Switched

by JeanTre16

(A Young Blades challenge by tpal2150)

I hadn't intended to masquerade as a musketeer. Really, I hadn't.

It's amazing what I find myself doing for my brother and for the right to stay alive. I'm not justifying it; how I went about it was clearly wrong. But like a street urchin picks their first pocket, learning to steal for a loaf of bread, one thing led to another. Before I knew it, I was dressed in that nobleman's attire and headed for the musketeers' garrison.

Am I not making sense? Maybe I should slow down and start at the beginning …

After killing the Cardinal's guard on my family's farm, I jumped on the dead man's horse and fled from the scene. I didn't know where I was riding to, only that I had to go. My heels beat hard into the animal's sides and my hands pumped the reins at its neck. Faster, faster, I urged the animal. And faster and faster I felt the heated blood pulse through my veins.

Damn them. Damn them, I canted over and over to the rhythm of the hooves. My body, soul and spirit burned in hatred for all the red-clothed men I'd left behind. I wanted them all to go to hell for taking the life of my father and for arresting my brother.

Time and distance passed in singular thought as I drove the animal beneath me forward. Finally, the labored beast refused to carry me further. It had taken enough of my merciless urging. It stiffened its forelegs and jerked to a halt, careening my chest into its arched neck. If not for my taut leg muscles, holding me astride, I would have lost my seat.

Angry at the red-man's horse — and everything else — I lashed the leather straps against its hide. But it was done with me. Thrashing its front legs in the air, it threw me and bolted for freedom.

My body flew into a ditch, landing hard against the earth. Stunned, I lay there, with my back to the cold damp ground, my gray frock soggy with dew and sweat, and my eyes staring upward at the colorless sky. For a long time, I was numb; I felt nothing, saw nothing, thought nothing.

Eventually, the gray above me turned to black … black with millions of star-studded rapier holes piercing it through. Everything my eyes took in retold my father's murder and my vengeful act on Cardinal Mazarin's guard. I closed my eyes, but it was useless. The red, black and white-pierced nightmare followed me even there.

Night fell around me and the faint sounds in the air came to life. Grasses rubbed against one another, chiding me with insults. The insects and crickets buzzed and chirped, mocking me in their laughter. Everything took on the voices of Mazarin and his men. "Bring us water, peasant. Watch us strip you of decency, woman. Die, you murderess!" they lunged with their words. Trying to shut them out, I rolled my head back and forth on the ground and moaned. But I could not wrestle free from their fiendish imprisonment.

Prison. The ugly realization overwhelmed my thoughts and tears began to flow. Gerard was in the Bastille and there I was, lying destitute in a field. All the practice I'd prided in; all the victories I'd won; all of it meant nothing in that dark, dank cowardice ditch. Hot tears seared my cheeks like lava seeping from a brewing volcano.

Dying didn't frighten me. If I was shot or hung unjustly, then I was ready to sacrifice my life. It was doing nothing that killed me. I felt I'd drive myself mad lying idle another minute while my beloved brother was at the mercy of the devil's men. With one thought in mind — free Gerard — I erupted from the earthen bed and set my path towards town.

I reached the outskirts of Paris, not knowing what to do or how to do it. But instincts told me that if I was going to have any chance at all, it would be as a musketeer. With that resolve, I put my efforts to the cause.

Knowing I couldn't walk into the musketeer garrison as myself, Jacqueline, I sought a disguise. That's when I found myself in that alley with a scarf drawn over my mouth, asking that nobleman for his clothes.

Looking back, I know if I had taken the time to think, I'd have known that God had not abandoned me, that he was somehow going to use that mess for good. But I wasn't thinking straight; I wasn't thinking at all.

One thing led to another and I wound up in the musketeer garrison, switched.