A/N: Hey everyone! I apologize enormously for the wait. I really do need to shake this monthly updating streak... Please do enjoy.
Chapter – 13
Down Once More
His foot met the cold stone of the exterior of the cathedral as he made his slow and careful descent. Even though he had so freely frolicked about up here with her before, now he handled his precious cargo with the utmost care; his movements even and calculative.
And so for the second time in his life, Quasimodo found himself going down once more to the world below. While this was normally supposed to be a moment of fluttering excitement for him, the bellringer could not shake the overwhelming feeling of growing dread that wrenched at his very core. Little did he know that Belle silently felt the very same thing.
Neither dared speak of it; it was as if they both feared that talking aloud of what they felt would only make it real. Deep down though, they both knew it would not matter either way. Only the eye of the Lord could foresee what was to become.
Quasimodo was screaming at himself in his head to say something – anything to her. It was as if his mouth could not form the words, a lump steadily growing in his dry throat. Belle too was having trouble voicing what she knew she really wanted to say. It was almost driving her mad – for so long she had been able to say almost anything to him the moment the thought came to her mind. Now, when it seemed most important to speak with him, her thoughts were scattered, intertwining with each other but never joining.
The silence was not a comfortable one either, it was strained and crushing. It brought on a wave of uneasiness to both of them.
All Quasimodo could find in himself to do was revel in how close he was to her, the feel of her arms wrapped around his neck and her head pressed to his shoulder; he wasn't sure if he would ever know such a touch again once she was gone. He just had to keep telling himself that she would return. She had said she would. He believed her.
As he dropped from parapet to statue, he tried to concentrate very hard on his faith in her and how he knew that she would be back. He did not see how this could be, but he trusted that Belle would find a way. While most of him knew his loyalties lay with the church and his master, he could not help but both wonder and yearn for what life might be like if he were to go with Belle, go to this home of hers in Versailles.
He remembered she had said it was dull, boring, and suffocating, but the thought of living somewhere out in the open where one could come and go as they pleased – it sounded most invigorating to him… especially when he thought of living such a life with Belle nearby...
Quasimodo almost had to physically shake his head to rid himself of the thought. No. He mustn't.
He was meant to live here, remain here. He had promised to ring the bells.
But… he had been completely alone until now. Of course that wasn't the case if he counted his friends, the grimacing stone gargoyles. But even he knew that Belle's company was better suited. Someone alive other than his master cared for him, someone who he never imagined could.
His thoughts were all mixed up and it was enough to near drive him mad.
All his life he rarely felt what he knew now to be confliction. He had been told simply to stay in his tower and he had abided by that rule. It wasn't until Belle had come into his life that he really begun to question the true meaning behind what he was told to do. She wanted him to go with her… to flee Paris. Oh the very thought! He knew he could never leave this place. Notre Dame. His home. His nest. His sanctuary. His… prison. It was where he belonged.
Belle belonged to the air, the sky, the earth. She was meant to be free. His little bird that would fly away. She would go on adventures – he knew she would. He… he belonged to stone. Stone did not move, stone did not change. And stone certainly was not meant to be free.
Quasimodo felt a stinging pressure behind his eyes and he recognized it immediately as the threat of tears. Oh Belle did not need to see him like this! A small strangled noise left his throat as he made an attempt to clear it and push back those persistent tears. To his relief, the pressure subsided and he was left now only with his heart that ached for her. He knew that he could only hold back the dam for so long, but he could do it for now, he could let go when he was alone in the shadow of his Grand Marie. For now, he had to be strong.
He worried that if Belle saw him about to break, she would continue insisting that he go with her and Quasimodo was not sure how much more of seeing her disappointment he could take. He had thought disappointing master was the worst thing that could happen, but seeing someone as pure and wonderful as Belle that way… it was far worse.
The hunchback felt Belle's arms around his neck tighten slightly. He wondered then if she could sense what it was that he was feeling, or if perhaps she had gotten scared that she might fall and needed a more reassuring grip. Quasimodo almost had to smile. She should know by now that he would never allow her to fall.
He was wrong though.
