Chapter 7- Captured
It was early in the morning, and Athos and I stood on a stone bridge above what would have once been the White tower’s moat, unnoticed by Buckingham’s troops that patrolled the grounds below us.
I was feeling ill at ease in my new tower soldier uniform. Buckingham’s men wore outfits of red with a gold cross on the chest. There were white shirts underneath the red over suit with ruffs, and large red hats.
Athos’ face was expressionless as he tied a noose in the piece of rope needed for our plan.
We waited patiently for the last set of troops to come. We picked the soldier at the far right of the last line. Just as he passed underneath the bridge, Athos hung the noose around his neck and pulled tight. He didn’t even have time to scream. The musketeer pulled him up silently. I jumped down and took his place.
It was exhaustingly tedious, marching with the troop. After what seemed like ages of continuous striding in unison, I spotted the door that Aramis and Porthos had described to me: “A low door, painted black, adorned with a golden lion head knocker.”
Quietly I slipped out of the troop and hurried over to the door. Yes, it was the right one. There was the lion knocker, its mouth slightly ajar, baring its fangs to any intruder. The gold leaf layer was already coming off the ring that rested in its jaws. It looked rather menacing. I took a deep breath, and pushed it open slightly. Surprisingly it wasn’t locked, but then again I hadn’t really expected it to be closed.
I froze in mid-step as the hinges creaked ever so slightly. I put my eye to the crack. The room inside was dark and obscure. I thought I saw a small movement inside. I gathered up my wits and told myself, ‘nonsense, Anne, you’re imagining it. Or if you didn’t it was probably a rat.’ Yes, it most likely was a rat. Rats like deep, dark slimy places. So I opened the door completely.
Death lay there, waiting for me in the form of at least twenty experienced and well-trained soldiers. All wore pistols at their belts. I didn’t stand a chance, but if I was going to die, I wanted to go down fighting.
I took out my unfamiliar sword. It was heavy, not meant for someone my size, and the blade and handle weren’t balanced in weight. All I managed were a few clumsy strokes and feints before one of the soldiers landed a blow on my forehead.
If the blade had landed flat on my forehead, I would have probably been unconscious, but it landed on its side. I went down and screwed my eyes shut in agony. I sensed the warm blood trickling down my eyelids as I sent a silent prayer of forgiveness to D’ Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis. It was over.
I felt coarse hands pull me roughly to my feet and before I had time to think about what was happening, my hands were handcuffed behind my back. I was dragged up a flight of spiraling stairs. I heard a heavy, presumably wooden door being swung open.
The guard holding me grunted something. The scraping of chairs on a wooden floor and the clink of coins jolted me back to the reason I was here. The diamonds. “We need her alive, you fools!”
“Am I dead?” I mumbled.
“I don’t think so.” Milady. So she really was a traitor. My eyes snapped open. I had been stripped of my disguise, including my ridiculous hat, so that I looked like myself, wearing only my usual scruffy shirt and trousers. Buckingham came over to me, and, stooping, mopped up my wound.
“There, there,” he crooned softly. Up close, he looked even more frightening. I noticed he had a thick scar on his right cheek, a feature that I had missed out before, and that his eye patch bore a purple fleur- de- lis, identical to the one embroidered on the handkerchief Milady had given me what seemed like an eternity ago. “I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.” He was mocking me, making fun of me with his superiority. He caressed my cheek. He stood up and told something to the two guards that were holding me. I struggled against their grip, but they just tightened it. I was forced to my knees.
“Let me take it from here,” continued Buckingham. The guards retreated to the far side of the wall. My captor held the chains that bound me in a firm grip. Then he knelt behind me and yanked my hair back so that my throat was exposed, vulnerable. I cried out. Buckingham laughed softly and pressed a shining dagger to my throat. “Now,” he whispered in my ear, “you came to London for the diamonds, isn’t that right?” I shook my head frantically. My eyes widened in fear.
