Averoigne I:37

Being nigh unto sundown, the sixth day of November, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Five, in the crypt beneath the Cathedral of Saint-Azedarac…

Richard quickly calls Victor over to the pit.  Letting a torch fall, he shows the captain the abomination below.

Victor blenches for a moment.  He turns and bellows, “You heard these men!  Torch and tinder!  Oil and fuel!  Quickly now!”  He grabs a mattock in each hand and holds them toward Julien and Thibault.  They look at him in bewilderment.

“The aperture must be enlarged, lest the fire die,” Victor says.

Reluctantly, the two men lower themselves into the pit and chip away at the sides of the hole.  Richard organizes a line of men who bear down beams, grass, hay, and anything inflammable yet non-ecclesiastical within reach, leaving himself as the last link in the chain.  Marcel says orisons above each brand.

The two companions below are hauled up, and the hole is filled with fuel.  Richard motions for the clerics to redouble their prayers while withdrawing a safe distance from the well  preferably, outside the cathedral entirely.  When the tomb is almost empty, Victor hands a torch to Marcel for blessing.  It passes to Richard, then to Thibault, and finally to Julien, who casts it into the pit.

For a while, nothing is heard.  A crackling soon emanates from the Stygian depths, and wisps of grey smoke whirl upward.  Soon a low bass moan reverberates from the pit, growing in volume as it rises in pitch, like the howling of a thousand wolves united in a single voice.  Dirt begins to trickle between the stones of the ceiling.  As it does, a viscous yellow vapor rises, stinging the eyes and nostrils.

Without a word, the men turn and flee the crypt.  Before they know it, they are crossing the square and looking back at the clouds of sickly fumes that billow from all doors of the cathedral, refracting the dying sun’s rays and casting weird and shifting shadows on the muddy earth.  The roaring turns into a rumbling, and the vapors rise to obscure the cathedral entirely.

Then, as if a veil is lifted, the noxious gasses rise into the sky.  The cathedral still stands.  In the last light before the sun vanishes behind the hills, the companions spy a tiny bird alighting upon the apex of the now-crooked steeple.

Next week – the conclusion!

Published in: on January 20, 2008 at 9:55 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Conclusion?


    Darn it. I suppose all good things must end. This really has been a wonderful series to read. JMHO, YMMV.

  2. I am also going to miss having this exciting adventure….

  3. You two! This is only Part 1.

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