VIII: Retribution

Content warning: violence, mention of murder and abuse, ableism

The Governor tilted his head in confusion. “You said your mother was a doctor.”

“She is. But my birth mother was murdered by you.”

“You survived?” He said, his brows rising beneath the untidy salt-and-pepper of his curls.

“A woman this town called a Witch found me and raised me as her own, feeding me scraps of scavenged meat and bread bought with the little money she made providing medical care to those who needed it more than they feared her.”

“Hattie?” he said, “She died.”

“No. You sent men to kill her. They hacked off her arm in front of me and then I killed them and took her far away.”

“Impossible,” he said, shaking his head and sneering at her, “She’d have bled to death.”

“She was well-trained. And a good teacher.”

“You would have still been a child… you couldn’t.” He stood now, his eyes narrowing as he inspected her.

“Are you waiting for something, Monsieur?” Genevieve asked, taking another bite of the food.

He said nothing, but continued watching her eat in confusion and anger. His hand trembled and his foot began to tap against the floor.

Genevieve lifted the fork, a piece of darkly seared meat speared on its tines. She inspected it as she spoke, “You know, we almost starved many times. Maman fed me whatever she could find… only eating scraps of bread and roots herself. I needed the nutrients, she told me later. I was growing, after all. Children need nourishment, and meat was hardest of all to come by. Sometimes she caught squirrels. Or stole scraps from the market. She even killed our beloved pet. But one day… one lucky day she came across an entire carcass in the woods behind our shack. Your woods. It was thrown over a massive fire. No one was around. So she pulled what she could from the flames and cut some of the flesh with her herb knife, filling her skirts with wild, greasy meat.”

“You…” the Governor began, but his mouth didn’t seem to want to move the way he commanded.

“I didn’t change right away, like many do. I think I was too starved, too weak. But there were… signs… that something was happening inside of me. I grew stronger. Much stronger. And hungrier. And my body… once injured… was healed.”

“You found the Hunter in the woods that day, didn’t you?” she asked, and the tense silence was answer enough, “You took him away, for trespassing or some petty thing at first, and left his kill unattended. Then, once you realized who he was and he told you his secrets, you had your men cook the body. The precious meat.”

She popped the morsel into her mouth and watched him as she chewed. This would be the moment of truth for them both.

“You hoped I’d be injured and stupid enough to take your offer of a dinner today so you could turn me, manipulate me through my disorientation and fear,” she told him, feeling the phantom ache of her legs but none of the trembling or restlessness that once followed it, “I would be useful: a subordinate in the College. But I’m afraid you’re much too late for that. It seems I partook of the same meal you did more than twenty years ago. In fact, it was likely I was turned even before you were.”

Her provocation was working; Governor L’Amie seethed with injured pride and a frightened hatred for this weak creature – his own bastard – besting his stratagem. If the Beast within her were older, then it was possible that he might be the subordinate. If he survived.

Genevieve watched him closely, frowning at the way his foot tapped faster and faster, and the way he shifted his neck as if it ailed him. She took another bite of food to distract his attention from her left hand, already gripping a revolver. She hoped she could still fire it with her injuries.

“So then…” he mumbled, staring down to his feet, “This has all been a game.”

In one breathless moment, Genevieve found herself flying across the room, her chair crashing in a useless heap while she continued on to collide with the far wall. Governor L’Amie stood where she had recently been seated, fully transformed with the tips of his dark, twisted horns touching the ceiling. Unlike other Beasts Genevieve had seen, he had three sets of horns – the largest curling like a rams, while another set sprouted like jagged teeth just behind them. The final pair sat furthest forward on his head – two velvety nubs not unlike those of a juvenile deer.

She had been correct when she had said his age made him unpredictable; his speed, his size, his entire appearance were unlike anything Genevieve had ever seen aside from in the oldest texts in the College’s archives.

“STAND UP!” he roared at her, “No more of these petty games!”

Genevieve fished her hand into her silk pockets and retrieved a revolver– she didn’t even spare a thought to which she held – and fired off all six shots as fast as she could manage. He didn’t move, hardly reacted to the impact, and when her seventh shot was nothing more than an empty click, he laughed so hard that Genevieve cringed, her skull bursting with pain.

The bullets emerged from his chest and fell to the threadbare rug in six muted thuds. She couldn’t see the wounds knitting themselves shut from where she lay, but Genevieve could tell he was already healing from the lack of blood matting his silver-grey fur.

