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PostSubject: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeSun Feb 15, 2009 2:50 am

It was mid-day when Chantilly disembarked and slowly made her way back up the long dock. She wound her way through the St. Augustine streets, to the dark back alley where the tiny church stood, and unceremoniously creaked open the light wooden door, letting herself in and shutting it behind her.

The stained glass and finely carved pews of the church in Puerto del Precipe had been unnerving. Its unspoken pomp and circumstance had hauntingly reminded her of the abbey, but the plainness of the small French sanctuary here in St. Augustine was comforting to her troubled mind. It was dark, cloistered, forgotten to most of the world despite being close to the docks. It was more than just a sanctuary; it was her sanctuary, and had been ever since she’d first arrived in the Caribbean. Chantilly sighed with a touch of relief to be home.

“It is good to see you, Chantilly,” Father Carvell called out from across the room, having just come out of his office. “I had worried that you would run into trouble, but it seems it was unfounded.” The priest’s voice, though laden with concern, was chipper as ever despite his advancing age. He smiled and approached, offering to take the dusty coat from her back.

Chantilly let Father Carvell have the coat and promptly slumped into the nearest pew. “Trouble follows me, Father,” she replied darkly.

Father Carvell sighed and came to sit down next to her. “Are you sure you’re not looking for it?” he offered.

“How is it you always mean to criticize as you smile?” Chantilly sighed.
“Not criticize, my child… I only meant --“

“It doesn’t matter.”

Father Carvell sighed. “I’m sorry, Chantilly. I don’t mean to add to your suffering.” He placed a hand on Chantilly’s shoulder in comfort, but she shrugged sharply to dislodge it, and he immediately pulled it away again.

“You can’t add to my suffering, Father. No more than you can ease it,” Chantilly said flatly.

He sighed again. “Even so… tell me, how was your trip? Any work for a celebrated adventurer such as yourself? Surely the old hero of Irish Point could earn a bit of coin.”

“I ran into a few old acquaintances, from the Confederacy. They knew of work in Puerto del Precipe, from the magistrate. Here, you can have whatever I earned.” Chantilly tossed a small purse at the priest, hitting him gently in the chest. “Take whatever you spent to get me fixed up.”

“You needn’t repay me. Even a bad Samaritan would have taken pity on your sorry state. It was the least I could do for you,” Father Carvell said quietly, rejecting the coin purse and holding it back out.

“Keep it anyway.”

“Chantilly…” he trailed.

“The work included demons and more crazy visions from God,” she interrupted. “More souls having their lives destroyed by the infinite battle of good versus evil. I’d rather give the money to the good side than have it stolen away from me and used for evil.”

“Visions… it couldn’t be the Umbra again?” Father Carvell gasped.

“Not directly, no,” Chantilly admitted. “I’ve been informed that they’re gone, whatever that means. But it doesn’t matter. One darkness lifts, another descends in its place. Each day a new blood stains the swords of the righteous, but the tide never turns, and all the while the screams of the fallen cry for justice they will never see. And I hear it all.”

Neither of them spoke for a moment. Father Carvell, having known the girl for quite some time now and receiving all her confessions since she first arrived, had no doubts that she did indeed hear those screams. She held herself accountable for their deaths as if she had slain them herself. She blamed herself that she was still alive, that she alone had escaped.

When she’d limped in a month ago, the priest had barely recognized her. Both her body and countenance were completely covered in wounds and fresh scars. He looked down at her hands now, and nearly smiled to see that they finally looked the hands of a human again. His eyes wandered back up to her head, where a patch covered the entire left side of her face. He wondered if it would ever heal properly. He doubted it. He doubted even more that her psyche would recover. Still, he would pray for her, even if her faith had long since disappeared.

Suddenly Chantilly rose from the pew, the conversation having weighed on her mind, her eyes growing dark. “I want to rest. I’m going to the tavern to see if they have a spare room.”

“Use my room here,” Father Carvell offered. “I’ll fetch some clean bandages for your wounds and we’ll dress you up properly in the morning. There’s even some new secondhand clothes to look through – maybe we’ll find something the suits you.”

