All For Love
Chapter 1: Adversary
It was only midday do the Venetian merchants sell their wares on paved streets. Interlocking the woven buildings and streams dot the tiny vendors the size of small caravans. Dirt poor beggars swindle money, hiding their mug faces in between the rich palette colors of buildings. Small children chase after their mothers' prized chickens while the Italian greyhounds eager to run after them however chained to leather leashes by servants of lowly cavaliere.
Street performers such as those of the wretched Roma infiltrate the markets with their illusive contraptions. The burly pirated men interest the bounty of stolen treasures from other worlds while the gypsy women seduce passing patricians for spare coin. The twists of vibrant, awing color from their skirts sweep the gravel of cracked stone broke by Venetian sweat and blood.
Perhaps the "jewel" of the city of Venice was not the local markets scattered in between equally beautiful palatial residences of viscontes and widowed duchessas. Baladassarre Longhena's latest creation is yet to break ground in Venice. A new Catholic Church for the people to be hospitalized from the oncoming outbreaks of the Black Death and it's sister plagues. Demolition was yet to be ratified on the barraged estate.
Broken shards of glass and outdoor chandeliers crackled in the sunlight. Bird droppings sat ceremoniously on the front steps and decorated the adjacent cracks to the left side. A single shade bent out of place batted the window like an out of tune claronet.
As a woman, dressed in Venetian burgundy cloth topped with a feathered ostrich plume, cocked an eyebrow at the desolate and hopeless cause for sight unseen she averted her eyes to the changing of the guards prior to her arrival.
A fan, bought and sold through the old silk roads embraced cold chills coveting from the Grand Canal. The tell tale waterways danced boats and gondolas rich and poor under narrow bridges and sidewalks. The cool air brushed back the concealed woman's brunette curls. The tressels all perfectly in order moved in the disturbance of motion. The perfume dabbed on her neck and the ends of her hair wafted into the breeze.
Across the way mingling with the social people stood a dubious peacock of a man. His proud plummage recorded the incredible wealth and significant power he just recently obtained by order of the Church and Venetian Institutes. He over-elaborated the tellings of brave pursuits through wild gestures and consumed his crowd of servants, guards, and waiting-in-line mistresses' reactions.
"... And then of course for merit of reward the Bishop granted me the privilege to hold top security of Venice's oldest vaults," he said flaring his arms in stance. Swooning of women's gasps and their eager claps mingled with the other men's congratulatory responses.
The woman behind the mask of paper and constuction grinned sardonically as she tipped the hat to a side. A glint of gold and jeweled hair decoration shined in the Mediterranean sun. The angle of the sun hit its reflection from afar to the shoulder of the pompous nobili.
As the reflection caught hold of the nobleman's puffed sleeve, his eyes burned at the heat building up from his shoulder. The tiny glimpse of light distracted him long enough for his crowd of patrons talking amongst themselves- surely about him. At the moment he touched the blasted shard, it moved down his body and next to his left foot.
Foolish to think otherwise, he did not squash the brightness that interrupted yet another tale of his imaginations. Instead, he traced the lining of the light to the person who caused it. His sigh revealed a woman by the waterways with her back facing him.
Wisps of long brunette curls trailed her back, comforting the delicate hour glass figure trapped in bulbous brandy-colored skirts. A hand raised to his awaiting crowd.
The woman caught his gaze and sent a wink in his direction. Her fan, now hiding in her traveling purse with unknown possessions bowed her head back to the Canal and her water paths.
Her fingertips patiently counted the number of steps it would take to cross from point a to point b. Fifty three if he had measurable strength, sixty one if he had an old war wound lying limp, seventy and out of breath if his desperate need of attention equalled the amount of fast women he pursued. She betted sixty nine to her amusement.
But He would make it in fifty one just for me. She thought to herself as she counted the seconds away. Her pursuit ticked away and exact minute when he approached her. One hand around her waist and the other behind back, dying to untie the corsets and buttons underneath her voluminous curls.
