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First pages

Prologue

With pure perfection nature’s artistry paints with bold brush strokes in crimson across the evening sky, a delicate wash mingling with paler pewter hues fading to ochre on the outer edges of the horizon. Adorned in black, Luna, the moon ascends with majesty, attending stars pay homage to the sister of Sol in all her illuminated beauty. This precious artwork orchestrated with a fanfare from the assembled multitude of birds their chorus-bidding farewell to the day, ethereal powderpuff clouds shimmer in the last rays of the setting sun. Flourishing a courtly bow, the sun dips his golden mantle honouring the moon with reverence, automatons performing under a star-studded sky, illuminating their splendour since time immemorial.

Captivated she gazes beyond the clouds upon the artist palette streaked across the sky a mix of blended hues, the warmth of the setting sun reflects in Aurore’s hickory eyes, mesmerising arrays of colour holds her spellbound. Blanketed in the long grass she lays on her back interlocking her fingers behind her head, fanned out her dark hair, lose tendrils fall naturally in the grass framing her beauty. Her eyes melting dreamily in swirling brown confectionery mellowed as she remembers the halcyon days of summer sketched on her half-closed eyes, her lashes drawn like a veil, a backdrop to her imagination. Blessed with a vivid imagination her spirit unfurls on gossamer wings adorned with rosy hues she raises, souring though ethereal clouds uplifted by warm thermal eddy. Floating through the troposphere with lighting agility, turning like a bird on the wing spiralling downwards to the earth, free falling on the outer edge of the eddy cutting through clouds ablaze with crimson. Wings controlling the uplifted pockets of circling warm air she spirals ever downwards drawn like a month to the campfire below, spiralling smoke invading the funnel tainting it with the acrid smell of burning wood, carried on a changing wind. Crackling logs spit forth a myriad of spark leaping and dancing from the flames ascending to greet the new dappled moon. Gathered around the fire the Basque community, Amalure leading the song strumming the melody on his guitar, a traditional song passed down through the generations, these simple words epitomise freedom, and Aurore stretches listening to the guitar playing contented at her father’s side.

 

The bird; Txoria txori

If I had cut its wings

It would have been mine

It would not have flown away

However, it would have been a bird no longer

And it was the bird that I loved

Translation from “Colloquial Basque”

 

Aurore has known no other life, sharing in the companionship of friends a commune sitting around a campfire with their Basque Comte, Aurore’s Perer, coming together in song and celebration. Erected in the centre of the clearing a campfire, large boulders encircle the outer edge of the pit, a spit fashioned in the centre. Half a goat turns on the spit basted by Amalure’s brother, slowly cooking, the juices drip sizzling on the hot embers tantalising aromas fill the air evoking the appetites of the gathered crowd. Captivating Aurore the Txoria txori, she sits on the ground, her leg bent under her at her Perer’s feet, watching the flickering flames reflecting a glow to the outer edge of the campsite, the area bathed in amber and gold. Aurore looks up into his brown eyes, and he is leaning forward, gently rests his cheek next to hers, whispering to his little rose. “A bird without her wings is not a bird at all,” reaching out his hand he lifts her chin with his fingertips kissing her on her forehead “Aurore my dear always be as free on the changing winds like the bird, independent from those who would restrain you, act on what is in your heart.”

Chapter 1: REQUIEM

Aurore Marie Peyrer de Troisville is a product of her most abhorrent memory cradling in her arms a man of such great affection to her, brutally murdered her dearest Perer, the fates devious spinning weaving sudden change, life then cast on the random winds, ever changing. Lost in her thoughts, Aurore takes comfort in the garden next to the residency; her refuge, hidden in the corner a small paved area nestled under a lilac tree in full bloom, draping its foliage of deep bluish hues protectively over the bench placed under its bow. Entwined with jasmine an arbour set to one side, hedonistic aromas permeating the air with the scent of sweet honey carried on the soft summer breeze her sense of foreboding constantly her companion, drift away with on the summer breeze, and here in her sanctuary. Liberate from all thoughts she breathes in the heavenly scent, taking great care to arrange neatly the back of her skirt before calmly placing herself down on the small stone bench under the protective branches of the tree, thinking s over introspectively.

