Averoigne II:13, or How a Discourse upon Winetasting Followed the Lord’s Prayer

Being Terce, Friday, the thirteenth day of February, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, in the wine cellar of the Inn of Deux Diables in Vyones…

“What hast thou done, madman?” cries Bruyant as he sprints down the stairs to the woman.  He cradles her in his arms and examines her wound.

Marc sees him, and steps forward, sword raised.

“Pater noster, qui es in caelis…”  Julien says loudly.

“Sanctificetur nomen tuum…”  Bruyant joins him.

“Adveniat regnum tuum.” Marcel’s calm tones quickly join those of the clerk.

The madman halts.  His eyes are clouded for a moment, and then he falls to his knees, grasping his sword in front of him.

“Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra,” he whispers.

Julien continues to pray, and gestures to Bruyant.  The priest, still chanting, drags the now-unconscious barmaid to the staircase, where the companions quickly relay her up to the bar.  Julien glances at the man, and slowly moves forward, Marcel in tow.

“…sed libera nos a malo.  Amen.”

Everyone inhales, and the madman leaps to his feet.  “Devils of Malebolge!  Ware my blade!”  He slashes at the air.

“Caution, man!” cries Julien.  “Thou hast been bewitched!”

“Bewitched?”  Marc brandishes his sword.  “Indeed!  And naught but steel and fire can purge us!”

“The lamp!” Marcel shouts.

For indeed, the winetaster has made his way to the flickering lamp, and hefts it over his head with one hand, while he swishes his sword near the boxes and barrels of foodstuffs and wine.

Julien and Marcel need no reminder of the inflammable elements of the local architecture.  The clerk jumps down the stairs and engages Marc.  Marc’s first swing goes wide, and a wild slash from Julien clips the fringe off the winetaster’s fine clothing.

Next comes a swish, and a crack.  Marc wobbles for an instant and topples over.  The lamp falls to the ground, guttering out upon impact.

“At some point in my vast and varied travels through fearsome and impious lands,” says Marcel, hoisting a mug in one hand and the staff in another, “I must have mastered the art of the quarterstaff.  ‘Twas not a skill that a man of the cloth might find seemly, but as we have seen today, ‘tis a useful one in certain circumstances…”

Julien coughs, and Marcel excuses himself from his small band of admirers.  His smile vanishes.  “How are these?”

Bruyant rises, wiping his hand on the cloth as he looks over the two forms on the floor.  “Both unconscious, both should pull through.”  He grimaces when he looks at Marc.  “Best to get some rope.  We do not know in what state he shall awaken.”

Julien and Marcel repair to the cellar.

“I know this man,” says Pierre, looking down at Marc’s unexpectedly peaceful countenance.  “A winetaster.  He comes to the taverns in the morning, takes up his station, and ensures the wine is not watered, that the right prices are charged, and that his own palm is greased.”

“A government position, I believe,” says Bruyant.

Pierre nods.  “And he recently came to the post.  A shame, that a dark fate should take one so young.”

The crowd’s rumbling grows as Breschau enters with a squad of grim-faced guards.  He kneels next to a small barrel, picks up a cup on the floor, and sniffs.  “The same scent – the poison was in this cup.  We must check this barrel -“

“It will not be in the barrel,” says Pierre, stepping forward.  Breschau lowers his eyebrows, and the merchant quickly continues.  “The small quantity of mithridate from the pot could not taint so large an amount.  Nay, the substance would have been in the cup itself to be efficacious.”  He and the inquisitor look to the barkeep, whose knees are knocking together.

“Thou must believe me!  I had no cause to -“  He points toward the door.  “The man who brought the cask!  I have never seen him before!  A tall man, saturnine, with a cloak and hood!”

“We shall see,” grunts Breschau.  “For now, take him away.”

The companions adjourn to a corner as the guards march the taverner out.

“Our mysterious man again,” says Julien.  “We must track him down, lest the third dose appear in some man’s cup.”

“This man’s life could still be in danger,” says Breschau.  “We must find some way to protect him.”

“These poisonings are not random,” says Marcel.  “Ascertaining the rationale behind this one might aid us in preventing the third.”

“And apparently, I am giving my hospitality to the Franciscan Order this evening,” mutters Pierre.  “What means this, friar?”

Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 12:17 am  Leave a Comment  

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