Hôtel Transylvania (St. Germain Series #1)by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Since 1978, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has produced about two dozen novels and numerous short stories detailing the life of a character first introduced to the reading world as Le Comte de Saint-Germain. We first meet him in Paris during the reign of Louis XV when he is, apparently, a wealthy, worldly, charismatic aristocrat, envied and desired by many but fully known to none. In fact, he is a vampire, born in the Carpathian Mountains in 2119 BC, turned in his late-thirties in 2080 BC and destined to roam the world forever, watching and participating in history and, through the author, giving us an amazing perspective on the time-tapestry of human civilization.
In Hôtel Transylvania Saint-Germain makes his first appearance in a story that blends history and fiction as Saint-Germain is pitted against Satanists to preserve Madelaine de Montalia from ruin.
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By Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Warner BooksCopyright © 1978 Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHe was known as Le Comte de Saint-Germain, although he had had other names, but few in Paris would have recognized even the most illustrious of those names, for the glamorous court of Louis XV cared little for what happened beyond French borders, or before the Sun King had reigned.
There were parts of France, also, which the glittering court did not know, such as the squalid dark street down which Saint-Germain picked his way, his intense dark eyes turned to the task of searching out the piles of filth that filled the night with a smell that was almost palpable. Slums at night, Saint-Germain reflected as his long memories stirred, were the same the world over.
The gentle chuckle of running water was in his ears, and it annoyed him. It was like the sound of an insect, constantly buzzing, reminding him that the Seine was very near.
In the shadows, the red eyes of rats glared out at him, and the gibbering his passing caused made Saint-Germain bare his teeth in what might have been a smile. He had never learned to like rats, though he had often had to live close to them.
At the next crossing he stopped, uncertain of which way to go. No sign marked the alley leading crookedly away from the river. He stared into the dark, then turned down the narrow way. Above him the old buildings almost touched, leaning together, heavy with the weight of centuries. Stepping even more warily now, he trod the rough stones that served as paving.
Up ahead he saw a lantern shine, and he stepped back into the overhang of a doorway to wait for the Watchman to pass. He pursed his lips impatiently. There were ways he could slip by the Watchman unnoticed, but such doings were often inconvenient, and occasionally led to the kind of discovery he had come to loathe. At least a dozen times before in his long career an impulsive move on his part had exposed him to the full glare of public notoriety. So he waited.
When the Watchman was gone, Saint-Germain resumed his walk. In spite of his high-heeled shoes of black brocade, he went silently, his well-knit body moving with fluid grace remarkable in a man his age.
At last he reached the sign he had been told of, the Inn of the Red Wolf. He pulled his long cloak of black velvet more tightly over his finery. He had taken the precaution of leaving his finest jewels at home, save for one flawless ruby sunk in the lace at his throat. Wrapped in the cloak, his dark hair unpowdered, he knew he could go safely among the men who waited in the darkened tavern. With one small, long-fingered hand, he threw the bolt and entered the Inn of the Red Wolf.
The nine men gathered in the squalid taproom looked up guiltily as the door opened, and some of them drew back in fear.
Closing the door behind him, Saint-Germain made a sign. "Good evening, Brothers," he said with a slight bow, his mellifluous voice pitched a little higher, his words slightly more clipped than usual.
"You are Prinz Ragoczy of Transylvania?" asked one of the bolder men after a moment.
Saint-Germain bowed again. "I have that honor." He reflected that the name was as much his as Saint-Germain was. Or Balletti had been. He had used Ragoczy for many years, in Italy, Hungary, Bohemia, Austria, and the German city of Dresden. "You are the Guild, I suppose?" he asked, somewhat disheartened. Sorcerers were always an uncertain lot, and these men were no different. A few had intelligent faces with eyes yearning for the knowledge that had become their deity. But the others. Saint-Germain sighed. The others were what he had come to expect. They were the sly ones, men who operated outside the law, cynically dispensing poisons and abortions to those willing to be blackmailed and to pay: men of cunning in place of skill, of rapacity instead of passion.
"We were not sure you would come, Highness," said one of the sorcerers. "It grows late."
Saint-Germain walked farther into the room. "I am here at the time appointed. The clocks have not yet struck midnight."
From a nearby church, the six chimes of midnight rang out, solemn warning that the dread hour had come.
"I am, in fact," Saint-Germain said dryly, "early."
"Dead of night," one of the sorcerers murmured, and almost crossed himself. He turned to Saint-Germain, his crafty face twisted into a semblance of goodwill. "We were told you could help us in the matter of jewels."
Saint-Germain sighed. "You French are so obviously greedy."
