11. Rosalee, The Gypsy Princess

Inglorion receives a brief note from Alexandra requesting that he visit the King of the Gypsies at his earliest convenience to discuss personal business. The letters they’ve exchanged have been limited to general news items. They don’t share an intelligence cypher, and neither one of them is inclined towards sentimental correspondence. Nonetheless, he excuses himself from a week’s worth of social engagements, catches a mail coach to Liamelia, and approaches the familiar caravan feeling a measure of guilty apprehension.

The door is ajar, and it opens further when he taps on it and calls her name. Even before she answers, he sees her sitting in a rocking chair by the bed. She’s holding a bundle of some kind, and says distractedly, in a low voice, “Yes, come in.” She looks up, smiles, and says softly, “Keep your voice down. I’ve almost got her — oh, no, I guess not.”

“What on earth have you got there?” he asks, though it’s perfectly clear that she’s holding a infant. She’s just nursed it, and is trying to lull it to sleep. He walks over and peers into its face. The baby squirms in a dissatisfied manner, glances up at him, does a double-take, and fixes him with a brilliant silver gaze. “Good God,” he says blankly.

Undismayed, Alexandra says, “Rosalee, meet Inglorion, Marquis Theates. Your Lordship, this is Rosalee.” There’s laughter in her voice, but Inglorion barely notices it. He’s entirely transfixed by the sight of his daughter.

Inglorion is a young, single man, and he’s made it his business to avoid children under the age of five. He believes them to be fragile, mysterious and almost uniformly unpleasant. He’s never succeeded in producing the facial expressions that their parents demand of strangers. Babies sense his discomfort and react to him with disdain, suspicion or undisguised horror. When he first sees Rosalee, however, it feels like meeting Sieia when he was 15 and she was five. He’s enchanted, and the feeling seems mutual. As soon as Rosalee spots him, she turns away from her mother’s breast and towards her father, and watches him eagerly. 

“Hi, honey,” he says, and reaches out for her. He’s never held an infant in his life, but Rosalee snuggles into his arms happily.

Alexandra tucks a rag over his shoulder to protect his riding jacket, murmuring, “In case she spits up. She’s a pukey one.”

“OK,” Inglorion says absently. He’s eagerly scanning his daughter’s countenance. Her sparse hair is dark and curly, and her skin is dark and ruddy next to his. Her brows are dark and strongly marked, which gives her an authoritative look for an infant. Silver eyes are part of Inglorion’s overall angelically fair aspect; on Rosalee, they’re bizarre and stunning, prompting Inglorion to murmur, “What an exotic little honey you are — Gypsy, gray and Drow. You’re going to rule the world, Rosie.” She blinks, yawns, buries her face in his chest, and seems inclined to fall asleep there. He looks up at Alexandra. “Does she sleep?”

“Not as much as I could wish, certainly.” She looks puzzled, then says, “You mean as opposed to going into trance. Yes.”

He nods, satisfied. “I’ve heard that half-elves do what their mother does — sleep or trance.” He smiles brilliantly at Alexandra, says naively, “She’s wonderful. I had no idea.”

“She’s your first?”

“The first I know of, certainly. Elves aren’t particularly fertile, not like humans. I always thought it was quite the trick that my father got my mother pregnant within five years.” He looks down fondly at the tiny creature sleeping in his arms. “You nailed it on the first try. She’s perfect.”

Alexandra gives a delighted trill of laughter. “You’re definitely the only one who thinks so. She’s fussy — cries all the time and can’t keep food down. Very restless and excitable.”

“I’m told I was a wretched baby. An awful child, too — had hysterical fits and sick headaches, didn’t talk until I was eight or nine. Something to do with being Drow and stuck aboveground, I imagine.” He gazes at Rosalee thoughtfully. “She’s got the eyes. I wonder if she’ll get the full package? Dark vision, echolocation. We’ll have to see, won’t we?” He kisses her sleeping face gently, and Alexandra marvels that she doesn’t wake up screaming. He seems to know how to touch and hold her, and she trusts him unquestioningly. Anyone who has seen him with Sieia would understand, but Alexandra is as surprised as if he’d casually started breast-feeding her. 

He looks up suddenly at Alexandra, laughing with pure joy. “Thank you! She really is perfect, you know. Do your people mind? Is it an odd thing for the King of the Gypsies to have done?”

“My people know the facts of life as well any anyone. They accept the risk when they name a female king. Why don’t you put her down to sleep? We can talk a little.”

“Of course.” There’s a tiny crib for her at the foot of the bed. Inglorion lays her down tenderly, waits a moment to see that she’s settled in. “You’ve drawn the blinds, I see. That’s good. She won’t like the sun any more than I did, I’m sure.”

