Authors note: First of all, welcome and a happy new year! This is actually the first story I've ever written, so there is no guarantee for well-flowing paragraphs. It is going to be a little adventure story, with some action and some h/c thrown in the mix in later chapters. It's my first try so there are many things that need improvement for sure. The story needs about three chapters to get rolling, so bear with me.
A big thank you goes to Jenny for taking the time to read this story and giving very valuable advice. She not only endured my insecure babbling in the beginning, but also encouraged me a lot. All remaining mistakes are mine. I own nothing you can recognize. Updates about two times a week, depends on how fast I can edit them. I hope you enjoy.
The flame of the fire grew dim, and soon, the only source of light was the reflection of the moon in the small river nearby. D'Artagnan sat with his back against a thick rock, and all of his senses were on high alert, scanning the environment for any signs of a threat. How were they going to explain all of this to the captain? Well, he only had to worry about that if they ever got back to Paris to meet Tréville face to face again. Right now, stuck in the middle of nowhere without their horses, they had other things to worry about.
They were lucky it was summer and the nights didn't get too cold, otherwise, they would be truly screwed.
His gaze fell on Aramis, leaning in an odd angle against a tree and his tired eyes staring at the river, his face giving away nothing about his thoughts. Even though he was obviously exhausted, d'Artagnan knew that neither of them would be able to get any sleep tonight. He glanced at the two figures on the ground, the little girl sleeping comfortably in the arms of her father, who was snoring very quietly and apparently feeling safe enough in the company of the two musketeers. Well, one technically, but even though the pauldron on his shoulder was missing, the Gascon knew that each of his brothers considered him a musketeer already.
Suddenly, he heard a faint snapping of a branch in the distance, followed by a rustling noise in the bushes. He shot a look at Aramis, who returned the worried look and grabbed the hilt of his rapier, then using his foot to gently tap the sleeping man on the ground. He woke up loudly and d'Artagnan put a finger above his mouth to shush him.
„What…?" he hissed.
„Get behind me…," d'Artagnan murmured and stood up, shoving the man and his half-asleep daughter behind him.
Now he heard steps in the distance, which neither he nor Aramis caused. D'Artagnan closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself.
He only hoped Athos and Porthos were already on their way back to them. Assuming, they even knew where to find them.
7 days earlier, The Garrison, Paris
„Get up, whelp, we don't have all day! "
D'Artagnan blinked a few times and saw Porthos' face right above him. Startled, he rose from his bed in his room at the garrison, ran a hand through his hair and looked up to his friend. Porthos quickly dropped the Gascon's swords and pistols next to the bed. Constance said she needed the room he was renting for a business partner of her husbands, therefore, d'Artagnan asked Tréville if he could let him sleep at the garrison for a week, even though he wasn't a musketeer yet.
„What? " was all d'Artagnan managed to say and pointed at his belongings Porthos had just thrown on the ground.
„The captain has a mission, and you are coming with us."
The Gascon blinked again in confusion, his gaze tired and he yawned.
His vision cleared abruptly when Porthos gently slapped him, even though nobody would think you could use the words 'gently' and 'Porthos' in one sentence.
„Alright, alright, I'm coming."
He heard steps down the corridor and as he stood up to put on his doublet, he saw Athos in full uniform, casually leaning by the door, holding bread and a bottle of wine.
„Apologies, but this is urgent, we cannot wait any longer."
With that, he left, and Porthos and d'Artagnan quickly followed behind him.. The sun wasn't up yet, and the young recruit had trouble making out the exact time. What was it that Tréville wanted, so early in the morning?
In the court, he spotted their fourth member, Aramis, who was saddling their horses and was currently busy trying to get Athos' horse into its bridle. The large Friesian snuffled and backed away while Aramis very gently and calmly tried to pat his neck so he would stop dancing around the whole courtyard.
D'Artagnan and the others joined their companion and he heard Porthos snickering behind him at the sight they got.
Aramis heard and he turned around, his eyes furiously coming to rest on Porthos.
„Well, if you think you can do a better job, please, feel free to try!" he muttered sounding stressed. Porthos raised his hands in refusal but didn't stop smiling.
