Peace & New Acquaintances
The streets were busy in Paris on this hot summer day as Athos walked along the cobblestone road towards the apartment he shared with his three friends Porthos, Aramis, and most recently, D’Artagnan. After their efforts in England to recover Queen Anne’s diamonds (and which had settled an old score with Buckingham), Her Majesty had championed their return to the musketeer corps, exerting her influence over Louis in order that it they should return to their former duties.
It had not taken too long for Monsieur de Tréville, the de facto Captain of the musketeers, to reissue Athos, Porthos, and Aramis their lost commissions and for D’Artagnan to be offered his entry into the guards of Monsieur des Essarts to begin his probationary two year period. Now, instead of drinking their lives away in taverns while working in them, the Inseparables were very much part of the active duties as soldiers and life could be said to have a slight rosy tint to it.
But let us return to Athos, a man of slightly stout but sturdy figure and a surly expression, made more so by the beard and mustache grown around his mouth and chin, whose occupation of walking had become interrupted by the thickening of the crowd as they parted around a stopped carriage about three buildings away from his own. The musketeer growled in discontent as he was shoved around and shoved heartily in return in order to pass and once beyond the blockage, he was stopped again as violent German swears resounded behind him.
He turned with a closed expression to watch as a young man early in his twenty years, younger than Aramis but older than D’Artagnan, was being scolded by the older gentleman before him. The young man had a fair complexion, dark brown hair and a bitter look on his face as he struggled to regain his grip on the chest that was the cause of what looked to be his father’s displeasure. With the chest lifted from his foot, the older man with greying brown hair and a darker face glared down at his son and spewed German freely, his hand striking at the air violently. Athos found he was not alone in watching this spectacle as he glanced briefly around him to see others slowing their paces to regard the foreigners with a mixture of wary and haughty looks. Suddenly, a woman appeared at the door of the building with hands on her plump hips and all the dignity of a slightly squashed pear. Her sun-kissed face was beginning to show signs of a certain age and her dark hair was sprinkled with grey strands. Her face was pinched in a look of distinct annoyance.
“Why can you not simply do anything as we ask you to?” she demanded of the boy in loud French. “We took you and your little sister into our home out of the goodness in our hearts and this is how you repay us, Roderic?” Roderic looked up at her with a defiant glare and endeavoured to take hold of the chest, once more propping it up on his knee. He almost dropped it again when Athos came forward and caught a handle.
“Perhaps I could help,” he offered. Although many would describe him in the coldest and harshest of terms, he was still a gentleman. Roderic offered an appreciative smile and willingly took up one handle rather than struggle with both. The woman stood aside to allow the two men to pass through the door while she remained in the street berating her husband in a mixture of fragmented German and pure French. They climbed up a short flight of stairs and entered into the apartment on the second floor. As was typical of a Parisian lodging, the space wasn’t much to think of. There was the main chamber, which had a couple of somewhat hard looking beds and a wardrobe against a wall. There was another trunk already sitting in the middle of the room. Athos and Roderic set down the chest they carried and Roderic was hearty in his thanks, his thick German accent colouring his words. Athos returned downstairs and out into the street, ignored by the arguing parents as they entered the building.
Thinking the situation finished, Athos turned to leave when a new face appeared at the door. It was that of a fresh young girl peeking around the frame and looking in either direction of the street before scurrying towards the carriage to retrieve something. The shutters of a window on the second floor opened and the bitter woman from before shouted down to the girl and she turned, craning her neck up to look to her mother. She was a little tall when compared to a French woman but not so tall as to be unsightly. Her hair, a dark, mousey brown, was tied in a severe knot on the back of her head but a few strands escaped the tie.
“Orianne, you get back inside this instant! You were not told to fetch anything. Get back in here and finish your cleaning.” Orianne, clutching a small valise, ran back inside, but not before tripping on the step and losing her shoe.
“Orianne, I will not be kept waiting for you!” The girl snatched up
her shoe, dropped the valise, and placed the shoe back on her foot
before vanishing out of sight of the doorway.
Athos lifted a brow, frowning a little at the lodging then turning towards his own lodging. Normally he could never be bothered with their neighbours but these ones had been in his way and so loud about it that it had drawn even his aloof attention; however, it meant nothing to him who they were and so he quickly forgot about them.
The lodging was empty save for Aramis, who was quietly occupied with book in his hands, spectacles perched on his nose, his lithe frame lounging in his particular corner of choosing, and dark brown hair tucked back behind his ears. Athos took a cup from the table, filled it with wine from the bottle near Aramis, and took a hearty swig. Aramis glanced up briefly to offer him a greeting before lowering his eyes again to the words on his page.
“Where are Porthos and D’Artagnan?” Athos asked as he took a seat in his usual place in a chair standing against one of the wall supports. Aramis gave a sigh and looked over his spectacles.
