Family Values

Chapter 32

The Time & Place:
In la Place de execution thwarted...
Was Jacques dreaming? Or did he actually see a figure descend the magnificent edifice of the cathedral as if it was a mighty mountain? Is it the bell ringer? Down, down he came, finally swinging out far and wide over the now cheering crowd. He landed on the platform then deftly untied Esmeralda who by now was rendered unconscious from the smoke. Soldiers tried to stop him, but he was quicker. He grabbed the torch, once an instrument of death, but now, in his hands, it was a powerful weapon of defense. He took a swipe at the lunging soldiers, singing hair and armor, and sending blasts of heat throughout their bodies. With Esmeralda securely slung over his back, Quasimodo grabbed the rope then expertly scaled the cathedral, landing upon the parapets. He then held a still unconscious Esmeralda over his head; her burlap prison gown flowed in the early morning breeze. In his fine tenor, a voice that seldom rises above a dull whisper, boomed out to the crowd below.

"Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" With each pronouncement, the crowd roared back their approval; Quasimodo was answered with equal conviction and fervor.


"Do my aging eyes deceive me? Or is that the mysterious bell ringer of Notre Dame?," asked Aubert d'Urboise who continued to stare at the defiant figure atop the cathedral's parapets. Jacques, now smiling with satisfaction, replied, "It is Quasimodo, sir. Although," he added, trying to catch a glimpse of Claude Frollo who still stood on the now empty platform. "I believe Frollo will try something desperate...Hello!"
His eyes grew large. Émile tugged his friend's sleeve, asking, "Did His Grace do what I believe he is doing?"
Jacques nodded, "Yes, he has ordered his men to surround the cathedral." Aubert was outraged. "What? What?! Frollo is crazy! Attacking a house of God! Whatever next?"

For a few moments Quasimodo disappeared inside the bellower, only to emerge carrying what looked like a heavy beam. The bell ringer heaved that beam down on the soldiers besieging the cathedral; the beam missed the soldiers but smashed Frollo's carriage to splinters in its descent. Now, taking advantage of what was sure to be ensuing chaos, Jacques and Émile rushed to the prison carts, hoping to spring a few prisoners free – one of which was Denis Bellot. But someone else was quicker. That person, the former Captain of the Guard, saw his chance. With Frollo preoccupied in seizing Notre Dame and soldiers' attention diverted elsewhere, Phobeus soon grabbed Lt. Fatso by the throat then banged the hapless guard on the head, knocking him unconscious. He quickly grabbed the keys then unlocked the cart, freeing all inside. Brandishing a spear, Phoebus leapt to the top of the cart, shouting for all to hear, "Citizens of Paris! Frollo has persecuted our people, ransacked our city! Now, he has declared war on Notre Dame herself! Will we allow it!"

The crowd replied with a lusty, resounding "NO!"  With whatever that would serve as weapons – pitchforks, brooms, two-by-fours, even their own bare hands – Parisians immediately locked themselves into hand-to-hand combat with Frollo's soldiers. The locks on the remaining carts were broken. Gypsies, Parisians, and other people who would've faced a horrific death at Frollo's hand leapt forth in defense of Notre Dame. One burly Gypsy, the last to emerge from the cart, led the battle cry: "Charge!"  It was every man and woman engaged in a scrimmage that would, with high hopes, end Claude Frollo's twenty-year reign of terror. Someone tossed Jacques and Émile a couple of pitchforks, and the pair soon found themselves caught in the fray. Even old Aubert, aged and infirm as he was, joined in, knocking down soldiers left and right with many blows of his walking stick. "Here, old friend! Allow me!," shouted a familiar voice. Aubert wheeled around to see Denis Bellot brandishing a huge double-bladed sword. With Faure at their side, the old baron and Denis held their own against the never-ending assault from Frollo's men. Even Jacques, who by now had fell countless soldiers, could not believe his eyes. His father, a gentle, even-tempered man who never once in his life so much as raised his voice, valiently fighting for the dignity and very survival of Paris itself. But where was Frollo?, they wondered.


