Within the depths of the catacombs, Quasimodo and Esmeralda trekked through the murky, ankle-deep sewage towards their destination: the Court of Miracles.
Earlier that day, Esmeralda invited Quasimodo to attend a special dinner over at the Court of Miracles. The young bellringer was both excited and anxious at the offer. He was excited at the chance to open up to others and improve on his socialization skills, yet his was anxious at revisiting the place where he and Phoebus were almost hanged. But his eagerness to interact with others and the opportunity to go outside grappled his wariness when he accepted his friend's invitation.
Now Quasi walked alongside Esmeralda deep in the underbelly of the sewers with a flaming torch on his person, his doubts began to resurface. "I-I don't know if I can go through with this Esmeralda." He confessed. "Are you certain my presence would be welcomed?"
The young dancer noticed the fear in her dear friend's eyes. She was well aware of Quasi and Phoebus's previous encounters with Clopin and the Court's guards, how they had ignored her friends' warnings and placed them on the scaffold with nooses around their necks. It was a miracle that she interfered just when Clopin was about to activate the lever.
But after their warnings came true, both Quasimodo and Phoebus proved themselves to be heroes. She was especially thankful for Quasi and the Romani were grateful for his bravery and heroism against the wicked Claude Frollo.
"Quasi," The young woman softly spoke, her calm voice lulling him out of his thoughts. Taking the bellringer's large hand into her smaller one, she looked at him with her soulful green eyes, almost as if she could sense his apprehension. "You are more than welcome into my home and I assure you that my people will accept your presence. After everything you have done for us, how could we not?"
Quasimodo sighed. He was grateful for her honesty and assurance. She was the one who encouraged him to integrate himself into society after the siege and has stood by his side ever since. "I-I appreciate your help Esmeralda, I truly do. Thank you."
She squeezed his hand reassuringly. "Of course my friend."
Taking a deep breath, Quasimodo continued his journey through the catacombs alongside Esmeralda.
As they walked along the path, Quasi noticed a group of guardsmen disguised as skeletons amidst the real skeletons stacked along the walls of the catacombs. He stopped in his tracks and stared at them, anxious at what they'll do. One of the guards nodded at the other before stepping out from the shadows. The masked man carefully approached the two.
"Good evening Esmeralda," The disguised man greeted as he took off his skull mask. The Romani man wore a short beard and held an amiable presence.
"Good evening Cibàn." She responded casually. "I see you're working the night shift again."
"You would be right." Cibàn said with a nod. The guard turned towards the woman's companion and . "And I see you brought along Quasimodo, the Hero of Paris with you tonight."
He offered a gloved hand to Quasimodo. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"Likewise, sir." Quasi replied nervously as he gingerly shook the guardsman's hand. The bell ringer noticed the man's warm smile and friendly demeanor. Knowing that no harm would come to him, he allowed himself to lower his defenses.
"I apologize for the poor introductions." Cibàn stated honestly. "The Court of Miracles have set up guards to protect our home from outside intruders. But we were unaware of you and the soldier's affiliations with Esmeralda as well your intentions of warning us of Frollo's plans. If we had known of your friendship with Esme back then, the boys and I would not have been so rough on you."
Noting the sincerity in the guardsman's apology, Quasimodo smiled back at "It's water under the bridge. Although you certainly lasting impression on me before."
Cibàn gave a sudden burst of laughter at the bellringer's remark. Esmeralda immediately shoved the guard backwards for his crude reaction.
"Oh, you are quite the funny gentleman." He chuckled as he wiped away a tear from his eye. "But in all seriousness, I must thank you for rescuing Esme from that dreaded minister. If it wasn't for your heroic feat, my people and myself would have been executed."
Quasimodo was astonished by Cibàn's gratefulness. In the few days since his grand display of defiance against his former caretaker the bellringer was flooded with praise and deep admiration from the townsfolk, most of which were for rescuing Esmeralda and 'defeating' Frollo on the cathedral. But he was also made aware of the few soldiers he unintentionally killed while defending the cathedral from the guards. It took a toll on the Quasimodo's conscience, especially for spilling blood on the House of God, but his friends (especially Phoebus), the Archdeacon and the other Church officials were insistent that the young man's actions were for the greater good. But their words did not lessen the hurt that already festered inside his heart.
