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The Adder of Monte Cristo

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Louis Dantes was wading in the sea with his old, frayed fishing net when he found the child wandering alone on the beach.

"What's your name, boy?"

"Edmund," the boy looked up with guarded eyes.

A tiny little thing who looked to be no older than four years old, he was dressed in the remains of what should have been a fine black shirt and shivering. Already pitying poor little Edmond, the old fisher Dantes put on a warm smile. "Where are your parents?"

Edmond considered. "Well, last I saw her, mother said she's going to heaven and that we would find each other there. I'm not sure where father is. He said he has as good a chance being allowed in as a baboon being welcomed into a - well, a bad word that I'm not allowed to say, see," the boy told him seriously, confirming Louis's guess that he was an unfortunate victim of the Revolution. Orphans of former aristocrats were only too common these days. "The problem is, I don't know how to get to heaven. Mother should've given me better instructions."

"My dear child," Louis said gently, "I don't know where heaven is, but it's a long way off and you're far too young to go."

"Too young? Like I'm too young to go into that place that's a bad word that I'm not allowed to say?"

"Er… Maybe?"

"Damn!"

Louis Dantes was a kindly, wholesome fellow, so what could he do but take the boy in? "Why don't you stay with me and live as my son in the meantime? You can be Edmond Dantes."

Edmond Dantes. Louis thought it sounded like a lovely name. Although, if Louis had known then which dynasty the boy belonged to, it was possible that he would not have encouraged the boy's hopes of heaven quite so much.

The boy - Edmond Dantes nee Blackadder - smiled. He would've liked to find mother or father, but having an actual roof to sleep under would be nice too.


Old Louis Dantes was a very different sort of man from Edmond's original father (who was often described more flatteringly as a conniving son of a bitch and less flatteringly as something that did not bear hearing), and so tried very hard to raise his adopted son accordingly. Thanks to his second father's teachings, Edmond was someone people could count on, or at least he presented himself as such. Therefore, it was Edmond who was chosen to accompany the ailing captain to step ashore on Elba.

"Thank you for delivering this package, young man," said Napolean Bonaparte. The captain had unfortunately dropped unconscious the minute they stepped ashore, so the pleasure of meeting Napolean fell to Edmond instead. "and your name is Dantes, you said? You know, you remind me strongly of an aristocrat I killed fifteen years back. I remember him distinctly because when we got him he was celebrating the long-awaited fruition of his efforts to get himself appointed as ambassador to England, which was ironically a ploy to get away from us."

"Do I? That's flattering, sir."

"I can't quite remember his name," the exiled emperor reminisced, "but it wasn't Dantes. It was more like something English. But enough talks of dead aristocrats. Deliver this letter to M. Noitier for me, will you?"

Edmond hid the letter away and didn't think very much of it. He was as keen on doing favours for Napolean as a sickly old dog being told to be a good boy and fetch the gun, but he couldn't very well refuse. If anything, it should prove to be an entertaining read even if he didn't end up delivering it to this Noirtier person.

Imagine his surprise when the mere morning after returning home, he was hauled in to the prosecutor's office for aiding Bonapartists. 

Now, if Edmond had been given the opportunity to check the integrity of the incriminating letter's hiding place, he would've realized that certain jealous individuals made the charge up with no actual knowledge of the letter, in which case he would have claimed ignorance. However, things all happened very quickly, so Edmond instead came up with what he believed was an excellently cunning plan. "Why, funny you should ask! I was just about to see you about this matter later this morning. Bonaparte wanted me to give a letter to a M. Noirtier, who is obviously a good friend of his. Any idea who he is?" 

It was a plan so cunning you can stick a tail on it and call it a weasel. Distract the prosecutor with a bigger fish to catch, and he'll forget about Edmond's "offences" in no time! It wasn't as if Edmond actually cared about Bonaparte's cause after he literally joked about killing his parents in the same breath.

Unfortunately for Edmond, Noirtier turned out to be Prosecutor Villefort's grandfather.

What could he say? Sometimes when fortune vomits into one's kettle and kicks one into a shitty cell in Chateau d'If, one just had to grin and bear it.


 

SQUEEECH! SQUEEECH! SQUEEECH! 

