'The Hunchback of Notre
Dame' Role Playing Game.
Imerald & Jehan
Imerald looked at Jehan for
a moment, thinking about getting away. Looking into his dark eyes and sighing,
the blonde woman kicked the soldier in the groin, leaving him to fend for
himself. She was hungry and even though he was good looking, he wasn't
going to get in the way of her breakfast.
Jehan lay there, gasping
for air and holding himself, while curled up in the fetal position.
Jehan retaliated from the
blow and got up. He looked around, glad that no one was around to see him
get kneed in the crotch. He looked at the ground, searching for footprints
of the girl. He silently stalked her footprints, through the streets, until
he reached the cobblestone road of the city. He spotted a brown blur out
of the corner of his eye. He turned to watch it and saw the girl with her
dog. 'She's pretty', he thought, 'but no matter..she broke the law.'
Imerald stood with her mutt,
patting in on the head, feeling somewhat sorry for the soldier. She started
down a dark alleyway, Jade going his own way.
Jehan grinned, he knew this
was his chance to get her. The dog was gone and it looked like she was
going towards a dead end. He trotted to the alleyway and silently followed
her until he had her cornered. He grabbed her, digging his hands into her
wrists, causing her to scream. Manuevering, one of his hands to grab both
her hands, and another to stifle the wail. "You're going to the palace
Jehan dragged her off towards
Herlikin, St-Josse, Captain Geuirron,
the Old Judge & Pierre
Herlikin knew she was no
longer a young woman, but never was that fact more soundly driven home
than by the frenzied beat of her heart as the scowling soldier moved forward
to accompany her and the guard back to the Palace of Justice. Certain her
rapid pulse would eventually erupt into a heartattack, she wrenched violently
against the man who held her wrists in a pincers' grip. Slightly taken
off guard, the man started back and she almost managed to wrangle one arm
free, but in a second he had clamped down hard once more. With her arms
twisted awkwardly behind her back, escape was an unlikely option.
Strands of hair drifted down
around her eyes, firmly attaching themselves to her dampened brow, betraying
her fright, her nervousness of the impending event. The Palace of Justice!
May Kali protect her and ensure a day in the stocks, as the blond man promised,
was the worst she faced! Otherwise - best not to think about it. If she
started thinking on what other horrors may lie in store for her, she'd
do something foolish again. Something that may warrant a harsher punishment.
Besides, she could not bear for them to see her in distress, to think they
had won a victory of her mind as well as her body. Best now to go along
quietely, to keep herself alert and aware. It wouldn't do to have them
feel it necessary to 'subdue' her. Then she wouldn't be aware of what was
happening to her - and that was a thought more frightening than any other.
She tried in vain to conceal
the scowl which twisted her features as the tall, gaunt soldier stepped
forward to take hold of one arm in order to escort her to the Palace. She
couldn't resist feeling a twinge of gratefulness to the blond soldier for
not leaving her alone with him - his eyes glittered hatefully at her, and
the bruise on his cheekbone was a blistered purple, ripe and painful looking.
The thoughts of the strange
lieutenant were dark, stormy and quite frankly unprintable as he trudged
away from the Bells and Motley, the gypsy woman struggling within the confines
of his grasp. Hot anger and the delayed effects of shock battled within
him, making his hands shake like those of a drunkard. In a futile attempt
to disguise it, he clutched his prisoner closer to him and turned his blind
side to the passers-by who had turned to stare, then to snicker at the
bizarre sight that met their eyes. It wasn’t often they saw a soldier getting
the worst of it. He could almost feel the little slut swell with pride
at their looks of admiration.
“You!” he shouted, glaring
with his one good eye at a dumpy-looking woman with a basket beneath her
arm. “Which way to the Palace of Justice?” From her face he could see she
was too scared to lie. “Straight on’s the bridge onto the Ile de Cite,
sir, and then from the bridge you’ll see the Palace. You can’t miss it,
it’s a bunch of spikes.”
