Author's Notes: Time for my favorite kind of fanfic: an in-depth alternate universe character study! Yay! *waves arms like Kermit the frog*. This time I'm tackling a story I've loved since I was a teenager: The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Whether it be novel, older movies, or Disney movie, each version of The Hunchback is a writer's Rorschach test with how many different lessons and interpretations there are. With this story I wanted to see how the Disney characters would interact if placed in different circumstances. What would change? What would stay the same? Also, how would Frollo change as a villain if his motivations were not based on lust? Read and find out with me in this newest story, "The Prince of Fools" :)
The light of the full moon graced the streets of Paris in the year 1462 and reflected in the River Seine like a pearl on a black silk cloth. To most travelers in the night this light would be most welcome, but for a small group of gypsies traveling by boat it was a liability. The streets outside the city were patrolled by guards ordered to arrest all gypsies making their way into Paris, and that order was personally seen to by a man so cruel and bigoted that his name was only spoken in hushed whispers by the Romani people and the argots.
As if the light of the moon wasn't enough to give them away one of the women in the group had a baby, only a few months old, that was crying rather loudly.
"Keep that thing quiet!" The man next to her hissed.
All she could do was rock the little one gently and hope no one was around to hear them. They had paid the smuggler dearly for safe passage into Paris, and it could all be for nothing if they were discovered.
Florika and the group she was traveling with had been kicked out of every city they tried to settle in, but Paris offered a refuge for gypsies; both official and unofficial. For those accused of a crime they could run to Notre Dame and wait out those trying to catch them. More importantly though, Paris had a base of operations for those of the underclass known in jest as The Court of Miracles. The hideout was so called because many con men and beggars who pretended to be lame, blind, and deaf could "miraculously" be healed when they returned there.
It wasn't where Florika would choose to raise her baby if she truly had a choice, but for reasons she felt she would never understand the world hated her people, so she would go wherever she and her sweet baby daughter Esmeralda could be safe. For the moment they would be safe from any listening ears, because the baby finally drifted off to sleep, and the men finally stopped pestering her about her child.
The boat glided to shore just outside Paris, and the dumpy grizzled man who smuggled them into town was demanding his payment even as they stepped off the boat. The lead gypsy man took a few coins out of his purse to pay the smuggler, and all seemed to be going according to plan.
That plan was unraveled however when the group heard the sound of horses, and before they could see what was going they found themselves surrounded by soldiers! The gypsies huddled together, knowing there was no escape with their exit blocked. Then a black horse, snorting like a beast of the underworld, walked casually to the gypsies. Sitting on that horse was a figure cloaked in black and sneering down at them with utter contempt. He didn't need to announce himself. They knew exactly who he was.
"Judge Claude Frollo," The lead gypsy man whispered in horror as he stared into those cold pitiless eyes.
"Take these vermin to the palace of justice," Frollo ordered, his voice deep and full of authority.
Most of the gypsies complied, knowing their fate was likely death yet also knowing they could do nothing to prevent it. One smaller man struggled, but was quickly subdued. Florika tried to sneak away unnoticed with her daughter, but one of the oafish soldiers noticed her.
"You there, what are you hiding!?" The guard demanded as she tried to get away, but he quickly caught her by the wrist.
"Stolen goods no doubt," Frollo speculated, "Take them from her."
Florika couldn't let the judge see her baby. She knew what kind of treatment gypsy infants suffered at the hands of authority figures all over Europe, and she was also well aware Frollo had the reputation of being a hanging judge. Even if she pled for her daughter's life, he would show them no mercy.
With a swift kick, Florika forced the guard to unhand her. When there was a slight opening in their human barricade, she ran.
Frollo gave chase on his horse, and Florika ran as if the devil himself was chasing her down. There were obstacles in her way in the forms of signs and gates, but she leapt and ducked as needed. If she had thought for a moment she would have been stopped, but motherly instinct took over as she evaded the horrible Parisian judge. She leapt over a small gate and ran down an alleyway, and Frollo's horse was unable to directly follow her, which bought her some time.
She thought about running to The Court of Miracles, but that was out of the question. If she led Frollo to the one safe haven her people had left, then hundreds would die instead of just two. She only had one option left. She had to make it to Notre Dame cathedral.
She could feel the footsteps of the horse gaining as she ran through the cold streets of Paris. Her heart was beating faster than it ever had before, and part of her was surprised Esmeralda was able to sleep through all this. Finally after what felt like an eternity running from death, she could see Notre Dame within sight. Despite her exhaustion Florika picked up her pace and sprinted to the cathedral.
