Friday, 31 August 2012

The first chapter of The five musketeers


Chapter 1- Off to Paris



“And sit sidesaddle!” Called my stepfather after me as I mounted my beautiful black stallion, Night.  I sighed and did as I was told, but when I was a fair distance away, I swung one leg over Night’s back, raised my most prized possession over my head in farewell, and looked east, where my future lay. My sword was made of the finest metal and has been passed down my family from father to son for generations. But this time, it was ‘father’ to daughter. One of my ancestors was a musketeer. Therefore my sword was a real musketeer sword, and I polished it every chance I got, so it glinted in the bright summer sun. I felt I couldn’t live without it. I stuck it back in my belt and turned Night around to face eastwards. And so, my hair rippling in the breeze in a mass of red and my dark- brown cloak billowing around me, we galloped east, where my best friend D’ Artagnan lived with his mother and father.
I arrived at around midnight. I tied Night up next to Buttercup, D’ Artagnan ‘s mare. Then I crept into the small yet so familiar cottage, with its thatched roof that would sprout crocuses on the top in spring. I remember when D’ Artagnan was twelve and I was nine, we would spend hours counting the flowers in spring, lying down in the soft grass, drawing pictures of them in the dust. But those times have passed, and it’s been four years since then.
            I went to D’ Artagnan’s room, where he lay on his little bed, fast asleep. I took my blanket out of my satchel and lay down next to him. I was exhausted, and slipped into wonderful dreams of Paris almost instantly.
“Wake up! Wake up!” D’ Artagnan literally shouted in my ear the next morning as he shook me awake. My eyes snapped open and there he was, my best friend grinning at me from above. I wiped the hair out of my eyes, yawned, and sat up groggily.
“You’re not very good at welcoming people, are you?” I teased. I stood up and we hugged each other.
“It’s great to see you,” he said.
“It’s good to see you too” I replied. We broke apart.
“Where’s Night?” he had a knack of knowing what you take with you. It sometimes creeps me out. I opened my mouth to answer, but a whinny answered for me. I grinned at D’ Artagnan.  “I’m guessing that answers your question?” I said. He just nodded. “Ready for Paris?” I asked.
“Not before breakfast,” he replied with a smile.
            Breakfast was a hearty meal cheese, meat, fresh fruit- the truly delicious and traditional meal from Gascony.  After breakfast, D’ Artagnan’s parents went to feed the horses and saddle them.  Meanwhile, D’ Artagnan and I had other things to do. We still had to pack. We got two blankets each, bundled around our provisions- a pound of dried meat and a loaf of bread. And, of course, oats for Buttercup and Night.

            By the time the horses were saddled and bridled, almost the whole morning was gone. Night had put up quite a show, continuously kicking his saddle off. I had to deal with him by giving him a few pats on the neck and feeding him a few more oats. D’ Artagnan’s family waved us off, and all too soon we were on the route to where both our destinies lay- Paris. We both wanted to serve King Louis XIII and Queen Anne as Musketeers. I almost felt that I didn’t stand a chance because I was supposed to be a lady, practicing sewing and cooking at home. But I didn’t want to. All I had to do to become a boy was to tuck my red curls inside my plumed hat and everything was going to be fine. However, even the thought of that couldn’t stop me from being as good a sword fighter as D’ Artagnan. And frankly, he’s pretty good for a 16-year old.
We made good pace with the horses, occasionally stopping to rest, and eat. The fifteen pistoles in our moneybags jingled as we rode through the almost deserted countryside of Gascony. The rural area we rode through was mostly made up wheat or sunflower fields, with stalks so high that they often reached to my shoulders. A few trees were scattered here and there, and a huge evergreen forest lay to the north. The folk of Gascony used to tell stories about that forest, with trees so high that their branches seemed to reach towards the moon at night, and that by day the treetops were hidden by misty white clouds. 

