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PostSubject: Prices   Tue Apr 07, 2009 8:51 am

It wasn't long after Emile and Reynaud's departure north that the Nemo Malus Felix left port in the opposite direction, intending to round the peninsula and head for Tampa.

She hated Tampa with a passion because it reminded her of a simpler time; the ghosts of her simpler self walked the streets. Sometimes she would see herself flitting about inside her cabin, primping, beautiful and so stupid, so single-minded, with her only care in the world how she'd appear to the Commodore at some silly Confederate event. Other times, she was standing on tables in dark and dusty taverns, raising hell with Mean Celestine's battle cry, furious and indiscriminate, dangerous yet naive.

They were stark contrasts, her ghosts, but underneath the unearthly layer of appearance, they were the same, both caught in the tumultuous uncertainty that was her young adulthood. It was a time where impulsiveness and insecurity reigned. Chantilly hated her former selves and their relentless posthumous reminders of her earliest sins. It was entirely the wrong city to be visiting with a disquiet heart, if only for memory's sake. But she had to go there. It's where her tailor's shop was. She was already overdue to pick up her dress and check the alterations.

She looked about her cabin with a sigh. Her first night alone in near on a week. Finally, the space to stretch out again. No stench of fear and bloody bandages in the air. Freedom to do whatever pleased without the concern of wandering eyes and ears, or the sound of the revolution marching through in the tempo of Reynaud's relentless manifesto of a burning world.

Finally, it was over, the hectic week gone, her privacy and sanity restored... and yet she couldn't sleep. Not a bit. She couldn't stay still, not even lay down, pacing back and forth and back again in rhythm to the rocking of the boat. The weight of the stress of having Reynaud's well-being in her hands had been lifted, but in its wake, it had swiftly been replaced by worry. And, she noted with annoyance, loneliness.

Loneliness? Oh, God forbid... She sighed heavily. Damn it. Damn it all to hell. How was it that now that he was safe and gone, that life was not so complex and dangerous, that this would be the time she felt most agitated? A chink in the ice queen's armor, MacLoran's words echoed through her head.

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"Mademoiselle! I have been wondering what had happened to you that kept you away from me for so long!" the tailor gushed as Chantilly entered the shop.

"You saw me but a month ago," she corrected him good-naturedly.

"Ah, but look at you!" he exclaimed, fluttering to her side, wringing his hands. "Have you even eaten since then? Slept? Those sharp collar and cheek bones, and those dark circles! You are a mess, Mlle Angevin, an absolute mess, I can see this, oui?"

She sighed as he circled around her, sizing her up visually with a mild scowl on his face. "Oui..." she replied tentatively.

"Oh, this will not do, not at all..." he mused to himself. His head snapped up to look at her directly. "We can try on the dress, of course, but I fear I will need to work on it a bit more now that you are in this... state!" He dashed into the back room to fetch it.

"It's that bad?" she called after him dejectedly.

"Oh, non, non, not... 'that' bad," he called back after a moment of hesitation, still rummaging about in his pins and his needles.

It's that bad, she realized with a sad sigh. For the moment, she was now glad that she had no escort; there was no handsome man to be impressing. She doubted Reynaud was even serious about showing up to the ball when he'd joked about it before - and after the week he'd just had, he'd be a fool to go anyway. It wasn't his scene, and it was probably the wrong crowd to which he should be preaching his message.

It'd probably just end in trouble. Maybe even heartache for her. The draw between them was strong, and they seemed well-matched in so many ways, in wit and in passion and propensity for diving into trouble head-first. He evoked things from her she wasn't even comfortable knowing she had inside, raising questions for which she had no answers. She had let herself slip into love, and she knew it. But love wouldn't be enough. He'd been lucky this time, but the next time? Why get attached? Did she really want to lose another soul like she'd lost Marcus - did she really want to put herself through that?

She shook her head, not wanting to answer her own question. Maybe she shouldn't worry about it. She wasn't sure she'd even see him alive ever again. She might not be there to run to next time he found a musketball in his chest.

"Mademoiselle." The tailor interrupted her thoughts, peering at her curiously, dress over his arm. "You are not helping by crying. A dress isn't everything. Though it is close!" He grinned. "Now try this on, oui?"

She reached up to her exposed eye and was surprised to find a tear threatening there. She wiped it away angrily and took the dress, holding it up, examining it in the window's light. It was a dark-colored, dramatic dress. Eye-catching. Intense. Perfect for how she felt these days.

