Authors note: To prevent confusion, this has them all in, and everyone gets whumped. But it is a bit more Aramis centric than anything else. Athos gets a good whump in the middle though. And d'Artagnan gets a whump nearer the start. And Porthos is in danger quite a bit.
Athos took in the information that Treville had given him. A plot against the King was hardly a new occurrence, but it would have to be taken seriously. Luc, Treville's informant, had not been wrong before.
'And your informant is certain this…Daviau, plans to assassinate the King soon?'
Treville nodded, Athos leaned back in his chair thoughtful.
'What Luc could not tell me is where Daviau is hiding out. We only know that he plans on hiring a gunman to do the job…which is where Aramis will come in.'
'I'm sure he will have no problem infiltrating the gang. You're sure none of his men are locals? The possibility of either Aramis or Porthos being recognised by a local is quite high.'
'Yes, that is something Luc has been able to ascertain. I know they will not be keen on the role Porthos is to play, but it needs to look convincing and he, unfortunately, fits the scenario. D'Artagnan is too young and you are too…' Treville paused searching for the words, 'noble.'
Athos sighed, he knew Treville was right, of the four of them Porthos was best placed to play a man in the employ of another. Treville's plan required Aramis to act as a bored former soldier who had turned mercenary. Aramis was to be the assassin for hire, with Porthos to play the role of his look out and servant. They also needed Porthos to act as a go between, acting as Aramis' servant meant he would be able to leave the hideout and report back to Athos. They doubted Daviau would want his newly hired marksman wandering off to run errands.
'And what about D'Artagnan and myself?'
'You two are going to try and catch one of the gang. Any extra intelligence we can gather will be useful, we don't know how many men are working with Daviau. We need to ascertain this, either from Aramis and Porthos or from the man that you and d'Artagnan capture. We need to know that we are taking the whole gang when the time comes. What I don't want to happen is for the gang to be scared off, they might go to ground and try again at a later date. We need to get this right, which is why I want both the infiltration and the capture of one of the gang if we can. Two attempts to thwart this proposed attack on the Kings life are better than one.'
Athos nodded in agreement before asking, 'do we know why Daviau wants to assassinate the King, they usually have a motive?'
Treville smiled sadly, 'I believe he is a former soldier who lost his brother in battle. He is annoyed at the lack of compassion the King shows to the people. It is, as we know, a common complaint. But he seems to be organised and determined. Luc tells me he plans on causing some issues when the King is travelling through the city and then have his hired marksman make his shot in the ensuing chaos.'
'A simple but effective ploy.'
'Indeed,' said Treville, 'now we just need to tell the others what we want them to do.'
'Aramis, it's fine, I can play the part…it's only an act.'
'It's not right,' replied Aramis after hearing the plan and the parts they were all to play.
'Aramis, you will need someone with you and Porthos is the best placed to be that man,' said Athos as he tried to placate the defensive marksman.
As the plan had been outlined to them Porthos had watched Aramis getting angry, he knew his friend would complain about the role he was to play. But he had to agree with Treville, he was the only one of them who could take on the role of a man employed by another. D'Artagnan might have been able to, but he was too young to have been a soldier for long enough to be convincing.
Porthos would not have liked to see Aramis infiltrating the gang alone, and the two of them could work together to keep each other safe. The men in Daviau's gang were probably all hired thugs and would probably have no issue killing another for little or no reason.
'If you want to blame someone, blame me,' said Treville, 'it's my plan.'
Aramis calmed down a little, 'I know, it just annoys me.'
Porthos clapped Aramis across the shoulder and tugged the still angry man towards him in a bear hug, 'and I wouldn't want you any other way, my friend.'
Aramis pushed him off, rolling his eyes.
'Honestly, you would think I was one of 'is mistresses who needed protecting.'
Aramis smirked, 'you, Porthos, need protecting more than anyone else. How many times have I come to your rescue when you have been caught cheating at cards?'
Porthos smiled, he noticed Treville and Athos' looks of relief as the tension Aramis had caused with his anger fizzled out. Aramis could get quite passionate when it came to defending his friends, but Porthos loved him for it.
'When do we meet your informant and Daviau?' asked Aramis.
'Tonight. Luc says he will be at the tavern at eight. I have a change of clothes for you both, so that you will look the part.'
Porthos' doublet and pauldron lay on the table as he shrugged on the plain jacket. He looked down at his pauldron.
'Feels weird not wearing it, doesn't it,' said d'Artagnan from his seat at the table.
'I could get used to wearing this,' said Aramis as he finished buttoning up the fine leather doublet he had been issued. Decorative stitching along the arms and collar making the piece look even more expensive, 'where do you think Treville got it from.'
'Liberated from someone at the Palace I would imagine,' replied Porthos running his fingers over the fine stitch work, not bothering to hide his envy.
Athos and a cadet walked over with a selection of guns and swords from the armoury. They lay them on the table and looked up at Porthos.
'Porthos, I think one gun for you and a sword, a plain one preferably,' said Athos.
Porthos sighed, he picked a gun and the plainest sword from the selection.
Aramis glanced at his own guns on his discarded weapon belts.
