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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

For the Love of Deadly Nightshade - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by CrystalWren
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 2

Seven Years Later

Belladonna Boudreaux was running through the tunnels, a stitch in her side and her feet aching with each thudding contact with the ground. As well as possessing the nearly endlessness energy of the very young, she was superbly conditioned as an assassin-in training ought to be, but she had been running steadily for almost an hour without pause. And she was beginning to get tired. She slowed slightly and dared a risky glance at the long stretch of tunnel behind her. Nothing. Her run went to a trot and then a brisk walk before stopping entirely, and for the first time she had a chance to really look at, not just glimpse, her surroundings. She was in the Guild held tunnels beneath New Orleans, but to be honest right now she had no idea which Guild owned where she was now. She was not sure, but she thought that she had passed the end of Assassin territory a good twenty minutes ago. In that case, she thought, I'm in deep, deep trouble.

She took a deep breath in a conscious attempt to slow her fast, heavy panting and exhaled slowly, closed her eyes and counted to ten. After that she opened one eye cautiously, hoping she was wrong the first time.


She was still lost. She sighed and inspected her surroundings carefully. She had just about memorized, on map, the whereabouts and direction of every tunnel beneath New Orleans, but counting the number of turns she had made in her head, she soon realized that she had never even heard of this particular stretch before. For one thing, every tunnel that she knew was lit by either electric lights or the traditional guttering, smoky torches that the Thieves Guild favored. This one was not lit by any direct source, as far as she could tell, nor by the melodramatic phosphorescent fungi that the writers of bad adventure stories talked about, but rather some uncanny white glow that seemed to come from the stones themselves. She shivered. She knew what it was. She had had enough contact with it during her short life, both through the wizards in her Guild and the Great Eternal Chandra herself. *Magic. I really, really, hate magic.* She wandered up to one of the stones in the wall and poked at it with a cautious finger. It made no difference to the stone. It did not slide around to reveal a hidden wall. It did not explode. The light coming from it neither intensified nor dimmed. It simply continued glowing happily to itself.

Concluding that touching the stones would not make her turn interesting colours and choke fatally, she leaned against the wall and slid down to the ground, and rested her head on her knees and thought. If she were sensible, she would turn around and go back. She thought she could remember the turns she had made. It would not take long until she was back into Assassin territory. Her Poppa would not punish her if she was prompt in returning. That was, she decided, the wisest course of action. It was dangerous in these tunnels. A young girl could get into all sorts of trouble- she could get hurt or killed. She had no real reason even being here. All these were very good reasons to leave. So that is why she stood up, turned, and marched firmly down the tunnel the opposite way she came into it.

Two hours later, nothing even remotely interesting had happened. The tunnel had branched several times, but the was about it. The walls hadn't changed, the glow hadn't changed, and all in all Belladonna was bored, bored, bored. She stopped for a rest just before a branching tunnel, again sitting on the ground with her back to the wall. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing. This adventure was not turning out to be as exciting as she had thought it would be. Nothing had happened. No piles of treasure, no pirates or smugglers to trick and humiliate. This was nothing like an adventure book at all. And to make matters worse she was tried and hungry and she was scared. Not of the tunnel- that seemed harmless enough. But what was behind her, what she had been running from. Belle had been able to convince herself she was on an adventure, and in the rush of excitement she had been able to forget just what had frightened her.


It was a dreadful thing to be afraid of your own brother. Not the standard wariness that one sibling might have for an older one, the type of wariness that comes when they are faster, stronger and by nature belligerent, but true shaking-when-they-enter-the-room, stomach churning gut wrenching fear. It was not that Juilen was out to hurt her in any way. In fact, it was just the opposite. He was protective and gentle and caring towards his younger sister. He always wanted to touch her, to hug her. He was always watching her. But at seven years old Belle was old enough to realize that even for an affectionate older brother, Julien was just too affectionate. He was always finding excuses to put his hands upon her, and while Belle was not old enough to know why it was wrong, she still knew it was. And the way her father, Marius, watched Julien when they were together, it was clear he knew it was wrong as well. But when she tried to ask him about it he just shook his head and told her not to worry. He also told her that if Julien tried to hurt her in any way to tell him straight away. Now that Belle didn't understand. Julien had never tried to hurt her, he just scared her. Did her father think he might want to? It was very confusing. So she ran away, and ended up here.

