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'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' Role Playing Game.

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Paris, 1480.

"Ball"
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Cam & Guillame

Paris loomed and heaved around them, and he wrinkled his nose in distaste. He hunched a waspish frame against the bulk of queerly angular pack. A pair of corded arms tensed and clenched. 

"I hate this city," he hissed. "It always reeks of bad luck."

"More like it reeks of Minister Frollo," was the smart reply from the lanky boy who walked, unencumbered, beside him.

The man, a weathered thirty years old, looked darkly towards the boy. "It will reek of your entrails if you don't start shouldering your weight." 

"But me shoulder's hurt," the boy whined, demonstratively rubbing his right shoulder. 

In a whirl of motion the man threw his pack to the ground and seized the boy's arm. With a vicious yank he twisted it backwards and rammed it behind the boy's neck. He shrieked and ducked onto his knees, his shins cracking against cobblestones. The few people passing by carefully averted their eyes.

"It seems to work well enough at the moment," the man said curtly.

"Not if you damn well break it off!" the boy snapped, and cursed as he squatted to nurse the offended limb.

"You must learn to live with pain," the man said with a sarcastic cut, sweeping down to retrieve his pack. 

"Learn to live wiv' you, you mean, you b____," the boy spat.

"If you don't like it, go home to your mummy," the man said coolly.

"She's just as bad as you and you bloody know it!" The boy stood up stiffly, still gripping his shoulder.

"My heart bleeds," the man muttered, adjusting the pack. "If you're done whining, take a look around and help me figure out where we are." The boy sulked. "Not 'til you 'pologize."

The man shot him such a disgusted and fierce look that the boy dropped his shoulder and looked nervously down at his feet. "Fine," he whispered. He plastered back a shock of black hair and then looked up again, this time at the clouded sky, then at the buildings, then at the people walking swiftly by them. "We're about a three miles north-north-east of where the caravan was this morning, I'd say. The Court entrance we got told about should be a quarter of a mile that way, though with the river we'll probably have to bear west a little before we get there." He pointed forward, through a thin alley. 

"Good boy," the man said, almost smiling. "God had a sense of humor when he made you, didn't he?" he chuckled, striding forward. "Putting a king's map in that beggar's head of yours."

"Don't talk nuffink about gods, now," the boy grumbled, catching up with him. 

They walked, quietly and quickly, for a number of minutes. The boy would nudge right or left as necessary. Heads down, shoulders hunc

hed, jaws set. "I'm plenty fast at other things, y'know," the boy said, after they turned a corner, navigating a puddle of sewage.

"Such as?" The man raised an amused eyebrow.
"Knivin'."
"Really. You think so."
"Sure as black, I am! You said so y'self not three months ago!"
"I was lying," the man said with a smirk.
"You know you did! An' I've gotten better since, too!"
"You're still a long ways from impressing me." 
"But I got reason to be good at it, Cam. I been practicin', every night."
"Really. What for?" he asked, sounding disinterested. 
"For her, a' course!"
The man frowned. "You mean there's a girl you want to show off for? High chance."
The boy snorted and smacked the man's shoulder chidingly. "No, idiot, for *HER*!" 

The man froze, and looked back at the boy, his eyebrows high on his face. "Ho," he said softly. "Ho," he said again, the edges of his mouth tightening. He raised a break-knuckled hand to his lips. And then he burst into high, wild laughter. 

"Shut up, Cam, shut up!" the boy barked, his face flooding red. "We'll find her, I know we will, she's got to be in Paris, we know it! Somebody'll see her, and we'll hear about it, Cam, and then when we find her and I'll tear her guts out, I will! And everybody'll let us, Cam, because it'd be RIGHT! Ye've got t'let me, Cam, I have to do it, I'll cut off her fingers until she screams bloody mercy and then I'll cut out her tongue and make her eat it, Cam!! STOP LAUGHIN'!" He screamed, hysterical.

Cam sucked in a breath, cheeks sore with laughter. Then he threw out his arm and grabbed the hair on the nape of the boy's neck, yanking his head back. With an infuriated gurgle the boy bent under the grasp, and went silent. 

