Posted February 8,1998
[Just a reminder: "gadjo" is Romani for a non-Gypsy male]
Will they believe me? They have to! Oh, we are all doomed if they do not! Jehan's thoughts raced as he did through the Court, clutching his precious evidence, the moon-star disc used to manipulate Shiriluna, the other three stuffed in a pocket. To Hell with Teague if he found out he had stolen them -- then again, that one's dark soul was already there. Jehan agonized over every detail. He should have known all along -- these happenings could only be caused by Dark Gypsy magic, which breed on dissension and jealousy. And Jehan knew Shiriluna was ripe with the latter, envious of Melisande's luck of being Jehan's love, for Shiri truly did love him. She was also still vulnerable to Dark Gypsy control because of the time she had spent among them, the ties still not completely severed.
Why won't they leave Clopin and Shiriluna alone? Why have they not forgotten him? He only told the story out of pressure from the grief -- which would never have happened if they had let him run away the first time! Jehan skidded to a halt. He was running, wasn't he? He should go back, let Teague find him, face the fight that was planned that first day. He clenched his fists, trembling. Shiriluna would be hurt so much before this was through. He would never forgive Teague and the Dark Gypsies.
Jehan turned in the direction of his tent. First he would tell Melisande. Once he won her over, he could use her stubborn reasoning. The matter was convincing her. "Melisande!" he called out as he came up to the tent, ignoring the apprehension of Shiriluna being in there, and the panic that welled in his throat.
Just as he feared, Shiriluna was there. "Go away, Jehan!" It sounded like she wanted to call him plain old gadjo
He shoved into the tent, nearly knocking over her highness as he entered. She began to snarl a threat, but he grabbed her by the shoulders, turned her around, and pushed her out the entrance. "I have to talk to Melisande -- alone, your Most Excellency," he said without the slightest hint of a sneer in his voice. He was relieved to hear her storm off.
"What is it?" Melisande asked, genuinely alarmed by the urgency of his manner.
"Unbelievable trouble," Jehan replied, taking out the discs and laying them on the table. Melisande went over, curious. "I found these in Teague's tent. Along with a box exactly like the one Corgee had -- remember I told you about it? And what Clopin said it was for?" He rambled in excitement. Melisande could not doubt this proof! "Teague is a Dark Gypsy!"
She studied the discs for a long moment. Then she turned a scowl on him. "Really, Jehan, you are desperate, aren't you?"
He stared at her in shock. "What?"
She put her hands on her hips. "This! How absurd! You are so jealous, you want to frame Teague for the highest crime in Clopin's eyes!" She paused and narrowed her eyes. "You have not told him yet, have you?"
"N-no," Jehan stuttered, "I - I wanted to have you on my side first."
"Well, you will not! I refuse to believe this stupidity!" She threw her arms upward in emphasis. "I cannot believe you would go to such lengths to--"
On a sudden impulse Jehan snatched up the disc bearing the moon and two outside stars and with a surge of strength snapped it in half. Melisande went rigid and silent, her gaze unfocused. Then she fell limp. Jehan leaned forward to catch her. He hugged her head against his chest, his own heart racing in fear of the consequences of the action. He dragged her forward as he stood straight. Her arms jerked upward weirdly while she tried to orient her balance. Then she looked up at him with wide, frightened eyes. She flung her arms around him, hugging him tight.
Jehan gently stroked her hair. He briefly considered breaking the other discs; a plan was forming in his mind, and he decided against ruining them. Blackmail material was best left intact.
Melisande trembled as she relaxed her hold. She whispered, "We have to tell Shiri. She could follow him right into a death trap!"
"Soft, my dear, I have an idea." He kissed her hand as she withdrew her arms from around his neck. His hands firmly held her waist to steady her. He was so glad to have his Melisande back.
She looked up at him with uncertainty. He set his visage hard. "First we find Teague...Though Shiriluna is sure to be at his side."
"When was the last time we had a good hanging?" Shiriluna laughed scornfully. "I will especially enjoy this one!" There was something forced about her next laugh.
"It is long overdue," Teague said solemnly, leaning against the side wall of the alcove they had met in as usual.
Shiriluna twirled skittishly in front of him. "I wish his capture over with. He should be in the dungeon by now!"
