La Mort Rit En Dernier

Chapter Two

PARIS, 1472
Mirage Lavoie strained and stretched out every inch of her body as she stood on the barrel, struggling to reach her violin's bow where it perched on the thatched roof of a small house. It was *just* beyond her reach, and she gritted her teeth and tossed hair out of her eyes and once again strained. The bow had found it's way up there when Mirage's best friend and companion, Irea Triunne, had noticed Mirage's violin playing was getting considerably more audience that her magik show. But now the audience had gone, the sun was setting and the guard would be making their evening rounds. The two girls wanted to be away safely before that happened, but there would be no way Mirage would leave without her bow.
"Hurry up!" Irea hissed from her place on the cobblestones below and Mirage turned to her with a considerably unladylike gesture.
"I'm trying! If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be in this situation!"
"Aw, don't be mad!"
Mirage sighed and stood up higher on tiptoe. "I'm not mad, but really!"
Irea grinned to herself then muttered a few words under her breath. With a start, the bow leapt off the roof and into Irea's outstretched hand. Mirage turned to her and looked down from the barrel with narrowed eyes.
"Verrrrry funny!" she said drily. Then she leapt off the barrel, and grasping hands with her friend, the two began to make their way through the streets of Paris, back to their home in the Court of Miracles.
Mirage was a Romany through and through. She had grown up all her life amongst the gypsy, and it was the only life she knew and wanted. Tall, slender and dark-skinned, her black hair was unusually straight for a gypsy girl, and her fingers were long and tapered. Mirage called herself "Jackie-of-All-Trades", as she was rather fond of trying her hand at anything that came to pass. Unfortunately, she either lost interest before she became any good at it, or was simply not destined to be good at it. With a few exceptions. One of them being her violin. Mirage was an excellent player, considering she'd had only a few lessons from her long departed father as a girl; her playing was popular on the streets of Paris, and was the prime source of Mirage's meals. Lively, unaffected, smart and full of fun, Mirage was highly adept at avoiding the onslaught of guards on the streets, and extremely resourceful when it came to surviving on only a few coins for a week or two.
Irea, on the other hand, was only part Romany. Losing her parents at an early age, she'd been lost in the thick woods of France when she'd been adopted into the realm of Faerie. Living there for many years, she learned the art of magik before returning to her original world and being found by Mirage in the very same woods she'd been lost in so long ago. Her gypsy blood made her welcomed among the Romany, and it wasn't long before she adapted into the world of mortals, only her strangely pointed ears betraying her previous life, a nice contrast to her dark skin, black eyes, and scruffy black hair. Irea's art was magik, an art she peddled on the streets to keep her fed, within reason and ever mindful of the prejudice against "witches". Irea's sense of humor was sometimes mystifying to her friends, as she'd learned it in the realm of Faerie, but like Mirage she was light-hearted and mischievous, desiring a good time as opposed to anything else.
The two girls were the best of friends, inseparable and entirely loyal. In a world where hatred of their kind fed the Parisians who dominated the streets, they fought for a little more justice, a treatment more fair for their people. It was unrealistic to imagine them creating riots, or writing propaganda poetry (neither of them could write, or read for that matter) - rather they were ostentaious on the streets of Paris, unashamed and earning money for themselves honestly, two tall slender birds who sang loudly and showed little fear in the face of conflict. Streetwise and smart, they had good hearts which endeared them to their people and burned strongly for their friends. But right then, the girls weren't thinking about much other than getting home. The guard had begun their round, and they darted from shadow to shadow like cats out for the hunt, pausing and looking around carefully as the day grew darker and older, clutching hands and grinning at each other with the thrill of the journey. 