She finds serenity listening to the birds chirping in the trees, she grew withdrawn and introspective the fates weaving the threads of time manufacturing the fabric of her destiny. Time has passed since the death of her Perer; Aurore deliberates over the influence the Comte Pierre de Peyrer Aurore’s father and his brother Jean Armand du Peyrer Earl of Troisville have had on her life thus far giving her the substance of her character. Shading her eyes her hand lifted to her brow, she looks upwards through the canopy of the tree mesmerised by dazzling shards of sunlight penetrating through the branches and glimmering across the paving stones. Joyful hypnotising figures transformed from fallen leaves dance with flickering steps across the ground and the adjoining pond. Magically a beauteous dragonfly joins in the dance, skimming across the water’s surface, fluttering its translucent turquoises wings hovering over the water, warm breezes rustle through the leaves swaying the bending bows in rhythm to a bird singing perched high in the branches. Playful beams of light illuminating her dark coiffured ringlets falling gently against her shoulders the breeze bringing a rosy glow to her cheeks, sighing with contentment the warmth from the sun tingling on her skin, her dark lashes flutter several times over her chocolate brown eyes, the enchantment of the garden lulling her into sleep. Encased in a chrysalis Aurore revisits her memories, harsh dreams that at night invaded her dreams, nightmarish Spector’s of deaths servant appearing astride a ghoulish horse, Satins envoy, the Grim Reaper with scythe in hand reaping the damned and lost souls. Carried away under the gardens magic spell, picturing happier memories safeguarded from the cruelty she has experienced.

The “Chateau de Peyrer” a few miles from the market town of Saint Jean pied de port, with Amalure at her side her lifelong friend, the chateau shimmering in the sunlight, its majesty reflected in the waters of a grand pond. The grand house, her childhood home, nestled in picturesque countryside near the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains; this is Basque country the people there are fearlessly proud of their heritage. Amalure with his charismatic smile pulling up from the corner of his mouth creasing at the edge of his full lips, a twinkle deep in his black eyes challenges her to a race. leaping onto his horse encouraging her in wild behaviour, the two friends running wild on horses racing across the Acres of land free to roam whenever and wherever they desire.

The Comte Pierre du Peyrer, Aurore’s stately Pèrer elegantly mounted on his black stallion indulges Aurore in her whims, smiling to himself as she gallops off ahead into the wind on her horse Moliere, grateful she is not a troublesome child, her needs been very simple, the quest for knowledge and freedom to ride. Aurore relishing the wind catching her hair, blown about her face freely, pushing Moliere forward lengthening his stride, she laughs passing Amalure moving further ahead, naturally Amalure allows her to win the race, or so Amalure believes. Her elation as she pirouettes Moliere around to face the lagging pair who are just pulling into a halt, her joy reflected behind her eyes, swirling chocolate taunting Amalure who hated to lose.

The three tracks up the narrow path, their sure-footed horses picking their way up the mountain, until they reach the vantage point; there they stand motionless silently taking in the panoramic of the valleys below, their horses tossing their heads in the sweet fresh air after an exhilarating ride. This awe-inspiring magical place with pure sweet breezes whips around the stationary figures renewing their vigour for life, anointed with the freshness from the high peaks of the Pyrenees. Aurore gives thanks for her blessed mountains seducing her with their beauty, stretching elegantly between the boarders of France and Spain, gently blending at the base into the rich pasture of her home. She would imagine as a child that she was the beautiful Pyrene, a story of both love and tragedy, her Perer would tell her the story on cold winters nights in front of a cosy fire, evoking her imagination. Pyrene the daughter of the barbaric King Bebrycius, seduced by Hercules elopes with him into the mountains, there fate’s hand decides her destiny, and wild beasts savaged Pyrene. Hercules buried his beloved on the summit of the tallest mountain with these words, “My dear Pyrene, so that your name will be always remembered by those who will occupy this land, these mountains in which you sleep will henceforth be called the Pyrenees.”

