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Elfen High 2 (OOC 6, Closed)

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Constaniana
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 25106
Founded: Mar 10, 2012
Democratic Socialists

Postby Constaniana » Thu May 23, 2013 9:10 pm

Nightkill the Emperor wrote:
Constaniana wrote:I call dibs on Albania. No, I don't know why. As far as AWRP's in general though, I have an idea for one, although it would be character-based, since I already have all the countries planned out in my head.

Do tell.

The AWRP I had ideas for? Well, it would be a fantasy-steampunk mesh world with varying degrees of magic and machines in different parts of the world. For example, the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Incan Empire, the Chinese Empire, and the Austrian Empire are fully magic-based in every aspect of their society, from military to medicine to their economy and even music, to an extent. Then there's nations like Prussia and Russia which are entirely machine-based, since they quite frankly stink at magic. They'll be uber hard-core steampunk and all that jazz. And then there's the remaining nations like Britannia, Portugal, Japan, Ethiopia and the Scandinavian Empire (Need a better name for it) which have varying degrees of magic and machine mixing together. I'm not sure where I'd put the Holy Vatican empire on the scale though. It also has things like Oxford University being a fortress of wizard geniuses and Winston Churchill in it at some point eventually.
Joe Biden 2020; make aviators great again.
Elementals 3 has arrived!
Agritum wrote:I want to marry you now, my British damsel.
Nightkill the Emperor wrote:You know, I didn't expect you to be the most psychopathic person here.

I have the oddest of feelings this is my fault somehow.
Nightkill the Emperor wrote:I just realised how bizarre Const's existence is.
Cerillium wrote:Const is right.
Zarkenis Ultima wrote:You just cornered a scary indian man with a sword-of-brick-shattering.

Have a cookie.
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Nightkill the Emperor
Post Kaiser
 
Posts: 88776
Founded: Dec 28, 2009
Ex-Nation

Postby Nightkill the Emperor » Thu May 23, 2013 9:21 pm

Country App. Be sure this is how the country really was in 1901.

Name of Country:
Leader:
Population (or an estimate):
Dominant Religion:
Language(s):
Hi! I'm Khan, your local misanthropic Indian.
I wear teal, blue & pink for Swith.
P2TM RP Discussion Thread
If you want a good rp, read this shit.
Tiami is cool.
Nat: Night's always in some bizarre state somewhere between "intoxicated enough to kill a hair metal lead singer" and "annoying Mormon missionary sober".

Swith: It's because you're so awesome. God himself refreshes the screen before he types just to see if Nightkill has written anything while he was off somewhere else.

Monfrox wrote:
The balkens wrote:
# went there....

It's Nightkill. He's been there so long he rents out rooms to other people at a flat rate, but demands cash up front.

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Nightkill the Emperor
Post Kaiser
 
Posts: 88776
Founded: Dec 28, 2009
Ex-Nation

Postby Nightkill the Emperor » Thu May 23, 2013 9:27 pm

Do your apps but don't expect immediate action, because I had another cool idea.
Hi! I'm Khan, your local misanthropic Indian.
I wear teal, blue & pink for Swith.
P2TM RP Discussion Thread
If you want a good rp, read this shit.
Tiami is cool.
Nat: Night's always in some bizarre state somewhere between "intoxicated enough to kill a hair metal lead singer" and "annoying Mormon missionary sober".

Swith: It's because you're so awesome. God himself refreshes the screen before he types just to see if Nightkill has written anything while he was off somewhere else.

Monfrox wrote:
The balkens wrote:
# went there....

It's Nightkill. He's been there so long he rents out rooms to other people at a flat rate, but demands cash up front.

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Zarkenis Ultima
P2TM RP Mentor
 
Posts: 42279
Founded: Feb 22, 2011
Democratic Socialists

Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Thu May 23, 2013 9:27 pm

Nightkill the Emperor wrote:Do your apps but don't expect immediate action, because I had another cool idea.


Lol.
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The Inritus Extraho
Negotiator
 
Posts: 6132
Founded: Dec 05, 2010
Ex-Nation

Postby The Inritus Extraho » Thu May 23, 2013 9:28 pm

Constaniana wrote:The AWRP I had ideas for? Well, it would be a fantasy-steampunk mesh world with varying degrees of magic and machines in different parts of the world. For example, the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Incan Empire, the Chinese Empire, and the Austrian Empire are fully magic-based in every aspect of their society, from military to medicine to their economy and even music, to an extent. Then there's nations like Prussia and Russia which are entirely machine-based, since they quite frankly stink at magic. They'll be uber hard-core steampunk and all that jazz. And then there's the remaining nations like Britannia, Portugal, Japan, Ethiopia and the Scandinavian Empire (Need a better name for it) which have varying degrees of magic and machine mixing together. I'm not sure where I'd put the Holy Vatican empire on the scale though. It also has things like Oxford University being a fortress of wizard geniuses and Winston Churchill in it at some point eventually.

I would (not really but for the idiom) kill to be in that as a character-based RP.
If you see I've made a mistake in my wording or a factual detail, telegram me and I'll fix it. I'll even give you credit for pointing it out, if you'd like.
You can call me TIE. I'm not on much... so telegram me if you need something.
FanT Nation - FT w/o space.
I'm on CA time, so... pacific. UTC -8
I'm bi, not single, and really any pronoun works.
I'll check out RP's if you TG me about them.

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Zarkenis Ultima
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Posts: 42279
Founded: Feb 22, 2011
Democratic Socialists

Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Thu May 23, 2013 9:31 pm

Name of Country: Mexico (Can't be arsed to give the full name, :P)
Leader: Porfirio Diaz Mori
Population (or an estimate): 13,6 millions
Dominant Religion: Christianity
Language(s): Spanish and some indigenous shit.
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Nightkill the Emperor
Post Kaiser
 
Posts: 88776
Founded: Dec 28, 2009
Ex-Nation

Postby Nightkill the Emperor » Thu May 23, 2013 9:32 pm

Hi! I'm Khan, your local misanthropic Indian.
I wear teal, blue & pink for Swith.
P2TM RP Discussion Thread
If you want a good rp, read this shit.
Tiami is cool.
Nat: Night's always in some bizarre state somewhere between "intoxicated enough to kill a hair metal lead singer" and "annoying Mormon missionary sober".

Swith: It's because you're so awesome. God himself refreshes the screen before he types just to see if Nightkill has written anything while he was off somewhere else.

Monfrox wrote:
The balkens wrote:
# went there....

It's Nightkill. He's been there so long he rents out rooms to other people at a flat rate, but demands cash up front.

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Zarkenis Ultima
P2TM RP Mentor
 
Posts: 42279
Founded: Feb 22, 2011
Democratic Socialists

Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Thu May 23, 2013 9:32 pm

Nightkill the Emperor wrote:http://forum.nationstates.net/viewtopic.php?p=14616369#p14616369


:hug:
Hello! I'm a P2TM Mentor, if you need any help, send me a TG and I'll see what I can do!
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Constaniana
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 25106
Founded: Mar 10, 2012
Democratic Socialists

Postby Constaniana » Thu May 23, 2013 9:34 pm

The Inritus Extraho wrote:
Constaniana wrote:The AWRP I had ideas for? Well, it would be a fantasy-steampunk mesh world with varying degrees of magic and machines in different parts of the world. For example, the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Incan Empire, the Chinese Empire, and the Austrian Empire are fully magic-based in every aspect of their society, from military to medicine to their economy and even music, to an extent. Then there's nations like Prussia and Russia which are entirely machine-based, since they quite frankly stink at magic. They'll be uber hard-core steampunk and all that jazz. And then there's the remaining nations like Britannia, Portugal, Japan, Ethiopia and the Scandinavian Empire (Need a better name for it) which have varying degrees of magic and machine mixing together. I'm not sure where I'd put the Holy Vatican empire on the scale though. It also has things like Oxford University being a fortress of wizard geniuses and Winston Churchill in it at some point eventually.

I would (not really but for the idiom) kill to be in that as a character-based RP.

Now all I have to do is think of a bloody plot. I had an idea, but I wanted to save it for use in the second and third arcs (if we ever get that far). So far the only idea I have really is starting off going into Egyptian pyramids searching for treasure or something.
Nightkill the Emperor wrote:http://forum.nationstates.net/viewtopic.php?p=14616369#p14616369

Thank you. Thank you. :hug:
Joe Biden 2020; make aviators great again.
Elementals 3 has arrived!
Agritum wrote:I want to marry you now, my British damsel.
Nightkill the Emperor wrote:You know, I didn't expect you to be the most psychopathic person here.

I have the oddest of feelings this is my fault somehow.
Nightkill the Emperor wrote:I just realised how bizarre Const's existence is.
Cerillium wrote:Const is right.
Zarkenis Ultima wrote:You just cornered a scary indian man with a sword-of-brick-shattering.

Have a cookie.
Winner of the Best High Fantasy RP of P2TM twice in a row Choo Choo

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Zarkenis Ultima
P2TM RP Mentor
 
Posts: 42279
Founded: Feb 22, 2011
Democratic Socialists

Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Thu May 23, 2013 9:36 pm

Constaniana wrote:
The Inritus Extraho wrote:I would (not really but for the idiom) kill to be in that as a character-based RP.

Now all I have to do is think of a bloody plot. I had an idea, but I wanted to save it for use in the second and third arcs (if we ever get that far). So far the only idea I have really is starting off going into Egyptian pyramids searching for treasure or something.
Nightkill the Emperor wrote:http://forum.nationstates.net/viewtopic.php?p=14616369#p14616369

Thank you. Thank you. :hug:


A pyramid with a fuckton of weird magitechnological traps and artifacts that get activated in the middle of an eclipse. -Nods-
Hello! I'm a P2TM Mentor, if you need any help, send me a TG and I'll see what I can do!
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Nightkill the Emperor
Post Kaiser
 
Posts: 88776
Founded: Dec 28, 2009
Ex-Nation

Postby Nightkill the Emperor » Thu May 23, 2013 9:37 pm

Now go post there, you lot. :p
Hi! I'm Khan, your local misanthropic Indian.
I wear teal, blue & pink for Swith.
P2TM RP Discussion Thread
If you want a good rp, read this shit.
Tiami is cool.
Nat: Night's always in some bizarre state somewhere between "intoxicated enough to kill a hair metal lead singer" and "annoying Mormon missionary sober".

Swith: It's because you're so awesome. God himself refreshes the screen before he types just to see if Nightkill has written anything while he was off somewhere else.

Monfrox wrote:
The balkens wrote:
# went there....

It's Nightkill. He's been there so long he rents out rooms to other people at a flat rate, but demands cash up front.

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Condunum
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 26273
Founded: Apr 26, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Condunum » Thu May 23, 2013 9:39 pm

Nightkill the Emperor wrote:Now go post there, you lot. :p

Oh hey a new RP for me to get excited about, join, partake in and ultimately quit! I'll make an app now :P
password scrambled

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The Inritus Extraho
Negotiator
 
Posts: 6132
Founded: Dec 05, 2010
Ex-Nation

Postby The Inritus Extraho » Thu May 23, 2013 9:42 pm

Nightkill the Emperor wrote:Now go post there, you lot. :p

Bitch, I already applied. -runs away cause feeaaaaaar-

Also, ugh, I hate roll-too-high-and-you-done-fucked-up mechanisms... there's a reason they removed those from d20 games after 2e D&D.
If you see I've made a mistake in my wording or a factual detail, telegram me and I'll fix it. I'll even give you credit for pointing it out, if you'd like.
You can call me TIE. I'm not on much... so telegram me if you need something.
FanT Nation - FT w/o space.
I'm on CA time, so... pacific. UTC -8
I'm bi, not single, and really any pronoun works.
I'll check out RP's if you TG me about them.

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Condunum
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 26273
Founded: Apr 26, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Condunum » Thu May 23, 2013 9:46 pm

I regret nothing.
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Zarkenis Ultima
P2TM RP Mentor
 
Posts: 42279
Founded: Feb 22, 2011
Democratic Socialists

Postby Zarkenis Ultima » Thu May 23, 2013 9:57 pm

Condunum wrote:I regret nothing.


That's the spirit! :P.
Hello! I'm a P2TM Mentor, if you need any help, send me a TG and I'll see what I can do!
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Condunum
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 26273
Founded: Apr 26, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Condunum » Fri May 24, 2013 12:06 am

Oh, great, I'm playing this again.

"You were born today a girl in a village in the state of Rajasthan in India, not far from the city of Ajmer. Your parents have named you Banasuta Imani. india is currently at war in Kashmir State."

Edit: Oh for fucks sake. "You have died at age 2 from tetanus." REALLY?
Last edited by Condunum on Fri May 24, 2013 12:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Agritum
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Posts: 22143
Founded: May 09, 2011
Anarchy

Postby Agritum » Fri May 24, 2013 5:08 am

Condunum wrote:Oh, great, I'm playing this again.

"You were born today a girl in a village in the state of Rajasthan in India, not far from the city of Ajmer. Your parents have named you Banasuta Imani. india is currently at war in Kashmir State."

Edit: Oh for fucks sake. "You have died at age 2 from tetanus." REALLY?

Real Lives fucking sucks, man.
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Norvenia
Minister
 
Posts: 2779
Founded: May 07, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Norvenia » Fri May 24, 2013 5:30 am

Finished my latest masterpiece. What do y'all think?

October 19, 1759. Paris.

Dusk fell quickly in the warren of little streets off of the Rue Saint-Jacques. Waning sunlight filtered down between the old half-timbered buildings, weak and getting weaker, dying upon the upturned faces of men and women who wrapped themselves in rags against the night chill. Shadows lengthened over the muddy ruts left by carts, and covered the piles of refuse heaped against the crumbling brick walls, and drew a veil of modest darkness over the bone-thin women nursing their children at a sagging teat. Now, the university students who crowded their Left Bank haunts a few blocks from the Sorbonne drew their collars up and their tricorne hats low, and hurried on through the gathering dusk, making swiftly for their gin dens and brothels, or for the salons on the far side of the river. There was fear in the air; no one wanted to find himself still navigating that labyrinth of alleys when dark fell for good.

