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Tiffany Korta

Gallia Renaître (IC)

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The French Consulate, Lantern Hill, Bastille Day 2012

GM Post

Every Bastille day the Consulate held a black tie event in honor of the first strike in the freedom of the Republic. But this year was a little special. The French Government had leant Freedom City a marvelous example of 18th Century art, the La Comtesse de Domrémy (The Countess of Domrémy); mystery had surrounded the identity of the woman in the image down the ages. Now a Freedom City scholar had managed to identify the woman, and despite talk of a curse if the name was reveled, and the Consulate planned to reveal her identity on this very night.

For such a momentous event they had expanded the size of the gathering asking many of the city’s Major dignitaries as well as an open invitation of any hero originally from France.

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Rene could not have resisted seeing this. Even if he had not have received an invite, he would have demanded one, or failing that would have spirited himself into the unveiling with some arcane cloak. He was not above such use of sorcery!

As it was however, no such nefarious means were required. As one of the most famous artists in Freedom City, his name was on the list. Whilst Rene kept his magic prowess as under wraps and minimised as possible, he quite enjoyed the accolades afforded him in the art world.

He nodded at a few artists, and scowled at a few politicians. The French consulate provided excellent wine, and nibbles, and he did not refuse himself such trivialities.

He was looking forward to the revelations, whilst being slightly irritated that France had not unraveled the mystery...

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Six Days Ago...

The world was looking fairly gray on that morning. Marceau had been hit in the ribs with a bullet that had sneaked past most of his armor by pure bad luck, run himself ragged chasing a would-be assassin through an abandoned factory, and sent through a window by an explosion that took out an entire floor. Also he had overtime tonight. He woke up with a snarl as a ray of graceful sunlight shone into his eyes, groping for the pillow to pull over his head when he realized belatedly that it had long migrated over to the dingy sofa on the other side of the room. Simply dragging up the blanket was infeasible, due to it being weighed down by several other bodies slumped in various states of unconsciousness.

"I hate this pile sometimes" he grumbled under his breath, maneuvering his lean limbs out from underneath the covers and into the fresh pair of socks positioned in his boots beside the bed , the carpeted floor being a lost cause, as far as he and his feet were concerned. Rubbing his stinging eyes as he wandered over to the small table placed roughly in the center of the room, he took stock of the day's clutter that he would need to clear off, realizing bitterly that anything salvageable was buried among the dirty cardboard, broken glass and other detritus.

While carrying the garbage down to the containers in the alley behind the apartment building(with a few razor cards up his sleeves, just in case), Marceau happened to pass the newspaper dispenser, and a casual glance was arrested by the enormous words : "COUNTESS PAINTING TO BE EXHIBITED". He stared at it for several seconds, snorted and passed by. On the return though, his curiosity piqued, he dropped the quarters into the payslot(a rarity in the Fens), and started to idly read it on the way back to his room, rolling his eyes at the exaggerated description of the painting...

Bursting into the room with a bang that woke almost everyone else in it with a jolt, the Frenchman strode purposefully over to a clear wall, grabbing a small hammer and a spare nail on the way from a drawer in the miniscule kitchenette. With a single strike, he nailed the newspaper to the wall and circled a date in one of the articles, turned to the groggy people he shared his home with, and said in a crystal clear voice "Nobody. Touches. This" with that, he returned the hammer to its rightful place, and after donning his costume he left once again, the dawn bright once more.

July 14th

He had waited for days for this time, and as he walked up the grand steps he could barely contain his glee at getting to represent France at the unveiling of this mystery. He was saddened that none of his compatriots had managed to crack it before, but that lay in the past. Walking with a swoosh of his grand cape as he entered the room, he glanced around at the various dignitaries and high-ranking souls, frowning at some as some well-hidden misdeed of theirs bubbled up into his memory. Aloysius, my friend he thought as he looked around the room I wish you could be here! Spotting Rene de Saens, he speedily walked over to the man, calling over to him "<Good painter, are YOU the mystery master behind the day's subject?>" he asked with a cheeky grin.

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GM

"<Good painter, are YOU the mystery master behind the day's subject?>"

"Ah Marceau! good to see you here!" he replied, in English as a courtesy.

"Alas, non! the painting is as much a mystery to me as to you. I have not even seen it, much less painted it. Although I here ze work is masterful!"

He stroked his beard in thought for a moment.

"I am glad you are here, my friend. Your eyes are sharper than mine. And your ears too. And you have ze knack of piercing any mystery. I have a feeling your presence here may be fortuutous!" he commented.

"And besides, it is always good to have you by my side. It makes a helpless old man feel much safer!" he concluded, with a wink.

