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PostSubject: an unfair assessment   Wed May 13, 2009 11:55 am

The sound of Emile's words echoing over and over made her usual room at St. Augustine feel all the more dark, cold, and empty than usual. Chantilly pressed her face deeper into the pillow, as if to shut out all sensation of the outside world, hoping to drown herself in nothingness. Unfortunately, the voices were all in her head, and she just carried them deeper and deeper inside herself with each iteration.

This reaction... she hadn't been ready for this. She'd prepared herself for the opposite. For ice and stone, for cold and careless winds sweeping away hopes and prayers, for turning around and sailing back out again with the tide, shattered and broken like always.

He'd... never yelled at her before.

She'd deserved it previously... Many times, probably more than she knew. Especially if... if what he said was... "I have almost forgotten what the hell I saw in you in the first place and why I have put up with your antics for so damned long."

God, she'd been so... so stupid. Everyone had been right after all, and her so completely wrong. How many times had she misjudged him? How many times had they been so close only for her to give up again... "You have just never had the attention span to give it a chance." How many times?

It was... not something she wanted to think about. His assessment of her love life was the only part she felt unfair. Every month was beyond exaggeration, but considering it now, with his point of view suddenly so clear? His bitterness was understandable.

There'd been three, she supposed, since they'd met and subsequently began their series of awkward misunderstandings... William, Marcus, and Reynaud. Marcus had been a genuine love budded out of a longer-standing acquaintanceship of kindnesses. She felt a twinge of guilt, seeing now how much that must have stung for Emile to have idly watched it develop in front of him. It had hurt him badly. She assumed now that it had been the driving force behind his betrayal of her to the Umbra.

But last night's words weren't just about Marcus. The source of Emile's ire, she guessed by the way he'd hissed and spit the word "poet"... was the other two, the rebounds of hers, practically history repeating itself. Both times, a sensitive, well-spoken man looked to her for love, and she'd allowed them to fill the void that despair over her latest perceived rejection by Emile had left behind. And in both cases, it had burned itself out quickly, leaving her feeling bitter and more unfulfilled than ever before. She imagined she wasn't the only one who felt that way now.

Emile's assessment... unfair, but the sentiment wasn't. It made her sick inside to think of it. He had been there for her, had never denied her any request that was within his power to grant, no matter how many times she'd turned away. He probably thought her ungrateful now. Abusive of his good graces. It was no wonder he didn't believe her, that he was angry with her for not even giving him the small kindness of knowing she was all right.

If she'd not been so stupid... opened her damned eyes sooner, not been such a coward... She should have known that he loved her all along.

Even if he'd never said it, even if he never would. She should have known.
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PostSubject: Re: an unfair assessment   Fri May 15, 2009 11:04 am

She'd heard the same message twice now, once from Seamus and once from that odd gentlemanly pirate Kaichee, both saying the same basic thing: "Just go tell him and see what happens, if you don't want to be miserable forever."

They were right, of course, and she knew it, but knowing and acting were completely different animals. It was easy for them to say that, as if bravery were simply some choice she had to make.

She knew differently. She knew what it meant to just throw herself into things hoping for a good outcome. Probably better than most. She'd once been the kind of girl to do just that, but... not anymore.

Tonight had reminded her of that, very pointedly. Watching Rutan's crude, forceful advances had frozen her in place. Under any other circumstances, she might have just gutted the man for underestimating and misjudging her; he had it coming and she had enough pent-up frustration to not feel bad about it.

But she couldn't bring herself to do it. In the man's disgustingly hungry look for a quick and easy lay, memories flashed through her head, paralyzing her, reminding her of the way Redcross had given that look years before. She wondered if she'd been alone tonight, if Rutan would have had nothing but his friends around to back him up, if he'd have just taken what he wanted from her too.

That's what happens when you're brave, when you take life as it comes, roll with the punches and jump off the cliff not knowing how it'll end, she told herself. The last thing she could have thought when she'd bravely joined the crew was how there would be no one to hear her scream.

Not that she hadn't appeared to brave other times... but only with the threat of near-certain death as the likely outcome. Surrendering to the authorities at New Orleans, taking on the fleet at Irish Point, or as the Visionary, or aiding some woebegotten revolution... her "misadventures", as Emile had called them... all were undertaken with the intent to kill her.

She'd gone into them looking to die at the end, hoping to die, to make her existence meaningful and the pain stop in the same ending breath. Death had looked certain, it had been her motivation. The fact that she had miraculously lived through all of them made her appear brave, but there'd been no bravery in it. Only suicide.

No, she didn't do brave, she didn't have the guts or the will for that anymore, did she? Hadn't she managed enough punishment for a lifetime? Them telling her to swallow her fears, simply walk in and tell Emile the truth, that she was sorry and that she hadn't known and that she wanted him and wanted to try again... wasn't that just them telling her to go get herself hurt?

Maybe it was true, and it certainly seemed true, that the only way to settle things was to just do it. Jump off the cliff, knowing full well that he might not be there to catch her. Knowing how much it will hurt if he didn't, but... at least maybe then it would finally be over.

