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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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dangerousliaisons.jpg

Welcome to this rather loose and liberal adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuse . This will definitely be a much smaller AAR than most that I've attempted and will end hopefully within the next few months as I go through the various chapters . Although I'll definitely be writing in my usual narrative style , I am also aware that this tale is perhaps something that is a bit of a niche pleasure considering I tightened the parametres of the AAR and I thought that it would just be good to have a little bit of fun . I'll say more in the coming weeks and will improve the graphics greatly when I get more time as well .

There will be some adult themes in this AAR , but no adult content . Please be advised that this AAR is not for everyone , either . This AAR deals with the issues of: sexuality , existentialism , violent revolution , political assassination , murder , intrigue , manipulation , seduction , homosexuality , emotional and physical abuse , political dictatorship , terrorism , and much more .
 

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Chapter I: The Marquise​

17 June 1783

To my lovely Elly:

Never forget that the world is a hostile, terrible place where the most notorious criminals are usually the ones wearing the most expensive lace. Always remember that there is no one that you can trust except yourself: a truth that I have had to learn quickly here in Paris. Most of all: never turn your back to the Marquise de Merteuil. She is the most dangerous of them all.

Yours truly,
Léon


~~​

The afternoon sun yawned against the pleasant palisade of buildings and townhouses that crowded the bustling Parisian avenues. Carriages and horsemen filed down the stone passages whipping their horses right and then left and rounding quaint fountains before vanishing down wider alleys. Burghers made way for the gilded transports. Young boys stopped their late day races to watch the caravan go by with quiet admiration and envy.

High windows reflected the orange glare onto the streets and dazzled the bystanders by accenting the golden twirls along the ivory cabs. Some of the boys watching even raised their hands to their foreheads to shade their eyes. They were barely able to make out the coats of arms emblazoned on some of the doors.

It was one of the boys that looked to his friend and asked “another dinner party at the other side of town, perhaps?” when the soft snap of something popping in the air interrupted him. Glass exploded nearby. A woman's screams dragged down the road as a bloodied head leaned out a half opened carriage door.

There was a small panic by the people watching as the horses veered to one side, forcing a halt as they neighed hideously against one of the walls. High above the mayhem, a window slid close. The man who closed the window quietly deposited a musket into a case which he snapped shut with the hushed calculation of an artisan.

“Too vulgar,” a man commented snidely from the back of the room. “Though I do have to give you credit, marksman, for using the glare to avoid detection from below. How did you stop the sun from bothering your aim?”

The man with the case walked towards his inquisitor and, handling the spectacles he wore, held them forward for the gentleman to see. The simple wireframe glasses suspended a set of lenses that seemed to change the orange blast of the sun into a cooling deep blue. “I expect payment by tomorrow,” the man said as he pulled back his eyewear and donned them once more.

“Cute,” the gentleman replied after glancing at the spectacles. “I wonder if I should have myself made a pair—do you think they'd be stylish?”

“Don't be rude, Léon,” a woman said from a seat further back in the room.

Léon turned back to look at the source of the woman's voice and jaunted over as the marksman dismissed himself from the room. “Like I said, too vulgar,” Léon reiterated with a sigh. “A public spectacle; a rather direct form of punishment; no chance for foreplay--”

“The Comte de Mortain was a radical. He doesn't do foreplay,” the woman replied, fanning herself quietly.

“More like the Comte de Mortain snubbed you at last week's engagement,” the man replied while generously rolling his eyes. “Though I would have thought you would have found a way to humiliate him rather than have his invitation to tonight's party so rudely canceled.”

“I would have liked to,” the woman shrugged pleasantly while smirking, “but when my affairs coincide with matters of state, I rarely have the prerogative on the way things are... executed.”

The man approached the sitting woman a step closer before twisting halfway and finding a seat next to her. “You usually don't invite me for a demonstration when it's a 'matter of state.' You know how much I loathe watching little state machinations unfold... they're always so... one dimensional.”

