posted April 17,1998

Interlude: The Moon Song's Guardian Raven

[More thanks to Rayven for allowing me to help shape the DW's past]
{Language notes: gealach-oran = moon song; macgealach = son of the moon; teachdaire = oracle. Many, many thanks to Rayven for the ghadlig!}

Chapter Two - The Mystic and The Oracle

Rayven avoided Clopin for the rest of the day. She caught a glimpse of him only once, and almost thought it odd that he wasn't wearing his gloves. She said nothing of the confrontation to Shiriluna when she checked on the girl in the evening. Rayven then spent the night becoming re-acquainted with the layout of the Court; since the last time she had been there, more homes had been added, and lanes rearranged. She let the peaceful security the sleeping denizens gave off settle over her, and she began to feel rested.
She did not give pause as a presence approached from behind her. Then she stopped as a male voice said breathlessly, "Rayven..."
"Why are you not sleeping," she asked as warmly as she could, turning to face him, "Phineas?"
The relatively tall, lean man looked sheepishly to the ground, rubbing the back of his neck. Wrinkles creased at the corners of his eyes and mouth, and along his forehead below salt-and-pepper hair. "I...heard you had returned." He moved his hand forward to nervously stroke his peppered beard.
"You heard true." She smiled falsely.
"I'm...glad to see you again," he stammered, searching her eyes for a sign of mutual feeling. There was none. He lowered his gaze to the ground, now at a loss for words, which was unusual for the bard.
"It has been a while," Rayven prompted, "How have you fared since we talked last?"
"Much the same as before," he replied blankly. Then he grinned weakly and ran a hand over his hair. "A little grayer, but still the same.034;
"Ah," she uttered emotionlessly. There was silence for a few moments.
Then a voice called over to them, "Rayven?" and Teague-Raviv appeared out of the shadows.
"Something wrong?" the DreamWalker asked, though she knew all was fine -- well, save the awkwardness between Phineas and herself.
"No, I was just wondering where you, to talk to you," Teague stumbled over the words, unsure of what he was doing.
Phineas smiled brightly. "`Tis the prince of the Court!" He gave a sweeping bow.
Teague grimaced faintly. "I -- please -- don't call me that."
"It's true," Phineas asserted with a wink. "Won't be long till you and the princess are wed."
Teague reeled back a few steps. "We're too young yet!" he cried.
Phineas laughed at the boy's distress. Rayven merely mused a smile. Phineas continued, "It is only a matter of time..."
"I would like to speak to Madame Rayven alone, if you please," Teague said vehemently. Phineas hesitated, glancing sadly at Rayven. But he obeyed and hurried off with his head down.
Teague noticed the look and turned questioningly to Rayven. She shrugged. "So you wished to speak to me," she prompted.
"Yes..." he paused as if trying to remember why exactly he had gotten up in the middle of the night to find her. Or perhaps he didn't want to ask what he was thinking of. "I...was wondering..." He hesitated again, looking like he was trying to think of an alternative to his true question. "Ah -- what is it that Shiri must face, of which Clopin is so angry about?" He let out a quick breath of false distress, adding, "I am terribly worried about her, you see..."
Rayven studied him for a brief moment. He clenched his fists and tapped his foot nervously. The DreamWalker said softly, "She will tell when she is ready. Do not be hurt if she tells you nothing, for she will not even tell her papa."
Teague gave a meek smile. "I understand." He noticed that she was studying him again. He hastily looked away.
The DreamWalker waited a moment, then said, "And your other question...Have no fear, lad. Your spirit was ever pure and good, and now that it is free it will prosper. Have no fear." She drifted away then, leaving him to ponder in awe.

