Warm mist swirled around me as water was poured into a tub, dead center in my chambers. The room, like everything else in my father’s small section that had been divided off of the south wing of the main house of Versailles, was blue. The only thing that differed from my chamber and every other quarter of a Lady of Versailles was the silver fleur de lis hanging proudly above my canopied bed.
Roseria, raven black hair falling into the water as she felt around the tub to see if rats had somehow gotten in without her noticing, watched me as I threw on my gray robe, running my fingers through my ringlets. My favorite dress - a silver gown, with silk sleeves - hung on one of the poles holding up the curtains.
I may not want to get married, I may not be fond of having my hair brushed.
But I do care about style: I adored dresses and having my hair fixed, when I was in the mood.
“I’m not letting you in bathing tub all the way,” Roseria muttered, pushing me into a chair near the tub. “I wash your hair and brush it. Nothing else. It’s wasting soap, water…”
“I can’t believe Papa is marrying me to the enemy.” France has been rivals with England for years, and here I am, marrying the Duke of whatever-english-estate, Benedict Blackson.
“And my strength!” Roseria finished her rant with that fine point and sat down next to me. Twisting her fingers together, she undid the knotted braids in my hair. According to the twenty-one-year old maid, it helped get the rats out more efficiently and quickly.
In my opinion, it only made it harder to wash and plait. It was unhealthy.
“Your father, God bless his soul, needs to realize that maids don’t last long. If I keep this up for another year-” Roseria threw my hair in front of my eyes, showing me the grubby mess that was, indeed, my locks of blond hair. “-then I just might keel over and die!”
I yelped as her nails dug into my scalp. “I mean no disrespect, M’Lady Corrine.”
I reached up to massage my bruised skull before shaking my head. Soap suds floated about the room. “Your comments on my father are the least of my worries, Roseria.” Roseria cocked her head to the side, eyebrows raised. I knew what she was thinking: no girl in my shoes has ever flat out refused to marry someone. Most women eventually agreed to a man. But I had no intention of ever walking down the aisle. Even if I would absolutely adore whatever dress the seamstresses would make for me.
“Your father wants what is best for you, Rinne.” Roseria pushed my head back over the tub. I was immediately engulfed in steam. “And if it’s not too bold to say…”
“Yes?” I prompted, slipping my hands over my eyes. The water flicked onto my robe, dribbling down my spine. Now lukewarm, the water sent a shiver up my neck.
“You cannot go gallivanting around the palace, in your good dresses, with a sword in your hand,” Roseria said, sounding slightly harassed, even though she’s never cleaned clothes in the castle. It was Colette’s old hand maid, who threw my dirt covered silk gowns into a washbucket. Roseria really had nothing to complain about.
“That is quite bold, Roseria.”
“And so is snapping at your father,” Roseria countered, taking on a Scottish accent. She primped her hair and gave me a cloth to dry my hair off. “But you get away with it just fine.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Paris was supposed to be peaceful. Serene. The city of love and light!
But, be that as it may, Paris was still a city.
A city that was the exact opposite of its implied description. The streets were filled with people; dozens of thousands of people. People who resided in the slums, and the rich folk, having been thrown out of Versailles for the time, walked about with snooty looks on their faces that said that they thought they were as high and mighty as God. I sifted through the crowd of them all, wondering how my social class could walk along these soiled roads without a thought of the people they towered over.
The only thing that separated me, Corrine Tripoli, from my fellow people of the court, was the fact that I didn’t enjoy watching children wallow in their own filth.
Oh, but then there’s the other fact that my father decided to send along the musketeers.
The only word that I spat out bitterly. The word I used to replace blasphemous curses. Musketeers were the King’s personal guards, loyal to him, and only him. But under their navy blue uniforms, they were arrogant men, with no respect for animals or the poor. In fact, the people of the slums might as well had been beasts to the men in blue and silver. I don’t know if my hate for them stems from their unwillingness to help anyone but the King, or it is because my only brother, Blaine, died a few weeks after becoming a musketeer.
Maybe it’s just the bad blood - the bitter memories - of my brother lying on that ground with a hole straight through his head that made me despise them.
I wouldn’t know.
It was just something that I thought without explanation.
Suddenly, jerking me from my thoughts, a musketeer grabbed me by the arm. “M’Lady Corrine, come this way.” I ripped my arm away from his fingers, feeling the silk on my sleeve give way a slight bit. Thinking that I needed to have a chat with my seamstress about making dresses fit for me being rude to an old - or, rather young - crackpot musketeer, I glared at him.
