Someone is shaking him gently.
"Señor you must wake up," a voice hisses in his ear. Spanish, somewhat familiar, but he can't place it.
"Señor if you don't get up now your friend will die!"
That gets Aramis' attention. "What…" he croaks and clears his throat, "What's happening?" he asks, blinking. His eyes feel swollen and his head won't clear.
"We have very little time to tend to your friend before the others return, now please Señor Aramis, get up!"
It's the Spaniard who'd given him d'Artagnan's wedding band, the same one from the night of the duel, and he allows the other man to pull him up to sit. The cell is dark aside from a lamp burning in the corner and the physician is sleeping on his cot near Aramis' bed. Alarmed, Aramis' gaze goes to the old man.
"He won't wake, I drugged him," the Spanish officer informs him smugly. "The others have gone to Arras, they rode out late into the night and will be returning early in the morning. I am Miguel, nephew to General Navarro, but I have little love for the man and his cruel ways. Now, we must to tend to your friend Señor, he's been flogged and he has other injuries as well, I need your help."
Aramis nods, anxious now for his brother, and he looks for his boots, his head cloudy. "Why do I feel like I've been drugged?" Aramis wonders, mostly to himself.
"Because you were. Yesterday, the General said he was going to give you one last chance to share information so I drugged your food, hoping he would leave you alone, and in turn, leave d'Artagnan alone," Miguel says fretfully. "Raoul tried to convince him you were truly ill, the man was beside himself; despite the fact that you're wound is healing you were mostly unconscious, warm and flushed and he had no idea what was happening."
"And?" Aramis demands.
Miguel looks distraught. "The General was furious, he thought you were faking so he took it out on d'Artagnan anyway," he confesses, his voice hoarse. "I couldn't help him after, the old bastard forbade me, and he watched me all evening like a hawk. When they left though I made Raoul a drugged tea, when I was sure he was in a deep sleep I woke you."
Aramis struggles with the urge to break the Spaniard's neck. "So d'Artagnan was flogged because your plan backfired? Holy mother of God, why would did you do such a thing?" Aramis asks, horrified. He remembers moments, glimpses of d'Artagnan suspended from a rope, the boy calling out to him, but he thought it had been a nightmare, just a horrible fever dream.
"Señor Aramis, if you'd been lucid you would have refused to cooperate, of that I'm sure," Miguel tells him flatly. "At least now, it's not on your conscience that d'Artagnan was flogged; you did not betray him, I did," he adds obviously sickened over what had happened. "Enough, now we need to help him, it's very bad, Señor!"
That's all Aramis needs to hear and he allows the Spaniard to lead him out of the cell in his stockinged feet and into the one beside his. Once inside Aramis needs a moment to compose himself when he sees where their youngest brother has spent the last few days; it's freezing, there is no bed or mattress, no food or water that he can see and no light, aside from the lamp that Miguel is holding. The worst thing of course, is the state of d'Artagnan himself, lying on the stone floor on top of his shirt and doublet, his cloak beside him, his shredded back nearly black from the dried blood.
"Hurry!" Miguel hisses and Aramis shakes off his shock and springs into action. Falling to his knees beside the boy he searches for a pulse with trembling hands and sends up a prayer of thanks to the saints for keeping him alive. Miguel darts outside and brings a bucket of water and bundle with supplies. Aramis doesn't want to wake him, it will be so much worse, he acknowledges, so he and Miguel work quietly and as gently as possible, but d'Artagnan's wounds are horrific. The older slashes are seeping yellowish liquid, the newer ones still leaking blood.
"What kind of whip has done this? These wounds are very deep and they aren't from the cat…" Aramis asks, sickened.
"A horse whip, it breaks the skin because the end of it is almost as sharp as a blade, made especially for my uncle."
"I thought it was a dream, a nightmare actually, I don't even remember anything that happened yesterday," Aramis admits in a hushed tone as he tries to get as much blood as he can cleaned away. "I remember being feverish the day before, having a bath," he adds with an embarrassed grimace, "and then the rest of the day I think I slept. Later on Raoul told me my wound was no longer infected and in truth I was feeling much better."