Not sparing a thought to this or how her legs lay at impossible angles before her, she discarded the first gun and shuffled for her second – the smaller one, she noticed this time – and emptied both remaining rounds into him.

When the capsules fell to the floor they were shattered into pieces, their contents deposited but seemingly ineffective against such an aged Beast. And here she had worried about giving him an overdose and accidentally killing him. Not that real bullets had fared any better.

She saw his leg twitch and then she felt herself hurtling through the air once more, landing with a bone-shattering crash onto the solid wood table. Her shoulder exploded with pain and she screamed out.

I’m going to die here, she realized. Maman will be so sad… after I promised. After I refused to take more Hunters. And I was going to retire like she wanted…

She clenched her eyes shut against the tears, but forced them open once more to stare her death in the face. The monster who would kill her. The creature who murdered her birth mother without even knowing her name.

He approached her from across the room, stepping onto the table. He stumbled, a little, his leg not quite reaching as high as he’d expected. He growled and continued his approach, hunched under the ceiling.

“Why won’t you fight me?” he snarled, “No Beast has so much control. Not even your pet experiment.”

His voice had lost its unearthly timbre, and one of his eyes had gone dark – refusing to reflect the flickering light of the single candle that had not been extinguished during his attack. Genevieve needed to buy more time.

“I’ve been cured,” she told him, hoping his curiosity would prevent him from simply biting her head off.

“Cured?” he asked, tilting his head to the side. Genevieve wondered that he couldn’t feel the way his smaller horns wiggled like loose teeth, threatening to fall out with the slightest tug.

“It was a College doctor that saved my mother’s life, and when they threatened to kill me for what I was, she exchanged her medical knowledge for my protection. Their researchers were developing a serum that, once consumed or injected, would reverse the disease and prevent any future contamination.”

“Disease,” he snarled, leaning his toothy face down so that his breath burned in her nostrils, “It is a gift.”

That’s what makes you a monster, she thought, but didn’t dare say aloud. What she did say was: “We had many volunteers to test the efficacy of the serum. Myself included.”

He lifted his head and laughed, some of his fur shedding from his body in the process. “You!? Why? Why choose this useless, broken body over near-immortality?”

“Your lackeys were hardly immortal,” she pointed out.

“Because they were young. And stupid,” he growled, “If they’d been stronger and smarter they could have lived forever.”

“Like your son?” she asked, regretting the question the moment it escaped her lips. His face was over hers again and his mouth open so large she thought for sure it was the end.

Instead of biting her head off he shouted:

“If he’d only been loyal…”

“Then he would have been weak like the rest,” Genevieve pressed, trying to distract him from the way his horns toppled to the table.

His eyes – tiny dull grey orbs in his massive head – stared down at her intently. “And you? You have a cure, and yet you still slaughter Beasts. What right have you to criticize me?”

“By the time we’re done I will have freed at least five innocents of your crimes. From what I’ve heard, there are more, though they’ve flown and it will take us time to find them. Those we killed were Beasts long before you ever offered them meat from the bodies of those that disappointed and frightened you.”

“So a bastard like you is the arbiter of justice for the College? The great divider of Beast and man?” he laughed and swatted her to the floor like a cat might play with the corpse of a mouse.

It stung. Not only the landing, but her own doubts. She made her judgements based on the words of the outcasts, the men and women abandoned and abused, beaten and raped for not being more like their betters – the same people driving them into the dirt. The Maman Tees of the world. But surely she’d made mistakes. Only Beasts never doubted their actions.

He smiled to see the conflict and pain in her face, but then grimaced at a great crack that exploded from nearby. He looked around for its source but then howled in pain as his bones continued to snap and break, collapsing down to their usual size. “What have you done!?” he screamed at her, trying to drag his uncooperative body toward her.

His hand, still partially claw and fur, almost reached her face before she felt herself being dragged backwards, strong hands gripping her waist. Genevieve tilted her head just enough to recognize Darnell’s concerned face behind her.

“You missed the party,” she scolded him.

“I’m sorry. There were far more captives down there than I anticipated. It took some time to get them all safe.”

Genevieve nodded her approval, though to Darnell it may have just appeared that her head was bouncing off her chest as he carried her toward the door and then set her gently on the ground.

Governor L’Amie was still flailing and howling on the other side of the room, his body mostly pink and naked now, the floor littered with teeth and horns.

“I told you it would work,” she told Darnell as he checked over her wounds. “Sit me up.”