Belle began to cry.

She was a tough little brat, both by nature and training. She had cried rarely since she was three, when she had been given her first knife and had promptly cut herself on the especially sharp edges. She had been told that an assassin never cried, and mostly took that knowledge to heart. Still, a child was a child and when she did cry it was loud, messy, and as self-pitying as only a seven-year-old can make it. There were copious amounts of snot, tears, and loud sobs and disgusting snorts as Belle informed the world in general that She Was Not Happy. She was just beginning to wind down when a totally unexpected voice said:

"Why ya cryin', girl?"

Tears and misery forgotten, Belle jumped to her feet, knife in hand, ready to gut the miscreant who had the daring to witness the weak moment of an assassin. She looked around, and was surprised and seriously discomforted to find that she could not see the owner of the disembodied voice at all. She was beginning to doubt she had even heard the voice when it repeated:

"Why ya cryin'?"

Belle slashed the air in front of her both as a warning and as an exercise in frustration that she couldn't see whomever it was, and then boldly answered the question with one of her own.

"Who're you?"

The silence was deafening.

"Answer mine and I'll answer yours," said Belle, feeling bold. Besides, if she didn't like whoever it was, she could always kill them.

There was more silence for a moment, and then a boy her own age strolled casually out from the branching tunnel entrance. Belle shrieked and jumped backwards towards the wall, placing it firmly at her back.

The boy had glowing, red eyes!

He said nothing, but gave her a disgusted look. It said, clearly as if it had been spoken, that he had had this reaction before and it in no way impressed him. He shrugged, as if to say he cared not in the least, and turned and began to stroll towards the tunnel he had came from, as causally as he had entered. Belle found her speech.

"What's wrong wit' ya eyes?" she said.

The boy faced her again and smirked.

"Oh," he said causally, "I'm de son of Satan, who come `specially up from hell t' make me wit' my mother."

Belle thought about this for a second. Then she shrugged.

"Cool," she said.

Belle and her newfound friend were getting on rather well. Belle had been relived to hear that he knew a way out of the tunnels different from the one she had come from, and had rather grateful when the boy turned out to have some food on his person. He didn't keep it for long. They were in a nook adjacent to a branching tunnel out from the one Belle had come down and were resting up before they 'made their final escape' as the boy had put it. Belle was devouring a piece of cheese with a great deal of gusto, and in between chewing she talked with the boy. Or rather, at the boy. He wasn't inclined to talk much, and Belle felt obligated to fill in the spaces. Still, she had managed ascertain that he also was running away (hence all the 'great escape' stuff) but no matter what she did she couldn't convince the boy to tell her just what it was he was running away from. Finally she finished eating and leaned back to study her silent companion. Her Poppa had always told her:

"If ya want to learn about someone, don't just listen t' what dey do or don't say. Dat's important, but dey never say as much wit' deir voice as dey do wit' deir body, eyes, and clothes. If ya can tell where somebody shops den ya half know dem already."

Deciding to take this advice to heart, Belle leaned back on one elbow and studied the boy. Now that she was closer, and over her initial shock, Belle could see that the boys' eyes were not entirely red. The pupils were red, but the whites were black. There was this weird glow over his eyes as a whole that made them red all over. His hair was an attractive shade of red-brown, and if Belle had been four of five years older she would have realized that he was not just handsome, but beautiful, even for a child. As it was she was too young to notice that. He was dressed causally in away that would have cost a lot of money. He wasn't wearing brand names like most boys his age, instead he wore a white shirt and slacks that would have cost twice as much as her own outfit would have. And since Belle's father was a millionaire more than just several times over, that wasn't cheap at all. There were heavy black leather shoes on his feet, of the kind she had always hated with a passion that bordered on holy, and what looked to be a small silk tie shoved in his pocket. Belle had already come the conclusion that he was a child of the Thieves Guild, but she wasn't quite sure what Clan. The Thieves Guild as a whole tended to shun large displays of wealth, generally on the pretext that it was vulgar. The real reason was that the Eternal Chandra made them pay heavily for their immortality that they received from her, and they simply could not afford to show off. Finally the ends clicked in Belles mind, and she did not stop to think before she blurted out:

"Your Clan is de Antiquary's!"

