Pre Season One, prior to d'Artagnan
This is the sequel to "An Unlikely Brotherhood" set six weeks after Elizabeth Cromwell's incarceration in the Chatelet
A/N: Things ended badly for Elizabeth at the end of An Unlikely Brotherhood. For those of you who wondered if Treville could somehow keep his promise, let's see shall we?
Queen Henrietta Maria of England was safely escorted on the final leg of her return journey to Le Havre. She had the company of Sir Edmund Temple, who would explain succinctly no doubt why Elizabeth Cromwell was not with them.
Now, several days later, with Richelieu's return to Paris, the Cardinal and Treville faced each other once more across Richelieu's impressive desk.
"You realise, she is a scapegoat." Treville said quietly.
"Of course I do! But protocol declares we have a guilty party, and Sir Edmund has been very clever."
"So he will go back to London untainted." Treville sighed.
He rubbed his hand across his face,
"What will become of her?"
Richelieu was standing over his desk, his hand running along the impressed leather.
"That depends on the English, but I am sure they will take the word of Sir Edmund on that," Richelieu he said quickly, his long fingers now playing over his inkwell.
He was happy to leave the aftermath to them. As for France, secrecy was the best policy, according to the Cardinal. It avoided complications. In matters such as this, he really did have a heart of stone.
Treville did not like it, he knew Elizabeth Cromwell would not leave the Chatelet; but he did not speak. There was nothing more to say. He was sure that Richelieu would come up with a suitable sanitised account for her family, should it be needed.
As he opened the door to leave, Richelieu called out;
"Let us hope that Henrietta Maria remains with her husband and does not grace us with her presence for quite some time. Perhaps her people will learn to love her."
CHAPTER ONE - Consequences
It was a grey, overcast morning that found Treville standing stiffly at the window of his office, his hands clasped tightly behind his back. His eyes were on Porthos, who was moving around the yard sluggishly. Since their return from the Royal Hunting Lodge in the Forest of Brotonne, the mood amongst his three best men had been sombre.
Porthos had formed an unlikely friendship with Aubin Fabron, the young Red Guard who Treville and Richelieu had teamed him with in order to protect Queen Henrietta Maria's route back to Le Havre following her visit to her brother Louis XIII. The young man's subsequent death had been a blow to him.
The mission had taken its toll on all of them.
Porthos; noisy, irreverent, extrovert Porthos, now swerved between anger and a melancholy that could rival Athos at times. His eating abilities were impressive, but Treville had seen how he now often left his food on his plate, lost in thought. Athos, himself injured during the affair, was back to full health, but concerned about Porthos, and his increasingly erratic behaviour. As was Aramis, who had taken Aubin's body home and prepared the young man's family for the shock of his demise. They all knew that time would heal Porthos's heart and he would eventually make sense of it, but in the meantime, he was a force to be reckoned with and took considerable managing.
In the yard below, Treville's men were all aware of him watching them from his window. They were also aware he had left the Garrison on his off duty days, and could not be contacted; something unheard of. Aramis had ventured so far as to follow him through threatening rain on his third such disappearance. It was no surprise when he returned to report that their Captain had ridden to the Chatelet.
It was still raw for all of them, but no-one wanted to confront their Captain. So they made the best of it, and got on with their day to day duties, and each put up with the wavering moods of their comrades.
Their Captain continued to brood at his window, beneath a heavy mantle of guilt and simmering anger; distracted by dark thoughts of the young woman lost in the Chatelet.
The Chatelet ('small castle') was an imposing Parisian fortress, which stood on the right bank of the Seine. It had a long history, thought to have originally been built to defend the bridge that straddled the impressive river. Louis VI had made it the formidable structure they knew today. In late medieval Paris it had served as the headquarters of the official "charged with protection of royal rights, oversight of royal administration, and execution of royal justice." Over the decades, it had fallen into disrepair and proceedings were moved to the Louvre, before being returned in 1506.
