It was well into the Spring season when the two packed up all of their belongings in a cart, took the one mare, and started on their long-ago planned trip. They were heading to Paris, to start a new life together. They would get married officially, then go on in a traditional gypsy life; Clopin had quickly forgotten about his old life once again.
They made it to the countryside outside Paris without too much trouble, having made only a few detours to avoid gypsy-hunters. Fate seemed to be guiding them well. The weather was agreeable, and the fresh Spring air gave a new hope and vitality to everything.
In accordance with that hope for new happiness, Clopin and Samira had left their mourning clothes to the past, and wore cheery-colored clothes this day; Clopin had donned his multi-colored festival outfit, while Samira had on her favorite blue dress, a yellow scarf around her waist and a pink scarf tying her hair back. She wore her earring openly now.
They were innocently driving along a dirt road, with a forest up ahead, Samira sitting beside Clopin at the front of the cart. They both knew things would be perfect from then on. "Just think, Samira. A whole new life is waiting ahead of us!" Clopin said, glancing over at her.
Samira sighed dreamily. "Ah, romantic Paris."
The next several minutes were used by taking in the scenery. It was mostly open fields, with scattered trees before reaching the dense mass of forest. The air was crisp, bringing with it the sounds of birds singing, a gentle breeze carrying the sweet smell of flowers. All was calm and peaceful.
Samira leaned toward Clopin and whispered something to him. At once, his jaw dropped and the reins fell from his hands. Samira laughed and snatched the reins before they fell from the cart. Clopin shut his mouth and turned to her with a look of disbelief, yet a smile began to spread over his face. Samira grinned and nodded. Clopin smacked his forehead, then sighed and slumped in his seat. Samira held the reins out to him, and he took them, but only gazed at her. Samira smiled and folded her hands against her stomach, and seemed to blush a little.
Just then Clopin noticed the sound of approaching horses behind them. He paid no mind to it at first, for, of course, other travelers used this road. He did, however, direct the horse toward the side of the road. They were lowly gypsies after all. They had no right to be on the main road. Clopin scowled at the thought.
The sound quickly grew nearer. Something inside Clopin told him to turn to see. Haltingly he looked over his shoulder. Then he gasped. They had found him. Samira looked at him in alarm. Her fear grew as she saw his pale face. She turned, too, to see the approaching riders.
They came up swiftly, dressed all in black on black horses. The Dark Gypsies. Clopin let out a choked cry and smacked the reins hard on the mare's back; the horse whinnied in fear, as if she knew what danger had come as well. The cart shot forward; the riders kept pace. One came up along Clopin's side. He tried to kick the rider, but the Dark Gypsy grabbed the reins and pulled his horse up short. In that moment when the escape was not blocked, Clopin jumped out of the cart, taking Samira with him.
The riders shouted at each other, one or two shouting a curse at Clopin.
Hand-in-hand Samira and Clopin ran into the forest, the Dark Gypsies right behind them. The two dodged trees and bushes; the sound of hoofbeats fell away, replaced by running footsteps on all sides. Clopin, breathing hard, kept glancing at Samira, frantic about her condition which she had revealed to him earlier.
Clopin didnĖt notice the thick tree trunk until it was too late -- he had no choice but to let go of her hand and swing the opposite way around the tree, or else crash into it. In that moment his whole future was yanked away from him as someone grabbed his arm and yanked him backward. He had finally been caught by the Dark Gypsies.
Samira looked back at him in horror. "Run! Run, Samira, run!" Clopin yelled as he was dragged roughly away from her. Samira's eyes filled with sorrow; then she turned and plunged into the brush. Clopin watched her run out of sight and out of his life...But at least he knew she would be safe.
Or so he thought. While he was held back, a growling voice shouted, "After her! He must have told her! She will die along with this traitor!"
Clopin gasped. Not only from the thought of Samira being harmed -- which brought rage to him -- but that rage was drowned by the shock that he knew that voice! Yes, it had become deeper and harder over time, but he recognized it. He cried out as he whirled around, "Robuert?!" The man standing before him was indeed the boy he had known as Robuert; but, who had changed considerably. He still had his arrogant, bully poise; now he had a thin moustache, and his black eyes held a colder look than ever before. However, what caught Clopin's attention was that Robuert's left arm ended in a silvery hook. Clopin gagged as the memory of the night he had fled ricocheted into his mind, when he had drawn his dagger and had struck someone, and he had not looked to see what he had damaged. Judging from the fierce look of hatred on Robuert's face, Clopin knew he had caused the addition of the metal appendage.
