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Saturday, June 15, 1946
Hôtel de Crillon
Paris, Gallia

Late morning tended to be a slow time at the Hôtel de Crillon, especially on the weekends. With the weekend guests having mostly arrived on Friday evening, the lunch crowd for the hotel's three restaurants not yet arriving, and new guests rarely turning up until Monday, there was little for the front-of-house staff to do at this time of day but hang around the cavernous, opulent lobby, watching people go by in the Place de la Concorde outside, and wait for something to happen.

As such, there were more than the usual number of eyebrows on hand to be raised by the party that arrived at a bit past ten o'clock.

There were four of them. No one in the lobby of the Crillon that day had seen a woman wearing a mob cap in years, and yet here were two of them. The one in the lead, so petite that at first glance many of those present took her for a young girl, strode through the doors as if she owned the place. Much-beruffled in pale pink bedecked with scarlet ribbons and bows, her hat adorned with a jaunty cockade on the right side, she made straight for the front desk with a firm and confident stride, the heels of her sturdy traveling boots clicking on the marble tile.

Alongside her was a slightly taller blonde in somewhat more modern clothes, all red and white, but with an archaic cap that matched the first, save that it was white and its cockade was on the left side. Despite being taller and longer-limbed than the tiny woman in the lead, she seemed to be younger, perhaps in her early teens. Both of them carried furled parasols, evidently having closed them before entering the building.

And, to the staff's distinct puzzlement, they both had wings. The smaller one's looked like the wings of a bat, sleek and black, which would have been odd enough; but the blonde's were really eye-catching, bedecked as they were with glittering rainbow crystals where one might have expected feathers. The former, the hotel staff might have assumed as an unusual but not unheard-of manifestation of a witch's familiar, but what were the crystals about?

Compared to those two, their companions were almost unremarkable—a handsome young woman in a maid's uniform, notable at first glance only by the steel-grey color of her hair, and an extremely tall redhead dressed in green and white, her clothes of a distinctly foreign cut. Given her height and exotic dress, she would have been the most instantly noticeable member of virtually any other group, and yet compared to the two with wings, she almost slipped into the background.

Desk Manager Prosper Berjeau watched these brightly colored apparitions approach his station in startled silence, only shaking himself back to some awareness of his duty when they had nearly reached him. Reassembling his aplomb like a man putting together a puzzle, he cleared his throat and said,

"Good morning, ladies, welcome to the Hôtel de Crillon. How many I help you?"

"Good morning to you, my dear sir," said the tiny, silver-haired, bat-winged woman cheerfully, and as she spoke, Berjeau noticed her fangs. What on Earth?

Heedless of his puzzlement, the woman went on, "I am Countess Remilia Scarlet of Haut-Colmar, and I require a two-bedroom suite if any is available. Failing that, adjoining rooms with a connecting door."

Faced with such a plainly stated request for accommodation, Berjeau's training kicked in, and he was able to submerge his bemusement fully under his professional veneer as he replied,

"But of course, Madame la Comtesse."

"Mademoiselle," Remilia corrected him.

"Mademoiselle," said Berjeau with a gracious nod, "forgive me." He examined his books for a moment, then reported, "We have one two-room suite available. How long will you be staying with us?"

"It's hard to say," Remilia replied. "So much depends on the whim of the bureaucracy—I've business with the government, you see. I should guess at least a week, possibly two."

"That should pose no difficulty," Berjeau said smoothly. "If you and your party would be so kind as to sign the register..."

This she did, in a large, round hand, somewhat unlike the more compact and angular script in which she wrote down her address ("Maison Écarlate, Colmar"), before turning the pen over to the blonde. By the time all four of them signed in, Berjeau had summoned a pair of bellmen to show them to their accommodations.

"Our baggage should be arriving from Gare de l'Est shortly," Remilia informed him as the rest of her household signed the book. "If you would be so kind as to send it along... ?"

"Of course, Countess," said Berjeau. "If you will follow François," he went on, indicating the taller of the two bellmen, "he will show you to your suite, and Émile," he nodded to the younger, shorter bellman, "will conduct your servants to their quarters."

Remilia raised an eyebrow. "I beg your pardon?"

"About what, Countess?"

"Are you suggesting that we shan't all be lodging together?" she wondered.

Berjeau was faintly taken aback. How did a countess not know that? With as much poise as he could manage, he explained, "It is customary for guests' servants to be accommodated separately, yes."

Remilia shook her head. "No, my dear sir, it won't do. No member of my family is going to be consigned to the garret. We all stay together, or we don't stay at all."

Oh, thought Berjeau, she's going to be one of those guests. Out loud, though, all he said was, "As you wish, Countess," and with a nod and a snap of his fingers, he dismissed the second bellman.

Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
"Moonlight Serenade"
Bluebird B-10214-B (1939)

Flying Yak Studios
Bacon Comics Group
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Lensmen: The Brave and the Bold
Our Witches at War
special series

Gallian Gothic: A Romance in Wartime

© 2020 Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Book 3: The Scarlet Devils Go to War, Act I:
"Nuits à Paris"

The baggage arrived while François was taking them through the suite, explaining in the slightly flat tones of a rote recitation that it had been designed by a Very Famous Architect to resemble the better class of Parisian apartment. It had a small entry hall off the corridor, a large and well-appointed sitting room, a compact but functional kitchen with adjoining dining room, and two identical bedrooms at right angles to each other off the sitting room, each centered on a bed only slightly smaller than the capacious ones back at Scarlet Devil Mansion (though they lacked canopies).

"Wow, Sis, this place is amazing," said Flandre once the bellman had departed. Entering one of the bedrooms, she hopped onto the bed, bouncing a couple of times, and grinned. "Springs!"

"I'm so glad you approve," said Remilia dryly. Then, smiling, she agreed, "It is impressive."

"The man at the desk never said what it cost," Flandre realized, and Remilia smirked.

"In this sort of establishment, one doesn't discuss such matters until the time comes to settle the bill. It's gauche," she explained. "However, that does raise an important point." She went through the sitting room to the other bedroom, where Sakuya and Meiling were sorting out the luggage. "Sakuya? There's no hurry, but when you're settled in, I have an important errand for you."

"What's that, m'lady?" Sakuya inquired, straightening up.

Remilia reached into her shoulder bag and withdrew a small black velvet sack, which clinked gently as she handed it to Sakuya.

"We spent what little modern currency we had on the train tickets," Remilia told her. "I need you to take a look around and find a place where you can convert those into money we can actually spend."

