A/N:Well, it's been a while. It took me a while to have free time to write anything for this story. Funny thing happened though, out of the blue I got some crazy inspiration for this piece and wrote a nice chunk for this story. I should be able to update again in a week or so. If not, it's probably because I got busy or something. Anyway, I just want to say thanks to those who have left reviews thus far. You guys are wonderful and I hope you will enjoy this chapter! I had a great time writing it!
Disclaimer: I would write one, but I don't feel like it today. You know I don't own the rights to the original fiction crafted by the Disney Company. I only own my original characters like Gabriella and one other that's introduced in this chapter.
Chapter 3: Ordinary Miracles & Extraordinary Dreams
Breathing laboriously, Madellaine sat on the bottom step of the stairway leading to the bell tower, her heart aching in more ways than one.
She felt guilty.
How could she run out like that without giving a proper explanation to the poor man? Sure, the mere sight of the hunchback sent a chill through her, but said chill really had nothing to do with him. It was a matter of how his outward appearance reflected all the things she despised about her inner self.
Sarouch practically made a career off of making her feel worthless. Hating aspects of herself came naturally.
But now she had gone and done the same thing to someone else, and knowing this didn't sit well with Madellaine at all. Acting in such a way to someone who had been so kind was callous, monstrous even.
To make matters worse, she hadn't completed the mission to get information on that stupid bell.
In other words, she would have to go back up there and face the Hunchback of Notre Dame again, regardless of whether she really wanted to or not, which she most certainly didn't, not after her horrendous display.
"What do I do?" she wondered aimlessly, bringing her knees to her chest before resting her head on them. "Well, I'm in a church. Maybe I should pray about it."
Upstairs, Quasimodo was quietly painting on the finishing touches to his wooden figurine of Madellaine. Though simple and not quite as detailed as some of the other figures he had made, the simplicity of its design and the memory of the woman it was modeled after immediately made it his favorite. A small spark of hope ignited in his heart despite of the emotional blow dealt to him through her panicked stare and swift retreat.
With a smile warming his face he turned to Laverne, who hadn't left his side since he'd started working. "Do you believe in miracles?"
"Miracles?" the gargoyle questioned, shrugging. "What kind of miracles?"
Quasimodo focused his gaze on the figurine in his hand. "Oh, you know. Just...ordinary miracles."
"I'm not following you, kid."
The red-haired hunchback let out a sigh, his gaze now traveling over his past crafting work as he spoke. "I see people together. Couples. And it looks so nice...being with someone who loves you."
With a critical gaze he lifted the figurine of himself before placing it across the Madellaine figure.
"I guess I just wonder if...maybe someone could love me...someday..."
Downstairs, unbeknownst to the hunchback still struggling against hope and sorrow, Madellaine was crying, hating herself and the life she had clumsily stumbled into thanks to a lapse of judgment she'd had at the age of six.
So many years had gone by and she still regretted that single action, but at the same time she knew if she hadn't stolen from Sarouch back then, she wouldn't have survived to this point. Back then she nothing but an orphan on the streets begging for scraps of human kindness. Now she was a hopelessly depressed woman easily taken advantage of by criminals like Sarouch. Of course, such was to be expected.
After all, as far as she was concerned, she had no real skills aside from looking pretty.
Even her dream was impractical. She wanted to walk across a tightrope and hear crowds of people cheering her name in celebration of one successful performance. That was it.
It was a simple thing really, yet impossible.
To achieve anything of worth in life, she'd need a miracle.
Just as she thought this, a faint voice filtered through the expansive cathedral. It was a melodic sound, almost heavenly.
Even though she couldn't make out the words, Madellaine ceased her crying. Something about the sound of someone distantly singing was calming to her. As the voice continued to softly echo through the halls, she slowly looked toward the sunlight streaming through the ornate windows while pondering if this sense of comfort was why so many sought God in the midst of bitter reality.
There was so much wrong with the world. All her life she wondered how such a thing could be if God truly existed. Maybe she would never know for sure.
But for whatever reason, as Madellaine rose from the place where she wept, she believed in Him.
And so she prayed to Him.
And perhaps someday soon, her miracle will come.
After a another minute of prayer, Madellaine pivoted on her heel and turned to look back at the open door of the stairwell. Far above someone was singing, though the sound of the voice was no longer echoing through the cathedral as it had before.
"If he's the one singing right now...I hope God will make a miracle for him too."