He cleared his voice as if to attract the woman's attention from the Canal and it's high buildings. Her green eyes emerged from the sun to the quick glance at the Italian nobleman's features.
Nothing I haven't seen in a while. She commented.
"Precious bella. You are by yourself in Venice? And so close to the water, would be quite a shame to see a nobildonna such as yourself drown in these waters like a common cat," he pronounced on stage.
Her hands clasped together. Her velvetty throat echoed giggles. The tainted edge of a French accent bellowed in the greasy ears hidden beneath slicked back black mop of a head.
"Whom would say I would drown like a common cat? Never know if my home is by sea," she said thickening her vowels to the man's delight.
"A pretty mermaid I have caught," His lip curled. "An honored embellishment that would suit my seaside lodge in Sicily, si?"
The oriental flair of fan wafted again her scent to her captor. "I do not take well being decorated as a trinket in your seaside chambers, milord. Land does not appeal to me nor does you bedsheets," Her face steeled.
A grabbing hand twisted around the waist and the other played with a curl hanging by her ear.
His voice lowered. "Then perhaps another arrangement, no? What say you abroad my festive gondola for a little moonlight affair? Close to your beloved water and some vintage wine obscured in my reserves?"
Her eyes cast low to the water before observing the man. Her fan disappeared in an instant as it came. Her elbow nudged the man's lowering hand back to its proper place on her waist.
She smiled seductively. "My dear Lord, you offer me too much without the whisper of my name," She left his grip and lightly floated three paces away. She lessened her pace as she waited for the opportune moment.
"Dama!" he shouted. Her paces stopped. Her head cocked to the left at recognition. "What is your name?"
About face and she slyly strode in two paces back to her opponent. Her smile dazzled him as it did with her head oranament.
"Antoinette," she said. "Antoinette de Lorraine, Comtesse of Chevreuse,"
The grinning man offered his arm, which she gladly accepted. The Comtesse glanced back at the water and buildings surrounding it before smirking at the lustful man. "Now, about that wine?" she asked.
The wine was like she, bitter and reserved. However that did not stop the chortles of laughter erupting from the Italian man. The driver of the gondola intructed the few orchesterated men to play their lutes slowly as their master ate his grapes and downed his wine like a drunken fish.
His flimsy arm around her shoulder made few grabs for her bosom but after playful smirks and slaps on his back did he retreat his twitchy hand for the time being.
"And then! Only did then the beast of Cavalier shiver in my victory and set close his jaws permenantely. Antoinette fished a smile and delivered a hiccup from the bad tasting ale that swished in her mouth. Not only the wine and the stories staled her stomach but the stench of the Grand Canal's odor of waste and other bodily functions spat on its surface.
"You, my dama Antoinette, are a jewel from Venus' womb encased by the sea. It is by my fortune I have plucked your from the seaweeds to rejoice in love and celebration of Venice tonight!" he exclaimed under the illuminous glow of distant fireworks and drifting moonlight.
She giggled on cue as she removed his hasty leg away from her thighs. "And you sir, do not know the meaning of patience and it's virtues," Her eyes twinkled from above. The drapery above her covered her eyes desperate need for an escape. The gondola sped away down the buildings and was on steadfast approach through a narrow canal.
Mummed whispers disturbed her earlobes. "Patience will not be the only virtue I wish to claim tonight if you give me your gifts of bearing knowledge,"
Her smirk curled the man's tiny moustache as she leaned forward. "A woman never reveals her secrets, especially one of French birth," she taunted.
HIs breath coated her eyelashes. She blinked profusedly to ignore the wandering hands caressing her calves.
"Let blood of shared noblility mingle tonight and we'll discuss compatible borders later," he said leaning forward to capture a kiss. To his chagrin, she pushed him away playfully and swinged her hand for an upbeat sonatta from the band members. Her wish was granted and she forced her tongue to swallow the bitter alocohol down her throat, if it were to prevail from Italian intrusion.
