Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Fiction: Broke Leg or Jaw, Your Choice Ch 3-5

Chapter 3: Loose Ends

Father Signoret returned to the Jesuit House after Norbert’s rescue. Waiting for him was a hooded figure in the robes of a Dominican Friar. The Friar questioned Signoret about his actions and warned him that his immortal soul was in danger. He harangued the Jesuit on the dangers of sin said that “The stench of the pit is upon you, priest.”

Father Signoret was confused about what the Friar meant, Does this Friar know that we went to The Pit to rescue Norbert? Has he been watching me?

“You stink of the Devil’s sulfur. Beware the smell of Hell. Stay on the path of righteousness. For sulfur and brimstone shall surely follow if you stay on the road to Hell. Vengeance is mine sayth the Lord! He who liveth by the sword, so shall he perish by the sword.”

The Friar’s speech grew more frenzied. He spat his words at Signoret. “Woe be unto you for if you are touched with the taint of witchcraft then no Jesuit casuistry will save you from the fires of hell and God’s righteous vengeance. As it is said in the Book of Exodus, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’”

“Oh sinful priest, repent while there is yet time!”

Although the frenzied voice sounded familiar, the deep cowl of the friar’s hood shadowed his face. Before he slipped inside the Jesuit House, Signoret moved so that the light from the door lantern illuminated the ranting friar’s face. As I thought. It is Friar Fitellus di Canem, Rome’s Inquisitor.

Guy went to visit his cousin Lucien and questioned him about the Seige of Negripelise. Guy learned that the siege was a terrible affair. The town was given up to sack. Women were raped. Men and women killed, not even the children and the little babies were spared. In the chaos of looting and violence, fires were started and the entire town was burnt to the ground. His cousin Lucien was still tormented by the things he had seen and the suffering that he could not prevent.

After speaking with Lucien, Guy asked Gaston about the siege. Moved by Lucien’s description and continuing torment, Guy’s questions were accusatory towards the soldiers involved. Gaston told Guy he could not understand having never been in such a situation and Gaston, the old soldier, became defensive and the two nearly quarreled.

Clearly, Guy though, these events were most unusual and there may be something here.

Meanwhile Guy had his network of spies question other soldiers in Paris who were at the siege. He particularly had them focus on the following four topics.[i]

1.       Their observations of the Prince de Condé at the Siege of Negripelise.

2.       The role and conduct of the Prince during the siege and subsequent events

3.       What responsibility the Prince personally had for the harsh conduct towards the Huguenots.

4.       Any rumors in regards to the Prince’s role, conduct, or responsibility regarding the siege and subsequent events.

Norbert was looking forward to his enrollment in the Cardinal’s Red Guards and the swearing in ceremony. With the help of his new valet, Mel, Norbert’s clothes were brushed clean and his boots were shined better than new. As he looked in the mirror, Norbert thought he had never looked better. I can hardly wait to see how I look in my new uniform.

As Norbert was preparing for the swearing in ceremony, Mel, his new valet, brought him a note. The note was written by Signore Machiavelli at the Impresario’s direction saying the Acton the Magnificent had been attacked and nearly killed and asking Norbert to come. But there was no time to leave as the day’s events were just beginning.

The ceremony was attended by all the Red Guards and overseen by Cardinal Richelieu himself. The new recruits marched out into one of the Louvre’s courtyards to the sound of brass trumpets. The authorization by King Louis XIII for the formation of the company was read aloud to the roll of drums and the recruits signed their names or made their mark in the company’s roster book. They were given their new uniforms blessed by the hand of Richelieu himself. Afterwards, the new recruits took their places with the rest of the company and the Cardinal made a short speech. He told the assembled company, “Your uniforms are a symbol. They are the scarlet red of incarnadine because that is my color. The color of blood. The color of flame. And when you wear my uniform you hold my honor and you represent me, Armand de Richelieu. Wear it with pride. Wear it with honor!” The Guards cheered. The trumpets sounded and then to the roll of the drums the entire company drew their swords and recited their oaths of allegiance “To the Cardinal and to France!”

After the ceremony, Norbert was shown to his place in the barracks located in the Gallery of the Louvre. The barracks windows looked out onto the Seine on one side and the gardens of the Louvre on the other. Very nice, thought Norbert. But I think I will keep my little apartment as well. One never knows when a new career may beckon.

Norbert asked permission from his new commander, his cousin Gaston, to go and find out what had happened to Acton. Gaston, who was concerned that Norbert might do something foolish in his new uniform, agreed to give him permission to go, but only if Gaston also accompanied him. Once they reached the troupe’s rooms, they learned that the troupe had found Acton as he lay dying in an alley. They brought him back to their rooms where Gerta tended him. The cousins saw Acton lying in a bed, his face swathed in blood stained bandages. The usually eloquent Acton was difficult to understand, his speech slurred by alcohol and drugs to ease the pain and when he talked it was with a horrid mangled, gurgling sound. He was only able to say a few words…something about buffons and clowns, before he became too upset to speak. The two cousins left to allow Acton to heal further. Norbert reckoned that this was another action by Armand Patrella, the shady banker, and was tied to the Impressario’s loans. Gaston had another idea of who might be responsible. As he left, he vowed to himself that he would learn the truth of the matter.

Guy’s investiture as a Chevalier of the Order of the Holy Ghost was an elaborate and solemn ceremony. :Like the knights of old, Guy bathed the night before and dressed in white. His arms were placed on the altar of the Order’s chapel and he spent the night in fasting, vigil, and prayer. He was not alone in the chapel, since Norbert Peyrafon was also to be invested the same day, but the two had been enjoined by one of the Knight-Commanders of the Order that they must fast and pray in silence. Guy consoled himself with the thought that, after all Peyrafon never has been a very entertaining conversationalist.

The next morning the two were led out of the chapel where the assembled Knights of the Order were gathered for them to receive the accolade. The new knights swore an oath:

·         To always defend a lady;

·         To speak only the truth;

·         To be loyal to his lord;

·         To be devoted to the church;

·         To be charitable and defend the poor and the helpless;

·         To be brave;

·         And to fight honorably.

Then the Grandmaster of the Order dubbed the new knight on the shoulders with a sword. saying, “Rise Chevalier. Let these be the last blows you accept by another without redress.” The new knights were dressed in armor, received their sword, mounted their horse, and participated in martial games to demonstrate their skills.

Afterwards, a banquet was held at the Order’s house. At the banquet, Guy used his membership in the order to make a point of repeatedly calling the Chevalier de Branville, “brother.”[ii] This angered and frustrated Branville to the point that he publicly lost his composure and made a scene by leaving the banquet before the Order publicly welcomed the two new knights with a toast.

Gaston returned with Father Signoret in his role as a physician. Signoret cleaned and tended to Acton’s wounds. Both of the actor’s cheeks had been opened to the bone giving him what looked almost like a horrid, bloody smile. It was clear to Signoret that the terrible wounds would leave horrific scars and that he might never speak the same again. After giving Acton drugs for the pain, the two questioned him about what had happened. Due to his wounds, his speech was a horrid mangled, gurgling sound.

