Clopin approached the deep violet tent that stood in one of the quieter areas of the Court, an area where most of the tribes mystics and prophets dwelled since their work required peace and quiet. It was an area that also acted as the infirmary, though it was rare since they seldom had anymore than one or two injured badly enough to be kept quarantined in this area. Often, those who were on their deathbed or seriously ill were brought here to be cared for and to limit the risk of their illness spreading to someone else that could easily start an epidemic. Clopin needed advice from only one particular mystic, one that came and went as he pleased and often without a moment's notice, a man who came and went when and where he was needed. He'd always been around, Clopin had known him his whole life though the mystic never seemed to age a day in his life though the Gypsy King was now forty years of age. One learned never to question such things when it came to mystics, they worked in mysterious ways that only they had the capacity to understand. He stopped before the mystic's abode, gazing at the deep purple material the large tent was composed of, before taking a deep breath and pushing aside the flap and peering inside.
"Hail, Gypsy King," the deep baritone greeted from the softly lit interior.
"You are here," Clopin said, approaching the man where he crouched in a corner.
The tent was always dimly lit, a soft green glow falling over the place, the ground covered by a green rug that perfectly mimicked the look and feel of grass. There was a purely natural feel to the place as though one had just stepped into a hidden glade of a forest, there were various plants scattered about, many of them herbs necessary for the mystics work.
The mystic stood and turned as Clopin came to a stop before him and falling to one knee, one arm draped across his raised leg while the knuckles of the other rested on the ground. This was the only man Clopin Trouillefou ever bowed to, revered enough for such a flagrant display of the deepest respect, the man's very presence commanded it. He was a tall individual, taller even than the blonde Captain Phoebus who practically towered over most of the Court's denizens, broad and muscular, power rippling through him. His black hair fell past his shoulders in layers that gave him a wild, though well-groomed, look enhanced by the greenish tint Clopin swore highlighted each strand. The light blue of the lightning bolts tattooed over each eye, down both arms and either side of his bare chest and back stood out in stark contrast to his light brown flesh. The golden tint to his amber eyes almost seemed to glow in the dim light, thick brows raised in a welcoming expression with the upturned corners of his mouth. The tattoos of his chest were barely visible beneath the thick beard that hung to his waist, the tips of his mustache adorned by a circle sitting in an upturned crescent moon. The mystic wore nothing more than a simple cloak around his shoulders that may have been fashioned from a deer pelt and a kilt made of some sort of thick fur with what looked like large saber teeth adorning the hem. On his hands, he wore fingerless gloved, his wrists and forearms covered by bracers, biceps adorned by green and gold armbands from which hung two large feathers. The matching belt at his waist was decorated with a delicate design of leaves, a large pouch hanging from it, his shins covered by intricately crafted leg guards adorned by an upside-down crescent above a circle.
Gypsies being nomads were practically children of nature, preferring to camp in the woods to dwelling in a large city like Paris. They had strong connections to nature and the natural world around, had a superior understanding of herbs and their medicinal uses, but none seemed so connected to the living world than the mystic before him. His powers were far beyond anyone's understanding, seeming able to not only coax plants to grow but to hear them, everything about him radiating power. In those respects, this great mystic who called himself a druid was aptly named: Malfurion Stormrage, called Mal or Furion for short by close friends. As previously mentioned, Clopin had known him his entire life and had become close to him, often turning to him for the advice and guidance he didn't get from his father Adriel. Thus, Malfurion had become a sort of surrogate father to him for many years now, had once even told Clopin he would be honored if the boy looked to him as such.
"It is good to see you again, Clopin," Malfurion remarked, motioning for him to rise, "Though you are not looking yourself. Are you well?"
"It's been awhile, Mal," Clopin replied, dodging the question and leaning against the simple bed behind him, "I was beginning to think your time had finally come."
"I have several years in me yet," the mystic chuckled.
"That is a relief," the King mumbled.
"I do wish you would let me teach you my ways, you have great potential."
Clopin rolled his eyes; they'd had this conversation before, "And how would you know?"