"You, woman, are infuriating," he chortled as he swished the bottle to let in more wine pour into his cup.
"Just the same as all men invoke their right to draw their naked weapon," she murmured far too low for the nobleman to hear despite his drunken chorus rendition of Scarborough Fair.
The night air dropped on occasion but too suddenly did it feel off balance. She gazed her eyes toward the moon watching for movement. That was until shadows emerged and blended thme together.
I know you are there. She taunted herself.
In a quick moment, a black shadow dipped from high on the rooftops into the drapery of the gaudy colors of the gondola. Short gasps and shrieks erupted from the men while she played her part up till now. Her breath matched her racing heart as a clothed man hooded from view disposed the gondola master into the wretched water. The instruments of the men were scattered away and their masters head was plunked by broken oars. The shadowed man easily threw the rest of the men into the water.
Antoinette grabbed the drapes fallen onto her and her scared noble man and lifted them just as the clothed man stood over them. In a moment of heat, the noble man drew his unsheathed sword ready for combat.
"I warn you, brigand. If you harm one hair on this lady's head-"
He was lovingly interrupted by the stoic response. "Key,"
He jolted a step back but did not break his stance with sword. He muttered, "I have no idea what you're talking about,"
Antoinette curled a piece of her wavy hair around her shoulder as she readjusted her uncomfortable position in the croweded gondola.
"Weren't you just recalling your heroic tale of obtaining the key to the Da Vinci Vault from the Bishop himself?" Her eyes cast upon the men as she placed a hand under her chin and a leg crossed over the other.
The flushed nobleman pointed the sword sharply at the intruder. "No my beautiful muse I was telling a wishful thought aloud to your aluring ears," His sweated brow disgusted her.
"That's what they all say," the shadowed man said.
The Italian leapt into battle only to grunt in pain as the man twisted his arm. The sudden flourish of movement dipped the man's head bubbling under the water by the wood of an oar.
Antoinette scoffed as she fixed her skirts from the blundering fool whose repelling all the wine to the fish, no doubt.
"Must you be so swift for the kill?" she asked drawing his attention, sticking a bare leg out.
He tipped his head teasingly. "Must you be so attractive?"
She pouted, leaning back into the boat. "I, unlike you, have a permenant trait that can't be so easily fixed,"
His eyes navigated to the bleak jug of wine she nearly chocked on. "Perhaps a drink might dull my senses," he said. He glanced at the reserve. "Twenty-four," he tsked. "Deserves to be drowned,"
He turned towards her as he flung the bottle into the water. She smirked at him, bracing the boat as it rocked from the flinging count. The oar let ease and the noble gasped for air.
"You mean this key?" He shouted for more air. The key wrapped around his neck was taken by slender, manicured hands. The shoulder pieces of Antoinette's dress were downing. The nobleman pleaded his hand for her help. She glanced at her captor and then back to the pathetic nobleman.
Her bosom peaked out of her dress as she leaned down. "This is the last and only glimpse you have. Engrave it in your mind," she whispered as she pushed him in.
The shadowed man dropped the oar and didn't bother watching the fleeing nobleman swim for his life. Antoinette let her fingers drop down the hood he had on. The handsome face of French skin framed inside his attractive black hair and moustache only a Frenchman could be proud of. The souls of his eyes did not wander like the other man, instead they gazed straight into her soul.
"Must you be so swift?" he whispered underneath their drawing breaths.
Her mouth parted. "Must you be so attractive?" she voiced.
Aramis, the devine Musketeer, took his advantage to hold his Antoinette closer to his person.
"Let us remedy both our flaws. I have ten minutes," he said seducing her under his spell.
"Then let's not waste them, my love," she smirked as he captured her heart and her lips all at once.