“I had wanted to talk,” the woman rebuffed him gently.

“Or perhaps you wanted to show off. I recognize our shooter. Chevalier Danceny? Am I to guess that you've taken him on as a lover?”

“Bring you here just to show you a shooter's ability? Now why in the world would I do that,” the gentlewoman smiled coyly at her interlocutor while avoiding the real question.

“I'll still beat him,” Léon replied through a sharp smile, “Some upstart will never be as good as the legendary Léon de Valmont with a gun.”

“You may style yourself the best shot in France, but it's still not the reason why I called you here,” the woman replied.

“Then out with it, then: we still have a party to catch after this,” Léon feigned annoyance.

“I have need of your other talent. Like your shooting: I need use of that other famous attribute of yours that has never once missed its target.”

Léon put out a smirk. “Who's the lucky victim?”

“Patience,” the gentlewoman chuckled. “I'll point her out tonight.”

~~​

“See her walking there?” the gentlewoman nodded with her head slightly to her right. Her eyes cut through the crowded ballroom of bright golden hues and velvet until they landed on a young lady with golden curls bowing to the older gentlemen around her who were paying their respects to her. Her slightly tanned complexion betrayed a colonial origin and the careful scythe-like curvature of her lips indicated that her suitors were oblivious to her careful scrutiny.

“She looks cagey,” Léon said with a delighted smile.

“I thought you'd like her,” the gentlewoman replied with a small laugh.

“New Orleans?” Léon asked.

“No: Martinique,” the woman replied before unfolding her fan once more to cool herself down. “Her name is Cécile de Volanges. She had just returned after spending a year there with her beau. Her father is the chief cartographer for the Caribbean. He fell out of grace here a few years ago. He was a commoner: a rather hardy one at that. It was her mother whom she stays with now here in Paris that retains a title and revenue.”

Léon looked over once more at the young lady and then at the gentlewoman again with a curious brow. “She doesn't sound very important,” he commented.

“Who says this has anything to do with importance?” the woman smiled at him and leaned in a bit closer to Léon's shoulder. “Do you remember the third son of the Comte de Rochambeau?”

“How could I forget,” Léon crossed his arms, “the things you got that boy to do--”

“He left me for the Indies five months ago.”

Léon's eyes widened for a second before evening out. His half excited gaze was steadied by the solid expression from the woman's biting grin. “Let me guess,” Léon reveled, “the young lady over there was his island sweetheart.”

“And his means of procuring a colonial office,” the woman continued with nothing but a razor sharp smile. “She's here to get him money and a grant to start some plantations in New Orleans.”

“So this is about revenge, then,” Léon smirked.

“Sure,” the woman shrugged, “and business. I have a few friends who I think should get the land first. But you're right. I want our dear friend the son of the Comte to find that when the time arrives for when his lady should have returned that she's still here in Paris hopefully continuing to jealously pine for your every... 'visit.'”

“Sounds simple enough,” Léon looked back to the beauty walking through the party. “Though you do realize that this will count towards my score against you.”

Léon triumphantly turned his head back to the gentlewoman's visage which grinned on only one side of her face. “I suppose that's unavoidable,” she feigned a sigh. “You're right, she is cagey and she is already in love with someone so I'd allow you fif--”

“Twenty: considering I also have to get her to stay in Paris,” Léon bargained a devilish expression.

“But that will put you at one hundred and eighty five,” the woman calculated.

“And from there just one more person away until I win our little wager,” Léon smiled as he took the woman's hand, brought it closer to his lips, and carefully licked the area right in between two of her fingers.

The woman let out a small chuckle, “and you say I was vulgar before,” she chided.

“We started this game knowing what was in store. Once I win this and get my reward, you'll regret ever having parted with me.”

The woman's smile broadened across the entirety of her face. “Very well. Twenty it is. Now go and don't come back until you have her heart on a platter for me.”

