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Gallia Falling, part 1 - The Death of Kings (IC)

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Aliments Avenir Restaurant, 15th July 2012

Something was amiss with Rene, it didn’t take a detective to work that out. He seemed his normally friendly self but Lucy could tell that something was playing on his mind. The finally straw was when he didn’t comment on a very expensive bottle of Cognac. But she knew he’d never tell her directly, so a different tact was needed.

“I believe you promised to tell me a little of your past. So let us sit upon the ground and tell tales as Shakespeare would say. “

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"Monsieur Verdoux! I think I will need some more of this cognac, and a side room!" called Rene to the friendly manager, who dutifully obliged.

"Telling tales is for long nights and silent walls" he said, shuffling into a more comfortable seat upstairs from the restaurant.

"You know your history, I am sure. France was an interesting time when I was a young man. By interesting, I mean full of blood and misery. Oh there was also the best in men too, but the price..."

He paused, gazing at his drink, which he decided not to imbue after all.

"Ze terror. You know of it, oui? yes, it was terrible. Ze Devil, bless his soul, creates no Hell like Man paints for himself!"

"And them, ze Revolution! no better, my dear. Ze best, ze worst in men. It was then I met Broken Crow. It was then I burnt down the house of Count Necromme...dark days, glorious days..."

He sighed

"Let me tell you a story..."

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Offices of Maximilien Robespierre

4th Thermidor AN II (22nd July 1794)

Despite the power and influence that Citizen Robespierre carried he was not one for extravagance, so the offices he occupied were a simple uncluttered affair. As Rene deSaens was showing in by rather nervous secretary he was waved into a seat as Robespierre carried on reading.

“It says here that some prisoners of the state were rescued by a woman referring to herself as Britannia. They even swear that she glowed faintly and was stronger than any man they had faced.â€

With that he put his reading glasses on the desk and looked up at staring into Rene with his searching brown eyes.

“But do you believe such stories Citizen deSaens? After all we are living in an Age of Reason.â€

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“But do you believe such stories Citizen deSaens? After all we are living in an Age of Reason.â€

Rene gulped. The terror had seized France, and whilst he agreed, passionately, in the cause, he knew well that the man in front of him was easy with the gulluitine. Not many men could intimidate the bright young youth, but Maximilien Robespierre could.

He pondered the question. He was well read, and had read some books that were outside reason - books on alchemy, sorcery, and necromancy. And he knew well enough that these books contained truths. Often half truths, with lies and madness. But enough truth in them to have substance.

"Anything is possible, sir" he replied, honestly. He reasoned that a man such as Robespierre could sniff out a lie at a thousand paces.

"These stories, they could mean anything. Men who have faced the horro...the honour of war, they can see many things, sir. Sometimes such men, well, they can see things that aren't there, or see things clearer than others..." he answered, trying to look straight back at the man.

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A thin smile crossed Robespierre’s lips. “You choose you words carefully, there might a future for you as a Politician. You know me by reputation of cause but if you are loyal to the republic you will have nothing to fear. And if I thought you less than loyal you would not be here you would be elsewhere.â€

He poured Rene a glass of wine and placed it before him before taking a sip from his own glass.

“And what of our own brave sweet Marianne? There have been tales of a young woman who has come to assist our brave troops, who has render them aid and could not be harmed by sword or musket. Not all of these stories could be tales from those filled with the honour of war?â€

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Rene relaxed slightly. He had no wish to lose his head just yet, so his guard was not dropped. But Mr. Robenspierre seemed at least interested in the whole business.

He knew of the man in front of him, of course. An intelligent, charismatic man. In many ways, a man who was leading France into a brighter future, although the footsteps where bloody indeed.

"No indeed" he replied, for once refusing the wine. It smelled very good, but he did not want to lose his wits today.

"I have read much, sir. And I have heard of things that are beyond what one might say is rational. Just because I thing cannot me measured, it does not mean it does not exist, Sir..."

He fumbled slightly.

"There are learned men of the past who talk of these things. Spirits, sir. When a passion is high, when a country is ripe, such powers can condense, like rain on a glass. And become more than just dream's and visions. So, if you ask me if I believe such things...I believe they are possible. Even in this age..."