He swooped her away back onto the velevet cushioned seats as their mouths tangoed in their own sonatta. Her legs, bare and lethal, wrapped around his pant line, wanting him to beg for more. Aramis knew how to pleasure his lady without guilt on his conscience for dirtying the duty of a man of God. And so he allowed the both of them to tangle between the linings of the gondola underneath the stars and spending every second of heated passion within theirselves.
Ten minutes paced by and another five took Aramis and Antoinette to be presentable within the hallowed luxuries of Da Vinci's prized vault just beneath their feet. The checkered marble tiles echoed the quick steps of lady and man both rustled but still managable to face to depths and awaiting changing of the guards.
"Got lost?" A rugged man with a thick voice called after. Athos, mastermind of sword tugged his smile as he watched his fellow Musketeer rouse with his adorement.
"No, I say they took a little ride on the gondola," a sly voice came from Milady de winter. Her auburn curls framed the ostentatious ball gown and golden coronet mask she downed tonight. Tucked in between her bosom was the first key.
Porthos, a master of games and wit bellowed his laughter. "A ride on the gondola would surely involve the boat to tip over into the water leaving them wet. I see no drop of water in view on either of them," His moustache curled elegantly.
Aramis offered a key in one hand and the other to his beloved. He turned to Porthos.
"Careful Porthos, the flames of heat seemed to have brought out a little green to your skin. Are you not well?" he said.
Porthos frowned. He grumbled, "Not well enough to land me a Comtesse,"
Antoinette gave a curt laugh as she shared a knowingly look to Milady. "If only wit matched your charm the perhaps we could find you a lowly baroness,"
Porthos rolled his eyes before consulting her with a brief hug. "Get better company downstairs then up here,"
She returned to Aramis' side, whom possesively drew an arm around her waist and his hand drawing circles in her hip bone.
The room darkened as the five of them marched the long demi-circular hall. Torches hanging from gold bearings with Italian insignias illuminated their paths. In correct order, three black and gold encasements surrounded three marble tiles.
Athos commented, "Da Vinci's Vault. Leonardo designed it to protect the plans of his greatest inventions,"
Three keys were produced and ready to be turned into the secret locks. Milady steadied her key.
"Shall we?" she asked. Her, Porthos, and Aramis dug the skeleton keys into the case. Upon Athos' command all three keys turned at the same time. Antoinette's eyes swam as the cogs of the star revealed ever turning and shifting gears sprung up. Tiles dived into the floor step by step until a grand entrance was opened up by the hidden staircase.
Milady took her step. "You part's done. Why don't you stay back with Antoinette? We'll meet at the rally point," Athos intervened.
Aramis felt Antoinette fluster. She squirmed in her discomfort. "And let the guards finish you off?" she countered.
Milady smirked. "We came together, we leave together," She patted his cheek. The both of them chuckled as she descended upon the stairs. Antoinette turned to her lover when they climbed down.
"You would never ask of me to leave, would you?" she asked pointedly.
Aramis' eyes wandered. She turned her head back to forward direction only to be emersed in his laughter.
"If it were up to me, you would never leave my sight... or my chambers," he drew back her closer at the end of the stairs.
She narrowed her eyes before smiling. "That can be arranged,"
One by one lights lighted automatically, shedding light to a elongated hallways. On either walls were grotesque masks of inhumane faces with mouths parted wide. The checkered theme tile ended at the beginning of a small chartman's room.
"I'll go," Porthos volunteered at the group's hesitation.
"Wait," Athos said preventing his friend from stepping on the radiant marble. "Too easy," He obtained a small hand dagger and threw it in the air. It banged and clattered on the wall and floor. It finally centered just when the pressure plates dipped down.
Antoinette flinched involuntary into Aramis as the masks spat out tiny maces that shackled and rattled like bullets. For only a moment did the clanging of weaponry rammed out until the rubble cleared.
"Pressure plates under the floor," Athos explained.
Aramis offered, "I could scale the walls,"
"Run a cable along the roof," Athos muttered.