~~​

Luc watched the sliding courses of men and woman shifting in the party with some anxiety. The vertiginous sway of bodies forced him to look down, hoping to avoid the dazzling array of colours and lights from his vision. He moved through the crowd with his eyes searching for familiar feet. He thought he could see his cousin's dress directly ahead, so he took a step forward quickly only to collide with a figure gliding into his periphery.

“Pardon me!” Luc suddenly said as he straightened himself up. He brought his eyes back level and looked at the figure that had bumped into him.

“No no, it was my fault,” the young man said to him in reply. Luc suddenly realized that he was being steadied by the other one's hands on his shoulders. “Are you alright? Pardon my clumsiness,” the boy said to him.

“Sure, I'm--”

“Luc, are you alright? I hope you aren't troubling people again,” a familiar voice swept in from behind him.

“It's alright, Madamoiselle,” that boy said even before Luc could answer.

“You must forgive my cousin, Monsieur...?”

“Valmont. Léon de Valmont,” the boy introduced himself while finally letting go of Luc. “And you must be Madamoiselle de Volanges. I could tell by the beautiful shade you've managed to accumulate.”

“Indeed,” Cécile replied with a smile and a polite bow to the boy before turning to Luc. “This is my cousin Luc de Robespierre. I'm afraid he isn't very used to parties as big as these.”

Luc watched the exchange between the two quietly. He took the time to examine the young man that he had collided with. This Léon was slightly tanned like his cousin, with a faint beauty mark on his left cheek and crowned by jet black hair that swept down into a ponytail and bow. “The Marquise really does know how to throw a celebration,” Léon explained cordially.

Luc had perhaps wanted to say something, but, rather, he just watched his boisterous cousin engage the young Léon. He observed the other boy's gestures: the way he would raise his hand dramatically but subtly to emphasize an idea. It had gotten to the point where his cousin and the boy seemed like they were dancing without even having to touch each other or move about the ballroom. There were, however, those moments that Luc noticed Léon's eyes move to look at him for a second and then return to his cousin. Was he perhaps being too awkward? Did Léon secretly disdain his silence? He wasn't even sure why it mattered to him so much.

“Tomorrow it is, then,” Léon finally said with a satisfied smirk.

“Tomorrow, then,” Cécile agreed. Luc's cousin finally looked at him and beckoned him. “It was a pleasure to meet you this evening, M. Valmont,” Cécile bowed. Luc similarly gave a farewell before turning to leave with his cousin.

It was probably when they had reached the doorway to the main hall when he touched his right breast and realized that it was gone...

~~​

Léon couldn't help himself. He flipped through the small pictures drawn in charcoal and pastels. Figure of skylines and the sun dominated most of the drawings. Sometimes, however, there would be the study of a model in summer clothing, gazing off into some pastoral scene. There would be sketches of the moon and constellations that dotted the page feverishly as if the artist was worried the image would elude his memory if he did not press the celestial caricatures fast enough on paper.

There were images of armour: knightly garb of ornamentation that would have put the royal curaissers to shame: designs that Léon had never seen for man or horse. Then there were the pages of a boy crying, crouching alone on the empty papaer. Léon closed the sketchbook. It was then that Luc de Robespierre stood before him again.

“I suppose you dropped this,” Léon said as he handed over the black leatherbound booklet.

“Thank you,” Luc replied, “I had thought I lost it.” The young man bowed quietly and was about to leave when Léon's question held him with his back to the party.

“Was that you on page fifteen?” Léon's asked. Luc's throat was silent. “The boy crying. Was that you?” Léon asked again.

Luc turned his head to the side, allowing Léon to see only his profile. Even his eyes were diverted from Léon's gaze as Luc nodded nervously. It was then that Léon first began to realize Luc's small frame. The boy was tall, but his sharp features could be plainly seen in profile. His shoulders tapered into thin arms and those culottes and stalkings hugged tightly onto lanky legs. Léon had not needed the nod: the crying boy in the picture was the same as the one he was looking at now. For some reason, Léon's perpetual grin wavered a little. Luc walked off.