“I will go where I please. Thank you for your concern, Mr….” I paused, wondering why I was asking his name. “Mr… Musketeer, but I was about to see what La Rochelle Boutique had to-”
“M’Lady, I beg of you, you must come this way!” I could almost imagine the young musketeer on his knees in front of me, trying to move me towards whatever special place he had in mind.
The musketeer’s face was framed by curly strawberry blond hair that looked as though it had been twisted into ringlets with oil. I could give this man some advice on hair health. Dark brown eyes that almost looked like the bullets of a musket had been fired into his skull stared at me.
“Tell me one good reason why I should listen to-”
“Oh mon Dieu!” The musketeer sighed. Red was slowly creeping up his neck, as though he were getting annoyed with me. Well, let him and his ‘oh mon Dieu’ comment become irritated. This is my life and I’ll do what I want! Who am I to follow a musketeer’s le-
Thump. Thump. Thump-thumpa-thump.
Drums sounded from a few yards in front of me. Another man in blue and silver stood up in the center of Jardin du Diable - the place of execution. It’s name meant “The Devil’s Yard”, and the punishments that were carried out there made the name oh, so true. The musketeer was standing at the birch-wood gallows, holding a young woman by her hair.
“Oh, mon Dieu!” I repeated, staring at the platform. The woman would’ve been pretty - around twenty years old, with a slender figure and green eyes - if she hadn’t been screaming. She was twisting in the air, grabbing at the musketeer’s gloved hands.
It was as though he didn’t want their filth to rub off on him.
That filled me with fury.
“This is what you did want me to see, wasn’t it?” I asked him, quickly grabbing at his hand. He allowed me to hang onto him as I stood on tiptoes, trying to get a better look. Maybe there would be an opening; I could get in, and stop whatever was happening. It pained me to see this girl tortured in front of the public.
“Do you not realize how wrong this is? Folie!” Insanity! Finally discovering a way up to the gallows of Jardin du Diable, I began to walk towards the alleyway, my gate stumbled and hurried. The musketeer raced after me, grabbing me by my arms. “How dare you touch me! This is not right, what could she have possibly don-”
“Vous et chacun de vous sont arbitre et condamnés à être reportée à l'endroit d'où vous venez , de là au lieu de l'exécution,” the musketeer who had formerly been holding the girl by the hair had now dropped her. The girl had crumbled on the ground, and if I looked closely, I could see her ankle swelling as though it were broken. “Et il dans les marques d'inondation à être pendu par le cou jusqu'à ce que vous êtes mort, mort , mort, et Dieu.” I stared closely at her face. She looked exactly like….
Oh, mon DIEU!
“Dans sa sagesse infinie , aie pitié de vos âmes ... Après cela vous, et chacun de vous doit être pris vers le bas et votre corps suspendu dans les chaînes pour le crime contre un homme noble.”
‘You and each of you are adjudged and sentenced to be carried back to the place from whence you came, thence to the place of execution, and there within the flood marks to be hanged by the neck till you are dead, dead, dead, and the God, in His infinite wisdom have mercy upon your souls…After this you, and each of you shall be taken down and your bodies hung in chains for the crime against a nobleman.’
The girl, collapsed on the gallows at the musketeer’s feet, had committed a crime against a noble.
Realization swept over me. That girl was my sister.
And they - the musketeers - were throwing a noose over her bruised neck.
“Colette!” I jerked myself out of the musketeer’s hands, sending his hands grappling for a grip on my dress’s ‘bridal train’. “Ne vous aviez pas de la toucher!” I shrieked.
“You heard her!” The musketeer who had been trying to get a hold of me shot to his feet, finally decided to grant himself some dignity. “Let the woman go!”
“But who is her?” The musketeer on the gallows stared down at me, a disdainful look on his face. Isn't he the sub-head of the musketeers?
Yes. It was Aile Victomme.
Aile flicked his hand lazily to signal the other musketeers, with their guns cocked and aimed at me, to stand down. There those guns would stay until I finished drawing information out of the imbecile before me. As soon as I finished that task, I’d have Aile shot. Not fatally. I wasn’t that cruel. But I was planning the disposal of his amputated arm in the same manner most people reserved for writing a list of household chores.
No one was allowed to touch my sister, let alone kill her. It didn’t matter how far her pride had fallen. It didn’t matter if her sense of decorum was non-existent. I would not stand by and watch her be hanged from Jardin du Diable’s gallows.
I leaped onto the stairs, holding my gown’s train in my hand. Normally I would’ve climbed those stairs with dignity, my head held high like a proper woman’s. But I was too eager to free my sister from the rope.
“My name is Lady Corrine Tripoli, daughter of Viscount Audric Tripoli, and you will let my sister go.”