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'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' Role Playing Game.

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Paris, 1480.

"Ball"
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Isabella

She held her breath as looked down the narrow street awash in the blue-white glow of a gibbous moon. Nothing. Only the occasional far off sounds of a tavern greeted her ears. She had lost them then? They had given up? No that was too much to hope for. But then Paris was large and she hadn't seen or heard trace of them for over a week. Perhaps they would move on. The money she had taken from them had run out three days before and she had been too skittish to try her hand at lifting purses yet. It was a skill that she'd like to forget she had.

She scanned the rooftops. There were plenty of places an archer could hide and still get off a clean shot. But then maybe she was being too cautious... Her stomach growled and she pressed her hands against it, in equal amounts of embarrassment and fright as if someone were watching to criticize her lack of absolute silence. She smile bitterly. That was another life. She was starting over and this time there wouldn't be any lying or theft or murders or worse. This time. But how? 

She glanced at the sky. It was a relatively clear night but for the past five minutes a few whispy clouds had been inching closer and closer to the moon. She scanned the street once again from her place in the shadows of the alleyway. Something felt wrong but she buried her fears. As the cloud touched the moon she took a deep breath and moved out of her hiding place. She tried to walk as if she didn't want to break into a run with each step. "Just keep moving. Just keep moving." She didn't look up but she knew the cloud was passing too quickly and there was no cover. Two seconds later the moonlight broke though.

An arrow whistled through the air and missed her shoulder by mere inches. She broke into a run. A second arrow followed close on the first but it was wide to her left. Her mind churned...should she scream? Who would hear? How many were there in the area? At least Guillame wasn't shooting...yet. An idea flickered...the tavern. She ran pushing all other thoughts from her mind. The music gradually grew louder and she thought she could barely make out individual voices. Then, without warning, darting fire lanced through her shoulder and she was falling. With the last of her breath she screamed before she hit the ground.

Clopin

He had had, perhaps, a little too much to drink.

Yes, just a little. A round or two, maybe. Quite reasonable, to be honest: very reasonable. A man must enjoy himself, after all---it was his prerogative in life. Naturally, womenfolk would rarely understand this principle---a swimmy image of Herlikin wringing an icily wet rag above his head floated first up, and then out, of his head---but that could be attributed to their inherent inferiority as a...

...oh, alright, he had had FAR too much to drink.

Clopin Trouillefou sighed mistily into his hands, which were floating gently below him. Home, then, he thought gloomily. With a resigned (if wobbly) motion, he rose to his feet. The room swayed like the hold of a large ship on an uneasy sea, and he reached out a black-gloved hand to steady himself. It landed on something warm and soft (yet relatively firm), and muttering his thanks to whomever or whatever it was, he began to lean against it for support.

"Clopin," a soft voice said, with a hint of agitation to it. It came from the direction of his steadying hand.

"Hmm? Pardon?" he managed. He squinted in the general direction of the voice. A cream-colored blur met his eyes, and after a moment it resolved into the form of the fair-haired Cosette. After another moment he began to wonder about the feverish blush that had risen in her cheeks, and the presence of a dark splash covering the right side of her bosom. 

His reaction upon realizing that this dark splash was, in fact, his hand, and that the blush was, in fact, the result of his rather prurient grip upon said bosom was admirably speedy, given his condition.

"'pologies, my dear," he muttered, shaking his hand violently (as if to punish it). "It 'ppears I should be homing---going home. Herlikin. 'pologies."

"Perhaps you would like somebody to walk with you," she suggested, tilting left and right in a very disturbing manner. 

"Yes...good idea...lon'ly, you know..." he coughed, deciding to cover his eyes with his hand. His first attempt missed and instead landed somewhere in the vicinity of his mouth, but his second sally was more effective, and he sighed with relief as the world became solid and black.

"I'll be right back," he heard her say.

She did not return immediately: in fact, she did not return at all. Instead, there was suddenly a very loud commotion and a great deal of bench scuffling and mug-clanking, all proceeded by an almost deadly hush.

