VII: Confessions

Content warning: descriptions of murder and violence against a child, children in peril

When they reached the Governor’s manse, Genevieve considered it skeptically. The smell of smoke still billowed around it and much of the eastern-most wing had been entirely consumed by the blaze. Roofs caved inward and broken windows were patched with rotting boards.

“Are you certain the entire thing won’t just cave in on us?” Darnell asked, his chin also lifted to survey the dilapidated wreck that had likely once been palatial in its enormity.

“Maybe that’s his plan,” Genevieve replied. She shifted uncomfortably in her chair, a significantly smaller model than her usual and uncomfortable for any length of time. In truth, she hated the thing – its experimental metalwork frame constantly jabbing through the thin cushions beneath her bottom and behind her back, constantly threatening to tip over from the slightest turn or jolt – but it was a necessary evil. Even Darnell could never heft her other chair over so many steps – Genevieve counted sixteen just to the doorway – and it did have a nasty habit of getting stuck in doorways and causing property damage with its bulk. Considering the destruction, Genevieve worried the floorboards might no longer support her usual chair’s exceptional weight.

As it was, Darnell lifted the light frame with ease and Genevieve grasped its metal arm rests to maintain her balance as they ascended the stairs. The heft of the revolvers, tucked into the secret folds of her dress, gave Genevieve confidence, though she did miss the reassuring presence of her whip. Darnell set her down before the soot-stained double doors where she wheeled forward and rapped several times.

To both of their surprise it was a young woman who answered the door – familiar to Genevieve though it took her a full minute to place her as the mother she had met upon her arrival. The woman’s face was pale and drenched in sweat, and her hand was clenched at her skirt.

“Insurance?” Genevieve asked Darnell, and he nodded in turn. “Bastard.”

“M-my master is waiting in the Great Hall, Mademoiselle. This way,” she indicated with a trembling hand before turning down a passage to their right.

“Has he given you anything to eat?” Genevieve asked, and the woman shook her head.

“My daughter,” the woman whispered, “the eldest.”

“Is she here?” Darnell asked.

The woman nodded. “They all are. But she’s… if she changes…”

Genevieve stopped and slipped a hand into the folds of her skirts to retrieve the smaller of her revolvers. She opened the barrel and carefully removed three capsules, handing them to Darnell. He looked down at her hand but made no move to take them.

“We’ll find them together, after we deal with L’Amie.”

“There may not be time for that,” Genevieve thrust her hand forward again, “You can come for me after.”

Darnell still hesitated. “What if you don’t have enough?”

“Then three more would never have made the difference. Take them. Please.

Darnell’s shoulders fell with a sigh, but he took the capsules nonetheless. The woman watched this exchange with red-rimmed eyes but said nothing, only leading them on once more when they were finished.

“In here.” She bowed and opened the door onto a long room that was likely once very grand but now showed the signs of neglect and disuse. A grand fireplace lined the left wall, a layer of dust and soot like dirty snow across the mantle, and a cavernous darkness where once a bright fire might have burned. The air was cold and musty, and there was little light save what was provided by the handful of candles gracing a once-elegant table that stretched from one end of the room to the other. The candles and a few small plates of food were all crowded at the far end in front of a solitary figure.

He rose when they entered, bowing his head. Governor L’Amie was not a tall man, and side-by-side he might have only come up to Darnell’s shoulder. He was what they called barrel-chested, the white of his pressed shirt threatening to burst free of his snugly tailored black jacket, and yet this still did not account for the immensity of his presence for, though he was one small man in an abandoned room, Genevieve had the impression that he was staring down at her, his face mere inches from her own. She shook her head and steadied herself for his introductions.

“Welcome Mademoiselle Gregoire. Monsieur Furst,” he motioned toward the table, “Everything has been prepared for us. If you would be so kind as to join me, I would be honoured by your presence. There is much we wish to discuss with one another, I’m sure.”

Like a woman’s costume jewels, Governor L’Amie’s hospitality was gaudy and put-on; Genevieve had no intention of participating in such a rouse.