Smiling softly, Madellaine closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath. When she opened them again, hope sparkled in her irises.
Knowing she would soon see the bell ringer again, the blonde woman strode leisurely out of the cathedral with the soft melody in her heart.
About half an hour later, Madellaine found herself groaning in frustration.
"Well...that sense of peace didn't last long..."
The thought trailed off as Gabriella wrapped an arm around her neck. "Come on, Miss Daydreamer, we're on kitchen duty tonight and I need your help. After all, you have been gone ALL DAY!"
"I can explain that..."
"Don't bother!" Gabriella exclaimed while simultaneously dragging the blonde woman along with her. Surrounded by tents and other carnival folk, the scene was a spectacle, but a familiar one. The acrobat did this sort of thing constantly...with pretty much everyone.
"Now quit fussing," she continued, smiling gleefully. "You'll only make the punishment worse."
Madellaine merely groaned, accepting her fate. She knew exactly what the so-called "punishment" would be.
Ten minutes later, clad in old stained dresses with aprons covered in patches of multi-colored textiles, Gabriella led Madellaine to a large tent that would serve as their "kitchen". A few wooden tables were spread out throughout the room. Some produce was already sitting on one of the tables along with the necessary cooking utensils such as knives, ladles, and a couple measuring tools. A large pot sat on a table adjacent to the produce table.
"Merlin is fetching the water," Gabriella was saying, her strides fast and purposeful across the dying grass beneath their feet. "I'll be making a meager vegetable stew tonight."
Madellaine stared blankly at the table as the acrobat quickly set about chopping some carrots. "Again?"
Gabriella's gray colored irises shifted toward the blonde menacingly. "Wha...again! What do you mean, again!? This is all we performers can afford to eat!"
"That's surprising, considering we just left from a lucrative thieving excursion in Venice."
"Don't give me that look," Gabriella chided, seeming to hear the biting comment in Madellaine's head. "It's not my fault our boss likes to gorge himself on expensive lobster and then starve himself for three days immediately after so he can maintain his 'perfect figure'." With a low grumble, the pixie-like acrobat stabbed the knife into the shabby wooden table. "And it's not my fault we're left with barely enough money to survive day to day or that we've basically sold our souls to a narcissistic, senile, devil!"
Yanking the knife out of the table, she pointed it toward Madellaine. "But such is our plight in this life. It could be worse. Now, quit looking at me like a terrified idiot and chop these onions! We have a lot of people to feed and I don't want to hear any complaining out of you tonight."
Madellaine, used to such rants from her best friend, silently walked to the adjacent table. Gabriella handed her an onion and the blonde got to work.
For a while they prepared things in silence. Merlin, a man of Asian origin who specialized in magic and fortune telling, came in with large buckets of fresh water and left, though he was sure to leave a quick hello to the two working women before departing.
Once he was gone, Gabriella began to compile all the ingredients. As she began to stir them into the massive pot now full of water, she glanced over at the blonde dutifully chopping onions.
"So, where did you run off to today?"
"Sarouch sent me to Notre Dame," Madellaine answered simply, her mind focused on the task at hand. "He wanted me to locate La Fidele."
"Oh?" Gabriella questioned, perking up a bit as she moved to wipe a bit of sweat from her brow. "He sent you for that?"
The pixie-acrobat placed a hand on her hip, narrowing all her attention on the blonde. "Odd. That sounds like a job for one of his muscly goons he keeps around."
"Well, apparently he wanted me to 'wile and beguile' the bell-ringer."
"Is that why you came back here with such a dreamy look on your face?"
Madellaine stopped for a moment. "Dreamy?"
"You had stars in your eyes, Mademoiselle." Gabriella smirked knowingly, returning to her work. "He must have been quite the looker."
The longsuffering dreamer groaned inwardly at that, remembering her abhorrent behavior after seeing the kind hunchback. "You could say that..."
Another period of silence filled the air for another couple minutes as the women continued their cooking duties.
Outside the tent, the sun was slowly setting over the horizon.
At Notre Dame, Quasimodo was seated along the many rooftops of the cathedral, appreciating the gentle violet glow across Paris. Before mustering the courage to leave his immaculate prison to participate in the Festival of Fools, this view of the city had been one of the only comforts in his lonely existence.
For twenty years he never dared to hope he could live the way he does now, for that had been a miracle of the extraordinary kind.