Belle did not tighten her hold on him to bring him comfort or even to grip more for better support; no she felt quite safe where she was at in his arms, in fact... she couldn't imagine a place more safe.
The inner turmoil of her thoughts had been what lead her to do such actions. She could not help but wonder to herself if it was truly awful that a strong part of her heart yearned to continue staying up in that tower with Quasimodo.
How could she possibly be that selfish though? She had her papa to worry about. He had to of been worried sick about her – and the fact that she had not seen him while looking out on the village whilst in Notre Dame only unnerved her of his well-being further. Once she got back to their rented cottage and saw for herself that he was going to be all right, then she could worry more about her situation with her special friend.
She was not going to take no for an answer. The thought of Quasimodo remaining alone up in that tower for the rest of his days brought a sickness in her heart. It was something she could not and would not allow. But, this was something she would have to take up with him later. Right now he was concentrating on getting them safely to the ground. And, Belle knew it would be easier to navigate to her cottage if there was only one of them. Even so, in the far corner of her mind she worried of something happening that would hinder her from seeing him again. Belle refused to dwell on this too much – it just could not be an option. She would get to where she needed to be, she would find her papa, and she would come back for Quasimodo. It was as simple as that.
To both their dismay, Quasimodo reached the statue at the very base of the cathedral.
Even when his movements stilled, neither dared say anything; nor even do anything for that matter. They knew…they both knew that the minute they did something other than remaining perfectly still, that it would be time to say good bye. And for all Quasimodo knew, despite Belle's faith that it would be otherwise, he might never see her again after this night.
There was no amount of time that could pinpoint exactly how long they stayed as they were; silent and frozen like the statues around them – but eventually the sound of the distant voices of the guards reached Belle and she finally lowered herself from her perch on her friends back.
She rested beside him then and Quasimodo turned his face to look at her.
As soon as their eyes met, she threw her arms around his neck without a trace of hesitation this time and hugged him close. Quasimodo himself took a lot less time to react like he had before and quickly wrapped his own arms around her, folding her to his powerful form. She felt so soft in his arms. He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his face into her hair, inhaling her earthly floral and grain scent. The bellringer felt her shoulders shake a few times and he realized with a slight uncomfortable drop of his gut, that she was trying just as hard not to weep as he was.
In an effort to comfort her, he ran his hand timidly up her back a couple times, not really understanding why he had and ready to pull his hand away the minute she showed discomfort of any kind. But, she didn't – if anything she held on to him a little tighter before releasing her hold then completely.
Quasimodo felt his arms fall limply at his sides and he dropped his gaze to the ground, wanting to look into her lovely face, memorize its every detail just one more time; but he feared seeing the pain in her eyes that he knew would be there… and he feared letting her see too much of his own introverted torture.
Knowing that they had only seconds of stolen time left, Belle reached out and took his hands one final time.
This action brought Quasimodo to look at her again. And, just as he knew he would, he saw the pain that was in her eyes. He would have done anything he could to erase such a look, but he knew that it was near impossible being as how he was the source of most of that hurt.
"You must go," he managed to whisper frantically, giving her hands a gentle squeeze.
Belle swallowed hard and nodded. This was it.
A strong, blazing look entered her eyes then and Quasimodo could only imagine what it was she was about to say.
But… it wasn't what she said. It was what she did.
Without warning, she moved forward and Quasimodo went completely rigid as her soft, rose petal lips rested against his cheek for a brief moment. The kiss lasted for little more than a second and after she pulled away, it might have not even happened if it weren't for the burning sensation he felt after wards.
She lowered her head and closed her eyes. Quasimodo, trembling slightly, just looked at her, unable to bring himself to say anything – thoughts wouldn't even manifest themselves fully in his mind. Shock was all he felt.
Had that just happened? Had that really happened?
Had he just been kissed by an angel?
"B-Belle?" he asked then, finding her sudden stillness quite disturbing. She needed to go!
Her eyelids flickered in acknowledgment first before she lifted her head again and looked at him fully. This was even harder than she had imagined it to be. She was saying goodbye to her only friend.
"Do not forget me, Quasimodo. I will comeback. I promise."