Acton said he was grabbed while walking at night. His attacker first threatened and terrorized him. “I wash afraid, shho afraid. I pleaded wishh him. Then he called me a buffoon. A buffon and a clown.”

“Then he asked me if I washh a clown. ‘Are you a clown?’ he asked. I…I…shaid yeshh I washhh. He laughed. Then he put hishh dagger between my teeff. I…I…could hear my teeff ch...chh…chatter on the blade.” As he spoke, Acton’s eyes opened wider and wider as if he was staring at something only he could see. “He shhaid, ‘A clown shhhould alwayshh shhmile. But you’re not shhmiling. Well I can ffixsh that. I will give you a great…big…shhmile.’” Acton cried out and then collapsed sobbing.

Gaston asked, “Your attacker. Did you recognize him?”

Between sobs Acton said, “It wasshh the noble. The one in the theatre. He shhaid he would punishhh me. Look what heshh done…”

“Villemorin!” Gaston said coldly. “I will kill him.” Then Gaston rose, put on his hat and left.

Father Signoret was surprised at the abrupt action and had to hurry to catch up to the soldier. Gaston is so headstrong. I had more questions to ask. We should have found out if the Baron was acting alone. “Damn it! – Oh lord forgive me. Gaston! Gaston, wait for me!”

With Signoret hurrying behind, Gaston stalked in a cold rage towards Villemorin’s apartments. He pounded on the door and when it was opened, Gaston forced his way in, and searched for the Baron, demanding that he appear. The terrified servants told Gaston that Villemorin has left yesterday for his country estate. Gaston looked for something to smash or someone to hurt, but no matter where he looked the only targets for his rage were beneath his contempt. Frustrated, he stormed out. Signoret followed quietly.

The four friends were relaxing at the Two Horses Tavern when their meal was interrupted by an elderly man in his late sixties. The man introduced himself as Jean-Noël Suchet the Steward of D’Aboville. Suchet said that he had seen Gaston challenge the Baron Villemorin on the steps of the Church and that he wanted to speak with Gaston privately about the matter. Gaston, who was still frustrated and angry at Villemorin had little interest in speaking with the old man. Guy recognized the name D’Aboville as a family of rural nobles allied with the House of Bourbon. He persuaded Suchet to speak in front of the others.

Suchet told them that he had served the D’Aboville family all his life. “Now I am the Steward of D’Aboville which, you may know, is in the Bourbonnais. Since the death of his father, the Vicomte, I have been the de facto guardian for the young master, Léon D’Aboville. Since his mother died in childbirth, with the help of his aunt Eloise, I have tried to raise Léon as his father would have wished. Now I am an old man and my only desire is to see the young master live and prosper.”

“We have only arrived in Paris recently. The D’Aboville family has been loyal to the Bourbons for many generations. I myself,  rode with Léon’s grandfather, who was then only a Baron, in the Religious Wars in support of the Grande Henri. Why come to think of it, the last time I was in Paris was when the old King entered the city in triumph.”

“We have tried to keep the young master safe. He has spent his whole life in the country either at D’Aboville or for the last few years at the College in Moulins for his education. He is an intelligent boy, but he is young and has the naiveté of youth. But I love the boy and I would do anything to keep him safe. Young Léon is not yet sixteen, but I am afraid that he may seek out his father’s killer or that encountering him here in Paris, the killer may come for the son.”

“Who is the father’s killer?” Father Signoret asked.

“Léon’s father, the Vicomte, was killed by the Baron Villemorin,” Suchet answered. “The Baron claimed that a comment the Vicomete made was a slur against the honor of all Sword Nobles. He forced a duel on the Vicomte, who was in no way Villemorin’s equal with a blade, and he killed him. I was the one who had to bring the Vicomte’s body home to his son.”

Gaston said, “Well now I understand why you wanted to speak with me. Let me tell you two things. Villemorin has recently left Paris. But when he returns, I intend to kill him. And if he does not return by the date appointed for his duel, I will hunt him down, drag him out of whatever hole he is hiding in, and I will end him with no more compassion than I would kill a mad dog.”

“Monsieur,” said Suchet with feeling. “If you do that, I will be forever in your debt.”

Chapter 4: The Recent Huguenot Rebellion

Report on the Religious War of 1621-1622 including the Siege and Destruction of Nègrepelisse

The Prince de Condé is an experienced soldier, general, and leader. During the Religious War of 1621-1622 Condé strongly opposed the Huguenots and he developed a reputation for brutality against his family’s co-religionists. He wished to continue the fighting after Montpelier and he opposed both the initial treaty and the final peace treaty offered to the duc de Rohan by Marshal Lesdiguières. Since the end of the War he has continued to speak against the Huguenots.

Siege of Saumur (May 1621)

The military investment of the Huguenot city of Saumur was accomplished by the young French king Louis XIII following the outburst of the Huguenot rebellions. Although the Huguenot city was faithful to the king, Louis XIII nevertheless wished to affirm control over it. The Governor of the city Duplessy-Mornay was tricked out of his command of Saumur and the city was invested.

Siege of Saint-Jean-d'Angély (June 1621)

The siege was accomplished by the young French king Louis XIII in 1621, against the Protestant stronghold of Saint-Jean-d'Angély which was led by Rohan's brother Benjamin de Rohan, duc de Soubise. Saint-Jean-d'Angély was a strategic city controlling the approach to the Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle. The city was captured after only 26 days on 24 June 1621.

Siege of Montauban (August to November 1621)

The siege was accomplished by the young French king Louis XIII from August to November 1621, against the Protestant stronghold of Montauban. This siege followed the Siege of Saint-Jean-d'Angély, in which Louis XIII had succeeded against the duc de Rohan's brother Benjamin de Rohan, duc de Soubise. Despite a strength of about 25,000 men, Louis XIII was unable to capture the city, and he had to raise the siege and abandon it after 2 months.

Siege of Royan (May 1622)

The Siege of Royan was a siege accomplished by the young French king Louis XIII in 1622, against the Protestant stronghold of Royan. This siege followed the Siege of Montauban, in which Louis XIII had failed against the Huguenot city. The siege started at the beginning of May 1622. After 6 days, despite support from La Rochelle, the city surrendered, the defenders obtaining to withdraw to La Rochelle with weapons and luggage, although they had to leave cannons and ammunition.

Siege of Nègrepelisse (June 1622)

The Siege of Nègrepelisse is a dramatic event orchestrated under the regency of the young King Louis XIII against the Protestants in the small town of Nègrepelisse, a Protestant stronghold in the south of France. The siege began on 6 June 1622 and ended with a successful assault on 10 June 1622. The royal forces, under the command of the Prince de Condé, attacked the town and massacred the whole population without distinction of age or sex. The people were killed by the sword or hung. The next day Nègrepelisse was completely burned to the ground after widespread looting and ransacking. The Royalist Forces in the assault consisted of the Picardy Regiment on the left, the French Guards Regiment in the center, and the Navarre Regiment on the right.

