Averoigne PBEM II:27, in which We See A Slaughter at the Archbishop’s House and Another Beast is Uncovered

Being Nocturns, the Feast Day of Saint Valentine, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, at the palace of the Archbishop of Vyones…

The guards draw themselves to attention, but Bruyant and Pierre run past them before they can register their vigilance.

“Should we be here?” pants the priest to his friend.  “Perhaps we would be best off seeking the beast, or the cloaked man…”

“Our first duty is to the archbishop.”  Pierre throws open the main doors, and runs through the corridors.  He takes the stairs three at a time and is running down the corridor when he draws up outside the open door to Obert’s room.  He stops.

“God in heaven.”

The room is a slaughterhouse.  The notary lies on the bed, his head at an unnatural angle, his throat and entrails torn out.  Cartilage and organs have spattered the stone walls and furniture, and blood drips through the mattress into a slowly growing pool on the floor.

Pierre sways, grasping the door frame.  He gulps for air.  Bruyant leans over and lowers his head between his legs.

“The… archbishop…” he finally says.

Pierre pulls himself together.  “Yes.  Come.”

The two men run down the hall until they are at the archbishop’s chamber.  Pierre pounds on the door and tries the handle.  “It won’t budge.”

“Thy Excellency!”  calls Bruyant.

Something muffled is said within.  Scraping and grunts can be heard, and the door flies open to admit them.  A harried Archbishop Honore sits in his chair, surrounded by grim men-at-arms.  The men rush in, and a makeshift barrier is erected behind them once more.

“Gentlemen!  How good it is to see thee!”  He rises and embraces them.

“Art thou safe?” asks Pierre.

“As safe as a man faced with a werewolf without a dweomered blade could be, I suppose,” he says.  “Didst thou succeed?  Where art thy companions?”

“They hath the blade.  They have gone in search of our mysterious poisoner.”  Bruyant collapses in a chair.

The archbishop looks toward the shuttered window.  “Breschau hath gone in search of his master.  I know not where he hath hid  a beast with the cunning of a man may be difficult to catch.”  He gently pulls Bruyant to his feet.  “Be assured that I am safe here.  I know not where thou shouldst go in this chaos, but I am sure thy aid is greatly needed.”

Meanwhile, at the house of the Sieur de Tourgeant on the Rue de Chien Bizarre…

In ordering two soldiers to bring along Orianne, Marcel inadvertently brought a troop of guardsmen along, following in a mixture of fear, curiosity, respect for the companions, and bewilderment.  Julien, who is leaning slightly on the friar, takes advantage of the situation.

“Secure this house, men!  The three of thee, go about the back!  Let no one leave!”  He gestures with the enchanted sword wrapped in oilskin.  “The rest of thee, with me to the door!”

“I certainly hope thou hath no intention of melee in thy condition,” says Marcel, tapping at the portal with his staff.  Behind them, the girl hangs loosely between the two guardsmen, her head bowed.

After a minute, the door opens, and a bleary-eyed old man, rusted armor half strapped-on, confronts them.

“Where be those janissaries?” he shouts.  His eyes widen in recognition.  “Julien le Grand?”

“Sir,” says Julien, “we believe that a dangerous criminal is in thy house.”

“Nonsense!” says the Sieur.  “I am certain that…”

His servant clears his throat behind them.  “My master hath not knowledge of all that transpireth in his household.  I feared that this might be the case, but…” He shakes his head.  “I will explain later.  This way, gentlemen.”

Marcel, Julien, a confused Sieur de Tourgeant, and the guardsmen follow the servant.

“A former tenant of this domicile was involved in ceremonies of an impious and Satanic nature,” says the servant, bringing them into the kitchen.  He gestures into the corner.  “Behind those barrels is the trapdoor.”

Julien and Marcel move forward.  They lift a board, revealing a flight of steep stone stairs.  Marcel goes first, Julien’s hand upon his shoulder.

The chamber at the base is cloaked in shadow, and the companions’ eyes slowly adjust.  First they see four candles burning at one end, in each corner of an elaborately cut tablet of black wax.  Marcel gasps as he discerns the forbidden magic of Almadel.  Above it is an inverted cross carved into the wall, and the floor and walls bear the outlines of many half-erased pentagrams and blasphemous names.  Along the perimeter are shelves bearing alembics, retorts, crucibles, and other staples of the laboratory of the alchemist  or the poisoner.  A man steps forward from the corner, his hood thrown back.

Marcel and Julien stare at him in confusion, which transforms to wonder.  The once-wild hair has been exchanged for combed locks, the priest’s habit for the garb of the traveler, the psalter for a mace with wicked barbs.  Nonetheless, it is the same cleric they last saw but months before carted off to await the Inquisition in the dungeons of Ximes for conspiring to convince a poor widow she was under demonic obsession.

“Andre d’Erlette!” cries Marcel.

“Indeed.”  The man smiles mockingly and gives a slight bow.   “I wouldst say I was at thy service, good friar, but I think thou wantest nothing I have to offer.”

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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