That sad smile he gave her then was enough to send her heart breaking a hundred times over.
"I could never forget you," he reassured, looking over his shoulder again anxiously. Guards could appear at any time now. Even though he wished for this moment with her to last longer, Quasimodo knew that she absolutely had to leave this very second.
She nodded then, knowing he was right.
"Belle… go," he pressed, sensing her hesitation and knowing she would regret it if she did not leave now when the opportunity had presented itself so clearly tonight.
Shaking her head, she began to stand, about to maneuver her way down to the ground just a few feet below her. She stopped one last time to look at her friend. While she did not want to remember him this way, sad and full of regret – she just could not bear the thought of leaving him without one last glance.
Belle managed to allow a true smile to grace her features then and her eyes grew immensely soft.
"I will see you soon," she said confidently before turning and sliding the rest of the way down.
The minute her feet hit solid ground, she could have sworn she felt immediate disconnection from the cathedral… from Quasimodo.
Trying to rid such a thought from her mind, Belle focused her gaze forward towards the direction she would be headed. Without waiting a second more, she began to swiftly run, keeping to the shadows.
She did not look back.
The somber hunchback however watched her go – and in that instant he felt his heart shatter then, the pieces flying off to follow her, staying with her always.
Still frozen with shock, only the slight trembles from his arms were the indications that he himself was not a statue a part of Notre Dame.
Only one thought kept playing over and over in his mind as if it were just one small circuit.
She was gone. She was really gone.
His cheek still burned with the bitter sweetness of the kiss he still could not believe she had given him. He felt hope then. Belle would be all right. She would come back. She just had to.
Belle would go to her cottage, she would find her father and they would pack, and then they would leave. She would be safe. Even if she had said she would come back though… she was still going to disappear again in the long run.
As long as he knew that she would be safe though, that would be enough for him. Forget his own poor shadows. Forget his own loneliness. His home was not meant for her. Belle would be free and he would be loyal to his master once more, not longer having to hide anything from him or be dishonest.
Despite his grief over having to say goodbye, it did give the bellringer some sense of relief as he thought about how he would not be disobeying his master any longer. He would be good just as he had promised him he would be. And… now that she was gone, Master would never even have to know.
It stirred his heart uncomfortably to think that he would still be keeping something from him – but it would be better that way. He had been nothing but honest with Master in the past. Quasimodo had only done what he thought was right.
Even though she had melted into the darkness long ago, he still continued to stare off into the direction she disappeared; as if he hoped that at any moment she would emerge once again.
Quasimodo knew this was not likely though. It would take her a while to get back to her cottage being as how she would have to move slowly and calculatedly so as to not alert the guards on patrol of her presence. And then there would be the matter of packing away all that she and her father had brought with them to Paris. Yes, it would take a while. Much too long… But, he knew all he could really do in this situation was hope.
Hope. And pray to Mary.
With a little shake of his massive head, Quasimodo turned and began the journey back up to his home in the tower. He moved slower than her normally would have, but he was very much distracted by the thoughts that kept flashing and dancing around in his head.
It was well past midnight by the time he reached the belfry, but that made no difference to Quasimodo. Time really held no meaning for him up here. The only thing that constantly kept him aware of it was the fact that he used to chime Emmanuel every hour. That became almost near impossible for him to do however with Belle here. He realized then with a lurch that that would no longer be the case anymore…
Quasimodo swallowed hard and tried to continue keeping his focus on the hope.
But, once she had crossed his mind again, the dam broke and two, thick droplets of tears made trails on each of his cheeks as they fell.
His eyes landed on the two figurines that were next to each other on his Notre Dame square miniature. Ever since Belle had moved them together, he had not touched them. Something about the way his figurine stood out in the open next to hers just looked so right to him. If it had been a couple days ago, he could not explain why that was. But… the bellringer knew now. Oh, he knew it with every fiber of his being.
He loved her. He was sure of it.
The hunchback had hardly known what love was. He knew what it meant to love the Lord – but this was so very different. What had made him fully understand what it was that he felt now was the fairytale he had read with Belle. One of the main themes had been to love and be loved in return.
