Posted July 12, 1997
[Author's Note: A scene in this chapter resembles a sequence from the Disney movie. It was not meant to, but will appear to. It was actually meant to echo a scene from one of my earlier tales.
Also, there are referrences to a tale by Rayven DreamWalker (with her permission) To Walk Through A Dream I should hope you have read it, and if not, please do so!]
Clopin leaned back and stared at the roof of his puppet-theatre, uttering a listless sigh. He had just finished his show for the day. He realized that he needed some new stories. He had told one of his favorites, his version of the Ugly Duckling, for the he-did-not-know-how-many-th time.
He glanced at his look-alike puppet hanging limply from his hand. He shifted his arm and let the puppet fall to the floor. Then he sighed and looked at the ceiling again.
Clopin had been acting listless since he found out that Jehan and Melisande were missing. At first he did not care; but, as before, he could not help worrying about his friend. Shiriluna, on the other hand, had been completely distraught at the news from the start.
Clopin left the wagon after stuffing his look-alike miniature into his pocket and made his way to the Court of Miracles. He did not walk with his usual vigor, but rather sort of dragged along, his arms hanging limply at his sides. He was also very tired, since he had not been sleeping well. He had been having strange dreams lately, the images all distorted. They were annoying at the least. Not disturbing yet. He hoped that they would stop. He had enough troubles without dreaming as if he was drunk. But then, seeing as he never got drunk, he was not sure if that would describe the dreams well.
He sluggishly entered the Court. Around him noise echoed off the walls. Chatter, music, laughter, bounced around him. It all became louder. He suddenly staggered. What was happening? He leaned up against a wall and then slid to the ground. He felt so dizzy...and tired. The sounds blended together into a muffled humming.
Then he heard one voice over it. Someone calling him and shaking him. He opened his eyes and gave a start at the deep blue eyes staring back at him. "Sami--" he began, but stopped himself as everything cleared up. It was Shiriluna who was standing over him. Clopin pressed a black-gloved hand to her cheek. "You have your mama's eyes," he said shortly, then got to his feet.
"Papa, are you all right?" Shiriluna asked, startled by his comment.
"Yes, Shiri, I am fine. Just very tired." He gave her a smile and started off toward his tent, limply slightly.
"Are you sure?" Shiriluna persisted, following him. "Why are you limping?"
"Am I?" Clopin inquired with sincere innocence. "I did not realize if I was hurt. Oh, well." He shrugged and continued on his way.
Shiriluna hurried to his side. After a moment she said, "Something is wrong. Tell me."
Clopin shrugged again. "I am just tired. That is all."
"Then go to bed." Shiriluna stopped hm. "I am worried about you, Papa." She hugged him.
"Don't worry about me much. You remind me of your mama when you are so concerned."
Shiriluna looked into his eyes as she drew back. "Have you been having dreams about her?" she asked warily.
"I cannot tell," Clopin replied unthinkingly. "I mean--" he stammered, "The dreams I have had...they are not clear. Everything is...blurry."
Shiriluna gave a small smile. "That is because everything here is blurry -- the events lately, your feelings toward them are unclear."
Clopin's expression was impressed. "Very good." He then smiled and draped an arm around her shoulder, inconspicuously leaning on her for support as he guided her toward his tent. "So, my daughter reads dreams." He suddenly stopped and murmured, "I wonder if you can..." His voice trailed off.
"What?" Shiriluna asked, curious.
Now he looked into her eyes. "I wonder if you can stargaze, like your mama." He lowered his voice. "Read messages in the stars."
Shiriluna turned her eyes to the ground. "I never tried..."
Clopin patted her shoulder. "Don't sound so upset! I am just rambling. Don't mind me..." They came to his tent and he lifted the flap to go inside. "I am going to take your advice and try to sleep." He smiled at her reassuringly. "Maybe I will feel better later, eh?" He was inside before she could reply. It was darker and quieter inside his tent. Maybe he would sleep peacefully this time...
