Title: I’ve Always Had A Fondness For France
Fandom: Sylum Clan Universe: Forever Knight
Characters/Pairings: Lucien LaCroix, Nicholas Brabant, Original Characters;
Word Count: 3,306
Summary: Lucien LaCroix meets an honorable man. Nicholas de Brabant has always done as honor dictated, but after his experiences in the Holy Lands, he begins to think he needs to loosen the reins. Is LaCroix the person to teach him to walk the line between black and white.
Watching the afternoon shadows slowly swallow the sitting room, Nicholas de Brabant stared into his tankard containing the remains of a bottle of excellent Merlot. Memories of his imprisonment by the Saracens floated across the surface of the wine causing his body to break into a sweat as his tormentor shoved his face into the wall controlling his struggles by locking his hands into shackles that allowed him no movement. The sound of his name being called pulled him out of the memory before he got to the worst part.
“What is it, Mary?” He asked the maid as he fought to get himself under control.
“You asked to be reminded when it was time to prepare for your evening with Duc de Reims. Garren waits in your bedchamber to assist your preparations.”
Dismissing the maid with a flick of his wrist, Nicholas took a deep draught from his tankard before standing to retire to his bedchamber and prepare for a dreary evening of meaningless conversation. Thankful he’d allowed his mother to provide him with a new wardrobe before he’d left the duchy the month prior, he would be as well turned out as any of the other nobles attending the Duc’s banquet.
Strapping on his sword, he looked out the window and saw that the stableman had his destrier awaiting his pleasure. Settling his cloak and hat, he prepared to spend a boring evening avoiding maidens and widows in search of husbands, and those who’d never fought a battle in their lives wishing to hear of his exploits during the Crusades. He was often tempted to tell them of his imprisonment as well as his victories in the Holy Land. He would savor their reactions to hearing how war was blood, sand, pain, exhaustion, and screams of the wounded and dying. There were few great and glorious victories for the Church, and the Saracens were fighting for their concept of God just as fiercely as the knights fighting for the Church.
Arrival at his destination pulled him from his thoughts as he turned his horse over to one of the Duc’s grooms. The Brabant duchy had a long history of trading with the Reims’ duchy, guaranteeing Nicholas entré into the drawing rooms belonging to the richest nobles in Paris, so they could dance attendance on Louis IX until the summer heat sent them to their country estates.
Socializing enough to fulfill the code of chivalry and imbibing a bit too much of the Duc’s watered down wine, Nicholas had stationed himself next to a window in order to get away from the scent of strong perfumes covering the smells of unwashed bodies. His sinuses and head were beginning to clear when he saw the Duc headed his way in conversation with a man dressed to show-off his wealth, but his carriage was that of a soldier.
“Nicholas, I am glad to see you could tear yourself away from the mademoiselles and their sharp-eyed mamas for a moment.”
“Well yes, a man must have a chance for a bit a refreshment if he’s to continue to entertain les belles filles. It would not do for your guests to claim ennui at one of your soirees, my dear Duc.” He gave an exaggerated toast to his host.
“My lady wife appreciates your efforts, Chevalier Nicholas.” The older man chuckled. “I would like to introduce you to Lucien La Croix, a newcomer to Paris and the Court. Monsieur La Croix, may I present Sir Nicholas De Brabant from the neighboring Duchy of Brabant, but late of the Holy Lands.”
The two men bowed and made small talk until the Duc saw someone he wanted to introduce to La Croix. “Please excuse us, Nicholas, I really must finish introducing Lucien. We would not want him to think Paris still provincial.” The Duc gave Nicholas a sly smile before steering Monsieur La Croix across the room the newly arrived group of nobles.
Dinner was the usual mix of simpering sycophants doing their best to stand out to the people with power while not drawing the attention of the Church’s watchdogs that now appeared at every dinner and tea party looking for heretics. It was entertaining to watch the Parisian Nobles dance the tightrope between the Inquisitor and the King. He also noticed Monsieur La Croix keeping his own counsel as he watched and learned who carried the power who thought they did.