“I couldn’t impose. Not on you, Father."

“You could never impose on me. Please.”

To his relief, Chantilly nodded resignedly. “But I can’t stay long,” she stressed. “I only came to pay my debts and to retrieve my ship and crew from the docks. Being a passenger doesn’t suit me. I need the full freedom of the sea.”

“Where will you go?” Father Carvell asked.

“Forteleza de Luz.”

“What’s at Forteleza de Luz?”

“A traitor’s last chance for salvation.” Chantilly sighed. “More trouble. You know how I go looking for that.” She then abruptly turned and left the sanctuary without further explanation.
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Merchant Captain
Merchant Captain

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

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PostSubject: Re: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeSun Feb 15, 2009 10:25 pm

[Fine work, Chantilly. Good to see you back on the boards again. . .and back in the game as well. Last night was great fun and you've made a great piece out of it.]

Deoiridh D'Alembert, Freetrader.
Merchant Captain of Le Rire de Dieu
out of Belle Isle, New France
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Namo Larkin
Namo Larkin

Number of posts : 355
Age : 66
Localisation : Tampa (New York)
Registration date : 2008-01-11

Character sheet
Locations: Cayo, Tampa
Production: LV, Teak, and Ships
Requirements: Hulls or Parts for Hulls

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PostSubject: Re: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeTue Feb 17, 2009 8:02 am

I heard from my son that he saw you on the Docks of Tampa the other night. It is good to see you out on the seas again. Rest assured we still consider you a friend of the Confederacy despite the parting of our directons. If you every need assistance just ask.

Namo Larkin

Namo Larkin
Ship - Auberean
Normal Tour - M-F 8-10-East S-S off and on.
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PostSubject: Re: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeTue Feb 17, 2009 11:46 pm

"You seem happier today, Chantilly," Father Carvell noted aloud with a smile.

It was an impressively shrewd observation, as to the unknowing eye, Chantilly was today, as always, the constant dark cloud that floated about the church grounds. Many a congregant had come through the church's doors in recent days and whispered privately to the priest that her presence made them uncomfortable. Father Carvell internally agreed with them; even knowing what she'd been through and understanding the damage that had been done, the serious, uneasy silence that followed in her wake had made the church a cold and unfriendly place these days. Still, he couldn't turn her away; he felt a near-parental responsibility toward her welfare.

But today, despite her usual apparent malaise, Father Carvell could sense that something was different. She was sitting in one of the back pews, scribbling furiously with a quill with a focus and determination that betrayed a certain spark. She didn't look up at him at first, though she made a rough jerk of her head to acknowledge his presence. "I'm writing," she answered, slightly startled, but never missing a stroke of the quill.

"I see," Father Carvell said. "May I ask what about?" He sat down on the pew a distance away, as to maintain her privacy while still forcing the interaction. It was a risk to disturb her, for fear of throwing her yet again off-balance, but he was determined to try to brave her attitude and discover the source of her sudden improvement.

Chantilly kept her attention on the task, thoroughly engrossed, as if determined to finish before some imminent deadline. "Everything," she replied matter-of-factly.

"You're writing about... everything?" he repeated.

"I'm almost done," Chantilly mumbled, clearly distracted.

Father Carvell's eyes drifted downwards, noticing for the first time the gigantic mess of papers littering the floor surrounding the young woman's boots. "Chantilly, what in heaven's name - "

"Father, PLEASE, be quiet for a moment and let me finish!" she exclaimed, finally lifting her head and shooting the older man a look of sheer annoyance.

The priest blinked in shock, then nodded in acquiescence, but Chantilly was already hunched back over what Father Carvell could only assume was a novella at this point. Quiet moments passed, until finally an exorbitant flourish whisked its way across the paper, and Chantilly unceremoniously slammed the signed paper and the Bible she'd been using as a makeshift table onto the pew. Father Carvell cringed at the noise and the unfavorable use of the holy book.

