I've mentioned my Flashing Blades campaign, Le Ballet de l'Acier - The Dance of Steel - a number of times in different posts, to highlight an example, but I haven't discussed it at any length.
The campaign began in in the chill winter February 1625, as a French soldier, Adrien Sannom, an ensign of pikemen in the Picardy Regiment, was sent to Paris to deliver dispatches for his colonel. Left to his own devices pending the return to his regiment, he wandred the fair and stopped a trio of gentlemen threatening an old man and his daughter then got into a scuffle at the theatre. Later he delivered a missive for another soldier to his mistress, and carried a message to the royal fortress at Vincennes and narrowly avoided freezing to death on the road back to Paris, then was nearly killed by an innkeeper who was beating his wife. Finally he returned to his regiment and was dispatched to forage for supplies for his company - and completely missed uncovering a Spanish plan for invading Picardy. (Life During Wartime, a one-shot at a Meetup)
The long winter showed little sign of easing in March 1625 when a sergeant of the King's Musketeers, Riordan O'Neill, visited the fair at Saint-Germain. He rescued an acrobat from three carousing fops then received an invitation to the theatre. Coming home from the theatre, he encountered the aftermath a duel, two gentlemen dying in an alley as one of the dead men's servants claimed that it was murder. The two duelists retire after marking Riordan well. (Gallant Madness)
At his earliest opportunity, Riordan O'Neill returned to the theatre at Saint-Germain, in the company of his friend Charles Duran, to ask out the actress-sister of the acrobat he rescued; the Musketeer was chagrined to discover that she is a prostitute. Chastened, he and Charles took up an invitation from another Musketeer to join him at a small tavern. They spotted a man and a woman in poor disguises about to be set upon by a gang of bravos - the trio defeated the bravos in a dark alley, capturing two, then learned that the two disguised nobles were the duchesse de Chevreuse and her English lover, Lord Holland. The duchesse charges them with sneaking her and Lord Holland back into the Louvre. (The Instruments of Darkness)
A plan is formulated, and Musketeer uniforms procured, to sneak the pair into the palace. Another friend, Charles Petit, an apothecary, is summoned to aid the injured Lord Holland, to rouse him enough to get him into the palace. While Riordan bribes one officer and bluffs another, one of the captured bravos convinces Petit to let him go, on the promise that he will give up the leader of the bravos who escaped earlier in the evening. After Riordan discovers the deception, the second prisoner is killed and dumped into the Seine, then the adventurers set off in search of the bravo leader. Staking out the tavern, they find the prostitute with whom the bravo was earlier seen, and attempt to bully her into giving up the bravo, but she refuses; later they tail her to a church, but they are put off by a priest before they can question her further. On returning to their lodgings at the Black Stork Inn, a mysterious man offers them thanks for aiding the duchesse, and delivers them a purse of gold francs and ring with a red stone. (No Hunting Like the Hunting of Man)
Charles Duran returns to his family in Dijon for a time, leaving Riordan O'Neill and Charles Petit to make good on the promised bribe to the officer at the Louvre, a German mercenary. Tracking him down, they discover that he's destroyed a tavern in a drunken rage, and they convince the cuckolded tavern owner to not summon the provost-marshal by paying for the damages themselves. March passed into April, and Charles Petit hears a rumor that a Savoyard noblewoman, the vicomtesse de Praz-de-Lys, is setting up household in Paris and looking for staff - a fencing master and tutors for her sons, a banker to handle the family finances, and so forth. Riordan and Charles present themselves for the positions of fencing master and tutor respectively, and are hired; Riordan takes the opportunity to flirt with the vicomtesse's layd in waiting. Returning to the Black Stork, Riordan is insulted by three men in the market of the Place Maubert; the three are waiting for a duelist, and mistake Riordan for the man's second. Once the duelist arrives, Riordan offers to be his second, and in the subsequent duel the three are killed. The duelist introduces himself Gil de Berault, and thanks him profusely, telling Riordan to look him up if ever he needs a second. They continue to work for the vicomtesse, and Riordan flirts with her lady-in-waiting. One day Riordan is summoned to the hôtel de Tréville; Tréville informs him that the duel upon which he happend back in March, on the way home from the theatre, involved a son of a Lorrainois count and two courtiers to the Queen-Mother. One of the courtiers is making inquiries, trying to learn Riordan's identity. and Tréville warns Riordan to be careful. Finally they meet Lorrainois count, who offers them his gratitude for delivering his son to a priest before he died. (A Thousand Friends)
Charles Petit and Riordan O'Neill continue to work for the vicomtesse as April turns to May. One day she asks if they can assist in purchasing a horse for her eldest son, and with the boy and another friend, Bruno Faucon, Riordan's assistant, they set off for the Paris horse market. At the market Riordan spots one of the two courtiers, who introduces himself to Riordan. The courtier and another nobleman are arguing over the merits of two horses, and a race is arranged, with Riordan agreeing to ride on behalf of the nobleman. Riordan wins the race through the Cours-la-reine and is invited to a party to be held by the nobleman in May. Later Riordan, with Charles and Bruno in tow, seeks out the vicomtesse's lady-in-waiting and finds her Les Halles, the main market, in the company of a young soldier. She goads Riordan and the soldier into a duel, as Charles and Bruno try in vain to warn him off. Bruno tails the soldier, and discovers him entering the residence of the Cardinal Richelieu at Place Royale. Convinced that they will be ambushed by the Cardinal's Guards, Riordan casts a wide net for help, pulling in three of his friends among the Musketeers. Arriving at the Hôpital Saint-Louis, where the duel is to be held, Charles sneaks in and finds the Cardinal's Guards clearing out the vagrants congregated there. The adventurers decide to turn the tables on them, ambushing two of the Guards and capturing the guardsmen's horses, killing one of the Guards in the process. (Best-laid Schemes)
