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The Many Tales of Blackjack: L'Abbaye des Morts

   
The Many Tales of Blackjack: L'Abbaye des Morts

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“There is Still Time."

"The Moment of Truth."

"Too Late.”

The watch of Dr. Jean-Michel Verité

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February 3rd, 2007

The south of France was beautiful. Though this was the coolest and dryest month of the year, there was still no snow on the ground, and the grass was green, and the air was chill and crisp and a balm to the nostrils. The group was in the mountains of Margeride, driving in the rented jeep up the gentle slopes and idyllic ramparts of this place. It seemed peaceful, in a way that would ring false to anyone well informed of the regions oft-bloody history. But today, it was peaceful.

"I am not certain of this." Sergei said, though he drove the jeep according to Erin's instructions. "I do not trust the Frenchman."

"Of course you don't." Sasha said, sitting in the backseat, nose in a guidebook. "No one does."

"Why is he still offering to teach you?" Sergei pressed, making a turn deeper into the dirt roads. Even here, the country was inhabited, with farms and vinyards and the occasional small villages. "I don't understand."

"What I find curious is that we're going straight into Gévaudan." Sasha said, turning a page of the guide-book.

The sun was starting to set behind the horizon. It would be night-time soon.


Erin sat shotgun, occasionally giving directions as the marks on her hands moved. France had been... interesting, anyway. She spoke French, and it had in theory helped. There was just teeny tiny issue that having learned from Whim, her French was to French People as Cajun was to Americans. When the tiny, demure, little woman approached someone and started speaking like a French swamp hillbilly, it caused some dissonance.

There was just a bit of fatalism in her mien, in response to her lover's concern. To walk this path was dangerous, she knew that. She'd taken a little time to just enjoy the relaxing, romantic country, unceremoniously telling Sasha to shove off and enjoy himself while she and Sergei did likewise. It was lovely down here. Spending the day entwined in Sergei's arms, surrounded by this landscape and so in love... if something happened today, at least the days before had been lovely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"Why is he still offering to teach you?" Sergei pressed, making a turn deeper into the dirt roads. Even here, the country was inhabited, with farms and vinyards and the occasional small villages. "I don't understand."
"Like the scorpion and the frog, I suppose. Have you heard that story, Seryozha? 'It is my nature.'" Erin turned to smile softly at him. "Though there is another version of that tale that I've heard, as well."

"He teaches. It is what he does. I am not sure he has a choice. He may be tying to harm me, I suppose. But I think instead, he wishes to make me like him." She pursed her lips, looking back down at her hand. "And that is more dangerous to me, I think."

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"What I find curious is that we're going straight into Gévaudan." Sasha said, turning a page of the guide-book.
"There were beasts out here. Lupine maneaters, that tore out the throats of their victims. A hunter shot it, and that marked the end of the killings." Erin mused a bit. "Verité warned me that the Loup-Garou still guard this chapel. Let us hope to reach there ere nightfall. We've had trouble enough with hellhounds in Siberia, and they were rather docile."

"If you think this is a danger, then why are you doing it?" Sergei said, frowning. Sergei honestly tried to understand Erin. He didn't always succeed. He didn't even often succeed. But he did try to understand. "What is there to gain?"

"I've a better question." Sasha said, flipping another page of the guidebook and ignoring the byplay going on up ahead. "Any idea what we'll do when we reach it?"

Unless you can think of some clever way of smuggling the weapons along (or want to risk an opposed Intelligence+Larceny check with the border guards), the three of you are unarmed.

Likely sneak them in through the Hedge whenever we hit a checkpoint.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"If you think this is a danger, then why are you doing it?" Sergei said, frowning. Sergei honestly tried to understand Erin. He didn't always succeed. He didn't even often succeed. But he did try to understand. "What is there to gain?"
Erin gave him a pitying smile. It was times like these she felt like she'd entrapped the poor man, caught him up in an infatuation that would cause him nothing but suffering. He tried so hard. And he hadn't given up on her yet. He'd sworn his life to her, sworn that he loved her, and put a ring on her finger to bind them 'til the end of their days... but in her darker hours, she wondered if one day, he would just snap, his love broken beneath the strain of dealing with her.

"It is my nature, I suppose," Erin sighed, with a faint smile.

"Have you heard the other tale of the scorpion and the frog, leveret?" she said, reciting the old chestnut. "The scorpion asked the frog to swim him across the river. The frog refused, saying 'if I let you upon my back, you will surely sting me and kill me." Replied the scorpion, 'I would not, for if I did such a thing, we would both drown.' And so the frog agreed, and took the scorpion on his back and began to swim. But as he made it to the middle of the river, he felt the sting of the scorpion on his back."

"'Why have you done this, you fool?' the frog cried, "For now we will both drown!'"

"'Little frog,' said the scorpion, 'I can swim.'"

Erin paused for a moment, leaving Sergei to chew over that as she glanced out the window. Was she the scorpion or the frog, she wondered?

To mollify Sergei a little, she added, "If the shadows on Christmas are to teach us anything, it is that death means little to these beings. That snake, Typhon, Niddhog, was supposed to be dead in Walsingham's day. If it claims the Great Fire of London to its name, then even a beheaded serpent can still strike. They warned us, those shadows, that he was coming."

Quote:
Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"I've a better question." Sasha said, flipping another page of the guidebook and ignoring the byplay going on up ahead. "Any idea what we'll do when we reach it?"
"Nope!" Erin answered cheerfully. "I merely wish to talk to the priests at this chapel. Whatever else happens depends on other people."

