Disclaimer: I own all names unfamiliar to Baroness Orczy herself.
In the Temple Prison
It was this revolution, this struggle for democracy that turned even the most civilized into the very monsters they once abhorred. The population of France at the time seemed made up of solely the traitors and those they betrayed.
Safety was a thing of luxury, that only the wealthiest citizens could buy from officers and national guards of the Republic. Illegal transaction, though underground, was an established way of surviving through this treacherous time. Trust was a thing for fools. In this day brother betrayed brother to save his own bruised and lowly skin. Many families found themselves locked in a sunless prison, along with so many other betrayed aristos, because of naive reliance to the wrong man.
This was a time of vengeance, a time of brutal, insatiable hate directed at so many innocents. Fear and chaos burned through cities, a fire that breathed betrayal and deception and grew from revulsion and horror.
The inhumanity of those leading the nation was truly a terrifying reality. The power these corrupt men endowed themselves was endless, as was their cruel yet clever techniques of bringing even the strongest men into a crumpled heap of despair and loss. Perhaps the most creatively malicious of these men was Citizen Chauvelin, presider of the Secret Service of the Republic and greatest foe of that great Englishman, the Scarlet Pimpernel.
The reports and sightings of this magnanimous man, ceaseless though they were, had become so completely ridiculous the common citizen would have difficulty locating a man of such height and strength. Indeed, some tales swore he could run faster than a horse and burn his enemies with his terrible gaze.
The English adored him; proudly sporting the wayside flower in all the fashions, and toasting him at every cotilion and party. They believed he was unconquerable and invincible to any weakness.
They were all of them wrong, however. For this man, this romantic hero and valiant savior to the French nobles found himself trapped in a dank and shadowed cell as a prisoner of the Temple Prison.
Sir Percival Blakeney, Bart. hummed softly to himself as he stretched out his legs on the too-small bench that served as an inadequate bed. A smile curled around his lips as he thought of the young French comtesse he had managed to rescue before he was captured.
Of course, this Englishman never considered himself caught, but merely delayed.
The comtesse he thought of was a slight young woman, not even five and twenty. Her small pointed face exaggerated her large grey eyes, and he let himself give a chuckle as he thought of her reaction to his appearence.
She had been smitten even before he had taken off his disguise. She had clung to him possessively despite his many reminders to her that he had a wife and that her attention was futile. Sir Percy toyed with the ring on his finger, wondering if his directions to My Lord Hastings had been carried out yet.
Percy leaned his head back against the uneven stone of the wall and let his lids cover his eyes as he heard the lock of his cell door being opened.
"Sir Percy, what an honor it is to see you yet again," bade a voice through clenched teeth.
Percy tilted his head forward, cracked his eyes open, and smiled humorously, "Monsieur Chauvertin!" he exclaimed, "What a pleasure it is to know that some decent company will be met with me in this filthy prison."
Chauvelin forced a smile, his eyes now resting predaciously on this tall figure of a man, "Is this cell to your liking, Sir Percy? For all you need do is ask and you shall have."
"Lud, Chauvertin, gracious until the end, I see." Percy laughed, "I should like some English food and perhaps a bed that I may sleep restfully on. However, this experience is much more enjoyable than my last stay at this lovely confinement, eh, Chauvertin?"
Chauvelin supressed a growl as the Englishman gave him a painful remembrance of his last defeat. He had been so close. But now the small sable clad diplomat knew exactly what he must do.
There could be no mistake this time, Chauvelin told himself, watching his enemy close his eyes again and begin to softly snore. No, this time would be different. This time he knew what it would take to break this Engish hero.