Disclaimer – 3 Musketeers and the characters belong to Alexander Dumas pere.
Toni is reunited with her father. Athos meets some conspirators. Rewritten
De Treville was on his feet despite his cold. The look on his weary face was one of concern. Marie glanced up from sponging D'Artagnan's brow. The fever was dangerously high. A doctor was bleeding him in an attempt to balance the humours. Aramis recognised him as one of those who tended to the King's Musketeers in their heyday. He could not help snorting in disgust at the sight of the small bowl of blood drawn. Surely D'Artagnan has lost more than enough blood over the past days going by how pale he was. The doctor was not particularly known for his skills back then and clearly the man had not improved over the years. Raoul made a muffled sound, went pale and fled the room at the sight of the doctor's bloodied lancet.
"Papa!" Toni shouted and rushed to his bedside. His good eye was too bright. She wept to see that the other eye was a dim orb marred by a cloudy film.
"Constance? Is that you? Why the tears?" D'Artagnan moaned. "What have they done to your hair?" His hand reached out to her and she took it in her hands.
"Papa, it's me, Toni…" Toni wondered if she could reach him in the throes of his delirium. All she received were inaudible murmurs of distress. It was useless. D'Artagnan's eyelids slid close but the laboured rise and fall of his chest reassured the watchers he was still alive. Toni buried her face in the blankets and wept angry tears at her own helplessness.
"I've prescribed some ointment for his wounds and herbs for his fever…" the physician said. There was a slight tremor in the man's voice, the same one he always had when pronouncing one of de Treville's musketeers in dire need of a priest's rites rather than a doctor.
"Will he live?" de Treville asked. He stroked Toni's hair reassuringly with his good hand.
"The infection has set in and if the wounds go bad…" the doctor added grimly and left it hanging. "The patient is no longer young. If the fever breaks by tonight, it is likely he will live… I cannot guarantee anything more, messieurs…" the doctor accepted his fee from Marie and took his leave.
"Marie, I must go out on some business… please take care of D'Artagnan and Toni," Monsieur de Treville announced as he took his cloak and hat. He did not notice the tension between Aramis and Raoul when he passed them in the corridor. Aramis had been ordered to bring a fresh basin of water to the sickroom by Marie, just as Raoul was emerging from the parlour where he had fled earlier to. Raoul was less than pleased at his unmanly show of fear, even more so that Aramis was around to witness it.
Upstairs room in an inn in the town of Versailles.
"You convinced Olivier de la Fere to join us? Well, well…" Captain Francois studied the newcomer and his cousin with interest. The conspirators have all gathered in the private rooms of the inn. "All for the good of France," Athos said solemnly as he touched the brim of his hat.
"For the good of France and His Majesty," Francois reiterated. "Rest assured we do not intend to harm a single hair on his royal head." Athos sidestepped a serving boy with refreshments for the meeting. The windows had been left open for both light and air. Serving boys and wenches moved freely through the open door with platters of sweetmeats and ale.
"Gentlemen, how do we propose to do that?" Athos feigned innocence. It was laughable how the conspirators were so utterly careless. No doubt Marazin was setting the stage for a future purge of his enemies within the court. Francois' smile died on his lips and he motioned the servants out. Perhaps Francois was not so much a fool as his cousin. He dropped his voice to a whisper.
"When His Majesty visits Paris, there will be an attempt on his person by a band of Protestant dissenters…"
"Really? Where do we get those? The Bastille?" someone called out. He sounded drunk despite the early hour. "Hired assassins from England," Francois did not miss a beat.
"It's too risky… what if he were to be killed…" It was the Marquis de Bretville. The pale-faced man looked uncertain. The mention of the dreaded prison had unsettled a number of the attendees.
"He will not be. My guards will be there to protect him and kill those dissenters…" Francois sounded too confident for Athos' liking. A foolhardy young man.
"So the thankful king will grant you any boon…" Athos said quietly. "And perhaps he will be more willingly to heed the advice of Cardinal Mazarin and the court…" The tone in which he had uttered the cardinal's name did not go unnoticed.
