Princess and the Frog: The Countess of Souls
One of Naveen's many old flames, Princess Gloria, comes to New Orleans seeking to win Naveen's heart only she doesn't know he has already found his true love. Finding Gloria wandering the streets alone and crying The Countess of Souls sees an irresistible opportunity for personal gain. What will happen when The Countess strikes a deal her rival Dr. Facilier to get help from the other side?
Prologue: The Countess Meets Her Future Rival
"The Evening Star is shining bright so make a wish and hold on tight. There's magic in the air tonight and anything can happen..."
Five years ago:
Isis looked out onto the Mississippi as she made her way down the riverside. Her old black T-strap heels clicked in the lonesome night with every step she took. She had a ratty carpetbag in one hand and an old leather trunk in another. Exhausted she set down her effects, dropped the carpetbag beside them and plopped herself down onto the trunk.
Sighing heavily she looked at the flowing waters of the river that glittered in the darkness. A party boat steamed on by, it glowed almost magically on the black waters. She could see figures of richly dressed people dancing to upbeat jazz which to her sounded only like a faded melodic whisper from her place on the riverbank.
Her stomach then growled in protest as she thought of all the delicious and decadent food they must be enjoying. It had been a full day since she had last eaten anything. She'd spent the last bit of money she had on a pack of new tarot cards. Her last set had been burned in the fire along with most everything else she owned. She sharply drummed the tips of her red painted nails on the trunk lid annoyed from thinking of her current dilemma. However despite all the things she lost she was lucky to have been able to salvage what she did.
She then ran her fingers through her long wavy hair she looked down at her bare legs; she didn't have enough money to afford nylons and she was freezing because of it. The dark green skirt of her drop-waist dress only went to her knees and she had no coat to warm her, only a very thin and useless black shawl around her shoulders.
The moonlight made her exposed skin look ghostly pale and somewhat blue. However the unusual color could be blamed on account of the chill that had settled on the wind. Hugging her slender arms to her chest Isis shook her head in defiance,
"Come on Isis, you're better than this." She told herself, papery voice sounding like she was scolding herself more than anything.
Looking out at the riverboat she bit her lip, bitter jealousy radiated off of her as she watched the crème of society dance the night away without a care. They never had to worry where their next meal would come from or if they had a place to spend the night and weather out the storm. All of their days were sunny and bright. They never had to sit out shivering in the rain or wait in line at the soup kitchen. Her brow knit together in anger as she tore her eyes away from the celebration.
"You will rise above this." Isis vowed as she got up off her trunk. Grabbing up her belongings she began to drag them down the sidewalk once more. "You'll show them all, and then they'll be the sorry ones," she grumbled.
It had been five whole days since the fire and she could still smell the smoke even now. And as she recalled the smell of the burning shambles of her old home thoughts of hatred and revenge ran through her head. Never had she been despised like that before, beaten out of her own city like vermin. She had to make a new start away from Savannah and New Orleans was the best place to do it.
Dr. Facilier exited his Voodoo Emporium and stepped out into the lamp-lit streets to find a few more saps to drag in for a tarot reading or a charm before he closed down for the night. His bright, purple eyes searched around for a miserable soul with little spirit to trick into buying into his schemes. He didn't quite feel in the mood to work too hard tonight.
The people who walked by all avoided looking in the direction of his alley, some even picked up their pace; anything not to get caught in The Shadowman's grasp. He had a silver tongue that could charm a serpent much less an honest working man. Most people feared that dealing with him meant they were dealing with the devil himself, not to mention trying to tempt fate and that was never good.
Facilier watched the fools that passed him by through hooded eyes and sighed in boredom. He was just about to give up when something very interesting caught his eye, a woman. She carried an old carpetbag on her shoulder and drug a large heavy trunk on the ground behind her. She was somewhat of a sad sight, but that was not what interested him.
There was a spark in her that he decided he liked as he watched her heatedly yanked her bags down the sidewalk with determination, clearly she had purpose. Looking at the bags, the young woman was obviously new to these parts. However she was not new to the city scene. Although her impoverished appearance and status would deter the snotty men of high society he saw she truly was a beauty; catching the attentions of men on the streets and in the bars who all gave her hungry looks and catcalls as she passed by. He could tell she wanted so badly to snap at them but pretended to ignore the men instead, smart girl he thought. It was all so wonderfully twisted, he thought to himself while watching the bruised flower.
She was thin but curved in all the right places, her skin was as white as moon beams and her long, wavy flaxen hair seemed to almost float around her angle face which, if you looked at her the right way, you could see had a dash or two of the devil in it. There was something very otherworldly about her that he couldn't quite place.