Aurore’s life came with certain pillages, only a cruel twist of fate could destroy in a blink of the eye; Aurore had not experienced fates cruelty, her Perer cloistered her from the hardships of life. The estate provided for them in satisfying abundance, the cellar filled with wines produced in the vineyard, the fertile land ensured the kitchens pantries would be packed with fresh seasonal produce the year round. Sumptuous dinners would be prepared offering the family and guests the most fashionable cuisine. Life was idyllic, evenings spent in varied discussions, politics the arts and theatre Aurore’s Perer encouraging debate in languages other than French, naturally considering her temperament at times became quite lively. Her dearest most treasured memory was sharing a bottle of wine with her Perer, curled up with a book in front of roaring fire sipping from crystal glasses sweet apple nectar, another wine made on the estate, while her Pèrer caught up on his correspondence. She wanted for nothing, spoiled only in love, her Perer who idolised his daughter in the memory of her mother whom he loved. Her Pèrer like his brother had served in the King’s private guard, a mystery surrounding her Perer’s retirement, an incident when he was officiating as the Juge de proximité, part of his duties in the town of Saint Jean pied de port, been the capital of the Basque province of Lower Navarre. The incident putting him in great danger, Aurore attempted many times questioning her Perer, his answers veiled in half-truths revealing very little of the details, always remaining a mystery. Aurore’s mother, Marie Jeanne de Maytie had died when she was very young leaving her alone with a governess, her Perer feeling guilty retired returning home, devoting his time to his estate and his beloved daughter, putting the unfortunate incident behind him or so he thought.

 

Aurore’s seduced by the warmth from the sun breathe gently, falling deeper into sleep vivid, memories re-enacted on her closed eyes veiled with gossamer lashes. Her Pèrer materialises attired in his finest clothes, his dark hair peppered with grey framing a smile pulled up from the corners of his mouth, creasing his eyes in the corners, his face etched with wisdom accumulated over the years, a man held in great esteem. Gathering Aurore’s hand in his gloved hand with a warm squeeze wishing her happy birthday for on this day Aurore turned eighteen, June the 17th 1624.

The grand house resonates with happiness the servants chattering excitedly going about their various duties, in preparation for the birthday soiree, Aurore far too excited rises early with the dawn chorus, her excitement becoming tangible, small butterfly’s wings flutter over her senses sending visible shivers in waves caressing her skin. A knock on her boudoir door heralds the entrance of Aimee carrying a tray with sweet pastries, a bowl of hot chocolate, and a small exquisitely wrapped present. Aurore props herself up in bed on her pillows, with the help of Aimee, she utters a squeal of sheer delight, as Aimee with her little crooked smile, places the tray down on the bed. Aurore’s hands tremble lifting the exquisitely wrapped present from the tray, beginning carefully to undo the red ribbon tied in a bow around a small gold box, worked with panels depicting county life, the silk ribbon slips delicately though her fingers onto the bed. Opening the lid her delight shinning in warm chocolate eyes the box contains a small delicate gold necklace, one she had admired in a jewellery shop on a trip to Paris some time ago, her Perer arranging the purchased secretly. Tracing her fingertips over the necklace delicately, the diamonds are cool tactile under her touch, she continues to scribe over the intertwined sprays of roses, each filigree rose set with a red garnet, after each spay alternative bows and baskets of roses increasing in size until the glorious centre drop. Aurore hurriedly leaves her bed intending to rush down stairs to the library, Aimee gently pulling her back with her hand preventing her impetuous joy, slipping a modest gown over her shoulders, indicating with a stern glance and a tut that she is appalled at Aurore who would have paraded through the house in her night slip. Aurore reluctantly obeys sliding both arms into the sleeves of the gown, securing the garment with ribbon tied in the front, running bare footed from her room down stairs to thank her Perer for the exquisite gift.