There was the sound of a feminine gasp---Cosette, quite possibly, and something both apologetic and chivalrous reared up in Clopin. With a dramatic gesture which sent him stumbling backwards, he whipped his hand from his face and turned to examine the situation. 

The haze lifted just enough for him to see the female form stretched out on one of the benches---yes, he double checked, definitely female, but not Cosette---and a thing sticking OUT of said female form which, he decided, had absolutely no right to be there. 

"Somebody fetch help, quickly," Cosette chimed from the doorway, where she stood with a look of horror upon her face---and now the stain upon her chest was not a misplaced hand, but a stamp of secondhand blood. 

The world still swam before him, but quite quickly he found that his mind had pulled back the curtain of inebriation and allowed him a brief few instants of something resembling lucidity.

"I'll need three men to follow me to the Court," he barked. "One to tell Abigail precis'ly what has happened to that girl...woman...female, one to help her with any...equipment...and the last..." He sighed blearily. "The last to keep me from falling over along the way..." 

Herlikin 

Herlikin half-heartedly called out after the stumbling five year old as he darted on ahead of her and his twin, tripping over loose flagstones imbedded in the Court of Miracle's dirt and stone floor, sending a few straggly chickens squawking in his wake, as she struggled with the freshly laundered linens in her arms.

 "Ahvel, those round brown legs will be spanked red if you don't come back here immediately!"

 Her sharp, accented voice ricocheted off the walls, bouncing back to the slim blue-eyed, dark-skinned boy who beckoned over his shoulder eagerly to his binak, Clopin. Typical of the more introspective twin, Clopin trailed behind, a few steps in front of his maman, arms folded over his chest, and bright green eyes darting from corner to corner, seeing all.

 Herlikin sighed and puffed over her linens, jerking her head back to throw a few strands of rebellious red hair from her eyes. The twins should of been - and indeed *had* been - in bed some hours before. But the impatience of waiting for their papa to come and entertain them with a covert faerytale whilst their maman thought they slumbered had sent them scrambling from their tent and peeking into that of their parent's. Finding it empty, they had pursued the Court, finding not Clopin but Herlikin, whose vibrant redhair seemed to stand on end at her offspring's disobedience. Apart from anything else she was annoyed at her husband's tardiness - knowing full well where he was. Finishing the folding of her dried linen she'd shouted shrilly for the two boys to keep at her heels and take their bottoms back to bed.

 Ahvel, thrilled at the novelty of seeing the Court at this late hour, had raced forward to announce his wakefulness, playing with the mutts and earning a sweet from Sophia. Clopin stayed in check, not leaving his mother's company but not walking by her either.

 As they rounded the corner from the laundry stream, past Renault's caravan, a commotion caused even Clopin to perk up. Tshaliba, accompanied by a couple of the Court's larger men, was being hurried up into the Bells and Motley tavern, situated partly above the Court. Distracted and intrigued, Herlikin forgot about her clean linen, dumping the pile neatly upon the dusty stones, and skipped up to the steps. "Taking Tshaliba for a night on the town? For shame!" Sometimes cheek was the only way to get attention. Grofo turned back to her where she squinted inquisitively from the first step and shrugged "Young girl's been shot and frightened the young Cosette half out of her wits. Don't know if she's rom or not, best Tshaliba get a look at her up there, you know Abigail don't leave the Court."

 "A shooting?" Herli's ears pricked up. "Where?" a rather romantic image of a golden haired gadji with an arrow pointing skyward from one perfect pearly breast passed its way with a nasty pleasure through her veins. "Just the shoulder. You might as well come, Madame. Your husband would be glad of it."

 Herli's eyebrows hit heavenward at that. Clopin was generally loathe to admit to need in such particular situations. The Rom King could handle such tragedies, the proud jut of his jaw proclaimed. Never mind he trembled violently each time Herli was once again confined to bed when her womb failed them. Unwilling to miss to on the action, however, Herli hitched up her skirts and threw a hasty "stay here" to her sons who watched with wide eyes, and hurried up the steps.

 In the room adjoining that which held the deftly carved trap door, Herli caught quick sight of a table, and two dainty little feet leading up into skirts resting upon it, it all illumined by a vibrant yellow light. Before she could move forward for a better peek, a strong lean arm encircled her and she found herself in her husband's embrace.

