Saturday, January 08, 2011

Departure

Monte-Cristo, 23rd August 1713

Once the Catalan legation had completed all due protocolary formalities, the xebec crew went aboard and focused on departure preparation. Short time later, a small but solemn parade left the Paris H. Palace Hostel. Preceded by the flaming regimental flag they had been entrusted, the Royal Catalan Guards detachment marched with full pomp and ceremony around the carriage normally used by the Marquis de Vilana, followed by a picked band of the Monte-Cristan Gardes de l'Etrier. The parade looked as if designed for popular entertainment and so it was, because dozens of citizens stopped to watch it and enjoy the splendid brightness of the Catalan Guards uniforms, yellow with red facings.

At the city-state port, Sous-lieutenante Claire Baizanville was resentfully watching the parade. Marquis de Vilana had not informed her about any of his departure details -although few things would escape to her acute observation sense-, so that their unveiling had made her feeling quite angry. This is how the Catalans were to pay her restless concern? Underestimating her in the last minute?

When the stagecoach stopped in front of the Catalan xebec, its occupants hurriedly went up the ship without much ceremony. Then the soldiers hurriedly followed them, so that within minutes the ship had untied moorings and sailed for open sea, while flying a number of Catalan and courtesy flags. Claire watched the fast procedure with some astonishment: something was wrong and she couldn't guess what it was. She then observed a sudden activity increase aboard the Spanish galley of Marquis de Ordoño. With amazing efficiency, the war galley soon had its moorings untied too, and swiftly stumbled harbor showing the discrete steadiness of a predator stalking its prey, after the Catalan xebec footsteps.

Still puzzled, Claire thought for a moment. Apparently, the Spaniards were on notice of the Catalan legation departure, albeit this was by no means any secret: Marquis de Vilana had not hidden his intentions to return back home, and even had explicitly referred to it several times... Claire's sixth sense got her on guard, as a warning that something was far from going as expected. She suddenly understood. Fueled by a sudden feeling, Claire climbed onto her horse with the agility of a panther and galloped to the hotel.

At the hotel's backyard, Claire intercepted a small and discreet coach about to leave through the back gate and, without hesitation slipped inside it, while pulling out her pistol. Inside, two Catalan soldiers in civilian clothes also pulled out their pistols; Marquis de Vilana was sitting between them, discretely dressed in a trader's clothes. After the initial surprise, the Marquis smiled placidly:

-Dear Claire, it seems as if nothing could escape to you!

-Marquis, what the hell are you doing? -she exclaimed.

-I'm leaving the Presipality, my dear, but...

-...But?

-...I wouldn't let the Spaniards know my actual destination, Claire. I'm not going back home, but to Paris instead.

2 comments:

abdul666 said...

De Vilana's extreme precautions are perfectly understandable, but he *could* have let us into the secret.
We could even have provided him with a perfect enough look-alike to embark the xebec openly and stand in view on the forecastle...

Soldadets said...

100% true, Jean-Louis. This is why Claire is so angry.

...I must confess I wished to see her angry ;)