“Bunch of spikes,” St-Josse
echoed contemptuously as he headed in the direction she indicated. As he
walked on through the narrow streets, crushed mud gave way to straw and
finally to solid paving just as he reached the edge of the Seine and saw
the Ile de Cite for the first time. He had to admit that the old woman’s
rather eccentric description had hit its target. The façade of the
Palace of Justice looked rather like a rack of halberds left propped upright.
He felt a sharp tug at his
side: she almost escaped, but he tightened his grip on her arm even further.
”There’s just one thing I want you to know, you skinny old crow,” he muttered
in her ear, “if I weren’t in uniform right now you would be bleeding to
death in one of those alleys back there. Provoke me once more and I swear
to God I’ll forget I’m in uniform. Understand?”
Without waiting for any
kind of response, he dragged her briskly in the direction of the bridge.
If St-Josse had expected
compassion and understanding at the Palace, he was in for a further disappointment.
The guards received the little gypsy woman into custody with a look that
told him plainly that, as far as they were concerned, he was the troublemaker.
“I suppose you’d better go in and make your report,” sniffed a sergeant
finally. “Captain Guerrion is just along there”. “Just along there” turned
out to be a room St-Josse reached fifteen minutes later, after the tangle
of wrong turns and blind alleys he’d come to expect by now as part of this
day of utter hell. Captain Guerrion was busy cleaning out an arquebus as
he entered, and gave him a look of utter bewilderment as he entered. St-Josse
swallowed and clenched his fists behind his back. *Stand up straight. Look
ahead. Appear the perfect soldier, even if you have just been belted in
the eye by a half-mad gypsy trollop and all the bells in France are pealing
in your skull.*
He explained as briefly
as he could the circumstances of his visit - his regiment was based in
Lyons, and he was currently on unpaid leave of three months to pursue a
“family matter” in the capital. Fortunately the Captain was a sympathetic
sort, and listened with amusement as St-Josse narrated his arrival in the
city and the exact events at the events at the inn. “Hmmm… So she hit you
after that crack about her wrinkled dugs, then?”
“Yes, sir. Evidently, the
“Not as much as that tankard
must have done! Hmmm, it’s pure luck it’ll only be a black eye and nothing
worse. A bad business, I must say. When a gypsy feels free to attack a
soldier with violence this whole city is in danger.” Nicolas St-Josse grimaced
openly. “Lieutenant Phoebus did not appear to think so, sir. What would
you conclude from his actions?” Captain Guerrion shook his head. “I really
cannot understand it at all! For him to upbraid you – you, an equal! -
in public is bad enough, but for him to leave you to escort the trollop
here on your own is well-nigh inexcusable. Whatever his private thoughts
as to the rights and wrongs of the case, he should have stood beside you.
To show dissension in the ranks gives the wrong signal to the populace.”
“That’s what I would have
said, sir. And what say you to a sentence of a day in the stocks as punishment?”
“I would have called it
far too lenient!” Captain Guerrion had gone from shaking his head to nodding
in agreement. “In Paris that’s the standard sentence for gypsies caught
performing in the streets! O well, I suppose he wanted to spare her twenty
strokes of the lash. And since he did give that sentence before witnesses,
I can’t very well amend it now. It’ll have to stand.” “Well, sir, in Lyons
when we say a DAY in the stocks, we mean a day. From noon of one day to
noon of the next. Please consider that when you finally carry out the sentence?”
“Aye, Lieutenant, I will.
But one matter concerns me,” the Captain said delicately, “and that is
your view of Lieutenant Phoebus. He acted badly in this circumstance, it
is true, but I would advise you seriously not to make an enemy of him.
Should you end up staying in Paris, he’ll be far more useful on your side
“Useful?” St-Josse repeated
incredulously. “Sir, in my honest opinion that blond buffoon is about as
much use as a Bible in a whorehouse. Furthermore, it seems obvious to me
that he regards me with the utmost contempt. I shall repay those sentiments
of his - with interest.”
