Escape- a Hunchback of Notre Dame Alternate Ending

What if Esmerelda had found the note in her pocket before refusing Claude Frollo's offer?

Would she take it? What would happen then?

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2. Esmeralda's Backstory

When one lives near Notre-Dame in Paris, there is a lot to be seen. There are many people, from the homeless to the wealthy and everywhere in between. Each person has a story to tell. We could spend years investigating the people, but never come close to understanding each one's story.

So instead, we will focus on one. On the corner of the street, a small street child sad curled up in a ball under a ratty blanket. Her partially rusted, almost-empty coin cup rattled as she clutched it in her small, shivering hands. 

A man walked by her then, and saw the little waif with nothing but a tattered white dress with a threadbare purple sash and old blanket to keep her bare feet warm in the harsh December winds. He'd knelt down next to the child and asked her who she was. 

"I don't know, Monsieur," the five-year-old had replied. "I have no family or home."

"Well, what happened to your family?"

"Je ne sais pas. I never met them," she told the man.

The old man smiled and took the girl's hand. "Come. I will give you sanctuary."

He'd led her into the church, where the little girl slept for the nights when the bitter wind became unbearable. Though she preferred outdoors, even if it meant braving the cold and the less-than-pleasant residents that roamed the streets of Paris solely at night. 

The man was the archdeacon of the church,  and every day he would check the little nook in which Esmeralda slept whenever she visited. But before long, the man stopped coming to see her. The girl grew anxious, and her trips to the church became few and far between. 

Time passed by. By February, the winds became especially brumal, relentlessly whipping the frozen snow across her face. One particular night the girl slipped into the church into her usual corner to escape the brutal cold. She was just drifting off into a warm sleep when a sudden, jarring shaking motion woke her. 

She yelped, unaware of where she was. "Who are you?" the voice as cold as the wind demanded. A robed figure appeared in her vision, a thin, bony face with salt-and-pepper hair and a long, crooked nose hanging over her. 

"Ah! Um- je ne sais pas, Monsieur, I don't know," she told the new man the same thing she'd told the archdeacon. "The archdeacon let me stay here; he said I could sleep here whenever the nights got too cold!"

"A ragged street urchin? Non, child. Get back to the streets where you belong, you little waif!" 

Terrified of the man, the girl cried out and scampered away, her bare feet slapping the cold stone floor. She ducked behind a large pillar and watched the man pass. He looked familiar, but she couldn't place it. The man was carrying a small bundle of cloth towards the bell-tower. He carried it as if the sack was going to bite him, holding it as far from his body as possible. 

The girl watched him leave, then, too terrified to stay any longer, followed him towards the door. The bitter winds bit her face as she braved the cold once more. She ran down the street, unable to feel anything in her tiny bare feet. Her dark hair felt frozen to her head, and her dress did little to keep out the cold. 

Spotting a small alleyway away from the winds, she trudged through the bitter cold and slipped in the space between the two buildings. It was a large space, but it broke the fierceness of the wind and had several large garbage she could hide near and scavenge for food in the morning. She curled up next to the nearest one and closed her eyes. She pulled the blanket around herself and tried not to think about the cold winds or the smell of garbage or the harrowing experience she'd just had. 

"Well, well, what have we here?" a gruff voice startled the girl out of her sleep. She blinked and made out two shadowy figures leaning over her. 

The girl opened her mouth to scream, but the man who had spoken reached down and forcefully cupped his hand around her mouth. The other one grabbed her by the waist and threw her into the first one. She tried to pull out of his grasp but he was too strong. He pushed her to the ground and pinned her limbs under his own. The girl choked with the weight and suffocating stench of booze, trash and body odor. 

The man laughed and started to lift up the girl's dress. Thinking fast, she opened her mouth wide and chomped as hard as she could bite down on his hand. 

"Vous maudissent! She bit me!" her captor cried in alarm, pulling his hand away and shaking it violently.

The girl seized the opportunity to throw her fist at the man's face. He easily dodged and grabbed her fist, shoving it into her open mouth. He the slapped her. The pain was delayed because of the cold, but hurt even more so. She sobbed under her own fist, her warm tears freezing her face as soon as they came.

The other man yelled at the first, "Hurry up and finish the little salope! I want a turn!" 

The first man turned his attention back on the girl. She squirmed, sobbing and fighting. 

"She's kind of difficult, Lou! She won't sit still."

"Paul, she's a kid! She can't be more than five. Just do it already!"

The girl knew she wouldn't be able to escape. She'd seen what the ruthless men do to girls they find, and even if she didn't understand it fully, she knew it would hurt and possibly kill her. She fought hard, even knowing she had no chance. She brought up her knee, sending it in between her captor's legs. He howled and slapped her face again. She took the opportunity to yank her hand free and take a blow to the man's mouth. He learned from the last strike, and blocked it swiftly, but in doing so released her other hand. She pummeled the air, refusing to give in. But before long, Lou had jumped in, taking her hands and slamming them to the ground and pinned them there. 

