Light burned against her closed eyelids, thrusting her into consciousness. The woman groaned, throwing an arm over her eyes in a vain attempt to block it out. It was pointless, she knew, as she would never get back to sleep now. An aggravated sigh escaped her as she forced her eyes open, wincing against the headache brewing after last night's drinking and stretched out her arms. Well, she had no one to blame for that but herself…
Her left arm came into contact with something far too warm and firm to be the wall. She froze. Not again. She jerked into sitting position, hands quickly skimming over her body and an audible sigh of relief escaping her as she realised she was still fully clothed. So just the drinking then, she concluded, eyes roving over the room and taking in the numerous empty bottles scattered over the floor. Thank God for that.
The woman gently eased herself off of the bed, thankful for the fact that they had not entangled themselves in each other in their sleep as they had done before. She resisted the urge to groan at the ache in her muscles, casting an anxious look back at the man beside her. Dark scruffy hair framed his face and she had to resist the urge to brush it out of his eyes. She shook her head. No. This was not that kind of relationship.
The floorboard creaked as she put weight on her feet and she cringed but, thankfully, he remained asleep. Or at least, he remained feigning sleep. She had yet to figure out when he was faking or not and, frankly, she didn't wish to know; she shouldn't have been sleeping with him in the first place, innocently or not. Regardless, if he was feigning sleep, she was grateful for it as she busied herself collecting her things and made her way to the door. It made things less awkward that way.
The innkeeper had left a bucket of water in the open window and she looked longingly at it for a second but concluded that he would need it far more than she did. The hazy memories of the night before told her he had drunk far more than she. His demons always seemed worse than hers.
She cast one look back at him as she swung the door open, sighing softly. How had they come to this?
…Well, it was amazing what happened when two damaged people came into contact with each other and a lot of alcohol. The woman shook her head wryly and left the room, leaving Athos to slumber on.
Lady Renée of Poitiers made her way unsteadily back to the Garrison. Leaving the inn had not been her most dignified moment but the innkeeper knew who she was enough to know to keep his mouth shut. She had paid him generously many years ago and he, in return, would never dream to refuse her service. Granted, she hadn't done this in a few months, but he remembered enough that he knew what to do. He even went so far as to ignore the fact that she had not slept in the room she had paid for and had left wearing yesterday's clothes. Regardless, she doubted that piece of information wouldn't make its way back to the Cardinal at some point or another. He did so love to stick his hideous nose into her business.
Renée rolled her neck and shoulders as she made her way down the streets of Paris, feeling the aftereffects of a night of drinking even more heavily now. One would think she would be an expert at it by now, though, she mused dryly. A coin purse jangled on her belt, attached to which was also a rapier and set of keys, and she dug into it for some change to buy some bread and fruit from some vendors she passed. She would do this most mornings and hand out the food to the needy in the streets. She adored the King very much so but could never deny the poverty that plagued France, not when she lived in the centre of it all. Part of her intended to at least eat an apple to settle her upset stomach but, at the sight of the impoverished children huddled under an awning, she sighed and pressed it all into their hands. They needed it more than her.
Plus, there would be food at the Garrison. And a bucket of ice-cold water.
When she entered the training yard it was virtually empty save from the stable boy tending to the horses as he did early every morning. Renée threw him a wave, to which he replied without questioning where she had been, and she made her way up the stairs to her room which was attached to those of the Captain.
Sadly, whilst it was too early for the men to be awake and moving, the Captain had always been an early riser. It was his stern look that she met as she tried to creep into the room, as he sat at his desk across from the doorway, as though he had been expecting her.
She halted abruptly.
"Good morning, Renée," Treville greeted coolly.
"Treville," Renée swallowed, smiling nervously at him. Her hands ran over her skirts as her eyes shifted over the room, unable to meet his sharp gaze.
"You didn't sleep in your bed last night," the Captain stated.
Renée looked down. "No." Her voice was small. She felt as though she was being scolded by her father. Which she practically was.
Treville stood up and walked towards her, hand on the hilt of his rapier. "I thought we'd agreed that you'd stop doing this?" He sounded almost disappointed in her, and that only made part of her want to shrivel up.
"I know," her green eyes met his blue ones and she sighed. "I tried. Really, I did."