With a curious look, Sakuya untied the blue silk ribbon holding the bag closed and looked inside, to find that it was full of coins. Withdrawing one, she turned it over in her hand and saw that it was a louis d'or, the coinage of the ancien régime; this particular one, sporting the profile of Louis XV, was dated 1751.

"I doubt the management of this fine establishment accepts two-century-old coins," Remilia went on with a wry smile.

Sakuya re-tied the sack and made it disappear into a pocket somewhere. "I'll see to it at once, m'lady," she said. "Meiling, will you help m'lady and the young mistress unpack their things, please?"

"Sure, I'll take care of 'em," Meiling said. "Sure you don't want to wait until I can come with, though? I mean, that's a lot of gold to be carrying around..."

Sakuya gave her a sardonic look. "Who do you think you're talking to?" she inquired.

"Awright, don't get mad," Meiling replied with a grin, spreading her hands in surrender. "I'm just sayin'."

Sakuya relented with a slight smile. "Thank you for your concern," she said, "but I'll be fine."

"OK, well, have fun," said Meiling. "I'll look after things here 'til you get back."

With Sakuya off on her errand, the others unpacked the baggage, sorting out and putting away their clothes and things. The all-important trunk, containing Remilia and Flandre's "special provisions", went into a corner of their bedroom, where it looked slightly incongruous, but would be out of the way yet ready to hand.

Then, having rigged the bedroom for blackout as best she could, Flandre yawned and said, "I don't know about you, Sis, but I need a nap. My body's all confused about what time it is."

Remilia smiled. "Go ahead, Flan. I'll join you shortly."

"All right," said Flandre, untying the knot of her ascot. "Don't wait too long," she added with a smile.

"I won't," Remilia assured her. Closing the bedroom door behind her, she said to Meiling, "Flandre and I will be sleeping for a little while. I suppose," she added a touch ruefully, "we shall have to get used to being awake for at least part of the day while we're in the city."

"It'll probably make things more convenient," Meiling agreed. "Sleep well, I'll hold the fort."

"I hardly think we need a bodyguard," said Remilia. "You can go and explore if you like."

"Nah, I'm good for now," Meiling replied. "I'm a little tired from the trip myself. By the way, I should thank you for not letting them stick us in the servants' quarters," she added. "I've seen those before in places like this. They're usually pretty grim."

"You're welcome, but really, there's nothing to thank me for. Sakuya likes to play the servant, and I indulge her," said Remilia with a mischievous smile, "but you're both part of the family as far as I'm concerned." She folded her arms, giving a derisive snort at the very idea: "Servants' quarters indeed."

Then, the matter disposed of to her satisfaction, she went to the table in the corner where the suite's telephone sat and picked it up, wondering if there were anything she had to do besides that to get it to work.

There was not; as soon as she raised the instrument to her ear, she heard the voice of the concierge asking what he could do for her.

"I need to send a telegram to the Allied Forces base at Château Saint-Ulrich in Ribeauvillé," she replied.

"Certainly, Countess," the concierge replied at once. "Go ahead whenever you're ready."

Château Saint-Ulrich

Gryphon was in FUEL STORAGE, elbows-deep in his jetpack, when Francie Whittle knocked on the doorframe. "Sorry to disturb you..."

"Oh, hey, Francie," said Gryphon, looking up from his work. "No worries, I'm just tearing down the 162 so I can swap in the spare turbine. What's up?"

"I was just going past the comm room, and a telegram came in for you," said Whittle, holding up a yellow form. "Barkhorn Minor's minding the store, and she asked me to bring it to you."

"Ah!" Gryphon said, brightening. "Give me a second to wash my hands. Or you could save us some time and read it to me," he added, half-joking.

Whittle shrugged and got her spectacles out of her top pocket, shook them open, and slipped them on, then peered at the paper. "'Hôtel de Crillon, Paris.' Well well! 'Arrived Paris 10:22 this AM. Will be here for duration. Letter of 14th inst should reach destination tomorrow; expect initial contact next week. Be on lookout. Hotel, Paris beautiful. Will have to return together sometime. Yours always, Remi.'"

Gryphon received this intelligence with a fond chuckle. "Thanks. I might have known she'd pick the Crillon. She probably got to the Gare de l'Est and asked the information desk to direct her to the finest hotel in town."

"A lady of expensive tastes," Whittle remarked with a smile, putting her glasses away.

"I'm not sure she even really understands money," said Gryphon with a thoughtful look. "She's never had to. Ah well, I'm sure Sakuya can keep her out of trouble. Her maid," he explained to Whittle's questioning look. "She's the real brains of the operation," he added with a grin.

Hôtel de Crillon

Remilia awoke from her nap to find that it was still daylight outside, but a peek out the window showed the shadows in the Place de la Concorde were lengthening. Early evening, then, most likely.

Flandre mumbled and rolled over, so she wasn't facing the window. Remilia let the curtain fall back into place, then went back to the bed and stood gazing at the sight of her sleeping sister for a few moments.

In spite of her rapidly advancing maturity, Flandre saw nothing incongruous about her continued love of stuffed toys. Her bed back at the mansion was still home to many, making a sort of soft obstacle course for anyone seeking to get into or out of it. For this trip she'd only brought one: her favorite, a bear Gryphon had made for her out of odds and ends during the period when he was visiting her nightly in her basement exile. For cultural reasons that eluded Remilia, it was apparently made in the likeness of a Liberion president of some decades ago.

Why anyone would want a stuffed animal to resemble a politician was beyond Remilia, but Flandre was very fond of it—presumably less for its political association than its origins—and she had it in her arms now, cuddling it to her chest as she slept with a serene little smile on her face. Smiling fondly herself, Remilia bent down and kissed her sleeping sister on the cheek, then dressed quietly and slipped out of the room.

"Good evening, Meiling," she said, finding the redhead in the sitting room reading.

"Good evening, Lady Remilia," Meiling replied, smiling.

"Sakuya's not back yet?" Remilia wondered, looking around.

Meiling shook her head. "Nope. I guess she got held up. I was just starting to think about looking for something to snack on until she gets back."

"Let's order from room service," Remilia suggested.

They were working their way through a cheese board and a really quite lovely baguette when the rattle of a key in the lock heralded the return of Sakuya. A moment later, the maid entered, looking ever-so-slightly harried, and Meiling and Remilia saw that she was carrying a valise she hadn't had when she left: a large brown leather Gladstone bag, which, to judge by its well-stuffed contours, looked quite heavy.

"My apologies, m'lady," she said, closing the door behind her. "That took rather longer than I thought it would." Placing the bag on the coffee table in front of the couch where Remilia sat, she went on, "I had to visit five different establishments to sell all those coins, and if I may be so bold, you may wish to consider opening an account with one of the city's larger banks."

