January 4th, two days before the annual Topsy Turvy day here in Paris. As my cousin and I, along with her Goat, Djali, made our way slowly through the narrow cobbled streets into the town square neither of us failed to gawp in amazement at some of the preparations being carried out 48 hours before, such as bright colourful flags cascading down the walls of buildings to the wooden base of the main stage being set up right in the centre. I held my head high, ignoring some of the disgusted looks and muttered breath insults that were being thrown our way, after all, according to the majority of town folk, Gypsies are evil and aren't worth anything. Anyone could tell that my cousin and I weren't from around there, not by our bright clothes which is the stereotypical "Gypsy" trade, but from the way our mouths literally hung open as we ploughed deeper into the town, soaking up every inch of intricate detail of the buildings, from the mundane to the monumental. It was, by far, more beautiful than our previous town, even though what was left of it was nothing but rubble and ash now.
"Esmeralda, do you even have any idea what we're looking for?" I questioned, coming to a stop as I adjusted my backpack filled with my few belongings and clothes.
"I suppose it's time we started asking around." She shrugged, pushing her long dark hair out of her face. Considering we were only cousins, we looked extremely alike, the only exception being my eyes were Blue rather than Green.
"You must be joking? Do you think any of these people are going to waste their breath on us?" I sighed, beginning to get agitated at the whole situation, I was never one with patience.
"I never in a million years thought I'd get to see how beautiful Notre Dame is in person." She gasped, ignoring me completely as her eyes landed on the great cathedral. I couldn't help but gasp too despite being slightly annoyed, it was without a doubt one of the most beautiful things I'd ever laid eyes on that I just couldn't help but smile to myself.
When I finally managed to pull my eyes away from Notre Dame in the distance, they landed on a brightly coloured wooden cart with a few eager children huddled around the front of it, paying close attention to the tanned mask clad man within it as he spoke enthusiastically to each of them. I took in his brightly coloured clothing along with the purple mask and the bright blue hat placed upon his raven hair before coming to the conclusion that he actually may be able to help us.
"Come on, Esmeralda!" I laughed, breaking her gaze from Notre Dame and pulling her over by the arm to stand behind the children as the bells began to chime.
"Listen, they're beautiful, no? So many colours and sounds, so many changing moods, because you know, they don't ring all by themselves." He began, and then to my surprise and the children's delight the man pulled out a puppet replica of him.
"They don't?" He said in a high voice, trying to get the children to believe the puppet was speaking as he continued himself, "No, silly boy."
I noticed Esmeralda crack a smile out of the corner of my eye. I refused though, we didn't have time for this. That was the difference between the two of us, Esmeralda was more light hearted whilst I had more of a hard exterior, and it often got me into trouble, even when it was for the right causes, but more on that later.
"Up there, high, high in the bell tower, lives the mysterious bell ringer. Who is this creature?" He questioned before using the puppet to question his statement also before hitting him on the head with a stick as the children laughed gleefully.
"Clopin will tell you, it is a tale, a tale of the man, and the monster." He said as the children gasped, moving even closer to the cart as he began to tell the tale. I personally didn't really pay that much attention as I'd grown up with the story from a very young age about the evil man who, as the story goes, locked the boy away in Notre Dame. It was a story I used to tell to my cousins as they grew up also, it wasn't one I was very interested in listening to again at twenty years old.
"Come back tomorrow and I shall tell you another one!" He exclaimed at the end of the tale as the children nodded enthusiastically before running off towards their slightly wary looking parents.
His eyes landed on Esmeralda and I as he studied us for a moment. I began to feel slightly self conscious as I narrowed my eyes at him before he turned his attention to Esmeralda.
"How may I help you, Mademoiselle? You don't look like you're from around here."
"What gave it away?" I muttered under my breath as he glanced at me for a moment as Esmeralda's elbow made contact with my ribs.
"We're not from around here no, but we could really use your help." She smiled hopefully as he glanced between us once more.