“Your ankle is severely twisted and your right leg is broken. Your ribs are bruised, possibly broken, and…”

Sit me up,” she commanded once more, and this time Darnell acquiesced, though not without a deliberate sigh. He leaned her carefully against the wall by the door and very gently removed his hand from her back so that he could see to her injuries

By the time he finished, Governor L’Amie was a diminished heap on the floor and for a moment Genevieve wondered if he might be dead. Finally, he lifted his head and said in a voice that grated from his raw throat, “You cured me. Why? Why not kill me?”

“I don’t think anyone could ever cure a monster like you, Monsieur,” Genevieve told him, noting the footsteps hurrying through the hallway behind her, “But I have taken away your teeth, yes.”

“Why didn’t you kill me?” he repeated, dropping his forehead to rest against the carpet.

“A man who eats a Beast to become a Beast, knowing what will happen and what he will become; a man who kills and lies to maintain an illusion of pride and control; a man who slaughters his own children for power, does not fear death. He only fears the loss of that power,” Genevieve said as several men and women burst into the room, along with the Mayor, “That is the only punishment to fit such a Beast.”

Some of the men in the room said something about arrest, while others screamed and cried and fell upon the Governor with wailing fists. Others pulled the most violent away while the Mayor led them all out again,  Governor L’Amie dragged behind them by his arms. He gave no resistance, his head lolling toward the floor as he passed through the doorway.


“Retiring?” Darnell asked, pushing her along the bumpy road toward Annette’s shack. She hated relying on him to get around, but her left arm would be out of commission for a number of weeks yet, according to the local surgeon. She was determined to get a second opinion from the College doctors as soon as she was home.

“Yes, I’m afraid. It’s not so young, for a Hunter, and Maman’s health isn’t getting any better. Besides, I’d like to help her with her research. An inoculation would prove much more effective than a bunch of idiots running around with whips and guns.” She winced as they went over a rather large stone protruding from the ground. At least she was in her own chair and not that experimental piece of garbage.

“You’re not an idiot,” Darnell said without a hint of humour.

“I know that, you fool. I just mean that brawn is never a long term solution,” she wished she could comfortably turn around to see his expression, instead she resorted to asking, “What will you do? Find another Hunter?”

“I suppose that would be the most prudent course of action, given my condition.”

“Oh prudent my behind, Darnell — you can do whatever you want. If you want to continue the Hunt then I’m sure I can attach you to someone else, but if there’s something else… well, the College doesn’t expect eternal servitude for a bit of medicine every now and then. You’ve more than served us by participating in the experiment in the first place.”

He was silent for so long that she forced her neck around as far as she could but could only make out his broad chest and his rough hands on the chair behind her.

“Stop that,” he told her, and she was so surprised by his commanding tone that she actually listened. That and her neck ached like hell. “I haven’t thought about it. You only just told me today, after all.”

It was true, perhaps she was being unreasonable, expecting him to have an answer so quickly.

“Fine,” she told him, “But I want you to consult with me first. Sometimes you’re just so stubborn…”

“But you won’t be my direct supervisor any longer, so I’ll have every right to disagree.” he pointed out, and Genevieve had the strangest inclination that he was smiling.

“No, but I sure as hell make better decisions. Look at the plan with the Governor… and you didn’t think it would work.”

There was a breath of chuckle behind her, and Genevieve grinned until they went over another large bump that she wasn’t entirely sure was an accident.

Annette was waiting for them at her door when they arrived.

“I’m here to report that your mission has been completed as requested and that we will be departing tomorrow at sunrise. A contingent of College agents will be here to treat any remaining injuries and see that everything is in order.”

Annette squinted, “Shouldn’t you be telling the Mayor that?”

“We did already,” Genevieve said, “But from what I’ve been told, you made the request?”

Annette smirked, “Then why did you see the Mayor first?”

Genevieve grinned, “Thank you, for all of your help. I’m sure my mother will be pleased to hear you’re well.”

She signalled for Darnell to take her back to the inn – with all her injuries she wasn’t supposed to be in her chair for more than an hour at a time – and the day had been a long one of letter writing and information gathering.

“Wait,” Annette said, making them pause in their departure, “The matter of payment?”

“The Mayor has already provided us with a hefty dividend, despite his reluctance to send for us. You’re off the hook,” Genevieve told her. Annette shook her head, smiling.

“I told you the pay wasn’t money.”

Genevieve frowned, unsure of what other agreement her mother might have come to with this woman.

“Someone like me hears a lot of things… meets a lot of people,” Annette said, taking a step toward her, “It pays to remember everyone.”

