Disclaimer: The characters of Le Chevalier D'Eon do not belong to me. Appearances by original characters and tweaking of historical facts.
Chapter 1 – Lia's Legacy
"Maman?" The floor was icy to his bare feet. The sickly copper smell was growing stronger… Later he would know it to be blood. The screams came again. The door was ajar. He peeked. It was a scene he had grown to dread in his childhood. There would be no baby brother or sister. Only a little casket consigned to the earth… This time, he was alone, bereft of his older sister's comforting presence by his side.
He expected to see his mother in the throes of labour upon the birthing bed, his grandmother by her side as she fought for her life and that of her child. Maidservants busied themselves with basins of warm water and cloths. Snow floated in flurries outside the windows. He could make out the figure on the bed. A pale hand clasped at the bedclothes. Blond hair glinted in the hazy candlelight. He gasped. It was not his mother on the bed, but his sister, Lia.
The older woman holding her hand was none other than Empress Elizaveta. The grand matron sponged the young woman's brow with a cloth as she held Lia's hand in hers. A baby's lusty cries echoed through the shadowy room.
"I-if it's a boy…" Lia gasped through gritted teeth. "H-his name… M-maximilien…" she fainted much to the alarm of the Empress. "Here comes another one!" the midwife, an elderly woman of some distinction, said. The Empress tried to rouse the new mother. The midwife lifted her hands. They were red with blood. "She's lost too much blood. We need a doctor!" she ordered. She repeated her instructions in a foreign tongue. Maids ran past him, their steps drumming through the silent hall.
"Master D'Eon!" D'Eon awoke to his family's butler, old Jean Pierre, pounding on his chamber door. "What is it now?" he rubbed his eyes of the last vestiges of sleep. After five years on his family's estate, he had regretfully lapsed into the bad habit of oversleeping on occasion.
"It is Madame. She is having one of her fits…" Jean Pierre said. A crash drowned out the rest of the words. D'Eon groaned. He grabbed the dress hanging over his chair. He shook his hair free of its ribbon. "Lia! Where are you, child?" his mother's plaintive cries echoed through the manor. D'Eon hurriedly slipped into his sister's bedroom. He had formulated this desperate plan when his mother once threatened to storm the Bastille on the fancy that Lia was imprisoned there. A few minutes later, Madame de Beaumont entered the bedroom of her dead daughter.
"Maman," D'Eon looked up demurely from one of Lia's old novels, clad in Lia's dress and seated before Lia's dresser. "Gracious! Look at your hair, child," the woman grabbed a brush from the dresser and set to work on the tangled locks. D'Eon bore it with stoicism. Lia had always been her favourite. The loss of her husband from smallpox and the murder of her daughter had unhinged her mind. The return of her son in apparent disgrace was the last straw.
"We'll be late for Mass! Where's your corset? You can't go to church like that!" she gasped.
"Church?" D'Eon baulked. There was no way he was going to church in his sister's dress. "Of course, Lia. It is a Sunday and you have to do your confession over that Durand boy…" Madame de Beaumont beamed. "It's a pity that your brother's off gallivanting in Paris. But you know how boys are… I will send Amelia to fix you up." To his immense relief, his mother left the room. Amelia was his old nurse, one of the few trustworthy servants left in the manor since their family's fall. She would not mind helping him if needed, not that he had any intention of being dragged to Mass in a dress. Outside, Jean Pierre and Amelia were coaxing his mother back to bed.
D'Eon let out a sigh of relief. He stood up. A wave of nausea overtook him as the mirror before him seemed to shift.
"Lia?" He was looking at a blond girl about as old as Lia was when he first became aware of his sister as being more than just a figure in the background of his nursery. She wore a red dress, no, it was a white nightdress streaked red with blood. She was standing forlornly amidst flurries of snow. Blood ran down from her neck. D'Eon was enough of a swordsman to know it was a mortal wound.
D'Eon… A ghostly whisper floated beside his ear as if Lia's spirit hovered uneasily beside him. The ghastly image faded away and he was staring at his own reflection once more.
Jean Pierre rapped on the door. The old man's face was pale. D'Eon's heart sank. Was it his mother?
The butler held out a letter bearing the royal seal. After six years, his presence was commanded by the king, Louis XVI. "The carriage was sent for you, sir." The knight glanced out the window and saw the nondescript vehicle and its waiting guards.
Things had changed since he was last at Versailles. There were many new faces, and a few old, unfriendly ones. Feeling woefully inadequate in his plain country clothes, he was escorted through the crowd of glided courtiers. The former Dauphin had grown into a lanky youth who now sat on the throne, but the true power was with the appointed regent, Duke Burgundy. The duke cared little for the country or the good of his charge. And he hated D'Eon in the belief that he still held the Royal Songs. D'Eon wondered if his luck had run out and he was to be imprisoned or worse.
"De Beaumont, a rather suggestive letter came to us from Russia requesting the presence of a certain outstanding knight. It would seem that you made a lasting impression on a certain Empress the last time you were there," the duke purred. A twitter of laughter ran through the assembly at the innuendo.
"Oh, it's just regarding some family jewel your sister left behind…" the young king piped up. "Perhaps this jewel is of such importance that the Empress would trust only our knight de Beaumont to fetch it back." He gave D'Eon a small boyish smile. "We'll be sending a diplomatic envoy to Russia. You will travel with them, if you would unlock this box which they say hold the truth behind the Royal Songs. Or you could just tell us what happened." D'Eon saw the king held the locked box he had placed his report on his mission in so many years ago. It was to be opened only on the king's majority. D'Eon did not have the key.
