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PostSubject: Le Château des Chats   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeWed Feb 06, 2008 6:08 pm

Le Château des Chats
Le Château des Chats 2007121lglookingbackvb0

Nestled in the foothills outside of Tampa is the sprawling estates of Le Château des Chats. The grounds inhabit a wide area stretching from rugged forested hills, down through verdant green fields and orchards to the sparkling blue of the Caribbean. A pair of silent cat statues keep watch over the solitary entrence, a simple metal gate standing between the two alabaster guardians. Winding away from the plantation's entrence is a single dusty road that, if followed, would lead one back to Tampa proper within an hour or two walk.

Passing through the gate presents on with a quaint, meandering road that seems perfectly happy to take you on a slow, round about tour of the entire grounds, seemingly twisting and turning as it winds its way through orchard and vinyard. Several outlying barns and buildings can be seen, each a uniform white and well maintained.

One can immediately see how fertile the land is here. The earth, when upturned, is a rich, dark brown. The grape leaves color a full spectrum of greens, rustling slightly as they sway gently in the breeze, rocked by the deep purple grapes that cascade off of them. Large fields of wheat and maize can be seen in the distance, their golden hue cheery amongst the twinkling backdrop of the nearby sea.

Le Château des Chats 607266550x550mbartr0tx1

More and more people are seen going about their days work as you get deeper into the estate, well fed and cared for workers singing in the fields, wagons loaded with raw materials piled high carefully being moved from field to the nearby waiting warehouses and barns to be processed. The voices carried to you from the wind are jovial and relaxed, speaking a mixture of heavily accented English, and more predominantly French. And every direction you turn your head, there seems to be a cat, real live ones this time, disappearing into a bush, prowling through a wheat field, or napping in a lazy beam of sunlight.

A small private port can be seen at the waters edge, the small natural cove barely big enough for two or three ships to make anchor at once. A heavy-duty pier jutting out into the water at the end of a well-worn road allows the wagons full of provisions and spirits to be loaded directly onto the ships, minimizing the need to travel into Tampa proper. A small cottage and attached warehouse stand next to the pier, home to the skilled carpenter who tends to the vessels berthed in the cove.

Passing by several barns, their doors wide open, one can just make out the massive wine presses at work. Entire wagon loads of freshly picked grapes are up-ended into the devices and then slowly pressed, the raw juice filling cask after cask. Once they have been secured in their casks they are taken away to the wine vaults located deep under the Château to be aged and fermented properly.

Le Château des Chats Columbiawineryna9

Located at the heart of the estate is the Château proper, a modest two story plantation building at the end of a long column of willow trees. The dappled light plays fancifully through the freshly raked dirt leading to the front of the building, the ever present cats crossing the path forward at least once as you approach the front door.

Music floats down from above through one of the open windows, a simple lace curtain blowing in the wind. The tinkle of laughter and wine glasses raised in toast intermingles with the music. Once inside one is immediately struck by the rustic beauty of the place. Hand-worked banisters sweep up the spiral staircase heading upstairs towards the sound of the merry-making, and well-loved heirlooms from the winelands of Champagne line the walls.

The building is split into three sections, the West Wing, reserved for guests and visitors, as well as a modestly appointed sitting room, the East Wing, home to the bedrooms and residence of the proprietor of the estate, and then the Central Hall, that actually houses the main kitchen, larder, and formal dinning room.

Le Château des Chats Southernplantationhomeeh1

(This is a location post. This first post is intended to setup a location for further Role-Playing, which will be posted here subsequently. Feel free to visit. All are welcome!)
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PostSubject: Re: Le Château des Chats   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeThu Feb 07, 2008 5:05 am

Wonderful indeed, so this is your "modest" winery i take it?
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PostSubject: A Day Amongst the Grapes...   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeThu Feb 07, 2008 5:05 pm

(this is in deed my "modest" farm and vinyard. thanks for stopping by!)

A Day Amongst the Grapes

Josephine rolled over in bed, chasing the half remembered fragments of the previous night's dream as it fled from memory. Her efforts were shattered by the raucous call of the cock coming in through her window, slightly ajar to let in the pale morning light. Sighing as she lay on her back, she slowly opened her eyes and let them adjust to the half-light of the new day. If she listened carefully she could hear the murmured voices of the famrhands and slaves that worked the fields going about the mornings business, the bleat of a goat mixed with the occasional bark of dog.

Sitting up in bed and holding her covers to her front, Josie smiled as she saw the fresh cup of coffee sitting atop her bedside table. The heady aroma of the strong black coffee filled her nostrils, causing her to smile.

"Miss Margo, bless her heart. How would I make it through my mornings without her careful ministrations..." she said to herself as she picked up the cup of coffee in one hand, blowing on it to cool it off. The steam rising off its black surface wafted over her face, warming the skin and bringing her sense to life. Bringing the cup to her lips, she savored the first sip. It was divine. The coffee had bene a gift from one of her neighbors, a certain Monsieur Herbert Valliant, whose plantations specialized in cacao and coffee.

Revitalized by the strong, black coffee, she threw her remaining covers off of herself and walked over to the heavily draped windows, pulling them back slightly to stare out over the Château's fields, coffee still in hand. The morning mist still clung to the willows and grapevines, like a lover discontent to leave come the morrow. The silhouettes of workers could be seen moving into the fields, already busy about their work in order to avoid the blazing heat of the noonday sun if at all possible.

Finishing her coffee and setting it absent mindedly on a nearby table, Josie shivered and wrapped her arms around either side of herself as she turned towards her closet. Her simple shift was much too thin to keep her warm in the cool morning air, her skin tight with goosebumps. In front of her spacious closet was her dressing chair, her black trousers folded neatly on the seat, her pair of Italian buckle shoes at their base. Hanging off the back of the chair was her white linen blouse over which hung her black wool merchant's coat. Smiling, Josie once again appreciate her maid's handiwork as she set about the morning chore of getting one's self dressed.

