Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Fiction: Vol 6: City Tales, Book III: Paris Entertainment Ch 4 + Ch 5

Chapter 4: Masquerade Part 1 | All Hallows Eve

For various reasons of their own, the companions decide to attend the Royal Masquerade which is being held at the Hôtel of the Duke de Bellegarde – a location with which they are already familiar from a previous tale

Courtyard Level

Guy and Norbert arrive together, Guy dressed as Death with a Scythe and Norbert attired as an veil wearing Princess. During their introductions to the Duke and Duchess, Norbert says in a falsetto voice that “Monsieur de Bourges is my escort. Tee, hee, hee!” Guy looks pained. Meawhile Gaston and Father Signoret arrive dressed as a Wolf and a Bear. Once they have arrived, the companions separate to mingle with the crowd and to try recognize their friends and foes.

Garden and Ballroom Level

Despite his disguise, Guy is quickly recognized and berated by Seigneur Bertrand Renault who blames Guy for the death of his daughter, the poisoner. Guy’s admirer, Mme. Deladier leads him away from the angry crowd. But her attempt to spend time with Guy is cut short as a tray of fish in sauce is accidently dumped onto her costume by a clumsy servant. Guy calls Collette over to assist her, but the young Mademoiselle is humiliated in front of her perceived rival and she runs off in tears. Guy ponders how Renault was able to spot him and Collette tells him that Renault has been very vocal in blaming Guy and his friend the Provost of Paris. “I see,” says Guy. Renault must have bribed someone at my costumer.

Father Signoret glimpses a sinister iron masked figure, but chooses to talk to a pair of Red Bishops instead. He fools the Bishops into thinking he is part of their group by faking a mumbled response to their challenge: “If I said, St. Bartholomew’s Day, what would you say?” While he succeeds in making him think he is part of their conspiracy, he does not know that the proper response is. However he does uncover the fact that the Red Bishops are plotting something for tonight.

Norbert tests his natural talent for acting by continuing to pretend to be a Princess and to speak in a falsetto voice. At the buffet, despite his pretense at Princess-hood, he yields the last sausage to a burly, but noble Bear. Norbert than dances with the Bear who he later learns is actually the Baron de Gras.

Meanwhile a drunken guest spills his wine all over Gaston’s Wolf costume. Annoyed at the court fop who cannot hold his drink, Gaston angrily drags the fop outside to the garden. When they are momentarily alone, Gaston punches the courtier unconscious and tosses him in the bushes.

Chapter 5: Masquerade Part 2 | One Death Two Many

Guy who has spotted someone dressed as a Rabbit speaking in close conversation to Cardinal Richelieu, whose costume Guy had discovered prior to the Masquerade, sends Gaston to find out the Rabbit’s identity. Gaston, who is dressed as a Wolf, grabs the Rabbit by the back of the neck saying, as he gives the Rabbit’s neck a shake, “Have you ever seen how a wolf kills a rabbit?...Snaps their neck.” Thoroughly intimidated, the reveler reveals he is Baron Charnace and that he was reporting to his Eminence on the diplomatic mission to the Netherlands. He reveals that he warned the Cardinal that Guy and Signoret “have no vision and that they cannot see the wider picture or the best interests of France.”

Norbert notices a minor noble dressed as a Trojan Warrior crudely flirting with a lady-in-waiting. Norbert intervenes, but his intervention results in a duel of courtly insults, which he loses to the much more courtly nobleman. Norbert retreats in defeat to the buffet to restore his composure with some more wine and delicacies and perhaps another few sausages.

Meanwhile, Guy, still dressed as Death, impersonates the aide of the Spanish Ambassador, who is also dressed as Death. Guy learns the Baron St. Giron is somehow involved with the Spanish. This is surprising since St. Giron is a client of the Prince of Condé, who leads the Huguenots. Guy, guided by the Ambassador’s Raven guard, goes to meet St. Giron, but just in time, he spots another Death, no doubt the real Ambassador’s aide, who is already with the Baron. He also notices that his escort the Raven has the familiar, burning fanatical gaze of the Left Hand of God. I thought I killed him at the Pont Neuf. Shocked, Guy escapes into the crowd and quickly changes his costume for a simple Skull mask.

