League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1766

Chapter 14

An interesting scent caught the attention of Jean Baptiste Grenouille, sending him deeper into the forest. Several lupine scents were bottled and in his possession; he could mix these into his into his next cosmetic creations, but what drew him away from the Baron's camp was the foreign odor of sable.

These mink like animals were not native to France, someone had to have brought a sable, or its fur, over from Russia or elsewhere in the far east. Jean became familiar with the scent when he was a child labourer in a Paris tannery; these foreign pelts would sometimes be brought in for treatment.

The search brought the curious perfumer to the edge of the woods where a low mound marked the odor's source. A young woman wearing a hat, scarf and coat made of sable fur was skulking around the mound's base; she met with a man who obviously had the same itinerary she had, the same weapons to; a pistol and a knife.

A series of whispers and gestures brought the two skulkers to an agreed plan of action. The woman mounted a horse and rode slowly around the left side of the mound; the man moved carefully around the right, while loading his pistol. Neither had noticed the perfumer observing them.

Jean realised that the two skulkers were hunting, but not The Beast, as was the occasion today; not with those weapons; they were hunting a person. The perfumer engaged his olfactory sense on the area trying to pick up individual personal scents, there were several and one was particularly familiar, Juliette.

The amorous courtesan had brought her ex Maharajah companion to a strip of ground where privacy was facilitated by a circle of mounds, she spent hours trying to shake loose his Indian manservant Secunda Dass, now she had James Durie to herself. Juliette drew the Scot to her and kissed him passionately while feeling the smooth silk of his clothing around the chest. The second elongated kiss began a second after the first was over, she began to work on his vest buttons.

James Durie had small moments to breath and no chance to speak, the woman had spent all today and last night hearing of his tantric sex practices, she wanted to hear no more, it was time to feel and experience. Juliette clung herself to him like an eagle's talons clutches its prey, the Jacobite showed no sign of wanting to escape, he was lost in this frenzy of aggressive foreplay.

A thudding sound interrupted the nuptial activity, Juliette had just unfastened all of James' upper vestments when he went limp in her arms. The Scot was unconscious, knocked out by a truncheon blow from behind; Juliette let the body drop to the ground. Squire Thornhill held the blunt weapon, he was alone apart from a team of Irish wolfhounds in the background, his servant had long since deserted him.

"I told you Juliette." Said the Squire as he pocketed the truncheon. "I will have you, whether married to me or not."

"I'd rather marry one of your dogs." She replied.

Thornhill seized her right arm and began to draw the protesting woman to him while grasping for her left arm, but an evasive move followed by a clawing action at his face got him to disengage his hold. A swift and practiced hand movement brought a slap to Juliette's face but a skillful and highly practiced dodge allowed the experienced woman to evade the following backhand. Taking advantage of the missed strike, the courtesan pushed the squire in the direction he just threw his weight, getting him off balance and inducing a stumble.

Juliette quickly reached for her garter holster and drew her pistol, but Thornhill recovered his balance fast and seized the firearm. As each grappler wrestled for possession of the flintlock weapon, the woman tried her clawing action with her other arm but it was grabbed by the man. Which way the gun's barrel pointed was in dispute she tried to aim it at the Squire's head, he was forcing it outwards and with a neat manipulation of his thumb, managed to press her finger on the trigger.

The pistol fired into the air, ending Juliette's hope of a fast and total resolution to this ordeal; relaxing her hold on the spent firearm allowed Thornhill to tear it from her grasp and throw it away. A cruel and angry backhand struck the woman's face.

Juliette laughed. "Is that the best you can do." She said.

Squire Thornhill rushed her, seizing her dress and bodice trying hard to rip the latter from its laces in one effort. Juliette enjoyed seeing his exertion become pain when she brought her knee up into his crotch. The possessed aristocrat slumped into a position much like a writhing worm and nursed his agonized testicles.

The courtesan gloated too long on her humiliated attacker; despite his pain he got himself up and drew his truncheon; his face was one of rage. Juliette decided to make for the woods behind him and lose herself in them; she maneuvered to go around the Squire but he had recovered his agility faster than she thought and positioned himself to cut off her escape. A gunshot sound thundered through the scene as its projectile tore through Thornhill's chest, the Squire died instantly, his body collapsing to the ground.

