Averoigne II:4, in which Eggs Are Broken, Stew Is Eaten, and Wine Is Tossed

Being None, Wednesday, the twelfth day of February, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, in the cottage of Myriam le Ventriere on the Rue des Pataieres…

Bruyant is uneasy.

He sits on a stool at a table covered with tiny bottles, polished stones, and a cutting board which bears a man-shaped root of dubious appearance. When the wind blows through the shabby shutters, the desiccated herbs suspended from the walls and the ceiling beams rustle, sounding like a restless crowd watching a gallows. On the pot over the fire bubbles a concoction, the contents of which Bruyant regards with suspicion. He smiles and exhales. “Ah. It’s stew.”

“’Tis indeed,” calls out Myriam from the other side of the room. “It should be done. Be a dearie and take it off, wouldst thou?”

Bruyant takes a cloth and gingerly lifts off the pot, placing it on the table. “Good lady, I have come to – “

“Yes, yes, I know,” the midwife says, bustling around the room. She fills a basket with a few dried herbs, other concoctions, and clean cloth. “No doubt thou hast just come from warning Cyon not to do anything untoward while that cheeky young inquisitor is in town. Now thou wisheth to do the same for me.”

Bruyant nods. “I do not wish the Inquisition to unjustly prosecute one of my parishioners.”

“Well, Father, I’ll be off to the Coutelier household in a moment, so if thou must catechize, do so quickly.”

“Yes,” says Bruyant. “Aristotle, Albertus Magnus, William of Auvergne, and other authorities assert that there is no sin in the utility of the natural virtue of herbs or stones, or in observing the times of the stars, so long as those are thought to impel rather than compel the character of a man. Prayers as taught by the Church are approved, but any that include barbarous articulations are to be shunned, as many contain the names of maleficent beings. Also, images of the zodiac or other spirits are not to be made in most cases, as this leads to idolatry. In some cases, it may be permissible, but in truth ‘tis best to avoid them.”

Myriam, who holds the basket in the crook of one arm. “Good Father, I fear thy mind is wasted on us poor folk.” She looks at him intently. “Sir, may I speak to thee plainly?”

“Why, yes. Is something the matter?”

“Father, while the learned may scoff, I do have the blood of sorceresses and witches in my ancestry. I try my best to be holy, but it nonetheless carries a legacy that manifests itself in visions at times. My intuition is that this cloud over Vyones conceals more than one evil – and that thyself, Father, are at especial peril. I cannot say how or why, but -”

A young boy rushes in, out of breath. “Madame! My sister’s water has broken!”

“I’ll be along in a minute, dearie,” the old woman says. She turns to the priest. “I must be going. Please – enjoy the stew! I shan’t have time for it.” She departs.

Bruyant sits in contemplation for a moment. He takes a bowl and ladles out some of the stew. As he spoons it out, his eyebrows rise in pleasure.

Meanwhile, a few streets over…

“I am at a loss, good friend,” says Julien, peering up and down the street. “We seek to find a maiden, but we seem to have lost ourselves.”

“Thou hast lost thyself only,” says Marcel. “I happen to know that the cathedral is there, behind those houses, and the street leading to the south gate is that way. ‘Tis a benefit gained by traveling from France to Afric and back.” He steers Julien toward the main thoroughfare.

“I wish the notary had been more willing to entertain us at the palace,” says Julien, looking over his shoulder.

“Nay,” says Marcel. “When we talked with him, he was truly a frightened man. Thou hast hit a deep wound indeed, it seems. And let us not forget, the presence of an ecclesiast from a more spiritually blessed order is no doubt an intimidating -“

A short cry of surprise, a scuffle, and a series of cracking sounds come from the friar’s side. Julien has fallen over on his backside, and appears dazed. Something clear with a golden center drips from his tunic. The remnants of a dozen eggs lie on the cobblestones around him. Before him is a maiden, scarlet tresses falling over her shoulders, who glares at him with ferocious intensity.

Julien shakes his head for clarity and rises. “Um, Milady, please accept my apologies.” He reaches out and helps her to her feet. She promptly kicks him in the shin. Julien grunts and grasps his leg.

“Thou tremendous, ungainly oaf!” she cries. “How will I explain this to the lady of the house? Now our dinner is ruined, because of thy clumsiness!” She stalks off.

“Milady!” Julien cries, limping after her as she vanishes into the crowd. He whirls on Marcel. “That is her!”

“Thou art mistaken,” says Marcel. “The good father described to us quite another woman.”

“Not her! Her!” Julien winces in pain as he searches for words. “The woman in my visions! I must rescue her!”

“I may have to rescue thee first,” says Marcel, trying to support his hobbling friend.

“Ho, men!” A cry comes from an alley. Walking – or staggering – from its shadows appears Pierre. He waves with one arm, while the other is around the shoulders of a golden-haired lass who grasps a wooden cup.

The wineseller bows deeply, quickly catching his balance as he threatens to topple over. “I have been hard at work. I have befriended many of Conrad’s retinue at a local tavern. In addition, by good fortune, I have also located the girl of which Father Bruyant spoke!” He kisses the girl on the cheek.

“I do not wish to give offense, good sir,” says Marcel. “But this is not her. Either. The lady we seek was paler and had raven-black hair and a pronounced dimple on her chin.”

“Is that who thou considereth me to be?” The girl cries out, looking at Pierre in disgust. “Well, sir, if thou doth wish to spend thy affection on Eve the weaver’s orphan, I shall leave thee to her!” Breaking free of his hold and tossing the dregs of the wine in his face, she flounces off.

Pierre wipes his face with a rag from his pocket. Marcel frowns. “It seems we are having little luck with women today.”

Julien grins. “Until that last outburst. But perhaps we should find a place to seat ourselves and recuperate from these travails before venturing onward.”

“Maybe some charitable individual will favor a poor friar with that splendid stew,” Marcel says, picking up a distinctive odor.

Published in: on March 9, 2008 at 8:03 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Le pauvre Julien.


    Also, mid-wife = well-written.

  2. Le pauvre Julien.

    You have no idea. But you will, oh yes.

  3. Can’t hardly wait…

  4. […] money any way they could – including the practice of magic.  Though William of Paris (one of Father Bruyant’s favorite authorities) mentions a “Liber Sacratus” and a “Liber Sacro” turns up in the records of […]

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