'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' Role Playing Game.
Phoebus, Jehan, Eilis & Gael
Jehan looked at Phoebus and smiled, "Yes, I would like to take her to the Captain, unless you do not see me fit to do so."
Grinning in earnest, Phoebus made a dismissive gesture with his gauntlet. "Off you go, then. You have my permission to give patrol a miss this time. You better tell the Captain that as well, when you go waltzing in."
Imerald looked at the man carrying her away, he was very handsome, quite handsome indeed....But this was a very horrible way to start the morning..
Phoebus shook his head exaggeratedly after the new man and the beautiful thief in farewell, turned his horse, and rode back to the rest of the patrol. "Come on, move out," he said amiably. "We've still got a case of attempted murder to investigate, remember?" And with much clanking of bits and stirrups and clopping of shod hooves, they moved out again.
Down in the shoddier depths of Paris' labyrinthine streets, people stood to one side to respectfully dodge a patrol, or ran outright down a twisting alleyway and out of sight. No children stayed to laugh and point at the shining soldiers or the splendid horses, despite their mothers' attempts to hush them. As they rounded a corner, a fruitseller hurriedly shoved his cart out of the way as Achilles trotted past. From beneath his visor, Phoebus could see the man's pasty face; slightly afraid, slightly defensive. The cart hadn't even been in his path.
"Well, they're coming. There's no way for you to escape." The woman's brown eyes stayed fixed on her bracelets, and her voice remained deadpan. Outside, she could hear the rattling of tack and the shouting of men, all too clearly. From the way Gael's icy eyes darted uncomfortably, she could guess that he felt the same. A criminal, that's what I've become.
"Er -" said Jehan. Those blue eyes seemed to be filling his entire range of vision. "Well, no need to fear, miss. I'm sure you'll be all right. After all, you didn't steal anything big ..." Drat, he was blushing.
Imerald nodded and spoke softly, "I don't suppose you would let me go...I did give the bread back in a way..." She looked into his eyes, her blue jewels sparking with hope as she gazed into his dark brown pools. She smiled to herself noticing that he was blushing....
Jehan's blush deepened, no matter how much he mentally ordered it to abate. "No, I'm afraid I can't, miss," he mumbled. "I've got my orders, or ... or I would. But I'm new, anyway, so I don't want to give the Lieutenant an excuse to rat on me."
Imerald sighed softly, "Alright then...I'm sorry for being such a pest this morning, I hope I didn't make you miss anything important..."
CLANK. Phoebus threw open the tavern door and stepped inside, motioning to his men to stay outside for the time being. Two more customers who'd opted to tough it out gave in and slipped out the back door. "Please, everyone stay seated. I'm just here to talk with Mademoiselle Paquette -" He let his eyes rove over the room carefully - and stopped at the door. There were two people sitting there: a sturdy woman with long dark hair who had her back to him, and a tall, angular blond sailor, whose face he knew too well.
Phoebus took a step towards them, but the sailor was on his feet first. One sinewy hand clamped itself tight upon the man's sword hilt. His ice-blue eyes narrowed dangerously.
"You!" he snarled. "What are you doing here?"
"Yep, me," Phoebus responded in that mild voice he recalled using to drive Gael into a rage in training. "I'm just doing my job. What're you doing here?"
It was working already: Gael's thin mouth compressed and the lines of hatred deepened about his eyes. "Since when is it your business?" he hissed finally. "There's no sergeant for you to go running to now with your tales."
People were staring more than ever. What must it look like to them, this strange tableau of sailor and soldier, engaged in a battle of wills with their various supporters looking on?
The woman sitting with Gael seemed to be fighting with herself; and after a moment it appeared that blood-tie won. She got up and faced Phoebus boldly. "What do you want with my brother, soldier?" she demanded in oddly formal French. Her accent was more pronounced than her brother's, with a musical lilt to it totally unlike his.
Phoebus had to smile: she looked like a female wildcat facing down a lion, with her head barely reaching his shoulder, and her yellowish eyes wide.