With a heavy sigh and the tailor's assistance, she slipped into it, and he began lacing up the back. "Oh, Mlle Angevin, how could you cry with a masterpiece like this?" he teased her gently. "Even in your state, between my handiwork and the forgiveness of makeup, we can fix you up to be as beautiful as ever, oui?" He finished pulling the bodice tight and circled around her, putting in a few pins in various places around her chest and hips, marking where her loss of weight had been dramatic enough for him to bother altering it.

"Beautiful as ever, huh," she repeated disbelievingly.

"Though, might I suggest that you stay in port a little while... have a meal or a dozen at the tavern. You have a pretty face, even with the scars, but a good man will want a little softness on their woman. Someone to make fat and happy, who will bear them lots of fat sons." The tailor laughed.

"We both know I'll never live that long. Or settle down, for that matter."

"Too true, Mlle Angevin, too true. Still, God forbid that you die young, should I lose my cherished customer!" He gave a silly grin that Chantilly found slightly infectious, and her mouth turned up a bit. "See, now, with a less miserable expression, you are a vision... truly lovely."

"You always say that."

The tailor began to loosen the back again, his assessment of the needed alterations completed. "Because it is true! I also always say, it would be quite the man who could refuse you anything. Especially whatever man has made you so unhappy this time. He will regret that when he sees you."

She sighed. "How did you know..."

The tailor laughed. "Oh, mademoiselle. You are a brave sea captain, oui? You are not afraid of anything, except your own heart."

Chantilly rolled her eyes and shrugged. "So how long to finish the dress?" she asked, ignoring his pointed observation.

"It is not as bad as I thought. Come back tomorrow. You can pay me then. For the dress, and for cheering you up."

"I didn't realize I had to pay you for the latter."

"Times are hard, Mlle Angevin. The war never ends, and no one has time for pretty dresses for a ball anymore." He shrugged as Chantilly collected herself, and he opened the door to the shop wide to let her out. "Everything has a price now. Even your smiles."
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PostSubject: Re: Prices   Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:13 pm

It was sunset in Tampa when she found it. The air was getting uncharacteristically cool, and she grabbed her jacket from inside the her cabin. She slipped her arm through one side, then heard the faint crinkle of paper. She stopped and reached into one of the small inside pockets and pulled out a folded note.

Her mind raced as she carefully uncreased it, scanning the contents rapidly with her eyes. It wasn't signed, but her heart was immediately caught in its verses. A love poem.

When... how long had it been in her pocket without her knowing? She counted back in her mind, trying to recall when she'd last needed a jacket, but the past week was such a blur. A couple of days, at least. Maybe when that storm had passed through. She wasn't sure. Did it matter? She wasn't sure about that either.

She pulled her arms tightly around her and disembarked from her ship, needing a walk to clear her head. She felt confused. Angry, frustrated, lonely, worried... Love-sick? She slowly wound her way past the docks, through the darkening streets and back alleys. One foot in front of the other, purposeful, but not knowing what it was she was looking for out here. A fight? An answer? Another one of the queen's mysterious moments of interference? She looked up to see the emerging moon, the stars. Solace? She swallowed hard.

She was lost enough in her thoughts that she did not even notice her old friend approaching from behind. "Busy day," Solyne Diana greeted her with a cheery voice. "How are you, Tilly?"

Chantilly blinked once, a little surprised to see her there. "Oh, Sol..." she replied, a little stunned. "I'm... I'm all right."

"Good, good." Solyne put her hand on Chantilly's shoulder and gave her an earnest smile. "Now, the truth. How are you?"

Chantilly sighed and nearly smiled. "It's that obvious, huh. Let me guess. There's a 'chink in the ice queen's armor'?"

Solyne laughed. "More like a hole in your bow."

"Harsh, mon amie, harsh."

"You would not love me if I pulled the punch."

"True enough." Chantilly looked at her with a level expression. "And it's only because I love you that I owe you the truth in return, at least."

Solyne shrugged. "You owe me nothing, Tilly. You owe it to yourself, to allow a friend."

Chantilly sighed. "Either way." She looked down. "It's... about Langford."

"N'est-ce pas?" Solyne raised an eyebrow, surprised. "What has that guttersnipe done?"

Chantilly cringed internally at the insult. "I suppose... you didn't know... about the bounty on his head. In St. Augustine. It's where I've been for the last week."

"Bah, bounty. Is he dead then?"

"Not for the magistrate's lack of trying," Chantilly replied, shaking her head. "They attacked him. Ransacked his office, tore down his printing press, burned his books... and shot him. I don't know how he managed to get away, but..."

Solyne's devious expression faded, and she nodded, quietly waiting for Chantilly to continue.