"I can feel it, the world around me tells me such things. Do you never hear the whisper of the wind, calling to you?"
Clopin crossed his arms impatiently; how was he to know if the wind was whispering to him?
Any time he caught any faint whispers, Clopin simply attributed it to the sixth sense he possessed that no one knew about and that he usually kept blocked. He didn't much care to feel or hear the disembodied spirits around him, he'd had enough experiences with the supernatural when he was a child, they used to give him nightmares. So he blocked it all out so he couldn't see, hear, or sense the things that no one else saw, though there were times when the activity was too strong for him to block. He'd never admit it, but the paranormal scared him, mostly due to some of the more frightening experiences he'd had. Malfurion took a close look at the Gypsy King, noting the dark circles under his eyes and the drawn, pale look of one who was not sleeping.
"How long since you last slept?" he asked, turning back to the plants he'd been tending to and patting the ground beside him.
"Five days," Clopin answered, taking the proffered seat.
"Mm," the mystic let out a displeased hum, "That does not bode well. A week without rest may prove fatal, I have seen so myself before. Too long without sleep and much more than your mental well-being is at risk, indeed your very life is at stake."
"You're telling me a week without sleep can kill you?"
"Indeed, I've seen it. Why are you not sleeping, dear King?"
"That's what I wished to talk to you about. Something's happened."
"You're no longer human or at least no longer mortal."
"Dare I ask…?"
"I can sense a change in you, your canines are also more noticeable, indeed more prominent. Slightly longer and sharper."
"Have you any idea what I've become?"
"Mullo," Clopin replied, using the Romani term for 'vampire.'
"Where I am from, such beings are known as the San'layn. Drinker of blood, vampire."
"I was attacked and bitten about two weeks ago. I've been hoping for your swift return, Stormrage. I find myself in dire need of your guidance."
"Did your sire explain nothing to you?"
"The one that made you."
"Ah, I expect that this was unintentional. I fought against him when he bit me, even when he came at me a second time. After that, he just took off into the night."
"You are most likely correct in that assumption. Seldom do victims fight back like that, he probably wanted an easier meal than you."
"So, I was lost the moment he bit me?"
"No, there must be an exchange of blood in order for the victim to become one of the undead. If he did not give it to you, how did you get it?"
"I bit him in the struggle, hard enough to draw blood, and I swallowed it when he pushed me away."
"As usual, Clopin, you are unique, nothing done to you or by you is ever normal, even this."
"What do you mean?"
"Tell me what happened after you were bitten."
"I fled into one of the other tunnels," Clopin recalled, eyes glazing over as he thought back with vivid detail to that night, "I was weak from losing so much blood, but this pain came over me. It was horrible, I thought the pain itself would kill me. It swept through every part of my body, everything hurt, the worst pain I've every felt in my life. It was so excruciating, I was on the ground writhing, I think I passed out at some point. When I woke, the pain was gone, I was so thirsty and so hungry, but nothing I ate or drank did anything to relieve it. Five days went like that, I was filled with some terrible urge to attack anyone who spoke with me alone, each day that urge got stronger. I was losing control, losing myself. A guard began pestering me, I threw my knife, it cut his cheek and I smelled the blood, I lost control and attacked him. I bit him as I'd been bitten, drank his blood until his heart was about to stop. Only then were the hunger and the horrible, burning thirst gone, only then did I come back to myself."
"The pain you endured," Malfurion sighed, his fears confirmed, "That was the beginning of the end, your mortal body dying and your soul becoming forever bound to immortal flesh. That was your body adjusting to a new existence, but you have not been fully transformed. Your flesh should have paled almost to white, should be cold to the touch, but," he reached out a hand to cup Clopin's face, " it is not. Your skin is the same tanned tone it's always been, the warmth of your color echoed in the feel of it."
"Then what has become of me?"
"There is no telling what effects the blood you took will have on you, but my thought is that you are only semi-vampiric, you thirst for blood, need it to survive, but you still have some need for food."
"Am I a monster, Malfurion?"