When she got there and tried to open the huge doors, she realized too late that they were locked for the night. Fear gripped her as she started wildly banging on the door and screaming "Sanctuary! Please give us sanctuary!"
Frollo's horse bounded up the steps, and Florika tried to run away, but Frollo reached out to grab her! He caught part of Esmeralda's blanket, and Florika pulled with all her might to try to get it back. Frollo's grip was like iron, but she couldn't let go. She couldn't let the judge take her baby!
Frollo suddenly kicked at her with his boot and she stumbled to the ground and fell against the stone steps of Notre Dame. Her head cracked, her neck snapped, and she died instantly.
The judge stared down at the gypsy's corpse without an ounce of feeling. It was no different than killing an ant or a mouse as far as he was concerned. He wondered what she had stolen that had been so important, but knowing how gypsies valued even small things Frollo assumed it was a slab of meat or a pile of clothes or some other trinket. That all changed when he heard the soft plaintive sound of crying coming from the bundle in his hand.
"A baby?" Frollo asked himself as he looked into the bundle.
Inside was the prettiest little infant he had ever seen. It was most likely mixed race, since the baby exhibited dark skin features but also had stark green eyes. It looked to be between four to six months old, and when Frollo unwrapped the child he saw it was a girl.
Realizing how cold it was outside, Frollo quickly wrapped the baby back up, and then wondered why he would even bother with this knee-jerk kindness for the spawn of a gypsy harlot.
Just then, the door to the cathedral opened and the archdeacon ran out to see what all the fuss was about. He saw Judge Frollo on his horse holding a baby, and then looked down to see the bleeding body of the gypsy woman.
"Frollo...what have you done?" The archdeacon asked as he approached the body of the dead woman.
"I am guiltless. She ran, I pursued," Frollo replied flippantly.
"You have spilled innocent blood on the steps of Notre Dame," The archdeacon wailed, "And what of her child? Would you add more innocent blood to your hands?"
"Don't be ridiculous!" Frollo scoffed, "Just put her on the foundling steps for someone to adopt. Perhaps a nunnery will want her or something."
"You have taken this poor child's mother away," The archdeacon lamented, "And now you would leave her to chance? You would allow the possibility that she could die too, just as her poor mother has?"
"Poor mother...bah!" Frollo spat in contempt, "She was a gypsy witch. If anything I have saved this child from that devil worshipping pagan. Now she can grow up in a good Christian home."
"A true Christian would not celebrate the death of one of God's creatures," The archdeacon pointed out, "You may convince everyone on earth that you are blameless, but there is someone you cannot hide from."
Frollo thought about this for a moment. He stared down at the baby, who was now looking up at him, and he looked at the cathedral. He looked up to heaven, and then back down at the baby. It was true. Paris was not in a good financial way at the moment. No one would adopt this child, and she would likely starve...all because of what Frollo did. If he allowed this to happen, would God punish him? He didn't want to believe that, yet part of him very much did.
"What must I do?" Frollo asked softly as he stared into the vibrant green eyes of the baby girl.
"Raise the child as your own," The archdeacon suggested, "That way you know she will be cared for. The miller's wife had recently given birth. You could pay her to nurse the infant."
Frollo didn't much like that idea. He hadn't dealt with children since his miserable little brother was a child. That didn't go well, since Claude had tried to raise his brother Jehan to be a good Christian man, and instead he had run off to Rome to be a vagabond with some prostitute he met in a tavern. Yes, Frollo would admit one of his few flaws was that he was bad with children.
Then again, when this little baby looked up at him, it was easy to almost forget she had been born of gypsies. She looked so innocent and pure, almost like an angel. He held her closer to keep her warm, and she tried to grab the fabric of his robe.
"Alright, I'll do it," Frollo finally said to the archdeacon, "Perhaps I can raise this child to not be like the gypsy trash she was birthed from. Perhaps I can save this little girl's soul. We must baptize her immediately."
"Very well," The archdeacon replied, though he was already starting to have regrets about telling Frollo to keep the baby, "What do you intend to call the child?"
Frollo thought for a moment. He hadn't considered naming the child, but then again it would be awkward to just call her girl. Frollo wasn't the most creative man if torture wasn't involved, so he just went with his mother's name.
"Agnes. Her name is Agnes."