“You sir, are a madman!
“Is your name not Gerard La Russo? Are you not a Captain in the Musketeers of the Black, in service to Louis the XIV, the Sun King who rules all of France? Have you taken complete leave of your senses?
“Now, I grant you that your cause is just. You have spoken often how your sister fawned over you as a child, how she softly whispered your fears away and sheparded your heart through the troubling times of youth. When she took up the cause of your house, impoverished as it was noble, I was there to cheer with you on her wedding day. What a grand memory it was, for her husband is a man rich and powerful, and he takes every chance he can to show off.
“And that is what I want to remind you! He is a man rich and powerful!
“And what are you?
“I grant you, your skill with the blade is formidable. In fact, I think you would have to go back to the time of de Batz-Castelmore or that long nosed dramatist to find a man whose skill or ability in the arts of war could compare. I have seen you lead men into battle in Catalonia against the most fearsome of odds, and step into rows where ten and twenty stood against you and walked out nearly unscathed while I could barely stand against two!
“But despite this, and I speak to you as a friend dear to your heart, you are overmatched in this duel by graver odds than you have ever faced before! Your opponent is the nephew of the Duc de Villeroi, and while it may be his uncle that holds sway over the king, the serpentine nephew stays close cuddled within the bosom of power.
“To even step close to this man would require that you bypass the personal guard of the house, an elite group of men who you well know- for many of them were in fact trained by you yourself! Do you expect that to make them turn their heads? Is so, you are gravely mistaken. While they are loyal, good men, you would put them in a position where they would be forced to fight against you with all the ferocity of an animal trapped.
“And, if in your rage, you were to cut down these young men whose faces and names are so familiar to you, that would still not get you to your quarry! For the bladesman known as Phillipe Noir stands guard over the Chateu de Villeroi– a man you have duelled with more than once (I remind you), and never defeated! What makes you think this time, blinded by rage and fuelled by wine, that you will be able to do what you could not in clearheaded days?
“Finally, if I may point out. If you succeeded in driving your blade through the heart of the snake, your life would be forfeit. You would be the most wanted man in France, and there are few places on the continent you could go where the power of le Duc could not reach you. If you lived, it would be in torture, whether internal or external, and the known world would be your prison.
“So, see reason, my friend. Yes, the world would be better off without a devil like Henri de Neufville upon it, and I too curse his name with every breath. But, although we know that it was by his cruel hand your beloved sister died, killing yourself will not return her to us, nor will it do your friends a service to rob us of our beloved companion and commander.
“So, come now! Drink with us! Let us celebrate her life, and curse the unfair whims of a callous heaven by showing it our resiliency!”
* * *
Two days later, on the 5th of July, 1698, Gerard La Russo boarded a ship bound for New France.
When the captain asked as to his reason for passage, La Russo answered- “To leave the past behind.”
The captain, observing the spatter of dried blood that marked the man’s clothes, chose to let the matter stand.
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