This Virtue had murder in his eyes, he was Patience and he moved in front of his target, Juliette who was bound to the crossbars. Just a few stabs with his knife and his duty would be fulfilled.
"What a great way to catch you and deliver your comeuppance." He said. "Infiltrating the ranks of your enemy has brought me you on a silver platter; filthy whore."
"Do you know where Chastity and Temperance are?" Asked Juliette.
Stunned by the question, Patience lowered his blade.
"No. Where are they?" He inquired.
Juliette had almost finished cutting the rope that bound her, she had to apply the sharp stud subtly because Patience was staring at her. The question will only buy her a few seconds.
"Both are dead." Said Juliette although not certain about Chastity. "Killed in a vain attempt to get me."
A sweeping kick from the courtesan knocked over the hot coals stand. Patience turned his head to see the spilt embers and tools then after several seconds, suddenly felt a rope coil around his neck and tighten. Juliette had finished severing the bond, releasing both hands, one with a length of rope attached to it. While the Virtue's attention was turned she quickly wrapped the cut bond around his throat and pulled tight, clenching the taut rope in the fingers of the attached hand.
Her next two actions were simultaneous, she seized his wrist that held the knife, keeping the blade from her body; also her legs manipulated around his, while a shift forward of her weight induced a trip sending the Virtue falling on his back on top of the spilt coals.
A yelp of pain was cut short when Juliette tightened the makeshift noose further while with her other hand pressed Patience's knife hand into nearby hot coal; the resulting burn caused him to relinquish his grip on the weapon. The pain frenzied assassin lifted himself off the hot coals to bring the strangling courtesan underneath him rather than on top of him; Juliette seized the predicted moment to wrap her legs about his waist and shift the struggle to floorspace away from the knife and the embers.
Patience's effort to reverse positions worked but it left one arm pinned under the courtesan who was strangling him, the other could not escape the restraining grip of her hand, it held his sleeve and kept it stretched out so he could not employ his brute strength. Juliette placed her rope arm over his neck, this loosened the noose a little, allowing a little breathing; the woman then brought his head down to her face, she immediately seized his lips in hers, then tightened the stranglehold again.
Juliette was not going to put her tongue in his mouth, he would bite it; it was glorious enough that he was going to breath his last breathe into her mouth. With her legs wrapped around his waist, she began some professional torso moves that excited the gripped Virtue. Patience could not lift his head up to escape the forced kiss, the rope arm clamped him down; nor could he extricate himself from the bodily activity that induced erotic sensation strangely amplified by this asphyxiation.
Both of the Virtue's arms were indisposed one was still held by the courtesan's grip on its sleeve, the other was pinned down beneath her; Patience struggled to free it but it had both hers and his weight on top of it, also the woman's elbow pressed on the trapped limb, keeping it where it was; he did manage to pinch her skin. Juliette felt the pinch but her lifestyle taught her to re-interpret such stinging pain, what she did was maintain her hold on Patience and bring the erotic stimulus to a new frenzied level. The sensuous movements became more vigorous, the kiss more passionate and the constricting rope as tight as her strength could manage. She was going to do to him what Humility almost did to her.
Patience was feeling a sensation so overpowering that nothing else mattered; the pain from his burns, the grief from the other Virtue's deaths, the failure of his mission, the corruption of his soul and his inability to breath; all became null concerns. Only the magnificence of this feeling mattered; his pinch was relaxed as was his gripped arm. Juliette kept her eyes open and, with keen delight, observed the assassins progress from struggle to surrender, she maintained her efforts until the Virtue went limp in her clutches. To be sure he was dead she maintained the rope's tension for a further minute before she untied it from her hand, felt for his pulse, he was definitely dead.
Juliette stood up and grinned, this apparent ultimate victory over the Virtues came with its own ecstasy; she felt deliciously wicked.
"Look out men of France." She said. "Here I come, and I've got a new powerful sensation to give you all."
The amorous courtesan broke into an ebullient laughter as she gloated on her fallen victim.
"So much for virtue."
Picking up the knife, Juliette went to the chamber door, it opened easily without creaking. The cavern was wide and illuminated by torches that had no fire, but an unexplainable brightness to them; she tried touching one, it wasn't hot at all, not even warm. A table had an armed crossbow on it, ready to fire; Juliette took the weapon.
There were no wolfmen about; they must be all engaged in that action on the nearby hill; this left Juliette free to make for the cave mouth and freedom. She passed the altar where she awoke and a chamber door that had Keep Out emblazoned on it. Curiosity got the better of her and she entered the room to find a desk, a worktable, a drawing board and several easels with sketches of monstrous images on them; papers written in foreign languages were neatly placed throughout the room. A large book caught her attention, its gilded title on the cover, The Necronomicon, Juliette saw this book during her transcendental vision, it was the major source of Curwen's knowledge on how to tap the unearthly powers of Yog Sothoth.
