Fleur du Mal
First Appearance: March 1977
Fleur du Mal is a humanoid female 5’4” tall and weighing approximately 110lbs. She has very fair skin, deep violet eyes, and dark brown hair, generally worn at least shoulder length and dyed a dark wine red.
She generally wears a low-cut, long-sleeved black gown of lace and satin, and various pieces of antique jewelry. Her natural scent appears to change depending on her emotional state, varying from perfume-like notes of rose and jasmine to heavier aromas of humus and mildew.
Dahlia DuBois was born March 20, 1956 in Los Angeles, CA. Her mother, Rose Perdue, was a 19 year old aspiring actress and household servant of her father, Henry DuBois, a prominent real estate developer. Henry’s wife, Hazel, learned of the pregnancy quickly. Infertile herself (perhaps as a consequence of alcoholism), she demanded that she and her husband raise the child, for which they could provide a far better life than could a poor domestic. Frightened, offered a substantial sum of money, and unable to fault Hazel’s logic, Rose quickly acquiesced. However, after seeing her child, delivered in secret after a difficult labor at the DuBois' guest house, Rose began to have second thoughts. Once well enough to be sent packing, she confronted Henry, threatening to publicize her plight if Dahlia wasn’t returned. Henry understandably feared his wife’s wrath and potential consequences of divorce. Hazel was herself a department store heiress (née Rothbard), with superior wealth and social connections, and had ample evidence of Henry’s habitual philandering and scandalous predilections. Panicked arguing with Rose escalated to grappling, a fall on the marble garden staircase, and a hurried burial by Henry in a dark corner of the garden under the full moon.
Dahlia grew to be a precocious, though never very talkative child. Lavishly generous in a material sense, her adoptive parents were emotionally erratic, alternately doting and neglectful. Dahlia was respectful of, but never emotionally dependent on her parents. At home she preferred to spend her time alone, often wandering the estate’s extensive gardens. She had a particular affinity for a large tea rose bush that had grown in a certain dark corner of the garden, notable for its unusually dark burgundy red blooms.
By the time she was 10, Dahlia had mentioned more than once to her parents that she’d heard fairy voices in the garden, but they understandably had dismissed the tales as childhood fantasy. One day, however, Henry stumbled across her in the garden, and was chilled at the sight of her seemingly speaking to an unfamiliar rose bush, growing in a spot he’d been avoiding for the past decade. He directed the gardener to cut down the bush, which he did, with great difficulty – its thorns inflicted a number of wicked scratches in the process. Dahlia was at first inconsolable on discovering the removal of the bush. But she regained her composure with news that the gardener had called in sick, and showed one of her rare smiles soon after on the news of his death from blood poisoning.
Henry spread various herbicides on the site, intent on making sure that the bush was dead, but hesitating to excavate its roots. The spot indeed remained barren for some time, and Henry eventually stopped checking it. But not long after Dahlia’s 13th birthday the rose bush spontaneously and rapidly began to regrow. Dahlia resumed her visits, this time more cautiously, and usually by night. She avoided discovery for almost two years until Henry, returning home from a late-night liaison, spotted his daughter returning from the garden. Horrified by what he found by the marble staircase, he grabbed a can of gasoline from the garage to burn the offending shrub – an effort ill-advised in his intoxicated state. The new gardener found him the following morning near the ashes of the bush, burned over most of his body, with charred pieces of thorny vine twined around his ankles. He died after a brief but agonizing hospital stay.
As the widowed Hazel spiraled deeper into alcoholism, Dahlia was sent to a boarding school outside Los Angeles. She formed few social attachments there, preferring to spend her free time on excursions into the adjoining Angeles National Forest. Over the years on these trips she made a number of acquaintances, if not close friends, among members of the LA “hippie” counterculture, becoming particularly known for her willingness to liberally dispense cash to fellow nature enthusiasts in need.
In her later teens she became more closely associated with one of the groups she had encountered, a cultish group of nature-oriented free spirits styling itself the “Chain of Being”. Chiefly occupying itself with communal camping at scenic sites throughout southern California, and observance of quasi-astrologically justified orgiastic rites, the group had gradually come under the charismatic leadership of Stanford dropout, former lifeguard, and petty criminal Albert “Skylark” Skyler. His attempts to fund the group through small-time drug dealing had, however, been only falteringly successful.
Skylark soon cultivated a relationship with Dahlia, due less to her physical charms (considerable though they were) than to her ability to fund food, drugs, and transportation for the Chain. While Skylark always sought to maintain control over Dahlia’s resources and her relationship to the group, the intensity of her personality won her increasing personal influence over time.
