"Porthos, behind you!" Aramis cried out in fear after cutting down his own assailant as he noticed another trying to sneak up on his comrade when a large band of thieves charged the soldiers while guarding the tax collector and two Red Guards helping to transport the King's monthly taxes through the streets of Paris. "We musketeers shall not be struck down today, least of all the likes of you."
"If we don't get off the streets, we will be struck down," d'Artagnan responded, less confidently than the rest of his friends appeared to be.
Porthos smiled as he continued fighting once the man Aramis warned him of was knocked to the ground unconscious and no longer a threat, then answered coolly, "Not today. Don't be so quick to count us out just yet, d'Artagnan. We're wearing them down."
Athos replied, "If we weren't before we surely will now, now that Treville is about to join us with a charge behind him."
"See how quickly they flee," Aramis spoke again smugly as the thieves began to run away in retreat upon seeing more musketeers riding into the square to join their comrades in battle.
"We would have frightened them off just fine on our own," Porthos grumbled in response to Aramis' witty remark. "How did you know we were in trouble, Captain?"
Treville rode up to the four men that led the rest of the soldiers under his charge and answered, "The truth is, I didn't know you would run into trouble, but I suspected that you might, seeing as Louis has raised the taxes far higher than ever before and I knew how mad the people would be."
Athos replied coldly, "No doubt thanks to the Cardinal's influence."
"No doubt," Captain Treville responded in agreement. "I'm afraid I'm not just here to make sure that you four survived today. I have another task for you, which I fear will not be easy, especially for one of you."
"You know that we'll do whatever is asked of us, Captain," Athos stated as any good soldier would. "What is our mission?"
Treville turned to look at Aramis as he answered worryingly, "I need you four to travel to Savoy in order to escort the King's sister back here to visit with her brother. She insists she comes now, despite the Duke's refusal to escort her himself or send his own men along, seeing as he was not pleased with how their previous visit here to Paris went. It is Louis' wish for the four of you to be the ones that travel with her. However Aramis, if you wish for me to send another musketeer along, the King needn't know if you would like to take some time…"
Aramis kept his eyes on their captain, despite his friends' worried glances, as he interrupted despondently, "The King has ordered the four of us to go, Captain. I told you that day that we musketeers follow orders no matter where they may lead. If I must travel to Savoy, then I will go with my comrades. If you'll excuse me."
"This isn't right, Captain," Porthos finally spoke again angrily. "Aramis shouldn't be forced to travel through the very forest where his friends were slaughtered in their sleep, let alone once again face the very man responsible for the massacre that made our brother its lone survivor."
"I agree," the Captain replied sadly. "I did try to let him off. He refused."
Athos responded coldly, "Only because Aramis is as devoted as any musketeer, to you, to the three of us as well as the rest of the men, and to our King, Queen, and country. He feels he owes it to you to make up for his insolence when he believed you to have sold out your own men."
Captain Treville nodded and answered, "I wish he need not feel he must make it up to me. I tried to make it clear that I did not blame him at all for what went down with Marsac. It appears I failed. You best go after him. He's going to need you three to get him through this mission."
"We will look out for him," Athos replied as he, Porthos, and d'Artagnan headed after their friend, who had headed back in the direction of their barracks, no doubt to prepare for their long journey ahead of them.
"I expect nothing less," Treville said to himself, admiring the devotion and respect between the four strongest amongst all of his men.
At the Duke's palace in Savoy…
Gontard slowly approached the Duke, who was busy writing a letter within his study, but didn't say anything, as he could tell the Lord was in a foul mood due to a number of recent complaints from the poor people living within the city. Many of them had begun to grow ill and they blamed the illness on their poor living conditions, while the Duke, Duchess, and the rest within the royals' inner circle lived richly.
When the Duke still didn't speak, Gontard quietly cleared his throat to get his Lord's attention, though he knew the Duke knew he was there and finally, the Duke turned to his right hand, glaring as he asked coldly, "What are you waiting for? Since when have I ever made you wait for me to speak to you first upon coming to me with whatever information you're trying to tell me?"
Gontard nervously responded, "Never, My Lord. I'm sorry. It's just that your wife has received a letter back from Louis, saying that he is sending his four best musketeers here to Savoy to escort his sister back to Paris. They should be arriving here in two days time, or three, choose they choose to take the long road around."
"So, my wife is still insisting on going and went above my head in order to do so," the Duke answered angrily before suddenly throwing all that was lying on top of his desk onto the floor. "I told her now was a bad time to leave Savoy. And to have more musketeers come now, at a time like this..."
"Why is it that you wish for her to remain here?" Gontard asked in confusion. "I would think that now is an excellent time for her and your son to head to Paris to be with the King, especially seeing as the people here are only growing sicker and becoming more and more belligerent."
The Lord replied in frustration, "I told my wife that I did not have the time to escort her myself and that I need my men to remain here should the townspeople grow out of hand. Now these musketeers are coming here and you know how much I detest them. I still have the scar one of them forced upon me before I killed him. And I could see the look in the other musketeers' eyes when I visited Paris last. They know that I was responsible for having twenty of their men killed years ago."
The Duke's man nodded in understanding, then spoke again saying, "Maybe so, but you know that they will never go against their King and strike back against you. If they try, or if they try to be meddlesome in the affairs of our own people, we will put them in their place and you and your wife will convince Louis that we had no choice, but to have them arrested or even killed if it comes down to it for striking out against you."