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“I have heard just such thing explained by men of Science, but never with such poetry. I believe you have the soul of an artist Citizen deSaens. It is such a shame that the Revolution forces us to play these parts. Maybe when this is over and France is free of tyranny you may able to go to the Academy.†For a moment Robespierre seemed wistful, but quickly he was his normal self.

He picked up the report and waved it in the air “The actions of this woman, and the other Britain’s playing hero do not concern me. A few less of the deserving meet Madame Guillotine. But in Britain they can do no harm, they do not dare to make war with the mighty France. No what concern me more is the reports of someone calling herself the Countess of Domremy. “

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"No what concern me more is the reports of someone calling herself the Countess of Domremy. “

Rene nodded dutifully. He thought he had heard the name, but he could not place it. He fidgeted uncomfortably, aware of his own anxiety. At least Robespierre had warmed somewhat to his speech, but he had the uncomfortable sensation that he was being tested in some way.

"I beg your pardon, Monsieur" he said, fumbling slightly "but I cannot recollect the Countess, if indeed she is an aristocrat. The recent troubles have absorbed my concentration more than they should have..." he confessed, and it was indeed the truth. France was alive with gossip and rumour, of course, but Rene was not up to date with it.

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There was a tiny flash of disappointment in Robespierre face but he carried on. “Domremy was the birthplace of Jeanne d’Arc. Indeed in this matter the Countess has been quite clever. She has never made any claims of such but already people are suggesting she is decedent of the Maid of Orleans. And of cause Jeanne was a Kingmaker.â€

He took a piece of paper from the table though he didn’t seem to need to refer to it’s contents.

“She also claims to be filled with the spirit of Gallia, the ancient spirit of this land. And indeed there are stories of feats similar to this damn Britannia or our own beloved Marianne."

He put down the sheet and fixed Rene with his piercing glare.

“I need an volunteer, someone who knows something of this world. Unfortunately all of this cities men of the Science of the Occult seem to be known to the Countess and her allies.â€

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“I need an volunteer, someone who knows something of this world. Unfortunately all of this cities men of the Science of the Occult seem to be known to the Countess and her allies.â€

Rene bowed deeply.

"I am a servant of France!" he answered back.

Straightening, a note of doubt hit him in body and voice. "But Sir, I do know a little of the occult. But, I am only a young man. Old enough to hold a rifle, and pull the trigger, and strong enough to fight. But, I would guess still to young to lead seasoned men. What do you ask of me? Would not a more...matured servant be of greater value?"

He drew himself up to his distinctly average height, and gave Robenspierre a querying look. Rene lacked much experience, of course, but nevertheless he held a high opinion of himself.

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“All loyal men are old enough to serve the revolution. It is the young like yourself that feel more fiercely the passion of a cause, and our opponents are also aware of them. Some don’t have the stomach for the sacrifices we must make for the new age.†His eyes had lit up and he seemed momentarily more animated. “And they will not know you beyond a disgruntled soldier of the revolution. I need you to get into your company and discern if she has the talents ascribed to her. And you will not go in alone I have asked the Committee of General Security to send an agent to assist you.â€

“And that wold be my cue...â€

Into the office breezed an young woman, barely older than Rene, followed by Robespierre’s rather hassled secretary. She was dressed plainly in a simple white blouse and red dress, her long curly black hair simply tied back, but she still had a simple beauty about her.

“Ah, Rene deSaens may I introduce Constance Mouron.â€

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“Ah, Rene deSaens may I introduce Constance Mouron.â€

"Bonjour and well met, Madame Mouron" said Rene, bowing deeply. If he had a hat, he would have taken it off.

He judged her intelligent and sensible, but appearances could be deceptive...no need for snap assessments, especially if they had a long carriage ride ahead.

He turned back to Robenspierre.

"I appreciate the company, Monsieur. But, pray tell, what should I do when I discern the talents of the woman in question? how will I find her? and how do I proceed? I have not the experience in spyi...in statescraft that you have...."

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“If I may Citizen Robespierre. We have been investigating this group for possible traitorous activities for some months and have discovered where they meet. I have some ideas of how we can attract there attention of the Countess, but we do not need to burden Citizen Robespierre with all the details.â€

With the grace of a seasoned professional Robespierre pick up from where Madame Mouron had left off “All I ask of you is to get an audience with this Countess, if she is a harmless crank dreaming of a lost age then we can easily deal with her. If she has the power ascribed to her then you must try to manoeuvre her into a trap. So that we can capture and contain the treat she may bring to the Republic.â€

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“All I ask of you is to get an audience with this Countess, if she is a harmless crank dreaming of a lost age then we can easily deal with her. If she has the power ascribed to her then you must try to manoeuvre her into a trap. So that we can capture and contain the treat she may bring to the Republic.â€

Rene bowed graciously.

