Athos and Porthos arrived once again at the palace, finding that the Duchess and her son were waiting for the musketeers within the gardens. As they rode in and approached her, the woman stood from where she was sitting on a bench in front of the fountain, looking very unhappy and impatient, while her son continued running around the fountain in play.
She spoke first in frustration before the soldiers could apologize saying, "I asked you to come here to take care of me and my son while we travel to Paris, not worry about the troubles going on down in a city that isn't your own."
The two men bowed before her after dismounting from their horses, then Athos replied, "Forgive us, My Lady. You're right, you did ask us to come here, but I'm afraid that the troubles here in Savoy do concern us now, making it impossible for us to escort you back to visit your brother at this time."
"What are you talking about?" the Duchess asked angrily. "You have your orders from the King, my brother, himself. I wish for me and my son to leave here, now."
"Yes, what is the delay?" the Duke asked just as impatiently as he and Gontard walked over to them upon realizing that his wife and son had yet to leave as planned. "I told you all to leave immediately."
Porthos glared at the man as he responded, "With all due respect, My Lord, we won't leave while one of our brothers is trapped within the barricades you ordered your men to put up to keep those that are ill from the rest of the population. How could you do that to your own people when they are all pleading for your help? You're leaving them all to die, instead of doing anything to save them!"
Athos cut in before his friend could say something he would regret, as he continued, "As we told you before, our friend is trying to help your people, trying to figure out what the illness is that is spreading among them. Now his life is at stake and we cannot leave him behind. Your people need someone to help them and Aramis will never agree to leave them, even if you were to allow us to collect him. I suggest you remain here where you will all be safe, but if you wish for us to bring you someplace else close by, for better comfort, then we can do so."
The Duke spoke again answering, "My people are none of your concern. You will follow your orders and leave."
"We will not abandon Aramis!" Athos replied firmly as he moved to stand directly in front of the Duke, no longer caring if he was crossing the line. "Forgive of us for our insolence, My Lord, but our duty to each other is just as important to us as is our duty to our King, Queen, and country. If you wish to write a letter to King Louis stating your problem, feel free, but a letter will take days to reach him and I'm betting you won't, that is if you do not want him or Queen Anne to learn of your lack of concern for your people."
"I respect your courage to stand up to us in order to protect your friend, gentlemen," the Duchess responded quickly before her husband could begin to shout over the musketeers' threat. "I wish for you to take my son and me to our cottage, down by the lake, only a few miles from here. We will be more comfortable there and that way you can remain close by if you insist on doing so. My husband and Gontard will help you try to find out what this sickness is and where it came from."
Porthos looked over at his friend as Athos nodded, then motioned for Porthos to help the Duchess and her son into the carriage, while he continued speaking with the Duke saying quietly, "What is it that you're hiding, My Lord? Why do you wish for us to leave Savoy so quickly?"
The Duke answered coldly, "I don't like your insinuation, just as I despise you musketeers. I don't have to answer to any of you. You may be staying here on request of my wife, but do not dare accuse me of…"
"Accuse you of what, poisoning your own people?" Athos asked as he glared at the man that had nearly killed Aramis once already and quite possibly may do so again.
"I am not behind this!" the Duke shouted. "All I did was order my men to put up the barricades in order to prevent the rest of Savoy from falling ill and dying as well. Surely you would do the same. It's possible that this illness could be the plague and if that's true, there will be nothing your friend will be able to do to help them. Most of the people inside are as good as dead."
Porthos joined Athos again as Athos replied, "Possibly, but if there is a way to save them, our brother will find it and if we discover that you are responsible for their deaths, especially his, then we will bring you down, no matter what may happen to us."
Porthos agreed as he responded, "Your wife being our King's sister will not protect you forever."
Inside the barricades…
Aramis was sitting over a young boy lying deathly ill in his bed, checking over his vitals and observing the jaundiced condition of his skin. Without saying a word to those standing or sitting around him while he worked, the musketeer picked up a wet rag from within a water bucket lying nearby on the ground, then slowly and tenderly began to wipe the boy's chest and brow in order to begin to try to bring down the fever, fearing that it won't do him much good unless he could figure out what was causing the illness in the first place.
"What is happening to my son?" a woman asked fearfully as she sat down on the boy's bedside across from the musketeer. "Are you a physician, Monsieur?"
"No Ma'am, I'm not, but I know a little of medicines and I know how to treat the wounded," Aramis answered sadly. "I promise you, I will do all I can to help your boy, as well as the rest of those here that are sick."
A man from behind him spoke replying angrily, "What makes you think we want your help, musketeer? It's because of you that we're all stuck in here, herded up like pigs and cattle and forced to die like dogs."
Another man cried out, "What do you mean, we're here because of him? He's stuck inside these barriers, just like we are."
"I don't actually mean it was him, but it was because of the Duke's soldiers and guards under the Duke's orders and this man is a soldier sworn to protect and obey the man's orders," the man responded coldly. "He's no better than they are."
"I may be sworn to protect the Duke, but I am also sworn to protect the people anywhere my orders take me, which is exactly what I will do here, in any way that I can," Aramis answered genuinely. "I may have been forced inside these barricades like the rest of you, but I am choosing to remain despite my brothers' pleas for me to escape with them. Please, allow me to help you!"