Hey folks! I'm back after the log pause with chapter 20, the last one. Last weeks were terrible but now I have two weeks free so I sat and managed to finish this story. I hope you like it!
Read, enjoy and review
Whirling around Marianne saw a young man in his late teens with fair hair standing above, on a balcony with a bright smile on his handsome face. Slowly he started to descend down the stairs. His steps were careful and graceful. He wore rich clothing which in France was probably found elegant and quite dashing but she always thought it funny, especially short cloak and puffy trousers. However on him even those ridiculous garments looked serious. There was something like dignity surrounding him, something royal. In a flash she understood who he was.
"Ah! We hope you didn't cause serious damage!" exclaimed His Majesty, King Louis XIII, because it was he himself. "It would make us really, really upset to lose any of our brave soldiers because of a mere test." Marianne froze in her place. Test? What was he talking about? Quickly, to avoid eye contact she lowered her eyes to the ground. Seemingly ignoring her position he continued. "We had to check if the rumours that Great Marianne Watson is in town are true, didn't we?" Marianne's consciousness was quickly searching for a traitor. Jean Pierre? No, he was too scared to think about betrayal. Madame Joliot and her silly girls? No, Madame not but these giggling wenches were the other case. The Mercenary cursed mentally. She was so close to freedom and seconds later it was all over! This time she was in a deep trouble. Then, on the other hand it was rather strange that the King decided to talk to her himself. Her, a girl from the little village in Wales! By all means she should be dead already! It was when she had realised that her young interlocutor was waiting for response. She cleared her throat and spoke.
"Pardon me Your Majesty, but why does the mighty king of France need a humble mercenary like me when he has his brave musketeers?" she was proud when her voice didn't tremble. Louis smiled.
"Who said he needs you?" he replies teasingly. "Why, I could swear that's you Mademoiselle who needs him." Marianne didn't omit that he started to speak normally, rather than talking about himself in plural. "But these are the matters we shouldn't discuss here, in open. Come!" he ordered and she followed him to the richly furnished study with wooden desk ornamented with gold and Persian rugs on the floor. All in all more money had been spend on a single chair there then a plain Parisian could earn in a year! Louis seated himself behind the desk and looked at her with a smile and sparks visible in his pale green eyes. "Sit Mademoiselle" he showed her a chair opposite to his. Marianne frowned.
"Thank you Your Majesty" she said calmly "But I don't believe it's proper to sit in the presence of the King" Louis laughed.
"And I don't believe anything related to you can be called proper" he replied "You must admit that not every day we see a woman dressed like a man these days."
"Are we here to discuss my clothing my lord?" she asked "Or something more serious?" he smiled one more time.
"Clearly you're as perceptive as they say" he said slowly. "I'm glad. I don't like fools in my troops." Marianne's mind was racing. There was a possibility that he wanted to employ her thus, she would stay alive. How…strange yet comforting. She should feel proud. Unfortunately she was too occupied fearing for her freedom to notice the honour. "You can be useful to me" he was talking in the meantime. "Let's say my musketeers aren't really… discreet" she just couldn't help it, she snorted loudly. Discreet my ass! There were many words which could describe the musketeers known to her and discreet wasn't one of them. Put it mildly. The king smiled in amusement. "My sentiments the same" he nodded "That's why they could use some professional help. Yours in particular would be greatly rewarded. What do you say?" Marianne bit her lower lip, deep in thought. She obviously didn't want this job, but how to refuse the king of France? She gulped loudly and took a deep breath.
"I'm very pleased to hear that, my lord" she began slowly "But I don't think it's wise. Let's say that my last employer wasn't really glad for my services. I would rather avoid people now. Besides, I don't work in teams, especially with your Musketeers Your Majesty. We don't get along I might add." Anger flashed in king's eyes and she started to understand that it won't be that easy. Obviously I wasn't a good idea to anger him in her place.
"So you refuse?" his voice was strangely calm with fury hidden beneath. She drew a shaky breath.
"Yes my lord" Marianne started with all her power. Louis nodded.