Siege of Montpellier (August to October 1622)

Louis XIII stationed his troops around Montpellier in July 1622. A treaty was agreed upon between Henri, Duke of Rohan, and Louis XIII, through his officer, Marshal Lesdiguières; it was signed by Rohan on 22 August 1622. The inhabitants of Montpellier, however, refused to open their gate to royal troops, fearing depredation by Henri, Prince of Condé and demanded humiliating conditions if the King wished to enter the city.

Outraged, Louis XIII revoked Lesdiguières' command, and ordered his troops to set up a siege of the city. The besieging army was placed under the command of Condé. Operations proved to be difficult for the royal troops. The Huguenots recaptured the bastion of Saint-Denis, successfully sortied against the besiegers causing many casualties, and repulsed several assaults. At the same time, the royal army was plagued with sickness and was running short of supplies.

Treaty of Montpellier (19 October 1622)

Finally, Louis XIII authorized negotiations for the surrender of Montpellier to be resumed. He asked Lesdiguières to lead the army once more, and to secretly negotiate at the same time. On October 8, Rohan arrived in front of Montpellier with a relief army 4,000 veterans. He might have fought victoriously, but he desired to negotiate, as he was running short of international support. The inhabitants agreed to make amends, and the King granted his pardon, leading to the signature of the Treaty of Montpellier on 19 October, in which the King fully confirmed the observation of the Edict of Nantes, but the Huguenots agreed to the dismantlement of the fortifications of Montpellier, Nîmes, and Uzès.

Picardy Regiment: The Colonel of the regiment is and was Jean de Gontaut II Baron de Biron (SR 12). Gaston and Lucien both served under Baron Biron.

French Guards: The commander of the French Guards is unknown and not relevant.

Navarre Regiment: The Colonel of the regiment is and was Henri de Buade, seigneur de Frontenac (SR 10). Fronsac is a Huguenot and a skilled soldier. He is the son of Antoine de Buade, a court minister to King Henri IV. Frontenac grew up as a playmate of the Dauphin, the present King Louis XIII. Born to a distinguished Bearnais family, Frontenac pursued a military career in which he served with distinction, presently commanding the Navarre Regiment.

Others who were there

Henri II duc de Montmorency see Condé’s Brother-in-Law.

François de Montmorency Comte de Bouteville, duc de Luxembourg (SR 14) is a member of one of France’s most famous families and highly regarded for his skill on the battlefield during the Huguenot revolts. Bouteville (b. 1600) is better known for his reputation as one of the deadliest duelists in the kingdom. Bouteville is notoriously touchy, and though he has been warned about violating the royal edicts regarding duels, he continues to cross blades in defense of his honor. He served with distinction at the sieges of Saint-Jean-d'Angély, Montauban, Royan and Montpellier.

Jean Caylar d'Anduze de Saint-Bonnet, seigneur de Toiras is known to have served with distinction in the campaigns against the Huguenots in 1621 and 1622; though a Huguenot himself, his first loyalty is to the king. At the siege of Montauban, as the captain of the King's company of Carabiniers, Toiras was acknowledged as the most skilful arquebusier of the Kingdom, winning fame for his shot which killed the Hugeunot commander Hautefontaine.

François de Baradas is a member of the Gardes du Corps - one of the French companies and was with the King during the Huguenot War of 1621-1622.

Honorat de Bueil seigneur de Racan (SR 9), is the Chamberlain of his former guardian the duc de Bellegarde. Racan, is markedly unattractive physically and suffers from a pronounced stutter. Racan served in the Royal Army against the Huguenots, serving with distinction in the campaigns of 1621 and 1622.

François de Bassompierre, marquis d'Haroué, and Colonel-General of the Swiss is a Marshal of France and a favored hunting companion of King Louis XIII. In 1614 he served Marie de’ Medici, then queen-regent of France, against the prince de Condé and the other rebellious nobles, but he remained loyal to the young king, Louis XIII, after Marie’s exile from court; Bassompierre served in the royal forces which put down Marie’s rebellion in 1620 at Ponts-de-Cé and he continued to serve as one of Louis’ officers through the campaigns against the Huguenots in 1621 and 1622, earning a marshal’s baton in 1622.
The severe treatment of the town of Negrepelisse was done in reprisal based on the claim that a Royal regiment left in garrison in the city by the Duke of Mayenne had been exterminated by the citizens. In response to this the king ordered:

"I command you to give no quarter to any man, because they have irritated me, and shall be served as they have treated the others."—Louis XIII.[7]

A justification of the massacre was published in 1622: "The Great and Just Punishment of the Rebels of Negrepelisse".

Chapter 5: Rivalry

Father Signoret joined Gaston, Norbert, and one of Norbert’s fellow Red Guards, Jacques Dlancey at their usual meeting place, Les Deux Chevaux (The Two Horses Tavern). Norbert’s new valet, Mel, sat near his master. Those bright red uniforms certainly catch the eye, Signoret thought. I wonder if Cardinal Richelieu personally selected that shade.

Gaston made room for Signoret by taking a seat at the next table and the Jesuit took the seat opposite the Captain. For Signoret the seat by the blazing fire was comforting after the chilling walk through the frozen streets of Paris. From the number of empty bottles and mugs it was clear to the Jesuit that the others had started without him, though the only one of the four who showed any sign of the drink was Dlancey who alternated between toasting Norbert and slapping him on the back in a show of drunken bonhomie.

“Where is Guy?” Signoret asked. “I thought he would be here.”

“Damned if I know,” Gaston answered. “As long as he doesn’t pester me with another bunch of poxed fool questions about the recent war against the Huguenots he can go and do whatever he cursed well pleases.”

Six Musketeers[iii] in uniform entered and demanded the tables next to the fire. Gaston stared coldly at the Musketeers and refused to move. Several of the Musketeers complained about the place having a stench of oxen and swine which they blamed on Norbert. In response, Norbert imitated a rooster to mock the Musketeers. Then he pointedly stared at theem while loudly commenting to the room at large that, “There aren’t any pigs or oxen here, but I see a flock of chickens nearby.”

To which Jacques Dlancey said, “I doodle, doo too,” then he giggled uncontrollably. A number of other insults were exchanged until the Musketeers announced that the Red Guards should withdraw while they could as the odds were six to three against them.

In response Gaston stood, drew his sword, and glared at the Musketeer closest to him who involuntary stepped backwards.

Jacques nudged Norbert saying, “The Captain is standing. We’d better stand too.” Both Norbert and Jacques stood.

Signoret, who was still seated said, “Your count is wrong.” The Jesuit stood up. “It is four by my count.”

“And my valet makes five!” said Norbert.

“Very well then,” said one of the Musketeers. “Six against five.”