"Fool woman! Keep your silence!" With a sudden snarl, Gael whipped around and swung at her face. She shrank back, hands flying up to he
r face. But the blow never came. Slowly, she forced her eyes open; the blond soldier's gauntleted hand was clamped tightly around Gael's lean wrist, and her brother looked outraged and fearful at the same time.
"Ah ah ah," the soldier said, a mocking grin hovering about his mouth. "Your sister's a firey one, Gael. She might hit back."
"It would be entertainment at least." The sharp voice snapped between the two men, yanking their attention to its direction.
The near-deserted tavern had heretofore been empty save them: now they observed, perched upon one of the tables and observing them with her chin in her hands and a not-so-friendly grin, was an odd little woman. At first glance she appeared youthful, at second this was revealed to not be so. Fine lines creased the corners of her eyes and mouth, and there was perhaps the slightest hint of silver, the beginnings of grey, at the roots of her long, thick red hair. Her face was not quite pretty - her nose a little too flat, her eyes a little too slanted and her lips a little too full - but she was....interesting. Her oriental features clashed with her European colorings and two bright eyes winked at them alarmingly. The red and purple of her gowns made her a bright blotch of paint against a murky canvas and she was watching the three with a very curious expression.
Herlikin had abandoned Clopin to sleep by the lulling roar of one of the large fireplaces in the center, thoroughly put out by her droswy husban's faux pas. She had gritted her teeth and trounced through the Court, swearing to herself that when evening came it would be a proper kiss or she would not speak to him for as - for as long as it took!
Imagine! To fall asleep when a kiss was on offer!
She wondered, not for the first time, if she were less attractive to her husband now she were older. The thought had given her pause, and she'd stopped for a moment of contemplation, running her hands over her hips. Herli had ample hips and rear and always had, but Clopin had always declared love of them. No more, perhaps....
She knew she wasn't beautiful and had always known it - "monkey face" was what the children has whispered behind her back in India - not daring to say it to her face and risk getting bitten. She hadn't minded - once she got used to the notion - she knew she was unusual enough to hold attention, and favourable or not, attention was always welcomed. But the discovery of lines appearing on her face had set her heart beating fast with fear.
Such unpleasant thoughts had sent her scurrying out of the Court quickly, through the Tavern exit, and noticing with perverse interest several drops of blood from the mysterious Isabella's shoulder on the rough-hewn steps.
She'd been astonished at the silence coming from the main rooms of the Tavern, usually ablaze with life and laughter where the bar was, the back storage rooms she was coming from inkily dark and cool and the shadows a perfect guise as she'd cautiously surveyed the area before stepping out. Her attention had immediately been arrested by a mere three - all others had vanished as though into air - involved in a sort of confrontation at a table in the far end. The two men held her attention for a second and no more, enough to size them up - the tall blond one she dismissed with a curled lip; he was gadje and a gadje guard what's more. His white features and blonde hair were far too fine for her tastes, and beyond a slight aesthetic pleasure she could see no immediate use he would serve. The other appeared as easily dissmissable; darker and clearly sun travelled, he was clearly, nonethess, a rogue. Abigail had taught her to recognise such by the jut of the jaw, but she needed no such lessons to see it in him. The sly kilter of his eyes, the slim, constantly active finger tips, the perpetual sneer - bad news. The sort of bad news she hated Clopin to speak to. But he would, of course....
The girl was another story. She was gadje - but tanned and her skin had stood sea-travel. She was beautiful in a snub-nosed, first bled way, with long tangled hair and strong shoulders. There was a splash of fire in her eyes that belied the quiver of her person when her dark friend made a sudden move, clearly her superior; Herlikin could predict two possible futures for this girl - she would rid herself of the other and set herself free as she longed to be - or fate would decree her stuck with him until the day she became a murderess. Of the three, the girl interested Herli the most and she had perched herself upon a table to watch.
Now all three had turned to her in surpise, jumping a little at the sudden break of her voice into their arguement. She took a hand from under her chin and waved it about a little, jerking her eyebrows upwards. "Don't mind me. Pray, continue."