We decided to follow D’ Artagnan’s parents’ advice to stay away from people as much as possible. “They can cause you big problems.” Was all they would say when we asked them why.

On the second night of our route, a terrible thunderstorm It took us three days and three nights of traveling to catch a glimpse of Paris on the horizon. On the fourth day, we arrived in the city in the early morning, when the first rays of sun were probing into the darkness like fingers. Towards midday, we stopped to rest at a small caf√©. The building looked old, as the red bricks that made up its walls looked as if they would crumble to bits during the next thunderstorm, and moss seemed to give the bricks a furry coat. The roof was not thatched, but made of wooden planks that were firmly stuck together. The most exposed planks, especially those next to the corroded drains were rotting. 
We stopped our horses at the troughs of the building.

A group of men, clad in suits of black decorated with a large crimson cross that was sewn onto the chest, were eyeing us suspiciously.
“Who are they?” I whispered to D’ Artagnan as we jumped off our horses in unison. He shrugged. “I’ve got no idea, but judging by the cross and the colour they work for the cardinal …” his voice trailed off. The cardinal was Cardinal De. Richelieu and if you were of a lower rank than him, you had to address him as your eminence. He always wore red, like the cardinal bird, and was associated with the church. I noticed that when D’ Artagnan was nervous, he would wind his wavy, shoulder length brown hair around his fingers. That’s exactly what he did right now. I, however, couldn’t do that in any way, for I had kept my hat on the whole time, with my dark red curls still safely tucked inside it.
The ground beneath our boots was muddy and wet. Clearly it had rained not very long ago. Night and Buttercup hated staying very long in an unfamiliar place, and they unfortunately showed this by rearing up on their hind legs, and hammering the ground with their hooves. They accidentally splattered the cape of one of the men (presumably the chief) with muck.
 “Dirty brutes!” he cried out aloud in disgust and rounded on us. He eyed us angrily with his good eye. An eye patch had covered the other one.  “You should learn how to control your horses better, boy, or else you’ll have to deal with me.” He said threateningly as he jabbed D’ Artagnan in the chest.
“We’re sorry,” I told him, “I’d first like you to apologize to my horse. Night doesn’t accept insults like that.”
            “Yes, neither does Buttercup. She’s very sensitive.”
            “I don’t give a damn! I’ll fight you boy, and you too, and kill you both for the sake of your horses!” he spat.
“Fine.” I retorted. The coolness in my voice seemed to irritate him. We drew our musketeer swords, and positioned ourselves as our fathers had taught us countless of times. The soldiers sitting at the table rose to come to his aid, and my heart seemed to fly into my mouth. Against that number we wouldn’t stay standing for more than five minutes. I could tell the same thought had occurred to D’ Artagnan. But to our relief, he made them sit with one gesture of his hand. They obeyed instantly.
“Let us enjoy the show,” he told them loudly, to make sure we heard. We did.
           
