Here is the next chapter. Thank you for all who reviewed the first chapter. I own nothing, except for the characters such as Katherine who do not appear in any of the Hunchback adaptations. Now I know I said, the first chapter was a prologue, but now I am thinking it is best to think of this story as a prequel, midquel, and sequel to the story. Again, I have no editor for this chapter, so any mistakes please just let me know and I will fix them. So, without further procrastination, I give you this chapter.
Five Years later
"Girl, get in here. That table's not gonna clean itself," Monsieur Benoit called from the kitchen doorway.
A dark mousy head of hair scurried past the innkeeper's looming figure with a small wooden bucket and two fresh rags clutched in her two hands. The bucket of cool water banged against her legs with each stride, but five years of experience kept the rainwater from spilling about. Katherine could already hear the loud, cheerful voices of the inn's most recent inhabitants despite the early hour of the day.
The normally barren half dozen tables were now filled to abundance with platters and jugs overflowing with the best wine toasting the good company each group held. Unlit candles set in the center of every table and on brackets of the perimeters of the room allowing the natural sunlight to lighten the room. A few cries of greeting reached her ears as she wove her way through the tables, chairs, and the random stumbling drunkards.
She paused at the last table propped close to the door observing the few scraps of food which littered the dark tabletop. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the lean figure of a man donned in a brown, weather torn jacket over a white shirt and dark trousers. Despite the innkeeper's impatience for his actions, the man appeared completely at ease, observing those around him.
After finishing her task, Katherine turned and began to sneak through the throng of costumers; the chaotic sounds silencing her footsteps as she moved. Scurrying up on an empty chair close to the man, she turned to face him. Tiny hands sprung onto his shoulders. "Papa!"
The man spun in his chair, a look of alarm flashing through his dark blue eyes before they crinkled with humor. Rising his left arm, he scooped it around the girl's waist and pulled her into his lap. "Ah…you got me that time, kitty. What do you think you're doing scaring me so?"
Katherine giggled. "It's funny."
"Is it now?"
Pierre's voice lowered. "Well we cannot have too much fun or Monsieur Benoit'll box my ears for causing trouble."
Katherine sobered instantly; her hazel eyes searching the crowd for any sign of the innkeeper or his wife.
"Oh come now, all will be well. Now, I must ask you a question." She heard a smile in his voice as he turned them both back to survey the gathering before them. "Come look, who do you see?"
Katherine squinted, her eyes once more scanning the faces of those seated around the room. Her eyebrows knitted together. Who was her papa speaking of? Only on rare occasions did a more prominent guest come to enjoy The Swan's quietness. That afternoon it seemed to be merely the same motley crew of lower nobles, merchants, and a few students. Some took their meals and left while others would stay until the early hours of the following mourn.
She shook her head. "I don't-"
"There…do you see that gentleman seated by the fireplace?"
Katherine craned her neck following her papa's finger to a solitary man.
"Have you seen him before?"
She shook her head.
"Who do you think he is?"
Katherine smiled at the question which started one of her favorite games. She turned back, examining the older man. He was hunched over dressed in a shift which seemed more accustomed to mud than the dryness offered from the hearth.
"Perhaps…he's a farmer, coming to sell his goods."
"Or a miller, see the white in his hair."
Pierre snapped his fingers. "Ah, good catch. Do you think he has a family?"
Katherine shook her head. "No, he's an old merchant gotten from his father and so on back in time. He…was never married….but had a one and only love when he was a boy. But when she left him, he turned to his work. How's that, Papa?"
"Oh that's grand, my Kitty." Pierre picked her up and set her on the floor, smiling down at her. "How I wish to see I could see the world from my muse's eyes."
Someone scuffed loudly just off to the left of them.
Katherine spun to see the smaller form of Madame Benoit. Donned in a simple dark blue frock and white apron, the innkeeper's wife appeared to be the perfect, quiet wife except for her fierce green eyes. "Ye'd do better if ye paid mind to what goes on in the moment not some whim of fancy. Or paid anything at all."
Pierre inclined his head to her, grinning. "I pay my rent on time, Madame, and earn my keep."
"Ha, the lass pays for her keep more than ye." Madame Benoit swatted at his arm. "Now buy something or I'll thrashing you for taking a table from worthy customers."
Pierre hopped up from his seat. "Now, you don't need to be doing that, Madame. And I was merely looking for some unsavory sorts." He winked down at Katherine. "After it's the fanciful things are the most entertaining."