"Not so long as you do not allow yourself to become one. Vampires become inhuman monsters because they allow themselves to. They have the potential to retain their humanity, but many choose not to, they choose to let go of what made them human. You have held on to who you are, you have not allowed yourself to fall to such depths of depravity. Your secret can be kept from your people."
"But I still must kill to survive."
"Not necessarily. So long as you feed often enough, you will not need as much blood as a full-fledged vampire, but you will need to feed more often to keep from losing your mind to bloodlust. Clearly, five days is the longest you can go before going mad with thirst becomes a very real possibility. Find a willing victim to provide you with that blood every day or two and you'll have no need to kill for it. Does anyone else know?"
"Samira does, she saw the guard."
"No! I will not ask that of her, I will not take her blood."
"Then, you have some soul-searching to do. Determine who else you are comfortable enough with to entrust this secret to, from whom you would not mind taking blood."
Easier said than done for there were precious few Clopin trusted with his life and if he trusted them with his life, then he could trust them with this secret. He was not a man who trusted easily, not even his own people though he was much more willing to trust them than any gadje. He preferred not to take blood from a woman and only one person came to mind, one who he deemed trustworthy enough, one who was strong enough to make such a regular sacrifice. That one person was a gentile who'd risked his life and his career for Clopin's people on more than one occasion: Phoebus de Chateaupers.
The two were good, albeit unlikely, friends and Phoebus had on several occasions earned Clopin's trust despite being a soldier and a gajo, so the Gypsy King never questioned his wisdom in trusting the Captain with his life. The two had even become lovers in the months that followed Frollo's demise, though that only lasted a year or two. In that time, Clopin had been raped by a guard when he'd been thrown in a dungeon, leaving the Gypsy King emotionally scarred and suffering for a few weeks. In time, he'd healed, but the scars the assault left on his psyche never faded, so there were things Phoebus couldn't do without Clopin having flashbacks. The lively Gypsy had found himself becoming too emotionally invested in the blonde captain for his liking considering Phoebus was very serious about Esmeralda. It also didn't help when Phoebus told Clopin that unlike the King of the Gypsies, he really wasn't bisexual, he just had the occasional desire for male companionship. Aside from all that, Phoebus had married Esmeralda and had Zephyr with her as well as a few other rugrats after that. So, between his duties as Captain of the Guard and his role as husband and father, Phoebus didn't have much time for the Gypsy King. Despite all that, they were still friends and Phoebus was still one of Clopin's closest and best, so once he was done talking with Malfurion, he went in search of his gentile friend.
It being the weekend, Phoebus luckily wasn't on duty and, even better, was lazing about in the tent he shared with Esmeralda and their little ones while she went to market with the children in tow.
"Dweebus!" Clopin shouted cheerfully, correctly assuming he was hung over after a Friday night spent out drinking.
"DAMMIT!" came the responding groan after the Captain rather unceremoniously rolling out of bed, "Clopin! Could you be slightly less cheerful just this once?"
"Aw, pouvre Doofus," Clopin cooed, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"What have I told you about calling me things like Dweebus and Doofus?" the Captain asked, placing a cool cloth to his head as he sat on some pillows facing Clopin.
"And Feeble, don't forget Feeble."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, what have I told you?"
"Then why do you?"
"Because it's fun and because I can, but mostly because I know it annoys you."
"Fair enough, Clothespin."
"Call me Clothespin and die."
"I will murder you…"
Phoebus pointedly quirked a brow.
"Fine, you've made your point," Clopin conceded and immediately sobered, "Phoebus, I need to talk to you."
"I assumed as much since you never just stroll in unless you do."
"Nothing I say in this tent, leaves this tent. Is this understood?"
". . . Clopin, what's going on?"
"I'm swearing you to secrecy."
"I got that part. About what?"
"Swear you tell no one, not even Esmeralda!"
"Not even Esmeralda? I tell her everything."
"I really don't care, you are not to breathe a single word of this to her."
"You have my word."
"Don't make me regret this."
"Have I ever?"