“Porthos mentioned something about needing to get a new jacket and D’Artagnan is visiting Mademoiselle Constance at the Louvre. Why?” Athos shrugged and took another drink from his cup. Planchet, a plump man with long, matted blond hair, clattered some plates and cups about, muttering bitterly about being still left on the balcony to sleep. Aramis rolled his eyes to the ceiling and shifted a little in his seat and the two friends remained in the silence for some time before Porthos came blustering in, laughing loudly and carrying a wrapped package that most likely held his newest article of clothing. The man’s frame, which was too big for the small lodging when he wasn’t in such a good mood, now seemed enlarged with his pleasure. While Parisian men kept their hair long, down to their shoulders at least, and well groomed, Porthos had forgone all of this, having a partiality for his Norman roots, and kept his hair trimmed so close that it was fuzz on his head. He also wore a sole earring in his left ear that bore a single pearl, a trace of his love for the finer things in life when he wasn’t able to wear his new doublets on missions, of which there were more now than before.
“Aramis, Athos, what are you doing holed up in this bloody house at this time? It is such a beautiful day out there! And Aramis, don’t you ever leave those damn books alone? You’ll wear them out by reading them so much!”
"You might consider reading sometime Porthos," Aramis said with a smirk. "You may learn something."
Porthos stared at the would be priest for all of ten seconds, farted loudly and left the kitchen for his room, doubtlessly to continue admiring his new acquisition in the large full-length mirror that he had next to his bed. Aramis blinked a moment before slamming his book down on the table.
"Dammit Porthos!" he yelled, putting a handkerchief to his face that he had pulled from God knew where. Athos shook his head and found the scent of the wine in his cup to be the best place to bury his nose and Planchet coughed and pushed open the window of the poop-covered balcony in order for the air to be cleaned.
Porthos gave a laugh from his room. The front door opened and D’Artagnan walked into the main room, blinking as he was suddenly in contact with the foul odor. The youth of barely eighteen was shortest of the four and almost feminine boned, strange for a boy from the southern provinces of Gascony, the people being known for their hardy and stubborn natures. His wavy, dark brown hair hung loose around his face and he was dressed in his best suit, the one he had received from the King shortly after meeting the three musketeers, the jacket and doublet of which he was now removing.
“Mordious, what died in here?” he asked. He sat on a chair and pulled himself to the table, reaching over on Aramis’ side to grab hold of a quill, some ink and a few pieces of parchment. He started writing, the tip of his tongue showing slightly between his lips.
"Nothing died but someone just might!" Aramis said in a muffled declaration, glaring towards the stairs.
It took a few moments more for the three of them to be able to properly breathe again and Aramis watched as D'Artagnan struggled over a word before blotting his parchment in his haste and having to start whatever it was anew. Athos stood to refill his cup and Porthos came downstairs dressed in a deep red, almost brown, jacket. The giant ignored another glare that Aramis shot at him and sat down beside him in order to drink as well.
“Writing a poem, lad?” Porthos teased, reaching over to snatch up the blotted copy from near D’Artagnan.
“Porthos! Give it back!” D’Artagnan said, snatching the paper back from his snickering friend. From anyone else, Porthos would have been greatly annoyed by this, but instead he stood and ruffled the youth’s head with his knuckles and went to the kitchen corner to break a large chunk of bread off a baguette. D’Artagnan huffed in annoyance, flattening his hair on his head, and then stared at his blotched piece of paper, which seemed to be nagging him on the table. He picked it up, crumpled it in a ball, and threw it behind him with a growl. The paper bounced on Athos’ head and landed by his foot.
“Careful where you aim these, boy”, growled Athos, still sipping at
his cup. He bent down to pick up the wadded paper and gave it a light
toss back on to the table.
D’Artagnan took the paper and threw it in the other direction and this time it struck Aramis in the chest and landed in his lap. Rather than give it back to his young friend, Aramis carefully unfolded the paper ball and read the words through the creases, frowning.
“You know D’Artagnan,” Aramis began with a small smile. “There is no shame in asking for help when one really needs it.”
The Gascon glanced at him, gave a short hum in reply but otherwise said nothing. He took up his quill and ink and began again. Athos went for his third cup of wine.
“An odd family has moved in a couple buildings from us,” said Athos gruffly; Aramis’ words reminding him of his act of charity. “They sounded German.”
“Bah… They come in increasing numbers, don’t they? I heard that war is raging over there… No one can blame them for wanting the security and the relative peace of Paris! After all, isn’t it the grandest city of the world?”
Having said this, Porthos sat down to munch contentedly on his bread. Aramis approached the table and took another quill, dipped it in the ink, and started scratching out words on the paper, thinking for a few seconds, and wrote replacement words while D’Artagnan watched him somewhat grumpily. After a few seconds, Aramis gave him the results of his efforts.
“Here, this should give you some inspiration”, he said, his eyes twinkling with mirth.
D’Artagnan looked at the paper, pinking slightly and muttered a grudging thanks to Aramis before beginning to recopy what the older musketeer had written.
“Planchet!” Porthos called, waving the emptied wine bottle. “More wine!”
“Yes, Monsieur Porthos”, he said, before muttering to himself, “as if you needed any more…”
“What was that, Planchet?”
“Nothing, nothing, Monsieur Athos, I’m on my way,” the servant replied hastily, before walking out the front door and away from the brooding man’s glare as fast as his legs could carry him.