Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
French colonial chirurgeon, vampire hunter, & vengeful ghost
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
“O death! rock me asleep,
Bring me on quiet rest;
Yet pass my guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast:
Toll on the passing bell,
Ring out the doleful knell,
Let the sound of my death tell,
For I must die,
There is no remedy,
For now I die
My pains who can express?
Alas! they are so strong,
My dolor will not suffer strength
My life for to prolong:
Toll on the passing bell.
Alone, in prison strong,
I wail my destiny,
Wo worth this cruel hap that I
Should taste this misery:
Toll on the passing bell.
Farewell my pleasures past,
Welcome my present pain;
I feel my torments so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now the passing bell,
Rung is my doleful knell,
For the sound my death doth tell,
Death doth draw nigh,
Sound my end dolefully,
For now I die.”
“We’re all of us haunted and haunting.”
The old antebellum manse creaks like a dry spine snapping. The air becomes thick, feverish, and fetid like a swollen pustule begging for a lancet. The horripilating, emetic pressure builds–then violently bursts. From some unseen tear, a man issues into sight like a gory afterbirth–or perhaps stillborn. After all, the man is long dead.
The shade of Dr. Jacques Beltremieux wears his pain nakedly like an open sore. The right side of his face is a broken jigsaw of cruel scars, the most severe of which runs over the dark void of his right eye-socket. While his left bears a rheumy-yellow orb, the cheek and jaw below it are haunted by sickly bubbling boils that burn and weep like rancid, spermaceti candles. His balding pate is framed by wispy, ash-hued locks that are occasionally caught and pulled desperately by the severed, spectral fists of unborn children. His mid-nineteenth century garb has the air of uncomfortable, anachronistic grandeur despoiled not just by time, but by the gaping stomach wounds that have only festered since his death a century and three-score years ago.
From cradle to grave, Jacques Beltremieux’s indelible birthright was hatred.
The Beltremieux family trace their secret lineage back to King Louis XIV in more ways than one. According to familial lore, Guillemette Beltremieux gave birth to one of the Sun King’s myriad bastard sons, Philippes Beltremieux–although some tales claim it was not Louis, but his younger brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. Raised with this secret as well as semi-covert royal patronage, Philippes apprenticed under the dubiously famous but undoubtedly skilled, Sir Charles Francois Félix de Tassy, the royal chirurgeon whose radical, but effective surgery in 1686 cured the king’s anal fistula. Likely due to de Tassy’s accomplishments as well as his protégé’s illegitimate bloodline, Philippes Beltremieux was made Versailles’ chirurgeon in 1701, where he worked largely in the shadow of the three chief physicians, Antoine Vallot, Antoine d’Aquin, and Guy-Crescent Fagon.
The First Hunt
In 1715, the Sun King died of gangrene–but by that time, Philippes had begun to suspect that a far more pernicious disease had infected the court. He noticed the pallid nature of several courtiers, small but inexplicable medical discrepancies, and the frequent blood loss-related fainting spells of both noble and common attendants. Consequently, when the Cainite Heresy approached him, he was an easy convert. Alarmed but cautious, Philippes aligned himself with the alleged half-brother or half-cousin, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duke of Maine, who had been appointed by Louis XIV to his great-grandson’s regency.
When the Parliament of Paris annulled the Sun King’s will and later Phillip II became the sole regent and stripped Louis-Auguste of the rank of prince du sang, Philippes Beltremieux and his fellow Cainite spouse, Guyonne, became convinced that the vampires had not only infected the royal court, but were controlling it. Together, the Cainite couple and some allies tracked down and slew one of the suspected vampires, Olympe de Mendoza, an attaché of the Spanish court who also happened to be a childe of Maria Pascual.
The consequences were terrible. Pascual and her brood tracked down the Beltremieux family. Philippes was supernaturally compelled to hold down his wife as the Toreador drained Guyonne dry. Then they raped his mind into betraying the secrets of his order. They made him accompany them as they, and other Kindred hidden among the French court, decimated the select but well-hidden Cainites of Versailles. Only then did Pascual kill Philippes, painfully and slowly.
Few of the Beltremieuxes’ cellmates and their families survived the purge. In desperation, several sought out the supposed holy ground of nearby churches and begged asylum. To their horror, they discovered that the ‘sacred institutions’ offered no respite, but were already the playthings of the Kindred. The local Sanctified clerical puppets unflinchingly turned in the runaway Cainites to Maria’s brood. Of the Beltremieux children, only the five-year-old Chrétienne was spared: an African church slave took pity on the young girl and hid her in a privy until sunrise.
The next day, another Cainite hunter came to investigate the slaughter. Jean-Léonard was the fencing master of Louis XIV’s court and one of the greatest duelists in France. He survived Pascual’s purge by equal measures of luck, skill, and refusal to seek sanctuary with the church. After finding Chrétienne and hearing her traumatic tale, Jean-Léonard related Philippes’ cruel fate and passed Chrétienne her father’s blade. He smuggled both of them to the coast, where they procured passage across the Atlantic. The two prayed that an ocean would halt their pursuers.