"He came to my room at the tavern then... tried to die on my floor. Said it was the only safe place he knew. I bandaged him up, took care of him... I've been hiding him, until the Marquis of all people helped me get him out..." Chantilly continued babbling the story, knowing full well that without the details, it wouldn't make any sense, but she didn't know what to say. Still, the exhaustion and remaining echoes of desperation in her voice spoke volumes.

"Tilly..."

"He has feelings for me, Sol," she finally blurted. "Reynaud, he... loves me, and I..."

Solyne gave her a sympathetic expression. "You have not gazed too long in those traitorous English eyes, have you?" she asked her.

Chantilly sighed. "I... fear I have. No... I know I have."

"And what have you found within them?"

"His passion, Sol. It's... disarming. Utterly, completely, I... Mon dieu, I'm a hopeless case..."

Solyne cackled. "That you are, mon amie! So what do you wish now?"

"I don't know. I don't know, Sol. I wasn't looking for this. It just... happened. I don't even know where he is right now. We got him onto the Marquis' vessel, so..."

"Have no fear. You will see him again," Solyne said comfortingly. "So, he loves you, and you are... infatuated with him, n'est-ce pas?"

Chantilly nodded. "I haven't felt like this since... well... since before Marcus died," she admitted.

"Then, wherein lies your problem?" Solyne asked, giving her a strange look.

"We walk such different, dangerous paths, Sol. Reynaud will always be asking for a knife in the back with the things he says and believes. He was lucky this time, that I was there, that..."

"...that I was not?" Solyne teased. Chantilly shot her a wide-eyed, fearful look for a moment, and Solyne giggled. "I am building a very expensive ship, mon amie, but I would not slay your love for a few doubloons," she reassured her.

"I know that. I know. I..." Chantilly held her head in her hands. "I'm so very tired, Sol. Forgive me."

"Precious Chantilly, we live in such interesting times," Solyne replied in a mysterious, wise voice. "None of us may see the light of another day. What matters? A little pleasure, a little joy, in these times? It is all we have, this moment, and there may be no other. He may get a knife in the back, and you may swim with Davey Jones." She laid a gentle fingertip on Chantilly's cheek and smiled softly. "If there is love, take what you may of life's greatest joy, for as long as you can."

Chantilly sighed and offered a sad, uncertain smile. "But what is the point, knowing that it will end? And not just end, but end badly - in tears, or blood, or fire?"

Solyne pointed out to sea, and Chantilly followed her gaze. "Does anything ever truly end, Chantilly?" she asked quietly. "Do you not believe in heaven? You and your precious God, your savior? Your love of Marcus did not die. All of life is a circle, a time for love and a time for grief, and yet this is how we perservere, and continue. A child concieved in joy perpetuates a love through to the next generation, long after the parents are gone."

"You really believe that?"

"We take the fish from the sea, and eat them, then throw our trash back and the fish eat the trash. Everything goes forward. Everything is a circle. All things pass. We who are born shall die. Let us live with joy whenever, and wherever, we may find it."

"Even if it's with the troublesome revolutionary guttersnipe?" Chantilly answered, cracking a smile.

Solyne matched her smile with one of her own. "Do you really think I did not have affection for that pirate, Henk? For all I know, it was my own broadside that sent him to the bottom. But in our dealings, there was joy. And joy is enough."

"I... I hope you're right, Sol." Chantilly chuckled softly.


Last edited by Chantilly on Tue Apr 07, 2009 9:19 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Prices   Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:15 pm

Solyne nodded. "Do you want me to find him?" she asked brightly.

Chantilly blinked. "Find Reynaud?"

Solyne shrugs. "I have much room in Leogane... news travels slowly, and one Magistrate's writ may be ignored by another. Besides, I have much influence in Hispaniola. He could be made safe."

"He's probably fine... well, not fine, but with the Marquis, anyway. It's probably best if I don't know where he is. He just needs to lie low until the Marquis gets all this settled. I just have to trust that he knows that, and that he'll be all right. Wherever he is."

Solyne seems to ponder for a moment. "You don't happen to... have anything of his, do you?"

"Mostly just his words, really." The poem... and her memories.

"Come, Tilly, think. You wiped the blood from his flesh, you tended his wounds, likely emptied his bedpans. The tiniest stain of his blood will do."

Chantilly looked at her in alarm. "I... have a set of torn, bloody bedsheets... if I haven't thrown them out, but... why?"

"So that you may see his whereabouts. And condition."

"I'll... have to check... my ship..." Chantilly gave Solyne an uneasy look.

Solyne smiled. "Do not be afraid. You have long known I was not born French."

"Oui, but knowing and... actually hearing and seeing..."

"Just promise to keep this between ourselves."

Chantilly nodded slowly. "You have my word."

