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On July 26, 1683, near the village of Roumégoux, an infant was abandoned under the statue of Gauthier Fendar, founder of the Vigilants monastery. The baby was discovered by Eusébius, the gatekeeper, and created a stir within the peaceful community not because the situation was unusual in those days of great poverty, but because of the terrible wound disfiguring the infant's face : a person or animal had torn off the infant's nose. The wound was skilfully cauterized by Empirique, and the baby was baptized the same day. It was given the name of Justinien Trouvé, after the Emperor Justinien who suffered the same mutilation at the hands of infidels. The foundling was turned over to Eponine Coustouly, a wet-nurse of good repute. Her husband Martin, a former sailor who was also hal-pirate, took a liking to Justinien and fashioned a wooden nose for him, making him appear more human. Martin took Justinien's moral and military education in hand. Justinien's world collapsed the day the Grand Vigilant told him that he would have to become a monk, and instructed him to leave immediately for the monastery at Racleterre. Justinien's life suddenly became a series of picaresque adventures, both cruel and initiatory, as he sought answers to his fate and the mystery surrounding his birth...