Teague laughed with genuine mirth. "My, you are anxious!" He admitted to himself that he was, as well. One less hero to try to rescue you, he thought spitefully, watching the misguided girl while she looked toward the Court. He felt a sting at the back of his head and a feeble protest piped up. No! I have my orders! I must obey! Teague fought back, wishing his conscience wouldn't nag him so. None of the others of his kind were bothered by conscience. Why him?
"Papa is sure to agree with our plan," Shiriluna interrupted his thoughts, hopping up and down, giving the feeble voice a chance to cry louder.
It is a shame to sacrifice such a wonderful girl, Teague allowed himself to admit. Then he froze. No! No compassion! Compassion is a weakness, they said. He looked at Shiriluna and saw what she had become in the time since he first introduced himself. They would be proud.
Shiriluna sat down on the floor, crossing her legs under a puddle of blue skirt. She mumbled mostly to herself, "He does not belong here. He will betray us..."
Teague gave a thin smile. He turned slightly, then reached to a fold in his tunic -- really a pocket -- directly above his heart. He took out a small wooden disc, one side dipicting a crescent moon with a single star, the other a mark identical to the one on Shiriluna's arm. He ran his thumb around the edge of the disc. Shiri shivered. Then he pressed on the mark. Shiri moved her hand to rub the scarred spot below her left shoulder. Teague smiled shortly again, and took out a second disc. It pictured a radiant sun on one side and a piccolo on the other. He pressed the two discs together, sun to moon.
Shiriluna abruptly stood, turning toward him. Teague hastily slipped the discs into another pocket. "I was thinking," she said, "Since he is always spying on us, maybe one of us should spy on him until it is over."
Teague nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, perhaps that would be wise..." He cast a questioning glance on her. "Will you..?"
She nodded. "He will not be looking for me." She smirked. "He has been trying to avoid me."
Teague chuckled. "Yes, very good. I will stay here to finalize the plan." My plan, as They ordered.
Shiriluna leaned up to kiss his cheek. She smiled conspiratorily as she left the alcove. Soon that troublesome Jehan would be out of her life forever. No one would protest, not even Melisande. The gadjo simply did not belong among the gypsies. He was too nosy. He was giving hints that he could be a spy for those aboveground that hunted the gypsies. The more she thought about it, the more she saw Teague's wisedom about the impossible question; Jehan was waiting for just the right time to reveal the location of the Court of Miracles.
"Shiriluna! Thank goodness!" Melisande's voice interrupted her thoughts.
Shiriluna snapped her head up, glancing around suspiciously for Jehan. The blond traitor was no where in sight. The princess nodded and headed toward her 'friend'.
Melisande steeled herself. She could not bear to reveal the truth to her love-struck friend, but better her than angry, frustrated Jehan. She was glad she and Jehan had split up when they had caught sight of Shiriluna. She was worried, though, about what would happen between the two boys without someone else present to prevent a fight; Shiriluna would only encourage one, she knew. "Shiri, I have something important to tell you about Teague!"
"What?" Shiriluna asked impatiently. Had he come up with another plan that he wanted to surprise her with? She didn't want him getting too carried away.
Melisande sorted through her jumbled thoughts for an eloquent way of saying it, a way that would not get Jehan into more trouble with the princess and her beau. Finally she blurted, "Jehan found some things belonging to Teague that are proof that Teague is -- a Dark Gypsy!" She gasped out the last two words breathlessly, afraid of her friend's reaction. The idea might shock Shiri out of her deluded trance.
Shiriluna tossed her head back and laughed scornfully.
As soon as he saw Shiriluna leave the alcove, Jehan knew his timing was perfect. He left Melisande to attempt to convince Shiriluna of Teague's true nature. Jehan, meanwhile, headed to the alcove to face down his enemy.
Teague was surprised to see the object of his conspiracy step into the light outside his hiding place and turn to him. His first reflex was to go for his dagger, but something stopped the conditioned action.
Jehan stood in a confident stance, his arms crossed, holding his head high. Now he would prove once and for all that no lies got past the blond gypsy, one who would never betray his true family. "So, Teague-Raviv." His tone was cold and hard. "How far did you think you could go without someone discovering that you are, in all truth, a Dark Gypsy?"
Teague's training screamed at him to fling a dagger at his opponent. He hesitated again. He felt a hit at the back of his head, something inside reminding him of what he had to do. He took a defensive position, squeezing his hands into fists. "You found 'proof,' eh? It is too late, gadjo! The 'princess' hates you, and the 'king' is scheduling your execution!" He sneered.
