Chapter 7, Part 1: A Strange InvitationAs the three made their way into the town, the Lady Maire subtly
inched the group towards the shops and vendors that lined the street.
She would stop at any location that caught her eye. While Vladimir
looked more bored than usual, Lysandre took the time to investigate the
shops as well. In one of the shops, a small amulet had caught his eye.
It was a shield with a cross in it, decorated with a fleur de lis on
top. The Lady Maire thought it was too bulky for her, however, she did
express that it would look good on Lysandre. After not much thought,
the elf paid the shopkeep and donned the amulet.
for an inn that the Lady Maire would accept. Finally she pointed one out
and said with a smile and enthusiasm in her voice “That place looks
nice!” Lysandre read the sign, The Rusty Tankard. He wasn’t too sure about
the place, but before he could say anything the Lady Maire was already
dragging Vladimir in by his arm and shouting “Come on Lysandre! Vlad
says he needs a drink.” The elf sighed and made his way to the tavern.
odor. Not the most pleasant of places, but it seemed clean for the most
part. The Lady Maire hollered across the tavern, where she and Vladimir
had already seated themselves. “Lysandre! Over here!” she said as she waved one arm up in the air to get his attention. Vlad already had a drink in hand; As Lysandre made his way over to his
companions, he was starting to understand why Vlad drank so much.
Vlad and whispered. “Does she ever stop talking?” Vlad’s only response
was “My friend, the day she stops talking is the day I meet God.” Luckily
for the two men, the Lady Maire was too preoccupied with what she was saying
to pay any attention to her two friends. It wasn’t until two cloaked
figures came to their table that the Lady Maire stopped.
“Are you here for the meeting?” one of the figures said in a deep, soft
“Who’s asking?” the Lady Maire piped in before the others could say
one another. Finally one handed the Lady Maire a piece of parchment.
“Go to the location listed here. That’s where it’s being held.” The
man said in the same deep low whisper. “Can you prove to me you are The Shade, Catherine?” the other figure said in a soft, more feminine
The Lady Maire just looked at the two of them “Obviously, I’m The Shade.
If you want to make sure you can try. I just can’t guarantee you’ll be
alive after.” Lysandre was shocked at the Lady Maire’s actions, but did
his best to stay reserved.
“They’ll never believe her. There’s just no
way,” he thought to himself.
“Very well, see you at the meeting.” The woman said as she and her
companion turned and left the tavern.
“Maire!” Lysandre exclaimed softly.
“The Lady Maire,” she corrected in an exasperated tone. “Don’t be like
Vladimir. He never gets it right, and I have to correct him ALL the
“How could you just so calmly lie to those two!? You know nothing about
this meeting!? What are you doing?” Lysandre ranted at her.
“I don’t know, but it sounds fun! We should take a look into it,” She
said smiling, clearly proud of her actions.
Lysandre let his head fall onto the table with a loud thud. Vladimir
lifted his drink. “Welcome to my world, droog,” he said, and downed another tankard
Part 2: The Secret Villains’ Meeting
They followed the directions through the winding alleys, and finally stood facing a heavy wooden door. Lysandre seemed ever uncomfortable with the whole situation, but Maire giddily rapped on the door with her fist.
A flap opened inward and the low voice of a man whispered to Maire, “Who is it?”
“You know who this is, and why I’m here, now let us in!” she answered obstinately.
“I’m sorry, but I think you’ve-” the man’s answer was cut short with a grunt as he was shoved aside.
“I’m sorry Shade, he’s new.” The feminine voice from earlier cut in. “You are free to enter, but be warned, anyone drawing a weapon during this time will be shot by any one of the two dozen archers above… there will be no warning.” She finished with an attempt at sounding intimidating despite facing “the Shade”, as she had called Maire.
“Don’t worry, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve done this,” Maire said with enough self assurance to make even Vladimir almost believe she was this Shade.
Once through the door, they walked down a dark hallway lit by only a few torches placed at irregular intervals. The stones beneath their feet were rough and uneven; Whoever had done this work obviously had no idea what they were doing. This thought didn’t last long, though, as they heard the sound of talking coming from a bright light further down the tunnel.