"You're an idiot, Guillaume," he said. "Plain and straight. You think you'll just walk up to that girl and she'll melt like butter? 'Oh please, young sir, torture me, please! I've been such a bad girl!'" With a low snort he pushed the boy away. "She'd snap your neck. If we even found her, that is."

The boy fumed, not looking up at Cam. "I'm his ruddy brother, Cam, what d'ye want me t'do? I want t' kill the b_____. I want t'kill her so she hurts all the way t'Hell."

"Well then," the man said, shifting his odd pack. "Let's not waste time arguing." "You'll let me, then?" the boy whispered. His brown eyes watered, and he rubbed them harshly. "Will ye?" "No," the man snapped. "But if you don't shut up and help, instead of snivelling, she'll die of old age. Come on. The place is just ahead, isn't it?" 

The boy nodded and pointed at a tell-tale shingle hanging from an uneven bar. "I bet that's it," he rasped. "Wan' me to go back now and tell th' rest?" 

The man shook his head. "We'll make sure first. Then tell them to wait until I ask for them." He swung the pack from his back and thrust it into the boy's arms. The boy hissed as a hidden sharp point dug into his stomach. "Watch it there," he said.
"They're meant to be sharp," the man retorted.
"Yah, well they aint meant to poke me through the sack."
"That's because they aren't meant to be handled by idiots."
"Why'd you bring it, anyway? So ruddy heavy," the boy muttered, struggling with the pack's odd corners. Cam didn't answer, but instead pulled a thin grey cloak around his shoulders and jogged towards the tavern. The boy limped behind him, puffing, and was about to join Cam by the door when the older man suddenly backed up, cracking into him. The boy cursed. "What's wrong?" he snapped.
"Soldiers," the man replied. "Two of them. And a pack of gadje. Come along, we'll wait somewhere else until they leave."
"But---" the boy began.
"Come along," Cam said, more fiercely. "Unless you want to tangle with Paris' premiere golden-haired hero."
"Someone ye know?" The boy sighed, as they trudged away.
"All too well," came the reply. The man sped his pace over the uneven cobblestones.

 Rain started to hiss down, and the boy hurried to keep up, still juggling the pack. 

Phoebus, Eilis, Gael & Herlikin

The small, red-headed gypsy woman moved in a whirl of colour too blurred for Phoebus to even identify her intent. An ugly clank of metal on unpadded bone, a grunt, a curse, and that intent came clear too late. 

Hours of drilled, practiced, honed, perfected reflexes commanded his sword to his hand; Phoebus didn't even feel his arm move, did not notice the stretching of muscles and the clenching of fingers around leather-bound hilt. Those were mere mechanics, the tiny, insignificant movements between the hiss of the steel, and the flash of his sword in the dim tavern light. He was standing between the whippy lieutenant and the gypsy woman, the long, liquid line of steel running from his hand to form a barrier. It pointed more towards the woman than the man.

"Mademoiselle," he said in his sternest voice, "You're coming with me, for attacking a soldier."

Gael did not like being ignored for any length of time. A ship's captain soon learns to resent indifference on the part of anyone but himself. Someday the lives of everyone on board his ship may hang on his men's ability to snap to when called. But in Gael's case, that aggressive authority was fundamental, planted there by his father during years long past. Staring at Phoebus' profile, the dark eyes and jutting nose stern, dutiful under that disgustingly boyish shock of blond hair, his gorge rose.

"Ever the dutiful soldier, aren't you?" he sneered, hands locked on the sword belt slung about his slim hips. "Why insult the man? Let him deal with the little slut on his own, why don't you? Or will the Captain be - ahem - unhappy with you?"

"Be quiet." Even Gael Dubh Caen could not help going silent at the sudden snap of command in Phoebus' voice. The easygoing, "battle- field or barracks" lieutenant had more fire than expected, it seemed. "You're going to need a healer for that," he added, eyeing the strange soldier's bruised and bleeding cheek.

