The blinding cold of Paris had subsided briefly. The snow continued to layer the medieval city, covering the shingles of businesses and French homes along the Cathedral square. Not a soul could be seen roaming the city streets. Esmeralda bundled herself tightly, gazing down longingly from the cathedral balcony where the colorful stained glass rosette shimmered behind her. She shivered, the icy chill grounded her, she always loved being outside despite the temperature. She reminisced about winter nights strolling along the Seine, free. She thought of Clopin and the Court of Miracles. Esmeralda seemed to stand straighter, any bout of hopelessness and anger melting away.
It was not her responsibility to change anybody, especially not him. She felt angry, she revealed so much about her life, she even laughed with him during that night of delirium after having to intimately care for him. Having to look after Frollo's well being was unexpected and a cruel joke.
Esmeralda let out a sigh.
She reluctantly admitted the light banter was welcomed after weeks of hostility and melodrama though. She did get to make him suffer while removing the blackened digits... the thought didn't console her as much as she would have wanted it to. She felt foolish to think anything had ever gotten through to that lost cause of a man.
The loud, boisterous sound of the bells shook Esmeralda to her core. Holding herself she looked up, listening to the joyful cacophony surrounding her. Understanding the meaning behind the glorious sound, she smiled, she was not alone, she never would be.
The reverberation of the bells spooked Achilles as the horse lost his footing, rearing up with the Captain struggling to remain on board.
"Whoa, whoa easy boy, easy", Phoebus pat the horse, calming it back down to it's normal gait. The chill of the snow caressed his face as he looked up at the sky. Three weeks into his position as Captain of the Guards and there had yet to be a dull moment.
The emptiness of the streets unsettled him as he reminisced about his first day patrolling the colorful festival. He thought of Esmeralda, her piercing emerald eyes gave him goosebumps. Seeing her so miserable in that cathedral made him swallow thickly. He felt guilty, had he known the Judge would also be trapped there, he would have helped the Gypsy escape eons ago! An icicle dripped on his face as a cruel reminder of the natural prison the storm had created. Even if he wanted to, he couldn't risk her freezing to death or worse.
Listening to the glass vials clink in his pocket he grit his teeth, trudging the white war horse along the cobblestone streets to the massive, gothic church.
Esmeralda didn't remember how long she stood outside until the familiar sound of hooves broke her out of deep contemplation. From a distance, she could see the shiny gold armor of the Captain of the Guards glimmering amongst the gloomy atmosphere. Her heart jumped and she berated herself for allowing such a reaction from such an arrogant, irritating...tall...handsome…
She shook her head, 'Not this again! Get ahold of yourself Esmeralda'.
Despite the bone chilling air, she felt herself grow warm as she began her descent down the winding staircase. She almost lost her footing noticing two familiar voices softly echoing inside the nave.
"Your behavior this morning was completely unacceptable Claude. I will not condone the threatening of murder inside the house of god!"
"I have a reputation, Mathias." Claude Frollo's seething baritone stopped the Gypsy in her tracks.
"I could care less how the people of Paris perceive me. My position is one of power. I cannot have my title as Minister of Justice questioned! I am already under immense supervision from the court since that blasted festival."
"None of this would have happened had you integrated Quasimodo into society sooner. This was bound to happen! You couldn't keep him locked in here forever! He's no longer a boy, he's a young man!", The Archdeacon's voice grew louder.
Esmeralda lightly tip-toed down the last of the flight, hiding herself behind the statue of the Virgin Mary.
"Had I integrated him sooner, he would have been dead! You saw how the crowd responded."
"They only responded because you sat there and watched!" Esmeralda stepped outside of her hiding spot, her eyes a molten fury.
Claude Frollo whipped around to find her voice, his eyes deceiving him for a second before scowling.
"This is none of your concern Gypsy".
"No, it is. If I hadn't stood up for him, who knows what would have happened to him. You have no excuse for his treatment! You are DESPICABLE." Esmeralda's voice echoed throughout the nave.
The Archdeacon spoke up before Claude could respond.
"You cannot rewrite the past Claude Frollo, but now...Now is the opportunity to tell him, atone for your sins"
Claude Frollo's eyes widened.
"Don't you dare bring that up".
Esmeralda snapped. "You are a miserable man, any ounce of kindness or empathy I have ever tried to show you does nothing! I pity you Judge, I truly do".
Claude Frollo reeled, "I don't need your pity. I did what had to be done. I could not let those simpletons undermine my position or authority. I said what needed to be said this morning! Quasimodo disobeyed me, he is viewed as a demon because he attended that lecherous festival. YOU are the one that should be ashamed, do you honestly believe Paris will accept a disfigured-"
"That is not for you to decide! You've never given him the chance!" she relayed.
The clanging of the cathedral doors pulled their attention away from the debate.