'Yes, Aramis you get to keep your own weapons.'
Aramis smirked at Porthos as he picked up the belts and put them on over his fine doublet. He gathered up his guns and slotted them into their appropriate holsters along with his sword.
'Shall we?' asked Aramis.
Porthos nodded. D'Artagnan watched them leave the garrison by a little used back entrance, they did not want to risk being seen in their disguises leaving from the main gate. Athos watched them go, a pensive expression on his face.
'What?' asked d'Artagnan.
'I do not know, I just feel that this is not going to go the way we want it to,' said Athos looking back at d'Artagnan.
Aramis reached out for his wine and surveyed the customers in the tavern. The usual mix of Parisians were spread about. They had picked a tavern that was rarely frequented by either Musketeers or Red Guard, they did not want to risk being recognised. Porthos was sat opposite him, a thoughtful look on his face, it was clear he wanted to say something. Aramis raised a questioning eyebrow.
'If they…treat me…badly…you mustn't get all protective and defensive. I'm supposed to be your man servant after all.'
Aramis smirked, 'I will do my best not to protect you…because, obviously you can't look after yourself.'
'You know what I mean.'
'Yes, Porthos, for the sake of this mission, I will let them be as nasty to you as they want…although as your employer I would be expected to step in at some point if it goes too far.'
'And if that time comes I will be grateful…sir,' replied Porthos in his most subservient tone. They both knew that those in service were frequently treated badly by their employers and despite their cover having Porthos as more of a right-hand man to Aramis' sharpshooter, he was still essentially playing a servant.
As they had been talking Aramis had watched a lanky, scruffy man walk across the room to them. He stopped at their table.
'Aramis?' the man asked.
The man nodded, and motioned for them to follow him, 'they wanted to meet you outside. It's Daviau and a couple of his men…Daviau seems keen to get you back to his hideout. I'll warn you now, he has a short temper.'
Aramis glanced back at Porthos who was following, carrying Aramis' second gun. There was no turning back now. As they exited the tavern they were met by a tall, lean man who wasted no time in looking them over.
Aramis stepped forward, 'I believe you are looking for a marksman? I am the best in Paris.'
'We'll see,' said Daviau who turned his attention to Porthos, 'what is that?'
'This,' said Aramis, already having to hide his irritation, 'is Porthos, who acts as my look out and man servant. He is in my employ.'
Daviau did not look pleased at having to deal with an additional man, 'you'll have to share a room, I was not expecting you to be with anyone.'
Aramis nodded his ascent.
'Follow me, I have a carriage,' he turned to Luc who was hovering a few feet away, he handed the man a money bag, 'I'll contact you if I need anything else.'
Luc gave a small bow before turning and disappearing quickly from sight along a side alley. Aramis and Porthos followed Daviau and his two men.
'Your man can sit with the driver,' said Daviau who seemed to have taken an instant dislike to Porthos.
He opened the door and ushered Aramis into the carriage, he took a seat, Daviau sat next to him, the other two men sat opposite. As the horses moved off Daviau began to tell Aramis what his plan was.
'We're going to take the King out when he does one of his walks amongst the people. Stupid fool thinks the people want to see their monarch. What the people want is food and fairer taxes.'
Aramis nodded, but did not say anything, he wanted to get the measure of the man before he offered his opinion.
'You will need to prove yourself…tomorrow morning you will do some target practice for us. I want to see if you really are the best.'
'I would expect nothing less. How soon are you planning the assassination?'
'As soon as practicable. If you prove to be as good as you say you are we will try to find an opportunity this week. Perhaps on Sunday as he leaves mass.'
Aramis thought about the area around the cathedral, he could think of several places where an assassination could be attempted from. He hoped they could get all the pieces into place before he had to take up a position from where an assassination could take place. Porthos and he needed to gather as much intelligence about the gang as quickly as they could and Porthos would have to take the first opportunity he could to leave and report back.
D'Artagnan watched as Luc took his leave of the group of men. The leader of the group, Daviau, led the way to a carriage. Porthos took a seat by the driver whilst Aramis was allowed to sit inside.
D'Artagnan mounted his horse and followed as discreetly as the quiet streets would allow. He knew the men in the carriage would not be able to see him, but the driver might have seen him if he turned around. He noticed that Porthos was keeping the man occupied in conversation, d'Artagnan wondered if this was his way to keep the driver from turning around. It would not surprise him if Daviau was suspicious of his new gang members from the outset.
The carriage continued through the streets. It was not until they had reached the outskirts of Paris that the carriage finally slowed and turned into a sweeping driveway. The house it stopped in front of was large, with extensive grounds. The building looked dilapidated, the grounds were unkempt. It was the perfect place for a group of criminals to hide.
D'Artagnan dismounted and after leaving the horse with its reins loosely thrown over the low branch of a nearby tree he approached the house and peered around the pillars of the gateway. He watched as Porthos dismounted from the carriage and he and Aramis were ushered into the house. Daviau spoke to his two men who laughed at whatever he had said.
They entered the house, the door was closed behind them. With nothing more he could do d'Artagnan returned to the garrison.