Posted February 3,1998
[There is mention of Lily here, with her permission, alluding to the famed "Lilith Vs Jehan" battle of the twits --er, wits. ;-) ]
Neither party saw the fourth shadow, although he had noticed all of them. Jehan studied Teague's shy manner. He turned away as Shiriluna traded her papa's precious gift. He didn't want to know what Clopin was thinking. Or maybe he did...Jehan steeled himself, then turned to look at the wagon where he had seen Clopin. The gypsy had had his back to the boy while he spied on his daughter. Now, Jehan noted with dismay, Clopin's back was against the wagon, lending him support as his legs seemed to give out, and he slid to the ground, burying his face in his hands. Jehan considered going over to him, but when Clopin lifted his head from his gloves, the boy saw the look of profound bewilderment on his friend's face. Jehan decided to stay where he was, glancing in disbelief from Clopin to Shiriluna.
The girl, meanwhile, was too entranced by her new beau to become aware of the two spies. Jehan watched Teague again. The latter awkwardly offered his arm, motioning that they should take a stroll. Jehan waited until they had walked out of sight before heading toward Clopin.
His deluded friend didn't notice him approaching until Jehan grabbed his hand and hauled him to his feet. Without missing a beat Jehan murmured, "There is something about a silly, inept suitor that reminds me of a silly, inept jester," and continued after the couple. "All an act."
"What--?!" Clopin began, then stared after the boy, dumbfounded.
Jehan followed for only a short while. He knew that he might rush forward and tackle Teague for getting too close to the princess. And he realized that that would make him look like Clopin. He didn't want to stop, though, not wanting to leave them without a chaperone...He sighed in disgust. He was starting to sound like an elder.
He wheeled around, moving back the way he had come. He could ask Melisande what Shiriluna had told her, whatever wasn't completely "woman's matters."
He was met by a fist as he entered his tent, hardly having enough time to backtrack while Melisande grabbed the collar of his shirt. "You sneak!" she fumed, "You were listening to us!"
"I was not!" Jehan cried, grasping her wrists to stop her from hitting him. He fixed an angry glare on her. "I was on the other side of the Court, so hold your tongue!"
"I can't hold my tongue at the moment -- let go of my hands and I will." She grinned.
He chuckled and obeyed. She rubbed her wrists, even though he had not hurt her at all. "Now," he said, "I hope you don't mind if I ask--"
"I refuse to say a word!" Melisande cut him off sharply, crossing her arms and turning her back on him.
"Why you--" Jehan clenched his fists, fighting the urge to strike her in his frustration. "What is this conspiracy against me?! I only wish to see to the safety of a friend!"
Melisande whirled back around to stare at him in exasperation. She grasped his arm, exclaiming vehemently, "Jehan, please try to mind your own business! He is just a smitten suitor! Leave the concern to Clopin!"
"But Clopin isn't concerned at all! He-he is acting like some addle-patted twit instead of the Clopin I know!" Jehan blurted. He stopped short with a sharp intake of breath as he considered the implications of his words.
Melisande sighed in disgust, crossing her arms again. "You are paranoid."
Jehan clenched his fists once more. He kept his anger in check, knowing that violence would get him nowhere. He moved past her to sit at the table, but then stopped to stare at nothing in the corner of the tent, pressing his hands flat on the table top. "I just...sense that something is wrong...Something is...amiss."
"Your brain, perhaps."
He spun around to glare at her, growling out, "Who do you think you are -- Lily?!"
Melisande laughed coldly and returned the glare. "Not quite, but I believe you have taken leave of your senses. There is nothing wrong with a boy and a girl -- no matter who they are, royalty or gadje -- being in love. Why, look at us!" She laughed again, louder and less harsh, yet with a clear touch of sadness.
Jehan caught the sadness. He nodded, then moved up around behind her. "Yes, look at us. Not even wed and there is so much tension and suspicion..." He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her back against him. He whispered into her ear, "I don't love her one bit. Only as I should, brother to sister. I am as much Clopin's son as Paquette's, and so I only look after Shiriluna as any protective older brother would."
"Except your older brother," Melisande mumbled. With her arms crossed and his arms over hers, she rested her hands on his sleeves, leaning her head back against his shoulder. She sighed as they slowly swayed. "I still think you should stay out of their business."
