A cruel smile forms on the scarred face, making the man look even more ugly than before, as he shows his yellow teeth. "Look what we got here." He watches each of his prisoners interested, a glint of recognation sparkles in his eyes. "Les inseperables." A ironic laugh fills the silence of the night as he takes a step towards the four men. Each one bound to a tree, hands around the trunk, gagged and feet also bound together. Someone who doesn't know Athos, would think all of this doesn't matter to him, as he stares at the man, who introduced himself as Moreau. D'Artagnan thinks he'd heard of him a few times. Moreau was more like a fairytell to him than an actual human as millions of storys about his cruel doings are rumurored in the streets of Paris. As the young man looks over to his brothers he knows, that they recognized the name too.
Porthos growls something against the nasty rag as he struggles against the unforgiving ropes. His wrists are already raw and bloody, but that doesn't stop the soldier from trying to get free. If he just could get his hands around Moreaus neck...
Aramis on the otherside sits unusually still. His head still raised, as his pride won't allow him to show his pain and tiredness. Not only the long travel has left the musketeer exhausted, but one of the raiders stepped onto his wrist as they fought earlier. Due to the awkward angle of his arms now, the medic can't tell if it's just bruised or maybe broken - the only thing he knows is that it hurts like hell.
Moreaus attention shots to Athos as the Captain mubmles something against his rag. "Let him speak," the scarred man orders. One of the raiders frees Athos from his gag. "What do you want?" His voice rough thanks to the drought in his mouth.
Moreaus kneels down in front of the Captain, still wearing the ugly smile. "What I want? Just the money I will get when I sell you to Roussel. But as you ask like this... a little bit of fun would be nice, wouldn't it?"
"What do you-" before Athos can speak further the rag is forced into his mouth again. Moreaus stands up slowly, looking over to his men. "It will take at least two days until Roussel is here to collect our prey, what do you think about some entertainent?" The crowd cheers and laughs, while the musketeers are left unknown what Moreaus has on his mind. With the information they already have, they at least know now why they've been caught. Roussel's name is even more famous than Moreaus - he's a trader and his goods are humans. Sold as slaves and prostitues, cheap workers.
Porthos, who tensed up the moment Roussels name fell, growls once again, his fury taking the better of him. This earns him Moreaus attention. "Let's start with this one. He seems very eager to break some bones." A few men are stepping out of the rows, three of them aiming their guns at the remaining musketeers, while two more are cutting the ropes around Porthos wrists and feet. As the colossus notices the danger his friends are in, he stops struggling and stands up slowy, his muscles still tensed.
"Let me explain." Moreaus starts as he catches the looks of each musketeer. "It can get quiet boring here, you know. So we like to have some little - let's call them - competitions. The rules are quite simple. You're not allowed to kill one of my men or hurt them seriously or you and your friends will be shot immediatly. You're not allowed to run away, of course. So the first part is always a fist fight. You against my men. You win when you can take down your opponents for at least ten seconds." That Moreaus uses the plural form spreads a feeling of unease between the musketeers.
"And remember - if one of my men is seriuosly hurt your friends will die." Porthos nods slowy, his fists clenched. He's pushed a few steps forward and a circle starts to form around him, three men entering it. None of them seems as muscular as Porthos, still each one is strong and they're three against one. "Let's begin," Moreaus grins and crosses his arms infront of his chest.
Athos' mind starts to race, as he wonders if Moreaus would allow his men to kill or serious hurt Porthos, as he's a precious good for them - on the other hand three musketeers will bring enough money to feed these raiders for weeks. They're porbably in no desperate need to sell all four of them unharmed or at all.
D'Artagnan starts to struggle against his ropes as he has to watch how Porthos is being hit and thrown to the ground. He feels weak, not being able to help his friend. He can only hope that he will win and that better sooner than later.
Aramis clenches his eyes shut as one of the men turns Porthos arm into an unnatural angle, causing a nasty sound to echoe through the woods. The musketeer growls in pain, before he manages to get free from the painful grip. His fists hit hard in his opponents face and stomach until the man falls to the ground. Then Porthos turns around and kicks the second one, so he has some time to deal with the third one without being attacked. He manages to wrap his hands around his throat and squeezes - the soldiers has to control himself to not kill the man, as he lets him fall to the ground unconcious. Now alone, the remaining opponent doesn't have a chance - soon he lies beside his companions on the ground, Porthos standing tall between them, his breath fast, his shoulder dislocated and his face bloody.
