Posted January 24,1998
"So what do you think?" Melisande asked, stifling a giggle.
"I think Papa is insane to think..." Shiriluna mumbled. Melisande let her giggle loose.
The two girls were hiding on a stone ledge high on a wall of the Court, a thick balustrade blocking them from the view of people down below. They were trying to spy on Teague-Raviv. But he wasn't cooperating; he was no where in sight.
"Nothing new to say he is insane." Melisande giggled again.
"I don't understand what he is up to, anyway -- Why would he be so eager to point me toward love after what happened the last time?" Shiriluna leaned on the balustrade, her gaze searching the Court.
"He has nothing better to do with his time?" Melisande suggested, then started laughing again.
Shiriluna shot a glare at her. "You are one to laugh -- you have found yours already."
Melisande caught the hint of resentment in her voice, and stopped chuckling. She retorted curtly, "The princess should not marry gadjo anyway."
"I am as much princess as you," Shiriluna reminded her.
Melisande snorted. "I would not even be a member of this tribe if not for Jehan."
Shiriluna mumbled, "And I would not be here at all if someone other than Papa had found me..." They both fell silent, leaving the implications hanging in the air. They meandered along the narrow walkway, pretending to be more interested in looking for someone.
"G'day, ladies," a voice said cheerfully. They both jumped in surprise, glancing around to catch a glimpse of the voice's owner.
"Over here," he said, and they looked toward a dark orange, red, and yellow patterned curtain that hung across the ceiling and cascaded to the floor. In a mock-hammock crease lay a slim man with greying hair, his short beard peppered, and a twinkle shown in his gray eyes. His clothes were patchwork, but mostly light blue, his black boots looking a little worn. His hands rested on his chest, one holding a bow, the other a fiddle. Tied onto his brown leather belt were several pouches and a set of reed pipes.
"Phineas!" the girls exclaimed at the same time.
He grinned, causing a few more wrinkles to appear on his wizened countenance, and he bowed his head. "Good day again. What are you two doing up here?"
"Looking for someone," Shiriluna interrupted Melisande's cheery reply. The princess shot a glare at her friend. Melisande shrugged.
Phineas chuckled. "All right. I won't ask whom." He winked at them.
Shiriluna shifted uncomfortably. Bards made her nervous. They always listen to you just to see if there's a good ballad in it for them...She blinked. Wait a minute, that's exactly what Papa does...
Phineas tipped his hand to her as if he knew her fears. "I apologize for not showing proper respects, my princess."
"It's--all right," she stammered.
"Would you like a sp-searching serenade, m'ladies?" Phineas asked while raising the fiddle to tune it.
Melisande sighed dreamily, recalling one winter's eve where Phineas' music had helped revive her spirit, and Jehan's. Shiriluna, too, was aware of the bardsong's magic, and was wary. Through song she had been entranced before, and she feared to remember the experience. But she nodded her consent to Phineas, though resolved not to let the music let her forget her concerns about the events that had taken place the day before.. Or her fears. As Phineas began the tune, she thought about them.
She was afraid of all the emotions she was feeling. Confusion about what Clopin was up to, nervous about Jehan's reactions, unsure of what she felt for Teague...Teague-Raviv, so mysterious, seemingly a bit shy around her, and...and she realized the mystery attracted her. It was dangerous to form a trust with him, she knew, and vowed to be cautious and find out more about him, though it was all behind the foreground curiosity.
Sun Bard, Shiriluna said to herself. She watched Phineas for a moment. Teague doesn't seem to be the bard type, if Phineas shows what most bards are like. Teague is still young, though, she considered.
The tune ended. There was applause from below them. Melisande leaned over the balustrade to laugh at the sight of two dozen gypsies who has gathered when they had heard Phineas playing. "Huzzah!" they cried.
The bard sprang from the fold in the curtain and landed on the balustrade, balancing long enough to bow. Then he jumped backward to stand sturdy on the walkway. Melisande was grinning away. She spotted Jehan below and waved to him. He waved back.