"Damn." Cursed the man with the smoking pistol.

He was one of the remaining members of the Seven Virtues, Juliette knew he was Temperance, his shot was meant for her; Thornhill had unintentionally stepped into the line of fire when he was trying to intercept her. The assassin dropped his spent firearm, drew his knife and moved towards his mark. Juliette turned to run the other way but a horse mounted woman with furred adornments barred her way. Temperance halted his advance, he was going to let his confederate do the task. Chastity was the woman on the horse, she drew her pistol but waited till the steed brought her close to the target, who was placing a hand on her own chest, apparently as a gesture of submission.

"Well Harlot." Said Chastity. "The time to pay for your filthy vices has come."

Eye contact between assassin and mark was broken when the latter turned aside. Chastity didn't mind, the women of vice couldn't face her death, a shot to the side of the head would be just as effective as one between the eyes. It was the instant before firing that Juliette's hand on her chest darted towards the horse's face and sprayed a liquid at the equine nose. Sheer panic gripped the steed, it suddenly reared up in a frenzied prance; sending Chastity's shot over Juliette's head. The spray was Grenouille's knockout concoction and it had the horse neighing, thrashing and bucking in an uncontrollable protest at this new stimuli; a kicking foreleg made contact with the courtesan's hand, knocking the spay bottle away to a shattering impact against the rocks. Chastity was thrown off the bucking steed to a hard fall on her head, leaving her senseless. The maddened equine turned and galloped away in a futile effort to escape the potent induced smell.

High up on the mound Jean Baptiste Grenouille had observed some of the events, and realised the two skulkers were out to kill Juliette; one was thrown off her steed and presently harmless, the other had a knife and after seeing his confederate's misfortune, moved towards the courtesan, who was now blinded by the dirt kicked up by the thrashing horse.

To help his fellow League member, the perfumer noted the direction of the breeze, picked out a vial of collected scent and hurled it at the assassin, who was thus doused with strange smelling fluid when the vial hit him and shattered. Temperance looked around but never saw the perfumer, nor did he understand the meaning of the foul fluid until the team of Irish wolfhounds showed fierce aggression towards him. Squire Thornhill did not bother to tether the tall beasts, they shared a common leash but had enough maneuverability to form a team of savage canine fury. Growls were the first sign of unexplained hostility by the hounds towards Temperance, they moved on him; their growls became snarls, teeth bearing and bitter barking all focused on the assassin.

Clearing her eyes, Juliette noticed Temperance getting menaced by the wolfhounds, their barks became more intense and frequent, some even attempted to nip him, his knife did little to ward them off and his attempts to command them were useless. Eventually the Virtue turned to run, he didn't get far; a nip to the leg tripped him up and subsequent biteholds kept him down as the wolfhounds did there thing to the source of the lupine scent.

The dogs were big and powerful, Temperance, while screaming and struggling in pain, managed to shake off biteholds only to have them resumed a second later, all parts of his person were under attack and the hounds savagery intensified. Nips became large bites and as the assassin's threshings became less effective, the bites became tears. Arms, legs and the torso were under attack, the body was dragged this way and that as more chunks of flesh were ripped from their tendons. Temperance, with his knife, managed to deliver a few stabs and slashes to his attackers but their ferocity never wavered. Inevitably a hound managed to reach its jaws underneath the victim's chin and tear out the throat bringing all struggle to an end. A savage mutilation of the corpse was in effect as the wolfhounds followed their calling, their olfactory senses telling them that this man was a wolf.

James Durie's manservant, Secunda Dass entered the scene, he noticed the whole picture, including the wolfhound carnage but was focused on his unconscious master. As the crafty perfumer got down from the mound to approach Juliette, the dedicated Indian picked up the limp ex-Maharajah then faced the two League members.

"Whatever is going on here, my master will no longer be a part of it; I will take him away. Do not follow or try to help me. Your bizarre practices are your own, do not involve him anymore." He screamed. "You have done enough harm to him already."