A slow clap from Moreaus let's d'Artagnan flinch. He takes a short look over his men, satisfied to see that they'll be fine in a few minutes, besides a few bruises. "Congratulations, you won." Suddenly, Porthos is being pushed against the tree he was bound to earlier. His head collides with the wood hard, letting the world around him spin. One of Moreaus men hits him into the stomach until he slides to the ground, groaning. Again his wrists and feet are bound, but he's spared the gag for the moment.
"Porthos," Aramis mumbles against the gag, concern rising in him as his friend doesn't react. His eyes are still open, but his look unfocused. "Porthos." The marksman tries to see if there's a wound on his brothers head, but doesn't manage to get the right angle.
"So let's start with the second round. Swordsfight. Normally, it would be one of you against one of my men, but I just thought about a better idea!" Moreaus shouts out like a proud child and walks over to Athos and d'Artagnan. "I have heard of you, Captain Athos. The great swordsman. And of you, the young d'Artagnan - already as good as his master. How about we find out who's actually the better one, today?" As the two are freed from their ropes, d'Artagnan shots Athos a questioning look - maybe they could fight and get the other two free in time, but the Captain shakes his head. Aramis and Porthos would be shot before they could hit the first man.
"So we have to change the rules a little bit. But I will explain them slowly, so you can understand them. You win by inflincting a cut to the other one which is at least ten centimeters long and deep enough to require stitching. And yes, I know you two wouldn't hurt each other, 'cause you're like brothers and so on," he rolls his eyes before continuing. "But the winner of you two will be punished by one of my men, so if you want to save your beloved brother from us you have to hurt him yourself, understand?"He grins and claps into his hands, proud of his own great idea.
"And never forget the guns against the heads of the other two." Moreaus ads as swords are given to the swordsmen. Once again d'Artagnan thinks about fighting but as he looks over to Aramis the barrel of a gun is pressed against his chin. "D'Artagnan," Athos looks at him with weary eyes, a glance of guilt in them. "I'm sorry." Athos raises his sword, and as Moreau gives the signal to start, he attacks right away. D'Artagnan manages to parry in the last second. "Whatever happens, no one will be angry, right?" The boy asks insecure.
"No one." Athos assures. "We do what we have to do." Another hard stroke let's d'Artagnan stumble. "You could just let me win, boy." Athos says after a few seconds, already gasping for air as the young musketeers is much faster than him. "You know I won't let that happen, Captain. And you won't let me win," he says, sadness in his voice. He doesn't wish to hurt Athos, but one cut will be less hurtful than a beating from these raiders.
Athos sighs, struggling to keep out of reach from d'Artagnan's sword. "You're sick, Moreaus!" The younger musketeer shouts. Athos uses this short moment of inattention to cut d'Artagnan at the side. The boy groans his hands clenching at the gaping wound. Athos lets his sword fall down immediatly. "I'm sorry mon ami." He hurries over to the younger man, who still seems more suprised than hurt. "No, I'm sorry." D'Artangan answers, guilt in his eyes as Athos is being pushed to the ground. The boy tries to struggle against the tight grip at his arms, but doesn't manage to get free. He's brought back to the trees and bound again, while the groaning of Athos is heard in the whole camp. The Captain feels fists and feet colliding with his body, legs and head until one especially hard kick send him to unconsciousness.
After a few minutes the men around Athos stop beating and kicking him and walk back, leaving him lying at the ground. D'Artagnan chokes back a cry, turning his head away from the gross view to Aramis. The medic tries to see the damage done to his Captain, but it's just too far away to recognize details so he turns to the young musketeer. His eyes fall down to the cut on the boy's side concerned and he muffles something against his gag, d'Artagnan can't understand. The medic sighs, being useless for his friends. "The wound needs stitiching," Porthos mumbles, who got his senses back a few minutes ago. "You understood him?" D'Artagnan asks suprised. Porthos laughs weakly and nods. "Have spent too much time with him together bound and gagged." He lets his head fall against the trunk exhausted. "Way too much."
As Athos is brought back, Aramis attention turns to him again. Annoyed that he can't help and out of concern for his unconscious friend he starts to struggle against the ropes, ignoring the pain that spreads through his wrist. "Oh, someone's eager for his task." The marksman freezes as the eyes of the raiders fall onto him and his bounds are cut open. Immediatly he presses his hurt hand agaisnt his chest, his eyes never leaving Moreaus. "You're Aramis, right? The best marksman in France. My men have told me about you. You shot two flying bottles, blindfolded." Aramis remains silent, trying to figure out what his task will be.
On his sign, two men grap d'Artagnan and push him up. As he stands, they tie him up again. "This will probably be easy for you. You will shoot this apple," Moreaus holds up the fruit," from his head." With a grin he places it on the boys head.
