Being None, Saturday, the Feast Day of Saint Valentine, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, at the Inn of Deux Diables in Vyones…
His feet sinking in the sawdust as the companions cross the common room, Marcel hisses to Julien, “Didst thy messenger reach our friends?”
Julien nods. “And they sent him back. They say we must prepare for a trip into the woods.”
“Aye. Given our situation, they agreed to make the bulk of the preparations. Here he is. Our wits must be about us.”
They have a seat at the corner table, across from Breschau, who is cutting a link of sausage with a large knife. “Good to see, and talk, with thee.”
“Likewise,” says Marcel, pouring himself a glass of wine from the pitcher on the table. “I know not how far thy knowledge goes, but we have some information of interest regarding thy mysterious informant.” He sketches out the possibilities regarding the man of many faces, and the potential for embarrassment in the Inquisition’s case if his involvement is uncovered. Breschau ceases his desultory chopping and listens with interest.
“We hath asked our local contacts about him,” adds Julien, raising his mug toward the barmaid. “He hath not been seen since the taverner of this establishment espied him the morn of yesterday.”
“My people say same thing,” says Breschau. “Is likely that he goes to ground.”
“Which means that he has a place to hide,” muses Julien.
“Not to mention, that he may know his final target already,” says Marcel.
Breschau wipes his mouth. “I increased guards on both archbishop and Conrad in case of attack. I fear we are no closer to finding man before, but we are ready. If thou hast ideas, they are welcome.”
Marcel bites his lip. “What of the… beast that attacked us? I know that can hardly be a concern of the Inquisition, but…”
“Thou art mistaken,” says Breschau quietly. “Beast very much my concern. I hunt him for long time.”
Marcel and Julien exchange glances. “Thou hast?” the clerk asks.
“Indeed, sir. He followeth us to every town. He hath no lair, eats little, and must never sleep. I set many traps for him, but he is cunning and escapes them. He must be demon or evil spirit. He drives people to confess sin, but that best done out of love, not fear.” His eyes bore into the two. “I think gentlemen not tell me all, no? Is fine. We keep secrets for later.” He rises and bows. “I am sorry to depart. I must hunt man of many faces. Time may be short. We talk again later, no?“
“I hope to do so indeed,” smiles Marcel. The spymaster returns the smile and walks out.
The friar turns to his friend with a grim face. “I have the distinct impression, my friend, that we hath been weighed in the scales.”
“I have a good feeling nonetheless,” says Julien. “Otherwise, he would have not told us so much. But he leaves much unsaid. Does he know what we do?”
Marcel slaps him on the shoulder. “One more puzzle to add to an already tall stack. But quickly! Let us join our companions.”
Meanwhile, at the home of Pierre le Butelier…
The dining table is overlaid with packs, sacks, cloaks, packets, twine, herbs, wineskins, weapons, and all manner of paraphernalia.
Pierre laughs as he shoos his children out of the room. “Nay, nay, these are not for thee, rapscallions. So, any items of especial note in this assemblage?”
The priest smiles. “Most is by the good grace of the Archbishop, but I stopped by Myriam’s cottage. The midwife wants to get rid of the soldiers – apparently they just sit around and eat – but I told her that the beast is becoming bolder. Despite this, she says she prays even more for my own safety. She provided me with these garlands of aconite to ward off all manner of lycanthropic menaces.”
“For my part,” says Pierre, “I visited the hut of Cyon and picked up some of this anti-wolf balm guaranteed to frighten off all manner of beasts.” He opens a small jar and quickly puts it at arm’s length. “Not to mention, all manner of men.”
“I believe Myriam mentioned this concoction. She says the chief ingredient thereof is the dung of hares.”
Pierre looks at the jar dubiously and covers it. “I have also gathered a goodly amount of salted beef, cheese, hardtack, and wine.” He considers for a moment. “Perhaps if we have to coat ourselves in this substance, more wine might be necessary…”
They are still deep in converse when Marcel and Julien arrive. The clerk gives an appreciative whistle at the table. “The archbishop hath given us a bounty indeed!”
Marcel takes a hasty look at the window and shakes his head. “Though we have made haste, I fear we are too late to find this place in the woods and be back before nightfall. Should we wait for the morrow?”
“’Twill be the Sabbath,” says Bruyant. “Though some special dispensation for the sake of necessity might be obtained…”
“I should have asked for that when I confessed,” says the wineseller. He shrugs his shoulders. “Ah well. What will it be, gentlemen?”