"So we meet again, Clopin," Robuert growled. He brandished his hook at ClopinĖs face.
"B-b-but-t??" Clopin stuttered, completely bewildered.
Robuert smirked. "I know what you are thinking. You remember it all now, don't you, Clopin? You remember that I made the dare?"
ClopinĖs voice left him, and he swallowed hard, only nodding. Robuert leered at him. "It was my job to purge the tribe of potential threats to us. And you volunteered to be eliminated."
Clopin shuddered and went pale. Robuert laughed. "So, now you are thinking of those who didn't say a word, your poor naive friends. I don't think I have to say what happened to them."
If it were possible for Clopin to become more pale, he did, or at least turned a shade of gray. Robuert threw his head back and laughed. Clopin suddenly found his voice. "B-but you are my friend!"
Robuert shoved the tip of his hook under Clopin's chin, threatening to give him a closer shave than was already evident on his clean-shaven face. "I was never your friend!" Robuert snarled. Clopin flinched. "You were always so good, so wise, too smart for your own good!" Robuert's face contorted in rage. "And then you did this!" He held his hook against ClopinĖs cheek so that Clopin could not help looking at it.
A shrill scream made Robuert turn and Clopin look up. Samira was being dragged, kicking and crying out, into the small clearing. "Well, well!" Robuert exclaimed, an imitation of a kind smile coming across his face as he looked at Samira. She only gazed at Clopin in fear; from the look in her eyes, Clopin saw that she knew these were the ones who had been chasing him the day they met. "My, aren't you a pretty one?" Robuert placed his hand under Samira's chin. She sneered at him.
Something inside Clopin snapped. He threw aside the Dark Gypsies who had been holding his arms. Then he lunged at Robuert, his hands closing around the Dark Gypsy's throat. Samira stumbled away as Robuert threw his arms upward, his back arching as he struggled to stay upright while being pulled backward. Clopin tightened his grip on RobuertĖs neck, then turned and rammed RobuertĖs head into the nearest tree.
One look from Clopin sent Samira running again. Three other Dark Gypsies closed in on Clopin, but, knowing Samira was in danger, he quickly disposed of them. Then he, too, broke into a run, though he took a different path through the forest than the way Samira had gone. Through the trees he caught glimpses of Samira's blue dress. He made a resolve to meet up with her as soon as possible.
At one point he looked up ahead, and saw a shape that resembled the wall around the city. "Look, Samira! There it is!" Clopin cried. "Keep running! We will soon be safe! There is Paris!"
It was only a moment later when he heard Samira's scream. Clopin whirled around in an instant, but too quickly, for he lost his balance and fell backward. And fell and fell. He had fallen into a very deep hole. All sound was cut off. He could not help Samira, or himself.
Certain that the Dark Gypsies had sent him falling into the pits of the most horrible death, Clopin closed his eyes and prayed that this type of death was not his fate. Suddenly he landed, on something hard and cold and wet. He blinked at the near-blackness, then stood up, looked about more carefully, and realized that he was in some sort of tunnel.
In the next moment he found himself surrounded by living skeletons. Just when he thought they were going to make him one of them, a cheerful baritone called out, "I thought I told someone to seal up that hole so we would not have more uninvited guests than we would like to execute!"
A tall, dark man with a short beard and a long moustache that curled at the ends dressed in brightly colored clothes walked out of the shadows, grinning up a storm. "And for heaven's sake, let that lad go!" The skeletons backed away, removing their masks, revealing the faces of angry men. It was a good thing he had intervened. They were about to behead Clopin right then and there.
The tall man took one look at Clopin's multi-colored clothes and his earring (which all managed to stand out in the dim light from down the tunnel) and clapped Clopin on the shoulders. "Can you not see that he is one of us?" the tall man scolded the others.
