Chapter 8 – Back down to earth
I slumped lifelessly on the dirty deck, too exhausted and in pain to care. Strong yet gentle hands carried me below decks. Probably Porthos. Porthos lay me down on a blanket and wound a moist strip of fabric around my head. Then he left.
I slept well for the first time in ages. I was literally dead with fatigue and, although I didn’t like to admit it, fear from the day’s unfortunate events.
But the next morning, things began to go downhill for me.
All day long we sailed the airs without any news whatsoever of the missing diamonds. All day I sat, hunched up in the far corner of the bow of the ship. I wouldn’t talk to anyone and I wouldn’t eat or rest. All I would to is just sit there, my cloak wrapped around my shoulders, staring at the endless blue sky and the clouds that swirled around and enveloped us like mist.
Once D’ Artagnan came to ask me what the matter was, and all I did was glower at him. All I felt for the next few days was the burning shame of my failure. I was all because of me that we weren’t in possession of the diamonds. I f it weren’t for me, we would be on our way across the channel.
We have three and only three more days to bring back the diamonds.
Now I had enough. I marched into the captain’s cabin where Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’ Artagnan were in the middle of an important discussion. I pulled my sword out from my belt and slammed it on the table.
“Anne!” said D’ Artagnan. “How nice to see you up and about.”
I just ignored him and announced, “I give up.” The effect this had on my companions satisfied me. They all looked thunderstruck.
“What? Have you forgotten why we’re on this adventure? This is our chance to prove ourselves worthy to serve the king as musketeers.”
“I’ve already proved myself unworthy of serving the king,” I snapped. “And, no, by the way, I’ve not forgotten.”
“Anne-” Aramis started. I did not give him the chance to do so much as even utter another sound. I stormed out of the room.
When darkness began to steal its way over London, Athos yelled at everyone to prepare the airship for landing. I asked him why, but he didn’t so much as look at me.
I sighed and went off to find D’ Artagnan. He was at the steering wheel, eyes narrowed in an attempt to steer our way in the darkness. I went to stand next to him. “D’ Artagnan,” I said in an exasperated voice, “I just wanted to apologize. For being so nasty to you earlier. I was just-”
“Angry.” He finished my sentence for me and grinned. “Apology accepted,” he said. “Oh, and you might want this back.” And before I could protest, he stuck my sword in my belt.
“Keep it hidden, okay?” I nodded.
“All men prepare for landing!” Shouted Athos at the top of his lungs.
“I’ve got to go- I’ll see you when we land. Stay on deck and try to make sure we don’t fly into anything.” D’ Artagnan told me just before he disappeared to help the musketeers. I rearranged my cloak to keep my weapon hidden. As long as my sword was out of sight, I didn’t have to keep my hair hidden. I made my way to the steering wheel, rested my hands against the smooth wood, and kept a look out.
I could tell that we were losing altitude- suddenly the city seemed closer than before. Then I could see the water coming closer and closer, where a wave seemed to break the blue- grey surface in a line of foamy white.
A soft splash told me we had landed in water- on the Thames, to be more precise. We tied the airship up at the nearest dock, and, ignoring all the bewildered stares of passersby, walked quickly down a narrow alleyway that was crammed with little shops and inns. Athos ushered us into the first inn, called the Londoner’s Warthog Inn. It was a rambunctious place, with people making an infernal amount of clamor in the dim light. The inside smelled of spirits and sweat, not a very nice mixture, and D’ Artagnan actually pinched his nose shut and breathed loudly in a very irritating way until I elbowed him in the ribs.
Athos led us through the hubbub to the barman, had a quick conversation and, after a few infuriatingly long minutes, we walked back out into the quickly receding light of outside. We walked back to the airship with our arms laden with supplies we would need for the next few days.
We were still loading the airship when a small, plump figure came running towards us as fast as its short legs would allow. It ran on board and beckoned us over, panting. My hand automatically went to the hilt of my sword that was still hidden underneath my cloak. I slowly advanced to the person.
I heard a loud thump as Athos and Porthos dumped their supplies on the deck, and then, along with D’ Artagnan and Aramis.
With a jolt of surprise I realized the figure was Monsieur Bonacieux. I loosened my grip on my hilt, but I didn’t remove my hand. How exactly Monsieur Bonacieux ever got to London from Paris, that we never found out, for the little man gave us no time to speak whatsoever. He clearly had some important news to give to us.