Although this room was illuminated with the mysterious bright torches, Juliette did find an oil lamp. She doused all paperwork on the tables, desk and easels with the lamp's flammable liquid, reserving some for the pages of The Necronomicon. With a strike of flint she set alight a rolled up sheet of paper, then used it to set alight the dreaded book's pages, leaving it open so it would burn faster. The paper torch then ignited the spilt lamp oil, setting the whole room alight.
Juliette left the burning room and headed for the cave mouth, she noticed two guards there, watching the hills outside. Smoke was billowing out of the private chamber they would soon smell it and investigate, the courtesan hid in an alcove. The two guards hurried towards the room when they noticed there was a fire, as one rushed to tend the flames, the other stopped half way waiting for a verbal report. He was ten feet from Juliette; with balletic strides she tiptoed behind him and drove the knife into his back where the heart would be. A piercing yelp was uttered before the fellow dropped dead. The other wolfman, turning his attention away from the fire, saw the backstabbing courtesan, then raised his musket; Juliette fired the crossbow, sending a deadly bolt into his ribcage, he hurtled backwards dead.
"Wow." Said Juliette, exuberantly holding the crossbow. "I have got to get myself one of these."
There were no other bolts for the crossbow in sight, so the courtesan had to discard her beloved weapon. She retrieved the knife from the guard's back and donned his wolfskin, taking a musket was ruled out because if it was used during her flight, it would reveal her location to the inevitable pursuers. No other guards were at the cave mouth. Juliette could see many wolfmen in the distance on a neighboring hill; she exited the cave and made for the right, which seemed to offer the best cover while fleeing Joseph Curwen and his henchmen.
Twilight was upon the hills, it would soon be dark all the better for her escape. Smoke began billowing out of the cave, the warlock would soon notice and rush back, Juliette had to put as much distance between her and the wolfmen's lair as possible, she kept to the low grounds, making sure a hillside was shielding her from sight.
Darkness came with a sense of relief, she would be much harder to find now. All she had to do was keep going in one direction till she finds a road and hopefully a lift back to the Chateau de Lune. Two burning torches appeared on a nearby hilltop; they were looking for her; she hid behind a boulder, not daring to run for it. The torch bearers went back the way they came, almost as if they were recalled, the courtesan would have been seen had she ran; although it was dark, the full moon shone its light on the hills and vales.
Juliette soon lost all sense of time and direction as she made her way through the labyrinthine hills, they appeared endless. She could not even tell if she was going in a straight line or around in circles, to regain her orientation she needed to reach a hilltop and search the area for a road or landmark. A series of lupine howls echoed throughout the moonlit night.
The ascent up the hillside was exhausting, it was steep. When the woman got to the apex she was relieved to see that no burning torches were visible, it seems that Curwen's men had given up looking for her. There were no familiar landmarks or homesteads to be seen and no obvious roads apparent; in the extreme distance there seemed a possible road, she would travel in that direction after a rest.
Howls once again echoed in the night, they were closer this time. Juliette began to scan the countryside and sure enough spotted that which she feared; two blazing red eyes attached to a huge dark shape was rushing across the hills in her direction, The Beast of Gevaudan was after her.
There were no trees in the vicinity only rocks, Juliette picked out a monolith in the distance that could provide sanctuary if she could climb it. A panicked rush down the hillside proved to be hazardous, many small rocks protruded from the slope, her fast strides down a steep gradient made it difficult to navigate through these, she soon tripped and fell onto hard jutting granite. The woman was in pain but did not forget the desperation of her plight, she quickly picked herself up and proceeded at an even faster pace to the designated safe place.
A brief look back showed that The Beast was on the hilltop and closing in on her, this divided attention caused another stumble which lost valuable seconds. She could hear the thudding footsteps getting closer and a fierce guttural growl. Juliette returned to her flight for safety, then realised with horror that she wasn't going to make it; the monolith was too far and the wolf too close. Her only weapon was the knife, she knew that a toothpick would be equally effective against the monstrous bulk.
Her only defence strategy, formulated on the spot under sheer panic, was to step onto a carpet of loose stones on the slope, hoping the wolf would lose his footing on them and tumble down the hillside. Juliette followed her desperate plan but found the stones could not be traversed without carefully judging each step, she was out of time. The Beast's hot breathe warmed her neck.
Suddenly a force impacted with the huge wolf as a second savage entity jumped out of the darkness and pounced on The Beast; the dual growls of ferocity were frightening as they were earsplitting. Juliette was shocked by the sudden impact next to her, she stumbled and went for twenty foot slide down the slope of loose stones. She could see the commotion now, silhouetted in the full moon, were two lupine figures locked in savage combat.
The other creature looked much like a larger than usual wolf, but it was a midget when compared to The Beast; what was odd about it was that it often stood erect on its hind legs and could jump onto its opponent's back with them, an advantage used often since it was greatly outmatched in size. As for jaws, the second wolf had a dependable set which could bite viscously and, while salivating bloody drool, tear at its larger antagonist who again had the advantage with wider jowls and huge teeth.