She got more of a reaction than she had been expecting. The boy moved in a streak of speed that was too fast to be natural, and next thing she knew she was pinned to the cold stone floor with her arms and legs twisted so that she could not go for a knife, or even kick. The boy's hand was clamped on her mouth, with the fingers going under her jaw in such as way that she could not bite. She was frightened, but mostly ashamed. A Thief beating an Assassin! Catching one off guard!

It was humiliating.

"Shut up!" he hissed. "Shutupshutupshutupshutup! He'll hear you!"

The boy twisted his head around and looked frantically behind him. Satisfied that no one and nothing was trying to sneak up on him he eased his weight a fraction, but not enough to give Belle the advantage. He looked at her face, those red glowing eyes burning into hers.

"If I let you go," he whispered, "ya have ta promise never, ever to say dat name again. Do you promise?"

Belle was still for a second, then ventured the smallest of nods. Satisfied, the boy started to get up, but it was a move that was quickly aborted, when Belle seized him neatly by the throat and crotch and flipped him onto the ground beside her. In a flash, she was on top of him, with one hand holding a knife to his throat, another holding a knife to his stomach, and one of her knees positioned neatly between his legs ready to kick him where he lived.

The boy froze.

Belle snickered.

"Wise decision," she said with a smirk.

The boy snarled silently.

"Okay," drawled Belle, "I won't say de name. But I won't let ya go unless ya tell my why you're so afraid of him."

The boy swallowed convulsively, and to Belle's surprise and discomfort burst into tears.

"I hate him," he whispered, black coloured tears leaking from his eyes. "I hate de way he talks to me. I hate de way he treats my brothers and sisters- the Collection," he added, seeing Belle's confusion. "I hate the way he touches me, de t'ings he makes me do." He shuddered. "It makes me feel kinda like I need a bath on the inside- y'know," he said the last even quieter, if possible, "kinda dirty."

Belle found herself nodding quietly. She understood most of what he had said- he described how Julien made her feel almost perfectly. She sighed, and got of the boy. Immediately, he tried to kick her in the stomach, but when she avoided it easily he did not try again. He adjusted his expensive clothes unconsciously, as if he had had to do it all his life. He even retied his shoelaces.

"So," said Belle, "will ya tell me what your name is now?"

The boy stared at the ceiling as if it was the roof of the Sistine Chapel and sighed.

"Never give up, do ya?"


There was another sigh, then:

"De Master always called me 'Lucien'."

Belle hooted with laughter, and Lucien tried to hush her.

"Shut up, will ya? Mon Dieu ya make a lot of noise!"

Belle doubled up and tried to muffle her laughter in her purple skirt. Her shoulders shook, and tears run from her eyes in streams.

"Lucien!? What kinda name is dat?"

Lucien snarled. The expression was quite intimidating, especially because his eyes glowed like an open furnace door.

"Lucien, Lucifer, d'ya get it, girl?" When it was obvious that she did not, he tried again. "Lucifer, Satan, red glowing eyes- now do ya understand?"

Belle stopped laughing. She got it all right. It had been easy to dismiss her mysterious companion's eyes with the easy acceptance of a child, but that comment abruptly recalled all the Catholic teachings she had been privileged to have had shoved down her throat since her Christening. It also brought to mind all the tales of the power of the Adversary, and just what Lucien might be able to do if she pissed him off. Namely, blasting her to vaporous gases and some small amounts of heavy trace ash. Belle stared at her shoes and prayed he'd forget she almost kneed him in the balls.

Lucien eyed her for a second, wondering what had made Belle go so quiet. In the short time he had known her, he had come to the conclusion she never stopped talking. He immediately got suspicious. Was she up to something? He decided not to give her the chance to do whatever it was she was planning.

"Ya ready to go?"

The voice broke in on Belle's thoughts, and she jumped.

"I said, are ya ready to go?" Lucien repeated with a touch of impatience.

Belle nodded nervously.

"Okay. Follow me. Don't go ahead of me, do exactly what I say, and if I tell you to put your feet exactly where mine were, if ya want to see your fam'ly ever 'gain. Okay?"

Belle relaxed. It sounded as if the tunnels ahead were just as dangerous as the ones in her home territory. Pitfalls, booby traps, falling rocks, eminent risk of death or dismemberment- it felt just like home. Belle nodded happily, and began to follow the boy with the glowing, red eyes along the glowing corridor.


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