A/N: Because I've had this Bad Things Happen Bingo card lingering around on my mostly unused Tmblr page and Aggie2011 and Ficklescribbler inspire me with their Whumptober prompt fills and musketeer snacks and really, I wonder if it is possibile for me to write anything short EVER? These are on AO3 too, will only post ones here that are rated T, if anything gets too out there, I'll let you know to go there to find it. So far, all the posts here are the same as there.
Prompt: Collared and Chained
"I think you have something that belongs to me," Athos's voice echoed in the nearly empty courtyard.
"Cocky as ever, Olivier," the man spat in the dust, showing just how unimpressed he was with Athos's statement. "I suppose you got some speech you're gonna give about law and order and justice."
Duval hadn't changed. Same overconfident arrogance. Same disregard for authority. Same deadly disregard for human life. Athos knew he should have killed when he'd had the chance in Pinon all those years ago.
"Release him," Athos wasn't in the mood for conversation. He only had one intention - to retrieve his brother and kill anyone and everyone who had dared to touch him, starting with Duval. Athos's eyes flicked from the Duval's crooked face to the broken figure huddled before him in the dirt.
Aramis knelt in the center of the courtyard, his knees splayed as he sat back on his haunches. Doublet removed, his typically pristine white shirt was covered in grime and dust - and blood. He must have still been fighting after they took him, but not now. His head hung to his chest and he was leaning slightly forward, an odd position to hold given his obvious mistreatment. His arms were pulled behind him, thick leather bands holding them straight and tight. He had to be suffering in that position, but Aramis had not moved or shifted since Athos's arrival. He was as lifeless as a ragdoll dropped by a careless child. Athos felt his chest tighten and he bit down on the inside of his cheek until he drew blood. There would be a reckoning for this but Athos couldn't let his heart rule his head just yet.
Duval fisted his hand in Aramis's hair and pulled back on the musketeer's head, exposing his neck banded by a thick iron collar. It explained Aramis's unusual position - the collar and short chain connected somewhere behind him kept him from pitching all the way forward. His eyes were closed, his face caked in dust. Blood ran freely from his temple and flecked his dry, cracked lips. Aramis didn't make a sound when Duval grabbed him but his eyes opened the tiniest of bits.
"Take your hands off of him," Athos felt a calm descend over him at the confirmation that Aramis was still alive. The gut-wrenching fear of the last three days dissipated as a cold, white anger crept through his body. He had work to do. Duval was nearing his last moments on this earth and he'd be leaving by Athos's hand.
"You don't get to give orders. Now I'm the Lord of the Manor. Now you can beg me for his life the way I begged you for my father's life." Duval yanked again but still no sound from Aramis as he pulled his head further back, "You are going to know what it feels like to lose someone you love.'"
"That's what your messenger said too, right before I killed him," Athos said, cocking his head toward the horse he had earlier dismounted and giving the rein trailing in his hand a tug. The horse sidestepped and turned slightly giving Duval a better view of the cargo Athos carried. A body lay slung over the saddle, wrapped in a bloody brown cloak, a pair of distinctive red boots dangling from the other side of the great black beast.
Athos took distinct satisfaction in the pain that passed over Duval's face. The man sputtered and a grievous cry was wrenched from his lips. Athos had hit home as he knew he would.
"I thought he looked familiar," Athos said coldly.
"Bastard," Duval looked ready to spring and if all went to plan, he would. Athos just had to push him over the edge to get him away from Aramis.
"He's too young to have been your brother," Athos mused, "Your son I suppose. A shame. He died like his grandfather, twisting at the end of my blade."
"I'll see you rot in hell for this!" Duval choked, "I'll tear your limbs off and feed you your own heart," Duvall's face was flushed, his hands tightening in Aramis's hair. He reached behind him and pulled his main gauche, but instead of charging at Athos, he pressed the blade to Aramis's neck. That was exactly what Athos did not want to happen.
Duval growled and gave a nod of his head. Four men emerged from the shadows of the overhang, blades and pistols at the ready.
"Take your hands off of him," Athos demanded, ignoring the threat of the other men.