Captain Guerrion sighed.
“O well, I hope it won’t come to that. One further thing – where will you
be staying? If you wish to stay with other officers in the Conciergerie,
it can be arranged.”
St-Josse shrugged. “If it’s
all the same to you, sir, I’d prefer my own room in a tavern. This business
I’m pursuing is a private matter, I can do without Captain Phoebus and
his ilk sticking their noses into my affairs.”
“Very well, but take rooms
at the tavern called “The Sun in Splendour”. It’s but five minutes from
the Palace of Justice, and I may wish to call upon you again.”
“Sir!” St-Josse gave a sharp
nod of his head and turned to go. “Oh! One last thing, Lieutenant...”
“Who was your superior officer
The question seemed to throw
St-Josse for a moment. “I’m not sure whose name I should give you, sir,”
he replied slowly. “Captain Montrez was my superior but he died after rot
set into a leg wound, and I can think of six or more who were set to fight
over the vacancy by the time I left. I regret I cannot give you a name,
“No matter, Lieutenant.
You may go now - “The Sun in Splendour” is not far from the Cathedral,
it’s cleaner than most places and you may even find a servant-girl to clean
up that eye of yours.”
As St-Josse shut the door
behind him Guerrion got up from behind his desk and moved through a series
of rooms until he reached a soldiers’ common-room. Three men sat idle there,
two of them playing cards and one staring vacantly out of the window. He
pointed at the thinner of the card-players. “You! I need a message delivered.”
The man got up, shoulders
hunched in nervousness. “Sir.” “To Lyons. Report to the purser and take
horse and money for the journey. You are to report to the Captain of the
Lyons garrison and to ask for any information he may have on a certain
Lieutenant Nicolas St-Josse. Tell him that the man has just reported to
me here, and that I’d like to know why he was granted three months unpaid
“Sir,” the thin man saluted
and left. Guerrion sighed once again.
“O well,” he said softly
to himself, "if you *are* a deserter, Monsieur St-Josse, you’ll be up for
far worse than twenty-four hours in the stocks...”
This had to be a nightmare.
Herlikin felt a growning
numbness snake it's way through her limbs as she was deposited safely into
the hands of the Palace of Justice's idle guards. The firm chill of fear
which had kept her alert and wary of the sullen soldier as they wound their
way through the streets of Paris had worn off and was replaced by a dull
acceptance of her fate. The guards had looked her up and down, guffawing
at the small, agitated gypsy woman, then hauled her down the Palace halls.
Thankful as she was to be away from the brute she'd whalloped, Herli glanced
with fearful apprehension at the monstrous building's high, carved walls
and ceilings, the entire structure seemingly permeated with a dark gloomy
shade of gray. What small windows there were set in the walls were quickly
replaced with ugly, morbid tapestries, and realising they were heading
deeper into the building, she gave a sudden jerk at her captives' grip,
panic trying to set her free. They hauled her back quickly, chuckling over
the ineffectual struggle, continuing with a certain degree of blasé
to their destination.
A day in the stocks. It could
be so much worse. Don't make it worse. She pleaded with herself to not
scream and struggle. If they thought she was a danger, or a lunatic it
could get so much worse. What if she did manage to wrench free, how would
she find her way out? Straining to throw a glance over her shoulder, she
found herself met only with a long stretch of gray stone, ending somewhere
far behind them in a pool of shadows. There was no escape.
With that realisation came
the acceptance, although deep within she rebelled against such complacence,
longed to fight. It was only repeated internal reminders of her certain
defeat and consequent harsher punishment which kept her under control.
It was clear the two guards did not take her, or her charge, entirely too
seriously. Best to trust they would continue to make light of it.
They came to a large, dark
panelled room, where an anemic looking judge sat at a small table, his
voluminous robes spreading out on either side of him, scratching feebly
away with a squill pen at yellow sheets of parchment.
One of the guards coughed
politely, and the old judge turned watery eyes on them with a start. "Ehhh?"
