Posted March 5,1998
[Author's Note: "dubhe" is ghadlig for "dark" Thanks, sis! :)]
The race was on.
Teague dragged Shiriluna along through the forest to the appointed spot. They would be very pleased by his success. Yet there was still something nagging him, every time he glanced at the confused, frightened girl who was trying to slip her hand from his grasp more than keep up with him. Why are we running, she had asked. Why do we have to leave? What is wrong?
He just grabbed her hand and ran. There was no more time for games. They were expecting him tonight. He tightened his grip, partly to give a pretense of reassuring her, mostly making sure she would not slip away.
Shiriluna was pale and very scared by the time they stopped in a clearing ringed by nine trees to 'catch their breath.' Teague made a show of bending over, breathing hard. Shiri clutched her hands to her chest as she glanced around in fear. At once a dark-skinned figure dressed all in black leapt out from behind each of the eight trees. Shiriluna shrieked in surprise. When a ninth form stepped out directly in front of her and she saw his left hand -- or rather the silvery hook that had replaced it -- she screamed in pure horror.
The ninth man chuckled as she turned to run, only to find herself surrounded. She looked sharply to Teague. He stood sternly with his arms crossed, his face grim. Shiriluna put her hand to her mouth as she gasped.
Then, in a fleeting moment of rage, she turned to the man with the hook and clenched her fists, shrieking in an unfamiliarly shrill voice, "What did you do to my Mama, Robuert?! Where is she?!"
The man chuckled again. "Do not worry. You will be joining her soon." Robuert grinned wickedly and and ran a finger over the curve of his hook, stepping closer with a menacing hiss, "Shiriluna Trouillefou, you are mine!" Shiri clapped both hands over her mouth, shaking her head in denial. Then she collapsed.
Robuert motioned for one of the others to force her up. He turned to Teague. "Well done, my lad. Well done." There was something sinister in his tone.
Teague looked at Shiriluna, being held up roughly by her shoulders. His conscience stabbed at the back of his head repeatedly. He groaned mentally and tried to force it away. He had done well. He had succeeded in his mission. The others would capture Clopin, he had not been a part of that section of the plan. He had done well. But it wasn't sitting well with him.
"Go now, boy. Your role is through," Robuert was saying harshly. Teague took a last look at Shiriluna, hung his head, and walked off in the general direction of the camp. He was done, they did not need him anymore. Robuert's angry growl drifted after him, "She shall pay for her escape."
Teague shuddered, but kept walking. He had succeeded, they were pleased. They had their bait, their trap, their prey. Why the injustice had not been forgotten in all this time, he did not know. It was not his concern anyway, they said. Just play your part. And he had, very well, and it had gone perfectly for them.
He walked for a bit more, rambling nonsense to himself, when the distant scream caught up to him. Teague wheeled around, clenching his fists. Someone else needed him.
Melisande weeped, as she had for a while, crumpled on the floor beside a sleeping-mat. Her sorrow was for the person lying on the mat, pale and limp, not even breathing it seemed. It was too late, too late...If only she had listened the first time! Then it would not have happened, or at least have been a chance to stop it...But, no. "Oh, Jehan, Jehan!" she cried, throwing herself over him, gripping tightly to the shoulder of his shirt. "I should have listened!" she sobbed. "I should have believed you sooner!" She sat up, burying her face in her hands. "Oh, Jehan!!" she wailed, throwing her head back. She slumped down again, sobbed until she was breathless, and choked.
She had found him in the alcove, unconscious, bleeding from several small wounds, but most alarming of all was the pallor of his skin, and the mysterious appearance of a red mark around his neck. He had trembled when she touched his arm. She had tried to shake him awake, to no avail. He looked like he was being strangled -- not that he had been, but that he was at that very moment! She had wept then because she did not understand, and was afraid. After screaming for help she had looked around for anything suspicious, finding a bent knife, one broken disc, another whole disc that bore, as she figured, Teague's symbols, and a pouch which she dared not open for fear of what deadly items it might hold.
