Posted September 22, 1997
[Timeline: This story takes place a year after "The Gypsy Princess"]
Shiriluna sat on a ledge above a cleared space in the Court of Miracles, re-tying the light blue scarf in her hair. Another successful day of storytelling, and now she had returned home to lounge around for a while, and to watch everyone else running around, and perhaps get a new idea for a tale. She did not realize that on this day of observing, her life would change forever.
She leaned back against the stone and gazed at the people passing. She waved to Jehan and Melisande walking hand-in-hand, but neither waved back. She allowed herself to be lost in the flowing music from Phineas' fiddle as the minstrel sported one of his favorite instruments outside his tent. Then a flicker of movement from the side caught her eye and broke Phineas' spell.
Shiriluna sat up straight on the ledge and looked to the right. The turn of a cloak, nothing more, nothing to grab her attention in such a way. She began to settle back again. Then her gaze lighted on a young man, walking slowly in her general direction. Nothing unusual about that, but suddenly she realized that she had never seen him before, and she had come to recognize just about every gypsy in the Court.
He was tall, darkly tanned, with shoulder length black hair, a relatively thin frame, though with strong shoulders, and he wore an outfit of dark blue and green, a black cloak streaming behind him. Shiriluna tried to glimpse his face so she could mention him to her papa later and learn the young man's name.
All of a sudden he looked up, and as he neared her, he began to smile. Shiriluna was still for a moment, studying his face, the sharp brown eyes, the narrow nose, the squared jaw and chin, and the kind smile. Hardly noticing her movement, she slid down off the ledge and started toward him.
She returned the smile as she approached. But before she could say a word, he flashed her a mischievous grin and then, with a swirl of his cloak, he disappeared. Shiriluna gasped and leapt back, not even realizing as she uttered out loud, "Who was that?"
She heard a familiar laugh behind her. She whirled around, putting her hands on her hips. "Who was that, Papa?" she asked. "I don't remember seeing him before."
Clopin continued to laugh. "I should have known he would take an interest in you!"
Shiriluna stamped her foot like a little girl. "Who is he?"
Clopin, still chortling, slung an arm around her shoulder and led her in the direction of her tent. "I will tell you this," Clopin said in answer, "He has been here for several years, yet no one, not even I, knows who he really is. He is very mysterious, comes and goes as he pleases, and never bothers anyone. He is obviously gypsy, so he is welcome here. But he is a strange one, none-the-less." Clopin chuckled again. "Fitting that he decides to take an interest in you, no?"
"What do you mean? Stop talking in riddles!"
"Well, you are the gypsy princess, no? And all this time he has not told even the king who he is!"
Shiriluna stared at the ground for a moment, feeling her face grow warm. She was able to mumble, "Do you know his name?"
"His name...Hmm..." Clopin thought for a moment, then replied, "I believe it is something like Teague-Raviv...very peculiar."
"I like it!" Shiriluna blurted, then blushed. Clopin laughed and she blushed more.
"Is it fitting?" Clopin chuckled. he leered at her gleefully. "Tell me, Shiri, do you know what each part of his name means?"
"Teague means bard. Raviv, sun." He grinned. "The sun bard." Then he added, oddly, "And you know what your own name means..."
"My moon song."
"Aye!" He patted her shoulder and grinned, then said, "Now, what have you learned?"
Shiriluna had no idea what he meant, at first, so she blurted, "That you are completely confusing!"
Clopin chortled quietly. "Come now, Shiri, think." She seemed less observant at the moment, and he understood what she had yet to realize. He decided to pose a few repeated riddles. "Can you not see an opposition in those two names?"
Shiriluna's heart sank as she caught on. Sank? What had she been building up hope for? She felt very confused. "Raviv, sun, Luna, moon..."
"Opposing...as different as day and night..." She pouted. She liked it better when his riddles baffled her senseless. And this game wasn't making much sense. He definitely knew more, knew something he wasn't going to tell her. She suddenly thought of something, and she brightened. "But song and bard -- or storyteller! Papa!" She swatted at his arm in anger. "What are you trying to say? Opposing forces, yet similar interests...Stop with the riddles! What are you saying?"
"I am saying you are perfect for each other."
At that abrupt remark, Shiriluna stopped, but Clopin kept walking. She stared at his back, then narrowed her eyes and sneered. Then, with a note of indignation, she turned on her heels and hurried away from him. Clopin watched her from the corner of his eye, and he chuckled again.
"He is encouraging me to fall in love!" Shiriluna declared as she paced across Jehan's tent. Melisande nearly dropped the new tunic she had been sewing.
Jehan, leaning back in a chair at the table, let out a loud, rude laugh. "Oh, so this time he isn't trying to kill the suitor! Well, well! He must be ill."
Melisande flashed a sharp glance at him. "Still bitter about that? I thought we decided it was done with."
"Old grudges die hard," Jehan grumbled.