That's when he saw them, the tattoos scrawled on the back of her hand. They were chains of skulls, plants, and moths all elaborately inked in black along with the roman numeral 13 (XIII) in the middle. The number corresponded with card 'Death' in the tarot. She was a voodoo witch; they were kindred spirits in the arts. His eyebrow rose at that thought and his famous devil-on-the-shoulder smirk just grew wider.
He then noticed her shadow moving freely from her physical body, giving the men who ogled her angry glares and dirty looks. How did he miss that before, he wondered as he chuckled at her shadow's particular ferocity. Strange indeed, he thought to himself. The wheels then began turning in his mind; allowing himself a sly grin, he then followed her with smooth cat-like grace.
Making his way between the street cars and automobiles in the road he came to the other side of the street, his purple topped cane clicking between each step he took as he walked up behind the woman. The men who catcalled and wolf whistled at her immediately stopped when they saw him enter the scene and went back to nursing their drinks. No earthly man, woman, or beast wanted to mess in the affairs of The Shadowman.
Facilier got up right behind his prey but she was none-the-wiser, even after the men on the street had left her alone. She cast glares at the folks around her, daring them to say another word to her, thinking that she had won over them. If she only knew what really made them stop, Facilier thought to himself amused. His shadow reached out to caress her shadows hair when Facilier himself leaned in close to her and drawled in her ear,
"I was over on the other side of the street thinkin' it's a shame seein' such a pretty honey like you down on her luck."
Hearing the seductive voice and feeling the hand in her shadow's hair Isis stopped in her tracks, her heart freezing in her chest. Facilier stopped as well, not missing a beat. He was only inches behind her now. Isis turned around sharply and stared up at the man who she noticed towered over her. Judging by his odd clothing choice and death's head top hat she could easily discern that he was a voodoo witch doctor like herself, which she was not too happy about. Her acid green eyes looked up at his piercing violet hues through her long inky lashes.
"I'm not down on my luck," she informed him, showing complete disinterest. "I'm moving in."
Facilier grinned at her blatant obstinacy; either she was unfazed by his actions or she was very good at pretending.
"Where'd you come from?" He asked, gazing down at her through hooded eyes.
"Nowhere good," She said, her raspy, papery voice caressing the night air.
This man's melodic voice caressed her and felt like the sweetest honey but she was smarter than to be fooled by a handsome voice and a friendly smile; she often used that tactic on customers herself. But nonetheless she could appreciate how skilled he was at using it. However being enchanted by her own kind never worked out to anybody's benefit. It wasn't good for business and that was the only thing she wanted at the moment. Men with mysterious purple eyes and seductive voices would have to wait.
"Let me guess," he drawled, discreetly catching a glimpse of the train tag on her trunk, "Savannah?"
"Good guess." She said the corner of her mouth turning up in sly amusement; she was very well aware of how he figured that one out. All the usual ticks weren't going to get him anywhere with her, besides it was getting late and she had places to get to, he would just have to seduce someone else into entering his parlor.
"I would love to chat more, but I really have to be on my way now." She began, but Facilier stopped her from leaving by casually placing a hand against the side of the building they were standing next to.
"Where you goin'? There's nothin' down that road for you that I can't help you out with right here. But then again…" he said slipping his long fingers into her left hand and bringing it up for both of them to see the tattoos on it "… you already know that." Isis felt a cold chill go up her back. This man was something else, and she was becoming very uncomfortable over the fact that she couldn't quite catch onto his game.
"Look I don't want any trouble, okay? I have to get my food ration before the soup kitchen closes down and I'm sure you have better things to do than waste your time with me."
Facilier chuckled darkly,
"Who said you were in trouble?" He said raising an eyebrow and leaning in on his cane. "Look honey, a pretty girl like you shouldn't come to New Orleans and have to live from hand to mouth."
"I shouldn't? You don't even know me."
"Perhaps not, but there's somethin' special in you, I can see it, besides no pretty lady should be left out in the cold. Perhaps ol' Dr. Facilier could help you out."
Isis almost did a double take upon hearing his name. 'The Shadowman', she thought to herself. That was when she noticed that the streets around them were almost empty. Her heart started to beat a bit faster now; this was the cities most notorious witch doctor. If he figured out who she was things could get ugly. Facilier wanted to laugh noticing her reaction but held back.
"You wouldn't want to help me if you knew me." She said now avoiding his gaze.
"If that's the case," Facilier said with a devilish smile, "chances are I would like you even more." He then curled a long slender arm around her shoulders. "What's your name baby?"
"Isis." She told him, her usual purr of a voice now coming out clipped. She didn't appreciate his hands on her.
He raised an eyebrow at her curt answer, "You got a last name?" He was clearly amused by the whole thing.
"No," She said pulling away from him and grabbing for the handle of her trunk so she could continue on her way, she needed to get out of there. "It's just Isis."