Now she sat with her back to Jehan so she would not see the horrifying color-change of his skin to translucent blue, the pouch before her. This could be the key to his condition, another bit of Dark Gypsy magic. But if the thing was merely a trap to stop someone from saving both Jehan and Shiriluna...She knew she would regret it. Yet what else could she do? There was no point to going out alone to find Teague -- she would probably end up being captured.
Melisande poked at the pouch. It could just as well be filled with sand from the feel of it...and a hard, wooden -- disc! Without any more hesitation she tore open the pouch and dumped out the contents. Grey ashes spilled out, the disc coming last. She snatched it up and stared at it; a sun divided perfectly in half. She glanced over at Jehan, gasping, then leaped up. She threw down the disc and stomped on it, breaking it into three parts. She dove to her knees at his side, taking his hand in hers.
He was cold and literally blue. She shook him frantically. She had come out of the trance instantly, so he should wake in another second! One second went by, and another, and another, and nothing happened. She held his hand up to her cheek, letting her tears fall on it. She hoped that in giving his life, his heart, he had been able to save Shiriluna's.
Teague crept toward the clearing, every nerve on edge. All was silent now, eerily quiet. Yet, as much as he looked, he did not see any sign of his 'brethren.' They would have come to him to tell him to go back again, by now. Most likely they were off hunting Clopin, instead of waiting for him to come to them. Impatience was their error here.
Teague slipped from shadow to shadow toward the pale form lying at the side of the clearing. They left her here...Probably to lead Clopin to an inescapable trap...I have little time. He genuflected to take her hand; it felt unearthly cold. He put two fingers to her neck to check her pulse. None. Nothing.
"No..." he breathed. He should never have...It was your duty!! screamed something completely different from his conscience. Now! Make sure the job is finished!
I won't! I won't! Teague fought back. He clenched his fists at his side, tightening his muscles to trap the darkness inside him in one spot, his heart. Then he thought of the first love he had ever felt, the first time he kissed Shiriluna. The darkness withered, but refused to release its hold completely.
Clopin had avoided the group of enemies altogether, reaching the clearing unseen, including by Teague. He gasped when he saw Shiriluna lying motionless on the other side of the space, Teague-Raviv standing over her with his fists clenched at his sides. He had his back to Clopin, so the gypsy king could not see his face. Then Teague began to raise his fists upward, Clopin realized, in triumph over the second greatest wound to Clopin's heart.
With a cry of pure rage Clopin dove from his hiding place and tackled Teague to the ground. Teague uttered a startled gasp as he fell onto his face. Clopin quickly leapt up, drawing his dagger. "Traitor!" he snarled.
Teague scrambled to his feet and darted around Shiriluna's still form, placing Shiri between himself and Clopin. Then Teague crouched down, ready to spring into defense should he have to. "Traitor!!" Clopin screeched. He brandished the dagger menacingly, a wild look in his eyes as he glared at Teague. "Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!" I trusted him, I believed him, I fell into the same trap again...Shiri trusted him with her heart, and he betrayed her... He gripped the dagger hilt till his hand hurt. He betrayed her!!
Teague was still poised warily. Then he moved, ever so slowly, around Shiriluna, his stare on the silver glint of the dagger the whole time. Then he rose to stand straight, just far enough away from Clopin to be safe. Or so he thought. "Traitor!" Clopin shouted once more. That was all he could think. Betrayed. His innocent daughter had been betrayed.
Teague had become unnervingly calm. His face was blank. Then his voice came in a whisper, "Accuse me not."
Clopin threw back his head and laughed, a cold, mocking sound. He glared hard at the boy, his eyes gleaming with hatred. "You betrayed Shiri! You tricked me! You are one of them! That carries your guilt as it is!"
Teague's expression became equally hard. Again he was whispering as he said, "I was never one of them...I forsake them now..."
"Now?" Clopin snorted. "Now does not do you any good considering what you did then!" He pointed forcefully toward Shiriluna's prone form.
Teague's eyes widened. Clopin had implied something beyond the trickery in the Court. "I did not kill her!" Teague yelped, "I came back to save her from--"
"Don't try to fool me, boy!" Clopin hissed. He shifted from one side to the other, brandishing the dagger warily. "You were seen! You were seen kidnapping my Shiri!"