----

From the moment she stepped forth from her room, Madam Baudelaire's day began in earnest. Her Major Domo, an elderly Frenchman with impeccible taste who went by the name of Gaston, would nod to her and place in her waiting hands a large sheef of papers, detailing the days activities and any appointments she had to keep. He would often have to fall in beside her as she walked hurriedly down the long spiral staircase towards the breakfast nook on the first floor where she prefered to break her fast. Sweeping into the bedroom behind them would be Josie's personal maid Miss Margo, a mulatto local from the region whom Josie simply adored.

Over a light breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, a croissant still warm from the oven, served with freshly churned butter and creme, she would review the days appointments briefly before turning to the more serious matter of reviewing the latest production results. She looked over the papers with a critical eye, often stopping to ask Gaston a question or two about this and that, must of which he politely answered, or directed her to speak with one of the foremen in charge of that aprticular aspect of the estate. He had the patience of a saint, which no doubt was a prerequisite for the job.

By the time breakfast was over the glorious light of the new day would be cresting the horizon and making itself felt at last. The sky would color itself brilliant shades of pink and amber as Josie made her way out of the Château proper. She insisted on taking a long walk of the grounds in the morning, savoring the crispness of the air and the smell of the ocean. Every morning she chose a different route through the sprawling grounds, stopping to chat with the workers she encountered along the way. She wasnted to know every aspect of the plantation, and seemed genuinely fascinated by the most trivial aspects of wine making and the growing of plants.

She would often stop and decide to "help" with some task directly. She had been known to hand Gaston her coat as she rolled up her white sleeves and took a shovel from a nearby worker. She would return home dirty and happy, her clothes a mess, much to Miss Margo's chagrin. Today it was the wine presses she stopped by after a long route that took her through the vinyards proper. The most recent batch of grapes had been deemed ripe enough less than a week ago, and the busy work of gathering them from the vines and bringing them to the warehouse had been the Château's primary activity for several days now. Today was to be the first pressing of the new vintage, and Madam Baudelaire insisted that she be present.

Monsieur Ambroise Thibaud, the Master Vintner, had servered with her parents for over three decades of service, and had been making wine for as long as Josie had been alive. He was one of the retainers that had chosen to flee Champagne with his mistress, and was the natural choice to be put in charge of estate's wine production. He much more considered it a form of art, rather than a job. Any that tasted his vintages would be hard pressed to disagree.

Josie greeted him amiably as she walked into the high-beamed warehouse. He turned from a discussion with three of his apprentices and nodded respectfully towards her. He always wore an expression of someone who seemed to be barely putting up with your behavior, but Josie had never let his dour exterior put her off from the old man. If anything she relished in being overly nice and bubbly in his presence. Gaston and Monsieur Thibaud exchanged knowing glances as Josie launched into an impassioned speach about the virtues of a good bottle of wine. She had captured the attentions of the apprentices, who were busy showing her the latest batch of grapes. The had several wagons full in the warehouse at present, as well as a variety of smaller wine presses scattered about the place.

Taken by sudden inspiration, Josie insisted that they set up one of the older presses at once, and then sat on a nearby barrel and began taking off her shoes. When Monsieur Thibaud asked her what was the matter she simply laughed at him, and said that she wanted to help as she had as a little girl when things had been simpler. After that there was no stopping her. Soon her hose and shoes had been discarded, and her trousers were rolled up past the knees. The young apprentices had quickly setup a large press, minus its top, over a sturdy set of barrels, and had begun the process of filling the wodden structure to the brim with freshly picked grapes. Within moments Josie and two of the other apprentices were merrily smashing on the grapes with wild abandon. Standing nearby watching on in mild agitation were the two elderly forms of Gaston and Monsieur Thibaud.

----

Hours later Josie sat at the back of the warehouse, her feet purple stained and swinging in the air as she perched on the edge of the loading docks eating some freshly baked bread and brie. She was happy and content, although gaston would ruin the moment by reminding her that her mornings antics had caused her to miss meeting with Monsieur Valliant's representitives. She shrugged and made some passing comment. Truth be told, she believed her neighbor to have more than business interests in mind in his dealings with her, and found his increasing requests for meetings tiresome. When Gaston reminded her that it was in her best interests to avoid insulting the powerful nobleman, she seemed non-impressed.

After a brief moment of tension between the two, Gaston cleared his throat and announced that the great Swords Master Arcangelo Modesto would be paying his weekly visit this afternoon, Josie actually squeeled with excitement. Lunch forgotten, she rushed back towards the Château proper in order to get changed in time. Alas, she was not to have luck in the endeavor, and ran across the Italian Swordsmen as she crossed from fields towards her front door. The two looked at each other for a long moment until Senior Modesto took off his hat with a flourish and bowed deeply. Josephine colored a deep red, almost matching the shade of her bare, stained feet as she curtsied in return.

Waving aside her attempts to apologize for her appearence, Modesto insisted that they practice immediately. Taken with the idea, Josie followed him down to the waters edge as he quized her on her practice with the blade. Gaston followed closely behind with his mistresses blades wrapped in a blanket of black velvet.

Once they reached their chosen destination for the days practice, Modesto would always begin by telling a story. He insisted that these stories, that were always about a great sword fighter, would be instramental in the days lesson. Today he had chosen the beach as he said its footing was far more difficult, and required special attnetion to be paid to one's stance and posture. After a few limbering excercises, the practice would begin in earnest, each set of dual blades flashing in the noonday sun.

Practice always seemed to come to a close far to early for Josie's tastes, but she was as happy as she was exhausted by the end of them. She thanked Modesto profusely and entreated him to stay long enough to enjoy a dinner with them, but as always he refused, citing the fact that as an accomplished ladies man, he could not permit himself to stay any longer, for he could not be held responsible for the consequences. He was always saying things such as this, and truth be told Josie was quite taken with the older gentleman. He was always paid handsomely in gold the day of the lesson, riding back towards Tampa on his dappled grey mare.

The afternoon sun was waning, sinking towards the horizon by the time Josie got around to cleaning herself up. Today she decided to take a swim in the small cove that doubled as her private port. Her father's ship, now her own, lay at anchor nearby. The venerable Indiaman, the "Velvet Hammer" had made the cross-Atlantic journey a number of years ago, taking Josie and what remained of her families fortunes with them to the new world. It now served as the primary cargo ship for delivering her goods throughout the Caribbean. Today she simply enjoyed swimming laps around it as she let the warm waters of the sea wash away the sweat and wine stains covering her form.