Signoret, who is dressed as a Bear, learns that the Red Bishops are working someone dressed as a “pudgy Bear.” Possibly this is Baron de Gras? Deciding to impersonate the pudgy Bear, Signoret stuffs cushions underneath his costume to make himself more rotund.

Gaston, having released the Rabbit is looking for Guy, when he overhears, two nobles, one dressed as a Barbarian King and the other as a White Chess Knight plotting.

White Knight: So your plan miscarried? Well we tried your way, now we try mine. Shall we place a wager on my plan’s success?

Barbarian King: I can’t afford to wager with you. I’ve had to sell or pawn everything I could lay my hands on to raise my share of the money for your idea.

White Knight: You insisted we try your plan first and, despite my reservations, I willingly provided the funds you needed. But your plan failed. So now we try a more subtle approach. And for my plan to succeed this play must not only be seen, but you must be seen to be the patron responsible for this poetic master stroke.

Barbarian King: Yes, yes, I know. You’ve said all this before. I’d rather carve him into little bits myself…

White Knight: You can’t treat a peasant the same way you would a noble…[Their voices fade as they move away.]

The Barbarian King’s voice seems familiar and Gaston realizes the he is the Baron Villemorin. Gaston accosts the Baron and they trade insults. As that occurs, behind Gaston, but in plain view of the Baron, Guy appears in yet another costume with the graying face of Villemorin’s dead brother, Paulin. The sight of his dead brother appearing behind Gaston upsets and unsettles the Baron, but Guy disappears back into the crowd before Villemorin can take any action.

Still at the buffet, Norbert inadvertently bumps into a Trojan noble who is with a similarly armored friend. He realizes this is the same Trojan he met earlier. The pair object to a clodhopper like Norbert (a) bumping into one of the them, (b) having the temerity to attend a noble function at all, and (c) breathing the same air as do they. One of the nobles insists on satisfaction. When Norbert refuses, the nobles threaten to gather his peers to physically eject Norbert from the Masquerade.

Seeking to avoid a quarrel near the Royal presence, Norbert grabs a tray of canapés and exits out the French doors into the garden, but he slips and despite his juggling expertise he ends up tossing the canapés onto a lady. He moves forward to brush the sticky mess off her dress, but she is unsettled by the mountainous Princess who seems to be reaching out to grab and crush her and she screams in fright. In response, the Trojan nobles and several bystanders attack Norbert. He shoves several of them into a fountain, but as more spectators look like they are about to enter the fray, he decides the discretion is the better part of valor. Gaston tosses a tray of slippery appetizers to try to delay pursuit, but it is only his cousin’s quick thinking to duck into a hedge maze that allows him to elude pursuit. The bystanders summon some of the King’s Musketeers on guard to their assistance, but Norbert uses his Herculean Might to crash through the hedge. He then leaps the wall, steals a boat, and escapes down the Seine with the shouts of his pursuers echoing behind him.

Father Signoret, now attired as a Pudgy Bear talks to a Red Bishop and learns that something, which seems like an assassination, is going to occur tonight. He also realizes that the Red Bishops are working with the Spanish Ambassador. He makes contact with Guy and Gaston, but realizes that one of the Red Bishops is now following him. He and Guy head towards the courtyard while Gaston lingers to deal with the Bishop.

In the courtyard the cousins separate and Guy notices a Pudgy Bear heading upstairs as well as a furtive and late arriving guest. He follows the late arrival and discovers that he is a secret messenger who passes in to see someone in the Queen’s faction then he witnesses Cardinal Richelieu’s humiliation as he dances the saraband before the Queen in costume “a complete suit, such as was worn by the Pantaloon of the theatre, a red and green suit made in an absurd fashion, one leg red and the other green, and trimmed with silver bells – besides which his Eminence wore a cap trimmed with bells. The Cardinal danced the saraband in with castanets in his hands, and when, having finished his saraband, the Cardinal fell at the Queen’s feet and declared his passion, Anne, though almost convulsed with laughter, recovered herself sufficiently to repulse the minister with scorn and indignation. Tricked and laughed at! Someone has played Armand de Richelieu for a fool and surely someone will pay!

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