Phineas stood beside her. "Would you like to join your beau for a dance?" he asked with a wide smile. She nodded, then bit her lip looked down again. "Not to fear!" Phineas chortled. He led her to where the curtain was draped over the balustrade, pouring onto the walkway. He motioned to one of the deeper creases in the cloth. "Just slide down."
Melisande's eyes widened. He patted her shoulder reassuringly."It is safe, trust me. I have gone down as well as climbed up." His eyes twinkled and his grin was ever courage-inspiring. Melisande offered a timidly brave smile. Then she grasped the curtain, accepting help from him to step onto the balustrade. "Downcoming lassie!" Phineas hollered. Melisande hesitated just a moment. She felt a shove from behind and the next thing she knew, she was falling toward the ground -- but nestled in the fold of the curtain. She felt terrified and excited at the same time. In another moment strong arms closed around her waist to stop her momentum. She opened her eyes and grinned shakily at Jehan. He looked pale. She burst out laughing.
Shiriluna loosened her hands from the balustrade when her friend stood up way below on the floor. They hurt from gripping the stone. She glanced over at Phineas, then shook her head violently. He laughed, launching into a dance reel.
There were several couples below who immediately took their places in the game, including the paler-skinned pair who were still steadying their nerves. Shiriluna let her thoughts drift even though her slightly envious gaze settled on Jehan. She did not notice the figure sneaking close to the wall along the walkway toward her.
The tune reached a tilt. At once Shiriluna felt herself being spun around. She met the deep brown eyes that gazed shyly at her, and then they were dancing. Her thoughts flew wildly, not letting her focus on anything -- Phineas' music had done it again. But it might also have been her dance partner that added to her confusion about everything. Lights, colors, sounds, all blurred till she was blind and deaf -- and a second later everything stopped as Teague's arms closed around her and he kissed her.
They were standing right by the balustrade where they could be seen. And they were. Jehan had begun to slow his dance pace when he glanced up and saw Shiriluna dancing with someone. He stopped dead when they stopped. Melisande was questioning him, but he did not hear her. As the two on the ledge kissed, Jehan's hands clenched into fists at his sides, and a dangerous look kindled in his eyes.
Shiriluna caught her breath then stared at Teague. She did not realize she was glaring until he backed away, cowering slightly. "I -- I am sorry," he stammered, his skin darkening in embarrassment.
A smile slowly found its way across her face. "Walk with me?" she asked, offering her arm.
Teague bowed low, grinning now. "I would be honored, my princess." He hooked his arm around hers. They headed away from Phineas, who had begun another dance reel, oblivious to them.
Jehan watched them in a daze. He would have followed them from below, but he was too preoccupied wincing as he gently rubbed the sore spot on his head where Melisande had clobbered him.
"I am sorry for sneaking up on you like that," Teague apologized, his voice edged by a nervous mumble.
"Oh, I wanted to dance anyway," Shiriluna gushed. She had her hands clasped in front of her now, and every other moment or so she wrung them indifferently.
"I -- I should not be so bold," Teague continued awkwardly.
"It's all right!" she sang out.
Alone on the ledge with each other, all sense had flown. They were in a dangerous spot to be dizzy, but they managed it!
Shiriluna cleared her throat, turning to lean on the stone balustrade. Teague slid over beside her. She watched him carefully. He looked so nervous! He was so shy around her...Jehan was paranoid, she decided. Jealous, she added with a mental derisive sniff. Teague was smitten by her.
No one said she couldn't have an ego like her father did.
"So how long have you been in the Court?" The question flowed out of her mouth without her thinking.
Teague blushed again. "I know your papa might have said I have been here a while -- I have talked with him recently -- but he was confused -- I have not been here five weeks yet."
"Well, that would explain why no one is familiar with you," Shiriluna blurted. "Five weeks -- that is not enough time to realize someone new is here -- unless you saw them right away." She dared casting a sly glance at him. "And you would not, if they did not want to be seen."
His expression hardened for a mere moment, then quickly relaxed. She saw, though, and wondered if she should be teasing him. She leaned forward on the stone rail, humming aimlessly.
"Stop!" he said sharply, then drew back as if he had made a mistake. Shiriluna turned to stare at him. "S-sorry," he stammered. "I -- um -- meant it for myself. Ah-a scolding." He grinned sheepishly. "I was thinking of how I would like to get to know you better -- but why would you want to be bothered with a total stranger who won't be staying here very long?"