He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what he felt for Belle now was love. How could it not be? Quasimodo had spent over two weeks in her presence. Only talking to her, only listening to her… only thinking of her. The fact that she was gone now just as he realized his own feelings tore at his heart – but he knew he mustn't despair. When there was love, there was faith. And with all he had been through, Quasimodo was one of the most faith driven people there ever was.
The moon came out from behind the clouds then and slipped in through the openings in the belfry. The light hit him softly and the lonely hunchback directed his gaze towards the sky, the tears in his eyes glistening. It was getting late – but Quasimodo knew very well that he would not be sleeping any time soon.
With a gentle sigh, he ran a hand through his tangled red hair.
"Be safe, mon ange," he murmured.
It was as if a complete, dead calm had shrouded the entire city of Paris in a smothering blanket. In the short time that she had lived here, Belle could never remember it being this quiet before. Though she figured it would end up this way considering she was trying to sneak past any guards that still might be looking for her. Belle wanted to think that this was unlikely, but considering someone had actually ordered her arrest – the guards would surely take her in the moment they laid eyes on her.
She moved extremely carefully, always keeping her back pressed up against something so she would not have to keep switching her gaze around. Belle did not dare venture out from the shadows. They were her only hope of keeping her out of view from anyone that might be looking for her.
Twice already she had had a near run in with a soldier and had just managed to dodge around a different corner of a cottage before the light of his torch could reach her.
It was as if her hearing was twice what it normally was. Belle felt as if she could almost hear everything; from the shift of the wooden cottages against the slight breeze, to the gentle waves of the Seine lapping up against the thick stone walls surrounding it.
While this seemed a good thing to her, it also made any mistake she made, any pebble she accidentally kicked seem so much louder and resonating than it had ever been before. Every time even a slightly louder noise sounded off around her, Belle's heart would leap up into her throat and pound furiously in her head.
This happened even now as the sound of footsteps reached her. Belle froze, her eyes desperately shifting through her surroundings to find a place to hide. She spotted a barrel a few feet away and immediately dove behind it, pulling it slightly so that her back could also be sheltered by the wall of the building behind her.
Holding her breath, she waited.
The footsteps continued to get closer and closer until they quite abruptly stopped all together. Belle fought the urge to peek out from behind the barrel, knowing that that would only lead to disaster if she were spotted.
She remained completely still – just waiting. The fact that they had just stopped out of nowhere meant that they had not left… Oh how her heart just continued to throb in her ears. Belle was beginning to wonder if whoever was out there could even hear it.
"Who are we hiding from, ma chère?"
Before she could even gasp, a spidery, black gloved hand gently closed over her mouth. Immediately Belle's eyes darted to the left where she had heard the whisper.
Relief warmed her blood when she realized that it was none other than Clopin Trouillefou who was crouched beside her behind the barrel. Belle could easily say she was glad to see the gypsy.
"Clopin! What are you doing here?" she whispered excitedly.
"I could very well ask the same of you," he replied, "you forget, I rule Paris when the sun goes down."
Belle nodded her head to indicate that she remembered quite well that he was the king of truants.
"I'm trying to find my Papa… and leave here as soon as possible," she answered then.
"Coincidental. I am looking for someone as well. We were separated after those guards so charmingly interrupted our little performance. I know she's quite capable of handling herself, but she hasn't come home yet. "
Her eyes brightened as she remembered seeing said performance from above… while she and Quasimodo had danced.
"I saw you from Notre Dame," she said then and Clopin gave her a knowing glance.
"Ah, so that's where you've been all this time. I wondered what ever became of you after our lovely time spent together in the dusty tunnels inside the walls of Paris," he said with a bit of a playful glint in his eyes.
"Yes it was the only place I could be without getting arrested. Sanctuary, you know," Belle replied, finding herself strangely missing the cathedral.
Clopin nodded in understanding. Though Sanctuary had never ended well for any of his people. It was well known fact that one of a gypsy's biggest weakness was being cut off from their freedom.
A thought struck Belle that perhaps Clopin, knowing the ins and outs of this city probably better than anyone might be able to tell her of a short cut she might be able to take to get to her father faster without being detected.