Seeing her intended lover carried away by his manservant squashed Juliette's hope for a romantic afternoon of tantric sex practices; she shifted her attention, with a taste for cruelty on the woman who just tried to kill her. Taking the truncheon from Squire Thornhill's dead hand, the courtesan squatted over the assassin who was just recovering her senses, and gave Chastity a firm whack over the head, knocking the Virtue out.

Jean explained to the Juliette that he had extracted and bottled lupine scent from wolves shot during the hunt; when he noticed the male killer moving on her he doused him, from above, with the bottled scent; the Irish wolfhounds responded to the lupine smell by attacking him as if he was a wolf. Praise was given to the perfumer and also a thank you for the knockout concoction, Juliette had sewn the bottle into her dress lacework, when she placed her hand on her chest she took it out discreetly then sprayed the concoction into the horses face, the steed wasn't knocked out, but it raised a big fuss, bucking off its rider.

Two differing attentions were focused on the unconscious Chastity. As Jean reached for his portable still; the courtesan plucked from her sleeve a rope tied into an adjustble noose. A plea from her fellow League member to leave the female assassin to his ministrations had Juliette in deep scrutiny. Jean could not explain what he was going to do, so her inquiry was answered with an awkward silence.

There was no lust in the eyes of the perfumer, no shock and no disgust; his fixation had moved away from the assassin to the courtesan, whom he stared at with an unblinking intensity that showed a drive she did not understand.

"Listen." Said the woman. "Whatever you want to do, you do it to the other assassin; what's left of him; or even the Squire. Yes you can have Squire Thornhill. I brought down the woman, she's mine."

Juliette turned away from the staring perfumer and placed the noose around Chastity's neck. I was then that the courtesan began to engage her smelling sense, which was heightened by ovulation, Jean's usual odor of cat droppings and vinegar was there, but she realised that this was an added scent, much like perfume, and it was fading thin. Her olfactory faculties could now detect what the added scent was hiding; it was a void, a total absence of personal odor. In the next second of awareness Juliette thought of the void as a dark vacuum which needed to drain other peoples' scents into it and she figured there was no difference between draining someone's scent and sucking out their lifeforce.

She started to turn, in order to face and confront the scentless man behind, when her head felt a sudden blow and the lights went out.

There was enough animal fat in the tub for one more cold enfleurage; though the sable woman's scent was pure, Juliette's personal odor was fascinating; the perfumer wanted it ever since he met her; it had an invigorating drive and powerful attraction; much like the courtesan herself. Jean designated an empty perfume bottle then began to prepare for the extraction process when a deep foreboding voice startled him.

"That wasn't very nice."

A pallid colorless man looking about thirty years old wearing a colorful open robe with flashy star embroidery was the surprise presence. He faced the breeze; therefore the perfumer did not sense him until now.

"You're Genouille aren't you? Jean Baptiste Grenouille?" Said the man.

Jean didn't answer nor even nod, he just gave a shock stare at the figure who strolled menacingly into his personal space and the scene of his most secret activity. Proximity allowed the perfumer to smell the intruder: his scent was one of maturity many decades beyond his apparent thirty years; a dead flesh reek was there, this man did work on human dead bodies; the Beast of Gevaudan's scent was on him, this was certainly the huge wolf's master; and most disturbing of all were the unearthly odors that were so faint, that only a gifted man like Jean could sense them.

Revulsion, shock and near mind bending horror hit the perfumer; these unearthly odors indicated to him that this man had been in communion with entities that defied human comprehension and should never cross into this realm of human existence. Jean retained his straight face, despite his sense of abject foulness, a character trait he practiced often.

"Joseph Curwen." Said Jean, recognizing the ghostly face in Cagliostro's firebowl and the robe of the man on the hill sending his killer wolf to slay him after hurling a fireball at his coach.

"Correct." Replied the man with a sinister scowl. "The Baron brought you here as part of a team to deal with me. Oh don't deny it. I know about The League; the trapper, the Indian, the Jacobite rebel and of course the nymphomaniac." He said turning his gaze at the limp form of Juliette.

His face darted back in time to see Jean reach into his pocket.