"A total stranger who kissed me," she reminded him. She smiled and moved closer to him. "So I would say you aren't so much a total stranger anymore."
Teague's grin widened as he slipped his arm around her shoulder.
It was some time after the dancing had ended. Jehan paced his tent, grumbling, although his head no longer hurt. Melisande watched him sourly from a seat at the table, her arms crossed. "You got less than you deserved," she sniffed.
"Oh, I don't care about that any more!" Jehan exclaimed passionately. "You are right! But I am still worried about her, off somewhere with that stranger!"
"She is probably finding the answers to our questions --who he is, where he is from, and all...Stop pacing!"
Jehan muttered, "I just wonder what she's finding out..."
"You are making me dizzy--!? Do you want me to slug you again?!"
"No, thanks though." He rubbed the fading-sore spot on his head.
A voice sang from outside the tent, "Melisande!" Jehan rocked back on his heels as Melisande smirked at him.
"I am in!" she answered the caller.
The tent flaps parted as Shiriluna danced in. "He is such a nice boy! No reason to be wary around him!" she tittered, her skirts swirling as she pranced around Jehan. She gave him a mocking smirk, then spun to sit across from Melisande. "He hasn't been here a month yet, which is why we never noticed him before." She giggled.
"A month! I could name every person who has been in the Court during that time," Jehan sneered.
Shiriluna gave him a distasteful glance. "I wasn't talking to you. This is a woman's matter, why do you want to listen? You may leave, gadjo." Her nose was in the air as she finished.
First Jehan stared at her in shock, his mouth hanging open. Then his face contorted in pure outrage. "I may leave?! This is my tent as I recall! You may leave, your highness!" He sneered the last two words. He snapped a glare on Melisande. "And you can leave with her, if you want to talk so badly!"
There was a glaring contest for several moments. Shiriluna had the most powerful by far. Jehan saw that the girls were not getting up any time soon. He sighed in utter disgust and stormed out, growling, "Damned women!"
Shiriluna laughed derisively. Melisande watched the motion of the settling tent flaps, biting her lip. "I hope he is all right," she murmured.
Shiriluna turned a slight sneer on her. "He is too rude and nosy."
"And you are too snobby!" Melisande retorted. Shiriluna's face showed that the truth of the comment registered. Melisande sighed uncomfortably. "Your papa is better at handling Jehan's brash ways. Please leave it to him."
"I'm sorry," Shiriluna said with genuine regret.
Melisande broke the awkward silence hesitantly. "So...what else did you find out about Teague?"
"Oh, he is still mysterious...but that makes him all the more wonderful..."
Jehan had considered eavesdropping on the girls, but he was too furious to stay near them. Instead, he stomped down the lanes between rows of the Court's housing, sparing no patience for anyone who was unfortunate enough to be in his way.
He had jostled through a large group of gypsies discussing some festival or another when he slammed right into someone on the outskirts. "Watch where you're standing!" he snarled. Then he squeaked out a "Meep!" as the figure turned and he found Clopin's eyes gleaming angrily at him.
Their spark dulled when Clopin saw who it was. "Greetings, lad! It has been awhile since I ran into you, so I see you decided to take it upon yourself to run into me and irk me." Clopin rose up on his toes to glare down at the boy.
"Save it, you old fool! I have had enough mockery from your daughter!" Jehan snarled in return.
Clopin's expression so quickly became startled that it was comical. He had never approved of it, but he knew of Shiriluna's fondness for Jehan. He asked softly so the others would not hear, "What did she say to you?"
Jehan cared not for their audience and shouted, "She called me gadjo! No one gets away with calling me that!" He added hastily, "Except you." To which he added in a mutter, "Sometimes."
Clopin heard neither of the last two comments. His eyebrows were raised high and he was stroking his beard thoughtfully. Jehan crossed his arms with an infuriated huff. "Well, well, well," Clopin mused. "How very interesting..."