Her thin shawl then slipped off of her arm as she reached down and picked up her bags. That's when Facilier spotted another tattoo going up the inside of her left hand and arm. The tattoo was of her hand and arm bones, making her whole arm look like it was her skeleton. Also the silver skeleton key around her neck that had just caught his eye was more than telling. Rumor had it that this particular woman kept the souls of men in that key; hints her name:
"The Countess of Souls," He said in almost a whisper, he looked a little taken aback. "You're movin' down here?" He asked. She was the most cunning voodoo witch in Savannah or so that was the last he heard.
"Yes, I told you that you wouldn't like me if you knew me." She sighed then began to continue on her way. He just had to pry, she thought beginning to yank her trunk behind her. Facilier pursed his lips, slightly displeased at finding out who she was. He then cooled his emotions noticing that she was walking away.
She got about two steps before Facilier was up walking alongside her, his cane clicking on the sidewalk as he slipped his hands on her shoulders once more, his long fingers wrapping around her arms. He smoothly steered her around so that they were walking in the other direction towards his shop,
"You think I'm upset? I assure you sweetheart it's not like that at all. After all a little rivalry is healthy." He said with a showman's smile. "I'm a gentleman of good taste with an eye for talent." He said tightening his grip only slightly as he felt her hesitate; they were now across the street and halfway down his alley. "I think we could… help each other out."
Isis could no longer put up with his disturbing persistence. Nor could she stand to be taken advantage of one moment longer, she had to get out of that alley and back onto the main street.
"Really?" She asked innocently, her small, raspy voice sounding like a child's as she looked up at him; her seductive toxic green eyes looked almost doe-like. "Well that's interesting because this card told me I'd be getting really close to you in the future." She said holding up a tarot card that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Facilier immediately stopped leading her down the alley and looked down at the card she was holding to her chest. His breath caught in his throat and a lusty warmth overtook him as he spotted the wanton look in her eyes as she gazed up at him, her pouty lips looking like sweet promises yet to come. Then, quite unexpectantly she flipped the card around in front of his eyes and smacked it into Facilier's face with her other hand knocking him off of her.
"Don't fool yourself Facilier," she spat, her words full of venom as Facilier regained his balance. "I'm competition not a companion you can just pick up."
He glared daggers at her his violet eyes glowing; it took everything in him not to lash out at her. Regaining some of his gentlemanly air he was finally calm enough to speak, his voice's tone however was dangerously low, "I'm going to pretend that didn't just happen and offer my services one more time." He now stood to his full height so he towered over her. "Your refusal would be unwise."
Isis gazed up at him, her resolve remaining firm, "Dr. Facilier, may I remind you that we have the same set of friends."
"Maybe so but I have a feeling that at the moment I carry a little more favor with them than you."
Isis started taking small steps backwards out of the alley, her eyes still trained on him, "You can't intimidate me like some poor gal fresh off the bayou."
A devilish smile spread across Facilier's face, "Then why are you backing up?"
Isis pursed her lips in frustration; how dare he say she was scared!
"Because," she began heatedly, "only an idiot would be stupid enough to hang around in a dark alley with you."
"Ha! You've got some fire in you little lady. I have to admit that one was pretty good. Now come on," he said motioning for her to follow him. "I'm not the boogeyman. All I'm tryin' to do is get you out of the cold."
"And this is in exchange for what Facilier? I don't need your help, I can make it in this city perfectly fine on my own."
Facilier only laughed at that, "You think you can take on New Orleans all by yourself with no cash, no home, and no job? Don't make me laugh." He said, his tone condescending. "You might have been hot merchandise in Savannah but this here is the big time and by the looks of it you're already way in over your head. See that road out there?" He said pointing to the street with his cane, his other boney hand on her shoulder. "The difference between pickin' me or that road is the difference between actually living and just... surviving."
Isis shrugged him off of her and picked up her bags, "Well, we'll just have to see now wont we?"
Facilier stared at her retreating form, crossing his arms over his chest, "Suit yourself mon chere but don't say I didn't warn you."
He watched with a fiery stare until she was out of his sight. Bending down, Facilier picked up the tarot card Isis had smacked in his face. Turning it over and looking at the image on the back let out a laugh. It was the 'Lovers' card. Ironic, he thought as he slipped the card into his inner jacket pocket, saving it for later. The little Countess of Souls just might be bested yet.
Perhaps it was because her eyes were colored a solid, glittering green, or perhaps it was because her lips were painted a glossy blood red, or her skin was so warm and inviting to the touch, or perhaps it was because all her eye teeth were a bit sharper than they should be but Facilier found something he rather liked in her, something he thought he liked very much and he wasn't about to let her just walk away unscathed.
"Till we meet again chere." He said patting his jacket pocket.
Strolling into his domain he snapped his fingers and the troches outside the Emporium were extinguished.
AN: Hey everyone I hope you all liked the begnning! Thanks for reading and please review, I get chapters out a lot faster when I get feedback.