That night I had a very unsettling dream. I was running in the jungles
of India, calling for Chester, but Chester wouldn't come. Suddenly the
jungles turned into the streets of Paris, the shadows long and dark, my
feet bare and cut and my clothes torn, my hair wild as I ran screaming
desperately for my friend.
Suddenly a troop of soldiers passed in front of me, and in the midst
of them, carried in a elaborately draped and decorated carriage like the
ones in which noblemen and women were borne in India, was Minister Frollo.
In my concern for Chester, I turned to run past them, and noticed out of
the corner of my eye that he was wearing a cloak of white fur. But I continued
on my path, turning into a street I was horrified to observe was strewn
with skeletons of both human and animals. At the far end my heart rose
suddenly at what I perceived to be Chester: his figure dark, illuminated
from behind by a full moon.
Forgetting my horror, I began to clamber over the skeletons which gave
way beneath me like quicksand. I struggled to the top in terror, continuing
on my way regardless, and observed that the distant figure now looked like
Clopin. I called out for him desperately, but was distracted by a skull
I saw nearby. It was a tiger skull, and crying piteously, I clambered over
the bones which poked and tore at my ragged flesh.
"Chester!" I moaned, but before I could grasp it I heard the cries
of babies, coming near from where Clopin stood. I looked towards him and
then back at the tiger skull. Again I looked at Clopin, and the cries grew
louder. I had the feeling that if I went to Clopin I could silence the
babies and Clopin could silence my fear. But nearer to me was the tiger
skull, and I took another step forward, more hesitant now. The cries from
near Clopin stopped, and I looked around, startled, then jumped again as
they restarted, much closer to me.I looked back at the tiger skull and
was frightened to see its wide jaws open - and within - I leant down a
little looking fearfully into the bone mouth - was that - a baby - ?
I awoke screaming, terrified, drenched in sweat. Feeling something touching
me, I lashed out in fear, screaming still. Cool hands were pinning me to
the bed, a soft voice hushing me, and as I awakened more I realised it
was Clopin, that he was holding my thrashing body to the bed, and I became
aware that it had been a dream, and a strangled gasp came from me before
I ceased my struggles and he loosed his hold on me, wiping my wet hair
from my face, kissing my clammy forehead tenderly.
A light filled the tent and an anxious voice asked Clopin if all was
well. He replied that I had had a nightmare. Whoever it was, I was too
dazed to place the voice, asked if we needed any assistance and Clopin
replied in the negative. I had calmed down somewhat now, and gave myself
over to my tears as the light left the tent and we were once more in the
soothing dark. Clopin tried to pull me into his arms, but I pushed him
"Go away, Dealer of my Humiliation!" I said in a poetically tortured
voice, and continued my tears. But he was worried about me, and he went
hurriedly to fetch me some water and a cool cloth. Lighting the candelabra
next to our bed he forced me to drink a little, then made me take off my
sweat-soaked nightdress (the first night in many I had worn one, owing
to our fight!) and bathed my body tenderly with the cloth. As angry as
I remained at him, it felt nice and was greatly soothing and I forgave
him a little for spanking me. I trembled with emotion as he washed me down,
his face concerned, his hands gentle. I had never been so greatly affected
by a nightmare before, and the tears continued as he dried my body and
then brushed my hair, kissing my neck.
Chester had been awakened by my cries and had come over to investigate,
looking as concerned as Clopin. I threw my arms around his neck and sobbed
again, and he purred against my cheek.
"Oh sure, hug the tiger!" Clopin said jealously, but I ignored him.
Finally he bade me release Chester and send the tiger back to bed. He laid
me down gently, climbing in beside me and blowing the candles out, and
I allowed him to hold me close, the warmth of his body and the sound of
his heartbeat very comforting.
The next day he only asked tactfully if I felt better and when I nodded
he leant down to kiss me, but I remembered I was angry at him and pushed
him away. For the next four days I wouldn't speak to him or let him touch
me, until the evening when he brought me a bunch of roses. I was determined
to blow that off as well, until he knelt in front of me and kissed my navel
passionately, apologising for spanking me in front of other Romani. I smiled,
a little cheered, and forgave him. I swallowed my pride and apologised
for disobeying him, and he forgave me and then asked if maybe I would not
eat these roses, but keep them awhile. I arranged them in a vase cheerfully,
and liked the way they made the tent look. We made love on the floor, not
being able to wait long enough to get to the bed, and I had to swallow
the urge to scream impassioned declarations of love.