"Then what happened? You were doing so well." He had halted a few feet away from her.
"I don't know," she admitted, fiddling with the sleeve of her blouse. "A relapse. Memories… I don't know."
Treville sighed. After a few seconds, he nodded, knowing that she wouldn't share any more with him until she was ready. "Get yourself cleaned up."
She nodded, making her way to her room where he had very generously left a bucket for her. Renée smiled gratefully and made to close the door when he turned and asked,
"Will Athos be back soon?"
Renée swallowed loudly. "Possibly." She licked her lips, knowing that she needed to clarify what had happened between them. "We just drank. That's all. I promise."
Treville looked at her searchingly but eventually nodded. "Okay."
She didn't know if he believed her or not.
A few hours later found Renée back in a tavern but this time she was watching amusedly as Porthos played against one of the Red Guards. They were a slimy bunch and she so loved to watch the smug grins get knocked off their faces. She leaned against a table, observing the match, and chuckled as Porthos lay out his cards with a victorious laugh, clapping his hands and leaning back on his stool. He threw her a wink as they both revelled in the look of horror that had come across Dujon's face.
"That's…that's impossible," Dujon stated. "You cheated." He lay his pistol on the table, causing Renée to jolt off of the table she was leaning on and towards him.
"Now, there's no need for that," she chided, irritation clear in her voice.
Porthos seemed unbothered by the situation, which only seemed to be helped by the sudden appearance of a figure bedecked in Musketeer leathers and hat.
"What's going on?" Athos coolly asked, sauntering past to the table in front of which Renée stood, arms now crossed over her chest.
"Ah, Dujon and I were having a discussion about personal integrity," Porthos explained, a threat clearly evident in his voice.
"Your friend had the King up his sleeve," Dujon retorted, gun pointed at Porthos' face.
Renée threw Athos an exasperated look, hand coming up to rub at her temples. Her other hand rested on the hilt of her rapier but Dujon didn't seem to have noticed.
"Oh, that's slander," Porthos' voice had taken on a dangerous tone and Renée knew what was coming. "Tell him, Athos, Renée."
Athos removed his hat. "Don't involve me in this." Porthos looked at her.
"Me either," Renée sighed at the warning look Athos had given her, turning to the table he was at and leaning sideways against it.
Dujon was on his feet now, gun squarely pointed at an unimpressed looking Porthos.
"Shoot him and it's murder," Athos pointed out calmly, still not turning to them.
"One less Musketeer, who cares?" Dujon hissed.
Renée snorted. "A Red Guard would say that wouldn't he?" She smiled sweetly at the enraged man. "It's just a game of cards: nothing to get so worked up about."
Dujon started towards her in his fury but was stopped but Athos' measured voice. "There's only one way to resolve this. A duel between gentlemen, supervised according to the strict code of honour." He had fully turned to the other men and walked off to stand behind the still seated Porthos.
Renée raised an eyebrow but turned to lean back in her original position against the table. This would be fun.
"Fine," Dujon conceded, his focus back on the men now. Renée could have rolled her eyes at the way Athos had diverted the man's ire away from her, as she did so itch to hit a Red Guard, but now found herself distracted by something that had the potential to be just as entertaining.
"In a fair fight, I'm a match for anyone."
Renée sincerely doubted that, and shared as much with the amused glance she shot at Athos who was now leaning against a pillar. Regardless, Dujon's pistol came down and Porthos stood.
"Confidence," he grinned. "I like that in a man."
"Still," Dujon mused, "why fight fair when you might lose?" He kicked over the chair holding Porthos' weapons and drew his own sword. Porthos looked almost bored by the act but started to circle Dujon with the grace of an experienced fighter. The Red Guard lunged at him but Porthos countered the act early by ducking out of the way of the sword. They continued this way for a few moments, Dujon attacking and Porthos dodging the blows with expert precision. The two had come close to where Renée was standing so she made her way agilely over to where Athos stood, ducking out of the way of Dujon's sword and nimbly dodging his legs.
"Attacking an unarmed opponent defies every principle of chivalry," Athos called.
Renée snorted. "I hardly think Dujon cares about chivalry." But it seemed the man did, at least a little, as he cast a slightly hesitant look back at them. It was enough time for Porthos to pick up a fork.