He saw a blackness all around; yet by the edges there was a strange golden glow. He could not see where he was going, so he stood still. At once his arms were seized and he was dragged forward. Then downward. Down into a substance that seemed like thick water. He struggled, but the holds on his arms tightened. He was going to suffocate -- No!
Clopin's eyes flew open. He yanked the blanket away from his face and sat up, breathing hard. Then he shuddered. He really had felt like he was drowning. But it was not water; it was a plain substance, whatever it was. But who was trying to drown him? A wave of dizziness hit him and he laid back against the bed, his eyes drooping closed again.
Once again there was the blackness. Again he was seized by the arms and dragged forward. Then down, down into the darkness. He felt chill air as he walked, and heard the echo of dripping water down a tunnel. But there was no sign of light anywhere. Just darkness. Two figures on either side of him held him fast, though he could not see them. They blended in with the blackness.
His head began to feel heavy and he let it fall forward. His whole body felt drowsy now, and soon the two figures were literally dragging him along.
Abruptly he felt a shake and he raised his head, his eyes half-closed. A large fire burned before him. Now that there was light, he tried to see who was holding his arms. Two grim-faced men, who stared straight ahead, scowling. Clopin vaguely thought that he recognized them, but as he tried to search his memory, the thoughts slipped away.
Then he became aware of a faint humming, that cleared to be someone singing. It was sweet and gentle at first, but then became sharper and more intense. Then it stopped altogether as he looked up. Wisps of green threaded through the fire. Clopin blinked. That was a strange fire...
He blinked again. Something seemed to be moving inside the fire. The flames, you fool, that is-- his thoughts were cut short as a pair of eyes turned from the flames to look right at him. The entire image became clearer. He stared in shock. He knew those eyes, that face...It was so clear, it was like he was seeing the person, except that she was made out of flames. The big eyes, the short hair, and a flowing dress of fire...Memories raced through his mind as she danced. This was impossible...It could not be happening again...He had escaped!
A fiery hand reached out toward him. He stumbled backward. He was no longer being held still. The entire form stepped free of the fire and followed his clumsy path, reaching for him. He slipped and fell onto his back. The bright figure came closer as he tried to stand. He felt a sting as her hand touched his shoulder. Then a burning as the hand trailed down to waver over his heart. The fiery pain became too great and he uttered a cry that rose to a scream...
Everything was trembling violently. He slipped into consciousness to realize that someone
was shaking him. With a low moan he opened his eyes. Again he found deep blue eyes staring back at him. "Sa--" He caught himself. "--S-Shiri..." He tried a smile and croaked, "Good morning."
"You were having a nightmare," Shiriluna said evenly. Clopin sighed and nodded. "What was it about?" she asked.
He looked at her face, then sighed again. "It does not matter. I do not want to talk about it." He turned his gaze to the floor as her eyes became teary.
"Papa, please tell me. Maybe--"
"Maybe you should go back to bed," he said softly, his gaze still on the ground.
She hesitated, then, glancing back at him once, she left the tent. Clopin leaned back and considered the dream. And the figure in the fire...the figure was Corgee. He had no doubts about that. But what did it mean? He thought of several answers. None of them were pleasant.
He had not had a nightmare like that since...the dream beast. He shuddered, remembering that episode. And where might Rayven DreamWalker be now, if he needed her again? But this time, he knew it was beyond even her power to help him. Thinking of her made him realize what the cause of the dream was. Only he could face it.
The next evening Clopin did not go to sleep at all. Not out of fear of having a dream, but
because he was distracted thinking about the last one, and so he could not fall asleep if he
He was determinedly awake the following morning. He did not, however, go above ground to his puppet-theatre as he would usually do. Instead, he stayed in the Court, while many others left to partake in their daily business.
Clopin left his tent and headed toward the far corner of the Court, to where the area was cleared for performers to practice. Where the tents and wagons began as a street again, there sat a small red and violet structure, that had been abandoned for a while; since the night the princess was kidnapped. Corgee's tent.