Once the ladies retired to the solarium, leaving the men to their liquor and smoking, Nicholas continued to watch his newest acquaintance. While Lucien La Croix would not be considered handsome of face, he carried himself with the arrogance of a nobleman or a military man, and that essence of power drew people like bees to a garden. As cynical as he had become after his experiences in the Holy Lands, he enjoyed watching La Croix’s detachment as he looked out over the simpering men and women.
~ • ~ • ~
As spring turned to summer, the Court followed the King to the Chateau at Fontainebleau, escaping the miasma of the Paris heat. Nicholas spent much of his time sampling the wine cellars of his hosts, earning a jaundiced expression from La Croix. The older man seemed to hold the knight in some esteem though they barely knew each other. As he looked for wisdom in the bottom of his tankard, he found said tankard being plucked from his hand by the man his thoughts seemed to have conjured.
“What troubles you, Nicholas, that you search for respite in the fruits of France’s best vineyards?”
“Are you a man who’s been to war, Monsieur La Croix?” Nicholas snatched another tankard and filled it from the cask of ale at his elbow.
“I’ve given you leave to call me Lucien. Have I given some insult that keeps you from granting my request?”
“You have not, but you seem a person of formality. Your status and place in society carries weight, so you can enjoy the respect to which you believe you are entitled.”
“Ah, yes, you have a point, but there are always exceptions to some things. After many years and many places, I have found after making your acquaintance, you have touched something that I thought long dormant.”
“I beg your pardon?” Taking a quick look around the room for the long ears of priests and those who collected information for their own advancement, Nicholas turned his attention back to La Croix.
“Not in that manner, Sir Knight.” The older man chuckled. “Though I am a prudent man, know I fear no man or church’s opinion of my behavior.”
“There are stories of time spent with the Inquisitors that would change your attitude about the Church.”
“Highly doubtful.” La Croix muttered then to cover raised his voice. “Greed is a universal concept whether it is a man or an institution. I find it easier to appeal to a person’s baser nature than better nature as they may not have one.” He chuckled into his goblet.
“You live on the edge, Monsieur … Lucien.”
“When you have lived a life such as I, it is the only place to live. Otherwise, I fear I would expire of ennui.” He studied the younger man for a moment. “It would perhaps help you with your own … Upsets.” Puffing up like a bantam rooster when confronted, Nicholas attempted to straighten his somewhat inebriated posture at La Croix inference. “Settle your ruffled feathers, my friend. I am simply making an observation other people of your acquaintance have made but do not have the intestinal fortitude to speak of to your face.”
“I see.” His posture deflated as fast as it had puffed up. “They have little understanding …” He trailed off as he emptied his tankard.
“Only those who have been to war understand, Nicholas.”
“True.” He gave the older man a long look. “If you will excuse me, I feel the need to retire to my rooms. Perhaps we will speak more of this on the morrow.”
“I feel the need for a bit of sword training in the morning. You could join me.” He arched an eyebrow in query.
“That would be acceptable.” Nicholas bowed his head in La Croix’s direction before he put all his effort into his imitation of sobriety as he headed for his rooms.
~ • ~ • ~
Lucien La Croix watched the blond man amble across the great hall. He’d met many young men like Nicholas de Brabant in his long life. They wanted to do the ‘honorable thing’, to do what was demanded by their fathers and their priests. Behind all that honor and familial obligations were often hearts and minds too gentle for the horrors of war. As a once General in the Roman armies, he had little patience for weeping and whining, but what had caught his attention with Nicholas was the lack of such things. For all that he felt things deeply and as their discussions had revealed, he had a strong sense of what was just, regardless of the laws, and seldom whined over whatever memories clouded his vision. The most La Croix could tease from Nicholas was he had been the unwilling guest of the Saracens during his time fighting for the Church.