He held it up to Athos and Renée, eyebrows quirking. They exchanged a look and Renée shrugged. "I think that can be considered a weapon."
Athos seemed in agreement. "Close enough." The three smiled and Porthos turned to his opponent with a hearty chuckle.
Dujon was confused. "Uh?"
"En garde," Porthos whispered mockingly, lunging forwards.
The ensuing brawl was somewhat amusing: the tiny fork compared to the rapier should have had a clear winner. Regardless, Porthos was nothing if not an excellent fighter and pushed the increasingly frustrated Dujon towards to other two. Athos, taking a swig from a cup and returning his hat to its place on his head, gestured at Renée to do the honours. She picked up a tankard and smacked it against the unsuspecting Dujon's head, knocking the man out cold.
"Nicely done," Athos complimented her quietly. She nodded.
"What happened to the code?" Porthos asked, slightly out of breath, looking at the two of them in confusion.
"Oh!" Athos sighed, looking at Renée.
"Who has time?" she answered flippantly. "And, technically," she held up a finger, "I'm not a Musketeer, so I don't have to abide by it."
She pulled a face as if to say 'what can you do?' to which Porthos only rolled his eyes fondly.
"Treville wants to see us," Athos cut in, walking around the unconscious form of Dujon towards the door. Renée stiffened slightly but neither man appeared to notice. Porthos made his way to the table and began to pocket his winnings.
Renée shot out a hand to grab the man's wrist and turned it over to reveal the cards hidden up his sleeve. She raised an eyebrow, "Porthos?"
He groaned, looking down, "I'll work on it." Renée smirked fondly, shaking her head.
Athos, watching with amused eyes, asked, "Where's Aramis?"
Renée snorted but Porthos only cast him a guilty look.
"Tell me he's not that stupid!"
Renée could only grimace.
She didn't know exactly how long Aramis had been sleeping with the Cardinal's mistress but it appeared that it hadn't been long enough for him to have wised up to just how dangerous a pursuit it was. Or perhaps he had and just really loved the danger.
The three made their way down the Parisian streets towards Adele's apartments and laughed when they saw him hanging off of a window sill a storey up, looking slightly worse for wear.
"Good morning," Renée called, hands on her hips as they stared up at him. Aramis looked down at them and chuckled in embarrassment, taking a deep breath before letting go and plummeting towards the ground.
He landed fairly gracefully and gladly took the hand Porthos offered to pull himself to his feet. Renée dusted him down, slapping his cheek gently in admonishment, to which he only grabbed her hands and smiled placatingly at her. "You look like you've had fun."
Aramis smirked. "If only you knew."
"Children," Athos chided, picking Aramis' weapons and hat up and handing them to him.
Renée frowned teasingly at him. "Come on. Treville wants to see us," she directed this to Aramis, who complacently fell into step beside them.
The journey consisted mainly of the three of them berating Aramis for his choice in mistress and, as they turned the corner towards the Garrison, Aramis finally let out a, "Why not Adele?"
Renée pulled a face but it was Porthos who answered. "Oh, I don't know, let's think," he mocked. "Because she's the mistress of the most powerful man in France?"
"That would do it," Renée put in helpfully, pointing at Aramis.
"Gentlemen," Aramis announced, "And lady," at this last part he smiled charmingly at Renée, "I love her."
The bluntness of the statement almost made Renée stop in disbelief. As it was, she briefly closed her eyes and let out a sharp exhale. He always did this.
"You love her?" Athos was just as sceptical. "Or you love stealing what belongs to the Cardinal?"
"Plus, I thought you loved Irene," Renée held out her hands. "And look how quickly that ended."
"Ah, Irene," Aramis sighed, almost wistfully, causing Renée to look pointedly at him. He caught her look and his eyes widened. "No! It's different with Adele."
The other three exchanged a look. "Of course it is," Renée smiled. "It always is." She added the last part in a mutter and Porthos, now seated on a bench, snorted.
"You four!" they heard and looked up to see their illustrious Captain standing on the balcony above them. "My office. Now."
"He looks happy," Aramis commented sarcastically as they made towards the stairs.
"That's his natural expression," Renée waved it away but knew that that was the exact same face he had greeted her with that morning. And he certainly hadn't been happy then.