* * * * * *

Shiriluna awoke from a mercifully dreamless sleep the next morn to see a blurry violet form nearby. She blinked then rubbed the sleep from her eyes. The image cleared to reveal Rayven DreamWalker (and without a spot of violet near her) sitting on a chair, facing the girl, yet her eyes were almost frighteningly distant. Shiriluna gave pause before croaking out, "Rayven?" She cleared her throat and repeated in a softer, more melodic tone, "Madame DreamWalker?"
That managed to break the woman's trance. Rayven blinked and focused on her. "Good morning, gealach-oran."
Shiriluna smiled meekly, then abruptly put her hand to her head, squeezing her eyes shut at the same time. Rayven sat up straight in alarm. The girl murmured, "I do not know if I can let go of it, Rayven....It...makes me me..." She opened her eyes to peer at the woman, not removing her hand. " seems so right..."
"But not necessary," Rayven countered. She abruptly sighed in exasperation. "You are so like your papa..."
Shiriluna bit her lip at the tone of the remark. Then she spoke, her voice strained and soft, "So he was haunted by the guilt that was imagined from the thought that he abandoned my Mama?"
"Yes, same as you."
Shiriluna fell into a shocked silence. Then she lowered her head, her gaze on the ground. "You told him that he had to face it, as well."
"And did he?" She raised her eyes to show the tears brimming them.
Rayven looked back with a hint of sadness, the same amount of hint in her voice. "I had hoped he would, but with the latest situation, I see non."
At that moment the tent flaps parted and Phineas entered. "Ah, greetings, Princess." He bowed toward her. "--and le corbeau de reve." He gave a second bow in Rayven's direction. Shiriluna noticed immediately the tension that appeared, seemingly coming from Rayven, who was now sitting a little rigidly. Phineas, on the other hand, was oblivious to it. "So, was the interruption to our conversation worth the lost time?" He grinned softly.
Shiriluna felt the hair at the back of her neck bristle. There was something very uncomfortable between the two. She decided to try to ease Rayven's edginess. "Phineas," the girl said in an authorative tone, "I don't recall giving you permission to enter."
"Well, I--" Phineas stammered. "I -- I was sent by your papa. To attempt to cheer you up."
Shiriluna crossed her arms. "I still did not say you were allowed in. You could have walked in on something inappropriate for you to see."
Phineas' face darkened in embarrassment. "I - I--" For once in his barding career, he had no idea what to say. At last he blurted, "A thousand apologies, my princess!" He whirled and stumbled out of the tent.
Rayven turned to the girl with one eyebrow raised. Shiriluna let her arms fall to her sides. "Well, I thought he was rude to do that!"
"He can be thoughtless sometimes," the DreamWalker muttered.
Shiriluna glanced toward the entrance, her expression thoughtful. "He was acting very strangely. Awkward would be the word."
"He is always nervous around me," Rayven replied in an odd tone. Shiriluna cast a puzzled look at her. Rayven sighed, then continued softly, "He loved me once...I don't think he ever...stopped...despite circumstances."
Shiriluna studied her for a moment before asking warily, "And do you...feel the same way?"
Rayven's gaze grew distant. But she snapped to attention in the next second, saying guardedly, "You know better than to ask, Aisling-fiosachd."
"Should I?" Shiriluna asked with eyebrows raised, and a teasing glint in her eyes.
Rayven stared at her, then murmured, "Have no fear, child. Your Mama's spirit lives on in you."
Shiriluna's face faded to blankness. Rayven, sensing a useless argument, stood and turned to leave. she murmured, "Someday, you, gealach-oran, and macgealach will understand Fate."

