Reluctant Partnerships

Reluctant Partnerships by Ariel Tachna

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Authors: Ariel Tachna
any active experiments to test it.”
    A yawn forestalled Martin’s answer. “Perhaps I should get some sleep and think some more about it later,” he said. “I’ll leave you to your day. I’m hoping a short nap will set me right and I can attend the afternoon session with the wizards, since I haven’t met any of them yet.”
    “Sleep well,” Raymond said, “and I’ll look for you this afternoon.”
    Martin nodded and left Raymond alone in his office.
    Raymond finished his coffee and picked up the phone to call Fabienne, his former assistant, who worked for Anne-Marie Valour now. She would understand the importance of his call and find a way to work him into the president’s busy schedule.

Chapter 6
     
     
    D ENIS waited in the shadows outside the musée Rolin, where he had directed the other vampires in the Cour to meet. Autun was not a large city, not by Parisian standards, and the Cour was similarly small, but while Denis could have invited the full complement of vampires to his home, he wanted the more formal setting for a meeting of such importance. At barely ninety years old, he was little more than a baby in the eyes of many vampires. His successful bid to take the Cour d’Autun from a much older, established vampire mitigated his age to a certain extent, but only to a certain extent. Only time and effective leadership would do the rest. Time he did not have at the moment.
    To that end, he had taken great pains with his appearance tonight, doing everything he could to play down his age and highlight his authority. The black three-piece suit he wore fit perfectly, the austere lines making him appear taller, the somber color and conservative cut a throwback to the time of his turning but also a subtle declaration of his authority. He kept his black hair short, slicked into submission rather than tumbled around his face as it would be if he let it grow. The look appealed at times, but not when he faced a possibly hostile Cour. Tonight it was all about control of himself and of the others.
    He kept count as the vampires slowly arrived. He did not expect all forty members of the Cour to attend, but he hoped for a majority at least. When the count reached twenty-eight and he saw no one else moving in the night, he made his entrance. Never mind that he had arrived well before any of them. He was the chef de la Cour. Le Jeu des Cours dictated he wait for no one.
    The other vampires stood in groups of twos and threes around the room, mostly in silence. They turned as Denis walked to the front of the room. He faced them, keenly aware of his youthful appearance and relatively young age, but they had chosen to put their trust in him six months ago when he had challenged Renaud for leadership of the Cour. He would have to hope that trust continued a little longer.
    “Bonsoir, chers amis,” Denis said by way of greeting. “Thank you for coming out tonight with as little explanation as I provided. I know you have little reason to trust my leadership yet, but I would not have convened the Cour if it weren’t a matter of importance.” He was taking a risk, acknowledging the short duration of his tenure as chef de la Cour, but it was on everyone’s mind, he was certain. If he put it out in the open, they could not blindside him with it later.
    “I received a call last night from Jean Bellaiche, the chef de la Cour of Paris, who is, as some of you know, very involved with l’Institut Marcel Chavinier in Dommartin. He called because he had gotten word of a newly turned vampire from Château-Chinon.”
    “You summoned us to tell us there’s a new vampire?” Auguste Chambertin, one of the prickliest vampires in Autun, demanded. Denis had known to expect a challenge from that quarter. Auguste had challenged Renaud the same way every time the Cour gathered. The vampire did not want to be chef de la Cour himself, but he had no patience for any other leader either. “What a waste of time!”
    “No, I summoned you

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