The Cardinal's Guards discover Riordan O'Neill, Charles Petit, and Bruno Faucon, along with three other King's Musketeers, in the process of stealing the guardsmen's horses, and the adventurers are forced to flee as musket fire rattles around them. They realize that if word reaches the king, they could be in trouble, so they set off for Tréville's, to ask him to intercede with His Most Christian Majesty, but Tréville isn't at his townhome, and the delay allows the Cardinal to reach the king first. One of the Musketeer officers finds a place for the adventurers to stay until Tréville returns; meanwhile the guardsmen's captured horses are turned loose in the Tuileries gardens to browse on the royal shrubbery. That night word arives that the king is furious, and the Musketeers are exiled from Paris. The barber-surgeon of the Musketeers, Guillaume Sébastien, who treated the injured after the fight with the guardsmen, decides to flee as well, as he is likely to be branded a co-conspirator by the vengeful Cardinal. Two of the Musketeers decide to head south, to Toulouse; the third accept an offer from the comte de Challons, a friend of Tréville's, to join his mercenary company heading off to the war in Savoy, and Riordan, Bruno, and Guillaume join him. (A Hard Place to Leave)
The trip to Grenoble, where Challons' company is forming, is brutal as the adventurer attempt to avoid agents of the Cardinal by travelling through the mountainous heart of Burgundy, where they encounter and kill an angry boar. Afraid they will wreck their horses, they decide to take to the river, and head south on barges to Vienne. Leaving the river, they take the road to Grenoble, and are ambushed by bravos in the middle of an empty waste. Taking refuge on a hilltop, a battle with pistols and swords ensues, and the bravos are routed. Arriving in Grenoble at last, the adventurers discover that the officer they were to meet is missing, along with thousands in borrowed silver. (Into the Wild)
Guillaume, Riordan, and Bruno investigate the disappearance, eventually discovering a hidden compartment in the officer's lodgings at a Grenoblois inn. The hidden compartment leads the local provost-marshal to identify the culprits, a Dutch banker and a Venetian fencing master, who flee the city. Riordan takes over the company in the officer's absence, but makes a poor showing of it. A case of Anjou wine arrives from Paris for Riordan, but it is laced with poison and the Musketeer is saved only by the ministrations of Guillame.(The Hands Will Solve)
After a brief period of training, the company, with Riordan O'Neill as cornet and Guillaume Sébastien as surgeon, with Bruno Faucon as a camp-follower, sets out for Savoy in June 1625, to join the French army fighting alongside the Savoyards against the Genoese and Spanish. Challons and his officers are invited to a party hosted by the principessa di Piemonte, the sister of King Louis XIII. At the party a Savoyard count with Spanish sympathies insults Riordan and Guillaume, but Riordan maintains his compsure. Later the adventurers are approache by a expatriot French nobleman, who tries to recruit them to seize his brother's castle in Dauphiny, claiming that the brother is responsible for death of the officer in Grenoble. The men are invited to dance with the princess' ladies, and only Riordan manages to pull off the steps successfully, earning him the admiration of his partner, from whom he asks for a favor to carry into battle. Challons carabiniers are put into action against Imperial cavalry, Albanian and Polish mercenaries, raiding behind the lines. Their first action is a defeat, as the Albanians manage to slip away; their second, against the Poles, is inconclusive. Finally, Challons' company manages to ambush the Poles in their encampment and scores a decisive victory, with Riordan taking the Polish banner in the process. (Let Him Who Loves His Country)
October turns to November as Riordan O'Neill and Guillame Sébastien travel to Turin with the comte de Challons, where Riordan is honored by the duke of Savoy for his meritorious conduct in during the summer campaign; during the ceremony, the expat nobleman once again approaches them about taking his brother's castle, and Challons invites Riordan to participate in a duel at Casale with the Imperial cavalry commander. Riordan celebrates by seducing a pair of tavern wenches and Guillame finds himself seduced in turn by a French marquise in Turin. The lady-in-waiting with whom Riordan flirted at the princess' party renews her acquaintance, focing Riordan and Guillame to figure out a way to slip her out of a church under the eyes of two guards assigned as her escorts. To distract the priest and guards, Guillaume, a Huguenot, claims to want to convert to Catholicism, and the priest declares it a miracle. The lady-in-waiting manages to sip away in her maid's cloak, and she and Riordan spend an afternoon riding together in the countryside. The next day, as Riordan prepares to leave with Challons for the duel at Casale, he is issued another challenge, by the officer he was supposed to duel in Paris months ago. That challenge is put off as the adventurers ride for Casale. (Darker Than the Swoon of Sin)
. The cavalry duel at Casale is a five-on-five affair held outside the walls of the city, as a company of Spanish musketeers watch from across the river. The surgeon, Guillaume Sébastien, is placed under guard by the Monferrini as the ten combatants meet on the field. Riordan O'Neill defeats two of the Imperials and captures a third as the French are victorious, escaping under a hail of musket fire from across the river. Guillame is shot and left for dead by the Monferrini sergeant, who steals his medical instruments. They retire to a town to find a surgeon to heal their wounds. (The Spur That Pricks)
What's next for our intrepid swashbucklers? The expat noble and the castle in Dauphiny still awaits, as does the duel with the French officer. There's Riordan's mistress and the lusty marquise waiting for Riordan and Guillaume's return to Turin. A diplomat is on his way to Monferrat with a proposed mission to Milan for the swashbucklers, along with word of a pardon and their return to Paris - or perhaps they will stay in Savoy when the campaign is renewed in the spring? And who set the bravos and the poisoned wine on them?
The future beckons.