So saying, she unfastened the bag and opened it, revealing that it was packed full of neatly bundled banknotes—all of them brand new, or virtually so, since the Fourth Republic had only started issuing new currency the year before.

Remilia blinked. "Ah. That's... rather more than I was expecting," she confessed.

"As it turns out," Sakuya reported imperturbably, "two-hundred-year-old gold louis are worth even more than their considerable weight of metal, if one finds the right buyers. The concierge was most helpful in that regard." Seating herself elegantly next to Meiling on the opposite side of the table, she went on with a slight smile, "I fear we may have destabilized the market in collector coins of the period for the present, however."

"So noted," Remilia said. "Still, this should get us through, if we're careful," she deadpanned.

With some time to kill before the letter Remilia had mailed from Colmar during her full-moon date night with Gryphon, two nights-slash-a month ago, would reach its destination, the four of them spent Sunday just wandering around Paris. Flandre had never visited the capital before, and Remilia had last been there in 1782, when it was a very different city. Since then it had been through four separate upheavals: the revolution of 1789, the second revolution of 1848, the Gallo-Prussian War of 1870, and the Neuroi occupation. Between the four of them, those events had erased much of what the elder sister remembered about the place.

As for Meiling and Sakuya, the former had never been anywhere in Gallia before her recent arrival in Colmar, and the latter had been to Paris more recently than Remilia, but had still missed everything after the late 1860s. All of which meant that there was plenty for everyone in the party to see, and they spent Sunday taking in as much of it as they could, the sisters under parasols while Sakuya and Meiling enjoyed the warm late-spring sunshine.

"What on Earth are they building over there?" Remilia wondered at one point, standing at one end of the Pont d'Iena and observing the skeletal ironwork rising from an obvious construction site across the Seine.

"Dunno," Meiling said. "Looks like it might be the base for some kind of radio tower."

"In the center of the city?" Flandre said.

"They're rebuilding the Eiffel Tower," Sakuya said patiently.

"The what now?" asked Meiling.

"The Eiffel Tower," Sakuya repeated. "An industrial monument. The original was built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, but it was made of iron, so the Neuroi consumed it when they occupied the city in 1940."

Remilia gave her a puzzled look. "How do you know that?" she asked.

"I read books, m'lady," Sakuya replied placidly, causing Flandre to snicker.

"So do I," Remilia objected.

"Not the right ones, apparently," said Sakuya, deadpan. Then she smiled and said, "The fact that the city is rebuilding it says a lot about how its image has changed. When it was built, a lot of Parisians hated it. They said it was ugly, inelegant, un-Gallic... but by the time it was destroyed, it had become the symbol of the city, if not all Gallia."

"Hm," said Flandre, her expression thoughtful. "Then maybe there's hope for the likes of us after all, huh, Sis?"

Remilia chuckled and ruffled Flandre's cap. "Maybe so, little sister. Maybe so."

Monday, June 17
Château Saint-Ulrich

Gryphon was in the hangar, performing maintenance on the Ha 162 Striker for Erica in Ursula's absence, when the Tannoy speaker crackled and Shizuka Hattori's voice announced,

"Captain Hutchins to the comm room, please. Captain Hutchins, please report to the comm room."

Puzzled by the summons, he put down his tools, cleaned his hands as best he could, and went inside.

"What's up, Shizuka?" he asked as he entered the Air Fleet communications room, where the young Fusōnese witch was standing a watch as officer of the day.

"There's a telephone call for you," the young Fusōnese witch said, indicating the instrument, which sat with its receiver off the hook.

None the wiser, Gryphon perched himself on the corner of the duty officer's desk and picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"Good day, am I speaking to Rittmeister von Katädien?" inquired a woman's voice with a manageable Gallic accent through a slight haze of static. The line quality was not amazing, but not terrible either—about par for the course for a long-distance trunk connection in Gallia these days.

"You are indeed," Gryphon replied.

"Ah, excellent. This is Madame Alouette de Moret speaking. I am Principal Undersecretary of the Gallian Ministry of the Interior's Seventh Bureau. My office is in receipt of a most remarkable letter which names you as the person to contact."

"Aha," said Gryphon. "I understand. How can I help you?"

"To be honest," said de Moret, "I'm not certain. Ordinarily, we would dismiss such a message as the work of a prankster or a lunatic, but President Auriol is taking it most seriously. As he will be out of the country for at least another week, he has asked my office to conduct the initial contact. However, I must confess that I prefer not to work through an intermediary. I don't doubt your own sincerity, Rittmeister, but I should very much like to speak to Countess Scarlet directly if it's at all possible."

"Well, as it happens, you're in luck," Gryphon told her. "Since she mailed that letter, Remilia's circumstances have altered somewhat, and she's now in a position to deal with you directly. As a matter of fact, if I'm right in assuming your office is on Place Beauvau, she's much closer to you than I am right now. You can find her at the Hôtel de Crillon."

"Ah. Well, that will simplify matters considerably. Thank you."

"You're very welcome. Sorry for the extra step; the situation altered in a way we weren't expecting when the original letter was sent."

"Not at all," said de Moret. "I quite understand. Ah..." She hesitated, then went on, "For purposes of background, Rittmeister, do you mind if I ask what your interest in this matter is?"

"Remilia mentioned in her letter that I'm her fiancé," Gryphon noted. "As her future husband, naturally I'm happy to help her any way I can. Besides, I have an abiding interest in justice—and what happened to her family clearly must be redressed," he went on, his voice mild, but very slightly edged.

"Well... quite," the bureaucrat said quietly. For a moment, he thought she might go on, but she evidently thought better of it, continuing in a more businesslike tone, "Thank you for your help, Rittmeister. I shall make direct contact with Countess Scarlet at once. If I need any more information from you..."

"If I'm not right here at Saint-Ulrich, they'll know where to find me," Gryphon told her.

"Excellent. Thank you again. Good day, sir."

"Bye-bye," Gryphon replied, and there came a click and a dead-line hum as de Moret ended the call. "Hm," he said, replacing the receiver in its cradle.

"What was that about?" Shizuka asked, then blushed slightly and said, "Uh, if you don't mind my asking."

"In the 1790s, vampires were outlawed in Gallia by one of the revolutionary governments," he explained, leaving out a lot of the gorier details. "Remilia's in Paris to get her and her sister's citizenship back. When she wrote to the President, she didn't think she'd be able to deal with his government in person at first, so she named me as her agent in the matter, but then she decided to handle it herself, so..." He shrugged. "They called me and I pointed them at her."