Lt. Nicolas St-Josse, Phoebus, Gael, Eilis & Herlikin
The man in armour had reached a position directly opposite the tavern before he stopped and made certain of his bearings. This was the place: the inn-sign, a jumble of jester's bells against a diamond pattern, hung crookedly above the door. The Bells and Motley tavern. As early as this morning he'd heard a rumour at the city walls of what had happened here last night, how some unseen archer had fired upon a fleeing girl. The witness, a man who lived nearby, had described the girl as tall, slim and pretty, "though probably one of them Gypsies, I shouldn't wonder". Yes, the man in armour knew he'd found who he was looking for.
A flash of red hair and a silouette of a face at the doorway caught his eye before disappearing back into the shadows of the doorway. Pausing thoughtfully he decided against entering immediately. Instead he walked to the tavern's exterior, unshouldered his pack and leant it against the tavern wall. Then he bent over and examined the grain of the doorpost. There was blood there, it was unmistakable. Fresh, unfaded blood. And the more he looked, the more of it he saw at the scene. The random drops and splatters would have gone unnoticed by most, but to his eye the doorway and the crushed gritty earth told its story as clearly as a tapestry. He'd seen it before at the hunt, the intermittent trail of blood that led you to the fallen prey. There – he wandered over to the earth with its slight disturbances and began to retrace her steps – that spot was where she'd dug in her heels to start running. Here was where she'd slipped, or more likely where she'd been hit by the arrow. And these irregular dents in the mud marked where she'd struggled to keep on her feet, making a last effort to escape Death before a final collapse on the threshold of the inn.
Really, if he hadn't known who she was and what she'd done, he might have felt sorry for her. As it was, the whole notion of pity never entered his mind. The gypsy didn't deserve it from anyone and certainly not from him. And he hoped that the arrow hadn't yet finished her off: he so dearly wanted that particular pleasure for himself.
He paused briefly before the tavern and wondered about the wisdom of revealing the lieutenant's insignia beneath his dusty cloak. In a tawdry place like this, would the silver gleam of eagle and shield inhibit more tongues than it loosened? For a few seconds he drew the cloak over his armour in unaccustomed humility before changing his mind. He'd worked damned hard to get this insignia. He'd fought for it and bled for it. Yes, damn it all, he would walk in there and command whatever attention he could. And if she got wind of the fact that a soldier with a lieutenant's rank was searching for her... Well, that was just a chance he'd have to take.
His name would mean nothing to her, though. She might assume he sought some other and relax her guard. *Do that*, he said silently, addressing his prey in his thoughts. *I know your name, I know your face, I know what you did and I'll find you. I've tracked you this far, gypsy, and Paris isn't so big that you can disappear without trace. And when I find you, the agony of an arrow in your back will be nothing compared to what I plan to do...*
His hands burned within his leather gloves. To take his mind from the pain, he pulled open his cloak to display his armour, reshouldered his pack and marched straight through the door of the tavern.
Gael, snarling like a wolf, wrenched his arm free of Phoebus' gauntlet. "Shut up," he shot at the strange woman. "This is none of your affair."
From the corner of his eye, he caught Phoebus' move to interfere, and drew his sword with a menacing hiss of steel. In response, he saw his long-time enemy's shining blade leap into his hand of its own accord. On his other side, his sister clasped her hands to her mouth in a pretense of horror.
And then came the stranger.
The woman whose name was Eilis studied this new man carefully. There was something about him that she couldn't place, some faint, inscrutable thing, hanging around him like a scent. He inspired neither hatred, as the evil sidh were said to do, nor joy, nor any passion of any sort. Perhaps it was simple discomfort that she felt, looking at him. Whatever it could be defined as, his presence did have one timely effect: it quickly and effectively negated the bloodlust running hot in the air between her brother and the tall French Lieutenant. Eilis could feel it drop away, as though a mist had been frozen into falling droplets, right before her eyes.
Phoebus slid his sword back into its sheath with a metallic clack that sounded loud in the silence. This man was a lieutenant, he noted, though not with any army that he was familiar with. If only he stared at the gleaming eagle and shield insignia long enough, he knew, he'd recognize it, but in the dim tavern, the play of discordant light and shadow dizzied his eyes. As though that device wasn't meant to be recognized.