It happened in a second. One minute he was there, on steady feet, the next, there was a bang, and my best friend lay crumpled up on the little grass there was on the ground writhing in agony. The sharp green stalks were starting to turn crimson underneath D’ Artagnan’s left shoulder. Luckily that was not his sword hand. But you need the other hand for balance. He would probably not be able to move his arm for at least two days. I took one look at his bloody shirt, marched to the leader who, not surprisingly was still holding a pistol in his hand, and was looking at D’ Artagnan without mercy. I started yelling at him, shooting all kinds of insults at his eye-patched face. “You cheating scum! You coward! You-you,”
“If you don’t shut up, I will make you. And believe me, you won’t like it.” He said in a dangerously soft voice. I gulped. He had the muzzle of his pistol trained on me.
            The clip clop of horses’ hooves and the crack of a whip made me start. “Don’t shoot,” called a musical, ladylike voice. “The boy doesn’t deserve it.” I looked at the lady. She had a perfect face, pale, with curly brown hair of which half of it was pinned up into a bun. Her lips were red, her eyes a piercing brown, like D’ Artagnan’s eyes, with different shades. I didn’t have such eyes. I had green eyes. The chief’s eyes were an expressionless black.
            My enemy lowered his weapon, and I breathed out in relief and kneeled beside D’ Artagnan. I tore open his shirt at the shoulder and examined the bullet wound. “Here, use this.” The lady said. She threw me a large, white handkerchief that was embroidered with a deep violet fleur-de-lis. 
“Thanks.” I said quietly.
“The name is Milady.” She replied. Another crack of the whip, and they were gone.
I dropped to my knees once more and tended to the wound. I ripped the handkerchief into one long strip of fabric and wound it around D’ Artagnan’s bloody shoulder.  Hopefully it would stop the bleeding. He looked very pale.
“How are you feeling?” I asked my friend.
“Better, Anne thanks.” He forced a weak smile on his face and as he did, I felt a stab of sadness pierce my heart. He couldn't die. I wouldn't let him. 
I gathered up our swords and stuck them in my belt after wiping them free of dirt. Night and Buttercup had stopped becoming so restless. Clearly the noise of the shot had frightened them. 
I looked around. The strange man and his troupe had disappeared. I helped D’ Artagnan to his feet and we went inside to the Bartender. 
“Excuse me, ” I said, “my friend here was just shot in the shoulder. Do you think we could stay here until he gets better?”
The barman looked at D’ Artagnan’s red shirt and me. Then he gave a brief nod, and said gruffly, “But it'll cost you ten pistoles.” Ten pistoles were a lot, but I handed him the money with a word of thanks. He gave us our room number- 111, and we climbed up the wooden stairs.  
The bedroom was small, and it had a rather obscure air to it. The only furniture it held was a small bed, with bright sunflower patterned sheets that did not suit the atmosphere, a low hanging closet with one of the doors coming off, and a dressing table with a drawer in it. The wallpaper that decorated the walls a sickly greenish grey color, and the flowery lozenge shaped patterns on it were starting to fade. There was a dusty square window with a thin lacy curtain that had the texture and color of parchment drawn over it. 

When we were in the room, D’ Artagnan kicked off his shoes, and collapsed onto the bed with a moan. He soon fell asleep. It was only five o’clock in the afternoon, but I let him sleep. He needed to sleep more than me at the moment. He still looked rather pale, so I re- bandaged the wound. Late into the night, I fell asleep on the floor. I let D’ Artagnan have the bed. He wasn’t making a sound, but when I saw him sleeping, his face was twisted with agony. I felt a pang of pity for my friend and hoped that is arm would be much better tomorrow. Oh well. Only the morning could tell.


The following morning at six a.m., D’ Artagnan claimed that his shoulder had healed well and we could continue our journey. I wasn’t fooled though. I re-bandaged his shoulder twice with cool, damp cloth and told him we would leave at nine o’clock. The three hours we had to pass in the bar went by quickly. We tended to Night and Buttercup, thanked the barman again, and we were off.

9 comments:

  1. amazing story..i reallyliked it! hope you can upload the next chapter soon:)

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  2. That was beautiful. So intriguing, I'm literally on the edge of my seat! What happens next? I need Chapter 2! You have a way with words, you make sentences seem so realistic and I feel as if you have taken me into the story. Awesome! :)

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  3. Sarah! Your are so talented, I have never seen this beautiful writing come from an 8th grader! Wonderful story- Great first chapter!

    Aditi

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  4. Nice Sarah. Looks like you already have a following. Please add me to the list. I am so impressed by your voice and style. I am even more impressed that you chose your work, so early with our class. Looks like the quiet girls have found a place to share their voices. I am very much looking forward to reading so much more.

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  5. Wow! Can't wait to read more. I really enjoyed how your words paint the pictures for us and place us firmly in the story.

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  6. I really enjoyed reading this. I am very impressed by your writing :) Hope more is coming soon!

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    1. Thanks a lot! It's great that we got to know each other on the bus :)

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