From below it was like a spotlight shining from the full moon on to this duel of monstrous savagery. The two lupine shapes melded in a frenzied grapple that brought both to the ground; as each snapped furiously for the other's vital parts, they rolled together down the slope of loose stones towards the woman. Juliette quickly searched with her feet for stable ground, she found it and jumped clear from the rolling mass of fury.
This wolf fight gave her valuable time; with torn feet, she made her way to the monolith. Fingers and toes frantically groped the rock for holds by which she could climb it; she had slow success and feared the moment when wolf jaws would close on her legs and drag her down to a horrible death. Finally she reached a flat top that allowed her to sigh, relax and watch the alpha male contest.
Loose stones prevented the second wolf from engaging his maneuverability advantage, he even stumbled repeatedly on the unstable surface; this eventually brought him underneath the huge bulk of The Beast. Massive black jowls snapped at the gatecrashing lupine and soon caught a foreleg and bit with crushing force. The growls of the second wolf became a high pitched yelp of pain which echoed throughout the hills.
The Beast, used his jaws next to seize its opponent's hindquarters and drag him to a new position, growling resistance amounted to nothing effective as the hind legs were off the ground and the jowls could not reach the red eyed head. When the dragging was done a new round of savage conflict erupted. Juliette could no longer see the fight, a rock obscured her view of the new position, but the growling sounds revealed that The Beast of Gevaudan had clear superiority and a merciless fury. Soon the yelps of pain from the second wolf were heard repeatedly, they were so high pitched that the woman had to block her ears, this was an operatic aria of pain that resonated over the area and she was at the centre of it.
Hands left the woman's ears soon after the yelps subsided into a series of long drawn out howling groans, the fallen lupine was clearly in abject pain from its mauling by The Beast. In the moonlight, Juliette saw the victorious black wolf limp away towards its lair; it had suffered several injuries including one to a forepaw. The courtesan stayed upon the monolith, despite the constant haunting howls of the agonised second wolf.
Flaming torches began to appear in the distance after a while; Juliette realised that Curwen's men were still searching for her; the acoustic noise of the sad painful howls would lead them here. She climbed down from the monolith and moved to catch a peek at the second wolf; it had many bloody wounds, protruding bones and crushed limbs. When the poor wolf sensed her it resumed its savage growl and threshing fury but could not move, The Beast did everything except kill it.
Juliette headed in the direction of the vaguely seen road in the distance, her torn feet could support her without pain as long as she trod only on soft grass. She figured the second wolf would have killed her just as surely as The Beast, she was saved because two rival forces of savagery got within striking distance of her at the same time. Careful strides, necessitated by torn feet, slowed her down; the torches were gaining, they had passed the site of the lupine battle without stopping, she had to get a move on.
An increased pace became reckless and eventually the fleeing courtesan stubbed her tender foot on a jutting rock; her cry of agony was restrained too late. Two flaming torches veered straight towards her position; she tried to run but desperation without caution lead to a hard trip over another rock; picking herself up was coupled with a brief look back; the torches were gone. Had they not seen her and turned away to another hillside? She hoped so very much.
The night was getting chilly, her clothing and stolen wolfskin were providing inadequate warmth. She was approaching a large boulder when a musket shot whizzed past her and hit the rock; two wolfmen were close; they hadn't veered away, they just put out their torches to sneak up on her. Juliette rushed to a course that put the boulder between her and the shooters; she could see no nearby cover to employ, all she could do was keep a reasonable distance from her pursuers despite her exhaustion and sore feet.
A look back while running revealed that the two wolfmen had passed the boulder, one was reloading while chasing her, the other had stopped and was aiming to shoot. Juliette hit the dirt and heard the hiss of the fired musket ball over her head; she quickly got up to run with all the effort she could muster. Joseph Curwen, in his anger over the fire, must have ordered that the courtesan be killed.
Juliette ran fast, without caution or direction, just the desperate need to put distance between her and those who were trying to murder her. An unseen rock tripped her up, the hard fall knocking her senses into stunned helplessness. The pursuing pair got to close range of her, then aimed their armed weapons. Two muskets fired and the two wolfmen dropped dead.
Hawkeye and Chingachook, with smoking muskets, approached the recovering woman and lifted Juliette to her feet, Baron Munchausen was in front of her, he opened his arms.
"Dear Lady." He said. "We have been so worried. How joyous it is find you safe and in our company again."
She fell into the Baron's arms and hugged him warmly, he had to disengage when she began kissing him. Juliette gave a warm embrace and passionate kiss to both Hawkeye and Chingachook. A fur coat was placed on her from behind by a fourth savior, she turned to see Jean Baptiste Grenouille, he kept her at bay with a stiff arm on her shoulder as the matching hat was handed to her.
As she took the furred headpiece she realised that these were the sable adornments of Chastity, the Virtue whose fate was uncertain after being thrown of her horse. Juliette looked into Jean's eyes and grinned as she figured out what had happened to the female assassin. The courtesan swept aside the obstructing arm and aggressively embraced the protesting perfumer.
"The wolves will not eat me today." She said to herself.