Love is the Most Selfish of All the Passions

Chapter 11

Disguised as peasants, Porthos walked into the closest village nearby in hope of finding his closest friend, while Athos and d'Artagnan walked into the second village so that they would be able to save time. Unfortunately, Aramis was not in either community, or the bandits that attacked them, only starving men, women, and children who all despised King Louis because he did not care for them the way a king should. The musketeers understood the people's anger and felt it themselves, but never spoke of it except amongst each other alone.

Morning came again when the three companions finally met up after splitting off, only to become more disappointed when each shared that their friend's whereabouts was still unknown. It had been a day since Aramis had disappeared before their eyes beneath the raging river and the longer it took for them to find him, the more worried they grew that all they would find would be nothing more than his body.

Athos spoke again saying, "We still have one more village to search and if he isn't there…"

D'Artagnan finished for him, "If he isn't there, then we may just have to accept that Aramis is gone."

"Don't you dare presume that Aramis is dead!" Porthos stated angrily as he shoved the youngest musketeer up against a tree that stood behind him. "He isn't dead! He is out here somewhere and we will find him. Won't we, Athos?"

"Porthos, d'Artagnan didn't mean it," Athos answered as he gently took hold of his friend and pulled him away. "You're right, we will find him."

Porthos turned his head to look at the man he saw as their leader and nodded, then responded, "We should get going. God knows what our bandits have done to him by now."

Suddenly, the musketeers were surprised by a young girl wearing a hood over her head when she stepped out from behind a tree as she said softly, "You are the musketeers who rode with the one who gave me his money three days ago, aren't you?"

"You're the young thief we let go," Athos replied as he removed the covering from off his own head so that she could see him, as did Porthos and d'Artagnan. "How did you find us and why did you come after us?"

"I came looking for you because your friend needs your help," she quickly answered as she pulled off her hood when she knew that she had found the men she had been searching for.

Porthos moved closer to her as he asked anxiously, "You've seen Aramis?"

She nodded nervously as she responded, "The people from my village have taken him captive and are torturing him as we speak. He was still alive when I left him last night, but barely. I don't think he can last much longer."

"You need to take us to him," Athos replied more forcefully than he meant to be. "Please."

"I can't go back there," she spoke again. "But you've been searching the villages outside of the forest. I saw the two of you and hoped that I finally found you. You only have one left. You'll find him there. There's a loose board in the far left corner of the perimeter surrounding the community that you'll be able to slip into without being seen by the guards up on the gate, then you can blend in with the rest of them."

D'Artagnan looked at her when she began to walk away as he asked, "Why are you helping us?"

She turned back as she answered quietly, "Because, he helped me when he didn't have to. And seeing him last night… You have to know something. He begged me not to go looking for you. He is afraid you will all die trying to rescue him and if you go into my village, you will be sorely outnumbered. He's ready to die. I've seen the look on his face before, just before my own mother took her own life after my father started beating her."

"I've also seen that look before," Athos responded sadly as she ran off again, leaving the three friends alone. "We're musketeers and we don't just fight for our King and country, but for each other as well. We won't let Aramis die, certainly not so long as he believes he's no longer of worth."

"You're darn right," Porthos replied angrily. "Aramis took that bullet for me and held on to that tree root as long as it took for me to make it up over that cliff's edge. These thieves and murderers will not get away with the pain they've inflicted on him, I swear it."

D'Artagnan looked between his friends as he stated, "As do I."

Athos remounted his horse, the other musketeers following suit, and then said, "And I. We need to hurry."

In the village…

"I can see whatever spirit you had inside of you is fading fast, but you only have to hold on just a little longer until Athos and the others arrive," Milady spoke as she gently wiped a cold, wet rag across Aramis' face, neck, and finally across his chest, hoping to keep down the fever that was now raging throughout his body the closer he became to death.

"You wo… won't kill… the… them," he answered weakly without even trying to lift his head. "They are stron… ger than… me."

She stopped moving as she stared at him and then responded cruelly, "That's true, but when the musketeers see your broken, lifeless body, they will crumble. They will try to avenge you, Aramis, but they will lose. Everyone here hates you musketeers even more than they hate King Louis himself. And though they may be drunk, they are far more than the three coming for you. I will kill you and then I will kill Athos once and for all."

When Aramis didn't say anything more, she continued, "I told Richelieu's men that I wouldn't kill you before they come, but I really don't think you can hold out any longer. Would you like me to end your suffering?"

"You should leave… leave… Paris," the musketeer replied defiantly. "Or he… he... will ki… kill you."

"No he won't," Milady said, then she pulled out her dagger and held it tightly against his throat as she roughly pulled his head up by his hair, forcing him to look at her. "I understand you are the spiritual one. I suggest you prepare yourself to die. It's almost time."

All of a sudden, she thrust the blade deep into his shoulder where the musket ball had already caused damage and swiftly pulled it back out again, finally causing him to cry out in pain. She smiled as she wiped his blood off by wiping the blade off with his shirt which had been discarded when his whipping began. Then, without another word, she got up and walked out of the prison as she dropped the bloodied shirt on the ground in front of him, leaving him alone one last time to suffer in silence until it was time for death to claim him.

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