An Odd Friend
Hellboy walked through the towers, in search of one of but a handful of relics that would allow Quasimodo to remain in the belltower without being a zombie or vampire. He looked young, yet his eyes told the truth; his very soul was alive and ancient. Hellboy pulled out a small cracked jar containing a piece of St Anthony's left kidney, which dangled at the end of a soiled chain.
"Lets have a look-see around, shall we?" Hellboy mumbled to himself.
The stairs grunted under Hellboy's massive weight as he entered into the deepest area of the Notre Dame, beneath the belltower. He could feel the cold chill of both stale air and wandering spirits pass next to him.
Kate sat next to Quasimodo, intently listening to his voice, his stories. He knew more about the city, more about it's history, than any library or monastery.
"I've not been out of Notre Dame in 30 years", sighed Quasimodo "Few reasons to leave, since there is nothing out there. The 70's were fun, though. Could go to the marketplace and it seemed the people were too dazed to notice anything. The wine was good, too."
Kate couldn't stop herself from laughing. The image conjured in her mind was of the bellringer in bellbottoms.
"You know of the B.P.R.D., then?" Kate asked, noticing Quasimodo stared at her watch that bore the logo.
"Read about it. Wasn't sure if it really existed." He stated.
"Have you had your dinner yet?" asked Kate, knowing that Hellboy would invariably be hungry. More time with this strange, ancient man would help her learn more about the city and it's secrets. Of course, what she really wanted to know was "why are you warm to the touch rather than crispy, dried out and wanting to eat or destroy humanity like most nearly 600 year old people Hellboy & I encounter."
Kate's eyes or lips must have spoken for her as she thought, since the bellringer answered her question with another question.
"Why is it important to you?" Quasimodo stood up. "The bells need tending to, you may come along if you wish." There was a pause. "No, I've not eaten yet."
Quasimodo turned his back to her and leapt up the flight of steps in two bounds.
Kate followed Quasimodo toward the stairs to the belltower, meanwhile dialing out for a dinner for eight at a Greek restaurant on her cel, for delivery to Notre Dame. The garlic could prove useful.
The red demon walked through the depths of the cathedral, his eyes the only light visible. The relic hung uselessly from his wrist, next to Broom's rosary. There were many lost souls beneath Notre Dame, yet none attracted the attention of the finder of lost things. Soul-saving was the duty of those cloistered in the cells above his head, a task at which they had failed.
Hellboy walked between the resting placed of kings, deacons and other officials within the crypts below the church. It was dark and musty and the stink of rotten flesh hung faint on the air. Cobwebs and spiders filled the narrow passageways and staircases. Decades may have passed since the last living soul passed through, except to die.
Deep within a narrow stairwell, the kidney began to pulsate and leak serum. Hellboy advanced deeper into the chasm. The air was of poor quality, causing him to choke slightly from lack of oxygen. The dust particles burned his nostrils and throat as he arrived at a room full of wine casks and old crockery. Forgotten rat skeletons, stripped of flesh for some time yet remaining moist with black moldy ooze, also lay in a pile on the floor.
Hellboy drew his jacket across his nose and breathed the foul, yet now dustless, air. Lifting cask after cask, he soon realized what he was searching for was above him. Within the cracks of the wall was a small stone, tightly crammed into its moldy depths. The kidney leaked a steady stream of urine, which seeped from the vial, as he set it next to the stone. Hellboy placed his find into a weather-proof ammo pouch and turned to leave.
Suddenly, the walls began to shake around him as the noon-bells rang out.
Hellboy turned on his communicator.
"Katie. Where are you? What's happening."
Kate, who was standing in the tower, could only guess at his words. "He's harmless, Red. I ordered takeout. Bring lunch back."
"Yeah, I know it's the hunchback. I'm looking into…"
"… forty minutes."
Hellboy stood and waited for the bells to cease, only static audible with the ringing. His phone vibrated, a text message from Kate.
"Alchemy rock," he texted back.
Hellboy closed his phone and left the church.
"Why do you keep yourself in this tower when there are so many things you could do?" Kate asked, as her and the bellringer walked through the tower toward the spiral staircase.
"People fear the truth, Kate, and they always will. To leave this place, to live outside these walls would bring many questions and unsettling answers." Kate gently placed her hand on his shoulder, her fingers brushing his hump. "The world will never accept me for me, especially Paris."
"Red, err… , Hellboy and I have been throughout the globe. Those in academic circles are able to accept him for what he is."
The bellringer looked at Kate, yet said nothing. His eye turned to a moving shadow in the spiral stairway.
At that moment, Kate heard hooves on the stone steps, and the crunching of paper bags. Hellboy rounded the corner and looked Quasimodo in the eye, then turned his gaze to Kate. Quasimodo fixed his attention upon the rosary securely looped around Hellboy's left wrist.
"Already ate the kalouria, figured you wouldn't mind." He pointed to one of the nearly-empty bags with his oversized right hand. "Where we eatin'?"
Kate took one of the bags and looked at Quasimodo, who had taken a step back and was now rubbing his left fist with his right hand.