Shiriluna uttered a cry to gain back their attention. "I don't even know this Teague-Raviv! Papa knows more than he is telling me."
Jehan grinned. "Would you like for me to pry? I would like to know about this boy, as well."
"Boy?" Shiriluna snorted, "He cannot be more than a year younger than you."
"I still want to know. I have lived here for nineteen years, and I have never seen him before."
"It seems he might have come about the same time I did," Melisande put in.
"Well, Clopin isn't giving too many answers," Jehan said flatly. "Perhaps we should speak to Teague ourselves."
"I cannot find him," Shiriluna suddenly proclaimed, stopping in her pacing. "No tent, wagon, anything."
"He is doing a good job of remaining mysterious," Melisande commented, giving up on her sewing.
Jehan was scowling. "I should know him. Why don't I remember that name..."
Shiriluna resumed pacing. "I am going to demand that Papa tell me more. He cannot just hand me off to some stranger. He would not do that to someone he knows!" Jehan snorted at this.
"We should try to find Teague-Raviv and talk to him," Melisande called out. "Who knows, it might surprise us all to find that we do know him, just did not take careful note of him."
"Or else we will find he is a complete stranger and Clopin has, at last, gone mad," Jehan cut in.
Melisande and Shiriluna traded glances, then grinned. "Feeling a little jealous, Jehan?" Melisande purred.
"Cannot stand for someone else having my attention?" Shiriluna sauntered toward him, swaying her hips. Then the two girls burst out laughing.
"I don't want to see you get hurt, Shiri," Jehan said through clenched teeth.
"Is that all? I can take care of myself, you know." Shiriluna smiled. "Now, why don't we try to find our mysterious friend?"
It only took wandering through half the Court to find him; leaning casually against a stone column, a knowing smile on his face as the three friends came over to him, he nodded in greeting. Shiriluna felt her face grow warm as he cast the smile in her direction. Jehan watched him suspiciously as Teague bowed.
"Greetings," he said in a deep tenor. "I believe you were looking for me?" He turned to Shiriluna and took her hand. "Shalom, Princess. It is a pleasure to speak to you at last." He bowed over her hand, then kissed it.
Melisande saw the anger on Jehan's face, and, with a bitter look of her own, she pinched his arm hard. He shot her a glance; she glowered back. Neither Teague nor Shiriluna seemed to notice the exchange. They were too busy smiling at each other. Jehan took note of this and almost laughed. But then he remembered that none of them knew Teague, and his expression hardened.
Teague let go of Shiriluna's hand. She let it fall to her side as she took a slow step backward. Jehan saw the advantage and deftly interjected. "The Princess' official guard," he introduced himself, his face stern. He added sharply, "By the way, I have been here nineteen years, and I have never seen you before." He made a point of mentioning his age, as if to intimidate the younger boy.
Shiriluna elbowed Jehan roughly. "I don't have any guard, nevermind you as an official one!" His expression was so serious that she paused. Then she scowled at him. She gripped his arm hard and drew him aside. "Why don't you and Melisande run along. My business is my own." She glared at him pointedly.
A hint of regret flickered across his face. She fought the urge to spit at him. She had loved him once, but he was always interfering...
A flash of movement glimpsed from the corner of her eye made her turn. Her face fell in disappointment and anger. Teague had disappeared again. She looked at Melisande sharply.
Melisande only gaped at the spot where Teague had stood. "He was here just a second ago!" she said in a high tone.
Shiriluna whirled and flung a punch at Jehan, then stormed off. Jehan staggered backward in surprise, staring after her. "It isn't my fault he left!" he exclaimed shrilly. He turned to Melisande then slouched meekly as he saw the anger on her face.
"You had better stop, Jehan. You are getting as protective over her as Clopin. And Clopin approves of Teague, it would seem. You have no say in the matter, and you should stay out of business that isn't yours." She crossed her arms, scowling. "You are beginning to make me wonder about your faithfulness."
Jehan's face fell to a hurt expression. He was being a fool again. He sat down on a stone step and sighed, resting his elbows on his knees and hanging his head. "I only want to keep her safe. She has had enough trouble in her life already. That boy is a complete stranger!" He brought his head up sharply. "That is why I am interfering so much! I have never in my life seen him before! How is it that Clopin trusts him so easily? Something isn't right with this, Melisande, and I aim to find out what."
She stared at him, agape, for several moments. Then she snapped, "Who are you to go against Clopin's judgment?" He bit his lip to keep from protesting. She brought his thoughts to a screeching halt as she exclaimed, "She is in love with Teague, you idiot!"
The tone of her voice said that he was dangerously meddling in the wrong affairs. "I--" he stammered, but his voice cut off and he gazed blankly-sadly ahead.
Melisande placed her hands on her hips, glaring at him. Then she walked away. Jehan continued to stare blankly. Then he hung his head, muttering, "I am a fool..."
"You are indeed."