"Stop." Curwen commanded with an imposing finger gesture. The perfumer complied when he noticed two wolfmen in the background with muskets clearly aimed at him.

"Let's see what you've got there." Joseph Curwen did a motion with his hand and an invisible force whipped the bottle out of Jean's hand and flung it to his. A cautious and light examination of the bottle's contents ensued. The robed warlock pointed his finger then did an upward motion with his hand; Jean's feet lifted from the ground he was elevated fifteen feet into the air, he could move his limbs but could not change his position.

"This is the substance you used to knockout my wolfmen at the theatre." Accused Curwen while making clamping movements with his controlling hand and throwing the bottle, with his other hand, to a shattering impact against the rocks.

Being airborne and helpless was bad enough but Jean also felt a crushing pain in his stomach, on his ribcage and throat. His tormenter gloated on him with a cold calculating gaze, then gradually lowered his hand. The perfumer felt himself gently descending to the ground his pain ceased.

"You're a crafty fellow Grenouille." Said Curwen adopting a more friendly tone. "You don't belong with the Baron or his League. Munchausen is a self deluding charlatan, a sorry figure who dazzles people with unbelievable stories, then baits them into being part of his make believe adventures. You were meant for better things, grander things than getting killed for his self-aggrandizment. Anyway he's not going to be to happy when he finds out what you just did to Juliette.

"You should join me Grenouille, you have only begun to feel your potential, the Baron can't help you advance it, I can help you create substances that would have all people here, there and everywhere sing a chorus of divine praise to you and me, while they all serve without question and embrace the new world with passion. It will be our world Grenouille, the people, the animals, the elements and the very cosmos under our dominion."

Jean's feet were on the ground again, his recent torture and subsequent invitation did not change his straight face the only reaction he occasionally revealed was that of thinking.

Scrutiny was always evident on Joseph Curwen's face, the lack of any emotion on the perfumer's face, had him shift his attention to Juliette. Grabbing the limp courtesan by her hair, the warlock began to talk with hostility again.

"This woman chose to serve the Baron, she believed the concept of The League was a good idea. She was a fool; you Grenouille have proved this point. Such a grouping would prey upon itself then let its enemy pick off the remains."

Curwen let her go and began to examine the sable fur coated assassin's unconscious body.

"She is from way out east. Tell me Grenouille does the word vorvolaka mean anything to you? It would have to her."

A simple negative head movement was all the response Jean gave.

"It should. Matter of fact you should be very aware of what it means considering your secret activities." He said, resuming his friendly tone, indicating Juliette. "She wasn't the first was she?"

The straight face did not waver, nor did the perfumer see fit to answer.

"A vorvolaka is a dead person who awakes in their grave, digs their way out and preys upon the living, this is said to have happened many times in the eastern countries. I reckon such a being would have a priority for finding the one responsible for their death. Your secret activities expose you to dangers far more imposing than the law or Munchausen's disfavour. Once again you should join me Grenouille, the thought of all your victims rising from the grave and together tearing you apart limb from limb is not a very pleasant destiny."

"It doesn't happen here. The dead stay dead." Said Jean.

Joseph Curwen grinned, then moved over to the mutilated body of Temperance. A sharp vocal command in a foriegn tongue from the warlock had the Irish wolfhounds flee the corpse and the scene.

"Another piece of your handiwork?" Asked Curwen rhetorically while observing the gory remains. "Murderers would shudder if they knew what I can do. I can bring the dead back to life. I can; but not this one, he is clearly missing many of his essential salts."

Squire Thornhill was the next corpse for examination, the warlock saw that the perfumer was obviously unconvinced.

"Pistol shot wound in the back, blood contained within the body and minimal spillage onto the shirt. His essential salts are intact. I can do it, I could bring this one back to life; properly if I get him on my alter stone and go through the ritual; but no, I should do it here and now, though he will be insane and murderous plus he will have the pain of the gunshot wound, much like a vorvolaka."

A hand signal from Curwen had one of the wolfman approach.

"Fernand, take the courtesan, we have plans for her." Ordered the warlock.