 "Kitten..." he slurred above her, one black gloved hand covering her face clumsily "such a sight is not for your delicate eyes to see!" He swayed alarmingly and Herlikin clung to his shoulder as his grip on her waist loosened. "Delicate eyes?" she exclaimed, wresting his hand from her face. "Been dining with Dionysus, have we?"

 She looked up and met Clopins' bloodshot eyes with her own, he leaning back against the wall for support, loathe to let go of her and shaking one finger at her in a bizarre and stern fashion.

 "By the three eyes of Kali" she snorted disapprovingly.

Isabella & Herlikin

She blinked and stared up at something she did not quite comprehend. Smooth gray stripes layered on soft velvet shadows formed peculiar patterns above her head. A moment later the shadows and stripes shifted and in doing so resolved themselves into something recognizable if not completely familiar. The stripes would be colorful in full light and she had seen those types of shadows all through her childhood. A single word reverberated through her mind tent. She was in a tent but where? How did she arrive? Why was she here? Thoughtlessly she moved her hand to brush back a few strands of black hair that clung to the sweat on her neck. She groaned and her flood of questions were answered by the return of a painful throbbing in her shoulder.

Entering Paris...fleeing...the moonlit night...the arrow...then the blur of faces and the pain and then blackness. It all returned. She lay for a few minutes in shock before realizing some action had to be taken. They must have captured her then. Why else would she awaken in a tent? She drew in a breath and tried to sit up...it hurt but she told herself that once she was standing the pain would hardly bother her at all.

"Don't move."

She froze, terrified. She hadn't heard anyone enter. She had thought she was alone. 
 

"Ball"

"Don't move." The dark gadji - for to Herli all strangers not clearly rom were gadje - had awoken and was struggling to sit up in Abigail's tent. Abigail herself with her wizened brown frame, and long silvery braid, had been stooping over the fire where a pot hissed and bubbled ferociously, stirring the mixture within it, Tshaliba next to her, making herbal poultices for the fiery red wound burning from the girl's shoulder. Herlikin, who'd been refilling the dish of water she was cleaning the girl's wound with, had snapped the command out quickly and observed with cocked eyebrow the immediate halt. The three women had been working in silence, lest the girl be disturbed and move - now, well. At least the girl had stopped.

 She'd been brought down to the Court of Miracles after an appraisal of her dark hair and a diklo-like scarf had satisfied Clopin's alcohol hazed eyes. Herli was not nearly so content, but Clopin was impossible when drunk, and though she might be the Queen she was still merely a woman in the eyes of the men, and therefore Clopin's word, uttered in a drunken stupor or not, ranked above hers. Grudgingly she'd made the decision to accompany Tshaliba and the girl to Abigail's tent, that way at least she could keep an eye on things instead of being blinded by the gaping injury on a girl who beared merely a passing resemblance to her people. Supporting Clopin who stumbled, the couple had walked behind the rom carrying the woman to Abigail, and he'd fumbled at her sleeves when she'd disentangled her arm from his and made to walk on. Turning back she'd laughed a little and pressed her lips to his, rubbing his hips affectionately. "What a pity you're so inebriated" she'd smiled slyly "You won't be able to wait up for me!" and had left him standing outside their tent with a slightly bewildered, disappointed expression on his face.

Now, here she was, playing nurse to a stranger. Herli shook her head and moved around the table to face the girl who peered at her from beneath ringlets of romni-like dark hair. She was frightened, and most assuredly on her guard, watching Herli from defensive, wide eyes. Herli gazed back, from the odd-colored ones the women didn't like to look into. Abigail had sat up from the fire and was hurrying over to the straw pellet the girl lay on, stirring the paste in the pot she held, clicking her tongue.

 "Here now, lie back child, before you do yourself more harm!" Tshaliba guided her down against the cushions again as Abigail made to smear the paste on the wound. 

Jehan

*Wow...Paris..It's changed since I was a kid.* Jehan thought, brushing a piece or mocha-colored hair out of his face. He climbed back upon Animus and rode towards the town he grew up in.

