Although the previous night was probably the most eventful one in my life, I barely had any recollection of what happened after I was dragged inside the melee. Hazy memories of heavy drinking, brawling, and all sorts of shenanigans briefly ran through my aching head, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, connect any of them and recreate any proper comprehensive memory. The only thing I could assume was that I got myself really drunk, and passed out shortly afterwards, not being a man that could hold his drink very well.
With considerable effort, I rose from my bed and decided to go outside and talk a walk. Although my steps were still uncertain and my demeanour slightly confused, I made my way out of the house and into the streets, trying to clear my head and have a fresh start. The first thing that came to my mind was my quiz, which was in about 4 hours. I decided however that it would be best to rest before the exam, considering my sorry state. It was about 11 in the morning, and the streets of Paris were lively as they usually were at this hour. The sun was shining and some stray clouds were scattered on an otherwise clear blue sky.
After a good French breakfast and a long walk in an exceptionally warm weather, I realised I was on the other far side of the Seine, and that home was over thirty minutes away. I hadn’t seen the time passing, and decided that it would be best that I headed home if I wanted to make it in time for my unfortunately timed quiz. I quickened my pace, and started taking small shortcuts to shorten my trip; going through small gardens, narrow pathways and dark suspicious alleys; it wasn’t my usual behaviour, but I had no choice. Looking the way I did after my misadventure at the club, my appearance wasn’t that of a man that casually attended Louis XVI weekly parties in Versailles as part of the Paris aristocracy. I tapped my right hand on my side and reassured myself with the thought that my sword was still there. If anything were to happen, I was at least armed.
Never had I spoken so soon, and as I was making my way through a small alley on a rather shady area on the western bank of the Seine, two hooded figures sprang from the darkness and pointed their shiny blades at me; two machetes that looked like the ones adventurers used in Africa to make their ways through the perilous jungles and expand our empire’s domain.
“Shaun Crawford isn’t it? Come with us or meet the end of my blade.” Said one of the figures, in an accent I didn’t recognise at the time, but which I came to know later on was Germanic.
“Yeah, don’t resist, you are not going anywhere,” said the second man with a different accent, probably Iberian “we have you surrounded.”
I looked around me and noticed more sinister figures emerging from the depths of the shadows all around me, each one more threatening and obscure than the last. All of them were wearing dark hoods that looked weathered from long travel, yet which did an excellent job concealing every part of their bodies besides their hands, which were gloved in dark brown leather.
“You…you have the wrong man, I a-assure you it is not me.” I said, stammering worse than a toddler learning his first words.
My plea of innocence didn’t seem to have much impact on them as they all approached me, getting closer and closer from every direction. I tried to reach upon my rapier, but my hands were shaking so much I couldn’t even grasp it, let alone unsheathe it. Thank God I didn’t, otherwise I would’ve been dead the moment I revealed my sword.
“S-stand back! I am the son of a count, and you’ll never hear the end of it should you do me any harm!” my threats seemed as useless as my previous attempts to rationalise with them; if anything, it made them more hostile towards me.
When all seemed lost, and putting my hands forward, surrendering to apprehension sounded like my best option, my eye caught a strange sight. On the very rear of the mob that had formed around me, I noticed one of the assailants collapsing down, letting out a groan of pain, and making a thumping noise as his body slammed on the floor. As the others turned around to verify what had happened, the sound of metal piercing through flesh rose from the other side of the alley, along with a loud cry. As I looked around in confusion and bewilderment, I perceived an unfamiliar figure dashing towards me, resembling one of them Indian tigers darting towards their prey. Thinking I was going to be his next target, I immediately crouched down and sheltered my trembling body with the reassuring embrace of my arms, trying to protect myself from this wild beast that didn’t seem to discriminate between friend and foe. Little did I know, that very man would soon become my trusty comrade, my partner in crime, and my lifelong ally and friend.
Taken by surprise, the hooded men became more defenceless than I was when they met me. Slashing swiftly left and right with a sword barely visible from its speed, the cat-like figure showed no hesitation yet extreme precision in his strikes. I slowly began to realise I was not his target when I opened my eyes and saw my aggressors toppling all around me like trees caught in a violent tornado. When I finally looked up, I perceived the man’s eyes glaring at me, giving me a look of anger and contempt. All the other men were down, either wounded or dead.
“Get up you helpless fool. Didn’t your parents warn you against taking shoddy roads like these?” said the man furiously, yet with a voice so clear and smooth I would’ve never associated it with the rugged man that just incapacitated a dozen armed men.
He offered me his hand and helped me up from the ground, a friendly gesture that contradicted his antagonistic attitude, but which I decided to take at face value and accept it.
“Who are you?” I said in a tone not too different from that of a damsel in distress acting in a play I attended not long ago.
“What? You don’t know me? Didn’t they tell you anything about this?” he answered, clearly surprised at my obliviousness.
“I’m sorry but I have no idea. I’m still very thankful mind you, as you proved to be quite the fighter and took on all of this scum on your own. I truly cannot thank you enough for saving my life, and no reward shall be great enough for you.”
I noticed a very sudden change in behaviour. My rescuer’s rough face and stern expression turned into a merry one, almost flustered as a matter of fact. It was clear my brief commandment of his exploit was not at all unwelcome, and I decided to continue, as I realised it might ease the bitterness I apparently caused in him.
“No, I mean it sire, you are a true hero. I shall report your actions to the paper, and all of Paris will know about your amazing exploit!”
“Well now, let’s not go too far. I saved you, but I certainly don’t think an article in the paper would be appropriate,’ he said with a wide smile as his gaze got lost somewhere above him ‘my name is Achilles Harvent, and your family employed me to keep you out of harm’s way. After yesterday’s night and all what happened then, I thought it would be wise to keep a closer eye on you today; my judgment seemed to be perfectly sound, Mr. ‘Shaun Crawford’ .”
“You know what happened to me yesterday? Are you following me? Did something happen to Uncle Oliver?” the flurry of questions I had was but a sample of the ones I had in mind. This was truly an extraordinary day and an extraordinary event, and judging from what Achilles had just told me, my wild night and today’s attack were somehow related.
“Slow down there. First and foremost, I should take you home, where you will rest and recover from what happened here. Let’s go, we don’t have all day.”
Leaving all the bodies unchecked, Achilles hurried out of the scene, and I followed him with quick steps, trying to catch up to his pace. That was the day I had first made contact with Achilles Jeremiah Harvent, a man so fascinating that all of Europe’s papers reserved at least a page every day to discuss his latest extravagant escapade, one that challenged every policeman around the continent to catch him and yet emerged victorious.