“Constance, this isn’t exactly how I wanted to spend my first day back,” d’Artagnan complained, watching the people roaming about the area while he sat on top of the wagon beside his friend. “Since when do we need a cadet guard to bring in provisions?”
She’s holding the reins, guiding the team of horses but gives him a sideways glance. “You’ve been away from Paris a long time.”
“Paris couldn’t have changed that much,” he arched a brow. “After all we were more or less threatened yesterday by Governor Feron. Felt like the same ole same ole to me,” he lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug. Richelieu, Rochefort were long gone. Only a bad memory remained from those days. Now he came home confused as to what's been happening.
“Be that as it may,” Constance pulled the wagon to a halt, “you’ll find this Paris quite different from the one you left.”
Hearing a man on horseback yelling about his harvest being all gone, d’Artagnan stood up in the wagon and jumped off. It appeared to him that others gathered around were ready to level the blame on the displaced citizens of France that came seeking refuge here. Noting that the man was stirring up the citizens, d'Artagnan felt that it was too easy to simply blame the refugees for every wrong that now occurred..
Withdrawing his sword from its sheath, d’Artagnan barked out orders. “Cadets, to attention! Stand guard!” Immediately when the fighting commenced d’Artagnan shoved at Clairmont. “Go get Athos and the others right now!” The crowd began converging on the refugees now. This wasn't going to be pretty. "Cadets, fall back! Fall back!" d'Artagnan yelled. "Form a line!"
Talking to a very angry man amongst the violent crowd, d’Artagnan tried to hold his temper in check. “What proof do you have against these people you are trying to condemn?”
“They’re murdering thieves!” the older man cried out. "That's all the proof we need!"
Retaliating from the words d’Artagnan struck out at the man, which ended up creating chaos when everyone began fighting back. It wasn't until the discharge of a weapon was heard that the mob ceased their racket. Turning d’Artagnan saw the new captain of the Red Guards, Marcheaux, holding a smoking pistol in his hand.
“Arrest them!” Marcheaux ordered his men. Stabbing the Gascon with a look that didn’t bode well for d’Artagnan he added, “arrest him too.”
Noting a very familiar glint in Constance's eyes, d'Artagnan knew she was going to cause trouble. Giving her a quelling look that silently told her to let it be, d'Artagnan ceased his struggles between the Red Guards that had a hold of him. “I’ll go quietly.”
Apparently that wasn't good enough for the guards as one of them punched d'Artagnan hard in the stomach and the other caught him high on his right cheek bone, sending d'Artagnan down to the ground. Laughter from Marcheaux echoed in d'Artagnan's head, along with Constance cursing from somewhere behind him.
Ignoring the Gascon for now, Marcheaux yelled out further orders to his men. “Break down the gates!”
As pushing and shoving among the frightened people continued, d'Artagnan managed to spot Constance before he was taken away. "Tell Treville what happened here."
Running into the garrison Clairmont skidded to a stop. Catching his breath he could see Captain Athos, Porthos and Aramis practicing their sword work. Knowing this was an untimely intrusion, he had his orders and shouted, "Captain! Captain!"
"What do you want?" Athos asked, slightly annoyed and still breathing hard from his exertions.
"It's d'Artagnan," Clairmont swallowed hard. "There's a riot in Saint Antoine."
When they entered the area, citizens that had managed not to get arrested were up in arms. The three Musketeers appeared concerned as to what had caused the riot Clairmont had told them about. Aramis was in the lead looking for their younger brother.
"What's going on here? Where's d'Artagnan?" Aramis glanced at Constance with a question in his eyes.
"They've arrested him along with the others," Constance was ready to hit someone over the head or slap someone silly. Either one would work for her in the mood she was currently in. Preferably she'd love to do both to Marcheaux.
Governor Feron limped into the scene, balancing himself with a cane. He looked upon the Musketeers with barely concealed disdain. "Someone stole the Duke of Beaufort's grain and now the Parisians will go hungry," he made a face. "As for d'Artagnan," Feron sniffed, "this is what comes of sticking your nose where it doesn't belong."
