Sunday, December 28, 2014
Crossover of the Week
GODS OF THE UNDERWORLD
Aubert Lecoq and his sons are imprisoned under the Convent de la Merci alongside Colonel Bozzo-Corona. Their jailer is Marcel Draco, who is planning to kill the Colonel for refusing to share the Treasure of the Black Coats with the rest of the High Council. Draco and his fellow rebels play cards to determine who gets to kill the Colonel; Doctor Lerne wins the game. However, the Colonel manages to escape, and the Lecoqs wind up being rescued. A year later, at the Callyx Bar in Paris, Bibi-Lupin, who has stolen the Empress Joséphine’s necklace, asks Trompe-la-Mort to dispose of it, but he refuses. Joseph Fouché, Napoleon’s Minister of Police, discusses Bibi-Lupin with Jean Henry, the chief of the Paris police. Bibi-Lupin was arrested for treason in 1793 by Citizen Chauvelin, but escaped execution and fled to England, becoming a coachman for Sir Percy Blakeney, who married an actress who was Saint-Just’s cousin. Monsieur Jackal, a former criminal recently recruited as an informer, has assured Henry that Bibi-Lupin acted only out of greed. Anne de Breuil argues with the Colonel, who remarks that Anne inherited her namesake’s beauty. Claude Verdier states that Napoleon betrayed the Colonel. Lawyer Portal-Giraud came up with the Black Coats’ doctrine of “paying the law.” The Colonel declares a toast using a bottle of La Frenaie wine. Trompe-la-Mort murders Verdier, leaving behind the Botte de Nevers, the mark of Lagardère. He forces the Colonel to give him the Scapular of the Black Coats. However, he scratches himself on a replica of a dragon’s fang on the box containing the Scapular, which the Colonel reveals was coated with a poison derived from the black scorpion of India. Trompe-la-Mort is really Jacques Collin, who took the fall for his comrade Franchessini’s forgery. Rather than killing him, the black scorpion poison tossed Collin into a cataleptic state. The Colonel is considering replacing the poison with a Brazilian drug called the “Mato Grosso Pestilence.” At the Colonel’s orders, a man named Toussac whips Collin. Henri de Lagardère learned the Botte de Nevers, invented by the great fencing master Delapalme, from his friend the Duc de Nevers. Anne de Breuil is also known as Jacqueline Collin, Jacques’ aunt. The Collins’ forebear, Milady de Winter, was Cardinal Richelieu’s most accomplished agent. The box containing the Scapular is kept in a concealed wall alcove alongside a book called Les Chroniques de Nemedea. The book features an illustration of a box similar to the one bearing the Scapular alongside an account of a legendary killer who encountered said box. Monsieur Jackal has heard that Trompe-la-Mort is currently infatuated with a youth named Alexis Ladeau. Trompe-la-Mort attempts to convince six fellow convicts who were also betrayed by the Black Coats, including Fil-de-Soie, Le Biffon, and Auguste, that they must band together to defeat the Colonel. After his fellow convicts escape, Trompe-la-Mort plans to recruit more men, including La Pouraille. Trompe-la-Mort dubs this new alliance the Society of the Ten Thousand. Later that night, he decides upon his new alias: Vautrin.
Short story by Rick Lai in Tales of the Shadowmen Volume 9: La Vie en Noir, Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier, eds., Black Coat Press, 2012; reprinted in French in Les Compagnons de l’Ombre (Tome 13), Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier, eds., Rivière Blanche, 2014. Aubert Lecoq is meant to be coachman Albert Lecoq, father of future Black Coats member Lecoq de la Perière and grandfather of Emile Gaboriau’s policeman and sleuth Monsieur Lecoq, from Philip José Farmer’s biography Tarzan Alive. The Convent de la Merci, Colonel Bozzo-Corona, the Black Coats, their Treasure and Scapulary, and Portal-Giraud are featured in the Black Coats novels by Paul Féval. Marcel Draco is an ancestor of Union Corse leader Marc-Ange Draco and his daughter Tracy from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Doctor Lerne is an ancestor of the title character of Maurice Renard’s novel Doctor Lerne. Jacques Collin (aka Trompe-la-Mort and Vautrin), Franchessini, Le Biffon, Fil-de-Soie, Auguste, La Pouraille, and the Society of the Ten Thousand are from Honoré de Balzac’s interconnected cycle of novels La Comédie Humaine. The Callyx Bar is from Louis Feuillade’s serial Judex. Bibi-Lupin is also from La Comédie Humaine; here, he is conflated with coachman Louis Lupin from Tarzan Alive, the ancestor of Maurice Leblanc’s gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. Jacqueline Collin, Vautrin’s aunt, also appears in the La Comédie Humaine novels. Here, she is romantically involved with Aubert Lecoq, and conflated with an unidentified beautiful woman who appeared as a member of the Black Coats’ Council in the novel The Cadet Gang, both story elements being based on theories proposed by Jean-Marc Lofficier. Sir Percy Blakeney; his wife, the former Marguerite St. Just; and Citizen Chauvelin are from Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel novels. Monsieur Jackal is from Alexandre Dumas’ The Mohicans of Paris; here, he is conflated with the historical Eugène François Vidocq, reformed criminal turned founder of the French Sûreté. Claude Verdier is an ancestor of Satanas from Louis Feuillade’s silent film serial Les Vampires; in the English language version of the serial, Satanas’ real name is given as Claude Dupont-Verdier. La Frenaie wine is from Clark Ashton Smith’s Averoigne stories. Henri de Lagardère, the Duc de Nevers, the Botte de Nevers, and Delapalme are from Féval’s swashbuckling novel Le Bossu. According to Sax Rohmer’s The Golden Scorpion, the drug F. Katalepsis, used by the Si-Fan, the organization led by Dr. Fu Manchu, has as its chief ingredient the venom of the black scorpion of India. The Mato Grosso Pestilence is from Harold A. Davis’ Doc Savage pulp novel The Green Death. Toussac is the brother of the Toussac that appears in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Uncle Bernac. Robert E. Howard claimed that he learned of the Hyborian Age and the barbarian Conan’s exploits through a tome called The Nemedian Chronicles. Conan encountered a box similar to that containing the Scapular of the Black Coats in The Hour of the Dragon (aka Conan the Conqueror.) Alexis Ladeau is from Howard’s Cthulhu Mythos story “The Black Stone.”