"Your Majesty, the truth of that matter may be hard to believe…" D'Eon bowed. "This is an order. You are to give us the key if you will not tell," the boy king pouted. D'Eon could feel the Bastille looming before him. Even now the events seemed almost surreal. He had been possessed by his sister. The late king had killed his sister, good Queen Marie and his beloved Anna. He had slain two good friends, witnessed the death of his teacher… and the terrible power behind the songs.
To his relief, the king broke into a smile. "We suppose we'll have to figure out this one ourselves… You are to leave with the envoy. On retrieving this jewel, you are to return immediately to France." The king was still a child and capable of a child's whims and fancies. He did not have the maturity that some children his age possess, like Robin did. D'Eon wondered why he would think of the page after so many years.
Miles away in Russia, a young girl stood before the mirror in a darkened room, a candle in hand. I will go with D'Eon, if he comes, she traced the letters on the mirror in reverse with a fingertip. Her pale hair was plaited into a golden braid. She waited as the words faded away. I am well. We shall meet again. The blood-red words floated out before fading away. Be strong, Max. She added as an afterthought before quenching the light. They had learnt about the words by chance when she looked into the mirror one morning and saw her name being written. It was a comfort to her and him.
"How's the boy?" The young boy dashed the cup of water in his hand onto the floor. He feigned sleep when he heard his captors approaching. "Is that infernal chain necessary?" Robespierre growled. The catacombs were a miserable place to be in at the best of times. The dim light cast by the torches danced on his copper red hair. In his hand, he clasped his precious book.
"Sorry, sir. He keeps trying to get away…" the warden grovelled. He was relived to be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Robespierre was not one to cross lightly despite his apparent youth.
"Unchain him. Where's the other one? We need them both," he hissed. "The poets in Russia messed up," Lorenza spoke up. "The other one died. He slashed her across the throat." The boy flinched at her words. He didn't mean to hurt Lia. He scrunched his eyes together and curled up into a ball. The chain on his ankle tugged painfully as he did so.
The old cavalry sword was too heavy for his small hands. Something was very wrong. The servants were acting strange, even Nanny. They were lurching towards them like broken puppets. They were going to hurt them. He had to protect his sister. Papa and Mama were just lying before the fireplace. So much blood, he couldn't bear to look at them. Nanny was coming for him, hands outstretched like claws. He swung. "Max, no!" she leapt between them, arms outstretched, facing him. The blade cut an arc across her neck. He could feel her blood splash on his face and hands even as his twin fell onto the floor. Then there came the voice and Nanny simply exploded, as did the other servants…
"Have those disappointments be dealt with?" Robespierre decided that the time spent educating those dissatisfied nobles in poetry had been a waste of energy. "Naturally, Robin my boy," it was Cagliostro. The man was drunk again. "Don't ever call me by that name," Robespierre warned.
"Winter in Russia sure is hell," Lorenza muttered. Sensing the change in their master's mood, she took her companion's arm and dragged him away. Robespierre glanced at the child. The child had been ill for much of the hard journey from Russia. Even now, he was thin and pale. The redhead undid the chain. Any longer in it and the child risked losing his foot. It was that tight.
"Oh, get up." The boy obeyed the command readily. Robespierre gasped. He was looking at a face which was almost familiar to him. The boy gingerly massaged his sore ankle and stared at him through solemn blue eyes. The grime-streaked hair was pale blond, like Maximilien Robespierre's was. In the dim light, it had faded to sand-blond. The boy looked more like a miniature version of Sir D'Eon than anyone else.
"Your name, boy?" he had to be gentle with the child.
"M-ma…xi…m-milien," the boy stuttered and drew his knees up to his chin. "I-is that a Bible?" he asked when he saw the book in Robespierre's hand. "Well, no. Do you wish to take a look?" Robespierre asked. The boy nodded eagerly. His suspicions were confirmed the moment the child had the book in his hand and opened it. Words floated onto the pages, garbled, cryptic and smudged. However, the child seemed entranced by the contents.
"I-it is a h-hard book to read…." The boy admitted when he finally looked up. "The w-words, t-they keep moving."
"How old are you?"
"S-six y-years and t-three months… I t-think…it has been a while since they locked me up…" the boy's fear lessened. He shut the book and offered it back to the man. Robespierre did not take it. "Keep it, Milien. It's your book." The late Maximilien Robespierre had unknowingly left behind a blood-heir. That was why despite it being bequeathed to him, he had been unable to make sense of the words.
Through the shed blood of royal kin will the seal be opened. Through mingled blood of brother and sister the psalms to ash turned… Thus went the prophecy he had glimpsed in the pages. If the other child had indeed perished, it might be to their benefit.
Robespierre glanced at the floor and went pale. Be strong, Max. The childish words glinted damply on the stones.
Could the bond between the twins rival that between D'Eon and his sister? They would have to watch Milien closely.
This fic is a continuation of the anime with Robin taking over where Maximilien Robespierre left off with the Revolutionary Brethren and the Psalms. Dauphin Auguste is now King Louis XVI of France. D'Eon's spy career has stagnated after the end of the anime.
If Lia had kids, who do you think the father will be but Maximilien Robespierre? She certainly was not attracted to poor Durand that way.