Somewhere in Paris, the night was just beginning: liveried butlers were lighting candles, and the wine was beginning to flow, and tinkling music played on the harpsichord filled gilded chambers. But here, darkness gathered around the fleeing students - and around the desperate women, and the watchful soldiers, and the men waiting in the shadows with rusty knives in their hands and unreasoning need in their hearts.

It was a night for pain, and sorrow, a night when some stories end and others begin.

It was in one of these nameless back roads near the Sorbonne that a tall figure was moving in the gathering dark. He wore a long charcoal-colored overcoat, its cloak spilling over his shoulders, its hem stained with the dust of the road and the filth of the alleys. A tricorne hat was drawn low over his eyes, and a long rapier of Spanish steel rested at his hip - no elegant noble's smallsword, this, but a true sidesword, with a blade three fingers wide at the hilt and sharp as a barber's razor. A woman scuttled back out of his way as he passed, her eyes flashing in the dark like a frightened animal's. The man stopped; his face was still caught in deep shadow, but the woman could feel his gaze upon her. Slowly, with mute appeal, she let her tattered dress fall from one sagging breast, and a boney hand reached out for a few sous.

Softly, like some dark wolf, the man growled deep in his throat. There was death in the sound. The woman's breath caught in her throat, and she turned, and fled into the stinking dark.

The man remained still in the alley a moment longer, his fists clenching and unclenching in some silent agony. Then he turned and shoved open a nearby door, the lintel just five feet high - a door from centuries ago, set in a crumbling half-timbered building. Ducking low, the tall man moved down the steps onto which the door opened, and emerged into the candlelit merriment of a basement gin den. There were only men in the room, all in various states of inebriation; some sat at low tables and poured spirits down their throats, while others were already senseless on the floor, their misery obliviated in puddles of their own vomit.

Only one man stood out; a slight figure in a plain brown coat who sat in a table by the corner, watching the door. The man in the grey overcoat saw him as soon as he entered the room; the new arrival cast a long glance around the cellar, the dim candlelight flickering on his shadowed face, and then walked quickly over to join the man in the brown coat. One of the men passed out on the floor suddenly moaned, and grabbed at the tall man's ankle. The figure jerked his boot away with a sharp hiss, a strange and almost fearful sound.

The man in the brown coat looked up. "So you found the place."

The other man nodded once. "Yes. Though it eludes me why you chose such a den of sin."

His acquaintance chuckled softly. "Why, it's really quite simple, old man. I knew that you'd react this way. And I wanted every advantage I could lay my hands on, if I was going to meet the infamous Daniel Andreas."

* * *


The man in the brown coat was named Charles Walcott. He was an English Sabbatanos of about eighty-five. Like all Sabbatanoi, he had stopped aging in his mid-forties, and his skin was fair and unlined around brown eyes as hard and secret as river pebbles. He smiled a lot. Daniel didn't like him.

"I assume that you called me here for a reason." The older man's voice was soft, as always, but there was a note of anger in it. They spoke French; Walcott spoke no Rumanian, and it was a bad time to be speaking English in Paris. Word of the loss of Quebec had reached the French capital earlier that week, and there had been riots in the streets. Walcott seemed soft; privately, Daniel wondered why an Englishman - even a Sabbatanos - would risk remaining in France.

"Did I need a reason to call you here, other than to see you squirm?" Walcott's eyes danced with merriment.

"I was in Lyons when I got your letter," Daniel said. He spoke slowly, deliberately, with mounting impatience building behind his voice like clouds on a mountainside. "I rode here in two weeks." The Sabbatanos leaned forward. "You told me that you had a lead on Stefan Petrascu."

"Aye," Walcott agreed. "And I do." Daniel raised his eyebrows, and the Englishman smiled. "But first, a question." It was Walcott's turn to lean forward. "Why do you want him so much? Petrascu's not a vampire. He's one of us. And I heard that he trained you once. So why do you hunt him?"

"He betrayed the living Word of God," Daniel replied simply. "He turned his back on Christ. We are the blades of God, Charles." Daniel's face was taut, and some bleak terror flashed behind his pale blue eyes. "If we forget that, then we are simply murderers."

"They told me that you were a Methuselah," Wolcott said. His lips quirked, as if he wanted to chuckle, but the sound died in his throat. "You're telling me that you hunt Stefan Petrascu - the man who killed Count Dalca and his entire Court - because he is a Catholic?" The Englishman shook his head. "You know, Andreas, at this very moment there are men in this city - the philosophes, they call them - denouncing all churches and all creeds. Many say that the Bible is a lie. Some even say that God is an invention. And you dedicate your life to hunting down one of our finest because he kneels before the Pope?"

"Your 'philosophes' can say anything they like," Daniel snapped. "That doesn't make it true. And what is weakness in a lesser man is catastrophe in a Sabbatanos. A man with Stefan's strength and experience, who turns from the service of God? He is a threat to the entire world, Wolcott. That is why I hunt him."

Wolcott shook his head. "We're losing this war, Andreas." His voice was quiet. "We're dying. The vampires have started killing Sabbatanoi in the cradle. We're not replacing our losses in battle. And the enemy is getting bolder. They killed Diego Sanchez in broad daylight in Cadiz, just three weeks ago." The Englishman leaned forward. "You're one of our best, Andreas. We need you."

Daniel shook his head sharply. "Stefan is my mission," he said, voice thrumming with intensity. "God gave me this task, Charles. Don't ask me how I know that, but it's true. And God help me if I shrink from it." Daniel leaned forward. "Now: you brought me here. Tell me what you know."

Wolcott sighed. "Very well," he agreed softly. "But there is a price."

Daniel grunted, sat back. "I might have known."

"There is a man in the city," Wolcott said quietly. "A boy, really. Nineteen years old. Minor nobility from Lacoste, an officer in the army. His name is de Sade." Daniel waited, and Wolcott rapidly continued. "There are reports of women - mostly prostitutes - emerging from his...exertions...damaged. Beaten. Burned." Wolcott leaned forward. "Sometimes bitten."

There was a pause. Daniel nodded. "I see."

"Good," Wolcott said. "Stefan Petrascu passed through Paris six weeks ago. He was very - interested - in de Sade. He investigated him. He seemed to be getting close, but then he vanished. I haven't heard of Petrascu since."

"So," Daniel said slowly, "this de Sade is my lead - and your target."

"Exactly," Wolcott nodded. "If anyone knows where Petrascu went, it's the Marquis. And I want de Sade dead." Wolcott shook his head violently. "I may not think that I'm God's anointed vengeance, Andreas, but I know shit when I smell it. And even if that man isn't a vampire, he's human vermin and no mistake."

Daniel stood. "Good." He smiled a little. "This is useful, Charles. Well done." The Sabbatanos donned his hat. "Now: where can I find this de Sade?"

"That I can't tell you," Wolcott replied ruefully. "He keeps his lodgings secret, and his servants are too afraid of him to talk. But he was often seen at the salon of Madame Marie Geoffrin, the patroness of the philosophes." The Englishman raised an eyebrow. "If you can stand a den of iniquity where the acid is of words and not of vomit, then I would begin there."

Daniel stood a moment, knowing that he was being mocked, not knowing how to respond. I do not understand this world at all. After a second, he simply nodded once, and left.

* * *


The next day was Wednesday. Daniel learned from a pair of frightened law students at the Sorbonne, whom he stopped alongside the Rue Saint-Jacques and briefly interrogated, that Madame Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin was a woman in her early fifties who lived not far from the Tuileries. Her salon was the most glittering in Paris - whatever that means, Daniel thought - and was always filled with the most brilliant minds and the most beautiful women. Apparently, Geoffrin held huge dinners at one-o'-clock in the afternoon, and then her guests - artists on Mondays, philosophes on Wednesdays - whiled away the afternoons in scintillating debate. Of the woman herself, Daniel could learn little; apparently she came from the petty bourgeoisie, and was neither young, nor brilliant, nor beautiful. Neither of the students had heard of de Sade, or of Stefan Petrascu.

When he had learned all that he could, Daniel thanked the students, and turned away. One of the young men, with a sort of frightened bluster, took a few steps after the Sabbatanos. "And monsieur?" the student called. "If you're planning to visit Madame Geoffrin's, you had best get new clothes!"

Daniel turned a moment, said nothing, and then walked on. But later that afternoon, he bought a plain black coat of good cut and color, with a buff waistcoat and breeches. And thus arrayed - and feeling ridiculous and exposed without his sword - he walked quickly up Rue Saint-Honoré toward the Place Vendome.

About a block short of the square itself, Daniel paused in front of an ornate limestone facade. A liveried doorman studied him suspiciously. "Monsieur, I do not see you on the guest list. Are you sure that you are in the right place?"

Daniel nodded. "Absolutely." He wracked his brains briefly. "I am - a clergyman. A theologian."

The doorman raised his eyebrows suspiciously. "You are not dressed as a curé, monsieur."

"Ah." Daniel laughed briefly. "I'm not." He lowered his voice. "I'm from Geneva."

The doorman's eyes widened at the illicit thrill of speaking to a real-life Protestant minister. "Vraiment?" He cried. "Well, I am sure that madame will be most interested in what you have to say. Please, come in." The doorman hustled Daniel off the street, looking as suspicious as if the Sabbatanos were made entirely of Indian opium.

* * *


Within, Daniel found himself in a beautiful rococo palace; the walls and ceilings were frescoed and chased with gold leaf, the floor inlaid with precious stones and strewn with Persian carpets. Oil paintings sat on the walls, and calf-bound manuscripts were propped open on ornately carved tables like copies of the Bible. Daniel examined one. It was a Principia Philosophiae of Descartes. One corner of Daniel's mouth tightened in mute displeasure.

The Sabbatanos looked up at the sound of loud conversation from the next room. He stepped through into an open space, similarly apportioned, but filled with men clad in ornate coats and powdered wigs. Daniel - with his plain clothes and his own silver-white hair simply tied at the nape of his neck - was unmistakably noticeable. But he stayed at the back of the crowd, and escaped anything worse than a few curious glances.

At the front of the room, near a plump and well-dressed lady in her early fifties, two men were engaged in ferocious debate. One was a tall, thin fellow in his fifties, slightly stooped, with a hawk-like face and a perpetually ironic expression. The other was younger, fatter, and was at the moment speaking in strident tones of outraged integrity. "Really, monsieur, you cannot possibly be suggesting that mere freedom can carry more importance than truth!"

The older man, leaning on his cane, raised his eyebrows. "And why not? After all, if truth is more important than freedom, Monsieur Rousseau, why do you favor democracy? Besides, of course, the sweet memory of your Swiss youth." A caustic grin spread over the old man's face. "Truly, sometimes I wonder what you were really up to beneath those great oak trees."

There was a gust of laughter, and Rousseau flushed. "Monsieur de Voltaire, I favor democracy because it is the truest expression of the General Will, which is truth. The freedom of a fool is a threat to that Will, whether the fool wears a peasant's cap or a crown."

Some of the men in the room began to shift uneasily now; they were veering perilously close to treason. The plump woman - Madame Geoffrin - looked decidedly alarmed.

"Besides," Rousseau continued, "even you must admit that safety and moral decency must impose some limits on freedom. I'm sure that I don't need to remind you of the young officer who frequented our debates some weeks back? You knew him better than I, monsieur, but we have certainly all heard the stories. Should he have the freedom to pursue his - interests - unimpeded?" Daniel leaned forward now, his eyes intent on Voltaire, who was smiling like a man watching a mouse walk step by step into a trap. Rousseau smiled back, concluding triumphantly: "Well, monsieur, and what say you to that?"

"I say that I wonder," Voltaire replied slowly, "if you have forgotten that we are both at this moment wanted for violations of His Most Catholic Majesty's laws, simply for having said what we have said in this room." The older man raised his eyebrows. "It seems strange that either one of us should doubt the benefits of freedom, when we are forced to live in stultifying Geneva on account of its absence."

Abruptly, there came the sound of a brief struggle at the door, and then the doorman who had allowed Daniel's entry gave a cry. Rousseau and Voltaire stopped their debate and stared at the antechamber to the salon - which was rapidly filling with white-coated soldiers, bayonets already fixed to their muskets. An officer in brocaded epaulettes strode forward, sword in one hand and a piece of parchment in the other.

"You all may have forgotten your crimes," the officer cried, "but his Majesty has not. François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire; Jean-Jacques Rousseau - by the authority vested in my by his Majesty the King, I hereby place you under arrest for violation of the terms of your exile. Levez-les-mains!"

* * *


At this point, all hell broke loose. The dozens of other occupants of the salon ran, screaming, for the exits, trampling each other and swamping the soldiers. Rousseau raised his hands, thought better of it, and then bolted for a side door. Voltaire turned without hesitation, and headed straight for the back exit - away from the soldiers, hobbling along on his cane. The officer forced his way through the press, beating men aside with the flat of his sword-blade, and pursued the old philosophe at speed.

Daniel Andreas sighed. Voltaire spent time with de Sade - that must have been the young officer whom Rousseau mentioned. So Voltaire may know where to find de Sade. And de Sade may know where to find Stefen. The Sabbatanos forced his own way through the crowd. Voltaire in prison is no good to me. I need him free, so that he can answer my questions.

In the meantime, Voltaire had made it out the back door of Madame Geoffrin's house, and was moving as fast as he could down the barely-cobblestoned alley behind the building. Unfortunately, Voltaire's top speed was not very fast at all, and the officer - accompanied now by two other soldiers - was rapidly gaining on the old man. Daniel, in turn, was sprinting after the soldiers.