"I've had complaints," Treville began as they walked in, leaning over his desk and signing some documents. He passed one to Renée without looking, and she frowned as she realised it was a letter from her brother, folding it away into a pocket to read later. "An allegation you've been duelling with the Cardinal's Red Guards. Is it true?"
The four of them stood in a line behind Treville, Renée between Athos and Aramis. It was Athos who answered. "Let me think…no, because that would be illegal."
Treville straightened up and turned around to look at them. Or at Porthos, more specifically. "I can't protect you from the Cardinal if you keep fighting his men." Then he turned to Renée. "Especially you."
She scoffed. "I can protect myself."
Treville frowned but knew better than to push the issue with her. It was true that she had a lot of sway within the court, possibly more so than himself, so she did have a point. Sadly, the Cardinal did not like to keep all of his ventures within the legalities of said court. The Captain walked to his chair, moving on to the next issue at hand. "Captain Cornet and his troop are missing. I need you to find out where they are."
"I thought you had sent him to Chartres," Athos stated.
"I did," Treville clarified.
"But he should have been back yesterday," Renée muttered as the memory returned to her. "There hasn't been any word?"
Treville shook his head, sitting down in the chair.
"What was he doin' there?" Porthos asked and Treville exchanged a look with Renée, whose stance suddenly turned fidgety.
"He was carrying a number of confidential items to an important meeting at the monastery," Treville was clearly choosing his words carefully and it was only Renée who had the slightest idea what he was talking about. "He was engaged in the King's work, that's all I can say."
The others looked to her and she sighed, shrugging defensively. "Sorry."
"You three, get yourselves to Chartres and find out what happened."
That was an order and the Musketeers filed out, patting Renée on the back gently as they did. She sent them each a wan smile, hands clasped tightly as she watched them go. When the door swung shut she looked nervously back at Treville. "What do you think happened to them?"
He sighed. "I dread to think."
Her eyes squeezed shut. "I don't like keeping secrets like this."
"You have to. For the good of France."
Renée decided to accompany the Captain to the Palace, if only because her cousin liked to demand her presence whenever he could. In truth, she had always enjoyed Louis' company simply because they had grown up together and had had to like each other so as to not go mad. Yes, he could be extremely childish and brattish, but that was the only Louis she knew, and she did so love him… even if he was an arrogant twit half the time.
Currently, the court found themselves shooting. Well, the Queen and her ladies were under a canopy watching the shooting. Countless times had Renée been offered and sometimes pointedly told to sit with the Queen but she had spent her childhood around Treville, her father, and the Musketeers and, as a result, the men's sport was far more entertaining to her than the airs and graces of the female company. That wasn't to say that she did not as equally love the Queen; it rather that sitting around for hours on end bored her to tears. She would sometimes sit with the women, if only to keep Anne company because she knew how lonely the Spanish Queen sometimes found herself. Today, however, Renée found herself watching her cousin's shooting whilst standing beside Treville in the midst of his Musketeer guards. The Cardinal was pacing nearby which only put Renée on edge: he reminded her of some predatory animal when he did that.
Her attire when at court always seemed to shock some people because it was not what many would consider 'proper'. Instead of all the frivolity and…body of some of the dresses at court, she tended to wear a version of her 'Musketeer' garb. Always in some shade of blue and with a leather jacket of sorts, she tended to wear elaborate blouses and long skirts with boots. Next to the other women of the court she looked…well, the Cardinal liked to say 'common', but Louis allowed it because she was a favourite. She didn't dare bring her rapier with her; that may be pushing it too far. There was always a dagger or two secreted in her belt though. But that was how she had to dress: she was only fulfilling the duties her brother had chosen to neglect and that her father had wished her to do.
"There's something about shooting that makes a man feel fully alive," Louis proclaimed, turning to them with a flourish as he held his gun to his loader.
"Unlike the birds, I suppose," the Queen remarked drily from underneath her canopy. It was impossible to miss the boredom in her eyes and Renée did nothing if not admire her for the way she dealt with the stuffy nature of French court. She threw the woman a sympathetic smile.
"They're born to be shot," Louis asserted. "Like rabbits. And poets."
He smirked at his cousin at that but she only gave him an exasperated look. "Louis," she admonished.
