AN: Hey guys! New story! ... Even though I should be working on my other ones! :D yay for procrastination! *Bricked*
Anyway, this is a retelling of the Disney version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" with several creative liberties of course. *coughfailendingwon'tbefailcough*
I do not own D. Grayman; I just make these wonderful little puppets dance for me.
"Gather round everyone! Come hear a wonderful tale! One that is sure to please, entertain and mystify!" a Chinese man called to passers by, grinning as he moved the wooden dolls in his puppet theatre with expert fingers. The cart the man lived in was built with a large window in the side, with curtains used to separate the theatre from the rest of the man's home. A skilfully painted had a caricature of the city of Pairs adorned the front, acting as a back ground for the daily puppet shows. He was a favourite of the local children and, though distrustful of his gypsy ways, many of the parents couldn't help but be enchanted by his tales.
People of all types were starting to gather around Koumi Lee's humble cart, their assortment of clothing a mash of dull colour against the gray January sky. All were eager to hear the gypsy's latest saga. Koumi was well known for his ability to engross the simple people of Paris with his fantastic stories or heroism and tragedy. His voice would rise and fall as the puppets he wielded moved seamlessly, as if they weren't made of wood and wire, but of flesh and bone. Many people envied the man's skill with words; there were no other storytellers quite like him in Paris.
Of course, Koumi used his influence to distract people so pick pockets could steal money from their hands without the peasants noticing, but that was beside the point. You did what you had to do to get by, and if cheating simple folk out of their money so that the people in his troupecould eat was what he had to do, then cheat them with enchanting words he would. Koumi spotted a familiar head of fiery hair and smiled, turning his attention back to his audience. Lavi was one of their best thieves and wouldn't fail to get enough for everyone to buy their bread.
"I have a very special story for you all today! One of struggle and mystery, where the facts are never certain but the moral rings loudly in the ears of all people, much like the bells of our fair cathedral." Koumi's smile widened at the excited murmurs that rippled through the crowd and pulled the curtains of his puppet theatre open, revealing two painted wooden dolls hanging by white threads. They were both intricately carved, the smooth wood painted with a shiny finish making them flash in the morning sunlight. One was shrouded in white cloth, its stature decidedly smaller than the other. Many in the crowd murmured quietly in surprise as the recognized the face painted on the puppet clothed in the black garments of a holy judge.
"The tale of the Bell Ringer of Notre Dame," the smaller puppet moved slowly as if afraid to offend, coming to life with just a few flicks of the puppeteer's wrists, "And the Judge Tyki Mikk." The puppet clad in black moved swiftly, pushing the smaller puppet aside, knocking the wooden doll to the floor with a clatter of wood.
Lavi watched curiously from the crowd as Koumi introduced his act. The older man usually stuck with familiar stories, the same ones Lavi had grown up listening to, wrapped in warm blankets beside a campfire as the sun slipped below the horizon, just as mystified as the children around him. This one was new though. The teenager debated with himself, wondering if he should listen to the story instead of picking the pockets of the enchanted locals. He scratched the side of his face and sighed quietly to himself. Koumi probably wouldn't be too pleased, but it wasn't often Lavi heard something new, so he put his hands in his pockets and looked on, listening to Koumi's tale as if he were was a child again.
"Our story begins some fifteen years ago, where in these streets, on the very steps of Notre Dame, the tale of a man and a monster unfolds!"
Fifteen years earlier
Travelling with an infant that needed constant attention was difficult. The child cried for his mother more than his father would have liked, but they got through as best they could. Warm goats milk and the gentle touch of work hardened hands became all the baby knew, and the only thing that could calm him. Mana was a proud father, but he could not ignore the whispers of his troupe, the band of gypsies that he had travelled with since his birth. They said the child was an evil, for one who looked so strange could not be anything but. One who took the life of his mother when coming into the world could not be anything pure, as other children were. His grip on the precious bundle in his arms tightened at the thought. A baby couldn't be evil, no matter its looks, nor the circumstances of its birth. Children were the innocents in a corrupted world, and the Gypsy cradling his deformed son knew that all too well.