“What are you…” Genevieve began, but she interrupted.

“Angelica Giroux.”

Genevieve’s heart stuttered, and she swallowed a lump in her throat that made her eyes water. She nodded her thanks, not trusting herself to speak.

Annette smiled. “Thank you, Hunters.”


Once the inn was in sight, Genevieve told Darnell, hoping he wouldn’t notice the catch in her voice: “Get the carriage ready. We’re leaving tonight.”

“Are you sure?” Darnell asked, and Genevieve rolled her eyes.

“Do you always question everything I say?”

“Only when it’s against the College’s orders, and the doctor’s as well,” he answered.

“I want to go home, Darnell,” she whispered, “The Hunt is over.”

He came around the chair and bent down, their eyes meeting and an unspoken understanding passing between them.

“I’ll get the bags, Mademoiselle,” he told her, his hand resting for a moment on hers before he stood to take his place behind her once more.

***Author’s Note***
Thank you so much for reading The Beast of Ste Ygrette! I hope you enjoyed the story, and don’t forget to leave a like or comment below or share with your friends. I will be catching up on audio over the next few weeks (unfortunately I’ve had some delays due to noisy apartment and children. Working on that.) If you like this story, you can check out my other work by exploring the menu above… or follow me on Instagram for poetry and writing news. Thanks again for reading, and have a happy Halloween!


<— Back to VII: Confessions

Return to The Beast of Ste Ygrette

VI: What Must Be Done

Content warning: violence, some blood


Maman had started jumping at noises. The shuffling of an animal through the trees behind the house, or even a sudden movement from the child could make her eyes bulge from her skull while her hand clasped at her chest.

The child thought it might have something to do with the Bad Things. Maman scolded her when she snuck out of doors, though that was hardly novel, but now she did so with a tremor in her hand and a catch in her voice that made the little girl heed the advice no matter how her legs ached for use. There were also the whispers from customers – blood, death, murder. A monster. And then there were no more customers. That was when Maman had started jumping and shaking at every noise.

For a while the child thought maybe the Bad Things were her fault; Maman never did like many people to see her, and whenever anyone did they stared at her with an expression the child still couldn’t name, even after all of the books Maman had brought her. Some asked whose she was, which she didn’t understand. She was Maman Tee’s, just like Maman Tee told them in the same voice she used to scold the child when she ran about the house too quickly. Perhaps the customers no longer came because of her.

But then Maman started coming home with cuts and bruises again, and she realized the Bad Things were outside. Maman Tee was afraid that someone – or something—outside was coming for her, and that made the child sad and frightened. And angry. Sometimes so angry that she shook and began pacing more than usual. But then Maman would sing to her and settle her and teach her from one of the books so that the rage subsided.

Until the day the men came. They knocked on the door in broad daylight, but Maman did not answer the door. She stood like a wild animal, wide eyes deer-like in their terror. Another knock and she motioned to the child to hide amongst the rags they called a bed. She grabbed a dull meat knife from the counter.

The child hid as best she could, but her legs trembled and ached like never before, and she was certain that they would give her away. She watched through a gap in the blankets and straw.

The door burst open with a slam and the men fell on Maman like wolves. The child smelled the blood before she saw it, and without meaning to she rose to her feet. The room spun, and her legs exploded with pain that made her scream. The room looked strange, as though she were viewing it from Maman Tee’s shoulders. The men looked up at her and their eyes widened the same way Maman’s had at their knock. They backed away and the child could see the axe, and Maman’s arm on the floor.

She screamed again, and then it was the men who screamed.


Genevieve’s mouth tasted like blood. Her tongue stung where she had bitten it while Darnell popped her left shoulder back into place. The arm hung now, uselessly, while the other was heavily bandaged. At least she had use of her right hand which she used now to write a list of instructions for the Mayor. She paused to roll her neck and stretch her stiff fingers.

Yes, if she survived this mission she would most certainly make it her last.

Darnell knocked and then entered with a tray of warm pastries and a pot of tea.

“Oh, thank God,” Genevieve said, snatching for the food and then wincing in pain. “Damn it.”

Darnell brought the tray closer so she could reach. She stuffed the food into her mouth, thankful that only Darnell was there to see her.

“You were right,” he told her, “The Governor has invited you to dinner tonight. Seven o’clock.”

“Of course he has,” Genevieve said, carefully pouring a cup of tea and spilling only a little on the silver tray in the effort. “He’s a coward, but a proud one. Now he can say he faced a formidable opponent – we slaughtered his entire collection of followers after all – but he’ll carefully omit the fact he did so only after we were half-murdered by those same lackeys.”

