6 - Training

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I was sitting by the window with a book that morning, rays of sunlight streaming onto the page I was reading. A bit of a stained glass border on the window cast a colorful silhouette on the ground at my feet, and it danced as the shadows of the trees diverted the sunlight.

Outside, I could hear D'Artagnan sparring with Raoul. D'Artagnan was constantly training my cousin, saying that however skilled he was with a sword, he could always get better. Athos encouraged this, of course, knowing the benefits of extensive training, and there were few he trusted more for such an assignment than D'Artagnan.

Today had been a lazy day, so far. Porthos and Athos were in town running errands, and Aramis was off riding, leaving Raoul, D'Artagnan, and me at home with nothing to do. D'Artagnan took the opportunity to train Raoul, and I had contented myself with a book. The bright day was getting tempting, however, and after throwing a shawl over my shoulders I made my way outside, book in hand.

The sun greeted me with a warm embrace as I came outside, throwing myself on the ground a few feet away from Raoul and D'Artagnan.

'Marie! I'm winning!' Raoul called out jokingly, advancing on D'Artagnan. D'Artagnan, for his part took the challenge and strengthened his offense. I laughed softly as I watched them advance and retreat, and for the moment my book was forgotten as I cheered them on. After a few more minutes of combat, Raoul was defeated and he heaved himself onto the grass beside me, his limbs sprawled out as he gasped for air.

'Bravo, hero,' I said with a smirk, watching my cousin. Raoul shot me an indignant look in reply, propping himself up on his elbows.

'It's not as easy as it looks,' He protested, a piece of his hair falling over his eyes. I shrugged and reached for my book once again.

'I wouldn't know.'

'Why don't you try it?' D'Artagnan asked as he approached me, his chest heaving slightly as he caught his breath. He would never admit it out loud, but Raoul was becoming a better opponent with each passing day.

'Don't be silly,' I said dismissively, pretending to turn my attention to the open book in my lap. He didn't believe me, though, and knelt down in front of me.

'I'm not being silly,' he replied with a smirk as he took my book away.

'You must be joking,' I said, mouth agape.

'Of course not! Come on, now,' he offered me his hand to help me up as he spoke. I shot him a completely shocked expression.

'D'Artagnan… no. No.' I objected as D'Artagnan pulled me to my feet anyway.

'Now, the first step is your stance. Raise your skirt, and let me see your feet,' D'Artagnan said, gesturing at the hem of my skirt with the tip of his sword.

'D'Artagnan!' I scolded once again, my eyes wide.

'Oh, Marie, I'm practically your uncle,' D'Artagnan scoffed, rolling his eyes slightly.

'D'Artagnan, really, this is beyond ridiculous,' I said shaking my head and trying to make my way back to my book.

'Are you calling me ridiculous?' D'Artagnan asked, a look of mock-offense crossing his features.

'Yes!' I hissed desperately, wishing he would stop the whole silly affair.

'Well, I suppose I can be sometimes,' He smiled, winking as he pulled me further out from Raoul, who was now watching with amused interest, 'Raoul, come here! Stand behind your cousin…'

Raoul raised an eyebrow and lifted himself from the ground. He came behind me and stopped.

'The other way, boy. Turn,' D'Artagnan said, moving Raoul so that he and I were back to back.

'What—' Raoul began as he was jolted out of his previous position, but he was cut off by his mentor.

'There, now. You two are practically the same height,' D'Artagnan pondered to himself.

'D'Artagnan… you had better be sizing Raoul for a dress,' I said with a glare.

'Raoul, go upstairs and set aside some of your old clothes for your cousin, as well as some boots and gloves,' D'Artagnan ordered, ignoring me. Raoul raised his eyebrows and obediently moved off in the direction of the house.

'Raoul, stop!' I shouted, making Raoul pause and look back at us curiously.

'Raoul…' D'Artagnan said, his voice low and powerful. Raoul's eyes widened and he ran off into the house, despite my protests.

