Porthos yawned. The first day back on full duties had been more tiring than he had expected. The four hours he had spent with the King had drained him. He doubted he would even manage to get to the tavern for a drink before he was looking for his bed. The injury to his side was healed well enough, although he was still feeling a bit stiff.
Athos glanced across the corridor at him, 'keeping you up?'
Porthos shrugged, 'who would 'ave thought that standing in a room with the King would be so tiring. The man droned on about some nonsense the whole time. I couldn't tune 'im out 'cos he's the King but I had no idea what he was going on about most of the time…He's still got it in for you.'
D'Artagnan nodded, 'I know. He's made that perfectly clear each time I've been near him. I'll be glad when we get back to normal guard duty tomorrow.'
'Do you think the assassin ever actually got to Paris?' asked Porthos.
'We may never know. But the searches have been thorough. I do not believe we could have missed the man.'
'Perhaps there wasn't even a fourth man. Perhaps the man you questioned made it up. They might have just taken my uniform and hidden it somewhere.'
'Possible, but I doubt it,' said Athos.
All three men looked around when they heard the unmistakable sound of a gunshot from the direction of the King's private study. As one, they began to run towards the sound.
The pain in his arm clouded his thoughts for a few seconds. But he continued to push the King ahead of him. The impact of the shot had caused him to twist slightly as they ran, the King had glanced back, his expression one of shock. The King had slowed his run, Aramis pushed him on.
'Keep going,' gasped Aramis.
The King did not need to be told twice. He sped up again, Aramis found he was struggling to keep up. The shock of being shot starting to take its toll. His arm throbbed, he had no idea how bad the wound was, but the enforced activity was not helping. His only wish was that he did not collapse until the King was safe, Aramis was sure he would not manage to walk away from the incident. He knew the injury was not a flesh wound.
The corridor was long and empty. All the doors to the rooms off the corridor were shut, and due to the continued searches, most had been locked. Their only option was to keep going in a straight line.
Aramis had managed to switch his sword to his left hand. He considered stopping and pulling his gun but did not know if the assassin had a third gun of his own to hand. Stopping might cost the King, or himself dearly. He could hear the assassin behind them.
A shout from behind them had the King slow again. Aramis shoved him onwards, the King lost his footing and crashed to the ground.
'Get up, keep moving,' said Aramis as he was forced to drop his sword and use his left hand to pull the King to his feet.
The assassin was closing in on them. Aramis chanced a glance behind, he wished he had not, the man was only a few yards away. He had pulled a sword and was advancing quickly.
As they neared the corridor that led to the Kings study they slowed. A second gunshot had sounded a few seconds earlier. The sound of two people running and a shout from Aramis had the three men step around the corner, drawing their swords as they did so.
D'Artagnan watched as the King, closely followed by Aramis ran along the corridor. He knew that they could not take refuge in any of the rooms due to the locked doors. The man following, wearing his stolen uniform was determined. D'Artagnan watched the man discard a gun and continue to pursue his friend and the King. Aramis was holding his sword in his left hand, the expression of pain and the paleness of his friend's complexion told d'Artagnan that at least one of the gunshots had found its mark.
The assassin yelled, causing the King to turn. Aramis tried to push the King to continue along the corridor but only managed to cause the monarch to fall. As Aramis dropped his sword and hauled the fallen man up the three Musketeers began to advance.
Aramis had managed to pull the King back up to stand and the two were running towards them again. With a final shove, Aramis pushed the King towards his friends. Porthos grabbed the confused man and dragged him away around the corner.
Athos raised his sword ready to intercept the assassin. He glanced across to d'Artagnan who had grabbed Aramis, stopping him collapsing completely to the floor. Satisfied that the King was in safe hands and that Aramis was out of the way, Athos was able to concentrate on the assassin.
The injuries he had received to his arm were healed well enough that he knew he could take on the assassin. Their swords clashed, the man pushed forward, sliding his sword towards Athos, who twisted to the side. As the man was forced to take a step forwards Athos shoved him bodily backwards. The man stumbled several paces, panting, the recent exertion of the chase leaving him disadvantaged.
The man managed to parry Athos' first swing but had not bargained for the parrying dagger to be brought into play. Athos swung his main gauche around the man's left arm, which he had extended to add balance, the edge of the dagger sliced across the man's arm, causing him to pull the injured limb towards himself protectively. Athos took full advantage of the assassin's distraction, bringing his sword forward and hacking the man's side deeply. A last attempt by the assassin to retaliate was weak, his sword dropping only a second before the man.
Athos stood back, as the man settled, still on the floor in front of him.
D'Artagnan had been forced to drag Aramis a few yards away from the fighting men before he could begin to assess his friend's injury. Aramis was heavy in his arms, the man had passed out, as soon as he knew the King was safe.
He turned the still marksman over and lay him down on his back. The blood that socked Aramis' doublet indicated where the injury was. D'Artagnan lifted the injured arm and was relieved to find a second bloody hole in the leather, the ball had gone straight through his friend's arm. But there was a lot of blood. D'Artagnan began to undo the unconscious man's doublet, pushing Aramis up to sit for a few seconds whilst he pulled the injured arm out of the sleeve. Aramis shirt sleeve was stained red with lost blood. D'Artagnan wondered if the marksman had already lost too much. He knew that losing too much blood would prove fatal. After ripping the fabric of the shirt d'Artagnan could see that the wounds were bleeding freely.