Stepping from the water, her makeshift bathing suit comprising of her underclothes clinging to her form, Gaston frowned and averted his gaze, holding out a warm, over-sized towel for her. When he reminded her of the improprieties of such a spectacle, she simply threw her hair back and put her chin up in the air and did her best impression of the haughty noble she chose not to be.

----

An hour later she was dressed in fresh linens, her good clothes now being laundered by Miss Margo in in back of the Château next to the nearby well, as she sat down for a light evening meal. This time it was to be a soup served with fresh fruits and bread. The meal was simple for several tables, but Josie found it quite appetizing. She ate with gusto, having acquired a hunger something fierce from the days activities. After having eaten her fill, she thanked Gaston and told him to mention to Chef Marie Naudin that the soup tonight was exquisite. After that she asked not to be disturbed as she retreated to her library with a glass of wine in hand.

She would spend the next several hours reading and writing in her journal. She had also been working on and off on a book covering her experiences with the New Worlde. This would take her late into the evening, until she found herself nodding off next to the fire, her book long forgotten, limp in her hands. At which point she would stand, stretch mightily, and then move towards her bedroom.

Upon her arrival in her own bedchamber she would find fresh sheets prepared for her, her pillows fluffed, and an evening tea set by her bedside table. Smiling, once more impressed by Miss Margo's thoroughness, she would strip out of her clothes and put on her simple nightgown before slipping under the covers, once more letting her mind rest at ease. As she drifted off to sleep, she would turn her minds wondering once more towards tracking down the elusive dream of the previous night.
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PostSubject: Re: Le Château des Chats   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeMon Feb 11, 2008 1:19 am

Serafie loved to listen to distinquished people talk, especially if they were rich and had grande stories to tell. So she listened intently to Madam and drew from her ideas of her own. (Enjoying ever bit of this read Madam Smile
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PostSubject: Dark Tidings...   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeTue Feb 12, 2008 12:56 pm

(Why thank you Serafie! I too have been enjoying your writings as well. Your article on "The Loss of a Ship" was quite well composed. I look to reading more from you... Now, on to the story!)


Dark Tidings, Arrival


Thomas Coffey had been working the land since before he could remember. His Father had worked the land, his mother had worked the land, and now he worked the land. Things were simple that way, and thats just how it was done. In his way it was a life he deeply enjoyed, the magic of producing something from nothing with little else but dirt, water, and a lot of your own hard work. When the plantation had been sold, he and his family along with it, Old Tom had worried that the new owner would change things for the worse. He needant have worried. Here he was, two years after the Madam had showed up, still working the land.

More grapes than I'm used to though... he mused as he cut another heavy bundle of the dark purple fruit free and placed it in the nearby wheelbarrel. The cool, early morning mist felt good on his skin as he wiped his damp brow. The sun was due to rise any minute now, and he had been up working the field for many hours. Wonder if the Madam will make her mornin' walk my direction today? he thougth idly. She's an odd one...

Shaking his head, Old Thom grabbed the ceramic jug of water he always kept handy and took a long drought, relieved by the cool taste of water quenching his parched throat. He smiled as he thought of The Madam, as his folk had come to call her. She was what they would describe as an "odd duck", full of noble sophistication on the outside, yet more of a country farm girl on the inside. There was even a rumor floating about she was in the process of drafting letters of law that would free all of the slaves working for her. He had heard this type of talk before, and would believe them when saw them. Still, she just might. You never know...

Putting down his jug, his thoughts were distracted by a dark silhouette stumbling out of the mist on the edge of vinyard. Standing straight, he kept very still as he saw the form take another few paces, then collapse to the ground. Instinct told him to be cautious, but something hadn't looked right about the figure. It had been so small, not even coming up to his waist, if he had judged correctly.

At first he appraoched cautiously, calling out, "You alright there Mister? You ain't hurt or nothing, are ya?" as he appraoched. A slight moan escaped from the figure at his words, but nothing more. As he stepped closer his apprehension was replaced by something else entirely, concern.

"Oh good Heavens, what manner of Devilry is this..." he said as he leaned over the pale form of the small girl crumpled on the ground before him. She was stick thin, her pale skni full of scratches and bruises, her once golden hair matted and filithy. She wore the tattered rags of what must have been a beautiful summer dress at one time, now reduced to shreds of filthy cloth barely covering her shivering form.

Without a second thought, he gingerly picked her up in his strong arms. She was so light, so very, very light and frail. Turning back towards the field, he raised his voice in alarm, calling over his wife and children that were working the next field over from him as he hurried back towards the Château in all haste.

----

Josie bit her lip as she re-read though the document's the good Herr von Somborn's man had prepared for her at her request. The language was dense, and held a number of provisions for recompense that she hadn't originally asked for, but the basic intent was all laid out. Emmancipation. Having grown up on her Father's vinyards back home, she had always played and worked alongside her Families slaves, and never thought anything of it. Her nanny growing up, one of her favorite people in her childhood memories, had helped raise her in some ways more than her own mother, yet she too was a slave. As a child, Josie had little perception about what that meant, and just as she had become a child she had been sent away to Paris for her studies.

The New World, and Josie's new life and harsh, abrupt departure from the old had changed all of that though. Her conversations with Wilhelm von Somborn had awoken her to the realities of the situation, and she found herself challenging how things have been done. Slavery, as profitable and accepted as it was throughout the New and Old World, no longer sat well with her. How could she, Josie, consider owning someone who had helped raise her, the friends she worked with in the vinyards, the people she lived with. It was like waking up to discover that the wine you have been drinking all of your life was, in fact, someone elses blood.

She sighed and sat back in her chair, closing her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose as she fought off the onset of a headache. Reading such legalese always gave her sharp pains if she did it too long. She exhaled slowly, opening her eyes and reaching for the steaming cup of coffee set on the small table nearby. She had chosen to sit on the veranda this morning, to better enjoy the beauty of dawn and not feel as if she was being sentenced to the prison of her office, with only the sheef of legal documents to keep her company.