A smirk tugged insistently at the corner of Eilis' mouth. With her brother's back turned, she allowed it free rein. To see Gael looking dumbfounded was a sight not frequently relished, and she saw no reason not to enjoy itm albeit briefly. But the moment passed; Gael's eyebrows lowered evilly, and his icy pale eyes went back to darting restlessly around the room, and Eilis forced her smirk away.

"Ball"

Herlikin's heart was thudding fast as she eyed the sharp pointed end of the soldier's sword. In the split seconds following her actions it had dawned on her just how foolish she had been, how perfectly rash to seek vengeance for wounded pride in front of two soliders! Had the blonde one not of been there - maybe, just maybe, she could've ducked the dark one's fury-blinded assault and reached the doorway to lose herself in the labyrinthine twist of streets which populated this area of Paris. Even so, attacking a larger, armed man was to date one of the sillier things she'd done. The blonde one saved her what could've been a messy, though dramatic, death - but was instead delivering her to a fate which could be worse.

Arrested! A gypsy woman, arrested for attacking a soldier. This was diastrous.

And there was no way out.

Her eyes darted nervously around the Tavern room. Before her, blocking the exit to the door, was the soldier and his sword. Beyond him was the one she had wounded. Behind her was the bar and the backrooms - and she certainly could not go that way, unless she wanted to reveal the Court of Miracles to them.

She was most assuredly trapped.

Her breath began to pant in little gasps as her heart rate increased and she became aware of a dizzying panic sweeping her. What was she going to do? What could she do? Could she be hung for this?

Fear froze the blood in her veins as the tall, dark frenchman glared at her with abject hatred blazing in the depths of his eyes. He would testfiy against her in the harshest of terms, claim she attempted murder, no doubt. There were witnesses - three of them!

If she wasn't sentenced to death, Clopin would assuredly kill her...... 

"Ball"

Now this was an interesting morning, said the little voice in Phoebus' head, the same one that quirked the corner of his mouth up in an ironic half-smile. Strange women appearing from every crack and corner, all of them causing trouble wherever they set their pretty white feet.

The tip of his sword shone a piercing warning as it flicked closer to the gypsy woman, acknowledging in no comforting terms her verging panic - never once did he miss the anxious flickering of her slanted light eyes. Her entire body was taut like a doe about to take flight, which was exactly what she might do, the moment she felt the slightest bit sure that she could get away with it. 

"I wouldn't try to run if I were you," he said mildly. "You know you wouldn't get far."

And so he kept his eyes steadily upon her as he waved a gauntlet to the men standing outside the tavern door, peering anxiously in through the windows at the scene. One of them saw the gesture, and hurriedly answered it - Phoebus slitted his eyes against the sudden, solid beam of sunlight that followed the soldier in through the door, as though the gypsy had allies that were not human.

"Take this woman and hold her," he told the man sternly. "And woe betide you if you let her escape. Unless," he added courteously to the other lieutenant, having suddenly remembered his manners, "you'd have her taken back and dealt with by your own Captain."

Gael kept shifting around restlessly on his feet, like a hound waiting for the hunters to finish with the carcass, leaving the rest for the pack. Once he thought he saw the strange gypsy woman who was suddenly the centre of attention tighten, as though she were about to leap into flight, and his hands knotted tight on his sword-belt, but it was merely a trick of the light.

Eilis was in a bit of a moral dilemma: already, she was sure she didn't like this sly, sarcastic woman, and, on principle alone, she had no respect for someone thoughtless enough to overstep herself so badly - in front of soldiers, no less. But the fact remained that, the way she'd been raised, even a woman had the right to defend her honour with weapons, though these barbarians obviously didn't know that. The gypsy hadn't killed the strange soldier - in fact, in Eilis' opinion, the man had gotten just what he deserved, insulting the woman's people as well as her personal virtue. He'd dishonoured himself with his remarks, actually, but if he felt so wounded, he should let the woman call for a champion, and sort the problem out the right way - with cold, clean steel and the judgement that only the gods could decide - the combat. 

