Love is the Most Selfish of All the Passions

Chapter 17

Four days passed since the inseparables arrived home and Aramis' fever had finally broken, though he had yet to awaken, making his comrades fear that he's given up and that it was only a matter of time before his body gave up on him as well. Dr. Maloraux had come back to look him over again under the Queen's orders, but all the man did was confirm their fears.

A knock came at the door of the musketeers' barracks and when d'Artagnan opened it, Constance was standing there with clean sheets, blankets, and another pillow in her arms, then he spoke up as he invited her inside saying, "We appreciate you coming again this morning, Constance. I hope that your husband understands that you're not here for me, but for Aramis. I mean, as for what happened… between us the other night…"

Constance cut him off as she interrupted, "What happened between us happened because I was happy to see that you and the others, aside from Aramis of course, were all right. I allowed my feelings that I once had for you overwhelm my good judgment, but it can't happen again. I will not let it happen again. I am only here for…"

"For Aramis, of course," d'Artagnan responded, knowing that the woman he loved really did love him back, despite her objections to their romance on account of her husband.

"Excellent, now that that has been cleared up," Athos stated coolly as he walked past them, followed by Porthos. "D'Artagnan is right, Madam Bonacieux. We are grateful that you have come here to stay with Aramis while we are at Milady de Winter's trial."

Porthos continued, "The others have all been tried and beheaded. Athos' soon to be convicted wife is the only one left. You will finally be free to move on with your life, my friend."

Athos turned to look at their unconscious brother and answered, "I know that you're right, Porthos, but I am not sure if I can ever fully be rid of that woman. I hate her, but everything that she's done to all those she's hurt… to Aramis… I will always blame myself for what she's done, especially if Aramis dies."

"You are not to blame for the treacherous things that evil woman has done," Constance replied as she put down the things she carried with her and then began to push them all out the door. "She was evil long before she even met you and we all know how good she is at getting men to do whatever she wants them to do. I'm sorry, that didn't come out right. Good luck today. And don't worry about Aramis. I will take good care of him."

"Thank you," Athos responded as they walked to their horses and then mounted. "Be sure to send a messenger to the palace should anything change."

Constance threw up her hands as she stated in frustration, "Will you three just get going? We're going to be all right here, I promise."

D'Artagnan smiled down at her as the others began to ride off, then waved and turned to follow after them. When they arrived at the palace, their captain was waiting for them in the courtyard. Then, together they walked inside and headed toward the main hall where Lady de Winter's trial was going to take place.

Treville spoke first as he asked, "So, how is Aramis doing this morning?"

"There is still no change," Porthos answered in frustration. "Maloraux told us we ought to put him out of his misery the night before. I wanted to pummel him into the ground even more than the first night he came."

"We're losing him, Captain," Athos replied sadly. "And if he dies… The Cardinal and Milady are to blame and though she will finally pay, we can't touch Richelieu and we do not know how we are just going to continue on like there is nothing wrong, with him still controlling everything that goes on here in Paris."

Captain Treville nodded and then responded, "We will continue on, together. It is our duty to protect the King and his Queen, as well as all of France. Now, let's go and get this whole mess over and done with for good. At least one enemy will fall today."

Once the three musketeers and their captain walked inside, King Louis began the trial right away, as he was anxious about the Duke of Buckingham arriving later in the afternoon. When Milady was finally escorted in, she looked around the room until she locked her eyes on Athos, who only looked at her coldly until he turned his head down and looked over at Porthos, who reached up and gently patted his shoulder. Then, Louis began the trial, as Cardinal Richelieu stood and began his prosecution against the woman that had once helped him in his schemes.

Finally, it was Athos' turn to stand to testify against his wife and when he stood before the Cardinal and the others sitting beside him ready to go through with the sentencing, the musketeers' greatest enemy spoke up as he asked, "Athos, of the musketeers, what words do you have to speak against this woman standing before us today?"

"This woman was once my wife, whom I loved once, until I discovered the kind of woman she was before we met," he began calmly. "After I had her sentenced to death and she survived, unbeknownst to me, she went back to her old ways and began to plot and murder anyone who stood in her way, all to get back at me. Four days ago, one of our own was wounded and captured during an attack against us. Mademoiselle de Winter was hiding in the village where Aramis was brought to and when she saw an opportunity to get her revenge on me for destroying everything she had built up here, she took it, by torturing and tormenting our brother, who is still fighting for his life. Milady deserves to be sentenced to death for her many crimes, not only against the musketeers, but also against Your Majesties and all of Paris."

"We the judges concur," Richelieu answered as he looked directly at her, secretly fearful that the woman may still yet give up proof of their dealings with one another. "Milady de Winter, you have been found guilty and are hereby sentenced immediately to death by beheading. Do you have any final words?"

The woman turned to look over at Athos one final time as she spoke again saying, "Seeing your pain when you found poor Aramis so close to death, I realized that I accomplished hurting you more than death ever could. I may die today, but my treachery is not finished."

Queen Anne stood from her throne as she replied coldly, "The sentence has been passed. Have the prisoner escorted away immediately. She is to be dead at the stroke of noon."

"Do you believe Milady will still be a threat to us?" Porthos whispered so that only Athos and d'Artagnan could hear him above the cheers and shouts of the people as the Cardinal's guards took her away.

"I do," Athos said in frustration. "Death doesn't put an end to pure evil."

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