their surroundings. Shiriluna nodded in understanding. "And I am going where it leads me."
"It?" Shiriluna returned her gaze to Rayven's face, though questioned no more. The woman explained no more.
They soon left the wooded shelter to wander through the day. Shiriluna finally got a taste of pure sunshine; even in daylight, the forest around the Dark Gypsies' camp had a smothering haze. She found a pink, many-layered-petaled flower, and managed to tie it to the front of her dress, and the beauty of the flower and its color brightened her and made her beautiful.
A small black cloud seemed to follow her, however.
The day continued. Rayven would silently point out flowers, birds, and graceful animals Shiriluna had never seen before, even though they had always been in the forest before.
At night they took shelter at the base of an old tree. Rayven fell into a trance-like sleep, Shiriluna observed as she lay awake. She considered her guide thoughtfully. Rayven had helped her to accept her losses and continue on. The woman was teaching her new things. Leading her on a path she might not have otherwise found.
She dozed off, at last content.

The next day was filled with much of the same travelling as before. They went through a village where they were paid no heed save a few wary glances. Shiriluna tried not to shy when the glares settled on her. Rayven seemed oblivious to them.
As twilight came Shiriluna found herself gazing up at the sky. She did not plan to try the melody Mama had taught her to hum to read the stars. She was still afraid to...And afraid to learn her mama's fate...They couldn't have killed Mama, despite Robuert's wickedness he cared for Samira, even though he could never love her like a normal man would...Shiriluna recalled a young man from the village who had gven her a wary yet appreciative glance and she shivered. Men were confusing.
They slept on the edge of a small glade that night. Shiriluna was curled up tightly while this time Rayven stayed awake for a bit. She knew the girl's path would leave her own soon. There was never enough time...But they each had their own destinies, and if they were separate, so be it.
She studied the girl for a moment; she was whimpering. Then Rayven closed her eyes and peeked into Shiriluna's dream. Darkness; the edge of fear, uncertainty; the scent of terror; a small, trembling figure, a shadow looming over her...
Rayven drew a sharp breath as she backed out of the dream. No, not here, not this child...But, ah, so she had been following the correct lead. She regarded Shiriluna again and began to hum, softly at first, then rising in volume. She raised her hands upward, tilting her head back, humming strongly. Shiriluna quieted, sighing contentedly. The beast had fled. Rayven knew that she would have to follow it very soon.

Shiriluna awoke more refreshed now that her dreams were no longer prey. The fear that did linger, however, was of the Dark Gypsies, and the DreamWalker could not disspell that.
It was a few nights later after a storm was reminding them of its passage by throwing an occassional cold raindrop on a nose or leg when Rayven gazed sadly down at the sleeping Shiriluna. She knew that she had to go after the dream beast now or else lose the trail. It was not yet time for Shiriluna to go in its direction, though. Rayven hesitated for a long while, kneeling again to tenderly stroke the girl's hair, and checking Shiriluna's dreams for any unnecessary distress.
"I am sorry I must leave you, child," Rayven whispered at length. "But I promise that you will find more help along your journey. I will be watching. Fare well, gealach-oran." She leaned over and kissed the girl's forehead. Then she stood and walked away. Shiriluna was oblivious to it all.

She had fallen asleep in the cool, damp grass. She awoke in a warm bed, a dry blanket covering her. A pair of soft hazel eyes gazed down at her.