With that they go out and sit side-by-side on the narrow steps. He puts his arm around her — it’s the only way they can both fit — and she leans into him. It’s a bit absurd, because she’s at least four inches taller than he, but they’re both quietly happy. 

It’s a situation that could be awkward, that almost should be. He’s just learned that he has a daughter from an ill-advised encounter that he doesn’t intend to repeat. If someone had told him that he’d have an illegitimate child now, when he’s working to establish an intelligence network in hostile territory, he would have been horrified and ashamed, and genuinely worried about the consequences. He feels unquestioning love and devotion for Rosalee, however, just like he did for Sieia as a very young man. He knows that having a daughter will entail difficulties that he can’t imagine, but he feels pure delight just the same. Having seen her, he knows that he’s been waiting for this ever since he and Sieia were parted.

“I’m glad you like her,” says Alexandra shyly.

“I’m very happy and grateful. I truly didn’t expect it. The gods give you what you need, not what you ask for.”

“There are practical questions to consider,” she says. “I’d like to raise her as a Gypsy. She’ll live a long time — three or four hundred years — and I’m not young. I hope you’ll take her when she’s old enough, 14 or 15. And, of course, if anything should happen to me.”

“Yes, of course. I would like it very much. I cared for my sister when we were children, and was her guardian starting from when she was 12 and I was 22. I’m settled in Amakir now by necessity, but I will come to see you often. I’d like her to know her relations here, especially my sister Sieia. I don’t know what the Shelawns and Ceralacs will make of her — they hardly know what to make of me — but Sieia will dote on her.” 

“You don’t mind? You don’t want her to be raised among elves?”

“Not especially. She can’t pass for a gray elf. It was miserable for me, being half-Drow, and I should think her situation would be even worse. I chose to become a member of the Theates clan out of ambition. If she feels the same way and can adapt to the conditions, she can do like I did — skip the lectures and just take the test.” He looks thoughtful. “I’ll teach her High Elvish and Drow, of course. Greek and Latin, if she has a knack for that sort of thing. But I’m glad she’ll be a Gypsy, that she’ll have her own people from birth, and a place among them. I never did, and that’s hard when you’re a child.”

“What about religion?”

He grins. “She’ll have some, right? You’re not heathens.”

“No, of course not. But our beliefs are very different from yours.”

“I don’t mean to be cavalier about it. She should be raised as a Gypsy entirely. She’ll see that I’m devout, and that I’m sworn to the Bringer of Light. If she wants to take an oath as an adult, either to Corellon Larithian or to join the Theates clan, I can see that she finds a priest and receives the proper training. When the time comes, the gods will guide her. She’ll know from you to listen, to be attentive to them.” He considers for awhile, then asks, “What do you think it will be like for her, being a half-elf among your people?”

Alexandra pauses for a long time, then finally says, “I don’t really know. Gypsies never marry foreigners, and rarely mix with them. Certainly not elves. That’s part of the reason I’d like you to raise her past a certain age. She’ll be a member of the tribe by definition, since I bore her, but she will be very different, and we notice differences. So much of our culture is built on suspicion of outsiders.”

He smiles ruefully. “The silver eyes. Poor honey. At least she’ll have another Drow around to tell her what they mean.” They sit quietly for awhile, both thinking. The sun is setting over the little dusty lane. Tattered laundry flaps on a line strung between caravans. They can hear children playing nearby, out of sight. Finally Inglorion says, “Should I be offering marriage? I would if you were a gray elf, of course. It seems like you have more power and independence, but perhaps that’s an illusion.”

“Oh, no. If I married a foreigner, it wouldn’t be recognized. Most of our unions are by common law anyway. Gypsies avoid paperwork and registries.”

Three Gypsy children troop by in a straggling line, carrying a rag ball. They’re going home for dinner. They eye Inglorion curiously. Finally, the eldest girl waves. He and Alexandra wave back solemnly. He sees that she’s woven daisies in her hair, and that they’ve wilted in the heat. He blows her a kiss. She giggles, grabs her two siblings, and scrambles up the stairs and into a nearby caravan. 

Presently Inglorion says, “Thank you for telling me, for letting me be here. I’d like to stay for a few days, get to know her.” Though the circumstances are awkward, he remembers how close he felt to Alexandra when they made love, and how understanding and compassionate she was. He tries to explain, then, by saying, “My sister was my first, true love. I’m proud that I raised her and cared for her and kept her safe. I was too young, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I made all kinds of stupid mistakes. I love Rosalee so much already. I want her to feel safe and loved. I know you will be good to her, better than I can be.” He breaks off, uncertain of what he’s trying to say.

His arm is still draped over her, and she’s curled up against his side. She takes his hand in hers, catches his eye, and says, “That’s why I told you — so that you would have the chance to know her and love her.”

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