Averoigne I:33

… and the morning comes.

Being Prime, the sixth day of November, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Five, in the courtyard of the Abbey of Sainte-Crapauld…

All is quiet.

Marcel pauses and leans on his staff as he and the soldiers leave the shelter of the library. He blinks in the light as he surveys the scene, and the silence impresses itself upon him.  No clang of pots in the kitchen, no muffled sounds of prayer, no suppressed giggles at a ribald jest – none of the usual sounds of a monastery at morning.

It is cold.  He shivers, motioning the soldiers to walk forward.  The snow crunches at their footsteps.

They make it to the stables without incident.  The horses are quietly procured, the baggage placed upon them.  All then help to pull the ropes that release the tremendous gate.

Marcel looks to the horizon.  Dark columns of smoke rise from Ximes.

“Quickly, men!  Away!”  Marcel tries to leap onto his horse, but only manages a slow crawl.

“What of your friend, sir?”

“We cannot search for him now!  We must return with more men to do this pest-hole justice.  Now, Ximes burns!”

“Gentlemen!  I hope you have rested well.  We have much work to do.”

Victor looks tired, but spares the energy for a smile.

“It is good to see you, sir,” Richard bows.  “Our hostess says you were the man to talk to about the affairs in town.  What has transpired?”

Victor steps away from the house.  “It is best that she does not know,” he says in a lowered voice.  “I have been up all night dealing with the aftermath and enforcing curfew. We’ve put out most of the fires, but the horrors this fiend has brought with him remain.  Death, looting, arson, blasphemy, sacrilege, jail breakouts…”

“Gustave?”  Julien asks.

“Add evading law enforcement and horse-theft to his docket in Heaven,” says Victor.  “Still, I have accomplished much of what you have asked.  The ecclesiasts and relics stand at the ready, as do the workmen.  I have also set several smiths to work on recreating your design, though, between you and me, the thing smacks too much of paganism and idolatry to be of any use.”

“Still, if it be of help – and here he is!”

The wizened smith bows before Julien.  “You want to see the stones, I am told?”

“Very much so!”

“Follow me.”

The man takes up a stick and walks down the hill.  Richard, Julien, Victor, and a growing train of townsfolk accompany them to the base, where the weathered old wall stands.  As they enter its shade, the companions feel a chill that is not just the air and the shade.

The smith pokes his stick at a tremendous stone near the base of the wall.  “You can barely make it out, but it’s there, all right.  When I was a child, we used it as our secret meeting-place.  We didn’t know anything more about it then than we know now, but it’s been there all this time, no doubt since they tore down the stones and built the wall around Ximes.”

Richard and Julien stare at it for a moment.  “So,” says the attorney, “what now?”

Marcel does have a treacherous streak, doesn’t he?  We’ll see more of it next week.

Published in: on December 30, 2007 at 11:36 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Tone = spot-on, and has been the whole way through. C’est merveilleux.

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