“Lying won’t get you anywhere. Never lie to me!” He hissed, pressing the blade down even more so that tiny beads of scarlet blood appeared. “Where are your comrades?” he asked. I opened my mouth to answer, but instead it was D’ Artagnan who answered.
“Anne! Anne!” I managed a feeble smile. All four of my friends were in the airship in front of the window. D’ Artagnan leaped onto the windowsill with a loud thump.
Taken by surprise, Buckingham spun around to face him. In doing so, he loosened his hold on my chains. I seized my chance to escape. I lunged towards D’ Artagnan, but I was jerked backwards and fell. Buckingham was restraining me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Milady disappear out of the room.
As soon as she had gone, two red faced guards stumbled in and shouted; “The diamonds! They’re gone!”
“Yes, and I wonder who took them,” said Aramis mockingly. The diamond necklace shimmered at his belt like pools of clear water reflecting the sunlight.
Buckingham heaved me to my feet and walked me so close to D’ Artagnan so that I was just out of reach of safety. He put his knife to the red line that was clearly visible on my neck. “Now,” he told D’ Artagnan, “we can have a deal arranged. I have the girl, you have the diamonds.” D’ Artagnan eyed him suspiciously. “Continue.” Buckingham was getting impatient.
“Either you give me the diamonds, my friend-”
“I am not your friend,” interrupted D’ Artagnan.
“Either you give me the diamonds,” he snarled at D’ Artagnan, “or you watch your friend die.”
“No!” I screamed. “No! Don’t give them to him! He’ll kill you all the same! Just bring the diamonds back to the queen! I don’t care if I die!” my tears were streaming down my face, dropping red on my shirt as they mingled with the blood from my scalp wound.
“Be quiet!” Buckingham silenced me with a kick. D’ Artagnan boarded the airship once more. I felt my spirits rise, but not for long. He stepped back on the windowsill, the jewels dangling from his hand. Buckingham eyed them greedily.
“She goes free, and you get the diamonds.” Buckingham nodded. “And you will not use any weapons against us until we are out of sight.”
“You have my word.”
“On one condition. If I may, my lord,” one of the guards stepped forward. “She doesn’t struggle until we let her go, and she walks to you.” He turned to me. “Understand, darling? Or else-” he made a horizontal slicing motion with his hand across his throat. I gulped and saw D’ Artagnan’s eyes widen. We both knew the clear meaning of that.
“Yes, on that condition.” Agreed Buckingham.
“Very well. Then she goes free. Untie her now.” I was relieved of my chains. I rubbed my sore wrists and slowly came level to D’ Artagnan. He hugged me tightly, as if he was my father, and I breathed in his warm and comforting scent.
“You should have let me die.” I whispered.
“No. If you were killed, I would never forgive myself, and you know that. Now get to safety.” He let go of me and gave me a gentle push towards the window. I clambered up onto the windowsill and Porthos threw me a rope. I grabbed it, wound my feet and hands around it, and jumped off the tower. I looked back in time to see D’ Artagnan toss the necklace towards Buckingham, and he too leaped off the sill, and clambered on board.
WHAM. The whole ship shuddered with such force that it me off balance. Buckingham had lied. He was attacking us. I should have known when I saw the fire leap in his eyes when he gave his word to D’ Artagnan.
I straightened up, only to duck down quickly when a cannonball whizzed through the air, missing me by inches.
Aramis looked like he was about to burst like bomb with fury. A bomb. That gave me an idea. I grabbed the tiny explosive weapon from the chest of drawers, and tossed it to Aramis, who seemed to have grasped my plan. He lit it and hurled it through the open window of Buckingham’s room. Another violent shudder. My head throbbed. The last thing I saw before I blacked out was the tower exploding, raining shards of stone down on us, and then the airship swerved sharply to the left to avoid a huge piece of rock that once made up the tower falling down. Falling. Falling echoed a voice inside my head. I fell asleep on deck.