"Do you know a faster way through here?" she asked then, peeking momentarily around the barrel to see if there was an approaching torch lights indicating that a guard was nearby. It was completely black out here a part from the bright glint in Clopin's mischievous eyes.
To her surprise, the gypsy shook his head.
"Unfortunately, you are in what we call the dead zone of Paris. Do to this place being so close to the Seine, there are no tunnels beneath us, and not enough walls to make for secret passages," he replied, annoyance evident in his voice. Belle had a feeling that because of Clopin's crowd-pleasing nature, he did not like to disappoint.
She somberly nodded her head.
"That's all right. I suppose I'll just continue my original method," she said, her heart sinking a little as she realized she still had ways to go before she could make it to her destination. Having a run in with the guards was looking more and more likely all the time.
He raised an eyebrow.
"And that is?"
Belle smiled and shrugged her shoulders slightly.
"Not getting caught?" she asked, realizing how ridiculous that sounded - but it was true...
Clopin returned her smirk.
"Ah, a method I use all the time," he replied then.
She tried to suppress her giggle.
A brief moment of silence surrounded them as they both listen again for anything that might be an approaching threat.
It was then that the gypsy spoke a little while later.
"You'll do fine, chérie. I can create a diversion if you'd like," Clopin said then, earning a look of surprise from her.
"But don't you fear getting caught?" she asked, well aware that he was a wanted name among the guards. If they were so against gypsies… then the gypsy king was surely a main target of theirs.
Clopin gave her mocking stunned look. Part of the fun of being outside the law, was making fools out of those imbecile guards – and he would not miss a chance on that.
"And do you think they call me the Gypsy King for nothing?" he asked.
Belle laughed softly and smiled at the prideful gypsy. However said look faded when all of a sudden, she could hear the sound of approaching hoof beats. Peeking her head around for the second time, her heart turned to ice when she could see an unmistakable torchlight beginning to creep around the corner.
She turned then to face Clopin, but discovered that he was no longer beside her. In fact, he was nowhere in sight. Puzzled, Belle's eyes shifted around a few times to see if she could spot him anywhere, but found that she could not. The gypsy man had completely vanished.
The girl waited, completely alone; though she wouldn't be alone for long seeing as how those hoof beats kept getting closer… and closer.
Without warning, a loud, crackling boom sounded off what seemed a few blocks away from her.
"What in the blazes!" a voice called out.
"Check the alley! It came from there!"
The sounds of rushed footsteps and hoof beats filled the air again, but Belle noticed this time that they were moving away from her.
Belle looked out from behind her hiding place again and spotted the sight of what looked like purple, glittery smoke rising to the sky a few cottages away.
A smile immediately reached her face and she had to hold her hand to her mouth to suppress a giggle.
"Clopin?" she whispered.
Deciding to take this situation to her advantage, Belle carefully stood from her spot behind the barrel and walked out into the open.
"Good luck to you again, chérie. Make haste; they'll be back here before too long," Clopin's seemingly disembodied voice whispered.
Belle swiveled her head around in an attempt to spot him, but it was useless. She was sure the mysterious gypsy was already gone by now.
She almost found herself crying out for him not to leave her alone, but she was able to stop herself. That would just end up working against her. He had given her this window of opportunity – it was best she take it.
"Thank you..." she whispered then, not even sure if he could hear her now.
With that said and done, Belle began to set off once more, sticking to the shadows like before.
Any noise the filled the air around her caused her to freeze up. Ever since her attack in front of Notre Dame, she was very paranoid about being out here by herself at this time. Belle knew that Quasimodo would not be here to protect her this time. Clopin had done all he could for her; it was all on her now.
So far, so good though.
Belle realized now that she was probably about half way there.
The trip had not seemed as long when the sun had been out and she had had her book to read and keep her occupied; now it seemed to be taking an eternity.
The sound of something snapping reached her ears and Belle whipped her whole body around to see what it was. She could not see through the darkness what exactly it was, but she kept on looking as she walked backwards.
This was probably not a good idea for her eyes were not able to see the abandon cart in front of her... at least, not until she backed up right into it.
