Chapter 3 – In the Presence of His Majesty
The next, morning, after I had cleaned my wound and bandaged it up with D’ Artagnan’s help, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis told us everything.
“Since ages, we served the king. We always succeeded in completing our missions and deeds that he assigned to us. We were considered as heroes all over the land. Everyone called us the three musketeers.” Began Athos.
“Then, one day, we failed the hardest and most impossible mission the king had given us yet.” Continued Porthos bitterly. “The king was furious. Wine!” he shouted and a short, plump figure rushed into the room on its stout legs. He looked remotely like Porthos, except for the fact that Porthos was practically bald and was taller.
“The thing, is, sir, you’ve finished all of the wine. It’s all gone, sir. Every single last drop is gone. Gone.”
“Well then buy some more!” yelled Porthos.
“The thing is, sir, we’re sort of out of money. It’s all gone, sir. Almost every last pistole. Gone. Gone.”
Porthos looked so devastated, I handed him twelve pistoles. “It’s for letting us stay here.”
“Thank you. Here, buy some more wine.” Porthos handed the little man some money, and he scurried out of the room.
“So, what happened after you failed?” asked D’ Artagnan.
“Well, as you can probably imagine, the king was furious. Disappointed in us. He sort of abandoned us. So we gave up. Stopped fighting. We just lived our lives here, drinking.” Concluded Aramis.
“But you’re the three musketeers!” I protested. “You don’t just give up!” Before any of them could argue with me, however, the little man came bursting through the door. He was holding three bottles of French wine in his arms. He clunked one loudly on the wooden table. “There you go, sir. I’ll go put the other bottles away, then, sir.”
“Yes, yes.” Said Porthos impatiently. The man turned around to go, but Athos stopped him.
“Before you go, remember to leave your room to our guests.” The man didn’t look too happy about this.
“That means I’ll have to sleep on the balcony.” He muttered.
“Correct.” Said Amos.
“Where all those bloody pigeons will poop on me.” He said even more quietly.
The next morning, Athos explained to us what we were going to do. “We have been ordered to go to the palace grounds today, to be judged by his majesty the king.” He told us at breakfast. His tone was not a happy one.
“Why?” asked D’ Artagnan.
“Because we fought the cardinal’s guards yesterday.” D’ Artagnan and I were driven into lapsed silence as we considered this injustice.
“Well, we had better get going. It’s almost ten o’clock and we’re expected there at eleven. It’s an hour on horseback.”
We rode in silence to the place. None of us were looking particularly happy. At least, because we fought the Cardinal’s guards, we weren’t dead. Not yet, anyway.
We arrived at the palace grounds at a quarter to eleven, where two sallow- faced guards escorted us inside, where the king stood, waiting for us, with His Eminence standing beside him, dressed in a scarlet robe with a Christian cross dangling from his neck.
“Your Majesty,” we said in chorus and kneeled down on the cold marble floor in front of the young king.
All of my companions took of their plumed hats, all except for me. Now wasn’t the time to add on extra intensity to the situation we had landed. Thankfully, the king didn’t seem to notice.
“You all know, I presume, why you have been conducted here.” He began.
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Good. Now, to begin with, what exactly were the numbers?”
“About five against fifty, your majesty.” Said Athos.
“Five against fifty. Astounding.” The king repeated. “And you killed them all?”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Now, I need to decide what to do with you.” His Majesty concluded. No sooner had the words spilled out of his mouth than Queen Anne herself, with her two maidservants behind her, entered the room.
“Don’t be too harsh on them, dear,” The Queen looked radiant in a red silk dress, embroidered with patterns of flowers in gold thread.
“Don’t you worry, I won’t be.” She walked elegantly over to him and whispered something in his ear.
The king narrowed his eyes and looked at me. “Stand up, boy.” My whole body tensed. I obeyed, and stood up, trembling.
“What is your name?”
“Anne, your majesty.” Oh, curse me! I should have used a false name, a boy’s name. Anne is a girl’s name!
I felt the blood trickling down my side- the wound had opened up. Good. Let it bleed.