They exited the hallway into a large room filled with people. A well dressed servant came up to them and warily said, “Good day gentleman, and lady, Lord John has not yet made it yet, so please, if you need food or refreshment, please don’t hesitate and we will be glad to serve you.” Vladimir dipped his head as thanks and the servant rushed off, clearly not all that comfortable around the men and women that stood around.
Vladimir recognized the look of them. Of course there were the regular brigands, ill dressed and armed with weapons they didn’t take care of. But then there were the others, the professionals. Some of them were dressed like lords of great wealth, while others dressed as unassuming as was possible. But despite their effort to appear nonchalant, Vladimir made them by their eyes. A person’s eyes changed when they became comfortable with the idea of taking a life. Vladimir shuddered at the thought that he could ever be like that and instead looked around the room they were in.
The room was brightly lit, and covered in bright tapestries and golden accents. This was obviously some sort of recieving room, but probably for some princely fool who used it to plan out how to stab his best friend in the back. On one side there was an ornate throne, with several guards standing around it, keeping everyone else at bay. And above them there were arches poised with arrows knocked, searching the room for anyone foolish enough to cause a ruckus. Vlad saw that there were several tunnels that lead here, with two doors leading behind the throne room, probably to the lord’s manor.
Almost echoing his thoughts, Maire’s gaze floated from one individual to the next as she started a new conversation with Vlad. Despite the incessant chatter, Vlad had to admit, Maire was more than she appeared to be at times. Her powers of observation alone had saved his skin several times. And he couldn’t believe he was thinking this, but he actually thought he was beginning to enjoy Maire’s ability to chatter on… and on… and on.
Finally, a loud bell was rung and a procession of servants entered the room. Vlad leaned on a stone pillar as he watched very well dressed, and very well fed, lords and ladies enter the room. Their clothing was diverse; They must have been gathered from all the lands in the area for this meeting. As he looked at the various clothing that people wore, there was one that for some reason stood out in his mind. That thought made Vlad uncomfortable. “What have you gotten us into this time, Maire?” he thought.
The servant who greeted them earlier stood in front of the throne and proclaimed. “His Highness, by God’s Good Graces, Lord Jean of Guilfort!” And with that a man walked out with outstretched hands as if he was the son of the most high himself.
“Oh, how wonderful to see so many people have made it to my secret villains meeting, it’s so nice to see that so many of you have come out to support the injustices placed upon my head,” he said, and with that he raised a wrist to his head as if ready to faint.
“This man looks like a fool,” Vlad thought to himself. He was dressed in the finest red robes, a gold ring adorning each hand, several gaudy necklaces, and the most obscenely jeweled crown Vlad had ever seen, covered in fleur-de-lis.
“Wow, look at that,” Lysandre motioned to the crown, “I would love to get a crown like that one day for myself.”
“Really?” Maire asked innocently, although the way she smiled made Vladimir worried, ’cause when she smiled like that…. She was planning something. But his worries were cut short by this lord continuing on.
“We have a problem here in Guilfort, some ruffian has been taking all the gold and tribute from the tax collectors and giving it back to those in need, we can’t have this. I mean, I was supposed to have a golden carriage built for my half birthday, and now I have to wait for my actual birthday, can you believe this?” He finished and looked around at the other lords that were around him. After a second they realized what this meant, and chimed in one at a time in approval. Vlad tuned out the lords throwing themselves out for Jean’s approval.
Yup, definitely a fool, Vlad decided in his mind. A rich fool, but still a fool.
Maire leaned closer to Vlad and asked, “Hey, those four sound kind of like you, do you recognize them?”
Vlad’s head popped up and with a feeling of pure dread realized he recognized not only the accent, but the voice. He looked at the raised stage on which the throne sat and looked directly into the eyes of a man he knew from his old life. The man rubbed his eyes with both hands, almost like he had just woken up and seen a walking dream. Vlad took that second and slid himself behind the stone pillar.
“Vlad, what are you…”
Vlad motioned with a finger to his lips and pointed at his eyes and then towards the stage. For once, Maire did what he asked without question and stared forward, as if there wasn’t someone standing next to her a second ago.