If she is a threat... he added to himself. He had no idea who this woman really was but he was disinclined to send an innocent soul to the ever hungry guillotine.

"Well then Sir, I shall do my very best to serve France!" he finished.

France that is, not Robenspierre!

"I shall make haste to meet with the Countess and illuminate her secrets!" he said, not without some considerable patriotic proud.

"Madame Mouron, shall we? I am sure you have some well thought out scheme to set us on our journey?" he asked, offering to escort the lady outside Robenspierre's office.

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“Of cause Citizen deSaens.†She accepted his arm and allowed him to escort her from the office “I have over the last few years developed a taste for Coffee and I know the perfect place to discuss our plans.â€

Once on the street she hailed a Fiacre and gave the driver an address in the 3rd Arrondissement. They rode in silence for a while before Constance spoke.

“Rene, may I call you Rene? You of of cause call me Constance. There is something’s you must understand; there may be an occasions when I may not be able to tell you everything that is going on. It is a curse of my profession. But unlike Citizen Robespierre I will not be testing or judging you on your every word. You are not, as far as I can tell, a traitor and you have nothing to fear from Committee of General Security, I do not plan to send you to the Guillotine. Indeed if we are to work together I require that you speak you mind. Though certain options about the Republic you may choose to keep to yourself…â€

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Rene was unsure whether to be relieved or anxious. Probably both.

"Honesty then" he chose, savouring the coffee (and expensive luxury for him).

"I fully support the Republic, madam. Mankind shall only be free when the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest".

He scrutinized Constance carefully. An attractive woman, although such charms were lost on him. He knew by now that his love was not for women. Nevertheless, there were charms other than those of Eros and Aphrodite, and this woman had a tongue of silver. He judged her a master of the word and of wit.

"Its principles, that is. I confess I find the horrors of blood and war not to my taste. There is time and cause for them, it is true, but the masters of war do not fight them. The mud, pain, and grief are of bitter palate, and not tasted by those in power..."

"If this mission would end such anguish, then I would give my life for it..."

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Constance eyes widened with surprise “So you are a philosopher among your other talents. I am very tempted to abandon our task and head instead for the Café Procope where we could listen to the teachings of Diderot, Voltaire and Rousseau. And drink much finer coffee than this dive.†She sipped her coffee “Unfortunately far too often I must answer to those of a more political bent.†She seemed genuine sad at this thought “Though I suspect that some of those masters will taste that bitter fruit. And maybe with that last sacrifice Madame Guillotine will be sated.â€

She pause aware perhaps that she may have said too much, or was she despite her earlier promises trying to asses Rene’s dedication to the revolution? As she sipped her coffee her face again gave away nothing.

“But alas back to business. Are you aware of the succession of the Royal household that this Gallia is trying to restore?â€

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Rene tried to keep his face impassive, but was not entirely sure he succeeded. The woman was dangerously passionate. If she had been a man, he would be caught up in her right now...ready to thrown life to the wind and run away on a whirlwind romance.

"I have no love for the Gulliotene, madam. No matter who kisses her" he frowned, finishing off his cofffee.

"As for the Royal Household, I am afraid the machinations of the aristocracy are beyond me. As you note, I immerse myself in the literature and thoughts of philosophers and thinkers, rather than the gossip of kings and lords" he said, not without some pride or even arrogance.

"But if Gallia, whoever she is, wishes to restore the monarchy to power, then we should do all in her power to stop her. On this, you have my heart and my sword arm!"

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Constance gave a small smile “I hope that it doesn’t come to that. It would be a shame to spoil those looks. No I have a better idea, let’s suggest we can give her what she wants.†She sipped her coffee and let that idea sink in.â€

“With the death of his father Louis XVII became the King of France, despite being of the tender age of nine. Currently we’re holding him over there in the Temple.†She waived towards an ugly imposing fortress. “If we we’re seen entering the building to talk to Louis, and I’ve no doubt that the Monarchist are watching the place, we can then claim we have found a way to free there King.â€

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Rene nodded, pondering the matter. It was a good plan, it seemed to me. Not without danger, but then, what plan would be.