The night was darker than usual, it seemed as if the stars were hiding from his eyes for some strange reason. Jehan didn't think that his dear older brother would be up at this hour, but he decided to ride to where he could see Claude's window. He pulled his cloak closer to him, the wind was strong and somewhat violent tonight. He shivered slightly, and made his way through the town square on his gray stallion. He stopped short of his brother's house and looked up.

Clopin

He watched rather impotently as the girl was lifted and carried into the dim little tent. He had offered to assist in lifting her, but this pleasingly patriarchal notion had been swiftly terminated by his wife; Herlikin had shot him a look so sharp and chilling that he had not been heated with wine, he might have shivered from his scalp to the seat of his manhood. The women had gone in, and, giving him a final glare, Herlikin had whipped the opening shut behind her. His spine drooped as the fabric was twisted into a vicious knot, meant to keep unwelcome visitors away. 

The hubbub in the Court had once again died down, and the large crowd of groggy and eager men from the tavern had dissolved. The children had been ushered back into the tents and expertly stuffed into unconsciousness. Even the rheumy-eyed dogs had galumphed back into their obscure, gritty corners and begun to snore and whimper in their sleep. 

A sense of anticlimax settled in. 

His narrative sensibilities, however dampened with drink, were highly offended. A dramatic entrance in the dark of the night, liberal amounts blood about the place, wrong mysteriously done to a pretty young girl (at least, he assumed she was pretty and young; in his current state he had been unable to be quite sure). And now...what? Nothing! An inexcusable lapse in the art.

What was he to do? Here he was, a jongleur in the height of his craft, full of very effective wine, with a marvelous storyline unfortunately concealed by an inch of fabric and guarded by a peeved wife. Alone, unattended, refused, denied. A melancholy fog began to seep through every pore of his body. 

"Excuse me, Balibusha," a wobbling voice inquired from behind him. Clopin turned slowly. A gangly and rough-faced young man---boy---man---oh, whatever that uncomfortable ridge between the two was called---stood hunched before him, his eyes wide.

"Yes?" Clopin said. Could it be? Dare he think it? 

"I..." the boy shuffled his feet. "I heard noise, and there was a girl...she looked hurt...if any help...is needed, that is, well..." he looked blushingly away. "I mean, if it's not intruding, I'd like to ask...do you know...what happened?" 

Clopin's mind woozily wound its way through the fractured sentences of adolescence, and, after a long pause, arrived at something resembling a translation. 

"What happened, hm, to that pretty thing, is that what you wan' to know?"

"If you're not...if I'm not...intruding..." The boy blushed again. "Just when you see a girl being carried, you know, you worry, and---"

An intense, mysterious expression plastered itself across Clopin's face (a crude yet still effective attempt to take on the enthralling aura of the narrator on the brink of beginning a harrowing epic).

"D'you drink yet, mm?" Clopin asked darkly, swaying forward to ask the question. 

"Of course," the boy said, too quickly. 

"Well then, iss time you started. Follow me, an' I'll tell you the whole story." Clopin threw a long, uncoordinated arm about the boy's bony shoulder, and, with a triumphant toss of the head, he dragged him out of the Court and back towards the Bells and Motley.

Another day; another sprawling epic to chew on; another unwitting victim...

...another round of ale... 

If one could avoid unpleasant thoughts of wife and hangover, life might almost be worth living.

Isabella & Herlikin

"Here now, lie back child, before you do yourself more harm!" The voice seemed kind enough but it also held a note of impatience as two hands gently but firmly pushed her back down. She briefly considered pulling away and trying to escape but she thought better of it. Her eyes were not fully adjusted to the half light and nothing seemed quite solid as yet. As her shoulder touched the pallet, black specks swarmed across her vision and she felt momentarily lighter. Closing her eyes she breathed deeply and waited for the odd sensations to pass. No, she wasn't strong enough and struggling against them now would just put them on their guard.