“Admirable,” Darnell sneered, sitting down on the edge of the bed beside her chair. His hair was unusually tousled and there were dark circles under his eyes. He had the odd bruise and bandage, but for him the night had taken its toll in other ways.

“Oh, he’s done worse things, believe me.” Genevieve took another bite of pastry, grappling with the impropriety of asking Darnell if he was going to eat anything so that she might have his as well. She judged the pallid colour of his face and decided her share would have to be enough.

“Forgive me for saying this but… I’m still not convinced this plan is the wisest course of action,” he admitted finally; Genevieve had been waiting for his protest all morning.

“You think we should just kill him and have it over with?” Genevieve pretended to consider the possibility, as though she hadn’t determined her course of action the second the College had assigned the mission to her. “He might be harder to kill than you think. The College hasn’t seen a Beast his age since well before the Outbreak.”

Darnell opened his mouth to riposte.

“Besides,” Genevieve continued, “I’d hardly call that justice.”

Darnell’s mouth closed and his brows deepened in concern. Before he could recover there was another knock at the door and the Mayor entered.

“Perfect timing, Monsieur Mayor,” Genevieve said, discretely brushing away any stray crumbs from her skirts, “The list I mentioned is here.”

The Mayor approached, his eyes lingering on the sling and bandages as he took the proffered letter. When he finally forced them down onto the sheet of paper he nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, yes I believe this will all be quite manageable. Although…”

“Yes?” Genevieve asked, half-expecting another protest about her health and the immense risk of the task at hand.

“I have been informed that the Governor has also made… certain arrangements regarding the contents of your meal,” the Mayor glanced over the paper once more and frowned, “I would like to avoid those arrangements, but if you fail… the butcher and the baker may find themselves in a precarious situation.”

“Of course,” she said, smiling with child-like glee at the way the pieces were all falling together. “Inform them they are to go ahead with their arrangements. It would be best for Monsieur L’Amie to feel he has the upper hand.”

For the briefest moment it looked as if the Mayor were about to say, “He doesn’t?” but instead he gave a humble nod and turned to leave.

“How is your daughter, by the way?” Genevieve asked.

The Mayor turned back to her, his head lowered in awkward humility. “Much better, Mademoiselle. Her energy is returning and she spends much time in the gardens, though she misses Jacques’ company.”

 “I apologize. It was my carelessness…” Darnell began, but the Mayor waved him off.

“No. I cannot regret any action taken in pursuit of my daughter’s freedom.”

Genevieve grimaced as she recalled the previous night’s events; a question had been aching in the pit of her stomach since she had awoken that morning. “Monsieur Mayor, I wonder if you might know the fate of the child I saw last night? Etienne, I believe was his name. I’m afraid my shot was not as true as I’d hoped.”

The Mayor dropped his head once more and Genevieve cursed herself. Blast that Beast that knocked me over, and blast my poor aim.

“He lives,” the Mayor answered, and Genevieve had to cover a sigh of relieve with a polite cough into the back of her gloved hand. “Though the surgeon had to remove his eye to retrieve the capsule lodged within.”

“Damn,” Genevieve swore, paying no heed to the Mayor’s surprised smile.

“Again, a worthy price. His mother may fuss about the eye, and perhaps the hair and teeth, but she is grateful to you. I made a personal visit this morning to check on the boy and she couldn’t seem to decide whether she was elated or furious.”

“You can assure her that the hair will grow back. The boy is young, so some of his adult teeth may still yet come in on their own, but I cannot promise. We are working on serums that may aid to regenerate…”

“Thank you, Hunter Gregoire,” Mayor Valis interrupted. She nodded, noting the pity in his smile, “I wish you luck tonight.”

He departed, and for a moment there hung a heavy silence between the two Hunters. Genevieve let the quiet envelop her, willing it to be a comfort rather than an omen. She took one more sip of tea and requested they review the details of the plan one final time, her pain fading with her growing determination and certainty that there was no room for failure.

<— V: Transformations

VII: Confessions —>

Return to The Beast of Ste Ygrette

V: Transformations

Content warning: violence (including against a child), blood, death


The child read a book, huddled in a corner of the house. Her legs ached to be stretched and her feet bounced with an overabundance of childish energy, but she squinted and continued to read the words on the yellowed pages.

A knock came at the door. The child ignored it, too busy picking at the knot of an unfamiliar word, trying to tease its meaning from the rest of the sentence.

