Fin du Début
We exited the tower and started our perilous journey across the open courtyard. Yvette was dazed but able to function physically. She supported Jeanne by holding her under one arm. Battered and bruised they were so far unharmed. I thanked the angels as I moved stealthily towards the Chapelle Royale. Then an arrow zinged past my right ear and another struck the left pauldron of the black body armour that protected my shoulder area, luckily it glanced off at an angle leaving just a gash in my black woollen cloak. I thanked God that I had bothered to put my armour on earlier despite the inconvenience of the increased weight. Its superior steel and cunning construction did not however restrict my freedom of movement. It was of Nuremberg origin, a composite plate construction, the very latest gothic style to come out of Germany
and an investment worth the purchase! We started to run, all caution thrown to the wind. Like nimble fleeting raven coloured storm clouds we flew over the dusty terrain of the chateau. Another arrow thudded into the ground in front of me, and another, and another.
"Zig zag! Don't run in a straight line!" I shouted out the desperate instructions although Yvette had pre-emptied my thoughts and didn't need any further encouragement. Heroically she continued to help and guide Jeanne with her every step of the way.
"Easy for you to say I'm carrying a dead weight!" Yvette shouted back in my direction. It was a taunt too far and Jeanne immediately stiffened. Regaining her fighting spirit she cast off her fellow sister warrior’s support and started to run under her own power.
Then I stopped, span around and scanned the battlements for the archer that was attempting to thwart my escape with terminal intent. I literally had seconds to get my shot in before he found his mark as I was now a stationary target and I
knew full well the deadly accuracy of the English longbow in the hands of a trained from youth professional archer. At Agincourt I had witnessed a French knight foolishly raising his clenched fist and shaking it at the Goddam archers in anger and frustration. Before he could lower it 19 out of 20 arrows fired at him had pierced it, armour, leather, flesh and bone! As if my sniping antagonist had read my mind another arrow struck my vambrace and glanced off at an obtuse angle of deflection merely causing me to drop my favourite German jäger crossbow, hurriedly I picked it up, but it was enough I had him. The Moonlight momentarily glinted off of his helmet which was sufficient for me to draw an accurate bead and aim just below it. I knew from hunting experience to target the space that was his chest area for it presented me with the largest mark, deer or man it made no difference
the principle was the same. Holding my breath I gently squeezed the trigger bar of my weapon and the full force of the tensioned steel drove home the wax tipped quarrel with deadly armour piercing effect. A soft thwack told me I had found my target. It was followed by a muffled thud as the body of my Goddam tormentor fell onto the ground immediately below the parapet to my left.
There was no time to admire my own prowess as an alarm bell immediately sounded. Its piercing chime cleaving the frozen silence with a clarion call to arms. We now had literally seconds to make good our escape. Another arrow landed in the ground not a metre from my foot and buried itself to half the length of its shaft. I ran. Everything became a blur as I sped gasping for breath towards the chapelle doorway. Yvette and Jeanne had made it thus far and were frantically knocking to gain admission as arrows began to pepper the iron bound oaken form of the main door. Suddenly the door swung inwards and its solidity was replaced by an inky black void into which they plunged and vanished. My delaying tactic had worked and given them vital seconds with which to gain admission to the sanctuary beyond.
Now it was my turn to run the gauntlet of raining steel. I gulped and summoned up the last drop of my adrenaline fuelled rush. As I approached the opening I saw two of Matthias' men step out of the doorway and loosen their bolts in the direction of the main gate. The quarrels clattered off of the masonry, their covering fire bought me the precious seconds I needed to tumble headlong through the portal to safety.
Seeing his men safely in Matthias slammed the door shut to the sound of more arrows striking the oak mass.
"I take it they know we are here?" He spoke softly with a clipped Swiss accent. His rhetorical statement required no reply but I gave one as I regained my composure and gathered my thoughts.
"Of course, time to go wouldn’t you say?"
The girls were already halfway along the nave as .....