Jehan, although prepared for the news, still took the blow hard. This-this demon had turned his two closest friends against him! With an enraged cry, Jehan leapt at Teague, a knife leading the way.
Teague's conditioned reflexes finally took over. His own dagger came out, flying at and past Jehan's head as the blond gypsy dodged to the side. He continued toward the Dark Gypsy. Teague fumbled for his spare knife, knocking out the contents of a pocket in the process. Unfortunately for him it was the two discs. He dove to grab at them, but Jehan was there, slamming his knife down between Teague's hand and the discs.
"Not more of them," Jehan groaned as he picked up the items. He flicked the knife blade up at Teague's throat. "What is it you want?" he growled. "Why is your kind so obsessed with Clopin and his family?
"Wasn't taking his true love enough?!"
In emphasis, Jehan dropped the disc for Shiriluna, stomping on it, shattering the fragile thing.
Teague remained still, absorbing the fury and hatred, the source of all Dark Gypsy power. They were a clever, observant race. They could have done wonderful things if they used their powers of intelligence for good. But power so often corrupts.
Teague abruptly dodged under the knife and tackled Jehan to the ground.
"Do you really expect me to believe that?!" Shiriluna asked, laughing mockingly. She calmed immediately, and her tone was cold as she said, "Jehan is very desperate, isn't he? To try something such as THAT?!" With her hands on her hips, she screamed the last word.
Melisande cringed. Everyone in the Court would come see what was happening...including Teague! "No, Shiri, please listen!" Melisande begged. "You are in danger!"
Shiriluna "ha"ed as Melisande fumbled for the disc Jehan had given her, the moon-star one. Shiri waved her hand outward in exasperation. "I am in danger from a traitorous gadjo! I love Teague, he would never betray me!"
"He will!" Melisande insisted, shoving the disc into the other's face. Shiriluna blinked and took a step back. Melisande twisted the disc around to show the mark side. "See! Dark Gypsy magic, controlling your thoughts against those who care most about you! Don't you remember how much you truly loved Jehan? And now you want to hang him?!"
Shiriluna stared at her, horrified. She snatched the disc, then traced the mark that matched the scar on her arm. Suddenly she froze, rigid. Then she slumped, but still gripped the disc tightly. "A trick! A trick!" she cried, her voice breaking. She steadied herself and glared at Melisande, pointing at her accusingly. "You are the one who betrayed me! Your heart is still weak for that gadjo! He cannot be trusted!" She threw the disc down at her feet.
Melisande felt her rage growing. The hate seemed to come straight from Shiriluna's heart. This was worse than battling posessiveness when the princess had followed confused feelings for Jehan. She wanted to weep, weep for the hatred she held then for Shiriluna, weep for the hatred Shiriluna now held for the one who had spurred the first conflict. At once Melisande snapped out of the torrent of emotions and grabbed Shiriluna by the shoulders, shaking her violently. "We are all in danger! I will kill you if you deny it again!"
Shiriluna cried out at the attack. She firmed her stance, reaching up to yank Melisande's hair. The pale gypsy shrieked and leapt back. "You fool, Shiriluna!" Melisande hissed. "You will murder us all if you do not believe me!" She hoped her words would remind the princess of the event that had haunted her papa to the point of continually tottering on the edge of sanity and madness.
"You are a filthy liar!" Shiriluna spat in return, no memories stirred. "I am only thinking of the good of the Court, and making my private life safer!"
Melisande could not take it anymore. She rushed forward, head low, to barrel over Shiriluna and end up reasoning with her in a more advantageous position.
Then Shiriluna's fist came up and slammed into her chin. Melisande's head snapped back, then she crumpled to the ground. Shiriluna's eyes went wide as a fleeting moment of recognition came over her. She kneeled by Melisande's side, checking to see if she was awake. She leapt back up immediately. "What have I done??" Shiriluna gasped. She stared at her friend for several minutes, willing her to wake and stand and forgive her.
When nothing happened, Shiri ran to the alcove where Teague would be waiting. The disc, underneath Melisande, had been merely cracked by her sudden weight, but it was enough to break the dweomer.
Jehan clutched the wound on his arm that Teague's dagger had just dealt. I am losing, he thought angrily, wanting to jump into an attack, but at that moment pain exploded along his middle as Teague's fist rammed into his stomach. Doubled over now, he was in the perfect position for Teague's doubled-fisted downward thrust to his neck. Jehan's world went black as the hit connected and the side of his face was introduced to the ground.