The boy was strange, his father would be the first to say it for a Roma with skin as fair as any westerner and fuzzy hair the colour of new fallen snow was something even he, in all of his travels had not heard of. The child's left arm was deformed badly, but from what Mana could tell from when the gentle baby reached for him, fully functional. A small, star shaped birthmark on the baby's forehead contrasted darkly with the cream-white skin, and it made his father smile, reaching to touch the smooth mark gently. His mother had a similar mark on her collarbone, and it made Mana's heart warm to think his son carried at least something of his late mother on his body. The boy started at the touch and woke, his baby blue eyes watering as he started to wail unhappily, the cold wind blowing around them as the glided across the water on the boat.
"Mana! shut the kid up! We'll be spotted!" the gypsy sitting next to the father and son hissed. The small vessel rocked slightly as the man moved threateningly, causing Mana to swallow as he rocked the baby softly. Mana had left his troupe, his family and everything he'd ever known, praying that he could find the gypsy hideaway in Paris and start a new life with his son, away from the people who thought the child to be evil. It had been difficult to leave so many precious people behind but if it meant a better life for his son, Mana would do it a thousand times over.
"Please, little one, be still..." he murmured soothingly, rocking the tiny being in his arms until the boy quieted, a tiny red hand reaching out and gripping Mana's fingers, that little mouth babbling quietly in the way only a child could.
"You're lucky gypsy; I would have tossed the child into the river if it hadn't shut up." Mana grit his teeth, glaring at the old boatman who was smuggling the group into Paris. There was no mercy in people, he knew that, but to harm a child was despicable and Mana would attack the man if he so much as raised a finger against his son. The boat pulled up to the stone dock, and the hooded boatman climbed out with the two other men, a toothy grin stretching across his face as he held out his hand, the knobby fingers twitching with greed.
"Five silver coins for safe passage into Paris." The Gypsies looked at each other and Mana sighed, pulling out a small bag that held their fare. Mana tried to be as honest as he could, if it didn't put his son in any form of danger so paying the fare for himself and the others would be wise. Holding a child in the middle of conflict was a terrifying thing.
"Thank you for taking the risk to bring us here." The other man grunted and eagerly accepted the pouch, peering inside to check that he had been paid in full.
"Stop Gypsy rats!" the men turned in alarm, spotting the city guards advancing on them, bows drawn, the unforgiving arrows aimed for their hearts. The fugitives turned to run, but they were surrounded, men with their swords drawn glaring them down as the sound of an approaching horse reached their ears.
Mana pulled the child in his arms closer to himself, his thoughts racing as he went over every possibility. Running would do nothing but get both he and his son killed, he was helpless against the wood and steel of their weapons. Mana took a deep breath and prayed that he could talk his way out of the situation.
Those hopes were dashed when a man rode into their view on a black stallion. His head was held high as he gazed down with obvious distain at the small group of men. Mana backed away from the man, the merciless eyes that were stained black by the darkness of the night piercing the man where he stood. His face was handsome, but it was a cold beauty and the piercing eyes that gazed down at them held nothing but contempt. To see eyes that held no value for the lives of the people before them, the eyes of a demon, was terrifying. The city guards lowered their weapons as the man opened his mouth to speak.
"Take these Gypsy vermin to the Palace of Justice." Judge Tyki Mikk held no love for any people. All were corrupted and all were sinners whom needed his righteousness to get back on the path to God. If only those eyes would turn inside, and see the blackness that was devouring his own soul. Mana trembled under that gaze, moving back as the other gypsies were chained, shielding the precious bundle in his arms with his body, desperately trying to think of a way to escape.
"What are you hiding, Gypsy?" One of Tyki's henchmen demanded, pulling roughly on Mana's shoulders. He stiffened and threw the soldier's hand off, backing away from him, clutching his only child.
"Stolen goods of some sort I'm sure. Take them from him." the other men looked back as they were jerked forward, the alarmed looks on their faces unhidden by the darkness. Mana's breath caught in his throat as the soldiers approached him. It was run or lose the last thing he loved left on the earth.
