Avant Maljardin
by Barbara C.

PART ONE

Jacques turned from the fire, the crowd and the cathedral after collecting some of Philippe’s ashes and started the walk home. A couple blocks from the cathedral he wiped the tears from his eyes, refusing to look back. Once home he closed the front door quietly and slipped into his room, locking the door. He put the gold snuff box in a chest by the wall and locked the chest.

He lived in a small home with his mother (and his now-dead brother) in an elegant part of Paris. Jacques’ large room was on the second floor with large windows facing into Paris. He frequently had the house to himself as his mother often stayed at the Palace. Philippe had a small country lodge owned by the family he preferred to this maison. As a boy he often slipped out of the window and slid down the roof of the room below to the street – and to his waiting friends. Now the windows looked out at a rising plume of smoke in the distance.

“Master!” Raxl, the head of housekeeping entered the room. She went to the window and closed them, snapping the drapes shut. “That is not a good scene for you to be gazing on today. Would like me to bring you something to eat?”

“No”, said Jacques removing his doublet and boots. “Bring me a goblet and the largest bottle of brandy in the house. And if you check on me and see the bottle is empty, replace it with another until I tell you to stop.”

“M’sieur, that is unhealthy! You need to eat and to rest. You will…”

“Raxl!” Jacques cut her off. “I am not in need of mothering. You may have been my governess when you were 18 and I was barely two. But now I am a grown man, fully capable of knowing my mind. Mind your place and bring the brandy to me.”

Jacques lay down on his large, carved wood bed. He had only his stockings, breeches and shirt on. He collapsed back against the large pillows – tempted to open the drapes but knowing Raxl was right. He heard faint voices and knew that his mother was in her room on the first floor. She’d taken to bed wearing her finest nightgown and robe. He could see her friends coming to see her and offer sympathy and condolences while his mother ate a few sweets and dabbed her eyes. Jacques rolled his eyes imagining the scene.

Raxl brought the brandy and the goblet and set it on a tray on Jacques side table. “Remember, Raxl – when it’s empty bring more. No lectures! And I want no visitors!”

“Oui, Master” Raxl bowed quickly and exited the room.

Jacques quickly emptied the bottle and lay on his bed staring at the paintings on his walls. Rembrandt and his current favorite, Rubens. He needed to erase Philippe smiling while the flames engulfed him from his mind forever. He realized the brandy was numbed him. He felt nothing. No more guilt. No more sorrow. Just nothing.

Another bottle and Philippe would be gone too. He pretended to be asleep when Raxl brought in another full bottle. As soon as she was gone he opened it.

This was how it went for 5 days. Jacques would fall asleep for hours but awoke to find a full bottle which he started on immediately. He tried to read a couple books but remembered nothing of what he read.

On the third day of his self-confinement, Raxl slipped a tray of bread and cheese in with his brandy. She was relieved to see he had eaten most of it. Each day she left some food for him while he slept – most of which he ate, without comment. Jacques started a small fire in his room for warmth and slept whole days away.

On day 6 after Philippe’s death, Jacques’ best friend Gaston knocked on the Des Mondes’ door. Gaston had met Jacques at the Université de Paris when they were both around 14. Both were sent by their families and both studied Science and Law. Jacques’ older brother was already there studying Theology. Gaston and Jacques frequently got into trouble but became adept at blaming others and appearing completely innocent. About the age of 19 both of them occasionally signed on to shipping expéditions where they learned to fight and loot ; coming home with cases of gold coins, jewelry and fine wines. They would both tell their families it was simply payment for their hard work and each backed up the other’s story. They didn’t want their families to realize they had taken up with pirates, but they enjoyed the loot they brought back too much.

Raxl answered the front door. As soon as the door was slightly ajar, Gaston pushed it open and stepped in. "I hear he refuses to see anyone. How many days has it been, Mistress?" Raxl knew better than to argue with Gaston, "Six days, M’sieur."

"Too long, don’t you think Mistress Le’Twaire ?" Gaston breezed past her to the stairs, not waiting for an answer. He was the same height as Jacques with a more muscular build. He took the stairs, two at a time, reached Jacques door and knocked once. Badly imitating a woman, he squeaked "I hear the legendary lover, Jacques Eloi Des Mondes lives here!”

"Go away Gaston." Jacques yelled. Too late for Gaston had already forced open the door.

"Mon Dieu! Jacques! It smells like a distillery and a horse’s stable in here!" Gaston marched to the window, whipped open the drapes and unhinged the windows pushing them open. A gust of cool air entered the room.