Then things happened very fast. The officer caught up with Voltaire and shoved him; the old man fell with a cry into the filth and stones of the road. Daniel came running up behind the soldiers at full speed, remembered at the last moment that he had left his sword behind when he had dressed for the salon, and launched himself into the air, breaking the neck of the first soldier with a flying side kick to the head. Daniel's momentum carried him on, and he bounced off the wall of a building, feeling his new coat split down the center seam. The other soldier gave a panicked cry and tried to run the Sabbatanos through with his bayonet; Daniel dodged, trapped the barrel of the musket against his own side with one arm, and kicked the soldier in the crotch. He crumpled, releasing his grip on the musket; Daniel grabbed the weapon and swung it hard by the barrel. The buttstock smacked into the side of the soldier's skull with a wet crunch, and he dropped without a sound.

There was a raw pain as the officer managed to slash open Daniel's shoulder with his sword. "Get back!" the man cried - but Daniel dodged his follow-up thrust, snapped his sternum with a front kick to the chest, then took the soldier's legs out from under him with a round kick to the knee. The officer dropped like a stone; Daniel caught his sword hand on the way down and bent it at the wrist, using the man's own plummeting body weight to snap the joint. The officer shrieked, and Daniel simply punted his head into the wall, silencing his cry.

Panting, Daniel turned to check on Voltaire. Covered in the filth of the alleys, the philosophe had struggled a few feet away, and was now looking at Daniel with undisguised terror. "What do you want?" the old man hissed, his voice a panicked whisper.

"I want to talk, monsieur." Daniel reached down and grabbed Voltaire by the arm, hauling him to his feet. The Sabbatanos picked up the old man's cane and shoved it at him, almost knocking Voltaire down again. He grabbed the philosophe by the shoulder. "Let's go."

* * *


"What the hell," said Voltaire in horror, "is this place?"

Daniel gave a wry chuckle. "A den of sin, monsieur. Fortunately, it's also a den of sin where anyone who sees us will be too drunk to give a decent description to the Conciergerie."

Voltaire shook his head, staring about at the wretched denizens of the nameless cellar gin den in which Charles Wolcott had met Daniel the night before. "Couldn't we just - I don't know - hide out in a park?"

Daniel didn't even bother replying to that. Instead, he leaned forward. "I need information."

"I know that some people think that I'm a spy," Voltaire managed, "but truly, I don't know any-"

"I know you're not a spy," Daniel interrupted bluntly. "You're a professional blasphemer, and you have been for your entire adult life. I'm not interested in that, either."

Voltaire managed a brave smile. "The man who murders soldiers of his Most Catholic Majesty is going to lecture me about blasphemy. I see." The philosophe cocked his head. "Although, to speak truth, you don't look much like a Jesuit to me. Perhaps - "

"Don't guess at matters about which you know nothing." Daniel paused, realizing that he had interrupted again. "And don't talk so much. I am no fonder of your company than I am of this venue, so let's try to get this over with quickly."

Voltaire sighed. "Very well, monsieur. I assume that you are not going to tell me your name, though you already seem to know mine?"

Daniel didn't bother replying to that, either. "Your debate partner mentioned something about a young officer of questionable character whose acquaintance you had made."

The philosophe nodded. "Yes. A marquis from Lacoste, named de Sade. He..." Voltaire shook his head. "He's a troubled young man."

"You could say that," Daniel agreed grimly. "I heard that women leave his quarters with blood soaking through their clothes."

"And boys, too, sometimes," added Voltaire. "But he's - brilliant, monsieur. Truly. Brilliant. A mind untrammeled by convention, by - "

"Decency."

Voltaire flinched. "Yes. Yes, that too." He looked up. "You're not the first to ask me about him, you know."

Daniel's breath caught in his throat. "No?"

"No. There was another - a small man, with an accent. Rumanian, I think. He started coming to Madame Geoffrin's about six weeks ago. After a few days, he took me aside and asked me about de Sade."

Stefan. "What did he ask?" Daniel asked carefully.

Voltaire sighed. "First, he asked if any of de Sade's...companions...ever showed bite marks. I told him that they did, sometimes. Then he asked where he could find the marquis."

Daniel leaned forward, his gaze intent. "And?"

Voltaire bit his lip for a moment, looked at his hands, glanced around the gin den. Then he looked up, defeated and old and small. "I told him the same thing I'll tell you," he said quietly. "The fourth-floor apartment. 2118 Rue Saint-Honoré."

* * *


Dusk was falling swiftly again over the streets of Paris, and the human vermin scuttled through the gutters and into the alleys, fleeing the white-coated soldiers who walked slowly along Rue Saint-Honoré, where guttering torches cast a low glow over the filthy cobblestones. It was a fine area, as Paris went, all limestone facades and liveried doormen ducking back inside. The Palais Royale was only a quarter-mile up the road, but the king was at Versailles. Everyone knew that. His Most Catholic Majesty would not deign to sully his feet with the shit of the Paris streets.

Daniel's lips twisted in a bitter smile. All such false purity will have its reward. He thought of the flames, the flames burning forever below, and his gut twisted hard within him.

The Sabbatanos was standing in a patch of shadow across the street from the address which Voltaire had given him. Daniel didn't know where the philosophe had gone; he was a wanted man, and old, and frail. The Sabbatanos told himself that he didn't care about any of that, not when Voltaire had spent his life in blasphemy. He was working hard to believe it.

At the very least, Voltaire had given Daniel this one piece of useful information. And so Daniel stood in the shadows, clad once again in his long charcoal overcoat, his sword at his side and a brace of pistols tucked underneath his coat's cloak, and he watched the fourth-floor windows of the building opposite. There was a candelabra burning in one of those windows with a flickering, luminescent light, and Daniel wondered for a moment if Stefan - Stefan the traitor, Stefan the idolater, Stefan the hero - had stood six weeks ago where Daniel was standing now. If, just maybe, Daniel's boots rested in Stefan's very footprints.

The candelabra guttered, and went out.

Daniel cast a glance around; the last patrol of soldiers was vanishing around the corner. The Sabbatanos stepped out of the shadows and crossed the street, moving rapidly through the gloom. He ran lightly up the steps to the building's front door, his feet noiseless on the stone, and reached out with one hand for the door-handle while the other hand went into a pocket of his overcoat for his lockpicks.

It was then that Daniel got his first major surprise of the night. The door was unlocked.

The Sabbatanos paused at that, trying to work through the implications in his mind. Does the boy not fear being robbed? Or does he have guards? There were a thousand possibilities, but it was the least likely idea that Daniel couldn't quite shake from his mind. Does he know that I'm coming?

The antechamber of the building was dark, deserted. On the walls, crumbling plaster cherubs played the lute and watched Daniel with blind, dead eyes.

The Sabbatanos drew his sword and started up the steps toward the fourth floor.

* * *


The door to de Sade's apartment was unlocked too. Daniel recoiled at that, his heart suddenly beating much too fast. He beats women - maybe drinks their blood - and then leaves his door unlocked? No. Not possible. He knows that I'm coming. He must. Two centuries of combat instinct were screaming now: Get out, get out. Daniel felt his molars grinding together.

Gently, Daniel pushed the door open. The hinges creaked. Daniel stepped forward into the darkened room.

It certainly looked like the home of a debauched vampire. The walls were painted with orgiastic scenes which Daniel had no desire to study too closely. The furniture was all plush, overstuffed, wine-red velvet and gold. Empty wine cups lay about everywhere, and scraps of paper. Tapestries flapped from the walls like wings beating dimly at the edges of Daniel's vision. One gilded table supported a collection of half-empty bottles, and some sleek black object that, in the gloom, looked a bit like a snake.

Daniel looked closer. It was a whip. And it was slowly dripping a dark liquid onto the floor.

The Sabbatanos tightened his grip on his sword and turned silently toward the apartment's bedroom door.

And then, suddenly, from behind that door - there was a sound. And not just any sound. It was music.

Someone was playing the violin.

The chords soared through the empty, darkened apartment - it sounded like Bach to Daniel, some recent composition, beautiful and complex and achingly, exactingly elegant. It was music like some elaborately and precisely choreographed dance, perfect in every particular, gorgeous and inhuman and ultimately, somehow, terribly frightening.

Daniel couldn't think. The music was in his head, blinding, muffling. He growled deep in his throat, and shoved open the bedroom door.

* * *


De Sade was a small man with an ugly, bulbous head, dressed in the white coat of an officer of the French army and standing in front of a four-poster bed with the curtains drawn tight around it. He glanced up from his violin when Daniel slammed the door open, but didn't miss a note. The music soared in one final flourish, and then died. De Sade smiled, and Daniel noticed suddenly that his face was still spotted with acne. But the eyes - there was something terrible and knowing about the eyes, some soul-destroying secret that lurked within.

"I was wondering when you'd come," said the marquis. "When I heard about what happened with Voltaire, I knew that there could be only one explanation."

Daniel said nothing, but he narrowed his eyes. And then he received his third great shock of the night.

He saw nothing.

He saw de Sade, of course, the boy-man in uniform, the violin held languorously in one hand. But Daniel saw nothing more. There was no aura, no glow, no magical haze of light that marked out, to the unique eyes of the Sabbatanoi, all magic - no matter how well it might be hidden. De Sade was not magical. He was not a vampire, or a demon.

He was just a boy.

"A man came to see you," Daniel said suddenly, his voice hard as stone. "Six weeks ago. A man like me."

De Sade smiled again. "Ah, yes," he agreed. "A Sabbatanos. One of the chosen few."

Daniel said nothing, but his shock must have registered on his face. Precious few in all the world knew of the existence of the Sabbatanoi. None outside their secret, centuries-long war knew that Stefan Petrascu was one of them.

De Sade took one look at Daniel's expression, and gave a low chuckle. "Oh, yes. I know more than you might believe." He waved a gracile hand. "I was born in the Luberon, you see. The magic mountains. Few things remain secret in a place like Lacoste."

"The man who came to visit you," Daniel said. His voice was urgent, and he hated himself for it. "What happened? Where did he go?"

De Sade studied Daniel a moment, then smiled with quiet triumph, as if he had learned some awful secret. "He fled," the marquis replied. "He fled in terror."

Daniel wanted to laugh, and he did - but the sound came out flat. "Terror? Of you?"

"Oh, yes," de Sade agreed. "Of me. Of a nineteen-year-old youth. A fop. Of me." The marquis leaned forward. "Would you like to see why?"

Daniel tried to speak, and could not. De Sade watched him, and nodded, and smiled, and drew the curtains aside from around his four-poster bed.

A woman lay within. She was naked, and tied spread-eagled. She might have been beautiful once; Daniel could not tell. But now, she was skin stretched over bone, emaciated, a living skeleton. Her skin was pallid, as if it had not seen the sun in months, and it was covered in welts and burns. She was missing flesh from her shoulders, and Daniel could see the marks of teeth in the sickening, gangrenous wounds. From the position of the marks, Daniel knew that the teeth were not de Sade's.

When she heard the curtains being drawn aside, she twisted on the bed. Sores on her back and thighs wept pus, and she moaned, a choked sound. Her head twisted, and Daniel saw that she had neither eyes nor a tongue, but only twisted scar tissue in mouth and sockets.

"I did this," de Sade said quietly. He stepped to one side of Daniel, laid a hand gently on his arm. The Sabbatanos stared, transfixed, at the horror before him. De Sade smiled sadly. "I did this," he repeated. "Me. A nineteen-year-old youth. A fop. I took her off the streets a year ago, and tied her down, and never let her move an inch the whole time, and made her into - this. No vampire. No demon. Just me."

"Why?" Daniel managed, his voice a raw rasp, still unable to look away.

"Because it pleased me," de Sade replied simply. "It pleased me, so I did it. What else is there?" The marquis nodded at the bed. "Look at her, monsieur. You wonder why your friend fled in terror?" De Sade smiled. "Because in the end, we don't need vampires or demons or creatures in the night to be afraid of. And there are no angels and no divine grace coming to save us, either." The marquis shrugged. "We can do it all ourselves. I did. If I can, anyone can." De Sade gently patted Daniel's arm. "I'm sorry, monsieur. I know that this must be hard for you. But you could kill every vampire on earth, and this girl would still be exactly where she is now." De Sade's voice was a whisper. "You can never win. The world will never be kind, never be just, never be good." The marquis chuckled, and there was real amusement in the sound. "We won't let it, you see? Your friend did. He understood. And that's why he fled."

Something snapped in Daniel. He spun and grabbed de Sade by the shirtfont and physically lifted the little man off his feet, slamming him into the wall with Daniel's sword-edge at his throat. "I'll kill you," the Sabbatanos snarled. It was not a threat; it was a vow, a sacred commission. Or else none of it means anything. Or else he's right. A drop of blood ran down de Sade's pale throat. "I'll kill you."

And now, even now, de Sade smiled. "India," he said cheerfully. "In case you were wondering. After he fled, your friend took ship to Pondicherry. Six weeks ago." De Sade paused, seeming to consider. "Do you know why I was playing the violin when you came in?"

Daniel didn't reply. His sword hand trembled, and yet something stopped him from simply jerking his wrist, shearing open the throat of the boy pinned to the wall in front of him. De Sade raised his eyebrows. "I was playing the violin," he said deliberately, "so that you wouldn't hear the men following you up the steps."

Daniel's eyes widened in recognition and he had just enough time to try to move. And then there was a sound like a thunderclap, and the world vanished in a blinding explosion of pain.