And so he drove it from his mind and drew himself up tall as a lieutenant greeting a man of equal rank, both of them representative of their respective armies. "Good day to you, Lieutenant," he said courteously. "I'm afraid that you've walked right into an area under investigation by the Paris Guard, so -"
"Strange, that a simple tavern would attract this many soldiers so early in the day," murmured Eilis, whether to herself or to Gael, she did not know.
"Not strange at all, mademoiselle," replied the man in armour, giving Eilis a brief smile before he lay his pack down on a nearby chair. "Simple fact is, I'm on leave right now. I was asking after lodgings earlier and this tavern was recommended to me. I hope this place is still taking on lodgers, even if they *are* soldiers?"
Well, well, he thought silently. It looked as if he'd walked right into something interesting - or something that *could* have been interesting, if the swords hadn't been sheathed upon his arrival, and the hate-filled expressions hastily soothed away for appearance's sake. Still, never mind - the tavern's host might not be available for questioning, but a member of the Parisian Guard might be even better. And if it hadn't been for the little gathering assembled at the front - in particular the odd-looking, middle-aged Gypsy woman seated on a nearby chair - he could have started asking questions then and there.
He turned round to look at her, for he'd felt her eyes crawling on him like a spider. Her blazing red hair had fooled him at first glance, but he'd been around enough Gypsies to tell them apart from Europeans now. There was a dark taint on her pale skin that was unmistakable, and even without that he could see a single, telltale gold sleeper in her right ear. Strange eyes she had: against the dark pallor of her skin their colours were accentuated. One blue, one green. And both were coolly scrutinizing him for later reference.
He felt himself harden against her gaze, and mentally goaded himself for letting his instinctive hatred show. *Guard yourself*, he told himself, *keep calm. Don't let them guess why you're here, don't let them suspect. If she's been killed or arrested they'll gossip about it sooner or later, and if not, you'd better ask the blond about it. He looks like a man who'd listen, maybe even help...*
Turning back to Phoebus, he continued, "Lieutenant, I *may* be on official leave at this present moment in time, but I'm not on holiday to disturbances of the peace. If this man here - " his glance flitted briefly to Gael, who sat glowering like a dampened fire - "has caused any trouble at all, you may count on my assistance. And my sword, if need be."
Herlikin had sat up straight upon the newcomers' arrival, anticipating greater excitement should the fellow chose to involve himself. It would be dissapointing indeed if he merely walked to the bar and demanded a drink. But he fulfilled her expectations by not casting even a sidewards glance towards it, focusing his attention immediately toward the agitated men and their female companion. She'd wiggled her toes in glee.
She was unsure whether things had taken a turn for better or worse when the tall frenchman had revealed he was a soldier. She had quickly decided on worse. One - who was preoccupied with a battle of machismo with a common ruffian - was quite enough. But another - who despite what he said had not happened upon the Bells & Motley be mere coincidence of recommendation, oh no - was going beyond Herli's boundary of safety. His quick glare around the room had been too keen, too much like the hawk surveying the terrain it will find its prey in. Not a detail had escaped that glance, her fine self included, and feeling a trifle uneasy she sat up a little straighter and listened intently. It might be prudent of her to leave. Or it might appear suspicious and encourage following. At any rate she would have to report the prescence of the second soldier back. The first might possibly be disregarded - an investigation of the tavern had been expected and no cleanup of the crime scene had been attempted. Apart from anything else, he seemed more concerned about defending the honour of the rugged young girl then going about his business. But the second one - the tall, lean one with the gaunt face and hooded eyes - there was some personal motivation for his being here. She'd seen it often enough in visitors to the Court, sworn nomads who'd taken up residency in the city until a personal vendatta or goal was fulfilled. They never talked about it, that was the key, and so it became apparent on their faces. All sorts of inner-daemon wrestling which led to taunt shoulders and stiff strides. She ran her eyes up and down him sharply as he and the pretty blond gadge boy greeted and addressed each other, the close of their speech leaving tension hanging palpably on the air once again as the newcomer cast an icy eye over the ruffian. He was road-travelled, that much was clear, his boots and cloak dusty. Tall, taller than the other soldier, he was slender in a way which spoke of corded muscle and sinewy strength. She was reminded of Clopin in that respect, but the soldier did not have the acrobat's grace, rather the warrior's fluidity of movement. The sharp profile - the biting eyes, slender nose and firmly pressed mouth - held her gaze for a long, long moment. His cheeks were hollowed, but his hair was still a good color. She estimated him to be around her age - perhaps a little older. His armour added to the impression she had of the man being a hollow shell: it was slightly too large for him now and hung from him like a mocking reminder of happier days. There was a determinaton in the quiet fold of his hands that assured her this would be no easy customer. And as such, neither she, nor the others would want him around.