"Belong!" Athos bellowed. "Our job is to protect the king and its citizens," he looked straight in Feron's beady eyes. "Tis not something taken lightly. D'Artagnan was doing his duty and should not have been arrested."
"If you say so," Feron turned away from the angry captain. He had warned them not to cross him. Knowing that nothing would come from killing d'Artagnan but grief from Minister Treville and the king, Feron smiled to himself. Let the Gascon stew in the Bastille for awhile and see how the other half lived.
Surrounded by refugees, none of whom trusted d'Artagnan an inch, to say he felt slightly uncomfortable would not be an exaggeration. The guards were happy to announce to one and all that everyone would hang come the morrow. He certainly didn’t want to see that happen to these people until they at least received a decent trial. Settling into a corner, trying to be inconspicuous which was hard to do when sharing a cell, d’Artagnan closed his eyes. With his stomach and face still paining him it was tough getting into a comfortable position but eventually he managed his discomfort.
"There's simply no way a thousand sacks of grain could disappear in here," Aramis looked over at Porthos who in turn shrugged, shaking his head.
"Fan out and keep searching,” Athos ordered as he went from building to building. In one of them Athos discovered loose leaf papers which, after reading, could have been considered treasonous against the king. Crumbling them up in his hand Athos went in search of his brothers, needing to speak with Minister Treville.
Minister Treville's office
"D'Artagnan will be released in the morning, Athos," Treville noted an odd look on his captain's face. "Something else on your mind?"
Holding out the leaflets to Treville, Athos bit his lip.
Waving the papers in the air, Treville muttered under his breath. “I have enough to concern myself with than worry on these.”
"About d’Artagnan, sir," Athos knew the minister would be just as concerned over the young Gascon’s welfare as he was, "what time in the morning will he be released?”
"The lad’s more than capable of defending himself, Athos. Sometimes you worry too much about him." Treville took some papers from his desk and destroyed the ones his captain just gave him. "He thinks quick on his feet,” he rolled his eyes remembering the good old days when d'Artagnan pulled his own fat out of the fire. “That’s how he’s managed to extricate himself from all that trouble he used to get into back in the day.”
Smirking, Athos tilted his head to stare at the minister. "Used too?” Athos’ amused blue eyes connected with that of Treville’s knowing they shared the same memories.
“Ah, oui,” Treville grinned. “I see what you’re afraid of.”
"Why did you defend us?" Hubert asked, puzzled as to why this Musketeer fought for them today.
"What they were doing was unjust. I couldn't stand by and watch it happen." Going to sit beside the old man, d'Artagnan noted the refugee was injured from the recent fighting that had occurred.
"Everything was taken away from us by your kind," coughing harshly, Hubert curled into himself from the pain.
"My kind?" d'Artagnan raised a brow. "My kind fights the war to maintain your freedom," he hissed.
"Do you believe a Spanish king would be worse than this French one we have been living under?" His cough growing worse, Hubert appeared weaker than earlier.
Lowering his voice, d'Artagnan leaned in closer to him. "You speak treason," he shook his head listening to more of Hubert’s words. "You preach rebellion." Trying to prop the older man up, who was listing to the side, d'Artagnan felt Hubert had a point about King Louis to a certain degree. "You will have a fair trial, Hubert, I will see to that. Minister Treville will help."
Knowing that Hubert wouldn’t last very long in his condition, d'Artagnan got up and went to get one of the guards to help him. "This man needs attention."
The guard looked through the cell bars and shrugged. "Why bother," he looked at the young Musketeer with a careless attitude, "he'll be executed with the rest in the morning."
Seeing one of the refugees, that hadn’t had the privilege of being locked up with them, being dragged into a separate room d'Artagnan glanced at Hubert.
"Leon will break and condemn us all," Hubert's eyes held no hope for any of them.
"Stay calm," d'Artagnan went back over to him. "We'll fight this." Then a thought hits him… that he's celled right along with these refugees and could be very well condemned himself. While Hubert's condition became more alarming, d'Artagnan tried to make the man as comfortable as he could. "I have friends outside that can help." When Hubert eventually became weaker and weaker then totally unresponsive, d'Artagnan realized the refugee had lost his own private battle and had quietly passed away. "Hubert," he murmured sadly, listening to the cries around him of the man's friends who began to mourn.
