When the remaining three of the Cardinal's Red Guards, still in their disguises, arrived on their horses outside of the village that was enclosed by a gate boarding around it, a voice suddenly called down to them from above stating, "None of you belong here, so I suggest you all keep on riding and try to find some other place for shelter, unless you feel like dying tonight."
The soldiers all looked up to see two men above the gate's entrance, each aiming a musket down at them, as the leader of the guards raised up his hands, the rest of his men following suit, and then he replied calmly, "Please, we are all that's left of the men and women who came through here seeking shelter after we were all attacked earlier this morning by some of King Louis' men. We were split off from them once those of us who survived scattered. Please, let us in."
"Let them inside," one of men shouted down at someone below them, then held on as the entrance to the gate slowly began to open wide enough to let them through, then closed again behind them as one of the men above climbed down to greet them. "You'll have to forgive us for our rudeness, but it wasn't real long ago that several musketeers on the King's orders raided our village and stole much of our livestock. When a few of us tried to resist, they were struck down and killed, for defending what was ours. Any enemy of the King's musketeers are friends to us. You're welcome here."
"We appreciate your help," the one time captain answered, knowing that it wasn't actually the musketeers that had raided these people, but them and many more of the Red Guards who attacked villages in disguise of the musketeers.
One of the villagers walked around to the back of another of the newcomers' horses upon seeing a man, who was wearing the musketeers' emblem on his right shoulder, draped over its back and then asked angrily, "If you're really enemies of the musketeers, then why do you have one of them tied to the back of your horse? He's still alive!"
One of the other soldiers quickly dismounted as he pushed the villager away from their captive and then responded, "This is one of the men that attacked us up on that cliff several miles from here. We found him badly wounded and unconscious and decided that we would take him alive so that we could lure the rest of his friends to us, in order to make them all pay for the pain they caused us."
"Allow us to torture and make this man suffer before his friends come," the Guards' leader continued. "Talk to the rest of our men and women you have allowed to take shelter here and I can guarantee they will all ask of you the same thing. It's nothing less than he deserves."
"Do whatever you want with him," the man who appeared to be in charge of the people in this village answered as he walked over to them. "After all, we are all bandits and killers after being forced out of Paris by our so called King. Just be sure that he dies, as well as his friends, should they come for him like you claim they will."
The soldier smiled as he responded, "Believe me, they will and then we will kill them all."
The village leader stated coldly, "Very good. Now, follow me. You can bring your prisoner into the shelter we have turned into a dungeon of our own. It's the perfect place to torture someone."
Back at the palace…
Captain Treville was sitting down at his desk inside his office, tapping his fingers up and down nervously as he was growing impatient for any kind of news from his four best musketeers, as it has been three days since they left Paris in search of the bandits, who he was fearfully suspecting were not exactly as the Cardinal and Rochefort had said, as he knew his men had suspected all along.
It wasn't that the Captain trusted Cardinal Richelieu or his new captain at all, but as it was his duty to the King to make sure all leads on a possible attack against him and his Queen were uncovered, Treville didn't have a choice, but to send his men out into unknown danger, this time, as like any other. However, as more time passed, he was growing more and more concerned for his friends and so finally, Captain Treville got up and strode toward the barracks where the rest of his men were housed, calling for them to stand before him as he entered.
"Gentlemen, I need a large group of you to join me as we go in search for the men I sent out three days ago on a mission for our King," he ordered. "They should have sent word back to me by now, but they haven't yet. I'm worried about them."
"Yes Sir, Captain!" they all cried out in unison.
Then, one of them spoke out saying, "Sir, you know that Athos, Aramis, Porthos, and now d'Artagnan are the best of all of us. I am certain that they're all just fine."
Treville nodded, but then replied, "Yes, but even the best of us are not invincible."
"No Sir, they're not," another of the men answered.
"Good, now finish getting ready," the captain responded as he turned and left, seeing the Cardinal and Count de Rochefort standing watch on one of the balconies not far above from his men's quarters.
As the two of them watched the captain of the musketeers leave the barracks, Richelieu spoke up saying, "It appears that your men may have been successful in their task, Rochefort. Captain Treville appears to be quite on edge."
The Count nodded and then replied, "So it appears. However, I should like to go off to investigate on my own, if that is all right with you. I know we mustn't allow anyone to know of our parts in planning all this, but just the same, I feel it is important for me to find out if my men have indeed captured Aramis as we commanded them, or if he and the other musketeers are dead."
"I agree, Captain," the Cardinal answered and then looked over at him with a smug smile on his face. "And then, when you do find your men, I want you to make sure that they cannot talk of our involvement to anyone. Do I make myself clear?"
"Perfectly clear, Your Eminence" Rochefort responded. "As you command."