* * *


It was a musket ball: fat, slow-moving (for a bullet), almost half an inch wide. It tore its way through Daniel's back, shattering his left shoulder-blade, grazing his left lung, and exiting through his clavicle in a spray of broken bones. The pain was indescribable: for a moment, it felt like someone had rammed a red-hot poker straight through the Sabbatanos' torso and was twisting. Daniel found himself dropping de Sade, staggering backwards, almost falling over onto the horror on the bed. He opened his mouth to scream, and only a choked whimper emerged.

The main room of the apartment was filled with white-coated soldiers, muskets aimed at Daniel. A familiar-looking officer, now wrapped in bandages, stood at one side of the group. "That is the man!" he cried.

No. Daniel turned. Nonononono. Not like this. Not yet. He scrabbled at the bedposts; behind him, de Sade closed the curtains with a secret smile before the soldiers could see what lay on the bed. Don't die, Daniel. If I die now, then de Sade is right about everything. Nothing matters. We can never win. And if that's true, then all I've done, all the blood on my hands -

"No!" Daniel roared. He flung himself upright. De Sade's eyes widened and he flinched away, but Daniel wasn't going for the marquis; he knew that the soldiers would shoot him dead before he could reach the boy. No, he was leaping backwards, away, toward the only exit that offered the Sabbatanos a chance of leaving the room alive.

The fourth-story window.

Daniel knocked over the candelabra which he had seen from the street and crashed through the milky glass of the window, bullets humming and snapping around him like deadly raindrops. For a moment, his charcoal overcoat billowing around him, he was suspended in midair like some great bat; the street below seemed an eternity away. And then the Sabbatanos dropped like a stone.

Daniel tried to roll when he hit the ground, and he succeeded in not fracturing his skull or spine. Instead, he broke his right shoulder-blade in three places, snapped two of his fingers and three of his ribs, and tore his right arm open to the bone on an irregular cobblestone sticking up out of the roadway.

For a moment, Daniel lay there in the street, bleeding. He looked up at the shattered window high above. As he watched, a soldier appeared in the window. The man leveled his musket and took careful aim at Daniel. Before the soldier could fire, the Sabbatanos drew one of his pistols, extended it - awkwardly gripped in a broken hand - and snap-shot the man through the right eye from forty feet away. The soldier dropped out of the window like a marionette with its strings cut, and no one took his place.

Daniel's arm dropped, and the pistol hit the cobblestones with a clatter. I can't stay here. Daniel twisted, braced his hands on the stones, bit down a scream of pain as he struggled to his feet. Every gendarme in Paris will be looking for me after this. De Sade won't let me this close again. The Sabbatanos closed his eyes, seeing like a flash of half-remembered nightmare a naked, emaciated form, moaning and eyeless. He's wrong. He's wrong. I can change something. I can purge the world of sin. Of one man's sin, at least. "Stefan," Daniel whispered. When I kill Stefan, it will all be justified. It will all make sense.

Daniel Andreas turned, gasping in pain, and staggered off down the street.

* * *


One week later, a limping figure in a charcoal overcoat, mounted on a fine black horse, rode into the port at Le Havre and booked passage on the next ship to Pondicherry.
Last edited by Norvenia on Fri May 24, 2013 7:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Constaniana
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 25106
Founded: Mar 10, 2012
Democratic Socialists

Postby Constaniana » Fri May 24, 2013 6:32 am

Zarkenis Ultima wrote:
Constaniana wrote:Now all I have to do is think of a bloody plot. I had an idea, but I wanted to save it for use in the second and third arcs (if we ever get that far). So far the only idea I have really is starting off going into Egyptian pyramids searching for treasure or something.

Thank you. Thank you. :hug:


A pyramid with a fuckton of weird magitechnological traps and artifacts that get activated in the middle of an eclipse. -Nods-

Hm, the eclipse part sounds interesting. I had already planned magical traps, since it's the Egyptians we're talking about here, bu I suppose the eclipse could be a good catalyst for something.
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The Inritus Extraho
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Founded: Dec 05, 2010
Ex-Nation

Postby The Inritus Extraho » Fri May 24, 2013 7:41 am

Norvenia wrote:Finished my latest masterpiece. What do y'all think?

October 19, 1759. Paris.

Dusk fell quickly in the warren of little streets off of the Rue Saint-Jacques. Waning sunlight filtered down between the old half-timbered buildings, weak and getting weaker, dying upon the upturned faces of men and women who wrapped themselves in rags against the night chill. Shadows lengthened over the muddy ruts left by carts, covered the piles of refuse heaped against the crumbling brick walls, drew a veil of modest darkness over the bone-thin women nursing their children at a sagging teat. Now, the university students who crowded their Left Bank haunts a few blocks from the Sorbonne drew their collars up and their tricorne hats low, and hurried on through the gathering dusk, making swiftly for their gin dens and brothels, or for the salons on the far side of the river. There was fear in the air; no one wanted to find himself still navigating that labyrinth of alleys when dark fell for good.

Somewhere in Paris, the night was just beginning: liveried butlers were lighting candles, and the wine was beginning to flow, and tinkling music played on the harpsichord filled gilded chambers. But here, darkness gathered around the fleeing students - and around the desperate women, and the watchful soldiers, and the men waiting in the shadows with rusty knives in their hands and unreasoning need in their hearts.

It was a night for pain, and sorrow, a night when some stories end and others begin.

It was in one of these nameless back roads near the Sorbonne that a tall figure was moving in the gathering dark. He wore a long charcoal-colored overcoat, its cloak spilling over his shoulders, its hem stained with the dust of the road and the filth of the alleys. A tricorne hat was drawn low over his eyes, and a long rapier of Spanish steel rested at his hip - no elegant noble's smallsword, this, but a true sidesword, with a blade three fingers wide at the hilt and sharp as a barber's razor. A woman scuttled back out of his way as he passed, her eyes flashing in the dark like a frightened animal's. The man stopped; his face was still caught in deep shadow, but the woman could feel his gaze upon her. Slowly, with mute appeal, she let her tattered dress fall from one sagging breast, and a boney hand reached out for a few sous.

Softly, like some dark wolf, the man growled deep in his throat. There was death in the sound. The woman's breath caught in her throat, and she turned, and fled into the stinking dark.

The man remained still in the alley a moment longer, his fists clenching and unclenching in some silent agony. Then he turned and shoved open a nearby door, the lintel just five feet high - a door from centuries ago, set in a crumbling half-timbered building. Ducking low, the tall man moved down the steps onto which the door opened, and emerged into the candlelit merriment of a basement gin den. There were only men in the room, all in various states of inebriation; some sat at low tables and poured spirits down their throats, while others were already senseless on the floor, their misery obliviated in puddles of their own vomit.

Only one man stood out; a slight figure in a plain brown coat who sat in a table by the corner, watching the door. The man in the grey overcoat saw him as soon as he entered the room; the new arrival cast a long glance around the cellar, the dim candlelight flickering on his shadowed face, and then walked quickly over to join the man in the brown coat. One of the men passed out on the floor suddenly moaned, and grabbed at the tall man's ankle. The figure jerked his boot away with a sharp hiss, a strange and almost fearful sound.

The man in the brown coat looked up. "So you found the place."

The other man nodded once. "Yes. Though it eludes me why you chose such a den of sin."

His acquaintance chuckled softly. "Why, it's really quite simple, old man. I knew that you'd react this way. And I wanted every advantage I could lay my hands on, if I was going to meet the infamous Daniel Andreas."

* * *


The man in the brown coat was named Charles Walcott. He was an English Sabbatanos of about eighty-five. Like all Sabbatanoi, he had stopped aging in his mid-forties, and his skin was fair and unlined around brown eyes as hard and secret as river pebbles. He smiled a lot. Daniel didn't like him.

"I assume that you called me here for a reason." The older man's voice was soft, as always, but there was a note of anger in it. They spoke French; Walcott spoke no Rumanian, and it was a bad time to be speaking English in Paris. Word of the loss of Quebec had reached the French capital earlier that week, and there had been riots in the streets. Walcott seemed soft; privately, Daniel wondered why an Englishman - even a Sabbatanos - would risk remaining in France.

"Did I need a reason to call you here, other than to see you squirm?" Walcott's eyes danced with merriment.

"I was in Lyons when I got your letter," Daniel said. He spoke slowly, deliberately, with mounting impatience building behind his voice like clouds on a mountainside. "I rode here in two weeks." The Sabbatanos leaned forward. "You told me that you had a lead on Stefan Petrascu."

"Aye," Walcott agreed. "And I do." Daniel raised his eyebrows, and the Englishman smiled. "But first, a question." It was Walcott's turn to lean forward. "Why do you want him so much? Petrascu's not a vampire. He's one of us. And I heard that he trained you once. So why do you hunt him?"

"He betrayed the living Word of God," Daniel replied simply. "He turned his back on Christ. We are the blades of God, Charles." Daniel's face was taut, and some bleak terror flashed behind his pale blue eyes. "If we forget that, then we are simply murderers."

"They told me that you were a Methuselah," Wolcott said. His lips quirked, as if he wanted to chuckle, but the sound died in his throat. "You're telling me that you hunt Stefan Petrascu - the man who killed Count Dalca and his entire Court - because he is a Catholic?" The Englishman shook his head. "You know, Andreas, at this very moment there are men in this city - the philosophes, they call them - denouncing all churches and all creeds. Many say that the Bible is a lie. Some even say that God is an invention. And you dedicate your life to hunting down one of our finest because he kneels before the Pope?"

"Your 'philosophes' can say anything they like," Daniel snapped. "That doesn't make it true. And what is weakness in a lesser man is catastrophe in a Sabbatanos. A man with Stefan's strength and experience, who turns from the service of God? He is a threat to the entire world, Wolcott. That is why I hunt him."

Wolcott shook his head. "We're losing this war, Andreas." His voice was quiet. "We're dying. The vampires have started killing Sabbatanoi in the cradle. We're not replacing our losses in battle. And the enemy is getting bolder. They killed Diego Sanchez in broad daylight in Cadiz, just three weeks ago." The Englishman leaned forward. "You're one of our best, Andreas. We need you."

Daniel shook his head sharply. "Stefan is my mission," he said, voice thrumming with intensity. "God gave me this task, Charles. Don't ask me how I know that, but it's true. And God help me if I shrink from it." Daniel leaned forward. "Now: you brought me here. Tell me what you know."

Wolcott sighed. "Very well," he agreed softly. "But there is a price."

Daniel grunted, sat back. "I might have known."

"There is a man in the city," Wolcott said quietly. "A boy, really. Nineteen years old. Minor nobility from Lacoste, an officer in the army. His name is de Sade." Daniel waited, and Wolcott rapidly continued. "There are reports of women - mostly prostitutes - emerging from his...exertions...damaged. Beaten. Burned." Wolcott leaned forward. "Sometimes bitten."

There was a pause. Daniel nodded. "I see."

"Good," Wolcott said. "Stefan Petrascu passed through Paris six weeks ago. He was very - interested - in de Sade. He investigated him. He seemed to be getting close, but then he vanished. I haven't heard of Petrascu since."

"So," Daniel said slowly, "this de Sade is my lead - and your target."

"Exactly," Wolcott nodded. "If anyone knows where Petrascu went, it's the Marquis. And I want de Sade dead." Wolcott shook his head violently. "I may not think that I'm God's anointed vengeance, Andreas, but I know shit when I smell it. And even if that man isn't a vampire, he's human vermin and no mistake."

Daniel stood. "Good." He smiled a little. "This is useful, Charles. Well done." The Sabbatanos donned his hat. "Now: where can I find this de Sade?"

"That I can't tell you," Wolcott replied ruefully. "He keeps his lodgings secret, and his servants are too afraid of him to talk. But he was often seen at the salon of Madame Marie Geoffrin, the patroness of the philosophes." The Englishman raised an eyebrow. "If you can stand a den of iniquity where the acid is of words and not of vomit, then I would begin there."

Daniel stood a moment, knowing that he was being mocked, not knowing how to respond. I do not understand this world at all. After a second, he simply nodded once, and left.

* * *


The next day was Wednesday. Daniel learned from a pair of frightened law students at the Sorbonne, whom he stopped alongside the Rue Saint-Jacques and briefly interrogated, that Madame Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin was a woman in her early fifties who lived not far from the Tuileries. Her salon was the most glittering in Paris - whatever that means, Daniel thought - and was always filled with the most brilliant minds and the most beautiful women. Apparently, Geoffrin held huge dinners at one-o'-clock in the afternoon, and then her guests - artists on Mondays, philosophes on Wednesdays - whiled away the afternoons in scintillating debate. Of the woman herself, Daniel could learn little; apparently she came from the petty bourgeoisie, and was neither young, nor brilliant, nor beautiful. Neither of the students had heard of de Sade, or of Stefan Petrascu.

When he had learned all that he could, Daniel thanked the students, and turned away. One of the young men, with a sort of frightened bluster, took a few steps after the Sabbatanos. "And monsieur?" the student called. "If you're planning to visit Madame Geoffrin's, you had best get new clothes!"

Daniel turned a moment, said nothing, and then walked on. But later that afternoon, he bought a plain black coat of good cut and color, with a buff waistcoat and breeches. And thus arrayed - and feeling ridiculous and exposed without his sword - he walked quickly up Rue Saint-Honoré toward the Place Vendome.

About a block short of the square itself, Daniel paused in front of an ornate limestone facade. A liveried doorman studied him suspiciously. "Monsieur, I do not see you on the guest list. Are you sure that you are in the right place?"

Daniel nodded. "Absolutely." He wracked his brains briefly. "I am - a clergyman. A theologian."

The doorman raised his eyebrows suspiciously. "You are not dressed as a curé, monsieur."

"Ah." Daniel laughed briefly. "I'm not." He lowered his voice. "I'm from Geneva."

The doorman's eyes widened at the illicit thrill of speaking to a real-life Protestant minister. "Vraiment?" He cried. "Well, I am sure that madame will be most interested in what you have to say. Please, come in." The doorman hustled Daniel off the street, looking as suspicious as if the Sabbatanos were made entirely of Indian opium.

