Love is the Most Selfish of All the Passions

Chapter 15

Captain Treville started toward the palace once he and his musketeers finished making sure that all of their prisoners were safely within prison walls. As he was about to climb the stairwell leading up to the main palace doors, Athos suddenly came riding into the fountain square, dismounted, and then walked to meet up with the man he has looked up to for many years.

Treville spoke first saying, "I thought you and the others were going to stay behind with Aramis. I can report to Louis without you."

"Staying with Aramis is where I want to be, but I realized that our King will want a full report from one of us," the musketeer answered sadly. "Porthos and d'Artagnan are still with him."

"Good," the captain replied. "So, what did happen out there?"

As they walked into the corridors, Athos responded, "After three days into our search, we were attacked by a large group of bandits, some of whom we now believe were disguised to keep us from discovering that they were actually members of the Cardinal's guards, up on a cliff overlooking the river. We were fine until Aramis took a musket ball to his shoulder saving Porthos. They both fell over the cliff, but Aramis managed to grab hold of a root and held on long enough for Porthos to climb back up, though Aramis wasn't so lucky. He fell into the river, the bandits who survived found him first and took him, then tortured him. Milady was hiding in their village because they're no friends of the musketeers. She had a hand in his torment, as did the Cardinal, though we can no longer prove it before Louis."

Treville nodded and then answered, "Cardinal Richelieu always knows how to cover his tracks. One day, we will see him brought down, but for now…"

"Ah, Captain Treville and Athos, you all have finally returned," Richelieu stated coolly as he walked over to them once they arrived outside of the palace's main hall where the King and Queen were waiting for the musketeers to come with an update about the possible threat against their lives. "We all feared for your well beings when you did not send word as expected."

"We appreciate the sentiment, Your Eminence," Treville replied as Athos only glared at the man he knew to be fully responsible for his friend's physical and emotional torment. "Shall we proceed with the meeting then?"

The Cardinal smiled as he responded, "Yes, indeed."

As they walked inside, the King spoke up as he said, "Athos, at last you're back, and Treville, I didn't expect you to leave after them with a large number of my musketeers. Something could have happened to me or my wife while you were gone and you wouldn't have been here to…"

"Louis, the captain was doing his duty for his men," Queen Anne interrupted, anxious to hear the report. "It isn't like he left us unprotected. We were perfectly safe."

"As usual, my Queen is right," Louis answered as he took her hand within his, then waited for the musketeers to continue.

Captain Treville spoke up saying, "Forgive me, Your Highness. Your Queen is right. I was performing a duty to my men when I feared that they had run into trouble after receiving no word from them when I should have. It turns out, I was right."

Athos continued, "More than one attack was forced upon us, allowing us to learn about a number of men and women living within a village three days out from here that are not loyal to, Your Majesties, though there is no, or never was, a plot against you. A majority of our attackers have been taken into custody, including Milady de Winter, who was hiding among them."

"This is good news," the King replied as he stepped down from his throne. "Well done Athos, to you and your men. You shall be commended for your good work."

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Athos responded and then continued. "But the celebration is unnecessary. We were performing our duty, for you and for France. The honor that comes with that is all we need. The rumors have now been put to rest. Now, if you'll excuse me, I should be getting back to my friends. I really need to be with them right now."

Anne quickly stated before Athos could leave the room. "Before you go… I'm sorry, but were any of you injured? If a physician is needed…"

As he could see the fear in her eyes, understanding the real reason why it was there, Athos answered, "Sadly, one of us was injured, but rest assured, we have already sent for the physician. And he's strong. I shall express your sympathy to the rest of the men. It is much appreciated. Thank you, Your Highness."

"You're welcome," the Queen nodded and replied.

"Are you all right, my dear," Louis asked once Athos and Captain Treville left the room as he looked over at his wife and saw the concern in her eyes, then laid his hand on top of hers. "You look distraught."

She patted his hand as she responded, "I'm fine, thank you. I just think that I'm starting to feel our child and all that comes with becoming a mother for the first time. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go lie down."

The King nodded, leaned in to kiss her, and then answered, "Very good. All that matters right now is that you take care of my son. Go and rest. I will speak with you later. Cardinal, I would like to hear your final thoughts about our update of the treaty I wish to have the Duke of Buckingham sign when he comes in four days. Have you finished having it drawn up?"

"Of course, Your Majesty," Richelieu replied as he watched Anne walk out and then turned to look at Louis. "I just need to go to my desk and take it out for you."

"Very good," Louis responded, then turned to leave. "Meet me in the library, where I shall be looking for the gift I wish to present him with when he arrives."

"If that is what you wish, Your Majesty," the Cardinal said as the King left the room, then walked out of the throne room himself, and headed toward his quarters as Count de Rochefort met up with him and continued walking with him.

Richelieu quickly asked, "Have you taken care of our little problem?"

The Count answered, "I had no problem getting rid of the final surviving soldier we sent out on the mission, which they failed."

The Cardinal growled in frustration and then replied, "So I heard. Aramis is still alive. Our plan to start bringing the musketeers down once and for all, did not work out as I planned."

"Perhaps not," Rochefort responded smugly. "He may still die, as from what I could tell his condition was dire, but even if the musketeer lives, it may not have been a complete failure. The Queen may have blackmailed you, but now, I believe we still have a chance to keep your secret safe. Admit to her of your involvement in the musketeers' attack. It will show her how much power you really have, over her and over the man she truly loves."

"I do believe you're right, Rochefort," Richelieu stated. "I do have more power than the Queen realizes and it's time that I show her."

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