Author's Notes: It took a few weeks, but I managed to put together a story in The Musketeers universe that is of my own design. I hope I have stayed true to the spirit of the show and have not strayed too far from the characters' established personalities. Any mistakes in timeline or in character are my own, despite the research I had done to, hopefully, remedy such errors. I had even gone as far as researching some nuances of 17th century France, and I have done what I could to bring it to life. The timeline for this story is any time after "Through a Glass Darkly" in Season 2, but before Rochefort puts his efforts into investigating Aramis.
Disclaimer: I do not own "The Musketeers" in any capacity with the exception of the books written by Alexandre Dumas from where these characters were inspired. I do, however, lay claim on Helene, Jacqueline, and the Clamort residents as well as their kin. There is no money made from this hobby, but that does not stop my imagination from conjuring up new stories.
Summary: While on an errand for the king, Aramis and Porthos come across a child unknowingly in harm's way. Aramis' fatherly instincts begin to emerge, and he finds it harder to keep secret his longing for what he doesn't have. Aramis and Anne implied, with the other Musketeers included. "Fairy tale-esque" in nature.
Tales of Truth
Chapter 1 – Helene and Marie
The horses' hooves thundered across the open landscape, bordering around the outskirts of the nearby town. The early evening sun was already hanging low on the horizon, and darkness would be upon the land within the hour. The green of the grasses and meadows was currently cast with a warm, orange glow, and the sight of Paris in the distance had a golden haze shining across it. The town to the east was at least another half-hour journey away, and if not for the wisp of smoke from a fireplace and the turning windmill, it would have been missed entirely in the trees.
Two musketeers under the command of King Louis of France rode side-by-side on those thundering horses. They each were as different as they could be, both in looks and clothing, and if not for the leather pauldron on each of their right shoulders, they would have been as anonymous as any other men riding through France's countryside.
Seeming wistful, the musketeer riding on the right had been roaming his eyes over the landscape, using the moments in silence to enjoy the soft glow of this coppery prelude to evening. Shifting his gaze from the distant line of trees marking the border of a forest, Aramis' deep, mahogany eyes – kind-hearted orbs that hinted at more of an onyx shade – intensified under the glow of sunlight. His tan-tinted skin took on a warmer hue in these early stages of sunset, and the golden glow set highlights into his dark, wavy hair. Extending to just above his shoulders, those dark locks gave the impression of being wild and unruly as the thick waves bounced freely beneath his gray cavalier. He sported a goatee cropped close to his face, with the scruff of a beard bordering his jawline. The long, brown coat that was his personalization to the musketeer uniform flapped along the back of his horse's saddle as he rode.
His companion, Porthos, was a larger man with dark skin and eyes not quite as dark as those of Aramis. Where they were similar was in their facial hair, with Porthos' beard and goatee nearly identically trimmed to the style that Aramis wore. His clothing, however, was his own unique wardrobe, as he was donned in dark brown leather more suited for battle as opposed to a casual ride, with the length of his doublet short for maneuverability. He kept his thick, but short hair hidden beneath a scarf that was tied tightly around the top of his head. With a scar marking his left eye and that unmistakable wrap on his head, Porthos offered the illusion of living the life of a marauder, seeking his next plunder, rather than being a man of honor under the king's command.
Aramis found himself appreciating the beauty in the land around him, as he always noticed something different in the countryside when they rode through it. Turning slightly, and taking a glance to his left, Aramis caught Porthos concentrating on the ride before them. He briefly wondered for a moment if Porthos ever mentally paused to absorb the beauty around the land that they often were too busy riding through to stop and enjoy.
Unlike Aramis who had grown sentimental, Porthos, however, was tired and hungry and just wanted to rest for the night. He was busy working through his frustrations over how their simple errand of bringing correspondence and a package from the king to the Baron of Clamort had been turned entirely upside down. After they had provided the king's deliveries to him, the baron had delayed their departure by insisting on writing his reply to the king. He took his time with his response, asking for their patience, and that he would gladly reward them for their time as soon as he was done. After an expected wait of twenty minutes or so for the baron to write his reply, their delay was furthered even longer, as Baron Clamort insisted that he entertain them with the stories of his life and then begged for them in return to tell him stories of their adventures.