“I’m afraid my assistant will not be joining us. He will be leaving with this woman and her children. I assume that won’t be a problem, Monsieur?”

A smile flickered across the Governor’s face before he forced it into a look of disappointment as unconvincing as his tone, “If he must. I suppose I will have to resign myself to enjoying your company in private, Mademoiselle.”

“So it seems,” she said in reply, turning to give Darnell a stern look until he finally nodded and backed out of the room to follow the woman to whatever place the monster had locked up her children.

Genevieve returned her attention to the Governor and to the empty space at his right hand where a chair had been removed to make room for her. Her right hand itched beneath its silk glove, ready to release the wheel of her chair and seize her revolver at any sudden movement.

Thankfully the Governor did nothing more than sit, pour her a glass of red wine, and serve some roast and boiled potatoes onto a dainty little plate. Genevieve smiled to see him pour himself his own glass as well.

“You really intend to dine with me tonight?” She prompted, moving her food around with a tarnished silver fork, “I rather thought you might be more inclined to gobble me up instead.”

Governor L’Amie took a sip of his wine and grinned. “I considered it. But I thought I might have you answer some questions first. Though I thought you might be inclined to sick your pet on me the moment you arrived.”

“It crossed my mind,” she admitted, taking a bite of the roast on her plate and rolling it around in her mouth. It was dry, and it had a familiar bitter flavour she recalled from childhood. “But to be honest, I have some questions for you too.”

“Oh?” he inquired, eating a morsel from his own plate.

“Mm,” she said, taking a small sip of wine. Too much and it might make her ill.

“Well, we shall take turns then, shall we? Ladies first?”

“Twenty-three years ago a Hunter came through here, following his quarry. He never returned to the College. What happened to him?” She knew the answer already, but it would be a good way to gauge his honesty.

“I had him hung for assault and robbery.” His grey eyes – a shade darker than Genevieve’s own, crinkled with their own private humour.

“And was he guilty?”

“Of course not. I tortured him until he told me all about these creatures you call Beasts and how such a condition spreads. It wouldn’t have been… strategic to let him return to the College.” The humour spread to his lips now, the deep wrinkles there creasing at the effort.

“Of course not.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me why?” he asked, running a hand over his stubbled chin, cleft like Genevieve’s own, though the skin there was several shades lighter.

“Strength. Influence. Perhaps health. You are hardly the first to have taken on the change by choice.” Genevieve shrugged, watching him pour himself another glass of wine and topping off her own. She took another sip for good measure. “It’s your turn to ask a question.”

“I didn’t know the College allowed Beasts among its ranks. Are companions like yours common?”

“Not at all. Darnell’s mother forced him to undergo the change as a child to cure an illness which should have taken his life years ago. He volunteered with the College on the condition that we aid him to maintain better control over his transformations. Our research has yielded a formula which inhibits the change to a certain degree, though it renders the process much more exhausting to him than to typical Beasts.” Genevieve smiled into her wine at the widening of the Governor’s eyes upon hearing this. Good, she thought, he’s been too busy to pay enough attention to us. He has no idea what we’re capable of.

“I thought the College’s policy would be to kill him on the spot,” he admitted.

“That would hardly be humane. Besides, what use is he to us dead?”

“Ah,” the Governor said, “Very shrewd. Your turn.”

“How long do you really think you can maintain your control here? Your kingdom is falling apart,” Genevieve reached out an arm to indicate the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, and the broken arm of the chair next to her.

“As long as I want to,” he spit, taking another sip of wine to cover up his irritation. Genevieve would have to tread carefully. “My turn. Tell me a little about yourself, Mademoiselle. How did one such as you end up with the College? And a Hunter at that? Were your legs injured by a Beast?”

Idiot, she thought. “There’s nothing wrong with my legs, Monsieur, but I’m afraid I was dropped as a child and my spine was injured in the fall. My mother is an important doctor within the College, so I came to it naturally you might say.”

“Naturally,” he repeated, his eyes devouring her from head to toe. He smirked.

