The bells of Notre Dame sang out their somber and knowing prayer. Sunlight dappled the square, but the air was not merry. Peasants shuffled nosily by, peering up at the cathedral in sorry curiosity as workmen set to rebuilding the beauteous columns and wizened gargoyles that had been smashed in last weeks… unpleasantness.
Rising above the terse crowds were guards mounted on black horses and wearing iron helmets. Their steely glares kept the nervous crowd from any mischief. From the church steps, two figures watched and talked.
"Order has been fully restored, monsieur le Capitan." The spindly guard peered discreetly at his superior for any response.
"Yes, Babin," said the other, larger man with a gravelly, sharp voice, "my predecessor may have been… lazy with the upholdings of holy law, but I assure you I am not prone to such wicked idleness."
"No, monsieur," Babin was frightened of the man next to him, and therefore could not gauge his own clout with him. Nevertheless, he proceeded to test the waters. "But, if you will pardon me, monsieur—" The Captain jerked his head to bear down on the inferior man with warning black eyes. Babin cautiously continued. "That is…" he gestured out at the square. "The people, they are usually happier, and after all, is it not our duty—"
"It is your duty, Babin, to follow orders," growled the Captain without fluster. "That is my expectation. Should you fail me, there will be consequences."
Babin gulped. "Oui, monsieur le Capitan."
"Now you see, I was right all along." Monsieur Marchelier dropped a kiss on his daughter's head as he made his way to his seat at the head of the table. "The city is an unsafe place."
"Yes, Father," exhaled Margot whilst discreetly rolling her eyes. She kept her attention rapt on her embroidery and deliberately avoided looking at her father, who had sat in his chair and was leaning to look out the window at the street below. Mimi, one of the servants, placed a dish of porridge in front of Margot and commented, "There you are, mademoiselle. Ooh, how lovely – a violet this time?"
"Yes!" Margot tilted her embroidery toward Mimi. "Glad its recognizable, thank you, Mimi!"
Mimi placed a bowl in front of Marchelier and moved away as quick as possible. Marchelier turned away from the window and caught sight of his breakfast.
"Oh, now Mimi, this porridge is far too milky, it'll fatten my daughter right up!"
"Oh, father, stop it," retaliated Margot in an unimpressed voice. "Food is food, we should be happy to eat it."
"My dear daughter, I am one of the most successful men in all of Paris. Food is nothing if not gourmet."
Margot started in on her breakfast. "If Phoebus were here, he'd eat the porridge all the same and you wouldn't even—"
"I told you not to say that name." Marchelier's voice was suddenly dangerous and deep. "You are the only child of mine, I'll not hear talk of anything else. Eat."
"Father, he's been gone a week!" Margot began to raise her voice. "We shouldn't be banishing him like he's some biblical criminal, we should—"
Marchelier stood up and there was a clatter of plates. "You watch yourself, madam. Don't you ever speak like that to me again – Mimi, I'll return when there's something half decent on the table." With that he strode out of the room and into his study.
There was an awkward pause as Mimi, frightened, stared at Margot from the corner. Margot caught sight of her father's upturned porridge bowl and immediately set to cleaning it up.
"No, mademoiselle, please, leave it to me—"
"Don't be silly, Mimi… and don't listen to a word he says. It was delicious."
"He's angry, Mimi. We all are. This is a difficult time, I'm sure he didn't really mean it." Margot only half believed herself.
Later that afternoon, she gazed out of her bedroom window at Paris, post-disaster. One week ago, a revolution of some sort had happened. Notre Dame had become a place of battle as the rounded-up Gypsies and the guards and the peasants all engaged in some kind of riot. Whispers shot through Paris of the misshapen bellringer, the hero, who had stopped the wicked Judge Frollo from carrying out his maniacal genocide. The city had rallied together for a cause of great good, but nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and as soon as it was over, some blamed the Gypsies for the trouble, while others took umbrage with the church. This spurred a period of heightened security, with a new Captain of the Guard appointed by the King himself to keep the city streets trouble-free. Margot had not witnessed the event herself – her father was irritatingly protective, and with Paris burning she was confined to the house. But Captain Phoebus had been there, and had fought valiantly on the side of justice. She knew this because some of the servants had been there, and she was very close with them.
The only problem was, after helping to save the city Phoebus had disappeared. The servants had said that he married a Gypsy woman and immediately gone underground. The new Captain was not one to suffer misconduct, and Phoebus was considered a treasonous deserter. Margot knew her brother was out there somewhere, hopefully unharmed, but she longed to know where.
The truth was, her father was not a bad man. After losing his wife to murderous street robbers, his paranoia was understandable. But Margot had a strong personality, and she felt smothered in her home. She had always looked up to Phoebus, and now more than ever she saw him as a paragon of bravery and adventure. Now, as she looked down at the dreary streets, she knew that she could not last cooped up in this swaddle for much longer.