The Scarlet Emblem

Prologue: The Landing

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Guided only by the faint light of the moon, the boat swiftly glided into the small port. Her white sails gleamed brilliantly in the light provided as the massive object they were attached to ceased to move. Groans of annoyance could be heard aboard as a tall Englishman set foot on the soil of this new land. Raising his monocle before his eye, the man assessed the damage to the boat.

"Well, Sir Percy," came a sweet, feminine voice from the hull of the vessel, "what seems to be the problem?"

After a long pause, the man chuckled. "See here, M'dear, the boat has received a, ah, rather large tear to it. Nothing that can't be fixed! You there, sir!" he exclaimed, taking note of a sailor who was formerly resting peacefully against a wooden post of the dock.

The sailor jumped upright, obviously startled by the outburst from the so-called 'Sir Percy.' The man scurried to his feet, revealing small brown ears and a matching tail. The eye of the Englishman widened at this site as he further inspected it with the help of his eyeglass. "I say...a tail, good fellow? And ears to match? Surely this must be a dream! Wife, take a look at this!"

"S-Sir Percy, we're not in France, are we?" his wife, the so-called 'cleverest woman in Europe' proclaimed rather dumbly as she stared at the odd creature before her eyes.

This comment was followed by a long, inane laugh from her husband. "I'd say not, M'dear Margot! Never mind that though. You fellow, tell us, where are we?"

The sailor raised an eyebrow at him and scratched one of those fuzzy, cat-like ears he possessed. "I don't know what all this 'France' talk is about, but you're in Crimea--the most fashionable country on the mainland!" he exclaimed, still in awe over the fact that these travelers aboard an unknown ship did not know of this beorc country.

"Most fashionable? I dare say not! J-Just look at these...these rags!" the Englishman nearly shouted, his face distorting into an expression of disfavor. "Ahem," he muttered, taking a deep breath to calm himself and recollect his perfect English composure. "Do excuse me; I'm afraid I lost my head there."

"No, fear not. I must agree with you. I was born in Gallia, and I must say that they have much more fashion that this dreaded hum--beorc nation," he scoffed, spitting to his right. "Just paid to say all that great stuff 'bout Crimea," he added, rather nervously.

"I see. This Gall-ee-uh you mentioned," the Englishman mused aloud, pronouncing the name of the unfamiliar country very slowly, "where is that?"

"Gallia? Why, it's just a little southwest of Crimea. It's laguz country--rarely ever do any of those snobby Crimean aristocrats venture down there. Too proud, I guess."

"I...see. Now, the way you speak of aristocrats, does that suggest any spite towards them?" the man asked, attempting to be rather casual, glancing down at the ground.

"Naw, I really shouldn't have said that. Queen Elincia's good to us laguz...as are her close friends. It's the rest 'a them nobles we have to worry 'bout. They ain't all bad, but ya never know who ta trust," the man admitted.

Sir Percy nodded. "Yes, yes. Now, these lah-gooze you mention...are they the cat people?"

"Not just cat people, sir," the sailor answered, a hint of confusion in his eyes. "We're divided into tribes: beast, dragon, and bird. The beasts consist of cats, tigers, lions, and wolves and are led by King Skrimir in Gallia and Queen Nailah in Hatari. The dragons live in Goldoa and are led by King Kurthnaga. The birds--hawks, ravens, and herons--just relocated to Serenes under the rule of King Tibarn," the cat explained. He added, "I don't know why you wouldn't have known this... Where'd you say you were from?"

"England, dear friend. Surely you have heard of it?" Sir Percy informed him, attempting to collect all the information just presented by the cat-person.

The beast pondered this for a moment before shaking his head. "Nope, can't say I have. Is it some part of Begnion?"

"Well, n--"

"Yes, yes it is," Lady Blakeney piped up, descending the steps of the ship and walking to her husband's side. "Right, Sir Percy?" she queried, patting him on the shoulder.

"Ah, yes, dear wife," he replied, a bit skeptical. He gave her a look of confusion which she just shrugged off.

"You'll have to forgive my husband, sir," she laughed. "He can be a bit forgetful. You see, we heard that there's a man here that knows of a possible cure for my husband's disease, so we traveled all the way from...Begnion, to see if he can help him."

"Oh! You must mean Count Bastian. Yes, that man's a genius when it comes to solving problems!" the sailor exclaimed, revealing his admiration for this 'Count Bastian.'

"Yes, that is him! See, Sir Percy, I told you someone here would be able to help us find him!" she rejoiced, her blue eyes twinkling.

"Odd's life, M'dear! I suppose you did," her husband muttered under his breath.

"Now, dear sailor, might you tell us where this Bastian fellow is?" the lady inquired, her azure eyes showing innocence and beauty.

"He was in Melior last I heard," the sailor answered, peeling his eyes from her out of fear of her mesmerizing gaze.

"Melior you say? And where might this Melior be?" she asked.

"Follow this road here," the sailor answered, pointing to a dirt path leading to the southwest. "In a couple of miles you'll make it to the city. You should be able to find the count and his wife at the castle."

"Oh, thank you!" the woman exclaimed with a sweet smile. "Sir Percy, you shall be cured sooner than I had ever hoped!"

The lady leapt into her husband's arms for dramatic effect, and he gently patted her golden-red hair. "Marguerite," he whispered into her ear, "you'd better know what you are doing."

She followed this with a sweet laugh before motioning to a brunette standing aboard the Day Dream. "Suzanne, my dear little Suzanne! Gather Sir Andrew and the others so we can make our way to Melior and save Sir Percy!"

The girl nodded sheepishly before disappearing shortly. With a gracious bow, Marguerite Blakeney thanked the cat-man, who shrugged and settled back against the post, quickly drifting back to sleep. Before long, Suzanne reappeared followed by three men, all of whom gave Lady Blakeney curious glances.

"Sir Andrew, Lord Tony, and my dear Armand, we must reach Melior quickly to cure Sir Percy!" she exclaimed, out of fear that the sailor was not in fact asleep.

Sir Percy shook his head in amusement at his wife. "Always one to put on a show, eh, m'dear Margot?"

"How could I resist, Sir Percy?" she laughed as they were joined by the others of their group. "Now all we need to do is find this Count Bastian, pretend that we're here to cure you for awhile, and then get the Day Dream repaired so we can leave!"

Sir Percy linked arms with his wife and laughed heartily. "Sir Andrew, didn't I always tell you that my darling Margot was the cleverest actress in all of Europe...or shall I say, Begnion?" he added with yet another laugh.

"That you did, sir," his companion responded, gazing affectionately at his own wife. After his leader and all but his own wife had left, he added, "But she is nothing compared to Mademoiselle Suzanne." The brunette blushed and took her husband's arm as they rushed to catch up to the rest of their group.

After the coast was clear, the cat's eyes shot open and he jumped to his feet. As he violently ripped off his ears and tail, another man approached from behind the dock. The former threw his disguise to the ground in disgust.

"Inform Citoyen Chauvelin that the eccentric Frenchwoman has landed off the Crimean coast," he muttered to his companion, "and that she is headed for the castle."

"Yes, sir!" the other man exclaimed, dashing off in the direction opposite that of the way Sir Percy's company had gone.

Once alone, the 'sailor' cackled. "You won't escape us this time, 'Scarlet Pimpernel.'"

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A/N: Ah, I just love Marguerite. Anyway, things should get more interesting from this point on. Up next, Count Bastian, as well as many other members of the Crimean Royal Court, will make an appearance.