Chantilly turned her head to look at him. "Now what is it you want?" she asked with an uncharacteristic calm.

"Could you explain..." the priest motioned towards the papers on the floor, "... this?"

"Oh, that," Chantilly sighed, looking wearily at the mess, as if she hadn't realized it was there before this very moment. "It's a letter. To the Abbey. Explains everything that's happened. Asks for forgiveness."

"That's..." Father Carvell struggled for the words. "Quite the letter, then."

"Oui." She leaned down and began collecting the papers in her arms, twisting each page into a neat stack. "And I'm sending along all the money I owe them for what I stole... in full. I'd sent them some before, with other letters, but never like this. I'll be sending seventy-seven times what I owe them." Chantilly closed her eyes and began to recite. "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' And Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but..'"

"But seventy-seven times," the priest finished.

Chantilly nodded and set her now neatly-stacked papers onto the pew, much gentler than she had the Bible a few moments earlier. "I have to make it right," she whispered. "I have to break this curse that God has placed on me for sinning against the church."

"You are not cursed," Father Carvell cut her off. "You will be fine. And where did you get all that money? I thought you were broke."

"Hidden. On my ship. I'd been saving it when I first got here, from the accounting work I did with the Compagnie... it might have been a front, but we did do legitimate business. I needed the work the last few weeks so I could pay off my debtors to get the ship back, so I could fetch the money from its hiding place. And now I have it."


Chantilly ignored him and stood, gathering her things in preparation to leave. "I'm sorry I lied about being broke, but I was... then. Now, I'm not, but I will be again as soon as I get this sent on the quickest courier ship to Marseilles."

Father Carvell heaved a very heavy sigh. This, he had not been looking forward to. "Chantilly, sit down for a second, before you go... I have something I need to show you," he pleaded with her.

A look of confusion crossed her face, but she slowly sat back down into the pew as the priest entered his back room, then emerged again holding a short stack of letters. He held them out to Chantilly, who took them in her trembling, scarred hands, shuffling through them wildly. "The letters... my previous letters, you... you have them all... but..." She swallowed hard. "I don't understand. I sent these away months... nearly a year ago. How do you have them?"

"The courier had to bring them back. Ships aren't being allowed into the port at Marseilles anymore."

"But... why...?"

The priest braced himself. "The plague... is in Marseilles. It's quarantined. No one gets in, or out. They can't afford for it to spread."

"But the abbey - what about the -"

"Once the letters were returned, I used the money you'd already tried to send along to pay for a messenger myself, to inquire through the Church what had become of your abbey... and I have it on fairly strong authority that the nuns are among the dead." The priest bowed his head. "I'm sorry for not telling you sooner, Chantilly. I just couldn't add insult to the injury you have suffered."

Chantilly sat immobilized for a moment as the news set in. All of them... gone... the last vestiges of a home and a past... her last chance to make restitution for her sins, last chance to, perhaps, chase away the dogs of hell that had nipped at her heels ever since she'd arrived in these godforsaken waters.

"You... " she began quietly, but her voice grew quickly in volume and panic. "YOU say I'm not cursed! What do you know? You patronizing fool!" she roared, ripping the letters in her hands into pieces as she yelled. "You have no idea! How dare you hide this from me!"

Father Carvell made no attempt to explain or placate, simply bearing the screams and rage of the tortured woman in a stoic silence- which only enraged her further. She angrily threw the tattered pages of her past into the air and stormed out the doors of the church, the pieces fluttering through the air behind her.