"Oh," said Shizuka. "What if it doesn't work?"

"Then the Fourth Republic is a damned disgrace, and we'll have to overthrow it and set up one that isn't," he said, and though he grinned as though it were a joke, something in his eyes told her it wasn't, really.

"We're kind of busy," she pointed out.

Gryphon nodded. "So we'll need to make it quick." Then, rising, he said, "I don't think it'll be a problem, though. That lady sounded pretty embarrassed about the whole thing, and that was just talking to some random guy she thinks is from Karlsland." He shook his head, smiling. "I wish I could be there when she meets Remi."

Hôtel de Crillon

Sakuya entered the bedroom silently and stood for a moment by the bed, letting her eyes adjust to the low light. With a sentimental smile, she saw that Remilia and Flandre had moved since she'd left them. Then they'd been snuggled together in the middle of the bed, face to face. Now, they were back to back, a short way apart, their wings overlapping.

Flandre was perfectly still, but as Sakuya watched, hesitant to disturb the tableau in spite of her errand, Remilia stirred, her hand pushing at the covers in front of her as if trying half-heartedly to fend them off.

"Mnnn... you beast," she mumbled, and then, blushing in her sleep, "... the kitchen? control yourself..."

Sakuya suppressed a giggle and bent, touching Remilia's shoulder gently. She kept her voice down, hoping not to disturb Flandre, as she said,

"M'lady. M'lady, wake up, please."

Remilia groaned, then opened her eyes, raised herself up on one elbow, and squinted blearly at Sakuya's face. In a low voice still blurred with sleep and all but dripping with irritation, she asked,

"What do you want, you angel-faced assassin of joy?"

"You have a visitor, m'lady," Sakuya replied, presenting her with a calling card. Remilia took it almost unwillingly, peering at it; then, when she saw the title listed after the caller's name, she brightened, her annoyance dissipating.

"I suppose I'll forgive you," she said, and then, with a slight smile, "although you did interrupt an excellent dream."

"My deepest apologies, m'lady," said Sakuya with a perfectly straight face. "Shall I help you dress?"

Meiling had just about exhausted her limited fund of small talk within the first few minutes, and she and the primly dressed, thirtyish woman from the Interior Ministry had been sitting across the coffee table from each other in an awkward silence for a while that felt longer than it had actually been when the bedroom door opened and Remilia emerged.

"Madame de Moret, good morning," she said in her most expansive tone, sweeping around the end of the sofa as the bureaucrat all but sprang to her feet.

Remilia was dressed in the best of the clothes she'd brought with her, the same button-trimmed, ribbon-decked outfit she'd worn on her visit to Château Saint-Ulrich, with her fanciest hat. Although she'd just been roused from a sound sleep, she was perfectly composed, her smile broad and eyes bright, as if she were greeting honored guests at the reception line of a formal dinner party.

"I apologize for keeping you waiting," Remilia went on, shaking the civil servant's reflexively offered hand with both of hers. "I'm afraid I haven't quite managed to realign myself to the diurnal world's waking hours yet, so you caught me still in bed."

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry, Countess," said de Moret. "It never even occurred—how thoughtless of me."

"Not at all, not at all," Remilia said, waving the matter away. "I wasn't expecting a response so soon, but now that you're here, all's well. Please, sit down," she said, and once the visitor had resumed her seat, she sat down in the armchair at right-angles to her sofa, crossing her legs elegantly at the knee. "Have you been offered any refreshment?"

"Yes, Countess, but I'm fine, thank you," de Moret replied, still slightly off-balance.

"Very well, then. Sakuya, I should like some tea, please."

"Right away, m'lady," said Sakuya, and she took herself off to the kitchen. She was back in what struck de Moret as an improbably short time, presenting her mistress with a saucer and steaming cup, then withdrawing to stand a discreet distance off after Remilia thanked her for it.

The vampire took the first sip of her tea, then replaced the cup on the saucer and smiled over it at her visitor, her crimson eyes with their unsettling vertical-slit pupils glinting at her with what Madame de Moret took to be faint amusement, possibly at her discomfiture.

"Now then," said Remilia. "How can I help you, Madame de Moret?"

"I—well," said the bureaucrat, fumbling momentarily for words; then she recalled herself to her duty and said, "You may be aware that President Auriol is out of the country at present. He's in Neukarlsland, where he attended the wedding of His Majesty Kaiser Friedrich IV yesterday."

"Mm, yes, I saw something about that in a newspaper on the train journey to Paris," Remilia replied.

"He's expected back in one week's time," de Moret continued, "and he will certainly wish to meet with you personally as soon as he is able. And your sister as well, if she's available. Did she accompany you to Paris?"

Remilia nodded. "She's had an exciting couple of nights, this being her first visit to the capital. I decided to let her sleep." With a mildly ironic smile, she added, "She's a growing girl, after all."

Unsure how to take that, de Moret chose to let it pass and returned to her previous topic. "In the meantime, the President cabled the typescript of your letter to the Minister of the Interior, directing the Ministry's Seventh Bureau to begin researching the matter, and to make preliminary contact with you, at once. The Minister assigned the task to me."

Remilia arched an eyebrow, taking another sip of her tea. "Indeed. Will you tell me what your research has revealed?"

"Records from the revolutionary period are, unsurprisingly, somewhat... fragmented," de Moret began. "Particularly from the period during which the Jacobins were in control. However," she said, "I had a bit of luck. I was able to find an engrossed copy of the contract between the Committee for Public Safety and a coven of witches from Mülhausen—Mulhouse, as we know it today—sanctioning an assault in the Colmar area."

Remilia's outward composure was nearly perfect, but Meiling, sitting nearest to her at the end of the sofa to her right, caught the tightening of her jaw and the corner of her eye, the very faintest tremor in the hand holding the teacup. She remained silent, her eyes intent on the visitor, as Madame de Moret went on,

"The contract does not name the target any more precisely than that, but it does specify, and in very strict terms, the exact date on which it was to take place: the 10th of Floréal, Anno II of the Republican Era." Folding her hands in her lap, she maintained eye contact with Remilia and continued calmly, "I'm convinced that this document refers to the attack on your family. In that context, certain surviving scraps of reports made after that date to Deputy Robespierre take on a significance they have never before possessed. It's my belief that this evidence, taken together, confirms everything you described in your letter to President Auriol."

Remilia closed her eyes and sat for a moment, almost motionless, as her words sank in. Then, perfectly calm, she opened them, took another sip of her tea, and said, "So. What happens next?"