"Yes, he also reported this to the General, who then decided that in the morning you would be interrogated. I didn't know what else to do! I was certain you would not betray your country and my uncle is a very vindictive man, I did what I thought was best. If you were incapacitated I was sure he'd leave the boy alone," Miguel explains miserably.
Aramis is still very angry, but he believes him. "You've kept him alive so far, and for that I'm truly grateful. He's not just my comrade in arms, he's family," Aramis tells him softly.
"His wrists are torn and bloodied as well, and I think his shoulder is out of place again."
"Again? Dear God, I'm going to kill him! I know he's your uncle but this is outrageous," Aramis hisses, irate, unable to believe how d'Artagnan has been treated. "You said you weren't supposed to take care of him, what will happen when the general sees that you have? Will he take it out on the lad?" Aramis asks, the frightening thought suddenly occurring to him.
"No, I can handle the old bastard, I've been doing so for most of my life" Miguel answers with a grimace. "He's always been a bully, I spent most of my childhood contriving ways to keep my aunt safe from his wrath without him realising what I was doing."
Aramis can't help it, his mouth twists into a half smile. "Sounds like you were a crafty lad, and still are, how do you manage to fool him?"
"Flattery, misdirection, and I always let him think that my ideas are his, I will do the same today, don't worry."
When his back has been cleaned, rubbed with a healing salve and bandaged they begin on his wrists and d'Artagnan hasn't twitched, hasn't moved a muscle or made a sound. Aramis feels helpless and useless and guilty, but he tries not to dwell on any of that. They need to finish tending to him and get him dressed, and possibly fed, if Miguel can manage to get them any food.
"I have some wine in a flask and some bread," the Spaniard tells Aramis when he inquires. "Maybe if we mix it together we can feed it to him. I'll return immediately," he says and leaves Aramis alone with d'Artagnan.
Aramis carefully cleans one side of his dirt streaked face and feels his heart break. Sickly, blue-green discoloration surrounds one eye and his jaw is red and inflamed with fresh bruises blooming from ear to chin. "I'm so sorry, lad," Aramis whispers mournfully, one tear escaping, then another, "I'm so very sorry."
Miguel returns with a cup and a spoon and he pours the wine into the cup and then adds some bread, mixing it up. He puts it aside and they gently lift d'Artagnan until he is sitting, and wrap clean bandages around his torso and then put his shirt over his head. .
"His shoulder…"Aramis breathes, sickened. "We can't fix it…not today…it's too swollen." They carefully put his right arm into his sleeve and leave the other one empty for now. Aramis quickly wipes the rest of his face and neck with a clean wet rag and then tosses it aside "Let's see if we can get him to take a few bites."
Miguel nods and moves to kneel behind him, holding him up as carefully as he can, his hands avoiding his ruined back and mindful of his injured shoulder.
"D'Artagnan, open your eyes, brother," Aramis urges kindly but firmly. When he receives no response he begins patting his cheeks. "Come on now, lad, just for a moment, and then you can rest again." Still nothing. Aramis sighs and he regretfully employs an old trick that he's found effective when trying to wake Athos from a drunken stupor; he pinches his ear lobe, once, twice, but nothing, the third time he flinches, the fourth, his eyes open.
Slowly, d'Artagnan's lids flutter, and immediately he gasps and twists, and Aramis knows he's been assaulted by pure agony.
"Settle, lad, you'll hurt yourself," Aramis scolds. "Deep breaths, in and out, come on, I've got you."
"Aramis? Is that really you?" he asks, in a shaky voice so filled with wonder and relief Aramis feels tears well up again.
"It's me, brother. Listen, we don't have much time. I need you to eat something, can you try…please?" Aramis implores softly.
D'Artagnan nods once and doesn't even bother to protest, not a very good sign Aramis thinks. "Good boy," he tells him and he spoons the wine and bread mixture into his mouth. D'Artagnan's eyes slide shut but he swallows and allows Aramis to give him the whole cup.