"Well I...where are ye going? I…Oh!" Madame Benoit threw up her hands.
Pierre had by this time turned and scrambled up the stairs to his paid lodgings leaving hostess and child to stare after him.
Madame Benoit sighed irritably, her long dough covered fingers fiddling with her apron. "Oh…child, ye should have chosen better than have him take care of ye. No sense in that head of his only the generous heart of a lad. Thank te Lord, ye have us to take care of you too."
Katherine stared up at the older woman. Why had she said such things about her adoptive uncle? She could not imagine him any other way, offering her so much more than
"Well, Katherine, me girl, could you do me a favor? We need the items on this list here." She dug into her pocket and produced a crumpled piece of parchment. "Can ye do this for me?"
Katherine gawked at her. "You want me to get these?"
Madame Benoit smiled gently. "I don't see why not. You're a steady girl of nine, that's old enough don't ye think?" She turned, retrieving an old basket from the cabinet beside her.
Katherine tentatively reached up for the small list. Papa had always told her parchment was for adults only; the material being far to delicate for children. It was why her lessons in the written word were done on a dark chalk slate. She half expected the parchment to burn or wilt under her touch. Only what appeared to be an awfully slim, but firm ironed rag slid into her hand, feeling cool against her fingertips.
"Now everything on the list must be gotten. And no dawdling or we'll be late for mass," Madame Benoit said, already directing the girl to the door.
Katherine eagerly nodded. "Oui, Madame. You can count on me."
Without another word, she grabbed her brown cloak from its peg, took the empty basket from Madame, and slipped outside.
The afternoon sun hung low in the sky as Katherine strolled down the streets lined on both sides with identical tenements; the sounds of Paris pulsing around her. Laundry flapped gently in the soft breeze overhead. Hurried footsteps rushed past her trying to finish the day's work. Noises of barking and other clamors could faintly be heard beneath the voices of the crowds. Still, compared to the commotion contained in the small dining room of the inn, the city boulevards appeared tame.
Slipping into the bakery, Katherine smiled to herself; the scent of freshly baked bread swirling around the entire floor. A few customers lingered around inspecting the loaves and pastries set on the shelves.
"Bonjour, little mademoiselle, what can I do for you today?" A deep male voice called.
Katherine spun to the left. Standing behind one of the counters, a plump man dressed in a simple light brown trousers and white shirt, stared over at her. His coal black hair made him resemble one of his pastries: light brown with white and black nuts on top.
"Do you need something" The baker asked.
She blinked, looked around at the other customers, and then dumbly pointed to herself.
The baker grinned, setting his tray of steaming baguettes down on the counter.
She pulled the folded list from her pocket. She instantly recognized her Papa's fine script. Perhaps Madame did not find him completely useless as she appeared to. Looking up, she walked over to the patient baker and held it out to him. She watched him tentatively reach for the leaf of parchment and turn it over. His thick black eyebrows furrowed; his eyes seeming to roam across the page unfocused. Did he not know his letters? Madame and Monsieur Benoit seemed to have little knowledge of the written word as well. Perhaps the list had just been for her eyes alone.
The baker looked up at her. "What do you need?"
Katherine held out her hand and took the paper back. "Oh, pardon, that was just mine. Three loafs of bread will do, merci."
The baker's face visibly relaxed almost instantly as he handed her back the scrap of paper and turned collect her order with a smile. He skillfully placed the three loaves into her basket. "There you are, mademoiselle."
"Merci," Katherine said, accepting the basket back. "And my name is Katherine Gingioure, monsieur."
The baker nodded. "Well, have a good day, mademoiselle."
Katherine nodded, bid him au revoir, and went back out into the crowded streets.
She did not repeat the mistake from the bakery as she traveled from one store to another buying the items from the list. Each store and stall owner appeared more peculiar than the last igniting her imagination with new characters. She was just crossing the square trying to recall her musings on the store owners to tell her Papa when a new voice made her halt in her path. She turned searching for its owner already entranced by the deep timbre and words spinning a tale. Off to the right, she spotted a small crowd of children crowding a cart.
Katherine stepped closer and paused noting the deceptive gypsy wagon; a colorfully decorated cart accentuated against the dull, brown tenements around it. It was certainly a lure for the innocent children. Madame Benoit always told her to stay away from the gypsies who would steal her most precious objects. Still, she could not turn away as she listened to the story being spun before her.