"I am curious about Teague. If I am to become friends with him, I need to know if I can trust him." Mentally, he added, friends with him only for Shiriluna's sake.
"If Shiri trusts him, we can. She is an excellent judge of character, remember? She saw you for a fool right away," she teased, manuevering her encompassed arm to elbow his stomach.
"Well, as I told Clopin, but he wasn't paying much attention to me," Jehan turned her around to look into her eyes, "There is something about a silly, inept suitor--"
"Jehan, stop," Melisande interrupted firmly. "Just because you are the only one around with enough charm to qualify as a proper suitor--" The words dripped with mockery -- "doesn't mean there is something wrong with Teague. He might seem dubious, but it is because he is so nervous around Shiriluna. Don't you remember how you acted when we first met?"
Jehan cleared his throat, at the same time saying, "This is different."
"No, it isn't," she said sharply. She attempted to turn away from him, but he held her fast.
"My love," he murmured, gently kissing her cheek. "I am only worried about my sister. Do not be so quick to jump to the offensive. I assure you, I mean no harm."
His soothing tone completely charmed her, ending her protestations. He kissed her again, then eased her down onto a chair at the table. He took a few steps toward the tent's entrance. "I am going to find out where exactly Teague stays. For Shiriluna." He disappeared through the tent flaps.
Melisande stared after him, sighing dreamily. Everyone had their own brand of magic.
Well, that was informative, Jehan thought dryly. He wondered if all this trouble was worth it. Then he reminded himself of how odd the events around Teague were, bringing back his resolve. Now where to begin looking for his dwelling..? Not in the more populated region of the Court, Jehan considered. That one would be in a more hidden place.
He heard a familiar voice and stopped short. He had almost run into the very person he was spying on! He looked around for a place to hide. A dark green and gold patterned curtain lay against the wall -- leading up to his tightrope. Jehan scrambled up the curtain, then swiftly balanced on the rope to give the pretense that he had been practicing the entire time, while the two approached.
Teague and Shiriluna stopped just below the middle of the rope. Jehan cautiously edged over them, listening without looking down, as if nothing was out of ploace. Then he noticed the silence and had to look down, not caring about giving away his spying spot. He nearly fell. He wished he had. They were wrapped in each other's embrace, oblivious to their surroundings. Jehan took four trembling steps backward to keep himself from leaping down upon Teague before he kissed Shiriluna. But the two were so close, he would hurt Shiri.
Then they did kiss. Jehan could not stop himself from drawing in an angry breath to cry out. But then something strange happened. He went rigid, not of his own accord. The feeling of someone clamping their hand over his mouth froze his alarmed cry in his throat. In a panic he tried to turn his head to banish the feeling, but he could not move his neck no matter how much he strained his muscles. He felt like a statue. Balanced on a tightrope. His heart raced, the only thing about him still moving. This was insane! How could it be happening? He might understand being paralyzed by anger, but this...
He rolled his eyes downward. The kiss had just ended. Shiriluna was smiling in a daze while Teague bid her fare well. They went in opposite directions. All at once Jehan broke out of the statuesque hold. Too startled to react, he fell seven feet to land flat on his face. He groaned loudly in pain.
He heard Shiriluna's voice shriek, "You rat!" Jehan struggled to get on his hands and knees as pain shot up his spine. Then a new pain, a hard, numbing one struck his side as Shiriluna kicked him. "Stop spying on me! I hate you!" She kicked his side again. Helplessly he flopped down flat, hoping she would stop, wondering if he deserved such a vicious attack. She uttered an enraged cry, then stormed off, muttering unpleasantries.
Jehan waited a few moments before rolling onto his back. He grimaced, gritting his teeth. His ribs had to be broken, at least, or else Shiriluna would have snapped a few. But as he sat up, he noticed nothing felt broken -- that was good, right? Terribly sore, though. As he managed to push himself up to stand, he thought he heard a low chuckle that hinted of Teague-Raviv's tone.
Jehan spent a lot of time avoiding Shiriluna after that He received a report of her growing hostilities toward him from Melisande. Gadjo and other, more and nastily insulting names referring to him came from the normally gentle and caring princess. Again wondering if it was worth it, Jehan reconsidered his concern for Shiriluna -- if she was going to continue to treat him like that, let her find trouble, and have her try to get out of it alone!