The crash that followed was perhaps the loudest noise she had ever heard; and Belle knew this was only because she just knew that the guards heard it too. The brittle cart toppled over and hit the wall behind it, sliding down the stone creating a shattering screeching noise, and then it inevitably hit the ground, a loud thud echoing throughout the seemingly abandoned streets.
Belle just completely froze, almost as if she could not believe that that had happened, that she had been so stupid.
"Did you hear that, Captain?"
"Yes. I'll take a look, remain at your post."
"All right, Sir."
Despair filled her. The captain was coming.
Once more Belle looked around for another place to hide, but could find nothing except for the shadows some of the cottages made under the moonlight.
The sound of the captain approaching seemed to be coming in all directions.
Heart pounding, Belle decided that her best option was to simply run.
And so… she did just that.
Unfortunately for her as she rounded the nearest corner, she came face to face with the Captain-of-the-Guard upon his steed.
Belle gasped and backed up a couple steps just as the horse reacted as well, it letting out a disturbed snort and shifting his hooves a few times.
"Achilles, heel!" the captain commanded, pulling on the stallion's reins.
It was then that he looked over Achilles's head and locked eyes with the frightened girl staring up at him.
He recognized her instantly do to the description given to him by the guards that had been searching for her for a while; and the fact that she was out well past midnight only confirmed his suspicion that this was the girl wanted for arrest.
Belle bit fiercely at her lip, almost drawing blood. This was it, there was no hope – not when the captain had her cornered like this. A wild idea of simply brushing past him and running like mad filled her head, but Belle knew that was not practical – she was more likely to get herself killed doing that.
Phoebus de Chateaupers just stared down at her, his mind racing at what to do. The right thing to do would be to follow orders and arrest her, but what he should do was let her get away – there was no mistaking her innocence.
"Anything there, Captain?" a rough voice echoed a few blocks down.
Phoebus looked over his shoulder for a moment in the direction the man had called.
Belle found this very strange behavior; it was not right for a guard to take his eyes off of someone they were about to arrest… was he perhaps new?
The captain turned back to look at her.
"I hope you can run fast," he whispered.
What he said was so unexpected, Belle almost did not believe she had heard him right.
"I didn't see anything; there are foot prints in the dust leading east. I'd say take a look over there," he said, ordering the guards to go in the complete opposite direction that the girl was headed.
She continued to look up at him in utter disbelief. Had he really just-?
"Go," he hissed urgently and with that he wheeled Achilles around and sent him in a canter after the other guards.
Belle did not need telling twice. She took off at a full run the second the captain had told her to do so.
Cottages and covered carts whipped past her in a blur. At this point it almost didn't matter how much noise she was making, she just wanted to get home.
Adrenaline pulsed fiercely through her and Belle found herself going even faster, as if she had wings on her feet.
Hardly even thinking about it, she ran down roads, ducked around corners, and dodged a few more carts or wagons left in the middle of the streets.
To her utter relief, the sight of their rented cottage eventually came into view and grew steadily closer as she ran towards it. It had seemed as if the odds were in her favor in getting her to her Papa safely. Maybe... just maybe everything would be all right now.
She finally came to a stop in front of it, panting heavily. Belle's heart thundered in her chest and continued to do so as she looked up at the building. There was no sign that life resided from within. No candle in the window. But, Belle knew that it was late and there was a very high chance that her Papa was in bed.
But… deep inside, she knew that something was not right.
As she went inside the cottage, she did not see the sight of a dark figure jump on his horse and ride off into the shadows.
The place was pitch black and Belle tried not to be too disturbed by this. It was very late after all.
He's asleep. Papa is only sleeping. She thought desperately to herself, knowing that she would only know for sure once she called out for him. But… she was almost afraid to do so.
Realizing that she was being silly, Belle shook her head and cleared her throat.
"Papa?" she called into the darkness, heading towards the stairs.
There was no answer.
He's just in a deep sleep. He is surely up there now… it will take him a moment to awaken…
Belle still remained hopeful as she began to make her way up the stairs.
"Papa?" she tried again.
