MJ Neary Interviews Daniel Dufort from Blood of the Stone Prince
Monsieur Dufort is one of the most striking young men I’ve ever seen. Six and a half foot tall, with long hair the color of Purgatory flames and protruding shoulder blades that look like malformed wings, he resembles a discarded angel. It is as if God had started making a celestial being and then changed His mind half-way through and sent this remarkable young man to live among humans. He was only fourteen years old when he became the organist at Notre-Dame de Paris. Today he opens up about some of the behind-the-scenes ecclesiastic intrigues.
DD: Thank you for distracting me from my composition. I’m in the middle of writing a burial mass for one of the King’s archers, so pray to God you don’t ask me any stupid questions like: “What do you like about your job?”
MJN: You are safe with me, Monsieur Dufort. As an author I get bombarded with them during interviews. I would never insult a creative person in such manner. Your voice sounds hoarse. Are you ill?
DD: Believe it or not, I sound like this all the time. Too much frankincense. Our new bishop, Louis de Beaumont, is a stingy owl. He won’t splurge on quality frankincense. The other reason is that I don’t use my voice much. I communicate with the world through my music. And when that doesn’t work, I use my fists. That usually gets the message across.
MJN: With so many talented young men in France, how did you become the organist of Notre-Dame?
DD: It’s about being at the right place at the right time. My predecessor, Philippe Chauvel died conveniently. One morning we found him with his skull cracked open. He must’ve slipped on a slab of melted wax. At least, that’s what I was told.
MJN: Do you really believe that is what happened?
DD: Not in a million years. Blood gets shed at Notre-Dame quite frequently – but it also gets cleaned up quickly. When the cathedral decides to share its secrets with me, it will. All I must do is touch the stone, and it speaks to me. That’s why they call me Stone Prince.
MJN: What were some of the challenges you encountered initially?
DD: Apart from being stuck with substandard instrument and lousy acoustics? The attitude of the choir. They missed Philippe Chauvel and make sure to let me know that they were not happy with the replacement. One singer in particular drove me insane with his constant comments. He kept telling me that I was playing too loudly, that I needed to tone down a bit. Then he started spreading rumors that my music was inspired by the Devil, that it was driving the faithful to crime and suicide.
MJN: Those are rather serious accusations. Were you worried?
DD: Not in the least. They cannot do anything to me. I have a letter of immunity. I’ve never seen the thing myself, but my master claims to be in possession of it. Supposedly, it comes straight from the Vatican. It guarantees me protection from prosecution in the ecclesiastic court. That’s all there is to it. I can still get tried and executed for a secular crime like any other Parisian.
MJN: Tell us about your master.
DD: Monseigneur Desmoulins? His real surname was Van der Mollen. His mother was Florentine and his father Flemish. He uses the French version of his surname, so an average Parisian idiot can pronounce it. I don’t know what he is doing here. I think he joined the church on a whim, because everyone joked about him looking good in black. And he does! He’s one of the best looking clergymen in France – and the least pious. I keep waiting for him to get accused of heresy. He’s always locking horns with the bishop. He and Louis are the same age. Louis only became the bishop because of his connections. His appointment has nothing to do with intellect.
MJN: How did you end up in your master’s care?
DD: You don’t want to know. But I’ll tell you anyway. There is an underground network of bastard-swapping. Raising your own love child is nepotism, but raising another man’s love child is charity. But in my master’s case, it’s not even charity. He gets paid a generous amount for keeping me.
MJN: Do you know your real father?
DD: Pierre de Laval, the Archbishop of Reims. So technically, I’m not an orphan. I’m a bastard, a very high-born one. The Laval family is tightly linked to royalty through marriages and alliances. It’s hard for me to stay humble, knowing who my father is. Now, if you have a choice between being born into a traditional family that’s not going anywhere and being born a bastard to a very influential aristocrat or a clergyman, which path would you pick?
MJN: Do you have any advice for women who find themselves pursued by men of God?
DD: Don’t be afraid to say no. Nothing terrible with happen. He will leave you alone – eventually. However, if you say yes, make sure that your lover is discreet. If the affair is discovered, he will get a slap on the wrist – a monetary fine and, possibly, a transfer to a less desirable location. But you will be hanged or burned as a witch. This is the protocol the church has in place for discouraging affairs. If your cloth-wearing lover truly cares for you, he will not flaunt the affair.
MJN: Do you have any friends?
DD: Certainly. You can find their portraits on the walls of my cell. They are demonic beings, lizards with horns. They talk to me. They give me advice when I get stuck on a passage.
MJN: Let’s try again. Do you have any human friends?
DD: Lucius Castelmaure, a certain archer. He looks like a decomposing Greco-Roman god – perfect skeleton covered by withering muscle. He’s waiting for his current wife to die, so he can marry his distant cousin for her money. This is no joke. I do not envy him at all. At any rate, my master and I take fencing lessons from him. The city is growing increasingly unsafe, so it’s not a bad idea to learn self-defense skills.
MJN: Do you have a muse? I am referring to a love interest.
DD: Why, I do now. She’s an adopted daughter of a Wallachian traveler who makes imports horses. Believe it or not, he used to be the stable master for Vlad the Impaler. Agniese – that’s the girl’s name – has told me about her trek across Europe. There is just one small problem.
MJN: The young woman is polyamorous?
DD: That’s the lesser problem. It is true that Agniese is also interested in my master and Lucius. So there are three of us and only one of her. I could probably convince her to belong to me alone. I already told her I would dedicate my next piece to her. The real problem is that she is dying. There is something in her lungs. They call it “white fever”. She keeps coughing and wheezing. Of course, she could be doing that to get sympathy, but I don’t think it’s an act. She’ll either lose her virginity to one of us, or she’ll die a virgin. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to return to my commission, so I can start working on the piece for Agniese. I must complete it before she dies.
MJN: Do you have a title in mind?
DD: “Blood of the Stone Prince”.
Find out more about the author and connect with her at Penmore Press.