When we'd finished he kissed me as he moved to get to his feet, and
I tried to pull him back, but he explained he had to go, looking very sorry
about it too. But a wicked smile came over his face as he spoke the next
"Ma petite, I am very sorry for publicly humiliating you the
other day, but please understand your punishment still stands. If you leave
the Court without permission you will get another spanking."
And leaving me too grumpy to reply, he kissed my pierced navel and
went off to speak to his spies.
The dream still troubled me, though I would not tell Clopin about it,
and in mass confusion, I went to Abigail to ask her advice.
"Chester would not eat a baby of mine, would he?" I asked her tearfully
and she shook her head vigorously.
"No child, don't even let the thought in your head. He would know if
you gave birth and protect your offspring with his life. What the dream
tells me is you may be forced to make a choice between those you love most.
Be careful, child."
It wasn't exactly good news, but it soothed the worst of my fears.
I told her of my punishment and she laughed heartily.
"Oh I know about that!! And not through any hocus pocus either! That
was all over the Court within five minutes of it happening!"
I blushed, fiercely humiliated, and later me and Colombine grumbled
together over our confinement. When she laughed at the mental image of
me being spanked I whacked her hard, and we both fixed Clopin with a death
stare upon his coming back. He just laughed at us and shrugged as if to
say, "well, what can I do?"
Colombine was mortified she wouldn't be able to see Frederick for awhile,
and we had to beg Clopin to send word to Cosette to send word to Frederick
that Colombine would not be able to see him for an indeterminate amount
of time, Clopin laughing and refusing to say when our punishment would
"'Indeterminate', marvellous!" Colombine grouched to me. "He'll think
I'm not interested in him anymore."
"If he really cares for you, he will have faith," I tried to console
"Ha, it's not that! It's the fabric! The sex!" But I knew she cared
about him. I'd only glimpsed the young man once or twice, and he was certainly
quite good looking, although he seemed of a very Jean-Luc temparament -
quiet and boring in other words, not someone I'd have chosen for her.
Louisa and Henriette, two of the young women who I'd saved from the
clutches of the guards, extolled my virtues so vigorously to the other
women that Isabelle's spite was rendered quite ineffectual, and they grudgingly
accepted me as one of them, finally. I was pleased, though I pretended
indifference, Colombine being still my favoured female companion. But I
found their company useful at times, and it certainly enabled me to learn
even more about the various families and goings on in the Court.
But on the whole me and Colombine now preferred to sulk within the
Court on our own. Restless and bored we became quite unsociable, raining
curses on Clopin's head as we idled on the stage, looking out over the
Court. We were more than a little surprised one day when one of the little
girls climbed the steps to approach us, looking nervous yet bold, her chin
"Why, it's little Esmeralda!" I said recognising her. She was very
pleased the Queen knew who she was, and flushed with pleasure.
"Salut, Your Highness," she said, giving me an awkward curtsy
and I laughed merrily while Colombine grinned from the sidelines.
"Call me Herli, Esmeralda. Come over and sit with us then."
She did, delighted at being able to sit with the big girls, looking
proudly down at her little friends who played below us.
"So what brings you to us, Esmeralda?" I asked her, as she blinked
her beautiful eyes at us.
"Well, I just wanted to say that I think Clopin is a horrible meanie
to lock you up in here."
We both of us moved closer to her then and praised her excellent taste
"You're absolutely right, Esme. Absolutely. He's an awful bully. Don't
ever let him tell you what to do," I told her.
"He stifles our feminine creativity, Esmeralda," Colombine confided
in her. "He is a brute!"
"A brute amongst brutes!" I agreed.
Colombine snorted scornfully. "Don't listen to Herli's words too hard,
Esmeralda. She says them all very vigorously now, but she'll still return
quite happily to his bed tonight!"
I poked her. "Don't say such things to a small girl, you wicked woman!"
She shrugged. "It's true. She's better to listen to me. At least I
mean it when I curse him."
Esmeralda giggled, thrilled to be our confidante. Rather shyly she
spoke to me next. "I saw you tease the soldiers once, I thought you were
very clever and funny. You were beautiful too."
