"What are we doing, Athos?" Porthos asked forcefully as the three musketeers regretfully walked away from their friend still trapped within the barriers, rushing through the soldiers, guards, and the rest of the onlookers standing throughout the streets as they observed their own friends and neighbors being herded and penned up like cattle. "Where are we going? I'm not abandoning him."
"Neither am I," Athos answered curtly as he continued onward, without looking back at his friends as they followed after their leader. "Aramis asked us to find the kid who picked up his medical bag when the soldiers rushed him and caused him to drop it. And I think I might know who our thief is and where he disappeared to."
D'Artagnan looked at him in confusion as he asked, "How do you know this? It's not like we saw this kid."
Athos stopped short upon coming upon an alleyway, then continued on until they reached the dead end as he replied, "When we first came into this city, I noticed this kid pickpocketing a coin purse from off of some bystander, then slip down this vacant alley. I saw him again when I realized he was following us as we continued on toward the palace. However, he stopped following us as soon as Aramis split off from us to help the sick. I didn't think much of it at the time, but…"
"You're thinking the kid you saw and the kid Aramis saw take his bag are one in the same," d'Artagnan finished for him. "Sounds right, but why down here? There's nothing at the end of this alley."
"That's not true," Athos responded as he moved to stand in front of a partially open sewer grate in the far wall in front of them.
Porthos glared at their leader as he stated in unbelief, "You can't be series. How are we supposed to find this kid now? We can't exactly follow after him now, can we?"
The young Gascon quickly answered, "I can. I'm small enough to fit. I'm just not totally crazy about going into the sewers alone, not knowing my way around and without knowing what I'll be running into."
"We don't exactly have a choice, d'Artagnan," Athos replied out of worry for the young man he had come to take under his wing. "Aramis needs his supplies. I trust you."
"And so do I," Porthos responded in agreement. "Be careful down there and find that bag, then find Aramis and get it back to him as soon as possible."
Athos nodded, then said quickly, "You'll find us at the palace, trying to confront the Duke again, and trying to explain to the Duchess and her son why we can't escort them back to Paris just yet."
Porthos scoffed, "This ought to be fun."
Down inside the sewer…
The newest musketeer struggled as he made his way down into the vast space hidden beneath the streets of Savoy as the tunnels were extremely dark, tight, damp and foul smelling, almost making it impossible for him to breathe. Finally he arrived into a large room within the sewer and stopped in order to collect himself before continuing on, not only to shake off the shivers that ran through his veins, but also to check on his one pistol and blades he carried on him, just to make sure that they were all still on him and intact.
"I will kill Athos if he's wrong about this thief coming down here," d'Artagnan whispered to himself as he cautiously continued on, listening for any sounds that might lead him to find anyone living down within the sewers.
Thankfully, it didn't take long before he was able to find what he was looking for, not because of voices echoing among the walls, but because of a dim light shining from the distance. As he slowly approached the open room, the young musketeer discovered the lights were from lit torches hanging on the walls and that at least a dozen men, women, and children were living within. Finding and taking back Aramis' bag was not going to be easy as he could see that these thieves were thieves because they were clearly outcasts among those living above.
"Gypsies," d'Artagnan groaned quietly to himself once again. "That's just great."
Before d'Artagnan could make a move, someone from across the room suddenly cried out, "We've got an intruder!"
Another shouted, "Capture him! We need to find out who he is and how he found his way down here!"
"Listen, I've just come to talk!" the musketeer quickly stated as he drew his sword and stood tall to fight off the three men that moved in to attack him, but only fought to hold them back, hoping not to have to hurt anyone. "Please, I'm only looking for something that was stolen from one of my companions. It's a matter of life and death."
"That's funny, so isn't what you're here for a matter of life and death for us as well," a young man no older than the musketeer answered as he walked forward, a smug smile worn upon his face, while d'Artagnan quickly became surrounded. "He's one of the musketeers I was telling you all about."
D'Artagnan replied, "And you're the kid who stole my friend's bag. I need it back. The people above are very sick, as you all must know by now, and are trapped inside barricades put up by your Duke's men. Without the medical supplies within that bag, all of them could die, including my friend, who was only there in the first place in order to try to help them."
A man appearing to be the thieves' leader moved out into the open as he responded, "The Duke is not who we choose to allow lead us, which is the reason why we are down here."
"That, and because the Duke tried to have us killed just because we're gypsies," a woman called out angrily. "We've been forced to become thieves."
"And the people above are not the only ones that are sick," the leader continued. "We need the medicine from your friend's bag as much as they do. Is he a physician?"
D'Artagnan kept his eyes focused on the men surrounding him as he answered, "How about you order your friends here to stand down and then we can talk?"
The man motioned for the soldier's attack to stand down, the d'Artagnan slowly lowered his sword and finally slid it back into its scabbard, then spoke again saying, "My name is d'Artagnan and no, my friend is not a physician. He's a soldier, the same as me and our other companions, but he knows how to treat the sick and the wounded nonetheless. If you help me, he can help you too, but he needs his supplies if he's going to be able to figure out what this sickness is spreading around."
"I'm afraid that's not possible," the man replied coldly. "When my son overheard your companion talk about remaining behind to try to help those people, he acted impulsively when he stole the bag, but you have only the Duke for that, the very man you've sworn to protect along with your King's sister."
"I may be sworn to the crown and to protect the Duke and Duchess, but believe me when I say that I do not trust him, nor feel any respect for him," the musketeer responded sincerely.
The leader's son called out, "He's a liar!"
His father grinned as he looked over at his son and stated, "I think you're right. I think my son is right, d'Artagnan, is it? I suggest you do something to prove to me that you are speaking the truth, or you're as good as dead, and so is your trapped friend fighting to save those worthless men and women above, who are just as guilty as those royals who forced us down here. What are you willing to do to save your life, d'Artagnan?"