The building incorporated two imposing towers which stood on either side of the city roadway which continued uninterrupted under the building. Octagonal rooms were set in the mid levels of the towers. The calottes, rooms just under the roof that formed the upper floor of the prison, were the least pleasant rooms, being more exposed to the elements and either too hot or too cold. The cachots were the underground dungeons. The main courtyard, used for exercise and executions, was equally either too hot in summer and too cold in winter.
In terms of the number of prisoners held within its damp walls, there were few. The Bastille would one day supersede it; Cardinal Richelieu was already "refurbishing" that particular facility, which lay to the east of the Chatelet.
Nearby slaughterhouses ensured that there was always an unpleasant smell around the Chatelet's perimeter. Together with the surrounding sewers that emptied into the Seine, it was, certainly, a place to be avoided at all costs; although many traders had set up their stalls in the shadow of its walls where custom was often brisk.
The Governor received money from the Crown to support the prisoners. This provided an adequate diet. The more wealthy prisoners could buy extra food and add some luxuries to make their stay more acceptable.
Elizabeth Cromwell, although from a good English family, was not wealthy.
At the time, Treville had insisted that it was he who escorted Elizabeth Cromwell to her imprisonment. She had all but shut down; accepting her fate and she was completely, utterly terrified.
He had stood beside her as the Chatelet's Governor, M. Henri Leclerc, read the missive from Richelieu. There would be no trial, no public proclamation. This was a prisoner who was to remain "unseen," until such time as terms could be agreed. The Governor, a married man with daughters of his own, had been accommodating at least and had sighed when he had read the instruction, before turning his rheumy eyes on his latest acquisition.
Treville had brought a change of clothes for her, bought with his own money, and a few other meagre items, procured from the female Garrison laundry staff. These had been accepted. M. Leclerc was not a cruel man, but neither did he wish to fall foul of Cardinal Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu. However, the hairbrush and small bar of lavender soap placed on the table in front of him were innocuous. This prisoner was to be kept apart from the others, in the short term at least, so there would be no harm in allowing such personal items, and as such, the possession of them would not cause dissent amongst any other inmates who may not take kindly to such favours.
Elizabeth had kept her eyes lowered at all times that day; not daring to look at the guard who walked ahead of them down the dark corridor to the small door at the end. This man did look intimidating, and he had no concern about looking at her, Treville noticed, with a heavy heart.
The guard turned the large metal key in the lock, and pushed the heavy door open. It creaked noisily on its hinges and she stepped through into another world. Turning with wide eyes to stare at Treville, he held her gaze as he passed the bundle of clothes and personal items into her shaking hands. He was allowed no further, and the door was firmly and noisily closed between them. Her pale face briefly appeared at the small open window, barred with an uneven pattern of black metalwork, which cast shadows across her face.
The guard turned and walked away, expecting Treville to do the same; believing him to be a man just doing his duty in handing a prisoner over for incarceration. The guard would not expect to see Treville again; but he would, in fact see him again. This particular man, the Captain of the King's Musketeers, had made a promise, in the presence of his Lieutenant. In the meantime, he would keep contact with her.
Treville held Elizabeth Cromwell's gaze and her frightened eyes bored into his very soul as he leant forward, his face inches from the metalwork.
"You will not be forgotten," he said firmly.
It was as if he were speaking to a ghost, long dead; his last view of her fading as she stepped back, allowing the shadows to consume her.
Turning, he reluctantly followed the guard, his head down, his heart heavy as he felt himself imbued with a terrible emptiness at the travesty he had been an unwilling party to.
He had made a promise, and he had gone over the sorrowful evening spent with Athos that had spawned that promise many times since their return from the Forest of Brotonne. Once more, the scene came back to him;
Athos sat with Treville in his office, both in sombre mood. Treville's meeting with Richelieu had left a bitter taste in his mouth.
This whole affair had taken its toll.
Six dead Musketeers; one dead Red Guard. Eight of his men injured; who would bear their scars for the rest of their lives.