I was now very fond of Esmeralda indeed and pulled her onto my lap.
"Thank you, my little darling. You're a wonderful child. If only you could
convince my husband it was so."
She smiled, then pouted and looked thoughtful. Colombine and I continued
to banter with one another, continuing to idle the day away. Finally in
a fit of boredom, I got up and began to dance, preferring it very much
in the long flowing dress I wore. Esmeralda stood up and watched me happily
and when I finished she clapped her hands, delighted.
"Oh I'd love to be able to dance like that!" she said joyfully. A thought
struck me then and I exclaimed, "Well now, that gives me an idea!"
Colombine, who was outstretched with her chin in her hands, groaned
and covered her face. "Oh no. You sound like Clopin when you say that!!
What's the master plan, dare I ask?"
I laughed and skipped over to her. "Nothing dangerous. We'll just teach
Esmeralda to dance!"
She looked a little interested at that, although not altogether convinced,
but with mine and Esmeralda's pleading, she finally agreed. Esme was ecstatic.
The lithe graceful little thing intrigued me, and Colombine and I filled
our boring spare hours teaching her tricks and the beautiful rhythm of
dance. She was an enchanting creature, with her large green eyes and curly
black hair. Both of us could see she would become not only a great beauty
but an exquisite dancer, and we joked with each other if perhaps we should
cease her education, for fear it would take the limelight off us. Esmeralda's
bold nature and sophisticated turn of phrase reminded me of myself as a
child, but she had nothing of my haughtiness or conceit. She adored Chester,
and longed for a pet of her own.
"I would teach him tricks to do with me," she told us, dreamily. I
laughed, and remembered my own childhood days, teaching Chester. It was
now far below his dignity to do tricks.
I had more or less forgotten my nightmare by now, although sometimes
it would creep up on me during the day, catching me unawares. I kept shrugging
it off, however, determined to ignore the feeling of dread it caused within
Colombine was right, I was very two-faced, for while I merrily insulted
Clopin with her, I would still rush home to cook his dinner for him, or
join him in bed, or just listen and talk with him. I loved for him to sing
to me, letting that voice caress every inch of my body, it never ceased
to arouse the same ecstatic flush in me it had the first day I heard it.
He very quickly realised it's power over me, and would use it whenever
I began to be difficult, much to my despair.
Clopin told me that suspicions of spies had been re-awakened, following
an attack on a gypsy caravan harbouring wanted thieves, and I thought with
a start of Jean-Luc's continuously odd behaviour, and remembered too that
Esmeralda had told me just that afternoon in childish innocence that she
had seen Jean-Luc leaving Isabelle's tent, which was just near her mother's.
I voiced my concerns to Clopin who said with a frown he doubted Jean-Luc
was a traitor, but perhaps the matter was worth looking into.
Thanks to my hard work my home was now a beautiful, comfortable clean
haven and the envy of the other women. Clopin loved it, and I thought how
proud my mother would be could she see it. I could think of my family without
too much of a pang now, although it still hurt. I was careful not to neglect
my magik studies, and continued to slave away at them. I knew I would never
be as good as some of the witches in the court, but I could become very
skilled if I worked hard. After my nightmare, I almost ceased the pratice,
but I changed my mind again, and kept on with it, learning various remedies
and spells, and how to help influence a person's thoughts. Again, I practised
using these with care. They were not necessary to everyday life, and so
I kept them in check.
There were only a few people whose minds were closed to me - Abigail
of course, being one of them and Isabelle another. This unsettled me because
I didn't like the thought of her being so powerful. But as Clopin barely
even noticed if she were around, I tried to not let it worry me. I was
thrilled to observe I was the sole object of his gaze wherever we were,
the only object of his passion, he told me willingly and with much enthusiasm.
It wasn't as good as telling me he loved me, but to be the one woman he
had to be with was a satisfying alternative.
It was around the middle of June that I felt some changes to my body.
My breasts were tender, and swollen, my stomach felt unsettled. It being
around the time my curse was due, I thought nothing much of it, and it
wasn't until two weeks later I realised my time had not arrived. I hardly
dared believe it was possible, not even when I spent the next several weeks
throwing up of a morning, and feeling otherwise not very well. Clopin was
in a panic and in typical over-dramatic fashion, thought I had been poisoned,
as I still did not have the confidence to tell him what I thought it was.