However, this was the first time Quasi learned from another Romani how his brave deed saved many more lives from Frollo's iron fist. He may not have personally unlocked the prison carts, but rescuing Esmeralda from the pyre prompted the other Parisians to free the Romani citizens.
Quasimodo was humbled by the guardsman's kind words. "You're welcome."
Cibàn retrieved a torch from one of the guards and gestured towards the end of the tunnel. "Allow me to give you a more hospitable welcome into the Court of Miracles."
Quasimodo and Esmeralda continued to walk with the good-natured guard leading the way. If Cibàn's kindness alleviated some of Quasi's apprehension, then perhaps the bell ringer would not need to worry too much about how the other residents of the Court would react to his presence.
The loud voices and melodic tunes grew louder and louder with each step. When the three arrived at the safe haven's entrance, Cibàn turned to the two friends. "Well, I must return to my post. You have a good night Esme, and I hope you enjoy stay Quasimodo." With that, Cibàn made his exit back into the dark catacombs.
Esmeralda looked over at Quasimodo. "Are you ready?" She softly asked.
Quasimodo nodded. "As ready as I'll ever be." The bell ringer followed the dancer's lead and crossed the threshold into the warm light.
When he entered the Court of Miracles, Quasi absorbed his surroundings. The multitude of carpets cascading from above to the small carriages which served as their homes. When Quasi and Phoebus were captured and brought forth to the gallows by Clopin, the bellringer was too preoccupied with the shock of being sentenced to death to fully observe the Court itself.
The young man looked ahead to see a myriad of Romani going about on their evening with various reactions. Some smiled or waved at him, prompting him to smile back. There were others who stood still and merely stared at him. Quasi quickly realized that they did not recoil at his appearance, but were oddly fascinated by him.
He felt Esmeralda squeezing his hand. "How are you feeling?"
"Admittedly, I feel surprisingly well." Quasi answered as he continued to observe the underground dwelling with curious eyes. "I never knew that there were so many people living here until now."
Esmeralda hummed in agreement. "The Court of Miracles can get fairly crowded, but the mood is usually lively." She grabbed the hunchback's larger hand into her own. "There's so much I want to show you!" Quasi allowed Esmeralda to take the lead as he eagerly looked around the close-knit community.
As they walked near the platform, Quasimodo noticed a group of children gathered around a small booth watching a puppet show. What caught his attention was the black silhouette of Notre Dame de Paris from behind the white curtain. He instantly remembered an anecdote Marie had told him. The little peasant girl had watched Clopin performing short plays about 'the mysterious bell ringer of Notre Dame'. The morals from these shows inspired her to see the hunchback's humanity, and after Quasimodo's act of bravery during the siege, she befriended him with a tender hug.
Quasimodo froze in place, loosely freeing his gentle grip around Esmeralda's hand. There were so many questions that ran through his mind; How did Clopin know so much of him? How long has he been putting on those puppet shows for? Does he know about his mother? Quasimodo was determined to figure out those answers.
Realizing her friend was no longer holding her hand, Esmeralda turned around to see the bell ringer staring at Clopin's performance booth with a mix of curiosity and concern. She carefully approached the young man. "Quasi, is there something wrong?"
Quasimodo's observations were interrupted by the Esmeralda's soft, worrisome inquiry. He turned around and looked up at her. "I'm going to watch Clopin's show and speak to him afterwards about something personal." He took a deep breath. "I-I apologize for the change of plans, but this is something I must do."
The young woman quickly glanced at Clopin's puppet show featuring the grand cathedral and its famed bell ringer. She was well aware that the King of Truands had been performing small morality plays about the wicked Minister of Justice and the mysterious bell ringer to children of the Court as well as the Parisian youth for a while now. She suddenly realized that Quasimodo was curious as to why Clopin told stories about him and wanted an explanation.
She looked back at her friend and nodded in agreement. "And don't worry about changing any plans. If you need me, I'll be near the bonfire." She gestured towards the center of the Court, making sure the he would know where to go.
Quasimodo smiled, grateful for her understanding. He gently took her hands into his own and gently squeezed them. "Thank you."