~~​

“You loosed Valmont on that poor girl? A little bit of overkill, don't you think?” Madame de Rosemond chuckled. For an old woman, she cackled like an uninhibited youth.

“I needed some extra security on this investment,” the Marquise replied. “She's an important one to keep watch on.”

“She must be something special if you've used your trump card on her,” Madame de Rosemond quavered as she spoke. Her arthritic hand placed a tarot card down in between her and the Marquise.

“She knows about The Plague,” the Marquise said lowly. Madame de Rosemond's hand hovered above the Ace of Swords, her shuddering suddenly changed to stiffness.

“I don't see why you don't just have her killed then,” Madame de Rosemond hissed quietly.

“I know she's made preparations for that. I haven't found out how she plans on exposing anything if something happens to her, but Valmont should be able to get me close enough for me to discern what it is.”

“Are you sure it's safe? Putting Valmont that close to someone who knows about that? What if she finds out more through him?”

“Valmont, for all of his banter, is as controllable as the rest of them. He has a one track mind. It's little chicks like him who never hatch from their egg and therefore die without ever truly being born. We are the chick and the world is our egg. Soon we shall break the world's shell. For the sake of the Revolution.”
 
Last edited:

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I'll take whatever Canonized lets us get. :D
 

dinofs

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A new Canonized AAR?!? :eek: This promises to be as good as the last one, good luck!
 

Kapt Torbjorn

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Revolution, seduction, and terrorism? Hell yea I'm in!
 

Najs

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This is very promising, excellent start! Now give us more. ;)
 

Enewald

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I might try to follow. Reading your AARs is impossible if you do not start following from the very beginning. :rolleyes:
 

unmerged(86922)

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I am following this from the start. I can tell it will live up too Timelines.
 

The Kingmaker

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Wow, this looks like it may prove most interesting.
I hope you don't mind, but your title reminded me of something, so I think I'll occasionally have to refer to this AAR as Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective.

Looks like we're gonna have to jump!
 

Davout

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Getting in on the ground floor. Best of luck with this new project.
 

Woody Man

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Glad to be in early, and well done on the opening chapter, hahaha this AAR is very you!
 

General_BT

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Scandalous and charming... I could totally hear Glenn Close and John Malkovich in my head as I read the dialogue. :) I'm rooting for Luc and Leon, if only because I am biased. :p
 

JDMS

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Sounds good. I'm in. :)
 

canonized

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Looks good! Are you only playing/describing the last decades of the game, or are you going to "go back in time"? :D

Just going to stick with this particular era . This'll be a relatively short AAR :D Short and sweet with a sweeping Revolutionary ending !

Cool - I get in on the ground floor of a new canonized AAR!

Looking good so far matey - the dialogue is very good; it's very clear who's speaking when, and each character has a very unique "voice".

Thank you :D very glad to have you on board !

I'll take whatever Canonized lets us get. :D

I'll try not to disappoint !

A new Canonized AAR?!? :eek: This promises to be as good as the last one, good luck!

Thank you ! I'll try my best to deliver !

Revolution, seduction, and terrorism? Hell yea I'm in!

It'll be a fun ride :D Thank you !

This is very promising, excellent start! Now give us more. ;)

Thank you ! more is coming right up :D Glad to have you on board !

I might try to follow. Reading your AARs is impossible if you do not start following from the very beginning. :rolleyes:

Haha , That's what these short AARs are for .

I am following this from the start. I can tell it will live up too Timelines.

Thank you ! I appreciate that :D

Wow, this looks like it may prove most interesting.
I hope you don't mind, but your title reminded me of something, so I think I'll occasionally have to refer to this AAR as Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective.

Looks like we're gonna have to jump!

Haha strong bad , eh ? XD Glad to know you're with us !

Getting in on the ground floor. Best of luck with this new project.

Thank you ! As a Francophile I especially expect you to be involved in this XD

Well, an excellent start to what I know will be an excellent AAR! :) I am just honoured to be on page one of this endeavor!

