Cura Te Ipsum

Chapter 20

Aramis slowly began to struggle to get up, despite not having the strength to do so, until Porthos sat down beside him and gently pushed him back against the bed and pillows beneath him. The larger man didn't have to wrestle with him for long as Aramis' strength quickly gave out.

"I… need… help them… the peop… people," Aramis tried to say weakly after he lay his head back against the pillows and closed his eyes. "Bell… adonna… We need… bella… donna to save…."

"You need to rest, Aramis," Porthos interrupted him as he gently patted his friend's shoulder to try to calm him down. "Please, don't worry so much. The others are taking care of the people in the city. You told us what they needed. Everyone's going to be just fine, you'll see."

As he slowly began to lose consciousness once again, Aramis answered sadly, "Not ever… every… one."

Aramis was referring to those who had already died, mainly the small boy he couldn't save, though neither Porthos nor Treville understood what he was talking about as they looked between each other sadly, then finally the Captain spoke up again saying, "It looks like you've got things under control here. We'll discuss all of this when I return with the others after I go out to meet up with them, but before I do, I'm going to have a word with the Duchess."

"That might not be such a good idea, Captain," Porthos responded nervously as he pulled the key to unlock the door of her room and handed it over to him. "She's angry and not exactly in the mood to talk."

"I can imagine," Treville replied as he walked toward the door, but turned back to look at two of the men within his regiment. "Do whatever you have to do to save him, Porthos. The King will be furious over his own sister following in their mother's footsteps and the death of her husband. I'm not sure how he'll react, but I have no doubt that he'll punish the four of you for allowing this to happen, not that you did. The Cardinal will see to that. I promise you I will do all I can to protect you. I know that you all did what you could to stop this, especially if the belladonna saves those that have fallen ill. As far as I'm concerned, the four of you are among the bravest and most valiant men I know."

Porthos nodded, then turned back to Aramis as Captain Treville left and slowly made his way down the hall to find the Duchess. When he unlocked the door and stepped inside the room, the Captain found Louis' sister lying on the bed, but not sleeping, only staring up at the ceiling until she was interrupted.

The woman sat up and stared at the Captain of the musketeers as he walked forward and then spoke up saying, "Hello again, my Lady."

"Captain Treville, I wasn't expecting to see you for some time," she said coolly.

"I came because I heard about the trouble and knew that I was needed here, not in Paris," Treville answered despondently as he took a seat in a chair across from her. "I want to understand, Christine. Why did you do all of this? How could you have your own people poisoned, as well as set up both my man and your husband to die?"

The Duchess' eye grew cold as she responded, "How dare you address me so informally. To you, I am still a duchess, even if it won't be so days from now."

The Captain replied, "You were always Christine under better circumstances and even if Louis chooses to grant you pardon for your crimes, I will never see you again as the gentle woman I honored and respected. Please help me to understand why you've done this."

"As I explained to your men, I was tired of living here in Savoy," the Duchess answered angrily. "I long to return home, to Paris where I can raise my son as I was raised, with a father who will love him and no longer with a father who cared more about his title and land. I loved him deeply, but his priorities were not about me and our son and these people mean nothing to me. None of them care that I am their Duchess, or that I am even sister to their King. Why should I care what happens to them?"

"I had no idea how cold you really were," Treville responded as he stood again. "But then again it seems you have fooled us all. So, the Duke didn't show his love and your people don't have any respect for you, but my men did and they risked their lives to make sure that your husband never learned of the truth about you being Louis' spy. The man dying in the other room has suffered for years to make sure that your secret has been kept safe and you repay him like this. I suggest you ask God to spare his life. Doing so may be the only mercy you shall see for years to come, should your brother spare your life. I will check in with you again when I return. Good day, my Lady."

She watched him leave the room and listened for the sound of the door locking again, then she spoke up to herself saying, "Goodbye, Captain Treville."

Inside the city…

Athos and d'Artagnan finally had the belladonna collected with help from the spice vendor and they made their way throughout the streets until they walked into the area of the city that had been under quarantine until just a few hours before. Upon entering, several people began to cry out at them in anger like when they had arrived. Nonetheless, they kept walking until they came upon the first home containing another small child who had been poisoned.

One of the household members walked up to them as she said bitterly, "I thought we made it clear to the other musketeer that you were no longer welcome here. Leave now, or…"

"We believe we have the cure for the poison," Athos swiftly interrupted. "Our companion figured it out. There's a chance that it may not work, but… if we don't try, then your child and the rest of you will die anyway. Please, give us the chance."

"If you believe you can truly save my daughter's life, then I am willing to allow you to try," the woman replied, hopeful that the musketeers were speaking the truth.

D'Artagnan stepped forward and knelt down beside the little girl lying so near death, then pulled out a small vile from his coat pocket, tipped it over on his finger, then carefully dabbed the liquid upon her lips so that she would be able to absorb and swallow it easier. Silence filled that part of the city as everyone around waited nervously to see if the liquid was indeed the cure that would be able to save everyone else. Finally, the long moments passed as the young child slowly began to stir, then opened her eyes as she searched for her mother. The woman cried softly as she reached down and pulled her daughter into her arms, then looked over at the two soldiers that had just saved her only child and smiled at them in thanks, and continued on to weep joyfully.

D'Artagnan looked over at Athos after watching the moment in silence, then whispered, "Aramis was right. He just saved the rest of these people."

Athos nodded as he let out a sigh of relief, then looked at his comrade as well as he answered, "Yes, he did. And now we can save him as well. We need to hurry and give the antidote to everyone else, then get back to him."

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