Friday, November 11, 2011

Troubled journey (13): Fighting

Bonnevaux (Dauphiné), 25th August 1713

A clap of thunder echoed in the distance. Lieutenant Llinàs grunted and told to the young soldier accompanying him:

-Josep, prepare four pistols. And by the sake of God, get ensured to keep them out of the rain!

After a short while, Marquis de Vilana and Claire Baizanville came in the stage coach helping an old man walking. They were followed by a chorus of protesting monks, who nevertheless didn't dare to do anything else than complaining when the vehicle left the abbey's main yard. Both Llinàs and Josep settled on the stage coach box, while in turn Claire sat cross-legged on the vehicle roof, conveniently covered by a thick canvas protecting not only herself, but a loaded blunderbuss too, from the imminent rain.

In order to reach the main road to Paris, they should take the same way their Maltese pursuers would follow to come in the abbey. So that, according to Llinàs calculations, both retinues would meet half-way. Vilana's motto had been clear enough: they could not risk an inspection or interrogation by the Knights of Malta. They should force their way.

The stage coach was no more than a mile away from the road crossing when a fuzzy grouping of figures gradually emerged from the thick water curtain, a few dozen steps ahead. Seven riders in two rows marched towards Bonnevaux, moving under the shower at a not less painful slowness than themselves. Claire exhaled air, preparing herself for the impending action.

The riders noticed their presence and stopped, momentarily undecided. After a few seconds, they all drew their swords --their safest option under the heavy rain. One of the knights who went before the group broke up slightly, raising a hand to warn the stage coach to stop.

However, they wouldn't stop. By no means...

--Don't shoot until perceiving white in their eyes! --shouted Llinàs, and then he spurred the horses, so that the vehicle began accelerating dangerously on the muddy road.

Claire pulled the blunderbuss trigger and strongly wedged herself amidst the luggage, ready to withstand the weapon recoil. At a moment, the girl perceived the pupils of the knight at front and, as driven by a spring, she drew the blunderbuss gun out from the canvas, and shot. Llinàs fired his first pistol in unison to her, and less than one second afterwards it was Josep who shot too.

In a bloody explosion, the leading knight was projected violently backwards, as if hit in the chest by a mall. Behind him, a second knight fell to the mud. Llinàs then took reins again with both hands and threw the vehicle at full speed amidst the riders, opening their way down the middle of the column. Some riders fought to control their mounts, frightened by the sudden outbreak of violence. One of them fell to ground and had barely time enough to dodge the coach at the last second.

In spite of her shoulder sore by the blunderbuss recoil, Claire then got rid of the canvas with a stir and leant on a knee while extracted her small 3-gunned pistol, covering it from the rain with her left hand. At a range of no more than one yard, all three shots hit the face of a fourth knight who was just about to deliver his sword upon her.

Following its unbridled run, the stage coach quickly left behind the messed up Maltese retinue. Claire breathed hard, stretching herself back against the coach roof while clinging to anything helping her not to fall. It was a miracle they were still on the road. She looked back. Rain. Had their pursuers been caused enough casualties to desist? No. At least one of them was following the coach at a distance. She then asked Llinàs to stop the vehicle.

Llinàs glanced angrily at Josep and murmured a curse, for both of the young soldier pistols had failed. Leaving the boos for afterwards, he stopped the stage coach and climbed up to the roof, with the aim to be given a reason for the stop.

Then he saw a really unusual weapon in Claire's hands, just delivered to her by Vilana from inside the coach. It was some kind of musket, albeit quite odd and with a heavy butt. Still stretched on roof, she withdrew her soaked hair from face with an unconsciously charming gesture and aimed the weapon to some point on the road behind them. His experienced gaze was barely able to perceive...

Oh, yes. A rider. A stopped rider in the limit of visual range under the rain. Close to one hundred yards away. He looked at Claire with desbelief:

--He's far away. Too far.

--Not enough.

Claire's index caressed the trigger whose pressing would suddenly release the compressed air contained in a boiler inside the butt... for it was an air-gun, a latest-day weapon in the arsenal of Monte-Cristan Gardes de l'Etrier. A slight pressure on the trigger was immediately followed by a dull snap and a smooth decline. The rider briefly shook head for a moment and his lifeless body fell down to ground, hanging from a sturrip of his motionless horse.

The girl squinted to Llinàs who, still amazed, smiled back to her.

1 comment:

Bluebear Jeff said...

Good shooting, girl!

-- Jeff