He sighed then, and simply bent down to pick them all up again, collecting them in a fold of his robe. He resolved to keep them all should she ever want them again. He believed that she might. It was her sound and fury that made him believe it. After all, this was the first day she'd appeared to care about anything in weeks.
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PostSubject: Re: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeTue Feb 17, 2009 11:52 pm

((This section of the story is partially inspired by history... Marseille, France was hit by a resurgence of the bubonic plague in mid-1720 through 1722, when a merchant ship carried it from the Middle East. Between 25-50% of the people in the city and the surrounding areas died over the course of those two years.))
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Namo Larkin
Namo Larkin

Number of posts : 355
Age : 66
Localisation : Tampa (New York)
Registration date : 2008-01-11

Character sheet
Locations: Cayo, Tampa
Production: LV, Teak, and Ships
Requirements: Hulls or Parts for Hulls

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PostSubject: Re: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Feb 18, 2009 4:44 am

Chantilly wrote:
((This section of the story is partially inspired by history... Marseille, France was hit by a resurgence of the bubonic plague in mid-1720 through 1722, when a merchant ship carried it from the Middle East. Between 25-50% of the people in the city and the surrounding areas died over the course of those two years.))

((Of this I am aware. It is the reason Namo and his sons are here. It will come out in time in my story as well. I just wish I could be as descriptive in the telling as you, Cathern, Emile, and Deoiridh is at telling them. I look forward to hear the tell. There is alot of Namo's story before the plague so it will be awhile for mine to come out. Excellent read.))

Namo Larkin
Ship - Auberean
Normal Tour - M-F 8-10-East S-S off and on.
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PostSubject: Re: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeMon Feb 23, 2009 2:49 pm

Chantilly crept into the St. Augustine church late, slowly opening the door and soundlessly pushing it shut again. She made her way across the sanctuary towards the tiny side-room that she'd been using to sleep since her return. Each step was carefully placed, attempting to avoid the tell-tale creaks in the floor, so as to not wake Father Carvell.

The worst situation her throbbing head could think of at this moment would be one of the priest's daily debriefings. They made her conspicuously aware of how erratic her behavior had become. It was a fact that perturbed her to no end, as knowledge of it only added to her frustration over feeling unable to control herself. Besides, although Father Carvell was more like a slightly familial old friend than a spiritual adviser to her as of late, she couldn't shake her unease of discussing these things with him anymore. She had no doubt that there was both good and evil - she'd oscillated between both extremes too many times in her life to pretend otherwise - but despite her past history, she no longer had faith that God was lord and master over either one.

Father Carvell was a persistent man, though, and even if she could escape his questions about how things had gone today, the best she could hope for was a delay until the morning. Regardless, the time was precious. She'd need to formulate something to say about tonight, and perhaps a few hours of early morning's rest would provide clarity. She nearly laughed at the thought of it. As if that ever happened.

"Is something amusing, Chantilly?" his familiar voice said from behind her. Her hopes sunk.

"Not particularly, father." She turned to greet him. "I apologize for waking you. I had intended to do otherwise."

The priest smiled knowingly. "I expected that, so I decided to... work late," he answered, amused. "You've been avoiding me as of late." He sat down on a pew, motioning for Chantilly to do the same. "I wanted to talk to you about that."

Chantilly sat down as well. "I'm not avoiding you, father, I'm just..." she began.

"Having a rough time right now?" Father Carvell finished.

Chantilly nodded. "I did not know what would happen to me when I returned here, but it has not been what I expected. Too much has happened, and I do not know how to adjust."

"And you expect to find the answer in the church by day and the tavern by night?" the priest asked pointedly.

"Of course not, but..."

"But what? My child, you cannot stay here forever. St. Augustine's chapel is not your home."

"I don't have anywhere else to go," Chantilly stated.

"Yet staying here is quickly becoming a poor option," the priest countered. "I do not wish to eject you, but I am afraid that the longer I say nothing, you lose another day to inaction. It weighs upon me."

"I don't understand. I thought you wanted to help me," Chantilly argued. "How does this help?"

"You are no longer in need of my help. You are not injured, nor are you destitute. Most of all, however, you are no longer hopeless."

"I'm not sure I wish to know what you mean by that."

Father Carvell sighed. "Beyond the obvious task of shepherding the flock in the Word... the church's true value lies in saving those who cannot save themselves. You can save yourself, Chantilly. You do not need me, or the confines of the Lord's path, no matter how many times you might run to it and hide. I can't allow it anymore."

"There's nothing left for me out there," Chantilly protested sullenly.

