Monday, October 8, 2007

The Envoy: Chapter One (rough draft)

Chapter One
D'Artagnan was compelled to remember the household cat from his childhood - Chiffon. She was the most prized possession of his mother. Like her doting owner, the Siamese was ornately beautiful with green eyes, emotionally removed, and singly interested in her own pleasure above all else. Chiffon lived a life of extremes, either being pampered and preened over by his mother, or being mercilessly tortured by D’Artagnan, whose favorite manner of menace took the shape of placing the cat into a piece of hand luggage, and violently shaking it until the cat stopped hissing and growling. It would fall out of the bag mewling weakly and limping to whatever part of the castle that she could hide from the boy. With the passing of his parents, the attache, along with everything else, had fallen into his possession.

With the handkerchief placed over his mouth and nose, D’Artagnan felt, not without irony, that he might fall out of the carriage mewling quite weakly himself. The four horses drawing the carriage were being lashed by the coachman without pause, their hooves smashing the rainwater out of wheel ruts and potholes. D’Artagnan and Esmerelle clutched hand loops with white-knuckles, and were trounced about frantically against all six sides of the coach with an absence of rhythm that struck panic in their hearts and nausea in their guts. With great difficulty, D’Artagnan managed to fumble his way to opening the side window, and stuck his head and shoulders out. Looking back at the road behind him he could not see their pursuers, nor hear the musket shots in the distance. That knowledge, combined with the fresh air and the cold mud splashing the back of his head and neck, left him momentarily refreshed. Just at that moment the carriage struck a gaping pit, violently delivering his head into the window frame. A wet rosebud of pain opened across the top of his skull. Angrily, he slapped the outside of the coach.

“Perhaps, monsieur, you would consider slowing our pace! It appears that our pursuers have abandoned the chase!” D’Artagnan yelled up to the driver, who did not look down, but cracked the whips violently instead.
“Eh?!” The driver fired back, obviously irritated by the interruption.

“We aren’t being followed anymore! Slow down, please!” D’Artagnan shouted.

With the same bitter annoyance, the coachman brought the carriage to a skidding stop. This time it was the side of D’Artagnan’s face that met with the window frame. He swore as a welt immediately swelled up across his cheekbone. The horses snorted and clapped their hooves in place, sharing the same indignation as their master. The coachman turned to face the road behind them, firing a quick and dirty glance down and theatrically placing a cupped hand to his ear. For the first time in what seemed like hours, the sound of the heavy rain was noticeable as it pelted the roof of the carriage, the worn brim of coachman’s leather bicorne and the shining coats of the horses. Incredulously, D’Artagnan gaped up at the coachman and back at the road. Moments passed, and just as he was about to protest, a the whistling of ammunition tickled his face, followed moments later by the crack of gunpowder.

“Eh?” The coachman repeated, this time the tone and his glance were both pregnant with the same gleeful self-satisfaction. D’Artagnan moved to slap the side of the carriage, but the coachman required no such prompting. With jerk of the reigns, the crack of the whip and a heroic declaration of profanity, the horses leapt into full stride again. Symmetry was achieved as the back of his head was cleaved by the window frame. D’Artagnan sat back into his seat, bouncing wildly again, as he tended to his newly minted head wounds. “Shit,” he muttered to himself as he examined the kerchief “this will never wash out.” Esmerelle shot him hateful glare - her eyes were two coal smudges on a white sheet - until she turned back to the matter of hanging on for dear life. If he remembered correctly, this flight was thanks to her doing.

The rifle shots continued and D’Artagnan again thought of his mother’s Siamese. If he remembered correctly, Chiffon did not live very long.

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