Her thoughts were disturbed as she heard a cry raised throughout the field, a heavy cluster of her slaves, My soon to be ex-slaves she corrected herself, rushing towards the Château. Old Tom was in front, surrounded by his wife and children. Even at his age, he towered over those around him, a small pale thing craddled carefully in his powerful dark arms. His face was full of grief and concern, and Josie instantly knew something was wrong. She stood at once, placing her coffee mug atop the paperwork to keep it from blowing away as she walked rapidly down the stairs towards them.

Old Tom slowed as he came near, doing his best to make a little bow even as he carried the still form of the child in his arms, saying, "Mam. I was workin in the fields when I did spy this lil one here fall to the ground nearby. I know not where she came from, but I can tell you she is in a bad, bad way, and I was wondering..."

Josie, tearing her eyes away from the pathetic form so carefully held in his arms, she looked up at him and said, "You have done exactly the right thing Tom. Please, lets get her inside as quickly as possible. I only hope we are not too late..." She didnt let herself finish the though as she turn rapidly and motioned for them to follow her at once. Old Tom hesitated only for a moment, never having set foot within the Château proper, but followed none the less.

"Gaston! Find Miss Margo and have her brign some food and water at once!" Josie cried as she rushed inside, issuing orders with the determinitation and force she had learned to use when Captaining her ship in times of trouble. All those around her responded immediately, laundry dropped on the floor where maids had been standing, rushing to grab the needed supplies at once in their haste to help.

As they rushed inside the Château the first few rays of the new dawn cut across the fields, coloring the sky a blossoming red, alike to so much spilled wine, or blood. Ominous portents indeed...


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PostSubject: Re: Le Château des Chats   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeTue Feb 12, 2008 6:08 pm

Dark Tidings, Awakening


It was hours later, well past lunchtime, when the good Doctor Silvain Thibodeau arrived by horse and buggy, stepping out gingerly in his grey wool suit, his small leather doctor's bag clutched in his hand. The Château was a frenzy of activity, its normal, peaceful routines turned on their head and disrupted. Search parties had been organized and sent into the neighboring countryside to little or no effect. Riders had been sent to Tampa to find a doctor, and were only now returning alongside the buggy.

Gaston raised an arm and signaled the good Doctor to come with him at once, saying, "Right this way Monsieur. The Madam is quite anxious to see you."

Nodding to the older Major Domo, the good Doctor stepped up pace and frowned slightly, saying, "Very well, take me to her."

Neither one spoke as they quickly made their way indoors and towards the guest suite Madam Baudelaire had re-purposed as an infermery. Several maids hovered on the edges of the room, curtseying as the good Doctor walked in briskly. His gaze sweeping over the room, he spied kneeling form of Madam Baudelaire leaning over the large featherbed dominating the room. She was using a cool cloth to mop the feverish brow of the unconscious little girl lying atop the bed. She turned at the sound of the Doctor entering the room, a look of relief at seeing him there at last.

Not wasting any time, the good Doctor took off his coat and handed it to Gaston's waitign arms as he crossed to where Josie knelt, placing his small black bag at his feet nearby.

Josie whispered in a voice full of emotion, "Thank you for coming on such short notice Doctor..." He only nodded by way of acknowledgement, leaning over the girl and examining her face with a critical eye. After a moment, he reached into his bag and pulled forth several instraments and began in earnest.

Watching anxiously as the Doctor examined the young child, Josie turned towards the waiting Gaston and the assembled maids, saying, "Well, don't just stand there. Out, out, out, all of you. Give the Doctor some room, and see if you can't get some warm water and fresh cloths in here as well."

As they filed from the room obediently Josie wrung her hands in agitiation, forcing herself not to interrupt the Doctor by sheer force of will. After what seemed like an indeterminable amount of time, the Doctor stood and crossed to where Josie had been pacing at the window. When she turned towards him, he could see true concern in her eyes. When he spoke, he did so with a voice pitched low, his words crisp and concise.

"The girl appears to be extremely malnourished, aged between six and seven years. There are marks of lashings on her back that bear the distinct resemblence to those handed out by a Cat of Nine Tails, although they appear to be weeks old. She has numerous surface contusions and abrasions, of which several are infected at present, resulting in fever." At this the Doctor stopped, looking at Josie with appraising eyes.

Returning the Doctor's gaze, Madam Baudelaire plucked up the courage to ask the question that had been on her mind all morning, "Will... will she live? Is there anything you can do for her?"

Runnign his hand over his short moustache, the Doctor considered the question for a moment, and then nodded. "She is too weak for a decent flobbatomy at present, which I would dearly like to give to her, but I believe there is some good I can do."

"Oh, thank you Doctor. I will make sure you are handsomely paid for this, I promise you" Josie replied, perking up for the first time in hours.

Nodding once, the Doctor replied, "However, I must ask you... How did this child come to be in such a state?"

Hesitating for just a moment, Josie replied, "I have no idea good Doctor. One of my sla... workers found her at the edge of our fields this morning. But I am set on finding out as soon as possible, I assure you. I have had teams of men searching the surrounding area, but so far they have turned up nothing..."

Nodding, satisfied with her answer, he turned back towards the child, speaking over his shoulder as he did so, "Very well. Please have two of your more competant maids attend me. I will need a constant supply of fresh water, towels, and other items. You may leave now."

Not used to being addressed as such in her own home, Josie almost took offence, but let the matter go as she simply nodded, leaving the room in search of Miss Margo.

----

The rest of that day and night was a blur for Josephine. The good Doctor proved his worth however, as he stayed late into the evening preparing tinctures and medicines that would help the feverish child. Just after midnight the girl's fever broke, and she began sleeping soundly for the first time. Everyone was exhausted. Doctor Thibodeau retired to one of the other Guest Suites, and Gaston began directing the maids to return to their beds and try to get some rest. They will be needed come the morrow. Josie fell asleep sitting in an armchair next to the little girls bed, exhaustion finally overcoming her.