When she opened her eyes again she could make out the gray shapes of three strange women hovering over her. Three woman - none of them the Pluri Dai she knew. Could it be? Things could've changed in the six weeks she had been running but...dare she hope? "Who are you? Where am I?" There was silence for half a second and she wondered if they had heard. She half raised her head to repeat the questions but at that moment she felt a burning pain roll wetly over her shoulder and into the aching wound. What had been a dull throbbing intensified into a sharp, biting flame. She bit her lip and tasted blood but she did not make a sound. 

"Ball"

Herlikin could see the girl was in pain where she lay on the straw, and she cocked an eyebrow and focused on her tightly clenched lips, the merest trace of a wet redness glistening on the lower one. Abigail was pressing the poultice on top of the paste now and Herlikin knew the pain must be as ferociously intense as a finger held to a flame. Herlikin smiled in a curious mixture of smugness and sympathy at the young woman while Tshaliba fiddled about, pushing dark curls from the girl's sweaty brow, arranging the hem of her bodice modestly over her uninjured shoulder. 

As if through water, the girl raised a hand to half bat at Tshaliba's wrinkled brown fingers, as though on instinct, and Herlikin gave a small chuckle. Abigail was now wrapping the injured shoulder in soft linen, binding it securely and Tshaliba had ignored the slight protest to mop the girl's forehead, urging a little water on her.

 She refused to drink, shutting her mouth tightly and twisting her head feverishly to the side. With her eyes clenched shut and her brow furrowed, she looked like a very young, very frightened child. Herlikin cocked a head to the side and examined her from head to toe. The hems of her skirts were dusty and ragged, and Herlikin guessed they had once been ankle length, and had worn away to mid-shin. Her blistered toes peeked through cracked shoes, and her legs were bare beneath them. A roughly sewn bodice was tied tightly over a ragged shirt, and the scarf that was most definitely a diklo was tied around her shoulders as Herli's own was, and she thought with a wry smile the girl must hate hiding her hair as much as Herli did. The girl was pale, but as Herlikin examined her more closely, her features became more and more rom-like. She berated herself inwardly - she was seeing what wasn't there, surely! The girl's bosom, the angles of her face and the expression in her eyes - she was no child, and diklo or no diklo she could not surely be a rom. Herlikin had never seen her before. Nor had Tshaliba, Clopin, Grofo or any of the others. 

Abigail had finished binding the shoulder and was turning away to clean up the ingredient that had gone into making the remedy. Giving Herlikin's arm a pinch she raised white eyebrows meaningfully. Ah - now that could mean Abigail knew very well who the girl was, or at least where she had come from. Herli was not surprised. Abigail knew things noone else ever did. And if Abigail knew and did not object, then Herlikin could tolerate the girl in the Court of Miracles. Returning her gaze to the girl's wide eyes, who had focused themself on Herlikin, as though knowing she was the one to be wary of, Herlikin sniffed a little smile out. "Feeling better?" The girl did not respond, just continued to look, as Tshaliba moved away to join Abigail, and the two awenydd's gave darting little glances back over their shoulders. Undaunted, Herli continued. "I know it burns like fire first - but it will heal you quicker than you can conceive. In fact, so fast I would not be surprised if you could go about your business in the next day or so" She moved around from the edge of the low bench where the straw pellet rested, her slim fingers sliding their way along the wood. The girl's eyes followed her steadily, and Herli peeked out from behind red locks to grin at her. "No words of thanks for your saviors, then?" 

She looked up and frowned. The woman with the oddly colored eyes assumed authority over the older woman...only a Pluri Dai would have such power. She repressed a wave of giddy relief, telling herself that it didn't matter who had captured her if she ended up in *his* possession in the end.

 "No words of thanks for you saviors then?" The fire haired one smiled and she found herself pulling back. The smile seemed kind enough but she felt as though somehow they were all inwardly laughing at her helpless position. She didn't trust smiles. They often concealed or lead to one form or pain or another. The more she thought about it the more she felt that somehow they were mocking and gloating over her. She couldn't trust anyone but if they *had* saved her? The silence lengthened and the smile dropped a bit. They were waiting. "Who are you? Where am I?" No thanks yet. Not until she knew that she had been saved.