Defeating Gaston, the Captain of the Red Guards, would be a coupe and since he was a notoriously formidable duelist, Justin Fountaine lazily waved his scented handkerchief at his fellow Musketeer, a Huguenot named Nathanaël Touchard, in invitation and said, “Shall we?” Touchard drew both rapier and dagger and positioned himself in the French style. Gaston closed on the two and attacked. With a flurry of slashes and thrusts, he drove the two Musketeers back, then kicked a chair in front of the retreating Fountaine, tripping him.

Father Signoret recognized the Musketeer facing him as a duelist of some reputation who went by the nom de guerre of Josselin. Smoothly, Signoret stepped from floor, to chair, to tabletop then with the advantage of height he attacked Josselin who was forced to retreat from the Jesuit’s precisely timed thrust.

Jacques wildly stabbed at his opponent and missed, then barely stumbled aside from his enemy’s return thrust which knocked over a mug of wine. “Murderer! You have killed my drink,” Jacques complained.

Norbert faced a Musketeer who fought in the aggressive Italian style using a rapier and main gauche but who looked too young to have begun shaving. Norbert hammered his broadsword against his young opponent’s blade then snatched the rapier from his numbed hand and tossed it to his valet Mel who caught the blade and attacked the Musketeer facing him.

Gaston used a circular motion of his vizciana to catch Touchard’s rapier and twist it from his hand. Touchard stabbed with his main gauche but only succeeded in driving his point deep into the table top. Gaston’s cut forced the Musketeer to dodge aside abandoning his second blade. Fountaine regained his feet and used a combination of attacks to lure Gaston’s blade out of position setting the Captain  up for an attack. Meanwhile, Josselin forced Signoret back, off the table and up against the mantle of the fireplace. The Jesuit could feel the heat of the fire against his back.

Jacques was wounded by his opponent’s riposte, but the wound was to his left arm leaving him able to continue the fight. The young musketeer dodged Norbert’s blade as well as the chair the giant kicked towards him, but his attack on the giant was so vigorous that he lost his balance and stumbled into a chair which tipped him over backwards. Norbert grabbed the youth, chair and all, lifted him above his head hooking the chair onto the stag’s antlers above the fireplace. The antlers ensnared the young Musketeer’s cloak so that he was stranded above the crowd. Meanwhile, Mel dropped his recently acquired rapier and charged his opponent barehanded. Ducking beneath a slash, he closed and grappled with the Musketeer.

With his back to the fire, Signoret exerted his full mastery of the blade, his point circled beneath his foe’s parry and thrust into Josselin’s breast. He slid off the point and fell to the floor. Despite Fountaine’s clever feint, Gaston parried his thrust and his rapid riposte tore a long gash down Fountaine’s sword arm. As he dropped his point, the hilt of Gaston’s vizcaina hammered into Fountaine’s face dropping him to the ground as if poleaxed. Touchard turned pale at this then looked to Gaston for permission to recover his rapier. Gaston nodded his assent. Touchard grabbed his rapier and hastily lunged at Gaston who moved slightly to avoid his foe’s point.

Jacques paused to down the last tankard on the table as Norbert, ignoring the curses and cries of “Release me you big ox!” from the young Musketeer, quickly moved to aid his fellow Red Guard. Faced with two opponents, the Musketeer refused to retreat and his riposte caught Norbert by surprise laying open a large gash along his ribs. Mel wrapped his hands around the neck of his struggling foe and began slowly throttling him.

His opponent downed, Father Signoret raced around the table to assist the two wounded Red Guards against the valiant lone Musketeer. Signoret called on the Musketeer to surrender, but he refused and held his own three opponents.

Gaston did an extended lunge against Touchard piercing his thigh. Touchard fell to the floor grasping his leg to try to stem the tide of blood flowing from his wound. Meanwhile, Mel felt his opponent stop struggling. He opened his hands dropping the now unconscious Musketeer to the flagstones.

As he advanced on the last foe, Gaston recognized the lone Musketeer as Michaël Dutoit, an experienced soldier and duelist in the Spanish style. Brave man, thought Gaston.

Father Signoret again called on Dutoit to “drop his sword and leave now” and faced with the impossibility of success against odds of four-to-one, Dutoit surrendered rapier and left.

Seeing that there were many wounded, Signoret accessed who most needed his attentions as a physician then began treating both sets of combatants. As he worked to bandage their wounds, Signoret remembered a worrying event from earlier in the day. From an upper story window of the Jesuit Professed House, he had noticed several burly sword armed men loitering outside the House. He had avoided them by exiting through a side door of the new Jesuit chapel that was still under construction, but he worried that they might be agents of Friar Fitellus di Canem, a Dominican and the Inquisitor from Rome.

Meanwhile, Gaston ordered Norbert to “Help the lad down, cousin. His caterwauling grows tiresome.” Once the wounded were bandaged Gaston ordered the remaining Musketeers to “Leave and never return here.” And with the help of the physically uninjured, but furious youth the wounded and defeated Musketeers limped away. Les Deux Chevaux had been declared a Cardinalist hangout and the swords of the defeated Musketeers were hung on either side of the main fireplace.

Afterwards, Father Signoret told the others about the watchers he had seen outside the Professed House and his concern that they were acting on the orders of Friar Fitellus of the Roman Inquisition. After silently listening to the Jesuit, Gaston told Norbert and Jacques to get more food and drink to replace what was ruined during the fight. “I’ll buy,” Gaston said. “Oh and you might as well take Mel with you to carry the food.”

“Why thank you cousin,” Norbert replied. “I believe I have worked up an appetite. Come friend Jacques, come Mel.”

Gaston watched as the three left, then leaned towards Signoret and quietly said, “This Friar sounds troublesome.”

“Indeed he is most troublesome,” said Signoret. “Would that the good Lord would see fit to call him hence.”

Gaston spoke without looking directly at the Jesuit, “Though it might be difficult, I suppose it would be possible to find someone who would be willing to speed the Friar to his next destination. Although since he comes from Rome, there could be…complications.”

“I will pray daily that the friar is called away soon.”

Gaston looked directly at the Jesuit then said, “And would you be willing to pray for one who helped the friar on his way?”

“The members of my order pray for the souls of sinners and unbelievers that they may be shown the way. And since none but Christ and his Holy Mother are born without sin, then this helpful guide must also be a sinner and thus it would be my duty and pleasure to pray for his salvation…and his success.”

Gaston continued to stare at Signoret as he calmly said, “Very well.”

Norbert opened another letter from Yvette. Of course the letter wasn’t written by Yvette, but Norbert liked to pretend that she had written it, even though he knew that Yvette, like most commoners couldn’t read or write. He knew that the even, spare hand was that of Yvette’s friend Brother Crispin. But somehow thinking of the letter as coming directly from Yvette made it seem more special. So Norbert pretended. This letter tried to be cheerful but there was an underlying note that was different than her other letters. The tone made it seem like Yvette was frightened and she talked about the harsh winter, the lack of food in town, and the hardships the shortage was causing for the townspeople, especially for the poor. And there was that strange sentence that said, “Mostly we try to stay indoors at night. The dark seems alive with something frightening and evil.”

Norbert was worried. “I need to do something. And the first thing I need to do is write Yvette a letter to tell her I am coming.