"Look here, la Fere… I'm no friend of the cardinal but he has kept us from war with Spain and England thus far…" a baron spoke. Athos noticed an empty chair next to the baron, and a bottle of red wine. He sat down next to the man. "I agree…" Athos took up the open bottle and helped himself to a swig. He knew little enough of Queen Anne's stand on the diplomatic front. The cardinal's interests, thus far, have all been aligned with the kingdom's interests. He put the bottle down.
"Gentlemen, we need your cooperation as some of you will be in his entourage…" the captain unfurled a map of Paris. "It is too open here to put our plans in action. We need an excuse for the royal coach to be here at the side gate…" Athos forced himself to concentrate on the map and the discussion instead of the wine bottle which was so tantalisingly close within his reach. Chaos, bloodshed, mayhem on the streets of Paris threatened.
"Where's Athos?" Porthos asked. "He's not back yet," Marie replied. "Let me have Henri. It is time for his nap…" she took her young son into her arms.
D'Artagnan's condition was worrisome indeed. The womenfolk were busy trying to cool his fever. Porthos noticed that de Treville was not around either and prayed he would be safe without him or Aramis there to protect him.
"Now we all know Toni's a girl, what do you propose to do, Porthos? It was not proper for her to continue sleeping under your roof," Marie continued. Never mind if she had already spent a few nights under Porthos' roof without incident.
"But nothing has happened so far. I promise you that Toni's virtue is safe with me and Aramis…"
"That skirt-chasing priest? Porthos, I'm sure Toni would like to keep her father company… go get her things please," Marie purred. "Also, it might be good time for you to talk to your godson, before anything regrettable happens." She nodded to where Raoul was glaring at Aramis' back in a manner uneasily like Athos before a famous burst of temper. Porthos' worst fears were confirmed a fraction of a second later when Raoul clapped his hand on Aramis' shoulder spun him around and slapped the hapless priest with a leather glove.
"Duel." Raoul snapped and shoved Aramis against a china cabinet hard enough to send the dishes within rattling.
"Raoul! Are you out of your mind? You can't duel with him," Porthos dove forward to separate the would-be combatants.
"Why?" Raoul hissed.
"B-because duelling is illegal…" It was a weak reason and Porthos knew it but he was not going to broach the matter of Raoul's paternity. Raoul growled under his breath. Marie made use of the distraction to whisk Aramis to the safety of the kitchen. Porthos prayed Aramis would not accept the challenge. Raoul's skill with a sword was horribly wanting. Raoul bit his lower lip hard enough to draw blood. Porthos sighed. It hurt to see his godson in such pain. He was like a bow string pulled too taut. Sooner or later, he would snap. If he did so at Athos, it would be a disaster given the pair's infamous temperaments.
"Come, we have some things to attend to," Porthos put his arm around the young man's shoulders and steered him towards the door.
Planchet had yet to return from his sister's. The chores were starting to fall behind in Porthos' house. Dirty dishes were stacked in the kitchen and more alarmingly, the larder was bare. Porthos ruefully admitted that he missed the man and his cooking. Dirty clothes were strewn over his room. Somehow, Aramis had managed to retain some semblance of cleanliness in his room despite the servant's absence. The stairs creaked dangerously under Porthos' bulk but they held up when they headed for Toni's room. Toni's room was nearly spotless. Porthos was amused to notice a feminine touch in the form of some fading wildflowers in a jug on the dresser.
Raoul swept Toni's hand mirror and hairbrush off the dresser into the saddle bag he was holding. Porthos glanced cautiously at his godson. "Raoul, about…"
"Did you know? About my mother? That man now has a legitimate reason to disown me! Well, let him! I don't care about his damned titles…" Raoul flung his arm out, carelessly knocking the jug of flowers over onto the floor.
"Raoul! That's foolish talk! Your father will never disown you… He's just upset because he does not think the theatre is a proper…"
"My father? Maybe my real father is that defrocked priest, or perhaps some stable-hand Mama took a fancy to. The comte feels I embarrass him! Some vicomte I am, swooning like some girl at the sight of blood… Too much of a coward to…"
"Raoul!" Porthos bellowed. "Goddamn it! But you're not a coward and I know it. And you are his son and have been since you were born!"