Thank you ! always good to see you about , dk :D !

Glad to be in early, and well done on the opening chapter, hahaha this AAR is very you!

Haha you have no idea XD Thank you ! next chapter will naturally mention one of my favourite englishmen XD

Scandalous and charming... I could totally hear Glenn Close and John Malkovich in my head as I read the dialogue. :) I'm rooting for Luc and Leon, if only because I am biased. :p

Haha oh yes I could hear that too . Rooting for Luc and Leon , eh ? Haha be careful what you ask for ! It might not be what you expect !

Sounds good. I'm in. :)

Huzzah :D Glad to have you !

Update coming today !
 

canonized

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Chapter II: Léon de Valmont​

18 June 1783

To my dearest Elly,

Do you remember a few years back when you had worked as my secretary? No... perhaps a year before that. That night on the docks when I took you into a boat I had rented out and asked you into the back cabin. You nearly fainted as I recall. We were young then. It was a more innocent time. In some ways I think I really did truly love you. It's probably for that reason that we just stayed up talking that night. But I couldn't let go of you. I wanted to keep you close to me.

I suppose all of us in the Scarlet Aristocracy knew that the secretary job was just a façade. Some guessed or thought that I was keeping you next to me as another 'consort.' You and I know the truth. I suppose you must be wondering why I'm reminiscing. Maybe I just miss that between us. Maybe I miss looking at a woman and not figuring out a way of getting her to believe that I held that secret knowledge that would make her shudder in those restless nights or her knees tremble when we don't have time to find a bed.

It must be a terrible time to be a woman. Aside from the Marquise, there are few of your sex that play the game nowadays. I'm glad that you're neatly tucked away in England. I also hope that your cousin Woodhouse is treating you well. If you are of want of anything just remember to ask me.

Lastly, I want to say this. You were perhaps always warned against those men who attempt to impress ladies with tales of their adventures and attributes. These are the harmless ones. It is those scoundrels that listen rather than talk that are the true danger. They are often the most skillful artisans of seduction. Intelligence is the first rule. If you know your target and know yourself: you need not fear the outcome of a hundred seductions. If you know only yourself like most of these 'gentlemen' do and not know your target then you will fail with half of your endeavors as these fools often do. If you know neither yourself nor your target then you will be the sorry victim every time. If you are strong enough, you should court even the masters and then entrap them yourself with false information and subtle bait. But for now, be wary and avoid giving anything out of yourself as possible.

Always Yours,
Léon


~~​

The garden grounds around the Volanges manor wound about plainly at first with shrubs and gardens and fountains in all the usual places. The discerning eye of the Vicomte, however, began to notice strange deviations among the outlines as if something particularly complex was hidden behind this façade of greenery. He kept his eyes on the foliage. It would be too obvious a show of affection to look at the tanned Cécile walking beside him.

He walked a step ahead, with arms behind his back and gloved hands curled together into a web.

“So tell me about yourself, my dear Vicomte.”

“What would you like to know?” the young gentleman smiled while continuing to track the movement of the suburban air condensing on the pollinating flowers.

“Something I don't already know, perhaps,” the girl responded.

Léon tempered his grin and turned to face the girl following him. “And what is it that you already know, Mademoiselle?”

“That you're deadly with a rifle. What is it now: nine out of ten duels won and three enemy officers sniped?” Cécile raised her eyebrows as she daintily counted out the victories on her fingers, looking down at them as if she was watching some boorish suitor kiss her hand.

“Ten out of eleven, actually,” Léon corrected, but he let his lips fluctuate imperceptibly and his eyes rolled back forward.

“What happened with the eleventh, exactly?” came the curious question. “It was with M. Remi Bastien, was it not?”

“You rather are well informed,” Léon feigned a puzzled look just in case the young lady could see his face. “I let him win,” was the simple and quick response.

