The sun was slowly setting on the evening of the King and Queen's big announcement of her pregnancy as Richelieu sat in his chambers in silence, perplexed by the brief scene he had witnessed moments afterward between Anne and the same musketeer, who not long ago had seduced the Cardinal's mistress Adele to get her to betray him for the musketeers.
It didn't take much for Richelieu to know what the scene had meant, but what troubled him was what was he to do with the knowledge? The affair between Anne and Aramis, could it be proved, would be enough to rid the Queen from the throne and have the musketeer arrested and executed for treason. However, he had no proof of this treason and therefore telling the King of it would be of no help to him. Louis naively trusted the Cardinal, but he loved and trusted his wife even more. If Anne were to deny the accusation, Louie would believe her over him.
Soon, one of his men in the Red Guards knocked on his door and entered, shaking the Cardinal from his thoughts as he asked in frustration, "What is it, Captain?"
The latest leader of the guards cleared his throat and then responded, "A man has just arrived from Marseille, Your Eminence; Count de Rochefort. Shall I show him in?"
"Yes, of course," Richelieu answered as he looked at the man with surprise at the man's arrival. "Let him in, let him in."
"Cardinal Richelieu, it's an honor to see you again," the man said coolly as he walked into the prominent man's chambers, then waited to speak again until the captain of the guards left and closed the door behind him. "It has been a long time."
The Cardinal stood up from behind his desk as he held out his hands in greeting and replied, "Indeed it has, but your timing couldn't be better. I could use a man with your cunning and skill, especially now."
Once Rochefort leaned down and gently kissed his hand, he straightened and asked, "What seems to be the trouble? I am always happy to be in your service."
"I have recently been caught acting on one of my less than moral schemes by the Queen, who now is holding my indiscretion over my head, should I step out of line again," Richelieu responded as he began to explain his predicament, as the man before him was just as unsavory as he was. "I have information that could help me get Anne dethroned and would rid me of one of my strongest enemies as well, a musketeer whom I believe you know; Aramis. However, I have no proof of what I saw and the King would never believe me over his Queen. This knowledge is of no use to me. How am I to do this?"
"You could find a way to discredit or get rid of Aramis in a way that Queen Anne would never be able to discover you had anything to do with it," the Count answered smugly. "You may not be able to use whatever this knowledge is that you have, but if you have knowledge of something else that could hurt this musketeer, use that instead to weaken him and then find someone who can finish him for you."
The Cardinal smiled at his friend as he realized he did indeed have a way to weaken Aramis in spirit, then he replied, "It just so happens that I know of the perfect way to do this. I always did love the way your foul mind works, Rochefort. You are a brilliant man. I will demote that man who let you in here and promote you as the new captain of my guards. I shall speak to the King about granting you a full pardon for your offenses against the musketeers, due to the information you have gathered that has helped me in stopping a plot to kill the King and Queen. Believe me, there are plenty of people whom I can easily frame in order to concoct this false ploy."
The Count smiled as well and then asked, "What is it that you wish for me to do in order to begin this musketeer's destruction?"
"Find me someone who can forge me a letter, a letter revealing that there was a witness to the heinous murder of my mistress by a troupe of bandits that committed this crime as she was traveling to my estate in the country," Richelieu responded coldly. "If I know him, as I believe I do, Aramis will surely blame himself for her death and will think twice about having a secret romance with Queen Anne. Once this is done, I shall come up with a plan that will end with his death. I have been waiting for the proper moment to make him pay for turning Adele against me."
"It's good to be home again," Count Rochefort said.
Mid afternoon the next day…
Many of the musketeers were relaxing at the tavern in town as they usually did when they actually had some down time between missions. Some were drinking, while some were playing cards, and others were wenching. Porthos was gambling while holding an attractive young wench on his lap, while Aramis sat beside him just watching the game currently being played between his companion and one of the Cardinal's guards. D'Artagnan sat across from Athos at another table nearby as they both shared a few rounds of drinks and talked amongst themselves, waiting for the Red Guard and his friends to start a fight by accusing Porthos of cheating, which they did at least three times a week as many of them were sore losers, though Porthos did deserve to be called a cheat because he did so from time to time.
The game between musketeer and guard lasted almost an hour when it was interrupted by a young messenger who ran in and handed Aramis a letter as he stated, "For you, Aramis. I don't know who it's from, but a man I never see before asked me to deliver this to you."
Aramis took the letter, pulled out a single coin from his pocket and handed it to the boy, then spoke saying, "Thank you, lad. Now, you better get out of here, before your father catches you neglecting your work again."
"Yes Sir, thank you, Aramis!" he shouted as he ran off, leaving the tavern, while the musketeer opened up the letter and began to read as his three loyal companions stopped what they were doing then to watch him.
From the look on Aramis' sudden saddened face, the musketeers could tell that whatever news had just come to their friend was not good and as soon as he finished reading, Aramis stood up from his chair, placed his hat on his head, then left the tavern without uttering a word. Athos, Porthos, and d'Artagnan moved from their seats and stood together, forgetting all about the game and the others in the room.
"It's not often I see that look on Aramis' face," Porthos said as he looked between his friends.
"Nor I," Athos answered worryingly. "The last time was just after he was forced to kill Marsac."
D'Artagnan asked, "What do you suppose that letter was about?"
Captain Treville walked through the door as Athos saw their captain enter and start to walk toward them, then he replied, "I'm not sure, but it looks like we may have to wait to find out. We may have been called for by the King and Queen."
"It's good to see that neither of you are participating in a card game that could lead to another fight," Treville stated as he joined them.
"We've been behaving today, Captain," Porthos responded.
Captain Treville nodded and then asked, "Where is Aramis?"
Athos covered for their missing comrade as he quickly answered, "He had some unexpected business to take care of. Is there something need from us, Sir?"
"The King has asked for each of you for a new assignment," Treville replied. "He will explain everything when you arrive at the palace. I don't know much about the mission myself. You three will have to fill Aramis in after, but I want the four of you on this. Is that understood?"
"Yes Sir," Athos responded as their Captain left the tavern, then their leader turned again to his friends. "What do you suppose the odds are that Richelieu isn't involved in whatever it is we're about to get ourselves into?"
D'Artagnan spoke up again as he answered, "I'd say not so good. After entrapping him to confess to the Queen's assassination attempt, he's surely planning to strike back against us."
Porthos smiled smugly as he replied, "Let him try. One day he'll learn that we can't be brought down so long as we remain together."