The Captain of the Guard's clanging armor was a welcomed sound to the tension in the nave. Phoebus noticed Esmeralda's flustered cheeks and Claude Frollo's red face.
"I'm sorry to interrupt…"
"Ah, Captain Chateaupers, welcome" The Archdeacon interjected.
"Hello Archdeacon, erhm" He cleared his throat. "I have what you requested Minister"
For once, the dull captain was a welcomed relief.
"Wonderful Captain Phoebus, splendid".
Frollo eagerly downed a vial, awaiting its effects to keep him in a state of blissful ignorance, anything to stop the throbbing pain in his feet and the ringing of his ears from the Gypsy woman's verbal combat. She was right, she did put up a good fight.
Esmeralda let out a frustrated growl as she turned and walked down the nave to her quarters. Captain Phoebus hesitated going towards her, feeling Frollo's gaze burrow behind his back, he sighed.
"Sir, I'd like to have you know the dead have been collected and the blizzard is no longer a major threat. We still have plenty of snow but it is manageable for the time being. I have not seen civilians on the streets."
"Hmmm" Frollo closed his eyes and rubbed his temples as he took a seat on a pew. Perhaps he should have measured the dosage…
"Judge Frollo, are you alright sir?" Frollo opened his eyes only to observe three Captain of the Guards spinning around.
"...I will be Captain. Head back to the Palace of Justice and begin announcements, organize the surplus and begin rations for the people, we have no choice, the church is low on supplies"
Frollo could hear the loud clanging of Phoebus's armor grow softer until the Archdeacon spoke up.
"Frollo, I suggest you leave the cathedral. This tension and hostility cannot persist, it is unholy, it is unjust. You owe the bellringer answers. Find it in yourself to see the error in your ways and correct the past".
Frollo's head continued to throb, the Archdeacon's message swirling around his mind.
Claude shook his head. He was doing what was best, he always did what was best! The pain in his feet began to subside. A weightless feeling, the one of bliss and of nonchalance.
'Peace, finally', He mused.
The tension of that morning caused the fear and shame to creep back into his mind. He couldn't control the way he looked; it was both distressing and disheartening. Madellaine had walked him out of the room, to which he was very grateful. As suddenly as she came, they were quickly becoming steadfast friends. He was grateful to have a slowly growing circle of supporters, no matter how small it may be.
Whittling away in his loft, he was suddenly met with the sound of bangles clinking together.
"How did you do it?"
Quasimodo turned around, finding Esmeralda's exasperated face. "D-do what?"
"How did you put up with your Master for so long? Quasimodo, he is awful!"
Quasimodo looked taken aback. "I-I, he is all I truly know, Esmeralda. He is not always so…"
"Difficult? Petulant? Rude?" she combated.
Quasimodo offered a nervous chuckle. "Well, yes. M-master Frollo has helped me too. He has protected me from...from the jeers and the people".
Esmeralda slumped down next to him. "That's not the point, Quasi, he should have given you the option to leave, to live life! A life in a bell tower...that's not living, you deserve to be out there!" her tan hand pointed towards the vast view of Paris across his small balcony.
Quasimodo shook his head, "No, Esmeralda, you deserve to be out there. Y-you...you've lived out there your whole life. I-I'm not missing all that much. I experienced it and I was not... a-accepted".
Esmeralda shook her head, "But don't you see Quasi, your Master should have stood up for you!"
"B-but I disobeyed him", Quasi lamented.
The Gypsy woman sighed. "...Don't you want to go back?"
"I...I…" Quasimodo was at a loss for words. "I don't know truthfully".
"Well...I think you should Quasi, you are worthy." She rose up from the floor, dusting off her skirts haphazardly. "I'll see you at dinner…"
Quasimodo mulled over her words. What sparked this conversation? Did Minister Frollo say something?
Esmeralda walked down the staircase swiftly, bumping into Madellaine yet again.
"Oh! Esmeralda, I'm sorry" the shy woman looked downcast.
Esmeralda huffed, "It's fine...what's wrong?"
Madellaine sighed heavily. "Well, I asked the Captain if Paris was safe again and he said it was. I'm leaving."
Esmeralda couldn't help but have a twang of jealousy lace her voice. "I see, it must be nice having an option".
Madellaine looked hurt. "I-I'm sorry…I...I-"
The Gypsy sighed, "It's not your fault… good luck." Esmeralda turned on her heel. Frustration grumbling out of her voice.
Madellaine was at a loss for words as she began her ascent up the steps to the loft. The Archdeacon mentioned she'd find him up here.
Peering out she called to him.
The dimly lit loft seemed to come to life as the bellringer jumped down from a rafter.
She smiled softly at him. "The Captain of the Guards stopped by today… he said it was safe to be in the streets again. The blizzard has calmed down. I-I came here to say goodbye."
Quasimodo's eyes widened briefly.
