Prologue

The sun slowly rose above the horizon. Four figures, blinded by the sunlight, were talking together in low voices. The first one, his name was Athos, was hidden in the shadows, contributing very little to the conversation. He was wearing dark grey jeans and a light grey t-shirt, combined with a black leather jacket with an off-center zipper, a matching scarf and black biker boots.

The second man, Porthos, was also wearing ark jeans, but with a white shirt and a dark blue, slim-fitting sports coat, with horn-rimmed sunglasses protecting his eyes. He had decided on fawn-coloured leather boots. He was relaxing on a wooden bench, his arms stretched out along the backrest on either side.

The eyes of D'Artagnan, the third member of the group, kept straying over to the railway tracks. He had chosen a more colourful attire, consisting of a pair of orange, slim-fitting jeans, a grey t-shirt with orange print, a black cardigan and black sneakers. A grey cap with an orange bill was on his head and a chain with a small wooden pendant hung around his neck.

The last member of the group, Aramis, cut off a piece of his apple, looking as if he didn't have a care in this world. He had decided on black jeans, a blue shirt with a small black checkered tie and a black cardigan, combined with brown boots.

"When is she going to be here? Is the TGV usually late or should we begin to worry?" D'Artagnan glanced around the group decisively. He was younger than the others, which might explain that he was a little wilder, full of determination and energy.

"Calm down, we were fifteen minutes early. According to the internet the train is five minutes late, so everything is OK. Enjoy the rest, the next few months are looking rather grim." Aramis took a last bite of his apple and threw the core on the gravel between the tracks.

"Do you think it will be hard work guarding Louis' cousin?" Porthos asked, squinting into the sun.

"She's his cousin. Louis is one of the richest and most powerful men in France, possibly in all of Europe. As his closest relative, she makes a very good target. We need to be on our guard." D'Artagnan nodded seriously at Athos. Both of them understood the seriousness of the situation. "She will be accompanied by a friend, so we'll have two potential targets.

"Oh great…" Porthos was not exactly happy with the situation. Like his three friends, he was in the employ of Louis and his honour and sense of duty didn't allow him to reject this task.

A few minutes later the TGV arrived. Not many people got off at Foret, the closest station to Fontainbleau. Aramis immediately noticed a young blonde woman, dressed elegantly but youthfully. She practically radiated a combination of happiness and serenity, so that he completely overlooked the young brunette behind her. Porthos looked at his friend and followed his gaze. He, too, thought the stranger very beautiful, but unlike his friend it didn't take him long to recognize her.

"Don't stare like that. That's Anne, Louis' cousin. Our job." he murmured to him.

"A woman of breathtaking beauty," Aramis declared, unable to keep his eyes off her.

"He's becoming a romantic again," Athos sighed. The atmosphere became too exhausting for him, so he slowly approached the two women and gave them a small bow. "Mesdames, may I bid you welcome at Fontainbleau?".

"Your cousin has sent us to guarantee your safety," he addressed Anne. "I hope your journey was comfortable and without problems? My name is Athos, over there is Porthos and this is…."

Aramis stepped beside his friend, took the blonde woman's hand and kissed it. "I am Aramis and very pleased to make your acquaintance."

Anne was captivated by the eyes of the man, but she managed to remember her manners. "Thank you for waiting for us. The journey from Madrid was long, but we managed to while away the time. May I introduce Constance, my oldest and best friend." The brunette nodded at everyone in greeting.

"Okay, it's a little too open for you here. We should go to the chateau. Anne will come with Aramis and myself, Constance, you'll go with Porthos and D'Artagnan."

Aramis and D'Artagnan both offered their arms to the ladies, so that Porthos and Aramis were left to carry the suitcases.

"Anne's cousin lives in a chateau?" Constance asked D'Artagnan, incredulously.

"Yes, at Chateau Fontainbleau. He is a very rich and powerful man and his residence underlines that image. But don't worry, you will be safe there. The gardens and the house are very beautiful."

The small group headed for the parking lot, where they climbed into two black Volvos with tinted windows, before the little convoy drove off to the chateau.