Antoinette surveryed the roof. "Could be a trap too,"
Milady gave a curt nod and ran full speed ahead to the destroying chaos. One by one the masks engulfed smoke and maces nearly pertubing its way towards her. Her determination slowed its reaction and bent backwards to avoid oncoming destruction. Her body slid naturally to the ground and forward from momentum.
Upside down and without any more concealed weapons left, she giggled at the four of the troupe watching amused.
"Well we don't have all night," she bantered.
Athos and Porthos steadly picked up the pace in case of deploys hidden underneath their feet. Aramis' incorrigible want for her hesitated his mission. Antoinette rolled her eyes before dragging him along.
In the middle of the hallway, she turned towards him and brushed up against him. He groaned.
"We'll have plenty of time for all of that after the mission," she said batting her eyes. He kissed her forehead before walking side by side, holding her hand in his.
"The guards change in two minutes, maybe less," Milady said unscrolling papers with Antionette leaving Aramis and Porthos in charge for lookouts.
The bang of a loaded gun and the ricochet of a bullet hitting the bookcase of many scrolls sounded off.
Aramis said, "Less,"
Antoinette hurried her pace, undoing the bindings of each scroll, gazing at the plans before unceremoniously dropping them. Her fingers ran over more unopened ones.
"We need more time," she said as Milady covered another section.
Porthos asked, "What now?"
"C'est la vie?" Aramis said.
"No," Athos shot down. "Contigency plan,"
Antoinette plowed through the scrolls with Milady. "Has to be here... But where?"
Milady unrolled yet another paper and delighted herself with a small glee of excitement. Antoinette's eyes roamed over the plan briefly before Milady scrolled it back up. Her eyes waved over to the Musketeers.
"Got it," she said before stuffing it into one of the two black tubes for protection.
Aramis called for Antoinette. "I need your hairpin," he said gesturing to his explosives Athos was about to set off. Antoinette scoffed as she cleared the space away. He insisted, "I'll buy you ten more if we make it out alive,"
She smirked. "Who says we won't?" She handed out the pin from her hair. The curls dripped down her back as Aramis locked the pin at the last slot. She gazed up at the ceiling. She grabbed onto Athos' arm as he began to light the flame.
"Athos, you do know what's above us," she said nervously.
"Just hold your breath," he advised.
She held her breath and grabbed for Aramis' hand as the spark emitted and the small explosion blast into a whirlpool above. The murky water flooded the vault, the tunnel, and probably the building from the impact an drainage of the Canal. She covered her eyes at first contact and felt the lukewarm water dirty her skin. Her hand momentarily let go to push up for air.
The first breath of fresh air for Antoinette relieved her lungs. Her nose, however had gotten used to the smell as it lodged up in her nose. She gasped as a hand encased the small of her waist.
She could hear the laughter of Athos and Milady as they fit together like puzzle pieces in the water. Porthos' hearty chuckle brought the quiet yet deadly Comtesse de Chevreuse back to her senses and Aramis' inviting warmth.
His voice vibrated against her skin to the other lovers and the always jolly Porthos. "I hate to ruin the mood, but perhaps we could go elsewhere?"
Milady joyfully splashed Athos and Aramis for interruption. Antoinette's bell-like laugh escaped as she kicked her legs to stay afloat.
Porthos said, "You know Antoinette, for once, I think the padre may be right,"
She splashed him cheerfully as he was dunked. Aramis' breath hitched to her neck. "What do you say, Netta?" He used his nickname for her.
She kissed the top of his nose affectionately. "I believe all of us are in desperate need of hot baths before any celebrating," she giggled as the gang crowded into a tight knit circle.
"Let us rejoice!" Athos decided as they swam for shore.
"We can finish what we started," Aramis whispered to her biting her earlobe.
She grinned. "Will your hunger ever be sated?"
An infamous Cheshire smile tugged at the corners of his lip. He kissed her longingly. "Never,"