Noemie Villaneuve

traveling fabulist, entertainer, vagabond


Education ( d )

Charisma ( h )
Fencing ( c )
Performance ( h )
Social Graces ( s )

Courage ( h )
Comeliness ( h )
Motoring ( c )
Gambling ( d )
Riding ( c )
Physician ( d )
Tinkering ( d )

Connections ( s )
Crafting ( d )
Exchequer ( s )
Marksmanship ( c )
Physique ( c )
Pugilism ( c )

French (native)
Latin and Greek
English (well)
Arabic (well)
Russian (well)
Hindi (get by)
Mandarin (get by)
Spanish (get by)


Home again, home again, such as it is.

I was born in Paris, or at least en route. My father was bringing my mother home from his sojourn in Morocco, along with many other trophies of his self-admiring savvy. He always said that she was wonderful, that they were in love, but what of that? I get my skill for lying from him, after all. Enough about family, though. I’ve perhaps been disowned by more families than anyone else in the world. I think it sounds best put that way. Certainly grander. Better to be disowned by many than owned by any, they say. Or they will once I’ve said it and let the right noble steal it. It does sound awfully quotable.

I’m frail like her and handsome like him. My short waist is a bane on ballgowns, though my longer legs are handy for flasks and blades. I got some of my mother’s darkness: if I keep out of the sun I can pass for a Russian, though a splash of paint and a well placed veil have oft lent me the mystique of Ethiopia. The lie is more important than the look, in any case, always. Costumes fail and accents slip, but treat any audience well and they will limn you in perfection. Give them a lie they can love, one that they can feel loving them back, and they’ll defend it to the death.

I learned that as a child. I almost died trying to cling to the lie of my father’s love, trying to wrap myself in the sorceress pedigree he had staked my existence and keeping upon until it was tight enough to replace my skin. But I was frankly hopeless at all that. Bathetic, even. For years he swallowed disappointment (badly), and swore to me in the most glorious, flowing, poetic terms that the sorcerer’s gift was inside me, waiting to come out, all I had to do was really try. I wanted to believe. With a child’s ingenuity, I rigged myself a final test to force my talents to come to my rescue. In hindsight, I’m not sure he ever realized why I had done it. It’s entirely possible he just thought he had finally driven me to attempt suicide. We never talked after. I survived, but the dream did not. Once I got out of hospital, he was off to other dreams and I was mostly on my own.

So a few minor epiphanies later I ran away from home and joined the circus. A succession of circuses, really. There was the acting troupe, the snake-oil show, the acrobats, the faux gypsies (that ended badly), the other acting troupe, the (tasteful) dancing harem, and the spiritualism show. Each of these had their own favored sidelines; gambling, pick-pocketing, poaching, whoring, opium, smuggling, impersonating royalty, highway robbery, take your pick. I learned a lot. And in between travel, whenever I needed somewhere to land for a while, there were the local vagabonds…the artist collectives, the bored salons, the “legitimate” theaters, the bohemian flops…even the occasional royal court. Every kingdom has its keys and every guard his bribes. I should put that in an ode. Unless I did already. Damn, Saddiq might own that one. Ah well.

Some might see my lack of assets and contacts as a disadvantage, but I don’t. I know many people, but all through masks and carefully crafted fantasies that they would not thank me to dispel. I neither beg nor borrow: all of my access, all of my funding is for services rendered. That there is no one in the world that owes me anything, and nobody I owe, means that no one comes blundering after me calling me the Duchess Cantemir when I am playing Oguna the Seer. Debts make people need to know more about you, and that’s a bad thing in the fantasy business. And that’s really what I do, my performance, my gift. I can hold my own at dancing or oratory or stage acting or simple coin tricks and the like; I can take my merely passable face and figure and adorn it to create any of a hundred captivating women (or even a couple of men, in a pinch); I can extemporize a poem while fencing or spin a witty tale over dinner in six languages, but it’s the lie that turns my workmanlike charms into marvels. It’s the lie they invite to the banquet. I am a fair-to-middling performer, but a virtuoso of the delightful illusion.

And it’s been a good life, a good time. But I don’t think it can last. I don’t know for certain my age, but I’m starting to be aware of it all the same. I still feel young, just not as young as I used to. Sleeping on the ground or riding all night leave me with aches that don’t vanish so quickly. For every group or town I leave, I catch myself wondering if I’ll ever be back. I think of my modest supply caches, robber caves, and hidden wagons in terms of what would happen to them if they lay truly abandoned.

I’ve been mostly on my own this last year, meandering back towards Paris after alienating my most recent associates in a snake oil show. It’s an amazing show…mesmerism, electrical and magnetic therapies, tinctures and poultice powders, the works…but I started feeling restless and suggested that we might try to work some real doctoring in the show, create some real medicines in addition to the old dishwater tonics. It occurs to me, after all, that in my travels I’ve picked up more than a few genuine marvels of scientific thought (Vaccines! Imagine!) and my next endeavor might not be made entirely of lies. I don’t think that I was “getting above myself” or any of the other wretched things they accused me of, but it was clearly time to go. I’ve done well enough on my own, but the stops have been brief, and I’ve stuck to established characters except for bringing out The Doctor for a few test runs. The costume isn’t right yet, and my hands shake, but peoples’ reactions have been encouraging. I made her English and Arabic, and that seems to resolve the novelty for most Europeans. I’ll likely put her away for Paris, though. Paris is for parties. And this is, after all, a homecoming.

Noemie Villaneuve

Secrets of the Inner Sea mnemoscat roenmcgloane