Still no response.
A shroud of doubt began to blanket itself over her still drumming heart.
She would have heard him stir by now…
Even so, Belle continued moving towards his bedroom. When she reached the door, she stood in front of it for a moment, hesitating.
It was as if she already knew that he wouldn't be behind it.
Carefully she pulled it open and looked inside.
It looked as if he had not been there for days. His bed was completely made, his clothes were all folded on the wooden dresser by the window, and the un-lite candle by his window was untouched – just as it had been the day they moved here.
Belle swallowed hard… it was as if a knife had splintered its way into her stomach, twisting around in her guts..
Wh-Where was he?
But… she already had an idea and oh how she hoped she was wrong.
Another thought then occurred to her and her eyes widened.
"Philippe!" she exclaimed her poor horse's name out loud.
In one quick move, she whipped around and made her way down the stairs as fast as possible. Everything rushed past her in a blur again as she passed through the living area of the cottage and out the front door.
It seemed to take her forever to get to the stable. When she threw open the door and the moonlight spilled in, she saw that there was no horse from within.
He had been stolen. It was the only conclusion she could make.
Belle let out a breath she had been holding. At least wherever he was he was being cared for – or rather, she'd like to hope so. Her best bet was that the gypsies had taken him. They were often in need of horses with all their caravans and wagons and how much they traveled.
That still didn't solve her first and biggest problem.
Belle could only assume the worst: That he had been arrested just as she had almost been.
What had they honestly done?
All she could really think of was her father's greatest invention… but how was that even remotely offensive?
So many questions kept rushing through her mind. But, she knew that she was not going to get anywhere just asking things to herself repeatedly. Belle would have to take action if she wanted to get her Papa and go home.
There was always the possible chance that he was just out looking for her with Philippe, but she almost immediately dismissed the thought. It was clear by the dust that had gathered in their cottage and the way his bed had had no indent that no one had been around here in quite some time – two weeks… Unless he had gotten into some trouble...
If he had in fact been arrested – then where had they taken him? Her best bet was the place she had overheard as being called the Palace of Justice. If she could recall, she had seen the Palace of Justice directly across from Notre Dame the many times she and Quasimodo had gone and looked out over the beautiful city.
The odds were very much against her now. It wasn't like she could just waltz into the place and demand her papa's freedom… she too was a fugitive.
She would need help.
Right away she thought of Quasimodo – but, why this was she did not know. It wasn't as if he could really be much help to her. He had never left Notre Dame… She figured that he had just naturally come up first in her thoughts because he was her closest friend. But… unfortunately he just was not an option.
It was then that her thoughts danced around the idea of finding Clopin again. Yet, the more she thought about it, the more she realized that that probably was not a good idea either… Even though he had helped her twice, that didn't mean he'd be so willing to completely risk his neck by heading into the Palace of Justice with her – he barely knew her… Of course there was the thought of rallying all the gypsies… but that was not likely. And, Belle realized then that she did not have a chance at finding them at all.
If the gypsies did not want to be found, they would not be. It was as simple as that.
She might have known a few of their tricks thanks to Clopin, but her limited knowledge was nothing compared to their born whit and street smarts.
Belle sighed. Oh what could she possibly do?
One thing was for sure, she was not going to just stand here. The idea of standing around while such evil was possibly happening was more than she could bear. But even as she walked from the stable back towards the cottage, she did not feel much better about it.
The only conclusion that she could come to was to simply wait at the cottage overnight and then once morning came, she could try looking for her father in the daylight. There was still a chance that he hadn't been arrested.
And if he had…
As she walked back into the cottage and shut the door behind her, Belle's thoughts momentarily glossed over that one soldier who had let her go…
What if she found him tomorrow and explained the situation? He had been called captain… he would surely have power wouldn't he?
Such an idea was very risky… just because he had let her go tonight didn't mean he would be so likely to do it again…
But, at this point, Belle honestly did not see what other choice she had.
Right now she was just trying to remain calm and weigh her options, but that was proving to be increasingly difficult.
