Cura Te Ipsum

Chapter 9

Throughout the night, barely anyone within Savoy slept as the troubles within the city affected them all in different ways. Aramis tended to the sick ever since he arrived with no more than a moment's rest, while his companions camped on a hilltop overlooking the town. The three spent most of the night talking, mostly because they were afraid, not only for their friend's welfare, but also for the welfare of all those who live within Savoy, whose lives will be irrevocably changed, just as the massacre changed the lives of the musketeers.

The Duke of Savoy paced back and forth within his palace out of worry himself, though not for the people under his care and protection, but for his own wellbeing. Should so many of his people die from this sickness spreading like wildfire, word would get back to his wife's brother in Paris and the childish and petty King would no doubt find him unfit to be the Duke any longer. It wasn't because he caused the sickness, but because the Duke understand he was to blame for it, as he suspected that someone he knew caused this mess to begin with.

When morning arose, a letter arrived at the palace for the Duke from a messenger sent by his wife, a letter which she spent most of the night trying to write, wording it carefully so that there wouldn't be any room for error or misinterpretation. When he finished reading the letter to himself, the Duke crumpled the letter in his hand and began to seethe in anger, his eyes turning fierce.

"What was in the letter that has you so angry, My Lord?" Gontard asked finally as he reached out in attempt to take the letter so that he'd be able to read it himself, though the Duke pulled back before he could take it. "Are your wife and son alright?"

"They're perfectly fine," the Duke replied coldly. "It appears that the Cardinal and King Louis kept something of grave importance from me back when I had those vile musketeers killed in their sleep five years ago when they came to try to assassinate me."

Gontard looked at him in confusion as he stated, "I don't understand. What could they have possibly hidden? All of the men sent here were killed and their attempt was thwarted."

The Duke answered angrily, "Apparently not all of the men. It appears that one musketeer survived my attack, the very musketeer who wounded me that evening and left me with the scar upon my back."

The Duke's right hand finally grabbed hold of the letter which read, Dearest husband, I fear I have grave news that I found to be of great importance, which I know you will want to hear. Upon mine and our son's journey to our cottage, I overheard the musketeers speak and though I could not make out all of what they spoke of, I did hear them talk of one of their companions, the one who remained in the city to take care of our people. I fear this man was one of the musketeers involved in your assassination attempt within the woods five years ago. It appears that not all of them were killed as you were led to believe. One of them also mentioned that this man was the very man who was very nearly successful in killing you when he gave you your scar. I tell you this, not to worry you, but because I still care for you. Let this be my way of proving my love and loyalty to you.

"I don't believe it," Gontard responded in surprise. "If this is true, what reason would the Cardinal have for keeping such a secret and why not have the massacre's lone survivor executed for his crime? Those men were traitors to their King and country."

"None of that really matters much to me at this moment," the Duke replied and then took a few moments to think. "I have been living these five years under the impression that every one of them died, including the one that nearly succeeded. If he is indeed alive and once again here in Savoy, then I want to meet him, face to face."

Gontard quickly objected answering, "But My Lord, right now this man is currently working to save our people from this sickness. You yourself said that their deaths would bring nothing, but trouble. If he can save them…"

The Duke nodded as he responded, "Perhaps you're right, Gontard. But when he's though, whether he saves my people or not, I want him brought here to me immediately. I wish to meet my would be assassin, just so that I will be able to look him in the eyes as I stab him through his heart with his own sword."

Meanwhile…

D'Artagnan sat upon the hill as he finished eating the food he had prepared for himself and his two companions while he looked out over the city, his back to the others, who were currently busy cleaning their pistols and muskets, in case a fight should break out. The boy appeared distracted as he attempted to clean his own weapons, so Athos offered to do so for him, mainly in hope that it would give him something to do to help him keep his mind off of the trouble that lie ahead. It didn't work as well as the older man hoped it would, not that he really expected it to.

"What seems to be troubling you now, other than the obvious that is?" Porthos asked as he stood and moved to stand beside the Gascon, then finally took a seat again at his right.

"Nothing," he replied shortly after he turned his head to look at the larger man. "I mean, nothing besides the obvious. I was just thinking."

Athos spoke up in his usual collected manner from behind them as he asked, "Are we going to have to keep beating around the bush or are you actually going to explain?"

Both men looked back at Athos, then d'Artagnan continued, "I am just trying to think of a reason why someone would want to poison all of Savoy, that is if that's what happened."

"You're right, it doesn't appear to make much sense," Athos answered. "I've been trying to think of a reason as well and so far, I have nothing."

"Maybe someone simply has it out for the Duke and figures the best way to punish him would be to have as many of his people killed as possible," Porthos responded as he pulled out his flask from underneath his coat and took a large swig. "It's no secret that the man would most likely lose his power and position as Duke should Louis find him to be unfit."

D'Artagnan shook his head in confusion as he stated, "That's a stretch."

Athos spoke up again saying, "It's also possible that we're blowing all of this out of proportion and that this sickness could be just the plague as the Duke believes it to be. As musketeers, we've seen plenty of treachery all done out of revenge and the quest for power and riches. There may be no crime here at all."

"I'm not so sure what I prefer it to be more, the plague or poison?" Porthos replied fearfully. "I mean, if it's the plague, there will be nothing to cure and there's good chance that Aramis will become sick as well, but if it's poison…"

"If it's poison, then our killer will most likely try to kill Aramis once he or she discovers our friend is doing whatever he can to stop his plans by saving the people," Athos continued for the larger man. "Either way, Aramis is in terrible danger, which is why we must figure out how to help him as soon as possible."

D'Artagnan looked back at their leader again and then asked, "What do you think we should do now?"

Athos answered, "I think it's time Porthos and I meet these gypsies you mentioned living beneath Savoy's streets. It's evident that they hate the Duke, so the question that remains is, do they know anything about this that might help lead us to the truth, or is it possible that they might be angry enough at the Duke and the people living above their sewers, who cast them out of the city, that they might be behind everything?"

"I suppose it is possible, but I explained to them that we have a friend trying to save everyone and that we're trying to find out the truth," d'Artagnan stated in confusion. "Why would they let me go? Besides, a few of them are sick as well and they want me to bring Aramis back down with me as soon as he can get away."

"You said it yourself," Athos responded as he finally stood and walked over to join his friends. "You were only set free after the old woman intervened and talked them into setting you free. It's possible she doesn't know what some of the others among them might have done."

Porthos quickly spoke up again worryingly, "I didn't even consider that the gypsies might be a threat. And you told them about Aramis. What if they decide to make sure that no one can stop them? They could try to have someone slip inside the barricades in order to kill Aramis. We have to warn him."

Athos walked over to his horse and remounted, then said, "Don't worry, Porthos. Aramis knows how to take care of himself. He'll be alright."

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