Two of the men stiffened, and a few of the others smiled ingratiatingly. The one who had asked about the jewels shrugged and waited for an answer.
"Very well." Saint-Germain strode into the room and took the seat at the head of the meanly laid table. "I will give you the secret of the jewels, upon certain conditions."
"What conditions?" the sorcerer with the greatest interest in jewels asked, too quickly.
"I have certain services which must be performed for me. You will do them, and in as short a time as possible. When these tasks are completed, then I will give you the secret of the jewels. Not before."
The sorcerer scoffed. "And when this service is done, then there will be other services, and others, and eventually you will be gone and we will have nothing to show for our labor but empty pockets." He turned away.
"I have told you you are greedy," Saint-Germain reminded him.
One of the other sorcerers spoke, and this time it was one with the thirst for knowledge in his eyes. "I will accept your conditions. It is true you may betray us, but I am willing to take that chance."
Saint-Germain regarded him evenly in the ruddy light of the taproom. "What is your name?" he inquired, his finely drawn brows lifted.
"I am Beverly Sattin," he said, a trifle nervously, since sorcerers did not in general give their true names.
"English?" Saint-Germain asked in that language.
"Yes. But I have lived in France for many years. May I say that I have looked forward to this occasion for a long time. Your Highness?" He inclined his head with the remnants of the grand manner he must have had as a young man.
"Where were you educated, Sattin?"
"Magdalene College, Oxford," he said, pronouncing it "maudlin." He paused, then went on. "I was sent down in twenty-nine for irreligious practices. It was my second year."
The other sorcerers were getting restless, and the one with the interest in jewels interrupted now. "I can't understand what you're saying," he complained, and signaled the landlord to fill their cups with more wine.
"It was rude of me to exclude you gentlemen," Saint-Germain said gravely in his slightly accented French.
Now the landlord was bustling around the table, his round face glistening with sweat and distress. He glanced furtively at Saint-Germain as he brought another cup and started to fill it.
Saint-Germain raised one small, elegant hand. "I do not drink wine," he said, and nodded a dismissal to the landlord, who bowed as profoundly as his bulk would let him and then hastened away, grateful to be free of those sinister men.
When the landlord was gone, Saint-Germain reached into one of the copious pockets of his black coat, and as the others watched, he drew out a leather pouch with embossed symbols on it. When he was sure he had their undivided attention, he said, "You want bona fides of me, and this is what I offer you." He opened the pouch and in the silence which was accented by the crackling fire, he poured onto the table a dozen large diamonds.
Not one of the sorcerers was unmoved by the sight of the superb gems. The one who had been so eager to have jewels started to reach for them, then drew back his hand, his face frightened.
"Please." Saint-Germain gestured his permission. "Pick them up. Examine them. Assure yourself that they are genuine. Then listen to me while I give you my instructions." He leaned back in the rough-hewn chair and stared vacantly toward the fire as the nine men seized on the diamonds and fell to talking among themselves in hushed voices. When the sorcerers were silent again, he spoke. "I expect that you, Le Grâce, think you have been clever with the substitution you have made," he said without looking around. The sorcerer who loved jewels jumped visibly. He mumbled that the Prinz was mistaken, and pointed to the English sorcerer. "It must be him, sir. It was not I."
Now Saint-Germain turned to him, his penetrating dark eyes full on Le Grâce's. "Understand me, Le Grâce," he said softly. "I will not tolerate being cheated or lied to. I am not a fool. Sattin did not take the diamond; you did. It is in your inner vest pocket. There are also six fraudulent pieces of glass there. The seventh is my jewel. You have until the count of ten to put it onto the table. One ..."
Le Grâce could not meet the steady gaze of Saint-Germain's dark eyes. "Prinz Ragoczy ..." he began, his glance darting to his companions.
The English sorcerer Sattin moved restlessly. "Your Highness, reconsider. Le Grâce is not ..."
A rat scuttled near the hearth, chittering in rage, and then was gone.
Two of the sorcerers rose and turned their backs to Le Grâce, one of them saying to the other, "Le Grâce never said his name. The Prinz simply knew it."
Involuntarily Le Grâce's hand crept toward the pocket in his vest. His face was rigid with fright. "Prinz, we could talk this over."
Sattin moved away from Le Grâce a trifle, and said in English to Saint-Germain, "It is true he is a rogue, Highness, but he is useful."
"Not to me. Six."
"But this is foolishness," Sattin protested. "If you have the secret of jewels, surely this one cannot mean much to you."
"Seven. I dislike being robbed," he said in English. "I dislike being lied to. A man who will cheat me of a jewel will betray me for very little. Eight."