Then he turned to Clopin. "My name is Jacques - and that is enough. I rule the Court of Miracles - ever hear of it? I would be surprised if you have not! The safest place for gypsies, thieves, rogues, scoundrels, and any other outcast you can think of! And you, sir, are certainly one of the above. Now, what were you doing in the forest that you fell into our trou-aux-rats, hmm?"
In such a situation, Clopin was terrified, but he managed to stammer, "Chased! B-by evil gypsies--" Clopin stopped at the alarmed mutterings of the others.
Jacques called out above the others, "That voice! Light a torch, someone! I want to see clearly who exactly we have here!"
Clopin shielded his eyes as a torch flared up in front of him. As he lowered his hand, the whispers grew until all went silent as someone cried, "Adriel!"
Clopin gasped. "You know my father?" he blurted.
The color returned to JacquesĖ face as he sighed. "Not Adriel." A puzzled expression came to his face. "But...it is his son..." He glanced at the others. "You all know what that means..." He let his voice trail off. Then he turned to Clopin.
Clopin returned the look nervously. "I - I don't understand. How do you know my father?"
Jacques made a courtly bow, then replied, "Adriel came here several years ago with his two daughters, after the...deaths...of his two sons; rather, the younger disappeared. Adriel had found out about the evils of his original tribe, and his drive to find other gypsies and warn them of this evil gained him much prestige, insomuch that he earned the title of King of the Gypsies.
"Sadly, only two weeks ago Adriel was captured by the 'honorable Justices of Paris,' led by Judge Claude Frollo -- I warn you, be wary of him, lad -- and...he was executed. The Court of Miracles has been in an uproar ever since, panicking at the slightest movement of the guards." Jacques said the last part quickly, to cut short what ever emotion might occur in Clopin at the news of his fatherĖs death.
Immediately, Jacques added, leaning toward Clopin to confide, "The only reason I said I rule the Court is because I have been second-in-command for many years. But it really is not my rightful title to be King."
Clopin saw the implications. His brow furrowed as he mulled over what had just been given to him. A grating voice suddenly called out, "Can he prove he is Adriel's son?" The tone was angry and demanding.
"Silence, Andry!" Jacques ordered. "He looks and sounds so much like Adriel that we all thought he was Adriel!" He abruptly turned to Clopin. "Name, please."
"Wha-?" Clopin stammered, snapping out of his overwhelmed stupor.
"Your full name!" Jacques commanded.
"Clopin Trouillefou," came the quick reply.
Jacques slapped his hands together. "There! You see? It is him, Adriel's younger son! That is the name Adriel told me, the name of the one who disappeared!"
Clopin gulped, shifting uncomfortably. He hated being reminded of how he had left his family...abandoned his loved ones...loved one... "Samira!" Clopin suddenly shouted. "Oh, no! Th-they caught her!" He nearly screamed in anguish.
Jacques grabbed ClopinĖs shoulders and shook him. "Calm down, lad! Who caught her?"
"The Dark Gypsies, the ones my father--" Clopin's voice broke. "Oh! They will kill her! Either help me or show me the way out!" His strength returned in the request, which sounded more like an order than a request.
Jacques smiled shortly and muttered, "Adriel." Then he cried, "Of course we will help! Come on, men!" With that he dashed to an opening in the left side of the chamber and led the group into a low tunnel that sloped upward. With Clopin right behind him, he said, "You know, don't you now, lad, that you are successor to the crown of the Court of Miracles..."
"I do not care if I am Pope of Rome! I have to find Samira!"
Jacques chuckled despite the situation. "Something tells me you are the right man for the job."
Finally they reached the outside. The tunnel exited from the side of a hill; the forest lay ahead of them. Quickly, they split into four groups heading in the four main directions, then separating individually to comb the woods as carefully as possible...
The most they found was the cart with all its wares and the mare...and a torn pink scarf...There was no other trace of the Dark Gypsies...or Samira...
Coming Next: The Tale of The Blond Gypsy: Chapter One: The Little Shadow
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(c) 1997-2004 Autumn Loweck. This work may not be copied, distributed, or reprinted without the author's permission. All characters are property of Autumn Loweck (aka Shiri), unless specified otherwise, and may not be "borrowed" or mentioned in other works without notifying the author first