"Gaston." Jacques was up and out of bed – "Are you hard of hearing, man?! I said leave!”

"No." Gaston said turning and facing Jacques. Jacques slumped back on the bed, too drunk to stand and fight his friend. "Jacques what are you doing? Have you looked in a mirror? You look like hell."

Jacques chuckled, "Hell and I bare no resemblance. I am much better looking."

Raxl came into the room and Gaston said "Mistress Le’Twaire, our Jacques has had enough wallowing. Pour him a warm soapy bath and bring fresh clothes. And a large carafe of coffee." Raxl left without a word to get a bath ready.

"What are you doing, Gaston? I’m not leaving this room!" Jacques exclaimed.

"Yes, you are" Gaston said. "I will let it be a surprise as to where."

Jacques was too drunk and weak to argue. Gaston grabbed him under the arms and marched him down to the bidet off the great kitchen. Gaston had been coming and going from Chez Des Mondes since he was a teenager, as if he was family. Once at the tub room he helped pull the rest of Jacques’ clothing off next to the large metal baignoire of hot, soapy water. He picked Jacques up and dumped him into the tub. Jacques’ head burst above the soap – spitting out water.

"Are you trying to drown me, you fool?! Bathing is unhealthy!" Jacques exclaimed.

Gaston chuckled "So is drinking yourself to death," and handed him the coffee. Jacques drank. "Mon frère. I’m trying to make sure one of the King‘s chevaliers doesn’t stink up the streets of Paris." Gaston sat wordlessly down in a chair near the tub while Jacques scrubbed himself. After a few minutes he begrudgingly finished, got out, dried himself and put on his robe. Jacques trudged back to his room followed by Gaston.

"So what is the surprise?" Jacques looked at Gaston with a cocked eyebrow. "A new tavern? New women in Paris? A party? Do tell, Gaston!"

"Keep getting dressed or we may be late. You’ll find out soon enough." Gaston sighed, "You know I love you like a brother, mon ami. By lying a’bed for near a week is enough. And please, allow the brandy distillery to recover from your onslaught!”

"Gaston I accomplished what I wanted!”

"What is that, pray tell?"

"I killed any conscience I had left after taking the oath of our coven. I wrestled it to the ground with my hands around its neck and then drowned it in good brandy!”

"Quiet, Jacques! No one is to know of our involvements."

"Oh don’t worry. Raxl knows, my Mere is awash in the sympathies and ministrations of others and the rest of the household stays away from my part of the house."

Finally, Jacques combed his hair and adjusted his doublet. He looked like his handsome self again, he thought as he looked into his long mirror. His drunk was almost gone but he felt good.

He and Gaston marched down and out of the house. "Raxl, I promise to bring him home in one piece" bellowed Gaston as he shut the door. Jacques was shocked to see one of the King’s carriages waiting for them. He turned, puzzled, to Gaston. "Just get in, mon frere, we’ll talk as we go."

Jacques and Gaston got in the carriage. Jacques was visibly uncomfortable. “Tell me now where we are going or I shall jump out. And you know I can outrun you!”

“To the palace, the King specifically asked to see you.” Gaston said flatly.

Jacques eyes grew large, “Zounds man! Is he putting me to the stake as well? Is he withdrawing my commission? Has someone told him something?”

“Calm yourself, Jacques. I have said nothing and I know no one else has. The King seemed very sincere in his desire to see you.” Gaston told him, “I suspect some friend of Madame Des Mondes told him you took to your room and locked yourself in, because I was told not to return without you.”

“Ma Mere’s tiresome friends always had loose tongues,” Jacques said as he rolled his eyes. “I’m sure it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

Gaston clapped Jacques on the back. “Now that’s the Jacques Eloi Des Mondes I know! Besides I want to check on the expansion of Versailles that Louis is so keen on doing with our money!” Both men laughed.

“The money he knows about!” said Jacques, smiling conspiratorially.

Eventually the carriage made it to Versailles and both men stepped out. Waiting on the steps was Louis XIV’s secretary. All men made the obligatory bows and the secretary ushered Jacques and Gaston into the palace. They made their way down a long gilded hallway lined with portraits and paintings as well as other fine objects beautifully displayed.

They stopped at a door guarded by two of the King’s Gardes. The secretary opened the door and bowed as he announced, “Monsieur Jacques Eloi Des Mondes and Monsieur Gaston D’Argent, your Majesty.”

