Dying by the Sword - By Sarah D'Almeida

Those Who Live by the Sword; The Honor of a Musketeer’s Servant; All for One

ATHOS was not used to being looked at with suspicion and hostility, much less suspicion and hostility from mere commoners—a confused rabble of women and children, servants and passersby, the dregs and crowds of early afternoon in Paris.

In fact, the oldest of the three musketeers and the guard of Monsieur des Essarts, commonly known as the inseparables—Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan—wasn’t used to being looked at directly at all. Though he had now, for some years, lived under a nom de guerre in the ranks of his Majesty’s musketeers, Athos normally got treated as the nobleman he was.

No matter how much blond and elegant Aramis preened, and no matter how many yards of lace and gold brocade the splendid redheaded giant Porthos draped himself in, Athos could make them all fade into the background simply by stepping forward and throwing back his head. In his much-mended musketeer’s uniform, his curly black hair tied back with a bit of ribbon, the gaze from his dark blue eyes guarded, he looked like what he was born to be: the scion of one of France’s oldest and noblest families.

And he wasn’t used to people not listening when he spoke; he wasn’t used to being doubted; he certainly wasn’t used to having his words shouted down.

Yet the words, “I will stand by—” had barely left his lips when the crowd shouted back at him, in confused tumult, drowning him out.

What the crowd shouted—“murder” and “thief” and “hang him”—was not directed at the musketeer himself, but Athos could not have been more surprised if it had been.

He surveyed the scene before him, his face setting into a hard look composed half of determination and half of disdain.

Porthos’s servant, Mousqueton, almost as tall as his master and nearly as powerful, looked bewildered, held by five guards of the Cardinal. And around them the crowd surged. Behind them was the armorer’s shop, where Porthos had sent Mousqueton to arrange for Porthos’s sword to be mended.

It was a low-slung building, and its wide door normally stood open to the outside street—to allow the inner air, warmed by the forge, to cool. But now the heavy oak doors were shut and there were muscular locals standing in front of them. When the musketeers had come to find the long-delayed Mousqueton, they’d stumbled on this scene of confusion and public disorder and just managed to step in front of the guards dragging Porthos’s servant away.

Athos raised his hand towards the crowd, palm out, an imperious gesture. His assumption of authority quieted them for a moment. Into the silence, Athos poured his words, “I will vouch for Mousqueton. He is my friend Porthos’s”—he indicated the redheaded giant just behind him with a head tilt—“servant and I’ve known him long. He is not a murderer.”

He abstained from swearing that Mousqueton was not a thief because, in truth, Porthos had recruited the then famished waif into his service upon Mousqueton’s trying to steal from him. And even now, when he had for many years been employed in a steady if not necessarily respectable position as a musketeer’s servant, Mousqueton was known to supplement Porthos’s irregular pay in various and creative ways. Athos would be loath to say how many times the young man had shown up at one of their assemblies carrying a bottle, which he swore had just fallen from an overloaded cart, or a chicken, which he claimed had been run over by a cart and to which Mousqueton had felt compelled to give mercy.

But Athos was sure, as he was sure of breathing, that Mousqueton would not murder anyone. And yet his words met with the sneer of one of the guards holding Mousqueton’s arm. “A fine thing to say, monsieur, when he was found next to the murdered armorer. And the armorer’s best sword in this ruffian’s hand!”

And on this the crowd shouted again. “Murderer” and “thief” and other things. Things about the musketeers and their servants, duelers and bullies and riffraff all.

Athos felt his hand fall onto the hilt of the sword strapped at his waist. “Do you call me a liar?” he shouted above the abuse of the crowd, “Do you doubt me?”

His voice, or the outrage in it, again brought a few moments of silence. But another of the guards said, “Well, monsieur, it is not as if it is not known that this man”—he shook Mousqueton, whose hands were tied together and