* * *


Within, Daniel found himself in a beautiful rococo palace; the walls and ceilings were frescoed and chased with gold leaf, the floor inlaid with precious stones and strewn with Persian carpets. Oil paintings sat on the walls, and calf-bound manuscripts were propped open on ornately carved tables like copies of the Bible. Daniel examined one. It was a Principia Philosophiae of Descartes. One corner of Daniel's mouth tightened in mute displeasure.

The Sabbatanos looked up at the sound of loud conversation from the next room. He stepped through into an open space, similarly apportioned, but filled with men clad in ornate coats and powdered wigs. Daniel - with his plain clothes and his own silver-white hair simply tied at the nape of his neck - was unmistakably noticeable. But he stayed at the back of the crowd, and escaped anything worse than a few curious glances.

At the front of the room, near a plump and well-dressed lady in her early fifties, two men were engaged in ferocious debate. One was a tall, thin fellow in his fifties, slightly stooped, with a hawk-like face and a perpetually ironic expression. The other was younger, fatter, and was at the moment speaking in strident tones of outraged integrity. "Really, monsieur, you cannot possibly be suggesting that mere freedom can carry more importance than truth!"

The older man, leaning on his cane, raised his eyebrows. "And why not? After all, if truth is more important than freedom, Monsieur Rousseau, why do you favor democracy? Besides, of course, the sweet memory of your Swiss youth." A caustic grin spread over the old man's face. "Truly, sometimes I wonder what you were really up to beneath those great oak trees."

There was a gust of laughter, and Rousseau flushed. "Monsieur de Voltaire, I favor democracy because it is the truest expression of the General Will, which is truth. The freedom of a fool is a threat to that Will, whether the fool wears a peasant's cap or a crown."

Some of the men in the room began to shift uneasily now; they were veering perilously close to treason. The plump woman - Madame Geoffrin - looked decidedly alarmed.

"Besides," Rousseau continued, "even you must admit that safety and moral decency must impose some limits on freedom. I'm sure that I don't need to remind you of the young officer who frequented our debates some weeks back? You knew him better than I, monsieur, but we have certainly all heard the stories. Should he have the freedom to pursue his - interests - unimpeded?" Daniel leaned forward now, his eyes intent on Voltaire, who was smiling like a man watching a mouse walk step by step into a trap. Rousseau smiled back, concluding triumphantly: "Well, monsieur, and what say you to that?"

"I say that I wonder," Voltaire replied slowly, "if you have forgotten that we are both at this moment wanted for violations of His Most Catholic Majesty's laws, simply for having said what we have said in this room." The older man raised his eyebrows. "It seems strange that either one of us should doubt the benefits of freedom, when we are forced to live in stultifying Geneva on account of its absence."

Abruptly, there came the sound of a brief struggle at the door, and then the doorman who had allowed Daniel's entry gave a cry. Rousseau and Voltaire stopped their debate and stared at the antechamber to the salon - which was rapidly filling with white-coated soldiers, bayonets already fixed to their muskets. An officer in brocaded epaulettes strode forward, sword in one hand and a piece of parchment in the other.

"You all may have forgotten your crimes," the officer cried, "but his Majesty has not. François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire; Jean-Jacques Rousseau - by the authority vested in my by his Majesty the King, I hereby place you under arrest for violation of the terms of your exile. Levez-les-mains!"

* * *


At this point, all hell broke loose. The dozens of other occupants of the salon ran, screaming, for the exits, trampling each other and swamping the soldiers. Rousseau raised his hands, thought better of it, and then bolted for a side door. Voltaire turned without hesitation, and headed straight for the back exit - away from the soldiers, hobbling along on his cane. The officer forced his way through the press, beating men aside with the flat of his sword-blade, and pursued the old philosophe at speed.

Daniel Andreas sighed. Voltaire spent time with de Sade - that must have been the young officer whom Rousseau mentioned. So Voltaire may know where to find de Sade. And de Sade may know where to find Stefen. The Sabbatanos forced his own way through the crowd. Voltaire in prison is no good to me. I need him free, so that he can answer my questions.

In the meantime, Voltaire had made it out the back door of Madame Geoffrin's house, and was moving as fast as he could down the barely-cobblestoned alley behind the building. Unfortunately, Voltaire's top speed was not very fast at all, and the officer - accompanied now by two other soldiers - was rapidly gaining on the old man. Daniel, in turn, was sprinting after the soldiers.

Then things happened very fast. The officer caught up with Voltaire and shoved him; the old man fell with a cry into the filth and stones of the road. Daniel came running up behind the soldiers at full speed, remembered at the last moment that he had left his sword behind when he had dressed for the salon, and launched himself into the air, breaking the neck of the first soldier with a flying side kick to the head. Daniel's momentum carried him on, and he bounced off the wall of a building, feeling his new coat split down the center seam. The other soldier gave a panicked cry and tried to run the Sabbatanos through with his bayonet; Daniel dodged, trapped the barrel of the musket against his own side with one arm, and kicked the soldier in the crotch. He crumpled, releasing his grip on the musket; Daniel grabbed the weapon and swung it hard by the barrel. The buttstock smacked into the side of the soldier's skull with a wet crunch, and he dropped without a sound.

There was a raw pain as the officer managed to slash open Daniel's shoulder with his sword. "Get back!" the man cried - but Daniel dodged his follow-up thrust, snapped his sternum with a front kick to the chest, then took the soldier's legs out from under him with a round kick to the knee. The officer dropped like a stone; Daniel caught his sword hand on the way down and bent it at the wrist, using the man's own plummeting body weight to snap the joint. The officer shrieked, and Daniel simply punted his head into the wall, silencing his cry.

Panting, Daniel turned to check on Voltaire. Covered in the filth of the alleys, the philosophe had struggled a few feet away, and was now looking at Daniel with undisguised terror. "What do you want?" the old man hissed, his voice a panicked whisper.

"I want to talk, monsieur." Daniel reached down and grabbed Voltaire by the arm, hauling him to his feet. The Sabbatanos picked up the old man's cane and shoved it at him, almost knocking Voltaire down again. He grabbed the philosophe by the shoulder. "Let's go."

* * *


"What the hell," said Voltaire in horror, "is this place?"

Daniel gave a wry chuckle. "A den of sin, monsieur. Fortunately, it's also a den of sin where anyone who sees us will be too drunk to give a decent description to the Conciergerie."

Voltaire shook his head, staring about at the wretched denizens of the nameless cellar gin den in which Charles Wolcott had met Daniel the night before. "Couldn't we just - I don't know - hide out in a park?"

Daniel didn't even bother replying to that. Instead, he leaned forward. "I need information."

"I know that some people think that I'm a spy," Voltaire managed, "but truly, I don't know any-"

"I know you're not a spy," Daniel interrupted bluntly. "You're a professional blasphemer, and you have been for your entire adult life. I'm not interested in that, either."

Voltaire managed a brave smile. "The man who murders soldiers of his Most Catholic Majesty is going to lecture me about blasphemy. I see." The philosophe cocked his head. "Although, to speak truth, you don't look much like a Jesuit to me. Perhaps - "

"Don't guess at matters about which you know nothing." Daniel paused, realizing that he had interrupted again. "And don't talk so much. I am no fonder of your company than I am of this venue, so let's try to get this over with quickly."

Voltaire sighed. "Very well, monsieur. I assume that you are not going to tell me your name, though you already seem to know mine?"

Daniel didn't bother replying to that, either. "Your debate partner mentioned something about a young officer of questionable character whose acquaintance you had made."

The philosophe nodded. "Yes. A marquis from Lacoste, named de Sade. He..." Voltaire shook his head. "He's a troubled young man."

"You could say that," Daniel agreed grimly. "I heard that women leave his quarters with blood soaking through their clothes."

"And boys, too, sometimes," added Voltaire. "But he's - brilliant, monsieur. Truly. Brilliant. A mind untrammeled by convention, by - "

"Decency."

Voltaire flinched. "Yes. Yes, that too." He looked up. "You're not the first to ask me about him, you know."

Daniel's breath caught in his throat. "No?"

"No. There was another - a small man, with an accent. Rumanian, I think. He started coming to Madame Geoffrin's about six weeks ago. After a few days, he took me aside and asked me about de Sade."

Stefan. "What did he ask?" Daniel asked carefully.

Voltaire sighed. "First, he asked if any of de Sade's...companions...ever showed bite marks. I told him that they did, sometimes. Then he asked where he could find the marquis."

Daniel leaned forward, his gaze intent. "And?"

Voltaire bit his lip for a moment, looked at his hands, glanced around the gin den. Then he looked up, defeated and old and small. "I told him the same thing I'll tell you," he said quietly. "The fourth-floor apartment. 2118 Rue Saint-Honoré."

* * *


Dusk was falling swiftly again over the streets of Paris, and the human vermin scuttled through the gutters and into the alleys, fleeing the white-coated soldiers who walked slowly along Rue Saint-Honoré, where guttering torches cast a low glow over the filthy cobblestones. It was a fine area, as Paris went, all limestone facades and liveried doormen ducking back inside. The Palais Royale was only a quarter-mile up the road, but the king was at Versailles. Everyone knew that. His Most Catholic Majesty would not deign to sully his feet with the shit of the Paris streets.

Daniel's lips twisted in a bitter smile. All such false purity will have its reward. He thought of the flames, the flames burning forever below, and his gut twisted hard within him.

The Sabbatanos was standing in a patch of shadow across the street from the address which Voltaire had given him. Daniel didn't know where the philosophe had gone; he was a wanted man, and old, and frail. The Sabbatanos told himself that he didn't care about any of that, not when Voltaire had spent his life in blasphemy. He was working hard to believe it.

At the very least, Voltaire had given Daniel this one piece of useful information. And so Daniel stood in the shadows, clad once again in his long charcoal overcoat, his sword at his side and a brace of pistols tucked underneath his coat's cloak, and he watched the fourth-floor windows of the building opposite. There was a candelabra burning in one of those windows with a flickering, luminescent light, and Daniel wondered for a moment if Stefan - Stefan the traitor, Stefan the idolater, Stefan the hero - had stood six weeks ago where Daniel was standing now. If, just maybe, Daniel's boots rested in Stefan's very footprints.

The candelabra guttered, and went out.

Daniel cast a glance around; the last patrol of soldiers was vanishing around the corner. The Sabbatanos stepped out of the shadows and crossed the street, moving rapidly through the gloom. He ran lightly up the steps to the building's front door, his feet noiseless on the stone, and reached out with one hand for the door-handle while the other hand went into a pocket of his overcoat for his lockpicks.

It was then that Daniel got his first major surprise of the night. The door was unlocked.

The Sabbatanos paused at that, trying to work through the implications in his mind. Does the boy not fear being robbed? Or does he have guards? There were a thousand possibilities, but it was the least likely idea that Daniel couldn't quite shake from his mind. Does he know that I'm coming?

The antechamber of the building was dark, deserted. On the walls, crumbling plaster cherubs played the lute and watched Daniel with blind, dead eyes.

The Sabbatanos drew his sword and started up the steps toward the fourth floor.

* * *


The door to de Sade's apartment was unlocked too. Daniel recoiled at that, his heart suddenly beating much too fast. He beats women - maybe drinks their blood - and then leaves his door unlocked? No. Not possible. He knows that I'm coming. He must. Two centuries of combat instinct were screaming now: Get out, get out. Daniel felt his molars grinding together.

Gently, Daniel pushed the door open. The hinges creaked. Daniel stepped forward into the darkened room.

It certainly looked like the home of a debauched vampire. The walls were painted with orgiastic scenes which Daniel had no desire to study too closely. The furniture was all plush, overstuffed, wine-red velvet and gold. Empty wine cups lay about everywhere, and scraps of paper. Tapestries flapped from the walls like wings beating dimly at the edges of Daniel's vision. One gilded table supported a collection of half-empty bottles, and some sleek black object that, in the gloom, looked a bit like a snake.

Daniel looked closer. It was a whip. And it was slowly dripping a dark liquid onto the floor.

The Sabbatanos tightened his grip on his sword and turned silently toward the apartment's bedroom door.

And then, suddenly, from behind that door - there was a sound. And not just any sound. It was music.

Someone was playing the violin.

The chords soared through the empty, darkened apartment - it sounded like Bach to Daniel, some recent composition, beautiful and complex and achingly, exactingly elegant. It was music like some elaborately and precisely choreographed dance, perfect in every particular, gorgeous and inhuman and ultimately, somehow, terribly frightening.

Daniel couldn't think. The music was in his head, blinding, muffling. He growled deep in his throat, and shoved open the bedroom door.

* * *


De Sade was a small man with an ugly, bulbous head, dressed in the white coat of an officer of the French army and standing in front of a four-poster bed with the curtains drawn tight around it. He glanced up from his violin when Daniel slammed the door open, but didn't miss a note. The music soared in one final flourish, and then died. De Sade smiled, and Daniel noticed suddenly that his face was still spotted with acne. But the eyes - there was something terrible and knowing about the eyes, some soul-destroying secret that lurked within.

"I was wondering when you'd come," said the marquis. "When I heard about what happened with Voltaire, I knew that there could be only one explanation."

Daniel said nothing, but he narrowed his eyes. And then he received his third great shock of the night.

He saw nothing.

He saw de Sade, of course, the boy-man in uniform, the violin held languorously in one hand. But Daniel saw nothing more. There was no aura, no glow, no magical haze of light that marked out, to the unique eyes of the Sabbatanoi, all magic - no matter how well it might be hidden. De Sade was not magical. He was not a vampire, or a demon.

He was just a boy.

"A man came to see you," Daniel said suddenly, his voice hard as stone. "Six weeks ago. A man like me."