"I transmitted my report to Brandenburg before coming here," said de Moret. "The President will read it, if not before taking ship for his return voyage, then during said voyage. What happens upon his return to Paris is, of course, up to him. It's not within my authority to speculate... but he is a just man, and the evidence is clear."

Remilia nodded. "I understand. Thank you. In that case, I await his return. I trust my sister and I shall remain at liberty to enjoy the capital whilst we wait?"

"Why would you think otherwise?" asked de Moret, puzzled.

"The assault on my home happened because my kind were deemed enemies of Gallia en masse by the Committee," Remilia pointed out. "I've never heard of that decree being repealed."

"We've been unable to find any trace of any successor statute on the current books, thus far," said de Moret. "I suspect it did not survive the Napoleonic era. By then, the success of the Committee's efforts to... er... mythologize vampires was sufficiently complete that any such language in the Code Napoléon or succeeding law codes would have been incongruous. Thus, I believe that in that respect, at least, you're in the clear."

Remilia chuckled darkly. "You sound as if you think I should regard the reduction of my species to fiction as a blessing in disguise."

"In the short term, it may prove practically useful," de Moret said bluntly.

This time Remilia's laugh was both less dark and less muted. "Touché, Madame de Moret. Are you certain I can't interest you in a cup of tea? Sakuya's skill in such matters is unmatched..." She gave the bureaucrat a slightly wicked smile. "... and yours needn't have blood in it."

De Moret cracked her first smile of the interview and said, "I believe I'd like that. No blood for me, thank you."

Scott Brothers Duo
Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K. 448
I. Allegro con spirito
W.A. Mozart, comp. (1781)

While waiting for President Auriol to return to Gallia, the four spent their time exploring Paris and its environs, by evening and—still a new and strange experience to the vampire sisters—by day. They spent a lot of their time just walking around, letting the city show itself to them at its own pace, rather than doing deliberately touristy things, though they hit a fair number of those along the way.

Thursday, June 20

On the Thursday of their first week in Paris, Meiling had the unusual experience of celebrating her birthday twice in the span of a few weeks, as they caught up once again with the twentieth of June. With the aid of the Crillon's evidently-omniscient concierge, Remilia scouted up the finest Cathayan restaurant in the city, which the four of them more or less took over for the first part of the evening.

During dinner, Meiling noticed that Remilia was a little distracted—not absent, or even distant, but there was definitely something on her mind. She didn't take offense. For one thing, it wasn't really in her nature to be offended by not having everyone's undivided attention. For another, she knew exactly what it was about. Today was also Gryphon's birthday—again—but he was far away, attending to his duties as a member of the First Joint Special Air Fleet. He wasn't even in Gallia; the telegram he'd sent a couple of days ago said he'd been sent to Britannia on a special assignment, duration unknown.

They all had a nice time anyway, Remilia's three companions tactfully neglecting to notice her mild air of melancholy. Afterward, they went for a pleasant walk around the 3rd arrondissement before making their way back to the Crillon.

When Remilia paused at the front desk to collect the key, the clerk on duty greeted her with a smile and said, "Ah, Countess, the item you requested has arrived. I took the liberty of having François deliver it to your suite while you were out."

"Ah, thank you," said Remilia graciously, accepting the key.

"You requested an item?" Flandre wondered as they left the elevator and headed down the corridor.

"You'll see," Remilia said, smiling.

When they entered the suite and put on the lights, Flandre did indeed see, although even then, she didn't understand. There was a valise lying on one of the couches in the sitting room that hadn't been there when they left: some sort of oblong leather case, a few feet long and unusually narrow, giving no hint of what might be inside it.

Remilia went to the case and opened it in such a way that she was the only one who could see what was inside, then closed it again and picked it up with a smile.

"Meiling," she said. "I apologize for my preoccupation at dinner. It was quite rude of me."

"Ah, that's OK," said Meiling easily. "You've got a good reason for it, tonight of all nights."

"All the same," Remilia persisted, leaving exactly what was all the same unsaid; then, her smile widening a little, she presented the case and said, "This is for you. Happy birthday."

Meiling blinked. "Oh! Uh... gosh. Thanks." She accepted the case, set it down on the nearby side table, and opened it; seeing what was within, she uttered a sound of happy surprise, her face lighting up, and then took it out and turned to the room.

"An erhu!" she said, delighted. "Thank you!"

Flandre tilted her head. "Is that a musical instrument?" she wondered.

"It sure is," Meiling replied with a grin.

Seating herself in one of the armchairs, she balanced the hexagonal box at one end of the instrument on her knee, then unclipped what revealed itself to be a bow and positioned it athwartships. Looking closely, Flandre saw that the instrument had two strings, and the bow, unlike that of a Western instrument like a violin or cello, was permanently threaded between them, so that depending on how the player moved it, it would play one string with one side, or the other with the other.

"Only two strings," she observed.

"'S all you need," Meiling said, then gave Sakuya a little grin and added, "You decadent Westerners with your four strings are just showing off."

"Are you going to give us a little recital, Master Hong?" Sakuya asked in reply. With a smile, she perched herself on the arm of the nearer sofa next to Remilia, legs elegantly crossed.

"I dunno if I should, at this hour," Meiling said.

"The walls in this place are even thicker than back home," Flandre pointed out, sitting down on the other couch.

"True. Well, OK. I'm pretty rusty, though," she warned.

After spending a short while tuning the instrument and getting a feel for it, she played for about half an hour, demonstrating its range. To her Western-acclimatized listeners, the erhu sounded very like the violin it only vaguely resembled, with a similar almost-human quality to its voice, and like a violin it could play both swift and cheerful pieces and slow, lugubrious ones. The musical idiom was unfamiliar to her audience, but enjoyable, with peculiar but pleasant intonations and phrasings.

"Thank you, Meiling," said Remilia when she'd finished. "That was lovely. I look forward to your taking a more active part in our music nights at home in the future," she added, smiling.

"Thanks," said Meiling. "I'm not sure how well it'll fit in with the rest of you, but..."

"Music is music," Flandre said pragmatically. "We'll figure it out!" She grinned. "I need to buy a music notebook next time I'm out. I'm already getting ideas for some things we can try with that and my harpsichord..."

Friday, June 21

The next afternoon, they went their separate ways, with plans to rendezvous at a particular time back at the hotel for what, in their current hybrid day-night rhythm, was lunch to them and dinner to normal day-dwellers.