"O-oh I see", he looked quite crestfallen, but unsurprised, Esmeralda made him realize all good things never truly last.
"I haven't been very...open with you Quasi. I don't want to leave, not really, the church is a beautiful place, but, I too have a master".
Quasimodo looked up at her, realization dawning on his features. They were much more alike than he had ever believed.
"You must understand, it's...complicated…", Madellaine chuckled softly, looking downcast for a moment. She tucked a hair behind her ear out of habit.
"Madellaine, I-I understand. Y-you always have a place here, should you need one of course".
She smiled at him warmly, making him blush at the intensity.
"Of course Quasimodo, thank you. This isn't a permanent goodbye, I'll see you again! I must touch base, the Oddity Train was not expecting to stay very long. My master must be worried about me...I hope"
"I'm sure they are… It must be nice being able to see the world, I didn't know you were a performer".
Madellaine blushed, "Sometimes it's not what it's cut out to be. I-It's nice being able to settle down sometimes… You should see a show, if we still have one that is, there I go...rambling again" she chuckled.
Quasimodo felt his heart flutter as she rose to leave.
"M-Madellaine, I...I…thank you, for helping me and being by my side when I did not expect it. T-thank you."
Madellaine turned around, "Goodbye Quasi, until we see each other again!"
The Captain of the Guards noticed the blonde lass leave the church along with a throng of civilians. He noticed a raven haired beauty watching the doors of the Cathedral open and close longingly. He was about to leave himself when he strode up to her.
"Can it", she crossed her arms and turned her body away from him.
"Look, I don't know how many times I have to say I'm sorry, but I am! Truthfully, I thought I was doing the right thing…"
She sighed, "Haven't we all?" She thought back to her current predicament.
Phoebus gingerly touched her shoulder with a gloved hand, causing her to gaze into his honey brown eyes.
"Frollo is supposed to be leaving once he recovers, and you'll have some space away from him again. I know I can get you out of here, but you have to have faith in me".
Freedom. Her breath hitched in her throat. She shuddered at the thought of leaving and seeing her dear cousin Clopin once again, her people, the Court of Miracles.
"How?", her intense gaze made his heart ache.
"I'll find a way, I know I will. In the meantime, get some rest, I can tell you haven't slept properly in days".
Esmeralda looked a little taken aback, but thankful. She didn't even want to look in a mirror. She nodded her head.
Phoebus couldn't help himself as he gently caressed her face. "Even sleep deprived… You are such a beautiful woman, Esmeralda. You're so resilient despite everything thrown at you…"
Esmeralda's breath caught in her throat. Her cheeks reddened until she composed herself slightly, not wanting to let him catch her in a vulnerable position. She failed.
"Flattery won't work Captain".
"Somehow...I think it will."
Esmeralda gingerly touched the hand caressing her face, holding it there.
A breathy whisper escaped her ruby lips, "When will I see you again?"
Phoebus's heart fluttered. "Soon", he chuckled. "...You're easier to swoon than I thought" he playfully chided back.
A sultry look crossed Esmeralda's eyes, dropping his hand from her face as she sauntered in front of him. She grasped his chin in her tan hand, her face was so tantalizingly close. It made his knees weak. She felt him tremble, as he instinctively closed his eyes awaiting her perfect lips.
A throaty chuckle escaped Esmeralda as she whispered in his ear, "Two can play at that game...Phoebus…".
A ragged gasp Phoebus didn't know he held escaped him as she shoved him backwards.
Frollo may have been onto something. A crooked smile plastered across his face. His steps, down to the clinking of his armor, was light as he sauntered outside of Notre Dame, with purpose.
Hello all! I have been diligently working these past few weeks writing and planning out a finale for this story! I've never had the chance to delve into different fandoms and other characters I would like to write about because I hate giving up on a story and leaving things unfinished. I know myself: once I stat something new, it's hard for me to go back and finish things.
I find it ironic that I wrote about a quarantine in this story, and now through Covid-19 we are all dealing with some sort of cabin fever. I hope that you are all doing well and staying safe. I hope this brightens your day as much as it brightened mine to write it. Thank you so much for your ongoing support. I maybe a sporadic writer, but I like to see my projects through. I can't promise when I will have the next chapter up, but I am working on it now that I literally have all of this quarantine to work out plot holes and what not.
Someone left me a very constructive critique about my characterization that I found helpful. I will say that as my first story, you can see my progression as a writer since this has spanned almost 5 years since I started originally (WOW ahhh!). I apologize for chapters that appear to be filler and contain stuff that don't really contribute to the story. I have spent the last few weeks rereading what I having written and editing some of the plot holes so it is a solid read through without changing much to it. I will say some chapters like 7 and 8 could have been condensed but hindsight is always 20/20.
If you have any suggestions please let me know! PM's are always welcome :)