Clopin was another matter altogether. Jehan noticed his friend become more and more uncharacteristically quiet, a thoughtful look stamped upon his face most times. Perhaps Clopin was thinking of the consequences of letting his daughter go her own way, without his interference -- er, guidance. Perhaps, and Jehan hoped this was the case, Clopin had realized that there was something wrong about Teague. Because if the ever-observant Clopin had not noticed anything, Jehan decided, things were worse than he could imagine, or he truly was super-paranoid.
Jehan wanted to spend as much time as possible spying on Teague. It became increasingly difficult, however, as he more and more often came across Teague while Shiriluna was beside him. Jehan would not go near them then, knowing the hate Shiriluna harbored for him. Excellent times to talk to Clopin, since Shiri would not interrupt very soon. Jehan had to wonder how much insight he might gain in this backwards time.
Jehan paused before entering the blue and magenta tent, listening for any voices. No sound other than the steady patpatpat of pacing footsteps. Then a heavy sigh. Jehan took hold of the entrance curtain and called out softly, "Clopin?" He glanced into the darkened tent, suddenly uncertain.
A throat was cleard. "Come in, Jehan."
The boy obeyed, then looked around, seeing Clopin sitting hunched forward on his 'throne.' Jehan stood before him, fists on hips. "Clopin," he began, carefully choosing his words. "I...am still concerned about Shiriluna and Teague. Any amount of time Teague claims to have been in the Court, I do not remember him arriving, and that is something that would not get past me -- yet it seems to have gotten past you." The last part came out more harsh than he meant. He winced.
That also appeared to get past Clopin. He pursed his lips thoughtfully, resting his elbows on his knees and cradling his head in his hands. At length he said, "That is the odd business. I think I remember things about Teague that he told me -- but I don't recall meeting him or talking to him at any time."
Jehan blinked, then swayed as he realized it was worse than he imagined.
The gypsy then chuckled wistfully. "Ah, but Clopin is getting old. His memory cannot always recall all events."
Even when it is something so vital? Jehan wondered, and wanted to speak the thought aloud. But then Clopin looked up at him.
"Are you still so paranoid?" he asked sharply, scorn coming to his expression. "Jehan, keep out of this! Shiriluna is happy, that is what matters. Fickle suspicions are nothing."
"Fickle?! They could save her life!!" Jehan nearly gasped as he bellowed the words aloud. But he did not stop himself, and continued, "There is something very wrong, Clopin! Please, heed my fears!" He sounded desperate to the point of whining. He quickly reposed himself.
Clopin rose, virtually trembling with rage. He glared down his nose at the boy. "It is not your place, gadjo, to put yourself in the princess' affairs. I do not want to hear you speak of it ever again!"
Jehan stared, frozen in absolute shock for several moments. Even his thoughts stuttered as he tried to call up a retort. Clopin crossed his arms and nodded toward the tent entrance. Jehan stood helplessly for another second, wanting to say or gesture in protest, though next he was stumbling backwards all the way out of the tent, his gaze locked onto the expression chiseled on Clopin's face. A look of utter hatred, the likes of which Jehan had not seen since the confusion of who cared what for whom when he and Shiriluna had first met.
Jehan sat outside his tent, wanting to jump up and down and scream, he felt so frustrated. How had such 'paranoia' brought him to the point where his two best friends hated him enough to quite literally kill him? It-it had to be included with his 'paranoid' fears and concerns. He could not quite put his finger on the source of his thoughts, the thing about Teague that was causing all this.
I was better off with Shiriluna lusting after me and Melisande being incredibly jealous, and Clopin being incredibly furious! That is better than everyone hating me. His foot tapped frantically as the thoughts flowed. Why am I the only one who sees something wrong? Why have they put their trust in someone they know nothing about?
A single voice broke through his mental monologue, nearly causing him to jump. He scrambled to his feet, looking ahead to see Shiriluna and Teague approaching. He groaned inwardly and darted to the wall to hide behind the green and gold curtain. Then he listened. His eyes popped open wide at the first words.
"That gadjo is awfully meddling, don't you agree?" Teague was asking innocently.
"I do," Shiriluna sniffed. "He makes everything his business. He is nothing but a meddling fool."
Teague's tone took the conversation in a new direction. "Is it really proper for gadje to be among the Rom?" His voice became hard. "He does not have a place here. He has no right to be here."