So he ran.
The guards hadn't been expecting his sudden movement so Mana had been able to break through their line, running at full speed through the snowy Paris roads. Tyki had seen the man break through and growled, snapping the reigns of his horse and galloping after the fleeing gypsy.
Mana panted, the freezing air burning his lungs and he turned abruptly in the unfamiliar city, stumbling up the stone steps as the galloping of a horse got closer and closer. Building after building flashed by as Mana ran, vaulting over a low iron fence, sliding through the wet snow in the alley, clutching his son as tightly as he dared. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he charged into an open square, spotting the massive cathedral looming over the city. Mana felt a surge of relief as he rushed forward, grateful he had been able to find a safe haven for them. Notre Dame was a sanctuary.
He raced up the icy stairs and tried the door, feeling terror creep into his mind as he found it locked. The sound of Tyki's horse got closer and closer as Mana pounded on the doors desperately.
"Sanctuary! Please, please give us sanctuary! Help us! Please, God! Help my son!" Mana's frantic voice echoed through the abandoned square and he looked over his shoulder, brown eyes wide as the man whom he devil himself could fear galloped over the cobblestone road. Mana swore in Romani and turned to run again, feeling tears prickle at the corners of his eyes. It was as if God was forsaking them. The Judge overtook them and grasped onto the soft cloth the baby was wrapped in, pulling with all his might as Mana clutched his child.
"No! Leave my son! Please!" Tyki didn't seem to register Mana's pleas and his booted foot came free of the stirrups and he yelled as he planted his foot in the middle of Mana's chest. The gypsy lost his grip on the child, stumbling backwards through the slush, hands reaching for the tiny bundle in Tyki's hands.
"ALLEN!" the world tilted violently and Mana gave one more yell as his head stuck the steps and his vision blurred, the edges fading fast as he felt blood rush from the wound on the back of his head.
Tyki snorted as the gypsy below him went limp, his tanned face going almost white in the freezing cold. He idly wondered why the man tried so hard to keep whatever items he had stolen, briefly remembering the accented voice of the dead man before him screaming something or other. They were all fools, gypsy vermin who plagued the world with their treacherous ways, corrupting whatever good people that remained in such a wretched city with their immorality. They had to be exterminated to protect the sanctity of their way of life, the good, catholic way of living. The bundle started squirming and Tyki looked down in surprise, a look of shock dancing across his features.
"A baby...?" he wondered aloud as a distressed sound came from within the soft cloth. He shifted on his horse, freeing his other hand from the reigns and parting the fabric to look at the child. Soft eyes, the baby blue already starting to fade, peered up at him, the tiny white hairs on his head standing out starkly against the gray blanket. Tyki jolted as he spotted the vaguely star shaped blotch on the child's forehead, the sign of a witch, a devil's instrument. The baby babbled softly, the darkly skinned hand reaching up to the face of the one holding him, as he was accustomed to. Tyki pulled back in disgust, looking at the deformed baby with a veiled horror. "A Demon." The man quickly rewrapped the infant tightly, ignoring his disgruntled squawk.
"There must be some way to destroy it..." Tyki mumbled to himself, holding the boy as far away from his body as possible, as if the evil the child carried could be transferred into him. Dark eyes scanned the surrounding area quickly. Killing the child with a sword would be messy, and there was no guarantee that the demon inside of it would completely die. A dark form in the middle of the square caught his eye and relief passed through Tyki.
Water would kill the evil that had fallen into his hands. The Judge almost felt proud, for he had caught this terror before it could be unleashed by the gypsy scum on the few virtuous people left. He urged his horse forward, holding the edge of the blanket, keeping the wiggling child suspended above the ground and as far away from his person as possible. He held the tiny babe high over the opening of the well, feeling triumphant. Good always prevailed over evil, and Tyki knew he was putting a potentially terrible evil to its death, nipping it in the bud, so to say.
