It took a few minutes to lift Arianne painfully and quietly out of the grave. Lana sat her gently down next to her headstone as the other Gypsies got to work putting dirt back. Clopin was back to sitting on top of the headstone, rubbing his neck as he eyed his attacker.
"For a walking stiff, you surely have a good grip, cherie.." he joked, smirking as she frowned. Arianne growled at him.
"And you have a pencil neck..." she muttered, giving a small cough and wincing slightly at the pain of her raw throat. The coughing had certainly subsided since she'd taken the awful paste Lana had given for her. It didn't stop the pain of the damage it already inflicted, though. "I need water..." she said. Clopin pulled a small silver flask from his tunic, offering to her after he opened it. Her eyes narrowed at his sudden generosity as she took it. "If this is alcohol-"
"It's water, I promise." he replied, resting his elbows on his knees. "I brought it in case this worked, lucky for you." he said. Arianne sniffed the opening suspiciously before taking a cautious sip from it.
"It is water."she said in surprise before taking a longer drink. He rolled his eyes.
"The lady doesn't trust me? I'm hurt." he said. Arianne huffed.
"The lady listened as you almost knocked away her only chance of survival while bickering above her dying body." she muttered, handing him back the flask. "And what do you mean in case this worked? Have you no trust in your herbalist?"
"I'm not used to the idea of the dead coming back. Besides, she wasn't exactly beaming confidence..." Clopin said, looking to Lana. She blushed and fidgeted with her skirt.
"I told you, this is a first for me. I was nervous." she said. Clopin gave a mischievous grin.
"That's what she sa-ugh!" he couldn't finish his joke, as Arianne had swiftly shot her hand up, pushing him backward and off of the headstone. He hit the ground with a thud, and she glared at him as he propped himself up on his elbows, bewildered.
"Must I hurt you every other moment this evening, Gypsy king? Need I remind you I just emerged from two days of apparent death? I'm not exactly in the mood to correct your childish behavior..." she said. Clopin sat up and draped his arms over the headstone.
"Party pooper..." he said. He rapped his knuckles against the headstone. "What's it like gazing upon your own grave, anyway?" he asked. Arianne looked at the headstone, lightly dragging her fingers across the lettering on it's face.
"Unnerving, to say the least..." she said. She cast her gaze to the headstone beside hers. "Bonsoir, mother..." she said, clearing her throat. "I haven't visited in so long..." Clopin looked to the headstone of her mother, tipping his hat respectively.
"Bonsoir, madame Margaux..." he said, reading her name. "Sorry for the ruckus."
"She would scold us for certain." Arianne said, a small smile playing on her cracked lips. "Always so strict. She was loving, though. Her heart was full."
"Well, glad to see you took after her..." Clopin said, smirking. Arianne offered a weak smile at the compliment and took a long breath.
"All done." One of the Gypsies tending to the grave said as the others patted the soil down, finished. Clopin hopped to his feet and eyed the handiwork.
"Perfect, let's get the hell out of this place. This night has been strange enough..." he said. Lana knelt next to Arianne.
"Are you able to walk, my lady?" she asked. Arianne nodded.
"Doesn't matter anyway. I'll manage." she said, and Lana helped her slowly stand up. She took a shaky breath as she straightened up. "I will say..." she muttered. "I do hope there is an entrance nearby..." Lana smiled.
"Yes, of course. There's one here in the cemetery." she said, taking Arianne's arm in hers. Arianne looked up to the starry sky.
"Thank you, God..." she said before taking her first few painful steps. Clopin watched Lana guide Arianne away before turning back to her mother's headstone. He bowed low as he removed his hat respectfully.
"She's in good hands. Au revoir, madame."
Jaelle sat in her tent, her hands clasped in her lap as she stared hard at the ground. It had been hours since they had left to retrieve the Jester, and she wondered if they had been successful. Lana's news was certainly a shock to the entire Court. They knew Arianne Frollo was a bold woman. But this was insane, even for the colorfully clad Parisian. There was such a slim chance of survival from such an attempt, Jaelle nearly refused to be hopeful for fear of sorrowful disappointment. The old woman sighed, tucking her hair behind her ear. If Maria's Jester was capable of hope at such dark times, then she would embrace it as well. She would at least give that much.
"They're back!" someone called from outside, and Jaelle froze, daring not breathe as she listened for either cries of happiness or cries of mourning.
"She's...alive!" she heard a woman say in disbelief, and she stood, rushing to the exit and throwing the flap open to see Arianne being lead slowly into the Court, Lana clutching her arm. Jaelle moved quickly through the gathering crowd. She stopped in front of Arianne, tears in her eyes, her mouth parted in absolute disbelief at the sight of her. Arianne looked at her tiredly, a sheepish smile escaping her.
"I'm sorry...I ruined your outfit..." she said hoarsely. Jaelle shook her head as she reached up and palmed Arianne's forehead lightly.
