Late into the morning, Aramis was bending over an unconscious woman showing early symptoms of this illness. Just as everyone else believed, he also thought at first that it was the plague spreading throughout these people, but eventually he was able to rule the plague out, as the musketeer discovered the symptoms of the illness that killed millions during the days of the Dark Ages, did not match what was killing the people here in Savoy. So far, no one had yet to die, but Aramis knew that death was only around the corner, for some.
It wasn't long after Aramis started looking over the latest victim, when a young man about his own age walked up from behind him carrying a tray within his hands, as he spoke up saying softly, "It's a pity that so many are becoming ill. Do you believe this is the plague?"
Without turning to look at him, Aramis quickly responded curtly, "Don't go around mentioning that word to anyone."
"Why not?" the man asked in confusion as he set the tray down on a table nearby. "It's not like I'm the only one thinking it. Everyone's afraid that the plague has come back."
"Perhaps so, but it isn't the plague," Aramis corrected the man finally. "The plague was known to have killed its victims much sooner than whatever this illness has done so far. A few have mentioned that their loved ones have been ill for days. In the Dark Ages, men, women, and children would come down with the disease in the morning, then would be dead before the sun sets in the same evening. The plague was far more rapid. This disease is taking far too long, among a few other symptoms, which leads me to believe that this illness is definitely not a disease, but a poison. Someone is killing these people, as I suspected."
The man now standing beside the musketeer replied, "Then, we can explain that to the soldiers standing guard outside of the barricades so that the rest of us don't need to risk becoming exposed."
Aramis shook his head as he continued wiping down the woman's body as the fever within her slowly started to take hold, then he answered, "The Duke's men will never believe the word of a musketeer, nor will the people safe outside of these barriers. Don't worry, my brothers and I will find whoever has done this, just as I will do whatever I can to try to save as many of us as I can."
"You don't believe you'll be able to save everyone?" the man asked calmly.
Aramis ignored him, but his face said all the man needed to know, so he nodded and then said again, "I came because I brought you some food. It isn't much, but some broth and stale bread. I noticed that you haven't eaten anything since you arrived here yesterday afternoon and you look exhausted. You should probably try to rest too if you can."
The musketeer still didn't stop what he was doing to turn around as he responded, "Thank you, though I am not very hungry. The people here need what little food you have more than I. And though I am tired, it isn't a lack of sleep that is the cause for my weariness. I'll rest when I am no longer needed."
"I see," the man replied as he reached down to pick up the tray again. "Well, let me know if you change your mind. I'll obviously be around. You're probably right not to eat my broth. As you discovered as soon as you walked into town, most of our food is either rotten or stale. And I never was a very good cook."
Within the sewers…
"I don't understand it Maude, why would you let that musketeer go free?" the old woman's son asked angrily once she woke up, having gone to bed the night before, before he could question her about her reasoning to let d'Artagnan go.
She looked at her son sadly as she answered, "Because it was the right thing to do. You used to know that once, Bernard."
The leader of the outcasts scoffed, then responded, "I used to, but times have changed and anyone working to protect the Duke are our enemies. That includes the musketeers. That boy is a threat to us."
"You're wrong, I'm not a threat to you, nor are my friends, unless you are the cause for the illness that's killing the men, women, and children above," d'Artagnan answered as he, Athos, and Porthos walked back into the tunnels, entering in through the same way he was shown out.
"Musketeers!" Bernard shouted in order to alert the rest of the gypsies to trouble. "Stop them!"
However, as they suddenly surrounded the soldiers, all of them wielding swords or pistols to defend themselves or attack, Maude swiftly called out, "You will not harm them! You must allow them to explain themselves!"
Her son tried to object saying, "I am our leader now, Maude, not you. It will be best for you to learn that. That boy brought his friends with him this time, to destroy us."
"You're wrong!" Athos finally cut in. "We're only here to talk. We promise, we mean you no harm."
"And what is it that you could possibly what from us?" another woman cried out. "Soldiers only kill, they don't care about what's right or fair."
Porthos responded, "And it seems neither do you."
D'Artagnan slowly lowered his sword, just as he had done before, then Athos and Porthos followed suit, trusting their friend knew what he was doing, and the young Gascon continued, "You see, we're not here to hurt here. We just wish to talk to you. We were hoping that you might know who would want to harm all of those people up there and who might have the ability to create such a poison that could cause such a horrendous disease."
"So, they were all poisoned," another man asked as the gypsies finally began to lower their own weapons as well.
"Actually, we still don't know that, but if it does turn out to be poison, we were hoping that you might know if anyone was capable of it," Athos said coldly, still not satisfied that he and his friends were out of danger. "It's obvious that you all still have eyes on the world above."
Bernard sneered as he replied, "Who else other than the Duke himself? He doesn't care about his people."
Porthos shook his head as he answered, "No, the Duke is a cold and evil man, but he would never kill his own people, at least not in a way such as this. If word were to get back to King Louis, then he would have the Duke arrested and the Duke… well he would no longer be the Duke."
"Our friend is right," Athos added, "The Duke would never risk losing everything no matter how much he despises his people. So the question remains, do any of you know who might risk something like this?"
Maude finally spoke again as she responded, "There are a lot of people in Savoy that hate the Duke and would love to make it appears as though he slaughtered his own people."
Porthos asked suspiciously, "Does that not include any of you?"
"Porthos please," d'Artagnan quickly replied.
"No, no, your friend is right," Maude answered calmly. "Many of our people would love to see the Duke brought down, but we do not have the resources to be able to create such a poison, enough to kill so many and we wouldn't want to. Not everyone above are guilty of having us tossed away. We have friends above. And as I told your young friend before, there are a few of us who are ill as well. We would never harm any of our own. Perhaps you should speak to another who might have reason to see Savoy crumble and fall. Someone, who has grown to become restless and perhaps ill herself, though ill of a different nature; the Duchess."