Friday, October 14, 2011

Troubled journey (9): Shots in the dark

Comtat Venaissin border, night of 24th August 1713

Sous-Lieutenante Claire Baizanville tried to keep gaze to the clear line drawn by the gravel road amidst the darkness. At their departure from Les Tricastins inn, she and Guillem Llinàs had thrown their mounts at gallop southwards, hoping to catch the supposed murderers of Fra Dídac Serralta. She concentrated on distinguishing any silhouette in the dark, internally praying the sound of hooves got drowned by the murmur of river Rhone waters running by the road edge.

She then perceived a sudden pace change of Llinàs mount and instinctively forced her own horse to slow down too, gently pulling the reins. The Catalan military was intently watching forward, while extracting with parsimony one of his pistols. No more than a hundred paces ahead, two horsemen were riding at a slow pace. Darkness prevented them from discerning details, but they might well be the fugitives.

Claire and Llinàs increased slightly their horses speed. Their aim was to shorten distances as much as possible before being noticed. They were aware that, sooner or later, any of the riders would turn back and realize their presence. Minutes passed slowly while Claire pledged to control herself, seeking the least gesture in the pursued men indicating any change of behaviour.

Beaujeu's reaction took them by surprise, however. Showing no previous sign of having noticed them, the man suddenly turned back and, with a fast and fluid gesture, raised a pistol and shot them. He immediately afterwards threw his horse at full speed along the wet road. Claire cursed furiously. After skillfully managing to control her horse, that had got uneasy after the unexpected shot, she threw it into gallop side by side with that of Llinàs.

In short, Beaujeu's companion seemed not less surprised than themselves by the maneuver of the monk. His horse neighed and pranced in fright, waving its front hooves in the air. The man fell to the ground noisily. He got on his knees, panting and covered with mud, while hurriedly looked for something in his belt, perhaps a weapon. Too late, wen he just hold the handle of his sword, Claire's horse rolled him up.

The girl dismounted from a jump on the damp earth. Behind her, Llinàs and Beaujeu were still playing their own game road away, engaged in a frantic ride amidst the darkness. She got close to her victim, staring at him with curiousity. He a young man was still breathing, although with obvious difficulties. He had no illusions, had noticed well enough his bones crunching under hoof. She stroked the neck of her panting horse, trying to soothe it with a whisper: -Shhhhh ... quiet my friend... I know, I know. It was not very smart from us... but we're not going to tell anybody, shall we?... Shhh....

Beaujeu showed to be a consummate horseman, but a quick reaction of Llinàs in an unexpected curve allowed him to shorten distances to a minimum. Only four, maybe five paces. After briefly considering possibilities, the Catalan quickly pulled back the pistol lock and pressed the trigger. Beaujeu contracted on his saddle but, in spite of pain, drew out his sword and gave a thrust to Llinàs, who barely had time enough to drop the pistol and draw out his own sword to parry. Hurt as he was however, the next sponging of Beaujeu was devoid of nerve and Llinàs easily dodged it before thrusting in turn. Mortally wounded, Beaujeu dropped his weapon and relied heavily on the neck of his horse, who progerssively slowed down until stopping.

9 comments:

Salvador said...

Wow!
Nice!
Well told; I've seen the scene in my head from beginning to end as clear as if watching a movie. Congratulations!
Now, let's wait for those bastards' confessions (or their death moans)...

Bluebear Jeff said...

Will they confess anything? We await your next post.


-- Jeff

abdul666 said...

Will one survive long enough to be questioned, that is the question...

Jiminho said...

Lluis,

You have quite a stirring story line going here! I just read you quesiton on TMP regarding the protocols of the upcoming meeting at Schönbrunn. I don'T have an answer to that, you probably throw in a lot of intervening secretaries and ministers leading to the Emperor. He might never get a word in himself (unless wily and redoubtable Claire takes matters in to her own hands...!). In any case, your ambassador Kotrimanic and the syldavian ambassador to Venice were on their way there themselves, there are a pair of characters to weave in. Their orders were to consolidate relations with the Habsburgs in the context of ongoing conflict on their shared border with Borduria and to develop friendly relations with some of the Mediterranean states/statelets. Kotrimanic remains at your service!

Jim

abdul666 said...

Given *who* is Lady Elisenda, I doubt she would have to pass secretaries and chamberlains. She comes to Schönbrunn as a personal friend of the Emperor and his wife, thus I suspect the reception would be rather informal and private?
Not sure at all, then: the Austrian protocol was *awful* by the time of 'Sissy', and it was certainly not a novelty: it was called 'Spanish'.

I suspect that the choice between a formal, spectacular reception and a private one (or rather their *order*: both will certainly take place) will not be innocent: the 'official' one being blatantly an affirmation of support to Lady Elisenda's cause. Probably Charles will prefer to discuss with Lady de Floc in private first?

Well, I'm just delaying the need of a learned answer to your question :)

Soldadets said...

Good evening Sirs (well, er... at least it's past dinner's time here at home).

First of all, about the proxy RPG story itself: I'll do my best to speed up a bit my postings rate, given the fact we're approaching an aftermath and it's becoming to get *really* thrilling... ;)

Best wishes,
Lluís

Soldadets said...

About the upcoming Courtier scene at Schönbrunn:

True Jean-Louis, I hadn't thought of that insignificant detail before. It would seem wise from Emperor Charles to have a private meeting with his guests before any formal reception was held, in order to allow his guests to properly react to his own assertions or announcements...

However I would perform a storyboard useless repetition if showing the private meeting first and the public reception afterwards...

From a dramatic effect point of view, it maybe would be better to unleash events in a single scene --and a formal reception would be a formidable layout for such...

Or...?

abdul666 said...

Far more spectacular indeed, and for the whole world -read: other Rulers and Governments- to see and ponder.

The difficulty is now to find a historical description of such an event -I suspect Austrian Court protocol did not change significantly between 1700 and 1918, anyway.


On the other hand, reporting the 'private' conversation between Charles and Lady Elisenda, Charles' complete proposals and justifications (not only the official, public ones) and Lady Elisenda's reactions, could also be enlightening (but 'betraying' secret diplomacy) and give even more depth to the involved characters, specially the Galatan 'female hero' ('heroines' cry, scream and have to be rescued)?
In some way the two scenes are, *for a part*, complementary rather than repetitive.

abdul666 said...

Of course, to avoid repetitions and multiplication of posts, Lady Elisenda could remember her private meeting with Charles during the preliminaries of the official, public reception.
This would also allow to keep parts of Charles' proposals and explanations hushed up, if it's better, for diplomatic / political reasons -or to maintain 'suspense' in the storytelling- to keep them secret for the time being.