But the big blond soldier showed no sign of this enlightened attitude, and Gael certainly wasn't about to come to the defence of a strange woman. So Eilis sighed, and took a hesitant step forward.

"Sir," she said in her very best French. "Is this woman ..." she searched for a word, "justified not in defending her honour against that man? In Eriu, even a woman may fight with weapons when her honour is at stake."

Gael took an angry step forward, one hand rising in a slap, most likely before he even knew it, and Eilis subsided hurriedly.

The soldier looked, to say the least, shocked to be read such a lecture - even if it was short - by this strange little foreign woman, sister to his enemy, no less. Well, Gael was almost everyone's enemy, so surely that did not count too severely against her.

"Maybe." That wry little smile quirked up the corner of his mouth again. Ah, ye gods, he was actually amused! Eilis straightened her back, lifted her chin, and let her eyes flash anger. She'd not let this pampered, prancing barbarian with his neatly-clipped beard and shining armour mock her ways, or those of her people. If he'd thought the gypsy was bad ... "But this is Paris, Mademoiselle, not - Eriu, did you call it? There are laws here, after all."

The blood rose is Eilis' cheeks, born partly of anger, mostly of shame. Oh, who did she attempt to trick? She wasn't about to leap into action like the warrior-queen Medhbh or Emer, wife to Cu Chulainn, not against three men with swords - three, because she had little doubt that Gael wouldn't hesitate to draw steel against her. She wasn't quite that foolish, after all. And so, she let her chin lift just a little higher, to show her disdain for the man, but kept her mouth shut.

"Ball"

Herlikin relaxed and narrowed her eyes upon the pretty gaje boy when he commanded her to stay where she was, then hissed in despair when he called in a soldier from the streets, who glared at her in self- righteous indignation, though he did not know her crime, grasping her so tight by the arms that her flesh burned in complaint. Herlikin gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to overcome the sense of unreality which had taken hold. This could be a bad dream. It was possible, surely. A foamy sensation ran through her legs, weakening her knees so they sagged and added to the dreamlike sense of floating, brought on by her sudden light-headedness. This could not truly be happening to her - in the power of angry gaje men, intent on keeping her captive. Perhaps she had fallen asleep by the fireside with Clopin.

 Clopin - ah. The thought of her husband snapped her upright again and she shook the stars from her eyes to focus in sharply on rough patch of scraped wood from the edge of the table positioned just behind the blonde soldier. It looked as though it had been chewed - perhaps by the mongrel pet of a patron. What was going to happen to her? Would Clopin know? Her insides melted in a scream of dismay when the soldier made the invitation to her attacker to take charge of her. The tall, gaunt man turned his grey eyes on Herli with a hate-filled glare of such intensity, she positively trembled beneath it's force - and for anyone familiar with Herlikin Trouillefou, this was an astonishing thing indeed. Before he could say a word, however, the strange young woman seated behind the far table spoke up.

 "Sir, is this woman ..." French was clearly not her native langauge, nor one she was accustomed to speaking. "justified not in defending her honour against that man? In Eriu, even a woman may fight with weapons when her honour is at stake."

 Curiosity aroused, Herlikin fixed a sharp gaze onto the woman. Eriu? No place Herli had heard of before. Still, it's laws sounded.....tempting. Herlikin had never weilded a sword before in her life, apart from one or two clumsy occasions, but she would not be averse to a land which allowed her the right to defend herself. At least it would not mean being surrounded by men with swords levelled at her throat for the mere act of exacting a justifiable revenge.

 She almost laughed outloud at such a thought. She was a gypsy. Nothing she did was justifiable in her favor - not to these bastards. 

As it was, the corner of her mouth turned up to release a little snicker, gaining her a startled glance from her attacker, who then turned with a narrow eye to the soldier.

 "Unfortunately," he said at length, after having hesitated in thought for several heavy seconds "Paris is out of my Captain's juridisction. But," with a curious glance of mirthful venom in Herli's direction "I would be glad to drop all matters entirely if you'll allow me to bestow justice by dealing the lady a blow in kind....." 