'D'Artagnan, I don't know what you're thinking, really,' I said, my eyebrows furrowing.

'Well, you can't train in a gown, can you?' He said playfully, smirking mischievously.

'That's not what I meant, and you know it,' I said stubbornly. D'Artagnan's expression suddenly sobered and he took a glance at the house before speaking.

'I am thinking that the next time you are threatened by rogues, you should be able to defend yourself,' He said, his voice low and soft. My eyes widened as he spoke.

'Raoul told you?' I whispered after a moment.

'Yes. He was worried.'

'I told him not to tell anyone,' I said, looking away.

'No… you told him not to tell your uncle, and he didn't. And neither will I,' D'Artagnan said, putting a finger under my chin and making me face him.

'You won't?' I asked hopefully, smiling. D'Artagnan smiled and shook his head. I leapt up and embraced him gratefully.

'Though, I do have my conditions,' D'Artagnan told me, making me let go and look at him suspiciously, 'You must train with me.'

'But D'Art—' I began.

'No. You must learn to defend yourself, or I'll have Athos worry about you.'

I wrinkled my nose in disgust. 'It's hardly a ladylike pursuit.'

'Well, robbing people isn't a very gentlemanly pursuit, but it will affect you nonetheless. Besides, you should never try to be an ordinary lady,' D'Artagnan said with a smile.

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'Go.'

I struck, and D'Artagnan parried.

'Good,' D'Artagnan said with an approving smile. I smiled sheepishly in response and adjusted my new boots, which were too big for me. D'Artagnan said he would take me to town within the week to order new ones.

As D'Artagnan gave me the instructions for our next maneuver, I glanced over at Raoul. He had thrown himself on the ground again, and he had taken my book. He was a quarter of the way through already. I yawned. D'Artagnan may have practically been my uncle, but while we were training he was less of an uncle and more of a captain… or a dictator.

'Now… Go!' D'Artagnan cried, just before he struck. As I began to parry, I saw a dark figure out of the corner of my eye and I looked to my left instinctively as I finished my stroke. As I moved, however, my sword slipped and I suddenly felt a stinging pain in my hand.

'Marie!' D'Artagnan chided firmly, 'You never alter your focus from your opponent. It could get you killed.'

'Yes, sir,' I stated flatly, looking down at my bleeding hand.

'Really, you can be so dedicated in other hobbies; I wish you would be more attentive…'

'Yes,' I hissed, dropping my sword to the ground and removing my gloves.

'What's going on here?' a voice asked. Turning, I saw Aramis dismounting his horse.

'D'Artagnan is training me—'

'And she lost concentration,' D'Artagnan interrupted, earning a glare from me.

'Yes, D'Artagnan. Thank you for clearing that up,' I said icily.

'Marie, your hand!' Aramis exclaimed, taking my hand and examining my cut. He shot D'Artagnan a reproving glance, 'D'Artagnan, really.'

'Aramis! She should learn to defend herself.' D'Artagnan defended his actions.

'That doesn't mean you have to be a tyrannical beast! I've seen you train recruits.'

'Aramis! Her sword slipped, you make it sound as if I sliced her top to bottom!' D'Artagnan said resolutely, his voice raising.

'I was talking about pushing her so hard, D'Artagnan. She's not a musketeer,' Aramis said finally, his voice low. And before D'Artagnan could speak again, Aramis led me into the house.

'Sit down, I'll be right back,' Aramis said, going into the kitchen and coming back with some water, a bottle, and clean rags.

'Thank you for speaking to D'Artagnan,' I said softly as Aramis sat next to me. He smiled in reply as he began to clean my hand.

'D'Artagnan can get carried away sometimes. And, you know, even after all these years, sometimes he needs to be put in place by his elder,' Aramis replied, accompanying the latter part of his statement with a mischievous grin and making me laugh softly.