The knock came again. Urgent this time – two quick raps followed by three slow bangs.

Though her legs rejoiced at being used, her hands were reluctant to relinquish hold of the book, and so she carried it with her as she peeked through the gap between the door and the uneven frame. A woman stood without, wrapped in a threadbare shawl, tapping her foot impatiently on the compacted dirt. Maman Tee knew this woman, had sold many things to her. Money meant food and, perhaps more importantly, new books.

The child opened the door.

“Finally,” the woman complained in a familiar husky voice. She pushed the child inside and shut the door behind them, “Where’s your mother?”

“Appointment,” the child said, shrugging and returning to her corner.

“When will she be back?”

Another shrug. Then an idea. The child thrust the book out in one hand, pointing with the other: “Do you know this word?”

The woman leaned over to peer down at the text. The child watched her lips twist and her nose wrinkle, clumping the sprinkling of freckles across it into one brown mass.

“I don’t know,” she said.

The child’s eyes flew to the book and back to the woman’s. She pointed again: “This one.”

“I… I can’t read it.” The woman stood straighter, looking down through her dark ringlets at the child with something akin to anger, but closer to fear. There was a shift suddenly – the lifting of a thick dark brow – that softened the look and changed it to something the child might one day recognize as pity.

The door opened and Maman Tee bustled in. There was blood on her hands. The child could smell it.

When she noticed the woman standing inside the door she jumped and put her hand to her chest. “You frightened me! I didn’t expect you…”

“I’m sorry, Hattie,” the woman said, and the child wondered at the strange inflection in her voice, the way it strained as she rasped: “I need your help.”

“Another infection?” Hattie asked, walking to the corner where the child sat before shooing her away. The child crawled a few feet over, leaning against the wall as she watched Maman Tee lift a loose floorboard and shuffle through the bottles and packages concealed beneath.

“No,” the woman answered, the corners of her rouged lips plunging into a deep frown.

Maman Tee looked up then and seemed the read the expression as easily as she had taught the child to read the words on pages.

“How long?”

“A month. No more than two,” the woman said, and the child marvelled at the way her tears reflected what little sunlight slipped through the rags over the window.

Maman Tee sighed. “Maybe… maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. Just one, even a bastard… otherwise they might start to wonder…”

The woman’s eyes widened, and her hands clutched together before her, “You don’t think they’d suspect you, do you? If it would put you at risk I…”

Maman Tee shook her head, “No. No, no. It’s you that I worry about.”

“Hattie, I couldn’t…”

The woman turned to the child then, as if her eyes held the answer to her conundrum. The child met her gaze with confusion, unable to parse the complicated expression the way Maman Tee could. There was sadness in it, and pity once more.

“No,” she answered firmly, her eyes never leaving the child’s face. “I need your help, Hattie. Please.”

Maman Tee sighed once more but nodded and pulled a small pouch from amongst the bric-a-brac under the floorboards. “Three times a day for a week. You’ll know when it works. If it takes longer, come see me again.”

The woman clutched the pouch tightly to her chest and as the child watched she noticed something against the woman’s skin – a blemish across her bosom, almost the colour of blood. It peeked out just above the flattering collar of her dress, still partially concealed by the lace lining it. No sooner had she noticed this than the woman disappeared through the door again, still thanking Maman Tee as she departed down the road.

Maman Tee closed the door behind her before dropping down onto the floor next to the child. They sat in silence for several minutes before Maman Tee reached a hand to the child’s knee.

“How are your legs today?”

“They want to move,” she answered.

“Do they still hurt?” Maman asked.

“Not so much,” the child answered, looking down at her lean legs, covered loosely in boy’s trousers.

Maman Tee shook her head, but she seemed relieved rather than worried.

“They want to move,” the child repeated, already anticipating the answer.

“I know, my love, but at least wait until summer. When the trees are green and no one will see us if we go for a walk in the woods.”

There were questions, as restless as the child’s legs, but she asked none of them. She knew she would still not understand the answers. Instead, she returned to her book, lifting it to her mother.

“What does this word say?” she asked, “I can’t read it.”

Maman Tee squinted in the dim light, “Metamorphosis. It means to change into something else.”

“You mean like me?”

Maman’s brows drew closer together. Her gaze shifted from the book to the child’s legs bouncing eagerly against the floor. “Yes, baby. Like you.”


