A/N: This chapter may seem a little shorter than previous chapters, but I wanted to get the last scene of the chapter just rightand it took several writes and rewrites before I felt it made the most sense.
Jackob's footsteps echoed through the chambers of the cathedral. He felt his heart racing and it was difficult to keep his breathing in check. He was scared, but wouldn't admit it aloud. He wouldn't admit it to René and the others and he certainly wouldn't admit it to himself. Not now, not ever.
Right now Jackob had one task on his mind, he had to find Hector. Jackob had volunteered to go search for the younger boy not only because he knew the cathedral better than any of his friends, but also he felt guilty. He was in charge, he was responsible for everyone, and he had neglected that. Rébecca had said that Hector was asleep next to Jean when she had checked on him and sometime between last night and moments before the priest had woken Jackob up, Hector had wandered off without anyone seeing him.
Maybe if Jackob had done a headcount when he returned with Tem from the Palace of Justice, maybe if he had slept closer to the door, Hector would have had to walk over him to get out, then maybe Jackob could have stopped him, and if he hadn't been selfish and left the group…. This was why he insisted on going, he owed it to Hector.
As he wandered the corridors, Jackob felt claustrophobic. Like the stone walls of Notre Dame were closing in on him and suffocating him. He had always felt comfortable in the cathedral, safe. Now he felt like the outsider Frollo saw him as. Jackob was losing his bearings, he wasn't sure if he was even heading in the right direction let alone if he'd be able to spot little Hector in the darkness.
Screams echoed through the cathedral and for a moment, Jackob started to turn around and return to the kitchen. The screams at first sounded like they were coming from that direction. Were the soldiers finally attacking? Were they storming the cathedral on Frollo's orders to capture the small band of Gypsy Children? If that was the case, Hector was safer hiding in Notre Dame, it was the others who were in danger.
It took Jackob a few moments to realize that the commotion wasn't coming from the kitchens or even inside Notre Dame at all, it was coming from out in the square. The screams were soon joined by a pounding noise and it was coming from the main doors of Notre Dame.
"What is going on out there?" Jackob wondered aloud, part of him wanted to go investigate, the other reminded him of his task.
He turned down one corridor, then another, the echoes from the square were getting muffled. It was also so dark, Jackob couldn't see his hand in front of face. He had no idea where he was in the cathedral. He knew he had gone up some stone steps, but he wasn't sure how far or where those steps had taken him.
Suddenly Jackob tripped over something laying on the floor, he hit the stone hard and felt a sharp pain on his palms. He pulled himself up and sat, dazed, trying to figure out what had just happened. Before he could feel around to determine what had tripped him, he heard a sniffle.
"Hector?" he whispered, "Hector is that you?"
"Jackob?" a little voice called back and before Jackob could respond he felt two tiny arms wrap themselves around his waist and a face buried in his shirt, tears soaking through the thin material. "Jackob, I went to find my mama and papa, I go…I got lost."
"Shh, it's okay, I promise it's okay."
"Are you mad at me?" Hector sniffed
"Why would I be mad at you?"
"'cause we weren't supposed to leave the kitchen and I did. I thought I heard my mama calling me."
Jackob sighed and shook his head even though he didn't think Hector could even see him in the dark.
"I thought I heard my mama too," he admitted
"Really. It's Notre Dame, she's like a mother so I guess when we're in here, we feel like our mothers are close by. The sounds in here can sound like familiar voices. When we miss someone we trick ourselves into thinking we can hear them."
"Oh," Hector replied, Jackob stood up and reached through the dark to pull Hector up as well. Hector took Jackob's hand and held it tight, clinging to his older friend's arm.
"Come on, let's go find the others." The pair began making their way carefully through the dark halls of the cathedral. Jackob's eyes were beginning to adjust to the dark and he could see the outline of doors and up ahead he could make out a faint glow of candles.
"Jackob?" Hector called softly, tugging on Jackob's arm. "Jackob?"
"Are we going home now?" Jackob winced and tried to think of how to explain the whole thing to Hector. It was difficult, especially since Jackob couldn't really understand it himself, how could he expect a four-year-old to understand. "I hope we are, I really miss my mama and papa. I don't like it here, I want to go home. I know you said Notre Dame is safe and she'll protect us, but why can't we be safe at home? Isn't the Court of Miracles safer? I don't want to be in here anymore."
"Hector," Jackob started, he sighed. "The Court of Miracles is safe, but it's not safe right now. We can't go back there." He paused "you know where we're most safe?" Hector shook his head "when we're together. Even if it's just two of us, as long as we're not alone and with our family we're safe."