"What?" he retorted childishly, and turned away, holding up his gun to fire again and sharply commanded the men to startle the birds.
Renée noticed the Queen's wince at the gunshot and grimaced. Louis truly could be oblivious at times. She sarcastically waved at the Cardinal as she wandered towards the Queen, smiling gratefully at the ladies for the seat she was quickly presented with. "How are you, Your Grace?"
"I am well, thank you," the Queen smiled but faltered at the knowing look Renée gave her. "I do so wish he wouldn't drag me out here." She had leaned in close to Renée to say this, mindful of the ladies surrounding her.
"I do apologise for my cousin," Renée whispered, squeezing Anne's hand.
"Good shot, your Majesty," the Cardinal remarked smoothly.
Louis grinned and turned to the Captain. "Good enough for the Musketeers, Treville?"
"My men are professional soldiers, Your Majesty," Treville started and Louis pulled a childish face, rolling his eyes.
"You should try flattery sometimes," he remarked. "It plays very well around here."
"And don't we know it?" Renée muttered to the Queen with a pointed look at the Cardinal. Anne smothered a laugh.
"I have always told Your Majesty the truth," Treville seemed unaffected by the comment, "and always will."
Louis smirked. "That's why I like you Treville. Just like my sweet cousin," he threw Renée a teasing look and she grinned sarcastically back, squeezing the Queen's hand before she made her way back towards the men, "you do not pay me empty compliments like the rest of these people."
"Oh, I wouldn't want to inflate your ego any further, Your Majesty," Renée jested, standing beside Treville with her arms behind her back. "Plus, you are the man that told me repeatedly that I looked like a potato when we were younger, so forgive me for being less than complimentary all the time."
Louis pouted. "Well, I wasn't wrong. You were a hideous child." He said it so matter-of-factly that Renée just had to nod.
"Thank you," she said sarcastically.
"Don't worry, you look better now! Regardless," the pointed look he cast at his cousin was admonishment for her interrupting his train of thought, "it amuses me to have honest people at court," Louis concluded. The Cardinal was pacing again, with a countenance suggesting he was just bursting to say something. Louis noticed as such and called quite forcefully, "What can I do for you, Cardinal?" before turning back to his shooting.
"Reports are arriving with disturbing frequency, Your Majesty," the Cardinal started, and the snake-like quality of his voice never failed to make Renée squirm. Louis' gun came down and he began to swivel towards the man. "Musketeers on the rampage, robbing and murdering." Treville's face was like stone and he had to discreetly place a hand on Renée's arm to stop her from doing anything, not knowing that her eyes had narrowed and jaw clenched.
"There has been some mistake," he calmly retorted, eyes hard. "These villains are not Musketeers."
"I for one don't believe a word of it," the crystalline voice of the Queen remarked. The Cardinal turned to look at her and she continued, "I never knew such a loyal and law-abiding body of men."
The Cardinal was adamant though, "But I strongly advise an inquiry."
Louis wasn't impressed. "Is that really necessary?"
"I know you love Captain Treville, but a great king…must be seen to be fair. He cannot have favourites." That last part especially seemed to be directed towards Renée and she looked at the King with outrage.
"A great king also recognises the loyalty of his people. The Musketeers would never do such a thing," she implored her cousin to listen to her. He registered her comment and nodded.
"Well Cardinal, you say a King cannot have favourites. That is, unless it's you?" Louis raised an eyebrow and the Cardinal's face quickly hardened.
The Cardinal instead turned to Treville. "There have been no recent desertions, no absences?" Treville turned to face him, head on. "Not one Musketeer unaccounted for?"
Renée's eyes narrowed from where she stood behind Treville. The Cardinal knew about Cornet, he must. But how? She shook her head in disbelief. What had he done?
Treville's answer was a measured, "None" and this was clearly enough to satisfy Louis who returned to his sport with a, "There you are then, Cardinal."
His gun was once more in the shooting position when the Cardinal butted in, "It's Your Majesty's reputation that concerns me." He strode towards the King, whose shoulders had slumped as soon as he had started talking again. "These men wear the King's uniform."
"Very well!" Louis sighed in defeat. "We will have an inquiry. You will give it your full co-operation, Treville, Renée."