"I understand" she said to her extreme surprise. He was now toing with a golden pen. "Unfortunately that means I had to have my guards escort you to Bastille Mademoiselle" dread sized her. No, not again! Everything but that! She won't return to prison! Never! "You see" Louis continued "I believe you were really naughty last time you visited France. Does the name Comte de Chagny ring a bell? Or Marquise de Laforte?" she was doomed. She killed the two men by her past employer's order. But maybe, just maybe she had a chance.
"I don't think you can prove it, Your Majesty" she replied coldly, suddenly confident. He couldn't possibly prove her anything, she was safe. Safe damn it! She continued to repeat it in her mind to calm herself.
"Maybe I don't Mademoiselle Watson, but the fact that you robbed my vault, alone can send you to prison for many years and I'm fairly sure that Athos will gladly provide necessary evidence. He was there, right?" Marianne winced at musketeer's name. Oh, he could, that was sure! He was the one who tried to stop her and failed miserably. This time it was the end. "But" Louis pointed his index finger in the ceiling"it can always be forgotten. Those two poor Monsieurs too, if only a person possessed this" with that words he produced an envelope from the top drawer. It was sealed with royal seal and Marianne instantly knew what was inside. Acquittal. "As my humble servant the owner of this parchment would be forgiven all their previous sins and protected as my own soldier" the King finished his little speech. The Mercenary could only stare and admire the way Louis played this hand. She was his or as good as dead. Easy choice, yet she didn't like it at all. Her heart longed for open fields and wind in her hair, for hooves beats and Spanish sun on her face. She sighed.
"As you wish, my king" she bowed deeply cursing mentally all the way. It was so embarrassing! The king laughed and showed her where to sign the contract. It was a short note really in which she swore to fight for France and its King, to protect its citizens etc. She put her name under it carefully. It was done, her freedom was gone forever.
"Now, when we established that little issue, let's act like I wasn't a king and you a criminal. Pretend that I'm your typical employer" he proposed. "What do you usually do on meetings like that?"
"Well my lord" Marianne decided to skip the protocol and sit. "It's always about what I'm supposed to do and for how much. Also, every employer has special requests such as time in which the errand has to be complete or way how it is to be done." She explained carefully. "Sometimes I'm asked about my previous tasks"
"And what do you say?" the king asked, clearly curious. "What would you say if I asked about your little misunderstanding with the Duke of Buckingham?"
"I would inform you, my lord than the Code forbids me to speak about my past employers and let down their trust." She replied proudly, holding her head high.
"Even if they threw you into the depts. of Tower of London?" Louis teased and she smirked in response.
"Yes Your Majesty. If I told you how you could be sure that I don't betray you when the time comes?"
"True" he nodded. "But I can always have you executed when these time comes, don't I?" She choosed to remain silent and only frowned. "But let's talk about more pleasant matters."
"Such as?" Marianne was getting slightly annoyed with all those questions, but he was a king and she was already in trouble.
"What, if I may ask, makes you refuse working with my Musketeers, especially the Inseparables, which I believe, is how they're called? I don't have time for the full story. Just summarize please" he ordered and Marianne started to wonder how to answer this question.
"Let's say our previous meetings didn't go very well my lord" she said at last "The detest me I daresay."
"Oh, I'm sure that can be resolved with a strict order from their king" Louis waved his hand as to dismiss her worries. She didn't feel reassured but decided against voicing it.
"As you wish, my lord" she bowed deeply.
"Fascinating!" the king exclaimed "See, I was so sure that you'll accept eventually that I've already send for Athos to inform him about this new ordeal." That was just great and Marianne smirked evilly. She had to admit that she was a little scare of telling this particular musketeer but now? Oh, his expression will be priceless!
"A very wise decision Your Majesty" she replied still smiling "I assume his temper is famous then?"
"Indeed" Louis laughed merrily "I don't think there is a child in Paris who's never hear about the Three Inseparables, or four now from what I've heard" Marianne nodded. It seemed that D'Artagnan was already famous on the royal court. That boy was really going to die young, she mused.
"If you'll allow me Your Majesty" she spoke hesitantly "Can I be dismissed? Before Athos comes I mean?"