De Sade smiled again. "Ah, yes," he agreed. "A Sabbatanos. One of the chosen few."

Daniel said nothing, but his shock must have registered on his face. Precious few in all the world knew of the existence of the Sabbatanoi. None outside their secret, centuries-long war knew that Stefan Petrascu was one of them.

De Sade took one look at Daniel's expression, and gave a low chuckle. "Oh, yes. I know more than you might believe." He waved a gracile hand. "I was born in the Luberon, you see. The magic mountains. Few things remain secret in a place like Lacoste."

"The man who came to visit you," Daniel said. His voice was urgent, and he hated himself for it. "What happened? Where did he go?"

De Sade studied Daniel a moment, then smiled with quiet triumph, as if he had learned some awful secret. "He fled," the marquis replied. "He fled in terror."

Daniel wanted to laugh, and he did - but the sound came out flat. "Terror? Of you?"

"Oh, yes," de Sade agreed. "Of me. Of a nineteen-year-old youth. A fop. Of me." The marquis leaned forward. "Would you like to see why?"

Daniel tried to speak, and could not. De Sade watched him, and nodded, and smiled, and drew the curtains aside from around his four-poster bed.

A woman lay within. She was naked, and tied spread-eagled. She might have been beautiful once; Daniel could not tell. But now, she was skin stretched over bone, emaciated, a living skeleton. Her skin was pallid, as if it had not seen the sun in months, and it was covered in welts and burns. She was missing flesh from her shoulders, and Daniel could see the marks of teeth in the sickening, gangrenous wounds. From the position of the marks, Daniel knew that the teeth were not de Sade's.

When she heard the curtains being drawn aside, she twisted on the bed. Sores on her back and thighs wept pus, and she moaned, a choked sound. Her head twisted, and Daniel saw that she had neither eyes nor a tongue, but only twisted scar tissue in mouth and sockets.

"I did this," de Sade said quietly. He stepped to one side of Daniel, laid a hand gently on his arm. The Sabbatanos stared, transfixed, at the horror before him. De Sade smiled sadly. "I did this," he repeated. "Me. A nineteen-year-old youth. A fop. I took her off the streets a year ago, and tied her down, and never let her move an inch the whole time, and made her into - this. No vampire. No demon. Just me."

"Why?" Daniel managed, his voice a raw rasp, still unable to look away.

"Because it pleased me," de Sade replied simply. "It pleased me, so I did it. What else is there?" The marquis nodded at the bed. "Look at her, monsieur. You wonder why your friend fled in terror?" De Sade smiled. "Because in the end, we don't need vampires or demons or creatures in the night to be afraid of. And there are no angels and no divine grace coming to save us, either." The marquis shrugged. "We can do it all ourselves. I did. If I can, anyone can." De Sade gently patted Daniel's arm. "I'm sorry, monsieur. I know that this must be hard for you. But you could kill every vampire on earth, and this girl would still be exactly where she is now." De Sade's voice was a whisper. "You can never win. The world will never be kind, never be just, never be good." The marquis chuckled, and there was real amusement in the sound. "We won't let it, you see? Your friend did. He understood. And that's why he fled."

Something snapped in Daniel. He spun and grabbed de Sade by the shirtfont and physically lifted the little man off his feet, slamming him into the wall with Daniel's sword-edge at his throat. "I'll kill you," the Sabbatanos snarled. It was not a threat; it was a vow, a sacred commission. Or else none of it means anything. Or else he's right. A drop of blood ran down de Sade's pale throat. "I'll kill you."

And now, even now, de Sade smiled. "India," he said cheerfully. "In case you were wondering. After he fled, your friend took ship to Pondicherry. Six weeks ago." De Sade paused, seeming to consider. "Do you know why I was playing the violin when you came in?"

Daniel didn't reply. His sword hand trembled, and yet something stopped him from simply jerking his wrist, shearing open the throat of the boy pinned to the wall in front of him. De Sade raised his eyebrows. "I was playing the violin," he said deliberately, "so that you wouldn't hear the men following you up the steps."

Daniel's eyes widened in recognition and he had just enough time to try to move. And then there was a sound like a thunderclap, and the world vanished in a blinding explosion of pain.

* * *


It was a musket ball: fat, slow-moving (for a bullet), almost half an inch wide. It tore its way through Daniel's back, shattering his left shoulder-blade, grazing his left lung, and exiting through his clavicle in a spray of broken bones. The pain was indescribable: for a moment, it felt like someone had rammed a red-hot poker straight through the Sabbatanos' torso and was twisting. Daniel found himself dropping de Sade, staggering backwards, almost falling over onto the horror on the bed. He opened his mouth to scream, and only a choked whimper emerged.

The main room of the apartment was filled with white-coated soldiers, muskets aimed at Daniel. A familiar-looking officer, now wrapped in bandages, stood at one side of the group. "That is the man!" he cried.

No. Daniel turned. Nonononono. Not like this. Not yet. He scrabbled at the bedposts; behind him, de Sade closed the curtains with a secret smile before the soldiers could see what lay on the bed. Don't die, Daniel. If I die now, then de Sade is right about everything. Nothing matters. We can never win. And if that's true, then all I've done, all the blood on my hands -

"No!" Daniel roared. He flung himself upright. De Sade's eyes widened and he flinched away, but Daniel wasn't going for the marquis; he knew that the soldiers would shoot him dead before he could reach the boy. No, he was leaping backwards, away, toward the only exit that offered the Sabbatanos a chance of leaving the room alive.

The fourth-story window.

Daniel knocked over the candelabra which he had seen from the street and crashed through the milky glass of the window, bullets humming and snapping around him like deadly raindrops. For a moment, his charcoal overcoat billowing around him, he was suspended in midair like some great bat; the street below seemed an eternity away. And then the Sabbatanos dropped like a stone.

Daniel tried to roll when he hit the ground, and he succeeded in not fracturing his skull or spine. Instead, he broke his right shoulder-blade in three places, snapped two of his fingers and three of his ribs, and tore his right arm open to the bone on an irregular cobblestone sticking up out of the roadway.

For a moment, Daniel lay there in the street, bleeding. He looked up at the shattered window high above. As he watched, a soldier appeared in the window. The man leveled his musket and took careful aim at Daniel. Before the soldier could fire, the Sabbatanos drew one of his pistols, extended it - awkwardly gripped in a broken hand - and snap-shot the man through the right eye from forty feet away. The soldier dropped out of the window like a marionette with its strings cut, and no one took his place.

Daniel's arm dropped, and the pistol hit the cobblestones with a clatter. I can't stay here. Daniel twisted, braced his hands on the stones, bit down a scream of pain as he struggled to his feet. Every gendarme in Paris will be looking for me after this. De Sade won't let me this close again. The Sabbatanos closed his eyes, seeing like a flash of half-remembered nightmare a naked, emaciated form, moaning and eyeless. He's wrong. He's wrong. I can change something. I can purge the world of sin. Of one man's sin, at least. "Stefan," Daniel whispered. When I kill Stefan, it will all be justified. It will all make sense.

Daniel Andreas turned, gasping in pain, and staggered off down the street.

* * *


One week later, a limping figure in a charcoal overcoat, mounted on a fine black horse, rode into the port at Le Havre and booked passage on the next ship to Pondicherry.

I really like it! But you missed an "and" in the parallel structure in the first paragraph...
If you see I've made a mistake in my wording or a factual detail, telegram me and I'll fix it. I'll even give you credit for pointing it out, if you'd like.
You can call me TIE. I'm not on much... so telegram me if you need something.
FanT Nation - FT w/o space.
I'm on CA time, so... pacific. UTC -8
I'm bi, not single, and really any pronoun works.
I'll check out RP's if you TG me about them.

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Norvenia
Minister
 
Posts: 2779
Founded: May 07, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Norvenia » Fri May 24, 2013 7:42 am

The Inritus Extraho wrote:
Norvenia wrote:Finished my latest masterpiece. What do y'all think?

October 19, 1759. Paris.

Dusk fell quickly in the warren of little streets off of the Rue Saint-Jacques. Waning sunlight filtered down between the old half-timbered buildings, weak and getting weaker, dying upon the upturned faces of men and women who wrapped themselves in rags against the night chill. Shadows lengthened over the muddy ruts left by carts, covered the piles of refuse heaped against the crumbling brick walls, drew a veil of modest darkness over the bone-thin women nursing their children at a sagging teat. Now, the university students who crowded their Left Bank haunts a few blocks from the Sorbonne drew their collars up and their tricorne hats low, and hurried on through the gathering dusk, making swiftly for their gin dens and brothels, or for the salons on the far side of the river. There was fear in the air; no one wanted to find himself still navigating that labyrinth of alleys when dark fell for good.

Somewhere in Paris, the night was just beginning: liveried butlers were lighting candles, and the wine was beginning to flow, and tinkling music played on the harpsichord filled gilded chambers. But here, darkness gathered around the fleeing students - and around the desperate women, and the watchful soldiers, and the men waiting in the shadows with rusty knives in their hands and unreasoning need in their hearts.

It was a night for pain, and sorrow, a night when some stories end and others begin.

It was in one of these nameless back roads near the Sorbonne that a tall figure was moving in the gathering dark. He wore a long charcoal-colored overcoat, its cloak spilling over his shoulders, its hem stained with the dust of the road and the filth of the alleys. A tricorne hat was drawn low over his eyes, and a long rapier of Spanish steel rested at his hip - no elegant noble's smallsword, this, but a true sidesword, with a blade three fingers wide at the hilt and sharp as a barber's razor. A woman scuttled back out of his way as he passed, her eyes flashing in the dark like a frightened animal's. The man stopped; his face was still caught in deep shadow, but the woman could feel his gaze upon her. Slowly, with mute appeal, she let her tattered dress fall from one sagging breast, and a boney hand reached out for a few sous.

Softly, like some dark wolf, the man growled deep in his throat. There was death in the sound. The woman's breath caught in her throat, and she turned, and fled into the stinking dark.

The man remained still in the alley a moment longer, his fists clenching and unclenching in some silent agony. Then he turned and shoved open a nearby door, the lintel just five feet high - a door from centuries ago, set in a crumbling half-timbered building. Ducking low, the tall man moved down the steps onto which the door opened, and emerged into the candlelit merriment of a basement gin den. There were only men in the room, all in various states of inebriation; some sat at low tables and poured spirits down their throats, while others were already senseless on the floor, their misery obliviated in puddles of their own vomit.

Only one man stood out; a slight figure in a plain brown coat who sat in a table by the corner, watching the door. The man in the grey overcoat saw him as soon as he entered the room; the new arrival cast a long glance around the cellar, the dim candlelight flickering on his shadowed face, and then walked quickly over to join the man in the brown coat. One of the men passed out on the floor suddenly moaned, and grabbed at the tall man's ankle. The figure jerked his boot away with a sharp hiss, a strange and almost fearful sound.

The man in the brown coat looked up. "So you found the place."

The other man nodded once. "Yes. Though it eludes me why you chose such a den of sin."

His acquaintance chuckled softly. "Why, it's really quite simple, old man. I knew that you'd react this way. And I wanted every advantage I could lay my hands on, if I was going to meet the infamous Daniel Andreas."

* * *


The man in the brown coat was named Charles Walcott. He was an English Sabbatanos of about eighty-five. Like all Sabbatanoi, he had stopped aging in his mid-forties, and his skin was fair and unlined around brown eyes as hard and secret as river pebbles. He smiled a lot. Daniel didn't like him.

"I assume that you called me here for a reason." The older man's voice was soft, as always, but there was a note of anger in it. They spoke French; Walcott spoke no Rumanian, and it was a bad time to be speaking English in Paris. Word of the loss of Quebec had reached the French capital earlier that week, and there had been riots in the streets. Walcott seemed soft; privately, Daniel wondered why an Englishman - even a Sabbatanos - would risk remaining in France.

"Did I need a reason to call you here, other than to see you squirm?" Walcott's eyes danced with merriment.

"I was in Lyons when I got your letter," Daniel said. He spoke slowly, deliberately, with mounting impatience building behind his voice like clouds on a mountainside. "I rode here in two weeks." The Sabbatanos leaned forward. "You told me that you had a lead on Stefan Petrascu."

"Aye," Walcott agreed. "And I do." Daniel raised his eyebrows, and the Englishman smiled. "But first, a question." It was Walcott's turn to lean forward. "Why do you want him so much? Petrascu's not a vampire. He's one of us. And I heard that he trained you once. So why do you hunt him?"

"He betrayed the living Word of God," Daniel replied simply. "He turned his back on Christ. We are the blades of God, Charles." Daniel's face was taut, and some bleak terror flashed behind his pale blue eyes. "If we forget that, then we are simply murderers."

"They told me that you were a Methuselah," Wolcott said. His lips quirked, as if he wanted to chuckle, but the sound died in his throat. "You're telling me that you hunt Stefan Petrascu - the man who killed Count Dalca and his entire Court - because he is a Catholic?" The Englishman shook his head. "You know, Andreas, at this very moment there are men in this city - the philosophes, they call them - denouncing all churches and all creeds. Many say that the Bible is a lie. Some even say that God is an invention. And you dedicate your life to hunting down one of our finest because he kneels before the Pope?"

"Your 'philosophes' can say anything they like," Daniel snapped. "That doesn't make it true. And what is weakness in a lesser man is catastrophe in a Sabbatanos. A man with Stefan's strength and experience, who turns from the service of God? He is a threat to the entire world, Wolcott. That is why I hunt him."

Wolcott shook his head. "We're losing this war, Andreas." His voice was quiet. "We're dying. The vampires have started killing Sabbatanoi in the cradle. We're not replacing our losses in battle. And the enemy is getting bolder. They killed Diego Sanchez in broad daylight in Cadiz, just three weeks ago." The Englishman leaned forward. "You're one of our best, Andreas. We need you."

