Welcome to my first fanfic in nearly four years.
Sadly, no matter how much I wish I did, I do not own the Scarlet Pimpernel; the books were created by the Baroness Emmuska Orczy and the 1982 movie (which partly inspired me, and directed by Clive Donner and starring the actors Julian Fellowes, Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour and Sir Ian McKellen) belongs to that studio. Everyone else, is ©me.
I know neither the books nor movie are entirely historically accurate; Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were not executed until 16th of October and 21st of January 1793 respectively and I'm a big lover of history and historical accuracy – I did my degree in it, but even I occasionally enjoy going off track; for the purposes of pleasure.
Anyway, please enjoy.
Prologue: Sad Tidings
The King and Queen of France had become the hapless prey to the voracious predator that was Madame Guillotine. The Dauphin was safe with his Austrian relatives; little consolation when he was now an orphan.
In England, society continued as normal; the endless rounds of balls, tea parties, soirees and trips to the theatres whilst the men visited their clubs, mistresses and the races, though, all eyes were on France and the English lower classes – just as a precaution; especially as more French émigrés joined the ranks, spared from the vicious uncompromising guillotine by the brave and mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel and his loyal and equally mysterious league.
The Scarlet Pimpernel. Such a brave, ingenious figure, the women swooned and the men applauded...never knowing that the figure they admired so much was the one person, they enjoyed to ridicule for his foppish behaviour; Sir Percival Blakeney, Baronet – richest man in England.
He and his wife, Marguerite Blakeney née St. Just, were the crème de la crème of society and were always in attendance, particularly as both were highly regarded friends of the Prince of Wales. The gossips had noticed that the tenseness that had existed beneath the Blakeneys had melted like the snow had in the spring and the husband would even deem to leave the card tables to partake with at least one dance with his beautiful wife.
However, they also noticed, with somewhat sadistic glee, that Lady Blakeney had not yet produced an heir to the vast Blakeney estates and there were private bets about how long it would be before even the foppish Baronet would divorce his barren wife for a more fertile one. Many society dames would gladly endure the fop that was Blakeney, for a taste of his wealth and status would give their families.
However, my dear Reader, London society was about to be interrupted by the arrival of an unknown Blakeney. And that, my readers, is where the story truly begins…
[Breakfast Room, Blakeney Manor, Richmond, London, England]
The time was eighteen minutes past the eighth hour of the morning on the second day of October, in the year of our Lord 1793 – the 2nd year into the Reign of Terror and the bloodlust was continuing to surge in France; meaning more work for Percy and his loyal league.
Marguerite and Percy were sitting, breaking their fast. Percy was perusing the papers. If his movements seemed more careful than normal, that was due to his recent excursion with the League to France where he'd taken a bit of a beating.
Marguerite glanced at her husband. Sensing her eyes upon him, he raised his piercing blue orbs to hers and smiled.
"Lud, dear heart, stop worrying! Sink me! It'll take more than a thrashing by a couple of Revolutionary thugs to stop me!"
"Percy, I do wish you wouldn't be so flippant." Marguerite murmured. Percy dropped the mantle of the fop, and reached across and caressed her fingers.
"Trust me, my darling Margot, no matter what, I'll always return to you."
"I know that Percy, but it does not ease my anxiety to know that you, Armand and the rest of our friends in the League are always one step away from feeding that accursed guillotine."
Percy squeezed her hand and was about to speak again, when there was a knock at the door.
"Enter," he called and Percy's valet, Chivers, entered a letter on the silver platter.
"Begging your pardon Sir, Madam, but a messenger has just arrived from the North-West with this letter. He assured me that it is urgent."
Chivers handed the letter over, bowed to his Lord and Lady and left the room, closing the mahogany door behind him.
Marguerite and Percy exchanged looks before Percy turned his attention to the missive.
He frowned, noticing that the sealing wax was black and the letter itself was edged with black ink. He broke the seal, unfolded the letter and read. His face turned pale.
"Percy, whatever is the matter?" Marguerite asked, her tone urgent with concern.
"My Uncle, Bartholomew has been found dead in the lake of his estate. My cousin Arianna is now my ward until she obtains her majority."