'Here, use this,' said Athos handing d'Artagnan his scarf. D'Artagnan looked passed the swordsman at the body behind him.
D'Artagnan wrapped the scarf firmly around Aramis arm before saying, 'we need to get it stitched, he's lost a lot of blood already.'
'I'll find you somewhere to work, and get his medical kit.'
'Here? In the Palace?'
'Yes, I do not think he can wait.'
D'Artagnan watched Athos walk away, slightly stunned. He had expected them to move Aramis back to the garrison, the Palace was no place to tend to their injured comrade. Aramis was showing no signs of regaining consciousness.
Athos returned within a few minutes accompanied by Pierre who was carrying Aramis' medical kit. They carried Aramis between them following Athos back along the corridor. The swordsman produced a key from his pocket and opened one of the doors. They lay their friend on a table in the room, which appeared to d'Artagnan to be a little-used reception room.
'I'll find some water,' said Pierre as he retreated out of the room.
'The King?' asked d'Artagnan.
'With Porthos, he seems to be alright. See to Aramis, I will be back after I have updated Treville.'
Athos disappeared again. D'Artagnan sorted through what he would need and waited for Pierre to return with the water to clean the wounds.
'He threw me to the floor, he should be flogged,' said the King as he allowed a servant to brush his clothes down. The King's clothes were not dirty or dusty, the floors of the Palace were immaculate.
'Louis, he was saving your life,' said the Queen impatiently.
Porthos waited for the King to dismiss him, all he really wanted to do was get back to his friend. He had no idea how badly injured Aramis was. He had seen the man collapse after pushing the King forward but Porthos had to prioritise the King over Aramis.
He had walked with the King to the reception room the Queen had been spending her morning in. She had been subjected to increased security as well, but not to the extent of the King. Now that the assassin had been found Porthos had decided the King did not need close protection any longer. But protocol dictated that he wait for the King to allow him to leave.
'If they had not allowed a Musketeer uniform to be taken I would not have been under threat,' said the King, a slight whine creeping into his voice.
The Queen glanced at Porthos, a look of helplessness crossed her face, 'they have explained to you, several times, that they were attacked. Now, you are safe, I am sure the assassin has been dealt with. Come and sit with me.'
She patted the cushion of the chaise longue beside her. He walked across, sullenly, and dropped into the seat beside her.
'You are right, as always my dear Anne.'
Porthos sighed. He wondered how long he would have to wait to be relieved or dismissed.
Aramis blinked a few times before he opened his eyes fully. He felt weak, he contemplated closing his eyes again and just going back to sleep, but he felt a presence at his side.
'You lost too much blood, you have to drink, I am sorry Aramis, but you cannot sleep again just yet.'
Athos slipped his hand behind the marksman's head and held a cup of water to his mouth. Aramis managed to drink the water. When he had finished Athos allowed him to lie back down.
The door to the infirmary opened, Aramis managed to look across as d'Artagnan and Porthos entered.
'He's awake,' said d'Artagnan with a smile.
'You have your pauldron back I see,' said Aramis quietly.
Porthos slapped d'Artagnan's shoulder, earning himself a glare. Porthos smiled at him.
'The King still thinks I should be punished, Treville has kept me away from him. I think he is hoping the King will forget this happened.'
Athos looked across, 'the King will find something else to fixate on soon enough,' he said.
'He was not 'appy about the way you treated him…when you saved him,' said Porthos to Aramis as he took a seat by the bed his friend was lying on.
'Sorry I helped him,' said Aramis with a tired smirk.
'I think he has paid more attention to us in the last couple of weeks than he has for… than he ever has,' remarked Athos leaning back in the chair he was sat in.
'A shame it takes something like this, where he thinks we are at fault, to make him notice his own soldiers,' sighed d'Artagnan.
Aramis looked across to Athos and asked, 'where was the assassin hiding? The search we did was thorough.'
'We don't know,' said Porthos before Athos could respond, 'we think he was moving from hiding place to hiding place, managing to keep ahead of the search all the time.'
'He was lucky…you nearly were not,' said Athos.
The door to the infirmary reopened. Treville walked through, signalling for them not to stand for him.
'Good to see you awake, Aramis,' he said with a smile, 'I'm not staying, I just wanted to give you all this. It's from the Queen, she wanted you to know how grateful she was for what you all did. I've already passed some out to the other men who…endured…close protection detail.'
Treville set a basket down on the table beside Aramis' bed. Porthos lifted the ornate cloth that lay over it up.
'Don't eat them all at once,' said Treville as he turned to leave.
'What is it?' asked Aramis as he tried to stifle a yawn, he was feeling quite tired and knew he would probably not be awake long enough to enjoy whatever the Queen had given them.
'Pastries and fancy breads, not the sort of thing we're used to,' said d'Artagnan as he picked up one of the pastries to show Aramis.
'Save one for me,' he said closing his eyes.
'We will,' said Porthos squeezing Aramis shoulder.
As Aramis fell asleep he could hear his brothers quietly talking and knew that even if the King did not notice them, they were valued by others.