Averoigne I:32

Being Compline, the fifth day of November, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Five, in the square before the Cathedral of Saint-Azedarac…

Snow swirls about the fleeing townsfolk as laughter booms from inside the cathedral.  The light grows brighter, creating an eerie aura around each flake as it settles on the ground.

Julien looks up blankly.  “The stars…”

Richard steps onto the barricade and turns a stern eye toward the frightened men.  “Gentlemen of the jury, Your Honor:” (this last is addressed to Julien, for some reason), “it is not rational that the evil power should be capable of leaving the cathedral; therefore, it has not. There is nothing there–it is your imagination. Examine your recollections of how the force has manifested itself before. Those within the cathedral were harmed, and, perhaps, those walking close enough to the cathedral to be struck by a falling block. However, we are well outside the danger zone at present. The credulous address each problem as unique, seeking a unique explanation, but the wise draw conclusions based on a thoughtful and methodical assessment of the preponderance of evidence, and all of the cases relevant to the matter before them…”

“Nay!” cries out a voice.  Onto a nearby façade clambers Herve, his red hair plastered to his skull, his robes covered in mud.  “Your Honor, this counsel for the prosecution is ignoring the simple facts of the law!  My client, the honorable Bishop, has both temporal and spiritual authority within this diocese, and this attempt to deprive him of his autonomy, both civil and canon, as well as his existence as a corporeal and non-imaginary being, is wholly illegitimate!”

The wind blows, and Julien sees the snowflakes falling around him.  Each one is a tiny star.  He reaches into the air, attempting to catch as many as possible.  Here is his salvation!  “The stars…”

A man streaks past them.  His passage only causes the flames on his back to flare forth more brightly, touching off thatch and clothing with tongues of fire.

“As you can see,” shouts Richard at Herve as he whips off his cloak and thrashes the embers on the hem until they no longer glow, “no threat exists to any of the people of Ximes, save what they bring upon themselves.”

“No, Your Honor,” cries his friend.  “A threat does exist, and that is to the rights of the bishop to bind and loose as he sees fit!  Does he not have dispensation from the pope to unleash Heaven and Hell as is proper?”

Julien whirls clumsily, catching as many of the stars as he can.  Somewhere, Victor is yelling for water.

Soon, darkness overtakes all of them, and none knows when the laughter ceases and the doors of the cathedral shut.

“At him, men!” shouts Marcel, thrusting his cross forward at the monk.  “Cleanse this foulness with fire and steel!”

Josue moves back involuntarily – no doubt, Marcel thinks, to avoid the touch of the sacred object.  The soldiers have their chance.  The captain runs his sword clean through the bursar, while the other strikes him with the torch.  The monk gasps as his rags catch fire.  The smell of burning hair rapidly fills the room.

The soldiers step back.  The monk opens his mouth and lets out a low, animalistic noise.

“Waaahrg…”

He stumbles forward, and Marcel withdraws.  The monk’s mantle drops off.  On the remnants of his charred body, a pair of wings, like those of a bat, unfurl behind him, as if to carry him off to Acheron.

Marcel screams out something both holy and blasphemous, and tosses holy water at the form.  He continues to do so long after the body has collapsed.

Stepping carefully, Thibault makes his way to the base of the pit.  The liquid in the pool smells even worse at this distance, so Thibault gives it a wide berth.

Replacing his guttering torch with a lantern, Thibault casts about the statue, looking for an exit.  His search turns up no other exit, but a number of worn steps on different sides provide him with more options than he had before.  The sardonic grin of the monstrosity before him seems to mock his efforts.

A squelching behind Thibault causes him to turn.  The pool is no longer quiescent, but its substance rears upward into a column of pitch.  Its upper surface is smooth for a moment, then hollows suggestive of facial features open in its surface.  The thing cranes forward toward the summoner, and an orifice grins at him.

Scholastic inquiry, Thibault decides, is best left for those with a genuine aptitude.  He turns and runs for the staircase.  Something whips at his ankles.  Thibault twists, but too late.  He falls, and his head strikes a rock.

That impact is the best incident to befall good Thibault all night.

Hours later, the sun peeks over the horizon.

Julien and Richard awaken in the home of Madame le Mercier, to which kindly folk have conducted them.  They are in bed, with the lady of the house making quite a fuss over them.

Marcel awakens on a pile of soaked psalters.  The soldiers snore loudly around him.  The barricade at the portal remains untouched.

As for Thibault…

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Published in: on December 9, 2007 at 1:30 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. C’est merveilleux!


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