"Stupid girl. That hardly matters now." she said, her voice cracking as tears fell down her face. Arianne gave a short laugh, and Jaelle went to hug her.
"Oh, not yet. Careful." Lana said holding her arm out to stop Jaelle.
"What is the matter? Are you hurt?" Jaelle asked, looking Arianne up and down for any signs of injury.
"Apparently..." Clopin walked up then, his hand covering his nose. Dried blood covered it and his glove. He didn't seem at all pleased. Jaelle furrowed her brow at him.
"What happened to you?" she asked.
"It seems the Jester has a mean left hook..." he replied, shooting Arianne a look of agitation. Lana frowned at him.
"Well if you hadn't clapped her on the back-"
"Zut! How was I supposed to know she was injured? Look at her!" he gestured to Arianne with his free hand. "She looks like a five foot bisque doll!" One of the Gypsies that had gone with them laughed.
"Jester has a set of lungs. Now half of Paris surely thinks a banshee haunts the graveyard." he said. "Moves quick as lightening, too. King never had a chance." Arianne scowled at the memory. Clopin had made a joking comment as they descended into the fake tomb entrance before bringing his hand sharply onto an unsuspecting Arianne's back. Her resulting shriek of pain was enough to make everyone jump in shock before she spun with ridiculous speed to meet her fist with her assaulter. Needless to say, neither was pleased with the other. She shook her head.
"If we can stop arguing and reliving moments of idiocy, I'd like to sit down. I'm rather exhausted..." she said. Clopin scoffed.
"You slept for two days and you're tired..." he muttered. Arianne glared at him.
"I'll be sure to break it this time, king..." she threatened, pointing a pale finger to his nose.
"Yes, yes, yes..." he replied, waving his hand at the comment. "Clear a path, the Jester needs rest, and a serious change in wardrobe!" Jaelle took hold of Arianne's other arm, patting her hand lightly as they began to move forward again.
"Your tent is just as you left it, dear." she said. Arianne's eyes widened.
"Really?" she asked.
"You thought I'd just rip your home down as soon as you were out the nest?" Jaelle asked, chuckling. Arianne felt a lump form in her throat.
"Shhhit!" Arianne gripped her blanket tightly as Jaelle wiped a wet cloth down her back.
"Curse all you want, girl. Won't stop this from hurting..." she dipped the cloth in a small bucket of hot water and wrung it out. "He did a sloppy job, bandaging you up. These need to be cleaned thoroughly to stop infection. Then you need rest."
"I'm surprised he bandaged me at all, though I suppose it would be an awkward explanation to Marice for why my back was bloodied in the first place..."
"My lady..." Lana tapped at the tent before walking in with a small basket of items. "I have a numbing ointment, if you'd like it-"
"Of course she'd like it." Arianne watched as a woman walked in behind Lana, grabbing a small container from the basket. "Girl's injured. You think she wants to feel that?"
"I don't believe we've met." Arianne said, smiling politely.
"My name is Lori, I am Lana's mother." Lori said, and walked over behind Arianne to inspect the damage. "And you are the young woman who kept me up these past few days perfecting an antidote I never thought I would ever make in my lifetime." she set the ointment down next to Jaelle.
"My apologies. I never meant to cause such stress." Arianne said.
"Nonsense. You saved my daughter's life. It was the least I could do, crazy as it was." she looked at Arianne for a moment, seeming fine. It was when she broke down into a tearful mess that Arianne became worried. Jaelle rolled her eyes as Lori collapsed to the floor, resting her head on Arianne's lap as she sobbed uncontrollably.
"Are you alright?" Arianne asked, resting her hand in Lori's head.
"Y-you put so much faith in us! I was so f-fearful it would not work!" Lori gasped. "But here you are!"
"Mother, perhaps you should go home." Lana said as she took her mother's arm, lifting the tearful woman to her feet. "I'll see you soon, okay?" she said as she lead her to the exit.
"Y-yes..." Lori said, and Arianne watched her leave unable to help the feeling of amusement as Lana turned back to her once her mother had gone.
"That was...different." she said.
"I told you she was emotional." Lana said, smiling in slight embarrassment.
"At least you know she cares-ouch!" Arianne flinched as Jaelle wiped hard against her back.
"Some people cry to show they care..." the old woman said, dipping the dirtied rag again. "I make others cry to show I care..." Arianne clenched her teeth at the joke.
"I definitely want to cry..."
Arianne was outside her tent the next morning, sitting backwards on a wooden chair as she watched Marko show her how he'd kept up with his sword lessons. Her arms draped over it's back as she rest her chin on the top of it. Her muscles were still sore, and she had to do stretching exercises every thirty minutes per Jaelle's orders. She wore a deep green tunic that was a bit too large for her, and a pair of brown leggings. She was not in the mood for dressing much like a lady, and this way Jaelle was able to access the bandages on her back much easier. She winced a bit as she arched her back slightly. Jaelle thankfully was finished with cleaning the wounds thoroughly, and would only have to check them twice a day.