The two bowed their heads to the King in acquiescence. As they turned to leave, they shot the Cardinal a more than venomous look.
"That slimy bugger," Renée hissed when they were out of earshot. Treville could only nod in agreement.
It was quiet back at the Garrison without the other three. Renée sat behind Treville's desk, head resting in one hand with the elbow resting on the table and the other hand fiddling with a bottle of alcohol. Her godfather removed his cloak and jacket and let out a breath, looking at her.
"You ready to tell me what caused last night's relapse yet?" he asked softly.
Renée sighed in exasperation. Her eyes traced the cracks on the table and she gently turned the bottle in her grasp. "Not really."
He pulled up a chair to the opposite side of the desk and gently took the bottle out of her grasp, placing in on the floor. The hand that had been fiddling with it now reached below her blouse to fiddle with a necklace hidden just below her collarbone.
Treville studied her for a moment but she dared not meet his gaze. She was too afraid that he'd know if she so much as glanced at him. He'd dealt with it before so he was the only one fully equipped to know what was troubling her. But she had said she'd moved on.
And she had…at least, she thought she had.
Eventually, he gave up and his gaze dropped. "What does your brother want?"
"Oh. He's having another child," Renée pulled a face. "He thinks it'll be a boy this time."
"Not as though he said that the last three times," the Captain grumbled and Renée laughed.
"Who knows, perhaps this time he'll be right?" she remarked.
Treville chuckled. "Perhaps."
Renée startled upright in bed. A quick glance around the room told her that it was, indeed, her room and there was no slumbering Athos beside her. That was a good sign at least.
The bad thing was that she had been dreaming again. When she had the alcohol she hadn't dreamt but Treville had deprived her of that the night before and the dreams had come back full force.
They were what had caused her 'relapse'. Because they weren't just dreams; they were memories. And the feelings attached to those memories were too painful for her to bear. It had been so long since it happened but it still hurt.
Her eyes dropped shut and she breathed in deeply and slowly, forcing herself to calm down. It's in the past, Renée. There's nothing to be done about it now. As far as you know, he's dead.
She shook her head, berating herself for such helplessness, and climbed out of bed. A cursory look out of the window told her that she had awakened far later in the day than she should have and she cursed, rushing to pull on her clothes and sort out her hair. She peeked into Treville's office but it appeared he had already left for the day. The others should have been back by now, though, so she hastened out to meet them.
Renée emerged onto the balcony and was met with the sound of swords clanging. Now this was not an unusual sound so she thought nothing of it. Until she looked over the balcony and saw who it was doing the fighting.
Athos was duelling with a boy she had never seen before. And said boy seemed very determined to hurt her friend.
Renée silently crept down the stairs, hand on the hilt of her rapier as she assessed the scene in front of her.
"Care to explain?" she muttered to the watching Aramis and Porthos, eyes not moving from the fighting men.
"He came in here yelling," Porthos started.
"Said that Athos killed his father," Aramis put in.
Renée frowned. "What?"
She didn't receive an answer, however, as Athos had thrown his opponent into a wooden pillar and embedded his dagger in the wood by the boy's head, his sword at the boy's throat.
"That's enough!" he yelled, letting go of the dagger. He inched closer to the boy – D'Artagnan – until he was right in his face. "That could have been your throat. Don't make me kill you over a mistake."
Then he turned and strode away. "I didn't kill your father and I don't want to kill you."
It seemed that D'Artagnan was not done, however. He picked up Athos' dagger and threw it, aiming for the head.
"Athos!" Porthos yelled. Athos lurched out of the way.
The dagger flew through the air and it came within a hair's width of Athos…
…but it embedded itself into the wooden pillar next to Renée's head. She looked at it and turned to the boy with raised eyebrows. "That could have had my eye out."
He didn't seem to hear her. Instead, he picked up his rapier, wiped it clean and announced smugly, "And that could have been your back. Now fight me or die on your knees! I don't care which."
Athos looked at him reservedly. He didn't want to fight him.
"No?" D'Artagnan hissed. Then, with a warning yell, he sprang forwards.
Renée's rapier met his with a clang and expertly pushed it to the ground. Aramis, who was standing beside her, calmly asserted, "He said, enough."
