All For One- Chapter Twenty-Seven
Athos spend the night next to the window again, but this time, he did not see the man he was sure was following them. It was too much to hope for to think that they had confused him enough that he lost their trail. The man had an advantage. He was only one man on one horse; they were a group of four and therefore could only ride so fast. The advantage they had was that the man in black could not possibly predict the route they would take to Spain. This time Marie did not show up in the middle of the night to talk to him, although he hoped she would.
They decided to avoid Béarn and travel southeast along the Garrone. Athos figured that if there was anyone still on their trail that he would be fooled by their course adjustment. They were quiet today. After three days on the road, they had little left to say to each other. They had run out of Palace gossip, and Athos was reluctant to discuss his past, which left the one subject they were forbidden to discuss, namely Marie’s message.
They did not stop at Gaure, but turned South towards the Pyrannees. Athos was weary, but still tried to stay alert. They stopped in an inn in Armagnac in Gascony. Armagnac was not only known for its brandy, but for their fierce soldiers. The area was formerly independent, but François I gave the district to the duc of Navarre. Once Henri IV became king, Armagnac became once again part of France. Marie was keen to try foie gras, a native dish becoming popular in Paris. She felt that the chefs in Armagnac would be able to produce the dish in a superior manner. No soon had their food been placed on the table, when Athos, always watching the door, saw the black-clothed man walk through the door.
“Run,” he muttered under his breath to the women. He leapt from his chair and charged to the door. The man squinted, his eyes still adjusting to the light. Lowering his shoulder, he rammed into the man’s chest, catching him off guard and knocking him to the ground.
The other people in the inn jumped to their feet and made room for the two men to fight. Athos drew his sword and pointed it at the man on the ground.
“Why are you following us?” he demanded.
The man smiled, slid back and slowly got to his feet. “If you’re looking for a duel, Athos, I can accommodate you,” he said.
Athos’ eyes widened. “How do you know my name?”
The man smiled. “You’ll find I know quite a bit,” he said. “Shall we take this outside?”
Without lowering his weapon, Athos stepped aside and allowed the man to leave the inn. He followed. When the man reached the street, he unsheathed his sword. The two men faced each other both in the guard of terza. They circled each other like predators, their feet getting a sense of the territory. Athos advanced attacking with quick thrusts, but his opponent was more than capable of defending himself. His counter attack was basic, and Athos easily parried each cut and thrust. However, this was the opening volley. They were just assessing the other’s skills. Now the fight could begin in earnest.
Both men were quick and preferred the thrust to the cut. Each pass moved almost too fast for the naked eye. This was not the wild swashbuckling fights one would see on the stage of Valleran LeComte, but precision personified. They were evenly matched. Both men were concentrating so such a degree that neither heard the hoof beats pounding towards them.
At the last second Athos spied Marie de Rohan racing behind the man in black. She was mounted on Violette, her steed, and was leaning in the saddle. With a small pot she’d swiped from the kitchen, she cracked the man on the back of the head. The man dropped to his knees. Athos stepped back. Now that his opponent was unarmed, he couldn’t kill him and keep his honor. Marie turned Violette around and raced towards Athos.
“Come on!” she called.
Athos knew his first duty was to protect Marie, so he abandoned his fight and when Marie slowed, he leapt on the back of her horse behind her. They galloped away.
“Thank you, but I’m the one who’s supposed to protect you,” he said, holding on to her. Marie laughed.
They found Doña Consuela already mounted and leading the other two horses out of town.
“Don’t slow down,” Athos said to Marie. He instructed her to ride alongside Tonnette. When it was close enough, Athos leapt from Violette to his own horse.
“Ride in front,” he told Marie. She nodded and rode to the front of the pack. Athos kept watching behind them, waiting for their pursuer.
He heard a loud pop from behind them. Suddenly his right shoulder burned and blood shot from a new wound. He screamed. It was like no pain he had ever known. He touched his shoulder with his left hand, and saw it coated in blood. He had been shot. He cursed. Honor be damned, he should have killed that man when he had the chance. With his good left hand he pulled out his own Wheellock musket and with his painful right hand, pulled on the reins to stop his horse.
He looked behind him and saw the man galloping towards him. He placed the musket in his numb right hand. For a moment he thought about firing the weapon with his left hand, but he couldn’t hold the musket steady with this right arm. He steadying the butt of the musket against his bleeding shoulder and aimed it with his left arm. He waited. He knew he could always use his Wheellock pistol, but it was only accurate within fifty feet. The musket had a kickback, and it was currently wedged against his bullet wound. This was going to hurt.
He wasn’t going to get another chance, so he waited until the man was in range. He aimed at the man’s head. His wound grew more painful and he could feel the blood dripping down inside his shirt. Finally, he pulled the trigger. The butt of the musket slammed into his shoulder and the world went red with pain. He screamed again. He saw a flash of blood on the man’s face and he fell of the horse. Athos waited. The man did not move. Satisfied, he lowered his weapon and rode to catch up with his charges.
Although he did not know it, it was the second time Athos had assumed someone was dead when they were not. The bullet had merely grazed the man’s face. It was the fall from the horse that rendered him unconscious. He would remain that way until an hour later when he was found by a farmer who took him back to Armagnac. When he awoke, Athos was long gone, and he was in no condition to pursue. The man, the Comte de Rochefort, would bear the scar from Athos’ bullet for the rest of his life.
Athos caught up with Marie and Doña Consuela. Marie was horrified to see all the blood on Athos’ shoulder. He said he was fine until they reached the next town, but before long he slumped over in his saddle.
When he woke up, he was in an inn with his shoulder wrapped. He looked up and saw Marie sitting over his bed.
“Marie?” he asked.
“Good, you’re awake,” she said. “How do you feel?”
He tried to lift his arm and pain darted through it.
“The arm hurts,” he said simply.
“The doctor said not to use it for a while,” she said.
He held his arm still while he sat up. “The rest of me feels fine.
“Well, you are not. You bled a lot of blood. You could have died before we got here.”
“Where are we?”
“Toulouse,” Marie replied. “It turns out we were going the wrong way when we left Armagnac.”
“When can I ride again?” Athos asked.
“It may be best to rest here today,” Marie said.
“How long have I been here?” he asked.
“Two days,” she said
“We’ve lost time,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter,” Marie said. “The message does not need to be delivered right away. We can wait.”
- All For One- Chapter Twenty-Six
The Next Chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel
- All For One- Chapter Twenty-Eight
The next chapter in the Three Musketeers prequel