"There is. You are too distracted to realize it, always mourning the dead, but you are alive, child! You must leave here and live." The priest crossed his arms in unspoken defiance, unwilling to accept further excuses.

Chantilly looked crestfallen. "You're truly turning me out on the street..." she said quietly.

"Someday, you will thank me for this," Father Carvell replied firmly.

"I doubt that." Chantilly fidgeted with her hands, her anxiety getting the better of her. "What do you expect me to do now?"

"Perhaps you might petition your friends in the Confederacy," the priest suggested. "Perhaps there is a future for you there."

Chantilly bit her lip. "I would think it inaccurate to call them friends anymore," she admitted. "My behavior has been, at the very least, bizarre and discourteous, to the extent of permanent estrangement."

"You may be correct, but you just as easily might be selling short the potential for reconciliation, or even forgiveness." The priest shrugged. "However, it is up to you, my child. Whatever you do, I have faith that you will find your way. Just not here."

Chantilly sat quietly for a moment, mulling it all over. She knew that, at least in some way, he was correct: she couldn't stay like this. She'd been delaying the inevitable... out of what? Fear? Uncertainty? Regret? Perhaps all of the above.

"Should I bring you paper and a quill?" Father Carvell offered gently.

"I suppose... you might be right..." Chantilly said, tears forming in the corner of her exposed eye. "I'll deliver the letter myself."

(( a hand-delivered letter arrives at the Confederacy ))
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PostSubject: Re: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Feb 25, 2009 3:17 pm

It felt patently wrong to Chantilly to spend the money that the nuns would never receive in repayment. Still, reluctantly, coin after coin spilled out of her purse onto the waiting desk of the magistrate in Pensacola. The magistrate smiled and handed over a rolled-up piece of paper - a deed to a small parcel of land just outside of Pensacola. There was already a nearly-finished house sitting on the property. It had originally belonged to a more unfortunate merchant than herself; he had died under while personally inspecting his facilities in the Bahamas not long ago.

Buying a permanent residence seemed more than a little odd, and she felt awkward leaving the magistrate's office and making her way down the road to her new home. Settling down had been unlikely before, and was practically comical now. Of course, it wasn't that she didn't have the money to do so; she was quite certain that her prior frugality had made it possible for her to retire from the seas permanently, hire a new personal servant, and do nothing for the rest of her life.

There was a part of it that was appealing to her. Seclusion and a constant supply of laudanum to help her subconscious battle against the memories... and maybe they would fade away with age and time. Yes, that was appealing, very much so, but she sighed wistfully, knowing how truly fanciful the idea truly was. She knew the abject loneliness of such a lifestyle would get to her long before any of the pain would ever truly fade. Even the occasional fellowship with the Confederates - who had, mercifully, not raked her over the hottest coals before once again granting her association - would likely not stem the tide of her darker thoughts.

And of course, then there was the small matter of the scars. Every time she would look down at her hands and arms, or catch sight of herself in a reflective object, she would remember, whether she stayed here in Pensacola or elsewhere. Even the unseen wounds, the stress and suffering inflicted on her muscles and joints, had the capacity to catch, bend, or lock in ways they hadn't before. It sometimes made even a simple roll over in bed a painful reminder on days that her spine did not feel up to the task. The last year had aged her greatly. Though she once appeared to be a very young twenty, she now felt a very, very old twenty-one.

Chantilly arrived and stood in front of the new home now, inspecting it visually from the outside, but she could not bear herself to go inside and take a proper look. She'd have to hire someone to finish the work on it, along with someone to decorate and mind it while she was gone. She felt no desire to do either one personally, and hoped that she'd never have to stay here for long. After all, she was only buying it -

She suddenly closed her eyes for a moment and breathed deeply, trying to maintain her calm as an all-too familiar feeling washed over her, possessing her mind. The merchant had died from pirates, she noted to herself. Violently. Dread Saints pirates, by the looks of them. After a few seconds she opened them again, the moment of illness passing, and turned to head back towards town and her rented room there to rest.