"I am sorry." she spoke up loudly in French, once again breaking the centered attention and turning all eyes her way. She savoured that with a sense of apprehension before continuing. "But this Tavern does not let rooms. Whoever recommended you must've had some other establishment in mind"
"You believe so, madame?" the stranger replied with the same grim smile. Moving safely away from the vicinity of the ruffian, he stood a table's length away from where the Gypsy woman sat. "They're false friends at the city gate then, they told me that the rooms at the 'Bells and Motley' were value for money. So - seeing as this place lets no rooms- where would you recommend I lay my head tonight, hmmm?"
"Haven't a clue, M'siue." Herli declared with a trifle impudence. "But unless you fancy a wooden bench as a room that's value for money, you'll find no lodgings here."
"Well, I've slept on worse, madame - and it would seem you have too, by the look of you. But then the sleeping habits of Gypsy women are no business of mine, and from the look of the one's I've seen in Paris they'd have to pay *me* to spend the night in their arms..."
Herlikin's teeth gritted together ferociously and her eyes flashed. But prudently remembering she was alone in a tavern with two soldiers she forced herself to breath calmly and answer the man, meeting his hateful glare head on with a cool smile. "M'sieu" she said with obviously feigned politeness. "Your journey has clearly been long and arduous, for you appear to be mistaking gypsy women with common street whores." Shaking her skirts out she leapt down neatly from the table and raised an eyebrow at the sullen frenchman.
"It's a mistake many visitors to this city make, then," he replied, his face creasing into a smirk. "My humblest apologies, madame." "You think so?" Herlikin put a hand on her hip and strolled around beind him so that he would have to turn to see her. "Perhaps, then. But if so, only by those who were kept at their mother's teat too long beyond their time."
"And only a mother whose teats have sagged beyond repair would be able to give an opinion on that," he rejoined, twisting his head snakily to look directly at her. "Too much mutton dressed as lamb in this city, from what I can see."
She took a step back, momentarily floored, her hand fluttering to her bosom and her eyes wide in shock. But the triumphant smirk on the solider's face shook her into the realisation she needed to make clear who she was, and scowling venomously, she bounded forward, wrenching an empty tankard from a nearby table and whipping it with a sharp clank over his cheekbone.
"I'm afraid M'sieu, that I must ask you to leave immediately." she hissed, forgetting in her indignation she was not the publican of the tavern, as the soldier recoiled from the impact of the metal. "And to not return until you have a permit"
The world exploded. The impact of the weapon against the side of his face had sent him staggering back two paces, where his leg had connected with the table behind him and left him sprawled, supine, one eye sewn tight shut and the other momentarily unfocussed. What the hell had she used on him? She'd been too fast for him even to catch a glimpse of it. His gloved hand reached blindly, gingerly to his cheekbone and came away bloodied. As his vision returned he caught a glimpse of the woman holding up a cheap tin tankard in triumph. Her lips were moving, and her voice seemed to come from very far away. "... suggest you leave... don't return without a *permit*."
He gaped stupidly - had she really said that? Had she really had the gall to - and then elbowed himself off the table. "Permit, you little...?" he said thickly, his face painful and his speech sounding slurred to his ears. "You sick, crazy whore, you dare say that to me??"
A small voice screamed at him to keep his calm, to keep playing the imperturbable officer, to demand that the other soldier arrest her. But all good sense was drowned out by the fiery pain of his own pulverised cheekbone and his need for immediate revenge. He felt for the hilt of his sword; after a missed fumble, he drew it from its scabbard and seized the hilt with both hands, balancing it upright before him as he advanced on her. Now he'd see the colour of her rotten blood.