A Musketeer's Heart - Chapter Two

Robert wasn’t at La Rochelle. There wasn’t any sign he’s ever been there. Whoever had taken him, for whatever the reason, knew how to cover their tracks.

But this time they weren’t good enough. Something must have gone wrong, for there was a clue. The missive that had arrived a week after Alexandra has sent the enquiry to the French branch of their family, held only one word. Paris.

Another gathering had taken place in the large kitchen, but this time Alexandra had been adamant. No more enquiries, no more missives. They needed to be proactive. She needed to be proactive. The diplomatic mission had obviously gone terribly wrong, and when something like that happened, the court always severed ties with whomever made something like that go wrong. They couldn’t count on the court, they couldn’t count on the King’s help.

All they could count on were themselves. All her brother could count on was her.

The servants, gathered around the kitchen table were outraged at her plan, but they all knew there were no other options. Asking anyone else for help would only result in complete and utter ignorance of King James and his court toward what her brother was doing in France. There would be no diplomatic attempts at retrieval, no rescue attempts. Robert would be on his own.

Alexandra refused to even contemplate that notion. He had one ally. An ally that would get him back no matter what. His sister.

Meg, her chambermaid, cried when she gathered Alexandra’s long hair in her left hand, and picked up the scissors with her right. “I cannot do this, mistress. Please, don’t ask me to do it.”

Alexandra rolled her eyes, and snatched the scissors from the maid’s hands. “Tis just hair, Meg. It will grow back.”

She gathered her hair in a long tail, brought it in front of her over one shoulder. She stared at her reflection critically, judging the right length. She needed something not too short, yes, she had some vanity, decided to cut it just above the shoulders. She picked up the scissors, glared at the sobbing Meg, and snipped.

Alexandra felt a little pinch around the heart as shorn black tresses fell onto the floorboards, but she had no time for sentimentality. As she told Meg, it was just hair. It was worth it, if it could help her bring Robert safely home.

Determined even more than before, she stood, tied the hair at the back of her neck with a leather thong, squared her shoulders, and marched toward her armoire. Lucky for her, what was in there would be more than helpful in making her appear as a man. Male linen shirts, leather breeches and doublets, custom-made boots...Everything a man needed, because there was no time to waste.

The next morning, Meg, still in tears, helped her bind her breasts—luckily she’d be able to do that by herself, Alexandra carefully applied her fake beard, strapped on her sword, made especially for her, tucked a pistol into her waist band, a dagger into her boot, and put on her brother’s leather hat. She inspected herself in the looking glass with a critical eye, quite satisfied with the results.

Gone was the dainty lady of the manor. In her place stood a young man, dressed in leather from head to toe, his longish brown hair restrained at the nape of his neck, the lower part of his dusky face—her golden skin tone was an inherited trait, making her appear even more out of place among pale-skinned women at court—covered by a few days worth of beard.

She grinned, pulled the brim of the hat lower over her right eye, tugged on her gloves, and winked at her reflection. It was time to go on her adventure.

She had time on her hands, crossing the sea to France. And all she could do while sailing toward the port of Le Havre, was think. Has she been rash with her plan of action? Maybe. Probably. Could there possibly be other options to save Robert? Maybe. Probably. And if she knew for certain that he was still alive, if she knew for certain where he was, she’d probably plan accordingly. Ask appropriate people for help.

But she didn’t have the luxury of knowing what has really befallen her brother. She had no idea of where he was, who’s taken him, and why. She didn’t know whether he was even still alive. She could only wish and hope she’d find him, get to him in time.

And she knew she couldn’t do it alone. She could survive, of that she was certain. No one on her journey so far has suspected she was anything but a young man travelling to France to visit his relatives. She could protect herself, she’s been training to protect herself since she was six—life had a way of opening a person’s eyes even from a tender age, and although she’s been presented into society, she’d kept up with her training. Shooting, fencing, riding, fighting. She knew every dirty move there was, because she had to know them. She didn’t have the advantage of height or strength, she had to use whatever was necessary to gain the upper hand.

She’d survive the journey. She’d survive the search for Robert.

She wasn’t that confident in her ability to survive the rescue mission.

She played with the ring her father has given her for her fourteenth birthday, the last birthday he celebrated with her. She’s taken it off her middle finger and put it on a chain she now wore around her neck. Worrying her fingers over the ring always calmed her, helped her focus. It didn’t help this time, and Alexandra sighed.

She’d known from the start it would be a foolish mission if she attempted it alone, so she’s devised an additional plan for when she reached France. She needed help, she needed reinforcements, and she knew just where to get them. She only hoped she’d be able to convince her cousin’s husband to help her.

And even then it would take time. One didn’t just stroll into the musketeers’ garrison, demanding help in locating one’s brother. It would take stealth and wits to gain their trust in hopes of ultimately getting their help.

She worried her lower lip between her teeth. But what if the King of France was the one holding her brother captive? Then the musketeers would be of no help. They’d be the enemy, her brother’s captors and guards.

Yet another good reason to infiltrate their ranks.

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