Friday, January 27, 2017

Fiction Friday - Vol 7 Tales of Vengeance, Bk III: Full Moon, Ch 1 & 2

Volume 7: Tales of Magic
and Mayhem

 Book III: Full Moon

Chapter 1: Return to Soissons

The report Father Signoret had written about the hunt for the werewolf of Soissons had alarmed Pére Joseph and he, in turn, had spoken to and alarmed Cardinal Richelieu. The Cardinal decided that this was information that should not become widely known amongst the people lest social disorder, loss of faith, anarchy, and chaos be the result. The Cardinal decided that he needed to take action to ensure that the werewolf problem in Soissons was truly solved and, at the same time just in case Gaston was infected or cursed by the loup garou, he needed to get Captain Gaston Thibeault out of Paris before the next full moon. Therefore the Cardinal assigned Gaston to lead the survivors of the first mission back to Soissons to verify that the loup garou was truly dead and to make certain that no new Loup Garou would appear. 

Unknown to Gaston, Pére Joseph had also sent his trusted agent, the Baron Simon Ile-de-Batz, to Soissons. The Baron’s job was to watch Gaston and to observe events. If the Captain needed help in destroying another werewolf and ending the curse in Soissons, then the Baron would help. And if he learned that Gaston was subject to the curse or had transformed into a Loup Garou, then if necessary the Baron would destroy Gaston and as many as necessary to ensure that if such an event should occur it did not subtract from the reputation of the Cardinal or of his new Red Guards.

Before they left Paris, Captain-Lieutenant Gaston Thibeault had ordered that each of the men on the mission should be issued with either special silver ammunition or weapons in quantities equal to 6 silver pistol balls, 4 musket balls, two silver tipped quarrels, or a single silver tipped half pike. Since pistol and musket balls were of different sizes they were not interchangeable. In addition, the Cardinal had given Gaston the gift of a silver inlaid dagger to replace the silverware he had used to kill the first werewolf. In addition to himself, the hunting party consisted of Father Signoret, Gaston’s giant cousin Norbert, Jacques Dlancey, and the other five surviving Red Guards who had accompanied them on the first werewolf hunt in Soissons.

Father Signoret had personally blessed each silver weapon. The Jesuit too carried blessed silver bullets for his pistol. In addition, he carried the Wolf Trap Lantern that he had found in the vaults beneath the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the silver. Inside it had a beeswax candle that he had taken from the Cathedral. He also carried the Silver Nail of St. Hubertus which was essential for performing the ritual that could prevent someone wounded by a loup garou from being tainted by the curse of lycanthropy. 

Gaston was determined that if there was another Loup Garou that they would eliminate in such a way so as not to detract from their previous success. The party left at the beginning of the last week of February. The next full moon would not occur until the fifth of March, which should allow them plenty of time to travel to Soissons and begin their investigations.

The first day’s travel was fairly uneventful. Patches of sunshine shone through the clouds and the weather was much warmer than it had been on their first visit to Soissons. Even the delay when one of their horses threw a shoe was minor. The next day was even warmer and they traveled long hurrying to reach an inn for the night. But the sun was setting behind the trees leaving the wooded path on which they rode in a dim twilight. Just around a bend in the road they only just noticed in time a rope strung between two trees on opposite sides of the road. The rope was just high enough to catch a mounted rider in the neck or upper chest. They quickly reacted to what was probably an ambush. But the ambush had not been aimed at them. They found a horse, still saddled grazing nearby and blood smeared on a nearby tree. They scouted the area and Father Signoret found the dead body of a man that had been tossed in some bushes. The body had been stripped of its boots or shoes and outer garments. Signoret also found a narrow game trail that it looked like the ambushers had used to make their getaway. The trail headed in the direct of what, from the chimney smoke, must be a nearby village. Not far from the body, Signoret a dead body narrow game trail that the ambushers had used. 

While the Jesuit followed the trail, Gaston led the others at the trot to the village. Signoret was able to find tracks leading to a home on the outskirts of the village and judicious questioning allowed the heroes to uncover the two brigands who lived there. It was possible that the villagers were aware of or even complicit with the brigands, so Gaston decided they should either hang them now or take them to Soissons. He was persuaded to do the latter and he ordered the two brigands under guard and that the villagers should collect the body of the victim of the ambush and give it a proper burial. They victim’s horse would be used to transport the prisoners. 

The next day they left the village with their two prisoners under guard. Travel that day was uneventful as was the day after. The only noticeable event a coach heading to Paris from the north stopped at lunchtime at the same roadside in as the hunting party. The passengers of the coach were foreigners traveling to Paris. They were curious about the unusual, red uniforms of the Guards and seemed especially interested in the unusual sight of giant riding a great horse and clad in the incarnadine red of the Cardinal’s new Guard.

They reached the town of Soissons before dark. While Father Signoret made arrangements to stay with Brother Crispin, his friend and correspondent, Gaston and the other Red Guards took rooms at the now familiar Two Saints Tavern. Several other guests from out of town were staying there. One was a mysterious noble from Paris[i] who they never saw as he seemed to spend the entire time in his room, though they often saw his two attendants either in the common room or walking about town. One named Duclos was French and the other named Alemany was Spanish. Both clearly appeared to be like soldiers and swordsmen and neither looked anything like a servant or a valet. In regards to their noble companion the two maintained a discrete silence. 

The last guest was Maurice Pépin, a card player from Paris. Pepin said that he was in the country for his health. “Country air is very bracing. Especially when one has won altogether too much money from a very poor loser. The first thing Norbert saw when he entered the Two Saints Tavern was Old Naudin, a one legged former soldier and who now lived off the charity he found in Soissons, especially in the flower market or at the Two Saints Tavern. Before Norbert could say anything the beggar began to berate Norbert, then warned him to stay away from Yvette the flower seller. “Poor girl hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep after what you put her through.” Naudin continued to warn and complain about Norbert’s treatment of Yvette. He clearly didn’t like the giant, but he seemed sincere in his desire to look out for the young flower seller.

Chapter 2: Hunting for Answers

The party asked questions of the citizens of Soissons and the Town Governor, Bertin de Labrousse. Based on the answers they received as well as their prior mission to Soissons and knowledge of the Governor, they were very suspicious of de Labrousse and they became convinced that he was hiding his brother Armand somewhere, probably inside the Governor’s Mansion. Father Signoret confirmed that the night of March the 5th was a full moon and, based on his research, he told them that the new loup garou would be most likely to transform or manifest that night. 

Gaston had them prepare to surreptitiously enter the mansion. They obtained a small boat to cross the moat and rope and grapples to get over the wall. On the night of March 5th they waited by the boat as they waited for the full moon to rise. While they waited, Gaston repeated his instructions to the men.

“Our mission is to find Armand de Labrousse and to learn if he or anyone else in the mansion has become a loup garou. And any loup garou we find, we send back to hell. Remember these guards are not your enemies. They are soldiers of France who are just doing their duty. Try not to hurt them and don’t kill anyone unless you absolutely have to do so.

“No gunshots. We can’t afford to alert the garrison before our mission is done. So no firing until I give the order. All pistols are to be kept unwound and unlocked until I give the command. If we can, we will depart the same way we got in. If we get back out without alerting the garrison, then so much the better. If not, then we get the gate open any way we can and hold it until all of us get out. No one, dead or alive, is to be left behind. 

“Our rendezvous is the big tree to the left of the road to Compèigne where Claude will be waiting with our horses already saddled.”

[i] Unknown to the heroes, the noble is Baron Simon Ile-de-Batz who was there to observe Gaston and kill him if he turned into a Loup Garou.

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