"I'm going to rip his throat out Athos, and let you watch him die writing in agony," Duval's grief morphed into a hot, pointed rage, and he yanked Aramis's head back again, forcing the musketeer's chest to arch upward yet unable to fully bend because of his bound arms. Still there was no sound from the captive marksman and Athos's rage flared.
"This is the last time I'm going to ask," Athos's voice had the sharpness of rapier, "Release him."
"I'm going to feed you his tongue before I put you down like the mongrel you are. Take him!" Duvall shouted at his men.
"I wouldn't," Athos snarled. "If you value your lives." Even alone and without his rapier or pistols at his hip, Athos looked every bit the threat he truly was. The men hesitated, uncertain about taking on not just a legendary Musketeer but a man who had been a noble.
"Move!" Duval shouted in exasperation, "He's one man, he can't hurt you."
"Wrong again, Duval," Athos shouted as he rushed forward, ready to rip Duvall apart with his bare hands if he had to. Duvals men moved to intercept him but the corpse draped over Athos's saddle surged up and started shooting. Two men went down on Athos's left. A third made a grab for Athos but was caught by a dagger thrown from the entryway to the courtyard as the fourth was stabbed by Athos himself who certainly had not come unarmed and had dropped his main gauche into his hand from where he had tucked it in his sleeve.
D'Artagnan sprang from the back of the horse as Porthos stepped over a dead body he pushed in from the entrance gate and together the two musketeers flanked their Lieutenant as they strode like demons from the mouth of hell toward the man holding their fourth at knifepoint.
"Stop or he'll be dead before you take another step," Duval pulled up again on Aramis's hair, pressing the point of the blade into the soft flesh under Aramis's chin. The marksman's eyes flew open in panic and his lips parted as if to scream but all that came out was a gurgling, rattled breath. He heard Porthos gasp beside him as blood started to run freely from the puncture in Aramis's throat, the marksman's ragged breathing taking on an odd gurgling sound. All three men froze in their tracks.
"That's right," Duval's lips curved up in an wicked smile, "Drop your weapons unless you want to see how much more blood I can squeeze from him."
Athos considered his options. Duval was a madman and not only Aramis's life was forfeit if they complied. He'd kill all of them as surely as he'd kill one of them. They could try talking, Duval certainly always had a lot to say, but Aramis looked in rough shape. Now that Athos was closer he could see the chafe marks from the iron collar around the marksman's neck, the swelling and bruising on his face masked by the layers of dust. No, this ended now. It was time to take his bother back.
With a flick of his wrist, Athos flipped the dagger that he had been about to drop into a throwing grip and let loose the blade. Beside him, D'Artagnan and Porthos must have come to the same conclusion as three knives whirled toward their target. They all found marks but it was Athos's dagger that was embedded itself into Duval's throat.
Stunned, Duval staggered backward, dropping his weapon and releasing his grip on Aramis. The marksman slumped forward, the chain and collar jerking against his fall. Porthos was on his knees immediately, catching Aramis by the shoulders to take the strain off of his neck. D'Artagnan held his place, slipping a second knife from his belt, at the ready in case Duval had more fight left in him than he seemed. But Athos barely registered any of this as he rushed forward to grab Duval by the collar. The man sunk to his knees, clinging weakly to Athos as blood poured from the wound at his neck.
"You will rot in hell for what you did to my son," the man managed to hiss out between bloody teeth.
"Your son is fine, no thanks to you," Athos said, "I didn't kill him."
"Then know this Athos," Duval panted, his breaths coming in great gasps, "He will hunt you down and kill you, all of you, for what you have done this day."
"Know this Duval," Athos said, leaning down until they were nearly nose to nose, "He's in custody for his role in abducting a Musketeer and will be at the end of a hangman's noose before the week is out. You have lost everything. Take that to your grave." Duval sputtered and opened his mouth to speak, but blood burbled from between his lips and he began to choke. He continued to clutch at Athos but his grip was losing its strength and only Athos's hands on his collar were keeping him upright. His gaze met Athos's and while the swordsman could see the desperate plea for mercy all he could return was a cold, steely glare that wished Duval swiftly to Hell. In another moment Duval was gone, the light fading from his eyes as Athos cooly watched.