At the exact instant that the two young and innocent gypsy girls were making their way home, Joker kicked open the door of the Palace of Justice and strode inside, grinning joyously to himself, Harley faithfully at his heels. Once inside Joker held up a hand for Harley to stop, and indicated that they had to be quiet. Then he began an exaggerated tip-toe. Harley giggled and followed in kind, and the two went tip-tip-toeing up the huge marble staircase and on into the maze of corridors above.
"Great!" Joker pouted, stopping and putting his hands on his hips. "Trust Ole Frolly Boy to have his pad designed by the same guy who wrote the Where's Waldo books. What I wouldn't give to have Bud and Lou here with me now. But hang on! Is this an infra-red tracker in my pocket or am I just happy to see me?"
With a laugh, Joker thrust one long gloved hand into his pocket and pulled out a small metal device. Switching it on, he gestured over his shoulder for Harley to follow, and then began a sprint down the deserted corridors. In and out, round and round, the two went, until finally two bright red dots flickered to life on the small screen Joker held in front of his face. With a delighted cry of triumph, during which Harley looked around nervously in fear of being heard, Joker took up his pursuit again, more frenzied than ever. Harley struggled to keep up, tugging on the huge duffel bag loaded with provisions they'd brought, looking surreptitiously up at the tall corridors which reminded her a little too much of good ole Arkham Asylum for comfort.
By the time she reached her lover again, he was standing with outstretched arms, a huge leer on his face, in front of a large oak door. Harley gaped up at this enormous door, then looked curiously at her boyfriend. 
"This is it, folks, the moment you've heard about and waited for!" he whispered to himself. Grasping the iron door handle, he turned it vigorously, and thrust the door wide open. Inside, the Vicomtesse and the Minister rose hastily and furiously to their feet. That a subordinate should dare open the door without knocking was certainly a punishable crime. Side by side in the orange glow of the fire, they were a fearsome sight, two tall, scowling beings, but deep in the shadows of the doorway, Joker only grinned to see it.
"What is the meaning of this?" Frollo demanded fiercely.
Joker straightened his tie, ran a hand through his hair, then stepped amicably forward, arms outstretched in a friendly greeting. The flickering light lit up his dead white skin, and the grin which stretched from ear to ear was illuminated eerily. Taller and thinner than either of them, in the strange half light of the room, emerging as he did from the very shadows, Joker looked the very visage of death, and both the Victomesse and the Minister gave a gasp and drew back.
"Frollo, mah brotha!" Joker burst out jovially. "I'm the guy you've been waiting to meet!!!!"
And with that he laughed. 

GOTHAM CITY, 1999.
Columbine broke into the iron vaults of GCPD almost without effort. GCPD was the only Police HQ in the whole of America that needed these types of vaults. They housed evidence from crimes that were - slightly unusual. Not of this world, you might say. Joker's time-travelling belt was one such item. And Columbine knew very well that there was more than one.
She moved stealthily in the darkness through the assorted filing cabinets and lockers, her trained eyes seeking carefully and quickly. Columbine was a shockingly skilled martial artist who'd spend a great deal of time in both France and Japan learning the arts of thievery and fighting. Very tall, very beautiful, very strong, she was an imposing figure and one that should be feared. Elegant and graceful, Columbine dressed predominantly in blue as a compliment to her best friend and partner in crime, the red-clad Harley Quinn. Columbine adored Harley fervently, who returned the affection in kind: however Harley's attention was considerably divided between her and the Joker, an interference Columbine sorely resented. 
To add food to the fire, Columbine was quite insane. Her love of Harley bordered on obsession, and coupled with her intimidating skills, and ferocious nature, Columbine was a highly dangerous individual. In fact her love for Harley went further even than total dependence, for if Columbine was separated from Harley for too long, a truly evil and savage being take place over Columbine's mind, the identity of Lazara Pitt. It was Lazara's sole intention to rule the world, and she had no affections for Harley, and a very strong desire to destroy humanity. Everyone was careful to make sure that anywhere Columbine was, Harley wasn't too far away. It was interesting that the two people Harley loved most in the world should both be such dominant, insane and dangerously intelligent people, but there it was. Columbine's mind was sharpened by her insanity, she was ruthless when it came to Harley, and although by her nature she was a loving and loyal person, her need to protect Harley from the ills of the world, in particular Joker, made her seem a frenzied being of aggression. Capable of great softness and humor, nonetheless, her face was often a beautiful mask of determination and strength.
Just as Joker was Harley's sole reason for turning to a life of total wickedness, so Harley had been Columbine's. Although she had been a thief in France, it had been solely as a stand against the life of wealth and prejudice she had been brought up in with her parents. Was the predisposition to be insane always there, or was it something that had just appeared when she met Harley? The doctors wondered, just as they did over Harley's insanity. Perhaps it was a question that would never be answered, but Columbine didn't much care. If she was with Harley that was all that mattered. And she wanted very much to be with Harley now.
Coming to the locker which read "Case #3245. UNSOLVED. Evidence - "Mega City Dimension Jump", Columbine stopped, and a sweetly satisfied smile curved her bow-shaped blue lips. This was what she had come for. Opening the lock took a matter of seconds, and reaching inside, she brought out three black plastic bags. One was empty. The other two - reaching inside one, Columbine's smile grew wider as she pulled out the long slender strip of leather.
"Harley, here I come!" she whispered delightedly to herself. Programming into the small console "P.F#2 - 1472", Columbine wrapped the belt around her small waist, and pushed the console into the silver ball.
Instantly, the room around her blurred, and mixed together, like wet paint. The colors of night - blue, grey and black - swirled together, then spun. A roaring in her ears squeezed her eyes shut tight, and she gritted her teeth.
Abruptly, the roaring stopped, and the stifling sense of GCPD's vaults was replaced by a cool wind. A sharp smell of rain and wood and rotten vegetables struck her nose, and she opened her large brown eyes and gazed about her.
She was in Medieval Paris. 