 

Aurore enjoying her breakfast after returning to bed reflects on her Perer’s wisdom, having encouraged Aurore to appreciate the privileges they both enjoy on the estate, he was a moderate man, and his birthday gift came as even more of a surprise to Aurore in its extravagance. He taught her to count her blessing; her dear Perer guided her by example rather than by

harsh discipline, gaining her respect and admiration his real gift in life was the gifts of love, tolerance and learning, laid generously at her feet the wonders of the world to explore. Every day was an adventure feeding her unquenchable inquisitive nature absorbing the gift of knowledge and gratified for the opportunity.

Striking the hour, the clock on the mantle, surprising Aurore, time is passing and she has much to do, slipping over the cotton sheets sighing with contentment she lazily glissades her long legs over the side of the bed. Aurore’s toes press into the soft rug, savouring the feel of deep pile, she slowly rolls down from her toes on the ball of her feet before sink into the woollen pile of the rug. So perfectly have the heavens orchestrating her special day; warm breezes softly blow in through the window, fluttering the curtains, infused of sweet scented meadow flowers. Aurore gently breathes in sitting on the edge of her bed wearing on a light chemise; her shoulders and arms bare, feathery caresses stimulate her skin from the incoming breeze. Refreshed she stretches her arms above her head her fingers interlinked, taking in a deep breath, bending supply backwards arching her back, for Aurore this is the start of a perfect day. Aimee’s who is devoted to Aurore smiles one of her crooked little smiles, hovering around her attending to her ever need. Draped over Aimee’s arm a light robe gently slipping it around Aurore’s shoulders, she worries that the draft from the open window will chill Aurore. Lazily she slips her arms into the sleeves of robe, laying her hand to Aimee’s arm, smiling in silent appreciation before walking with graceful symmetry over to the dressing table each leg placed one in front of the other flowing into the next step seamlessly. Aurore notices Aimee has placed the exquisite box next to a crystal perfume bottle on the dressing table, sitting on a stool she swivels her legs together around facing the mirror, Aimee picks up a brush begins brushing her long dark hair with vigorous strokes before loosely tying the hair into a ribbon caught at the back of Aurore’s neck.

Aurore pauses at the top of the long staircase looking down into the entrance gallery, tingling all over unable to control her enthusiasm, she gathers up the hem of her gown sweeping as on air down the staircase. Smiling happily, she wanders among the servants, working industrially applying the final additions to the decorations. In the main reception room, the ballroom for tonight, two extending refectory tables draped in the finest French linen, the three tier crystal centrepieces on each table cascade with flowers, in between the flowers dazzling the eyes an abundance of fresh fruit. As Aurore approaches her Perer’s study, intending to thank him for her wonderful gift, she notices M. Baston, walking towards greeting him cordially she takes opportunity to inquire whether the catering for the evening was on schedule. M Baston bows politely ensuring her that the kitchen has been diligently preparing since before dawn, the oysters packed in ice delivered at four in the morning under the supervision of the chef.

 

Returning from breakfasting with her Perer, Aurore is grateful Aimee has prepared a bath; filled with steaming hot water the intoxicating aromas rising from the bath fill the room with calming lavender soothing her nervous anticipation for the night’s festivities. After bathing she tries to relax perched on the stool in front of the dressing table, sipping champagne from a crystal glass, Aimee secures the last pins in her coiffure, “there all finished” Aimee whispers, patting her shoulder. Aurore jumps up, twirling with joy in front of the mirror admiring her reflection, Aimee smiling her crooked smile, nods with approval, catching Aurore by the hand muttering for her to be still trying to adjust the folds of the pale blue silk gown, and worn with pride the magnificent necklace, the garnets complimenting the neckline of the gown. One last appraisal in the mirror before Aurore takes in a breath. Straitening her frame ensuring perfect deportment, Aurore takes Aimee’s hand squeezing it, before Aimee steps aside opening the door of the boudoir, Aurore floating past her, hardly able to breathe trembling with excitement. Trying to gain composure hesitates at the top of the curved staircase, glancing down upon the grand entrance whispering under her breath, “Aurore poise and elegance”. Aurore watches M Baston with a taper light each candle in sequence, instantly illuminate the entrance hall, creating a soft calm ambience, in the ballroom a sextet plays music to welcome the quest.