“My turn,” she said, feeling that his patience was drawing to a close. “What was the name of the woman who you threw from the cliffs behind this mansion twenty-seven years ago?”

His heavy dark brows hung over his eyes like storm clouds. “What was that?”

“Oh, perhaps you had someone do it for you? That is your usual method, isn’t it? And you would have been a simple human back in those days, isn’t that right?” Genevieve felt the anger rising within her, the ghost of an ache shooting through the long abandoned nerves of her legs.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, laughing as if she had just told the most outrageous of jokes.

“A prostitute. She had a baby. You threw them from the cliffs.”

“Ah. Yes. I do recall the incident though not the name. If I recall the baby had no name, and she had returned to have me bless it with one. As if I had any intention of breeding some bastard child with a creature like that.” He eyed her suspiciously now, a mischievous smile playing around his lips at the sight of her clenched jaw and fist. “What do you care? It had nothing to do with the College.”

“She was my mother.”

<— Back to VI: What Must Be Done

VIII: Retribution —>

Return to The Beast of Ste Ygrette

III: The Inconvenience of Hunger

Content warning: violence against a child, animal death


The first face the babe awoke to was not human, but canine. It startled her, the fuzzy muzzle and liquid brown eyes hovering so close over her own, and she cried out heartily.

There was no smell of mother here, but there was a warmth not unlike hers which wrapped around the baby and lifted her into the air. A new face peered down. It was twisted – corner of the mouth raised here, funny pink slashes across its dark cheek there, and an eye not quite opened – but it was human. This face smiled and a voice cooed so softly that the curiosity swirling within the child did not dissolve into fear.

Something wet and warm brushed her cheek, something that made her stomach clench in hunger. She sucked on this soft thing, craving the liquid in which it was soaked, though it wasn’t quite as sweet as Mother’s milk. Occasionally the woman who held her stole the cloth away, evoking tears and screams, but it returned quickly, soaked once more in warmth and sweetness.

The dog, though she had no word for it yet, frightened her for many days. She had never seen a creature like it, and it snuffled loudly with its wet cold nose against her head. Cold was something the baby was coming to know well; she felt it often now, and it seemed that parts of her body were made of nothing else. Eventually she came to know the dog as a source of warmth and eventually safety and comfort. In the baby’s mind these were the beginnings of love.

But she was also beginning to learn hunger. She’d felt the desperate need for food since the moment she was born, but as her fragile body tried to grow, she found milk-soaked rags inadequate. It was then that she learned true hunger – a hunger that was both fear and pain, a hunger that made her sleepy and weak, and a hunger that made her try to eat things that made the woman shout out and wipe her tongue.

Maman Tee, as the woman came to be called, began to act strangely, casting worrying glances at the child while she rested in her nest of rags against the dog’s warm fur. She cried often, except on those odd days when a visitor would come and exchange shiny circles of metal for a bag of odd smelling plants or a bottle of cloudy liquid — all of which the child had tried to consume at some time or another. After the stranger left, Maman Tee would disappear and come back with food. Real food that filled the child’s belly and tasted good against her tongue. Those were the merry days – when Maman Tee would laugh and sing with the dog barking and running circles around her feet. The child would hold tight to the warm neck of her saviour and fall asleep being swung about in her arms.

Then one day men came to the door. They banged and shouted. Maman Tee left and when she returned her face was different — crestfallen and tear-stained yes, but swollen too and the wrong colour. She held the child and wept. After that there were no visitors for a long time, and no singing or laughter either. And worst of all, the hunger returned until the child could no longer remember that she had ever felt anything else.

Finally, there came an evening when, after the child was laid to rest, Maman Tee sat over her for a long while inspecting the hollows of her cheeks and thinking on the hollow in her tiny belly. Still on the verge of sleep, eyes closed and body still, the child felt the blanket lifted from her chest and up and over her face. It tickled, but after a moment the pleasant sensation turned to panic. There was no air, only a gentle pressure over her face which she flailed against with the little strength her arms could muster.

