"For a hundred years I offered ugly death to everyone I met, and I did it with a song in my heart."
— Angel, "Angel"
Late April 1795
A small, deserted fishing village just outside Marseilles
Marie-Jeanette de Shayes angrily brushed at her dirt-dulled, raven-black hair with one hand, trying to free it from where the sweat of battle had plastered it to her face. She saw the blood as her hand pulled away. A split lip, nothing more, but the last thing she wanted to be wearing while attempting to destroy an unexpected gathering of les vampires was the reek of blood.
Kicking absently at the pile of ash that had seconds before been her foe, Marie-Jeanette tucked her peasant skirts up higher, reached for the worn leather bag in which she kept her stakes, and moved quietly towards the next fisherman's hut. She was l'Assassin, the one girl in all the world chosen to fight the evil creatures that walked at night. It was a duty she had made her life— avoiding suitors, and making only a token effort at her nominal trade as a weaver's assistant.
Keeping to the shadows, every sense primed, she moved to the edge of the low, crumbling wall. Luckily for her, she was much better at this endless hunt, her true vocation, than at the weaving. Louisa had come to utterly despair of her success as a proper young woman in the daylight world, but for nearly five years Marie-Jeanette had walked the night successfully, beating back the seemingly endless tide of les demons, Louisa at her side.
Marie-Jeanette knew that old Louisa had been la Veilleuse, mentor and friend, to two Assassins before her. After all, one mistake was all it took; no one can fight endless death forever and win. The life of l'Assassin was hard and short, but without their efforts, evil would overcome the entire world. And so she fought on, as they all had, generation after generation.
Louisa never spoke of them— the other two— save in the course of her lessons. The pain of their loss was still too great for her. But now it was Louisa herself that Marie-Jeanette most worried for as she crossed a small hen yard, feeling terribly exposed in the moonlight. One of the fiends had taken la Veilleuse to hold as bait for her, and the only thing calming the pounding of her heart was the knowledge that they would have to keep Louisa safe if they planned to offer any sort of a bargain.
Coming around the side of a large weather-worn chicken coop she spotted yet another victim, tossed bonelessly against a rubbish heap. Muttering curses under her breath and keeping a careful watch in all directions, Marie-Jeanette knelt down to feel the young man's neck. It was already ice-cold, and the two puncture wounds at his throat told the story she knew too well. With a sigh for one more loss, she turned away....
She never had time to see his face as he came at her. Never had time to react as a preternaturally strong hand grasped her arm and pulled her off balance. Never had time to scream as the corpse beneath her reared up, sank its fangs in her neck, and drained her life away.
The vampire who had killed her— tall, dark, and handsome, despite his pale skin and contorted features— threw his head back and howled his triumph at the waning moon. A simple trick, to play upon her preconceptions and her sympathies, he gloated as he felt her blood thrilling through him like a liquid fire. It hadn't been so hard at all, no matter that Darla had called him a fool for going after such a prize while still so young....
Tossing the lifeless body of the Slayer towards the far side of the rubbish heap, where it landed against the long-cold corpse of her Watcher, Angelus headed off to track down his maker.
After all, he had some serious bragging rights to exercise now.