Averoigne PBEM II:21, in which an Excursion is Planned and the Inquisitor is Believed to be Much Taller

Being Sext, Saturday, the Feast Day of Saint Valentine, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, at the house of Nathaire the Physician in Vyones…

Julien awakens from dreams of blood and teeth at the slamming of a door. He is grateful for a moment, until he sees Conrad of Nurnburg standing over him. The inquisitor’s pleasant features are twisted with anger.

“Thou hast much to answer for, Julien le Grand!” He points an accusatory finger at the clerk.

“Good Lord, man!” cries Julien. “Is there no rest for a man mauled by a beast?”

“So thou sayest! Nonetheless, something is afoot, and thou art a great portion thereof. I have it on unimpeachable authority that thy friends waited outside my door and window last night, spying upon me! Thou shalt tell me everything, or…”

“Julien!”

Orianne is suddenly at the bedside.

“How didst thou enter?” Julien and Conrad ask together.

Orianne gives Conrad a quick look and turns to the clerk. “I wanted to make sure thou wert in safety, but Nathaire said thou didst require solitude. This man seemed determined to enter, so I followed.” She gives Conrad a closer look. “Is this the inquisitor? Methought him more imposing…”

“Enough, woman!” The inquisitor turns back to Julien. “Now, thou shalt answer my questions…”

“He need answer nothing,” says the archbishop from the doorway, with Marcel at his side. “The archbishop’s staff is not, and has never been, subject to inquisitorial interrogation.”

Conrad checks his tirade. He speaks slowly. “Thy Excellency, I apologize for my conduct. I have it on good authority that this man was conspiring to spy upon me.”

“To provide an added level of security against a possible threat, thou meanest,” says the archbishop. “I was presented with evidence that this mysterious killer might target thy person. As thou hadst given strict orders not to be disturbed, I instructed these gentlemen to augment thy detail.” He steps forward. “Now, I must ask that thou leavest my employee to recuperate in the presence of myself and his associate.”

Conrad wavers, but stands still. “I must ask that these men coordinate such actions with my staff in the future. They have spent too much time hovering about my investigations like flies.”

The archbishop nods. Conrad gives a hasty bow and departs. Orianne gives a smile before a servant ushers her out as well, leaving the friar and the archbishop alone with the patient.

Honore steps forward and takes Julien’s hand in both of his. “How feelest thou, my son?”

“Much better, with thy arrival.” Julien beams. “But why did Conrad come to me to question about the actions of Bruyant and Pierre?”

“No doubt he considered thy wounding and isolation to make thee the weak link in the chain,” says Marcel.

“Indeed,” says the archbishop. “Now, this good friar has been telling me some unusual – nay, nearly unbelievable – things. I would appreciate thy corroboration of them.”

The two companions fill in the bishop on what they have discovered. He listens attentively, sometimes breaking in with particular questions.

“I don’t have to tell thee -“ he says at length.

“Be careful, I know,” says Marcel. “I am uncertain how we can bring this matter to a conclusion if we are always careful.”

The archbishop thinks for a moment. “In this endeavor, thou art hunting what is both man and beast. The man is nigh-on untouchable…”

“… so we hunt the beast,” concludes Julien.

“Quite,” says the archbishop. “In the meantime, gentlemen, I suggest thou speakest with Breschau regarding whatever information might be safe to give him.”

“We were intending to already,” says Marcel.

“Thou wert? Ah. Very well.” He turns to leave, then stops. “And as for the matter of his superior being a lycanthropic Satan-dealing warlock…”

Julien smiles. “We shall build to that.”

Meanwhile, at the library of the Archbishop’s Palace…

Pierre finds the priest huddled against a draft over a stack of books. He plops down on a cold bench nearby.

“I have been making some inquiries,” he says with satisfaction. “If we need a trap to be built, I have a crew of men both doughty and discreet able to do so. ‘Twould only be a matter of determining what manner of trap it should be.”

“Any thoughts on that?” asks Bruyant.

“Only that it must be one unseen to man and unsmelt by wolf.” Pierre waves a hand at the books. “What hast thou discovered?”

“Little, I fear,” sighs the priest. “My flock is terrified of this beast – none knows who might be the next victim. Many see it as the wrath of God, and are giving consideration to turning over the less savory of their neighbors to the graces of Conrad. As for these books, I have but one hint.”

Pierre sits up. “What is it, friend?”

Bruyant leans over a text, his touch knocking crumbling fragments of paper onto the table. “This book of natural wonders suggests that a blade tempered with sorcery will be efficacious against such a monstrosity. My misgivings are severe. Not only is this poor theology…”

“’Tis a tradition of Averoigne to turn to solutions less than orthodox in times of extremity,” counters Pierre.

“…But it also raises the question of where we might find such a blade. I am not Arthur, and we have no Lady of the Lake to assist us.”

“A lady!” Pierre snaps his fingers. Bruyant looks at him in surprise. “There was a tale I heard when scarce beyond my nativity,” the wineseller hastens to add. “There was a baron, whose betrothed was beset by an incubus…”

“…because her stepfather promised her to the Devil at birth…” follows Bruyant.

“…and he vanquished it with both prayer and a sword of untold mettle, granted from a lady he met in the woods!” Pierre grins.

“But is it true?” asks Bruyant. “We must find out…”

An hour later, Bruyant is poring over chronicles and volumes upon legends, while Pierre fetches a book for him.

“’Tis true indeed,” muses Bruyant. “’Twas two hundred years ago, and that line has gone extinct since, but it does bear mention in the narratives of the period.” He turns the page. “No doubt this lady of whom thou dost speak is dust along with them.”

“But where did he meet her?”

“At a pool, near a cleft in a rock face.”

“Landmarks? Now this merchant is in his element.” Pierre rushes across the room to a case of maps, tossing them aside in an astonishing fashion before returning to the table, parchment clutched between his hands. “See? Here is a low cliff face, and this stream flows to the Isoile, so we might look for their intersection. ‘Tis several miles to the west…”

“In the forest of Averoigne,” Bruyant says with trepidation.

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Published in: on July 27, 2008 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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