Jehan took his job in stride and made his best effort to make a good impression on Shiriluna. And he did exactly as he was told, introducing Shiriluna only by her first name. Although, more than one person gave her a look as though they recognized something about her. Jehan would suppress a crazed grin and save a scornful chuckle for when he was in Clopin's presence. However, he knew of Clopin's concern for the secrecy of the actual identity of the girl.
Shiriluna asked the reason herself. "What did you mean by your subjects? You make me think my papa is some type of royalty."
"Oh, but he is, mademoiselle." Jehan bowed low, then straightened and pointed regally upward while keeping a straight-forward face. "None other than the King of the Court of Miracles and purportedly the King of the Gypsies!" Shiriluna stared at him wide-eyed. Jehan suddenly burst out laughing. "Although, he is not much more than an old fool!"
Shiri placed her hands on her hips. "Why am I getting the feeling that you are the fool?"
Jehan stopped, then laughed again. "All right, all right, I give! We're all mad here!" He got control over himself again, then said, "But, truly, Shiriluna, he is king here." He grinned at her. "That would make you the princess, would it not?" He smiled servily and bowed low. "At your service, Your Highness." Then he stood straight. "Now, on with the tour!" He headed off again with Shiri following at his heels. Not far behind, Melisande slowly trailed them, watching them.
Soon they came upon the place where most of the young adults stayed, in a chamber seperate from the main one. They were gathered in small groups around tall stone columns and low stairways, some talking, some practicing their talents, and mostly showing off for each other. Jehan led Shiriluna over to a group consisting of three boys and two girls.
"Dovev! Crespin! Hallo, friends! Come meet the new girl, Shiriluna!" Jehan called affiably. They greeted the two with smiles and by giving their names.
Dovev leaned toward Jehan and whispered, "I never knew Clopin had a daughter."
Jehan's jaw dropped for an instant before he sputtered, "But -- how did you know -- I mean, hmph! What are you talking about?"
Dovev chuckled, then patted Jehan on the back. "Do not worry, m'friend, I will not tell anyone."
"On my life," Jehan hissed nervously.
Dovev laughed. "Very well then, I swear on your life."
"Not funny," Jehan grumbled. Then he turned to Shiriluna with a quaint smile. "Well, anything in particular that you wish to know about this place, mademoiselle?"
Shiri smiled. "Everything."
The conversation went from person-to-person, each telling what they knew. Then it came down to telling how each had come to be there. Dovev, Crespin, and Tirza had been born there, Arvad was a gypsy foundling, Jehan was an outsider foundling, and Imena had been found wounded and had been helped by Dovev and Crespin.
Then it was Shiriluna's turn. She smiled broadly as she began, "This morning I was found by--"
"Clopin!" Jehan finished for her, giving her a warning look. He abruptly stood. "I think we had better be going. There are still a few more people to meet." He took Shiriluna's hand and pulled her to her feet.
Shiriluna looked at his hand holding hers and she blushed a little. Jehan did not seem to notice. Melisande, hiding behind a nearby stone column, did notice, however. "It must be well into the night by now," Jehan said hastily. "We should be getting to bed instead."
Dovev yawned at a nod from Jehan, then said, "You are right, friend, it is late." He nodded to Shiriluna. "Fair eve, mademoiselle." Then he and Imena left.
"Come, Shiri," Jehan said numbly. The two headed back toward her tent.
"Why did you stop me?" she demanded.
"Clopin does not want anyone to know you are his daughter," Jehan replied harshly, then grumbled, "Dovev knows, though. Anyone with half a brain will wonder!" He glanced at her. "Dang, anyone can tell." He took her chin in his hand and turned her head to the side. "Aye, you even have the same profile, basically." Jehan grinned and tapped his nose. "Although some features are not as prominent." He chuckled and tapped the tip of her somewhat pointed nose.
Shiriluna crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes at him. "Are you always so subtle when you mock people?"
"Me?" Jehan stepped back, motioning toward himself with both hands. "Shiri, you must understand that Clopin and I have been friends for a long time! We always make fun of each other." He burst out laughing.
"You are strange," Shiriluna muttered.
"Thank you," Jehan replied abruptly. He started laughing again. Shiri walked away from him in disgust. He called after her, "You will get lost that way. If you go down the wrong tunnel, you could be lost forever."
"That is not true. I could follow the sounds I hear, the voices."
"The sounds are misleading." Jehan went up to her, his face solemn. "If you do not know your way around and there is no one to show you the right ways, you can easily get lost in the catacombs. The sounds echo and repeat until you have no idea where they came from. Trust me."
"Do you know of anyone who became lost?" Shiri asked incredulously.
"Some of those skeletons--" Jehan let his voice trail off as he remembered that Shiriluna had not seen the way to the Court. "Maybe I should show you," he continued grimly.
Shiriluna's eyes were wide. "Skeletons? Here?"
Jehan nodded. "This is a gruesome place where we live, but it is safer than living above ground."
"I am not sure I want to know," Shiri said warily.
"Well, when you go outside you will see." Jehan ended the conversation about one of the not so pleasant aspects of the gypsies' hideout. They continued in the direction of Shiriluna's tent.
Suddenly Jehan whirled around. "Aha!" he cried. "I knew we were being followed!"