Daniel shook his head sharply. "Stefan is my mission," he said, voice thrumming with intensity. "God gave me this task, Charles. Don't ask me how I know that, but it's true. And God help me if I shrink from it." Daniel leaned forward. "Now: you brought me here. Tell me what you know."

Wolcott sighed. "Very well," he agreed softly. "But there is a price."

Daniel grunted, sat back. "I might have known."

"There is a man in the city," Wolcott said quietly. "A boy, really. Nineteen years old. Minor nobility from Lacoste, an officer in the army. His name is de Sade." Daniel waited, and Wolcott rapidly continued. "There are reports of women - mostly prostitutes - emerging from his...exertions...damaged. Beaten. Burned." Wolcott leaned forward. "Sometimes bitten."

There was a pause. Daniel nodded. "I see."

"Good," Wolcott said. "Stefan Petrascu passed through Paris six weeks ago. He was very - interested - in de Sade. He investigated him. He seemed to be getting close, but then he vanished. I haven't heard of Petrascu since."

"So," Daniel said slowly, "this de Sade is my lead - and your target."

"Exactly," Wolcott nodded. "If anyone knows where Petrascu went, it's the Marquis. And I want de Sade dead." Wolcott shook his head violently. "I may not think that I'm God's anointed vengeance, Andreas, but I know shit when I smell it. And even if that man isn't a vampire, he's human vermin and no mistake."

Daniel stood. "Good." He smiled a little. "This is useful, Charles. Well done." The Sabbatanos donned his hat. "Now: where can I find this de Sade?"

"That I can't tell you," Wolcott replied ruefully. "He keeps his lodgings secret, and his servants are too afraid of him to talk. But he was often seen at the salon of Madame Marie Geoffrin, the patroness of the philosophes." The Englishman raised an eyebrow. "If you can stand a den of iniquity where the acid is of words and not of vomit, then I would begin there."

Daniel stood a moment, knowing that he was being mocked, not knowing how to respond. I do not understand this world at all. After a second, he simply nodded once, and left.

* * *


The next day was Wednesday. Daniel learned from a pair of frightened law students at the Sorbonne, whom he stopped alongside the Rue Saint-Jacques and briefly interrogated, that Madame Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin was a woman in her early fifties who lived not far from the Tuileries. Her salon was the most glittering in Paris - whatever that means, Daniel thought - and was always filled with the most brilliant minds and the most beautiful women. Apparently, Geoffrin held huge dinners at one-o'-clock in the afternoon, and then her guests - artists on Mondays, philosophes on Wednesdays - whiled away the afternoons in scintillating debate. Of the woman herself, Daniel could learn little; apparently she came from the petty bourgeoisie, and was neither young, nor brilliant, nor beautiful. Neither of the students had heard of de Sade, or of Stefan Petrascu.

When he had learned all that he could, Daniel thanked the students, and turned away. One of the young men, with a sort of frightened bluster, took a few steps after the Sabbatanos. "And monsieur?" the student called. "If you're planning to visit Madame Geoffrin's, you had best get new clothes!"

Daniel turned a moment, said nothing, and then walked on. But later that afternoon, he bought a plain black coat of good cut and color, with a buff waistcoat and breeches. And thus arrayed - and feeling ridiculous and exposed without his sword - he walked quickly up Rue Saint-Honoré toward the Place Vendome.

About a block short of the square itself, Daniel paused in front of an ornate limestone facade. A liveried doorman studied him suspiciously. "Monsieur, I do not see you on the guest list. Are you sure that you are in the right place?"

Daniel nodded. "Absolutely." He wracked his brains briefly. "I am - a clergyman. A theologian."

The doorman raised his eyebrows suspiciously. "You are not dressed as a curé, monsieur."

"Ah." Daniel laughed briefly. "I'm not." He lowered his voice. "I'm from Geneva."

The doorman's eyes widened at the illicit thrill of speaking to a real-life Protestant minister. "Vraiment?" He cried. "Well, I am sure that madame will be most interested in what you have to say. Please, come in." The doorman hustled Daniel off the street, looking as suspicious as if the Sabbatanos were made entirely of Indian opium.

* * *


Within, Daniel found himself in a beautiful rococo palace; the walls and ceilings were frescoed and chased with gold leaf, the floor inlaid with precious stones and strewn with Persian carpets. Oil paintings sat on the walls, and calf-bound manuscripts were propped open on ornately carved tables like copies of the Bible. Daniel examined one. It was a Principia Philosophiae of Descartes. One corner of Daniel's mouth tightened in mute displeasure.

The Sabbatanos looked up at the sound of loud conversation from the next room. He stepped through into an open space, similarly apportioned, but filled with men clad in ornate coats and powdered wigs. Daniel - with his plain clothes and his own silver-white hair simply tied at the nape of his neck - was unmistakably noticeable. But he stayed at the back of the crowd, and escaped anything worse than a few curious glances.

At the front of the room, near a plump and well-dressed lady in her early fifties, two men were engaged in ferocious debate. One was a tall, thin fellow in his fifties, slightly stooped, with a hawk-like face and a perpetually ironic expression. The other was younger, fatter, and was at the moment speaking in strident tones of outraged integrity. "Really, monsieur, you cannot possibly be suggesting that mere freedom can carry more importance than truth!"

The older man, leaning on his cane, raised his eyebrows. "And why not? After all, if truth is more important than freedom, Monsieur Rousseau, why do you favor democracy? Besides, of course, the sweet memory of your Swiss youth." A caustic grin spread over the old man's face. "Truly, sometimes I wonder what you were really up to beneath those great oak trees."

There was a gust of laughter, and Rousseau flushed. "Monsieur de Voltaire, I favor democracy because it is the truest expression of the General Will, which is truth. The freedom of a fool is a threat to that Will, whether the fool wears a peasant's cap or a crown."

Some of the men in the room began to shift uneasily now; they were veering perilously close to treason. The plump woman - Madame Geoffrin - looked decidedly alarmed.

"Besides," Rousseau continued, "even you must admit that safety and moral decency must impose some limits on freedom. I'm sure that I don't need to remind you of the young officer who frequented our debates some weeks back? You knew him better than I, monsieur, but we have certainly all heard the stories. Should he have the freedom to pursue his - interests - unimpeded?" Daniel leaned forward now, his eyes intent on Voltaire, who was smiling like a man watching a mouse walk step by step into a trap. Rousseau smiled back, concluding triumphantly: "Well, monsieur, and what say you to that?"

"I say that I wonder," Voltaire replied slowly, "if you have forgotten that we are both at this moment wanted for violations of His Most Catholic Majesty's laws, simply for having said what we have said in this room." The older man raised his eyebrows. "It seems strange that either one of us should doubt the benefits of freedom, when we are forced to live in stultifying Geneva on account of its absence."

Abruptly, there came the sound of a brief struggle at the door, and then the doorman who had allowed Daniel's entry gave a cry. Rousseau and Voltaire stopped their debate and stared at the antechamber to the salon - which was rapidly filling with white-coated soldiers, bayonets already fixed to their muskets. An officer in brocaded epaulettes strode forward, sword in one hand and a piece of parchment in the other.

"You all may have forgotten your crimes," the officer cried, "but his Majesty has not. François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire; Jean-Jacques Rousseau - by the authority vested in my by his Majesty the King, I hereby place you under arrest for violation of the terms of your exile. Levez-les-mains!"

* * *


At this point, all hell broke loose. The dozens of other occupants of the salon ran, screaming, for the exits, trampling each other and swamping the soldiers. Rousseau raised his hands, thought better of it, and then bolted for a side door. Voltaire turned without hesitation, and headed straight for the back exit - away from the soldiers, hobbling along on his cane. The officer forced his way through the press, beating men aside with the flat of his sword-blade, and pursued the old philosophe at speed.

Daniel Andreas sighed. Voltaire spent time with de Sade - that must have been the young officer whom Rousseau mentioned. So Voltaire may know where to find de Sade. And de Sade may know where to find Stefen. The Sabbatanos forced his own way through the crowd. Voltaire in prison is no good to me. I need him free, so that he can answer my questions.

In the meantime, Voltaire had made it out the back door of Madame Geoffrin's house, and was moving as fast as he could down the barely-cobblestoned alley behind the building. Unfortunately, Voltaire's top speed was not very fast at all, and the officer - accompanied now by two other soldiers - was rapidly gaining on the old man. Daniel, in turn, was sprinting after the soldiers.

Then things happened very fast. The officer caught up with Voltaire and shoved him; the old man fell with a cry into the filth and stones of the road. Daniel came running up behind the soldiers at full speed, remembered at the last moment that he had left his sword behind when he had dressed for the salon, and launched himself into the air, breaking the neck of the first soldier with a flying side kick to the head. Daniel's momentum carried him on, and he bounced off the wall of a building, feeling his new coat split down the center seam. The other soldier gave a panicked cry and tried to run the Sabbatanos through with his bayonet; Daniel dodged, trapped the barrel of the musket against his own side with one arm, and kicked the soldier in the crotch. He crumpled, releasing his grip on the musket; Daniel grabbed the weapon and swung it hard by the barrel. The buttstock smacked into the side of the soldier's skull with a wet crunch, and he dropped without a sound.

There was a raw pain as the officer managed to slash open Daniel's shoulder with his sword. "Get back!" the man cried - but Daniel dodged his follow-up thrust, snapped his sternum with a front kick to the chest, then took the soldier's legs out from under him with a round kick to the knee. The officer dropped like a stone; Daniel caught his sword hand on the way down and bent it at the wrist, using the man's own plummeting body weight to snap the joint. The officer shrieked, and Daniel simply punted his head into the wall, silencing his cry.

Panting, Daniel turned to check on Voltaire. Covered in the filth of the alleys, the philosophe had struggled a few feet away, and was now looking at Daniel with undisguised terror. "What do you want?" the old man hissed, his voice a panicked whisper.

"I want to talk, monsieur." Daniel reached down and grabbed Voltaire by the arm, hauling him to his feet. The Sabbatanos picked up the old man's cane and shoved it at him, almost knocking Voltaire down again. He grabbed the philosophe by the shoulder. "Let's go."

* * *


"What the hell," said Voltaire in horror, "is this place?"

Daniel gave a wry chuckle. "A den of sin, monsieur. Fortunately, it's also a den of sin where anyone who sees us will be too drunk to give a decent description to the Conciergerie."

Voltaire shook his head, staring about at the wretched denizens of the nameless cellar gin den in which Charles Wolcott had met Daniel the night before. "Couldn't we just - I don't know - hide out in a park?"

Daniel didn't even bother replying to that. Instead, he leaned forward. "I need information."

"I know that some people think that I'm a spy," Voltaire managed, "but truly, I don't know any-"

"I know you're not a spy," Daniel interrupted bluntly. "You're a professional blasphemer, and you have been for your entire adult life. I'm not interested in that, either."

Voltaire managed a brave smile. "The man who murders soldiers of his Most Catholic Majesty is going to lecture me about blasphemy. I see." The philosophe cocked his head. "Although, to speak truth, you don't look much like a Jesuit to me. Perhaps - "

"Don't guess at matters about which you know nothing." Daniel paused, realizing that he had interrupted again. "And don't talk so much. I am no fonder of your company than I am of this venue, so let's try to get this over with quickly."

Voltaire sighed. "Very well, monsieur. I assume that you are not going to tell me your name, though you already seem to know mine?"

Daniel didn't bother replying to that, either. "Your debate partner mentioned something about a young officer of questionable character whose acquaintance you had made."

The philosophe nodded. "Yes. A marquis from Lacoste, named de Sade. He..." Voltaire shook his head. "He's a troubled young man."

"You could say that," Daniel agreed grimly. "I heard that women leave his quarters with blood soaking through their clothes."

"And boys, too, sometimes," added Voltaire. "But he's - brilliant, monsieur. Truly. Brilliant. A mind untrammeled by convention, by - "

"Decency."

Voltaire flinched. "Yes. Yes, that too." He looked up. "You're not the first to ask me about him, you know."

Daniel's breath caught in his throat. "No?"

"No. There was another - a small man, with an accent. Rumanian, I think. He started coming to Madame Geoffrin's about six weeks ago. After a few days, he took me aside and asked me about de Sade."

Stefan. "What did he ask?" Daniel asked carefully.

Voltaire sighed. "First, he asked if any of de Sade's...companions...ever showed bite marks. I told him that they did, sometimes. Then he asked where he could find the marquis."

Daniel leaned forward, his gaze intent. "And?"

Voltaire bit his lip for a moment, looked at his hands, glanced around the gin den. Then he looked up, defeated and old and small. "I told him the same thing I'll tell you," he said quietly. "The fourth-floor apartment. 2118 Rue Saint-Honoré."

* * *


Dusk was falling swiftly again over the streets of Paris, and the human vermin scuttled through the gutters and into the alleys, fleeing the white-coated soldiers who walked slowly along Rue Saint-Honoré, where guttering torches cast a low glow over the filthy cobblestones. It was a fine area, as Paris went, all limestone facades and liveried doormen ducking back inside. The Palais Royale was only a quarter-mile up the road, but the king was at Versailles. Everyone knew that. His Most Catholic Majesty would not deign to sully his feet with the shit of the Paris streets.

Daniel's lips twisted in a bitter smile. All such false purity will have its reward. He thought of the flames, the flames burning forever below, and his gut twisted hard within him.

The Sabbatanos was standing in a patch of shadow across the street from the address which Voltaire had given him. Daniel didn't know where the philosophe had gone; he was a wanted man, and old, and frail. The Sabbatanos told himself that he didn't care about any of that, not when Voltaire had spent his life in blasphemy. He was working hard to believe it.