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Perched on the edge of bed in the room she shared at Parkhurst, Eve frowned as she considered her dilemma, absently toying with the invite she held. She flirted with the idea of blowing off this social event as she had all of the others in the past (and despite her best efforts the invites still arrived), but the Martel were a very old, and very prominent French family and as the local representative of the family she was obligated to attend.

The problem was that she was also La Renarde Bleue, the Blue Fox, formerly known as Sage and her exploits (as well as nationality) with Young Freedom are thoroughly documented. The telepath wrinkled her nose, let out a sigh, and got dressed for the evening.

---

Obligation won out over the strong desire to hide behind a mask and it was Eve Martel, not the Blue Fox, arrived at the French Consulate in understated by exquisite finery.

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Marceau nodded as he listened to Rene, putting a companionable arm around the shoulders of his friend. "Not even seen it!" he exclaimed with wonder "I am doubly surprised. The work is famed enough to be known by sight by a philistine of le arts like myself" he shook his head in amazement "At any rate, I thank you for your high praise! May my keen eyes and similarly-agile ears serve us well should the need arise. But do you think?" he added doubtfully, looking inquiringly at the painter "Do you think trouble will strike? I cannot imagine who or what would want to trouble an event like this. Unless they want to settle a score with some politician or other" he added with a sigh of resignation. Shrugging off the potential danger he briefly fell silent.

His eyes suddenly alighted on the newest arrival. He raised an eyebrow at the sight of white hair on somebody who looked so young, commenting to Rene "Comrade, that lady, do you know who she is? I believe I have seen that face somewhere before" he frowned behind the mask, trying to recall who they had been, and what they had done.

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"" replied Rene, lost in thought.

"" he answered, adjusting the spectacles on his nose.

"".

"Do you think trouble will strike? I cannot imagine who or what would want to trouble an event like this. Unless they want to settle a score with some politician or other"

""

He tapped his chin.

""

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""

Marceau was silent as he digested those words. At length he said "<I understand you perfectly, Rene. You have a gift with words. I shall be as alert as I can>" he promised gravely. Glancing over at the new arrival he frowned, his face abruptly clearing with a smile as he said "<Aha! Now I remember. That young lady is Eve, of the lineage of the Martels. She was a gymnast, I believe, whose psychic abilities and an injury of some kind got her kicked out of competition in that sport. I must confess I'm surprised someone like that would be here...>" he admitted, looking to Rene he added "<...it seems nothing is unimaginable, as you have said!>" he withdrew his arm from Rene's shoulders and shook the painter's hand "<I will go bid her greetings, I should mention I wouldn't be adverse to an escort>" he said with a grin, turning towards the heiress and walking over to her.

Once he got within a good distance he called over merrily in his deep voice "<Good day to you, lady Eve Martel! On behalf of French heroes, I thank you for gracing this occasion with your presence! I am the King of Suits, and I look forward to seeing what unknown lies behind today's revelation.>"

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At that moment through the crowd came the Consul pulling behind him an attractive young woman. He embraced Rene warmly before introductions.

<â€Rene I’m so glad I found you. I do hope you are enjoying tonight celebrations. This is Sophie Beatrice the smart woman who discovered the painting identity.â€>

The woman gave an embarrassed like look.

<â€I am a great fan of work Mousier deSaens, I’m even lucky enough to own one of your pieces. Actually I believe there was an artist in the 19th Century with the same name and a very similar artist style. Maybe a relation of yours Mousier deSaens?â€> Her French had a very distinctive accent of someone who learnt it over in Quebec.

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<â€I am a great fan of work Mousier deSaens, I’m even lucky enough to own one of your pieces. Actually I believe there was an artist in the 19th Century with the same name and a very similar artist style. Maybe a relation of yours Mousier deSaens?â€>

Sharp!

But then she would be having discovered this artist...

"Possibly, Madam" he bowed, doffing his beret "Ze study of history is not really my forte, I am afraid. I leave such mysteries and analysis to experts such as your self!" he said, trying to turn the conversation around.

He did not so much conceal his identity, as downplay and obscure it. There was a good chance this woman knew the truth, but he didn't want that advertised.

"I thank you for your appreciation in any case" he continued, giving her a friendly smile and a glass of wine from a butlers tray.

"I don't suppose you have any hints for ze grand reveal?"

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Inwardly Eve winced, wishing once again that she had opted for the mask, though outwardly she smiled and inclined her head in greeting to the King of Suits. "I would have been remiss if I did not attend," Eve noted though she did not elaborate further, reasoning that if this King of Suits knew who she was, he could intuit her reason for being here.

Instead her green eyes tracking the Consul and the young woman with him. "Tell me," Eve started, speaking quietly to the King of Suits, "What do you make of all this?"

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"Tell me," Eve started, speaking quietly to the King of Suits, "What do you make of all this?"