"Your Honour," the first
guard had began when the door opened again behind them and Captain Guerrion
entered the room.
"Your Honour" he bowed to
the judge, who nodded confusedly in return. "Ah, you're here, good." The
Captain declared on catching sight of his guards and Herlikin between them,
looking like an angry, bewildered rag doll. "And with the little firestarter
too. Hmmm....it's usually the young ones who make the most trouble." he
chuckled as his words awoke Herli once more, and she straightened up a
little to glare at him.
"Fire started? Where has
a fire been started?" the old Judge was frowning at the group, agitated
at having been interupted. "Ah, no, your Honour, we have a gypsy whose
been making trouble on the streets." the Captain replied.
"Trouble on the streets?
Why, you young wench!" The geriatric indignation prompted the same response
from all of them: they were not sure whether to laugh or to feel nervous.
"What have you done? Dancing, showing your ankles? Soliciting?" An outraged
gasp broke from Herlikin's lips.
"No, Your Honour, " the
Captain broke in "she's been charged with assault. Captain Phoe - "
"Assault, eh? Assault!?"
"My honour was challenged!"
She couldn't help herself and cursed herself immediately following. Dammnit.
Let this finish. Finish now. "Your Honour, eh?" the old judge wavered,
much to their surprise. "Hmmm. A woman's honour is a fragile thing and
she must withstand all challenges to it."
Four jaws dropped.
"Still, assault is assault!
Although you have earned a more lenient sentence because you had honour
to defend, you must still be punished. Half a day in the stocks, followed
by a night in the dungeons! Sentence passed, I shall now write it up."
A quavering hand reached out for the quill went it leaned out of the inkpot.
As he picked it up, he noticed noone had moved. "Oh - you two may take
her to the stocks now." A slight wave of the hand signalled their dismissal.
Bowing, they hauled the slightly resisting Herlikin out.
"Er, Your Honour - " the
Captain started forth nervously, not sure what to say.
"Eh, what? Didn't you want
me to pass sentence on her?"
"Well - yes - but, you see
"But what? The sentence
has been passed!"
This time the pale, blood
shot eyes of the old judge held the Captain's until he realised there was
nothing more he could say. He bowed, and left. It could not be helped,
and he could not bring himself to care much.
Herlikin, meanwhile, had
returned to the former state of panic she'd been in at the tavern. The
humiliation of the stocks was bad enough in itself, but the thought of
the dungeons terrified her. She knew what had happened to women in the
dungeons. This was much worse, much worse!! First, she was to be displayed
like an animal for the entire city to see, helpless and unable to move,
vulnerable to their insults and mockery - the very thought of it had her
suddenly rise up against her captors, struggling hard against them as they
reached the wide open front doors of the Palace.
"Hey!" One of them shouted,
as a kick found it's mark, and slapped her over the back of her head. She
bit hard down on her lip to quiet her cry and blinked away tears as she
was led to the City Square. And afterwards, taken and thrown into the depths
of the Palace cells. She could not bring herself to even consider what
fate she might meet there. Numb once more, she let herself be pushed to
her knees, her head and hands forced into the crooks carved in the wood.
A creak, followed by a crash defeaningly close to her right ear, and the
stocks were shackled shut. Already a crowd was beginning to gather, their
curiosity piqued by the prescence of a wrongdoer. Hauling in a shaky breath,
she willed herself not to scream and swear at them.
By some odd stroke of fate,
Pierre Gringoire, yet another of the many vagabonds who made their home
on the Paris streets had been passing the time near the stocks. The fact
that he had been passing time by balancing the hilt of a broken sword on
various parts of his head mattered little; he was not unaware of the goings-on
of the Law. Such goings-on were, in fact, the very reason he had chosen
this particular spot to waste time in, rather than some dirty tavern or
a crook in the shadow of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
He noticed Herlikin's presence
with little trouble. Her presence at the stocks didn't surprise him, though
he was slightly startled at the atrocious timing of her arrival. Atrocious
only because being the only gypsy present near the stocks at the time,
he was naturally obliged to have something to do with her rescue - especially
as she was the wife of his leader, Clopin. Clopin had spared his life once
before, though grudgingly. Gringoire's muddled heart still hinted that
he was in debt to his king. Perhaps saving his majesty's woman would help
him scoot closer to the gypsy's good side...
