Summary: Frollo discovers his charge has a new talent.
Disclaimer: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (this version, anyway) is copyright to the Walt Disney Company.
Background: I just like playing with little hints and breadcrumbs of back story.
The sun already set, marking his late arrival at the cathedral. Duty called, not that it mattered. The little monster was well old enough to entertain himself, if not put himself to bed before he even arrived. Frollo clasped the basket in his lap as his carriage halted. He stepped out onto the cobblestones, clutching the basket as he made his way into Notre Dame.
Up the winding stairs, and into the bell tower. He heard the creature talking long before he stepped into the loft that served as his charge's living quarters.
"...better than-than the last one. D-don't you agree?"
Frollo stepped on to the loft. The little wretch sat with his back to him, at the base of one of the many gargoyles littered around the bell tower. He was undoubtedly talking to them again.
"Quasimodo," Frollo said sternly, solely to get his attention.
His charge froze, then turned it to face his guardian.
Quasimodo stood quickly, keeping a hand behind his back. He bowed to Frollo, than dared to glance up. At only eight, he looked like a little demon, hunched over from his crooked spine. His red hair barely grazed his cheek, with one eye nearly buried under a large lump of distorted flesh, the other so large, it seemed barely contained in its socket. Quasimodo wore an ill-fitting tunic around his thin body, with loose leggings around his misshapen legs. Even his bare toes looked strange, curling in even as he stood before his master.
Frollo's gaze immediately went to the hand his charge held behind his back.
"What are you hiding from me, Quasimodo?" he inquired.
The little hunchback suddenly found the wooden floorboards more interesting.
"I..." he started, then dared to look up at Frollo.
Slowly, Quasimodo found his voice again.
"...It's a surprise," he said.
Frollo gave him a silent look of disapproval. Slowly, Quasimodo pulled his hand from behind his back, a small, round object clasped in his thick fingers. Frollo held out his hand expectantly. With reluctance, his charge handed it over.
Frollo felt warm oak, an ovular shape. He held it up to better examine it in the candlelight, and found he held a carving of sorts. A glance over revealed the object to be an owl, with a round head and body, its folded wings carved into the sides as though it perched. Small V-shapes formed the feathers on its chest, as well as its beak. Care had been given to the eyes, despite the uneven lines of a missed a stroke.
"...You made this, Quasimodo?"
The little monster nodded. Frollo frowned.
"You know to speak when spoken to," he said, softly.
"...Yes, Master," Quasimodo confessed.
He hesitated, keeping his gaze to the ground. He barely dared to look up.
"D-do you...like it?" he asked.
Frollo rolled the owl in his palm, taking in the grooves in the wings and feathers in his fingertips.
"Dear boy," he said. "Wherever did you learn to do this?"
Quasimodo hesitated. One bare foot toed at the floor.
"One of the m-monks...came up to the balcony," he said. "I w-watched him carve."
He looked up at his master.
"B-but I didn't get close, I swear!" Quasimodo insisted, almost desperate to make that clear.
Outside of learning to care for the bells, he was to have no interaction with anyone aside from Frollo. Even when taking his lessons, he was forbidden to speak to the monks. When in their presence, all Frollo permitted was for him to watch, learn, and practice.
"I-I found a chisel and some-some wood. A-and then I just...did w-what he did."
He gestured to a small shelf that held a few other owls, all of them more crude than the one Frollo currently held in his hand.
"I-I-I've been...practicing," he said, looking away again.
Frollo frowned, but nodded.
On pondering it a moment, perhaps the little monster should have a way to occupy his time when he wasn't learning to ring and care for the bells. It would keep him from tempting thoughts of ever leaving the bell tower.
"I am surprised a loathsome creature like you possesses such a talent," he said, glancing to the other owls on the shelf. "You need more practice. I will bring you more wood blocks to do so."
Quasimodo dared to smile a little. He clasped his hands to bow.
"Thank you, Master," he said, knowing this was the closest thing to a compliment he would get.
Frollo nodded again, then walked over to the small table they shared for meals and lessons. He set the basket down upon it before taking his seat.
His charge quickly went to grab the dishes. Upon the hunchback's return, Frollo made sure Quasimodo saw him slip the owl into his basket to take with him.
"I will keep this in a special place," he promised.
He watched the little demon smile.
"Th-thank you, Master."
Frollo simply gave him a nod.
They had a quiet supper and a quick review of that morning's lesson, before Frollo sent Quasimodo to bed. It was his charge's duty, after all, to be up early in the morning to assist the monks with waking the city, and remind the citizens of Paris of their morning prayers. He bid him good night, and waited for the creature to sleep, then headed down to where his coach awaited him.
He held the owl in his palm as he rode, his long fingers once more exploring the detail, the eyes, the beak, the grooves creating its folded wings. With each examination, Frollo grew more and more aggravated. Such a monster shouldn't be able to do this! To create beauty from ugliness.
Even its imperfections held something of interest with each new examination, how its face almost seemed to change its expression upon a new angle.
The owl was clutched in his fist as he entered the Palace of Justice. He shoved the basket at a nearby servant and stormed up to his chambers. The fire was already roaring, as if waiting for him. He set the owl on the mantelpiece, then got ready to settle in for bed himself, trading his judicial robes for a night gown. Even so, Frollo found his gaze continually going to the little wooden owl.
It watched him with its soft, uneven eyes. In the flickering firelight, it seemed to blink and comfortably settle in upon its new perch, but never let him leave its gaze. Frollo strode over to the mantle, snatching the owl from it. His fingers once more ran over the carvings, as though memorizing them.
In the warm firelight, the owl's eyes became just as warm, innocent even.
Almost like the creature that made it.
Frollo narrowed his eyes upon that realization.
Without a second thought, he callously tossed the owl to the flames and watched it blacken, until it finally crumbled into ash.