Rapier is the first successful superheroine from Fleur-De-Lis Comics, a high-end publisher based in New Francy. Since her premier in 2001, Rapier's adventures have become best-sellers in Louisianne and the NAL as well as the Federated Kingdoms. The books enjoy a small (but very faithful) following in their homeland.
Fleur-De-Lis publishes its books on glossy, relatively heavy-stock paper and as such they are more expensive than most superhero comic books. Yet the artwork is also superior to most others, and the stories are renowned for intricacy and foreshadowing. This, plus their slightly-larger-than-standard page count, allows them to publish every other month rather than monthly yet still show a profit.
Sylvie Vanglars is the oldest child and only daughter of a decorated maréchaussée officer--Capitaine Jules Vanglars--in Ville-Marie. She and her father had a tempestuous relationship, not least because he was very conservative while she was a lesbian. Upon learning that, he did not speak with her for over two years. Yet she followed him into the maréchaussée, which is more than her brother Jean-Luc ever did. He ended up convicted for burglary as a juvenile.
Another strain on the father-daughter relationship was that Sylvie eventually was forced from the maréchaussée and got work as head of security for a somewhat shadowy philanthropic group called El Orde dae Joualiae d'Zion. He insisted they had a bad reputation.
One night, someone tried to break into the museum maintained by El Orde. Sylvie was there and led an attempt to stop the thieves who were very well-equipted (to put it mildly). They headed into the oldest part of the museum, which was once was a nunnery. In the midst of what became a fire-fight, Sylvie grabbed a short sword--a sword that immediately responded in ways that defied physical laws. All by herself, she managed to drive the thieves away.
The secretive heads of El Orde, who called themselves The Tribunal, then contacted her with quite a story:
- Before the Flood recorded in Genesis, they claimed, an angel had a child by a human woman. This child, a daughter, married one of Noah's sons, thus creating a strain of Nephilim in the human species. In some women this strain is relatively pure, and the Angel who is their ancestor--as part of his penance for falling prey to physical desire--has made a weapon for them to defend the world from the primal evils of hell. El Orde dae Joualiae d'Zion exists to protect this weapon and pass it on when the Wielder appears. Past Wielders had included Joan of Arc and the British Queen Boedica. Now, the sword has chosen Sylvie.
She didn't believe them. Within a week, events changed her mind.
The Sword of Azreal, as it is called, is not like some kind of machine. In some way no creature of mere flesh can comprehend, it is alive and responds to its Wielder's needs. These powers are not automatic, but do become available as the wielder--Sylvie--becomes more attuned to the Sword.
Among its demonstrated abilities are:
- It can change length and breadth.
- It can deflect bullets.
- It can slice through stone or metal.
- It can render the wielder invisible to certain types of supernatural foes.
- It can detect and disrupt magic.
- It can wound and even destroy non-corporeal beings.
- It can glow.
- It can become very hot or very cold without affecting the wielder.
- It can teleport across distances of several miles.
- It can somehow make its wielder aware of its presence.
- It can look like a walking stick, umbrella or even pocket knife to unwary observers.
- It can distort mechanical recordings of itself and its wielder (cameras, tape recordings, etc.)
But evidently it does none of the above without what it somehow perceives as the need to do so. Sylvie Vanglars finds it very frustrating that the Sword of Azreal simply will not behave like an ordinary weapon. But then, it isn't one.
She has discovered some interesting facts about her own Nephilim blood. For one thing, she heals a little faster than normal, but many times faster if the wound is supernatural. Bitten by a vompire, for instance, Sylvie not only survived but regained her full strength within a day after losing close to a gallon of blood. Interestingly, this seems to be an ability she can pass one--temporarily--via a blood transfusion. She is also increasingly more able to detect the supernatural, sometimes perceiving auras or demonic possession.
Rapier, which is the codename Sylvie ultimately accepted, is all about a covert war taking place between supernatural factions all around us. What Les Chevaliers are concerned with is not just a serial killer, but a serial killer who is driven to act by the ghost of a dead one. Sylvie does not necessarily see it that way, which puts her into conflict sometimes with the Order. Yet the ultimate adjudicator in their disputes is the Sword of Azreal itself.
The most regular enemy Rapier faces is the Ragnarok Lodge, a centuries-old secret society of dark mystics based in Prussia. They believe the world is doomed to decay, and must be put out of its misery in order for a better tomorrow to become possible. In many ways they seem to be the exact opposites of El Orde, even claiming the Sword of Azreal is actually theirs, and that Sylvie's superhuman heritage is really demonic, not angelic.
Another recurring foe is a woman who calls herself Medusa, and hints that she (or her family) are the source of many myths across history, including Medusa and Lilith and the Hindoo goddess Kali. Medusa is also a Nephilim, but of a purer strain since the union that created them happened in (barely) recorded history and has been strengthened via incest. She does not dispute Sylvie's right to the Sword, only the right of El Orde to have anything to do with it.
Medusa is also romatically interested in Sylvie, which is the source of considerable tension because Sylvie does indeed find her attractive. But she is apalled by Medusa's ruthlessness in trying to bring down the Ragnarok Lodge. Other than her relentless war on the Lodge, Medusa's primary goal seems to be weaning Sylvie away from the influence of the Tribunal. She has even warned that they've killed Wielders in the past.
Generally speaking, the individual exploits of Rapier center around some kind of supernatural threat that government authorities are powerless to prevent or deal with in any way. Or are they? In fact, it seems increasingly clear that a secret branch of the New Francy government (Le bureau du septième jour) is very aware of the supernatural and has its own agenda. They are beginning to investigate Sylvie.
On a personal level, Sylvie continues to have problems with her father and brother (who has recently been paroled). The former has begun to do some research into El Orde and has learned (among other things) they were declared heretics by Rome a long time ago. She has begun dating--or trying to date--a detective in the maréchaussée named Josette LeBret who is becoming increasingly suspicious of Sylvie's activities. The Tribunal have assigned a man named Guillaume to serve as their representative to Sylvie, and he seems to have an astonishing amount of esoteric knowledge at his disposal as well as access to some very exotic material (herbs, relics, etc.). He seems a cold, even distant man but--unknown to her--defends her actions passionately before the Tribunal.
Among the storylines explored in Rapier have been:
- The quest for a vial containing (supposadely) the tears Lucifer shed when cast out of heaven. Although seemingly lost at sea at the end, in fact Medusa ended up with the vial. Why she wanted it remains unclear.
- The tracking down of a vompire coven that was taking over organized crime in Ville-Marie.
- The discovery of an alchemist who had created a "mystic" drug, one bestowing euphoria and success at the price of gradually corrupting the soul of the user.
- The exorcism of a haunted prison where a production company was filming a horror movie. It turned out several of the spectres trapped there were innocent, and one at least had been arrested by Sylvie's father.
(NOTE: "Rapier" is the name of the book in English, tailored as it is for an English-speaking audience. In New Francy itself, as well as Louisianne and France, the book is titled "L'Epee d'Azreal")