 Not until she was certain she would not be delivered back to him. Herlikin placed both hands on the low bench and leaned over the child, odd colored eyes boring into hers with the view of intimidation "Tut tut, to ask questions of those who rescued you from the very gates of death......well...perhaps not. The wound isn't so bad as to take you there, neh" She darted a hand over and poked the freshly bound shoulder, noting the girl's gasp, a mingled sound of pain and anger. "But then - it was certainly enough to bring you to a full and complete stop.....and but for our interference, perhaps those who shot you would of then caught you up, hmm?" The girl was sitting up on one elbow now, clutching her wounded shoulder and gazing defensively at the Gypsy Queen. Herlikin shrugged amiably and continued. "Apart from anything else, a wise and cautious gypsy reveals nothing to strangers until those strangers prove worthy of trust. Allow me to ask YOU - who are? Where do you come from? It is you choice to answer or not, but if you remain silent, WE will have no choice but to blindfold you and leave you the streets. And you're not altogether healthy enough for such abandonment yet, child." 

She blinked rapidly and ran her hands along the sides of her thighs as if somehow unconsciously trying to rub them clean. The woman with the mismatched eyes and a gaze that froze the breath in her lungs didn't know. Everything tumbled and blurred. Perhaps she didn't have to know ever. Perhaps if questions were answered in just the right way she would be protected. But how? She knew enough of her unsettled state to avoid lying. In all likelihood she wouldn't remember what she had said and that would undermine everything. Quite abruptly she seemed to realize the uneasy movement of her hands and in an almost convulsive moment she crossed them firmly in front of her, trying not to wince at dull pain in her shoulder. She shifted uncomfortably then suddenly an idea fell into place. "I'm Isabella. A wise and cautious gypsy reveals nothing to strangers until those strangers prove worthy of trust or when placed at a marked disadvantage. It would appear you have nothing to fear from me in my present state and yet you have not answered any of my questions." She pressed her lips together, hoping that her accent hadn't totally betrayed her. She was well aware that although she spoke French fluently and had a gift for picking up the words, she had not mastered the intonation and speech patterns yet. The three woman watched, expecting more. She realized suddenly and rushed through the sentence in embarrassment. "Thank you for healing me." They had healed her and that deserved thanks whether she trusted them or not.

 Abigail turned to the side, dusting off her hands as though the girl's answer was more than satisfactory. Tshaliba picked up the few jars and rags she'd brought from her own tent and laid a hand on Abigail's shoulder, the two women whispering a quiet farewell in romany, then turned back to smile at Herli, patting the Queen's cheek. "Time I was long gone for now, friends. Don't intimidate our guest too harshly, now, eh Herli." with a soft chuckle the younger awenydd left Abigail's tent to return to her own home, the Court beyond silent as a graveyard with the late hour. Abigail smiled kindly at Isabella, her heavily lined face creasing in a multitude of places. "You are welcome to stay here with me, Isabella. 'Tis true you can't harm any of us as you are, and nor could you leave without one to guide you. Asides, is better you stay with me, a healer, than anywhere else." Herlikin crossed her arms abruptly and pursed her lips in intense disapproval, tapping one foot in disbelief sharply. But she knew better than to disagree with the wise woman, and knew better than to think Abigail would let danger remain in the Court. Blowing huffily through her nose she gave a sharp inclination of her head to the girl. "Abigail can see inside people's hearts and I trust her judgment. Very well, you may stay here, for the night at least. On the morrow we will discuss what is to be done with you." Her sharp eyes gave Isabella a cutting once over again, and she whirled on her heel to leave, red and purple skirts skimming over her calves. At the tent flap she paused "I, in the meantime, have a inebriated husband to return to." At the tent flap she paused, looking over her shoulder through a film of red hair, gaze a warning. "By the by, I am Herlikin Trouillefou - Queen of the Gypsies". She left, the tent flap swinging jerkily in her wake.

Frollo & Jehan

He stopped short of his brother's window and looked up.

There was a faint light that flickered dimly through the dingy pane. No doubt his older brother was immersed in some dry Judicial proceedings or involved with some arcane book in his endless quest for knowledge. Or... He hesitated, torn between calling out to him or seeking a formal audience in the morning. The light in the window shifted and that movement decided him.