Accepting his fate with a
hint of the way a martyr would have accepted it - with a sigh and a slight
tilt of the head to create the impression of noble calm - he scampered
under the stocks where Herlikin had been fastened, careful to avoid any
guards who had wandered into an inconvenient position for him. Keeping
his eyes respectfully turned away from certain *ahem* regious, he tapped
on the wood below Herlikin's feet and called up softly.
"Pardon me, madam, but would
you perhaps like a bit of assistance?"
Abigail & Isabelle
Back in the Court of Miracles,
the awenydd Abigail had made a rare pilgrimmage from her tent to address
Tante Marie on the advice she was giving young women who wanted to get
pregnant. It was wrong. Tante took it well, although she'd of blistered
the living daylights of anyone else who'd dare do such a thing.
Now, she was making her
way back on slightly shaky old knees, considering the young vagabond who
huddled still on the straw pellet in her tent. No good for the child to
hide away and keep them all in suspicious suspense. She would have to get
out and begin showing her face around the Court, or else she might find
she had a very hard time of it indeed.
Smiling her friendly, wrinkled
grin, she swept back the old worn flap to her tent, and looked pointedly
at where Isabelle sipped sullenly from a wooden tankard the broth Abigail
had made for her. "You're looking much, much better, my dear" Abigail informed
her. Isabelle did not respond, but turned her large dark eyes on the white
haired wise woman. "Perhaps a brisk walk outside this musty old tent would
help even more?"
The sun by now had fallen
past its zenith and was midway through the downward crawl into the symbolic
old age and crippled gold light of the dying day. Though still hot, it
threw now the majority of Paris' knotwork-winding streets, more aimless
and complex than any Celtic Gospel illumination, into lustrous purple and
graphite grey shadows like velvet, shadows that masked the piles of filth
and rubbish that lay stinking in the gutters, their smell wholly unrestricted
by the play of light and darkness. For this the remains of the Fox patrol
were grateful as they desultorily clopped their way back towards the towering
black Palace of Justice, its scowling buttresses and guaranteed reprimands.
Phoebus in particular was feeling downtrodden and somewhat sullen, keeping
his eyes fixed on Achilles' ears and almost tempted to slouch in his saddle:
they had failed to gather any more evidence, incriminating or otherwise,
pertaining to the attack outside the Bells and Motley the previous night,
and Captain Guerrion was sure to be furious with them all.
Well, no, he'd be displeased
with them all. It was Phoebus himself who was liable to receive the brunt
of the Captain's disappointment, in the private of the man's office, where
none could hear his words. At least he wouldn't be put on fatigues or demoted
or anything humiliating like that, he thought gloomily. Phoebus was accustomed
to being able to proudly affirm, to anyone who asked, that he'd never failed
a mission, whether just a simple investigation of attempted murder, or
a hazardous and daring charge into an enemy's ranks. This was why, for
those who may have puzzled at his thoughts, he felt somewhat justified
in overreacting to such an insignificant failure as this one.
He looked up from his brooding
as they passed into the freer roar of sound, and the blast of blood-warm
sunlight, heavy and palpable as milk on the patrol's armour, that marked
the wide cobbled space that was the square of the City. Here, under Notre
Dame's benevolent gaze, the most horrific acts of violence were committed,
as brutal as the bloody sacrifices described by Roman and Christian alike
in the far lands where the ways and traditions were strange to them. In
the centre of the place, a crowd had gathered.
"Here, Lieutenant!" called
one of his men, kicking his horse up to Achilles' shoulder, "it's that
gypsy trollop from the tavern!"