Switching to English the King of Suits answered brightly "On the one hand this seems quite too good to be true. While it is not uncommon for such mysteries to be resolved long after they would be most useful, it happening now? At this time? Rather strange to my mind." Discreetly following Eve's gaze, he marked the exchange between Sophie and Rene, continuing as if he had seen nothing "However, on the other hand we have no real knowledge what revealing our Mystery Lady's identity would accomplish, so..." he shrugged apologetically "I have a great deal of speculation, mostly from habit, but no concrete ideas besides it possibly being used to draw someone here for a hypothetical attack. My apologies, lady Martel" he said gravely, with a slight inclination of his cowled head.

Looking up he said more cheerfully "Have you discovered something about this?"

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“Well I can’t gave away too much, after all the whole point is the reveal†after a though she blushed a little and looked embarrassed “And of cause to celebrate the foundation of the French Republic." she sipped her champagne to calm her nerves But as it you Monsieur de Saens I could reveal a little of my findings.†Beatrice gave a conspiratorial wink.

She pointed up at the noble looking visage of the mysterious lady.

“Everyone agrees it’s a 19th Century painting, but her clothing’s all wrong it contains influences different periods. But then I figured it meant to be like that.†She displayed real passion about her work as she spoke “Then I remembered a story about a flamboyant figure from the Terror… But I’m revealing too much.â€

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“Then I remembered a story about a flamboyant figure from the Terror… But I’m revealing too much.â€

Rene's memory was not as good as it once was. But then, he was old, and had over two centuries to remember. A lot of things that he didn't want to remember too. And they had been eventful centuries.

But he certainly remembered a mysterious lady from his past. A lady he would not forget. A lady from his youth, as a fresh faced and inexperienced youth.

Could it be? Surely not....

His blood ran both hot and cold at the thought.

"There were many flamboyant figures in the Terror, madame" he answered. "And many terrible ones too" he added, with the weight of experience adding truth to his words.

"But now, you have wetted my appetite. I confess I can barely contain myself. I would very much like to see this painting..."

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“Well I’m not supposed to, but I could hardly refuse a request from the famous Rene de Saens. Best to do it now before this place really gets busy. If you wish you can bring along your friends.â€

When ready she led them up the left most of two magnificent marble staircases, which met in the middle before continuing upwards. By the looks of things this was where the painting was going to be placed for its big reveal. For now however she continued upwards to a room just off the main landing. The room was guarded by two armed soldiers; it was a mark of the painting cultural importance that it was protected by the elite soldiers of the Legion. Sophie had a brief, a heated, conversation with one of the two guards. It seemed that they were not happy to show the painting to anyone until its allotted time. It seemed that she however had the authority to do this and after snapping of a salute he open the door into the room.

“If you’d like to follow me…†Sophie gestured before walking into the room.

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“Well I’m not supposed to, but I could hardly refuse a request from the famous Rene de Saens. Best to do it now before this place really gets busy. If you wish you can bring along your friends.â€

"That is most accommodating of you, dear lady. My friends would be delighted to come along, I am sure!" he said eagerly, nodding at the gathered heroes.

He was not sure if he was excited or just had a sense that something was afoot. In any case, the company would be prudent at best, and harmless at worst.

“If you’d like to follow me…â€

"Certainly Madam!" he answered, straightening his stiff back and following her.

"I haven't been this excited since Monet's dinner party in '89!" he exclaimed, his legs carrying him forward with uncharacteristic vigour.

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Marceau lit up at Rene's signal and turned to Eve "Your presence would be welcomed I'm sure, lady Martel" walked over with his long, heron-like strides, nodding politely to Sophie before saying warmly "An unexpected pleasure! Consider me in your debt for this generosity, Ms. Beatrice. By the way," he added with a glance around the room he was entering "What security measures have been set up to keep this work of national mystery safe?"

'It all could be purely harmless, of course'

Correcting himself with an apologetic smile he added "That is, if I may be permitted to know?"

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Sophie was hopping around like a kid of Christmas Day and she hardly wait for them all to enter the room before throwing back the cover on the rather large canvas.

“May I present The Countess of Domrémy.â€

The woman wasn’t what most would consider a classical beauty, her face had angular sharp features, but this gave her a rather startling noble bearing. In defiance to modern trend she kept her hair dark hair in a page boy style. Her clothes were obviously of high quality, but she was dressed in what were masculine clothes.

Rene hadn’t seen either the woman or the painting in a couple of centuries but she still stirred many memories.

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Rene visibly gasped at the painting, and took a few steps back. His aged body seized up, and for a moment he thought he was having a heart attack. Despite his venerable appearance, and his even more impressive true age, he had a healthy vigour. And yet at the sight of the woman he felt his chest give way to a cold pain.