The route was one Hellboy knew from earlier that day, and soon enough they were at a small ladder behind "Big Marie". Quasimodo pulled an old key from his pocket, yet returned it as he saw the lock hung uselessly from the door-latch.
"Sorry 'bout that." Hellboy grunted, "thought we were dealing with something else. Can replace it, if you like."
Quasimodo's shoulder's slumped slightly, and he shook his head. He said nothing, yet guided Kate and Hellboy into the large room bordering the edge of the tower, near the small fireplace.
Kate, who had not yet been through this part of the tower, nearly stumbled as she passed through the different rooms. Old manuscripts and hand-written volumes of classic literature filled the shelves and cubby-holes. "There must be books and scrolls in here from…"
"…the eleventh century and older." The bellringer finished. "Some are from Roman times."
Kate stood in awe, taking in her surroundings. She then returned her attention to Quasimodo when Hellboy's jacket brushed her leg. She opened her mouth to speak, the bellringer continued.
"You may read them if you wish."
"I'd like that very much."
Quasimodo turned and limped toward the walls, soon making a table from empty buckets and a large piece of wood. Hellboy watched the bellringer neatly set it on the buckets. The board easily weighed 200 lbs.
The three sat down on the floor to eat from a makeshift table. Hellboy continually shifted a staring glance at Quasimodo, Quasimodo returned these glances. Both he and Hellboy shoveled their pastitsio and anginares, after realizing they were too hungry to continue looking at each other.
"When did he give it to you?" Hellboy blurted out to the bellringer.
"A long time ago." Quasimodo set his fork down. "How do you know?"
"Only one object could do this to you without your being dead first." Said Hellboy, as he picked a piece of lamb from a small bone with his teeth. "Have it in my pocket. Don't really need to keep it. Should have hidden it better, though."
Hellboy set the ammo bag, containing the stone, on the table amongst the Greek takeout.
"A philosopher's stone in Notre Dame." Hellboy shook his head. "It may not glow like the one in the movie, but that's definitely what it is."
Kate and Hellboy stared at the bellringer, not sure what to do. There were two problems to contend with, one was Quasimodo himself who seemed to not be much of a problem. The other, much more serious issue, was the Philosophers' stone, which could pose a serious threat in the wrong hands.
A series of historical events ran through Kate's mind. Centuries ago, Claude Frollo had coveted it, the best place to have hidden it would have been under Frollo's nose. Someone, Nicholas Flamel perhaps, had given it to the bellringer for keeping without telling him what it was, not fully considering the consequence of such an act. Flamel would have died of old age while the new owner survived.
"It has to stay, Red." Kate looked to Quasimodo. "I have but one request, hide that stone well. No one must ever find it."
"It was left here for safe keeping," whispered the bellringer. "It may only be found by the one who owns it…"
"…or one who doesn't seek it to use it," finished Hellboy.
Hellboy picked up the rough cloth bag containing the plain grey stone, which appeared as a nasty, hairy chunk of concrete, and laid it in the bellringers' palms.
"This world is a dangerous place for something like this to exist in. Imagine if the Nazi's had learned of it's existence?"
Quasimodo placed the bag in his breast pocket after ensuring the bag indeed carried the Philosophers' stone.
Over the rest of the day, Kate Corrigan spent her time in the bell tower with Quasimodo, reading through centuries worth of spells, incantations and history. The bellringer didn't seem to mind her presence, guiding her through the ancient languages and faintly-written scrolls.
"Your friend, 'Hellboy', is on the side of God, isn't he."
Kate lifted her eyes from the ancient manuscript and looked into Quasimodo's eye and smiled. Quasimodo smiled.
"…also a demon?"
"One could say that. Never really looked into it." Kate no longer paid attention to the text before her. "Bruttenholm raised him, found him in Scotland as a baby at the end of the second world war."
"I remember that one well. They took the windows out of the Cathedral for the second time, the ground shook, sanctuary wasn't safe." His expression seemed to glaze over for a brief moment. "There were a lot of badly wounded people that came here for help."
Kate remained silent for a few moments before relating how her and Hellboy had met, and the BPRD had come into being. She ended with the death of Trevor Broom at the hands of frog people. "Broom would have loved to meet you. You would have liked him, too. He was very wise."
Kate swore she saw the hint of a blush on Quasimodo's pale cheeks, yet he made every effort not to let it show.
The pair resumed their readings and enjoyed each other's company in quiet solitude.
While Kate and her new friend spent time in the tower, Hellboy searched the catacombs for traces of missed werewolves and paranormal activity. He knew the bellringer was uncomfortable around him, despite not saying it outright. For now, he humored himself below the city, enjoying his own solitude in ankle-deep sewage.
After several hours of wandering around, charting passages not previously noted, Hellboy came to a large open room. Burned fabric hung in shreds from the vaulted ceiling, broken and blackened wagons saturated in mould lay on the ground. The bones of goats, horses and humans lined the distant wall in an unorganized mat. Glass lanterns, iron cooking pots and horseshoes lay scattered at random. There were three ways out of this open, underground space. Hellboy explored them all. Each passage ended in a dead-end or subway tunnel.
