|Date of Birth||January 25th, 1895|
|Apparent Age||Early 30's|
|Occupation||Building a business|
Death responded, 'Because you are a beautiful lie
and I am a painful truth.'
Gilles Laurent was born in the waning years of the 19th century in the canton of Bar-le-Duc. The oldest of four it was always assumed that he would take over the inn that his father ran when he finally came of age. Even Gilles assumed that he would that the arc of his life would consist of little more than marrying a local girl, taking over the inn which his father and his father's father, and even his father's father's father had run.
It should come as no surprise then that his father was less than pleased when Gilles enlisted in the French Army in early January of 1914. Gilles was only 18 and too young for mandatory induction but wanted to volunteer. Patriotism naturally had something to do with his choice. Europe was in turmoil and France had to look strong to deter Germany, but mostly his decision was made simply because he thought it would be his last opportunity to see the world. Gilles thought he would be stationed somewhere along the border of the Grand Est, possibly near Luxembourg or Switzerland. With the bravado of youth he thought that perhaps, if he was lucky, he would get the opportunity to fight and show his courage and gallantry in the face of the enemy.
When the war came it was like nothing Gilles, or anyone else for that matter, had expected. Rather than gallant charges and clashing arms the war quickly devolved into hiding in the mud. Rather than exhibitions of skill and precision it was bombs and artillery which fell with the randomness of raindrops, and unlike the stories in which the brave soldier stands unflinching in the face of his enemy and earns his respect one was more likely to die from a shell fired by a man who couldn't even see the field.
The days were bad but the nights were worse. For all the horrors one could see it was the ones one couldn't, or which one only caught out of the corner of their eye limned in the bright flash of a bursting fire, that caused the most terror. Almost all soldiers knew of the ghastly shapes that would flit across the fields after the sun fell though none would speak of them or even put them in writing. The blood-soaked fields beckoned to the monsters of the dark and they feasted and feasted until they could feast no more.
Gilles returned to Bar-le-Duc a changed man. He had survived the war unharmed, physically at least, but many nights he would awaken with the sound of the shells ringing in his ears. Trommelfeuer the Germans had called it, the individual explosions stringing together like the beating of a drum. Half remembered images of things moving in the night, captured by the flashing explosions, would evaporate before they could be fully grasped.
In the end he left Bar-le-Duc, the memories it brought about were too painful. It had, in and of itself, escaped the ravages of war, but as the memorials went up he would find himself wandering by the homes of childhood friends. 'Voie sacrée' one memorial exclaimed, Sacred Way. He found it ironic that so many of his friends had left their town for the very last time taking this Sacred Way, never to return.
But Paris was a very old city and we were young
and nothing was simple there
In 1921 he moved to Paris in the hopes that the hustle and bustle would drive such thoughts from his head. This was the City of Light of Mistinguett, of Utrillo, Picasso and Ernst. Joyce had finished Ulysses and though Hemingway still had to write the Sun Also Rises and achieve his fame he wandered the streets as a foreign correspondent.
It was Les Années Folles or the Crazy Years. The economy of Paris soared. Daily flight flew between Paris and London. Dadaism exploded and at night the sounds of Jazz poured forth from music halls and clubs. The Lost Generation found its home and Paris was once again the fashion capital of the world. It seemed as though the city never slept and the party would never end and for Gilles, while the drums never completely went away, at least they retreated and were diminished.
He took a job at Café du Dôme in Montparnasse, a small bistro that catered to American and British ex-patriots. His English at the time was far from perfect but he had learned enough in the war to get by and the skills he had learned working the dining room of his father's inn served him well.
Despite its reputation and an Anglo-A,erican cafe, or perhaps because of it, it nonetheless attracted a healthy crowd of French intellectuals. Anne-Marie DuBois was one such. A native born Parisian, her family's fortunes had outlasted the war and now with the suddenly growing economy they found themselves almost in possession of more money than they knew what to do with. She was an artist, spending day after day seated at a table that had become hers through simple fiat, idly sipping at her coffee as she sketched.
It is mostly in children's stories where two people meet and immediately fall in love. Though she was beautiful Gilles found her to be spoiled and petulant, a child of privilege who thought of herself as superior simply through the circumstances of her birth. She on the other hand found Gilles to be dull and provincial, a crude farmhand without refinement or sophistication, who lacked the ability to appreciate the majesty and mystique of the world around him.
But as so often happens in these tales the two slowly yet inexorably grew closer. Gilles came to learn that her prickly disposition was not the result of childhood indulgence but was the more recent product of an aborted engagement; one cut short when she discovered that her suitor was more interested in her family's wealth than in herself, while Anne-Marie discovered Gilles laconic nature was not due to poor education but due to a reluctance to speak of his life before.
This was perhaps the greatest irony and tragedy of their relationship. Three years spent and gone before they really found one another, and while such journeys often end with people who spend the rest of their lives together that is poor consolation when the rest of one of those lives is so short. There was no beauty in her passing, no promises or words of love given at the bed as she lay dying. They was no opportunity for the two of them to seize those fleeting days and wring from them all they joy they could. She was simply there, and then she was gone. She simply was, and then she wasn't, victim to the capricious gods of happenstance and a car.
Devastated with the loss of Anne-Marie, Gilles took what was intended to be a temporary leave from Paris. Taking a leave of absence from his job he purchased a used Citroën type A and set out to drive to Saint-Jean-de-Monts, a seaside resort town he had visited the year earlier with Anne-Marie.
He never made it.
Tam Lin would from me be gone
I would have taken out his heart of flesh
and put in one of stone.
It was late at night when he passed Pont-Saint-Martin. He should have stopped but Saint-Jean-de-Monts was only about fifty kilometres away and Gilles was not in the best frame of mind. He made it about another ten before his car suddenly stopped working and he found himself stranded in the woods near Lac de Grand-Lieu. Gilles had learned a bit about how to repair the simple engines of the day but try as he might he could not determine what it was that prevented the car from starting again. Eventually he gave it up as a bad job and began to head down the road, hoping to find a phone.
- Changeling: One of the lost
- French: Deciding that he couldn't deal with all the changes to Paris that occured during his Durance he decided to relocate to New Orleans.
- La Belle Dame sans Merci: One of the more prominent European Gentry Gilles' keeper can be found in many stories, from True Thomas to Tam Lin and Keats' ballad she appears again and again.
- A Man Out of Time: While only a few years passed for Gilles during his Durance the rest of the world moved on. When he escaped he found that nearly 95 years had elapsed in the mortal realms. While he is no longer in the state of being completely bewildered by modern technology he is still in the process of adjusting.
- Former Solider: He lived through World War I.
- The Marne and Verdun: He fought at both. Perhaps you were there as well?
- Les Années Folles: After the war he found himself unable to remain in Bar-le-Duc and so moved to Paris until his abduction in 1925.
- Crafts: Woodcarving, blacksmithing, cooking, brewing, sewing... He's a supernatural being who can spin cotton into silver or bake a pie with a genuine golden crust.
- L'Auberge: Owner and manager of L'Auberge, a relatively inexpensive restaurant in the style of the French inn he grew up in. Food isn't fancy and tends toward things like stews and meat pies and the atmosphere is intended to be convivial rather than formal.