"I will try my best to help, what, may I ask, is your problem?" He questioned.
"We need to find the Court Of Miracles, we have no-where else to go and we know they can help us."
He nodded as he eyed us suspiciously for what felt like a lifetime as a tense silence overcame us all as he contemplated his next words.
"I shall take you, give me five minutes."
"Thank you, thank you so much!" Esmeralda sighed in relief as she turned to me, shooting me an all knowing look.
"Yes, thank you." I smiled half heartedly as Esmeralda rolled her eyes before pulling me away from the cart by the arm.
"Stop it! He's trying to help us." She whispered as she let go of me, glancing over at Clopin who began to move things around in his cart.
"I know, I'm sorry, I just-"
"Be nice." She cut me off in a warning tone, scooping up Djali in her arms as I huffed before nodding.
"Hey, you! Please, come here for a moment." Clopin called over to us as Esmeralda and I pointed at the other.
"You." He said, pointing at me.
I rolled my eyes as I made my way over to him slowly, stopping in front of the cart before crossing my arms across my chest.
"You wanted to see me?" I muttered quickly.
He placed his hands on the front of the cart before leaning towards me, leaving hardly space between us, "I don't take kindly to unappreciative people, and considering I'm the leader of the Court Of Miracles, I'd watch your back if I were you." He glared.
I raised an eyebrow before scoffing sarcastically, "Oh, is that so? Then I'm awfully sorry, your majesty."
"I'm not afraid to hang you, you know." He smirked, infuriating me even further.
"We'll see." I shot back, pushing him away from me by the shoulders as I backed up before turning on my heel and making my way back over to Esmeralda who raised an eyebrow sceptically at me and the scene that just played out before her.
"What in the world was that about?" She questioned as I shrugged in reply, shooting a glance over in Clopin's directon as we both narrowed our eyes at each other in unison.
"I don't think we're going to get along very well." I shrugged innocently as she shook her head.
"You're my cousin and I love you, but you really need to stop being so…"
"Stand off-ish, not every one is out to get you Genevieve, not here at least, and hopefully it'll stay that way, just…don't fall back into your old habits."
"It's easy for you to say," I said, pushing my hair out of my face before setting my backpack on the floor and sitting down on it for a moment, "I did what I thought was right, and I still stand by my actions."
"I really don't want to get into this right now." She muttered hurriedly as Clopin made his way over to the two of us.
"Another time, then." I smirked, turning to face her as she hit me across the head.
"Ladies, if you'd like to follow me." He said, ushering Esmeralda forward as I stood up and placed my bag back on my back as I began to trail behind, not wanting to be in close proximity with him by any means.
"As we've not been properly introduced, my name is Clopin Trouillefou, and you are?" He asked Esmeralda as we made our way through the cobbled streets once more.
"I'm Esmeralda, and this is Genevieve." She replied as I inwardly cringed at her for telling him my name, I knew it was childish, but he rubbed me the wrong way and I was all for first impressions. Unfortunately he fell into stride with me on the left side as Esmeralda did on the right before he leaned in and whispered, "What a lovely name the monster is paired with."
I stopped dead as I clenched and unclenched my fists, "Now wait one second you-"
"Genevieve! Please behave." Esmeralda exclaimed as I gritted my teeth together as I glanced at Clopin who was tilting his head to the side and using his hand as a noose to convey hanging behind Esmeralda's back.
I breathed in and out heavily a couple of times before attempting to compose myself calmly, "Please, after you." I said as Esmeralda and Clopin took the lead once more.
I couldn't even begin to explain how much he pushed my buttons and bothered me despite not even knowing him for a whole day at that point, if it was like that then, I was dreading spending time with him on what was sure to unfortunately become a regular basis. I kicked stones across the floor as I passed them in order to bite my tongue as Esmeralda and Clopin spoke animatedly amongst each other, something I couldn't help but scoff at as the day you found me speaking to him like that would be the day you could shoot me in the head.