Jehan wanted to storm out to them and scream his defense. I belong here! I am as much gypsy as you! I have no where else to go... But he held himself back. He would have his fight with Teague, soon; he needed proof against the other first. He focused on the conversation again.
"Gadjo cannot be trusted...If he is only turned out, he might reveal our sanctuary. Something else must be done..." Teague prompted.
"Oh, Papa agrees he is meddling far too much, that something should be done..." Shiriluna said darkly.
Jehan caught his breath, his thoughts spinning at their suggestions. He heard the key word whispered by Teague, "Hanging." The blond gypsy promptly swayed, and fought to keep himself from crying out. This cannot be happening! This can not be happening! He willed his heart to stop pounding so he could hear what else they said.
Shiriluna was saying, "And I will lead the show!" She laughed.
Again Jehan stopped cold. That did not sound like the Shiriluna he knew, despite her new levels of disdain. The laughter was positively sinister. He hoped his terror and the sound of his own harsh breathing in his ears wasn't making him mishear her tone.
"He can -- will be dealt with later. We will ignore him for now. He isn't worth the attention." Teague took her hand and gently kissed it. "Fare well, my princess."
Shiriluna set a beaming, completely innocent smile on him, belying her earlier attitude. She curtsied, taking her hand from his grasp. She smiled at him again, then turned and headed off. Teague had a dreamy expression on his face as he gazed after her. A moment later he whirled to the opposite direction.
Aha! Perfect chance! Jehan steadied his nerves, then narrowed his eyes and followed steathily after Teague.
He had figured correctly. Teague lived quite out of the way of the Court proper; yet still where he could be noticed. Jehan followed him to the area clear of homes, set aside for performers to practice. Teague stopped at a tent on the very edge of the space. A tent Jehan knew very well, was loathe to go near, and could not believe it was still standing. A red and violet tent. Corgee's tent.
But Corgee was dead, her tent abandoned a year ago. Yet it remained there, and Teague had moved in. Jehan wondered how such a thing had slipped past Clopin's notice. The tent should have been torn down as soon as it had been ransacked of its suspicious contents. When, exactly, had Teague moved in? Jehan threw this new consideration into his thoughts.
Teague came out a few minutes later, smiling cheerfully. Jehan stood rigid behind a nearby wagon. After Teague passed by, the latter sneaked over to the tent. He glanced about to see if anyone was watching him. No one else was around. Jehan slipped into the tent. The inside was completely different than he remembered, since Teague obviously brought his own belongings instead of using what Corgee had left behind. A sleeping mat lay at the base of the back wall, with a dark wooden trunk in the left corner and a rickety chair covered in red cloth sitting opposite the trunk. Jehan's gaze settled on the trunk, and what lay atop it. A simple, small box of dark red wood; but it was something Jehan had seen before, belonging to Corgee.
Jehan strode over to the trunk, snatching up the box. It could not be the same one...Teague might have thought to save it to sell, naive of its evil purpose. Jehan looked around frantically. Perhaps he was wrong about Teague -- he could have innocently moved into the tent, and Corgee's lingering evil influence had found him. Guilt stung Jehan. Teague had not been at fault all along. Even in death Corgee was causing deadly trouble.
Jehan glanced around the trunk for the latch to open it. Instead, he found, stacked against the side, three wooden disks. One depicted a crescent moon with two stars outside the curve, the second the same except the stars were inside the curve, and the third, curiously enough, pictured a radiant sun divided symmetrically in half. Jehan stared at them, drawing a sharp breath. He studied the box again. Then he remembered. All of Corgee's things had been burned. He had been there to watch in satisfaction as they were destroyed. The noxious smoke had nearly choked him.
The box he held was new. Perhaps some fool saved the box, Jehan tried to reason. He cautiously lifted the lid. Inside were gray-brown ashes. He hesitantly poked an index finger into the dust, unsure of what the stuff was. He hit something more solid than ashes...and flecks of dried blood? He shivered at the thought and took out the object. A small wooden disk that fit neatly in his palm. It had a crescent moon with a single star attached to the top tip carved into it. He turned it over; etched into the other side was the same mark that scarred Shiriluna's left arm.
Jehan dropped the box and the disk, oblivious to the spilled ashes. Teague was a Dark Gypsy!
Coming Next: The Tale of Day and Night, Chapter Four: Two Plus Two Equals War
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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