Father Signoret received a letter from Brother Crispin. In the letter, Crispin reminded Signoret of his success in confronting what was thought at the time to be a Loup Garou. As it turned out the stories of a Loup Garou were caused by the wild man of the woods. Crispin thanked Signoret for recovering the lost child from the wild man of the woods. He then begged for Father Signoret’s help – and that of any men he could find who might be brave enough to face what may this time be something of truly unnatural origins. The Friar told Signoret that a huge pack of wolves had attacked multiple people in and around Soissons and it waas feared that the pack was led by a real Loup Garou.

The tale of a pack of wolves led by a Loup Garou reminded Signoret of a story he had read during his student days at university. He consulted several libraries in Paris and found and reread Les Chroniques de Paris (English: The Chronicles of Paris) by Bernard Guenée. This volume was published in Paris in 1560. Les Chroniqes described the depredations of the Wolves of Paris, a man-eating wolf pack that killed forty people in Paris in year of 1450. The wolves entered the city during the winter through breaches in its walls. A wolf named Courtaud, or "Bobtail", was the leader of the pack. Reports of the animal suggested it was reddish in color. Eventually, the entire wolf pack was killed when Parisians, furious at the deaths, lured Courtaud and his pack into the heart of the city. There the Parisians stoned and speared the wolves to death in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

[i] Information from the three sources is summarized in Chapter IV: The Recent Huguenot Rebellion.
[ii] Guy was excruciatingly politely and got a Mighty Success.
[iii] Do Musketeers provoke the Guards? Very Likely (70) YES. Do Guards provoke Musketeers? Likely (05) EXCEPTIONAL YES. The Cardinal offers his Red Guards to assist the Paris Archers. Does this lead to confrontation? Very Likely (41) YES. Do the Porthos et al challenge Gaston? (64) NOT YET.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Fiction: V: Broken Legs or Jaw, Your Choice - Ch 1 & 2

V: Broken Legs or Jaw, Your Choice

Chapter 1: The Apology

L’Omino the dwarf’s hate for Father Signoret burned him like a hot iron. To try to quench the fire, he decided to use the scene at the theatre to strike at his Jesuit foe. Slyly he pointed out to his mistress, the Comtessa di Montefusco, that the Jesuit’s rash action at the theatre had eclipsed any notice of the Comtessa by the audience.[i] Stung at the slight, even if inadvertent, the Comtessa described the incident in a most unfavorable light to her fellow maids of honor and to her patron, Marie de Medici, the Queen Mother. The Queen Mother was not amused by the Jesuit’s rash behavior, but she decided that now was not the time to make her feelings known. The planned discussions with her son took precedence over the Jesuit’s faux pas.

The night before Father Signoret’s apology the actors of Binet’s Grand Troupe of Players invited Norbert to a going away party celebration and at the Duck and Frog,[ii] a tiny tavern with four tables for sitting and standing room at the bar and side counters suitable for a dozen additional patrons. The troupe filled all the tables and they kept the staff busy ordering round after round of drinks and Madame Vieillissement, the gray-haired owner, was so pleased she almost smiled.

The troupe had good news. Somehow the Impresario had found a new benefactor who wanted the troupe to immediately put on another show. Gerta suggested that Norbert must be lucky for the troupe since they had never gotten a new show lined up so quickly. Their benefactor, a wealthy young man dressed in expensive, flamboyant clothing, had agreed to pay for the dinner and he liberally tossed tips to all the staff at the restaurant. The young man wanted them to perform the comedy, Les Escolliers (The Stairs) by Pierre de Larivey, a play that had been published in French in 1579 so there would be no need to write a new play or even to translate and revise an old one which pleased everyone except the troupes playwright.

For some reason that night the wine went straight to Norbert’s head and soon he felt dizzy and was swaying in his seat. Time seemed to pass in odd jumps and skips with gaps of blackness between the bits of noise and color. After the next gap the swaying was accompanied by a rumbling sound and a bumping like a rough wooden wheel on cobblestones. The next time Norbert  noticed his surroundings the rumbling had stopped and he felt cold, his wrists and ankles felt like ice. Norbert felt a sting as someone repeatedly slapped his face. He heard a voice echoingly say.

“Wake up. Wake up you hulking peasant!”

Norbert tried to reply but all that came out was a slurred, “Whaaa?”

“You will listen and remember.” The voice continued in a gloating tone. “You will remain alone and imprisoned here in the dark except for when you are brought out like a trained mastiff to fight for your life. You can fight or you can give up and die. And eventually you will die…and when you do, I will be sure to have your mangled corpse sent to your cousin, Gaston.”

The voice sounded familiar and Norbert tried to see the speaker. But his eyes just wouldn’t focus. He tried to move closer, but his legs and feet wouldn’t obey him. It was as if he was frozen in place. He tried harder to move, but the room began to sway again and he fell into a cold dark pit.

Despite the snow and cold winds outside, inside the Church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois was warm and crowded[iii] on Sunday January the 7th. The crowd was there because his Majesty had decided to attend mass this morning in person. As was usually the case, a select group of courtiers accompanied Louis XIII and seated with the King was Cardinal Armand de Richelieu. The blessing was given by the King’s half-brother the Bishop de Metz. Father Signoret found a seat in the rear of the church. With him were Father Vargas, a fellow Jesuit who was there as the eyes of the Provincial Father and Signoret’s cousin Guy de Bourges. Guy had recently been approved for admission to the noble Order of the Holy Ghost, though his actual investiture would not occur until later in the month. Gaston was also at mass dressed in his uniform as the Captain of the Cardinal’s Guards. With the uniform, he had also worn the elegant sword he had been given by the Prince de Cröy along with his Spanish vizcaina. Gaston did not sit with his friends, as he was there in attendance on Cardinal Richelieu. The only one missing was Norbert, who was unaccountably missing. No doubt he went carousing with his actor friends and lost track of time…or even the day, Gaston thought.

As the mass ended, Father Signoret quickly went outside. He was accompanied by both Guy and Father Vargas. As Gaston came out of the church, he saw Signoret in the middle of the main arch kneeling on the top of the step with his arms held outstretched as he faced Baron Villemorin. The Baron leaned rather stiffly against one of the main pillars of the portico. As Signoret began to speak, the Baron folded his arms across his chest.

“Oh dear Lord,” Father Signoret began, “forgive me for my sin of anger and for having struck my neighbor, the Baron Villemorin, at the theatre while in the midst of my anger. Oh, gentle Jesus, meek and mild, please help your servant to control his temper and to avoid the sin of anger in the future.” After making his public confession of his errors and asking Gods help in controlling his temper in the future, the Jesuit then apologized directly to Baron Villmorin.

Villemorin replied, “Your conduct was inexcusable.”

“Yes,” Signoret said. “I have no excuse therefore I apologize fully.”