She quickly took off towards the dock, ran onboard the Nemo Felix Malus and searched her cabin for any scrap of the bloodied linens she'd stored here. She noticed a small piece she'd missed when cleaning it up the previous day and crumpled it in her hand protectively. What madness was this? She knew Solyne had an odd, mysterious past, but...

Solyne was waiting patiently outside the ship when Chantilly returned to her and held the scrap of linen out to her with a bit of trepidation. Solyne took it and motioned to Chantilly. "Follow," she instructed.

They both briskly made their way from the docks and down the beach, looking for a quiet place nearby. Suddenly Solyne stopped, spotting a cave. "There," she pointed. "We should have some privacy."

"I should hope so," Chantilly replied uneasily, looking around awkwardly. The cave seemed to stretch on forever in the darkness, and she shivered, her nerves catching up to her.

Solyne didn't seem affected in the slightest by their surroundings, and sat down cross-legged, removing a small bag from her waist and openning it. She removed a small black bowl of carved wood, vials of dust and water, and a silver coin. "Sit, please, Tilly."

Chantilly sat down reluctantly and looked at the assortment of items with a mix of curiosity and fear. Solyne laid the bowl in front of Chantilly, and pours a small amount of the dust into it, then the sea water. "There," Solyne mused. "That should be enough for a few uses."

"How does it... work?" Chantilly asked, disbelievingly.

Solyne touched the scrap of bloodied cloth to the water, making sure not to rinse all the blood away. "It is ancient Obeah magic, Tilly. Rest easy. The dust is the ground remains of a drowned sailor. His spirit wishes that no other should die alone."

A drowned sailor... "Wait, that's a dead man's body?"

Solyne nodded. "He died alone, at sea, and washed ashore. His spirit alone, his loved ones never knowing he was lost. I agreed to care for him respectfully, and he agreed that no sailor should die alone. So I ground his dried heart and buried the rest. He will grant you commune with your loved one."

Chantilly looked at her uneasily. "You're sure that he'd be... okay with this."

"I am certain." Solyne watched as the dust and water and blood form into a crystalline mirror and slipped the silver coin into the bowl. "Gaze into it, and chant your beloved's name, three times."

Chantilly shifted her uncertain gaze from Solyne's face down to the bowl, her expression filled with fear and disbelief. "Reynaud... Reynaud. Reynaud."

The mirror's pure surface swirled and a mist rose, forming into a picture of the troublesome man. Chantilly blinked, stunned as it took shape. Reynaud...

"What do you see, Tilly?"

"He's... asleep..." She blinked again, straining to focus. "He seems peaceful... not in too much pain, or... nightmares... but I don't recognize where he is."

"It doesn't matter, if he is at rest," Solyne said soothingly.

"At least he isn't... upset, or... worrying about me..." She shrugged a little sadly, missing his company terribly. What she wouldn't give to be there beside him right now.

Solyne closed her eyes. "Spend a little time with your beloved," she whispered, touching a fingertip to Chantilly's forehead. "Oubliez." And with that, Solyne vanished, as if she had never been there at all.

The next morning, Chantilly seemed to wake and had no recollection of how and why she'd ended up in the cave in Tampa. All she knew is that, to her great surprise, she was rested, and her heart felt at peace.
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PostSubject: Re: Prices   Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:24 pm

A lone candle was the only source of light in Chantilly's room that evening. It sat on a small, low table over which she was hunched, scribbling furiously on a piece of paper. She stopped suddenly, and her brow furrowed as she glared down at her handiwork. No... this won't do either.

She picked up the corner of the page and dangled it menacingly over the flame, as if to punish it for its inadequacy. The paper caught fire quickly, to her marginal delight. As the line of embers inched their way up towards her fingertips, she sighed heavily, then unceremoniously dropped it all in a pewter bowl nearby. It laid there on top of a growing mound of ash, a graveyard of pages that had come to die before.

How does Reynaud do it? He seemed to her the mouth of the river, water rushing forth into the sea of beautiful poetry and prose. Whereas everything she could ever think to write seemed some pitiful stream, drying up at the exact moment at which she bent down to drink from it.

The thought of it agonized her. Made her doubt herself, the sincerity of her feelings. How is it that the fire within his words could light her so well, and yet, she could not reciprocate? She wanted to, desperately. Wanted him to know how she felt, so he wouldn't have to wonder any longer, but... even the smallest, simplest phrases were elusive...

She placed her quill to a fresh page, waiting impatiently, attempting to will the words into being. How could she say what she needed to say... Suddenly the tip of the quill snapped in two, the repeated force of her frustration having taken its toll on its constitution, leaving nothing but a splattered blot of ink across the page.