Esmeralda returned the smile and held his hands in reassurance. "Of course my friend." The young bell ringer let go of her hands and he headed off towards the small booth.
Not wanting to make himself conspicuous, Quasimodo quietly sat behind the crowd of eager children watching the performance. The curious man observed the puppet show with keen eyes. He noticed the grand cathedral, his home, behind the white curtain. A darkened silhouette of a deformed figure climbed up the cathedral, carrying what appeared to be a limp young woman.
"Sanctuary!" A boisterous voice cried out, as the deformed figure victoriously raised the woman in his protective arms. The young audience eagerly cheered. Quasi realized that Clopin was putting on a re-enactment of Frollo and his men attacking the cathedral.
Soon afterwards, there was a small scuffle of soldiers trying to break into the church. The hunchbacked puppet carefully set the woman down and fended off the cathedral from the soldiers, using stone and old support beams. Suddenly, the gargoyles spat out the fiery molt onto the square. The woman got up and reunited with the bell ringer when the menacing figure of Claude Frollo emerged behind them. The enraged minister used his sword to swing at them. Cornering the two innocents, Frollo hopped atop a gargoyle to finish them off when he wobbled over and hastily grabbed onto the stone monster. The gargoyle's eyes turned red and soon detached itself from building, plunging the monstrous Frollo to his death. Quasimodo heard the astonished gasps from the children.
The backdrop quickly disappeared and the curtain was unveiled a paper model of Notre Dame. The doors of the cathedral opened, revealing a hand puppet of Quasimodo stepping out from the cathedral and being accepted by the masses. Unlike Quasimodo's wood carving of himself, which was crooked and plain, the hand puppet of the bellringer was visually appealing, with a small, friendly smile and a softer frame.
A small hand puppet of Marie approached hand puppet Quasi with a hug and the paper cut-out Parisians welcomed the bellringer with applause. Clopin popped out of the booth and began to sing dramatically.
So here is a riddle to guess if you can
Sing the bells of Notre Dame
What makes a monster and what makes a man?
Whatever their pitch, you
Can feel them bewitch you
The rich and the ritual knells
Of the Bells of Nooootreeee Daaaaaaame
When the young audience began to applaud, Quasimodo joined in with his light clapping. Clopin grinned at his approving mass, but caught sight of the bell ringer. The entertainer playfully winked at Quasi before emerging from the booth.
"Thank you chavvay for coming to tonight's show, but I also want to give a special shout out to our special guest of evening, Quasimodo! The hero of Notre Dame!" Clopin announced, gesturing at the surprised man. The children whipped their heads back to see the famed bell ringer in their midst and cheered. Soon the children clamored around Quasimodo with beaming faces and great enthusiasm.
"H-hello there," Quasi modestly introduced, lightly waving at the children. After so many years of Frollo calling him a monster and telling him how people would only detest him, Quasi was getting used to being in the spotlight, let alone being praised by others. The young Romani clamored around the nervous bell ringer asking him several questions a mile a minute. "What was it like up in the bell tower?" "Was Frollo really that mean?" "Do the gargoyles really come to life?" Quasimodo was unprepared to receive many questions from the excited children.
Just as Quasi was about to entertain the children with his vivid description of the bell tower, Clopin came to his rescue by stepping in between.
"Settle down chavvay." He calmed the group of curious children. "Why don't you all head toward the bonfire for dinner? I believe the bell ringer and I have some catching up to do." The children moaned in defeat.
Clopin raised his hand to gain their attention. "Now don't be sorrowful, Quasimodo will join you all later on for the evening activities."
Quasimodo nodded. "O-of course! And I'll answer all of your questions then." The children's faces lit up and they cheered. The group soon ran off from the booth and across the Court.
Clopin looked over at his guest and grinned. "Ah Quasimodo!" He greeted with a great hug, catching the young bellringer off guard. "I'm thrilled to see you this evening!"
"And to think you've tried to kill me." Quasi remarked, causing Clopin to laugh heartily as he released the young man from his embrace.