“Come in gentlemen,” the King said walking toward him. As they bowed, both men glanced at the King’s high heeled shoes and then quickly at each other with a knowing smile.

“Monsieur D’Argent, my secretary will take you to le cuisine to get you some lunch. I need to speak alone with Monsieur Des Mondes. You will be called when we are done.”

“As you wish, mon Roi.” Gaston bowed again and was led out by the secretary. The door closed behind them.

“Please, Jacques, no formalities. Come and have some lunch with me and let us talk.” The King led Jacques to a small, beautifully set table for two near a long leaded window that looked out on to the construction of gardens.

Jacques waited until the servants seated the King and then sat himself. He decided to take an offensive stance. “Your majesty, is there something I can do for you?”

“Perhaps there is something we can do for each other, Jacques." The King spread his napkin on his lap while the lunch was being served. Jacques did the same. Roast quail with potatoes. Poached quail eggs on the side over a thin slice of bread with cheese while roasted vegetables covered with béchamel sauce finished the plate. And of course a large goblet of good wine.

“First”, the King began, “I needed to see you got a meal into you. I hear you took to your bed with only the bottle for company since your brother’s… uh… passing.”

“People who don’t see for themselves often exaggerate, your Highness.” Jacques said while making quick work of the quail. “I am fine, as you can see. But I am not such fool to turn down a fine meal from His Majesty’s chefs.”

“I know it took great courage for you to inform the High Court of your brother’s witchery. It pained me too. I had great plans for him” said Louis. “But it had to be done. I let the Church decide the punishment, I could not do it myself.” Louis had finished most of the lunch in no time and dabbed at his mouth with his linen napkin.

'How biblical' thought Jacques, while continuing his fine meal.

“But,” the King continued, “things have not ended there. While there was talk before of Philippe trying to be heir to my throne through witchcraft, now people are saying you also may be trying to take my throne.”

Jacques choked down his food and his head snapped up at the King. “No! I would not…”

“Calm yourself, I know you wouldn’t. But you know how the gossip at Court can be.” The King finished his wine and signaled for more. “Already people thought I was going to show Philippe mercy despite his actions, because he was my son. And I know they make accusations about all my… umm… offspring.”

“Your majesty, what are you getting at?” said Jacques as politely as he could muster.

“Jacques, you know I do love your mother. I have always considered you mon fils. After your father died fighting in Holland for me I felt so much guilt. You were but a boy and so was Philippe. I had introduced your mother and father. He loved her despite her having my child already. And you seemed to want to be just like him.” The King looked wistful.

“That was in the past, my King. I am a grown man and doing well.” Jacques stated. He put up his napkin signaling he was done and servants took his plate away. Jacques then drained the goblet. “My mother also seems to have adjusted to her life. She is very proud and protective of the Des Mondes name.”

“Yes” said the King, “Your family has been more than honest and loyal to me. This is why I must ask you to do something you may not like.”

“Ask, your Majesty. You won’t know until you ask.”

“Jacques, I need you to leave Paris. And France.”

Stunned Jacques stared at the King for a few moments. He took a breath hoping he had misheard.

“Leave Paris? My home?” said Jacques. “And go where?”

“Jacques there are those here in Paris who are determined to make your life very difficult. And I do not want that. I have properties in the New World. Islands in the South. I need strong Frenchmen there to protect my interests from the Spanish.”

“The tropical islands?” said Jacques “But that is wilderness!”

“There is a small, established town on the mainland where I will have you stay until you are settled. I need you to sell off Philippe’s properties. The profits are yours to keep. I am deeding you a large island just off the coast in the New World. My scouts tell me you can see the mainland from one side and the open sea on the other. The climate is warm. Your housekeeper is from the area. I expect her to go with you.” The King said, looking at Jacques.

“What about my Mother?” Jacques felt he had to ask.

“I have a small apartment underway in the expansion here at Versailles now that is close to being done. It is on the other side of the Palace from my family and I. Away from Marie-Therese and her spies. I want her to come here to live so my guards can make sure she is safe. I will make her comfortable and part of my court, I promise.” Said the King. “And Jacques, don’t tell her.” The king handed Jacques a packet wrapped in gold silk. “Give her this and let me talk to her.”

“Oh, and I will pay for the construction and shipping to any home you need in the New World.” The King added.

Jacques was, for once, speechless. “Your Highness, I just want to say I would prefer to stay here, in Paris.” Jacques tucked the packet safely into his doublet.