D'Artagnan looked at the three of them with venom in his eyes. "Very well" he panted. "I do not wish to fight a woman, but I will." Renée rolled her eyes but inwardly laughed at the poor boy: he had no idea what he was getting himself into. "I'll fight the three of you." Then he lunged again, first at Aramis, who deflected him easily, then Renée who repeated the gesture. He finally turned to Athos who forced his rapier onto the table, where Aramis and Renée slammed theirs on top.
Then Porthos joined the fray.
D'Artagnan looked at the four swords on top of his and exhaled, blowing upwards into his fringe.
"Four of us," Porthos stated. "Now, for God's sake, put up your sword." D'Artagnan glared up at him but Porthos only nodded encouragingly.
"You'll have to kill me for it," he declared, suddenly pulling up his sword with enough strength to send the other four staggering backwards.
His systematic attack on the four of them was courageous, to say the least. Porthos yelled that he was a 'lively little bugger' and Renée had to say she agreed. He met every thrust and parry of her sword with skill, and she was certainly impressed.
Sadly, the sheer number of his opponents meant he was forced back onto the stairs, their swords all at his throat. He glared up at them, chest heaving.
"Stop fighting!" A female voice shouted. "All of you!"
They barely looked round to see a young woman storming towards them, whom Renée recognised as Madame Bonacieaux.
"Is four against one fair?"
Athos elegantly flicked his sword up and out of the way, turning towards the Madame. "We weren't going to kill him," he commented flippantly.
Renée blinked. Aramis and Porthos looked at her but she could only gesture helplessly.
Porthos' sword dropped and he spun to face his friend. "Weren't we?"
Renée too removed her sword from the boy's throat and sheathed it. "Apparently so. Although, for the record, that was not at all clear."
"Next time, let us know," Aramis demanded jovially, sheathing his own sword now as well.
"Madame Bonacieaux, what are you doing here?" Athos asked tiredly.
She was still striding towards them, anger clear in her features if not her voice. "I followed him because I knew he was going to do something stupid."
D'Artagnan jumped off of the stairs and hissed, "I don't need a woman to protect me."
"Ah, she protects us just fine," Porthos lamented, pointing at Renée who just shrugged.
"You boys would be fine without me," she waved him off but pushed the brim of his hat down affectionately.
"Don't say another word," Constance commanded D'Artagnan, clearly very unimpressed by his attitude. "If only men would think instead of fight, there might be more good ones left."
Now, she has a point there, Renée inwardly conceded, as a sudden image of two men from many years ago duelling right in front of her, ignoring her terrified screams, entered her mind. She shook her head sharply.
Aramis, now perched on the table with one leg on the stool, commented, "Him, I'm not sure about. Her, I like."
The others didn't get a chance to reply, however, as Treville marched in, flanked by more men.
"What's going on?" No one answered. "Never mind. Did you find Cornet?"
"He never made it to the monastery," Athos replied, and Renée felt her stomach drop. Dear God, it was worse than she thought.
And it was about to get even worse.
"Give us twenty men and we'll search the road to Chartres."
Treville wasn't listening though. Instead, he was gesturing to the men behind him to come forward and Renée realised that they weren't Musketeers as she had thought upon cursory glance but Red Guards.
"Athos, I'm sorry," Treville did sound truly apologetic as he watched the men come towards Athos. "These men have come to arrest you."
Aramis and Porthos immediately sprung into defensive positions and Renée's hand wandered once more to the hilt of her rapier. They all three moved as one to flank Athos.
"You're to appear before the King immediately, charged with robbery and murder."
"What?" Renée breathed incredulously.
"I promised them there'd be no trouble," Treville said sadly, his eyes definitely lingering on Renée. Aramis and Porthos sheathed their swords but there was still anger in their eyes.
Athos looked down at her and shook his head slowly. She sighed but reluctantly followed the other two. He handed over his rapier and turned to look back at D'Artagnan.
"I'm not the man you're looking for," he stated confidently, before allowing himself to be taken away. Renée began to walk with them, murmuring, "I'll be having some strong words with the King about this." Treville nodded, knowing she was in the best position to do so, and allowed her to stride beside him.
"Why did my father name you before he died?" D'Artagnan demanded, striding towards him.
"I don't know."