Chapter One: Strange Sensation – d’Artagnan
So, finally it was happening. This was a proud moment for sure… to be seen as a man in his father’s eyes – an equal, a partner…someone to be counted on. All things he had hoped for – desperately worked toward; and were now coming to fruition.
Hair stood up on the back of his neck; and as he rubbed there absentmindedly, a crackling shock pricked his fingers and startled him a bit….just as his father’s announcement had taken him aback earlier this morning. “How fortunate I am”, he had thought to himself with pride.
He was going on a journey.
Stuffing his saddle bag quickly with odds and ends needed for a day or two; he felt his stomach flutter with nervous energy. Pausing briefly, he placed his hand there and was certain butterflies resided within; then laughed aloud at such childish nonsense. Stifling his giddiness with a determined nod, he resolved that today he would leave behind all childish notions and concentrate on being the man his father needed him to be.
And yes, more to the point ….the man he wanted to be.
Hurriedly resuming his task – he could hear his father on the other side of the wall gathering his own travel gear and with delight thought back on his jovial declaration, “Together, my boy, we will make our way to Paris and petition the King on behalf of Lupiac.” It was a surprise to say the least. Usually Alexandre d’Artagnan traveled with a nearby neighbor or alone – while he was left behind. A child he was in his father’s eyes, to be looked after by their foreman; or his aunt and uncle who lived but a stone’s throw away.
But not this time; this time his father had gripped his shoulder; stared intently into his eyes and smiled forlornly – as if he were imparting some great secret; or perhaps letting something go. A curious expression he could not quite get a handle on; but the moment was fleeting and gone before he could address it. So instead, with his chest swelling with pride, he had agreed immediately; nodding his head up and down with robust enthusiasm….feeling up to the task offered so freely. “Yes, of course”, he had answered – swallowing down a whoop of joy.
Eager - for the first time to leave behind the boundaries of Lupiac, with her rolling hills and wide open spaces - he had run without being told to ready the horses; and to pack his things – making sure not to forget his most prized possession. His father’s gift to him; the family heirloom…a sword – presented just recently when he reached his nineteenth year. A most generous, precious gift – wrapped in silk he had waited a lifetime to receive.
And once given….after much training and preparation – he had promised to never let it out of his sight; to treasure it always and to use it in good stead.
He stroked the hilt reverently, overcome with its history; and a sort of static energy engulfed him like a blanket. And within his body, building up from his toes, burned a raging fire of desire to see the famed city of Paris – to walk her cobblestone streets; to lay eyes on his King; all at the side of his father. An honor; an adventure – his dreams come true.
His neck, cheeks then ears flushed hot with the unexpected invitation.
Laughing softly, he knew his cousin would be green with envy – and could just imagine his cheeks puffed, and eyes blazing as red as his hair when they rode by to announce their departure. As it was his aspiration to kick the dust of Lupiac from his boots as well, find his own way; and see what lay beyond home. “Well, I am first”, he whispered solemnly to the empty room; then grabbed up his belongings and bounded from the room.
Once in the saddle, now drifting slowly away from his place of birth; his mother’s resting place – adorned with pink, and yellow wildflowers; riding side by side, the heat and buzz of his elation collided with his father’s cool; serious speech. “When we return, the barn door needs seeing to; the fence around the north pasture must have new railing…..remind me Charles about attending to the roof…”
And as they sauntered away – a strange feeling took hold leaving goose bumps on his arms causing him to shiver with a mix of anticipation and dread – his father’s inventory muffling its way down into silence. Dismissing such angst – he looked instead to his tree of sanctuary and thought of the hours, the days – no…..the months and years he had spent day dreaming of this very moment.
How he had sat high up among the greenery, perched on treacherous limbs with the wind catching his breath; imagining within his mind’s eye the very place they now headed. Paris…. excited to see for himself her crowded streets. Paris…now, to bear witness to her magnificent, towering architecture so rumored as wondrous. Paris…. finally to know if the tales of adventurous musketeers, draped in blue were really true and not just exaggerations.
Stories of heroic acts and honor told to him by his father over many a meal; out mending fences; tending to crops or late at night seated by the hearth….hearing of the King’s elite guard – emphasizing their duty to King and country. Stories so real; told with such truth, that he could almost envision himself with the pauldron adorned on his shoulder, sword in hand – defending the crown, calling out with a euphoric sense of brotherhood, “To me musketeers… to me!“, and they would come.
Out in the distance, a momentary flash streaked a jagged, bright light leaving behind a far off rumble of thunder. His horse danced a side step, and he leaned over to whisper reassurances in his ear. The sky seemed clear enough to him; and when he inhaled smelled no trace of moisture in the air and wondered at the coup de foudre. But his father gazed up into the blue expanse; rubbed his troublesome knee with care and considered the road head.
“A hard rain comes” he predicted; and pierced his son with a deliberate stare; along with that curious, unreadable expression upon his face. An uneasy shift in the atmosphere between them had Charles studying the heavens as well, but before he could voice his own wariness – his father shouted, “Let’s move before it catches up to us”, then surged forward with a quick heel to flank.
And so he followed without hesitation, and did not look back.