"So…" Hector thought this over "does that mean mama and papa are safe because they're together?"
Jackob felt his stomach twist. He had no idea if Hector's parents were together, he didn't even know if his own father was okay…but Hector was only four, he had already been ripped from his parents and dragged away from his home, Jackob knew he had to give Hector hope. As frail as it was, the little hope that they might see their family again was something they needed to hang onto.
"I'm sure they are Hector. But Tem and I saw some of the grownups," Hector's eyes lit up even in the darkness "I didn't see your mama and papa, but I'm sure they know your safe, Tania would have told them. I saw her too and we told her and the other grownups that we were all safe here in Notre Dame."
Hector reached for Jackob's hand and clutched it tight as they walked through the corridors. Jackob hoped they were going the right way, but he couldn't be sure. Jackob had never been in this area of the cathedral and he couldn't be sure, but he thought he heard footsteps coming towards them, but at the same time they seemed so far away.
"Jackob?" Hector whispered he tugged on his older friend's hand. Jackob was so deep in thought, trying to focus on the footsteps and determine where they were coming from, he didn't answer right away. "Ja?" Hector sniffled, tugging harder "Ja?"
Jackob shook his head and looked at Hector, smiling.
"Oh, sorry Hector…" Jackob sighed "I was thinking, I didn't mean to ignore you."
"s'okay," Hector replied.
"What's the matter?"
"I had a question," Jackob nodded "Jackob, why does Frollo hate us? I mean, did we do something bad and that's why he hates us?"
Jackob felt his stomach drop, he had asked the same question only hours before and he was no closer to an answer now than he was then.
"Hector, I wish I had an answer, but I don't think anyone does. But we didn't do anything, sometimes people just hate, no reason no explanation. But I do know that hate is dangerous. When you hate someone or something it makes your heart grow cold. It's like a sickness."
"A sickness?" Hector asked
"I guess, the longer you let hate sit, the sicker you get and until you can't recognize anything but hate."
"It's confusing isn't it?" Jackob asked and Hector nodded
"I hate when mama snuffs out the candle…" he said softly "and I hate when Sébastien calls me a baby and won't let me play with you and the other kids. Does that mean I'm going to get sick too?"
Jackob looked at Hector in surprise, even in the dim light from the various torches, Jackob could see the tears welling up in Hector's eyes. Jackob took a deep breath and thought his words over carefully.
"Hector, first and most importantly, hate and not liking something is very different. You can dislike something or something someone does, but that's not hate. You don't like the dark right? That's why you don't like it when your mama blows out the candle right?"
"I get scared."
"Then you understand why you don't like it, but when you hate something you don't understand why you hate it, you just do, there's no reason."
"How do you know all this Jackob?"
"My papa told me." Jackob paused "and Hector, next time Sébastien calls you anything you tell me, or Tas, or Tem and we'll talk to him. You are always welcome to play with us." He paused again and winced "I'm sorry I didn't know he was telling you that. I should've been paying better attention and I promise I will from now on okay?" Hector nodded and hugged Jackob around his waist. "Come on, let's go find the others."
Hector nodded and took Jackob's hand again. The boys walked towards the top of a staircase. The light below was brighter and Jackob felt like he had seen this area before, he had a feeling he knew where they were and if he was right, they were near the main hall of the cathedral. It was a good place to get his bearings and get himself and Hector to safety.
Hector was clinging to Jackob's hand as they began to descend down the stone stairs. The torches provided adequate light, but both boys took their time.
They were halfway down when a flash of black darkened the bottom of the stairs and Jackob froze as the dark figure ascended the stairs.
Jackob squeezed Hector's hand and felt the air leave his lungs as Judge Frollo came to a stop in front of them.
Clearly he was just as surprised to see the two Gypsy boys as they were to see him. Jackob had never been this close to Frollo before. He had been glared at by the judge during the Festival of Fools, but surely he wouldn't remember one Gypsy boy.
There had been hundreds at the festival and all his attention should've been on Esmerelda… Jackob felt his heart pick up speed, if Frollo was in the cathedral, what had happened to Esmerelda, to the others…to…to his papa. Why was Frollo in here?
The hate in the old man's eyes was like fire as his mouth twisted into a knowing, evil smile.
"Well, well, well. What do we have here?" He mocked "two little lost pests." He paused and looked both boys over, Hector hid behind Jackob and Jackob could feel him shaking. "I highly doubt it is just the two of you. Where there are two, there are always more. You travel in swarms like the vermin you are. Like locust. I wonder where the others are hiding. It is disgusting enough that you fester under the streets of Paris, but now you desecrate this holy place with your godless ways?"