The symbolism of what he is feeding his injured brother is not lost on Aramis, and for a moment his breath catches, wishing for a fleeting moment that he had been ordained, to bless the bread and wine combination, in case he truly is feeding his brother a bastardised version of the communion of the last rites.
"He will rest easier now," Miguel assures him as they ease d'Artagnan to lay back down on his stomach and within moments he's out cold.
"You drugged the wine? By God, man, what is it with you and potions?" Aramis questions, genuinely frustrated.
"My wife, she tended to everyone in our household personally, from family to servant, everyone received the finest care from my Esme, she taught me how to make various tonics, for everything from diarrhoea to a headache. I'm trying to help you and the boy, believe me, I certainly never intended for this to happen," he says dejectedly.
"Miguel I believe you, honestly, I just wish I'd known what you were planning, I assure you I would have gone along with it. What is this place? And why are you here instead of in your camp or in Arras," Aramis questions. He doesn't actually expect a truthful response but he tries, regardless.
Miguel lets out a long sigh. "We're here because you were betrayed. The General knew where to find you and he was told you were carrying important orders. We set up an outpost here specifically to detain and interrogate you. Arras is under constant surveillance by your army, any attempt to get you into the city could have brought on a bloody skirmish for sure."
Aramis feels like all the breath had been punched from his lungs. "The General said, but I didn't believe him, do you know who betrayed us?"
Miguel shakes his head. "I don't know, Señor, truly I don't. Only the General and Alejandro know, they meet their spy alone," he says disgusted. "I joined the military after the death of my family, I was feeling lost and hopeless and my uncle lured me in with stories of great victories fought with honour and dignity, for the protection of my country and my people. And then I found myself part of an institution seeped in corruption, where rank is bought and sold and battles are fought not with skill or honour but based on betrayal and treachery. But I've remained and I've made it my duty to help men on both sides that have been wronged by this senseless war, men mistreated by their own peers and prisoners like yourselves who are not held according to the treaties set down. This boy," he says indicating d'Artagnan "has been wronged twice, once by my former captain and his poisoned sword and now by my uncle who treats him like a dog…no, that's not true, he treated his dogs back home somewhat better."
Aramis listens to all of this astonished, and in awe of this man who is truly a better human being than Aramis himself has ever been. "I don't suppose you could help us get out of here?" Aramis inquires hopefully even though he knows what the answer will be.
"If it was in my power I would have done it before the boy had been so badly mistreated. I'm sorry Señor, truly, but I cannot help you escape."
"I understand," he replies, stroking the lad's hair and his face, loathe to break contact with his beloved friend.
"This is my fault, he wasn't supposed to come along, he'd been…ill," Aramis explains, stumbling over that understatement, not wanting to go into all the details of his suffering with Miguel. "But I encouraged our Captain to let him accompany me now look what's happened," Aramis says ruefully. "We shouldn't have been separated but the foolish boy is even more cunning than you are and he apparently convinced the General that I was someone…special."
"Yes, he's quite the storyteller," Miguel states with a low chuckle. "He tells tales of his wife that surely cannot be true, can they?"
Aramis smiles, his hand still tangled in the boy's hair. "Trust me, whatever he's told you is true and then some. Did he tell you that Constance and I were falsely accused of treason and sentenced to death?" Miguel shakes his head, clearly stunned.
"Constance went to the block with more courage than I probably would have managed to muster. Fortunately, this mad boy and our friends saved her in the nick of time. We were exonerated of course, but I'm sure that the pair of them will have nightmares about that day for a lifetime, I know I will."
"I've never met any woman like that, she sounds like an Amazon, is she tall and muscular as well?" he asks in awe.
Aramis laughs softly. "No, she's actually quite lady-like, beautiful and well-proportioned, and my brother here fell in love with her the minute he saw her. Their story is not a perfect one though, there was plenty of heartache and much wine was consumed and tears shed before they finally became man and wife."