Frollo had been about to call for the guard when Joker laughed. It silenced him instantly, but his thoughts raced. "A demon! An unholy Demon! Desecrating the sanctity of the Palace! For what purpose has he come?" were some of the thoughts that ran irrationally through his mind.
The Vicomtesse, on the other hand, though certainly unnerved by Joker's laughter, was not so superstitious. "A deranged lunatic," she thought "but why is he here, and what is wrong with his face?"
Despite their trepidation, the two stood their ground, glaring at the tall pale figure in the doorway, who finally finished his mirthless laugh, and removed his very strange hat before sweeping into the room. Seeing him more clearly by the light of the fire they observed his strange clothes in wonderment, the bizarre ostentatiousness of his movement, the unusual color of his skin and hair. The Vicomtesse suddenly knew, with a sickening feeling in her stomach, that the lunatic was not wearing makeup.
Joker wandered around with a happy sigh, looking at the sparse tapestries on the wall, admiring the craftsmanship of the furniture, blissfully unaware of its occupants. The Minister found his voice. "What is the meaning of this? Who are you? How dare you enter the Palace, this is a sacred place!"
Joker chose to let his attention be taken. "Sacred, ya say, eh? Well, Frolly, my friend, I've never much been one for what's sacred. Not unless I can desecrate it!!"
And he laughed again before the Minister could make a retort to that. The first of Frollo's fears had vanished and he now shared the Vicomtesse's opinion that this was a maniac from some foreign land. As a result, his fury was rising rapidly. "Would you like to explain yourself before my guards drag you down to the dungeons, or would you rather go there directly?"
Joker pulled his large mouth down into an exaggerated frown, and meekly held his fedora in both hands. "Aw, now now, Claudie. You wouldn't want to do that to ole Joker here, now wouldja?" Out in the ornate medieval hallway, Harley was waiting with a very modern gun. "Cause I can tell ya right now, you wouldn't like the consequences!"
Frollo started forward furiously, "Consequences? You dare to speak to me of consequences? You who have broken into my home and assaulted me?"
Joker arrogantly held up a hand, with a sly grin. "Aw, come on, don't be mad Frollo-Wollo!!! I'm one of your biggest fans!"
The oddity of the word, in the context Joker used it, was enough to quieten Frollo. "Fan?" he questioned archly.
Joker's expression abruptly changed again, to one of surprised realisation. "Oh yeah!" he exclaimed, smacking a hand against his cheek "I forgot! We're in the olden days now! *ahem* Frollo, my man, I'm one of your largest admirers!!"
Frollo raised an eyebrow. "Is that so?" 
Encouraged, Joker leapt into what was previously the Vicomtesse's chair, as she glowered at the strange man in outrage too great to speak. "Yeah!! I love your work! Such style! Such panache!!" 
The Minister's eyebrow dropped again. "It's not about style - or, er, 'panache'. It's about doing what is right and just."
Joker stared at him for a second. "Oh yeah - that too. ANYWAY I know it was kinda rude for me to drop in unanounced like this, so how about I give you a rundown on little ole meesie?" It was Frollo's turn to stare. Joker corrected himself. "How about I tell you about myself and where I come from?"
A sarcastic smile twisted the Minister's mouth. "I would be delighted." 
Joker picked up on the sarcasm and gave the Minister a strange and sly sideways look which wiped the smile abruptly off his face. "Well, I'm EVA so GLAHD shugah!" he shrieked. "Hmm....Where to begin... Ah of course! At the beginning. No wait, that'll take too long... Hmmm..."
The Vicomtesse stared incredulously at this ridiculous creature before folding her arms in impatience and glaring at Frollo who made a slight gesture that she was to be silent, for now.
"Ah-ha! I know!" Joker continued. "My dear buddy Frollo, I am the Ruler of a Strange and Foreign Land, very far away from this one, hence my strange clothes and way of speech! But even so far away, word of the Great Frollo reached our shores, and inspired by your mission, I have come to offer you my services!"
As bizarre as the story was, Frollo was intrigued. Steepling his fingers and looking thoughtfully at Joker he said, "Go on."
Swinging his long legs up over the arm of the chair he straddled, Joker put his arms behind his head and grinned at Frollo, waggling his eyebrows. "It's come to my understanding you have a *slight* problem with scummus gypsius." 
Frollo raised an eyebrow. "I beg your pardon?"
"THE ROMANY!" Joker screeched. Both the Vicomtesse and the Minister started, and Joker gave an apologetic chuckle before sitting up, swinging his legs back over and leaning forward to face the Judge. "As I was saying - the gypsy are the BAAAAANE of your life, the fly in your wine, the itch in your undies - and I'm here to help you get rid of them."
Frollo's mouth was a very straight line and the Vicomtesse's eyes were scornful. "How exactly do you propose to do that, you maniac? As far as I can tell you are but one man, obviously deranged and a stranger to this land. Care to enlighten me as to how you will rid the whole of Paris of the vermin my men have been unsuccessful in vanquishing?"
Joker grinned a very wicked grin, and his purple eyes lit up eerily in the light of the fire. "Oooooh," he said softly, "by no means legal!"
The Minister had had enough. Rising to his feet again, he pointed righteously at the door. "Illegal then, you mean? May I remind you I am the Minister of Justice? I am not interested in any of your underhand methods!"
The Vicomtesse stopped glowering at the Joker long enough to look scornfully at the Minister. He was completely unaware of the hypocrisy in his last statement. Frollo continued, "You may leave, and I strongly advise you leave the entire city, for on the morrow I shall instruct my men to arrest anyone meeting your description."
Joker had stood up also, his face one of shocked surprise. "Now hang on, hang on, hang on!" he said placatingly, walking over to the Minister and placing a friendly hand on his shoulder, looking down at him. Frollo started. Even through the thick cloth of his robes and the Joker's gloves, Frollo could feel the coldness of Joker's skin. "Did I ever say YOU would be doing anything illegal? No of course not! You'd have to be crazy to suggest illegal activity to such an upstanding moral guy as yourself! No, all I wanted to suggest is that you let *me* take care of things for you. Turn your head, so to speak. And don't be so hasty, Claudie Baby, at least not until you witness what I've got on offer!"
With his other hand Joker reached inside his pocket and took out a slender glass vial, filled with a luminous green liquid. He held it up for Frollo to see. Frollo's eyes narrowed as he looked at it, and then at Joker, and the delighted smile which warped Joker's face.
"What is that?" he asked finally.
Joker's smile widened. "Allow me to show you," he whispered. "Perchance, are there any prisoners awaiting their sentence in the dungeons?" 
Frollo looked at the vial in Joker's hands and then at Joker's brilliant purple eyes. Joker's eyes had a life to them you couldn't see unless you looked at them straight on, and now Frollo saw it - a strange livid spark in the very center. Frollo felt a shiver go down his back. The lunatic man was serious. He made his decision.
"Very well. I sincerely hope you're not wasting my time."
Joker laughed triumphantly. "Oh, trust me on this one, Claudie. It'll SLAY ya!"