Jehan jerked his head up at the sound of the smug voice. His expression became a mixture of defeat, anger, and resentment. "And who are you to make that judgment of me, stranger?"
Teague, having just as mysteriously reappeared as disappeared, stood with one foot on the stone step, leaning on his knee, a confident look on his face. "Who are you to concern yourself with a Rom Princess, gorgio?"
Jehan narrowed his eyes. Very few of the Court's members called him that, which would be referring to him as an outsider, whereas practically all of them knew him to be one of their own since he had been an infant. This boy was obviously new to the Court of Miracles.
Jehan forced himself to stay calm, and he leaned back leisurely. "Only Clopin can get away with referring to me that way, and only when I am in the mood to let him. Tell me, who are you, that you would challenge me, I who have been here for many more years than you. I, who know this place very well." He sat forward and looked up at Teague with a silently threatening expression. "Very well."
"I am Teague-Raviv. And I am to be the next King of the Court of Miracles," the younger replied confidently.
Jehan would have patted the boy on the back for sounding so much like himself, but the situation was too serious. Jehan leaned back again, raising his eyebrows. "Are you so sure of that?" In a blink his expression became wrathful. "Is that a one-way-or-another call? Is it believable that you a truly in love with Shiriluna?" Jehan stood, pulling himself up to his full height -- seeing with dismay that Teague was taller by a few inches, though he went on angrily, "The people have to trust the king before he can rightfully claim the throne -- who are you, you stranger? Where are you from? What is your true background?"
He had been forcing Teague to back up, succeeding on doing so, and also making the younger man lose a good bit of his confidence. Now Jehan saw what Teague-Raviv was -- a boy smitten by a crush on a powerful figure. Jehan almost laughed mockingly. This boy came out of nowhere and thought to woo the princess and become king! Clopin liked a good laugh, and was obviously going along with it to eventually humble the over-confident boy. Jehan saw a near-reflection of himself, and he had had his own time of humbling when Clopin saw fit to put an end to his bravado.
Teague saw the mirth in Jehan's expression, and his gaze fell to the ground. "I -- I really do like her," he stammered shyly.
"Good of you to admit," Jehan praised dryly, "But you might have to wait a few more years until others have found that they can trust you before you fall for such bait as the Princess." There was a threat there somewhere. And the threat went unheeded, for when Jehan looked to where the boy stood, Teague-Raviv was gone.
Jehan stared, clenching his hands into fists. Nice disappearing act. Just what we need, a magician for a king, one that runs whenever the situation turns on him.
When Shiriluna had left, she was fighting back tears. She was very confused about the whole thing -- Papa leading her toward a relationship with Teague, the strange lure of Teague himself, the resent for Jehan...And the wondering if she really was falling in love with Teague...The first time he had looked at her was...magic.
Her steps slowed as she dreamily remembered. Love at first sight had failed her once before, but maybe this time would be different. Something was different about this...
"Shiri...Shiriluna..." a voice suddenly whispered.
She whirled around, startled. No one was there.
"Shiriluna..." It had the sound of several voices in one.
She shivered, sensing that something evil was about. One reflection in the tone reminded her of someone...
She glanced around frantically, trying to find the source of it.
It was almost teasing her, taunting her...
Shiriluna did not fall asleep easily that night. In the tent besides hers, the occupant slept, but not with peace.
Clopin found himself resting in a comfortable patch of darkness. Everything seemed quiet enough, so he settled back to continue his sleep-journey. Just after he had closed his eyes, he heard a noise like the sound a flaming torch makes when it is swiped through the air. Then came a haunting voice singing a few steady notes. Clopin stirred slightly. Then the voice, definitely feminine, whispered harshly, "Clopin! Clopin!"
He mumbled something inaudible, not waking. A second voice joined, this one a grating male tone, "Wake up, fool!"
And a third, deeper than the last, "Face us, you traitor!"
The third finally shocked him to 'wake.' Clopin stared as three dim forms floated before him. He knew them...Corgee, Andry, and Robuert!
"You cannot escape us, Clopin!" Corgee's spirit shrilled. "You cannot escape your past! We will haunt you forever!!" She cackled and the three spirits swirled into one blot of light which darkened to a smothering deep red. The voices, together, sounded eerily, "We will get you, Clopin, and your daughter, as well, one way or another!"
The red light exploded outward, engulfing him. For a brief moment he saw ahead of him someone else struggling against the tendrils of red that twined about its form, before it was completely enveloped...Samira...
Clopin bolted upright, breathing hard. He shuddered violently. Why were his dreams being disturbed now? And by Dark Gypsies...it could only mean that something bad was occuring, or going to occur...
He thought back to the day's events. Teague-Raviv and Shiriluna...Well, at least one thing will be good, he thought.
If only he knew.
Coming Next: The Tale of Day and Night, Chapter Two: The Mysterious 'Bard'
To The Archives
(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