Maybe it was the only way. She just didn't know how she'd ever manage it.
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PostSubject: Re: an unfair assessment   Tue May 19, 2009 1:31 pm

Chantilly turned over, restlessly, her sleep fitful and strained. She murmured aloud in a strange voice, desperate with fear, longing for help, but she was alone in the Tortuga tavern's upstairs rooms, which had become almost as familiar to her as her usual place in St. Augustine.

She hated both rooms now, to an extent. They were tainted with memories of a mistake whose arms she'd fallen into willingly again and again. A sad, pathetic excuse to placate a lonely heart, another avenue in which she could find a reason to die. The candle's light exposed shadows of their bodies playing out against the walls everywhere she'd turned... Mistakes, misjudgments, hopes deferred by her own stupidity.

A sudden storm battered her ship all night. She'd finally lost her balance and fallen backwards, a strong gale toppling her overboard. Her hair whipped into her face as she fell back and down into the sea, her arms outstretched, reaching up, looking for anything left on which she could grab hold...

It was the same dream she'd had every night recently. Though she'd nearly made herself sick with drink multiple times in the past week, apparently she hadn't managed to pass out long enough this time to get through a sleep cycle without the reoccurring nightmare. Anxieties manifested...

She hadn't gone back to Florida to see him. She made new excuses, put it off until a forever tomorrow, then found a new route to wander through the city to pass the time. Tortuga, this city she hated so much, but knew it was at least safe from being accidentally found, from being caught, from anything making her deal with it, with him, until she was ready.

And then there was the matter of the note.

But there was nothing, only her, the waves surging over her face, as she gasped and sputtered and fought to stay above. Each wave seemed stronger than the last, each paddling stroke she made a bit weaker, until she finally gave out, and she was pulled under.

A moderately crumpled letter covered in bloodstained fingerprints lay next to the bed. The handwriting on the was a familiar script, fancy, looping and curling needlessly, as if to impress the reader with its own importance. It was the Queen's; or had been just before she died. Chantilly had pulled herself up, made her way over to the old woman's body. Screamed in her face, trying to wake her, but it was too late and futile. It had ripped through her heart, her life pooling on the floor of Chantilly's cabin.

There'd been nothing on the body at all besides that note. No money, no weapons beyond the one she'd used to pierce Chantilly's shoulder. Nothing to protect her. She'd come to die. Chantilly had known then it was prophecy. Goddamned prophecy. No choices.

Celestine, please don't hate yourself or me for what has just transpired. It was either you, or me. I'm an old woman, and you're too young and stupid to play God.

No, you need a reason to live. Following that boy... you'll understand soon enough how much heartbreak you'd have caused. It all had to end. Maybe this will be enough to finally set us free.

I have an office in Tortuga. Everything in it, is yours, when you find it. All the answers to your questions lie inside.

I'm sorry.

Her lungs began to fill and she tried to scream, but only choked and suffocated. Her eyes blurred just as she thought she could see a hand extending into the water to pull her up, but her consciousness was already slipping away.

Chantilly's eyes flickered open, and she bolted upwards to a sitting position... Was she dead? No, she was awake again. Her head was pounding, the result of days on end of resolving one hangover with the beginning of a new one. Another painful morning. Another painful decision of whether today would be the day she booked her passage back home.
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PostSubject: Re: an unfair assessment   Fri May 22, 2009 10:55 am

A sharp knock on the door interrupted Chantilly's pity party, the sound reverberating through her aching, hung-over head. She glared irritably at the door as if the object were the source of the pain before sliding off the bed, grabbing her dagger off the side-table just in case, and making her way over. She cracked the door open and muttered, "What is it you want?"

"You are Miss Celestine?" a female voice replied in French. It was obviously not the woman's first tongue, the nasal tones lacking the subtle lightness of a native speaker's.

Chantilly looked the woman over, her eyes widening in vague recognition. The woman appeared to be in her thirties, of some European descent, with short, dark brown hair and brown eyes that seemed unnervingly genuine. "You knew the queen," Chantilly replied tartly, her eyes caught on the woman's, unable to look away. "You were at my pit fight."

"This is true," the woman admitted quietly. "May I come in?"

"Not without telling me what you want first," Chantilly demanded.

"I am here to assist with your note," the woman offered with a soft smile. "My name is Maria. I know that you do not trust me, but I mean you no ill or harm."

Chantilly scoffed. "I find that hard to believe, if you -"

"Please, Miss Celestine."

Chantilly hesitated, but for some reason found herself opening the door wider despite her misgivings. The woman gracefully stepped through the crack the minute it was wide enough for her to do so. She was a slender woman, wearing a simple cream-colored dress that made Chantilly's mind wander as she pondered how the woman kept it so clean in a place like Tortuga.

Maria looked around the room and sniffed the air, then focused on Chantilly a concerned expression. "You are having a rough week?" she asked knowingly.

"Just... say whatever it is you've come to say, will you?" Chantilly folded her arms crossly.

"As you wish." Maria sighed and closed her eyes for a brief moment before beginning to speak. "I come from an organization called Les Échos. We are a spy network, made of remnants of the Ordo Umbra intelligence division.