"The month I was born in… My so-called father was nowhere near my mother when…"
"You were born early, Raoul. So your father got the months mixed up… We saw you a good two months later… Such a tiny little thing you were." But Raoul was already halfway down the stairs.
Porthos sighed and closed his eyes. Raoul inherited Athos' stubbornness. There was no talking sense into him once he set his mind on something. There was no doubt in his godfather's mind that Raoul was indeed Athos' son.
Looking back, Porthos wondered if the late Comtess was to blame for the wedge between father and son. The couple barely tolerated each other only for the purpose of producing an heir. Athos' work as a musketeer and later his assignment to the diplomatic corps kept him away from his family. When he eventually returned to his estates, the Comtess found some excuse to keep father and son apart, either bringing Raoul to visit relatives or friends. Raoul's phobia of blood? Poor boy was probably embarrassed of his weakness, perhaps even more so than Athos was.
"God give me strength to get him through this…" Porthos murmured wearily. Athos had reacted badly to Milady's betrayal by going into a self-destructive spiral before D'Artagnan's arrival in Paris yanked him out of it. He did not know if Raoul would be likely to follow his father's footsteps and drown his sorrows in drink.
De Treville waited at the Wyvern Tavern. He had managed to contact one of his former fencing students now employed in the guards. Andre was a mediocre swordsman but he was an honest man loyal to his duty. Andre was guarded initially. De Treville's reputation had suffered much since those rumours about his school started. Eventually, the man agreed to meet him after his patrol. It was getting late and the old captain wondered if he had decided to stand him up.
"You shouldn't meddle so, old man…" The voice held an edge of icy steel every bit as real as that pressing into the small of his back. De Treville did not need to turn to know who was speaking.
"What have you done to him?"
"Nothing, I regret to say Andre Fawett is a little indisposed. He'll live, eventually," Michel grinned wolfishly at the thought of the poor guard he and Rafael had confronted behind the tavern. Three broken ribs and a fractured leg would keep him in the infirmary for a month at least. There was something he needed to ask de Treville. They had overheard a doctor mentioning a one-eyed patient he had attended to in de Treville's house. That man could only be…
"You have a man under your roof- D'Artagnan… We're looking for him," de Treville tensed. His good left hand twitched unconsciously for his weapon.
"No sudden moves, old man. You do not wish your daughter to lose her father…"
"I-I have no daughter…"
"Oops, my mistake. You call her niece, don't you? Idle talk aside, old man. D'Artagnan. What does he know and what has he told you?"
"There's no D'Artagnan under my roof. Leave us be," de Treville lied through his teeth. The old wound on his right wrist was starting to itch. He still remembered that amber-eyed swordsman who had challenged him before his students, then maimed him so cruelly. That same man now held a blade to his back. De Treville swallowed and waited for the dagger to be driven into his kidney. Nothing. Cautiously, he turned. Michel had gone. Only a few idle customers lounged about, unaware. De Treville knew he had to warn D'Artagnan, and order both Marie and Henri away from Paris.
Michel watched from the shadows of an alley outside as de Treville hastened out. The old man was a lousy liar. D'Artagnan must have as any lives as a cat to survive his encounter with Rafael. Perhaps he had been hiding at de Treville's all this time. It was certainly no sentimental reason which drove de Treville to meet with Andre, or any of his former students. Things were moving quickly now.
Anne fidgeted, restless with worry. Her thoughts were miles from the play they were watching. D'Artagnan had failed to send back word like he had promised. Where was Philippe? Was he safe? Her eyes darted to the red blur which was the cardinal. What had he done to her son?
"Mother, are you well?" Louis asked and took her hand in his. Anne forced herself to smile and nod. She had to trust D'Artagnan.
"Perhaps a stay by the sea in the south… an airship will be a most comfortable way to travel. We can leave in the morning," the king suggested. He waved at the actors to order them to stop the play and dismissed them. Anne shook her head. She knew her son did not only have her best interests at heart, but was also desperate to avoid the planned trip to Paris.
"After the visit to Paris, Your Majesty. We must not disappoint the people of Paris. They have been looking forward to this for a long time."
Bloodletting was a common medical procedure in Europe until the late 19th century. The aim is to balance the humours. Poor Raoul's having some inner conflict over his parentage.
De Treville has some secrets of his own.