Jehan felt his anger draining away for a moment. His shoulders sagged, his stance slumping. Now he felt depressed. He whispered, "Why would she..." He didn't continue the thought. Oh, something was very, very wrong.
"She has outgrown her fondness for you," Clopin decided.
Jehan felt a surge of resentment. "She sneered down her pointy little nose at me!" he sneered.
"Better than a crooked one," Clopin teased, tweaking the boy's nose.
Jehan slapped the gloved hand away. "She would never do such a thing to me under normal circumstances! That mysterious Teague--"
"You are paranoid," Clopin interrupted. "There is nothing wrong with the boy. I myself am certain!"
Jehan glared bitterly, muttering, "Are you so sure you did a thorough enough inquiry?"
"What was that?" Clopin asked warily.
"Teague is hiding something." Jehan matched Clopin's scowl with a hard glare. "I am going to find out." He turned on his heels and stormed off.
"You are paranoid!" Clopin called after him, "And your place for spying is aboveground!" The words were lost to the air. Clopin sighed and clasped his hands behind his back. "Foolish boy," he muttered, wandering away from the chattering group. "He should leave things as they are and not interfere."
He realized then that it was time he checked on how his daughter was truly reacting. Jealous boys often told less-than-truthful tales.
"Sounds well enough," Melisande commented casually, though her look was wary. She laughed lightly. "As long as he keeps you away from Jehan, I don't care who it is!"
She stopped laughing when she saw that Shiriluna did not look very amused. She cleared her throat. Shiriluna said, "I am meeting with him again later...Or soon. Oh, I lose track of time feeling like this!"
"I remember that feeling," Melisande said, her tone strangely flat.
After the uncomfortable silence, Shiriluna shrilled, "I must be going now!" And she hastily left the tent.
Melisande sat back, sighing. What a strange day. She wondered where Jehan was. Then she wondered if mysterious Teague had told the whole truth about himself...
Clopin had thought to spy on the spy, but Jehan had disappeared without a trace. And he realized that Teague had never told him where his abode was in the Court -- so he was on even ground on where to search for either of the young men. And since he did know where Shiriluna was, he decided to head in that direction.
He arrived in sight of Jehan's tent just as Shiriluna emerged from it. She took off to the left. Clopin took one look at the tent, then swooped after her. He kept to the shadows or anything that he could hide behind when the light was too bright for shadows. He saw her veer toward a dark alcove and cursed to himself. He couldn't spy on her if she went in there. But then someone stepped out of the darkness to greet her, and Clopin, relieved, slipped behind a wagon to watch.
It was that Teague-Raviv of course. The two talked for a bit. Teague looked nervous, Clopin observed. So did Shiriluna, he realized with a chuckle. She kept wringing her hands. Teague said something that made her laugh and twirl away. As she caught a handful of her skirt, she looked back at him flirtatiously. Teague grinned.
Then Teague reached into a fold in his tunic -- a pocket -- and brought out something enclosed in his fist. Shiriluna leaned toward him on her toes. Clopin, too, tried to look closer, squinting. Teague brought both hands up to his left ear, fastening on a gold hoop earring. Then he held the matching one out to Shiriluna. She grinned broadly and...eagerly took out her own earring...the one Clopin had given her...and absently tied a ribbon on her blouse around it so it wouldn't fall, then casually tucked it into her bodice as Teague set his other earring in her right ear.
Clopin watched numbly, pressing his back against the side of the wagon, his breath coming in gasps. He felt sorrowful and angry at the same time, wanted to shout at them to stop. He had given his earring's match to Shiriluna because he could not give it to Samira...Now--now she had just put it away because of some boy! Clopin clenched his fists to fight the waves of grief, anger, and guilt. She could have gotten her other ear pierced, she could have recalled that Clopin's gift was a sweet reminder of her mama...
But...but Shiriluna and Teague were in love. Yes, yes, that was good. That was what Clopin wanted. Wasn't it? His eyebrows knit in confusion. Suddenly he found himself missing a piece of his memory. The memory of meeting Teague-Raviv. Just who, exactly, was Teague-Raviv?
Coming Next: The Tale of Day and Night, Chapter Three: Mysterious No Longer
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(c) 1998-2004 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