At the very least, Voltaire had given Daniel this one piece of useful information. And so Daniel stood in the shadows, clad once again in his long charcoal overcoat, his sword at his side and a brace of pistols tucked underneath his coat's cloak, and he watched the fourth-floor windows of the building opposite. There was a candelabra burning in one of those windows with a flickering, luminescent light, and Daniel wondered for a moment if Stefan - Stefan the traitor, Stefan the idolater, Stefan the hero - had stood six weeks ago where Daniel was standing now. If, just maybe, Daniel's boots rested in Stefan's very footprints.

The candelabra guttered, and went out.

Daniel cast a glance around; the last patrol of soldiers was vanishing around the corner. The Sabbatanos stepped out of the shadows and crossed the street, moving rapidly through the gloom. He ran lightly up the steps to the building's front door, his feet noiseless on the stone, and reached out with one hand for the door-handle while the other hand went into a pocket of his overcoat for his lockpicks.

It was then that Daniel got his first major surprise of the night. The door was unlocked.

The Sabbatanos paused at that, trying to work through the implications in his mind. Does the boy not fear being robbed? Or does he have guards? There were a thousand possibilities, but it was the least likely idea that Daniel couldn't quite shake from his mind. Does he know that I'm coming?

The antechamber of the building was dark, deserted. On the walls, crumbling plaster cherubs played the lute and watched Daniel with blind, dead eyes.

The Sabbatanos drew his sword and started up the steps toward the fourth floor.

* * *


The door to de Sade's apartment was unlocked too. Daniel recoiled at that, his heart suddenly beating much too fast. He beats women - maybe drinks their blood - and then leaves his door unlocked? No. Not possible. He knows that I'm coming. He must. Two centuries of combat instinct were screaming now: Get out, get out. Daniel felt his molars grinding together.

Gently, Daniel pushed the door open. The hinges creaked. Daniel stepped forward into the darkened room.

It certainly looked like the home of a debauched vampire. The walls were painted with orgiastic scenes which Daniel had no desire to study too closely. The furniture was all plush, overstuffed, wine-red velvet and gold. Empty wine cups lay about everywhere, and scraps of paper. Tapestries flapped from the walls like wings beating dimly at the edges of Daniel's vision. One gilded table supported a collection of half-empty bottles, and some sleek black object that, in the gloom, looked a bit like a snake.

Daniel looked closer. It was a whip. And it was slowly dripping a dark liquid onto the floor.

The Sabbatanos tightened his grip on his sword and turned silently toward the apartment's bedroom door.

And then, suddenly, from behind that door - there was a sound. And not just any sound. It was music.

Someone was playing the violin.

The chords soared through the empty, darkened apartment - it sounded like Bach to Daniel, some recent composition, beautiful and complex and achingly, exactingly elegant. It was music like some elaborately and precisely choreographed dance, perfect in every particular, gorgeous and inhuman and ultimately, somehow, terribly frightening.

Daniel couldn't think. The music was in his head, blinding, muffling. He growled deep in his throat, and shoved open the bedroom door.

* * *


De Sade was a small man with an ugly, bulbous head, dressed in the white coat of an officer of the French army and standing in front of a four-poster bed with the curtains drawn tight around it. He glanced up from his violin when Daniel slammed the door open, but didn't miss a note. The music soared in one final flourish, and then died. De Sade smiled, and Daniel noticed suddenly that his face was still spotted with acne. But the eyes - there was something terrible and knowing about the eyes, some soul-destroying secret that lurked within.

"I was wondering when you'd come," said the marquis. "When I heard about what happened with Voltaire, I knew that there could be only one explanation."

Daniel said nothing, but he narrowed his eyes. And then he received his third great shock of the night.

He saw nothing.

He saw de Sade, of course, the boy-man in uniform, the violin held languorously in one hand. But Daniel saw nothing more. There was no aura, no glow, no magical haze of light that marked out, to the unique eyes of the Sabbatanoi, all magic - no matter how well it might be hidden. De Sade was not magical. He was not a vampire, or a demon.

He was just a boy.

"A man came to see you," Daniel said suddenly, his voice hard as stone. "Six weeks ago. A man like me."

De Sade smiled again. "Ah, yes," he agreed. "A Sabbatanos. One of the chosen few."

Daniel said nothing, but his shock must have registered on his face. Precious few in all the world knew of the existence of the Sabbatanoi. None outside their secret, centuries-long war knew that Stefan Petrascu was one of them.

De Sade took one look at Daniel's expression, and gave a low chuckle. "Oh, yes. I know more than you might believe." He waved a gracile hand. "I was born in the Luberon, you see. The magic mountains. Few things remain secret in a place like Lacoste."

"The man who came to visit you," Daniel said. His voice was urgent, and he hated himself for it. "What happened? Where did he go?"

De Sade studied Daniel a moment, then smiled with quiet triumph, as if he had learned some awful secret. "He fled," the marquis replied. "He fled in terror."

Daniel wanted to laugh, and he did - but the sound came out flat. "Terror? Of you?"

"Oh, yes," de Sade agreed. "Of me. Of a nineteen-year-old youth. A fop. Of me." The marquis leaned forward. "Would you like to see why?"

Daniel tried to speak, and could not. De Sade watched him, and nodded, and smiled, and drew the curtains aside from around his four-poster bed.

A woman lay within. She was naked, and tied spread-eagled. She might have been beautiful once; Daniel could not tell. But now, she was skin stretched over bone, emaciated, a living skeleton. Her skin was pallid, as if it had not seen the sun in months, and it was covered in welts and burns. She was missing flesh from her shoulders, and Daniel could see the marks of teeth in the sickening, gangrenous wounds. From the position of the marks, Daniel knew that the teeth were not de Sade's.

When she heard the curtains being drawn aside, she twisted on the bed. Sores on her back and thighs wept pus, and she moaned, a choked sound. Her head twisted, and Daniel saw that she had neither eyes nor a tongue, but only twisted scar tissue in mouth and sockets.

"I did this," de Sade said quietly. He stepped to one side of Daniel, laid a hand gently on his arm. The Sabbatanos stared, transfixed, at the horror before him. De Sade smiled sadly. "I did this," he repeated. "Me. A nineteen-year-old youth. A fop. I took her off the streets a year ago, and tied her down, and never let her move an inch the whole time, and made her into - this. No vampire. No demon. Just me."

"Why?" Daniel managed, his voice a raw rasp, still unable to look away.

"Because it pleased me," de Sade replied simply. "It pleased me, so I did it. What else is there?" The marquis nodded at the bed. "Look at her, monsieur. You wonder why your friend fled in terror?" De Sade smiled. "Because in the end, we don't need vampires or demons or creatures in the night to be afraid of. And there are no angels and no divine grace coming to save us, either." The marquis shrugged. "We can do it all ourselves. I did. If I can, anyone can." De Sade gently patted Daniel's arm. "I'm sorry, monsieur. I know that this must be hard for you. But you could kill every vampire on earth, and this girl would still be exactly where she is now." De Sade's voice was a whisper. "You can never win. The world will never be kind, never be just, never be good." The marquis chuckled, and there was real amusement in the sound. "We won't let it, you see? Your friend did. He understood. And that's why he fled."

Something snapped in Daniel. He spun and grabbed de Sade by the shirtfont and physically lifted the little man off his feet, slamming him into the wall with Daniel's sword-edge at his throat. "I'll kill you," the Sabbatanos snarled. It was not a threat; it was a vow, a sacred commission. Or else none of it means anything. Or else he's right. A drop of blood ran down de Sade's pale throat. "I'll kill you."

And now, even now, de Sade smiled. "India," he said cheerfully. "In case you were wondering. After he fled, your friend took ship to Pondicherry. Six weeks ago." De Sade paused, seeming to consider. "Do you know why I was playing the violin when you came in?"

Daniel didn't reply. His sword hand trembled, and yet something stopped him from simply jerking his wrist, shearing open the throat of the boy pinned to the wall in front of him. De Sade raised his eyebrows. "I was playing the violin," he said deliberately, "so that you wouldn't hear the men following you up the steps."

Daniel's eyes widened in recognition and he had just enough time to try to move. And then there was a sound like a thunderclap, and the world vanished in a blinding explosion of pain.

* * *


It was a musket ball: fat, slow-moving (for a bullet), almost half an inch wide. It tore its way through Daniel's back, shattering his left shoulder-blade, grazing his left lung, and exiting through his clavicle in a spray of broken bones. The pain was indescribable: for a moment, it felt like someone had rammed a red-hot poker straight through the Sabbatanos' torso and was twisting. Daniel found himself dropping de Sade, staggering backwards, almost falling over onto the horror on the bed. He opened his mouth to scream, and only a choked whimper emerged.

The main room of the apartment was filled with white-coated soldiers, muskets aimed at Daniel. A familiar-looking officer, now wrapped in bandages, stood at one side of the group. "That is the man!" he cried.

No. Daniel turned. Nonononono. Not like this. Not yet. He scrabbled at the bedposts; behind him, de Sade closed the curtains with a secret smile before the soldiers could see what lay on the bed. Don't die, Daniel. If I die now, then de Sade is right about everything. Nothing matters. We can never win. And if that's true, then all I've done, all the blood on my hands -

"No!" Daniel roared. He flung himself upright. De Sade's eyes widened and he flinched away, but Daniel wasn't going for the marquis; he knew that the soldiers would shoot him dead before he could reach the boy. No, he was leaping backwards, away, toward the only exit that offered the Sabbatanos a chance of leaving the room alive.

The fourth-story window.

Daniel knocked over the candelabra which he had seen from the street and crashed through the milky glass of the window, bullets humming and snapping around him like deadly raindrops. For a moment, his charcoal overcoat billowing around him, he was suspended in midair like some great bat; the street below seemed an eternity away. And then the Sabbatanos dropped like a stone.

Daniel tried to roll when he hit the ground, and he succeeded in not fracturing his skull or spine. Instead, he broke his right shoulder-blade in three places, snapped two of his fingers and three of his ribs, and tore his right arm open to the bone on an irregular cobblestone sticking up out of the roadway.

For a moment, Daniel lay there in the street, bleeding. He looked up at the shattered window high above. As he watched, a soldier appeared in the window. The man leveled his musket and took careful aim at Daniel. Before the soldier could fire, the Sabbatanos drew one of his pistols, extended it - awkwardly gripped in a broken hand - and snap-shot the man through the right eye from forty feet away. The soldier dropped out of the window like a marionette with its strings cut, and no one took his place.

Daniel's arm dropped, and the pistol hit the cobblestones with a clatter. I can't stay here. Daniel twisted, braced his hands on the stones, bit down a scream of pain as he struggled to his feet. Every gendarme in Paris will be looking for me after this. De Sade won't let me this close again. The Sabbatanos closed his eyes, seeing like a flash of half-remembered nightmare a naked, emaciated form, moaning and eyeless. He's wrong. He's wrong. I can change something. I can purge the world of sin. Of one man's sin, at least. "Stefan," Daniel whispered. When I kill Stefan, it will all be justified. It will all make sense.

Daniel Andreas turned, gasping in pain, and staggered off down the street.

* * *


One week later, a limping figure in a charcoal overcoat, mounted on a fine black horse, rode into the port at Le Havre and booked passage on the next ship to Pondicherry.

I really like it! But you missed an "and" in the parallel structure in the first paragraph...


Fixed.

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The Inritus Extraho
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Postby The Inritus Extraho » Fri May 24, 2013 7:50 am

Norvenia wrote:Fixed.

Any chance you're going to write more? It was really entertaining~
If you see I've made a mistake in my wording or a factual detail, telegram me and I'll fix it. I'll even give you credit for pointing it out, if you'd like.
You can call me TIE. I'm not on much... so telegram me if you need something.
FanT Nation - FT w/o space.
I'm on CA time, so... pacific. UTC -8
I'm bi, not single, and really any pronoun works.
I'll check out RP's if you TG me about them.

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Norvenia
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Postby Norvenia » Fri May 24, 2013 7:52 am

I'm planning on a follow-up in Pondicherry. Just have to do research and flesh out the plot a little before I start.

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The Inritus Extraho
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Postby The Inritus Extraho » Fri May 24, 2013 7:53 am

Norvenia wrote:I'm planning on a follow-up in Pondicherry. Just have to do research and flesh out the plot a little before I start.

Wonderful~ I can try to help but I doubt I'd be of much use....
If you see I've made a mistake in my wording or a factual detail, telegram me and I'll fix it. I'll even give you credit for pointing it out, if you'd like.
You can call me TIE. I'm not on much... so telegram me if you need something.
FanT Nation - FT w/o space.
I'm on CA time, so... pacific. UTC -8
I'm bi, not single, and really any pronoun works.
I'll check out RP's if you TG me about them.

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Nightkill the Emperor
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Founded: Dec 28, 2009
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Postby Nightkill the Emperor » Fri May 24, 2013 8:56 am

Condunum wrote:Oh, great, I'm playing this again.

"You were born today a girl in a village in the state of Rajasthan in India, not far from the city of Ajmer. Your parents have named you Banasuta Imani. india is currently at war in Kashmir State."

Edit: Oh for fucks sake. "You have died at age 2 from tetanus." REALLY?

Link?
Hi! I'm Khan, your local misanthropic Indian.
I wear teal, blue & pink for Swith.
P2TM RP Discussion Thread
If you want a good rp, read this shit.
Tiami is cool.
Nat: Night's always in some bizarre state somewhere between "intoxicated enough to kill a hair metal lead singer" and "annoying Mormon missionary sober".

Swith: It's because you're so awesome. God himself refreshes the screen before he types just to see if Nightkill has written anything while he was off somewhere else.

Monfrox wrote:
The balkens wrote:
# went there....

It's Nightkill. He's been there so long he rents out rooms to other people at a flat rate, but demands cash up front.

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