“Let him win?” she repeated, rolling the words in her mouth as if trying to discern some exotic flavour. Léon took the opportunity to congratulate himself. It would be easy enough to ask women questions in order to find out how they think or their perceptions, but that would be too obvious. Léon de Valmont, instead, enjoyed watching reactions to things he said and extrapolating from there.

“It's obvious you believe me to be incapable of charity,” Léon could have said, but, rather, he chose to say: “He had good cause. I disrespected his wife at a dinner engagement... He was so nervous to fight me that he nearly shot my second standing far to my right. I couldn't refuse a challenge, but I knew when I was wrong. That woman of his would have left him if he had lost—or perhaps had hoped that I would kill him. He was not like my other opponents. He was not in it for revenge, opportunity, or prestige. He was fighting for honour. I respected that. So I shot at him and nearly took off his ear. I didn't want anyone to think I did not consider him worthy enough to duel so I made sure to miss within an inch of that organ. He said he was satisfied afterward to have survived a duel with me.”

Léon turned his eyes to look at the strange expression on Cécile's face. A rather bemusing combination of genuine surprise and awe. Someone must have been feeding her 'false' information about him, Léon confirmed. And of course by 'false' he meant true. His little tale—somewhat realistic—confirmed that he was working against more than just a love-sick girl from the colonies. Judging by her reaction, she had not expected him at all to be so generous as to recognize his 'fault' at disrespecting someone's wife. Someone was coaching her to be wary of his reputation.

“How do I know you just didn't miss?” Cécile tried to smile and laugh.

Someone has already warned her of lies as well, Léon was quick to note. “I'd rather you think I did, Mademoiselle. I have a reputation to keep, after all,” he chuckled as he watched her reaction. The candidness of his 'reputation' and the 'embarrassment' at being secretly an honourable gentleman was beginning to grow lines of confusion on Cécile's face. She let out a nervous chuckle. That's right, Léon thought to himself, you aren't sure if you should give away that you know about my reputation. I'm sure you didn't expect this, did you? He beamed a generous smile in her direction.

“You're a rather interesting gentleman, M. de Valmont,” Cécile admitted, beginning to warm up slightly. “Perhaps we should head back. I usually take my dinner late. I suppose I could have the cook make something for you as well,” she said a bit nervously.

Not exactly an invitation, Léon thought. She's afraid. “I'm afraid I can't stay, Mademoiselle,” Léon gently took her hand by surprise and gave it a cordial kiss. “I promised to help you with those charters and it'll take a few weeks to work through, but much longer if I don't get to the Indies office before they go on holiday for the summer. Plus, I do not wish to trouble your company any longer.” His smile as he stood back up was more towards her unsure expression than to any alacrity to perform such favours for her. “Perhaps another time, I shall dine with you,” he bowed as he stepped backward.

When faced with someone who is testing you, Léon thought to himself, always act the opposite even if it meant delaying a seduction. Léon was worried about Cécile's guardedness, but did not expect that she had also been prepared for him. With this reconnaissance complete for now, he'd have to get to the bottom of the matter. He gave her a generous grin complete with an almost invisible tilt of his head for added charm.

“Of course,” Cécile replied not knowing what she was saying. She hesitated to turn away from him as if a question was about to burst from her mouth, but she watched him, instead, begin walking down the garden path back to the front of the manor.

Léon's route took him to the west wing of the grounds towards where he could call upon his carriage out front. His mind was already calculating what he had gathered from Mademoiselle de Volanges. With each stride of his shoes, another piece of the puzzle was beginning to drop into place. As he passed the terminating edge of the hedges, he once again nearly bumped into that boy from the party.

“Pardon me,” Léon halted in front of Luc de Robespierre. The young man, also surprised by the presence of the Vicomte stood clumsily at the gateway of the hedges with a mass of equipment hanging from his thin arms.

“I'm very sorry, Monsieur, I usually don't expect anyone in the hedge gardens,” Luc apologized. Léon observed him for a second and then looked at the equipment being held.

“So you live here with your cousin, M. de Robespierre?” Léon asked adding another puzzle piece into the greater picture.