Angrily, Villemorin paused, then said. “Very well then. I must accept your apology.” As the Baron turned to leave, Gaston stepped forward blocking his path. As he saw Gaston, arrayed in the brand new uniform of the Captain-Lieutenant of the Cardinal’s newly created Red Guards, Villemorin realized that there was one thing he had not considered about his demand for a very public apology by the Jesuit. By arranging for an apology in public at a set time, he had given that peasant Gaston the chance to challenge him in public. Not only in public, but possibly even in front of the King. The Baron had to get out of here as soon as possible.

While standing firmly in Villemorin’s path, Gaston said, “Ah Baron V…your pardon, My Lord. I meant to say, Baron Villemorin. I was sorry to have missed you at the theatre the other night milord. I had hoped to discuss the ending of the play with you in some detail. I was led to understand that you were even involved in its composition.”

Villemorin angrily replied. “I had nothing to do with that trash.”

“Ah, you did not write the ending,” Gaston said. “No doubt you had some other end in mind. Well your lack of involvement does explain the play’s popularity with the audience. Their response was most gratifying to the playwright. You may not be aware, My Lord, but I myself contributed a few lines to the script,” Gaston cocked his head to the side and said, “‘The Soldier placed his hat upon his head, drew his bright sword and laid his foeman dead.’ The audience particularly loved that line, My Lord.”

“I have no time nor interest in bandying words with you,” Villemorin interrupted.

Gaston replied, “No doubt My Lord has some pressing engagement. Something that requires him to run away…from me?”

“What do you mean by that?” Villmorin asked.

“Only that My Lord Baron is quite adept at avoiding my challenge,” said Gaston.

“I am a baron of France. My family have been knights and nobles for centuries. I’m not going to duel some jumped up peasant with a sword,” Villemorin said angrily.

“I am not a peasant. I am a soldier of France and the Captain-Lieutenant of the Red Guards, a company in the Maison du Roi. As my ancestry was good enough for King and Cardinal, it should be good enough for a baron of France…My Lord,” Gaston said.

“Then I accept,” said Villemorin.

Gaston said matter of factly, “My second is the Chevalier de la Sainte-Marie du Bois.”

“I do not believe I know that gentleman,” Villemorin said.

“Once again My Lord you have mistaken the gentleman’s identity. The Chevalier is known to you. He is none other than Monsieur Guy de Bourges,” Gaston said.

“My Lord Baron,” Guy said, as he stepped forward and bowed.

“My second is Monsieur du Frugereix,” Villemorin said. “You may find him at the Hotel de Condé. And now, adieu.”[iv]

“Adieu My Lord,” Gaston said as he swept off his hat and bowed in a ragged imitation of Guy’s signature bow.

Guy raised his eyebrow and wondered, is he imitating me or mocking me?

When Norbert regained consciousness he realized two things: first, his head felt like it was being hammered by a pair of enthusiastic blacksmiths and second, he was manacled to some kind of wall. I wonder if this is a nightmare. He inhaled thorough his nose and caught the scent of damp stone, moldering straw, and ordure. Then he tried pulling to free his arms and legs. He heard the clanking of heavy chains, but the fastenings didn’t budge. The exertion made the pain in his head even worse and he realized that his mouth was dry and he had a bitter taste on his tongue.

No. Not a dream. I am in a real prison. Dear God, I hope it is not a prison of the Inqusition. Ah, but good Father Signoret told me that the Inquisition can’t operate in France. Our King won’t let them. Good then, it’s not the Inquisition. Unless I’m not in France?

That was a worrying thought. Norbert tugged harder against his bonds, but the exertion triggered terrible pains in his head. I shall have to try again later when my head is not so sore. I’m so thirsty I wish someone would bring me some water and a loaf of bread. He looked around the cell. It was unlit, but enough light came from the crack beneath the door and from the viewing slit in the door itself that he could clearly make out the dimensions of the room. It seemed to be roughly square and approximately eight feet on a side. The ceiling was low enough that he could feel the stones above him brushing the hair on the top of his head. The cell seemed to be fashioned of rough stone and there seemed to be a hole in the floor in one corner.

“Oh ho!” Norbert said to himself. “So that is where that stench is coming from. A latrine, I hope it connects to a sewer. I’d hate to have the contents for a companion. And I hope someone will come along and free me so that I can use that latrine.“

“Hello!” Norbert called. “Is anyone else here?

“Shut up!” said a harsh voice.

“Hey, where am I?” Norbert asked.

“You are in Hell,” a second voice said.

“In Hell? I’m sure you must be mistaken,” Norbert said. “This seems to be a prison of some sort, but certainly it is not Hell. “

“This is the pit of despair and you are now one of the damned who are trapped here with us,” the voice shrilly lamented.

“Shut up you damned coward!” said the harsh voice.

“But we are all damned. Don’t you see…”

“What I see,” interrupted the harsh voiced man, “is that when we are in the pit together, I will make you pay for every croaking word you say now. Each word will cost you a broken bone. And as I break your bones, I will laugh and remind you of this day.”

The light brightened slightly and the voices ceased. At first it was quiet, then Norbert heard the sound of a single set of footsteps. Then the footsteps stopped.

“Psst. Psst. Hey Giant. Is that you?” Although it was a bit gravelly, the voice was that of a woman. Norbert heard a scratching sound and a soft knock at the cell door. “Giant? Answer me, damn you. Are you in there?”

Norbert realized that the gravelly voice was that of Jeannie Artois. “I am here.” He said. “Jeannie, is that you?”

“Of course it’s me. Who else would be riskin’ her skin to come talk at you, you big lump.”

Jeannie told Norbert that he was in an underground, no rules, fighting pit run by La Buse and the Buzzards. Norbert tried to talk Jeannie into setting him free. But she said that she didn’t have the key and that there were quite a few guards in between Norbert and freedom. What’s more Jeannie knew most of the guards and was friends with some. She was reluctant to kill them herself or even to help Norbert to kill her fellows.

Seeing as he was making no progress with this approach, Norbert asked Jeannie to get word to his friends Guy and Father Signoret and to his cousin Gaston. Fearing that she might be placed under arrest, Jeannie was reluctant to seek out Gaston at the Louvre. But she agreed to get in contact with at least one of the three. “And then maybe he can contact the others?” she suggested. Norbert heard a crashing sound of metal on metal and Jeannie said, “Quiet! Someone’s coming. I’ve got to hide, but I’ll be back later when it’s safe.”

A little afterwards, Norbert heard several sets of footsteps. The light brightened a little, then he heard a clank as the door to his cell was unlocked. The light was blinding after the darkness of his cell. In the glare he could vaguely make out several figures.

A harsh, croaking voice said, “So, Norbert the Giant. You are as big as they say. I regret that I did not have a chance to greet you when you visited my Nest, but now you can have a taste of the hospitality I grant to those that attack me.”

“Who are you?” Norbert asked.

“Who am I? Who am I? the voice asked, rising in pitch and volume. “All Paris trembles at my name. I am Jean Orande!”

“La Buse?”

“I do not care for that name and I will thank you not to use it.” La Buse said and scowled.