Clopin glanced around warily, making sure that no one was watching, before he slipped inside the tent. He was not surprised to see that the contents were strewn about; Corgee would never have been organized. But what did surprise him was that it seemed that someone might have been there recently. The usual vandalizing scamps, Clopin thought, used to situations where people disappeared without a trace and left all of their possessions behind.
He went over to a straw trunk in the corner and began to search through the clutter, wondering where Corgee would get such items -- stacks of parchment bound together, pieces of silken cloth, and odd crystalline stones. He paused as he uncovered a small wooden box. He cautiously reached to pick it up. The wood was stained a dark reddish color. But not so red that the markings on top were not clear; instead, they stood out in black.
Clopin stared at the marks on the lid of the box. They were symbols in patterns of lines and curves. Like the mark on Shiriluna's arm...
"Being a little nosy, my king?"
Startled by the voice, Clopin nearly dropped the box. With trembling hands he set it down, then turned around, eyes wide.
Standing by the entrance of the tent with her arms crossed was Corgee. Clopin managed to stand, but he took a step back. Gone from her face was the naive smile and sweetness that had always been. In their place was focused anger and a superior air. "Who said you could come in here?" Corgee demanded.
"Who said you could come back from the dead?" Clopin retorted, though shrilly.
"I was not dead, you fool!" Corgee cried angrily. She put her hands on her hips. "That rat did not kill me! He put me through a lot of pain, but that was it!" She sneered at him. "I am a good actress, no?" She suddenly threw back her head and laughed. "I have been tricking you for years! I am good." She smirked.
Then she motioned toward the trunk. "If you are so curious, take a look in that box."
Clopin narrowed his eyes at her. But he did pick up the box again. Corgee chuckled lowly as he hesitated. He pushed back the lid. At first all he saw were gray ashes. Then as he ran his fingers through the ashes, he came across a more solid object. He dusted it off; a smooth wooden disk with a symbol of a crescent moon with two stars inside the curve on it. He blinked. Then he remembered; this was one of the symbols on the 'throne' in his tent. He glanced up at Corgee, narrowing his eyes again.
"I have been controlling your dreams, Clopin," Corgee murmured, sauntering toward him.
Clopin leapt up, dropping the box and spilling the ashes, the wooden disk clutched in his hand. "You fool!" Corgee shrieked. She dove at him, her face twisted in fury.
Clopin dodged past her, letting the disk fall to the ground. He darted out of the tent. Corgee followed at his heels. Clopin suddenly whirled around to face her. "Who are you? What are you?! What were the symbols on the box? They look like the one on Shiriluna's arm."
Corgee bowed, spreading her arms wide. As she stood straight, a light smugness in her expression, she said, "Piece it together, O brilliant king."
And as she said that, Clopin realized that he had answered all of his own questions. He became pale and he staggered backward. He stared at her in horror. "No--"
She laughed mockingly. "Yes, my king, I am one of them! Your worst enemy!" Out of nowhere she produced a thick metal rod, as wide and long as her arm. "A Dark Gypsy!"
Clopin gasped and dodged to the side. It could not be...in his Court, for those few years...His foot slipped and the metal rod came within seconds of his face as he fell onto his back. He stared up at Corgee. She smiled as she brought the rod away from his face.
"Now, how to do this..." she murmured, smirking. "Oh, one thing first. Was it not brilliant of me to pretend to be a senseless jester? It is amazing how much you can find out about a king that way. A king, Clopin? After what you did? Even more amazing." She smirked again. "They were interested in hearing that." She ran the rod over her palm. "I was sent to find you, Clopin. They wanted to make sure that you were dead. I did not expect to find you. Ah, but then I did. And I waited."
She frowned. "Waited too long. But I did not expect that brat of yours to escape." She suddenly leaned over him and hissed, "She was supposed to be dead, Clopin. Do you understand that? Dead!" She repoised herself and went on, "I tricked Andry into kidnapping her. You were foolish not to ensure that he was dead all those years ago -- but Andry should have ensured that your foundling friend was dead! He should have put that knife through his heart!" She gripped the rod till her hands turned white.
