Averoigne II:10, in which a Barfight Leads to Awkwardness and Various Hideous Fates for Clergy are Contemplated

Being Vespers, Thursday, the twelfth day of February, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, in the common room of the Inn of Deux Diables…

Marcel and Julien step gingerly around patches of sawdust sticky from wine and the bodies of patrons recumbent via multifarious causes.  At the other side of the taproom, Breschau sweeps aside a curtain with one massive hand and steps into the candle-punctuated gloom beyond.  The two companions hasten, finding a corner near the curtain.

“I hear nothing,” says Marcel, his ear pressed to the wall.  Julien holds up a hand.  From just inside, two voices can be heard.

“What dost thou mean, thou doth not know who he is?” snarls Breschau.

The other man’s voice shakes.  “I mean exactly that, sir.  I met him in an alley near the cathedral, and he was hooded and cloaked.  Thou knowest how these informants are – most of them are more afraid of us than the accused.  ‘Twas not a transaction out of the ordinary.”

The spymaster grunts.  “Conrad wants to know, so is out of ordinary.  He has faults, but he is good man.  It hurts me to see him look like fool.  Not only that, meddlers from court stick their noses into this.  They walk her back home that night.”  He pauses, and Julien strains to hear.  “Could it be one of them in the alley?”

“It might be possible.  I recall him speaking in an educated manner – not like the prisoner’s neighbors at all…”

“He didst give thee anything?  Token?  Scrap of paper?  Anything?”

“Thou!”

Julien feels a hand on his shoulder.  He turns to be confronted with a whiff of alcohol-laden halitosis.  A large, weathered man with a nasty scar on his chin and cheek sticks his face into Julien’s.

“Thou art in my spot,” he says.

“I’m terribly sorry,” says Julien.  “I didn’t -“

“Not good enough,” rumbles the man.  Marcel looks around nervously.

“Is someone outside?” Julien hears Breschau say.

The man favors Julien with a gap-toothed smile.  His hand strays toward his sword hilt.

Meanwhile, in the archives of the archbishop of Vyones…

Between massive shelves, Bruyant sits at a small desk covered with stacks of paper and books.  He is tired, and his hair is filled with layers of fine dust.  He is setting aside the last of the pages when Pierre enters, whistling.  The priest looks up in amazement.  “Thou seemest happy, friend.”

The wineseller tosses a coin from his purse into the air and catches it.  “It seems that my question has borne fruit.  Conrad is closeted with the archbishop, where he is answering some very interesting questions about this supposed poisoning plot.  Honore does not appreciate it when the people’s affection is used to accomplish the goals of others.”  He peers at the papers.  “Hast thou any luck in researching Conrad?”

Bruyant sighs.  “Nay, I can find nothing that indicates he came here as an inquisitor.”  He flips through the papers.  “In fact, I can be fairly certain that no inquisitor has ever returned to Averoigne for a second time.”  He holds out a paper to Pierre.  “Look at this.”

Pierre squints.  “Sir, thou hath forgotten I cannot read Latin.”

“Ah yes.”  He points at the page with a flourish.  “This particular inquisitor was hung from the top of an oak with a cord of mistletoe.”

“Mistletoe?”  Pierre rubs his chin.  “An unusual way to meet one’s Maker.”

“Indeed.”  Bruyant waves his hand over the desk.  “The fate of the rest is less dramatic, and often less clear.  Many left suddenly with no fanfare, and it appears that special provisions had to be made for the discreet transport of others.  Averoigne has defeated quite a few of the Church’s most zealous crusaders against heresy.”

A knock interrupts their discussion.  Bruyant opens the door to see a stout, red-faced guard.

“Father Bruyant, come quickly.  The prisoner hath awakened.  She is crying.  No doubt she hath considered the gravity of her misdeeds and the punishment that awaits her.”

“I shall learn soon enough,” says the priest.  His robe swirls about him as he hastens to the dungeon.

Pierre moves to follow, but the guard blocks him.  “Sorry, good sir.  Only the father is permitted.”

The wineseller smiles.  “Louis, is it?  We met at the tavern last night.  Excellent wine, no?  Perhaps thou wouldst like another pitcher.  I can bring one up specially for thee tomorrow.”

The guard returns the grin, and the two men follow Bruyant.

When Pierre and the guard arrive, Bruyant is peering into the cell, his fingers wrapped around the bars on the door.  “Quickly, man,” he calls as the guard fumbles with the keys.  The rusty lock creaks, and the hinges groan as the heavy oak door opens.  Bruyant steps into the darkness, calling back, “A candle, good sir!”

The guard passes him a taper, and Bruyant holds it aloft.  In the corner of the room huddles what appears to be a shivering bundle of rags that sobs between deep breaths.  The priest steps forward.  “Milady?”

Lowering her threadbare blanket from her tear-streaked face, Eve looks up at him.  His robe catches her eye, and she shrieks.  “Those horrid faces!  Keep them away!”

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Published in: on April 20, 2008 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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