– 13.2 What was your first impression of your partner?

He was everything I had been warned about. He was tall, rather handsome in spite of the patch over one eye and he carried himself with an aristocratic arrogance that should belong to no less than a Prince. It was that arrogance that all at once infuriated and yet intrigued me. I was at the fall birthday ball of Anne de Autriche. I was alone, and as I made my way toward the palace, that lone, one-eyed figure who was always clad in black observed me. If he had wanted to be inconspicuous, he had failed miserably at the attempt that night.

Nevermind that he immediately saved me from a potentially ugly encounter with the porcine Comte de Anjou and his friends. I would not have expected a perfect stranger to do as he had done. He came up silently behind the group of men that now surrounded me within the halls of the palace. It was a low voice used to commanding others that spoke to the back of the other count’s fat and oily-curled head. “I believe that you have found what I had been looking for, Anjou,” he said, ” Permit me to take it off your hands now.” His voice calm, but everyone in the vicinity could see the blood drain from the other man’s face. Anjou and his companions whirled to face him, but Sebastien merely stared into the eyes of the man in front of him, tilting his head, as if he were waiting for a reply. With a smirk he moved only once, lifting a black-gloved hand into the air and tightening it into a fist, then lowering it to rest on the pommel of his blade. With his characteristic smirk subtly wider, Sebastien watched out of the corner of his eye as Anjou’s companions backed up a number of paces. Ignoring the Comte’s stuttered apologies, he then swept him aside and held his arm out to me. “Mademoiselle, my apologies for having to leave the garden so soon. If you would like to continue your walk? I believe that I next promised to show you the library”

Now I had done it! Athos and the others had warned me about this man, and now I found myself not only face to face to him but with the very real prospect of being scrutinized far more than I would have wished! Did he know about my friendship with Athos? To be honest, I did not know what to expect, but I had been filled with a definite sense of trepidation. Without even thinking I slipped my small hand into the crook of the arm that was offered to me. Surely, the Comte de Anjou and his companions had meant to cause me to react, but I had barely opened my mouth to speak before this strange man had made his appearance. Several other of the upper nobility and the court whispered to each other as we moved through their glittering throngs. I felt myself uncomfortable because all eyes seemed to rest upon the two of us as we passed. Through the ornate marble halls of the palace, we manoeuvred between dignitaries who bowed or inclined their heads. The two of us had barely rounded a corner before I finally looked up at him finding my voice at last. My dark escort did not turn his eye to me but walked us purposefully further away from Anjou and his party.

“This level of hospitality even in the palace is most unexpected, Sir,” I ventured gently, trying to keep my French at least somewhat passable as far as the Court was concerned and the apprehension from my voice, “I was afraid that I had made a wrong turn. At any rate, I do believe that thanks may be in order.”

“Oui, that you did Mademoiselle.” His voice was low, barely reaching my ears we continued to stroll through the crowds with a seeming purpose. “I find myself curious as to where your companions is that you would end up even close to the jaws of such a rabid, overstuffed baboon. Or are you alone to simply wander where you will? Were you given free rein to explore the Court?” Finally he turned his head to face me, that one eye of his darkly piercing. “and the gardens as well?” His tone was far from accusatory, but certainly pointed. “But do not thank me, for in truth, there are worse things found at Court than that stuffed jackanape and his vultures back there. Much worse.” His mouth twitched slightly as he fought a smirk. “In fact, some would say that you were safer with Anjou a few minutes ago, than you are right now.” He leaned forward slightly, his shadow crossing over my face as he looked down at me, “They would whisper it at least. But they dare not say it aloud where I can hear.”

I felt my skin prickle a little at the mention of my ‘companions’. Just how much did he truly know? Was it discomfiture at what he was saying to me or the man himself? Rather than succumb to what would have made a more chaste woman blush, I met his gaze without flinching. “My kinsman, my uncle, who was supposed to accompany me this evening, fell ill. Since the evening’s invitation was from Her Majesty, Queen Anne herself, I did not dare miss the appointment. I came unescorted. I hope that if such a thing is considered a faux pas here at the French Court, I will be forgiven for I am merely a visiting representative of my own country and a stranger in yours.”

“As for my having been in the gardens earlier,” I continued, ” I am at heart a simple woman, Monsieur. I was there unescorted simply because I have an almost unnatural affinity for night blooming jasmine,” I said as we walked through the groups of courtiers. Each gathering of people that we passed, erupted into subtle and not-so-subtle hushed tones and whisperings. My escort did not speak, and rarely acknowledged any one of them with anything other than a curt nod of the head.

“I do not fear the Courts, Monsieur,” I continued, “I am used to their brutality and guile hidden behind the guise of civility.” I stopped us in the corridor and turned to face him directly. He was clearly a good head taller than I, “However, one thing is for certain; if I am to hear whisperings of such things at this Court, it is my desire that I should know the name then of the man who has rescued me from rabid, overstuffed baboons only to thrust me into the gaping maw of peril.” a smile played at the corner of my lips that I had been fighting but could not fully suppress.

“Is it peril you seek?” he seemed genuinely curious, “for indeed, if that is your wish, you just may have found it. However, the torture of my company will end wherever and whenever you desire it, Mademoiselle. And, should you seek other things – a companion to escort you when your cousin or other companions are not available, or of the conversation that you seek is more than just useless pandering and gossip, no matter how rough or dark with honesty that may be, I would be delighted should you choose my most humble, yet horrifying self.” His eye closed slightly. There was a palpable dark humour behind it.

“This way to the library, Mademoiselle. ” Ever so gallant, he opened wide the doors and with a bow gestured me into the dimly lit room. With a flourish the man in black closed the doors behind us, casting we two into shadows and flickering torch lights. “I will share my name with you, my lady,” he said at last. White teeth gleamed under a moustache of black. “My name is Sebastien, Monsieur le Comte de Rochefort. A votre service“.

I listened intently to him speak. There was something that was at once both disturbing and yet soothing about the Comte de Rochefort’s voice. And now as they were in the dimly lit room that was lined floor to ceiling with books and appointed with rich, comfortable furniture, and for whatever reason, in that moment, the two of us seemed to belong there, belonged together. Make no mistake, Sebastien and I had our heated discussions on religion, politics and Power. And we would somehow always seem to find ourselves seated near to each other at various functions until at last that it was Sebastien who had suggested that such a match of wits and the sparring of tactics and strategy certainly deserved a more genteel focus. And so it was he who suggested that we turn our minds toward playoimg chess. It was to become both our refuge and our excuse. After a time Queen Anne and her ladies stopped asking me to join their little embroidery circles and no one, not even the Cardinal or King Louis paid us any mind as we played.

I guess this is all a very roundabout way of alluding to the fact that I found my husband to be a fascinating man from right from the start. Perhaps we were warned away for the very reasons that we found ourselves together; that we were well suited to each other and that the match was ideal for the both of us.

Patient Name: Frances de Rochefort / Faelyn
Fandom: Original Character
Word Count: 1539
Patient’s Partner: Monsieur le Comte de Rochefort, Sebastien (Three Musketeers) all_forme
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