Having become tired of traveling alone or in the company of pompous nobles and clergy, Lucien for the first time since Divia Turned him, began to think seriously about taking on a Childe. Now, how to convince the young knight being Turned was in his best interest.
The Vampire thought he was making headway in his campaign to get Nicholas to give his Consent to be Turned. It was two weeks past the King’s solstice celebration at Chateau de Fontainebleau, and the Court had finally arrived at Versailles, where they would stay until Louis decided to move back to Paris for the winter. Nicholas had spent the majority of his time scouting out ahead of the royal party while Lucien had been stuck with the lower tier of nobles that were a not important enough to have the King’s ear, but important enough that Louis could not afford to totally alienate them since he’d begun planning a seventh crusade.
“Think of if Nicholas. We can travel to see the wonders of the world. Have the time to really explore the things that are considered merely legends. You can argue history with those that lived it.”
“It certainly cannot be all never-ending wine and dancing girls, La Croix.” Nicholas insisted.
“Of course not. We watch our families age and die generation after generation. There are a few rules, and sometimes we have to resort to feeding off animals when people are few, but as long as we leave them satiated and alive …”
“So, there is someone you answer to for your behavior?” Nicholas grinned over the rim of his tankard.
“There is, though I have sworn fealty to no Clan, for I am Roman and bow to no Greek.” That statement drew a laugh from the younger man. If Nicholas believed the older man, Lucien was over a thousand years old and Alexander the Great was a Vampire. “A laugh sits well on you, Sir Nicholas. I hope you will agree to walk with me on this journey. I need someone to be my conscious, for I surely left mine in Pompeii at the mercy of my wife’s daughter. There are days when my thoughts push me to act in ways I know would see me declared a Rogue.” Lucien smirked feeling that soon Nicholas would succumb.
“If … If I were to give my Consent, where would this event take place? Surely you would not create a creature that legend holds an anathema to men and Church under the nose of the King and Church?”
“We can wait until the Court returns to Paris, or I can conceive a reason to return early to the city. Several on my staff have become Chosen Ones and will help with your Turning.”
“You swear on your Roman Gods that no harm will come to innocents.” Nicholas hissed.
“I swear on my honor as a General to the armies of Rome.”
“I’m not sure of the weight that vow carries, but I will hold you to your word. One last question then we will speak of more pleasant things that will not cause our fellows to fear interrupting our conversation with their company.” Nicholas stared into his tankard for a time as though gathering his courage for his remaining questions. “Will I walk this forever life with only you as my companion? What happens when you tire of my company?”
Hearing the fears of the warrior who was expected to return from the Crusades and resume his life as though he had never left, never to mention his nightmares or memories. To never let his loved ones bear the brunt of his temper when he got lost in a memory of the screams of dying men and horses, Lucien’s smile was sly when he answered.
“It is good that I am sure of my own ego ere I be insulted that you might tire of my company.” La Croix actually dredged up a fond smile for Nicholas. “We are normal men living a normal life, though after a time some of us no longer see the body of a loved one as we are usually concerned with the soul we see looking out from behind beloved eyes. It could be tomorrow … It could be the next century or millennium, but we will eventually find our Mates.”
“May they be stout of heart and fair of face.” Nicholas toasted his companion. “I fear they will need to be to deal with the two of us.” He chuckled. Knowing he spoke the truth, Lucien agreed with Nicholas’ toast. “Now, I believe I will retire to my bed. We knights must rise early to ensure the King has a smooth trip to Versailles.” He finished his ale in one gulp as he stood.
La Croix remained by the fire, scenarios running through his mind hoping that he had covered all avenues in convincing Nicholas to be Turned. He even went so far as to engage in the hated pastime of self-introspection as to why he wanted to Turn Nicholas. He’d hate to think he was becoming respectable, but if he was to ever succeed in convincing the Council to allow him to start his own Clan, he would need people like Nicholas to make the right impression on Geneva. He would need to play a long game for Clan politics could be nearly as volatile as the Roman Senate had been in his time. What he really needed right now was a polite way for him and Nicholas to escape the Court and make their way to Paris.