He wasn't sure how long he had been out. When he forced his eyes to open through the cascading pain in his head, he saw Teague chanting over a small pouch. Teague dropped a disc into the pouch. Jehan knew his outer pockets had been pilfered. Teague placed the pouch on the ledge and swiftly left the alcove.
Jehan remained still for several moments, waiting for Teague to come back and finish him off. Then he remembered what Teague and Shiriluna had planned for him. They were most likely heading to see Clopin to begin the end of his life! Jehan struggled to reach the hidden pocket inside his tunic, where he had put the disc with Clopin's symbol on it. He set it out in front of him, wondering how he could break it from his prone position. He saw his now bent-bladed knife lying nearby. He reached for it, stretching his arm until the soreness made him snap it back. The knife was in his hand, though. With a last burst of strength he slammed the pommel down on the disc, breaking it into five pieces. Then he was plunged into the darkness.
He felt heavy with sleep, like he was in a dream. But the pain was all too real. The sting of the ropes digging into his wrists, his shoulders sore from his arms being bent behind his back. He was pushed out of the shadows onto the wooden platform. A sea of angry, bitter faces was spread out below. Everyone thought he was a traitor.
Jehan gulped and glanced to the side. Clopin stood stern and imposing by the edge of the platform, his arms crossed. Teague stood a bit behind Clopin, trying to hide a smug expression. Jehan jerked his head the other way. Where was Melisande?! Had they done something to her if she had protested?? His muscles strained as he struggled to loosen the bonds -- they had better not have harmed her! The ropes cut into his skin, but still he fought. Then the noose was slipped over his head and he froze.
Shiriluna stepped in front of him as she calmly fitted the rope around his neck. He glared hard at her. She seemed not to notice. Then she looked right at him with a smirk, patting his cheek. He resisted the urge to spit on her hand -- impudent to the end. He kept his glare on her as she glided over to the lever that would open the trap door he stood on. "I will return and haunt you to your death!" he hissed loudly.
"I dare you," she replied in a low, sultry tone. Jehan shuddered and looked straight ahead, not wanting to know the Dark Gypsy way of dealing with unrestful spirits. No tirade of ridiculing trial ensued. The gypsies had condemned him, plain and simple. All of his fear and horror of dying suddenly surfaced, and then a mental image of Melisande lying beaten and left for dead came to his mind, and he screamed low in his throat.
Shiriluna pulled the lever. The floor fell out from under him. The scream stopped with a sickening gasping-choked sound. Colors, lights, and cruel, hateful faces all blurred then faded to nothing. The darkness coursed through his veins, drowning him and bypassing a battle with his pureness.
Clopin had lost all track of time. Was it days or hours that had passed since..? He paced back and forth across his tent, his hands clasped behind his back, his mind awhirl with confused thoughts. A moment ago a pressure he had not realized was on his heart had lifted as the invisible, unnoticed vise fell open. His entire being felt more free -- but it brought on questions of why, and when, and what. He vaguely remembered something about Jehan, and about Shiriluna and Teague. He scratched his head as he struggled to bring up the memories.
Suddenly a voice cut through his thoughts. "King Clopin!" A male voice filled with panic.
Apprehension seized him in a blink. He dove to the tent entrance and stumbled out. He grabbed the tent flap to keep from falling. "What has happened?" Clopin demanded in a choked tone he did not recognize. He struggled to stay afloat in his swirling thoughts and blurry recollections. "I-it is Shiri, no??"
A red-haired gypsy ran up to him and grabbed him by the shoulders. He cried, "Dark Gypsies!"
Horror and dejavu struck Clopin. Jehan had tried to warn me of something... He gasped as the words sank in, stiffening. Everything fell into place. He felt like he had been stabbed. "No-oo!" He fell to his knees, burying his face in his hands. Jehan had known something was wrong and Clopin doubted him. "No...Please, no..." Should have listened...too late now...
The other gypsy shook him insistantly. "It-it was that boy! He is one of them!"
Clopin jerked his head up to stare in horror. His sorrow turned to fury. That Teague! He caused all the hate between friends! And Jehan...
"There is still time! They were spotted going into the forest!" the other man was saying.
Immediately Clopin leapt up and snatched his dagger from the table. He raced out of the tent, heading for the tunnel that would lead outside, away from the city and where his greatest sorrow had occured, where a second would soon occur.
Coming Next: The Tale of Day and Night, Chapter Five: Another 'One Heart For Another'
To The Archives
(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