Frollo reached for Hector and Hector wailed. Jackob tried to keep his body between Hector and Frollo, but Frollo managed to grab a fistful of Hector's loose shirt, his long nails digging into Hector's shoulder.
"Lemme go, lemme go!" Hector screamed struggling to get away from Frollo. Jackob was stunned for a moment, but quickly he regained his senses, he had to get Hector out of there!
Jackob began pushing and clawing at Frollo, trying to separate the smaller boy from the old man's grip. All three were in danger of losing their balance as they grappled on the uneven stairs.
"(Hector)" Jackob cried out in Romani "(Run, hide I'll find you!)" Hector was crying and for a moment he didn't seem to understand. "(GO!)" Jackob shouted, he quickly realized that Frollo wasn't going to let go of Hector so easily and went the next step. He kicked Frollo in the shin as hard as he could.
The old man screamed out in pain and released his grip on Hector. The moment he was free Hector did as he was told, he took off running down the stairs, disappearing around the corner. Jackob turned to follow him, but Frollo grabbed the collar of his cloak and pulled Jackob close, his long nose brushing against Jackob's face. Pure hatred and murder in his eyes.
"That…was foolish boy." He stared at Jackob for a moment, studying him. "I know you," he finally said. Fear washed over Jackob, wondering if Frollo did remember him from the festival.
"Let me go!"
With his free hand, Frollo reached into his cloth and pulled out a little wooden figure. The figure had clearly been carved by a very talented artist. Frollo held it out to Jackob, so it was directly in his line of sight. This wasn't just any wooden figure, Jackob recognized the clothing, the face…this was him.
Someone had carved a figure of him.
"Ah, so you recognize yourself do you?" Jackob didn't answer but winced as Frollo tightened his grip on Jackob's cloak the cloth was beginning to choke him. "It is a very good likeness. The hunchback may have very few talents, but I will give him that, he has the ability to make these little wood figurines seem almost lifelike…almost human, even if the subject matter is not."
"Let me go!" Jackob growled again. But despite his age, Frollo was much stronger than Jackob and certainly much stronger than he looked. He lifted Jackob's cloak a little higher and Jackob's feet were just barely touching the stone stairs.
Even so, Jackob didn't give up his fight, he struggled to get away from the old man, kicking at the ground and at Frollo's legs. Frollo however had learned his lesson and kept Jackob at a distance, out of kicking range. His struggling didn't seem to do anything to Frollo other than amuse him.
"I take it you do not agree?" Frollo asked, his voice dripping with venom. "That is quite interesting, your father seemed to think it was quite a likeness." Jackob stopped struggling as Frollo's words sank in. His father…he had shown the figure to his father. Jackob didn't answer at first, he was afraid to speak, he didn't want to give Frollo the of begging to know if his father was okay. Every part of him was screaming to ask, to find out. He couldn't give in, not like this. Not getting the reaction he hoped for, Frollo continued. "Yes, he was very surprised to see this…Jackob…yes, that is your name is it not? That was his first word when he saw this."
"Le…let me go!"
"He called out your name." Frollo sneered "with his dying breath he called out for his little boy."
Jackob felt his body go cold. Dying breath…no…it couldn't be true. Tears began to blur his vision, he felt the fight to get away draining out of him.
"You…you're lying!" he choked out
"Am I?" Frollo asked his grip tightening, "this is a house of God, to lie within its walls is a sin. Well, for a man of god it is, for your kind it is just a way of life." Frollo pulled Jackob closer, his feet were off the ground now and he was struggling to breathe. The cloak was like a noose wrapping around Jackob's neck. He was starting to feel light-headed. "Your father died with your name on his lips…I have business to attend to with the Hunchback and the witch, but when I finish, I will be happy to reunite you with your father in hell."
Before Jackob could anticipate what was about to happen, Frollo threw the ten-year-old back towards the stairs, Jackob felt his body hit the stone steps and tumble down them, landing with a sickening thud.
His eyesight was blurry through the tears and he was struggling to stay awake. He could make out the outline of Frollo heading up the stairs, a dagger in hand. The Hunchback…and the witch? Esmerelda, was she safe? Had Quasimodo saved her? Jackob had to help them, he had to warn them that Frollo was coming…but what about his father…Jackob felt his body shutting down, his father couldn't be dead…Jackob knew he would have felt it…he…he couldn't…
"N…no…Papa…pa…" Jackob tried to move, tried to sit up, but as Frollo disappeared around the bend, Jackob felt his body collapse back on the stone floor and his world went dark.