1st of April 1625
The road to Bordeaux
Guyenne region, Southern-France
The rain was pouring down, the skies had come in from the Atlantic earlier that day as Jean had left his village behind, but now it had been raining for hours. A bright flash appeared on the sky and some seconds later the sound of thunder could be heard. Jean pulled his cloak closer together, but it didn’t help much as both the cloak and the rest of his clothes were already soaked from hours out in the rain. He moved slowly along the road, or it could hardly be called a road anymore, now it was just a trail of mud across the countryside. Jean had been out for hours walking along the road trying to reach Bordeaux. He still couldn’t understand why his father had sent him to Bordeaux in such a bad weather, but there was little Jean could do about that now. He just continued moving forward as lightning once again struck and the loud sound of thunder was increasing in strength. The storm was moving closer by the minute.
As he moved slowly forward again through the mud Jean started dreaming about how he would enjoy arriving in Bordeaux, he already looked forward to go inside and sit by the fire with a glass of wine and once more be able to feel his cold and wet body. Also he dreamt of the future, fighting for France. It was then the riders got him back to reality.
”OUT OF THE WAY!”
Jumping backwards Jean landed on his back in a large puddle of water and mud, and got even more soaked. The two riders didn’t seem to notice much, Jean could hear them laugh as they halted in front of him.
”Hey, you should probably learn to walk before trying to use the roads. He he he…”
The man that had spoken to him was covered in a red cloak, was wearing a large hat and from what Jean could see he had both two pistols in his belt and a sword at his side. Jean couldn’t see his face; the only thing Jean could see was a couple of dark brown eyes staring right at him. Feeling cold and sweating Jean moved his hand under his cloak and made sure that his letters were safe in cover before answering the man.
“I am no peasant.”
”I say you are, and then you are… We have no time for this. Now tell me peasant what are your business outside in this weather?”
“That isn’t your business…”
How dear you speak to my like that, peasant. In the name of the Cardinal I insist on getting to know your business… Are you maybe a Huguenot spy?”
“No, I am not. Who is this cardinal you speak about and why has he anything to do about my business?”
Turning to his companion the man shook his head.
”They certainly don’t teach these peasants much Michel…”
“It seems they don’t, sir”
”The Cardinal is His Most Christian Majesty’s first minister and closest advisor, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu… You do well in remembering that name peasant; the cardinal knows all and sees all.
Now I will not ask again. What is your business on this road?”
“So you work for His Majesty? Oh that would be something to work for the King…
I can tell you monsieur that I am traveling to Bordeaux to deliver a letter and to meet an old friend of my father.”
”The King… yes, we work for the King….
Who are you going to deliver to letter to and what is its content?”
“I am afraid I don’t know monsieur… I was told to deliver the letter to monsieur Dufour in Bordeaux, but I was never told the content of the letter”
The two horsemen looked at each other, then the one that had spoken nodded to the other.
”Thank you peasant. Now we must move along…”
The two men kicked their horses and start to trot down the road. As they had moved away from Jean the first man nodded to the other.
”It is him... Dufour is their agent…
You are sure these bastards know what to do?
Make sure they kill the messenger… no point in allowing him to live.”
“Certainly, sir. They are ready.”
” The Cardinal will be very pleased… Very pleased indeed.”
Jean could see the two horsemen disappearing from sight as the road turned left and soon they had disappeared inside the woods just as quickly as they had arrived. Jean was pondering over what had just happened. These two men were clearly working for the King and this Cardinal Richelieu. Jean could only dream about working for the King, but when he arrived in Bordeaux he was determined to ask the Baron if he knew more about this cardinal, Jean thought he sounded like an interesting man. Jean was once again dreaming, this time he imagined serving as a soldier in the King’s army fighting against the enemies of France.
As Jean reached the turn he was far way in his mind fighting for the glory of France. He had just defeated an evil English giant in a duel and was feeling were self confident when suddenly he noticed three men stepping out into the road in front of him, all of them with their swords at the ready.
You have something that we want young monsieur. You can make this easy and hand the letter to me or we will have to kill you right now…”
“Why do you want my letter?”
“Get him boys…”
The largest of the tree men remained in the background while the two other moved forward against Jean. Clutching for his short sword and moving backwards as the men got closer and closer Jean felt that he was sweating. This was no joke and no fantasy, this was real.
“Remember the monsieur’s words boys… make sure you do it well. Get the letter unharmed and then kill the messenger.”
Jean moved one more step backwards, but that was one step to many as he sat foot in the deep mud he lost his balance and fell backwards. As one of the men jumped against him Jean tried to stab him with the sword. The man jumped away from the sword and instead he drove his sword into Jean’s left arm. Jean let go of his sword and clutched his left arm with his right trying to stop the pain. But all he noticed was his right hand was getting warm and sticky from the red blood that was coming out of his wound. Jean’s eyes were getting blurry and his head was dizzy, and he felt like he was falling backwards.
As he was just about to pass out Jean noticed horses and more men arriving, he could hear screams and saw one of the thieves fall to the ground. He could hear the sound of steel and against steel, and he saw another of the thieves fell to the ground, and then his head fell backwards into the mud. The last thing he noticed as his eyes were getting very blurry was a man standing over him, a man wearing a blue cloak with golden lilies, the fleur-de-lis Jean remembered.
The he fainted.