Dahlia returned home after graduation to find her stepmother’s health, the family fortune, and the estate itself in advanced states of decline. The gardens however, long untended, had overgrown into a veritable jungle, much to Dahlia’s delight. Hazel, incapable of objecting coherently, was moved with her nurse into the guest house, and the main house and gardens became the Chain of Being’s new base of operations.
Dahlia soon became better acquainted with the spiritual doctrines of the Chain. Some years before, while looting a disused old Spanish mission church near Palm Springs, Skylark had made off with a large, antique volume that he had assumed to be an illuminated Bible. On closer examination he had identified it as a renaissance-era “herbal” – filled with lush and elaborate illustrations of plants, both real and seemingly imagined – entitled Letanie et Arcanae Sperma Vorax (Litany and Sacred Secrets of the Devouring Seed).
Skylark’s spottily remembered CCD Latin had been sufficient to realize that that the book celebrated the natural world, particularly the vegetable kingdom, and foretold its triumph over the corrupt and weak institutions and inventions of mankind. Patching together his translations with more than a little wishful thinking, he had adapted some of the book’s outré rituals honoring and entreating nature to become moonlight observances for the Chain, incidentally reinforcing his power over the group, and particularly its female membership.
Dahlia is believed to have rapidly soured on Skylark’s hypocritical and self-aggrandizing leadership of the Chain, but to have been sufficiently intrigued by the Letanie to mostly conceal her feelings in order to retain access to the book. Her relationship with Skylark grew more tempestuous, however, as she could not quite fully resist publicly criticizing and mocking his excesses.
On nights when the moon was particularly bright, Dahlia often took the Letanie to a certain corner of the wild garden where a particularly dark-blooming tea rose bush had begun to regrow. Unable to read Latin, at first she merely admired its elaborate illustrations. In time, however, she could be heard murmuring the text, as if repeating the words of an unseen tutor. Following the book’s directions and recipes, she took to harvesting various parts of the garden’s plants, including thorns, petals, and nectar from the dark burgundy rose. Some she consumed herself, while others she mixed into essences and preparations that she distributed to the members of the Chain, describing them variously as seasonings, aphrodisiacs, or intoxicants. All partook of them, knowingly or not.
On Dahlia’s 21st birthday, festivities were interrupted when Skylark responded violently to her customary sniping – first verbally, and then with a physical beating. Some members of the Chain restrained Skylark, but most were unwilling to side openly against their acknowledged leader. Dahlia, bruised, but seemingly unruffled, climbed the stairs of the entry hall and launched into a lengthy rant. Accusing the whole of the Chain of being poseurs, dedicated to petty hedonism at best, and at worst to the veneration of a mere human (and a man at that) over holy Mother Earth, she granted “absolution” to the 12 party attendees who she credited with defending her, and consigned the rest to “Gaea’s Judgment.”
As Dahlia trailed off into a Latin chant, Skylark climbed the stairs to silence her, but abruptly collapsed into convulsions. The members of the Chain not “absolved” by Dahlia soon followed, in the hall and throughout the estate. Dahlia’s chanting grew stronger, her injuries healing before the eyes of her chosen, as vines and briars burst from scores of writhing bodies and grew over the floors, walls, and furnishings. When police arrived, summoned by neighbors alarmed by the screams and crashes that echoed from the property, they found only a bewildering tangle of vegetation, adorned with fragments of the mansion and members of the Chain.
Dahlia and her followers dropped out of sight for several years, with conflicting reports placing them anywhere from former Chain of Being haunts in central California to various wilderness sites in the Rocky Mountains or Pacific Northwest. “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski has claimed to have met with them in Montana during this period, though his accounts have proven inconsistent.
Early incidents of “direct action” by environmental extremists in the late 1970s, including the sabotage of logging equipment, are believed to have inspired Dahlia’s own, much more violent attacks on several US Pacific Northwest and Canadian logging camps in 1980-82. In the course of these attacks, which relied primarily on animated trees and plants and resulted in a total of 17 deaths and numerous injuries, Dahlia first publicly identified herself as “Fleur du Mal” and appeared in her costume, which has remained essentially unchanged since. By 1983, Fleur du Mal discontinued her attacks on loggers in the face of extensive deployment of National Guard forces in a security role. This was perhaps less due to any real difficulty in overcoming those forces, than to the extensive collateral damage to surrounding woodlands that had begun to result when Fleur du Mal’s followers and animated plant life clashed with increasingly panic-prone and incendiary-equipped troops.