"How was that, Jester?" Marko asked, and Arianne smiled at her student.
"You're doing well, but you need to stop hesitating. An enemy will take advantage of that and knock you down before you decide whether you're doing it right..."
"Right, Marko..." Mala, who was tightly attached to Arianne's left leg as she sat on the ground, stuck her tongue out at Marko. He scrunched his face at her.
"You hush. You're not doing anything but annoying Jester-"
"Don't be silly." Arianne said, waving the comment lazily before looking to the little girl. "Don't tease."
"She's been attached to you since you've been awake..." Marko said. Mala rest her cheek against Arianne's thigh.
"I was sad..." she said. "I'm scared she'll go away again..." Arianne pet her hair gently.
"I don't plan to go away again, I promise." she said, her voice soft. It was true, she very much did not plan to place herself in any situation like that again in her lifetime.
"If you want to make God laugh, tell him what your plans are..." Arianne heard Clopin say from behind her. She turned slightly to see him stop beside her, an amused expression on his face as he looked her up and down.
"You need something, Gypsy King?" she asked, turning back to Marko.
"I see you've all but given up your ladylike status." he said, gesturing to her posture before plucking the fabric of her tunic. He looked to Mala. "You've taken up babysitting?"
"She's teaching." Mala said, frowning. "And she is too a lady..." she squeezed Arianne's leg as she defended her, and Arianne smirked.
"Hardly, my dear." she said. "But thank you anyway."
"So you're never going back to the surface, then?" Marko asked, stopping to catch his breath. Arianne sighed.
"It would be difficult, given I'm supposed to be dead. At the very least, I'll never be Arianne Frollo on the surface again. I'd have to have a disguise..." she said, dragging her hand down her face at the thought of it. This would certainly be a difficult task. Mala gasped and jumped to her feet. She removed the scarf in her hair and draped it over Arianne's head, tying it as neatly as she could to the side. Clopin quirked a brow as the girl backed up to review her handiwork.
"We can color the roots of your hair with charcoal!" she finally said, clapping her hands together. Marko cocked his head to the side.
"She'd need more than just a change in hair color..." he said. "You need a tan, Jester..." Clopin snorted at the comment and slapped his knee, ignoring Arianne's glare.
"Yes, you are paler than the average french woman, ma cherie..." he poked her cheek as she blushed. "The only color you ever have is when you're embarrassed." she pushed his hand away and rubbed her cheek.
"Excuse me if most of my activity up to now has taken place under moonlight, as you should well know..." she muttered.
"Well if you aren't going back up there..." Marko said, scratching his head. "Are you staying here with us?" his voice was hopeful. Arianne raised a brow.
"Well of cou-"
"With my permission, of course she could..." Clopin cut her off, and she turned mechanically to him in response.
"With your permission..." she asked incredulously. Marko watched as the two adults locked glares. Sensing the building tension, he took Mala by the arm and backed away a safe distance. "With your permission..." Arianne repeated. She turned her whole body to face him, crossing her arms. Any soreness she felt she ignored as she regarded the Gypsy before her. He straightened up, flashing his canines as a dark smile greeting his lips. He clasped his hands behind his back.
"Ahh, to be without a home..." he said dramatically. "You said yourself, fleur, you're old life is dead. No longer do you hold the status of a privileged Parisian lady-"
"You know as well as I my status meant nothing to me." she said, her voice monotone.
"Then you'll be fine with my demands..." Clopin said, shrugging. Arianne's eyes narrowed.
"And those would be..." she said, her voice deadly calm. It was nearly enough to make Clopin wary. Almost. He cleared his throat.
"If you are to remain here, you are to accept that I am your King..." he said. He was smiling, but he was serious. "You know how we are run here. I am the leader, you'll need to treat me as such if you are to join our society of impoverished vagabonds..." he said, and waited as Arianne stared hard at him for more than a few moments. Her glare was piercing, and he puffed his chest as he expected her to blow up into an argument. He was surprised when instead she sniffed and nodded once.
"Alright." she said. He blinked, feeling deflated by the simple response.
"Alright...?" he asked. Arianne sucked her teeth as she nodded again.
"You said it. This is how things are run. If I wish to stay, then I must follow the rules of your society." She stood up from her seat slowly, stretching her limbs as she did so. Clasping her hands on top of her head, she smirked at him. Suspicion rose within Clopin, and he scratched his chin as she neared him. Arianne stopped just inches from him, her eyes meeting his as her smirk became a smile. His chest tightened. Why was she smiling? "But if you think for one moment that I'll be at your beck and call, worshiping the ground you walk on..." he stilled as she moved her mouth close to his gold hooped ear, "...you have another thing coming, my King..." before he could respond, she hooked her foot around his ankle and kicked his feet out from under him, sending him on his back to the ground with a thud. Marko stared wide-eyed at the amazing display by his teacher.
"Wow..." he whispered. Arianne rolled her shoulders, resting her hands on her hips as she grinned at her pupil.