Author's note: Thank you for reading! Please favorite, alert, and REVIEW. What do you think?


The next day found Clopin having dinner with Adalyn, Annie, Gustav, and the other members of Adalyn's band: Rosamarie, Edric, and their daughter Lilianne. Clopin had bounced into Adalyn's tent earlier that day proposing that Adalyn and her people dine with him so that they could all become better acquainted. Clopin had frolicked away before Adalyn could even give an answer, but of course, she had done as he wished.

Clopin had set up one of the spare, larger tents specifically for the occasion (his own tent was too small to accommodate so many people), and in the evening he had sent one of his men, Jasper, to fetch Adalyn. When she first stepped into the tent, Adalyn was overcome by the splendor. There were candles arranged in a ring in the center of the room to provide light, and there were colorful blankets and pillows set up for them all to sit on.

The man Jasper had been assigned the duty of serving the Gypsy King and his guests, and he did so in a respectful silence. Jasper was a big man, very well-built and buff, and he looked to be about thirty. His eyes were a dark brown, as was his shoulder-length hair and beard. His face kept a very serious expression the whole night, and Adalyn could not quite decide from the look of him whether he was a rough brute or simply a serious man who happened to be quiet and shy.

Their server did not occupy much of Adalyn's thoughts however. To her pleasure, she found that dining with Clopin was a delight not only for herself but for her friends. Annie was very sweet as always, and she quickly accepted Clopin as one of their own. Gustav was a bit more wary, but he tended to be fine with anything that Annie was fine with. Rosamarie—a stern, buxom woman of thirty-six years—found herself identifying with Clopin's more humble, serious side, the one he employed in his kingly duties. Rosamarie's husband however, was a different story. Edric was a big, burly man with short hair, a mustache, and a beard, and he was incredibly gregarious. He was a very easygoing man with a warm booming laugh that was easily evoked. He and Clopin traded jokes and magician's tricks. The last member of the troupe—Rosamarie and Edric's five-year old daughter Lilianne—was particularly fond of the puppeteer. Clopin had a natural liking for children, and Lilianne was no exception. He teased her with his puppets and played games with her throughout the course of the evening. The tent was frequently humming with the loud shrieking giggles of the little girl.

"When I'm older," she exclaimed proudly to Clopin at one point, "I will be just like Maman, marry someone like Papa, have a big sister like Annie, a big brother like Gustav, and a best friend like Adalyn!"

"Oh? Is that so, ma cherie?" he replied with a look of wonderment. "What a lucky mademoiselle you shall be! Why, even the Gods could be jealous of such a blessed person. But I think you are right. You are indeed very, very... blessed!" Clopin used his mini-me to tickle Lilianne, and she erupted in another fit of giggles. Squirming out of his reach, Lilianne ran around the tent back to her mother, sending Clopin a triumphant smile.

"Clopin, you have a visitor." Everyone turned to Jasper, who had finally spoken in his deep, husky voice.

"Oh?" Clopin perked up in surprise. Suddenly the tent flap pushed up and a gypsy woman was illuminated by the light from outside the tent.

"My dear Esmeralda!" exclaimed Clopin excitedly. Hopping up from his seat, Clopin practically engulfed the gypsy in an energetic embrace. The woman gave a bright laugh.

"It is good to see you, Clopin."

"Come, come; meet the newest additions to our court!" Clopin led Esmeralda into the tent, holding her hand. Adalyn smiled at the newcomer, curious about her relation to the king.

"This... is Esmeralda," he introduced grandly, "the most exquisite dancer to ever have graced my court!" The woman laughed again and nudged him teasingly.

"My goodness Clopin, you certainly like to make a fuss." Turning to the others, she smiled kindly. "It is good to meet you all. I hope our dear King has not been too much of a bother." From where he stood beside Esmeralda, Clopin adopted a sad puppy-dog look, but Esmeralda paid him no mind. Adalyn smiled in amusement and rose gracefully from her seat.

"Well, he is a fool perhaps, but it is no bother," she said teasingly. Clopin's jaw dropped in shock before he crossed his arms with a huff, putting on a show of being hurt. Adalyn paid him no more heed than Esmeralda had. "I am Adalyn, the Queen of our small troupe. We are traveling gypsies. This is Rosamarie, Edric, Lilianne, Gustav, and Annie."

"Well hello," Esmeralda addressed directly to Lilianne with a soft smile. Lilianne smiled back and returned the greeting. Esmeralda turned back to Clopin—who had recovered from his "hurt"—and they clasped forearms familiarly.

"You do not come to see me nearly often enough," pouted Clopin.

"I'm sorry," she replied honestly, "I want to, it's just that everything has been so busy. Now that the wedding is past, I should have more time."

"So... you do not live in the Court of Miracles anymore?" questioned Adalyn. Esmeralda turned to her with a sad smile.

"No, she does not," Clopin answered for her, "She lives above the ground now." Esmeralda swatted his shoulder gently.

"I can speak for myself," she pointed out. Clopin shrugged.

"Why did you move up there?" asked Adalyn curiously.

"My husband is the Captain of the Guard," explained Esmeralda, "He lives aboveground, so I moved up there to be with him. We visit as often as we are able, but it's not enough for this one of course," she scolded her friend teasingly.

Unbeknownst to Esmeralda and Clopin, Adalyn had stopped dead at the other gypsy's words. Her heart beat seemed to slow in her anger.

"Pardon, did you say that you married the Captain of the Guard?" she asked blankly, allowing none of her cold anger to bleed through.

"Yes," affirmed Esmeralda, "Phoebus. We were married just this week." Suddenly, flames burned in Adalyn's eyes, and her expression made clear her contempt towards the other woman. Esmeralda's green eyes opened wide in surprise as her brow furrowed confusedly.

"Adalyn?" said Clopin gently, looking concerned. Stepping forward he placed a tender hand on her arm. "Is something the matter?"

"She's a traitor," Adalyn hissed suddenly. Everyone else in the tent froze in shock at her hateful words.

"Excuse me?" said Esmeralda, hoping she'd misheard.

"You're a traitor!" she repeated through clenched teeth. The anger overtaking her restraint, Adalyn quickly began to walk menacingly towards Esmeralda. Clopin, seeing the dangerous look in her eyes, swiftly jumped in between the women and held Adalyn back.

"You married one of them!" cried Adalyn as she struggled against Clopin's grip. "One of the soldiers! How could you? You're a disgrace to the gypsies, a traitor!"

"Calm down, ma cherie, please," said Clopin firmly, retaining his strong hold on her. "Phoebus is not like the others! If you knew him, you would understand. Esmeralda has done nothing wrong, please, be calm."

"It's fine Clopin," cut in Esmeralda sharply, "I need to be going as it is. I will come see you another time."

With a whoosh of fabric Esmeralda was gone, disappearing out of the tent and back into the court. Clopin finally released Adalyn, who stood there huffing angrily for a moment, glaring at the space which Esmeralda had just vacated.

Turning to Clopin, who looked sad and thoughtful, Adalyn glared at him accusingly.

"How could you let one of your own marry a soldier?" she seethed.

"I do not control my subjects, Adalyn," replied the King firmly. "Even if I did, I would not have stopped their union. Esmeralda is like a sister to me, and I have never seen her happier. You would deny her such a thing?"

"I would deny any relationship between my people and the soldiers," she snapped back. Refusing to remain in Clopin's presence any longer, Adalyn twirled around him and strolled out of the tent and into the Court of Miracles once more.