Just as she began to drift into blackness, the blanket was torn away and Maman Tee lifted her to her breast. They clung to each other, weeping hot tears.

“I’m sorry. Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

Maman Tee kissed her all over.

“I’m so sorry, my baby, my love.”

The child didn’t understand her words, but she accepted her love and drifted off to sleep with her head resting against the woman’s shoulder.

When she woke the next day, the dog was gone. She was old enough to understand its disappearance by then, comprehending that objects and people and dogs should not disappear without a reason. In her own way she asked after him, but Maman Tee had no answer that would satisfy the child.

“She’s taking care of you, my love,” she would say, but the babe heard only her sadness and saw only her tears.

That night they had food, and with it the remembrance of times of joy and song, but to the child’s disappointment the songs did not come. Maman Tee did not eat with her, and nor did she sing or smile.


Genevieve emerged from the Mayor’s house with Darnell at her side. The pistol was concealed once more, and the only evidence of what had transpired was splattered across Darnell’s white shirtfront.

“Well that did not go as smoothly as I might have liked,” she said, pushing herself along the street in the direction of Ste. Ygrette’s only inn.

“I apologize for my slow response, Mademoiselle,” Darnell answered, hanging his head.

“No, not at all, you did what was required. It’s just a pity. I quite like dogs.” There were curious eyes upon her, she could feel them staring down from windows and out from alleys and doorways. No, this was certainly not the best start she could have hoped for. Not that this was ever going to be an easy job. “We need to get you changed, before we start a bloody panic.”

The room provided to them was cramped with bulky wooden furniture, and Genevieve groaned as she tried to manoeuvre her way to where their luggage was stored. Darnell undressed, replacing his shirt behind her.

“They could have afforded us a nicer room,” she complained, giving up and waiting for Darnell to finish, “Given that we’re here to save them and whatnot.”

“I’m not sure they can afford us anything else,” Darnell replied, fastening the last of his buttons, “The Mayor seemed to only be squeaking by, and that doesn’t say much for the state of the town’s finances.”

“True,” she admitted, managing to turn her chair to face him only by bumping into the towering armoire behind her half a dozen times, “Fetch me a new pair of gloves, will you? These ones smell like gun powder now.”

He reached past her into one of her cases and passed her a pair of silk gloves, identical to the pair she was removing.

“Thank you,” she told him, and seeing the tension between his brow she added, “And honestly, you did well. After this many years I wish you wouldn’t doubt yourself so much. You should take a sabbatical after this assignment. I most certainly plan on taking one.”

His smile was subtle, but rare enough for Genevieve to judge it as genuine.

“Alright… now off to that old lady’s house. What was her name again?”

“Annette,” Darnell answered, retrieving his jacket and aiding Genevieve back into hers.

“Yes. That one. I have a feeling she’ll have a great deal of insight for us.”

<— II: An Ill-Timed Meeting

Part IV: An Unlikely Client —>

Return to The Beast of Ste Ygrette

I: An Ominous Welcome

Content warning: blood, violence against a child, human death

Sainte Ygrette was burning when Genevieve arrived. As her coach approached, slowing at the sight of ash and smoke, she felt as though she were entering the town’s own private midnight. Greasy black plumes choked off what little sunlight the autumn clouds permitted, and the gaslights were already doused, their lines evacuated before they could cause greater disaster. The only light came from the embers strewn across scorched rooftops and the flames that still licked the shingles of a giant manor house at the end of the road.

The coach stopped several blocks from the source of the chaos and Darnell dismounted to aid in Genevieve’s descent. From the rear of the carriage, he hefted a solid wooden chair and lowered it gently to the cobbled road. He rolled it along on two oversized wheels until he reached her door and then lifted her down onto its upholstered seat. Genevieve straightened the bulk of her lilac-coloured silk dress, gently brushing away the wrinkles as a few townsmen rushed by, seemingly oblivious to her presence.

“Should I aid them, Mademoiselle?”