Josie's dreams, what little she could remember of them, were troubled and dark. She kept finding herself back on her Father's farm, the day it had bene burned to the ground and her Brother had been killed. The sky rained dark droplets of wine turned blood, and when the limp form of her bloody brother turned towards her, she saw that he had the face of the little girl. She awoke with a start, aa cold sweat upon her brow and her back aching from the awkward position she had slept in. Pushing herself upright, she slowly got up, only to pause half way as she realized the little girl in bed wasn't there.

Struck with a sudden panic, Josie froze as her heart began pounding faster and faster in her chest. She quickly glanced around the room, her eyes moving from the empty spot in the bed to make a sweep of the place. Her eyes stopped on the curtains covering the window. A pale set of feet were poking out from under them, shivering slightly.

Slowly rising, Josie called out in a low voice, "Little girl... little girl, there is no need to be afraid. We won't hurt you..." as she approached her hiding spot. The girls stood rock still, a slight whimper escaping her lips betraying her position. Gaston began opening the door, alerted to the sounds from within. Josie turned her head towards him sharply and held up her hand, keeping him from the room.

Coming nearer, Josie knelt down beside the curtains and spoke in a low voice, "Little girl, my name is Josie, and I promise no one is going to hurt you any more. You are safe now. Safe..." her voice cracked a bit as she finished the last word, her emotions close to the surface.

After several long moments, the curtains were parted ever so slightly, and Josie could see the frightened eye of the child, barely visible. Madam Baudelaire did her best to smile, saying, "What's your name?"

The girl hesitated, as if she was expecting to get hit if she spoke up, and croaked out a reply, her voice hoarse from disuse, "E-emily..."

Nodding to show that she had heard her, Madam Baudelaire continued, "Emily, thats a beautiful name. I had a friend named Emily once in Paris. We used to love to go to plays together and tease the boys there. Would you like to be my friend as well Emily?"

The girl paused, more of her face visible now as the currtain had fallen away. Here eyes and lips trembled, until she simply nodded, sniffling back tears.

Keeping her smile on her face, Josie continued to speak as comfortingly as possible, saying, "I would like that very much Emily. Where are your Father and Mother?"

At this, the little girl went shock white, until a long, moaning wail escaped her lips. She rushed forward into the arms of Madam Baudelaire, who clutched her hard against her chest and made comforting noises, her own tears falling with those of the child held protectively to her bossom.

----
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PostSubject: Re: Le Château des Chats   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeTue Feb 12, 2008 6:18 pm

Dark Tidings, Called to Action


The good Doctor stayed for three more days, and despite his lack of bedside manner proved himself a competant and able physician and man of medicine. Emily was recovering quickly, most of her ailments having been the product of lack of nourishment and having lived off the land.

Josie stayed with the girl for over two days straight, waking with and sleeping with her as needed to ensure her safety. It was late on the third night that Emily finally confided in her what had happened to her. It was a tale so foul, so dark, it chilled Josie to her soul. After her tears had dried and she had tucked Emily into her very own bed, her eyes gleamed with a different light entirely. Revenge.

Not wasting any time, she called a Council with her ships Captains and Notables. They used the long table in the Château, cleared of impliments of eating, and replaced by charts, maps, sabers and pistols. In the past several days Madam Baudelaire had every one of her Captains within reach return to the Château to be available and on call. She had them bring their full compliment of crew and troops, and the normally quite estates had gone from a simple farm to something resembling more of a armed fort in a matter of days.

Madam Baudelaire now turned to face the three of her five Captain's that had been able to respond to her summons in time, along with their assembled First Mates and Officers crowding the long hall.

She nodded to the grey-haired Philippe-Joseph Royer, Captain of the Bloodwine, a newly commissioned Stralsund Frigate that had been days away from sailing towards Irish Point to aid in the struggle against the Brethren of the Coast that had been plaguing the waters there. Captain Royer was a harsh man, who expected complete discipline on his ship at all times, yet for all that he was not cruel. He had mustered out of the French Navy and found his commission amongst the private sector here in the New World. He nodded gravely as Madam Baudelaire's eyes travelled over his.

Standing next to him in conversation was the portly figure of Captain Pascal Taillefer, the Captain of her armed merchantman The Velvet Hammer, the old Indiaman that had been her Father's before her. Pascal, as he liked to be called, was a jovial character that enjoyed his wine and sweatmeats more than was likely good for him, but was a navigator second to none. He raised his goblet in toast to his Madame as Josie's gaze passed him.

The last Captain present was none other than her Mademoiselle Pépin, now turned Captain Pépin, Josie's long time friend and teacher. The adventerous older woman had been at Madam Baudelaire's side ever since Paris, and had been her closest confidant since she was a teenager. She had taught Josie the basics of swordplay, as well as how to sail a ship, and now found herself Captaining one for her Madame herself. She was quite proud of her vessel, the Gemini, quite easily the smallest, fastest ship in the Baudelaire fleet. The Gemini was a modern Sleek Packet-Boat, equiped with the best rigging, sails and hull built for speed money could buy. Mademoiselle Pépin boasted she could sail circles around any who challenged her, and Josie was inclined to agree. Easily as old as Captain Royer, but cut of a different cloth indeed, Mademoiselle Pépin listened intently to what Josie was about to say, reading her expression correctly that her Madame was in no mood for jovialities.

"Captains, Officers and Gentlemen and woman, if I may have your attention please" Madam Baudelaire began. She waited a moment as the idle conversations in the room died down, leaving the room silent except for the wind blowing on the wnidows outside.

Looking around the room and seeing that she had everyones complete, undivided attention, she continued, "As you all know a small child, a girl by the name of Emily, stumbled onto our estates not but three days ago. By the good grace of God she lives yet and is well on her way to making a full recovery." At this news, several voiced their relief, but quickly fell silent as they realized Josie was not done.