"Harder!," ordered the Minister of Justice in his booming baritone. Over the din of clanging swords, shattering bricks, screaming soldiers falling to their doom into the Seine, Claude Frollo, seething over the thwarted execution and Quasimodo's sudden attack of "bravery", urged his men onwards. A dozen or more of his stronger soldiers continued to ram the cathedral door, while Quasimodo held off more of Frollo's henchmen who scaled the walls trying to gain entry. Farther away, the Bellot men, Faure and Aubert, even old Madame Poulin, waged a continuing battle. One soldier tried to take Émile from behind, but Ide was quicker, knocking that man to the ground. She was quite surprised with her handiwork, even more surprised when another woman joined her.
"We ladies have to stick together," said Lysbette Bellot, swinging a heavy shovel with gusto. Ide laughed and, with her new comrade, kept a steady pace, felling Frollo's soldiers left and right. "Whatever is that?," said Jacques, looking up at the sky. A whitish cloud soon descended from the cathedral, swooping down upon the soldiers. A flock of pigeons? And they're attacking Frollo's men, pecking and gouging eyes and heads. It was a scene straight out of a Hitchcock movie (and light years away from 20th Century Hollywood). Jacques and Émile had wanted to work their way closer, find a way to seek out Frollo. The former wanted to give the Minister of Justice a sound piece of his mind, not to mention a telling blow to the head. But something made Jacques hang back. Something was not right, or at least something profound was about to happen.
As Frollo's men finally managed to split the great heavy door of Notre Dame asunder, the cathedral gargoyles seemed to glow with an awful fire. Sure enough, streams of molten lead spewed forth, cascading in sheets to the square below. Instantly soldiers and citizens scattered lest they be instantly cooked and charred by the hot metal. It was a sight straight out of the Apocalypse – the entire facade of the cathedral was drenched in molten lead, the river and streets below converted into lava-like flows. Where was Frollo? Surely he had sense enough to get out of the way. This is what Faure d'Aubec said while witnessing this incredible scene. "Maybe," said Aubert with a wickedly sarcastic twinge in his aged voice, "Claude finally got what's coming to him."

 But it was not so...

Yet. As the battle in the streets continued, although fighting began to abate somewhat, a lone figure quickly stole up the stone steps to the bell tower....


In his moment of triumph, just when he pronounced, "We've done it, Esmeralda! We've beaten them back!," nothing prepared him for the inevitable. The lovely dancer still lay motionless on the cot, her eyes still closed, her breathing slowed to a shallowness that resembled death. Quasimodo tried to administer a dipper of water, but it ran across her still lips. Then reality sank in. "Oh no! No!"
He cradled her lifeless body in his arms, sobbing and moaning in grief. He resettled her body on the cot, then knelt before her in prayer. The only friend he ever had – Well, there was that nice young man who befriended Quasi years ago, when Quasi was just a little boy. In the back of his mind, he wondered if that young man was down in the streets, joining his fellow citizens against Frollo's brutal soldiers. But for now, all Quasimodo could think about was the loss of the beautiful woman who was so briefly his friend and champion. So lost in thought, so deep in prayer, Quasi did not notice the door opening, the approach of familiar sounding footsteps. Only when that man touched Quasi's humped back did the bell ringer know...

 "You...You killed her..."


Far back from the now-waning battle, those elderly gentlemen – Aubert, Faure, and Denis - finally called it quits. It was obvious that even though they fought bravely and held their own, the intense hand-to-hand combat proved that they were no longer young men. Leave such things to the young bucks, said Denis who searched around in earnest for any sign of his son. All he wanted was to reunite with Jacques, go home to his wife, and try to recapture some semblance of a quiet family life. But at what cost? He had lost his daughter, no thanks to Frollo, and he nearly became just another statistic in Frollo's long list of condemned souls. If it wasn't for the quick action of the bell ringer, then all would've been lost. Denis' death would all be for naught.
He wondered where Frollo could be now. Ever since Quasimodo dumped vats of molten lead, Frollo was no where to be seen. Perhaps the judge has gone inside the cathedral...Oh Mother of God! Is there no end to Frollo's madness? Assaulting and profaning a house of God?

"Father! Father!" The sound of Jacques' voice could be heard in the distance. Over the din, Denis instantly shouted out, "Jacques! Where are you?" He tried picking his way through the crowd, taking care not to get hit in the head by flying debris or a stray sword. But is was of no use. As if by divine Providence, Lysbette and Ide Poulin found him; Denis was quite taken aback that his wife would even venture out in such chaos, let alone join in the fray.
"Lysbette! What...?" She shushed him with a fervent kiss and embrace, saying, "Dear husband, Ide told me what happened, between you and Minister Frollo. Oh my dear..."
She continued to embrace her husband not wanting to let go too soon. How awful! It was not just a few fleeting days ago that the Bellots, along with Aubert d'Urboise, were en route to Paris. They had intended to meet with Claude Frollo, tell him the wonderful news that the baron de Clellaux was alive and well. Then Aubert wanted pertinent answers as to why his lordship's good friend, Dreu Cardin, had a price on his head. But the tide had turned. Ameline was dead, killed at Frollo's hand. The events of yesterday led to the judge's ravaging of the city in search of Esmeralda. So much of Paris laid in ruins because of one man's unrequited lust...

And now, the whole of Paris was fighting for its very survival. Twenty years under Frollo's brutal reign was about to come to an end. But how? When? What if Frollo succeeds in killing Esmeralda? Then what? For now, those thoughts were far from Lysbette's mind as her new stepson finally made his way through the crowd. Jacques, followed by Émile and Ponce, ran to his father.
"Father! There you are!"  Both parent and child embraced, relieved that what could've been another painful chapter in the Bellot family history had never come to pass. "Son," said Denis, still holding on to Jacques, "let us leave this place. Aubert is tired and Lysbette says it is best we return home. Faure thinks it is best to leave Paris altogether."
He nodded towards the cathedral. "That is if Frollo finally gets his way. He is determined to kill that girl and the bell ringer. If and when he does, he'll come back for us. I can feel it."