"I know, he told me. And you my friend? Have you left some lovely woman pining for you back in Paris? They say you're a monk, but somehow I doubt that," Miguel says with a knowing smile.
Aramis lets out a long breath. He's lain with too many women to count, but truly loved only three. Two have been taken from him forever and he knows the third can never be his. "No, it seems I'm destined to be alone, married only to my faith," he replies honestly. After all that's happened, Aramis is sure he'll never be in love again, never find happiness within the arms of another woman. But he's content to spend the rest of his days beside his brothers, protecting his country, and in turn, keeping his child safe.
Miguel nods knowingly and Aramis see a kindred spirit in him, the other man in no stranger to heartache himself.
"You call him brother and he fought as if possessed by the devil when they took you," Miguel muses, changing the subject, "and back at your camp that night, it seemed as if every man would have stepped forward to protect your regiment, I have to admit there's not much of that among our men. How do your superiors manage to foster such loyalty?"
Aramis smiles ruefully, taking d'Artagnan's cold hand and warming it between both of his; it's pointless he knows, it will be freezing again as soon as he lets go, but mostly it's an excuse to hold his hand, to feel the pulse at his wrist and assure himself that he's still alive.
"It's not like that everywhere, it's mostly our Captain…and our Captain before him, both demanding loyalty and fidelity above all else and strict adherence to our motto…" he answers truthfully, keeping the oath to himself, "and the boy, he's our youngest," Aramis continues, swallowing the lump in his throat, "and somewhat…reckless, but very brave, he always manages to get himself into some kind of trouble…" he finishes, trailing off, not able to say anymore without losing his composure.
Miguel's gaze falls on d'Artagnan's still form and he nods sympathetically. "Listen, it's nearly daybreak, the others will be returning soon. You say his shoulder has to remain as it is?"
"Unfortunately yes…in a day or two, we'll see…" Aramis adds, but then he's hit with the morbid thought that d'Artagnan may not be alive by then and he sways.
"Here, Señor, let me help you stand," Miguel says, righting him before he falls over. Aramis feels dizzy and weak, a reminder that he has not yet fully recovered from his own injury. He allows Miguel to help him stand and with one last, longing look at his sleeping brother Miguel leads him back to his own cell and he finds himself leaning much heavier than he'd like on the Spaniard. Miguel helps him sit on the end of the bed and he frowns. "Those stockings will tell a tale of midnight strolls," Miguel tuts and bends over to roll them off Aramis' feet. "Better to have cold feet than to give yourself away. I'll bring you another pair and leave them on your bed, so no one suspects anything aside from you feeling overly warm."
Aramis doesn't care about dirty hose or cold feet or even his aching shoulder wound at that moment. Once he's lying back in his bed, his hand snakes under his shirt to his crucifix, to where d'Artagnan's wedding band now hangs as well. Miguel leaves quietly and Aramis barely notices the other man exit, his mind now focused on his prayers. He prays for d'Artagnan and for the safety of all of his brothers in arms, and for Porthos and Athos in particular, and he asks the saints to guide them to this place, wherever it is, so that they might save d'Artagnan before he slips away from them. Lastly, he prays for himself, and he asks God to give him the strength and fortitude to keep the boy alive while they wait for Athos and Porthos to come to their rescue.
At dawn, Porthos watches Henri open his eyes blearily…and begin to cough.
The ague has hit his young comrade and Porthos is at once twisted in knots. If he puts him on a horse and sends him back to camp he may not make it all the way. If he sends one of the scouts there is the possibility that his coded correspondence may never make it to Athos' hands. And if he goes himself and leaves Henri alone the boy could be in grave danger, not only from the illness but possibly from the scouts as well.
In the end Porthos makes a decision based on process of elimination. He is sure he doesn't trust Denis and mostly sure he can trust Nicolas so he decides that those two must be kept close. Michel seems like an alright sort, hardly speaks, keeps his opinion to himself but Alphonse has been somewhat warmer to him and the lad, and although he is truly suspicious of all of them, Porthos gives his coded and sealed missive to Alphonse and urges him to get back to camp as soon as possible to report what they've found, or not found, Porthos thinks angrily, but to also bring some of Jacques' herbal mixtures for the ailing lad.