"I have only tonight learned of the events that have lead up to her arriving here, literally on our doorstep, and they are dark news indeed. Emily's full name is Emilicent Elene Ouvrard Laffitte of Burgundy. Her sister Ingrid-Elisabeth and her were travelling with their parents towards the Port of New Orleans when their colony ship was beset by pirates not far from our far estates here." At this she paused, leaning forward with her hands splayed wide on the table in front of her as her gaze intensified. Her hatred for pirates was no secret to her Captains, and the events of this story were striking a little too close to home for them not to see the simularities to the Madame's own past.

"The things these vicious, bloodthirsty scum did to the poor occupants on board that ship will not be repeated here, but rest assured they are at the height of villany and unthinkable acts. That a child such as Emily not only had to witness such things, but see them performed on her own parents is enough to make my blood boil." At this Josie had to actually stop for a moment, so overcome with rage and emotion that her voice caught. She made a fist with one hand and slammed it into the hard teak of tabletop before her before continuing.

"From what descriptions I could get from Emily, I believe the pirate gang in question to be none other than the Swamprat Pirates, making their home deep in the foothills outside the nearby rogue port of Carlos Harbor. Once the pirates had finished looting and raping and pillaging to their hearts desire, they loaded their ship with stolen valuables as well as quite a few prisoners, Emily and her sister included, along with another dozen or so nobles they felt would fetch a decent price. When they made landfall a few days later they forced marched them to their hide-out and have kept them there for weeks."

Taking a deep breath before continuing, Madam Baudelaire straightened and pulled her corsette tight before continuing, "Emily ran into the surrounding jungle over a week ago, mad with grief and driven to escape her captors at all costs. She surely would have died had it not been for some local natives that had found her. She was not able to give me a very accurate description of them, but it would appear that they brought her here and left her at the edge of our estates from what I was able to understand of her story. Her memories of the past week are extremely vague, and the good Doctor Thibodeau suggests that is most likely due to the fever she has been running. So, that summarizes the events that have lead up to this point. The question you should be asking yourself is this one gentleman and woman... What is it that we do next?"

Madam Baudelaire looked into each of their eyes with such intensity that it left little doubt as to what their course of action would entail. The moment stretched out into an eternity, only disturbed by the distant rumble of thunder on the horizon as the winds picked up once more. A storm was brewing, both inside and out, and it was going to burst quite soon now.

It was a surprise when Pascal broke the silence first, even his congenial nature hardened and moved by the unfolding tale. His normally smiling face grave, he raised his glass towards the group as he said, "Let us find these rats in their swamp and put an end to their ways once and for all, for I for one can not let such trespasses go unanswered."

Raising her own glass, Captain Pépin added her voice to that of Pascal's, saying, "The Devil best make some extra room in Hell, for he is soon to receive company when I am through with these murderous dogs!"

Captain Royer simply saluted smartly, saying tersely, "What are your orders Madame?" His eyes betrayed the fact he knew perfectly well what she was going to say, but his years of service and training required of him that he hear it from her mouth, and her mouth alone.

Standing tall, Josephine Baudelaire grabbed her sword from the table in front of her and held it high, saying in a voice full of passion and revenge, "We set sail on the morrow dear Captains, out intent filled with revenge and the need to have the rivers run red with the blood of pirates! We recover what good Frenchman we can from their camp, and burn the rest, the Devil take them! Who is with me?"

At this, a throaty cheer sang out from the assembled voices of Captains and Officers alike, booming out of the closed windows to compete with the spreading sound of thunder as the night sky flashed white against the growing darkness of the storm that was yet to come...


(...to be continued in a seperate thread, entitled Black Storm Rising: Against the Swamprats in the Copper Penny, as the action will depart this location. I will add the link to this post once it is written...)


Last edited by Madam Baudelaire on Tue Feb 19, 2008 4:00 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Le Château des Chats   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeTue Feb 12, 2008 9:11 pm

What a Face can't wait for the next installment!
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PostSubject: Many Happy Returns...   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeTue Feb 19, 2008 5:11 pm

Josephine stood on her balcony, looking down at her sun drenched fields as her workers labored amongst the fields, singing as they did so. A slight breeze blew off the ocean, bringing with it the salty tang of the waves and the sea. She smiled and looked down, her attention caught by the mirthful sound of a child's laughter floating up to where she stood. Within moments Emily and Ingrid came tearing around from the back of the house, a piece of white laundry in their hands, as Miss Margo came after them in hot pursuit. The children exerted amazing amounts of energy for how slow their running really was, but the good natured Miss Margo always managed to be just a little bit too slow for them. The three months that they had been back from the expedition had done wonders to restore the girls to health, both of body and mind. Josie let herself smile as she saw them dash off towards the nearby warehouses, smiling workers parting way as they ran haphazardously through their midst.

It is good to see them play Madam Baudelaire thought as she watched them disappear amidst the wine presses in the nearby warehouse. Poor Miss Margo though. I don't think she's ran this much in her entire life. Still, she seems quite content. At this thought, Josie's attention was drawn back to the document held in her hands, her eyes resting once more on the finely scripted title, "Letter of Emancipation". I do so hope she stays once she is free...

Josie turned and walked back inside, placing the document back upon her small, orderly desk in the corner of her library. The fine vellum document had arrived just this morning from Tampa. The lawyer Louis-Marius Renault had prepared the documents. A Gentleman of the Bar, versed in laws and the writing of legal documents, he had been recommended by Wilhelm von Somborn as having knowledge on the inking of such articles as these. Placing the document carefully on her desk, Josie bit her lower lip as she let her eyes stare at it for several long moments. Despite knowing this was the right thing to do, she found herself much more anxious and worried than she had expected.

What if they all leave? she thought. My business' would be ruined. I would become "that mad woman living all alone on the outskirts of town". Why, why I would have to acquire several dozen cats and become some lunatic of a woman. Why, I would...

Her thoughts were thankfully disrupted as Gaston knocked politely upon the library's open door, saying "Madam, the good Monsieur Macauley MacIntosh is here to see you, as you requested. Shall I see him up?"

Turning from her desk, she smiled at the stiffly formal elegance with which Gaston always carried himself. She imagined he would have the same tone and expression in announcing that a ravening horde of man eating savages had surrounded the Chateau as he did when he announced the serving of the afternoon's tea. It was one of his charms, to be sure. That and his near infinite patience. At least I know you won't leave me, will you Gaston?