„Nah, I'm rather enjoying the show."
The horse reared up. Aramis took a step back and looked to Athos, who calmly chewed on his bread.
„Seriously Athos, I have no idea what you did to this animal. He is scared of anyone who doesn't show off your grumpy face when approaching".
Athos looked rather unimpressed and took a sip from his wine.
„You know I spend a lot of time with him. It's not my fault he fell in love with his rider."
A grin passed Aramis' face and he walked up to Athos.
„In that case...," he said, throwing the bridle into his friend's hands before grabbing the bottle of wine, „I think you are fully capable of getting your horse ready by yourself."
Athos glanced at him and the bottle that has been taken out of his hands, but then he shrugged.
„Very well. Don't want you to get hurt by a moody horse, right? "
Aramis raised an eyebrow as an answer.
„I appreciate your concern, my friend".
D'Artagnan smiled and mounted his own horse.
Athos quickly had the horse under control and d'Artagnan noticed Aramis watching it with a sour glare.
That was Tréville's voice echoing through the courtyard. Athos turned to look at the captain.
„You have to hurry. I want you to be back by Tuesday. And stay safe, all of you!"
Athos and the others nodded and the four of them quickly left the court. They stayed silent until they made it out of the centre of Paris and once they felt safe between the large trees covering their way, d'Artagnan broke the silence.
„Can somebody now finally explain to me what the hell we are doing?"
„Shh!" Athos interrupted harshly and d'Artagnan followed his gaze, seeing there were civilians coming in their direction.
They waited until they were a good distance away and Aramis made sure there was nobody near them by scouting the environment.
„The king wants us to escort someone back to Paris," Athos explained calmly.
D'Artagnan stared at him.
„The nobleman's name is Juan Vabrino. We are picking him up in Nantes."
„Juan Vabrino?" D'Artagnan frowned. „That sounds…"
„Spanish?" Aramis interrupted. „Well observed, lad."
D'Artagnan just glared at him.
„He is a representative of King Philip. Seems like he and Louis have some things to discuss. He also seems to be carrying some rather important information for our king. He is a high ranking member of the Spanish court, so he needs the best protection he can get in this country," Aramis continued.
„Relations with Spain are a little bit strained," Athos added. „The French people don't trust them, that's why we need to make sure this ambassador arrives in Paris safe and sound."
„And why are you taking me with you? I'm not even a musketeer yet."
„Just because you are not wearing the uniform yet, it doesn't mean you are not a musketeer," Athos declared. „And to get that uniform, you just need to prove to Louis that you are ambitious enough. Which you undoubtedly are, at least that's what I thought. Would you prefer to stay at the garrison polishing other musketeers' swords?"
„Well, at least that would be less dangerous. And I could get a couple of hours more sleep."
„Yeah, sure. But, where's the fun and excitement in that, huh?"
The Gascon joined his laughter.
„You know me too well, my friend."
Porthos winked and Athos and Aramis in front of them sped up, pushing their horses into a soft gallop.
„Our schedule is tight. We need to be back as soon as possible, so don't expect to get much rest, eh?"
And Porthos' horse followed the ones of his friends.
D'Artagnan shook his head.
„What did I get myself into here?" he whispered, more to himself than anyone else.
Aramis' sharp hearing struck again and d'Artagnan quickly strengthened his grip on the reins.
„Nothing. I'm coming!"
That evening, they arrived in a small village. They had been travelling the whole day, and their horses were exhausted. As they entered the village, the farmers stopped and looked up at them with wide eyes.
„What are they staring at?" Porthos whispered angrily, his eyes shining with disapproval.
„The uniforms, Porthos," Athos replied smoothly and ordered his horse to stop in front of an inn.
Porthos raised an eyebrow.
„The uniforms?" he repeated slowly and checked his as if there was any mud on it.
„Look at the size of this village, mon ami…," Aramis said and jumped off his horse with as much elegance as only Aramis could muster. „They have probably never seen musketeers like us. Probably just some red guards when they come to collect the taxes."
D'Artagnan took a look around.
The people were indeed staring at them, and as he looked closer, he could see fear in their eyes. He began to wonder what happened the last time they got a visit from Paris, but right now, he didn't dare to ask.
