"There's no rules in this game," he said, his eyes glittering as he tilted the girl's chin to force her to stare at the bloody mess on the floor. "If I have to do it for you the next time, I will break your fingers. One by one."

I observed quietly at the doorway, hood pulled low over my face. He already knew I was here and watching him; that I had no doubt.

The girl was already shaking. She managed a quick, frantic nod and turned from him in a birdlike movement – she was a pretty girl, blond-haired and blue-eyed. She couldn't be older than six or seven. She saw me and gave a little startled movement, her tear-filled eyes catching the weapons hanging from my belt, the purplish blood dripping from my fingers, and promptly ran from the room with a little gasp.

"Don't you think you're a little harsh on the kids?" I drawled, pulling the hood down.

"I have no use of you teaching my brats. Come here."

He motioned to the table, where a few silver dishes lay, glinting gently in the dim lamplight.

I removed the folded damp cloth I tied around my belt, stained purple from the object within.

This was Le Petit Reunion de Sorcieres, ironically named "The little coven of witches" in French. A group of witch-hunters, led by the charismatic Armand de Braille, a golden-eyed black-haired, powerfully-built man, who is by no means ordinary. His organisation is funded by child prostitutes.

Armand unwrapped the cloth reverently.

In it, nestled deep within the dark folds of the cloth, lay a pulsing, amethyst heart.