After all, she was only buying the house because the visions were back. They were as vivid and confusing as ever, but if the Umbra had damaged her body, somehow it was if they had made her stronger in mind. Not once yet had she fainted or become a burden to anyone over them - in fact, she'd lied repeatedly that the visions had left her. As far as her colleagues were concerned, the visions truly were gone.

But if they ever incapacitated her again, she wasn't ever going to be a cross for anyone to bear like before. Now, she would have a place to go and descend into madness. Alone.
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PostSubject: Re: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeSun Mar 01, 2009 5:15 pm

The physician wrinkled his nose at Chantilly in annoyance. "Mon Dieu, woman," he snorted, "if you can afford to see a private doctor, you could at least afford to dress above the common sailor's standard."

Chantilly shrugged. The clothes weren't even hers - they'd been donations from St. Augustine chapel. Better than the torn, bloodied rags she'd returned to Florida in, but not by too much. At least she was relatively clean. "I don't pay you to be a fashion consultant," she retorted.

"Of course... mademoiselle..." the doctor replied in a mockery of politeness. "Let's see that eye of yours, hmm?"

Chantilly dutifully untied the bandage covering the left side of her face and dropped it in her lap. The brightness of the room at mid-day assaulted her newly-uncovered eye as it struggled to adjust, and she instinctively squinted her eyes back shut.

"Don't be difficult," the physician admonished her.

"I'm not," Chantilly snapped. forcing her unwilling eyes open again. Truthfully, there was nothing wrong with the eye itself, though it was merely luck to have turned out that way. Him telling her to keep her eyes open felt more like a consequence of class warfare than a necessity towards further diagnosis and assessment.

The doctor examined what was left of the wound, which was now nothing but a scar. The remnants of a thin blade's mark could still be seen, indicated by a pale, pink line of slightly puffy skin reached from just above her eyebrow, nicking the eyelid and slicing down and in along the cheek towards the nose, where it ended as suddenly as it began. He reached out with his finger to trace it along the cheek, a sensation that made Chantilly jump and wince. "Is that necessary?" she grumbled.

"I suppose not." The doctor withdrew his finger and gave Chantilly a bemused look. "The tissue's still very sensitive. I can't promise you that will ever change. However, it seems to have healed... miraculously well, for a wound like that."

"Miraculously," Chantilly repeated flatly. "Sure. Regardless, I'll be needing more of the opiate tincture, if you don't mind."

"More pain?" he questioned, disbelievingly.


The physician stifled a shiver from the serious gaze Chantilly was giving him. He didn't buy that she was really suffering all that much anymore, but if she really wanted it, who was he to argue? He walked over a picked up a small bottle and brought it to her. "That's all I have for the moment. You'll have to see the apothecary if you're going to need any more."

"That's fine." Chantilly slipped the bottle into her pocket, then picked up the bandage and began to tie it back onto the scarred half of her face.

"You really don't need that any more," the doctor told her, watching her re-dress her wound. She ignored him and continued, lifting up her short hair on one side to wind the bandage underneath it. A flash of odd color caught the doctor's attention. "Just a second," he said, grabbing her wrist roughly and lifting her hair up higher for a better look. The strands on the underside of her head of hair were an odd, pale color, almost grayish, a striking contrast to the rest of Chantilly's medium-brown locks.

Chantilly dropped the bandage again and craned her neck around to try and see what the man was looking at. "What is it?"

The doctor selected a particularly faded strand and yanked hard to remove it from Chantilly's scalp, then handed it to her. "There, now you can see for yourself," he snapped at her. "You're a bit young to be be silver-haired, aren't you?"

She scowled angrily at him before examining the hair herself. "That's hardly a polite question." Sure enough, it was nearly silver-colored in hue. A feeling of unease set over her. "What would cause this? The opium?"

"No, not the opium." The doctor took a step back and studied Chantilly carefully. "Come to think of it, the rest of your hair is fading out as well. You hadn't noticed?"

"My personal appearance isn't exactly the highest priority I have at the present."


