'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' Role Playing Game.

Paris, 1480.


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 of Justice..."

Jehan dragged her off towards the Palace...

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 truth hurts.”
“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 than against.”
“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 in Lyons?”
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, sir.”
“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 leave.”
“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 uneasily.
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 demands.
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. "Isabelle?"


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 much longer....

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 clambered upwards.

 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 there."
"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.


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