In a large and rowdy tavern in Marseille, known for its immoral reputation, men and women were busy doing what anyone does while at a tavern; drinking, gambling, and making love to the ladies of the night. It was a wicked place, where no decent man would step foot and where people travel to in order to find one willing to kill, for a pretty price.
Amongst the crowds, a group of men and a woman sat talking amongst themselves, though loud enough for anyone who was listening to be able to hear them without much difficulty, as one such person was from the shadows, sitting at a table in the far, dark corner of the room. It was obvious these patrons were at the tavern for more than just a few drinks or to lay down with the wenches and when the words the figure in the shadows was waiting to hear were spoken, the stranger, wearing a gold cross around his neck, stood up and walked over, then waited for one of them to address him.
The woman amongst the rest was the first to speak up as she looked at the man standing before them and asked, "You're either a fool, or man who isn't afraid of death, which is what you are about to receive for walking over here tonight of all nights, father. You may be a man of God, as that cross you're wearing is unmistakable, and quite handsome, but your looks and whatever charm you may have won't help you any, so whatever you want, better be real good."
The stranger, unshaken by the intended warning, smiled as he responded, "I'm no priest, though I should have been. I've heard rumors of a possible, upcoming assassination, as I understand that there has been a request for one to complete the task of making sure Cardinal Richelieu does not live past the King's birthday. If the job is still open, you needn't look any further. I'm here to answer your call. I hear tell that you gentlemen, and lady, are those seeking this task to be done, am I right?"
"You're clearly a fool," the woman answered again as she and the others sitting around the table began to laugh, while multiple musket hammers being pulled back in preparation to fire sounded, the stranger knowing that their weapons were being aimed in his direction. "However, I'm curious to hear how you came by this information, so please, have a seat."
"I am a fool unafraid to die," the stranger replied smugly as he remained standing, the smile on his face fading as he continued on with the conversation. "I've been through hell and back and it's mostly due to the Cardinal's actions, which I have been waiting patiently to repay him for, should the right opportunity come knocking. It has, so I'm here. Tell me I'm wrong."
One of the men responded disbelievingly, "You have guts, priest. I'll give you that, but how do we know that you're really speaking the truth? After all, for all we know, you are one of the Cardinal's guards, who heard of our plans because someone among us opened their mouth to the wrong people."
The stranger opened his coat, lifted his shirt, and then turned around, revealing multiple scars from a severe whipping across his back, then turned to face them again to reveal an ugly wound in his left shoulder, as well as a few more lashes across his chest, and he finally spoke again saying coldly, "Richelieu is responsible for this being done to me, as well as much, much more. I am not, nor was I ever one of the Cardinal's Red Guards, so believe me when I say, I hate the man with my whole soul and will fight through hell itself again in order to make the bastard pay for destroying my life. You want him dead, I can make that happen. What do you say?"
"I say, let's see what you've got," the woman answered as a smile appeared on her face, then invited the stranger to have a seat once again. "If we like what we see, then you have yourself a job. What is it we should call you?"
"For now, you can just continue to call me whatever you like," the stranger replied as he finally sat down as the woman asked. "If we become friends, as I hope we will, you may eventually be able to call me by my real name."
Four days earlier…
Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d'Artagnan were busy fighting against a group of men and women who had recently entered into Paris and started a riot when attempting to rob the Cardinal's carriage on his way back to the palace after mass. The robbery was thwarted due to the musketeers being nearby accompanying the King and Queen, who were escorted ahead by Captain Treville and more of his men, as well as soldiers of the Red Guard. It didn't take long before the fight was over, the soldiers being the victors.
The attack was bold and once three of the five thieves were dead on the ground, one from a musket ball to his neck, the others having been killed by the sword, the survivors' hands were tied behind their backs so that Treville's men could escort them to the Bastille, then Athos spoke up as he was riding his horse alongside his comrades saying, "Something isn't right."
Porthos looked skeptically over at their leader as he scoffed, "Why, because you think that was too easy? Not all of our fights have to be difficult, Athos. We've had plenty of simple battles, some of which have taken half the time it took for us to wipe these thieves out."
"I think Athos means that it seems odd that such a small group of thieves would come and try to rob the Cardinal while on his way back from mass, being surrounded by a large number of soldiers," Aramis responded, while he gently rubbed his left shoulder, which was still bothering him since he was nearly fatally wounded only a month ago, the action not going unnoticed by his friends. "Most thieves are smart enough to work with fewer witnesses."
"Aramis is right," Athos answered as he turned his head to look back at the prisoners behind them. "And these two don't look dumb to me; foolish, but not dumb. Something else is going on."
D'Artagnan nodded his head in agreement as he replied, "If that's true, then we're going to need to talk with them in private once we get them to the Bastille, as I don't think they're much up to talking to us right now. However, I doubt Richelieu will let this happen, seeing as he was their supposed target. He'll send Rochefort right away."
Porthos responded, "Then, we'll just have to convince them to talk to us first, before the Count arrives. I'm certainly up to a good old fashioned interrogation."
"Me too," Athos answered smugly. "Anything to get one up on both Richelieu and Rochefort."