Teague began to breath hard. He fought to keep his anger under control, and keep his Dark Gypsy side from surfacing. He replied quietly, "I know what I did was wrong. And I realized that, and I turned back to save her from them."
Clopin motioned toward Shiriluna with his dagger, spite in his voice as he said, "Looks like you didn't do a good job, eh?"
The boy clenched his fists tightly, his face scrunched up in mourning, gritting his teeth. "There was nothing I could do..."
"You proclaimed you loved her -- if that was ever even true," Clopin spat, "And you did nothing to stop them from--" He stopped himself. He could not bring himself to say killing Shiriluna. The thought made his grip tremble, and he nearly dropped the dagger. Instead, he tightened his grasp on the hilt. "Traitor!" he screamed. Then he lunged at Teague, slashing the dagger in front of him.
Teague grabbed Clopin's wrist as he fell onto his back, trying to force the blade away from his face. Clopin's free hand shot forward to choke Teague at the throat; but Teague met this with his palm, then once more tried to force Clopin backward. While still pressuring the dagger downward, Clopin was able to free his hand and drew his fist back, ready to smash it into Teague's face. But Teague was quicker, his hand shooting up to grasp Clopin's throat. Clopin involuntarily let out a strangled cry as Teague's grip tightened, but he determinedly pushed forward to rake the tip of the dagger across the boy's cheek. A line of bright red appeared on Teague's face. Satisfied, Clopin leapt back, a sneering look on his visage. Teague's hand went up to his cheek in horror.
There was a momentary lull. Clopin glanced over at Shiriluna. So still, so still...Grief drowned out his fury. "Nooohhh!" he wailed. "What do you want of me?! How much more will you take from me?!"
A horrifyingly familiar voice said from behind him, "Your life will suffice."
Melisande felt the cold seeping into her. Hopelessness, she reasoned. Clopin had not yet returned. Jehan didn't seem to be waking. She did not know what to do. She lay her head over Jehan's heart, but she had long since become deaf to all sound around her, the confusion and despair so strong as to numb her all over.
She was just dozing off when she imagined she felt movement underneath her head. Then something closed over her left hand, which rested on Jehan's stomach. Noise slowly came back to her, the murmur of the Court, the softness of her own breathing, the faint lub-dub of a heart, the sound of shallow breath. She lifted her head and stared at Jehan's right hand, which held her left hand and squeezed it at that moment. She uttered a gasp of joy, then caught her breath, waiting for him to either open his eyes or regress back to death.
His hand tightened around hers again. His breathing became more steady. Slowly his eyes opened, slightly unfocused and startled. Melisande noticed a dullness within those bright-ivy orbs. At last his breathing was normal, and they stared at each other for a long while, Jehan pressing her hand over his heart with both of his hands.
Then she leaned forward and kissed him full on the lips, long and gratefully. When she finally drew back, she rested her head on his chest, whispering as she ran her fingers through his hair, "You live...You live..."
After a moment he said hoarsely, "It-it was like a dream..." She rose and helped him sit up. He cleared his throat and continued, "Th-they were hanging me -- Shiriluna, Clopin, and Teague. I -- I did not see you...anywhere..." He put his hand to his head, looking at her sorrowfully.
"It wasn't too much a dream," Melisande said softly, tracing the now fading red mark around his throat with a fingertip. He shivered from something other than fear. "You have been out for awhile. Teague kidnapped Shiriluna, and Clopin went after them...I feared you were dead!" She wrapped her arms around him, letting a few more tears fall.
Jehan's voice broke the silence. "I know how to end this..." His tone was cold and hard. She drew back from the embrace to question him with a look. He took something from a hidden pocket and held it out to her; the disc with the sun and the piccolo. He said in a low voice, "Breaking them has broken the spell on innocents...breaking his, with his evil blood," he continued ominously, "--will probably kill him."
Melisande's eyes widened, than narrowed as she nodded grimly. She took the disc from him, stood up, then threw the disc forcefully to the ground. The effect was moot, and so she stomped on it as well. It was reduced to seven pieces.