At first she growled, muttering curses at the quill under her breath, until she saw the mark on the paper and stopped short, ruefully laughing aloud. That probably expresses more than anything else I've thought of tonight, she mused to herself, shaking her head. Maybe I'll just have to tell him in person.

Resignedly, she gently blew out the candle and carefully made her way to the bed in the darkness. It would be easier that way to pretend she wasn't sleeping alone.
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PostSubject: Re: Prices   Tue Apr 14, 2009 8:48 am

A gentle, rhythmic rapping at the door roused Chantilly from a light sleep of mildly troubled dreams. She sighed in exasperation as she rolled over and out of bed. The dawn was just peeking into the window. I never get to sleep anymore, she thought as she pulled her jacket over her nightclothes and armed herself with her pistol. "Who's there?" she called out through the door.

"Family," the familiar low voice of the queen answered.

"I don't have any," Chantilly replied. "Especially not any that knocks."

"You could if you wanted to. May I come in or not?"

Chantilly gave a heavy sigh and opened the door. The queen's face, wrinkled with longstanding menace and a smirk like a tattoo, stared back at her.

"Still asleep?" The queen smiled at Chantilly's disheveled state, then looked past her into the room and noticed the dying flowers. "Have some cabin boy in there with you? I thought you were the revolutionary's harlot these days. Purple hyacinths aren't his style."

Chantilly stepped in front of the queen's gaze. "Do you want something? Other than to insult me, I mean."

"Oh... yes, I do believe I did..." The queen trailed off for a moment, as if lost in a thought, her expression taking on a nearly confused appearance.

"Well, out with it!" Chantilly snapped impatiently, annoyed with the pretense.

"Ah, right..." the queen's face finally cleared of the odd expression and returned to its usual smirk. "I need you to meet me in Tortuga."

"Tortuga." A sinking feeling settled in Chantilly's chest. She hated that place.

The queen laughed, reading Chantilly's face like a map. "Afraid? Rather irrational, don't you think? They're your people."

"They're not."

"They were. Oh, stop, Celestine, they wouldn't get close enough to you to let it happen again."

Chantilly's pistol cocked involuntarily and was at the queen's chest before the sentence ended. "Don't you even speak about that," she growled, spurred on by memory. She would kill. She'd do it this time.

The queen closed her eyes. "Go on, Celestine, do it." Her voice was quiet, low and earnest, seemingly begging. "You know you want to."

"Enough mind games!" Chantilly spat, pressing the barrel into the queen's chest. "Tell me what's in Tortuga."

The queen breathed inward sharply. "Mr. Langford, of course. But you knew that. You could smell the stench of the place the minute you touched that letter he sent, couldn't you."

"So what if that's where he is," Chantilly retorted, her tone uncertain. Of course it mattered to her that he was there. It was a rough place, and him too stupidly brave for his own good. Even worse, though... she feared for his idealism, that the selfish, brutal culture would get the better of him. That the pirates would use him more than he could use them back.

"There are rumors..." the queen replied, the words coming out in nearly a sing-song tone. "Some little troublemaker's causing a stir. The malcontents among the malcontents... well, I won't ruin it for you." She smiled. "Go see for yourself."

"Or you could just tell me. If I'd wanted to follow Reynaud, watch the ripples, I would've gone already."

"No, you wouldn't. You're too afraid of what you'll find."

Chantilly's eyes flashed dangerously. "One of these days, queen, you're going to speak one word too many."

"But today's not that day, is it," the queen said softly, her voice tinged with near-disappointment.

What the hell is she playing at? Does she want to die? Chantilly finally dropped her arm, letting the pistol hang idly from her hand. "No. It isn't."

The queen sighed. "Just as well. This wasn't about Langford anyway." She smirked, but it lacked its usual edge.

Chantilly glared at her, unnerved by the queen's change in tactics. Usually, she tried to intimidate her way, but now? It didn't make sense. "So what is it about?"

"I'll meet you there. I want to show you something."

"Show me what?"

"I'll show you when you get there." The queen smiled.

Chantilly shook her head. "I don't want you anywhere near Tortuga. Not while Reynaud's there."

The queen laughed. "Where do you think I've been for the last two weeks, child?"

"You're stalking him?" Chantilly exclaimed.

"I didn't say that. Tortuga's a big place."

"Not that big."

"Big enough that those who want to remain unseen stay unseen, and those like your little revolutionary can make waves that ripple across the entire Caribbean." The queen looked at Chantilly with a mild amusement. "You'll see."

"I'm not going to Tortuga," Chantilly protested.

"Yes, you are. Because he's there. And you want to be where he is."
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