"Shut up," she snarled. "If you're not going to be helpful - "

"I don't know what would cause it, mademoiselle. However, hair color has never been a danger to anything but a woman's aptitude to marriage, I expect." The doctor smiled as Chantilly seemed to seethe at the insinuation. "I would not concern yourself, and instead find yourself a proper wig on your way to the apothecary's."

Chantilly finished wrapping the bandage again and glowered at the disagreeable man. "I think we're finished for today," she grunted.

"Suit yourself." The physician shrugged. "You know the fee for the appointment and the laudanum. Oh, and next time you come by, do mind that you dress for the occasion. I can't allow the town to start thinking I'm running a charity here."

Chantilly angrily threw a coin purse on the table and stalked out, muttering to herself.
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PostSubject: Re: Aftermath   Aftermath Icon_minitimeWed Mar 04, 2009 8:50 am

Having arrived back in Pensacola, Chantilly began to head for the docks. She wanted to get her newest ship, a combat-ready Indiaman, out to Cayo for a few modifications before taking it towards the nearest combat zone. That would require a quick recruitment. Somehow she expected more resistance than normal for this particular ship; she imagined quite a few would have second or third thoughts after hearing its name. Perhaps she'd have to break out the "do you know who I AM?" pirate routine again. She used to hate it. Now, it seemed like standard operating procedure to get what she needed from unwilling participants.

Suddenly a strong wave of illness came over her. She sensation was familiar, and the combination of both mental and physical unease made her instinctively step off the main street to a side alley filled with shadows, orienting herself against the wall to hide while still keeping a clear, if narrow, view of the street. A few moments passed with no sign of the source. It made Chantilly patently nervous, so much so that she missed the hand reaching out to tap her shoulder from behind.

Chantilly jumped and her hand fell down to her sword. "Too late for that," a voice hissed. "If I'd wanted to kill you, you'd be dead." Out of the shadows slipped the queen of hearts, frowning in disapproval.

"You're alive," Chantilly breathed sharply.

"As are you," the queen replied. "Of course, my continued existence is not a surprise to me. Nor should it be to you. Surely your sense of inner sight felt my presence."

"But I thought... the explosions..." Chantilly struggled to remember.

"The Templar do seem to have a penchant for dramatic endings. All that powder was such a waste..." The queen smiled tautly. "But who am I to tell them how to do their job, hmmm?"

"You escaped them?"

The queen laughed. "They let me come with them. I was their informant for that location, after all."

Chantilly blinked. "You betrayed the Umbra?" she asked, disbelieving.

"They were becoming weak. Disorganized. Though we once were an intelligence network stretched across all of Europe and its colonies, they'd become particularly obsessed with taking out the Custodes in recent years. Once their rivals were finally gone, they had nothing else to focus on except that damnable sword. And you, by proxy. The whole thing led to backbiting, power plays, infighting, as to what they'd do once they could finally wield its power." The queen stretched and yawned, as if the whole topic were boring. "The organization had outlived its usefulness to me."

"I thought the Umbra helped you once." Chantilly pointed towards her own head, making a motion to indicate insanity. "And you just sold them out?"

"Don't ask that with such a self-righteous tone," the queen snapped. "You're alive because of it, and nearly all of those responsible for the murders of your colleagues are dead."

"But you didn't do it for me, or for my colleagues. You did it for yourself."

"Quite right. Does that matter?"

"Of course it does!"

"Why? The outcome is the same. Those that wrought chaos have been sentenced for their crimes."

"Not you," Chantilly spat.

"Or you either, little pirate girl." The queen smiled, but her eyes flashed with danger. "The world is neither as black nor white as you once believed, is it? But you've known that for some time. That you would attempt to crucify me with it now is laughable."

Chantilly folded her arms. "You were an Umbra agent for years. You think you can wash your hands of their evil so easily?"

"Do you still think the Custodes were knights in shining armor as well? Doing God's bidding? Did agents of the Lord really treat you with such disrespect?" The queen laughed mockingly. "See them for what they were, Celestine. Agents seeking power through deception, violence, and arcane ritual. They were two sides of the same coin."