* * * * * *

Phineas slumped down against the good back wheel on his wagon (the other was broken; he could have been repairing it at that moment, but he felt like moping instead). He had never been so uncharacteristically at a loss before. A bard can always find something useful in any situation. Yet whenever he was around Rayven, his thoughts stopped turning and he felt like an unworthy courter.
He sighed and leaned back, lazily watching passers-by. Maybe he would spot someone he would be willing to talk to...ah, there! That unique, blond-haired fellow strode past, head down. "Jehan, lad!" Phineas called. "Come sit and talk with an old man, will you?"
Jehan glanced back and forth, shrugged non-committedly as if to an invisible companion, then headed toward Phineas. "Well met, bard," the young man said in a heavy tone, as though he had been contemplating the meaning of life and hadn't wanted his thoughts sidetracked. "Why are you not off spreading your never-ending cheer?"
"Sometimes even a cheerful bard needs cheering up, once in a while."
"What brought you to this state, friend?" Jehan asked, concerned by the sadly wistful tone in Phineas' voice.
"Ah, a long tale, lad...I made it a ballad once. 'Tis about a lad who fell in love with a lass who had to travel afar. When she returned, she was not the same, nor did her feelings remain for him. When she left on her travels again, the lad said no fare wells, but just went about as though he had never loved anyone above the love for brothers and sisters.
"But when the lass returned again..." His visage grew dark. "He felt the feelings take hold once more...But the lass no longer loved him, accepting him only as a friend..." His expression deepened to a troubled scowl.
"I could tell you a tale as well," Jehan murmured, "About a foolish man who loved two women for different reasons, and found himself wondering which to stay with."
Phineas replied distantly, "There can only be one true love in a man's life, the one woman who will be loyal to the end -- and he will be loyal to her, mutually."
Jehan uttered a long sigh.
"Don't be a fool, lad," Phineas said without looking at him, his face expressionless. "You could make a grave mistake."
"I wasn't talking about me!" Jehan cried indignantly, leaping up to stand over the bard threateningly.
"No, no you weren't." A sign of life finally came back to the bard in the form of a mischeivous gleam in his eyes.
"You know how much I love Melisande! How could you think I meant me?!"
"Oh, I didn't. But you should be careful -- love makes one blind." He meant to be teasing, but he couldn't keep his voice from breaking.
Jehan drew back in surprise. "What is it?"
"Nothing, lad, nothing..." Phineas forced himself to steady, while gazing off into the distance.
Jehan folded him arms knowingly. "Who was your lass, if I may ask?"
"I...don't remember her," Phineas murmured, the faraway look returning to his eyes. Then he whispered, "Only in my dreams....Only in my dreams..."
Jehan cocked an eyebrow in puzzlement. He slowly turned away. "I must leave...Fare thee well, troubled bard..."
Phineas' head lowered as the young man walked away. The bard sighed, letting his head slump between his shoulders. Abruptly Jehan whirled back around. "Have hope, dear Phineas," he called to the aging man. "She must love you yet, for your dreams have never been so bad as others'." He turned away once more and continued on his way.
Phineas slumped over farther. What does the boy know... He grimaced at himself. Of course, it will ruin my bardsman reputation if I am seen like this... Immediately he sat up straight, then leaned back casually against the wheel. Slightly better... He soon dozed off into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

* * * * * *

Shiriluna peered past the curtain cloaking the entrance to her tent. She was surprised that there was no guard posted, knowing her papa. Actually, the whole reason for struggling out of bed was to find her papa. She had not seen him since the previous evening.
Just as she started toward Clopin's tent, a hand grasped her arm, jerking her to a stop. She whirled around in alarm. "Rayven!"
"Where are you going?" the woman asked, concerned.
"To find Papa," Shiriluna replied softly.
"Come, I know where he is."

* * * * * *

The sunset glittered on the cold water of the Seine. A lone figure stood on the bridge, one foot leaning on a protruding stone, his left arm draped across the leg, the other arm's elbow resting on the thigh, and his chin cradled thoughtfully in his bare right hand. The light breeze tugged his black hair away from his face, while his eyes, narrowed against it, gazed out over the river as if searching for the answer to an unspoken question in its watery depths.
No words were forthcoming, from neither the river, nor stone, nor wind. He exhaled loudly, producing a small cloud in front of his face that immediately dissolved into the surrounding air. The cold did not bother him, or at least he was not aware of it. Much was on Clopin's mind this eve. Winter was upon them, once again endangering those who called the Court of Miracles their home. He knew that he had to focus on that, but his own, personal thoughts kept wedging themslves through the former concerns. What about Shiriluna...
Well, what about her? He could worry about her, as he would for all his days, yet he had to accept that she would be all right this time. She had managed to survive three winters on her own, she could very well live through another while surrounded by caring friends. Ah, then the question was, would he survive it?
Clopin closed his eyes as another cold breath of air brushed over his face. He listened as if it was supposed to sing words of consolation. When the air stilled again, he sighed and looked down at the river.
Quiet footsteps soon approached from the left bank. Clopin ignored them, until their owner appeared beside him, leaning her arms on the balustrade. "She is by no doubt your daughter. You even share the same reasons for grief," Rayven said softly. Then she moved back, out of the way, to let Shiriluna speak to her papa.
The girl's gaze fell on the water as soon as she stepped up to the low wall. Only Clopin's eyes moved to watch her. Shiriluna watched stars appear in the river as they twinkled into being in the swiftly darkening sky. Then she saw her own reflection, and the one similar to it beside it. Softly, she said, "I have heard we share nightmares along with looks. And the same guilt." She turned slightly to gaze at him. "Guilt for the same crime."
Clopin turned his head toward her, looked her over, and then his lips parted as if to speak. Nothing more than a single, shuddering sigh issued forth, and then once more his gaze was on the river.
Rayven inconspicuously retreated to the street, to the back wall of a large building, just outside of the circle of light created by the flickering contents of a sconce.
"How can it be," Shiriluna continued, "that we each blame ourselves for the same thing?" Clopin offered no reply, though now it seemed a sigh shuddered through his entire body. When he looked at her again, his jaw trembled.
"I thought I was abandoning her when I found I successfully escaped. She even told me to leave her..." Shiriluna then found her gaze wandering up to the sky. She inwardly winced, hastily looking down at the small glittering waves. "I feel unbearably guilty about it...And you, too, are burdened by feelings of guilt about abandoning her..." Once more she gazed at him, her eyes imploring him to speak.
"Clo--I cannot forgive myself," he said softly, after clearing his throat during the first word. "I should have been able to save her. I should never have let go..." His eyes grew distant, and his bottom lip trembled.
"To what end?" Shiriluna asked softly. "They would have captured both of you -- and you know very well they would have killed you right away, and then not spare her...or me." She steadied her voice then continued, "But you lived, and I escaped, and you were here to find me, or else I would not have survived...and we live on for her, so that she would not be lost forever...It's what she wants. Us to live."
She flicked her gaze skyward again. Clopin regarded her a moment, then uttered a sob and wrapped her in a tight hug.