Aramis and Porthos had played along at first, understanding that the baron was a lonely, older man who had lost his second wife this past winter and had craved the company of visitors. His children, with the exception of his youngest daughter, had married and scattered themselves around the influential members of France's upper echelon, obligating themselves in affairs that often kept them busy and distant from their father. The baron's youngest daughter stayed with him in order to handle the errands that he no longer could, and she had left earlier in the day for one of those chores, but the baron did not go into detail about her journey.
If not for his daughter and the servants who were loyal to their baron's kindness, Clamort would have had no one. The arrival of two musketeers on the baron's doorstep, however, had brought new life into the old man, and he kept finding numerous excuses to delay Aramis and Porthos' departure.
They, in turn, had offered their gratitude, as the baron had fed them with a lavish meal and had his grooms provide adequate care for their horses. He poured the wine freely, begging for story after story of their adventures, not entirely aware that he was growing more inebriated while the musketeers in his company had carefully portioned their drink, knowing they still had the long ride back to Paris and the journey to the garrison that was nestled within its walls.
At the end of the mid-day meal, the baron had dozed off, as many elderly persons were known to do, and his overabundance of wine only added to that need. Baron Clamort's most trusted servant, Mary, had explained that the baron had a package for the king in return, and that she hoped they would not mind the task of doing the errand for the elderly man. Aramis and Porthos had allayed Mary's concerns, gladly accepting the package that Mary had told them contained a gift for the dauphin. The correspondence between the two nobles was private, and while no one asked about the letter's contents, even Mary had not been privileged to know what it contained. She had, however, asked them to stay just long enough for the baron to awaken before they departed, citing that it would not be honorable for them to sneak off like thieves in the night.
Having played on their sense of honor, Aramis and Porthos found themselves stuck at the baron's estate well into the late afternoon hours while the man slept off his excitement and wine. By the time he was awake again, he was offering them a dinner, but for as much as the two musketeers would have liked to have enjoyed the meal before embarking on their return journey, they were left with no choice but to decline the offer.
The baron understood their plight, regretting that he had fallen asleep on them, complaining of his age and his inability to do the things he once took for granted in his youth. To show his gratitude for their continued patience with him, he had provided each of them with a small pouch of coins and wished them well on their journey back to Paris, asking only in return that they spend some time in his company if they were ever in the area again and not hurrying on an errand for the king. Aramis and Porthos had agreed that they would make every effort to return one day when their duties allowed them the time.
Thinking of Baron Clamort and his confined existence, Aramis slowed his horse down slightly, and decided to take in more of the sights around him. For as many times as he had seen a sunset or the warm glow that it cast on the land before nightfall crept in, something about the Baron of Clamort's slowly deteriorating life had struck his emotions.
"I can't do it, Porthos," he said adamantly as he now brought his horse to a stop and breathed in the glory of the sunset.
Bringing his horse to a sudden halt, Porthos spun around to meet his friend eye-to-eye. "You had better be very specific right now because I'm hungry and tired, and for as much as I liked the old man, I like the idea of sleeping in my bed more."
"I mean growing old like that with so few opportunities to enjoy life," Aramis clarified as he draped his arms over the horn of his saddle and leaned forward slightly. The hat upon his head slightly obscured his face in the shadows of the oncoming night, giving him an air of mystery. "Baron Clamort lives remotely, with so few people in his life. I pity him, and I know that's the last thing a man of the baron's caliber wants from anyone. He wants respect and to be remembered fondly, not to be the root of sympathy. I almost feel that we will never have an opportunity ourselves, and we'll all end up like him – only penniless in a slum somewhere instead of in a worthy estate with caring servants."
Taking a deep breath, Porthos glanced around the open field and the rows of trees in the distance, watching the golden sun shift on the landscape as the shadows elongated and began marching over the greenery. Feeling the frustration brewing beneath, Porthos didn't want to admit that he had felt similarly about their future, and instead of wallowing in the pity that he also felt for the baron, Porthos just wanted to get back to his normal life so that he could resume his duties and not think about it.