"You are far wiser than me in these matters, Constance..." he replied. "I am sure you know the plots and methods of the Monarchists better than I could. Your plan is sound to my ears, and one I would throw myself into..."

"However, it seems we then fall into the arms of the Monarchists unarmed and at their mercy. We are throwing ourselves into the whims of fortune. A dangerous fate! yet so be it!" he concluded, putting down his cup firmly and decisively.

"Let us make haste and meet the King!"

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“Now that was the thinking of a Soldier. Sometime your weapons are not these…†She squeezed his arms “…but what god has given you up here.†She tapped the side of her head “Perhaps a demonstration would be more enlightening.†She gave a wide grin “Go stand the other side of the street and observe.â€

When she could she he couldn’t be obviously seen she began to search her bag frantically among bouts of saying “Where is it†and “I’m sure I left in in her.†When Constance was sure that she the attention of the Waiter, and most of the Café, she threw her head in her hand and began to sob wildly.

“Oh my I had my purse in me when I left the house, some ruffian must have stolen it.†She managed between large sobs “And this was a treat for my husband, I saved so long to afford this. And he’s leaving this very day to serve our Republic in the Army. And my foolishness has ruined everything, everything.†At the end her voice a heartbroken wail.

The Waiter has a concerned look on his face, partly for this sobbing idiot of a woman, and partly the fact that she could potentially drive away customers. Quickly he came to a decision.

“A potential hero of the Republic, how could I spoil such a special day. The coffees are on me, no don’t argue I insist.†He carefully maneuvered her away from the table and back onto the street.

As he did Constance winked at Rene and behind his back threw some money onto the table, enough to pay for the coffees and a very generous tip. She crossed the road and re-joined Rene.

“Maybe Diderot is true when he described women as unscrupulous as to their methods.â€

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“Maybe Diderot is true when he described women as unscrupulous as to their methods.â€

Rene nodded.

"Quite my dear. They are deceitful and cowardly. Why, they are nearly....although not quite...as bad as men!" he concluded.

An asset at ones side, a venom in one's side... he concluded, hoping the sly Constance would never be inclined to slide a blade between his ribs, be it literal or metaphorical.

"I hope the monarchists will be as easy to deceive" he commented, slightly bowing in recognition of her prowess.

"You have convinced me, for one. Let us try this deceit then! to the King!"

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The corridor echoed to the sound of their footsteps, the building was more or less empty apart from a few guards, guests of the Republic and there keeps. Even with this to a military mind it was obvious that this building would be near impossible to storm. The building had been of most of its contents during the early days of the revolution, and a stark and depressing place even to visit. The current carer of Louis didn’t say anything, but lead them to a sturdy green wooden door.

Constance open a hatch in the door and gave a little gasp, the room was filthy it contents dirty in a poor state of repair. Sitting on the bed, the only piece of furniture in the room was a nine years old boy looking at them impassively.

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"Good evening your Monsieur Louis" bowed Rene, as politely as possible.

"No reason not to be kindly" he whispered at Contance, flashing her his eye.

"We have been sent to inquire as to your health and well being" he lied, brushing down his rather expensive clothing, courtesy of Robensperre's purse and Constance's eye. His own cloth was of fair quality, but wouldn't stretch to the finery that the young King was used too.

"How do you fare? Are you well cared for, young sir? The food and wine...water...of adequate quantity and palate? the sunlight and air still perfuse your chambers? is there anything you need?"

He asked as gaily as possible, in truth his heart rather sorry for the young boy, an innocent in the upheavals of France. Nobody had asked him to be king, rather, it had been thrust upon him by accident of birth.

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Constance obviously agreed, she had had the jailer open the room and had knelt down beside the young boy. Using a hankie she begun to clean the boy’s face in quite a motherly manner.

“It’s alright here mate, there looking after me okay.†The voice wasn’t that of Prince of (a former) Realm, but of a common street urchin off of the streets of Paris.

Constance shot Rene a confused and concerned look, she was just as unprepared for the boy reaction as anybody else.

“There are certain marks on the body that can confirm this young boy’s identity. But they are of an intimate manner. I think it best if you leave the room for a few minutes whilst I check the boy.â€

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