"Your Uncle? I thought you did not have any more family members Percy?" Marguerite, despite her best attempts, could not disguise her hurt. Percy smiled apologetically at her.
"Sink me! I might as well have; the way the situation fell! My Uncle retreated to his estate in a beautiful quiet part of Wales after the murder of my Aunt – they had resided there anyway – and he kept Arianna there; out of society's eye. I always attempted to make sure to see her; to assure myself that she was happy. She's an excellent horsewoman, bit of a free spirit and has the tendency to behave like a boy but she can be a lady quicker than you can blink." Percy's lips quirked into a wry, admiring smile as he thought of his young cousin. "She has had to; most people would not deal with her in regards to buying the horses they breed if she did not pretend to be male. It actually amazes me how easily people believe her."
"What is she like and how old is she?"
"Andrew always describes her as a female version of me – as you know me in private dear heart. In regards to her age, she is only six and ten."
"So young to be without her parents." Marguerite sighed, remembering her and Armand's youth without their parents and instantly feeling a kinship and love developing for the girl she had yet to meet. She glanced at husband. "She's very clever then?"
"Yes, and intensely gifted with animals; they immediately flock to her and she can soothe them with just a touch; she was there when your favourite mare, Daphne was born; soothed her mother who was greatly distressed. She is also His Highness' god-daughter. I will have to tell him that she is coming to live in London with us. He'll insist on her being escorted here." He glanced down at the missive and gave an ungallant snort of laughter.
"What is so amusing Percy?" Marguerite asked.
"Listen to this postscript, written by my precocious little cousin m'dear:
Dearest Cousin Percy, I know there will probably be no force in all the heavens that can persuade you, my dear Uncle George and your devoted friends from ensuring my safety from Beddgelert, Gwynedd, Wales to your estate in Richmond but please, I beg, nay, urge you, do not get too carried away as I am sure it will be more of a magnet to thieves. I have written a letter to send to Uncle George should he need assurances of this.
Also, I don't want you playing dress up in order to escort me your good self – you are not in France rescuing poor aristocrats, my dear Scarlet Pimpernel.
I shall see you anon Dearest Cousin along with my retinue of belongings, the horses and my assortment of pets (an indulgence from Papa). I look forward to meeting my new cousin, Marguerite. Yours in good faith and loyalty, Arianna Thérèse Blakeney."
Marguerite gave an unladylike snort of laughter. "She knows you well my dearest."
"Hmmm, though, my concern for her welfare is understandable. Her dear Mama was murdered not far from the estate; she was on her way to visit us, accompanied but by two servants whilst my Uncle Bartholomew, Arianna and a few more servants not far behind but still." Percy tapped the letter against his hand, his face pensive. He glanced at Marguerite. "It will not bother you dearest to have my cousin join us? I know it is not something you expected but she is my kin and I cannot abandon her; my conscience and duty would not withstand it."
Marguerite smiled, rose to her feet and glided to her husband's side. She took Percy's hands, raised them to her lips and kissed them whilst he examined her out of hooded eyes.
"My dearest, nothing would give me greatest pleasure than welcoming your cousin to our household and our small family. We both survived our parentless childhoods; we can offer her the parental guidance she will need to navigate this world."
"Naturally and well said, m'dear. However, I am of the opinion that with Arianna in our lives, things shall never ever be boring!"
This remark from Percy, was, in the days to come, prove highly prophetic.
Well, probably not what most people were expecting me to churn out after a highly extended sabbatical but it's something…and hopefully not too bad – it only took me an hour and a half.
Combination of writer's block and real life are never a good combination but I'm hoping this is the start of something promising; i.e. making sure it stays gone for as long as possible! The main case has been the ideas have been there and I've written snippets down but nothing full bodied has come.
I'd like to thank Clio1792 for her PM in response to my favouriting one of her fics. My dear, I hope this satisfies you and I'd like to know what you think of my first endeavour in almost four years – I know I'm probably a little rusty but I hope the time away has seen my writing style mature.
I look forward to hearing your comments.
"There's always a way to release what you feel. Let the creative energy flow and inspiration runs wild."