Author's note: Thank you for reading! This is just the beginning, the very short beginning. Please review or PM to let me know if you are interested in seeing more. Thanks again!

It was getting dark out, and there was no more time for puppet shows. Quickly packing his props away, Clopin hummed a cheery tune, practically bouncing as he worked. Despite his outwardly chipper disposition, there was in truth something much more serious on Clopin's mind.

The children were laughing and smiling as Clopin expressed his story through song. Clopin's mini-me popped up, and the children cheered and clapped. Clopin smiled at how enthralled the young ones were, when suddenly movement caught his eye.

Though it was no more than a second, Clopin was sure that he had seen a shadow slip into the back of his wagon. But who? An assassin perhaps? A spy? A fan? Less likely. His fans were the children, and they stood in front of the wagon, not in the back of it.

Shutting his chest of tricks with a click, Clopin took a moment to prepare himself. Hopping down onto the pavement, he circled around to enter his wagon through the secret back door. He flung it open and leaped inside. A flurry of moving colors ensued, but it lasted no more than two seconds. Clopin had not even seen who the intruder was—aside from her female figure—but now she was firmly in his grasp, her arm twisted up behind her, and her body being held dangerously close against his. She did not seem to be struggling, but Clopin did not trust this docile appearance.

"I would not move, if I were you."

His whisper drifted lightly, teasing the air beside her ear, as if his words were no more than a joke. This could not have been further from the truth.

"That was not my intent, I assure you." Her voice was soft and bright and... calm? Well, that wouldn't do. Clopin tightened his grip in annoyance.

"What are you doing in my wagon?"

"Perhaps you would be so kind as to loosen your grip?"

"It would be unwise for you to deny me answers, mademoiselle."

"So stubborn... I sought the King of the Gypsies of Paris. I never dreamt that he would be so rude to his own people."

Finally Clopin released his hold on her. She spun around to face him with a graceful, dramatic flair that made her movements look like a dance. Her stance was casual and verging on—dare he think it?—seductive. The girl was slouched slightly to the side, with one hip popped out carelessly. Her slim figure was accentuated by the form-fitting blue dress she wore. Tied atop her head was a purple bandana, and her straight black hair fell down to the middle of her back.

"Who are you?" Clopin asked hesitantly, examining her carefully. She certainly did look like a gypsy, complete with one golden hoop earring, but looks could be deceiving.

"My name is Adalyn," she answered simply. "And yours, mon cherie?"

"I... am Clopin," was the proud reply. "Where is your home?"

"Why, Paris of course." Clopin's eyes narrowed at her insolence.

"Do not lie to me. I know every one of my people, and you are not one. Where is... your home?"

"I am a traveling gypsy," Adalyn revealed with an amused smile. "Paris is my most recent home."

"Then from where do you come?"

"Most recently... Venice."

"Why are you here?"

"My people and I need to stay with you for the time of our stay here. I believe it is called... the Court of Miracles, no?"

"And why... should I trust you?"

The woman pulled something out of the space between her bosom and dress. In the dim light, Clopin could not make it out, until Adalyn stepped closer and held it out to him. It was a beautiful, purple, silk handkerchief embroidered with the letter 'C'.

"Do you know the gypsies Christelle and Henri? As I understand it they are members of your group here, so you must know them." Adalyn did not notice the stiffening in the King's shoulders, and the suddenly cold look in his eyes. Oblivious to these changes, she continued.

"When they went on the road many years ago, they joined our troupe, see? I was only a child then; my mother was the leader. When Christelle and Henri returned here to you so they could raise their child in Paris, Christelle gave this handkerchief to my mother, with the invitation to come to the Court of Miracles when our travels should call for it. When my mother passed on and I became the leader of the troupe, I decided it was time to come to Paris and have Christelle's promise honored. I wish very much to see Henri and Christelle. Will you lead me to them?"

Attempting to stifle his scowl, Clopin quickly snatched the handkerchief from her fingers. Adalyn was very startled by this, and her self-assured, calm composure broke as her eyes widened and she stumbled backwards a step. There was a dangerous glow about Clopin now, which had not been there before, even when he had been restraining her. What had brought this on?

"I will honor the promise made to you by Christelle," he almost hissed at her. "Come. Bring your people."

Obligingly, Adalyn rushed out of the wagon to collect her troupe members—who were waiting patiently in a side street—and together the traveling band of gypsies followed the now silent King through the streets of Paris, on their way to the Court of Miracles.