"Yes, that would be all Mademoiselle Watson" the king said absentmindedly browsing through some papers on his desk. He seemed to forget about the envelope.
"And the parole my lord?" she found the courage to ask. Louis shook his head.
"Ah yes, of course" he said handing her the parchment. "The guard will escort you to Monsieur de Treville who'll inform you about your responsibilities" that was the end of the meeting and Marianne was escorted back on the buzzling streets of Paris among the crowd and further to Musketeer headquarters.
Two hours later, standing at musketeers door Marianne felt slightly nervous. How will they react? Fortunately she was sure that Athos wasn't home, his horse's stall was empty (she only took a look nothing more). From her place she could hear a strong laugh and talking. They were home, probably eating (men never did anything except that). Slowly she raised her hand and knocked three times. There was a commotion inside and finally the door was thrown open and she saw a servant from before. Planchard? Planchet? Something like that. He paled when he saw her but she only leaned against the doorframe.
"I don't believe I'm that scary" she said mockingly. He shook his head vigorously.
"Not at all Mademoiselle" he stuttered, clearly terrified. It was so good to be dangerous again! She always cherished the moments when people were afraid of her.
"Who is this Planchet!" came a shout from the dining room and Marianne smirked. Definitely Porthos. As annoying as he was it was quite funny watching him sometimes. Planchet was at the loss of words so she only sighed and pushed past him inside.
"It's me." She explained entering the room "Surprise!" Aramis, D'Artagnan and Porthos were seated around the table with a glass of wine in front of each one and a big, fat, roasted chicken in the middle. That was when had Marianne realised when she had her last meal and her stomach growled loudly.
"Marianne!" D'Artagnan exclaimed happily, springing up from his place "I thought you were going to leave at sunrise!"
"Yes" she replied grimly "that was the plan, but something went not exactly like I planned. I believe I have to stay here a bit longer"
"And how, prey tell did you know where do we live?" asked Aramis suspiciously. Marianne smirked.
"I happened to know Monsieur de Treville" she replied "I asked him and one of your colleagues lead me here. Should I come back later?" she mocked.
"No!" D'Artagnan protested
"Sure, don't let the lass stay like that Aramis" laughed Porthos "I can hear her stomach from here!" Now it was her turn to be surprised. They were inviting her to dinner? Why? She had been their enemy, hell they still thought she was! And yet they were willing to share their dinner with her? How…nice. With hostility Aramis showed her to the remaining chair and she helped herself with the serving of chicken. It was so good. She really had to do something with her eating habits, missing two meals each day wasn't healthy.
"I don't want to seem unfriendly" said Aramis when the chicken was just a memory, sounding exactly that. "But why the hell are you here?"
"Well" she replied wiping her mouth and tasting the wine. "I have to tell you something but I would rather wait for everyone"
"You mean for Athos?" D'Aragnan asked "DO you really think it's a good idea. Marianne shook her head.
"Not at all but it has to be done" she said grimacing. "Besides I cannot wait to see his reaction" she giggled softly. Right as if on cue the door slammed shut and Athos himself entered the room. And he saw Marianne who grinned at him from her place behind the table.
"You!" he growled. His face was disturbingly red. Oh it was going to be so good!
"Me? What did I do this time?" she asked curiously fluttering her eyelashes. The others watched them carefully.
"I don't agree!" Never!" he shouted before exiting the room and his slamming the door. Marianne grinned even loudly and placed her feet on the table.
"It was strange, even for him" commented Aramis. "Maybe you know what's going on, Marianne?" she nodded happily and threw the king's scroll on the table.
"Read this" she ordered. "And you'll know everything" slowly Aramis took the paper and put on his glasses. With every word he was frowning more and more.
"Yes, this explains a lot" he said at last handing the paper to D'Artagnan. His reaction was happier.
"That's great Marianne!" he exclaimed hugging her fiercely. "And I thought I would never see you again!"
"What's great?" asked Porthos, the only one who didn't read king's orders. Marianne smirked and said proudly.
"His Majesty King Louis XIII wants me to work with you."
(or maybe not)
It all depends on you. Do you want a secquel? Please inform me.