Some towns had fountains at their hearts, some had ornate cathedrals or mayor’s manses, while others had sprawling green lawns for festivals and gatherings. Sainte Ygrette’s had an uneven cobbled square with a hangman’s scaffold. In the case of gatherings and civic announcements that were not executions, it doubled as an orator’s platform, or so Genevieve had heard.

It wasn’t the most strategic position she could hope for, but the square at least offered her a clear view of the surrounding area. Besides, its dark expanse made her look vulnerable and alone —

“You’re confident this will work?”

—  aside from Darnell of course. He was seated with his long legs dangling from the platform above her and was being annoyingly critical of her plans.

“For the last time, yes,” she told him, straining her ears for any hint of approach. Not that Darnell wouldn’t warn her long before anyone was close enough for her to detect. Old habits, she supposed.

“And what if some of them flee? What if they don’t come for us?”

“Then we find them after we conclude our business here,” she said, carefully checking the ammunition in both the polished pepperbox she’d drawn at the Mayor’s house, and a larger six-barrel revolver. “We have Annette’s list – it might not be perfect but we can check it against anyone found missing tomorrow morning.”

“And if the Governor decides to join us?”

Genevieve reached up and put a hand on his leg which was almost vibrating against the platform.

“He won’t,” she assured him, “What’s the point of leading a pack if you have to do all the dirty work yourself? It’s likely he doesn’t even consider us worthy of his notice. Yet.”

“And if you’re wrong?” Darnell persisted.

“I’m not. I’ve done my research for this job, Darnell, so if you could stop mothering –“

“They’re here,” he interrupted, and Genevieve squinted into the flickering illumination of the gas lamps; she was grateful that the Mayor had rushed to prepare the lines. Apparently darkness didn’t sit well with the people of Sainte Ygrette’s – at least, most of them.

They came all at once. There were seven – eight if you counted the child struggling against the grasp of what had once been a woman, judging by the shreds of silk and the jewels jutting out from the thick fur around her neck. He was already half-transformed, tiny horn-stubs emerging from his sooty black hair and claws growing swiftly from his fingertips so that he might gain purchase against the hairy arm of his captor. Some were still human, though they trembled with pent up energy and their sweat glinted in the lamplight, the effort to hold back the adrenaline near-overwhelming. It was an intimidation tactic Genevieve had seen countless times; resisting the transformation was difficult – impossible for many – and it was an effective way of boasting one’s strength.

They clearly intended to use the boy as a distraction, hoping to win a moment’s hesitation on Genevieve’s part. She smiled at this naiveté and fired off her first shot. The Beast holding the boy fell to the ground, blood trickling through the gaps in the cobbles as her body continued to twitch.

Marie Touille – she gets the Governor what he wants, Annette had told them, or more often who he wants.

For a moment the night was still once more, but the grind and click of the gun’s chamber sliding into place was enough to send the attackers into an instinct-fuelled frenzy. There were no humans left amongst them, and every Beast charged toward her from a different direction.

A second shot and another body thudded to the ground. Pierre Lavigne – he cleans up the messes. And the witnesses. 

Darnell swatted away a third with a clawed hand larger than any of their own. Reddish-brown fur stretched up to his elbow and his eyes glistened silver, but he was otherwise unchanged. Another of the Governor’s underlings paused in confusion, looking from Darnell’s arm up to his human face and Genevieve used the opening to reduce their number once more.

An ear-piercing screech tore Genevieve’s attention to where a tiny silver streak was racing towards her.

Etienne Larocque, Annette had hesitated to mention his name, her rasping voice softening as she spoke, he’s only seven. Can’t even control the change. Many knows what he is, but the Governor fancies his mother so they turn a blind eye. Probably why the bastard brought him over in the first place.

Just like the Mayor’s daughter, Genevieve thought, aiming the smaller revolver in her left hand at the boy’s sprinting form. Foam trailed from his mouth, and she could see the hunger in his golden eyes as he approached. He was a difficult target, small as he was and crouched on all fours – she had to make the shot quickly, but it would require a deft hand for it to fly true. If she wasn’t careful…

She squeezed the trigger as another mass collided into her chair, tipping her dangerously to the right. The shot rang out, and she threw her body to the left to regain equilibrium. Darnell’s claws were already embedded in the dripping throat of whatever Beast had attacked her, and she spared only a fraction of a heartbeat to note that twisting horns were growing from his curls and that fur had extended from his arm up to his neck, before lifting her revolver in search of her previous mark.