Aurore elevates her skirt in one hand and unable to hold the excitement any longer she glides down the staircase, all around her gentle rustling like the leaves in autumn blown swirling around pathways, the back of the dress swaying across the stairs with each step. Aurore’s enthusiasm floating in a mist of sweet scented rose’s petals infusing the air with divine perfume, she is a warm summer breeze descending the staircase. M. Baston looks up and smiles then continues to light the candles in the ball room, each receptacle of light sending flickering forms to dance though the crystal drops adorning the chandeliers myriads of coloured prisms sparking like the stars a kaleidoscope of colour on the walls of the grand reception room. Flowers in abundance, arranged in the finest porcelain vases presented on marble plinths imbue a sense of calm and serenity the air filled with hedonistic perfume. Standing at the foot of the great staircase, Aurore’s Pèrer his brown eyes overflowing with pride, his gloved hand beckoning her with inpatient excitement to join him, she joyously kisses his cheek slipping her arm through his proffered arm, her Perer patting her arm reassuringly with his hand. Amalure looking extremely handsome, clad in black, his imposing stature and dress could be that of a country Gentleman, greeting Aurore with an enormous grin lifting the corner of his lips up creasing the corners of his eyes. He takes a stride forward taking her hand with a flourish, pressing his full lips in a gentle kiss to her fingertips, looking up at her from under hooded dark eyes, whispering happy birthday. Aurore pauses with her Perer just inside the front portico, before stepping out onto the top step to welcome guests who have started to arrive in fine carriages; timed to perfection a footman steps forward escorting the honoured guest into the reception room where they partake of refreshment. Aurore glancing towards Amalure who approaches with two glasses of champagne, handing one to Aurore, nothing could spoil her perfect day.

Unexpectedly out of a great cloud of dust, the thundering sound of galloping horses advancing at great speed up the sweeping driveway, guests scattering in every direction avoiding the onslaught of men riding at full hilt, their leader an imposing man circles around on his horses giving the orders. Amalure at once strides forward curling a protective arm around Aurore bringing her behind him for protection, her Pèrer calls for his sword gruffly, uttering the words “so finally she takes her revenge”. Leaping down the front steps two at a time Amalure with sword in hand lunges forward engaging in a parry with one of the masked men, the clash of swords reverberating in the air, Amalure holding him abbey until his brothers join him defending Aurore’s Pèrer’ their gallantry proving to be futile. Unprovoked, the attack mortally wounds Aurore’s Perer, attacking without mercy, their leader commands in a German accent to “Take care of him” saying with a nod towards Aurore’s Perer, a man strides forward thrusting his sword into Aurore’s Pèrer delivering a fatal injured. Frantically pushing through the crowd Aurore falls onto the ground beside her Pèrer, blood gushing from a penetrating wound in his chest.

Helplessly she stares into Amalure grave face overcome by bewildered, numbness creeping thought-out her body Amalure notices fear welling in her brown eyes, pleading for his help. Salty tears burn trickling from her eyes staining her complexion, falling forward onto her Pere’s chest whispering “Don’t leave me, looking up at Amalure, “who would be so cruel” pressing to her cheek to her Pere’s face, his eyes flutter open, he blankly staring into oblivion, his life breathe ebbing away. Devastated Aurore is unable to understand such an abhorrent attack, glancing up her eyes lock with the devil incarnate, who stares with cold impassionate features, Peres’s blood dripping from his knife. Swinging up on to his horse spurring it into a standing gallop he follows the other mercenaries, turning to look back over his shoulder a cruel glint in his dark eyes, laughing.