Phoebus followed the soldier's
pointing gauntlet; so it was; her red hair, which stood out even among
the population of Paris, was all the more noticeable for the stock bars
clamped shut over it. Phoebus' mouth did not tighten, his eyes did not
narrow in disgust, but he did snap, "Get back into position," to the soldier,
and nudge Achilles' flanks with his heels more insistently than he should
have, as they left the square.
Isabella & Abigail
Isabella bit her lip absently
as her hands nervously smoothed her skirt . "I don't think I should." She
paused then continued in a strained voice, "I'm not well enough yet and
I'm not sure they'd like it." Sighing, Abigail stiffly sat down, brushing
a thin strand of her back from her face. "They would like it a great deal
better than they would you hiding out in this tent here, child. A Gypsy
who has something to hide from her fellows could be a dangerous creature."
Isabella straightened where
she sat and frowned. "Anyone could be dangerous...hidden or not." A wary
look passed over her face like the shadow of a storm within but then it
was gone. "And I am already mistrusted and guarded like some wild animal.
Perhaps it is not safe for any of you should I wander the Court. Perhaps
I am not safe myself."
Abigail made a disapproving
clicking sound with her tongue. "Nonsense - guarded like an animal? Then
where are your shackles? The heavily armoured guards who stay at your side?
These are not Frollo's dungeons here, child, but you needn't make life
difficult for yourself by imagining they are. I rarely leave the tent these
days, and certainly not twice in one afternoon - but I'll gladly escort
you around the Court if it'll put your foolish fears at rest. And the others'll
do you no harm when they see you by me. That I can guarantee you on."
The girl's head lowered
apologetically. "I'm sorry. You have been good to me. I'm just afraid..."
her voice faded leaving the sentance hanging. It was clear she had meant
to say more but before a question could be asked she hurried on. "I'd love
to see the court...if you accompany me."
The girl winced slightly,
more in anticipation of pain than from any real hurt. It took her a moment
to realise really how much the the wound had healed. Surpise, openly visible
on her face, she turned and smiled broadly at the wise woman. "I didn't
know...thank you. Thank you very much. For a moment something intangible
lifted and she seem lighter and more alive in the simple discovery...an
echo of what she might've been in happier days. But she was still far too
thin and what must have been weeks of little or no sleep had left their
mark. And then of course there were things beneath the surface that still
haunted her. She was near healed of her wound but it may be months or even
years before she was well.
Abigail felt a tweak at
her heart as the two rose together and headed slowly for the tent flap
- a mixture of one's inability to move faster, and the other's reluctance
to. She could not tell you if the girl spelled danger for the Court, but
one thing that was for certain was there would be danger coming to her.
Together, they pushed aside the flaps, and emerged into the well lit cavern
that was the Court of Miracles, blinking in the light which was kept out
of the warm, dark tent, the other gypsies milling about their own business
busily. The air held a sharp tang of straw and the flames crackling from
the well sheltered lanterns reflecting off brightly patterned tents. It
looked cozy, and friendly.
The girl blinked back the
light and then her eyes opened wide. It was impressive in both it's size
and complexity. There was a distinct feeling that the girl wanted to see
everything once but also needed to appear unimpressed. With a tight smile
she darted curious glances when she thought the wise woman wasn't looking
"Where are we going to go first?"
"Go first?" Abigail chuckled
itno the coined scarf wrapped around her neck. "To the Court Center of
course. It's the heart of life down here - where we do all our trades,
set up our shops and gather of an evening or for feast days. All Rom pass
through the Center at least once a day - we can't do better than to let
you sit there for an hour or so with a bowl of soup and talk to those who
come by. That sound good to you, child?" The girl nodded thoughtfully.