“I don’t expect you to leave immediately. In 6 weeks, shall we say? Oh, and I am having a party for some visitors next week. An Incan King and one of his daughters are coming to see our beautiful France. The King told my ambassador he wants his daughter to learn European ways. I will have an invitation sent for you and your Mother, of course. Your Mother will make a wonderful teacher for this Princess while she is here.”

The King stood and motioned for Jacques to stand. He hugged Jacques warmly and kissed him on the cheek. “Mon fils, please let this new life for you be a friendly request, not a Royal order.” At that, he turned to leave. Jacques bowed as the King left followed by the servants He heard the door he had come in by open. The secretary motioned for him and Jacques swept out the room. He was shown to the great front door and out to the carriage. Gaston was waiting.

“Well?” said Gaston.

“Give me a few moments to think, mon frère,” Jacques said still feeling stunned. “The lunch was delicious though!” Jacques chuckled, wanting to change the subject. At that the carriage clattered off through the streets of Paris to return the two men to Chez Des Mondes.

PART TWO

“Coachman, leave M’sieur D’Argent at his home. It’s in a few blocks,” Jacques told the carriage driver after being completely silent and lost in thought since the Palace.

“So, you are going to keep what the King wanted a secret?” Gaston asked.

“Just for a while, mon frère. I have some thinking to do.” Jacques said flatly. “You will know soon enough.”

“Don’t forget, there is a meeting late tomorrow,” Gaston said as the carriage pulled up in front of his home, just a couple blocks from Chez Des Mondes. He had learned from past experience not to push Jacques for information.

“I won’t.” Jacques signaled the driver to continue on to his home and horses clattered forward.

Once at his door, Jacques got out thanking the driver and telling him to convey his thanks to the King’s secretary for the ride. The carriage clattered away and Jacques turned to his door only to see Suzanne LaClaire sitting on the steps. She had on a pretty but simple gown; almost underdressed for this part of Paris, if Jacques hadn’t known her better.

Jacques let out a huge, audible sigh. “What do you want little one? Why are you here?”

“You have something that is mine, Jacques” Suzanne said standing up on confronting Jacques.

“I have nothing of yours, Suzanne.”

“I saw you take ashes from the fire. Ashes belonging to my fiancé. They are mine and I want them” Suzanne demanded.

“Your eyes must have deceived you, Suzanne. I have nothing like that. Now run along like a good petite fille and find a new playmate,” Jacques said flippantly, waving a lace handkerchief at her and continuing up the stairs.

“You are a liar! You lie, Jacques! You lied about Philippe and you are lying now. You have those ashes, I saw you.” Suzanne became belligerent.

“Your anger is very charming, Suzanne but I do not have them. And this is the last time I am telling you. So unless you want to come in and warm my bed I suggest you leave, lest I have you thrown out.” Jacques continued up the stairs, into the house and slammed the door behind
him.

Suzanne pounded on the door. Raxl came up the hall to answer it and Jacques told her “it’s that bothersome LaClaire girl. Get rid of her, Raxl and make sure she stays away.”

“A curse on your head! A curse on you forever, Jacques Eloi Des Mondes!” Suzanne’s threats came through the door. “This will be on your head for eternity! You are a liar and a murderer!”

Jacques looked at Raxl, handed her his cape and went into the sitting room to right of the door. He heard Raxl open the door and have words with Suzanne but he did not care. Moments later he caught Suzanne through the window, tromping down the street like a petulant child.

He reached for the wine decanter and a small glass. Pouring himself a drink he sat down. He was still stunned from his meeting with the King and growing angry. Raxl glanced into the room and reading his mood, decided to continue away down the hall.

‘Is the King exiling me? Is that what this is?’ he thought. ‘Is he is being true about the gossip at court and people trying to make my life difficult? Does he know about the spell the coven and I put on the court to conceal our membership? Or perhaps it’s the King who can’t handle the contretemps!’

Jacques got up and got more wine, ‘The root of it is I have no choice,’ he thought. ‘I have to leave and I won’t know what to do until I get there. But I have some time and have to see a way to use this to my best advantage. I have to position things so that I have the upper hand here. I don’t want Louis to turn my home in the New World into an Inn for his friends wishing a bit of adventure and free lodgings. Maybe there are riches to be plucked in the New World. There is a great deal of shipping to that area. And if Louis wants an outpost there, I might have militia at my disposal.”