Squinting against the glare, Norbert could see that the speaker had a heavy brow, a beak-like nose, and beady, light-colored eyes. He looks like he wants to stab someone, Norbert thought. And that someone is probably me. As his eyes became used to the light, Norbert could see that La Buse was accompanied by four large bodyguards. One of whom, for some reason, was carrying a large sledgehammer. How odd.

“Graceful host that I am,” La Buse continued, “I have come to give you a choice. Choice number one, you can compete in my fighting pit or spend some time with Jean-Paul here.” The thug with the sledgehammer hefted his tool.

Apparently the one with the hammer is Jean-Paul, Norbert thought.

“In which case I will give you a second choice...Broken legs or jaw, your choice?” La Buse finished with self-satisfaction and apparent bonhomie.

“What happens if I go into the pit but I don’t fight?” Norbert asked.

“Why then,” La Buse shrieked, “my guards will have no choice but to spatter your stupid brains all over the sides of the pit.”

“Well then I guess I will fight,” Norbert answered. “But I would fight much better with a large plate of sausages inside me. I am very hungry.”

La Buse turned back as he was leaving, “Very well,” he sneered. “Win the match and you will have your sausages.”

Jeannie felt very nervous. And when she was nervous she talked to herself. “I wish this giant had friends somewhere more friendly. A cousin in the Louvre what is surrounded by guards who would be happy to lock up a poor farm girl from Artois. And if that were not bad enough, this cousin is supposed to be some kinda’ officer. No I won’t be starting with no guard officer, no mam. All my mama’s really stupid babies they all died, young. Yes mam they did.”

“A friend who lives in the Palais Royal what no doubt sips wine with all manner of counts and dukes and what not. I’d stick out like a sore thumb at shearing time. No mam. Jenny is not going to go makin’ a fool o’ herself in front of no dukes and counts and such.”

“I guess that just leaves the one who is a priest. I hope he don’t ask me how long it’s been since my last confession, cause I gotta confess I don’t remember,” she laughed softly. “No mam I don’t.”

Jeannie rang the bell at the Jesuit Professed House and asked to see Father Signoret. She was shown into a waiting room. The room was quiet except for an odd ticking sound that came from some strange object on the mantle. Jeannie looked at it more closely and noticed something on the front of it was moving. Each movement occurred with the sound of one tick. Jeannie looked at the object again with alarm and crossed herself quickly.

She had barely finished when a tall, black clad figure stepped into the room and introduced himself as Father Signoret. Jeannie told him about Norbert being in a cell in the pit. Signoret asked her to go with him while he went to get his friends, but Jeannie suggested that they all meet at a tavern somewhere instead and Father Signoret agreed.

Father Signoret gathered Guy and Gaston. He explained that they were to meet someone who could explain Norbert’s absence. Once they reached the rendezvous, Signoret introduced them to Jeannie and she explained that Norbert was imprisoned in the Pit and the four began to plan how to rescue him. But first they would need to learn more about La Buse, his gang, and the Pit itself.

Chapter 2: The Big Fight

Norbert walked beneath the portcullis and out of the pit. He grabbed a rough towel from one of the attendants to wipe the blood and sweat from his face and chest. Some of the blood was his, but not much, thank God. He tossed the soiled towel to the floor noting the other blood stains speckling the stones and the smell of sweat and old blood. Even though the bouts were not that challenging several each night did leave him with a few scratches and bruises. It also made him tired and hungry. The sausages they gave him weren’t very satisfying and they tasted like they were filled with grease-flavored sawdust.

Escorted by a pair of guards, he walked over the grate in the floor, noticing again the residue of blood caked on the grate despite the buckets of water the attendants slopped on the floor. He passed beneath an arch into the guard room and nodded at the guards on duty. One smiled at him and jingled a purse.

“You were lucky for me again, Giant,” the guard said.

Norbert’s reply was truculent, “Then why don’t you do me a favor and buy me some decent sausages?”

The guards laughed in reply and Norbert’s escort led him back to his cell. As he passed the cell before his, he noticed that the ranting man who had called this the ‘Hell pit of despair” had been removed. Another man was now in the cell, but this fighter was much quieter than the other. As the door clashed behind him, Norbert said to himself, “At last, some peace and quiet. Now perhaps Hercule can get some exercise by running up and down my shoulders.” The pattering of Hercules little feet took Norbert’s mind off his hunger. After a time, that pleasant activity was interrupted by the sound of a sly voice.

“Pssst. You there, the Giant. How you doing?”

“Hungry. They don’t give me near enough to eat and what sausages they do bring taste like they are half filled with sawdust.”

“Probably are. La Buse spares no expense, hey? I see they’ve moved Ferme the Cruel next to you. He’s a bad one alright. Broke Long Thom’s back he did. Say I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Henri.”

“Mine’s Norbert,” Norbert said.

“I know. You’re the Giant from Picardy. I hear you’re strong and tough. So any tips on your next match? Knowing how long it will take you to knock your opponent out is valuable information. Someone who could pick the exact round could earn more than a few sous, if you know what I mean.”

“I’ll consider that, especially if I can good sausages instead of sous.” Norbert said. “Say, do you know what happened to that crazy guy who was always saying we were in hell?”

“Oh, he was in a match with Ferme the Cruel. I heard Ferme broke nearly every bone in his body – one bone at a time. Laughed the whole time he was doing it too. He’s a cruel one alright. Gives me chills just thinking of it.”

After other fights and other nights, Norbert had another visitor – Armand Patrella. Patrella was accompanied by a shadowy looking figure dressed in a light gray hooded cloak that concealed his face. Perhaps his bodyguard, Norbert thought. He sure moves like a professional.

Patrella told Norbert that he had caused Patrella a lot of trouble but that now the time had come for Norbert to make up for that trouble by helping Patrella to earn a nice fat profit. Tonight he must make the fight look good but despite that he is going to lose. He is to throw the fight. “Defeating you will set up your opponent as a viable challenger for a championship match against Draco le Destructeur.”

“And what if I don’t lose?” asked Norbert.

“In that case, I will have you cut down right in the arena. I’ve already bribed the guards to kill you at my signal.”

“OK. So you win your bet. But what’s in it for me. I’d like some sausages. Good ones.”

“If you are dead you won’t care about any sausages.”

Norbert considered awhile and then told Patrella, “I see your point. Well it looks like I don’t have any choice but to do what you say.”

“See that you do,” Patrella said as he and his gray shadow left.

Gaston, Mel, Guy, and Father Signoret entered The Pit separately to avoid suspicion. Mel carried his dagger and club along with Norbert’s broadsword. The others were armed to the teeth with pistols, sword, and daggers. The Pit was located in the sub-basement of an abandoned building in the poor part of Paris between the Porte St. Denis and the Porte Mont-Marthe, It was known in certain circles as a place to wager on vicious brawls. The fighting pit was stone walled with the outer portion of the floor covered with a layer of sand. The inner section had a smooth wooden floor with a central square and circle painted on it. Iron chains hung from ringbolts fixed into the walls on three sides of the pit. These were used to secure wild animals for the sort of vicious matches hosted by the ancient Romans.