Forcing herself to smile, she replied, "By all means Gaston, please do not keep the good Monsieur waiting. I shall receive him here, as he is somewhat fond of books, and I hope their company will make him more amenable to my proposition."

Bowing efficiently, Gaston replied, "Very well Madam" before he turned to leave.

Just before he disappeared back down the stairs, Josie called after him, "Oh, and one more thing Gaston. Please do bring up a tray of our best Scotch and two tumblers. If memory serves correct, he has not the taste for wine."

"Very good Madam. If there will nothing else Madam?" he replied, waiting for her answer once more. Seeing her shake her head and smile at him, he turned and disappeared out of the room.

Josephine turned and began pacing the room, crossing over to the small coffee table set beneath a large set of open windows in the corner, allowing the bright afternoon sun to fill the room. Sitting in the middle of the table was the letter she had penned the night before, the red wax seal bearing her family's crest quite visible from where she stood.

It was not long after that she heard footsteps on the stairs, and turned to see Gaston leading the handsomely roguish figure of Macauley MacIntosh into the room, stepping aside to allow him entrence as he said, "Madam Baudelaire, the good Monsieur MacIntosh, as you requested."

Josie looked into the eyes of her long-time friend and smiled widely. They had known each other for years, and indeed he had been part of her entourage that had fled Paris for the New World just a few years past. He wore laced leather pants tucked into knee-high boots, and wore his loose white linen shirt open at the chest. He had the good graces to remove his hat and bow deeply, waving his outstretched hand in a very theatrical flourish as he did so, saying, "It is an honor of the highest regard to be called upon by your Ladyship, oh fair one. And to what delight do I owe this boon upon my good name?"

"Oh Mac, you foolish fop! No need to put on airs for one such as I. Am I not still that young tomboy brat that snuck out of her ward's home to see your plays performed at all hours of the night?" Josie replied as she crossed to him, smiling as she did so.

Macauley stood, tucking his hat under his arm as he took Josie's hand and kissed it once by way of greeting. He was always doing such wanton acts of Chivalry, which was particularly humorous as he was as low born as you could find, heralding from some backwater in the Scotish Highlands with a name so unpronouncable Josie had never managed to say it correctly. Still, she did admit he did have a certain charm.

"Ah, but no, you are not. You are now Madam Baudelaire, purveyor of victuals, Lady of some repute, Confederate in arms with the Highland, Master of a fair sized merchant fleet, and I now hear slayer of pirates! Perhaps it would be wiser if I had fallen in supplication instead?" he replied with a roguish grin on his face.

"Oh, stop you. You are too much! Come, walk with me by the window, I have an important proposition for you, and I need your seriousness now" Josie said, turning and walking back towards the sunlit coffee table.

"A proposition eh? I have been waiting for this moment for quite some time..." he began, only to be interrupted almost immediately.

"Mac! Focus, this is serious" she said, somewhat exasperated.

"Yes Mam" he replied, dropping his airs as he followed her, Gaston rolling his eyes unseen behind him as he carried the silver tray laden with Scotch and tumblers over to where they stood beside the table, placing it there with care before leaving.

Waiting until Gaston had made his exit, Josie took the bottle of Bushmills, which she had imported from the new distillery in Scotland at great expense, and poured them both a fair amount. She had learned to be careful with the drink after having been introduced to it by her friend Cathern Flowers, having nursed a headache that lasted days after that memorable enjoyable night. Josie picked up her glass and waited until Macauley held his before him as well. Looking him in the eye, she proposed a toast, saying, "Towards our continuing friendship, and future endeavors."

They both tipped the glasses back, Josie scrunching up her face as she put the tumbler down, half finished and swallowed the fiery drink. Macauley on the other hand set down the empty tumbler without so much as a blink and wiped his lips on the back of his sleeve, smiling as he said, "And just what future endeavors might these be Josie?"

Nodding to him in reply, Josephine picked up the sealed letter from the coffee table and placed it in his hands, saying, "I had this prepared for you last evening. Please, take your time reading it, as I don't want you to miss anything."

Curiousity aroused, he produced a knife (he always seemed to have several handy) and broke the seal, unrolling the parchment. He stood reading the finely written letters, his eyes growing wide as they took in what it said. Josie watched him carefully, discretely pouring another generous quantity of Scotch in his tumbler as she did so. After several long moments, his face somewhat in shock, he said, "There must be some mistake. I, I am but a simple playwright. I don't know the first thing about Captaining a ship, and, and... the pay is preposterous, good, but preposterous, I mean..."

As he stumbled over his words Josie placed his tumbler back in his hands and interrupted him, saying, "Mac, tell me this true. Have you not been mostly living aboard ship for these past several years since we have arrived here in the New World?"

Blinking several times, he said, "Well, yes..."

Not letting him continue, she pressed forward, "And tell me this, have you not the capacity to read and write, both in Latin, French and English?"

"Well, of course, I am a writer of plays and a sometimes actor..."

"And lastly, and most importantly, do I not trust you with my very life?" Josie finished, looking him directly in the eyes.

Actually stammering, he replied, "W-well I would like to think so Josie. Our friendship has always been a simple, honest one, full of trust from both ends."

"Then it is settled. You will be my new Captain, replacing my dear friend Pascal, may he rest in peace. And besides, if you refuse I may cry, and we mustn't have that. I have cried enough as of late, and am thoroughly done with the experience. Now be a good boy and drink on the deal." Josie's voice broached no arguement, and he hastened to raise his glass.

This time both drained all of the liquid, placing the empty glasses on the table, letting them catch the afternoon sun as it slanted in through the open windows. Outside Ingrid shrieked as Miss Margo had finally caught up with her, and was carrying her over her shoulder back towards the well and waiting laundry as Emily skipped around them in circles. Josie smiled widely, content with the afternoons successes. She decided to keep her last surprise from Macauley. He would not be Captaining the old Dromedrary Indiaman that had been in her family for so long as he thought, but rather the brand new Mignone class Idiaman she had just commissioned at great expense.

