Chapter 2- 5 against 50
On our way I handed D’ Artagnan back his sword, and told him he might need it. I was right, too, although at the time I didn’t know it.
The center of Paris was a busy market. There were people yelling out things like “Best suits here!” and others waving chickens around so that the feathers flew everywhere. Several people were walking about oddly and absentmindedly doing odd things. Probably drunks. We decided to have a look around so we tied up the horses to a pillar where almost nobody went by and went off to look curiously at all of the stalls. You get markets like this in Gascony, but never some this big and this hectic.
I looked around. It was so interesting. The crowds were huge around people that did street spectacles. Suddenly I noticed someone familiar. I don’t remember from where. It must've been a long time ago, but when I pointed him out to D’ Artagnan with a nudge and a jerk of my head his eyes instantly arrowed. The man must have seen us, because he pushed through the crowd, earning himself disapproving shouts and angry yells. We gave chase. I ran so fast that I accidentally stepped on a gentleman’s foot.
“Sorry sir,” I gasped and tuned around to continue my way. He grabbed me by the arm. I spun around to face him. He wore a cloak and a feathered hat. He was a big, strong man with a dark moustache and hair that was the same length as D’ Artagnan, who stopped beside me.
“Look,” I said, “I’m in a hurry, okay? So can you please-”
“I just got those boots polished, you know. I’ll fight you. Noon, the square behind that huge cathedral.” He pointed it out to me.
“Deal. I’ll be there.”
“I warn you, boy, if you’re not there on time, or if you don’t come, I will hunt you down and kill you. Understood?”
I nodded, perplexed at how someone could carry out such a threat because of a bit of dirt on a boot. He let go of me and so D’ Artagnan and I hurried after the man we saw before.
We rushed through a stall where a portly gentleman was trying on different suits. “Blue or gold?” he was saying when D’ Artagnan crashed into him.
“Hey! Watch it!”
“One o’clock, the square behind the big cathedral.” D’ Artagnan panted and darted down the street. After a while D’ Artagnan stopped so abruptly that I almost ran into him.
“What are you doing?” I hissed. “We’re sup-”
“It’s no use, Anne,” D’ Artagnan interrupted. “We’ve lost him.”
I cast a glance around and saw that he was right. There was almost no one in sight. “Let’s get going. It’s almost twelve o’clock.”
He nodded. We walked in silence towards the cathedral. As we trudged along started to wonder whether the man whose boot I had dirtied would use a pistol, like the soldier with the eye patch. What if he shot D’ Artagnan in the chest and he died? What if I died? I was so immersed in my own thoughts that I walked straight into a tall, man clad in black, wearing a black cloak and who, unfortunately for me, was in the middle of drinking some alcoholic beverage. It must have been an expensive drink, because when I bumped into him, he stopped me short and snarled, “You made m spill my drink, boy!”
“I- I’m sorry!” I stammered, and offered him six pistoles to buy himself a new drink.
“Six pistoles?” he looked surprised. “Six pistoles?” he repeated. He seized me by the scruff of my shirt so I could his mustached face clearly. He bore many scars on his face. This was a man who’d fought many fights and won. “You’ll pay dearly for that, boy.”
“Two- two o’clock, the square be- behind the big cathedral over there.” I choked.
“Very well, I’ll be there.” He released me so that I fell to my knees. D’ Artagnan grabbed my hand and helped me up. When I looked up I saw the third man we had met hurrying off to the cathedral. I shod D’ Artagnan a puzzled glance, but he didn’t look happy.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered. “It’s only our second day here and I’ve caused two people to be after us.”
“It’s okay,” he answered. “At least if we die, we’ll be killed by a musketeer, and that’s not too bad.”
I gasped. “Those men we angered are the three musketeers?”
“In case you didn’t notice, they had identical swords to ours.”
“No, I didn’t notice. I suppose I was too busy walking into people.” He laughed.
We arrived at the square just as the church bells chimed for twelve o’clock. Something wasn’t right though. All three of the gentlemen we had bumped into this morning were waiting for us.
“Why the puzzled expression?” asked the Portly gentleman.
All three of them were smirking, as if pleased with themselves and, as D’ Artagnan told me, they were all fingering identical swords to ours.
“What my biggest concern is,” I said angrily, “is what happened to the one o’clock and two o’clock?”
“We decided to come together, it wastes less time.” Answered the man whom I had offered the six pistoles.
“Well then! Who wants to go first?” asked the portly man. “I’ll fight this strapping young man, since he was the one who troubled me. How old are you?”
“Sixteen,” came the reply.
“And you, boy?” he pointed to me.
“Thirteen,” I said.
“So who’s going to fight this this thirteen-year old?” he demanded with a mocking voice. Light leaped in his eyes as he looked at me. I stared defiantly back.
“I will,” concluded the third man we had disturbed.
“Ha! Athos! Can you imagine a thirteen year old beating you in a swordfight? This is child’s play!”
“No, I cannot, Porthos.”
“And you, Aramis?”
The man whose foot I’d stepped on merely shook his head and contented himself with sitting on a cart and saying, “I’ll just watch the show, then.”
I turned to Athos. I took out my sword and we bowed to each other.
“Ready to die?” my opponent breathed.
