In the woods
As both King Louis and d'Artagnan slowed down, or it should be said that d'Artagnan slowed down for the king as the other man tired more easily, they still feared re-capture by the slave traders. But there was not much d'Artagnan could do about it since he was shackled to His Majesty as well. D'Artagnan could only pray that they hadn't been discovered missing yet.
Even though King Louis was older than d'Artagnan, in his mid twenties compared to d'Artagnan's nineteen years, they both had one thing in common... their pe'res.
"D'Artagnan, back at the camp I asked you if your pe're lived and you told me he had died," King Louis glanced over at his youngest Musketeer and champion with curiosity. "Mine was assassinated when I was only eight. He was a much loved king by both his family and subjects," he sighed, looking away from the boy. "I feel I will be found lacking indeed if anything Pepin had said holds true with my own subjects." Feeling that d'Artagnan was only going to listen and not offer up platitudes, King Louis asked him a question about the senior d'Artagnan. "When did your pe're pass?"
"On our way to Paris, sire," d'Artagnan murmured quietly, his eyes roaming the tree-lined area in case the slavers came upon them. "We were coming to see you actually."
"Really," King Louis arched his eyebrow in surprise, having not heard this before. "May I ask why?"
"Gascony's faltering under the heavy taxes and my pe're thought to petition Your Majesty into lowering them."
Nodding as he listened to the lad's words, King Louis tilted his head while observing d'Artagnan's stillness as the younger man scouted the area with his sharp eyes. "If we survive our little adventure I shall indeed look into it more thoroughly when I get back to the Louvre."
Astonishment at what the king had voiced made d'Artagnan stumbled slightly while he attempted to move forward but with His Majesty standing immobile, d'Artagnan nearly fell but righted himself just in time. Finding his voice tightening with suppressed emotion, d'Artagnan managed to nod his thanks to King Louis for his consideration on the matter. Perhaps d'Artagnan's pe're losing his life would not have been in vain after all.
"Did your pe're ever teach you to hunt, shoot and live your life with honor?" King Louis smiled at fond memories of that very short time he had with his own pe're.
"Oui," d'Artagnan looked over at the king and returned the smile. "That and of course how to run the family farm."
"Ah, oui," King Louis chuckled. "Quite a drastic change for you then, d'Artagnan," he mused. "From farm boy to Musketeer," King Louis laughed a little more. "One day I should commission someone to write your story down." Lost in his own thoughts, King Louis wasn't paying attention to where he was going and so his foot caught on a tree root, nearly upending him, but d'Artagnan's quick reflexes saved him from falling face first into the dirt. It also saved bringing d'Artagnan down alongside him. "How much further do you think? I'm deuce tired," King Louis complained.
"I won't feel comfortable until we reach Paris," d'Artagnan glanced behind him thinking he had heard some noise. Worried now that they hadn't been fast enough and were about to be caught again. "I fear we have a long way to go yet, sire."
"You know when I was tired my valet would carry me," a sideways glance at d'Artagnan showed King Louis he had gained the youngster's attention back upon himself as his Musketeer kept looking behind them. King Louis didn't much like feeling that he had been talking to thin air.
"My pe're carried me," d'Artagnan offered. "I used to pretend I couldn't walk another step just so I could be in his arms," he smiled at the warm memories that invoked.
Flashing a full set of teeth as he grinned at the lad, King Louis winked at d'Artagnan. "That's because you didn't have a valet."
"If my parents could have afforded one I would have stilled preferred my pe're's arms instead."
"Just so," King Louis agreed, stumbling again, but his champion caught him once more before he fell and did himself an injury or two. "My thanks," he glanced down at the chains on their feet and grimaced at himself that he was in this situation in the first place. He realized placing the burden of their capture on d'Artagnan's young shoulders was grossly unfair. He only lashed out in anger, blaming the boy, because King Louis had been scared. And what did that say about him, eh? Some king he was turning out to be. Out and about like an ordinary man. What had he been thinking? That is where the crux of the matter lie... he hadn't been thinking at all. Just of his own pleasures and damn the consequences. Well, those consequences have well and truly come back to bite him on the ass.
"I want to apologize," King Louis noticed d'Artagnan stopped to stare over at him as if he had grown two heads. "Is it so impossible to believe that your king would say he was sorry?"
"I do... do not... know what to say," d'Artagnan stuttered, completely shocked that His Majesty would even be moved to do so with him. After all, he was a soldier. Duty bound to carry out his king's orders or to take the blame when things went to hell in a handbasket. In this instance things went sideways and every which way in-between.
"It was my short-sightedness that led me," King Louis winced as he corrected his mistake, "well us to be exact, to this point. Certainly not yours." King Louis too then stopped his motion, thinking he had heard the sounds of horses off in the distance. "Athos tried to talk me out of this and I ignored his advice." He and d'Artagnan started to move again while King Louis thought on his wife, more than likely out of her mind with worry not only for his safety but that he was going to miss one of the most important events in their lives... that of his son's christening. "I fear my queen will give me an earful once we return to the palace."
Holding out his hand, d'Artagnan gripped the king's forearm as His Majesty returned the gesture. "Let's work on getting back there alive then."