Melisande paused in mid-step, and quickly posed herself in a cool manner. "I was just--"
"Following us," Jehan finished for her. He smiled as she came up to them. "Feeling left out, Melisande?" He put a comforting arm around her shoulder. "Why did you not say you wanted to come with us? You did not have to sneak around."
Melisande leaned her head on his shoulder. "I am sorry." Melisande sighed. "But you seemed a little distracted..."
"I was busy showing off!" Jehan laughed.
Shiriluna smiled. "You are amazingly honest."
"We trust each other here," Jehan replied, grinning.
"That is a rare commodity," Shiri muttered.
Jehan chuckled. "Indeed it is, but outcasts have to learn to trust one another." Melisande was giving him a blazing look as he said this.
"Really?" Shiriluna asked doubtfully, catching Melisande's expression.
"Really," Jehan insisted, cheerfully slinging his other arm around Shiri's shoulder. "Come, let us go find Clopin."
Shiriluna spent a comfortable night in her new home, the first comfortable sleep in three years. She thought back on the day's events. It seemed some what strange that all of this had come to her at once. After three years of searching...Never had she felt anything as strongly as when she first saw Clopin. It was as if some magic had guided everything. Her mama had always told her about the magic in the stars and in fate.
She had come to abhor fate in the past three years. Her life had been relatively tranquil before she and her mama had tried to escape. A tear came to her eye as she gazed at the ceiling of the tent. Then she was on her own, all alone, running from the danger and searching everywhere.
Then there was the day when she came to Paris. Something about the place told her to look well. Then one night, the very night before, she was walking down a dark alley when she was hit from behind...She remembered nothing more after that until seeing Clopin's face, and something inside told her that her search was over.
And, now, everything had changed so fast. And she was a princess. In the only other tribe she had known, she was treated like dirt, like the outsider she was for not being born one of them. Now all in one day she found all the love she could ever need.
She fell into a deep, cozy sleep with that last thought.
The next day was filled with meeting more people and a tour of the catacombs. Jehan was again the guide and did his best to scare Shiriluna and Melisande. It became evident that the three would be good friends, despite Melisande's suspicions.
Jehan even showed Shiriluna the vault entrance to the Court. Then, even more daring, they went into the city. The skies were cloudy and dark. There were also many soldiers around, so they had to be wary. Jehan showed Clopin's puppet theatre to Shiriluna, and he pointed out the emergency sanctuary if there was no way to get to the Court of Miracles -- Notre Dame Cathedral. Shiri could only marvel at it for a few minutes before the three had to run for a hiding place as a troop of soldiers marched into the square.
It was evening when they returned to the Court. They were greeted in front of Shiri's tent by a bouncy Clopin. "Shiriluna! Where have you been?" he cried, a grin spreading over his face. "Jehan, what have you been showing her? I am ready to believe you have been dragging my daughter all over France!"
"No, just all over Paris," Jehan replied cheerily.
"I might wonder," Clopin said dryly. Then he turned to Shiriluna. "I have something for you." He cast a sharp glance at Jehan and Melisande. "If you will excuse us," he hinted. Jehan took Melisande's hand and they put a little distance between them and Clopin, but stayed close enough to see what was happening.
"A gift for you, Shiri..." Clopin bowed, then twirled around and between his gloved hands appeared a silver necklace. He smiled as he held it out to her.
"Oh, Papa!" Shiriluna exclaimed, clasping her hands together. "It is beautiful!" Her gaze lingered on the gleaming charm of a crescent moon with a star inside the curve.
Clopin smiled fondly as he closed the clasp after slipping the necklace around her neck. "It is even more beautiful on you." He placed his hand under her chin as he looked upon her face. "And...not as beautiful as you."
Shiriluna blushed. "Thank you, Papa, thank you." She hugged him tightly.
As he felt a tear come to his eye, Clopin broke the embrace and said hastily, "Go let your friends see." He smiled after her as she hurried over to show her present to Jehan and Melisande.
It was later when Clopin remembered something from the morning before. He poked his head out from the entrance of his tent to see if Shiri was still chatting with her new friends. As it was, she was about to walk into her tent. Clopin quickly called to her, "Shiriluna, come here for a moment."
Shiri scurried over. "What is it, Papa?"
"Shh," he hissed. He took her arm and ushered her into his tent. Then he said quietly, "I nearly forgot..." He motioned to her left arm. "Pull up your sleeve."
Shiriluna drew a sharp breath. She knew he would ask about the mark sooner or later. She tugged the sleeve of her blouse up to her shoulder.
Clopin looked at the crossing lines and said softly, "That mark is burned there, isn't it?" Shiriluna nodded. "What is it? A symbol, no?"
She nodded, then gently touched the mark. "It means I am a child born outside their tribe..."
Clopin gazed at the mark, then choked out, "Did it hurt?" The tears echoing in her eyes told him much.
Clopin's face suddenly contorted in rage. "I hate them!!" he snarled. Shiri drew back slightly. "I hate them! They will pay if I ever find one of them! They will pay for everything--!"
His expression softened as he looked at Shiriluna. "Especially for hurting you." He hugged her tenderly, then murmured, "They will not get away with hurting my little girl..."
Coming Next: The 3rd chapter of the Gypsy Princess: A Confused Jester
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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