She kneeled beside him then, enclosing him in her arms again. For now they could only wait...
"You!" Teague-Raviv snarled, glaring daggers at the man with a hook for a hand who had entered their midst. Clopin just blinked in bewilderment as he slowly, inconspicuously backed away. Teague, meanwhile, stepped toward Shiriluna, if only to keep Robuert from getting near her again. "You killed her! My angel! She would save me from this demonic life!" He drew his dagger and raised it high as he moved swiftly toward the target of his hatred.
"And you," Robuert sneered, undaunted. "You ungrateful, worthless brat! Dubhe Rom don't take kindly to traitors -- remember why you are here right now?" He laughed cruelly.
"Yes, I remember," Teague gasped out, anger tightening in his chest. "All for the ways of a murdering fiend who should find himself growing cold!" Then he sprang at Robuert.
"I am already cold!" Robuert laughed in reply, confidant that he could dispatch the boy quickly. He caught Teague's dagger hand, and was surprised to find that they were matched in strength. Each struggled for several moments to gain the advantage.
All of a sudden a voice from above called out, "Well done, lad!" The two looked up to see a malevolent shadowed face glaring down from a tree. "But save some for me." Clopin leapt down, knocking Robuert to the ground. His hands immediately slipped around Robuert's throat, and as Clopin's fury grew, so tightened his grip.
Robuert growled. With a surge of strength he threw Clopin backward. But Teague pounced to take his place, pinning Robuert down by the shoulder with one hand, raising the dagger upward in the other. "You won't do it," Robuert sneered. "You cannot. You were taught what would happen if you killed your own kind!"
"All I was taught were lies," Teague replied evenly. His tone went emotionless when he said, "Clopin was once one of 'us', he was by birth. That makes Shiriluna half-one as well." Now he became bitter. "But neither of them are like you!" He began to bring the blade downward.
"I own you!!" Robuert snarled. "You cannot kill me!!"
Teague's arm froze. Fear suddenly rose within him. It is only a trick! A trick! He tried to tell himself. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he tried to bring the dagger down. But he was caught in Robuert's fierce glare.
Clopin stood at the ready, though his face held pity, not anger -- for Teague. He whispered, "Come, lad, fight it. Good always wins...If you are now truthful..."
All at once Teague went rigid. Clopin's heart sank, while Robuert allowed a triumphant smirk. Then Teague began to tremble, a horrified look on his face. Robuert started to slide away from him. Teague's free hand came down on his shoulder again, and the boy's attention focused into a fierce glare. "Shiriluna!!" he howled. He plunged the blade into Robuert's chest.
"One heart for another," Clopin hissed, watching Robuert's last dying thrashes with a sense of relief and a slightly lightened feeling.
Teague moved away, grim and pale. He turned to stagger toward Shiriluna, but fell just before reaching her. One out-stretched hand came short of touching her arm. Darkness threatened to claim him...
Clopin forced himself to look away from his most hated enemy. What had he been expecting, Samira to come out from hiding? He now regretted having Robuert die so quickly, he would have liked to torture the truth of what had happened to Samira out of him. But, too late...Now the matter was getting back to the Court. He turned to where Shiriluna lay. He saw her again, and the grief came flooding back. His questions had not been answered...What did they want? Why did they have to keep breaking his heart and will? He sank to his knees, then bent over until he could put his face in the grass. She is dead. He is dead. I am dead...
He did not remember lying down. But he awoke to find himself curled up on his side, holding his midsection as if he had been punched in the stomach. He was aware of a soft singing in a baritone voice. The words were foreign, but gentle. He relaxed and opened his eyes.
Teague, alive and sitting up, was cradling Shiriluna against him, murmuring a lullabye to her. He leaned his head down to kiss her. She seemed to react to the kiss, her lips faintly moving to press against his. Clopin slowly sat up, watching apprehensively. Had Teague truly changed? Or was this yet another trap, with more Dark Gypsies hiding, waiting to pounce...
The couple parted. Shiriluna's head lolled to rest on Teague's shoulder. The boy meanwhile glanced toward Clopin. He offered a weak smile. Clopin saw the truth at last. He rose slowly and stepped toward them. Teague stood as well, gathering Shiriluna up in his arms. Without a word, they headed for the entrance to the Court of Miracles.