'This is going to sting…' Aramis muttered softly, pouring some of whatever was in the bottle onto one of the rags. I nodded and took a breath as Aramis put the rag to my gash. I let out my breath in a soft moan, furrowing my eyebrows a bit from the sting. I looked over Aramis's hands and looked at my cut.

'It's deeper than I thought,' I said, raising my eyebrows. Then, a thought came to me, 'Oh, Lord, what am I going to tell my uncle?'

'It's alright, you'll think of something,' Aramis said with a tiny smile, his attention still on my hand. After another moment, Aramis began to take some more of the rags and wrap my hand carefully.

'Thank you,' I said softly after Aramis was finished and I was examining my hand.

'You're quite welcome,' Aramis said, putting on a gallant smile. As I smiled back, I heard the back door open and heavy footsteps come in. A moment later, D'Artagnan sat across the table from me.

'Don't agitate her,' Aramis said as he picked up the table, winking at me before going back into the kitchen to put everything away. D'Artagnan shot Aramis's back a mild glare as he walked away.

'I suppose I shouldn't have pushed you so hard your first time with a sword,' he said softly. I studied him for a while before speaking.

'I agree,' I said, restraining a smile. D'Artagnan nodded, a small smile tugging at his lips.

'I'll be sure to be gentler during our next lesson,' he said, his smile growing.

'N-Next lesson? Dear God!' I exclaimed, catching my head in my unwounded hand.

'D'Artagnan!' Aramis scolded from the kitchen, making D'Artagnan laugh.

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About a week after, I stumbled down the stairs and into the kitchen. I was sore from all of D'Artagnan's training, but I was actually beginning to enjoy it; a fact I was not about to tell D'Artagnan. The ground floor of the house was silent and empty. Raoul was sleeping, Athos was out in town, and the rest of my musketeers were doing something or other. I practically had the house to myself: Raoul was next to impossible to wake up. I brought my breakfast to the dining table and sat down, wrapping my shawl around me.

As I began to eat, I noticed a letter on the ground just inside the door. With a yawn, I lifted myself from my chair and retrieved it, impatiently tearing it open as soon as I saw my name on the front. It was from my mother, and I read it carefully as I ate my breakfast. Every muscle in my body tensed for a moment, though, as I came to a certain passage:

'…Roberto has put into port recently. He has come to the house every day asking for you. As you know, both your father and I think very highly of the young man and…'

I stopped reading and dropped the letter onto the table. I knew what the rest said without having to read it.

Leaving my uneaten breakfast on the table, I picked the letter back up and ran up the stairs with renewed strength. In my haste, I almost missed my cousin's door.

'Raoul!' I yelled, banging on the door as loudly as possible, 'Raoul!' A moment later, I couldn't wait any longer and just burst into the room.

'Raoul, wake up! I need to speak with you!' I cried, shaking my cousin. I only got a groan in reply as Raoul brushed my hands away and turned his back to me. I looked down at my cousin dejectedly as I shakily held the letter in my hand.

'Raoul…' I whispered, coming close to his ear, 'Christine is downstairs. She's asking for you. Oh, Raoul, she's wearing the most beautiful gown… it has this plunging—'

'What? Where?' Raoul asked, leaping up and almost sending me flying. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked around. I only smirked at him.

'That wasn't funny,' Raoul said sleepily, shooting me a glare.

'Well, now that you're up,' I began, sitting on the edge of Raoul's bed, 'I need to speak with you about something.'

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A/N: Long time no see! So, I think I wrote different bits of this chapter two or three times, at least. I don't even know how many times I've started this chapter in different ways. Anyway! It is offi—Wait, hang on, let me save… Ok! Now, it is officially written, saved and totally ready. Excuse me while I faint…

Oh! And I think everyone should go check out the show Young Blades on YouTube. It has its cheesy moments, but it's really fun, and it's what got me in the mood to write more of this story. So, thanks so much for reading, please R&R and have an awesome, colorful day. :)