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A Gypsy Caravan

Chapter Text

Ten years later

The midday sun beat down on the father and daughter as they walked along the dirt road that led to the gypsy camp. “Let’s stop here for a moment,” Gustave said, pointing in the direction of a small cluster of trees to the side of the road. Putting their luggage to the side, he sat down on the grass and gestured to his daughter to sit on his lap. “I know you were sad to leave, but we will go back. Maybe one day we could return there for a holiday?” he said with an encouraging smile.

 

“Can we have lollies and go the sea?” Christine asked determinedly.

 

“Of course,” Gustave replied, giving her sides a small tickle.

 

“Papa! Stop!” she giggled, rolling off his lap onto the grass.

 

“This summer Christine, it’s going to change everything for us. Danior’s clan has one of the biggest shows that tours France. Your Papa is going to make lots of money and we’ll be able to start a new life. This will be the last travelling show,” he promised. “With the money I make this summer we’ll buy a house. We can go anywhere you want, we can move to Paris or Rome. We could even go back to Sweden if you want.”

 

“I don’t care where we live, as long as we’re together,” Christine said, looking up at her father with a smile. “We should go somewhere that has an orchestra you can join. And then you can be the most famous violinist in the entire country!”

 

“Maybe we should go to Paris then? I could join the opera house orchestra and when you grow up you can be the prima donna,” he replied indulgently.

 

Christine shook her head. “I can’t be a really good singer unless the Angel of Music visits me. Do you think that if we get a house the Angel will be able to find me? Maybe that’s why he hasn’t come to me yet, because we’re always moving.” 

 

“The Angel will come to you when the time is right,” Gustave responded, squinting at the sun. “Are you ready to keep going?” he said, turning back to Christine.

 

“Uh huh,” she nodded.

 

“Alright. Help me up,” he said, holding his hands up. Christine pretended to pull her father to his feet and walked back to the road as he gathered their bags and followed after her.

 

“We’re almost there Christine,” Gustave said, pointing into the distance. “Can you see the tents up ahead?”

 

Christine looked ahead to the gypsy camp that was becoming clearer with every step that they took. She could see tendrils of smoke rising high into the sky from the fires that were constantly burning. There were a mixture of caravans and different sized tents scattered throughout the clearing that the clan was using for the summer and brightly coloured flags were flying proudly outside many of the tents. Animals were roaming freely and children were darting amongst the tents and caravans, playing an exuberant game, despite the sweltering heat. As they got closer, Christine saw the carriages that belonged to the nobles who liked to frequent the camp for various amusements.

 

“It’s so big Papa,” Christine said in astonishment as she stared at the camp, trying to take it all in.

 

“It’s one of the biggest camps in all of France. There’s going to be so many exciting things for you to see and do. And you’ll be able to make lots of new friends,” Gustave responded. “Are you ready?” he continued, readjusting his grip on their bags.

 

“Yes,” Christine said firmly.

 

“Let’s go,” he said, leading his daughter into the mass of tents and caravans. Once they entered the camp Gustave approached a nearby gypsy, “Excuse me, could you please tell me where I could find Danior?”

 

The gypsy, who had been tightening the pegs on a tent, looked at Gustave and Christine suspiciously. “Red caravan, that way,” he said shortly, pointing towards the most elaborately decorated caravan in the clearing.

 

Reaching the caravan, Christine bounced up the stairs and knocked on the door. “What?” a voice barked from inside. Hearing the annoyance in the man’s voice she quickly jumped off the stairs and moved to stand behind her father.

 

A brief look of concern flashed across Gustave’s face before he looked down at Christine and quickly gave her a reassuring smile. “I’m sorry to disturb you; my name is Gustave Daae...”

 

Before he could finish explaining the door of the caravan swung open and a tall, broad shouldered man strode through the door, reaching out to shake Gustave’s hand in greeting. “Of course, Monsieur Daae, welcome,” he said with a charming smile. “We’ve been looking forward to you joining us for quite some time. I’ve heard that you’ve been quite the attraction in other camps. I assure you that by staying with us I will be able to make you the most famous violinist in the country.”

 

“That’s very kind of you to say Danior. And please call me Gustave.” Resting his hand on Christine’s back, he gently pushed her away from his side and towards Danior, “This is my daughter, Christine.”

 

“Welcome Mademoiselle. How do you like the camp so far?” Danior said, bending down to Christine’s height.

 

“It’s very nice Monsieur,” Christine responded warily, still shaken from his initial reaction to her knocking on his door.

 

“Christine here is a very good singer,” Gustave said proudly, hoping that a mention of music would encourage Christine.

 

“Really? Well, we’ll have to find an opportunity for you to sing whilst you are staying with us then,” Danior exclaimed, still smiling at Christine. She didn’t say anything but moved closer to Gustave again.