What none of them know of course is that along with the teas and blankets Porthos has requested reinforcements and ammunition.
Porthos tends to Henri as best as he can, helping him outside to relieve himself and making sure he eats something, before bundling him up under the blankets and securing the tent flap to keep the cold air away from the young Musketeer. Porthos approaches the rest of the scouts warily to discuss their next move; losing an entire day waiting for reinforcements is out of the question, but how can he leave Henri alone and unprotected?
"Nicolas, can you and Michel stay here and look after the boy while Denis and I have another look around? We can't waste another day waiting for the boy to feel better, our men could be dead by then."
"Of course," the other man says kindly and there is something in his eyes that gives Porthos reason to believe that he will not hurt the lad. "My daughter had this illness recently, my wife said it passed quickly with rest and some old family remedies, as soon as Alphonse returns with the herbal teas I'm sure he'll be fine."
Porthos thanks him and after a quick breakfast he and a mostly sullen Denis ride off in the direction of the ruined abbey.
"Can I ask you something?" Porthos queries, when they stop at a stream to water the horses.
Denis looks at him oddly. "Of course," he replies, clearly surprised.
"Why do you do this? The scouting I mean," Porthos questions innocently.
Denis nods slowly. "If you're asking if it's for France, the answer is no. I'm doing it for the money. I have a very large family to support, my parents, my wife and children, two orphaned nephews and the hired help on our farm. I'm a patriot, Monsieur Porthos, but I won't lie and say I'm doing this for the King or for France."
It's a somewhat shocking revelation but Porthos respects his honesty. "And your friends? They also have families and responsibilities?"
"Aside from Alphonse the rest of us are farmers with families and debts and many mouths to feed."
Porthos nods slowly, a feeling of unease settling in his belly. "And Alphonse? Trying to save money to marry his sweetheart or maybe open a tavern in his village?"
Denis frowns. "None of us has worked with Alphonse before. He is from this region and an excellent tracker and horseman but he keeps his personal life to himself, I'd be lying if I said I knew anything more."
"Do you think he's trustworthy?" Porthos questions, finally getting to the point.
"Are you trying to ask if any of us would betray you and your regiment, Monsieur?" Denis asks, clearly affronted. "I just told you I'm doing this for the money, we all are, but that doesn't mean that we are traitors!"
"I have every right to ask," Porthos replies firmly. "The two Musketeers who are missing? They are my only family, Monsieur, I lost my mother at five and the horrible wretch that spawned me had dumped me long before that. There is no one left alive that I call family aside from these men, the wife of the younger of the two and our Captain. Now, I would be out here searching for any one of the men in our regiment, they are all my brothers, but these two are very close to my heart so I will ask you again, in plain language, would you or anyone in your party betray us for gold?"
Denis shakes his head. "I can personally vouch for myself, Michel and Nicolas, who I have known many years. None us of would betray our own country...or our employers," he adds pointedly, "for extra gold, despite what you may think."
"I believe you," Porthos says truthfully. "But what about Alphonse?"
"I don't know him well enough to vouch for him," Denis answers as they mount their horses. "But that doesn't mean I think he's disloyal."
They ride in silence, in the direction of the ruined abbey, everything they've discussed running through Porthos' head, and he tries to sort through all the information. These men have families, would they risk their wives and children for a few extra coins? Porthos doubts it, which leaves Alphonse as the only suspect, if there even is a traitor amongst them.
"Monsieur Porthos, we must go the rest of the way of foot for stealth, the horses will be heard if there is anyone there," Denis warns and they carefully tie their horses, check their weapons and move forward. Luckily for them, there are trees and some underbrush, and despite the snow making the trek difficult they are able to get close enough for Porthos to use his spyglass.
"There are Spanish soldiers guarding the perimeter," he informs Denis who takes the spy glass to see for himself.