* * * * * *

Rayven watched, satisfied, from the street. After she shielded the emotions from her, she became aware of the soft singing of a fiddle that was setting the mood perfectly. She whirled around to stare at the figure standing in the pool of light, who had dared to sneak up on her. Phineas. Just when she thought the world was right again.
The song purposely tugged at her heart, but she forcefully ignored it. "Phineas, no entrancing music now, please," she said, her voice neutral.
The old bard drew the bow across the strings in one last melodic wail before lowering the instrument and frowning at her. "Mitta was only singing for the benefit of yon king and daughter there," he replied with a pout, pointing the bow toward the bridge.
Rayven's eyes flashed knowingly. She said gently, "Please, do not fool yourself, Teachdaire. I think it is time for a talk."
"Really, Mademoiselle Rayven? I have only been trying to speak to you since the second moment after you arrived!" He folded his arms, tucking the bow and fiddle under the left one. "Well, what would you say, DreamWalker?"
"I say you are acting a little strangely."
Phineas snorted. Rayven raised both eyebrows. "Rayven, you--"
"Hold, bard. Listen to me first. I am not who you fell in love with. You missed the true one because you were so smitten with me. I am sorry for you."
"That's a lie! There was no other!"
"Hush," she scolded his sudden vehemence, and she sent a meaningful glance toward the bridge. Phineas did not follow her gaze, only steadying a glare on her. "Leave your anger and longing behind, Teachdaire. They do you no good."
Phineas clenched his jaw, but the fury in his gray eyes drained away. He murmured softly, "My heart was only for you, le corbeau de reve..."
"And mine was, and still is, too wild and free for anyone." Something flashed in her eyes; Phineas saw and recalled tales of his ancestors of mystical fey wonders.
After a moment, he said, "Jehan knows of our tale. He had quite a one to tell himself."
"Aye, he has to watch himself, that one." A thoughtful look passed over her face. "He could be in for rough times, if he makes the wrong decisions..."
"I hope I don't make any wrong decisions," Phineas muttered.
"Such as what?" Rayven asked with a hint of teasing in her tone.
Instead of replying, he leaned close to her and kissed her cheek. Then he whispered in her ear, "Your heart might not be mine, but I value your friendship just as much, my lady." Next he went into another swimming ballad on the fiddle, a wide smile across his face.
Rayven let herself drift away on the music this time. Gazing up at the stars, she sighed contentedly to herself. All was right with the world again.

Coming Next: Interlude: The Moon Song's Guardian Raven, Chapter Three: Endings and Continuations

To The Archives {where the stories are in order to make sense ;) }

(c) 1998- 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