Perhaps sleep was the best thing for her, give her a chance to clear her head and gain back some strength – but she couldn't possibly sleep; she knew she was fooling herself with that notion.
There was no harm in trying though… it wasn't as if she could leave this place; not right now any way.
Belle looked around the empty house; it almost felt as if she was in a tomb. It was so solemn, dark and lifeless…
Her thoughts froze the minute she thought she heard footsteps approaching.
Belle swung her head in the direction of the door. Was it her Papa? She hardly dared to speak out loud.
There was no other sound after that then and she realized with dismay that is probably just gust of wind. Belle covered her face and found herself sitting on the floor. Never before in her entire life had she felt so… limited.
Before she could go any further with feeling sorry for herself, the door lurched forward slightly with a loud bang.
Belle jerked her hands away from her face and looked towards the door. What on earth…?
A second bang sounded off and the door went snapping forward, hitting the ground roughly.
She was then met with the sight of five guards standing outside, glaring in at her.
"There she is! Don't just stand there, take her, men!" One of them cried, and before she even had a prayer of going an inch in an attempt to escape, two of the five rushed in, each grabbing one of her arms.
"Let go of me!" she cried, knowing it was useless. This couldn't be happening! It just couldn't!
Yet somehow in the very pit of her heart… she had known that it would.
Something very hard knocked powerfully into the back of her head with a dull thud and Belle found the world around her fading to black rather abruptly.
When the girl was slumped forward, completely unconscious, the guards proceeded to drag her out from the cottage, looks of devious victory plastered on their unattractive faces.
A few candles had been lite in the surrounding homes as the villagers from within, disturbed by the noise, arose to investigate what it was that was occurring.
"Nothing to see here!" The guard that had struck Belle with the bottom of his spear, Jean, called out, "go back to bed!"
When they had dragged her to where their horses stood waiting, Yvon took her limp body and draped it over his steed before climbing on himself. He kept her body between the horse's neck and his own form sitting atop the saddle.
"It's about time," he stated, slight relief in his voice. He had begun to grow quite fearful of Frollo and his growing anger at not having her captured. Thankfully that would soon change. Jean and the other guards nodded in agreement.
Once all the guards had mounted their steeds, they were just about to take off when someone suddenly called out behind them.
Turning to look, the five of them spotted the Captain-of-the-Guard approaching with a few other of the guards behind him.
When Phoebus saw who it was that they had draped over the back of one of the horses, he tried not to look angry.
"What just happened here?" he asked, already knowing.
Yvon and Jean exchanged glances.
"Nothing outside of the ordinary. We just finally caught the demon's daughter that Frollo's been chiding at us to get," Yvon reached down and yanked the girl's head up by her ponytail, making her face visible to the captain under the light of the moon, "See? It's who we were telling you about earlier."
"I see who it is," Phoebus answered, trying not to sound irritated, "I would appreciated next time though you alerting me of your plan of action before gathering troops like this."
"We did not want to waste any more time, Sir. When Jean saw her enter the cottage about a fifteen minutes ago, he immediately came to me and these men and we were after her," he explained, trying to keep his voice even.
Phoebus nodded solemnly, knowing that there would be no point to argue. Even though he held power over them, they were following orders from someone whose clutches were far more iron than his own.
"I see…" he said then, obvious disapproval in his voice. There was nothing more he could do about this. He had done the best he could and still it had not been enough. It was out of his hands from here.
With that, they all began to ride off towards the Palace of Justice, Belle's body tossing about the horse's back like a hopeless rag doll.
Yep! The chapter title is indeed a Phantom of the Opera reference!
Well, despite the unfortunate events that occurred in this chapter, I hope you liked it! I'm glad I got to sneak Clopin in there, he's always such a fun character to write. I'll work on my next update not taking so long - I know how frustrating that is and I'm sorry. Midterms don't make this any easier.
Haha sorry, I couldn't help but include the 'Achilles, heel!' joke. It was just too tempting =P
Anyways, thank you so much for all who reviewed! It always puts me in such a good mood! Please keep it up with telling me your thoughts and opinions!
And, keep an eye peeled - I plan on starting another story up here pretty soon! (:
Thank you for sticking with this!