"Who… what am I, Muck?"
"Not who Frollo claims you are, Quasimodo. I know of at least three people who you turn out to be. The fact we are having this conversation means there is now four, or maybe 5."
"I don't understand?"
"Nor does Frollo. Hellfire, I'm living your story and I am STILL not sure I understand myself. Sit with me, and let me try to explain?"
"Yes Mas… Muck".
"Better, my friend. No masters or servants here, just two people, equal in their lives despite what has happened to them, as claimed by the bells of Notre Dame. Those bells that are all around us"
"And as I ring these bells tonight, My cold dark tower seems so bright! I swear it must be Heaven's Light"
"Because it is, my friend."
"But… how can this be? I am…"
"NO! You are not." Muck countered, drew in a breath before replying in song, as the sounds of drums and cymbals somehow emanated from him.i "A Single thread in a tapestry, though its color brightly shines, can never see its purpose it the pattern of the grand design! Does the stone that sits on the very top of A mountains mighty face, think it is more important than the stones that form the base? So, how can you see what your life is worth, or where your value lies? You can never see with the eyes of man! You must look at your life! Look at your life through heaven's eyesii!"
"After all, we're only made of stone," accused Victor, as he turned away and returned to stone.
"But we thought you were made of something stronger," Laverne agreed before also turning away and solidifying.
"They are right, Quasimodo." Came the voice of the Star Ranger from behind him. "The question is what you choose to do now. To show you are stronger than what Frollo believes, or stand aside and let him kill Phoebus and Esmeralda as he did your mother."
"Frollo? My mother?"
"Not in the way I think you are thinking. But Esmeralda is not the first woman Frollo has summarily executed. But she can be… the first who survives if you choose to let me help."
"Yes. Even if it costs my life, my immortal soul. I choose for Esmeralda to live, even if she loves another." All around him came a sudden surge of air, accompanied by a ringing sound similar, yet different from the bells that had surrounded him his whole life even as the chains that bound him fell away.
"So, you choose to be a man. Hang on to me. It is time the two of us get down there and deal with the REAL monster, my friend."
Esmerelda struggled not to breath in the smoke of the burning straw that surrounded her. She had a memory that doing so killed more gypsies than anything the so-called minister of justice… what was this she heard? It sounded like something large was falling towards the scaffolding of her execution. Then there was a loud bang that threw her, and the post she was chained to clear of the fires and allowed clean air into abused lungs.
"and he does a perfect IRON MAN" a voice unfamiliar to her chortled. "End of the line, Quasi. Get her to safety."
"Safety? Is there anywhere safe?" That was a voice Esmerelda recognized. Quasimodo, the bell ringer of the cathedral. The kind soul whom she intervened to redeem from her mistake back at the Festival, and whom had saved her in return.
"Yes. Inside the cathedral. Sanctuary, Quasimodo! Take her to Sanctuary!" Strong arms gathered Esmerelda up, strong legs leaping to carry her away, while that unfamiliar voice screamed out once more; "CLAUDE FROLLO! STAND FORTH AND BE JUDGED YOU SANTIMONIUS SUMMBITCH!"
Phoebus looked up at that roaring voice. He'd been right, that what he'd heard was akin to being on the receiving end of a cannon firing on a distant target. The difference was that this was not any cannonball or bolt he'd ever seen used; this was a man, a man in strangely angular plate armor now rising to his feet, surrounded by the wreckage of the scaffolding meant for Esmerelda; roaring a challenge to Judge Frollo. The figure gestured…
"DOWN!" Phoebus roared again in warning as a golden streak arced across the open area before the cathedral, followed by spall of some sort bouncing off his back. Looking up, he realized that whatever it was he'd briefly seen had smashed the lock of the prison wagon he was in. He reached down and pulled up the person he'd sheltered.
"Clopin. You claim to be king of the Gypsies? Prove it. Take control of your liegemen. Get these bystanders out of here!"
"And where will you be, *Captain?*"
"Where any good officer of the king should be. Rushing to the sound of the guns," Phoebus snarled as he launched himself out the now open door and through the crowds between himself and the strange knight. Ahead of him, Frollo's voice rang out across the square.
"I am JUDGE Frollo. Appointed by King Louis to dispense his justice. Who are you to defy me and my king?"
"You may call me Don Quixote, *Lord* of La Mancha. Knight of the Woeful Countenance and destroyer of evil such as yourself."
Don was how a Catalonian would refer to someone equivalent to his own status as Chevalier prior to his commissioning as a Kings officer. But why would someone from the Iberian Peninsula be this far north?iii
The Iberian knight before Phoebus inexplicably started… Singing? Was the Don that insane? Or just that angry at Judge Frollo?
"HEAR ME MINIONS OF FROLLO! THOU SERVANTS OF SIN! THY DASTARTLY DOING ARE PAST! For a holy endeavor is NOW TO BEGIN! AND VIRTUE SHALL TRIUMPH AT LAST!"
Phoebus had heard one or two of the new fangled 'Operas' since he'd received King Louis' commission. Something about them prompted Phoebus to jump as hard as he could, and was rewarded by something akin to a cannon blast without a ball passing below his feet. Later, when asked, he'd described it as *THUMP BA DUM BA DUMP BUMP bad um ba da dum!* ivbehind him; a syncopated pattern that matched the song this… Don Quixote? was bellowing about the shortcomings of Judge Claude Frollo. But with each… Blast? Phlug? Perhaps the description was secondary to the effect. Frollo's troops, whom Phoebus had thought of his troops only a day ago, were sent tumbling away by whatever it was the catalonian was using. Not dead, but clearly driven back, stunned by whatever that was. Yet, behind that front line were more troops. Un-stunned, still willing to fight for Judge Frollo, perhaps willing to believe the catalonian was the daemon and not Frollo?