Clopin felt his anger rise at her hateful thoughts of Jehan. The boy had saved Shiriluna. Clopin narrowed his eyes and began to move to leap up. Corgee's hand suddenly shot out to hold the thick rod against the tip of his nose. Clopin involuntarily gulped. "I could break your skull with this, Clopin. And I think I will." She was smirking again. "I will have to kill you, you know. And your brat. That is why they sent me back here."
"Do you think I will give up without a fight?" Clopin asked slyly.
His foot shot out to trip her. But she seemed to know what he would do and she leapt upward. The rod followed her down and slammed into the stone beside Clopin's head. The rock crumbled under the blow. "Your face is next!" Corgee screeched.
Clopin dove to the side. "Evil witch," he spat out. Corgee laughed and forcefully brought the rod down again. Clopin's hands shot up to grab the rod before it hit him. He leered at Corgee.
"Let go!" she shrieked. "You are dead!"
"No no no," Clopin said, grinning as he stood, forcing her to step back, keeping a grip on the weapon. "You are the one--"
Corgee began to hum in a low tone. Clopin paused, glaring at her. Then she began to sing quietly.
Clopin felt a wave of dizziness hit him. No! Not again! He fought to keep steady. But an old familiar feeling began to creep through. Those words...in a language he could never understand...He staggered and fell against the wall despite his efforts. The heavy darkness was wrapping around him. He could feel it moving upward inside him, and then it reached his heart, curling around it. Then it was in his mind, paralyzing his thoughts. He stared up at Corgee angrily, then helplessly.
Corgee stopped singing and sneered at him. "That will teach you not to fight what must be." She raised the metal rod high, and repeated calmly, "You are dead."
"Hey, Corgee, I thought you were the one who was dead," a voice interrupted.
Corgee whirled around. Clopin managed to tilt his head to see. "Jehan!" Clopin cried, and at once he broke out of the spell.
The foundling was charging toward them, balancing staff in hand, and he called out, "You know, I really need to be more careful when I try to kill someone. I should make certain that they stay dead!" He aimed the staff downward. "Duck, Clopin." Clopin dove out of the way as Jehan shoved the staff at the ground and vaulted the rest of the way, his out-stretched legs leading until he rammed into Corgee's shoulders. Her cry did not last long as she was slammed into the wall.
"Well done, lad," Clopin exclaimed, and clapped him on the shoulders once Jehan had hopped up. "And excellent timing," Clopin added.
"Good thing I decided to come back when I did, eh, you old fool?" Jehan grinned.
"Indeed," Clopin chuckled. He did not have time to blink as a red-violet form shot past him.
The staff flew out of Jehan's hand as the recovered Corgee leapt at him, shrieking, "Why do you always have to ruin everything?!"
"Whoa! Hey!" Jehan staggered backward. She hissed and tried to claw his face. Jehan put his arms up in front of him in defense. "I think I liked you better before you gained intelligence." He suddenly jerked one arm out to smack her across the face. "Oh, wait, you are still lacking there."
Corgee shrieked and dove for his throat. "You are going to stay dead this time!"
"Um, no." Jehan grabbed for the collar of her tunic and succeeded, then lifted her off the ground. She became the hapless, slight jester again as she futilely struggled to free herself.
"Evil beings." Jehan shook his head sadly. "You need to learn what love is, Corgee. Love is why I returned. I love my home, and I love my family. It is a simple concept."
Corgee sneered at him. "This is not your family. You do not belong here." She spat at him.
Jehan scowled, then said, "Clopin, what should we do with this witch?"
Clopin stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Perhaps I will call the Court for some special entertainment." He leered at Corgee. "There is good 'noose' tonight!" Then he thought some more. "Or perhaps her own choice of death." He retrieved the metal rod and smacked it against his palm. Corgee snarled at him.
"Vicious little demon," Jehan murmured, narrowing his eyes. He let his hand slip so that he was now holding her by the throat. She gasped in surprise. He grit his teeth in a sneer and tightened his grip. "I don't belong here, eh?" Sudden strength rippled along his arm. "Do you know how long I have been waiting for someone to say that?" He tightened his grasp again. Corgee choked. " 'Noose' for you, Corgee -- I belong here. You don't."