The owner of the inn, a short man with a dark moustache, opened the door and joined his people outside. They were all looking at him, as if it was his job to ask the questions, but Athos was faster. He held his horse's reins in his left hand and placed his right fist on his chest.
„Good evening, Monsieur … ?"
„Dechaine," the man answered in a skeptical tone. „Who are you and what do you want? "
"Well, a warmer welcome, for starters," Aramis commented dryly.
D'Artagnan exchanged a worried look with Porthos, as they were both still mounted on their wasn't impressed at all with the man's behaviour and simply tilted his head.
„My name is Athos, and these are my companions Porthos, d'Artagnan and Aramis. We are musketeers and on our way to complete a mission for King Louis. We ask for shelter, some food and drink until we leave before dawn."
„Musketeers?" Monsieur Dechaine asked and then his gaze wandered to the shoulder pauldrons of Athos, Porthos and Aramis.
He immediately nodded and held out a hand.
„Of course. The king's musketeers, visiting our small village to rest on behalf of the King's business. Welcome, please, come in. We cannot give away a lot for free, but we shall offer what we have."
Athos got a few coins of gold out of his pocket and held it in a stretched out hand.
„We may be musketeers, but we are also citizens of France. We pay as any other person would as well."
Monsieur Dechaine frowned, but then he offered a smile to Athos, who gave the reins of his horse to Aramis and walked straight into the inn.
Aramis rolled his eyes, and then he turned to Monsieur Dechaine.
„Monsieur, is there someone to take care of our horses? They are exhausted and need to regain their strength when we leave so early tomorrow."
The innkeeper nodded.
„Betrand, Gustave!" he barked.
Two young boys, maybe fifteen years old, stepped forward.
Aramis handed their horses to them.
„Thank you!" he added, took off his hat and followed Athos into the inn.
An hour later, d'Artagnan found himself sitting at a table with Athos, finishing his stew and emptying a glass of wine. The inn was full of people; it seemed as if the whole village came here to enjoy their evening. It was loud due to the number of conversations held.
Porthos was seated at the table next to them, playing cards with a young man. Porthos' eyes were fixed on the face of his opponent, obviously trying to read his mind.
Aramis on the other hand was standing at the bar, chatting with a young woman. She was probably in her mid-twenties, long, brown hair falling over her shoulders and in a neat dress. Aramis offered her a charming smile more than once, while Monsieur Dechaine, probably her father, watched them with a disapproving look on his face.
That left d'Artagnan at a table with Athos, who switched from a glass of wine to a bottle of it, but thankfully, he wouldn't get another one. The bartender informed them they were out of wine, but they were expecting another delivery in the morning.
D'Artagnan shook his head while throwing a look at Porthos and Aramis.
„Unbelievable…," he muttered.
Athos raised an eyebrow.
„You know you are not forced to sit here with me, right? You can go play cards too, or talk to the beautiful girl who keeps staring at you."
He motioned to the young girl seated in the corner of the building, who was indeed watching the Gascon with a curious look on her face. D'Artagnan said nothing, and Athos' interest returned to his bottle.
D'Artagnan was horrible at playing cards, and Porthos never failed to remind him of this. And flirting with another girl didn't feel right, even though his relationship with Constance was a difficult one, but despite everything, she owned his heart.
Athos finished his bottle, took a look around and stood up.
„We need to get up early tomorrow. I'm going to bed."
D'Artagnan rose from his seat as well.
„Yeah, me too. I'm tired."
The older man turned around again, looking at him expectantly.
„What about Porthos and Aramis? They need to get up early too."
Athos' mouth formed a crooked smile.
„They are grown men, d'Artagnan. They can do whatever they want this evening as long as they are ready to leave before dawn without any complaints."
Now it was d'Artagnan's turn to look amused.
„You know at least one of them is going to complain tomorrow."
Athos went up the stairs, and the Gascon followed as they headed to their rented rooms. Before Athos closed his door, he turned to d'Artagnan again to give him an answer.
„I said they are grown men, I never said they behave like ones."
D'Artagnan chuckled and entered his room.