Athos drop the man where he was and turned back to his friends. Aramis was slumped forward, head pressed against Porthos's shoulder but at least the chain wasn't pulling at the iron collar around his neck. D'Artagnan was using his main gauche to slice through the thick leather bands that tied the marksman's arms behind his back. They were torturously tight, the flesh swollen where the straps bit into Aramis's arms. Athos realized they must have been tied in place while the leather was wet and then shrunk around Aramis's arms as they dried. It was abhorrent to treat a man so. Running between Aramis's bound arms and along the line of his back was a thick wooden stake that was impaled in the ground between his feet. The chain ran through a metal ring in the top and then was linked to shackles around Aramis's ankles. His own movement forward would have caused him to choke but with the pole in place there was no way to shift backward unless the marksman could hold himself upright. A simple and cruel torture and Athos fumed as he wondered how long Aramis had been trussed up like this.
"Porthos, get this off him," Athos said quietly, fighting to keep control of his emotions. If he could, he would kill Duval again, and keep killing him until the entire courtyard ran red with his blood. Porthos nodded and eased Aramis back to lean against Athos as he went to search Duval's pockets for the key. D'Artagnan finally got through the first strap, unbinding Arami's upper arms. He got to work on the one around his forearms while Athos shifted out of his way. Aramis's head lolled on Athos's shoulder, no sign of life other than the blood that still flowed freely from the small puncture wound in the marksman's throat and the rasping breaths that ghosted over Athos's neck. Athos pulled his scarf from his own neck and gently pressed it to Aramis's wound. Too much pressure would choke him, but the wound mercifully did not appear very deep and just the light pressure of Athos holding the scarf to Aramis's neck would likely staunch the flow of blood.
Porthos returned to Athos's side, two iron keys on a silver ring dangling from his fingers. The anguished look he exchanged with Athos was enough to make even the most hardened soldier weep and Athos felt tears rise in his eyes for the first time since this entire ordeal began. What Duval had done to their brother tortured them all. With utmost gentleness, Porthos carefully turned Aramis's head to the side to get better access to the lock. He slipped in the larger of the two keys and Athos heard his sigh of relief as the lock turned with a definitive click. Taking the collar in both hands, Porthos gently maneuvered the iron band until it slipped free of the locking mechanism and opened. Athos wanted Porthos to hurl it across the courtyard but it was still attached by the chain to Aramis's ankles so instead he put it down on the ground in far more careful a gesture than the object deserved. . Athos reached between himself and Aramis and was able to easily pull up the stake, allowing the marksman to lean fully back against his chest. As he finished D'Artagnan cut through the last leather band and Aramis's arms dropped limply at his sides
The motion must have caused great relief though as Aramis let out a strange little sigh and shifted against Athos's shoulder.
"Aramis," Athos said softly, shifting the arm that was holding Aramis to him to press gently at his sternum, "Aramis, we've got you. It's over." Athos was rewarded with a small whimper and a nearly imperceptible nod. Yes, Aramis knew they were there. Athos felt the tension start to unravel from his body even as Aramis sunk further into his hold. Porthos got his ankles free and they were able to carefully stretch the marksman's legs out, although by the small distressed sounds Aramis was making Athos assumed this hurt very much. Cramped in one position for so long, it had to be torture to move now.
Porthos and D'Artagnan went to get blankets, water and bandages from the horses while Athos gently laid Aramis onto his back. He shifted the scarf and was pleased to see the bleeding had stopped but then got a good look at the raw red marks the collar had left. His gaze shifted to find Aramis's eyes fully open, looking up at him with worry and fear.
"You're alright," Athos reassured him, brushing the marksman's hair back from his face, "We'll rest here a while, then get you back to the garrison, alright?" Aramis gave a small nod, then closed his eyes, face scrunching with pain as his body continued to react to the muscle cramps shooting through his limbs. They'd have to wait a while yet before they could even consider getting him up on a horse. They'd do their best to clean him up while they waited, get some water into him, bandage the worst of the cuts and chafing.
Athos gently slipped his scarf under Aramis's neck, then carefully wrapped it over the chafing and tucked in the ends. He knew there were bandages nearby but he didn't care. If the others thought it odd as they joined him with the blankets and supplies none of them cared to say. Death had been too close this day and no one needed an explanation to understand a gesture of love.