"I suppose we have to do it then..." Sergei said, hunching his shoulders over the steering wheel and continuing to drive. He drove on in silence for a few moments, before glancing over at Erin. He tried to look threatening, though he didn't much succeed. "Though if you get yourself hurt by hellhounds, I will wait till you heal, and then spank you."

Sasha swallowed a guffaw in the backseat. "I'm glad everything's so well thought out."

"Seryozha!" Erin protested, sounding shocked and scandalized. "For you to suggest something like that, in public!" That last bit seemed a bit more the stickler, though Erin still had that bit of childishness that insisted it was all grown up, and protested being spanked. Erin put her hands on her hips, looking a little offended. In a good way.

"You used to be such a nice boy..." she lamented to the universe. She gave Sasha a gimlet look, to say I know who to blame here, but of course he would only enjoy that, so she turned it back on Sergei instead. "So good, so sweet. Now look what's gone and happened."

"Anyway, I highly doubt I will be hurt by any hellhounds," she sniffed. "It is far more likely to be werewolves out here."

"I am not sure that werewolves are an improvement." Sergei mumbled. He continued to drive, hunched over the wheel, as the sun slowly set in the distance. He did not deign to respond to Erin's charges to having once been a good boy. These were rarely terms that had been applied to Sergei aside from a brief period of time in his life when he was depressed and insane. "I just worry about you, angel."

Behind them, Sasha rolled his eyes and returned to his guide-book.

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An hour later, and the three people in the jeep began to suspect that Erin's arcane navigation symbol was playing a practical joke on them. On at least three occasions (Sasha kept count) they passed by the same crossroad with the yellowed tree. Certainly, now that night had fallen, the air grew colder, and the beautiful countryside gained an almost ethereal quality about it.

Finally, as the prospect of going back to some nearby village and trying to find a hotel appealed, something appeared up from around a bend in the mountains. A small, pale-white chapel, just a simple block with a steeple, but a strange symbol atop the steeple. A doubled cross, mounted atop an infinity sign.

"I know," Erin said, squeezing Sergei's arm. "And I love you for it."

She replied to Sasha's eyeroll only with a smile and look, that said Don't even start. It's your own fault.

****************************

"Either the route to the chapel involves us driving round twenty times widdershins, or it has been keeping us busy until night," Erin mused, a little frustrated. She was not terribly frustrated with the directions themselves, for she was used to that sort of thing - it was the frustration of the others in the car that grinded on her. The reminders from Sasha were more than enough to make her want to lean back and yell "Yes I see it!!!", and Sergei had a habit of laboring on in dubious silence that was even worse.

When they stopped, she stepped from the car, feeling more at place and at peace in this darkened, unearthly countryside. There was little point in hiding, since Sasha was terrible at it, and she left her armaments in her pocket - she was only here to talk. She checked her hand to confirm the destination, and then checked her pocketwatch for the time. It had been styled after the one from her dream of Verité, with three hands, and three extra times on it. The hand had sat at "There is Still Time" since she had built it. Was the watch hand moving now? Did she hallucinate it?

"We are here," was all she said, walking slowly towards the chapel.

Dice Roll: 7d10s8e
d10 Results: 3, 10, 6, 5, 2, 5, 7, 5 (Total Successes = 1)
wits+composure

The chapel door was closed, but it was not locked, and with a grunt of effort (for old doors are heavy, and rusted hinges stick), Sasha and Sergei pushed it open. The inside of the chapel was a stark difference from Oleg Chernenko's garishly overdecorated monstrosity in the depths of Siberia. It was plain, just a double row of pews in front of an altar and a pulpit. There was no stained glass here, no enchanted icons, nothing but a cathar cross, that doubled cross above the sign of infinity, emblazoned on the white wood with a black brand.

This, in itself, was unusual. Very few cults, in Erin's admittedly limited experience, had undergone a Reformation. Cults were believers in ritual and liturgy, of long prayers to defiled gods, sacrifices offered when the moon was right. This kind of aggressive austerity was something new and unusual, though perhaps not so unexpected when one dealt with the remnants of the Cathars.

"We're here." Sasha said, repeating Erin's earlier words. What he did not add, though he undoubtedly thought, was now what?

Dice Roll: 7d10s8e
d10 Results: 5, 2, 1, 5, 5, 8, 7 (Total Successes = 1)
occult
Dice Roll: 7d10s8e
d10 Results: 6, 1, 8, 4, 2, 1, 4 (Total Successes = 1)
investigation
Dice Roll: 8d10s8e
d10 Results: 4, 4, 6, 4, 2, 7, 10, 9, 8 (Total Successes = 3)
warlock's gaze (altar and surroundings - pipe organ if possible)
Dice Roll: 7d10s8e
d10 Results: 5, 7, 10, 10, 10, 9, 1, 5, 2, 5 (Total Successes = 4)
mirror
Changing her face to avoid future recognition
Dice Roll: 5d10s8e
d10 Results: 2, 10, 1, 6, 8, 6 (Total Successes = 2)
token activation

Dice Roll: 9d10s8e
d10 Results: 5, 5, 4, 3, 1, 6, 5, 4, 9 (Total Successes = 1)
omen
Dice Roll: 11d10s8e
d10 Results: 10, 2, 2, 5, 10, 8, 3, 10, 7, 10, 6, 9, 3, 2, 10, 2 (Total Successes = 7)
verdant spring
Dice Roll: 11d10s8e
d10 Results: 5, 6, 2, 7, 1, 7, 5, 7, 5, 3, 6 (Total Successes = 0)
verdant spring




 

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