"And here we are!" He announced as we reached the rusting gates of what looked to be a Graveyard. I raised an eyebrow as I took in my surroundings, taking a hold of the extremely rusted gate, pushing it slightly as it creaked loudly.
"This has to be some kind of a joke, What-"
"Patience is a virtue." He smirked as he ushered me to remove my hand from the gate before he pushed it fully open himself, holding it open for Esmeralda, still clutching Djali, and I to make our way through. I grumbled words of gratitude under my breath as he closed the gate behind us and took the lead. We trudged our way up to what appeared to just be a normal grave, until Clopin reached out and moved the top of the grave to the side, revealing stone steps that headed down into darkness, all in all I couldn't help but feel slightly paranoid.
He placed a finger on his lips, signifying for us to be silent as Esmeralda and I climbed inside and made our way down the steps cautiously as he followed behind me, placing the lid back on the coffin and following us down the steps, irritating me highly by intentionally pushing me to walk faster even though I couldn't see a thing. I heard Esmeralda's feet make contact with the water moments before mine did and I couldn't help but gasp out loud as the cold substance soaked my shoes and with it, my feet. Nothing prepared us for what happened next as what then turned out to be the underground sewers became lit with magnificent green light as we were faced with around about ten Gypsies of all shapes and sizes, masked and unmasked, and needless to say they weren't happy as they brandished their weapons and bared their teeth at us. Calls of "Trespassers!" and "Spies!" rang out as they began to make their way towards Esmeralda and I, I was about to grab onto her arm for dear life before Clopin pushed passed us hurriedly.
"Stop, stop! They're just like us." He exclaimed as they lowered their weapons immediately.
"Apologies mademoiselles." One large man with a couple of gold teeth piped up as a smile slowly spread across his face. The group of Gypsies turned on their heel and began to march back to where they came from with us in tow. I shot a glance at Esmeralda who smiled at me before breathing a deep sigh of relief.
"Thank you for that." She said as I nodded in agreement, still in a state of shock of what almost took place, not that I blamed them at all, it was a good thing they protected what was theirs and each other with their lives.
"You're very welcome." He smiled as we made our way to the end of the sewer and into a hall of some sort, with a platform stage and hanging nooses displayed from the high ceiling holding up a wide variety of banners in different colours. The hall was rather spacious and had a number of different doors built into the walls as I noticed a couple of Gypsies go in and walk out of them as they pleased, as well as the back of the hall containing loads of different possessions that I could only assume were stolen, something I couldn't help but smirk at. The group that bombarded us began to disperse but a few remained behind in order to apologise and introduce themselves, something I couldn't help but smile at as I introduced myself, as did Esmeralda. She placed Djali on the floor, much to a few of the children's delight as they ran over to him and began to fuss happily. A girl with long auburn hair and eccentric green eyes who looked to be around my age made her way over to me, smiling as she did so.
"My name is Sara, it is a pleasure to meet you." She said as she outstretched her hand for me to shake.
"I'm Genevieve, it's a pleasure to meet you too." I smiled broadly.
She opened her mouth to speak once more, but was cut off as Clopin suddenly appeared next to me, putting his arm across my shoulders to annoy me further it seemed before leaning in and speaking into my ear quietly once more.
"You see how easy it would be for me to hang you? It'd be no trouble at all as the stage and noose are right there." He whispered, causing me to shiver slightly as he watched in amusement before moving away.
"Oh, and welcome to The Court Of Miracles, I'm sure you will be very happy here." He smirked, removing his mask as he placed his hands behind his back before walking off.
I groaned in irritation as I ran a hand through my hair, glancing at Sara who began to chuckle before shaking her head.
"May I ask what that was about?" She questioned, continuing to chuckle.
"I think I've just become number one on his hit list, but that's fine, he's been number one on mine since we met."