Sakuya and Meiling had mundane errands to perform, going around to a number of builder's yards and household supply firms to arrange shipments of goods back to the Scarlet Mansion. These were always a bit tricky, since the window for delivery was so narrow and at such an odd time, but Sakuya had made similar arrangements back in the old days, and the tricks of the trade came back to her in short order as she demonstrated them for Meiling. Now as then, a liberal application of additional funding usually did the trick to dispel any deliveryman's reluctance to meet the peculiar schedule.

While the maid and the housecarl were about that business, Remilia took herself off to investigate the tailor shops and haberdasheries—not for finished clothes, but rather materials for Sakuya to make new outfits for herself and Flandre to wear when they met with the President of the Republic. The important thing on such an occasion, she firmly believed, was to make as dramatic an impression as possible, but her traditional vampire finery might be perceived as an attempt at intimidation, which wasn't the effect she wanted to give at all. A new approach was called for.

Lacking much of an eye for such things herself, Flandre was content to leave the job to her elder sister and instead go a-viking among the bookshops and music stores. Here, as with the construction materials, she had to arrange for most of her acquisitions to be delivered, since significant new additions to both the book and music libraries would be too unwieldy to manage for the rest of their stay in the capital, to say nothing of lugging it all home.

It was late afternoon going on early evening when she finished, leaving the last of the shops she'd found with a couple of volumes under her arm and a receipt for a dozen more joining the others in her pocket. Consulting the clock on the front of a nearby bank, Flandre saw that she still had an hour or so to kill before she had to get back to the hotel for lunch. On the spur of the moment, she made the snap decision to take a seat outside a nearby café and have some tea and a pastry.

As she sipped her tea, Flandre felt eyes on her. That wasn't an entirely unexpected sensation here in Paris. She was well aware that she cut an unusual figure, in her red and white, with her archaic hat, her prominently pointed ears, and especially her glittering, crystal-bedecked wings. At times, she wished she had a way to hide them, the way she'd read that some vampire lineages could. Not that she was ashamed of them in any way—indeed, she was rather proud of their beauty and their uniqueness—but they did tend to attract attention.

The scrutiny she was feeling now, though, felt a little different from the typical startled, bemused, intrigued, or unnerved reactions she'd grown accustomed to. She wasn't sure how she knew—she hadn't progressed far enough in her studies yet to recognize the gentle whispering of the Force in her mind's ear—but this felt like... fascination.

She looked up from her plate and scanned the other patrons of the café with her eyes. Most weren't looking at her; she only spotted two who were. One, the nearest-by, was an openly gawking little girl who glanced away, red-faced, when she realized she'd been detected. And the other...

That's the one, she thought. The other was a scantily-bearded young man, in his late teens or perhaps early twenties, sitting at the far edge of the café's iron-railing-enclosed outdoor seating area. He had a sketchbook propped on the table before him in one hand, and the other was drawing furiously, his eyes flicking intently between her and the paper.

She was still trying to decide what, if anything, to do about this unexpected situation when, as he made one of his frequent glances at her, the artist's eyes met hers for an instant and he realized he'd been rumbled. He blanched, then bolted to his feet, dropped a few coins on the table, and hurried away, colliding heavily with a potted tree by the break in the iron railing in his haste to escape.

I didn't mean to scare him off, Flandre thought, feeling oddly conflicted about the incident.

She mulled it over as she finished her pastry and tea. She felt a curious combination of gratification and indignation. On the one hand, it was flattering that that young artist, whoever he was, had found her interesting enough to draw, and with such a look of intent concentration on his face, to boot. On the other hand, to be stared at so intently, and drawn so fervently, in a public place by a total stranger had felt pretty weird.

She hadn't reached any conclusion by the time she was done with her snack. Shrugging inwardly, she ordered another cup of tea and lingered over it, leafing through one of the books she'd brought away from the last shop. It was a memoir of someone's travels in northeastern Gallia and Helvetia, published before the war, but probably still accurate enough to give at least a flavor of what she and Meiling could expect when they roamed the same area.

Flandre was looking forward inordinately to that adventure, so much so that she was half-tempted to beg off meeting the President of Gallia in person and head out right away. Surely her presence wasn't really required for that business, anyway; it was something for Sis to deal with in her capacity as head of the household. Her feelings would probably be hurt if Flandre decamped before the big day, though...

Another glance at the bank clock showed that it was about time to get back to the hotel, so she abandoned that train of thought, finished her tea, and rose, placing a handful of coins on the table to settle the bill (rather less hurriedly than had the artist).

As she was leaving the enclosure, she noticed something odd about the potted tree the artist had run into while he was making his panicked escape. Crouching for a closer look, she saw an object wedged in the lower branches of the tree; when extracted, this proved to be the young man's sketchbook.

Flandre wondered what she ought to do. Should she just leave it there in case he came back to look for it? What if it rained? Maybe she should take it inside and give it to the café staff to look after until its owner inquired after it. Did they do that kind of thing at cafés in Paris? She wouldn't want someone to just throw it away...

On an impulse, she took it with her. Maybe Meiling, or Sakuya, or Sis would have a better idea, and if not, she could always bring it back later.

Again tonight, there was something waiting for Remilia when she stopped at the desk to collect the key. This time, it was an unexpected telegram.

She was reading it when Flandre arrived, a stack of books under her arm. "Hey, Sis, I—what've you got there?"

"A telegram from the Ministry of the Interior," Remilia said, looking up from the yellow paper. "The Minister wants to see us on Monday afternoon, ahead of President Auriol's return, which it says here they're expecting next Wednesday."

"Huh. Both of us? Does it say why?"

"I think we might hazard a guess," said Remilia dryly.

"Well, yeah, I know that," Flandre said, rolling her eyes a bit. "I meant why the Minister, specifically."

Remilia shrugged, putting the telegram away. "It's probably some kind of chain-of-command thing. The Minister wanting to show that he's been personally involved. We may as well humor him."

"If you say so. What time are we supposed to be there?"

"Three o'clock," said Remilia. "I'll ask Sakuya to make certain our good clothes are ready. Did you have a good afternoon?"

"Pretty good," Flandre said. "I found a bunch of neat books. Something kind of weird happened, though—"

Before she could go on, the door from the kitchen opened and Sakuya looked out. "Ah, you're back, m'lady, young mistress," she said. "Lunch will be ready in just a few minutes."

"Thanks," said Remilia, rising. "Sorry, Flan, you were saying?"

"... It can wait," Flandre said, and she went into their bedroom to wash up for lunch in the ensuite bathroom.

She didn't find a convenient moment to bring it up for the remainder of the evening, since after lunch they all went out for another ramble about the city center to take in the Friday-evening atmosphere; but while she and Remilia were getting ready for bed, the elder sister spotted the sketchbook sitting atop the stack of books Flandre had left on the sideboard in their bedroom.