Genevieve watched with cold curiosity as half a dozen men passed buckets and three or four others ran off to find more. The blackened building loomed over them as if complicit in the fiery chaos, a creature threatening to devour them. Tearing her eyes from this spectacle, Genevieve noticed a handful of people clinging to doorways and peeking from the windows of buildings far enough away from the blaze to create an illusion of safety. She gripped the hefty rims of her chair’s wheels and propelled herself forward, approaching a stern-faced woman with three trembling children clutching at her legs.

“Excuse me,” she called to them. The children’s eyes flew to the ornately carved wood of her seat and the wheels beneath her black gloves (white ones would always get ruined, as much as she preferred them). The mother’s eyes did the opposite, flying this way and that, any direction to try to avoid the contraption on which Genevieve was seated.

Well, Genevieve always did much prefer speaking with children anyway.

She directed her speech to the eldest, a girl of perhaps seven. “Do you know if anyone is inside the building there? The big one with all the flames?”

The girl blinked. Clearly she was not used to being the one addressed by adults. She shook her head. “Only the governor lives there now. He’s the one who told everyone about the fire.”

“What about the staff?” Genevieve asked, but then rephrased as the girl’s mouth twisted in confusion, “The people who work there? Housemaids and cooks and such.”

“There aren’t any.” It was the mother who answered this time, and Genevieve raised her chin to address her properly.

“None?” she asked, tilting her head at this bizarre tidbit.

“I go in a couple times a week to help with the laundry and tidying, but seeing as most of the house is empty ain’t no point keeping it all dusted. He buys his meals around town, or maybe makes some himself.” The mother hesitated, her gaze returning to the ash and flame, “Not many who’ll go in there at all these days.”

“Oh?” Genevieve asked, a hungry grin splitting her face, “Why’s that?”

“Cursed, isn’t it?” she answered with a shiver.

“So it would seem.”

Wrangling the bulk of her chair, Genevieve made to return to where Darnell was waiting beside the coach, but the mother made a noise as if to call her back.


“Are you… I mean, did they send you? Are you here to help us?”

The eldest girl’s eyes went wide, flying from her mother and back to Genevieve. They burned with a hope and wonder that made Genevieve straighten her posture, and smirk as she answered:

“Ah, yes,  I am Hunter Gregoire. That gentleman across the way is my assistant, Hunter Furst.” A slight bow of the head, but not so low that she couldn’t watch the woman’s mouth droop a little in disappointed surprise.

“You? But surely you…”

“Are your best hope,” Genevieve interrupted, “And I will be expecting your full cooperation. Once the flames are out, of course.”

This time she turned away without hesitation and returned to where Darnell stood rigidly straight (as was his habit), watching the thick smoke rising from the now-diminished flames.

“We wait,” she told him, “They’ll have it out soon enough. Let the beast burn.”

Darnell nodded, and they watched and waited together.


Windows glinted like eyes, reflecting the light of the half-moon in those brief moments when she winked down through the clouds: the only witnesses to the gruesome scene below. The night was cold for early June, but the mother’s blood kept the babe warm, drenched as she was in it. She cried out, in pain and confusion: Mother’s smell is near. Mother’s warmth is near. Where is mother?

Still the eyes stared, the hulking mass of the building looming, a frigid stillness permeating the night.

The babe cried until she slept through the pain and fear. Her primal brain knew little, except how to cry for help and how to surrender when it didn’t come. She continued to sleep even when – against all odds – help did come and carried her away. Away from her dead mother. Away from the watchful eyes of the manor house. Away from the murderers concealed within.


*** Author’s Note***

Hey everyone, thank you so much for reading the first episode of The Beast of Ste Ygrette! The series will be eight parts in length and run bi-weekly until the end of October. Think of it as a Hallowe’en special, if you will. Don’t forget to like and comment if you enjoyed the episode, and follow the blog (at the bottom of the page) or check me out on Instagram for updates to the series. Thanks again for your support <3.

Part II: An Ill-Timed Meeting —>

Return to The Beast of Ste Ygrette