Hellboy emerged into the darkness of the Paris night. The city was still alive and Notre Dame was illuminated with yellow floodlights. Having received his package from a very nervous delivery boy, he returned to the Cathedral through the side entrance.
While passing through the church, Hellboy tossed a handful of river-garnets blessed by a Buddhist monk into the Holy water. It was quick, easy and did no harm.
Five pizzas flopped down onto the makeshift table, together with wine and cola.
"Figured you'd be hungry, Katie. And Quasi."
Hellboy'd not put out his cigar and stood next to the table, his glowing yellow eyes fixed on Quasimodo. His half-boots were damp, forming an outline of his hooves on the wood floor.
"I ain't gonna hurt ya, kid." He reached out with his left hand and knuckled him softly on the shoulder. "Hide your rock yet?"
"I… Well you see, I've been…"
"Understood. You're helping Katie." Hellboy opened the top pizza box and folded three pieces into a stack for himself. "Eat up."
Both demolished the pizzas while Kate continued to read the papers. Wine and a couple slices of pizza lay untouched on the floor next to her seat.
After two and a half days in Notre Dame, the Bureau had contacted both Kate and Hellboy regarding a recurrence of the Red Cap in Scotland, thus departure was imminent.
It was just inside the great door of a deserted Notre Dame that the parting took place.
"I'll be sure to visit you next time I'm in Paris." Kate motioned, then reached out and placed a "waste management" card in his palm. She slid her hand to Quasimodo's shoulder.
It was then that Quasimodo's expression softened and he placed his arm on Kate's. She leaned forward, allowing Quasimodo's arms to wrap around her completely. Their cheeks touched as the embraced.
"Do come back." He whispered near her ear.
Both Dr. Corrigan and Quasimodo smiled as their hands parted.
Hellboy stood quiet. He nodded toward the bellringer, only the corners of his mouth forming a hint of a smile. He lifted his left hand slightly, which held a black coffee, as if to wave goodbye. Quasimodo nodded back, the smile having not left his face.
The two friends sat across from each other in the helicopter that was now taking them to Scotland. Hellboy looked up from the briefing, to see Kate staring out the window, down at Paris.
"I'm not looking forward to the paperwork on this one, Red." Kate continued to stare out the window. "He's done nothing to deserve loss of privacy. The stone, though. We can't ignore it."
"Nothing will happen." Hellboy sipped at his coffee. "The report will be filed away, after a couple of weeks no one will care about it's existence or Quasimodo's."
"I will." She brushed her fingers over the keyboard of her laptop, not typing a word. "Didn't even take any photographs, aside from that one of his foot on the tour."
Hellboy continued reading and sipping, barely raising his eyes.
"You don't carry my picture in your wallet either, Katie."
Kate's mind spun over the last few days. She had truly felt guilty as she left Cecile's home for the last time. The poor woman had spent a good deal of time dreaming about what lay hidden within the walls of Notre Dame Cathedral. She'd spent her life reading legends and understood the truth as she'd read it. She dreamed of the man that Kate herself had learned so much from in such a short time. Kate had told her there had been nothing in the tower but a few old papers and broken statues.
Moreover, Kate wished that she could have spent more time with the bellringer; his brain was something she would have liked to pick a bit longer. Hopefully, she would see him again. Kate broke the silence yet again.
"Is it possible he'll ever leave Notre Dame?"
"Not until he tires of observing." Hellboy lowered the paper folder. "Most people lives their whole lives in much the same manner. It's not that unusual. No doubt we'll be in Paris again by the end of the year, anyhow. There were some weird goings-on in the catacombs. Think I found the Court of Miracles. It's an ideal place for satanic cult rituals or frog people, especially since the floor is unstable. I might fall through it."
"It's sad, though. To have seen so much, yet do nothing with it." Kate seemed not to have heard her friend.
Hellboy lifted the paper once more. "He rings bells."
Author notes: for those who care and think I don't do symbolism
Harry Potter is included as a manner of bringing the Philosophers' Stone and Notre Dame de Paris full-circle. Frollo was actually seeking the stone, yet to make gold from light rather than seek immortality. It is mentioned in NDdP that it may be hidden in the Cathedral, as well.
Garnets apparently purify the soul, hence Hellboy throws them into the holy water to cleanse the possessed churchgoers
St. Anthony is the patron Saint of lost objects
Kate is concerned, mildly, that Quasimodo is a vampire or zombie at one point. She tests this theory by feeding him garlic, hence the Greek food.
Since Quasimodo is deaf, Kate and Hellboy
look at him, and he watches them when they speak, I try to stress this eye movement
Hellboy's sign language is a foreshadowing of Quasi's deafness
I tried to line historical facts correctly, such as the rose windows being removed during the world wars and bellringers ringing to drive away storms
Tried to relate Quasimodo and Hellboy's foundling status
Made the stone humble, ugly to look at yet much more than what it seems, like Quasimodo
Thanks for reading!