Edmond lifted his head from where he lay face-down on the floor. "Excuse me! Would you tone that down a bit? Some of us are trying to starve to death in peace over here!"

The scratching stopped, only to be replaced by a disgruntled-sounding voice. "What, really? I was under the impression that your side was the outside!"

"Sorry to disappoint! We're no closer to freedom than a Bonapartist trying to take down imperialism!"

Still, Edmond struck up a friendship with the dishevelled face that popped into his cell. His fellow prisoner, Abbe Faria, turned out to be quite the renaissance man, and taught Edmond his crafts while Edmond regaled him with tales of his time as a sailor. The old friar was quite taken with his young protegee and tried to guide him to see the treachery around him…

("You do realize what it sounds like when the prosecutor locked you in here for life right after hearing his grandfather's name, right?"

"That there's no justice in the world, Danglars is a sad but cowardly traitor, Fernand is exactly the piece of cow excrement that I always thought he was, and my friend Caderousse is in fact not worthy of licking my boots?"

"Well I wouldn't word it quite so strongly, but yes…")

… and he also tried to help Edmond plan for the future…

("I know it might not look like it, Edmond, but we still might get out of here, and you should think about what to do with your life afterwards."

"Well, I think I'd like to destroy a couple of bastards while getting rich and respected, and then grow old and annoy people by pretending to be deaf…")

… and he even showed Edmond a map of a trove of treasure that was rumoured to be hidden on the island of Monte Cristo:

"Centuries ago, an English lord was trying to explore the uncharted waters by sailing to Port Hope, but he shipwrecked at Monte Cristo on his way home. It was said that he left some priceless treasure behind, perhaps to lighten the load in his weakened ship. This lord was said to be one of the richest man in England during his time, Edmond. Think of all the things we could accomplish if we find this lost treasure!"

"It's all well and good that he was rich, but how do you know he left a treasure there?"

"Well, it was said that the lord tried to go back to the island several times after the Port Hope expedition, so there must've been something there, right?"

"Oh. Okay then."

But time passed, escape was no where in sight, and eventually, the Abbe fell ill. "Well, I think it's my turn to depart for heaven as well," said the old man.

"That's a pity," muttered Edmond at the cooling corpse before dragging it away to use in his own cunning plan, "I was actually enjoying your company, and heaven won't be where I'm going after I'm finished."

Now, to escape, and then to see about that treasure his late friend mentioned…


 "...That's it? A small pile of trash, a bottle that looks suspiciously like urine, and some old trash-covered book?"

Edmond rubbed his temples. He really needed a seat - but then saw the filth that littered the site of the "treasure trove" and quickly reconsidered.

"Oh sir, maybe it's just a matter of perspective!" said Edmond's enthusiastic unpaid servant. "They say one man's trash is another man's treasure. Maybe for you this is a bottle of piss, but for somebody else this is a bottle of the finest wine!"

Baldrick was a fellow who had decided that he was eternally indebted to Edmond after Edmond had inadvertently saved him from being dismembered by a boatful of pirates. Edmond found his companion a bit dim-witted (which was an understatement), but he had his uses.

"Baldrick, the only person who'd count that as fine wine would be, well…" … someone like you, Edmond finished silently. 

What the devil was he supposed to do now? He was counting on this stroke of fortune! His profits from taking over the group of pirates that tried to dismember Baldrick didn't regenerate that quickly! Sighing at the bad hand that fortune had once again dealt him, Edmond picked up the book - the only item in the cave that had the potential to be remotely useful - and flipped it open.

"Property of Lord Edmund Blackadder.

Today I can begin writing in my diary, for I have finally found a proper place to keep it. This book should under no occasion be read by anyone else but me while I live, because then I am as good as dead. People would know, for example, that I pretend to be filthy rich by a carefully woven web of lies when all I have is a couple dozen quids in the whole world. If you happen to be a descendent of mine, this is the reason you received no inheritance. Although, if you do happen to be a descendent of mine, then you will likely find this book most instructive…"

"See," Baldrick was still talking, "for me that's just any old junk, but for you it's something to stare at for half a hour!"

"Good news, Baldrick," said Edmond as he leafed through his ancestor's diary in fascination, "I think I have another cunning plan. We're going to Italy…"