"What's this?" she wondered, picking it up. "Have you taken up drawing, Flan?"

"No," Flandre replied. "It's not mine. That's from the weird thing I started to tell you about at lunchtime." She told Remilia about the odd encounter at the café, and her uncertainty about what to do with the artist's dropped sketchbook.

With a thoughtful hum, Remilia leafed through the sketchbook, which was about half-used.

"He seems to be mostly interested in architecture," she mused, turning pages slowly. "A lot of these sketches are of buildings around the city. Buildings, street scenes... he has a fine eye for detail, whoever he is. It doesn't look like he makes a habit of drawing pretty girls he spots in the street," she added with a wry little grin.

"I don't know whether to feel relieved or even weirder," Flandre admitted, crowding up next to her sister to get a better look. "Oh, I see what you mean about his eye for detail, though. That's the Panthéon, isn't it?"

"Mm-hmm, and here's Les Invalides. I wonder if he might want to be an architect—oh my."

The last was occasioned as she reached the final used page in the sketchbook, and there was Flandre. The drawing was necessarily a bit crude, given the haste with which it had been made, but Remilia thought it captured her little sister well, all the same. She was shown only from the waist up, the top of the table she'd been sitting at forming the lower margin of the picture; he'd shown her in semi-profile, seated facing him but with her head turned, gazing off to the observer's left, toward the street, with a neutrally pensive expression, her eyes partly obscured by the dark glasses she wore to keep the daylight from making them smart and water. At that angle, only one of her wings could be seen, and it was the roughest part of the drawing. He must have been working on it when he'd noticed her looking at him and abandoned the project.

"Oh wow," said Flandre, leaning closer. "Is that really what I look like?"

"It's close enough," Remilia confirmed, then added with a fond smile, "You're a beautiful girl, Flan. I'd wager Maman must have looked much like that at your age, so to speak."

Flandre didn't reply at once, only gazed at the drawing of herself for a little while, before saying out of the blue, "I didn't know how to react. How I should feel. I was flattered, but at the same time, it almost felt like an invasion. But..." She shook her head. "I can't explain it, but looking at it now, it feels... respectful. You know? Like he just..." She searched for words. "Didn't want to forget me."

Remilia patted her on the shoulder. "No one could ever forget you, little sister."

Flandre smiled at her, then paced a few steps away, frowning in thought. "What do you think I should do?" she asked. "Take it back to the café?"

"Well..." Remilia flipped to the front of the book again, then turned aside the flyleaf to look at the inside of the cover. "Aha! According to this, his name is Julien Boissard. He lives in Montmartre." Turning to face Flandre, she grinned and said, "Perhaps we should pay him a visit tomorrow. Or I'm sure Sakuya would be happy to deliver it for you."

Flandre shook her head. "No, I think... I'd like to go myself."

"Very well, then!" said Remilia. Clapping the sketchbook shut, she put it back on the sideboard and crossed to the bed, turning back the covers. "Tomorrow evening, we'll make our way to Montmartre and see if we can locate young Monsieur Boissard. If he gives a good accounting of himself," she added with a slight smirk, "I may be persuaded to let him keep my little sister's likeness."

"What are you, my keeper?" Flandre asked wryly as she climbed into bed.

Remilia put out the light. "Well, I'm certainly your guardian," she replied, slipping under the covers in turn.

"I'm four hundred and thirty-seven," Flandre mostly-mock-grumbled, then relented, snuggling into her sister's arms. "But that does sound like fun. Isn't Montmartre supposed to be all nightclubs and stuff? Maybe we should all go, and see if we can find a good band or two when we're done. I haven't heard much modern music yet."

"We'll see," Remilia replied. Kissing Flandre on the forehead, she said, "For now, sleep tight, little sister. I love you."

"Love you too, big sis."

Saturday, June 22

The weather was lovely that evening, the sky clear and filled with stars, and the last-quarter moon shining overhead. Julien Boissard was well aware that he should have been enjoying such an evening more than he was. Ordinarily, on a Saturday night so fine, he would be out with his friends, making the rounds of the clubs and cabarets of Montmartre, or possibly just whiling away the time on the terrace of one or another brasserie, sketching his surroundings and soaking up the atmosphere.

Since losing his sketchbook the afternoon before, though, he didn't have the heart for the usual carefree pursuits of a youthful artist tonight. He'd returned to the café where he'd last had it, as soon as he'd recovered his wits from the chaos they'd been thrown into when he was spotted by the girl he was drawing, but it was nowhere to be found, and the staff professed ignorance. He was afraid they'd found it and thrown it away rather than bother playing the lost-and-found for some scruffy youngster. The publicans in that part of town weren't the most hospitable.

Sitting on his threadbare but serviceable sofa, he sipped from a glass of cheap wine and reflected on his misfortune. The first time he'd ever dared to draw a stranger, and it had all ended in disaster. How did Jean-Michel get away with it? He sketched pretty girls all the time, and they never seemed to mind. Sometimes he even spoke to them. Once or twice, to Julien's certain knowledge, he'd managed to convince one of them to come back to his place for purposes he was at least gentleman enough not to brag about.

Still, if only he hadn't lost his sketchbook, the mortifying experience would have been worth it. But he had, and so he had nothing at all to show for it except the memory of the girl. Her blonde hair, her perfect skin, her lovely face... her pointed ears... her wings. The most beautiful and the strangest girl he'd ever seen.

The shrilling of his doorbell roused Julien from his reverie. Who would be stopping by at ten-thirty on a Saturday night? Some friend or another, wondering why he wasn't out making the rounds with the usual crew? Probably Jean-Michel if it was anyone, he supposed.

"Go away," he called. "I'm not in the mood to party tonight."

The only response he received was more ringing of the bell. If it kept up much longer, it would annoy the neighbors. Sighing, he set his wineglass down on the coffee table, rose, went to the door, and jerked it open, intending to give Jean-Michel a piece of his mind.

The person standing outside his door was not Jean-Michel. In fact, it was two people, neither of whom was Jean-Michel. Instead of his lanky friend, he saw two young women in frilly, old-fashioned clothes. The one in the lead, her finger still on the button of his doorbell, was no more than 150 centimeters or so tall and very petite, with silver hair and an angular but attractive face, made more so the latter by the confident little smile it wore. The other... was the blonde from the café!

"Wha—who?" said Julien, involuntarily backing up a step.

"Good evening," said the silver-haired woman politely. "Do I have the pleasure of addressing Monsieur Julien Boissard?"

"I—uh—yes, I'm he," Julien replied haltingly.

