The week after the masquerade was a week of much change. The Americans had their first taste of complete defeat and it bore heavy on their hearts. They knew now with bitter understanding what it felt like to lose your heroes in one fell stroke and feel fear, the cold tendrils seeping into your heart cooling the warmth of hope, surrounding it with fear and the first ardor of passion is blown away by the sudden chill. Winter had arrived, and with it-Versailles first snow.
The gardens were covered with a light frosting, the lakes frozen over-not yet thick enough for ice skating. It was beautiful as it always was but it could not help but feel strangely foreboding. The Marquis had sent word that he had been given leave to return to France and hoped to be there by Christmas, but he could not be sure, the sea was a dangerous place these days. It seemed the whole world hunkered down for a cold winter, a sober one and for some…not even the thought of Christmas could cheer the solemn knowledge of what was coming. Of the red stained snow, of the ache of hunger in so many bellies, the ugly purple of winter’s bite in digits and on limbs.
The fire crackled heartily in the mantle and somewhere far off a pianoforte played a spirited holiday chime. On the desk lay a piece of parchment, bent from folding and open for all to see, there was nothing there to hide, no secret code to crack. Far away in the distant land of India, dust was covering every inch of a red coat, clawing it’s way into throats and making each inhale an agony, each drop of water a heaven sent. Somewhere far away on a heat twisted breeze a vulture circled as it’s companions swooped and cawed and feasted on the flesh of a field of rotting dead. It was too hot for the blood to stay wet for long, flaking away fast to disappear into dirt a similar color.
The first battle in what looked to be a long and hopeless war for a divided people ended in defeat for the Marathas, and capture of a one Jean de Noailles. The outcome of such a capture was easily determined, the ransom would be paid, the insult felt by the whole of the family, and the gentlemen returned under promise never to return to that great land. Noailles did not regret the promise much, the heat and sweat and dirt of India offered him nothing to his advantage. He sent word that he hoped to be returned home not a week after the new year.
What would it bring? it held a touch of poignancy to it, seventeen seventy six. Four numbers that seemed to mean so much but who could tell just how…or why? The world held it’s breath as Versailles inhabitants danced and played and sang, and in the next few months what would occur would make all the difference.
A log shifted in the mantle and sent up a crackle of sparks as a burst of laughter from the outer chambers reminded the golden haired maiden of her world and what lay in it. Of a Dauphine who’s duties weighed heavily on her shoulders as her heart was divided by want of personal happiness and lasting joy for herself, her friends, her family and her people. Of a man who was only just beginning to discover a part of himself he had never known was there, and learn of a desire to live for more then just now and himself. Of a friend who wanted much for his people but could not see the price of his ardor and the great cost it might have on all.
Tis the season to be jolly. She wrapped the navy blanket tighter about her form so the white wolf fur brushed against her cheek and mingled with the curls of her golden hair, there were gifts to wrap and a room to finish decorating and a dinner to continue planning. The new year would bring much change, but 1775 was not yet over and it was better to bring in the new year-no matter how dark it seemed, with a little cheer.