"Oh, Quasimodo," Clopin sighed, his facial features softening. "I am truly sorry for my rather uncourteous treatment of you and the soldier back then. I thought you were nothing more than a mere underling for Frollo. But I'm glad to admit how wrong I was about you. You protected Esmeralda from that monster and saved my people from facing execution under his iron fist. I am eternally grateful for your heroism and you are more than welcome to stay in the Court as long as you please." The Leader of the Romani took off his hat, revealing his balding head, and bowed. Quasimodo was shocked at the bombastic man's humble display.
"Did you enjoy my performance?" Clopin asked as he put his hat back on.
"It was quite the spectacle." Quasi replied. "Although I do not recall any gargoyles coming to life when Frollo fell."
"Well, I do like to take some creative liberties with my shows every now and again. I usually like to incorporate some connecting themes into my stories."
"And thank you for allowing me back into the Court of Miracles." The bell ringer mentioned.
Clopin smiled. "Of course dear friend. Though I should be the one who should be thanking you. Your bravery reawakened my creative muse." Clopin continued, holding out the hand puppets of himself and the bellringer. "That morning alone provided me with enough material to work with for the rest of my puppeteering career!"
Quasi chuckled for a moment. His face soon turned solemn as he started to inquire Clopin.
"W-would it be alright if I may speak to you in private about something important."
"Of course." Clopin answered.
"So why do you perform your shows about me?"
Clopin took off his puppets as he responded, "I've always wanted to dabble in morality plays, and after hearing all those rumors about 'the mysterious bell ringer' and learned of who he was, I created a dramatic puppet show to teach children not to judge appearances of others, but rather their actions, with a simple, yet important riddle: 'who is the monster and who is the man?'."
Quasimodo followed the older man's explanation. After so many years of believing that he was a monster solely from his appearance, he struggled to fully accept his humanity. But upon learning Frollo's mad tirade to burn down all of Paris in search of Esmeralda as well as the years of persecution upon the Romani community, he understood the scale of his guardian's monsterhood.
"So, in that case, mas-, I mean, Frollo was 'the monster' and I'm 'the man'?" The young man replied.
Clopin smiled as he gave Quasi a good-natured pat on the back. "Exactly. You are more of a man than that minister ever was."
The bellringer exhaled. At least Clopin had some good intentions with his performances. With one question down, there was still so much more that Quasimodo needed to now. He wrung his hands together, trying to keep himself together. "But there's something else. A friend of mine told me that you know where I came from and who my mother was."
Clopin's face fell. He stared at the hunchback with somber eyes. "Indeed I did my friend."
Quasimodo gaped at the man. "Y-you know of my mother?"
The purple-clad performer gently took his hand, surprising the young man even further. "Come with me." Clopin instructed, as he gestured toward his wagon. "I will tell you everything that I know. You deserve to know the truth."
Entering inside wheeled home, Quasimodo noted how cramped the man's living quarters was in comparison to his loft in the bell tower. His bed took up half the space, there was a small pile of puppets and stage props in the corner, and only a small cupboard took up the entire wagon. Clopin sat on his bed and gestured for Quasi to sit beside him. The younger man obliged and carefully seated himself next to the performer.
Clopin folded his hands together as he spoke. "When I was a small lad, I lived with a caravan of other Roma in a small camp outside of Evreux, a city west of Paris. One of the women who watched over the camp was a beautiful lady named Florica, your mother. Now Florica was a wonderful young woman, one of the kindest souls I've had the pleasure of meeting. In the autumn of 1462, she was in a romantic relationship with a young redheaded peasant. Florica wanted to be with him, but the other Roma in the camp, especially her older brother Barsali, disapproved of him and they were separated. But about two months after he was banished from the camp, we learned that Florica was pregnant."
"She was carrying me…" Quasimodo finished.
"And she loved you the moment you came into this world." Clopin said with a wistful smile. "I was a lad of nine or ten at the time, but when I visited Florica after she had given birth to you, she was filled with immense joy that she had a son to call her own. You meant the world to her."