* * * * * *

Shiriluna thought she was dreaming at first. But the warmth of the bed felt so real, the softness of the blanket, the alarmed breathing of someone other than herself. She cringed downward in spite of herself.
The hazel eyes belonged to a fair male face topped with short, ruffled light brown hair. An unsure expression played across his countenance. Then he sputtered in an uncertain baritone, "How do you feel?" He glanced over his shoulder nervously then looked back at her.
"Confused," Shiriluna replied, sitting up, surprised at how steady her voice sounded. "First I was outside with Rayven and now I wake up here--" She stopped and gave him a queer look. "Where am I and who are you?"
"You are in my house and my name is Illya." He glanced backward again. "And try to be quiet...My parents hate gypsies." He gazed at her face. "Although I have never seen a gypsy with blue eyes, so maybe they can be fooled at least until you are ready to leave..." It seemed that he wanted to say something else, but no other words followed immediately.
"My grandpapa was gadjo," Shiriluna replied automatically. She blushed then and looked at the floor, wondering where that bout of unabashedness had come from.
"So what is your name?" he asked with his own brand of shyness.
"Shiriluna," she said, raising her head to look him in the eyes.
"Beautiful," he replied without thinking, and his face reddened. He clasped his hands behind his back and rocked on his feet. "So...where are you from?"
"Somewhere," she replied too quickly. She drew her knees up defensively.
He glanced at the floor sharply. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I know gypsies wander. They get chased away before they can settle someplace long enough to call it home."
"I have never wandered before," Shiriluna grumbled, leaning her head on her fist, her elbow balanced on her knee. "I had a home, until a few days ago." Then she sighed and wrapped her arms around her knees. "But it wasn't a very nice home."
He asked softly, "Were your parents..." He left the unsaid word hanging in the air.
"I hope Mama is all right," Shiriluna answered numbly, "And I have never met my papa..." She considered thoughtfully, then said, "I suppose I should try to find him...I have nothing else to do." She gave a small smile, happy with the idea.
"But if you have never met him, how will you..?" Illya cocked an eyebrow in confusion.
Shiriluna tilted her head, as if recovering a strange, lost memory. "I will know him when I see him," she replied at last, content with that information as well.
Illya studied the window for a while before asking hesitantly, "Who is this Rayven you spoke of?" There was something odd in his tone.
"A kind woman who helped me after I left my 'home'."
"Do you know her full name?" he asked softly.
Shiriluna was wary, but decided he meant no harm. "Rayven DreamWalker."
Illya stared out the window again.
Shiriluna yawned suddenly. "Oh, I feel so tired," she said loudly, forcing a break in the annoying silence.
Illya, startled out of his thoughts, glanced at her. "I will leave you to sleep." He nodded an absent bow then hurried out of the room.
Shiriluna watched him go. She leaned back and stared at the ceiling thoughtfully. The boy wore farmer's clothes. She recalled her mama's tale of her childhood on grandpapa's farm. As she drifted off to sleep she thought of how she might like living with this Illya for a while.

Outside the closed door, Illya listened for the rhythmic breathing that would tell him of the girl's sleeping. He whispered, "Sleep peacefully, gealach-oran."

* * * * * *

Sunlight flooded the room. From outside a warm, fresh breeze wafted in, bringing with it a hearty working song. Shiriluna bumbled out of sleep, thinking that she was dreaming again.
A fine tenor joined the baritone in the song.
"The sun is high
The day is warm
The night is cold
The moon is white
The stars gleam bright
The land is fair
Autumn is rightly here!

The days will become cold
The night will become colder!
But as we harvest
We'll be safe this winter
And woe to those thieving crows!"

There was laughter. Shiriluna sat up, rubbing her eyes. Then she looked out the window, swaying to find the best position to see who was outside. In a brown field, two men were scraping at the ground to get some vegetables. The shorter, light-haired one she realized as Illya. The much taller, darker-haired one with a much thicker frame must have been Illya's father. Then a woman entered the view, stocky and well-built for survival on the rural land.
Shiriluna smiled faintly. Such a quaint family picture they made. The smile became sad as she recalled that she had a family, too. She hoped that one day hers would be together, someday.
There was a happy shout from outside. She let go of her thoughts and looked again to see Illya running toward the house, a big grin on his face even apparent from where she was. A few moments later there was a knock on her door. Shiriluna instinctively held the blanket up higher and closer, then called hoarsely, "Come in."
The door swung open as if it had not been waiting for consent. Illya beamed at her as he strode in. "We are going to town today! Do you feel well enough to come with us?"
Shiriluna nodded enthusiastically. A chance to explore the land! Who knows, maybe Papa would be in this town.