When he's released from jail, d'Artagnan's met by Constance. "None of your letters to the front said anything about this!" He was furious at how things have deteriorated since d'Artagan's been to war. "Red Guards killing whom they please! Cowards like Captain Marcheaux deciding a man's fate!" D'Artagnan didn't mean to take his temper out on her but couldn't help himself. "This is not what I fought for!"
Looking at the young man whose friendship meant the world to her, Constance put a hand on d'Artagnan's arm. "What did you fight for?"
Standing tall above her, he scowled. "We're freeing those people in there."
"Of course we are," Constance gave an unladylike snort. "What do you think we've been doing while you’ve languished in the Bastille?" Giving him a cheeky smile, she pulled d’Artagnan after her like a puppy on a leash.
Still upset, d'Artagnan continued ranting. "So this is what Paris has become! Innocent people condemned with no evidence and no one to speak for them!"
"That's the way Feron likes it," Constance fired back without heat. She felt there was enough of that coming from the Gascon in waves.
"I wear the uniform of the king's own regiment. Since when does the Red Guard have the authority to arrest and imprison a Musketeer."
"Upsetting as I know this news is to you," Constance huffed, "His Majesty's appointed Feron as commander of the Red Guard." Hearing d'Artagnan's loud protests at her words, she poked him in the side. "Treville brought you all back to fight a different kind of war with Feron."
Following a hunch
Not knowing that the missing grain was an elaborate ruse between the Duke of Beaufort, Governor Feron and Grimaud to hide the grain thus forcing King Louis to pay higher prices in feeding his citizens, Porthos followed up on a hunch that paid off big time. In doing so he discovered that the wagonmaster had kept the grain hidden. Porthos had to fight for it but in the end he came out the victor and none of the citizens of Paris would have to go hungry. Knowing that he would need some help in loading the sacks, Porthos sent word back to the garrison for some cadets that needed to improve their muscle tone.
Walking into the tavern, d'Artagnan and Athos took in all the Red Guards present including their captain.
"We could solve all of Paris' problems tonight with one blow," d'Artagnan announced loud enough for all the guards present to hear. He especially wanted Marcheaux to take heed.
"We're not on the battlefield now," Athos whispered back to the Gascon. Though he shared the same sentiment with the younger man.
Casting his dark eyes over the crowded tavern, d'Artagnan snorted. "You arrested the refugees on false charges. A good man died," he stabbed Marcheaux with a look that clearly spoke to the captain that his turn was coming soon. "You fabricated evidence. Killed an innocent woman to cover your own tracks in the process." Getting closer to Marcheaux, d'Artagnan noted the captain appeared uncaring. Which really was no great surprise to him. "You took the prisoner Leon when all else failed." His gaze swept the room again. "No doubt someone somewhere is beating a confession out of him." Turning his head swiftly, d'Artagnan glared at Marcheaux again. "Where is he?"
When Sylvie rushed into the tavern she surprised them all. Wanting to exact her own brand of revenge for Hubert's death, because he was her father, she aimed her pistol at Marcheaux. Sylvie wanted the man dead, as dead as her father now was. Somehow though Athos managed to talk her down and took the weapon from her shaking hand.
Listening as Sylvie mentioned that Leon was a Red Guard, planted among the refugees, didn’t do anything for d'Artagnan's temper as he leaned down. His face was mere inches away from Marcheaux's. "Your death will not be honorable."
Standing behind his younger brother, Aramis didn't want to see anymore blood shed this night. Especially not the Red Guard's captain because he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that d'Artagnan would end Marcheaux's life if he didn't stop him. Quietly he said to his friend, "Not today."
Paying no attention to Aramis, d'Artagnan continued his stare down with Marcheaux until Aramis roughly pulled him back against him.
"NOT TODAY!" Aramis yelled, dragging d'Artagnan away wincing as the younger man kicked out hard at the table Marcheaux sat at, nearly upending it.
