Love is the Most Selfish of All the Passions

Chapter 9

Aramis slowly awoke, as pain suddenly flooded through his entire body, quickly reminding him of the fight between him, his friends, and the bandits up on the cliff, however long ago it was, though he couldn't exactly remember anything after the fight, or even how it ended, as most of it was fuzzy.

He fought through his pain and finally managed to open his eyes, then turned his head to try to focus in his surroundings and found himself lying on his back against the cold, hard, ground, unbound and had a bandage wrapped around a wound in his shoulder, which he didn't exactly remember getting. He also saw that he was being held in a large, dimly lit shelter made out of stones, a few lit torches on the walls being the only light in the room, and then saw shackles and chains hanging down from the walls; a torture chamber.

Instinctively, the musketeer reached down to his hip where he wore his pistol, though found that it wasn't actually there and seeing that he was now a prisoner, he knew that he wouldn't find any of his weapons on him. So, he struggled to move as he slowly sat up and worked to get on his feet. However, he stopped when he heard voices outside the cell door, including that of a woman's voice, and as quickly as he could, he moved back into the farthest corner of the room and waited for his captors to walk in.

"So, you're finally awake," the woman said coldly as she and two others entered and found Aramis sitting in the far corner of the room, then she quickly ordered the men to go back out and to leave her alone with him. "We were worried that you might not. You've been unconscious all day."

"Yes, well I… I haven't exactly been… sleeping well as of… late," Aramis responded in his usual, cheeky manner upon recognizing the woman as she slowly moved to sit on the ground in front of him. "Milady de Winter. I had a feeling we would… see you again, though certainly not so soon. Why have you… brought me… here? And who… who are your friends?"

She smiled, almost as if she were flirting with him, though he knew better, as she was who she was, and then she answered, "I wasn't the one who brought you here, but some very dangerous men have and all of them, as well as everyone who lives here in this village, all want you to suffer before you die. They aren't very fond of musketeers."

Aramis only stared back at her as he remained where he sat, then replied, "And as I… recall, neither are you. What do you want with me? Why didn't you leave France? Athos…"

"To you, Athos may have shown mercy when he set me free, but I saw the truth in his eyes," she cut him off angrily. "He wanted to see me dead, but he was too much of a coward to pull the trigger or to cut me through with his sword. And now, more than ever, I want to see him dead. You are Aramis, a man of God and among the noblest of musketeers. If I offered you a chance to escape from these people…"

"There is nothing… you could do for me, or say… that would ever make me turn… on my brothers," Aramis responded gallantly. "Besides, you may have… your own skills, but you can't expect me… to believe you have power over these thieves and killers after only… a few days."

Milady smiled as she leaned in close to him, then began to kiss him passionately on his lips, and attempted to seduce him further until he suddenly pushed her away from him as he backed up closer against the wall, as she laughed and said wickedly, "So, my womanly charms are nothing for Aramis, the seducer of many women. Is it because I am not beautiful to you, or is because I am not as fair as the Cardinal's mistress, Adele, I believe her name was? From what I understand, her name was the last word that escaped from her soft lips when the Cardinal had her shot with your pistol, only feet away from where he sat comfortably within his carriage while he looked on. Poor Adele and poor Aramis."

As she was about to thrust a dagger she had pulled out from the top of her corset deep into his chest, the leader of the Cardinal's guards, still in disguise so that the musketeer wouldn't be able to recognize him, suddenly burst into the room, having grown impatient, then snapped his fingers, motioning for his men to drag Aramis into the center of the room where two posts stood, and then had them shackle his wrists tightly between them so that he was forced to kneel on the ground while his arms were forced up roughly over his head. The pain in his wounded shoulder flared as this was done, but Aramis refused to cry out, refusing to give them the satisfaction of seeing him in pain for as long as he could hold out.

The leader leaned down in front of him, grabbed him roughly by his chin in order to force Aramis to look at him, and then spoke up saying smugly, "You're here because you have caused us trouble one too many times, musketeer. You will die, but not by Lady de Winter's hand and not before your time."

Aramis looked between Milady and the man now standing before him with fierceness in his eyes as he now knew these men were actually members of the Cardinal's guards, and then answered, "Musketeers do not die… easily as you already know. You tried… to kill us on many occasions… and not only today… yet we are all… still here."

"Perhaps so," the soldier replied angrily as his grip on Aramis' chin only grew tighter. "However, you shall die slowly and painfully, as your friends will not be able rescue you and when they see that they have failed, they will try to avenge you, only to fall themselves."

"I don't care what happens to me," Aramis said wearily. "I am prepared to die if God wills it, but know that if harm… comes to the other musketeers, you all shall suffer in Hell… for your sins."

The former captain backhanded Aramis hard across his face and then called out to the rest of his men, shouting, "Begin the torture! Do whatever you want with him, make him bleed, but keep him alive!"

Milady pulled a cat from off the wall and cracked the flogging instrument behind the musketeer, then suddenly struck it hard across his back, the bone shards embedded within the tails causing a great deal of agony for Aramis as they tore deep into his flesh, though he still refused to cry out. She glared at the men as they approached her to take over, but they quickly backed off when they saw that she wasn't willing to back down.

The leader of the guards spoke again as he asked, "What are you doing? The Cardinal has given us orders not to kill him until his friends arrive to try to save him. I told you that!"

"Yes and I will see to it that your orders are followed, but it will be me taking care of this musketeer from here on out," she stated coldly. "I have more experience with this sort of thing than any of you."

"For you, Athos!" she suddenly cried out angrily, then began to strike the cat's tails across Aramis' back again and again, while the Red Guards and other bandits from the village looked on in fascination. "If I can't kill you, then I will kill those you love!"

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