"Yes. That sounds nice." her tone grew slightly more distant. "Tell me
Abigail, are there usually very many visitors in the court?" She shifted
Abigail cocked a thoughtful
head to the side. "Depends on what season it is, girl. We're in summer
right now, so we've got lots of folks stopping in on their travels to other
towns. Most of this type don't stay more than one or two days, then they're
hitting the road again. Towards the end of August alot of folks pack up
and head on out, or come on in to settle down for the winter. But that
doesn't necessarily mean we're full to the brim during the cold season,
'cause there's lots of places all through the country where Rom gather
to spend the winter months. I'd say summer is our busiest time, even if
most don't intend staying longer than a week." Abigail cast a sidewards
glance at Isabelle. "Any particular reason you're asking, my dear?"
"No...no reason" she shook
her head calmly but the words came a little too quickly to be entirely
convincing. "I was just curious with so many Rom knowing the location of
the court how have you managed to keep it a secret?" She twirled a strand
of dark hair around her middle finger and avoided Abigail's penetrating
gaze.The old awenydd tilted her head and smiled cryptically. "We manage.
But look we're almost to the center."
And they were. The tents
which had been close together beforehand seemed nearly on top of each other
now. The colors seemed to become more vibrant and intense, each vying for
attention. The awenydd's pace increase slightly and the girl found herself
pressed to keep up, while dodging younger childern running through the
streets and avoiding the other people on the path.
The awenydd appeared to
be having no such problems. It was almost as if the whole of the court
gave her an extra margin of space in a sort of awed respect. As the grew
closer the noise increased threaded with laughter and laced with unfamiliar
music. Stumbling on Abigail heels and concentrating on not bumping into
anyone, Isabelle did not so much see the Center as she felt the space of
it. Looking up, the tents looked like they were pushed back along a sort
of imaginary circle to make room for carts and shops of all sizes selling
a surpisingly wide range of wares. It was larger thank some of the villiage
markets she had passed through on her journey.
Chills ran down her back
and she quickened her pace to catch up with Abigail, suddenly all too aware
of the distance between them. They reached an open space, wide wooden benches
arranged in circles around fires where various pots and pans simmered,
and tankards of ale sat nearby, tended to by a group of happy Romni and
daj, ever ready food for all those who desired a bowl and had no particular
Abigail was nosily greeted
by the mostly middle aged matriarchs, and a cushioned seat was quickly
made available for her. Curious glances were fixed on Isabelle more than
once, but as the awenydd made no move yet to introduce her, the others
did not ask. They were both set up with a bowl of broth Abigail calmly
sipped for a few moments before setting it aside with an approving look.
"Well now" she declared,
setting her hands on her knees. "I'm sure you're all wondering who our
young friend is?" She turned to look at Isabelle with raised, white brows.
She'd determined to block
her ears and not listen to a word of what they were saying, the gadjo bastards
who were her tormentors. It worked - slightly. It was difficult to ignore
the gaping mouths and wide eyes of those who came to ogle her in the stocks,
although the only thing she could do was sit there. They were probably
waiting for her to foam at the mouth and tear the wood apart with her teeth.
She grimaced and jerked a little at her wrists, illiciting a murmur from
the crowd. Setting her teeth, she stared doggedly ahead, determined not
to react again. Many of those who milled around lost interested when no
drama ensued, and moved on about their business. But their spots were quickly
filled with curious newcomers. They moved constantly in front of her vision,
talking loudly as though trying to get her attention. She didn't dare to
close her eyes and lose awareness of their movements. The temptation to
throw vegetables or clumps of dirt at her was probably high enough as it
was. It was heading toward late afternoon now and she had been there for
a couple of hours. Thankfully, the sun overhead had begun to lose some
of its intensity, and the square was not as full as it was at midday. Oh...how
She snapped her head up with
a jerk. Fatigue was threatening her consciousness. She spun her head around
blearily, trying to locate the source that had brought her back into the
present moment again. Catching sight of it, she was immediately alert,
narrowing her eyes and pursing her lips. *Gringoire*. Well. That damenable
poet was only ever around when he could be of absolutely no use at all.
"What do you want?" she
hissed at him. "How do you think you can help, hmm? Have you wings you
can transport us to safety with?" He was about to answer with a poetically
wounded twist to his mouth when the guards, who had been loitering at a
bread stall nearby, stomped forward, shoving Parisians left and right.