Throughout the 1980s Fleur du Mal formed a series of alliances with mystically-oriented millennialist groups of anything from Christian to neo-pagan to Satanist orientation, apparently seeking magical means of bringing about the downfall of human civilization. That only a few of these groups seem to have possessed any real supernatural power or knowledge may be evidence of the narrowness of her own knowledge of the magical arts, or may indicate that her objective in these alliances has more been the use of outside groups as cannon fodder, rather than access to additional substantive power.
By far the most powerful of Fleur du Mal’s allies was the supervillain Elagabalus, who led a cult devoted to the ancient fertility goddess Cybele Magna Mater. In 1986 the two sought to sacrifice the daughter of Italy’s UN ambassador to Cybele at a northern New Jersey grotto, in the apparent hope that this deity would manifest in a form sufficiently powerful to bring about the destruction of human civilization. After an intense fight, the two were defeated by superheroes of the New York Defenders, and imprisoned.
Fleur du Mal died at Rikers Island three years later of unknown causes. This is now believed to have been her first use of a magical spell that brings about her death and rebirth in the body of a victim previously prepared for the purpose. She has maintained a comparatively low profile since that first rebirth. She has, however, apparently traveled globally, providing assistance to indigenous groups in the Amazon basin, central Africa, Indonesia, and Siberia, which mount guerilla opposition to land development and resource exploitation. No longer having access to her family wealth, she occasionally commits robberies in urban areas, or even sells her services to criminal organizations, to raise capital to support herself and her followers.
Fleur du Mal displays a low level of Heightened Agility, demonstrating unusual flexibility, including voluntary joint dislocation. She has not, however, been observed to display true bodily plasticity such as would be classified as “stretching powers”.
Fleur du Mal has the apparent ability to transfer life energy to or from subjects in physical contact, most commonly revitalizing herself while weakening her target. While it normally takes some time for this ability to incapacitate or endanger a healthy target, Fleur du Mal can manipulate the energy flow in a manner traumatic to the subject, causing potentially fatal shock.
Fleur du Mal is capable of vastly accelerating her body’s regenerative capabilities at will, having been observed to regenerate serious injuries and even lost limbs in seconds. She may be able to induce this regeneration in others through physical contact, though this has not been confirmed through observation.
Conversely, Fleur du Mal has demonstrated the ability to will herself into a state of hibernation-like sleep of indefinite duration, or beyond this to physical death. She has self-destructed on at least three occasions to escape imprisonment. On each occasion, her consciousness has apparently been transferred to a new body grown for the purpose. The process by which this occurs is not well understood, but each regrowth is apparently destructive to one of a number of Fleur du Mal’s close followers (assumed to have been members of her original circle of 12), who are believed to have been prepared expressly for the purpose. While some of those followers are currently in custody, others remain at large, and all are believed to be potential vehicles for this spell.
Fleur du Mal can exert substantial influence over plant life: animating it, dramatically stimulating its growth, communicating with and sensing through it, and absorbing energy through it. She is apparently able to recover information “observed” by plants a significant time after the fact, though the specific sensory capabilities, much less “memory” of plant life are poorly understood, if acknowledged at all, by science. Her applications of animated plant life can be inventive and insidious – including extensive infiltration of buildings and other structures, the destructive undermining of such structures, concealing herself or conveying herself over extended distances, and even the use of animal and human carcasses as frameworks for plants to be freely ambulatory.
While her direct range of influence over vegetable matter seems to be limited to a few yards, she can apparently extend such influence from one plant to another via physical contact – If sufficiently close to a tree, for example, she can effect any trees, grass, or other plants whose roots are in contact with that tree’s roots, or whose foliage is in contact with its foliage, and so on across a large field or wooded area. The maximum range for such “chaining” is unknown.
Fleur du Mal possesses extensive knowledge of vegetable biology and ecology, collected during her schooling, from the Letanie, and apparently from some form of discourse with plants themselves. She is an expert at the formulation of plant-based medicines and poisons. In addition to English, she reads and speaks Spanish at a high school level, and has some level of facility with Latin. She also apparently possesses alternative, probably magical, means of communicating in numerous other languages as well.
Fleur du Mal is not known to carry any tools or equipment on her person. While she is still believed to possess a copy of the Letanie, she does not carry it with her, and it has not been seen by anyone outside her trusted circle since 1977.