“I do, indeed, Monsieur,” the young man replied. A small piece of the equipment he was carrying shifted awkwardly in his grip.

An opportunity, Léon suddenly thought. “Do you mind if I help you with those?” Léon asked with a widening smile.

“I would greatly appreciate it,” Luc replied, though more politely than enthusiastically. Léon stepped forward and pulled some of the pieces—brass and copper cylinders as well as a wooden case—from that overburdened boy. “It's not too far. Just over here, please,” Luc walked past Léon and proceeded down the little maze of the hedge garden.

At a clearing near the far end of the manor where two benches marked a circular opening amongst the lining of the trees, Luc began to place the parts he was carrying down. “So do you travel to the Indies as well, M. de Robespierre?” Léon began the conversation.

“Ahh. Not very often,” Luc replied as he set up what seemed like wooden legs at the center of the clearing. “I only visit once a year perhaps to see my uncle: Cécile's father. Ever since my father died, he's been like a second dad to me,” Luc explained before reaching for what Léon held in his arms. As he took some of the cylindrical items from him, he spent a second to look at Léon directly. “Thank you for recovering my sketchbook for me,” he suddenly said with a quieter tone.

Léon kept the marble smile, but he could not help but move his eyebrows inwardly. “You're a rather talented artist,” Léon admitted. Something inside of him, however, grated at the wasted words. Why say anything when you can't get anything out of it? he chastised himself, but memories of those images flashed through his mind. To purge them from his thoughts, he focused on the smile Luc had garnered.

When Luc turned back to his contraption leaving Léon with just the wooden case, Léon took the opportunity to fully ruffle his forehead and force the images out of his mind. Why would they not leave so easily? He turned again to the boy managing the objects he had brought. The images evaporated from his mind, however, when he realized what it was that the boy had put together. “A telescope? I haven't seen one of these since I was a boy,” Léon found himself saying. He did not even think about the words before they came out. Part of his brain was screaming chastisements.

“It's my hobby,” Luc explained as he stood up and turned around to reveal the completed armature. “This is the best spot in the manor to look at the planets and stars,” he continued with a proud, yet reserved smile as he took the wooden box out of Léon's arms. Luc noticed the fascination that Léon had towards the shining object.

Léon stepped up to the telescope and reached out to it, but suddenly stopped, turning his head to Luc. “You don't mind if I--”

“Go ahead,” Luc looked almost as surprised as Léon was. “Do you like astronomy, M. de Valmont?” Luc asked tentatively as Léon's fingers caressed the brass casing.

For a moment there was silence. The light around them began to fade as the sun dipped below the horizon. A slight wind moved the trees ringing the clearing and the leaves let out a hushing sigh to herald the night. “When I was a boy,” Léon began to speak softly, “I used to have a telescope as well. Not as sophisticated as this one. I taught myself from textbooks which ones were planets and which ones were the constellations. When I went off to... an Academy, I had to leave all of it behind. I hadn't touched a telescope in perhaps a dozen years...”

The silence returned again as Luc listened. “Would you like to look through mine?” Luc finally asked. Léon's fingers stopped moving. “You should be able to see Venus right now...” Luc added.

Léon was as still as a painting. Even his breathing was stiff. He eventually turned slowly to the young man. “If I may?” he asked. Luc nodded, a bit intrigued by the strangeness of the Vicomte. Léon craned his head about until he could see the brightness of the planet penetrating the twilight above. He turned the telescope on its well greased joint to the direction of the Cytherean glow. He leaned down and gently placed his eye to the small aperture.

A few adjustments more before Léon let out a long sigh. “She's beautiful, isn't she?” Luc said somewhere in the periphery of his hearing.

“Shining like gold in a sea of chaos,” Léon replied as if he was repeating a prayer. “You should see this--” he said as he pulled himself up to look at Luc, but the boy was at one of the benches with the wooden box. The wooden box was open. In the twilight of the day, Luc had pulled out a violin. He suddenly realized that he was being watched. His awkward smile attempted to defray his embarrassment.

