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Authors: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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BOOK: Hotel Transylvania
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"I heard La Noisse say that she had given him her diamonds and that he had made them grow larger." Madelaine traced a complicated design on the tablecloth with her finger.

"I have heard that, too. And I have seen the diamonds, which most assuredly are larger. He could have taken her smaller gems and given her larger ones, of course, but I cannot see why he would. What does he gain from it?" She shook her head, impatient with these insoluble problems. Pushing back from the table, she said, "I am planning to drive out this afternoon, if you would care to join me. And tonight la Duchesse de Lyon is giving her fête."

Madelaine looked out into the warm sunshine. "If you wish my company. It is a shame I did not bring my mare with me, for I confess I miss riding." The sadness in her face did not seem to spring from the thought of her mare.

"You may hire a horse, if you wish." Claudia d'Argenlac disliked riding, and was startled by her niece's mention of it. "I suppose growing up in the country..."

"I rode everywhere, aunt. I felt so free, when Chanée would race with the wind, and I would use all my strength to hold her." Her face lightened a little at this memory.

"Gracious, I hope you do not plan to ride through the streets of Paris in that manner!" In that instant la Comtesse was very much alarmed; then she considered the matter. "I will ask my groom to inquire about suitable horses for you, and if he finds you a sufficiently proficient rider, then we shall see."

Madelaine turned to her and smiled warmly. "Oh, thank you, aunt. I know I will feel less .. . strange if only I can ride."

"That is settled, then." La Comtesse rose, delighted to see her niece so animated. She felt that Madelaine's adaptation to Paris society was going well, and took advantage of her enthusiasm to ask, "About the fête—what will you wear?"

Madelaine shrugged. "I have not thought much about it."

"Then may I suggest that grand toilette you have, with the cherry-striped satin. It would be wholly suitable, and you have not yet worn it. It is a shame to powder your hair in such a gown, but it must be."

"What jewels should I wear, aunt?" Madelaine asked, entering into the spirit of the occasion.

"Your garnets are sufficient."

"Oh," Madelaine said with an impatient gesture. "This morning Cassandre found that the setting was disturbed. One of the links was almost broken. It scratched my neck." She touched her neck where the lace ruff of the fichu spread out. "I have told her to have it repaired."

La Comtesse shook her head. "A pity. Well, then, the diamonds. You have that collar with the large pearl drop. That should do for the fete."

"Very well." Madelaine rose now, and went with her aunt to the door of the breakfast room, then turned suddenly to embrace the older woman in impulsive affection. "I do not care if my father thinks that it is dangerous for me to come to Paris. I am glad I am here, aunt. And I love you for the kindness you show me."

Pleased and embarrassed by this outburst, la Comtesse freed herself from her niece's arms. "Well," she allowed, "it is no difficulty to be kind to so bright and lovely a girl as you are. Now, let me go, my dear. I must change if I am to be seen abroad in my carriage."

Madelaine stepped aside for her aunt to pass, then fol- lowed her out into the wide hallway leading to the front of the house. There was a thoughtful look in her eyes, and she did not speak.

 

 

Text of a letter from Beverly Sattin to Prinz Ragoczy, written in English, dated October 8, 1743:

 

To His Highness, Franz Jermain Ragoczy, Prinz of Transylvania.

B. Sattin sends his most Rspctfl. Greetings. Of the Business which we Discussed some nights since, I have the Pleasure to tell you that the Proceedings of BlueSky have prospered, and that the Desired Outcome is near at hand.

I beg Your Highness will meet with us in the Accustomed Place on the night of the 9th, where the Documents Your Highness desired will be available.

At the conclusion of this Transaction, land my Associates will be most Grateful and Appreciative for the material promised us.

With the hope that Your Highness's Affairs will prosper, I have the Privilege to remain

Your most humble, obt. svt.,
 

B. Sattin

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

 

Clotaire de Saint Sebastien leaned back on the squabs of his town coach and sighed. His conversation with de les Radeux had been disappointing, for the boy had no intention of assigning the family coffers to his uncle again, no matter what arguments he used.

The coach lurched over a pothole, and Saint Sebastien cursed. It was bad enough that he would be denied access to Beauvrai's fortune, but he was not certain that he would even have the primary sacrifice he had hoped for. Achille Cressie vouched for his bride, but had been stupid enough to alienate her affections. He did not know if she would be willing to come to the Mass, let alone trusting enough to be the altar and the sacrifice. He tapped his tall cane impatiently. He had to have the woman. This close to his goal, he would not tolerate such a setback.

For a moment his mind dwelt on the Sabbat. He had not officiated at one almost six years, and he felt his strength declining. He needed that power, born of blood and terror. He thought of the lithe young body of Lucienne Cressie stretched naked beneath him, as the congregation used her or one another until the moment when he would possess her, drawing youth from her like a bee drawing nectar. And later, when All Hallows came, he would possess her again, but this time he would plunge his dagger into her neck and catch the hot blood in the Chalice at the very moment of his ecstasy...

Suddenly the coach swayed and came to an abrupt stop. Angry at this rude interruption of his reverie, Saint Sebastien stuck his head out of the window and looked up toward the coachman's box. "Well?" he demanded.

"I am sorry," the coachman muttered, dreading what was coming.

Saint Sebastien stared at him, his predatory face becoming sharper than usual. "That is not good enough, my man. It is not at all good enough. Give the reins over to the groom beside you. Immediately." He had stepped down onto the road and was most impatiently tapping his high walking stick. "I do not intend to tell you again."

Very, very slowly the coachman climbed down from the box, and even more slowly he bowed before Saint Sebastien. "I thought there was danger, master," he said, not wanting to whine, but needing to delay the punishment as long as possible. "There were three beggars, master. They stumbled in front of the horses."