And Porthos, who would bear the scars on his heart at the loss of a young man so full of promise.
Plus a young woman, in the wrong place at the wrong time, who was now lost in the depths of the Chatelet.
But their two regiments were secure, he thought bitterly.
"I tell you, Athos," he hissed as they shared a brandy. "I will not rest until she is free, no matter how long it takes."
"She was wrong, but she did not deserve her fate," Athos said in agreement.
They stayed in Treville's room until the brandy was gone and the skies had grown dark.*
On his second visit to the Chatelet, Treville, on further inspection, had discovered that the Cardinal had, to his credit, had Elizabeth placed in a better cell than some; a room with a table and chair and a small window, set high. That window let in little light, but served to torment those who could only see a small patch of sky. It was a cell used for more distinguished prisoners; although Elizabeth Cromwell was certainly not one of those; merely a lady in waiting – in all senses of the word. It was still a dark and foreboding room, but it could have been infinitely worse.
She was in limbo until her release could be negotiated; if that was even possible, given her "crime" of disclosing information on the Queen's movements during her visit to France. She had been forced to do so under duress by English courtier Sir Edmund Temple, whose ultimate aim was the removal of this unpopular French Queen of England. Having threatened to incriminate Elizabeth Cromwell, on the basis of a brief conversation that he had initiated, he had ensnared her and forced her to do his bidding. By keeping him informed of the Queen's movements during their visit to France, he was able to direct a group of English assassins to first decimate Musketeer numbers and then to attempt a royal assassination. Ultimately, the attempt had been thwarted, and he had had the good fortune to return unscathed to England with the Royal Party, leaving Elizabeth Cromwell to her fate.
Richelieu himself had recognised her middle-class upbringing and perhaps, he too still felt the twinge of conscience he had initially shown when he and Treville had first spoken about her fate.
However, the sparse negotiations between minor officials in France and England were becoming increasingly fraught and both sides where falling silent.
Now, as he rode back to the Garrison after his third visit to the Chatelet, Treville remembered the bright young woman who had sought to fight back against the man who had wound her tightly in his web. The young woman who had refused to disclose the last minute change of plans Queen Henrietta Maria had ordered, thus thwarting Sir Edmund Temple and ultimately, saving the Queen's life. She who had ridden with him, away from the Royal Hunting Lodge, knowing she may be an assassin's target; who had accepted his pistol and felled one of the assassins who had followed them. A young woman who had been brave and strong, and who had ultimately been sacrificed as a scapegoat to save Louis's embarrassment and his sister's discomfort.
She had Richelieu's protection, and no guard would dare to touch her or mistreat her. But that protection could not last forever, and Treville knew that the King was oblivious to that concession. If he found out, Richelieu would be forced to withdraw that protection. The King had been in no mood to discuss Elizabeth Cromwell, having consigned the whole affair to the back of his mind. Richelieu would too, lose interest and return fully to affairs of state, and the time for negotiations with the English court would be gone. Henrietta Maria, herself, had been silent. She had a quick temper; she was her mother's daughter. She also had a certain courtier dripping poison in her ear. Sir Edmund Temple would ensure negotiations would be fraught. Time was running out.
As he rode hard, through dark storm clouds that now began to rumble mightily overhead, he felt the increasing weight of the injustice to her.
But something had changed.
As he flew through the dark night, lit up with the blaze of lightning that cracked above him, he began to see this injustice as no longer the destroyer of everything he had held honourable, but the foundation of his promise. His sworn promise as a Musketeer to protect, to serve, and to uphold the law. As Musketeers, he and his men were commissioned by the King himself to protect the Royal Family, but also to serve his people, wherever injustice was found. The oath he expected all his men to uphold.
He spurred his horse on through the driving rain, soaked to the skin now, but lighter than he had felt in weeks.
She will be free.
To be continued ...
A/N Henri Leclerc is a fictional name.
* Chapter 23:"An Unlikely Brotherhood."
Thanks for reading!