Melisande watched Jehan pace across Clopin's tent with his hands clasped behind his back. He reminded her of the gypsy king himself. They had come to his tent knowing it would be the first place he returned to. So far, he had not come back.
"I am going to look for him in another moment," Jehan vowed, as he had ten times already.
Melisande shook her head. "Not in a moment -- now," she said sternly, rising from her seat at the low table in the corner. He darted to the exit ahead of her. They had taken only a few steps into the Court when they stopped short at the sight before them; Teague-Raviv carrying Shiriluna in his arms and Clopin beside him, leaning on a walking stick fashioned from a thick, twisted treebranch. Jehan and Melisande traded nervous glances.
Clopin gave them a weak smile, though not pausing as he went to Shiriluna's tent. He held open the entrance while Teague took Shiri inside. The boy gently set her on the bed, then turned with his gaze lowered to face the anger of his victims.
Jehan was about to strangle Clopin, along with Teague. "How can you allow him in here?!" the blond gypsy fumed. "How can you have let him live?!" He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "He has you under a spell again...doesn't he..."
Clopin sighed quietly, sitting down on his 'throne.' "No, lad...I know the truth."
"And I know I almost died!" Jehan screeched. "I see, I see -- you are blinded by grief! He tried to kill me!! He's killed Shiriluna!! He shall pay!!"
"He is half-right," Teague spoke up quietly. All eyes, one pair glaring daggers, turned to him. "Grief is one way the trick is done," he continued, nearly mumbling in obvious shame.
Jehan verily snorted with rage, about to charge at him and kill him. Melisande barely managed to hold him back. She clutched his arm tightly and found the strength to drag him over to the table, shoving him onto a stool once there. To keep him from getting right back up, she plunked herself down on his lap.
Clopin watched them with mild amusement, though his thoughts were more on what Teague had said. He turned his attention back to the boy who was his daughter's true love. "Tell us then, if you will, Teague, what Dark Gypsy magic really is -- for we all know there is no real magic in the world..."
Teague took a sharp breath, bracing his legs against the side of the bed for support. He looked to each face in turn, took a deep breath, and began, "It is mostly about observation. Watching how the-- person reacts to certain things, and how strong their emotions are. As I said before, that is how the trick is done; taking the person's grief, anger, and hatred, and turning those against him, exploiting the feelings. Then it is all a matter of 'casting a spell'; actually, through a manner of hypnosis." He looked round at them again. Clopin was nodding thoughtfully, Melisande also contemplating his words.
Jehan, his tone bitter, asked, "And how exactly is that done?"
Teague lowered his gaze, abashed again. "Everyone has a different way." He swallowed hard, then looked up. "Mine was to make you believe I could control you with the symbol-pendants." His mouth twitched in a momentary grimace. "Well, uh, actually there is a way to somewhat imbue them with a bit of someone's 'spirit'." He shrugged. "All a matter of token and suggestion."
"And Corgee happened to be your teacher," Clopin said dryly. Teague glanced at him nervously. There was no ill-will in Clopin's expression.
Jehan abruptly stood, forgetting about Melisande and oblivious to her grunt as she landed hard on the floor. "And what about Shiriluna?!" he demanded. He might have said something else, but Melisande promptly jumped up and shoved him backward so hard he went sprawling across the table.
Clopin couldn't contain a chuckle. Teague cleared his throat and proclaimed lightly, "She lives. She will survive." There was much relief in his tone.
With great reluctance Jehan allowed Melisande to drag him away so Shiriluna could sleep in peace. Clopin, the exhaustion of the day catching up to him, retreated to his own tent. Teague waited before leaving, even though he knew he had to find a new place to stay in the Court. He stood over Shiriluna, watching her, marveling over this new feeling that flowed through him; love.
He brushed her hair back a few times, smiling tenderly. Then he leaned over to kiss her cheek. As he drew back to leave, he whispered, "Sleep well, my sweet moon song."
Coming Next: Interlude: The Moon Song's Guardian Raven
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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