"You there! Not so close
to the prisoner!"
They stared the young man
down, armoured hands on hips, until he had no choice but to scuffle away.
One of them scuffed Herlikin lightly over the head as they turned back.
"Nice try, wench."
Herlikin inwardly seethed
and clenched her fists tight. But a moment later all thoughts of revenge
left her, as over in the far corner of the Town Square, a familiar motley
garbed gypsy man entered...
Clopin managed to slowly
inch himself into consciousness again. His hair was threaded through with
silt from the Court floor---if floor it could be called---and his face
was swollen with blood from his slumped-over position.
Wincing, he pulled
himself to his feet. Herli had long since gone, apparently---he winced
further. Much iciness of look and huffiness of gesture were in his future,
no doubt. Clopin gave a passing glance to his sorry self, snorted, and
made his way to the tent to retrieve costume, props, and whatever guaranteed
and suitably ancient herbal remedies he might be able to unearth. General
misery, angry wife, and wounded foundling or no, there was bread to be
won, children to entertain, and all those other sunny things which one
must attend to in daily life.
Some minutes later he emerged,
a grim figure in gay colors. Pulling his hat down around his ears and carefully
hoisting a satchel full of well-worn puppets onto his shoulder, he dragged
himself out of the Court. The darkness of the tunnels was pleasant, and
for once he appreciated the dank, clay-and-rats odor. When he at last arrived
at the battered entrance to the Bells and Motley, he grimaced to himself.
He sighed and pressed a black-gloved hand against the old wood, and then
The tavern was thinly
populated at this hour of the afternoon, but populated nonetheless. A few
hunch-shouldered gaje discussed something of mild illegality in a corner,
a rake-thin gypsy man stared intently at the bare arm of his silent, broad-chested
female companion…and beyond that, there was only Cosette's pale form at
the front, and no more.
Clopin winced at the
sight of her apron. Of all the many things a drunk forgets, he reminisced,
he never forgets the right things. True, in his bawdier days---oh, for
the joy of being seventeen and a fox among the hens---his surreptitious
grope might have been a crowning glory, a rousing tale, a lusty epic to
be envied. Today, however, he merely felt like a creak-jointed ass. He
pulled the hat down further, threatening its seams, and set across the
room at a jarring stride.
"Clopin!" Cosette cried.
Simultaneously cringing, stumbling, and choking on his own tongue, Clopin
managed to turn in her direction.
"Mam'selle," he muttered
darkly, poking the brim of his hat with his finger, in a minimalist doffing.
"Allow me to offer my apologies."
Cosette clattered out towards
him, shooing away the glances of the four inhabitants. "Yes, yes, I know
quite well that you're an idiot," she said breathlessly.
"Please, mam'selle, you
needn't be so merciful," Clopin wryly began, but Cosette hushed him ferociously
and laid a pale hand on his shoulder.
"Listen, they've arrested
Herlikin," she hissed, eyes melodramtically wide.
"It took them this long?"
he said, smirking. "Damn you, Clopin Trouillefou, I'm not flirting with
you!" she spat, grip tightening. "The ninny clouted some soldier on the
cheek with one of the mugs, and they've taken her to the Palais not more
than two hours ago."
Clopin stared blankly at
her. There was a sudden starburst behind his eyes, and Cosette's round
face was freckled with lazy white sparks. He felt his throat contract,
a decisive swallow, and the blood from his face follow the gushing downward
path of the saliva.
"And why," he breathed,
"might I ask," another breath, "was I not told this," yet another, "immediately
upon its happening?"
"Because I didn't care to
go jumbling down those tunnels when there might still be guards around,"
she replied, lips tight. "I didn't think you'd care for such company, down
"Damn," Clopin heard himself
say. "And damn again, and again, and again."
Then, in a panic previously
induced only by the births of his children, Clopin ran from the tavern.