Jehan looked up to the window, watching as the shadow moved across the window. It was Claude alright...Tall and slender. "I'm sure he's still as pale as a ghost." Jehan muttered to no one in particular. Jehan knew it was going to be hard to face his brother after he had sent him off to military school on such short notice. *Seven years...I spent seven years at that damned school and I have nothing to show for it except for a horse and a sword.*

Jehan dismounted off his stallion and walked up to the Palace doors, wondering if his brother would even recognize him. Jehan knew the last time Claude saw him, he was only 15, but would he know him? Jehan, shook his head clearing all of the thoughts from his head, he opened the thick wooden door and walked in, shutting the door behind him. He went to his brothers office door, at least what he thought was his office, and knocked, waiting to see his brother's ashy face and chisled features staring back at him......

"Ball"

There was a slight rustling, a sound of a chair scraping hastily across the floor and a pause followed by footsteps. Jehan shifted from one foot to the other. It certainly was taking his brother a long time to answer. But then it was late and perhaps Claude hadn't heard. Just as he was about to raise his hand to knock a second time the door opened. 

With a start he looked up into his brother's face. It seemed even more pale and ghostlike than he recalled. Dark circles ringed eyes that had a glassy, almost fevered quality to them and a thin sheen almost transparent sweat highlighted the brow of his forehead. It was almost unthinkable, but was Claude sick? No...the change was deeper than that...

He had expected Claude to be startled at his appearance, grown from a boy to a man, but he never expected to be surprised by any change in Claude. His brother didn't change. He was the stable one who had so naturally assumed the role of father to Jehan when their parents had died while he was still an infant. He couldn't clearly remember any time when his brother's hair was any color other than granite gray. It was almost as if age had come early for Claude and then stopped passing altogether but this time something was different. Now there were quite a few more line in the familiar face and the hair that had always been a shade of gray was flecked with white. Apparently there had been change in the both of them.

"Jehan? What are you doing here?" His brother's eyebrows lowered and underscoring the slight confusion in his voice 

Jehan looked up into his brother's face and a somewhat goofy smirk crossed his face, as he heard the confusion in his brother's voice.

"I got out of military school, and I was curious whether or not you had something for me...I have my papers right here."

Jehan reached into his pocket and pulled out two pieces of parchment and handed them to his brother. He smiled proudly, hoping that his brother would be proud of his accomplishments, not many of the men in his barracks received honors and as many medals as he. He studied Claude's face intently, trying to read his mind.

"What do you think?", he asked, his voice having a tone of anxiousness in it. 

Claude accepted the documents without word, still standing in the doorway neither inviting Jehan in nor stepping out into the passageway. His near perfect mask of neutrality was only marred by a slight furrowing of his brow in what could've been either disapproval or concentration as his eyes rapidly scanned the parchment. Moments drew out and as stillness enwrapped the pair, Jehan began to wonder if his brother was not so much reading the papers as he was staring through them but he hesitated to say anything. It was a delicate silence and one that his career rested entirely upon. He could be patient. 

"Very good." Claude's eyes snapped up and pinned Jehan with a coldly intense gaze that had nothing of warm brotherly affection in it. "You've done well. I do in fact have a position open that I believe you could fill." He paused momentarily, a faint smile played at his lips. Jehan repressed a shiver. It was the sort of smile he had seen on men cleaning and admiring their weapons. "Tomorrow morning report to Lieutenant Phoebus. He's an excellent soldier and I trust you'll learn much from him."

Jehan smiles at his brother, suddenly wiping the goofy grin off of his face. "Thank you, Claude...You won't regret this!" Jehan walks down the hall and to his gray steed. He mounts his horse and rides towards the camp. 

Frollo watched sharply as his younger brother fairly danced back down the hall and then smiled to himself after Jehan turned the corner. His brother would make a fine Captain of the Guard one day, once he had gained a bit of experience. With a satisfied nod, Claude Frollo retreated fully into his room closing and locking the door firmly behind him. A pair of eyes watched his every move. "Now my dear, where were we?" 
 
 

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