Jacques walked to the window and looked out on the street. “Paris, you are my home. But I will have the merry life I deserve either way. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do, even if it is the King. This may be a chance to plow fresh, fertile fields. I have time… I have time…” he said aloud.

Jacques finished the wine and went up to see his Mother. Tapping on her door, he called “Mere bien-aimee, it is your son.”

“Jacques!” his mother called. Jacques opened the door to see his mother on her couch, flanked by her two best friends in matching chairs. They looked like two crows to him.

“Mesdames…” Jacques bowed.

“Wait downstairs, my darlings, while I speak with my son.” Madame Des Mondes said. At that her friends excused themselves from the room, nodding to Jacques. He looked to make sure they had made their way downstairs until he closed the door. He turned. His mother was in subdued attire of dark gray satin with only silver chain in her hair, which was more simply fixed than usual. She had champagne opened on the side table and there were three used flutes next to the bottle.

“Mother,” said Jacques coming to her side and kissing her hand.

“Oh Jacques, we have been through a terrible time have we not? Yet we still have each other,” said his Mother. “I hear you were at the palace today. Is everything all right? Was that Suzanne I heard cursing you?”

“Word seems to travel quicker than I” said Jacques. “Yes, Maman, everything is fine. Suzanne and I never saw eye to eye. The poor, deluded child still blames me for the demise of her beloved. Now, to answer your first question, the King was checking on my well-being apparently. He sends his love and this,” Jacques reached into his doublet and pulled out the packet wrapped in gold silk.

His Mother took it and turned it over. “Louis and I are past the times of sending each other tokens of love.” She unfastened it and opened it on her lap. There was a beautiful silver pendant inlay with a sparkling blue topaz. Philippe’s birthstone. On the back was the King’s insignia. There was a small note which she opened that asked her to come for lunch to Versailles the following day.

“It seems Louis wishes to see me too, Jacques. Anything I should know before I go?”

Jacques smiled, “No, Maman – the King merely wishes to see you. Check that you are all right. You do still love him, don’t you?”

“Always,” said Jacques mother. “But make no mistake; I love your father still, as well. I don’t know what that makes me. A fool probably.”

“No, Maman. Just a beautiful woman,” said Jacques, rising and kissing her hand. He knew flattering his mother would satisfy her enough to stop asking questions temporarily. “I am going to lie down, ma Mere. I feel very drained.”

“Jacques, you poor thing! This has all been so horrible for us. But I know the Des Mondes name is safe with you. You sleep, my child,” said his mother. “I will have Raxl send my reply to the Palace.”

Jacques kissed her cheek, bowed and left the room. Upon taking the stairs he called down in an impertinent voice, “Ladies, ma Mere and her perch are free for your winged return!” and quickly got to his room, closing the door behind him. He knew it was crude but his mother’s friends were more like leeches to him; chasing gossip and wine.

Jacques removed his doublet and sash and laid it on a chair. He restarted the fire in the small fireplace at the end of his room and jumped on his bed, bouncing on his back. He laughed to himself. ‘So much to think about, so many plans to make’ he thought. ‘And no more Suzanne LaClaire pounding on my door, no more of my mother’s vultures sniffing around, no more Court spies watching my every move,’ he thought.

He rolled to one side and opened one of the drawers in his nightstand removing a small locked box. Jacques pushed aside part of the carving on his headboard to reveal a small hiding place with a key. He opened the box. In it was an amulet with an upside down pentagram on one side and the Mark of Death on the other. “You will be there with me” he said to it, “A whole new place for you and me to control, corrupt and have some fun.” At that he locked the amulet back in the box, returned the key to its hiding place and the box to his night side table. Rolling back, he looked out the window. It was night already. Within a few moments, sleep overtook him.

Jacques awoke to see the sun seeping around the heavy drapes on his window. He went to the washbasin off the door to his room. Splashed his face and dried it with a towel. He pulled the bellcord and within minutes, Raxl appeared at his door.

“Yes, Master?” she said.

“What is for breakfast, Raxl?” asked Jacques as he put on his doublet.

“Breakfast? Master, it is lunchtime!” said Raxl with a stern look.

“Ah! Then my Mother has left for the palace?” said Jacques, looking himself over in the mirror.

“Oui, Master.”

“Then get me some breakfast. I don’t care that it’s afternoon. Some warm porridge, kippers and warm bread?” said Jacques in an overly sweet tone.

“Oui, Master,” Raxl turned to leave and stopped herself, turning back. “Master, may I ask something?”