"Ah, Mademoiselle, will you come over and join us?" The storyteller asked, beckon her over.
Katherine shook her head and moved back a step before another child pulled her forward until she stood almost beside the deep green wagon. Peering up, she saw the yellow and purple costume of the darker skinned performer. His head was almost dwarfed by a large black hat set upon his head.
"Ah a new audience member come out to listen," the gypsy exclaimed. "How wonderful. I-"
A small puppet, donned in the same outfit as the performer, suddenly popped up. It crossed its tiny arms. "Get back to the story," it cried in its shrill voice.
The bigger gypsy made an auditable sigh and shook his finger at the puppet. "Now, now where are your manners?"
"Well get on with the story. They want to hear it." The puppet turned to the children. "You all want more story, oui?"
A round of clapping greeted the puppet's remark. The gypsy waved his free hand, instantly calming his audience. "Oui, Oui, I'll continue. Now where was I?"
"The maiden's suitors were put to a test," a little boy answered.
"Oh yes. And so the maiden sat upon her throne. Her suitors waited anticipation bone," The gypsy pursed his lips and looked down at the children.
Katherine quickly averted her eyes and tightened her hold on her basket. Her back stiffened as she felt his dark eyes roam across her, but she forced herself to remain as still stone.
She heard him cluck his tongue in thought and imagined him addressing the miniature puppet. "Hm…do any of you know what happens next?"
A chorus of mumbles came from the other children. Some even fidgeted with barely contained excitement and impatience for the story to continue.
The puppet again raised its voice. "I think, she does?"
"Hm…who are you speaking of, you silly boy?" The storyteller said gently.
Katherine shrank back, bringing the basket in front her like a shield, even she felt the gypsy's sharp eyes once again upon her.
"And what's your name, mademoiselle?" the gypsy asked.
Katherine frowned. Could she give her true name? He might take it and use it to make her do evil deeds of some kind. Yet, was lying not a larger sin? After a moment, she raised her head and looked at him. "What's your name, monsieur?"
His lips twitched with a smile of humor and perhaps…approval. Removing his hat, he pressed it over his heart and bowed his head. "I am Clopin, King of the stories of love, at your service, ma pettie."
Katherine shook her head. "You're not the king."
The puppet flew forward almost in her face. "You dare talk to him like that? Clopin is the king-ow!"
"Now, now, you silly boy how dare you talk to her like that." He smiled down at her. "Now, did you have an idea on how the story should continue?"
Katherine began to shake her head when she felt other eyes upon her. All the other children had turned in her direction. Taking a deep breath, she began a verse:
The maiden's heart fought to be won
In a combat of wits and skill
Though all she wished, to run
For she won't give up her will
With each word, her heart began to lift toward the clear blue havens above; the tale unfolding before her. In the back of her mind she felt the others gathered around her watching her in almost nearly as captivated as by the proper storyteller.
Love is not in the cards
Her heart sworn to something higher
Praying to not be broken to crystal shards
Katherine jumped; the spell of her story shattered by a monstrous clang as loud as thunder echoing across the square. The sound of pigeons lunching from the high terraces of the cathedral sounded in between the clangs. Again and again, the roaring tolls rang out. The bells of Notre Dame ringing the sixth hour. Oh how had time got away from her? She looked over, noting how the sun had begun to sink below the houses. A few candles had already been lit in the lower floor shop windows.
"Ah, do the bells frightened you, little one?" Clopin asked.
Katherine shook her head even as the rest of her body shivered. While the rest of Paris felt a sense of warmth from the proclaimed Heart of Paris the lifeless metal only sent shivers down her spine. Each loud ring, the nearly overbearing sound, seeming to crush her beneath their strength like true thunder. She was only vaguely aware of the other children scattering from the wagon to return home.
Clopin clicked his tongue again. "Oh, mademoiselle, you need not fear the bells. They can't hurt ye up there in those towers. No the true one to fear, ask any soul in this fair city and the answer is the same. The bell ringer, himself, a crocked monster from hell some say."
Katherine looked up at him. "The bell ringer?"
"Oh, oui, no one had seen him, but I hear he's a shadow who can slip in and out of the columns of the cathedral judging those who should not step into the sanctuary of the Grand Lady."
Katherine gasped. "Truly?"
Clopin shrugged good-naturedly. "Who knows the truth of them tales? Now your tale was…simple, but," A faint smile came to his lips. "If you keep at it you might be a grand storyteller one day."
