Averoigne II:5, in which We See Carried Weighter Burdens than Wool

Being Vespers, Wednesday, the twelfth day of February, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, on the Rue des Agneaux…

A low mist from the woods has crept over the battlements of Vyones with the night.  The alleys are rivulets of seeping gray, through which an occasional torch shines.  Most of the labourers and coopers who make up this neighborhood rest behind worm-eaten doors and shutters, where they mutter prayers taught by their granddames against terrors almost forgotten.

On this street, a young woman, bent over with a large sack on her back, almost staggers over the cobblestones.  Drops of moisture condense on a lock of her hair hanging outside her shawl.

Somewhere nearby a dog barks, and she shudders.  Then, through wood and thatch, every canine in the neighborhood erupts in howls, whines, and snarls.  Unseen, they nonetheless can be heard rushing through their dwellings in a mad frenzy, their cacophony punctuated by smashing crockery and curses.  A moment later, all is still once more, and the girl takes up her load again.

She walks into a courtyard, her feet moving quicker as her destination draws near.  But what is this?  She halts abruptly as the mist congeals into dark shapes.

“Fear not, good lady,” calls out a voices.  “I am Julien le Grand, law clerk to the Archbishop.”  He steps forward with a smile.  “These are my companions – Pierre the wineseller, Marcel of the Order of St. Francis, and Father Bruyant.  Thou art Eve, art thou not?”

The young woman shrinks back further as the two holy men emerge from the fog, but she nods.  “Y-yes.”

“Is thy home far, milady?” says Pierre with a smile.  “We might help thee with thy burden.”

She nods again, handing her burden to the wine merchant.  He had been hoping that someone else would bear it, but Julien has taken the girl’s arm and the two priests are clearly unsuited for it.  He sighs and picks up the sack, which has more bulk than weight.

After some uncertainty, she leads them into a once-stately home of black stone.  It was now broken into rooms, and the sobbing of infants and near-hysteric laughter resound through the stairwell.  Eve leads them to the second floor, taking the companions into a single room.  A small bench occupies the right wall, next to a filthy pallet.  Opposite it is a loom, with a half-finished blanket, next to a window that opens two feet from the second story overhang on the next crumbling house. Across from the doorway is a stone fireplace, with only a few sputtering remains of a blaze.

Bruyant closes the window to keep the mist out, while the friar attempts to find some kindling dry enough to light.  Eve and Julien take a seat on the bench.  The girl looks at him with resignation.  Pierre drops the sack – full of wool, he can now tell – and joins the student.

Bruyant coughs as he walks to the loom.  “Fine work,” he says with a slight smile.  Eve does not smile back.  “Milady, I presided at the funeral of Valere, the guardsman.  I saw thee in attendance.  We are here at the Archbishop’s bidding, and wouldst ask thee a few questions.”

Pierre sees the fear in her eyes and motions the good father back.  “I will handle this,” he says, taking Eve’s hands into his.  “We know not what reason thou hadst to come to that sad occasion, but we may be able to give thee assistance.”

“Thank thee, sir, but I fear that my reasons must remain my own,” Eve says quietly.

Marcel’s fire has sent tongues of flame leaping up.  As the illumination grows, he stares at the side wall of the fireplace.  Something is not right, he thinks, scratching his chin.

“Good lady,” says Julien, “perhaps if thou givest us some insight, we might help thee ease to thy suffering.”

At the last word, all timidity evaporates from Eve’s body.  She rises, snatches her hands from Pierre, and rounds on the student.

“Suffering, fool!  What dost thou know of suffering!  I have suffered ever since my parents died of the plague five years ago, and I made shift on my own!  I suffered in their stinking, useless convents full of hypocrisy and cruelty!  I have suffered for the love of a man who was not worth a scrap of it!  And now, now I am alone in the world, and I will suffer even more!”

Julien’s mouth hangs open at her vehemence.  Bruyant steps forward.  “Milady -“

“Here!” cries a voice from the courtyard outside.  The tramping of boots mingles with the tinkle of mail and the muted roar of torches.

“Conrad!” Marcel hisses.

Published in: on March 16, 2008 at 8:27 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. *raises eyebrows*

    Elle est enceinte? Or am I reading too much into this?

    Either way, quite poignant.

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