"Finish her!" he cried.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, there was a sudden cry of anguish from the man named Lou. There was the sickening splatter of liquid across the ground, and then another cry from the man named Paul- the one on top of the girl. He yelped and she suddenly felt warm and sticky, as if she'd had warm water poured over her arm. Paul stood, and the girl gasped for air and scrambled to get out of the way. The source of the attacks was a third figure, now standing in between the girl and her attackers. The men had large, gaping gashed across their arms and torsos. 

Esmeralda sat up, her eyes wide in fear, gasping for breath. She scampered backwards, hiding from the ominous figure.

The figure laughed menacingly. "Now, gentlemen. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Apologize to this young girl."

"Who- who are you?" Paul asked.

"That doesn't matter, Monsieurs. Just apologize." He flashed a dagger at the men, and both looked terror-stricken. 

Lou dropped to his knees, and Paul followed. "Pardonne-moi, Mademoiselle," he said with a trembling voice. 

"Oui, pardonnez nous," Paul echoed. "Please don't kill me!"

"Normally, I would ignore such a request..." he let out a terrifying laugh, like that of a maniac- "but alas. I do not wish to scare this child. Now begone, connards!" 

The terrified men scampered off, yelping in fear. 

The girl trembled at the fearsome sight of the man in her presence. In the dim evening light she saw he was tall, thin and had a strange outfit on. With a deep purple hue, it looked like a gothic spin on a court jester. He held a black dagger in his hand, but as she watched, the dagger seemed to vanish from his black-gloved hands like a magician's trick. His large purple hat partially hid his face, but the girl saw his sharp features, his long, pointed nose, the beginnings of a scruffy black beard and his glossy dark hair. His earrings glinted in the dim light, illuminating his defined cheekbones and the beginnings of a black beard on his chin. 

"My name is Clopin. Clopin Troullifou. And you; qui êtes-vous?"

The girl took a deep breath and told him what she'd told the last two men that had asked who she was. "Je ne sais pas, Monsieur. I have no family, I never knew them. I don't know my name, I don't know anything."

"A child with no name, and no family? Why, no wonder you don't know better than to wander into alleys at night." His hard eyes softened.

The girl sniffled. "I... I didn't know," she whimpered. 

"But you fought them off very well, cherie. Have you ever been in a situation like that?"

"No," she replied. 

"How old are you?"

"I was told I am probably five. The archdeacon told me," she said.

Clopin looked impressed. His heart was filled suddenly with a new sensation- something he didn't feel often. It was pity. He had the sudden, overwhelming desire to care for the child. "Well, little miss no-name, how would you like to come with me?"

The girl looked up at the young man through bleary eyes. "Come- with you?" she hiccuped. 

"Oui. Anybody who can fight off a couple of connards like you did is okay in my book, cherie. Nobody would be able to tell you're not... dark hair, deep tan- you'd fit right in. You're welcome to come with me," he offered.

"Really?" her tiny voice sounded awestruck.

"Oui, mon cherie." He reached out one black-gloved hand to the girl.

She looked into his eyes, searching for something. He seemed like he was serious, like he genuinely wanted her to come with him. His cruel eyes had a sparkle of favor in them, as if this strange young man rarely cared for anyone. And yet, she saw the kindness, the true desire to help her, and she knew at once she could trust him. 

She placed one trembling hand in his outstretched hand. It closed around hers and he pulled her to her feet. 

"Come with me, um, child. What should I call you?"

The girl shrugged. Her fingers wrapped around her necklace, fingering it thoughtfully.

"What is that?" Clopin asked, eyeing the necklace. It was just a small pouch on a leather cord. The bag was bejeweled by the little emerald stones sewn onto it.

"It's the only connection I have to my family. It's my baby shoe," she said, pulling the drawstring and showing him the pretty little shoe, no bigger than the girl's palm. It was a brilliant ruby red, made of real glossy leather with a little strap fastened by a dainty silver buckle. After showcasing her prizes possession, the child smiled and slipped it back into the emerald pouch. 

"Do you know what the bag is made of?" she asked him proudly. "Real emeralds. The man I showed it to at the jewelry shop said so.

"Real emeralds, huh? Well, the Greek word for emerald is "esmeralda," you know," he told her. "I'll call you Esmeralda."

"Es...mer-AL-duh," she said it slowly, trying out the name. "What a strange name. I like it!"

"Well, then, come with me, my little Esmeralda."

He led her out of the alleyway and down the street. About a half-mile away was the graveyard where most people avoided. Esmeralda clutched Clopin's hand and held it close to her, trembling. He patted her head reassuringly. 

They arrived at a particularly large tomb, the gravestone marked with a string of foreign words: Η Αυλή των Θαυμάτων

"That," Clopin said, pointing to the words. "That says 'Court of Miracles' in Greek."

"Court of Miracles?" inquired the girl.

"Oui. That is where we live, us gypsies." He slid open the tomb to reveal a dark staircase.

She gasped. "Gypsies? You're a gypsy?"

"Oui, mon cherie."

"And you're sure I'll fit in, Clopin?"

"I know you will."

The pair descended into the abyss. And despite the darkness and overpowering stench of sewage and grime, Esmeralda felt her new friend's hand holding hers, and she felt an undeniable feeling of security she'd never known. Esmeralda knew she'd found a home here with him.  

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