"Ball"

Phoebus sheathed his sword, as a gesture of peace, sure that the situation was relatively under control. Thoughtfully, he rubbed his chin with his gauntlet as he considered the soldier's request. He let his eyes dart to the gypsy-woman, taking in the defiant look on her face, and felt a strange surge of respect for her, this outcast from Parisian society, who'd done nothing more than defend her honour. The odd little foreign woman had a point there, at least. There weren't many Parisian women who'd have done differently - though perhaps less impulsively, to be sure.

And there was something about the other soldier's request - some cold glitter in his colourless eyes as he looked at the gypsy with blood running from his swollen cheekbone, that made Phoebus uncomfortable. What would he do to the woman, he wondered, if he were given his wish? He didn't look as though he meant to leave her alive.

So he laid a gauntleted hand at his hip, never touching his sword hilt, but cautious all the same. Hah! That he could be so paranoid, all on account of a gypsy-woman!

"I'm sorry, Lieutenant, but as the woman is a citizen of Paris, she must answer to Paris' justice." He let a little smirk out to play on his face. "Don't worry, she'll get a day in the stocks at the very least. But I can't have any more blood spilled here - though God knows it probably flies about like the bats at night."

"Coward," Gael muttered half-heartedly under his breath, still unhappy with being ignored. Eilis just stood and watched everything with wide, serious eyes, looking like the perfect innocent. She still thought that the sentence was unfair, but couldn't help feeling somewhat kinder towards the French soldier for refusing the other's request. After all, from her meagre experience of men and their habits - those of her brother Gael and his men - she would have expected him to be more than happy to surrender the woman to the strange Lieutenant's bloody idea of "justice". So perhaps he wasn't such a barbarian after all. And he seemed to infuriate Gael beautifully, just by walking into the room, and that was always a good thing. He didn't look to be such a bad fellow.

And so, unbeknownst to any of the men around her - though perhaps not to the firey-haired little gypsy-woman, whose odd eyes glanced around the room so sharply - Eilis began laying her own plans, in the quiet of her own mind.

Phoebus waved to the man who stood with his hands clenched around Herli's arms as though he were a portable set of manacles. "Take her back to the Palais du Justice, and don't let her get away. You never know what gypsies might do. Tell Captain de Guerrion that I said she was to have a day in the stocks."

The man saluted as best he could without releasing the woman, and peremptorily dragged her out the door. Phoebus sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, which was beginning to feel stiff. So much for the investigation.

Gael was fed up. Gael was very fed up. He didn't want to stand here being ignored while his old rival held court over everyone else in the blasted tavern. "Come on," he growled to his sister, taking hold of her arm in a sinewy, painful grip. "I want to sit and drink in a tavern that doesn't reek so."

Eilis sighed not too audibly and let him haul her out into the blinding sunlight and the stinking gutters of the street. "It's the roads here that reek so," she said in her language, wrinkling her nose. Over her shoulder, she caught sight of the blond Lieutenant giving her a mocking bow as she passed, and gave him one last parting Glare to remember her by.

"Shut up," Gael snapped in return, and steered her off down the chokingly narrow alley. 
 

Pierre Gringoire

A shabbily-dressed man sat by the fire in the crowded tavern. He stared at the ceiling, obviously contemplating the meaning of life... or perhaps only wondering if the spider hanging from a rafter will drop into the half-filled glass of wine he held in his rough hands--Rough indeed from performing in the frozen streets of Paris, but they are the hands of a poet nonetheless. He sighed softly and turned his attention to the flickering flames before him. In his soft, lyrical voice he murmered: "Burn, burn until the dawning of a new day, when we, the truants, the orphans of the King and universe, impregnate the grimy streets once more with our songs and dances..." With that, he seemed to snap out of his deep thoughts. He sipped the wine, made a face, and sets the glass on the floor. "Bah! Bad wine and bad weather," he said with the dramatic air of a martyr. "What more could go wrong?" 
 
 

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