~ • ~ • ~
They had been at Versailles for a week when the Duc de Reims approached La Croix.
“Lucien, Luck has smiled on me to find you before your morning pounding with our favorite Chevalier.”
“How may I serve?” La Croix had done his best to befriend the influential man. He’d always held a fondness for France, and he would hate to become persona non grata.
“I have missives that need to get to Paris with best possible speed. Take Nicholas along for an extra sword arm. I am sure he is bored beyond reason watching the machinations of old men.”
“It shall be as you ask.” After making sure no one could see what they were doing, the Duc quickly handed La Croix a pouch, which he tucked under his cloak.
The men talked for several minutes more before Lucien gave him a small bow and going off to find Nicholas. He barely refrained from picking up his pace to get on the road sooner but knew from the Duc’s behavior that it would be best to be circumspect. He finally found the younger man in the stables tending his destrier.
“Nicholas, I would have a word.” He turned away to encourage the knight to step out of the stable.
“Has something happened, Lucien?”
“Yes, the Duc de Reims has requested we deliver messages to Paris with best possible speed. He suggested taking you and your sword along would be prudent.”
“I see.” He smiled at the older man. “It would seem Providence is in agreement with your plans.” Nicholas chuckled as they began to walk toward their rooms.
They were soon on their way, their horses moving at a ground-eating lope toward the city. Alternating their pace between a canter and a jog, they found when they stopped for lunch and to rest their horses, they were only an hour from their destination.
“In light of our discussions, I offer you the hospitality of my home once we have discharged our duty to the Duc.” Lucien held the breath he didn’t need waiting for Nicholas’ answer.
“I accept. I saw no reason to pay rent on rooms I was not using, so am in need of new lodgings.” Nicholas watched for a few minutes until Lucien began to fidget with impatience. “I also give my Consent to be Turned. I am not sure why, but something seems to be prompting me to travel this path with you.”
A wide smile spread over La Croix’s face. “It shall be a wondrous life.”
“Though we have only been acquainted a short while, I am not sure wondrous would be the word I would use.” He teased the older man.
“Impudent whelp.” La Croix muttered as they tightened the girths on their saddles and continued their journey to Paris.
~ • ~ • ~
Only a few servants remained on duty in La Croix’s Paris townhouse. Only those who shared their employer’s secrets remained to help with the birth of a new Vampire. Nicholas had spent most of the day in the townhouse’s small garden. By the time he ended his contemplations, he had determined that other than the need for blood, very little in his life would change. Lucien was already making plans to leave the cold and snow of Paris for the warmth of southern Italy.
After seeing little of his host during the day, Lucien finally joined him in the garden as the time for the evening meal approached.
Lucien led Nicholas to one of the unused bedrooms in the townhouse. Stretching out on the bed, La Croix sat on the edge of the bed and laid a comforting hand on the muscular shoulder.
“This process will not be painless. You are a healthy young man, and your body will fight to continue to live. I will be by your side through the entire process.”
“The first step of a new life.” Nicholas murmured as Lucien bent over him.
“Indeed.” The Vampire sank his fangs into the tanned skin of Nicholas’ throat.
A feeling of warmth, security, and acceptance filled Nicholas as Lucien Fed. Those feelings gave way to a sense of leaving … Of being a great distance from his body, of being separate from what was happening. He was one step from falling into the darkness when something demanded his attention. Lucien … Sire … Drink … Nicholas! Drink! So, he did, and the world went dark.
Pain pulled him from the darkness as Lucien manhandled him as though he were no more than a babe into a steaming bath set before the fire. He was chilled and so very hungry. Soon, Lucien had him clean and taught him how to Feed. Once his need for blood was quenched, a late supper gave the two men a chance to relax, and Lucien began to tutor his Childe on his new way of life.