"Return to the hell from whence you came, Gypsy Demon." He said calmly, raising his arm further. Tyki paused as the doors to the church swung open, glancing back to see the archdeacon of Notre Dame rush out.
"Stop!" Tyki scowled as the elderly man went to the dead Gypsy, checking for signs of life. The man looked up at Tyki, angry fire burning in his eyes, "you have murdered an innocent man!"
"He ran, and I merely pursued him. I am guiltless. Do not point fingers at me Father Yeagar." Tyki narrowed his eyes at the older man who glared angrily right back.
"You murdered his father, and now you will add that child's blood to your guilt!? On the steps of Notre Dame no less!"
"This is an unholy demon. I plan to send it back to hell, where it belongs. My conscious is clear." Tyki snapped, approaching the archdeacon on his horse.
"You can lie to yourself and your foolish followers, but you can never run from nor hide what you've done from the eyes of God!" Tyki tensed, looking up at the intricate stone carvings of the cathedral seemingly staring back at him with blank eyes. A cold fear ran through him, a fear he had never truly felt before. It was if the statues were acting as God's eyes, looking down at him, judging him as he judged others for their crimes. His very soul trembled before the overwhelming sensation the imposing cathedral, the one he had grown up looking up to and admiring, stared him down.
"What must I do...?" Tyki's voice was a near whisper, one that the elderly man holding the dead Gypsy in his arms barely heard.
Yeagar did not hesitate in his reply, picking the fairest punishment for the heinous crime that the Judge could undertake. "Take the Child in, raise it as your own."
"What?! I'm to be stuck with this misshapen monstrosity!?" Tyki scowled, looking down at the crying baby, mind working furiously. "... very well, but let him stay here, with you, in this church."
"What? Here? But where?" Yeagar questioned, looking annoyed as Tyki shrugged, still looking at the child.
"It doesn't matter. Where ever it can stay out of sight." There was a pause as Tyki stared into the child's eyes, "Perhaps this is fate, our Lord does work in mysterious ways... even this foul creature may prove to be of some use." A small, calculating smile stretched across Tyki's face and he rode forward, handing the crying child to the elderly priest.
Lavi watched Koumi carefully. The stories he usually told weren't quite so specific, this one felt like it was almost, if not entirely true. Green eyes looked up to the bell towers that loomed high over the city, and he wondered if there was in fact a little deformed gypsy boy locked up in their dark recesses. Lavi's attention snapped back to Koumi as he raised his voice a little to be heard over the crowd.
"And there our story ends for now. I leave you all with a riddle to guess at if you can. Who was the real monster, and who is the real man?" the people clapped for Koumi and he stood, bowing gracefully as people dropped coins into the hat placed a small distance in front of the puppet theatre. The smallish crowd dispersed and Lavi walked forward, dropping the few coins he had managed to steal before he was sucked into the story, looking up at Koumi.
"That was a new one." He said causally, and Koumi smiled.
"Telling the same stories all the time is boring! We all need a little variety in life!" the storyteller chirped, hopping down beside Lavi, "And sometimes the public needs to be presented with a truth more subtly than telling them outright what happened."
"So it is true?" Lavi asked, his single green eye widening, "One of our own is stuck up there?" Koumi shrugged, looking up at the towers, just as Lavi had done a few moments ago.
"No one is completely certain. That's the story I've heard, and the boy's father is dead regardless of what happened to the child. I don't know about the boy... my guess is he was killed though. I wouldn't put it past Judge Mikk." The older man scowled at the thought of the church leader. It was well known that Tyki Mikk held no mercy for any gypsy.
"Huh..." Lavi hummed thoughtfully, looking up at the great cathedral, shifting uncomfortably as he suddenly felt a little uneasy, it was almost as if he could feel the phantom child's eyes peering back down at him from the bell tower. Koumi observed the teenager thoughtfully, then smiled, knowing it had been a good idea to get Lavi thinking. Interesting things happened when Lavi became curious.
Typos have been fixed. How Lavi's name took over everything is a mystery. Please inform me if you see any other random "Lavi's" that dont belong anywhere!