Averoigne PBEM II:28, in which a Most Impenitent Confession Is Heard and a Frightful Figure Presages Worse to Come

Being Nocturns, the Feast Day of Saint Valentine, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, in the secret cellar of the home of the Sieur de Tourgeant on the Rue de Chien Bizarre…

“Your offer is quite kind, Marcel l’Hyers.”  Andre gives a short bow.  “In fact, I shall take thee up on it posthaste.”  He laughs as Marcel’s eyebrows rise.  “Surprised?  Let me begin with my confession, dear sir.  We need no privacy for its efficaciousness…”

He leans nonchalantly on a table, with his blade still pointed toward the two.

The Tale of Andre d’Erlette

Good gentlemen, I am the youngest son of a poor peasant family from a town near the cathedral city of Vyones.  Like thyself, Julien le Grand, I went to Paris as a young man to seek out training at the University for the priesthood.  A man at a modest country parish had promised me his position if I persevered, so I worked hard, scrimped for books, and after long hours of study and disputation, mastered the trivium, the quadrivium, and the intricacies of theology.

I went back to claim what I had worked so hard to achieve  and what did I find?  The weak milksop of a priest had sold the benefice that had been promised to me for a comfortable sum from the son of a minor noble.  Railing against him as Esau must have against Jacob, I broke in upon the miscreant’s cottage that night and strangled him.

Immediately thereafter, I felt a rush of guilt, followed by a deep sense of vindication.  Was this not just?  I thought of all those fat clerics, laughing at the deacons and readers who sought their posts and doling them out for the goods of this world rather than the blessings of the next.  I was guilty of a mortal sin, and forever barred from the priesthood  yet one option remained.  If I could not be the curate of God, I could be that of the Devil.

Thus, I acquired certain sorcerous appurtenances  whence, it doth not matter, and I shall not reveal at any rate  and set about my task as best I was able.  And what task was that, thou might ask?  As most priests save the souls of men, I deduced, my office should be to send them to perdition by whatever means available to me.

We shall not enumerate my accomplishments on behalf of the Prince of Lies, as such is best done before an ecclesiastic tribunal.  When thou didst catch me in Ximes, I hadst obtained my position via extortion of the bishop thereof, and I had high hopes of using the words of the false demon Flibbertigibbet through the medium of Gustave to lure in many ingenuous souls.  Even after my capture, the bishop’s orders that I be given privileges in my cell were granted, even if they continued posthumously.  I thereby spoke much with people, and eventually found the good Orianne, seeking her brother’s attacker.  I convinced her that she should aid me in a number of matters  quite a competent girl she is, no?  One of her minor accomplishments was planting documents I had forged among the bishop’s papers indicating that I was a penitent who should be freed under only the lightest penalty  so!

(Andre throws open his cloak, to reveal a long, glistening garment embroidered with the heads of fearsome demons.  The visages of Apollyon, Asmodeus, Theulus, Ophis, Antichrist, and sundry incubi and succubi catch the torchlight in bright thread, seeming to move as of their own.)

‘Tis an attractive sanbenito, no?  One could hardly imagine a more proper habiliment for an apostate and consorter with the diabolic.

Once I obtained my emancipation, Orianne and I repaired here to Vyones, where she had prepared the laboratory as I had expressly ordered her to do.  By a few counterfeit epistles, I had convinced the good Sieur de Tourgeant that she was a niece whose parents had died in the plague.  I fear I did not inform her of the extent of my operations – she believed only that I sought to aid her in the destruction of the good Julien.  Nonetheless, I had plans of my own.

It was my intention to find how surely I could damn the soul of a person, and soon I hit upon the method.  I visited different individuals who I found possessed grudges against their neighbors or compatriots, and subtly played up their anger until I gained an acquiescence, no matter how fleeting, to the murder.  I then used preternatural techniques and appeals to forgotten translunar intelligences to blot out their memory of what had transpired.  Their victims were then done in unexpectedly via a curious hallucinogenic concoction, which, if successful, would ensure that they died mad and unshriven.  As for my unwitting clients, they would die with a mortal sin on their heads for which they could never confess.

Thy situation, my dear clerk, was slightly different.  Orianne insisted that she be the one to administer thy punishment, a conviction that was much in accord with mine own intentions.  Thy mind was prepared for her arrival via a ceremony, utilizing that bowl of extraterrene metal at thy side, by which I sent thee nocturnal visions of the lady.  I must say, I am disappointed by her failure.  I thought her more than capable of dealing with a blundering hulk such as thee.

Nonetheless, now that thou art here, I am quite prepared to entertain thy suggestions.  Since the Inquisition hath arrived, I have been dogged, shall we say, by a curious and unwelcome presence.  He hath hounded my steps, and at least twice I nearly became his quarry.  The night thou didst visit milady, I realized that he had tracked me to my lair.  Now, I adjure thee to protect me, in the hope that I might have time to reflect upon the enormity of my transgressions and find contrition therewith.

With those words, Andre drops his sword and kicks it across the floor.  Julien, his face grim, puts his boot upon it.

“My God!” someone shouts upstairs.  There is a sudden commotion, cries of horror melding with the shuffling of feet.  Andre’s grin vanishes, and he backs into the corner once again, shivering.  The men at the top of the stairs move aside, as if pushed by a huge invisible arm.  A form walks past them and stands at the top of the stairs to the cellar, blocking the light, his features obscured.

The companions stand paralyzed for a moment.  Then Julien’s eyes adjust.

“Good Lord!”  He cries out.  “Pierre!”

“By all that’s holy, man!  Thou dost stink!” shouts Marcel.

Pierre sighs.  “Thank thee, good friar, but none hath more cognizance of this situation than I.”

Bruyant appears behind him, a wet rag tied around his mouth and nose.  He speaks, muffled so the others cannot hear.

“What sayest thou, Father?” asks Julien.

“He says that this unction, while noxious enough in the jar, hath its effects greatly magnified when mingled with a man’s perspiration.”  Pierre says.  He peers downstairs.  “Hast thou caught the beast?”

Marcel looks toward Andre.  “Only one, I fear.  And I fear the other will be fiercer when cornered.”

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Published in: on October 5, 2008 at 11:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

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