Katherine blushed. "Merci, monsieur." She tightened the hold on the basket and turned to go. After a moment, she turned back and called out him. "Oh, and my name is Katherine Gringiore, monsieur."
A dark eyebrow rose. "Gringiore? Any relation to that poet?"
"Oui, he's my Papa."
Clopin bowed his head again. "Ah, then I bid you a good evening mademoiselle Gringiore."
Katherine nodded. "Good evening."
Without another word, she whirled around and ran back over the cobblestones to the Swan inn She bit her lip at the sight of Madame standing in the threshold; her long fingers tapping impatiently against the doorframe. Her eyes widened when they came to rest on the girl. Katherine hurried up to her.
"Lass, where on earth have ye been? I told ye no dawdling," Madame Benoit cried, pulling Katherine quickly back into the shade of inn.
Katherine ducked her head and set the full basket onto the table. "Pardon me, Madame, I got…lost track of time. I'm-"
"Katherine, what are you doing down here? You must get ready," Pierre said, coming down the stairs. "Madame, I shall pay for any delay we have, but she must get ready."
"You'll pay with what coin? Ye owe me for the rent still," Monsieur Benoit said, coming round from the kitchen.
Pierre nodded while simultaneously shepherding Katherine over and up the stairs. "Oui, I know and you'll have it soon."
"And when will that be? After you grand play comes to be pass?"
Katherine paused on the stair and spun on her heel. "Papa writes grand plays. You will see-"
"Katherine, off with you now," Madame Benoit waved her hand dismissively.
With a stubborn just of her head, Katherine turned and darted up stairs and into their room. The room had a single bed tucked beneath the lone window which overlooked an often deserted alleyway. Opposite the bed, sat a table lined with a row of books. Her teaching slant sat in the center next to her Papa's manuscripts. A closet bunched up against the left side of the table, acting as a bookend to the row. To anyone else, the room would appear cramped, but to Katherine it was home.
Best of all, no icky rats. Katherine thought, smiling to herself as she entered the room. Quickly, she pulled out a fresher gown of dark blue gown and a white bonnet. Ten minutes, she climbed back down the stairs and followed Monsieur and Madame Benoit and her Papa back out onto the street toward Notre Dame.
Despite her apprehension of the thunderous bells, the gothic cathedral never failed to fill her with warmth and its majesty though her untrained eye only took in the grand scope rather than the more intimate details. Incense swirled through the air as she walked further inside. Candlelight danced across the stone walls, bringing the grand painted images to life. Even the flagstones appeared to display the battle between good and evil with mismatched titles.
She followed her Papa into a pew only to stand up again and lean forward to get a better view. Up in the first few pews sat a cluster of children with no adults. From her vantage point, she saw white ribbons strung through their hair. Katherine grimaced slightly. Of course tonight was the children's confirmation.
Katherine pointed to the children. "Papa, why am I not up there?"
Pierre wrapped his arm around her. "You will soon, Katherine. Monsieur Frollo and the archdeacon believe you are still nit ready yet to receive the blood and body of the Lord, but you will soon." He kissed her forehead. "Soon, my kitty."
Katherine nodded against his chest. Her gaze rose toward the high alter where the archdeacon and his fellow priests donned in dark robes waited to bring the children forward to confirm them into the home of Christ. All the children sat somberly in the first few pews waiting to be anointed; each one a year or younger than her. The entire alter appeared to be bathed in heaven from the flickering candlelight and the lingering sunlight cast through the massive rose window. A place forbidden to her.
The gypsy's words returned to her. Anxiously, she pulled away from her papa's embrace and looked around; her eyes squinting as they tried to distinguish any hidden objects in the dark shadows. Perhaps the demon was watching the congregation now, judging their faithfulness. For a brief moment, she caught a shadow dancing on the surface of a wall on the upper floor. Suppressing a yelp of fear, she tore her eyes away, clasped her hands in front of her, and knelt down on the hard floor and prayed.
So, I know some of it might seem odd, like Katherine's fear of the bells, but I wanted to change her a little from the normal OC who loves the bells that our dear bell ringer rings. I hope that is not completely out of the realm of normal. Also semi historical note, stories were told in verse form back in the 1400s, similar to how Clopin opens the Disney film.
Please let me know what you think and yes the hunchback will be showing up soon, but it is important to set up Katherine and Pierre's relationship as father and daughter. Another chapter will come soon if I get some reviewers :).