Her smile growing wider, the woman bowed slightly and said, "Excellent. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Countess Remilia Scarlet." Gesturing to the blonde, she added, "I believe you've already met my sister Flandre," her smile taking on a mildly wicked edge.

"Hi," said Flandre, raising a hand.

"May we come in?" asked Remilia.

"Er—by all means," said Julien, stepping back to wave them inside. With polite thanks, they crossed his threshold and stood looking around the small sitting-room-cum-kitchen of his two-room apartment while he closed the door behind them.

"Nice place," said Flandre, and he got the impression that she wasn't being sarcastic. In fact it was a reasonably nice apartment for this part of Montmartre, and unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Julien kept it neat, believing a tidy environment was better to work in.

"Please, have a seat," he said, gesturing. "Anywhere you like. Can I offer you something to drink? Wine or... wine?" he added a little lamely, as it occurred to him belatedly that he didn't have any second option in the place just now.

The two young women declined politely, one seating herself in an armchair, the other perching herself on one of its arms. Julien, not knowing what else to do with himself, returned to the sofa.

"I apologize for calling by unannounced, but you don't seem to have a telephone," said Remilia.

"No," Julien confirmed. "I can't afford it."

Remilia nodded, as if to say she wasn't surprised, but it didn't seem judgmental; merely an acknowledgement of the reality.

"We came," Flandre said, "because you dropped this yesterday." So saying, she took from under her arm an item he recognized at once.

"My sketchbook!" Julien cried, half-rising before he caught himself and sat back down. "Where did you find it?"

"It got lodged in the tree you stumbled into while you were running away from me," Flandre said.

For the first time, he noticed her eyes: red as blood, and with vertical pupils, like a cat's. He hadn't seen them clearly before, because she'd been wearing dark glasses, but now they glittered mischievously back at him as she punctuated her playful remark with an impish little smile. He glanced at her sister and saw that hers were the same—and then, and only then, did it dawn on him that she, too, had wings.

"... Are you witches?" he wondered. He'd never seen any witches like them before, but then, he didn't know very many. The ones in the newsreels didn't look like that, anyway.

Remilia shook her head. "No, M. Boissard, we are not witches." Then, smiling her slightly-edged smile again, she went on, "We're vampires."

Julien blinked.

"I guess that explains why you didn't want any wine," he heard himself saying.

To his surprise, they both laughed at that. "We like wine as well as anyone else," Remilia explained to his puzzled look.

"It's just that we had to have a drink at half a dozen places before we found someone who could direct us to this address," Flandre added wryly.

"So... you're not here to kill me?" Julien wondered.

"Why in the world would we do that?" asked Remilia.

"Seriously," Flandre agreed. "It was a bit rude of you to just start drawing me without asking, but I wouldn't kill somebody for that. What do you think I am?"

"... A vampire?"

Remilia shook her head sadly. "You have much to learn, M. Boissard," she said. "Contrary to whatever folktales you might have grown up with, vampires do not make a habit of murder." The slightly devilish smile flickered on again. "It's both impolite and inefficient."

"At least he didn't open with 'there's no such thing as vampires,'" Flandre put in.

"There is that," Remilia agreed.

"Then... why did you come?" Julien wondered.

Rather than reply, Remilia took his sketchbook from her sister and started leafing through it. "You have quite a good eye," she said. "Your architectural drawings and street scenes are superb..."

"... Thank you?" said Julien uncertainly.

"But this," Remilia went on, folding the cover back and turning the book around, "is the highlight of the collection, if you ask me."

It was the last thing in the book, the unfinished sketch of Flandre, and he felt the embarrassment rising in his cheeks at the sight of it.

"I'm very sorry," he said. "You're right, it was rude of me. I've never done something like that before," he added hastily.

"Mm, I suspected as much," said Remilia. Turning the book back around, she regarded it for a few moments longer. "Still, for your first attempt at portraiture, it's quite good. You've captured something of Flan's... essence? Is that the word? I'm not an art expert. Still, you get the idea. It has a spark of something vital in it." Raising her eyes from the paper, she met his with a smile and said, "You must have seen something very special in her."

Feeling like his face might melt from the intensity of the blush he knew was on it, Julien looked at the floor, the door, his abandoned wineglass—anywhere but at either of his two callers.

"I... I had never seen anyone like her," he mumbled. "I started drawing her before I even realized it. I couldn't... couldn't leave that spot without some kind of proof that I had really seen her."

"She's sitting right here, you know," said Flandre archly.

"I'm sorry," Julien said, risking a glance at her. "I don't know what else to say. I'm... not good at this sort of thing." With a flash of wry humor, he added, "You may have noticed that by the way I turned tail and fled the moment you spotted me."

"Well," she said, not unkindly, "I know a few things about being bad with people." Turning to Remilia, she went on, "Well, Sis? What do you think?"

Remilia gazed at the young artist for a moment longer, then smiled again, closed the sketchbook, and put it on the coffee table, sliding it toward him.

"You may have your lost property back, M. Boissard," she said. "Flandre and I accept your apology."

"Or rather," Flandre corrected her, "no apology is necessary. Just, you know... maybe ask next time," she added.

Julien looked up in surprise. "You're giving it back to me? Thank you. I'll tear out the sketch if you like—"

"Actually," Flandre interrupted, "now that we've properly met, I'd like you to finish it."

He blinked. "Finish it?" he echoed.

Flandre nodded. "Finish it," she repeated.

"Right now?"

"Unless you've got something else on," Flandre replied, shrugging with a glance around the apartment that suggested she rather doubted he did.

"After which," Remilia put in, sitting back in the chair with steepled fingertips, "let us discuss your commission rates. And if the offer is still open, I believe I'll have some wine after all."

"I... think I need a bit more myself," Julien agreed.

Anson Weeks and His Orchestra
"Moonlight and Shadows"
Decca 1134 A (1937)

Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
Flying Yak Studios

and Bacon Comics Group
in association with
The International Police Organization
and Avalon Broadcasting System


Undocumented Features Future Imperfect

Lensmen: The Brave and the Bold
Our Witches at War
special series

Gallian Gothic: A Romance in Wartime

Book 3: The Scarlet Devils Go to War, Act I:
"Nuits à Paris"

written and directed by
Benjamin D. Hutchins

The EPU Usual Suspects

Based on characters from Tōhō Project
by Team Shanghai Alice

Bacon Comics chief
Derek Bacon

This Eyrie Production is dedicated to
Howard P. Segal
July 15, 1948–November 9, 2020
Professor of History, University of Maine

E P U (colour) 2020