“Athos!” he called. “I’ve got some news to give you.”
“Does this concern the diamonds?” Athos demanded in a stern voice. “It had better, because we have no time to lose!”
He nodded eagerly,
“Well? Out with it!”
Monsieur Bonacieux inhaled deeply and began. “Milady has the diamonds.”
“What? Could you please repeat that! I think my ears are failing me, but did you say that Milady has the diamonds?” said D’ Artagnan incredulously.
“Yes. She’s planning to leave the tower tomorrow at four in the morning in a carriage. She’ll be taking the route through the woods that way.” He pointed west. “Meet over the woods tomorrow, before five in the morning. I’ll try to take my position as driver.”
“Good plan.” Concluded Aramis. “Though you’ll probably need this.” He tossed at Monsieur Bonacieux a pistol, and the little man looked at it in such fascination you would have thought he had never set eyes on the weapon. “Now go.” Monsieur Bonacieux scurried off the airship and disappeared into the busy crowds of the port.
Porthos clapped his hands together and said cheerfully, “excellent! Now we know where the diamonds are.” He looked happier than what I had seen him in days, as did D’ Artagnan, Athos and Aramis. My moodiness had lifted a great deal for the first time since my dreadful failure.
Monsieur Bonacieux’s visit had certainly improved the sense of humor and cheerfulness aboard the airship. He had brought us to a new and fresh level- we were ready now.
I quite enjoyed our flight across London. I would spend hours on end gazing with wonder over the rail of the ship with D’ Artagnan and Aramis, who evidently knew more about London than anyone else onboard. Given the fact that Aramis wanted to become a priest when he retired from his career as musketeer, he showed us all of the religious laces places we flew next to or over. He would point the monument out to us and say things like “”Look, we’re flying over Westminster Abbey – wonderful inside, I tell you- and see that tower beside it? Yes, that’s Big Ben. It’s a clock tower,” and “See that huge cathedral to your left? That’s St. Paul’s cathedral. If I ever get the chance to live in London I’d like to work there once I’ve stopped being a musketeer.” Aramis’ eyes always seemed to light up when he talked to us about all these different places and buildings in London.
He evidently had a very clear view of his future. I wasn’t so worried about mine- I’m only thirteen. My father always told me- “Think about the past- for even if it is gone, remember it to not make any mistakes now. Be in the present- it is you as you are now. Forget the future, do not think of it, for the future never exists and never will.”
Other times it was just my best friend and I on the deck, and we would lean out over the railing at the bow of the ship, and let our hair fly in the wind, and after that, we would go into the main cabin, and just burst out laughing at how ludicrous we looked. Several times Athos had to come and tell us to “lower the volume” as he liked to put it.
Occasionally D’ Artagnan and I would go out when most of the ‘crew’ was asleep, and we would spend the night stargazing and devouring the sights of London by night. It seemed to me as though someone had beautifully embroidered a black version of London on a gargantuan tapestry and then outlined the city and its buildings with the glimmering silver thread of moonlight. The roads wound their ways in London like ribbons of moonlight, giving the place a strange and eerie beauty. The moon held the city in a silvery grip.
The stars glittered overhead like fiery golden sparks that were scattered across the velvety navy sky, showing off their beauty that they hid during the day.
Most of the time, the sunset was beautiful, very much unlike the red sunsets we see every day in Gascony. A vast darkened cloak spread below us, forming the horizon clearly, and as my eyes rose from the horizon, the sky turns into a lustrous explosion of colour. The bottom was a layer of dark crimson, slowly lightening and then going into a rich golden yellow colour as it ascended. The yellow than melted into a turquoise blue, which then merged into the indigo blue sky. The First Star shimmered alone, a small burst of gold in the sky.
The next afternoon, we stopped over the forest that Monsieur. Bonacieux had pointed out to us. The sun was already high in the sky, and when the airship came to a halt Porthos, Athos came to join D’ Artagnan and I on the poop deck. Athos went over to me and lifted my cape up ever so slightly and smiled. “Ah,” he said, unsuccessfully trying to sound matter of-factly, “I can see our youngest member and sword have reunited!” I returned his smile.
“What do we do now?” called D’ Artagnan from the starboard side. He was leaning over the side of the ship.
Aramis sighed. “We wait.”