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The day starts out normal enough: the Duke of Savoy, and his wife, the King’s sister, have decided to pay France a visit to sign a treaty, much to the chagrin of the King, who dislikes the Duke almost as much as he dislikes being kept waiting. The King seems in a state of perpetual boredom, but when he wished for excitement it probably didn’t include an attempt on the Duke’s life.
The Musketeers, who were guarding the proceedings, spring into action, running off in the direction of the gunshot. Aramis, who is investigating the side of the palace, runs into an old friend, Marsac, who was mysterious assassin.
Five years earlier, Marsac and Aramis had been the sole survivors of a massacre. Marsac had pulled a wounded Aramis into the forest, to safety and did nothing as his fellow Musketeers were all slaughtered in their sleep. Marsac, who couldn’t deal with the guilt of his inaction, tore off his Musketeers uniform and left.
At the palace, the Duke is in a rage, accusing the King of trying to assassinate him and refusing to sign the treaty until they figure out who the masked killer was. Except nothing is ever as it seems in Musketeer-land, and the real reason the Duke is putting off signing is to make time to find his chancellor, who he believes was kidnapped by the French. Well, he’s not wrong. In fact, it was the Cardinal himself, along with Treville, who imprisoned the chancellor somewhere in France.
Meanwhile, Aramis is questioning his old acquaintance about the validity of his assertions. Marsac informs him that it was the Duke who massacred their fellow Musketeers that night and that is why he tried to kill him. Aramis seems to believe him so he and D’Artagnan hide him away at Constance’s inn while they investigate.
After being questioned by Treville about letting the assassin get away, Aramis and D’Artagnan finally let the other two in on what’s been going on because they’re really not very good at keeping secrets from one another. Constance is pissed that D’Artagnan lied to her about Marsac’s criminal status and tensions are running high but they all listen when Marsac tells them there’s someone they need to speak to.
That someone turns out to be a man Marsac found in a bar, who had been bragging about killing Musketeers. They rough him up a bit and learn the real person behind the attack on those Musketeers five years before: Captain Treville.
The Duke wants to talk about the attempt on his life while the Cardinal would like to discuss the whole reason he came to France in the first place: to sign the treaty. So to stop any further arguing, the Duke decides the best way to settle all this is to challenge Athos to a duel; if he loses, they’ll talk about the treaty, if he wins, he’ll be on the first carriage back to Savoy. When the King asks if this is a good idea, the Cardinal responds with “that depends on the outcome.” Lucky for them, and all of France, Athos is the best swordsman in the regiment and he defeats the Duke without too much trouble.
Aramis goes to confront Treville who confesses he did give the order to kill those Musketeers in Savoy. Aramis is furious as he relays this to Marsac but he vows to seek justice through legitimate channels. It’s clear that Marsac is the epitome of the extremist hero; he wants justice but will stop at nothing to get it, he values the lives of his fallen comrades, but not his own, he’s loyal, not to people, but to his vision. That’s why it makes complete sense when he knocks Aramis unconscious because he refuses to kill Treville and swears to do it himself.
When the Musketeers learn of the Duke’s plan to enter the prison where the Duke’s chancellor resides and expose France’s lies, they, with the help of the Duke’s wife, hide him and put another in his place so there will be nothing for the Duke to use against France.
Over at Treville’s, Marsac has come to avenge his friends and fellow Musketeers, but Aramis seems to have a good recovery time and manages to make it there before Marsac blows Treville’s head off. Treville explains that he was ordered by the King to let slip the whereabouts of the Musketeers. And it was all done to protect the most important Savoy spy of all: the Duchess. Aramis tries to reason with Marsac but he won’t listen and Aramis is forced to shoot his old friend. The immediate danger might be over, but it's still sort of heartbreaking to watch as Marsac falls into his friend's arms, but as Aramis says, they're soldiers and they follow their orders, no matter what.
image courtesy of Famous/ACE/INFphoto.com