They left a short while later in a rickety wagon that contrasted with the gleaming chestnut mare that led it. Shiriluna had borrowed a cloak from Illya's mother to cover her worn dress. She was constantly turning her head to see the surrounding land, observing everything intently. Illya, beside her, smiled at her curiosity. His parents both sat on the driver's bench, wary but welcoming their guest. They had never noticed any gypsies with blue eyes before, and they assumed that her darkly tanned skin meant that she was a lost farmer's daughter.
The town held a sprawling market, with many and varied goods. Illya took Shiriluna on a tour of the village while his parents traded for the goods they needed. They had very little money.
Shiriluna listened to all Illya said, hanging onto his every word, as she was eager to learn of everything outside the Camp of Darkness. Every vender's stall held a curiosity. The one that drew Shiriluna closest was the wood carver's. She was intrigued by the images the man's skilled hands created. Small figurines, patterned etchings in plaques, block letters...A raw plaque caught her eye and she boldly pulled it out of the spread. It was different from the rest. It was done in relief; the pattern was raised instead of carved in. And such delicate images! Small yet clearly defined stars dotted the surface, and in the top left corner was a gently curving crescent moon. Shiriluna caught her breath at the work's beauty.
Illya leaned over her shoulder to get a look at what fascinated her so. Without looking at him, she whispered, "Mama would love this, if only just to see it..." A tear brimmed her eye and she carefully set the plaque down. Then she turned away, her mind leaving the sunny pavilion and the cheerful people, returning to the oppressive darkness of her former home.
Illya took her arm as her stance wavered. The woodcarver was watching warily. "Is she all right, boy?" the man asked, not sure if he should be concerned or not.
"She-she was ill earlier," Illya stammered. "She should have stayed home."
"You should get her home soon."
"Aye," the boy agreed. He guided Shiriluna away to find his parents.
He thought he had spotted his mother when suddenly he felt Shiriluna trembling. He turned her around to face him. She slumped by his hold on her shoulders. "Shiriluna, what is the matter?" he asked, bringing her closer to him but not daring to hug her; if his parents saw...but even now he felt his ears grow warm.
"Mama," the girl whimpered. Tears flowed freely. She became heavier and he could not help letting her lean against him.
"Shh, shh," he whispered, gently stroking her hair. He wished he could think of a better way to comfort her.
"Illya!" cried an angry voice.
Illya looked up to see his father lumbering toward them, his mother right behind. "Shiriluna is not well," he said when they were close enough to hear his soft tone. Damia patted her son's head, then put an arm around Shiriluna's shoulder to help the girl, murmuring quieting words to her. Petre gave his boy a scolding look, yet the gleam in his eyes showed a pride in the boy's tenderness.
They had bought the goods they needed and were able to head straight for home. Crowded in the back with the supplies, Illya watched Shiriluna as her eyes dimmed and her thoughts flew farther away.
Her eyes were closed by the time they reached the farm, but she was merely sleeping.

* * * * * *

Illya paced the length of the hallway, preoccupied with more than his fatigue. Working in the field till the night was too dark to see through had made him very weary, but he was determined to be there if Shiriluna made even a peep. He felt obliged to help her.
His parents, meanwhile, were becoming worried about him. While Petre began to doze off at the table, Damia bustled about worriedly. "Don't fret, Damey, he is only looking out for a damsel in distress." Petre smiled at the heroic visions of his son that came to his sleep-blurred mind.
"Oh, I know," his wife replied, drying a plate with a torn cloth. "He has such a big heart. But he should look out for himself. Nothing will happen to her while she sleeps."
"And she has nightmares during the day, so her starlight rest should not be disturbed," Petre mused.
Damia stopped drying dishes, putting the cloth down with a resigned sigh. "Where do you think she is from?" she asked, turning to look at him to ensure a serious answer from him. "She has yet to speak to us about anything."
"She will when she feels it is right. Her family could have all been killed and her home burned down. If that is the case, I would not want to speak of it either."
Damia nodded in agreement with the wisedom of the theory. It would explain the waking nightmares as well.
From up the stairs they heard a frightened shriek. They knew Illya would tend to alleviating the strange girl's fears.

* * * * * *

Illya burst into the room the second the cry began. Shiriluna was bolt upright in bed, staring blindly at the blackness outside the window, a look of terror frozen on her face. Her uncomprehending expression remained even as Illya sat down beside her and hugged her, gently pressing her head against his chest. "Hush, child," he said in reply to her quiet, broken whimpers. "You are safe. You need not be afraid."
She sat up suddenly, staring at him. He smiled meekly back. At once she hugged her arms around him, leaning her head on his shoulder. "She sent you, no?" Shiriluna whispered, easily falling into his tender embrace.
A chuckle was the only reply. She blushed, thinking her inquiry foolish. She did not want to go back to sleep. Even without them nibbling at her essence, the nightmares were still crippling. Oh, when would she find peace...
It was peaceful enough lying in Illya's arms.

* * * * * *

The town was dark, with even darker shadows lurking in the alleys and doorways. She stepped lightly as she ran down each street, seemingly sprinting. A dark mist was following behind her, flowing over the footprints she left behind and obliterating them.
She wasn't sure what she was looking for, or why she had returned to the village. She knew the true item of her search was not here. She had returned for something else, she supposed. But what...
A hiss, a whisper behind her. She turned in mid-flight. Her eyes widened, and, now feeling too slow, she shook her head in denial, black hair streaming behind in the motion, and she whirled to run again. She could not move quick enough, the mist was faster.
It closed around her; she could feel it grasping at her mind, with a force as if she had slammed into a stone wall. Her head snapped back, and then her entire body began to fall backward. As the mist swallowed her greedily, she felt a tug on her hand, and then she was yanked forward, pulled completely free of the mist. She ran half-heartedly, but the tug on her hand was persistant and forced her onward.
Light broke on the horizon. She realized that it would save her from the fiercely pursuing mist. At once she became woozy and had to stop running. The force left her hand and went toward the light, becoming a blurred silhouette. She raised a hand to block the glare of the light. Then she gasped in surprise and relief.
"Illya! I knew it!"
He smiled that meek, sweet smile, stepping forward out of the glare so that his pale features became clear.
"I was right," she said with a sly grin.
He continued to smile, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips to kiss the back of it.
She smiled in return. After a few moments of gazing at each other, his voice floated in. "Take care, gealach-oran. You are not entirely safe just yet."