I finally agreed to let Abigail examine me and she chuckled happily at
the end of it.
"You know what it is, don't you child?"
I nodded. "Well, at least I thought it might've been."
She held my hand tight, and her eyes were bright. "It is."
"What what?" Clopin asked, having refused to leave during my examination,
hopping up and down. We both looked at him and then at each other and laughed.
"You laugh? You laugh at a time like this!?" he exclaimed, tearing
at his hair. I sat up and pulled him into my arms, loving him more than
ever at that moment.
"Times like this are usually occasion for joy!" I told him, resting
my head happily against his chest. "You big oaf! Haven't you guessed? I'm
going to have my babies!"
He only stared at me, stunned for a moment, before a large smile spread
across his face.
"Really?" he whispered, hardly daring to believe it himself.
I nodded, feeling femininely sentimental, and crying as I cupped his
face in my hands and smiled at him. He kissed me passionately before giving
a huge whoop of joy, gathering me very gently and carefully into his arms,
before running out of the tent at full speed. I clutched his neck and laughed
while he shouted for all to hear.
An impromptu party was held in the center that night, the entire court
in extremely high spirits. Tante Marie bawled for joy, Colombine danced
in a joyous frenzy, even Abigail left her tent, something she rarely did,
to join in the festivities. Everyone was full of congratulations, and Clopin's
chest was swelled to burst. He treated me as a precious doll, piling cushions
high to give me a seat of honor, and getting everyone to drink to me -
for getting pregnant so quickly he joked. But when he leaned over to kiss
me he whispered he just needed a good excuse to throw a party for me, and
I let myself believe for a change it was love I saw in his eyes.
He insisted on carrying me back to the tent, and when he laid me down
on the bed, I saw the usual fire of desire in his eyes, but he turned away
from me, swallowing deeply. I laid a hand on his and told him Abigail had
said it would be safe until the fifth month, and he turned back eagerly
and happy, though he controlled himself more than usual, being incredibly
gentle and tender. Yet even at this controlled pace it was some of the
most intense and passionate lovemaking we'd yet had, and I knew instinctively
that the joy over the babies was more than satisfaction at the procuring
of heirs, we were both of us thrilled to have made something together,
something in this way.
In his happiness, Clopin lifted Colombine's punishment from her, and
she thanked me happily for getting pregnant before darting off to become
reacquainted with her darling Frederick. I, on the other hand, was told
I must stay under, Clopin didn't want me getting sick.
"It's the middle of summer!" I exclaimed, disbelieving. He just shook
his head stubbornly. In the end I didn't mind so much. The pregnancy was
hard on me with morning sickness that often left me weak for much of the
day. It also gave me opportunity to work baby clothes, and Clopin demanded
other colors besides red. I knew I was having twins, but I didn't know
if they would be male or female, and so made plenty of both kinds. Clopin
pulled an exaggerated grimace when he saw the little girl's clothes that
were beginning to evolve under my hands.
"You're not having boys?" he asked in dismay.
I rolled my eyes at him. "I have to be prepared for both, love. Don't
worry. My mother had lots of boys. Probably I will too."
He cheered up at that, and pulled my sewing from my hands, kneeling
before me, his face alight with eagerness.
"I have a little gift for you, my love," he said to me, happily. "It's
extremely special. You have to love it forever."
I laughed. "I will always love anything you give me, no matter what
He kissed me, and withdrew a little box from the hidden pockets in
his clothes. He thought a minute, then pulled his gloves off, the smooth
brown skin of his large hands pleasing me to look at, as his elegant fingers
fumbled with the latch on the box.
"This is a gift of love from me to you," he informed me, and my heart
leapt. "So both my flesh and yours must touch it."
Opening the box, he withdrew something on a slender gold chain and
I gasped in pleasure. It was a pendant of a full gold sun and a sickle
moon, joined together. Catching it in my hands and looking at it closely,
I realised the gold and silver were genuine. It was prettily engraved,
and although very simple, polished highly so it shone and sparkled, and
the craftsmanship was excellent. I held it in my hands, admiring it, and
Clopin pointed out for me:
"You see, the sun and the moon. Man and woman. Different as the times
they inhabit, but in eternal harmony and rhythm. Do you like it?"