Amalure strides to the aid of the Comte, ordering his brother to assist to lift Aurore’s Pèrer up carefully sliding his arms under his armpits interlocking his fingers across the Comte’s chest. The brothers lift the Comte’s legs, carefully carrying him into the house, M. Baston clearing the way requesting inquisitive guests to step aside. The first few steps on the stairs taken gingerly, once they find their footing they continue with the uttermost care up the grand staircase, Amalure taking the bulk of the weight, continuing along the corridor to his bedroom. Aurore stays at her Pere’s side until they lay him down on the bed, oblivious to the state of her ball gown, the pale blue silk soaked in blood; behind her brown eyes there is emptiness, a void. Her frozen hand clasped around that of her Perer, the housekeeper Madame Baston draws her away, Aurore’s face shrouded disbelief she is completely unaware of the frantic attempts to save the Comte’s life. The Doctor an elderly man at once attends to the Comte wound, looking gravely at Amalure while he desperately applying pressure to stem the flow of blood, glancing anxiously towards the housekeeper Madam Baston, shaking his head conveying there was little hope. Amalure stepping forward he gently lifts the Comte, running his arm behind his shoulders propping him up onto the pillows making him comfortable; the Comte’s face ashen blood from the open wound seeping through the dressings. Aurore in her numbness cannot bear to hear his breathing rasping he struggles to breathe, she slides her hand under his head lifting his head from the pillow; agonizing cough racks his body until he falls back into the pillows again. Her vigil is constant through the night not moving from the edge of the bed, his hand griped in hers, the Comte weakly closes his fingers around her hand, closing his eyes for the last time languishing at death’s door for some hours. Aurore’s world is silent; the clock ticks endlessly the swinging pendulum marking the passage of time, echoing in the hollowness of her mind. Lying in the darkness of the night, time a villainess waiting for the hour glass and the remaining sand to all but run through, ticking endless ticking her arms wrapped tightly around him preventing his departure from this mortal earth. The dawn breaks, her precious Perer, passes silently.

Aurore’s stays with her Perer, her head resting on his shoulder, frozen in time, her grief unimaginable, she refuses to leave his side, the cold harsh reality dawning on her, she is now alone. Discretely Amalure whispers to Madam Baston that he must gently persuade Aurore to allow him to take her the short distance down the passageway to her boudoir. Amalure wraps his muscular arms around Aurore as they enter her bedroom; she sinks into his arms her head buried in his chest, sobbing involuntary shudders causing her breath to catch and she gasps for air before another sob shakes her body. Amalure brings her in closer to his chest, waiting for the shuddering sobs to diminish, taking her up into his arms carrying her to the bed, hiding his grief hidden behind an unreadable mask. Covering Aurore with a blanket, he stays close to her a lone sentinel watching over his little bird. Hungrily devouring her will to live griefs intense pain convulses her frail body producing involuntary spasms, fate kicking her repeatedly; she cradles herself in the foetal position in her lamentation. The night spent in the half-light between sleep and dark awakenings, Amalure an abiding light at her bedside.

In agonising heartbreak, the days pass slowly, she wanders aimlessly throughout the house, memories fuelling her grief, the stale aroma of tobacco from her father’s pipe, neatly piled unopened piles of correspondence on the desk, will go unanswered. Endless nights interrupted by nightmares, her Pere’s voice piecing the void, she leans in her sleep to the touch of his hand against her cheek, brief intangible memories hovering in time. Appearing through the darkness the funeral, a dark ominous cloud lingering above her once happy home, the night before the doctor had administered an opiate ensuring sleep.

Infused with a smoky apparition, shadowy Spector’s float silently in her mind, intruding into corners so dark endorphins secreted by the opiate only dull her darkest emotions. Rolling over onto her side Aurore groans, the bright light of the day pierces her red-rimmed eyes, behind the eyes a void there is nothing more inside her to give, only raw grief. Gently with kindness, Aimee persuades her to leave her bed, the sanctuary cocooning her during the night she has no desire to confront the horror of the internment. To stand by the grave will be to admit her Perer’s death, in denial, she keeps him close, the alternative she cannot understand it would require an acceptance of his passing. Standing isolated in her shift traumatize she stares into the steamy waters of the bath, prepared with her favourite oils, by Aimee, the aroma of rose oil only evoking memories, which cause further discord to the fragile thread suspending her in heartbreak.