“Have you no respect, Anne? Take off your hat.” I looked at D’ Artagnan for help, but it was Porthos who answered my unspoken question.
“Take it off.”
Slowly, dreading what would happen next, I removed my hat and my long red curls showed themselves again. Everyone looked surprised and shocked except for my companions and one of the maidservants. She looked about D’ Artagnan’s age, and had long, straight, blonde hair and very blue eyes. She was very pretty, and I could tell that D’ Artagnan had fallen for her.
“But you’re a girl, merciful heavens!” exclaimed the king.
“Yes your majesty,” I mumbled, and fixed my eyes on an interesting crack in one of the marble tiles.
“Your age?” demanded the Cardinal De Richelieu.
“Thirteen, your Eminence.”
“And you fought these soldiers alongside these four?”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“And they did tis to you?” I tore my gaze away from the floor and looked where he was pointing. His finger was trained on the thick line of blood that had formed on my shirt. It didn’t hurt so much now. “Yes, your majesty.”
“Now get down.” I kneeled down beside D’ Artagnan. “I have come to a final decision,” the king said grandly. “You must promise me not to get into any more trouble with these soldiers. Or else there won’t be any of them left!” He chuckled.
“We promise, your majesty.” Aramis gave his word.
“Good. And you, girl, you are not to use any weapons anymore. You are to become a lady. Understood?”
“No- I mean, yes, your majesty,” I said in a barely audible voice.
My heart sank. I had failed. All this- all that training with my stepfather, all those years, the long journey to Paris, that was all… for nothing. I felt like crying.
4- The Airship
No sooner had those words come out of my mouth than the sound of breaking stone sounded from outside. The king, queen, maidservants, His Eminence and we five rushed out of the palace doors.
Before us, in the middle of a sea of red and black troops, stood a gargantuan yet magnificent ship- and airship. It was made of an actual ship except for the fact that the sails and mast had been replaced by an enormous hydrogen filled balloon made out of a lightweight violet cloth which bore the now familiar fleur-de-lis.
The door opened up, and out came our worst enemy, chief Buckingham. He strode down the wooden gangplank towards us in a most pompous manner. I stuffed my hair quickly in my hat. D’ Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis also put on their hats. I could see that they, like I, had no intentions whatsoever of showing any kind of respect to Buckingham.
Buckingham walked up to the king, gave him a ridiculously short bow, and turned to De Richelieu. “Wonderful creation, isn’t it?”
“Indeed it is,” replied His Eminence.
“Why haven’t I got one?” whined the King. “I order you to construct one for me!”
“It shall be done, your Highness.”
“Excellent. Guards!” Two surly looking men appeared beside the king. “Will you please escort the five young people to the stables.” We were led to the stables, where Night and Buttercup greeted us with nose nudges and ecstatic whinnies. Once we had saddled our horses, we started the long rout back home.
We went slowly and got home at around three in the afternoon, where an anxious Monsieur Bonacieux, upon seeing our arrival, began to bomb us with questions.
“We were lucky,” said Athos at dinner.
“Lucky?” I scoffed. “Lucky?”
“Well yes, if you look at the fact that we weren’t jailed or executed.” Said Porthos, sounding amused. Well, I was not amused in anyway of the ending result of our visit.
“I’d rather die than give this up,” I placed my sword on the table.
“Come on, Anne, it’s not the end of the world,” D’ Artagnan was saying.
“Stop it, D’ Artagnan, you’re not helping. And for your information, it is the end of the world.” I could feel the tears coming, so I stood up, snatched my sword from the table and stormed upstairs.
“Come back here, Anne! You haven’t eaten anything!” D’ Artagnan shouted, but I ignored him, although he spoke the truth. Instead I slammed the door of my bedroom behind me; re bandaged my wound up and got into bed. Life was so unfair.
Night had already fallen when someone came in. “Anne-”
“Go away, Athos,” I said in a strangled voice, and I pulled the covers over my head. I didn’t get to sleep until midnight. I lay awake, tossing and turning.
The next morning, I was woken by a sharp rapping sound coming from the front door.