"Phoebus, I need you."
"Oh, is that all? Esmeralda knew all about that."
"Not like that, dumbass!"
"Then what are you talking about?"
"Phoebus… I'm a mullo."
"Sorry, my Romani's rusty. What the hell is a mullo?"
"You gentiles call them vampires."
"Clopin, two things. Number one, I really hate it when you call me a gentile. Number two: Worst. Joke. Ever."
"I'm not joking."
"There's no such thing as vampires. Mon dieu, you Gypsies are so bloody superstitious."
"Phoebus, pretend for a moment that they are. I was bitten by one about two weeks ago, I am not human anymore. I need you to do something for me."
"Very well, Clopin, vampires are real and now you're one of them?"
"What do you need me to do?"
"Let me drink your blood."
"Just once every couple of days, that's all I ask."
"What do you mean drink my blood?"
Clopin motioned for Phoebus to lean closer which he did, a decision he immediately regretted when Clopin's arms wrapped around his neck and he felt a sharp stab to his throat. He couldn't move as the strangest sensation swept through him while Clopin drank from the wound his teeth had made in his neck, an odd mixture of pleasure and pain. Truth be told, Phoebus really didn't like and came to the conclusion that Clopin had either been telling the truth or that he was much more of a psychotic, sadistic little bastard than he realized. After about a fifteen minutes, Clopin pulled away and returned to where he'd been sitting, Phoebus letting out a deep breath to calm the rapid pounding of his heart and his suddenly light head.
"You weren't kidding," he said.
"My apologies, Captain, but thank you," Clopin answered.
"Don't mention it," Phoebus replied, "Really."
"Then I suppose I'll find another solution."
"No, Clopin, I promised I'd do this and I will. It just takes some getting used to."
"I appreciate that, Phoebus."
"That doesn't mean I have to like it."
"Which makes your sacrifice more… noble, I suppose. I certainly appreciate more knowing you're doing it even thought you don't like it."
Clopin turned to take his leave, intent on returning to Malfurion to apprise him of what had just happened, making his way once more to the mystics' corner of the Court. Again he merely walked in, Malfurion still tending to his plants, but again he greeted the Gypsy King without even turning though Clopin moved silently to him.
"I have found a solution to my predicament," Clopin said as Malfurion faced him.
"That is a relief to hear," the mystic replied, smiling at him, "I was concerned over the matter."
"Phoebus has kindly agreed to be my regular victim," he informed him.
"Yet, you seem distressed," the taller man took note.
"He did say he didn't have to like it."
"But he is doing it anyway. He's willing to help you despite his discomfort."
"I still feel badly about it."
"You shouldn't, admire your friend's willingness to help you in your most dire time of need no matter his own feelings."
When Clopin said nothing, Malfurion wrapped his arms around to comfort his young friend and surrogate son. Clopin always felt odd when the mystic saw hit to embrace him, he was so much larger that Clopin scrawny form seemed practically lost within his arms, but it was comforting to be so enveloped.
"An'da," he muttered a word for 'father' that Malfurion had taught him, a term he seldom used, though what language it was, Clopin had no idea
Indeed, there was no reason for Clopin to feel ill at ease for asking Phoebus for this favor, though he didn't like the sensation, Phoebus was glad to help. He could see Clopin's distress and that his old friend was in dire need, so it didn't matter how he felt about it, he wanted to help in whatever way he could. He did it because Clopin needed help and that was all that mattered to him, he was entitled to his own feelings, but Clopin had no cause to feel guilty. Esmeralda walked in, Djali trotting in behind her, as chipper as ever even though surely by now that goat was getting old.
"Where're the kids?" Phoebus asked.
Esmeralda smirked, glancing at Djali going to his bucket of oats and digging in.
"That's not a kid anymore," he smiled back.
"They went off to play," she replied, then caught site of the puncture marks on the side of his neck, "Phoebus, what happened to you neck?"
"Huh? Oh," he got out, hand flying up to cover them, "Clopin bit me."
"I'm not going to ask," she said, rolling her eyes and walking away.