M. Baston, the housekeeper, enters her boudoir, with gentle understanding of Aurore’s fragility, takes her hand informing Aurore it is time, aiding Aurore with her coat, and then pulling the black lace veil down over Aurore’s face. The veil concealing her overwhelming distress, Aurore’s face obscured from unwanted intrusions by well-meaning mourners. Aimee gentle placing in her hand another vile of opiate from the doctor ensuring Aurore can endure the nightmare. Amalure waits at the bottom of the sweeping stairs, his countenance sombre, and Aurore’s mind in turmoil only a few days before she had descended the stairs on the day of her birthday gazing lovingly into the proud eyes of her Perer. Amalure steps forward supporting her physical frame, hooking his arm around her small waist without him her knees would have would buckled. He holds hand firmly taking her to the head of solemn procession, his supporting arm around her waist; they wait outside on the driveway for her Perer, Aurore stares blankly towards where the faded shadow of her Peres’s lifeblood still stains the stones. Six trusted friends bare the coffin to its final resting place, within the family’s private cemetery; the blessing given, Aurore with a single red rose in her trembling hand steps forward, letting it fall from her fingers to lie in rest on the lid of the coffin. She wavers on the edge of the grave, held back by Amalure’s firm grip around her waist, she has the overwhelming urge to fall on top of the coffin prising the lid open with her fingernails in the belief her Pèrer calls from beyond the grave.

After the funeral, correspondence delivered from Paris by a courier, from Aurore’s uncle, Jean-Arnaud du Peyrer, Earl of Troisville, her Uncle on returning to Paris, after attending to pressing business with the king, responding as always to his demand. Jean-Arnaud du Peyrer at once writing a letter to Aurore, although expressing great sympathy for the demise of her Perer expressing his own grief for the loss of his buckle, he delicately but firmly insisted that she leave for Paris with an escort to live with him under his protection as his ward. Aimee rushes around preparing for Aurore’s departure for Paris, the waiting for Aurore an eternity one day dragging into the next, always the same question, what motivation of revenge would be so abhorrent to call for the murder of her Perer.

Chapter 2:Sortir

Aurore’s wanders through the empty corridors of her mind, suspended in time, searching in desperation for explanations where there are none, faltering with anxiety, her Perer has left behind. In the shadows, whispering silhouettes scurry away to their duties as she passes them in sadness, intrusion prolonging her despair. M. Baston solemnly begins swathing the grand house in dustsheets, as a period of mourning begins, drapes drawn across the windows excluding all light the house falls into silence, the last vestals of the celebration gone without trace. Aurore’s personal items are packed in traveling chests ready for the journey to Paris. Amalure hovers at Aurore’s side concealing his own sense of loss, although he will never admit it the separation from Aurore plays heavily on his mind, jet-black strands of hair fall haphazardly shielding his eyes, which have lost their glow; his shoulders slumped as he makes the necessary arrangements for Aurore’s departure.

Dreading her departure, the carriage arrives at dawn from Paris, with two outriders form the elite Mousquetaires de la Garde; embracing each member of the household Aurore bites back the tears, as she says her goodbyes to the entire staff. Amalure a few paces behind until all the farewells are said; one stride forward, he swoops her in his arms holding her tightly to his chest, before kissing her softly on the top of her head, then proffering a hand escorting her to the carriage, for Isaac de Portau to aid her inside. The driver swings up to the driver’s seat takes up the reins, releasing the brake giving the command to the horses to move off; the two outriders on either side of the carriage.

Ominous black clouds gather, an omen that fate has another card to play, an impenetrable black curtain hanging oppressively in the sky heralding an unnatural storm, thunder rumbles in the distance threatening a deluge of rain. The carriage rolls though the open gates of the estate, nature’s elements mourning her loss bringing darkness to envelop her shattered dreams, her life broken into a myriad shard each splinter bringing its own agony, the pain too much to endure, Aurore not having the strength to glance back at her beloved home, and Amalure for the last time. Endlessly the carriage clattering wheels turn relentlessly, bumping in the ruts on the uneven road, the storm rumbles on in the distance, over a blackening sky. Gazing blankly from the carriage window Aurore in the realisation that tragedy has brought about this unimaginable chain of events; “I am a bird no longer,” she whispers to her Pèrer, feeling him close by her side. Escorted to Paris by her cousins whom she is vaguely acquainted with, Isaac de Porthau first cousin of the Comte de Troisville, and Charles d'Artagnan de Batz-Castelmore, d'Artagnan had gained favour with Jean-Armand du Peyrer, Comte de Troisville through the support of his uncle, Henri de Montesquieu, Comte d'Artagnan, father of the field marshal Pierre de Montesquieu d'Artagnan.