Now he only hoped for ordinary miracles. He craved a simple life with simple joys. He possessed many of these gifts of life already, and yet...
"Something's missing," Gabriella muttered, sipping a small bit of the stew she and Madellaine had prepared.
"Yes...something is missing," the blonde thought, ceasing in her movements. She stared at the knife in her hand, transfixed by its pristine gleam in the fading light of day.
She saw a distorted reflection along the blade. Distorted sapphires stared back at her, condemning her.
Droplets of water slid down her face without warning.
Gabriella had moved to stand next to Madellaine only a moment earlier. She was chopping the last of the chives when she heard her friend sniffle.
Without looking she muttered, "Onions finally getting to you?"
Madellaine nodded. "I think so."
They both knew the onions had nothing to do with the tears.
Madellaine and Gabriella emerged from the cooking tent at nightfall carrying the hot pot of stew toward the bonfire close by.
"Dinner is ready!"
As soon as the acrobat called out this information, the other carnival folk came in droves.
The blonde performer smiled at most of them. Despite their way of life, many of these people were simply down on their luck. Life had dealt an unfair hand and they were doing the best they could with what they had.
Did it make what they did for a living right?
But Madellaine played her part. She seemed to be designed for this type of life. Constantly moving, constantly looking over her shoulder, never having peace...
It was all she knew.
However, at the end of the day, when she was with her fellow carnival folk, she felt like she belonged somewhere in this world.
Or at least she did until she realized how little she actually contributed to their lives on a day to day basis.
Her job was to stand there and look pretty.
But what would happen when she stopped looking so pretty?
She didn't want to think about it. Sarouch habitually left those he couldn't use behind.
Rumors throughout the caravan suggested he did more sinister things to those who overstayed the "warm welcome" he supplied, but Madellaine wasn't privy to such knowledge.
No, Gabriella made certain of that.
The next half hour was spent making sure everyone received a decent serving of food before settling down to eat themselves. Madellaine took a spot by the roaring bonfire alone, noting absently how cold it was before the rumbling in her stomach demanded she eat and eat now.
Delicious as it was, the dreamy-eyed woman found herself drifting back to the bell tower and to the nice conversation with the bell ringer. Before she messed it all up, the two of them had really hit it off. She could still hear the sound of his laugh. Try as she might, she couldn't shake the sound, nor could she shake her memory of his expression of shame once she saw his face.
The song she'd heard someone singing was long forgotten by now.
"Sarouch hasn't called on me to deliver the news yet," she mused while chewing. "He must be busy with preparations for the show tomorrow..."
The quiet request for attention startled the blonde so badly she nearly choked on the spoon.
Sputtering indignantly, she replied hoarsely. "Oh...good evening, Merlin."
Merlin, a very exotic looking man with mono-lid, almond shaped eyes and short-raven hair stood above her with an eyebrow raised in confusion.
"Fine," she blurted, coughing a bit. "Just choked a little bit. Was there something you needed?"
The man sighed in quiet exasperation before taking a seat next to her. "I see you have encountered another of our kind."
"Huh?" Confused, Madellaine blinked a couple of times. "I'm sorry, but I..."
"Don't understand?" Merlin questioned, cutting off her thoughts as an all-knowing sort of grin lit up his expression. "Yes, that does tend to happen a great deal."
Madellaine wasn't sure what to make of this situation. Merlin had been part of their caravan for a year now, but this was the first time he had ever really sought her...or anyone else...out.
Now that she thought about it, Gabriella was the only person who went out of her way to talk to him at all. She only really interacted with the man when Gabriella was flinging out orders to the both of them.
"Ah, you understand now?"
"People like me, and the hunchback of Notre Dame you met earlier today, are ostracized from society," he began.
Before Madellaine could even fathom how this man knew about her stroll to the cathedral, he spoke again, saying, "We're different. People often fear that."
"How...do you even know I went there?"
"Runs in the family," Merlin stated simply, looking up toward the stars. "My mother came from a long line of priestesses. She had a gift for seeing certain events of the future. Traditionally, such abilities are passed down from daughter to daughter, but my mother only had sons."
"I've seen something in your future..."
Madellaine let out a sharp groan. "What's the catch?"
Merlin halted, blinking in confusion the way Madellaine had a minute ago. "Pardon?"