"Oh Clopin, it's beautiful!" I sighed, beginning to cry. My emotions
were in turmoil since becoming pregnant and there was little I could to
do to stop them. "It's the nicest thing I've ever been given! I could die!"
He chuckled gently, enjoying playing the hero; he kissed the pendant,
then pressed it to my lips for me to kiss and fastened the chain around
"Here, don't cry, you adorably silly woman," he soothed me, his breath
warm and sweet on my neck, and in another sudden swing I kissed him passionately,
my arms strong about his waist.
There was only one woman in the whole of the Court who did not seem
pleased at my situation, and I've no doubt you've already guessed her name.
Still, Isabelle made a good pretence of it one day, bringing over a picnic
hamper laden with food and asking if I cared to lunch with her.
I could only stare at her dumbly for a moment, completely disbelieving
the request. Her sly cat's smile on its own told me there had to be more
to it than a friendly lunch, but her mind and heart (if she had one) were,
as always, impenetrable.
"Why?" I asked her finally, suspiciously. She shrugged, not put off
by my attitude.
"Because I've been simply awful to you. It's time I realised my place
and made amends."
I knew as well as she did that this was rubbish, so I continued to
stare coldly at her. She smiled, seeing my apathy, and retracting nothing
added, "As well as that, I have some very interesting things to talk to
you about. Things you'll want to hear."
It was pure curiosity that made me lay aside my sewing and prepare
to go out. I knew this woman bore me nothing but ill will, but I wanted
to see what she had to say. I checked to make sure Clopin was nowhere near
about to forbid me from going, although I was sure he'd left to perform
today, and got dressed in an outdoor dress quickly.
Joining Isabelle, I was surprised to find Chester follow me. He knew
he couldn't leave the Court unless I said so. But following his gaze, I
realised what had attracted him. He was staring daggers at Isabelle who
looked at his large snarling mouth with as much apprehension as I'd ever
seen her show. The three of us stood in front of my tent, I looking from
the noble cat to the sly cat in human clothing, they looking at each other,
the one in dislike the other in fear. Chester didn't trust Isabelle, that
much was clear, and I praised him inwardly his animal instincts and obvious
good taste. I moved forward to join her nonetheless, and Chester broke
his gaze to press against me beseechingly.
I turned to him, cupping his handsome furry face in my hands. "My darling,
you're right to not trust this girl," I whispered to him softly. "But do
not fear. I'll be fine, I promise. I'll eat none of her food. Go back to
the tent now."
But he refused to go. Instead he sat down firmly on his haunches and
watched us as we left. I bade her make sure the latch on the door was fastened
securely; I wasn't sure he could resist the temptation to follow me. I
should've checked it myself.
Isabelle and I walked in silence, not even pretending civility, until
we came to the same bridge Clopin and I had sat under often. Here the sly
cat stopped and set her basket down. The day was humid, the wind still
and hot. I noticed, as I had a few times before, that Isabelle had put
on a considerable amount of weight. She didn't strike me as the type who
would allow herself to get fat, but there it was. Perhaps Clopin's rejection
had depressed her. I settled myself down on the soft grass also, and we
observed each other for a few moments, as she laid out the food. I refused
what she offered me and she laughed.
"It isn't poisoned. Like I said, I wanted only to talk."
She munched her bread and cheese, looking at me thoughtfully, her older,
darker face aglow with malice that was as much a part of her expression
as her pouting lips. She swallowed and then spoke.
"So this child you bear, it is Clopin's isn't it?"
I bristled inwardly, but was careful to keep my outward demeanour as
calm and indifferent as hers. "It would be no-one else's."
She smiled. "So you two finally got around to it, then? Just as well.
Any longer and he'd be mine as we speak."
If there had been any pretence to begin with it dissipated entirely
now. Boldly, I picked up a slice of the bread and cheese, and chewed it
as she did. When I finished I spoke to her.
"Two words, my dear." I leaned in close and breathed in her face, "You
A small flicker in her eyes. "Do I?"
I took another bite. "Yes. Clopin doesn't even look at you now. Half
the time he doesn't notice you're there."
Another small flicker. "I have to commend you on that spell."
"I don't need spells to hold a man's attention."
© Harley Quinn 1999
May not be reproduced without permission.