Yes, things are looking up at last she thought, her worries over the Letters of Emancipation entirely forgotten as she got down to the serious business of drinking Scotch with a Scottsman.


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PostSubject: Emancipation   Le Château des Chats Icon_minitimeTue Feb 19, 2008 7:13 pm

Emancipation

Madam Baudelaire looked out over the expectant faces of her workers and slaves, assembled as they were before the Chateau facing where she stood atop the highest step. There are so many of them she realized, their multitude of faces looking up at her uncertainly. They are scared she realized with a start, having been so wrapped up in her own thoughts as to have noticed this singular fact beforehand. If only they knew my own fears, but now is not the time to dwell on such things...

Standing a little straighter, she turned and nodded towards Captain Pepin, standing awkwardly as she got used to her new pegleg, motioned for the crowd to be quiet so Josie could be heard. Madam Baudelaire had chosen her to assist her in this endeavor, as she was worried the more martial nature of Captain Royer would have sent the wrong message. Seeing the fear in her peoples eyes, she was glad for her foresight for having done so. Mademoiselle Pépin was well known to the Chateau's denizens as a fair spirited salt of the Earth type of individual, respected by both the common worker and noble alike.

Seeing that the assembled crowd had quieted, Madam Baudelaire cleared her throat and spoke up, addressing the crowd in her best voice, "Thank you all for coming today. I know many of you have been hearing rumors as to some of my plans for the Chateau, and in particular those of you that invest your hard labor and work on it's behalf. Well, I am here to present to you the fruit of my labors, which I dearly hope you will find to your liking."

Pausing for a moment, she could almost see the tension in the crowd as jaws tightened and people stood a little straighter, straining to see over one and other at Madam Baudelaire's diminuitive form atop the steps. Taking another deep breath, Josie unrolled the document she had been holding at her side and held it up for all to see.

"What I have here is a letter of law, drafted from the offices of the honorable Louis-Marius Renault that declare all of you to be from this moment onwards Freemen, your duties and offices as slaves negated and absolved. In addition there are a number of indentured servants as well, whose debt is cancelled and any obligation hereby withdrawn. In short, you are to be free. Emacipated." Josie finished lamely, nervous more than she cared to admit.

There was no fanfair cheer or rousing cry at the news. Instead she saw many uncertain faces, looking at her with wary eyes and posture. Nobody moved. She had not expected this. In her mind, there would either be cheering, or a ruiness riot. Not... this.

Clearing her throat once more, she said, "Copies of this document are being made as we speak, and will be given to each family should you need to prove the veracity of these claims." Looking out at the sea of faces, she plucked up the courage to ask, "Are there any questions?"

After several long moments, it was Old Tom who stood forward, his simple straw hat clutched nervously in his hands as he said, "Scuze me for asking Mam, but with all those pretty words, they sometimes difficult like to follow. So, we Freemen now, so we can leave, should we care to? No one will come after us and hunt us like dogs?"

Swallowing, Josie forced herself to continue, "Yes, Thomas, that is exactly what it means."

Encouraged by Old Tom's success, another dark skinned man, whom Josie realized she didn't know too well, stood forward and said, "Pardon Mam, but what we to do if we go free? We got no coin, no things and articles of living, and what not. Emanci-patton is good and all, but means little should we be set forth to starve with little means of putting food before my kin."

Nodding towards the lanky worker, Josie responded, saying, "A small monetary sum is being dispensed to all, enough to let you get by for a turn whilst you get back on your feet. The amount of monies is determined by the size of Family, and the length of time spent working the fields and other duties performed."

Nodding, still not quite believing what he was hearing, the lanky worker stepped back into the crowd. Josie turned to see Old Tom still standing out front, a puzzled expression on his face as he asked, "Begging your pardons Mam, but I still be a might bit confused. Does this mean we gots to go, and can't work the fields no more? Are you done with us like?"

At this color rushed into Josephine's cheeks and she was hit with a strong current of emotions, which colored her voice as she stammered out a reply, "Heavens no Thomas! You are like my Family, and I dearly hope a great many of you will stay. I still have crops that need to be worked, wine to be casked, and all of the other duties of the estates. But I have come to realize holding you here against your own free will is wrong."

Nodding slowly as he listened to her, Old Tom spoke once more at length, his deep baritone voice carrying easily through the crowd as he said, "And shoulds we stay, we still get the pay you spoke so prettily about?"

"That is correct. And further more you will begin to earn an income for the work you do from this point forward. I am afraid it is not much, but it is something." In truth doing so would severely cripple the estates incomes for the immediate future, but Madam Baudelaire hoped her business' growth would make up for the deficeit.

Looking up at her, wringing his hat between his hands, Old Tom replied, "Well, that being the case Mam, I reckon I'll be staying on a bit longer, should you have me. These lands all I've known, and I figure I could do worse."

Smiling, Josie said, "Thank you Thomas, it is a great relief you think so." Josie looked up as the crowd began to speak amongst themselves, willing at last to believe this was not some elaborate hoax or joke. As she watched she saw her workers decide amongst themselves their course of action, some speaking heatedly with their kin as they decided what to do. It would be a long day...

----

It took until the end of the week to get fully sorted, by which time the promised monies had been paid out, along with a copy of the Letter of Emancipation. Many of the ex-slaves could not read, but they held the document like it was a fragment of the Old Testament itself. Of the hundreds of workers that ran the estates, roughly a dozen families decided to strike out on their own, taking their kin and folk with them as they did so. Josie was sad to see them leave, but was good to her word and saw them off with no ill feelings.

Runners were sent to town to post notices looking for laborers that would be given room and board, plus a small stipend for their work to replace the lost men and women. Josie spent a great deal of time pouring over her ledgers and accounts as she watched with dismay as her profits dropped like a heavy stone placed in water. She chided herself for being so material, but was quite realistic as to her future prospects, and those of her newly freed slaves, should her business' fail to provide for her new arrangements.

One thing was true however. When she listened to her workers sing in the fields as they worked, they now sung of Freedom. And of the woman whom had freed them. They sang as Freemen and woman, and it brought a tear to her eyes.


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