Friday, January 8, 2016

Adventure 08: Auxerre and the Black Riders: Chapter VII

Chapter VII: Trebouchard Manor

The journey in the dark was slow but Guy thought they were close to their destination. At last he saw the waning crescent moon just rising above the hills around the small vale through which ran the road. By its cold light he saw a dark horsemen on the hill above. He warned his comrades and they readied their weapons. While Father Signoret wanted to ride closer, Lucien did not want to put Genevive at risk. After listening to their debate, Gaston ordered Lucien to get Etienne, Genevive, and the others to the manor while Signoret, who was the best horseman among them, rode towards the hill to investigate the lone rider. Gaston and Guy waited in the road in reserve.

As Signoret rode closer he heard the sound of more horses on the lower part of the hill near the road. Soon he could just make out the glint of metal from helmets and arms. He also saw that the rider of the hill had black wings like some sort of dark angel or a demon from hell. As the Jesuit rode back, the winged figure pointed at him with his sword and the riders on the lower part of the hill trotted forwards. Signoret kneed his horse to a canter. As he reached Guy and Gaston he said, “The rider on the hill has black wings. And there are more dark horsemen on the slopes below him. My friends, it looks like we are facing the forces of hell.”

As the sound of hooves echoed ever closer, the three friends quickly discussed whether they should stand or flee. Guy was concerned at the idea that the black winged rider might be supernatural, even demonic, in origin. The Jesuit took comfort in his faith and was prepared to stand and face the foe. Gaston laughed coldly and said, “Black Riders from hell?” He drew his sword and looked at it. “I’ve never yet met anything that cold steel couldn’t kill.”

At that, Father Sigoret poured holy water on his blade and quickly blessed it with a prayer. The sound of hoof beats echoed back and forth across the vale. Gaston said, “Those aren’t echoes. There are Black Riders on both sides of the road.”

Guy said, “I could summon help from the manor.”

Gaston replied, “We don’t know how many of them we face and we can’t afford to be surrounded. To the manor! Ride! Ride!”

Meanwhile, Lucien and the others had reached Manor de Trebouchard. Lucien hammered on the gates with the hilt of his sword and shouted, “Open! Open the gates in the name of the King’s Musketeers and of Raymond de Trebouchard!”

Behind them, their three friends urged their horses onwards as the troop of Black Riders galloped after. The horses of the three were already tired from the night’s ride and second by second the Black Riders drew closer. The Jesuit held up his crucifix in one hand as he yelled, “Faster! Faster!” Behind him the huge winged shape of the black winged rider galloped closer.

Guy turned and fired directly at the Black Rider. The jet of flame from his pistol was bright in the darkness. But the shot seemed to pass right through the inky figure of the rider.[1] I couldn’t have missed at that range. But my shot did nothing. “It is a demon from hell!” Guy said aloud. Beside him, Signoret fired hitting one of the winged rider’s men.

Ahead, Lucien ordered the manor’s inhabitants to “get ready to close the gate once we are all inside” as he readied his pistols. But the Black Riders had nearly caught his three friends and there was not enough space behind them to allow the gate to close. It looked like the Black Riders would be inside the manor in moments. At the last instant, Gaston wheeled his horse around right in the gate blocking the Black Riders who were forced to check and turn their horses to avoid crashing into him.

Lucien and the defenders fired from the entrance and the Black Riders returned fire. Gaston was engaged with the winged rider who fought like a devil on horseback. Their blades clashed and sparked as they wheeled their mounts. Gaston countered the winged riders slash with a stop-thrust but the rider kept his seat wounding Gaston with his curved blade. Then Signoret raised his crucifix and charged towards the winged demon, who retreated before him. The winged rider turned and gestured to its men leading them away. As they retreated they picked up their fallen comrades. Within moments there was nothing to show that a battle had taken place.

Gaston said to himself, “My stop-thrust was solid. He must have been wearing a steel breastplate.”

Despite the retreat of the Black Riders, there was still confusion at the gate. With the help of Edmonde de Trebouchard, Raymond’s older brother, Lucien organized the servants and made sure that the manor gate was closed and barred before the group went up to the main house where they were greeted by the sight of Edmonde senior standing before the door to his home, clad in a full suit of plate armor from the last century. The old man leaned on his broadsword with his plumed helmet tucked beneath his other arm while behind him stood two women. Young Edmonde introduced Lucien to his father, mother, and sister Constance. “Lucien is a King’s Musketeer…like Raymond,” he said. With Lucien’s help, he then introduced the others to his family. Lucien took advantage of his position as a King’s Musketeer to persuade the Trebouchards to treat the group as friends, or at the least, as acquaintances.

Guy told Edmonde’s father, the Seigneur de Trebouchard, that the group was here investigating the Black Riders. Edmonde senior discounted most of the tales he had heard about the Black Riders. He put the blame for all the troubles in the province on the fact that the Duke de Bellegarde spent too little time there and that the Duke had “sent us a jumped up popinjay from Paris. Some lawyer who knows nothing about country matters. And I’m certain we have that lawyer to blame for the town’s governor as well.

“Drinks too much,” He said in an aside. “And he’s common. If only the Duke would spend more time here himself, he’d soon put things to rights. Bellegarde’s a proper noble from a good family.”

Turning towards Genevive, Madame Trebouchard interrupted her husband to ask “Isn’t your uncle the Town Governor?”

“Yes, Madame,”

“And aren’t you to be married tomorrow?”

Lucien interrupted, “That would be today.”

“I will never marry that fat, ugly old man!” Genevive said.

Madame Trebouchard stared at Genevivie for a moment and then said, “Constance take Genevive inside so she can freshen up. She must be quite fatigued from her journey.”

Father Signoret told the Trebouchards about Genevive’s situation and explained that it was possible that her family may be hunting for her and that sheltering her may cause trouble with the Town Governor.

“Father, what is your role in this?” asked Madame de Trebouchard.

The Jesuit replied, “My concern is for her immortal soul.”

“Is it indeed,” Madame said thoughtfully.

Lucien added, “Etienne Deveraux is a friend of hers. He came here all the way from Paris at Genevive’s request. “

Etienne added, “Until today, I would have said I was her only friend.” Then he smiled shyly at Lucien and the others.

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[1] Guy’s gun misfired, the powder in the pan igniting, but that in the barrel burning rather than exploding. Guy attributed his miss to supernatural causes.

Here is a link to a map and view for Manoir Trebouchard.

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