"Rules are - as always - simple. You can try three times. Every bullet that doesn't hit the apple, the boy or the tree, will cause us to shoot one of your friends. And if you don't hit after the third chance the boy will be shot and you punished. Oh, and I nearly forgot - you will be blindfolded of course."
Aramis gulps as he looks over to his brothers. "As this is a competition I demand a reward when I win." Moreaus laughs. "When." But then he nods, "What is it that you want?"
Aramis thinks about asking for letting one of his brothers go, but he knows that won't be allowed. "I want you to give me the oppotunity to see to my brothers wounds. Hurt like this, they're uselees to you anyway." Moreaus seems to think about it for a few seconds before he agrees. "If you win, I will allow it."
Aramis nods, before he walks over to the place from where he has to shoot. It's at least twenty meters away - normally a shot he would make without hesitating, but blindfolded and with a broken wrist he starts to doubt himself. Darkness surrounds him as the rag is bound around his head and a gun is placed in his hands. He thinks about shootinng with his left hand, but with the risk to kill his brother he decides to just live with the pain. His fingers feel numb as they grip around the hilt. "Te pido perdón, oh Dios mío, y pido perdón mientras deseas que tus siervos se vuelvan hacia ti. Te ruego, lava nuestros pecados, como corresponde a tu reino, y perdóname, como es digno de tu sublime reinado y de acuerdo con la gloria de tu poder celestial."(*) "Shoot now, it's getting boring." Moreaus sighs annoyed.
"I'm sorry, mon ami." Aramis mumbles before he pulls the trigger. He doesn't here a scream or grunt, but his brothers soft voice. "I'm fine, Mis. You hit the tree just beside my head."
Aramis takes in a deep breath before he reajusts his aim. He feels as if his whole arm is shaking as another wave of pain shots through it. The marksman clenches his teeth together before pulling the trigger again. This time, his heart stops as d'Artagnan let's out a pained groan. Aramis nearly lets his weapon fall down as he tries to take the rag from his eyes. "No." Moreaus voice lets him shudder and he stops in his movements. "Just grazed my neck." The boy explains, obviuosly in pain. Aramis starts to feel dizzy at the thought about how close he was to killing his brother.
"Your last chance, musketeer." Aramis gulps, aiming for a third time. Porthos seems to hold in his breath. He hadn't had any doubts that Aramis would miss, but after two failed chances he's not as secure as before. He hadn't notice the swollen wrist before, but now as the marksman holds the gun with shaking fingers, he does.
One last shot disturbs the silence, the apple shatters into thousad pieces, but Aramis doesn't know that. Exhausted, he falls down to his knees shaking. The world around him spins, until he looses his senses completly.
He wakes up minutes later, confused and not bound. As he remembers what happens he sits up panically, just to calm down the moment he sees d'Artagnan alive. "Oh god, I'm so sorry, mon ami." Aramis rushes over to the young musketeers, looking at the wound at his neck concerned. "I shouldn't have hit you."
"It's okay, 'Mis. Nothing happened and you did quite good. They brought you your reward." D'Artagnan nods toward a small medical kit, which lets Aramis sigh in relief.
With skilled hands he has d'Artagnan's wounds cleaned and stitched in a few minutes, before he turns to the still unconscious Athos. There are just a few wounds that he can tend too, which concerns him even more. As he carefully touches the Captains torso he feels that at least two rips are broken, his skin is a mix of blue and green. "They didn't broke through his lungs, but if he should move..." Aramis doesn't dare to continue speaking and just goes on with his routine.
Soon, Porthos head is also bandaged and the smaller cuts cleaned. "I need to fix the shoulder," the medic announces. Porthos nods, preparing for the pain that will defenitly come.
"On three." Aramis takes his brohters arm and shoulder into his hands gripping tight. "One." Porthos closes his eyes. "Two." Aramis pulls at the arm causing his friend to scream in pain. Between ragged breaths Porthos asks:"Didn't you say at three?"
"It was better this way," the medic say exhausted, pressing his wirst against his chest. Porthos notices, sending him a concerned look. "You should see to this, too." Aramis smiles weakly, shaking his head. "It's need to be setted properly and splinted. With just one hand I won't make it. This will need to wait."
The moment he has finished, Aramis is dragged away and bound to the tree again.
"So, what's the plan now?"
* Translation: I ask your forgiveness, O my God, and beg your pardon as you desire your servants to turn to you. I beseech you, wash away our sins, as befits your reign, and forgive me, as it is worthy of your sublime reign and in accordance with the glory of your heavenly power.