Above the pit, the audience watched the fights from a two-level balcony. The balcony provided standing room only. A wooden railing lined the edge of the pit to prevent drunken or over excited patrons from accidentally falling in. Also lined around the pit were a half dozen alert looking guards: four armed with crossbows and two with matchlock blunderbusses. The smell of the lit matches blended with the odor of fear, sweat, blood, and aggression.

The four spread out moving to cover the six guards. The signal to act was to be Father Signoret shoving the guard with the blunderbuss into the pit. But first they needed Norbert to enter the pit. After what seemed an interminable wait, the giant finally stepped under the portcullis and entered the arena. Facing him was a familiar figure. The one-eyed ox known as Le Gros Boeuf.

Norbert grabbed Le Gros Boeuf putting him in a choke hold. Gasping for air, Le Gros Boeuf ran backwards, smashed Norbert against the wall of the pit, and then elbowed him in the ribs which broke Norbert’s hold. Norbert hammered punches into his foe’s midsection then shoulder charged him knocking him to the ground. Le Gros Boeuf displayed surprising agility for such a fat man. He nimbly rolled back to his feet then charged Norbert. Taken by surprise, Norbert was knocked to the ground then frantically rolled away to avoid Le Gros Boeuf’s kicks.

Signoret saw Norbert in the pit below. He moved next to the guard with the blunderbuss than said, “Say isn’t that a Spanish gold doubloon down there in the pit?” But his ruse didn’t’ fool the guard who was used to ignoring noise from the crowd. So Signoret backed up, drew his sword, stabbed the guard, and shoved him towards the pit. But the body hung up on the rail, dripping blood down the side of the wall of the pit. Meanwhile, Guy had noticed that La Buse and four of his bodyguards were behind his cousin. He drew both his pistols, turned and told La Buse, “Stand right there and don’t move.”

While Guy was holding La Buse at gunpoint, Gaston put his hands on the backs of two crossbowmen and shoved them both into the pit. Mel, saw that the man Signoret had stabbed was on the edge of the pit, which wasn’t really in the pit so he decided to wait for a complete signal.

Signoret drew his first pistol and shot one of the crossbowmen above the portcullis while Gaston drew his pistol and shot the other crossbowman. Norbert ended his roll away from La Gros Boeuf by grabbing a crossbow from the body of a fallen guard and pointing it at his foe. Then hearing the shots above him, he narrowly rolled aside as shot from a blunderbuss turned the crossbow into kindling, peppered the wall next to him, and rang off the portcullis bars. Seeing the first two crossbowmen fall and hearing the gunshots, Mel thought, Now that was a complete signal. So he drew his dagger and knifed the guard who had shot at Norbert.

La Buse said to Guy, “Do you know who I am? You had best put both those pistols down before I have my men gut you like a trout.”

“Well your men may try, but as I abhor unnecessary bloodshed, I must warn you that I am a crack shot. I never miss. These pistols I hold were given to me by the Archduchess Isabella for winning the Brussels shooting competition. So Monsieur Orande, no matter what you tell your men. No matter what you do. I’m going to spatter your brains all over this room. Yours and the first man of yours who takes a step near me. So, who is ready to go see God?” La Buse and his men stood in stunned silence.

“No one? Good! Now gentlemen, I would consider it a most profound kindness if you would slowly step backwards throuugh that arch there.”

Signoret drew his other pistol, carefully aimed at Le Gros Boeuf, and shot him in the head. The huge man fell to his knees, balancing there for a moment and then falling face first to the sand. Blood from his wound formed a dark pool around his head. Above the pit, a figure dressed in a gray hood circled Gaston and tossed a garrote around his neck. The soldier immediately interposed the empty pistol in his hand between the garrote and his neck. Safe for the moment from suffocation, Gaston snapped his head back smashing it into the face of the man in gray who staggered backwards releasing the garrote. Seeing his cousin in trouble, Norbert stood and ran towards the chains hanging from the high wall below Gaston. He grabbed hold of the chains and began to climb.

Seeing that Mel had just stabbed a guard, two of the bystanders near him attacked him with their fists. Mel turned and efficiently stabbed the first attacker then ducked to avoid the second foe.

Signoret noticed three men charging towards him. As they leveled their pistols, he dodged amongst the bystanders. Several shots rang out clipping his hat and killing a bystander. Across the pit, the gray-clad man drew his sword and swung at Gaston who parried with his pistol then slammed the barrel against the blade. This allowed Gaston to grab the gray man’s sword and turn it against him. Hanger sword in one hand, pistol in the other Gaston shifted into Morgan’s style as he aggressively attacked the gray man driving him backwards with blows of sword and pistol butt. As Nobert pulled himself up onto the balcony, Mel stabbed his second opponent.

Guy backed La Buse and his men into the office past the archway and barred the door from the outside. Then he quickly returned to the outer room. Signoret engaged two of his opponents using the circling precision of the Spanish style he stabbed first one and then the other opponent. But the third man, drew a second pistol and fired at the priest at point-blank range. Although his reflex jerk of his head saved him from a pistol ball to the face, the flash of the powder struck him, blinding him.

The gray-clad man continued his retreat by turning and running away from Gaston who turned and greeted his cousin tossing him the gray man’s sword. Gaston switched to a loaded pistol then drew his rapier as Mel stabbed his second attacker. Sword in hand, Norbert scanned the room, across the pit he saw Signoret standing blindly waving his sword as some brigand carefully drew his blade and stepped towards the Jesuit to stab him. Quickly Norbert threw his sword transfixing the brigand who fell into the pit.

Seeing his cousin moving awkwardly, Guy ran forward and grabbed Signoret by the arm. The others quickly joined them. Norbert picked up the Jesuit and, with Mel flanking him, carried Signoret bodily from the room while Guy and Gaston brought up the rear and covered their retreat with loaded pistols.

Outside, Guy summoned Fabre from where he had been hiding. The apothecary rinsed the Jesuit’s eyes with a cleansing solution. Though his vision was still a little blurry, he could see again. He paused a moment for a brief prayer of thanksgiving then he said, “I think it is time we left this place.” And so they did.

[i] Does L’Ominio persuade the Comtessa to complain? [Chaos Rank=6 for all related actions]; Likely (17) Exceptional YES. Does she complain to the Queen Mother rather than take direct action? Very Likely (76) YES.
[ii] The Duck and Frog is tavern (T19).
[iii] King Louis XIII attends Mass with a few of his courtiers; the Queen, Queen Mother, and Prince Gaston are not present.
Cardinal Richelieu attends. His Guards include Rémy Janvier; also in attendance mis an elderly man, Jean-Noël Suchet.
Bishop de Metz does not say Mass but he gives the blessing.
Father Vargas is sent witness Father Signoret’s apology.
[iv] The duel will be after Candlemas (Feb 2). Gaston insists on  to the death; Villemorin insists on a cavalry duel since both their companies are cavalry. This is acceptable to all.

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