Columbine stared around her at the dark streets of Paris at night in the fifteenth century. It was dirty, it smelt bad, and the houses were small and cramped, the bawdy voices of drunks and screeching children rising out of the windows like an insane man's song. "Just my luck to wind up in the bad part of town" she muttered crossly to herself. "Now to find Harley. And to find Harley I'll have to find Joker, as this is clearly his scheme. But what the hell would Joker want with Medieval France?"
Her mind took her back to her old friend Lupin, leader of the Thieves Guild in France, a man she had worked under for several years. Lupin had told her that the Thieves Guild had first formed in Paris in the early sixteenth century, under the leadership of a man named Clopin Trouillefou, later under Geraud de Chagny, and then so on up until Lupin. Trouillefou had been known as one of the Romany - a gypsy, and a vagabond, though by all accounts an otherwise good man who had formed the guild along a "Robin Hood" principle. This of course was not known to the general world, only to those within the Guild. However, this information was virtually useless to her, except that if Trouillefou had been a man in his early forties when he began the Guild, then he would obviously be alive somewhere in Paris today.
Trouillefou's early life had been characterised by the pastimes of a jongleur - a street performer. He had also been dubbed "King of Thunes" and "Gypsy King" - whether that was self dubbed, or something others had given him, Columbine didn't know, but he had been respected as the leader of the Romany in Paris for most of his life, and was apparantly connected to all the goings on of the underworld. Apart from this information, and some facts about the lifestyle of medieval Parisians, Columbine knew nothing else about this time. She *knew* she should have read something before leaving, but she'd been so anxious to see Harley.... No matter. This Trouillefou might be able to give her some clues as to what Joker might possibly want from 1472 in Paris. First thing in the morning she would look for him. But right now - she might as well utilise her time properly and look for Harley.
Keeping to the shadows she began a stealthy sprint along the streets. For one thing, her skills, surviving in this time would be barely enough to work up a sweat, but best to be careful. Abruptly she drew to a stop as she sensed movement near by. Retreating further into the shadow thrown by a dingy house, her sharp eyes followed the two female figures as they darted in and out of buildings, clutching hands. Narrowing her eyes she peered at them more closely, observing their tatty and colorful clothes, bare feet, and dark skin. Gypsies. Perhaps she would track down Trouillefou sooner than she thought. Columbine silently cartwheeled out of the shadows and took up sprinting after the retreating figures. 

Copyright © Harley Quinn 1999 (harley_quinn@cheerful.com)
May not be reproduced without permission.

On to Chapter Three!

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