"I AM I, DON QUIXOTE! THE LORD OF LA MANCHA! DESTROYER OF EVIL AM I" his protector continued singing, even as he crossed his arms before flinging them back out in an arc before the pair, spraying something that glistened in a way that made Phobeus think of soap, or cooking oil where it landed on the cobblestones. "I will march to sound of the trumpets of glory, forever to conquer or die!" What ever it was, the men charging their position were slipping, falling; unable to stay upright.
"I don't suppose?"
"No, Phobeus. These weapons are bound as tightly to me as your oath to your king. Bide, though, and I will provide." After saying this, the strange Iberian Don leapt over the area he'd just denied the use of to Frollo's men as the Don brought his gauntlets together, and when he drew them apart as he landed, a quarterstaff manifested between. A devastating weapon in the right hands, as the Don was proving, but one that a soldier could, in time, survive and return to service. Such mercy… was not something Phoebus had been trained to grant to anyone other than nobles of a rank higher than his own. Yet, Quixote was granting it to ALL who faced him on the field of combat this day. A rather painful mercy, in the short term, but those solders would live to fight again in the defense of France, unlike many Phoebus had faced on the field of battle in the past. Those confrontation had ended in maimings, of warriors damaged badly enough they could never return to the field of battle. As the last few fell before the Catalonian, though, there was a change in the disabling strokes that caused a sword and shield to arc through the air towards Phobeus; as Frollo's ex captain reached up the weapons fell into his waiting hands.
"MERDE!" the Catalonian swore, then suddenly was shielding Phobeus, the staff somehow replaced with a shield a roman legionnaire might wish for as burning oil started gushing forth from the gargoyle rainspouts of the cathedral; a shield that put his own to shame as it kept both of them safe from not just the rain of oil, but the heat of it.
"Good job, my friend," Quixote said in a voice Phobeus rather expected was meant to be kept to himself (Quixote) as he helped Phobeus to his feet. "Go, Captain," the don exclaimed, forcibly propelling Phobeus towards the doors of Notre Dame. "Check on the Arch-Deacon. Save Quasimodo, Esmerelda!"
"And what will you be doing?"
"I'm the rear-guard! NOW GO! Do NOT waste this gift I give you!"vi
Micheal sighed from the shadows as he watched the trio being lead through the streets of Paris.
"Regrets, my son?"
"No, your Grace. At best, a sigh of relief at a job well done.vii
"I am not anyones' Grace, Michael the wanderer. Perhaps, at best, someone who helps the outcasts, where you aggressively defend them."
"You are correct about that, Michael of Notre Dame. I am the type that, like the archangel we both are named for, reaches for the sword first, mercy second. Yet, still I name you more worthy of heavens light, and grace, than the bishop and the Cardinal you choose to serve."
"True. The lord is the lord of mercy and forgiveness, even if he has said he will smite the wicked in the fullness of time. Therefore, I choose to believe my superiors have a role yet to play in keeping his church on the path, even if it is a role I do not agree with."
"Is this to be my destiny? Endless battles that I alone survive? Endless guilt because I alone survived?"
"That, I cannot answer other than how the lord of all works in mysterious ways."
"Tell me they will be all right?"
"I cannot. Quasimodo himself can remain here. Phoebus and Esmerelda I can send under my protection, to Roma. What happens to them after they arrive?"
"Is up to themselves."
"Then my work here is done."
"Most likely, though you are welcome to stay for as long as it takes to rest and rejuvenate yourself for the next battle my lord asks of you."
"No. You seem to be me. Therefore, you know I feel it is best too, like any good Chevalier, charge the enemy and get it over with. To bear the scars that result from it with pride."
"Scars come from ill healed wounds. You will excuse me for wishing you do not accumulate more of those on your body or soul."
"Spoken like a true shepherd of his flock."
"Yes. And any shepherd knows when to let go."
"I would have said 'Let it be.' On that note, l say, 'let it be'".
i *Sigh* I HATE… Oh never mind. What you are seeing here is the legacy of how Microsoft programmers think they know more than the people who actually *use* their software. Like NO concept that a person might go back and work on things at a later date… *DEEP BREATH* Shortest form? I'm writing/revising (which also means adding endnotes!) this scene after having written scenes that follow after, something that Word doesn't seem to understand. However, what is going on here is that my avatar is trying to assure someone from a Disney film with a song from a Dreamworks Animation production.
ii  Video link: /oG0a9WFkgzU
iii  heh. Okay, nope, haven't somehow swapped characters here. Muck is claiming he's a fictional character from a novel that hasn't even been written yet just to rattle Frollo's chain. I considered breaking into song to deliver this line! Still, Wait for it…
iv  I'm going to refer you to my favorite version of this, an a Capella arrangement done by the Ambassadors of Harmony. /pdKTX_BuD0w
v  English speakers, read this as f*ck or Sh!t. And, yes, I censored that myself for younger readers who might happen across this tale.
vi  For those of you who are not aware, the sole purpose of the 'rear guard' is to die gloriously while slowing down or outright STOPPING the enemy to the point the main body of an army can get away. Fortunately this character is my avatar, as mentioned in earlier tales of the wanderer. Kind of gives him more than a bit of 'Plot Armor'? wiki/Plot_Armor
vii  A job well done. A thought that has echoed through my psyche for far too many years. Used during 'commencement/graduation' of more than just sailors or soldiers over the years, as a way of thanking those who had the thankless task of turning new recruits into members of a countries armed forces. Which does not JUST include the personnel who have to 'crack the whip'; but those of the recruit unit who are set apart as the unit leaders. A position I wished I might attain. I was wrong. *sad face*