“Go ahead, Raxl” said Jacques looking at her, hands on his hips ready for a verbal sparring match.

“I received today a letter from the Palace. Is there something going on I should know about?” asked Raxl.

“Do you want me to read it to you, Raxl? I know your reading and writing are still limited” said Jacques condescendingly.

“No, Master. One of the other servants will read it to me. I just wondered…” Raxl started. Jacques cut her off.

“Don’t trust me, Raxl?” said Jacques, with a smirk.

Raxl avoided his question, “I am just concerned there is something I should know about. I am loyal to the Des Mondes and protect this family always.”

“No, Raxl. Nothing horrible is in the letter. We can speak after you… uh, read it” Jacques smiled. “Now go get my breakfast together, I’m famished!”

“Yes, Master” Raxl left quickly.

Jacques opened his drapes and windows and leaned out taking a giant breath of air. “Paris, I need to savor you while I still can. But I am busy today! I want to get things in motion for my upcoming departure and have some rest before tonight’s gathering.”

Jacques withdrew the amulet from its box and put the key and box away. Tucking the amulet safely into his doublet he proceeded down to the dining room which was below his own room. Sunlight streamed in making the silverware glisten on the table. Jacques poured himself some juice, looked around to make sure Raxl wasn’t watching, and grabbed a nearby bottle of liquor, adding a good amount to his juice. He took a sip and smiled.

Raxl entered with a large tray. She set a bowl of porridge, a small plate of hot kippers and 3 large slices of warm, buttery bread with a carafe of coffee, some milk and sugar and a mug down. Jacques sat down and with a wave dismissed her and dug into the breakfast. “No more lying in bed,” he said to himself. “I must busy myself with arrangements and investigate the possibilities for myself in the New World.”

As soon as he finished he pulled the bell cord to signal he was done, quickly left the dining room and breezed out the side door. Walking back to the small stable the groom saw him coming and immediately started to saddle his horse. “You should have told me you were going out today, Master Des Mondes” said Henri. Henri had been taking care of the horses and small carriage the Des Mondes used. “Master Des Mondes?” asked Henri.

“Yes?,” said Jacques helping strap the saddle on.

“What should be done with Master Philippe’s horse and saddle?” asked Henri.

“Put out the word that his horse is for sale. And pack the saddle and his tack, Henri. I will need them…. Later” said Jacques getting on the horse and heading away. Henri was stunned. But he knew better than to pry with Master Jacques. In fact, Henri felt it was better to not know where Jacques was concerned.

Raxl listened carefully as Charlotte read her the note. Charlotte was the washing maid, in charge of daily wash as well as shipping off seasonal clothing to the Caribbean for it to be cleaned and shipped back. Raxl, as a girl, had worked at one of the cleaning stations and was fascinated by the ornate garments she saw come from Paris to be cleaned. Charlotte made notes as to what was shipped and made sure everything came back in good order.

“Mistress Le’Twaire” the note started. “His Majesty, Louis XIV has offered to your Master, Monsieur Jacques Eloi Des Mondes, property in the Caribbean for his personal use. Monsieur Des Mondes will be taking up residence there and the Crown requests you accompany him as his housekeeper and to inform him about the region, as you are a native.”

Raxl smiled. “Merci, Charlotte.” Raxl took the note and slipped it into her pocket.

“You are leaving us, Mistress?” Charlotte asked

“Yes, my child. You will be fine. I am very happy to be going home to see my family and my fiancé, Quito. I can be with my people and serve Monsieur Des Mondes as well.” Raxl said. “And,’ thought Raxl quietly, ‘I can use my powers there to keep Monsieur in check. I have things I can conjure him to do for me. No one will question a French gentleman. And he will have no choice but to do as I will.’ Raxl smiled as she walked back to her quarters. She would have to ask Jacques when they were leaving. This was an answer to her supplications to the

Serpent God. She missed home and being here after testifying for the Des Mondes family at the High Court made her uneasy. Viscount LeComte, her Master’s grandfather, had already come and asked if she knew any more about the coven. She knew both the Viscount and Jacques were members but she had lied to keep their secret and hers. Raxl thought of the looks she got when she made her weekly visits to order bread at the baker or meats from the butcher. She had already changed her manner of dress since she first arrived in France, but that did not seem to help. She was tired of being an outsider. Neither did she not want to reveal what she knew, or the document she hid and this would allow her a comfortable exit from the curious and suspicious in Paris.

The End

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