Lesser Evil

Chapter One

On a dark, cold day in the middle of winter, the four musketeers were sent out on orders from their captain, Captain Duval, to ride out past the borders of their city to search for a dangerous group of thieves. King Louis had heard rumors, thanks to Cardinal Mazarin, that they were stealing and killing, if necessary, in several towns throughout France and that they were slowly making their way toward the palace. Little did the young, naive king know that the rumors had been made up by the Cardinal in hopes of leading his adversaries away long enough for him to plan with his secret order to bring the musketeers down; a goal he has long since yearned for.

As several of Duval's musketeers went off on their own searches, the four leaders of his men stayed together until they split up in pairs to search just beyond the border of the city. Siroc and Ramon headed east toward the river, as D'artagnan and Jacques headed west. After searching the woods for over an hour, the four met up again at a clearing near the river.

Ramon was the first to speak up to his friends as he said, "This mission is a waste of time, unless the others managed to run into these so called thieves."

Jacques nodded as she replied, "I believe you're right. If they truly exist and they are here, their best chances of making it into town is to come right through the areas where we've searched."

"Mazarin did tell Louis about these thieves," D'artagnan stated. "There is a good chance that he made these rumors up to draw us away from town. No doubt he is up to something."

"At least we know he doesn't dare make a move against Louis as long as we are protecting him," Jacques said again. "If only we could find proof that Mazarin is the slimy snake the four of us and our captain know him to be."

D'artagnan responded, "He will make a mistake one day. And when he does, we will be there to bring him down."

As the other musketeers spoke, Siroc seemed to be elsewhere as he could hear the others speak, but was not listening to their conversation. As they were about to turn their horses around to head back to town, Siroc dismounted from his own horse and slowly walked away from the clearing and down toward the river.

As Ramon, D'artagnan, and Jacques turned on their horses to watch as Siroc walked away, Ramon shouted, "Siroc! Where are you going?"

Without answering, their friend disappeared from their sight and the others slowly dismounted and began to follow after him. Suddenly, before they had caught up to him again, they heard Siroc shout for their help. They found him on a bank at the river kneeling over the body of a child, who was no longer breathing.

They raced over to help Siroc pull the rest of the child's body away from the water and saw that it was a young boy of about ten years of age. Once they lowered him back down to the ground, Siroc carefully rolled the boy over onto his stomach and began to push up and down, gently, but firmly in the middle of his back. After a few seconds, Siroc stopped and lifted up the boys arms by the elbows and lowered them back down. Then, he continued to push up and down on his back like before.

Siroc continued going back and forth for over a minute without saying a word to anyone, until all of a sudden the boy began to cough up the water he had swallowed and slowly rolled back over onto his back with Siroc's help.

The boy looked up at Siroc and just before he passed out again, he weakly whispered, "My father."

Siroc felt the young boy's neck for a pulse and his forehead for a fever and he firmly spoke up saying, "We need to get him back to our quarters so that I can treat him. He's freezing and he has fever that's only going to get worse without medicine."

"How did this boy end up in the river?" Jacques asked as each of them helped to lift the boy into Siroc's arms after he had remounted his horse.

"I'm not sure, but we are going to find out," D'artagnan answered as the rest of them remounted their own horses and raced off back toward their quarters in the middle of town. "We need to find out who his father is. It sounds like he may be in trouble. That is if he isn't the one responsible for what happened to him."

Ramon replied, "I pray you are wrong about that, D'artagnan. I cannot believe a father could try to kill his own child."

Siroc responded, "No, he isn't the one who did this to his son. There was real concern in the boy's eyes. He was afraid for him. I'm sure of it."

"Well once you make him well again, I'm sure the boy will explain what happened to him and his father," Jacques said. "You were amazing back there, Siroc. The boy will be just fine."

"I hope you're right," Siroc answered.

Later that evening, Siroc was sitting on the side of the boy's bed, where he had been ever since the musketeers had arrived back at their quarters over five hours ago. He worked nonstop to bring the boy's fever down and get him warmed up. Finally, his fever had broken and the boy was now resting comfortably. Siroc no longer feared that he would die, as he knew that it was only a matter of time before the boy awoke.

Ramon remained at their quarters with Siroc and the boy, as D'artagnan and Jacques rode on ahead to the palace to inform Captain Duval and King Louis of what had happened about an hour after their arrival. Once the king had been reassured by his friends that the thieves were nowhere in sight, Duval and the two musketeers rode back to their quarters.

As Duval stepped inside Siroc's room, he found Siroc was still awake as he watched over the boy, but he could see the weariness in his face. Siroc didn't hear their captain as he entered and so he was startled when Duval gently put a hand on the soft spoken inventor's shoulder.

"I'm sorry," Duval said as he slowly took a seat at the end of the bed. "I didn't mean to scare you. How is he doing?"

"His fever has finally broken and I have managed to get his body temperature back up to normal," Siroc replied. "I think he'll be all right; at least physically. He almost drowned. It would be terrifying to anyone and we still don't know how he ended up in the river in the first place."

As the rest of his friends entered the room, Jacques responded, "You should go lie down. You're exhausted. We will watch over the boy and if anything happens, we'll call you."

Siroc was about to protest when the boy suddenly awoke and became scared when he found himself surrounded by strangers. Siroc gently put his hands on the boy's neck and shoulder as he tried to reassure him he was safe and that they meant him no harm. The boy seemed to understand and settled down into the bed.

"My name is Siroc," Siroc continued. "And these are my friends, our captain, Captain Duval, D'artagnan, Jacques, and Ramon. We are musketeers. What is your name?"

"My name is Peter," the boy answered. "I was running away from some very bad men, who still have my father. He told me to run. He told me to find the musketeers, but I tripped and fell into the river. You saved my life."

"Siroc here was the one who saved you," Ramon replied as he placed his hand on Siroc's shoulder. "He deserves all the credit."

Siroc ignored Ramon and pulled away from him as D'artagnan asked, "Who were the men chasing you and why did they kidnap both of you?"

Peter responded, "They did not kidnap me. We work for them. We are their slaves."

As the boy said this, Siroc's face suddenly went very pale. The young inventor stood and ran his hands over his face and then through his hair. His friends noticed this, but before they could ask him what was wrong, Siroc suddenly stormed out of the room. The musketeers became worried as they had no idea what suddenly scared Siroc so much.