Vlad’s heart beat in his chest so hard he didn’t even hear the rest of the meeting they had attended. He hoped the man hadn’t recognized him… or else his family was doomed.
The Lady Maire’s nose itched. It wouldn’t be a bad itch, except that she had absolutely no way to scratch it at the moment. Her right arm, normally very good at scratching, was holding her against the outside of a building. Not a tall building, granted, but as she looked from her upside down position outside a window, she confirmed that it was also not one she wanted to fall off of. She looked at her left arm. Sadly, it too was holding her in place. As she waited for the itch to subside, she tried to distract herself with other thoughts. Though many would find it surprising, she was actually quite good at being quiet and still when the situation genuinely called for it. It was just that she and her companions disagreed about when that was. Stifling a laugh, she remembered that her companions could be talkative themselves, when they felt the situation called for it. She remembered how loud Vlad had gotten only a week ago.
“Perhaps we should try Italy,” Lysandre said. “I heard that the Pope is interested in ancient scriptures on various subjects, perhaps he would have something we are searching for.”
“The Pope is only interested in big houses,” grumbled Vlad. “No, we should head west, perhaps someone across the Channel has learned something of interest.”
“Why don’t we try Cuulayne?” The Lady Maire chimed in from across the fire, where she reclined against a tree, braiding her hair.
“Cuulayne? What is this Cuulayne?” asked Vlad, looking suspicious.
“It’s a small kingdom to the north,” said Lysandre, looking surprised at the mention. “It has an elven queen, but a human king. Most people haven’t heard of it. I’m surprised Maire-” he stopped as Maire glared at him, then smoothly corrected, " The Lady Maire has heard of it."
“Well,” she said with huff. “I’ve heard of many things. There is a monastery in Ansonia that has a respectable collection.” She ended, seeming to focus intently on the final twistings of her braid.
“The Lady Maire,” Vlad said deliberately, " Where did you hear about this monastery?"
“Oh, I found a letter,” she said with studied nonchalance. She peeked from her braid, and saw that Lysandre, too, was now looking at her suspiciously. “I was going to mention it.”
Vlad got up from his seat on a fallen tree and moved to stand above Maire. “When did you find this letter?”
“I don’t think I care for your tone-”
“Maire!” The menace in Vlad’s voice was clear by now, and his face and stance had become threatening.
“That’s the Lady Maire!” she said, then mumbled something further.
“Ya nye magoo eta poverit, kak ktota moshet stolka mnoga boltat ee neekogda nichevo govoreet! Ti chto, hochesh chtobi ya tebya vzyal ee otloopeel? Ya oo tebya sprashevayoo? Boshe moi, Maire, ti menya prosta svodish sooma!”
The Lady Maire looked at Vlad, very impressed. She hadn’t known he could say so many things without taking a breath. She decided that this one time, she was glad she didn’t know his language. She did, however, make note of a few words she wanted to try out later.
“What did she say?” asked Lysandre, watching as Vlad ran his hands through his hair.
“She said, she found the letter in the monastery in Geneve.”
The Lady Maire was pulled from her thoughts when the light in the room she was outside of went out. She waited several more minutes, then stealthily made her way inside. Great, loud snoring came from the bed, and outside the door, two men’s voices whispered. Grateful for her temporary ability to see in perfect darkness, the Lady Maire pulled out a bag. As she surveyed the items around Lord John’s room, she smiled to herself. Good thing she’d brought the bigger bag. Then she got to work.
Her name was Juno, and she was a beauty. She had recently arrived to the town, a few days before Lysandre and his company arrived. The elf watched the woman and her companions as they performed. They were very skilled performers and also knew how to handle a sword, Lysandre thought, grinning to himself. Vlad and Maire had business to attend to in town, which left Lysandre to his own endeavors. He took another drink as the women known as the “Fencing Foxes” finished their routine. The crowd cheered and threw what little coin they had towards the ladies and into the basket they had placed on stage. Lysandre made his contribution, and continued to eye the blonde woman from his seat at the bar. After collecting their patronage, the women took seats at the bar and cheered to their success. Lysandre looked beside him, and there she was, the beauty he had been eyeing this entire time. Her golden hair fell to her exposed shoulders, and her slim frame was accented by the blue corset she wore. Her clothing hugged her body like a well fitted glove. God has smiled upon me, Lysandre thought as he turned his body towards the woman and raised his glass.