"A raid requires more men than we have," he tells Porthos grimly. "And the element of surprise is of the utmost importance."
"I've requested reinforcements," Porthos tells him as they retreat. "As soon as I realised that Henri was unwell I added that to my report to the Captain," he lies smoothly and Denis thankfully doesn't take that as an affront.
"Good, we'll need at least a dozen men, how many did you request?"
"Eight or ten, plus the five of us, we'll be fine," Porthos says with conviction, feeling hopeful for the first time in days. They can't be sure that his brothers are actually in the abbey but those inside may be able to tell them where there are being held, with a little persuasion of course. They get back to the horses and ride quickly back to camp where they find Nicolas tending to the ailing Henri. The boy now has a fever and Porthos, after seeing his comrades suffer for the past ten days or so, is afraid for his life.
"I hope your man gets back here quickly," Porthos says, taking Nicolas' place beside the young Musketeer. Henri's eyes are closed, his face lax and his breathing is laboured and Porthos is properly terrified.
"There's nothing we can do until reinforcements arrive," Michel states quietly, poking his head in through the tent flap. "I'll prepare something for everyone to eat, for you and the boy as well," he adds and Porthos gives him a grateful smile. His gut tells him that these three can be trusted, but what of Alphonse? What if he doesn't deliver the missive to Athos and just rides off and disappears?
For the moment, his only concern is getting a bit of food and water into his sick brother and he's grateful that Michel has offered to cook for them as well. As a Musketeer Porthos is used to being able to rely on the man beside him in battle and the man who shares his tent and breaks bread with him, so this has been a trying mission. But aside from Henri's sudden and unexpected illness things are looking up. It seems as if they may have found their missing brothers and Porthos is now feels confident that he can trust these three men.
Maybe, just maybe, this one time, luck will remain in their side?
Early evening brings news to the Musketeer's camp by way of the scout named Alphonse.
He tells Athos of Henri's sudden illness and requests supplies to treat him, as well as food and blankets. He gives Athos a quick report on the previous day's findings, in other words nothing, but he tells Athos that they are hopeful that the abbey will hold some clues if not the missing men themselves.
"Is there no correspondence for me from Porthos?" the Captain inquires, surprised.
"No sir, as I said he rushed me off with instructions to bring back supplies for the sick Musketeer as soon as possible and there was no time to write a missive," Alphonse explains apologetically and Athos knows at once that he's lying. It's protocol, Porthos would have sent him a coded message even if there was nothing to report, Athos knows this for a fact but apparently Alphonse doesn't. At some point his lie will be exposed, does he plan to be gone by then?
"Have you by any chance passed any of our men on the road? I'd sent a patrol late yesterday afternoon with dispatches to our outpost again," Athos lies smoothly. "Considering that they'd camped for the night I would have thought you'd have crossed paths today at some point?"
"No sir, I've seen no one."
"Very well, I'll have everything you need prepared at once. In the meanwhile rest and get something to eat, when you're ready to leave come back here so I can give you my correspondence to Porthos, agreed?" Athos tells him pleasantly.
"Yes sir," Alphonse replies and he leaves Athos' tent.
Athos straps on his sword, grabs his cloak and follows, taking the lit torch from its holder outside of his tent intent on rounding up some of his most dependable men, Lacroix, Hubert, Laurent for the moment, since he's already sent eight of his most trusted comrades after Porthos and Henri and of course Aramis and d'Artagnan are not at his side. Alphonse is clearly lying, but to what purpose? Is he the man that Pierre overheard? Is he the traitor Lacroix fears moves among them? Porthos would have sent correspondence for certain and the men he'd sent after Porthos and Henri yesterday were carrying a detailed map of the search areas, they should have met up with Porthos before Alphonse left camp or at the very least passed each other on the road.
He puts the torch in an empty holder outside the mess tent when he hears a faint rustling behind him. Instinct, days of uncertainty and seeds of mistrust have heightened Athos' senses and it takes him a fraction of a second to swing around, sword now in hand.