Greasy sweat showed on Le Grâce's face, and he made a swipe with his sleeve to wipe it away. He shifted uneasily in his chair. His mouth was suddenly dry, and he reached for his wine, drinking noisily.
"Nine." Although his voice was no louder, the word sounded like a gunshot in the dingy taproom.
"All right!" Le Grâce blurted, and reached for the pouch in his vest pocket. "All right!" Contemptuously he tossed the pouch onto the table. "Examine them."
A breath passed through the room, and the tension drained from the air. The two sorcerers by the fire came back toward the table.
Saint-Germain took the pouch and opened it. The predicted seven gems fell onto the table next to the other jewels Saint-Germain had spilled there.
"Which is which, then?" Le Grâce asked sarcastically.
Without a word, Saint-Germain reached out his hand to six of the jewels and gathered them into a pile. Then, wrapping a length of napkin from the table around his hand, he struck the jewels with his fist. When he lifted his hand, there was a powder of glass on the table. He looked inquiringly at the others.
"Prinz Ragoczy ..." Sattin said slowly. "On behalf of our Brotherhood and our Guild, I ask your pardon and forgiveness."
Saint-Germain nodded. "Agreed. Only secure me that man and see that he does not again have access to this guild."
Sattin nodded and turned to the others. "You heard what the Prinz requires." He motioned, and the men accepted his order. "Pesche, and you, Oulen, take Le Grâce upstairs. To the attic room."
The two sorcerers nodded, and went to Le Grâce. "Come," they said, obviously prepared to take him away by force if he resisted.
Le Grâce glared at them. "He's just a trickster. None of those diamonds are real." He looked desperately from one of his Guild Brothers to the next. "They can't be real. They're just glass."
Saint-Germain gave him a cold, bored stare. "Because you are a charlatan, there is no reason to think that the rest of the world is equally dishonest." He reached for the largest of the diamonds and put it on the powdered glass. He tightened the napkin around his hand and brought his fist down full force on the stone. The table sagged under the impact of his blow. When he lifted his hand, the stone, intact, had been driven into the table for half of its length. Saint-Germain opened his hand and pulled away the napkin.
"Your hand ..." Sattin began.
Saint-Germain put his hand, palm up, on the table. "As you see."
Even Le Grâce did not have the heart to call this deceit. He lowered his head and let his Guild Brothers lead him away.
"You have answered him," Sattin said, a certain satisfaction in his voice, knowing that he had been answered as well.
"Only for the moment," Saint-Germain said with a reluctant shaking of his head. "In a few hours he will have decided that all this was an illusion, and then he will want to discredit me." He touched his dark hair where it was tied at the back of his neck. "Never mind, English. I have more pressing concerns than a discontented false sorcerer."
"You said you had need of a service." Sattin was leaning forward now, and the six remaining men listened, alert.
"In exchange for the secret of the jewels, yes." Saint-Germain looked at the six men. "Which of you is French?"
Four of the men admitted to being French. "And the other?" Saint-Germain asked, waving the English Sattin aside.
"I am Spanish. My name is Ambrosias María Domingo y Roxas. I am from Burgos." He made an odd bow as he added, "I was excommunicated for heresy, and escaped only because my escort to Madrid was careless. They say now that I escaped by sorcery, but it was only my wits that saved me."
Saint-Germain studied the little Spaniard. "I may have use for you later," he said in flawless Spanish. "In the meantime I felicitate you on your escape. You are one of the rare few." He turned his attention to the French sorcerers, and resumed their tongue. "Who among you have dealt with the aristocracy before?"
The sorcerers exchanged glances, and then one, a man somewhat older than the others, said, "I was a majordomo in the Savigny household. That was more than a dozen years ago."
Saint-Germain nodded. "How well can you imitate the manner? Oh, not those of the first consequence, but of the most aspiring of the rich bourgeois?"
The former majordomo shrugged. "I have never tried it, Prinz, but I am certain I know the sort you mean. I can ape the part well enough."
"Then you will be the one to make the bargain for me." He saw the startled expression on the man's face. "There is a gambling establishment in le Faubourg Saint-Germain"- here he smiled to himself-"number nine, Quai Malaquais. The place was built in the time of the thirteenth Louis, and has had an uneven career. It is called Hôtel Transylvania."
"It was called that for another Ragoczy, was it not, Highness?" Sattin ventured when the silence in the room had grown too long.
"I believe it had that name before then," Saint-Germain said, as if he knew little of the matter. "But there was a Ragoczy at that Hôtel thirty years ago."
"Your father?" Sattin's question was echoed in the faces of the other Guild Brothers.
"If you like."
Excerpted from Hôtel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro Copyright © 1978 by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Excerpted by permission.
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