“I’ll do my best,” I replied with a grim smile. Our swords were crossed and we were about to begin when Aramis suddenly uttered a warning cry.
“Stop!” he barked.
I looked at Athos for explanations. “We must re unite now to fight against a grater foe. It’s the Cardinal De. Richelieu’s troops. They don’t let people fight with swords. If they see you, you’re sent to the king.”
“That’s disgusting!” I exclaimed. I turned around to face the enemy. I gulped. Leading them, on horseback, I recognized the man who had insulted Night and Buttercup and who had shot D’ Artagnan the day before.
“What do we do?” I asked D’ Artagnan, who had come over to the three of us with Porthos.
“We fight,” answered Porthos. I swallowed my fear. There were at least fifty trained soldiers against us five. That makes ten soldiers each. The five of us formed a small ring and held our swords out. I clutched D’ Artagnan’s hand and bit by lip so hard that soon I felt the bitter taste of blood in my mouth.
“It’s all right. We’re going to win.” He stroked the plumes on my hat soothingly, although I could see that he was just as scared as I was. Shaking, I let go of him and clutched my sword in a steady hand. Already our enemy was forming a large circle. About a dozen swords were trained on me. The whole square waited with bated breath.
I couldn’t stand the suspense much longer. I launched myself forward to meet my fate. It was pandemonium. The whole square was in uproar. Metal clashed against metal, within a few minutes the cobblestones were littered with corpses, the ground slick with blood hat was seeping through cracks in the stone. It was a horrifying sight.
I fought soldier after soldier. Stabbing, kicking, punching – eventually killing- my opponents. After my first kill, I felt slightly sick. Never before had I killed a living thing like an animal or- I didn’t even like to think of it- a human. But I soon recovered, and although I felt bad about it, I told myself that to become a real musketeer, you have to get used to this sort of thing. Athos, Porthos and Aramis were fighting without a problem. D’ Artagnan was battling like some wild animal. We were going to win.
The five of us fought bravely, but when at least half of the soldiers lay slaughtered at our feet, I saw the man with the eye patch galloping away the way he had come from. I furrowed my brow and thought. Why would he go away like that? He was probably going to the king. But why?
A soldier took advantage of my distraction and hurled a dagger at exactly the right angle so that it would pierce my heart. I would have died if Porthos hadn’t shoved another man in front of me. He took the blow. I heard a gurgle, blood trickled out of his mouth, he swayed, and then fell backward. I leaped out of the way, but too late. The corpse pinned the right side of me to the ground, the dagger still sticking out of it. I couldn’t move. Someone kicked a knife at me, causing it to carve a nice, long gash on my left side running from the top of my ribs to my hips. It was deep, and I gasped in pain. The word started to swim before my eyes. I blinked and saw one of the black clad men standing over me, sword raised above me. I sat up, clutching my only chance. I could feel the warm blood seeping through my shirt. I thought it was over when my hat tumbled off and my long mane of dark red hair cascaded down my shoulders. My opponent stood transfixed in shock. Clearly he wasn’t one of those people who have he natural gift of recovering of shock quickly. I grasped my chance, and, despite the pain, I stood up and drove the blade of my sword into his heart. The light in his eyes was extinguished and he fell, lifeless, to the ground.
All was silent. There were no remaining soldiers. All lay dead upon the blood stained cobblestones of the Cathedral Square. My head swam. I had lost too much blood. I collapsed just as Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’ Artagnan came over to me. I hastily tried to stuff my hair back in my hat, but I soon gave up. You could read it as plainly as words on their faces that they had seen. All except D’ Artagnan, obviously, were surprised.
Athos, who seemed to be the leader of the three, rounded on me. “Why didn’t you tell us? You’re a girl, heavens above! Girls don’t run around, looking for trouble! They stay at home, cooking, and sewing, not fighting brutal and bloody battles with the Cardinal’s guards! Girls are supposed to become ladies!”
“I don’t want to be a lady!” I said angrily. “I want to fight.”
“Nonsense!” spat Aramis. “Did you know?” he asked D’ Artagnan.
“Of course. She’s my best friend. She would never keep something like that away from me. Honestly, you can trust her.” I smiled at D’ Artagnan and he returned it.
“What is your name, girl?”
“And you?” Porthos pointed at D’ Artagnan.
“Should we start where we stopped?” said Aramis. I shook my head violently. The pain of my wound was so bad I winced. Luckily, Athos noticed.
“I think not, Aramis.” He said.
“Where did Buckingham disappear to?” asked Porthos. There was a hint of worry in his voice.
“Who?” said D’ Artagnan and I in chorus.
“Their chief.” he gestured carelessly at the corpses on the ground with a sweep of his arm. “The man with the eye patch riding the horse.”
“He went that way, I said, pointing in the direction of where the troops had come from.” Athos swore.
“What’s so bad about that?” demanded D’ Artagnan as he helped me to my feet.
“We’ll tell you later. Not here.”
“What do you mean, later?” I said.
“Well, let’s just say you two can stay with us. You’ve proved yourselves worthy enough to stay at our house.” D’ Artagnan and I exchanged surprised glances, grinning.
“Let’s get our horses, then.” Said D’ Artagnan.