He's not surprised to see a shocked Alphonse standing in front of him, pistol drawn and with a flick of his sword the pistol goes flying from the traitors hand, along with a few of his fingers.
The horrible howl that escapes the man's throat brings the entire camp to Athos, Lacroix reaching him first and pushing Athos behind him immediately, both his pistols primed and ready.
"Stand down, lad, I've got this," Athos says firmly and Lacroix reluctantly takes a few steps back to stand beside Athos instead of in front of him, pistols still pointed at the wounded scout.
"I will allow George to treat your wounds if you tell me what the bloody hell is going on. If not, I will tie you to a post and let you bleed to death, which you surely will...very soon."
"Fix me up just to hang? No, I'd rather die!" Alphonse sneers.
Athos doesn't want to do this but he has no choice. "Alright, no death sentence, my word is law, and there are dozens of witnesses. You don't have much time, my friend."
"Fine, fine, now please, help me!" he wails and George moves through the crowd quickly with a bundle of bandages and he does his best to staunch the flowing blood from Alphonse's mangled hand.
"This needs to be cauterised at once, Captain!" George warns.
"What have you done to Porthos and Henri?" Athos demands.
"Nothing! I swear they're fine, at the old mill, the boy was ill but not injured!" Alphonse sobs.
"And Aramis and d'Artagnan?"
"The abbey, the one Nicolas showed you on the map," he replies, swaying.
"Where have you been all day today? I'm guessing Porthos sent you out very early this morning!"
"I was meeting with my contact, the one who wants you dead."
"And who is this person who ordered my death?"
"General Navarro, he has Aramis and d'Artagnan," the disgraced scout says miserably, tears and mucus running down his face and chin, "he sent me to kill you, something about that stupid duel," he adds wretchedly.
Athos feels his blood freeze in his veins. "Why did he take Aramis and d'Artagnan specifically, for the same reason?"
"No, I told him they were carrying orders, he found out later who they were, from some of his men and then decided punishing d'Artagnan wasn't enough, he wanted you dead as well," Alphonse answers feebly, obviously close to losing consciousness.
Athos seethes. "Dear God, has he already killed Aramis and d'Artagnan? Answer me truthfully or I'll draw and quarter you while you're still alive!"
"No, no, Aramis is fine, he knows he was a monk and he won't hurt him, some nonsense about the wrath of God , but d'Artagnan has been…mistreated, you'd better hurry," he says, collapsing forward onto George.
It takes Lacroix, Hubert and a few others a quarter of an hour to keep the rest of the men from entering the infirmary and ripping the traitor to pieces, but Athos has already left the melee and headed for his tent where he's packing his saddlebags and prepping his weapons. A dishevelled Lacroix finds him as he is leaving his tent.
"Permission to accompany you sir!"
Athos sighs heavily. His decision to ride out after Pierre and the others is impulsive and he knows that abandoning the regiment could a dangerous move but if the treachery goes any deeper than just Alphonse the regiment is in grave danger regardless.
"Tell Hubert he is in charge of the regiment, with Laurent as his first Lieutenant until we return. Alphonse is not to be harmed, we still need to question him! He's to be shackled in the infirmary with two guards at all times. Any sign of the Spanish or any other threat they are to send riders to General Dubois, understood?"
"Yes sir, I'll be ready to ride as soon as I give out the orders, shall I saddle the horses?"
"No I will, grab your kit and those medical supplies for Henri and meet me in ten!" Athos commands, still unsure if he's doing the right thing. But he's already sent ten men including Porthos and Henri into certain danger and without knowing what in blazes is actually going on, he can't in good conscience send out even more men, possibly to their death. Besides, Athos would like to confront this General who has ordered his death face to face and if he's truly mistreated his brothers who are prisoners of war and protected by a treaty, he would like to be the one to personally send the bastard to hell.
Lacroix meets him at the horses and with the aid of the full moon, Athos and the young Musketeer ride out of camp to find their wayward brothers…all of them…and he hopes to God they are not too late.