He managed to sneak out of the camp in the middle of the night without anyone noticing, as soon as he crossed the palisade he ordered his horse to trot at full gallop. There was no time to lose, he had to give notice as soon as possible.
In three days he covered a distance that should have taken him ten. He only stopped to eat a little food and drink enough water to continue his journey. This hardship was shared by his faithful steed, who, following the rider's wishes, did not waver at any time.
On the night of the third day, horse and rider collapsed exhausted in the middle of the road. Three kilometers ahead the white walls of the city rose.
The General Thenardier got up like every morning before the maid knocked on his bedroom door. Despite the fact that it hadn't been necessary for him to get up that early for years, he still maintained the habit of waking up at five in the morning. According to his way of seeing things, it was a matter of leadership. He could not expect excellence from his soldiers if he did not set the example himself.
Palpating the little table beside his bed in the darkness, he took a candle and lit it. With the dim light illuminating the room, he began to wash and dress. As he combed his gray hair, three knocks were heard at the door. The General took an old pocket watch out of his jacket and took a look at it, it was still twenty minutes to five. Perhaps the maid had been ahead of time?
After another three knocks he rushed to attend.
"You're a bit early today Ms. Bouchard..."
"Sorry to bother you at this hour Sir, but it's urgent that you come with me."
The General raised the candle that he carried in his right hand to illuminate the face of the person in front of him. It was one of the captains under his command, after a few seconds he remembered his name: Loughty.
"What's going on?"
"I need you to accompany me to the hospital Sir."
Captain Loughty looked down a bit before answering.
"It's about your son. I don't know anything else, I was just told to bring you to the hospital Sir."
Quickly the two left the corridor and descended the stairs that led to the fort's courtyard. While the sound of his footsteps broke the morning silence, the General wondered worriedly what was so important about his son.
Nothing bad must have happened to him, he was supposed to be camping with the Third Army and would soon be coming home. Or maybe it was something he had done? No. He knew him well, he knew that his son was an exemplary soldier, never in his life would he commit any act that would stain the family name. When the soldiers guarding the hospital entrance saw him arrive, they rushed to open the door for him. Captain Loughty stayed out. The General entered a large room illuminated by a pair of lamps that hung from the ceiling. Two rows of beds lay one on each side.
A slightly overweight man greeted him. It was strange that he was awake so early in the morning. His grim face and disturbed look were bad omens.
"Jurgen ... what's wrong?"
He asked the man he trusted the most in the world, his second in command throughout his military career.
"Someone is asking for you."
He pointed to the bed in the furthest left corner where a person was laying down, to his side a healer and a woman were standing. It was extremely unusual for that hospital to have any patients, after all that was one of the forts that guarded the capital of the kingdom. Except for an accident or a soldier's extreme hangover, there was usually no need to give any kind of treatment to anyone.
The General walked quickly to the bed. The young man laying on it had his eyes closed, he seemed to be in a deep slumber. His face was pale, he was wearing the uniform of the royal army and on his chest was a raven's insignia, the emblem of the Third Army.
"General Thenardier is here as you requested."
The healer leaned over the bed and said in the ear of the young man, who then slowly opened his eyes.
"Has something happened to my son?"
With difficulty the young man raised his left hand and pointed to the woman who was standing next to the healer. The General turned to see her and recognized immediately that she was a member of the city guard. She then extended her arms to hand him something.
He said stunned, in front of him was his son's sword. It was a purely ornamental weapon, custom made, the hilt was beautifully decorated and a small emerald was embedded at the base of the blade. The General took it.
"What happened to my son?"
He asked with a weak voice. The young man then took a paper from his pants pocket and handed it to him.
"Your son ... warning ... Prince Phillipe ..."
The young man did not have the strength to say anything else, he succumbed to exhaustion and fainted. The healer felt his neck looking for vital signs.
"He clings to life. We should let him rest."
The General walked to the center of the room where the light from the lamps was more intense to read what the note said. It was written in his son's handwriting.
Father. Prince Phillipe has betrayed the crown, he plans to march on the capital and take the Throne. Please give my sword to Rita, I want her to have something to remember me. Thank you for teaching me how to be an honorable man.