"And your new masters? The Knights Templar? Are they just coins as well?"

"If the Custodes and Umbra were coins, the Knights Templar are the creators of that coin's mold. Truly, I am surprised they allowed those two groups to flourish so long before ensuring they were snuffed out. They are, and continue to be, keepers of secrets older than we could dream about. Well, if you and I were ordinary people, of course." The queen smiled.

"Of course," Chantilly repeated flatly.

"Why do you speak with such derision?" the queen asked disapprovingly. "You and I are rare creatures with valuable, sought-after talents. What I do not understand is why you won't embrace that."

"Embracing madness? Is that what you do? It would explain quite a bit."

The queen stopped to look at Chantilly in feigned surprise. "My, you are a bitter child."

Chantilly glared back. "It runs in the family."

The queen laughed, this time with a geniune sound. "At least you seem to have a quick mind and inner strength, despite your bitterness," she assessed. "If only you wouldn't look upon what I do with such disrespect."

"What you do, huh? You have been and continue to be, willingly, a pawn of these organizations that care not for anything but themselves. You mock and despise them, but you continue to offer them aid. Tell me, what of that should I respect?"

The queen's amused demeanor faded. "You foolish girl," she rebuked Chantilly. "There was a time and a place not so far from here when people like you and I would have been called witches, heretics, devil worshipers. Organizations like the Umbra and the Templar were the only places of refuge, the only place where we could find both usefulness and respect for what we can see that others cannot."

"It isn't as if you didn't have a choice. You chose to join them. You could have chosen to use the visions for something else. Something good," Chantilly reminded the queen.

"Don't be naive. The times might be changing, and the climate in the Caribbean more forgiving due to superstition and voudoun, but do not forget that our own ancestors were persecuted. Where we might try to do well by others, we will always be suspect of the worst the human mind can fathom."

"Then don't use them at all. Try to live like everyone else."

"We aren't like everyone else. It is not a crime to use your gifts to better your own station in life, child. Even if no-one else will appreciate you, even if the whole world forsakes you, it doesn't matter if you can rely on yourself to stay alive. Whether I served the Umbra or laid down my life like a saint for an angry mob, neither one really matters. What is important is that the way I live has allowed me to amass enough wealth, power, and respect so that I can stay free and alive." The queen paused. "Believe it or not, I only want the same for you."

Chantilly rolled her eyes. "You want me to be 'free' as some mystical organization's psychic lackey."

"I'm not a Templar 'lackey'. They'd be a fool to trust me that much, both they and I know that." The queen smiled, as if entertained by the thought of it. "We had similar goals in finishing the Umbra, and then we parted ways out of mutual respect. Perhaps we will work together again someday. But for now, I am a free agent. My clients are of my own choice and my skills quite marketable."

"And that's why you're here," Chantilly finished for her.

"I came to see you, Celestine," the queen protested.


"And to make you a proposition, shrewd one." The queen smiled. "You're affiliated with the Highland Confederacy again now, yes?"

"And what if I was?"

"I have a client that is very interested in one of your fellow confederates..."

Chantilly shook her head. "I won't spy on anyone. That's your vocation, not mine."

"I had a feeling you would say that, and trust me, I would not ask you to pry into anyone's secrets," the queen replied expectantly. "But it would be very much appreciated if you kept an ear to the ground. Perhaps you will notice something useful that you'd be willing to share with me. Within your own lofty moral boundaries, of course."

"There is no chance of that."

"Suit yourself." The queen shrugged. "Of course, I'll find you if you change your mind."

"You're keeping me from captain's duties," Chantilly informed her flatly. "Goodbye, queen."

"Call me Grand-mère," the queen replied, a pained look on her face.

"No." Chantilly turned to go.

The queen sighed. "I do hope that someday you will come around," she called after Chantilly.

"No chance of that either," Chantilly muttered to herself, hastily walking out of the alley.

The queen watched her granddaughter go with an unreadable look. It had not gone well on any personal level. But professionally? She smiled ever so slightly. Professionally, it was only the start.
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