"Excuse me..I...I....must sit down..." he coughed, overcome with shock. He stumbled into a chair, his face waxy pale and his breathing labour.

"The Countess of Domremy..." he murmured "...It has been...so long..." he whispered, hoarse as his mind floated back to his first encounter with her* centuries ago when he had been a young man, no, not even that. A teenager, by today's standards.

*Spoilers!

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Startled by his friend's reaction Marceau darted to Rene's side, helping him reach the chair in case his century-old limbs were no longer up to the task. Making sure that the older man was at least nominally comfortable he turned to Sophie "The Comtesse de Domréry?" he asked with surprise, having only a vague notion of who the noblewoman had been in life "How did..." he looked more fully at the portrait, observing the masterful work that had captured so impeccably the woman in paint for a moment. "Amazing...Ms. Beatrice, how was the identity of the Comtesse portrayed so magnificently here determined? As well, if I may know, what protective measures have you already set in place? I assume it is not only those two worthies we met."

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Eve quietly accepted the invite to follow, hanging toward the back of the group and making her presence as unobtrusive as possible; the invitation was clearly more for the heroes than her. Though it was by all accounts and exceptional work of art, the painting failed to generate any deep interest in the young Martel; the older gentleman's reaction however was something that caused a snow white eyebrow to raise.

She opted not to comment on that reaction at this particular time, and instead cocked her head at Beatrice. "Who is the Comtesse de Domréry?"

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Beatrice gave a smile, like most academics she loved to talk about her knowledge.

“I’m more of an Art Historians but in my research I’m learned a little from. At the time of the Terror there were a number of different groups than arose to defy the regime. One was led by the Countess, who wished to overthrow the republic and restore the monarchy. She managed to gather quite a substantial group of people, it seems she only had to speak to someone and they would join the cause. But then she disappeared as suddenly as she appeared and with her the organization.â€

Poor Rene was having a hard time with it all his poor body had seen a lot over the years, but it still seemed to be going strong. Right now however he was feeling weak, despite his best effort he couldn’t seem to move or even speak. And maybe it was all the talk of the Revolution, but now he seemed to be hallucinating.

“Hello Rene, it been a very long time.†Standing before him just as he remembered her was Constance.

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“Hello Rene, it been a very long time.â€

Rene clutched his heart, feeling a pang as the strain hit him. He had been young, so very young... and now he felt centuries old. And not in the way he normally did. He felt as if the centuries clung to him like cold wet chains, dragging him down and sucking the life from his creaking bones.

His voice was faint as he replied. "Very long. And yet, I wish it had been longer...if you pardon me...I am old now, old with centuries beyond that of men, and have seen much...perhaps too much. The passing of wars, of kings, and states, new evils, and new triumphs. And worlds beyond on our own, beyond imagination...how Gods and kings are but pawns...how all power is an illusion..."

He coughed, the pain in his chest growing, and his vision constricting. Things seemed distant, somehow...he felt himself rambling...

"What....what are you doing here?" he asked, feebly.

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"Extraordinary..." murmured the King of Suits at Beatrice's relating of the woman's life, inspecting the brushwork around the eyebrows with considerable admiration. They successfully gave every impression of the hair and skin belonging to the real Comtesse. Marceau felt he could have picked her out of a crowd based on the painting alone. He turned to see how his friend was faring, and grew deeply alarmed when he saw the old man staring into space, talking to thin air. He struggled with the urge to walk over, embrace the ancient painter, try and comfort him somehow...'Ã doubt I could make any difference in that. The poor fellow has probably gotten over more than I will ever suffer. He needs no young fool who will only speak nonsense to him. he thought gloomily. Shaking himself he smiled apologetically at the Lady Martel "Please forgive monsieur de Saens. He has had a hard life, and a long one." he looked back up at the painting, "Perhaps he met her once?" he wondered aloud "He has had strange travels..."

She managed to gather quite a substantial group of people, it seems she only had to speak to someone and they would join the cause. But then she disappeared as suddenly as she appeared and with her the organization.
That was odd. "Might she have fled the country after the failure of some mission of hers?" the dark-skinned Frenchman offered, turning his bright blue eyes back to their guide "It seems incredible to me that someone with such a charismatic and persuasive character would simply vanish with no trace."

"As well, wherever was this work found?"

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“The painting was lost for centuries before it turned up in the collection…â€

She paused as she caught sight of Rene, and a strange look crossed her face. She strode over and bent down looking him in the eye.

“He knows, he knows who she is. He knows that her name is Jea…â€


Constance smile at Rene.

“I am a piece of undigested beef, a crumb of cheese.†She paused and a strange looked crossed her face “How strange it is to know things that happened after my time, to be aware that I’ve been gone all this time. I don’t even know my own fate…â€

There was the barest hint of melancholy, but she was quickly back to her old façade.

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