 

“So,” Danior said standing up. “Would you like a tour of the camp or are you tired from your journey?”

 

“A tour sounds wonderful, doesn’t it Christine?” Gustave took Christine’s hand and followed after Danior who had already walked away from the caravan.

 

For the next half an hour Danior showed Gustave and Christine around the camp. He showed them the essentials of the camp, the large tent where food was prepared and served, the caravans and tents that belonged to the families and the river that ran just behind the clearing that they used for washing and bathing. He introduced them to more people than they could possible hope to remember and it seemed that the gypsies were much friendlier to the small family once they were accompanied by Danior.

 

“Now,” Danior said turning to Gustave and Christine as they left one of the storage tents, “I’ve save the best for last. Our attractions! The things that everybody comes here to see.” Both Danior and Gustave were pleased to see that Christine’s face brightened at the mention of attractions. She remembered the attractions at the last camp and as this camp was so much bigger she assumed their attractions would be bigger and better as well.

 

Leading them through the part of the camp where the nightly festivities took place Danior explained, “My clan has the usual attractions, music, dancing, the mystical. But we also have attractions that truly set us apart. Like these.”

 

Christine looked up at the three caravans in front of her. A side wall had been removed from each one and replaced with metal bars so visitors could see what was inside. A small amount of dirty straw lined the floor of each caravan. Her gaze drifted across, taking in the bear, the wolf and the large cat she couldn’t identify. She could hardly believe it, she’d never been this close to anything like this.

 

“These are my newest attractions,” Danior said proudly. “I obtained these beasts less than three months ago from another clan. They’ve proven very popular.”

 

“I can imagine,” Gustave said admiringly.

 

“Come this way,” Danior was already moving on, again leaving Gustave and Christine to catch up. “There’s someone else I want you to meet.” He called out to a short man with dark skin who was standing in a circle that had been cleared of all grass, “Azir, come here for a moment.”

 

The man walked over to where Gustave, Christine and Danior were standing. “Azir, this is Gustave Daae and his daughter Christine, they’ll be working with us this summer. Gustave and Christine, may I present Azir, our fire-breather.” Danior made the introductions.

 

“How do you breathe fire?” Christine piped up, intrigued.

 

“That is a very old secret Mademoiselle Christine,” Azir answered with a grin. “Perhaps you will have to see my show and try to work it out.”

 

“I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see all of our attractions,” Danior said, eager to move on to the next attraction. This last attraction was his true obsession, especially as it continuously brought in more money than any other attraction. Dismissing Azir, he directed Gustave and Christine’s attention to a caravan that was painted entirely black. “That caravan, that is where our most valuable attraction resides.”

 

Walking closer to the caravan he continued, “I call it the Living Corpse. A hideous creature, barely human really. A face that will give you nightmares for weeks, and a temper to match. I’ve had it for over ten years now. It currently has two keepers...”

 

“Danior,” Gustave interrupted, knowing the sort of attraction he was talking about. “I would prefer that Christine not be exposed to these sorts of exhibits whilst we stay with you.”

 

“Of course, I do apologise. We rarely have children come to stay with us and the clan children are familiar with all of the attractions. But the attraction does not leave its caravan, so if Christine stays away from this area, especially at night, she should have no problems,” Danior said graciously.

 

“Good,” Gustave nodded. Turning to Christine he said, “Alright, you heard what Danior just said. I don’t want you going near that black caravan, especially at night. Can you do that for me?”

 

“Yes Papa,” Christine replied obediently.

 

“That’s my girl,” Gustave said, kissing her on the forehead.

 

Danior guided them back to the family caravans and showed them the caravan they would be using for the season. Whilst Christine explored the caravan and started to unpack their belongings, Danior explained to Gustave that for the most part he would be a roaming musician, but he would on occasion be required to provide music for the dancers. This meant that visitors wouldn’t have to pay to hear him and he would be reliant on any coins that happened to throw his way. Gustave wasn’t deterred and indicated that he wanted to start performing that night. He knew that this was the opportunity he was waiting for and working with this clan was going to allow him to change Christine’s life for the better.

 


 

The camp truly did come alive at night. Gustave and Christine had left their caravan close to sundown as Gustave prepared to start playing and they both watched in astonishment as the camp seemed to transform into a living, breathing entity. Lanterns, torches and campfires appeared everywhere, giving the camp a red glow that Gustave had no doubt could be seen for miles. More flags had been hoisted up advertising food, drinks and attractions. Women in full colourful skirts danced from one spot to another, tempting young men to visit the attractions and leaving them to the mercies of the men running the attractions. Music could be heard throughout the clearing and children were laughing and shouting.