"The Umbra is still alive?" Chantilly gasped.

"No, Miss Celestine. The Umbra is gone... largely in part to our efforts. Did you think your grandmother was acting alone in betraying them to the Templars?"

"But why -"

"The Umbra lost its way... and many of us in the know, that were not here for glory or for power or some spiritual mystery, we felt that the ends no longer justified the means. And we turned against our masters." Maria shrugged. "It is not as complicated as it might seem. I am sure Miss Renee told you the same."

"Renee...?"

"Your grandmother," Maria corrected quickly. "That... was her real name. She served as our leader and founder; many of us were recruited into the Umbra by her, and we never lost that loyalty. I was her second-in-command in the Echoes."

Chantilly looked at the strange woman skeptically. "And you're here bothering me with this because..."

"Because Miss Renee is dead, and you are her only living relative. Everything that was hers, is now yours. Including her position in the Echoes, her client list... and me."

"You?" Chantilly scoffed. "I thought you said that you were second-in-command, not her slave. Why not take the position over yourself?"

"We do not operate that way, Miss Celestine. Miss Renee was respected by all of us, and we were loyal to her. It was her desire for you to take the helm." Maria sighed, watching the confusion and disbelief play out over Chantilly's face. "I was watching at the pit that day because she wanted to show me that I had nothing to fear at your future leadership."

Chantilly sat down on the edge of the bed, her mind swimming. "You... can't be serious," she muttered.

"I would not lie to you, Miss Celestine."

"My name is Chantilly. Perhaps the queen was too stubborn to accept that, but if you don't mind..."

Maria looked a little taken aback. "Of course..." she replied with a deferent tone. "Chantilly." She sat down on the bed next to the younger woman, almost appearing to want to console her. "I understand that this is a lot to accept. I will do everything I can to assist you."

"Assist me?" Chantilly spat. "You think I'm going to just go along with this?"

"I do believe you will, in time. We are not your enemy; neither was your grandmother. She only wanted the best for you. Do you realize this?"

"She had a pretty funny way of showing it."

"She had a funny way of doing most things, Miss Chantilly, but I assure you that she did this, all of this, for your benefit. Or do you want to be nothing but a man's arm-side accessory for the rest of your life? You are more than some socialite or businesswoman, more than your pirate past and more than an accessory to a half-dozen causes, none being your own."

"And you expect me to believe that this isn't just some cause to be swept up into as well?"

"We serve no crown, no higher power, no quest for glory. We are independant contractors to whomever we choose. Masters of our own destiny." Maria's eyes glinted. "More than what we were, and with the possibility to be anything."

Chantilly sighed. "I thought that you said you were here to assist with the note," she deflected, not wanting to think at all on the implications of these revelations.

Maria nodded. "Of course. I expected you might need a guide to Miss Renee's office, as well as someone to help you look through the records."

"Records?"

"Of course. We have dossiers on the majority of the Umbra operatives and missions from the last half-century at our disposal, and some about the Custodes as well. I assumed you would want to know -"

"I don't know what I want to know just yet," Chantilly interrupted.

"As you wish," Maria shrugged. "Nevertheless, I can take you there as soon as you clean up and are ready to go. There is even an adjoining apartment there for you to move into, which is much more suitable for someone of your station than this tavern."

"Someone of my station..." Chantilly muttered, rolling her eyes. "I don't have time for this, madame. Not now. I need to be returning to St. Augustine. My boat and crew are there."

"Ah, yes, to speak to the Marquis, correct?" Maria asked, smiling. Chantilly gave her an angry expression. "We have been watching for some time, Miss Chantilly. Your argument in the bar was hardly a secret."

"Don't meddle in my affairs," Chantilly growled.

"We wouldn't. We only watched, observed, nothing more." Maria placed a hand on Chantilly's shoulder gently. "You will need a new crew, however."

Chantilly looked shocked. "Why? Did you kill them? If you -"

"No, no no. We would not do that either. I simply must regret to inform you that your crew's displeasure with your eccentric and dangerous leadership has reached a fever pitch. I very much doubt many will report for your next sailing, and those that do will likely mutiny."

"They... might be right to do so. I've dragged many of them across the Caribbean a dozen times, with nothing but my own emotional whims as a guidemap." Chantilly bit her lip just thinking about it.

"So it is," Maria agreed kindly. "But you happen to have a new crew at your disposal in St. Augustine. They have been waiting for you since Miss Renee's death. And I will be accompanying you as your new first officer."

"I don't just let anyone sail on my ship," Chantilly argued.

Maria shook her head. "In this, I must insist. You will find us well-trained, loyal... quite indisposable. Everything that Miss Renee had is now yours, and that includes the crew. And I will do what I must to earn your trust."

"Fine... fine. We'll do this your way," Chantilly sighed defeatedly. "Show me this... office... and then we'll take the next ship out to St. Augustine to meet your crew. But only because I don't have the time or the patience to hire a new set, or the guns to attempt a press gang..."

Maria smiled good-naturedly. "You will not regret this, Miss Chantilly."

"I doubt that."
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