"You should have driven over them." He was holding the high walking stick lightly now, his hand fondling the cap of polished stone, mounted in lead-weighted silver.

"The horses, master. I did not want to harm your horses."

"That is a lie." Saint Sebastien slammed the stone cap down on the coachman's shoulder, a slight smile curling his mouth at the coachman's shriek. "Put your hands on the road," he ordered implacably.

The coachman started to back away, his head shaking, anger vying with fear for control of him. "No! No!"

This time the jeweled cap struck his knee, and the coachman collapsed beside the carriage, keening in a thin, high voice. He cried out once as Saint Sebastien deliberately took aim and smashed his other knee. Blood spread over his heavy twill breeches and began to soak into the road.

Saint Sebastien licked his lips once as he studied his stricken coachman, his eyes somnambulent with strange pleasure. Then, satisfied, he turned to the horrified groom on the box. "You may drive on," he said as he climbed onto the coach.

"But your coachman—" the groom began.

"What use do I have for a cripple in my household?" Saint Sebastien asked, his voice dangerously sweet. He looked out the window at the few people standing stupefied by the road. His eyes raked over them, and he remarked to the air, "There are those who would do well to be blind at this moment."

Quickly the street was empty. Saint Sebastien said to the groom, "I do not like to repeat my orders. Drive on."

The groom gathered up the reins and gave the horses their office. He was relieved to feel the strong pull on his hands, for it kept them from shaking. He put his mind on the roadway and drove.

The coachman watched the carriage pull away through pain-clouded eyes, and damned the scented, evil man who rode in it. He loathed Saint Sebastien, but at that moment he would have given his life in Saint Sebastien's service to have his legs back again. The pain was intense, and made him nauseated. When he tried to move, there were fires in his body. He realized he might be run over by another coach, and for a moment he wished he would be. He had been shamed, he had been crippled. He struck out with his hand and touched filth.

A shadow fell across him. "Coachman?" said a voice in slightly accented French.

The coachman looked up and saw an angular, elderly man in snuff-colored livery, certain indication that he was a servant from some wealthy household. The coachman groaned. He had had enough of wealthy households.

"I saw what happened." The man had knelt beside him now, oblivious of the dirt in the road. "I would like to help you, sir, if you would allow."

"Leave me alone."

"Were I to do that," the manservant said carefully, "you would be dead within the hour. A coach would crush you, or some of the ruffians who prey on unfortunate travelers would stone you in order to rob you of your clothes." He paused and touched the coachman's shoulder. "What is your name? I am Roger."

He hated to answer, but the manservant would not go away. "I am Hercule."

"Very well, Hercule," Roger said. "I am going to send for the lackeys of my household. We will carry you to our master, and he will surely do all he can for you. You need not fear. He is highly skilled in the use of medicinals."

Hercule scoffed through his pain. "What master would help me? I am a coachman without legs."

There was a wise, old smile in Roger's faded eyes. "My master has often surprised me. I know of one case when he sheltered a runaway bondsman at great risk to himself, and later made sure that the bondsman achieved the revenge he desired."

"He lies." The words came out in shouts.

"Ah, no. I was the bondsman, you see." He rose. "I will be gone for a short while, Hercule. Do not despair."

Hercule was about to throw Roger's kindness in his face, but the aged valet had already walked away. And now that Roger was gone, Hercule felt desolate. It had been easy to reject the old manservant and his master when Roger knelt beside him, but now, lying alone, listening for the approach of thieves and highwaymen, Hercule grew frightened. He was in sight of the gates of Paris, and there were buildings less than a quarter of a mile away. But the travelers who had seen him beaten were gone, and there was no one to help him now that Roger had gone off in a small trap.

As his fright grew, so did his hatred for Saint Sebastien. He felt the acid of it bum in his mind, and he took satisfaction from it. Hatred was stronger and more constant than courage, and it gave him the tenacity to resist the hurt in his legs long enough to pull himself to the side of the road.

The afternoon sun baked down on him, and only the cool autumn breeze brought him respite. He felt the blood drain from him as he lay beside the road, and thought of the smile he had seen in Saint Sebastien's eyes when the first red stain had soaked through his breeches.

Hercule was lying semiconscious a little later when one of the finest coaches he had ever seen came bowling down the road at a smart pace. It was pulled by four matched grays, and even in his agony, Hercule saw that the horses were superb animals. He felt a muzzy bemusement when the coach pulled up where he lay, and the steps were let down.

First out of the coach was Roger, who came directly to him. "Have you been hurt more?" he asked as he neared Hercule.

"No," Hercule answered, finding his tongue unwieldy. "Crawled."

"Crawled?" said the man behind Roger as he came down from the coach. He was of medium height, of stocky but trim build. His elegant, fashionable clothes were black but for fine white lace at his throat and wrists. On his small feet were black shoes with jeweled buckles. His dark hair was unpowdered and confined at the nape of his neck with a neat black bow. Intelligence marked his attractive face, made even more interesting by a strong nose that was slightly askew. He dropped to his knee by Hercule, as if unaware that the dust and filth would ruin his silken garments. "My good man, who did this to you?"

"Saint Sebastien." Hercule whispered, suddenly struck by the gentleman's intense, compelling eyes.

"Saint Sebastien," the gentleman repeated, "Saint Sebastien." Then he turned to his manservant. "Roger, you did well. Bring this man to the Hôtel. I am sure we will find something for him to do. I will attend to him later. See that the wounds are bathed, but apply no bandages. There may be shards of bone in the wounds, and they must, on no account, be pressed."

BOOK: Hotel Transylvania
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