There was a heap, in the darkness – a crumpled mass on the blood-slicked cobbles. She could make out a glisten of sweat against pink skin, which meant her shot had gone home, but still Genevieve clucked and shook her head. There was too much blood around his head and in his matted hair; it seemed she had struck him in the head, rather than his shoulder as intended.

Well, she thought, if he dies, at least it will be as a human.

The thought brought her little solace, but a snarl from behind her recalled her to more pressing matters. She could see Darnell struggling with one of the largest of the troupe a few feet away and knew he would not reach her in time, so she began to swivel, lifting her head to the platform above her. A towering hulk of roan fur had scrambled onto the wooden planks and was looking down at her, its sharp teeth peeking over its leathery black lips.

Genevieve shot over her shoulder with the revolver in her right hand as she used her left to turn the chair, but the Beast dropped to all fours and pivoted away. It bolted forward towards her.

Another shot, grazing the Beast’s cheek – enough to make it retreat a few feet, but not entirely. The next only chipped the tip of the creature’s horn. She fired again, but the gun only clicked in complaint of its empty chambers. The creature stood to its full height, enough sense left in the den of instinct and desire it called a brain to understand that she was defenceless. Its muscular legs compressed for a heartbeat before uncoiling like a spring to propel it forward off of the platform and into the air above Genevieve, who was reaching for the back support of her chair.

She pulled at a handle there, an ornamental embellishment rising from its wooden back, and lifted with all her strength. A whip released and flew, as she swung forward, to wrap around the scaffolding on the platform. With two hands she heaved with all her might, pitching her chair to the left and narrowly avoiding being torn to shreds by inch long claws. The chair, sturdy as it was, tipped in the process, upending Genevieve onto the hard stone beneath her. Her shoulder collided with a sickening pop that made her scream out in pain.

The Beast was bewildered for a moment, but soon reoriented itself and fell upon her, claws rending the skin of Genevieve’s right arm, tearing through it as easily as the silk and lace that gilded it. Genevieve bit down a second scream and, with a painful protest from her shoulder, lifted the smaller of the two guns into the face of the creature whose reeking breath was nearly suffocating her. It hesitated for a moment, just long enough for Genevieve’s right hand to reach into her skirts and retrieve a four inch dagger. She drove it into the chin of the Beast, twisting back into its throat. The wound wasn’t deep and might not have been lethal, but the poison on the blade which seeped into the creature’s blood most certainly was.

She noted the scraps of carefully embroidered suit still clinging to its fur. Jean Varon – some distant relative of nobility. I could tell you stories, Annette had said, but even Hunters must have nightmares.

As its last whines and twitches ebbed, Genevieve surveyed the square as best she could from her perspective on the ground and behind the upturned bulk of her wheelchair. Several masses lay strewn across the cobbles, but she could not see well enough for a precise count. An eerie silence had fallen and seemed to do so with such suddenness that she wondered if perhaps she had somehow damaged her hearing in the fall. The snarls, whines, and growls had faded into the night, and the absence they left seemed to Genevieve a gaping wound.

And then there was breathing – a heavy, rasping sound that no human could produce – and Genevieve’s tired body struggled to produce enough adrenaline to tear it from the crumbling precipice that was exhaustion. She grabbed a revolver from the ground, unsure and uncaring whether it was loaded, and swung it around in desperation against the invisible foe. Then her chair moved, shifting left and right before tilting upright. The hand that moved it was massive and clawed. She lifted the revolver, but let it clatter to the ground as she recognized Darnell’s features – even in their altered state.

She reached out with her right hand and pulled herself up to his arm, laying her head against the bulk of it. She closed her eyes as he gently lifted her from the blood-soaked ground.

<— Back to IV: An Unlikely Client

VI: What Must Be Done —>

Return to The Beast of Ste Ygrette

New web fiction series coming this October!

Hey. It’s been a while. I have a little something for you…

When the town of Ste. Ygrette is overrun by Beasts, the College sends Hunter Gregoire and her assistant to solve the problem. What they find is a town cursed with more than the inhuman creatures that stalk it, and a decades old question that begs to be answered.

Yes! I know it’s long overdue but I’ll be releasing a new series just in time for Hallowe’en. It won’t be a full-length series like 53 Ganymede, but it will span the length of October (likely with a bi-weekly release schedule).

This is a massive departure from the relaxing fantasy of Ganymede, and is more in the vein of paranormal Victorian horror/action. If you’re into werewolves (think Bloodborne, not Twilight), gritty 19th century settings, and badass, wheelchair-using, pistol-slinging female protagonists… join me for part 1 on Wednesday, October 6th.

I’ll see you then!