Keeping his voice even to hide his own sympathy, Porthos asked, "Now? You picked now to get all philosophical and worried about your future? The garrison and the palace are at least another hours' ride, and that sun is setting very quickly."
"What better time to consider my future than the present?" Aramis asked lightly, using his charm to diffuse what he sensed was his friend's frustrations.
Porthos ran his hand over his face, not sure whether to be angry or laugh. Aramis certainly knew him too well – even when he was trying to hide his true feelings. "Well, you're a musketeer right now, and we are on an errand. I don't know about you, but I see a very restful night on my bed in my future. So, I suggest we talk while we ride."
"And, miss the sights before us that one day will not be accessible because we'll be confined like the baron?" Aramis pressed with a teasing smile.
"I promise you, after a good night's sleep, you'll feel better about yourself, and we'll have a reasonable talk in the morning," Porthos offered in return with a flash of a grin, as he turned his horse around and urged it forward, towards Paris.
Taking the reins in his hands and sitting upright again in his saddle, Aramis laughed lightly as his horse followed Porthos. "You're right. We'll probably die in some battle long before either of us get to the baron's age."
"Always the optimist," Porthos chuckled with a touch of sarcasm, watching Aramis catch up to him. "Now, let's get back to Paris and give the king his..."
A high-pitched, "No!" of the variety that a child would make echoed through the field, followed by the sound of crying. Aramis and Porthos gave a quick, tired look to the other, but they both knew they could not abandon a child in need.
Tracking the sound of the child's crying, the two musketeers urged their horses to quickly maneuver through the field. As they passed through the tree line, they found themselves almost a half-acre within the forest, where they saw a small girl of no more than seven-years-old looking upwards into a bundle of the branches high above her. She was dressed in simple clothes, the likes of which had seen better days. The light tan and white of her dress and small apron were frayed with streaks of old mud caked in the threads. Her tiny shoes showed wear, as there were thin spots on them where holes were starting to form. Her long, blonde hair hung wildly down her shoulders and back, the bonnet upon her head barely holding any of it off her face. She continued on with her crying, the tears washing away the dirt on her cheeks, giving way to streaks of clean lines upon her face.
Bringing their horses to a halt, Aramis slid himself off his saddle while Porthos peered upwards into the tree to see why she was so insistent in keeping her attention there.
Lowering himself to one knee before the girl, Aramis set a hand on her shoulder, calmly getting her attention. "Hello there, little one."
Sucking in a few breaths and getting her sobbing controlled, the girl looked between Aramis and Porthos, seeming surprised that there was someone who heard her crying, and she rubbed her eyes to clear the tears away.
"Can you reach it?" she asked wearily.
Aramis looked between the girl and the tree again, clearly confused as to what she saw that he could not. "Reach what?"
She nearly burst into tears once more. "You don't see it?"
"We would if we knew what we were looking for," Porthos said, straining his neck to look upwards.
Aramis stood now, taking off his hat and brought his eyes to peer again into the branches above them. He shifted his angle a couple times, until he finally was able to catch a glimpse of the small arm that was draped over a very high branch. "Ah…I see. Angle yourself to the a little left, Porthos, and then tilt your head to the right."
Still on his horse, Porthos leaned as his friend instructed and subsequently felt his eyes widened when he caught sight of the same thing that Aramis had noticed. Porthos looked at the tiny girl, wondering how someone so small could launch something so high.
"Now, just how did that get up there?" Porthos asked, with a hint of humor in his voice.
"The Baptiste Brothers did that," she sniffed, wiping at her nose with her sleeve. "They took my doll and threw her there. I can't reach her, and I'm too little to climb."
Aramis turned to his friend, and Porthos had a snarl on his face, the kind that showed he would not tolerate such behavior any more than Aramis would. Porthos kept his voice calm for the girl's sake, but there was no mistaking that he was a hungry, tired, and frustrated musketeer. "Where are these boys now?"
"They ran away, like they always do," the girl replied with another sniff. She looked up into the tree again, and her blue eyes were ready to spill the next rim of tears that sat within them.