 

Distantly she stares from the window not aware that the carriage has pulled up outside the entrance of a remote country tavern, respite for the horse’s overnight and taking refuge themselves from the gathering storm.

Isaac takes command opening the carriage door doffing his hat with a formal half bow, offering the bewildered Aurore his hand helping her decent down from the carriage. In automaton, she gathers up her skirt neatly in her hand, stepping onto firmer ground, disoriented from the perpetual rolling of the carriage, fragile and numb with despondency.

Unexpectedly a dark figure appears seizing Aurore with his arm around her neck, pressing a knife into the soft skin of her throat, dragging her backwards towards the inn door. From where the point of the knife indents into her neck blood seeping around the point of the blade, whispering his hot breath against her ear, with venomous profanity he growls in a German accent.

Petrified she is unable to speak, the man’s face covered with a mask. Continuing his assault, he hauls Aurore unceremonious into the tavern, prolonging the ordeal by dragging her upstairs into a bedroom, he hurls her like a rag doll onto a small bed, binding her hands together, with coarse rope, behind her back.

Enduring the elements Charles gallops to alert Jean-Arnaud du Peyrer, Earl of Troisville, to the plight of his niece. The storm rampages through the French countryside Charles encourages his horse forward relieved there are only four miles before reaching the barracks, under no illusion how urgent it is for him to arrive in Paris before dawn.

The ground is heavy going gluttonous mud fly’s up from his horse’s hooves, familiar landmarks disappearing into the enveloping torrential rain, Charles d’Artagnan shakes the rain from his hair thinking “some would say this was The Roth of God”. With every strike of lightening the black coat of his trusty mare, coruscating with sweat, foam spraying back from the bit onto her sides freckling her with white iridescent pearls. The mare a strong warm blood type he trusts with his life, on this night he would have to. An almighty strike of lightning bifurcates a tree up ahead, shying fleetingly, the mare flares her nostrils snorting out billowing steam, vaporising in the cold night air. Charles d’Artagnan leaning forward strokes her neck gently to calm his faithful steed. Pushing on harder through the storm into pitch-blackness of night, the silence shattered punctuated by claps of thunder rumbling overhead, lightning divides the heavens illuminating the dark road. Charles passes through a small village; he is familiar with, foreboding, grey stone buildings stand illuminated in the lightening only to retreat into the darkness as if from fear, mud in puddles on the road thrown up by the mare’s hooves splattering it in every direction. They pass through the village, the endless darkness creeping in engulfing the stone building claiming them from the storm. Charles wonders if Armand de Sillegue de Athos and Henry d’ Aramitz were still on patrol in the storm or returned to the barracks, the headquarters for the Mousquetaires de la Garde, a fighting company of the military branch of the Maison du Roi, the Royal Household of the French monarchy.

On the road to Paris, Mousquetaires de la Garde fight the deluge battering against them, Armand d’ Athos first cousin to the Comte de Troisville related on his father’s side of the family and Henry d’ Aramitz a nephew of Comte de Troisville related through his father the brother of Armand’s mother. Eventually succumbing and seeking shelter in an isolated farm along the road, taking refuge in the barn after paying a few corns to the farmer’s wife.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I am retired with one daughter and one grandson,the center of our small family is my father who's humor is the best part of our daily life. Born in Staffordshire where I lived until I was five before life became exciting, the life of a gypsy travelling with my parents, my father serving as an officer in the fleet air arm, both on board aircraft carriers and drafted to naval bases around the UK and overseas. The experience shaped my development as a writer and has fueled my imagination.


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