“Marvelous performance, you are truly skilled,” Lysandre said with a charming smile.
“Why thank you sir. I haven’t seen you here before? Who might you be?” she asked, returning the same smile to the elf.
“Lysandre Carnavalet, at your service m’lady,” Lysandre said as he took her hand and kissed the back of it. She smiled.
“What brings you here then?”
“My friends and I are just passing through. They are taking care of their own matters, and I was…” he paused as he looked at her with the same charming smile he had given before “going to take care of mine,” he said as he took another drink of his wine.
“I see,” She said impishly. “Well, if there is anything I can do, please do not hesitate to ask.”
“I’m sure I can think of something,” he said as his hand rubbed the inner portion of her thigh. She leaned in close to the elf and called back to her companions.
“Girls…I’ll meet up with you later…or maybe tomorrow,” she said as the two rose from their seat and slowly made their way to the stairs. Her friends could be heard across the tavern as they cheered and shouted lewd comments. Lysandre didn’t seem to pay any attention as the two made their way to his quarters.
As the door to Lysandre’s quarters slammed shut, the two had already begun their activities. They worked frantically pulling at the cords, ties and fasteners that kept their garments together. It wasn’t long before the two were lying in bed. Lysandre’s body towered over Hera’s underneath the sheets. As Lysandre began to close the gap between them, a loud knock was heard at his door. “Just ignore it.” Lysandre whispered as he leaned closer to Hera.
“Lysandre! Open up! It’s Vlad, we need to talk. We have a big problem,” Vladimir shouted from outside the room.
“Not now Vlad! Come back later!” Lysandre spoke sternly, his eyes fixated on the beauty underneath him.
“Lysandre! This is important!” Vlad exclaimed. “We have a— Maire?…Lady Maire. What are you doing? I don’t think you should—“ The door flung open as swiftly as the Lady Maire had opened it. Lysandre quickly flung himself to the side of the bed covering as much of himself as needed. Juno sat up, wrapping herself with the sheets, quite shocked about what was going on as the other woman walked confidently into the room. All the while Vlad remained in the doorway looking in, eyeing the woman in bed the same way Lysandre had done earlier.
“We need to leave now Lysandre, the sooner the better,” the Lady Maire said calmly and directly as she always did.
“Lady Maire!?” Lysandre said in a very shocked tone. “What possible reason could we have to leave at such an hour!?”
The Lady Maire took the bag from her back and opened it enough for Lysandre to peak inside. “I got you something…but…I don’t think others will like the fact I got you it.” She said both pleased with herself and with nervousness in her tone. Lysandre’s eyes almost immediately widened as he looked inside the Lady Maire’s bag.
“MAIRE!?!? What on earth have you done?!?”
“The Lady Maire,” She corrected him, “and you said you liked it, so I thought I’d get it for you!” She smiled, quite pleased with herself. Lysandre seemed dumbfounded as he looked into the bag. From the corner of his eye he could see Vlad in the doorway, awestruck as he stared at the woman in bed. Juno waved as Lysandre spoke.
“Oh, yes, Juno, these are my friends. Vladimir and the Lady Maire.”
“Pleasure to meet you” Maire replied with a smile as Vlad just stood in the doorway trying to muster a wave.
“Charmed.” Juno said. Lysandre handed the bag back to Maire.
“Fine! Just give me some time to get my things?” Maire nodded and turned to leave the room.
“Come on Vlad,” she said as she pulled Vlad out of the doorway as she shut the door.
“Nice to meet you! Lysandre, I’m sorry! I—“ Vlad said as the door shut. The muffled sound of Maire’s voice could be heard outside the door.
“You have no class.” As their footsteps could be heard trailing off, Lysandre sighed as he held his head. “Forgive me…but it looks like things won’t be progressing any further.”
Juno leaned over and rubbed his back. “Don’t worry, perhaps another time or place?” She leaned over to the table beside the bed and took hold of a small necklace, and held it in front of the elf’s face. “I’m always willing to make a donation to the church,” she smiled as she dangled Lysandre’s holy symbol in front of him.