Turning his back on Captain Marcheaux wasn’t the smartest of moves Aramis had ever done. He would later put it down to being four years out of practice.
Marcheaux took out a pistol he had hidden on his lap and leveled it at the Gascon's back. He was going to relish the young Musketeer's death as he took aim.
Struggling against Aramis' strong hold as the older Musketeer hauled d'Artagnan toward the exit, he twisted his head around to glare one last time at Marcheaux. His eyes widened in surprise when he saw the Red Guard's pistol. Shaking himself free from Aramis, d'Artagnan pushed his friend out of harm's way making Aramis stumble to the floor. Hearing the pistol fire d'Artagnan dove to the left but not fast enough, feeling the impact of the ball entering his lower right side. It hurt like hell.
"D'ARTAGNAN!" Aramis cried, seeing his younger brother fall. Noting where the ball had lodged.
Outraged, Athos ran over to where a smirking Marcheaux stood and slapped him across the face so hard it made the Red Guard captain stagger back. "Tis only knowing that Governor Feron would hide your sorry ass behind a pack of lies that I hold myself back from bringing you up on charges before His Majesty!" Athos stabbed a finger in Marcheaux's not so amused face. "But know this," he spat, "if d'Artagnan doesn't recover from his injury I will kill you myself!" Glancing over his shoulder at the marksman, Athos snapped, "Aramis! How is he?"
Holding up a bloody hand, Aramis pushed his hat back with the other. "Our Gascon will live to fight Marcheaux another day." He waved Athos over so that together they could lift d'Artagnan off the floor. "Next time, d'Artagnan," Aramis steadied the lad who nearly fell back down again, "just say duck," he glanced down at his leathers. "You don't know what it costs to get these cleaned nowadays."
Knowing Aramis was just trying to lighten the atmosphere, d'Artagnan rolled his eyes while breathing through the pain. "Get me out of here," he whispered, "before Athos gets demoted for killing Marcheaux."
"It would be the shortest captaincy in Musketeer history," Aramis snorted, hearing Athos grumbling on the other side of d'Artagnan.
"Let us do as d'Artagnan suggests," Athos glowered at Aramis. "Before I decide to attack you."
"What did ya do this time, d'Art?" Porthos swaggered in wearing a huge smile on his face.
"Not what I did," d'Artagnan grimaced as he irritated his side, "tis what Marcheaux did."
Growling, Porthos glared at Athos and Aramis sitting beside the lad's beds. "Marcheaux still alive?"
"Last time I looked," Athos nodded, "oui."
"Why?" Porthos grunted, sending his two brothers a disappointed look.
"Our lad lives," Aramis simply said. "Would be a different matter if the reverse had happened."
"Besides, Feron's going to let Marcheaux hide behind his coat tails," Athos went to get d'Artagnan some water.
"How did your hunch play out?" d'Artagnan could see that Porthos appeared pleased when he had first walked in.
"Got the grain and delivered it ta the palace," Porthos laughed. "Ya should 'ave seen the look on Feron's face when I placed it right at the governar's feet."
"At least this day wasn't a total loss," d'Artagnan murmured unhappily. Still thinking upon Hubert's senseless death.
"Don't worry so, lad," Aramis smiled. "Marcheaux's going to make a huge mistake one of these days and we'll be right there to take him down when he does."
"Promise me one thing," d'Artagnan's sharp look encompassed the three older men. "This time I get to fight him all on my own."
"Whelp's still thinkin' about how all of us had a go at Rochefort," Porthos winked at d'Artagnan.
"The comte still had fight left in him by the time he got to you," Aramis pointed out.
"Not much," d'Artagnan shook his head. "At least I ended him. But it hadn't felt like much of a victory since you all had a piece of Rochefort."
"Lad," Porthos ruffled d'Artagnan's hair, "ya still had the last laugh." Seeing the young man's drooping eyelids, Porthos knew it wouldn't be long before sleep claimed him. Still d'Artagnan insisted upon having the last word.
"Keep calling me whelp and I'll have a piece of you next time, Porthos." Hearing his brother's quiet laughter filling the infirmary, d'Artagnan felt cherished and knew that his brothers would always have his back.