 

Gustave found a spot outside a clairvoyant’s tent and began to play. He enjoyed having the freedom to perform whatever songs he wanted to and took advantage of this by playing an eclectic mix of cheerful songs. The dancing girls who were moving about the camp would occasionally start to dance to the music that he was playing, quickly drawing a crowd that she would spirit away.  As he took a short break Gustave leaned over towards Christine, “Do you want to sing? I’ll let you pick the song,” he offered, trying to tempt her.

 

Christine looked over to where a few visitors were milling around, most of them having moved on to other attractions as her father took a break. The crowd wasn’t too big, she could do this. If she wanted to be a prima donna she would have to learn to sing in front of bigger groups that this. “Herr Mannelig,” she instructed.

 

As Christine sang the crowd that had previously scattered gradually began to return. Her voice, although young, seemed to soar over the clearing and even the nearby gypsies stopped what they were doing to listen to the child. Christine became lost in the music and didn’t notice just how large her audience had become until a gypsy came to deliver a message to Gustave from Danior. She was abruptly brought back to reality as Gustave stopped playing to talk to the gypsy. Trying to ignore the crowd that was still watching her, she stepped closer to the men to hear what they were talking about.

 

“Fallen ill. Danior wants you to take his place for the rest of the night,” the gypsy explained.

 

“Right. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” The gypsy nodded in acknowledgement and went to explain the situation to the other musicians.

 

“They need me to go play for the dancers Christine. One of the other musicians isn’t feeling well so I need to take his place. Would you like to come and watch or do you want to go back to the caravan?” Gustave asked noticing that Christine was trying to smother a yawn.

 

“I want to...” she interrupted herself with another yawn. “I think I should go back to the caravan,” she finished.

 

“Alright then. Do you remember how to get there or do you want me to walk you back?”

 

“I know how to get there Papa,” Christine replied, a trace of indignation in her voice.

 

Gustave smiled, “Good night Christine.”

 

“Good night Papa.”

 

The pair separated and Christine started making her way back to their caravan. As she was walking she could see the black caravan that Danior had shown them earlier in the day. There was a long line of visitors waiting to enter the caravan and she could hear them shouting and heckling. She remembered what her father said about staying away from it but she felt compelled to have a closer look. As she got nearer she could see that the people in the line were holding small rocks and rotten food. The people exiting the caravan were empty handed. Remembering what Danior said, barely human, nightmares, temper, Christine shook off her compulsion to get even closer and ran back to her caravan. As she turned her back on the black caravan she thought she heard a man crying out. She told herself that it was just someone in the crowd, but as she snuggled under the bed clothes, she could still hear it in her mind.

 


 

She awoke with a jerk a few hours later when the door to the caravan creaked open. Turning over she wiped the sleep from her eyes, “Papa?”

 

“Yes Christine, it’s me. You should be asleep,” he said, crouching down beside her bed and brushing the hair from her eyes.

 

“How were the dancers? Did you know how to play all the songs?” Christine asked.

 

“The dancers were very good. Maybe you could go and watch them rehearse tomorrow?” he replied softly. “I knew a lot of the songs and I was able to play along with the rest. I spoke to Danior again.”

 

“Mmm?” Christine murmured, the sleep not entirely gone from her voice.

 

“He wants me to keep playing for the dancers for a bit longer. The man that I replaced tonight still isn’t feeling well and Danior thinks it might be a few days before he’s ready to play again. He cares about his clan Christine and I think that he really wants to help us. This season is going to be the start of a new life for us; I’ve got such wonderful plans!” he said, gripping Christine’s hands through the bed clothes.

 

Christine wasn’t so sure that Danior was the wonderful man her father thought he was. He certainly appeared to be friendly and popular with the rest of the clan today but she remembered the way he had reacted when she knocked on his door and the tone of his voice when he started talking about the black caravan. Reaching up to give Gustave a kiss, she decided not to think about Danior anymore, “Goodnight Papa.”

 

“Goodnight Christine,” Gustave replied, adjusting her bed clothes.

 


 

In the black caravan a young man rolled onto his back, wincing at the pressure that it put on his abused skin. Tonight had been especially brutal, his guard having had no trouble in getting the crowd worked up. Pulling himself onto his hands and knees, he crawled to the back of the cage and hauled himself into the coffin that Danior had decided was a far more suitable substitute for a bed for a thing like him. Lying back he replayed that voice in his head. Maybe that was the only place it had ever existed? The crowd had been at the height of their frenzy when he had heard it so could his mind have created it as an escape? The voice was so soft, he was sure no one else had heard it. It was young and he could hear where it could be improved. But it called to him, so perfect. He needed it to be real was the last thought that crossed his mind before he slipped into a restless sleep.