Love is the Most Selfish of All the Passions

Chapter 13

Porthos and d'Artagnan worked in silence on making a travois as quickly as they could, while Athos held Aramis, who remained barely conscious in his arms and carefully wiped him down so that he'd be able to get a better look at the wounds covering their friend's back and chest. Heat was radiating off of him and most of his wounds were deep. The musketeers could see that Aramis was dangerously ill and feared that he wouldn't be able to survive the three day journey back home, but they didn't let their fear stop them from doing everything they could for him in the very limited time they had before the surviving bandits and villagers tried to come after them.

Milady remained unconscious while tied to her husband's horse, so for now, they weren't worried about her. Once the travois was finally finished and was tied to Porthos' horse, Porthos walked over and knelt down beside his friends, then carefully lifted Aramis into his arms once again, laid him down against the travois and wrapped the rest of their blankets they carried with them over him in hope of keeping him warm. Afterward, they all mounted their horses and slowly began their trip back through the forest that they had seen so much of over the last several days.

They stopped twice to check on Aramis before finally coming to a final stop inside a small opening once night fell and they felt it was safe enough to do so. They unstrapped the travois from the horse, laid their friend down against the ground and then got started on prepping a fire for the night.

Porthos finally broke the silence that had fallen over them as he looked down at his friend sadly saying, "We never had the chance to find out who really was responsible for doing this to him. We didn't make them pay!"

Athos, who was sitting on the ground beside Aramis, looked over at Milady as she rested up against a tree, conscious, but in silence and cold as she looked away from her captors, then responded, "We'll find out who they were from her and if they weren't killed in today's battle, then we'll come back for them once we know that Aramis will be all right."

"That is if they don't come after us first," d'Artagnan replied as he came over to sit beside Aramis and then carefully lifted up one of his friend's arms to get a good look at the shackles that still restrained his wrists. "I think I can get these off of him, but…"

"But what?" Porthos asked in frustration when d'Artagnan cut himself off.

The young Gascon pulled out a small pouch and answered, "If I place just a tiny amount of gunpowder inside the locking pin mechanisms, then blow it, the shackles will break. However, it may hurt him even more."

Porthos shook his head until Athos spoke up responding, "Then, do it. I don't see we have any other options. We need to get them off of him."

"Do you really know what you're doing?" Porthos asked again as he glared at d'Artagnan.

"It was something my father taught me a long time ago, you know, in case something like this might ever come in handy," d'Artagnan replied. "It turns out that he was right."

Athos answered, "We trust you. I'm going over to have a chat with my wife… with Milady. Porthos, help him."

He nodded and then stated, "Good luck with her. Let me know if you want to knock her out again, but this time… allow me the satisfaction."

"I'd be happy to let him," Athos said as he walked over, then sat down again in front of the woman he once loved. "I don't really care that you tried to kill me as often as you have. I can't fully blame you for hating me because I treated you the way I did, but when you harm the people I care about in order to get to me, I can't forgive so easily. You are going to face trial before our King and then you will be executed for your crimes finally. I will not allow you to escape again. You should have left France when you had the chance."

"So your handsome, sad little friend said," she responded coldly. "He certainly looks terrible, doesn't he?"

Athos glared at her and then replied, "Aramis is going to be fine. He's stronger than I am. Always has been."

Milady looked at him as she spoke again saying, "Keep telling yourself that. You may actually start to believe it and then you'll only end up getting crushed when your brother in arms dies after all. We have a long and treacherous road ahead of us yet."

"Who is behind our attack that led to this, Milady?" Athos asked angrily as the sound of gunpowder blasted open the shackles. "Why did they capture Aramis and have him tortured?"

"I think you know me better than that," she whispered seductively into his ear. "It looks like your bandits and murderers are going to get away with killing one of your King's most valuable musketeers. What a shame. It's too bad that Adele won't be there to mourn his death too."

Athos stood up as he said, "So, the Cardinal is behind Adele's death as we suspected that he was."

Milady answered, "Yes, but you don't have any proof and I won't give you the confession in court that you need to bring Richelieu down. I don't care if that old fool brings himself down, but I will not help you. Now, I suggest you get back over to your friends now and leave me alone, so I can revel in the knowledge that my role in hurting the great Aramis is killing you a little too."

"I take it that that went well," Porthos stated sarcastically as Athos came back over to sit with them, then became despondent again as he looked down at his closest friend. "The kid was right about using the gunpowder. And to be honest, I don't think Aramis can really feel it when all the other wounds he's suffering from are much worse."

"You're probably right," Athos responded and then became angry because of the things Milady had said, despite trying not to let it bother him. "But he's going to be fine! We have to believe that."

D'Artagnan replied calmly, "Whatever Milady said to you, she's wrong. None of this is your fault, Athos. Aramis would be the first one to tell you so."

Porthos agreed and continued, "Besides, Milady just happened to be in the right place at the right time. This all started because of someone else. Those bandits did this because they were appointed to, by Richelieu."

"We don't know that for sure," d'Artagnan said. "I mean, it's probably true, but we have no way of proving it. Even if the bandits did survive the battle and they do come looking for us…"

"Don't… don't come… not me…" Aramis suddenly began to speak through his delirium. "They… they'll… die… no… for me…"

Athos and Porthos grabbed hold of him and held him down when Aramis started to thrash around from the fever until the fit ended, then Porthos quickly picked up the cloth and water flask so that he could continue to try to cool him down, despite the efforts not seeming to be of much help.

As he continued, Porthos spoke up sadly asking, "What is he saying? Does he really believe that he's not worth us risking our lives for him?"

Athos shook his head angrily as he answered, "Aramis doesn't believe he's worthy of being a musketeer any longer. Milady may have gotten to him, but that blasted letter he received before all of this is the real reason why this is happening. He blames himself for Adele, for falling in love with our Queen, he feels he betrayed us, and I believe the Cardinal somehow knows all of this, which is why he had someone forge the letter. He knew what the news of Adele's death would do to him and we are never going to be able to prove it, but Queen Anne can bring him down for sending an assassin to kill her. We will give Aramis the justice he deserves, one way, or another."

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