"Come on, we're a band of thieves," the blonde muttered. "While a good number of us would rather be in honest work, there are others here who take great pride perfecting their crafty practices." Crossing her arms over her chest she added, "I hear you're the best pickpocket in our ranks."
"That's true." he agreed, a subdued expression on his face. "I just took your stew without you even noticing."
Madellaine paused then looked down at her hands, which had been previously cupped around a bowl of delicious stew.
Then she heard an audible slurping sound.
Next to her, Merlin was finishing up the last of her supper. He dipped his head backward, swallowing the last of the liquid inside.
"Consider this my payment for revealing my vision to you," he said with a satisfied sigh. Lowering the bowl to his lap, he smiled cheekily as if she weren't glaring literal daggers into his flesh.
"It better be good." she growled. "I really wanted to eat that, you scoundrel!"
"Well, not exactly my dear."
Madellaine was positively angry now but somehow managed to keep her composure.
"A difficult decision awaits you in the near future," he began, his tone serious now. "It concerns the bell-ringer."
"Wait, is this decision about whether or not I'll have to see him again, because..."
"No, Sarouch has already decided that for you."
Madellaine bit down on her tongue. The man was right, but did he really have to put it that way?
"This is a decision regarding life and death," Merlin continued, lowering his voice so the multitude around them wouldn't be able to hear. Madellaine herself had trouble catching all the words.
"And no matter what you decide...you will be changed forever."
"Indeed," Merlin answered, locking his gaze, which sparkled like dim emeralds in the firelight, with hers. "I saw the two routes you could take, but I don't know which path you will choose. As I mentioned before, it's going to be a difficult decision for you...and you won't have much time to make it."
Madellaine wasn't sure if this man was speaking the truth or just trying to scare her. Either way, she didn't like it.
"Listen, Merlin, I..."
Madellaine stopped speaking, her attention diverted by the sound of children's voices. She saw two young boys and a girl holding a small doll in her hands rushing toward them in tattered night clothes.
The woman tried to speak when they arrived, but the children bulldozed right over her.
"Can we hear the one about the pretty princess again?"
"No! You always want to hear that boring story. All the princess does is sleep!"
"Nuh-uh! She sings too! And Maddie sings good! I want to hear her sing."
"I want to hear it again too! The prince slays a dragon!"
"But Maddie promised me a story about Hercules!"
"That story won't have a princess!"
"We can add one! Right Maddie?"
Madellaine just sat there, her mind fizzling from all the excited chattering. Without thinking she turned to Merlin for help only to find him inexplicably gone.
"Right...I forgot he's one of the best magicians around here too. Probably better than Sarouch himself..."
"Maddie! Are you listening!?"
"Okay, okay!" Madellaine exclaimed, giggling in spite of herself as the children continued fighting about what story they all wanted to hear. "No more arguing now, or I won't tell a story at all."
"But you are gonna tell us the story of Hercules, right? You promised!"
"I did, I did." Shaking her head, the blonde rose from her seat and swiftly scooped up the boy. He giggled excitedly as Madellaine placed him on her shoulders. The other two kids jumped around her, saying they wanted a ride next.
Madellaine put Merlin's strange vision talk out of her mind, choosing instead to prioritize entertaining the children before bed.
She had yearned for someone to tell her stories at night as a child. Until Gabriella joined the caravan, she'd had no one but Sarouch.
Still, despite the grievances she had with him, Madellaine felt a sense of gratitude to him for taking her in when he could have easily left her on the street to die. Whether out of kindness or greed, he had saved her.
And so, like it or not, this caravan of thieves is where she belongs.
"I have a duty to these children," she thought, resigned yet happy. "At least I can offer them a tiny bit of normalcy in a life of constant motion and fear. It's not much, but maybe...well maybe they'll grow up strong enough to break free...the way I wish I could."
A/N: One thing that I would have really liked in the original movie is just a touch more backstory to Madellaine. We don't learn a whole lot about her in the movie. Enough to get invested into her character, but not enough to really get a sense of who she is as a person. So I wanted to make a chapter dedicated to painting a picture of what her life in Sarouch's traveling caravan is like on a day to day basis. I hope this chapter did a good job crafting a piece of her life not explored. Also, I may edit this chapter again at a later point, as parts of it feel a little weak compared to what I know I'm capable of...but for general reading on Fanfiction, I think what I got now turned out pretty good. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this chapter, feel free to leave me a review expressing your thoughts. I would be delighted to hear feedback. God bless you and have a great day!