Anger is a dangerous fuel.
An unfamiliar look came to his eyes. Clopin took a step away. That was not the Jehan he knew. The foundling narrowed his eyes again, then slammed Corgee against the wall. Her head hit with a loud crack. "And stay dead this time!" Jehan ordered as he backed away. Her head lolled to the side at an unnatural angle in answer.
Jehan became himself again as he turned to Clopin, who offered a meek smile. "Welcome home, lad."
Jehan grinned. "How could I ever leave this place? There is always something fun occurring." He laughed coldly.
Clopin was not as amused. He ran a gloved hand over his hair. "There are still other matters to tend to." He headed toward Corgee's tent. Jehan, curious, followed.
"I never knew she had all this trash in here," Jehan commented after they had searched through almost everything.
Clopin was kneeling by the straw trunk, and only 'hmm'ed in return. Then he said, "Look at this." Jehan came over as Clopin held up a small wooden box. "There is another one like this -- Corgee said she was controlling my dreams with it." He opened the box and shifted through the ashes that were also in this second box. He paled slightly as he looked at the wooden disk that he found in this one.
Etched into the disk was an image of a crescent moon with a single star attached to the tip. But, burned over the symbol was the exact same mark of curved lines that scarred Shiriluna's arm. Clopin squeezed the disk in his hand. "Evil magic." He frowned. Then he set down the box and the disk, and stood. "Let it never again appear in the Court of Miracles." They left the tent to be disposed of later.
That evening, once Jehan and Melisande were happily back in their original spot, Clopin went to bed thinking that everything was perfect again. He was certain that no more evil would cause his dreams to be distorted.
He did have a dream, and it did begin pleasantly.
Clopin watched the little girl laughing and skipping as she moved down the street. She
was carrying a small basket of white flowers. She stopped and set down the basket, then
picked up a flower and wove it into her long black hair. She had a dozen white blossoms
done before the basket was empty. Giggling, she held up her skirt enough so she would not trip as she ran again.
She was heading toward Clopin, a bright smile on her face. "Papa!" she called as she ran into his out-stretched arms.
"Shiriluna," he murmured as he scooped her up in a hug. She laughed as he twirled around, holding her up.
"Hello, Papa," she said, and as he stopped she kissed his forehead. "Do you like my hair?"
"The flowers make you even more pretty, my little moon song," Clopin replied, smiling. He set her down, and, giggling, she scampered away. Clopin sighed and smiled after her. His little girl...
Suddenly a shadow appeared behind Shiriluna, something of a mist that trailed her path. Clopin blinked, wondering if he was imagining things. But, no, the mist was becoming darker, more solid. The black beast! Clopin thought. But it could not be! They had destroyed it! Hadn't they?
He tried to run to warn Shiriluna. But he could not move. He could only stare in horror as tendrils of dark mist reached out to grab her. Then he heard the little girl scream...
Clopin bolted upright. He thought he had woken up -- but he still heard a scream. It took him a moment to realize that there really was a scream, coming from the tent beside his. He vaulted out of bed and rushed from his tent.
"Shiriluna!" he cried. She was sitting up in bed, sobbing hysterically. He hurried to her side and hugged her, frantically trying to comfort her. "Shiri, what happened, please, tell me."
"A nightmare, Papa, a horrible nightmare!" She burst into another sob.
"Tell me, tell me," Clopin hugged her tighter.
At that moment the tent flaps were flung apart and Jehan and an alarmed Melisande entered. "What is happening?" Jehan demanded. "I heard a scream all the way across the Court!"
Shiriluna looked embarrassed. As Clopin drew back, he repeated, "Tell what the nightmare was about, Shiri."
Shiriluna took a deep breath to calm herself, then said, "It was not just a nightmare...It was something that actually happened..."
Clopin looked into her eyes, then spoke softly, "Tell us your tale, Shiriluna."
She was silent for a few moments before she began her tale of...
The author gleefully announces that this tale came to a total of 136 written pages!
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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