“My other hobby,” Luc explained himself.

“Out here in the dark?” Léon asked.

“It's not so dark when the moon is out. I can see well enough... It helps me to memorize my positioning if I don't look anyway... and helps me to memorize pieces if I'm forced to learn them before.”

“But why out here?” Léon would not let the subject go.

Luc took a moment to look down with a smile at his instrument and then back at Léon. “It's too loud in the house sometimes. Cécile likes to have the servants go in and out of places. I also like to make my own music depending on how the planets are that day. Venus always makes me feel at ease. Mercury makes me energetic. Jupiter brings me joy... it's my favourite one.”

Léon's expression turned painful. “Jupiter was always my favourite, too.” Although his face struggled to hold its shape, his comment made Luc's expression brighten.

“Shall I play you a piece I've been working on then?” Luc asked as he readied himself.

Léon stepped backward and sat down on the opposite bench with the telescope in between them. “Sure,” he assented. Luc's fingers manipulated the bow and the music started.


Luc looked up when he finished. Léon was looking off to the side somewhere into the treeline. For a second Luc lost his smile and he asked fearfully: “Did you not--”

“That was very good,” Léon interrupted. “What was it?”

“Just an old manuscript... a violin piece Bach had transcribed,” Luc responded.

Léon slowly cast his head downward so that his bangs could hide his eyes slightly. His eyebrows quivered as if he had been shot through his heart. “Bach, huh? A good song. His songs always used to bring me joy when I was younger. I used to think Bach's works were the highest achievement of Western culture. You have real talent.”

Luc stared at the pensive nobleman for a moment with his face suspended in attention. He thought he was blushing, but he didn't understand why. Léon could see it though: Luc's face was brighter than Venus. “Thank you, M. de Valmont...” Luc quietly said.

“Please, call me Léon, M. de Robespierre,” Léon finally looked up with a smile.

Luc caught himself smiling. “Call me Luc then.”

~~​

“Your damned friend, the Rosemond bitch wanted me away from Cécile de Volanges,” Léon burst out as he entered through the double doors of the gentlewoman's parlour.

“What ever could you mean?” the Marquise chuckled quietly.

“Before I left the Volanges manor, I managed to bribe one of the maidservants to show me Mademoiselle de Volanges's correspondence.”

“You asked for twenty points, my dear Léon. I wasn't going to make it easy for you,” the Marquise replied as she sipped some tea off a side table. A slow shrug accompanied her arms as they lifted the cup to her lips.

“You're undermining your own endeavor!” Léon complained back as he plopped himself on a sofa opposite the Marquise. He lifted his leg over the side while his head rested on the other. The other leg dangled down the front of the sofa.

“This was never about my endeavor, Léon. You can't manipulate me. You know as much as I do that you only took this up to get closer to your wagered two hundred points.”

Léon's face chameleoned from anger to bemusement. “Sure. True. But it'll take more than just obstacles to win. You yourself are still forty points away from your two hundred. You won't even get close by the time I finish if you--”

“Don't take another lover?” the Marquise let out a laugh. “You'll see soon enough the victory I've gained. But enough of business for now. You're late.”

“I told you, I had to bribe a--”

“A bribe takes an hour at most. It's almost midnight.”

“I was preoccupied.”

“With what?”

Suddenly, Léon's expression solidified like a rocky cliff. “None of your business,” he said as he got up off the sofa.

“Everything about you is my business, Léon.”

“I have a card game to get to,” he muttered as he stepped to the doorway.

“Just remember, Léon,” the Marquise stopped him as he was exiting. She took a moment to sip some more of her tea before speaking. “You cannot deny who you are. Whatever it is you might be trying to do that you will not say: I will find out. Whatever it is you are trying to do you will find will fail without my approval. We made you who you are. Remember that.”

Léon slammed the door behind him as he left.
 
Last edited:

dinofs

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Great writing as always, Canonized!