Clopin's smile faded away. "But your mother wanted what was best for you, and the constant harassments from the citizens of the nearby village proved that the camp was not the safest place to raise you. So Florica, Barsali, and their friend Kennick, decided to migrate to Paris and move into the Court of Miracles. They gathered all of their savings to pay for travel in hopes of living a more peaceful life. But once they arrived in Paris, Frollo and his men already surrounded them. He arrested Barsali, Kennick and the roguish ex-soldier who brought them into the city, but Florica managed to escape, carrying you all the way to the cathedral. She cried for sanctuary, but Frollo caught up and tried to snatch you. She kept her grip on you, but he kicked her and she broke her skull on the steps of the cathedral. He killed her, and he tried to kill you by drowning you in the well-"
"But Frollo caught up and tried to take me." Quasimodo concluded. "She protected me by keeping her grip, but he kicked her and she broke her skull on the steps of the cathedral. He killed her, and he tried to kill me by drowning me in the well, but the Archdeacon intervened."
Clopin sadly gazed at the floor. "By the time my family arrived at the Court undetected, I tried looking for Florica, but she was nowhere to be found. I learned of her fate from an ex-soldier who made a living by helping other Romani get into Paris. Turned out he was caught by Frollo when he assisted Florica and her family. He saw Florica escape from Frollo as he and the others were arrested. After weeks of being tortured in the Palace of Justice, he arrived at the Court of Miracles and informed everyone of Frollo's monstrous actions as well as Florica's fate. I was saddened to hear what Frollo had done to her, and I held a great animosity for him ever since."
Quasimodo was astonished. "I had no idea…"
"I assumed you were dead as well for many years, but rumors of a supposed demon living in the bell tower had me questioning whether or not you were alive. These confirmations held truth once I managed to catch a glimpse of a familiar figure fearlessly climbing the architecture. I wanted to rescue you from the bell tower, but Frollo was always visiting the cathedral. I almost managed to climb up the stairs to the tower, but that damned minister spotted me and almost arrested me for 'defiling the cathedral with my heathenous treachery'. At that point I assumed that you were one of his loyal minions at that point in time...but you have proved me wrong in that regard." Clopin gazed at the younger man with a sorrowful expression. "I'm sorry for not protecting you from Frollo."
Quasimodo observed the downtrodden man and the painful regret in his eyes. Despite the whole debacle at the Court of Miracles, the bell ringer did not hold any ill will towards Clopin. With Frollo's daily visits to the cathedral, he was not sure if Clopin would have successfully gained access to the bell tower and possibly rescued him. Even if Clopin had intervened, Frollo most certainly would have used his ward's disappearance as another excuse to hunt down the Romani population and many more innocent lives would have been lost as a result. And Quasimodo could not entirely blame Clopin's hostility as he did everything he could to protect his people, even if he had to resort to killing intruders. But despite their dangerous first encounters, Clopin ultimately recognized Quasimodo's worth, leading the Parisians to cheer him as a hero. He also told him of his mother, what she was like as a person and how she deeply loved him from the day he was born. He was grateful for finally having closure for finally having the answers about his mother.
Quasi gently grabbed Clopin's hand and looked at him. "I forgive you Clopin."
The King of the Truands smiled at the younger man and softly chuckled. "You truly are your mother's son, you know. And seeing how you have grown into the extraordinary man that you are, she would have been incredibly proud of you."
Tears of joy began to well up in his eyes. Consumed with overwhelming happiness, Quasimodo immediately pulled Clopin into a warm hug.
"Thank you." Quasi said truthfully.
"You're welcome my friend." Clopin said. "And you will always have a home here."
Both men stayed in the strong embrace for a long while. Quasimodo was filled with relief that he finally learned of his heritage. After years of Frollo feeding him lies about how his mother abandoned him, he was satisfied to know that his real mother deeply loved him and wanted what was best for him. The bell ringer would always keep her close to his heart.
Quasimodo was well aware of the challenges that his newfound freedom had entailed. But with these obstacles, the love and support he received from his loved ones would motivate him greatly to fearlessly live his life as a free man.
With this story I wanted to explore more of Quasi slowly getting used to being accepted as well as being seen as a hero. I also thought it would be interesting if Quasi returned to the Court of Miracles a second time, with a much more welcoming response from its residents. With that setting in mind, I also wanted to write Quasi and Clopin interacting, since they have the potential for an interesting friendship after the events of the Disney movie.
Chavvay - Children
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