* * * * * *

Shiriluna sighed and rejoined the world of the conscious. Her back felt stiff. But she decided not to move. Illya's head was nestled comfortably against her side. She stroked his hair for a while. She became alarmed, though, when her fingers brushed his forehead and she felt the unnatural warmth of his skin.
He had a deadly fever.

* * * * * *

Shiriluna had manuevered herself away from Illya to get up and move him to a better position on the bed. Then she had rushed to get his parents. Now the three of them stood watching the boy, the pain of the illness dancing across his face every so often. So sudden, so horrible.
Shiriluna paced uneasily. She didn't know what Petre and Damia might be thinking. They kept casting nervous glances at her. Were they thinking that she had brought the disease? Or had they known Illya was already in bad health and her appearance had aggravated his condition? She squeezed her hands together till it hurt. No matter what the true cause, she felt responsible.
The night continued without Illya waking. Once dawn broke, Damia insisted that they find help, anyone, anything at all. Petre remained rational and said they must be calm and patient. Things weren't as bad as they seemed, he insisted.
Petre left to work in the field, having lost half a day's harvesting, promising to come running at any shout of distress. Damia was in a daze, and left Illya alone with Shiriluna. The girl herself was at a loss. She sat on the bedside, numbly watching her friend as he struggled against the fever. She lost track of time, and in evetide did not hear Damia's call for the meal.
Shiriluna gently brushed Illya's hair back again and again, waiting for him to wake. She began to sing softly, a song she had heard from Rayven, although it was in another language and she did not understand the words. But it sounded like a sweet lullabye. She hoped that Illya could hear her. She, on the other hand, was too busy remembering the words to notice the door opening as Petre and Damia came to check on Illya.
All they saw was their son lying still and pale, a mysterius girl singing in a strange tongue.
They should have seen for themselves what the girl's distress was the night before instead of letting Illya be alone with her.
Petre grabbed her by the shoulders roughly. "You--gypsy!" he blurted.
Damia quickly snatched up the accusation. "You've brought a curse on him!" she shrieked blindly. "You and your evil magic!"
Shiriluna started to protest, but found her reflexes acting instead; she leapt up as Petre lunged at her, dodging past Damia to the door.
Too sudden -- why was this happening to her? She had to be dreaming!
She ran out of the house. Fled into the night. Never to learn if the kind boy survived or not.

* * * * * *

Running. Running, running, running. That is all she could remember. Anyone would know instantly if she was a gypsy, and chase her out anyway. Winter was coming soon, she knew, and knew that she had to find a place to stay. But no where was a place to call home. She had to continue to wander. Wandering. Wanderer. A true gypsy.
One winter. Two winters.
She was so very tired when she came to a fork in the road she had dared to travel on in plain sight. There were two signs, each pointing down a split. She glanced back and forth in confusion. She could not read. She could count, though. The sign on the left had five letters, the other, four. She veered left.
If she had been able to read, the sign for the road she took would have clearly said, "Paris."

* * * * * *

Dark was the night as she wandered the narrow streets of the city the road had led to. She had slipped past the guards, familiar with dangerous soldiers by now. She looked around at the darkened buildings, not sure which to approach to ask for help. She had heard of a great house that always offered shelter to any who was in need...
Shiriluna continued through the winding streets, nervous about her surroundings, but having no choice than to keep walking, for she knew not where to go. All of a sudden she felt a sharp blow from behind, then one in front as her head struck the ground. Then blackness.


(or, if you have not read it already, to the "continuation" of this, The Gypsy Princess

Otherwise, on to the story following TGP, The Tale of Day and Night

To The Archives

(c) 1997-2004 Autumn Loweck. This work may not be copied, distributed, or reprinted without the author's permission. All characters not owned by Disney are property of Autumn Loweck (aka Shiri) and may not be "borrowed" or mentioned in other works without notifying the author first