Aramis put his cavalier back on his head, placing his hands on his hips as he took a deep breath, his eyes taking in the small child. "I'd like to meet these 'Baptiste Brothers.' I'm sure I could give them quite a lesson in how to treat a young lady and her belongings."
The girl looked at Aramis, and he heard the desperate pleading in her small voice. "Can you get it for me?"
"What's your name?" Aramis asked instead, somehow seeing in this girl's blue eyes that she desperately needed something more than just her doll.
"Helene," she answered softly. Then she pointed a tiny finger up into the tree, "And that's Marie."
Aramis took little Helene's hand in his and bowed formally. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Helene. I am Aramis and this is my friend, Porthos. We are musketeers under the king's command and are pleased to meet your acquaintance."
Aramis released her fingers and stood upright while Porthos smiled and motioned to the limbs far above in the tree. "There's no good branches for climbing, but if I lift you, do you think you can reach your doll?"
Helene squinted into the height of the tree and then nodded. "Maybe."
Aramis set his hands upon Helene's waist and lifted her, as Porthos wrapped his arm around her, setting her feet upon his saddle. Then, with strong, steady hands, Porthos grasped her calves and gave her careful instructions. "Keep your legs locked and still and reach up as I lift you. Got it?"
Helene nodded again and brought her eyes to the branch just a few feet above her head as Porthos began raising her.
Both musketeers watched carefully as the girl reached upwards, her fingers inching closer to the doll.
Then, a crackling explosion echoed through the trees and the meadow, and a musket ball crashed into the tree trunk by Helene's shoulders. Porthos' horse reared, and he lost his grip on Helene as he worked to keep the animal under control.
Fighting against his battle training to pull his musket free and provide cover, Aramis found himself reaching forward and catching Helene as she fell. His protective instincts scrambled his body to move, and he found himself cradling her as he caught her to keep her head from hitting the hard roots of the tree on the ground. He had landed on his knees, one hand under her skull, and his other arm gently wrapped around her tiny body, reducing the impact she would have taken into the tree roots that were nestled between the grass and flowers.
When he looked up, he saw that his horse was long gone, probably due to the fact that Helene was now crying and screaming uncontrollably, and his horse was not accustomed to such high-pitched and distraught sounds. At first, Aramis thought Helene's crying was because of the scare of the musket ball, but as he looked to her, he saw that the left shoulder of her dress was torn and showing fresh blood from the abrasion that the musket ball had left upon her when it grazed her. He took the barest of moments to look at the wound and saw that even though it was a graze, it had been deep enough to puncture her skin and leave a thin, but painful laceration in its wake.
Porthos moved to get off his horse, but another shot fired from somewhere neither of them could see, and Aramis looked up, shouting so that he could be heard over the girl's sobbing. "She's no good to ride like this. She'll scare your horse, and three of us will only tire him."
"Don't be foolish," Porthos growled as another shot pierced into the oncoming dusk, scattering the dirt by his horse's hooves. The horse reared again, and Porthos had to fight harder for control of the animal.
"I am being reasonable!" Aramis argued while another musket ball landed in the tree trunk, and he ducked to cover the child. Helene's pained cries tore at him, and he knew he could not leave her or force her to ride a horse that would rear and kick at the noises she was making. "Go, Porthos! I can handle this."
Porthos hesitated again, but Aramis wrapped his arms around the hysterical child, and his words were nearly drowned out by Helene's screams and the musket ball splintering the trunk of the tree near them.
Reminding his friend of his duty, Aramis remained stubborn. "You have correspondence for the king, Porthos. Now, go, and don't make me tell you again!"
Aramis wasted no more time in arguments with his friend as he kept low to the ground and carried Helene with him to a tree a little further away with a thicker trunk. He heard the hooves on Porthos' horse finally digging into the grasses of the meadow, and he knew that his friend would eventually return. For now, though he had an injured child and an undisclosed number of muskets firing at him. He just needed enough time for night to settle in, and then he would have the concealment of dark to use for hiding. In the meantime, his plan would require him to reduce the number of threats as much as possible so that when the time came to run, he would be able to keep the child that was in his care safe while he fought to keep himself alive.