Averoigne II:8, in which More than Stew is Brewed, Julien Seeks a Dream while Awake, and Marcel Sleeps Late

Being Terce, Thursday, 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…

Pierre and Bruyant sit at the table in the midwife’s kitchen.  Behind a cloth partition, they can hear the sound of chopping and boiling water.

“I have attended innumerable dull and uninspired homilies, but never have I seen a crowd less interested in a cleric,” says Bruyant while chewing on a carrot.  “Two vintners next to me kept their faces toward the pulpit, while at the same time conducting protracted haggling on their fingers.”

Pierre peers around the room, looking for a clean cup.  “Nonetheless, the burghers of Vyones have seen the Inquisition come to town many a time.  No doubt the elders could dictate the Edict of Faith from memory.  It has never had much effect before, and it seems unlikely to do so now.  The people of Averoigne prefer to snub an outsider rather than see one of their own discomfited.”  He cranes his neck, trying to see behind the cloth.  “And how were your efforts, friend?”

“Neither met with quite the success I had hoped,” says Bruyant.  “I was able to appeal to the heart of the charming man with the sword outside Eve’s cell, but she was unwilling to talk with me.  It does appear that she has a fear of the clergy.”

“And what of the Archbishop?”

“I brought up our concerns, but he says to hold these things in our hearts.  If this man is as arrogant as we believe, the Inquisitor will no doubt commit other errors that should be reported.  ‘Tis best to do so at one fell swoop.  A flood may wash away a dam, but a trickle here and there will do little.”

Julien enters, looking the worse for wear.  The bench creaks as he plops down.  Bruyant looks at him.  “No luck?”

“Obviously I require a more thorough knowledge of the local dives and ruffians,” says the clerk as he uses his sleeve to clean a cup that Pierre had just noticed.  “Still, I have established that this girl is no phantasm.  Men being lustful creatures, others have seen her as well.  While I have heard elaborate praise for her lineaments and wild speculation as to her, ahem, capabilities, none knows her name, or where she lives, or if she is a traveler or permanent resident.”

Myriam emerges from behind the makeshift curtain and plops down three bottles in front of them.  She unstoppers them.  “Try these.”

The three men bend in closer and wave their hands, wafting something toward them.  “’Tis the odor,” smiles Julien.

“’Tis good enough for your nose, you mean,” says Myriam, sitting down at a bench.  “A few relatively scentless, but crucial, ingredients have been omitted.”

“So this is…” Bruyant prompts her.

“A draught of madness,” says the midwife quietly.  “A few hours after being administered, the drinker is tortured with visions and phantasms of hideous appearance.  If one were in a dangerous situation…”

“Say, on the city wall…” interjects Pierre.

“…the results could be fatal.”

“Do you know whereof such potions may be obtained, and from whom?” the wineseller asks.

Myriam picks up the bottles.  “Nowhere in the city, I’d imagine.  At least, nobody who will speak of it openly.  Perhaps the Mere Antoinette in the swamps behind Les Hiboux, or some sorceress from the woods.  At any rate, ‘twould require a full complement of goods to complete – it must simmer in an iron kettle for a fortnight – and you saw none in her dwelling.”

“The sun has nearly reached its zenith,” says Julien.  “’Tis time.”

Giving the midwife their apologies, they leave her seated at the table.  She watches them leave.  Pierre believes he hears her mutter a quiet prayer as they depart.

Marcel slept in late because he was up preparing a horoscope to analyze the situation.  His findings:

“According to the chart, Eve (or some female figure who bears very similar characteristics) is not responsible for the guard’s death, but at the same time, she is.  Deciphering such a convoluted matter would probably require more knowledge of the situation.  Another influence, of a Saturnian character and associated with certain stars of which the Arabs whisper horrid things, seems to be the prime mover.  This force will bring calamity with it again soon.”

Published in: on April 7, 2008 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  

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