The wolfman virtually drooled at the sight of Juliette, he lifted her limp body and carried her as if she was a bride being taken across the threshold of matrimony, he stopped briefly to give a hearty grin towards the perfumer, then proceeded to his destination. One wolfman still held Jean in his line of fire.

"I don't think you're with me Grenouille, not yet." Said Curwen. "Remember what I said; that is if you survive the next five minutes. I'm going to show you what I can do, then you will be convinced. You need to be on the side of those who control death, you're about to experience what its like being on the wrong side. If you survive today we will meet again when Munchausen sends his League to fight me for his glory. When that happens I want to hear from you that you are with me and together we will achieve majesty over both creation and destruction."

Joseph Curwen squatted over Thornhill's body then placed a hand on the squire's head and chanted in some ancient language. When he was finished he got up and turned to depart the scene.

"Good luck Grenouille." He yelled as he motioned the armed wolfman to follow him.

Thornhill's bloodied chest began to heave up and down. The perfumer stood still in disbelief as the English rake breathed, then coughed and mumbled. Jean never doubted that the squire was dead in the first place, he smelled dead, and when he opened his eyes and sat up, he continued to smell of dead flesh.

Getting to its feet, the re-animated corpse faced the stupefied perfumer with the look of a rabid dog and guttural sounds to match; it bared its reddened teeth, stained by coughing up blood. Thornhill charged Grenouille with awkward strides and reached out arms, Jean tried to keep clear of the ghoul by backing off, but it always maintained its approach whatever the direction its quarry veered to, it even gained on him. Jean tripped backwards at one point but managed to get up and dodge the enveloping arms of Squire Thornhill.

Neither the insane Englishman nor the American necromancer seemed to take into account that the French perfumer had no hand in the former's demise; nevertheless, Jean was the current prey of this abomination. Wide open space seemed to offer the best escape from this predicament, Jean began to run for it when he noticed an upright musket leaning against a tree; this had to be Thornhill's hunting weapon; Jean seized the firearm and, remembering what little he cared to learn from Alan Breck's lesson, aimed and fired at the Squire. The shot hit its target at close range in the shoulder. Thornhill was knocked back on his rear, but got up again at once and resumed his hunt with even louder ferocity.

It was the impact of the shot that knocked Thornhill down, not the injury, the re-animated corpse felt pain, but this only aggravated the drive to molest its quarry. The arm attached to the wounded shoulder was half limp and probably only had limited use to the frenzied madman.

Jean discarded the spent musket the evaded his awkward pursuer to flee into the open woods where he could leave this ordeal behind. He would have completed this escape easily had he not noticed the figure that was once Thornhill shifted its attention to the unconscious woman lying in sable furs.

A shadow was cast over the helpless female figure as the mad squire leaned over her to commence his assault. Frenzied clawing and shaking were first then the mad attacker knelt down to begin his savage bites. Jean slammed the heavy handle of his enfleurage trowel into the back of Thornhill's head, the frenzied figure sprung up in pain, Jean struck again fast, and again, hitting the same spot until he felt the skull cave in. Squire Thornhill slumped into his second death, the perfumer dragged the inanimate corpse away.

Not for a second did Jean consider joining Joseph Curwen, the unearthly creature scents on him were shocking in the extreme, those entities must never be a commonplace smell or even a rare one. Munchausen and The League must destroy Curwen, whatever portal he was facilitating must be shut. The perfumer now understood the words of The Baron, Cagliostro and Guy Mannering. Now The League was down a member, the warlock had Juliette. Jean could never tell M what he did to the courtesan; what he could do was lead everyone to Curwen's location, he could track that necromancer's scent from several miles away now, foul and repulsive as the unearthly scents were.

The woman in sable furs began to stir, she was unconscious throughout the ordeal after Juliette clubbed her; the abuses done by the mad squire amounted to nothing more than a few scratches.

Chastity awoke with a headache, loosened clothing and sore spots on her body, she made a sigh of relief when she felt that her trademark quality was intact. She was groggy and slow, her vision blurred, when it became clear she found herself looking at an empty perfume bottle. Turning to see the holder of this glass vessel she looked up into the face of Jean Baptiste Grenouille, it was the last thing she ever saw.

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