No sooner had he uttered those words when Dreu Cardin met up with the group. Denis greeted his former cage-mate, saying, "My friend, you waged a good fight."
"And me," replied a jovial Cardin, his fine blue velvet tunic tattered and soiled from his brief tenure in the dungeons and then from the battle, "a man who hates all things physical!"  But he grew serious as he related, "Captain Phoebus has gone inside the cathedral. We both saw Frollo enter soon after that lead shower. He thinks Frollo may finally corner Quasimodo and that girl. My, my...If this nightmare doesn't end soon then none of us will ever again be safe, never able to lead normal lives. I, M. Bellot, will be forever a man on the run..."
"Ah, as we will, too," Denis replied. Suddenly everyone stopped fighting as a man called out, "LOOK! UP THERE!"

All eyes were now cast upon the three figures upon the parapets. Jacques blinked. Looks like Quasimodo and Esmeralda...And Frollo? Was that the Minister of Justice pursuing them with sword in hand? Quasimodo, with Esmeralda clutched securely in his arm, leapt from gargoyle to gargoyle in efforts to escape. Frollo pursued them hotly, swinging the sword, crushing nearly everything in his path. From where Jacques stood he could see the bell ringer atop the parapet with Frollo closing in.
"He is going to kill them...Frollo is determined to kill them both," Lysbette said under her breath all the while sending silent prayers that things must go right for Quasimodo. Enough of this madness.  "Oh God!," gasped Ide Poulin in disbelief as Claude Frollo whipped off his cape and flung it at Quasi, causing the boy to tumble from the parapet. But in doing so, Frollo lost his own footing, sending himself tumbling over the edge. Dangling from the cathedral, Frollo hung on to the cape as Quasimodo tried to pull up his master. Or so it seemed.  "He can't let him fall," said Jacques Bellot, "even after all Frollo's put him, us, the whole of Paris through. Quasimodo has a good heart. It isn't in him to let Frollo die..."

Too bad Claude Frollo didn't get the picture.

As Esmeralda hung onto Quasi by sheer force of will, as Frollo, sword in hand, expertly swung upon the gargoyle, Aubert d'Urboise allowed a flood of memories to engulf him. His lordship recalled times when he and Frollo shared more than just a business relationship, so much more. Now, as Aubert so aptly put it, Claude Frollo, flourishing his sword, ready to vanquish Esmeralda, was nothing more than a complete stranger, a man driven to untold extremes. Those extremes, right now, soon gave out as the gargoyle suddenly cracked under Frollo's feet.
"Will it give way?," wondered Lysbette. Ide Poulin, herself a jangle of emotions, said, "For all the years I've been in Minister Frollo's employ, never had I dreamt of a moment like this. I know he's done wrong these days, but...Oh Blessed Maria!"  As Ide was ready to forgive her master, Claude Frollo took his final exit, plunging into the river of molten lead below. As if witnessing Frollo's demise wasn't traumatic enough, Parisians gasped as Esmeralda lost her grip on Quasimodo, sending the brave bell ringer to a certain death. But prayers were answered as Phoebus caught the young man in mid-fall then pulled him to safety.

From their vantage point, the Bellots could only rest assured that the long nightmare was over. With Frollo dead, Ameline's death had been avenged. But why feel like that now, especially in light of what has happened in the past twenty-four hours? Surely, thought Faure d'Aubec as he assisted his cousin home, Ameline had not one care for the fate of any of her victims, including Frollo. If she was alive now, she'd celebrate with gusto Claude Frollo's demise. She'd literally dance with joy that at last she had HER revenge on Frollo, but...

No, the girl, in her last moments, finally realized her sins would catch up to her one day, and she paid so horribly with her life. At least we now know the truth behind Frollo's rampage. And I thought I knew the man...Oh well, it is done...Time to look forwards, not dwell on what's behind us.

As Phoebus and Esmeralda, then Quasimodo, emerged from Notre Dame, welcoming grateful Parisians' cheers, Jacques Bellot could not help wondering what the future held for his family. To be sure, he had a new stepmother; he had gained new friends in Ponce Brebéuf and Dreu Cardin. What would become of Aubert d'Urboise, the intended victim of Jehanne and Ameline's vicious scheme? In a way, Jacques had hoped that Frollo had survived long enough to learn that his friend and client still lived, but that was not meant to be. No, Aubert had every intention of cutting Frollo out of his life forever, and Frollo would have never understood... But for now, the Bellots were at last reunited and joined Parisians in cheering Quasimodo as a hero. Happy endings? Maybe...

The Epilogue

Copyright©2003 by PRP

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