Averoigne PBEM II:34, or Cheese and Wine

Being just before midnight, Sunday, the fifteenth day of February, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, in the Cathedral of Vyones…

The huge oaken doors grind open as the companions rush inside.  Only a few candles, lit before the Black Madonna shrine at the far end, break the darkness and the damp.  Julien waves two guards, wielding arbalests and wearing the cloaks of pilgrims, toward a dark corner, while Pierre and Marcel lurk behind statues in niches on either side of the vast doorway.

Marcel gives a slight cough.  “Art thou certain that this is as close as we might come to Bruyant?  I fear we will be too far if aught goes wrong.  My trip to the outfitters confirmed that Breschau is prepared to leave Vyones in a trice.”

Pierre looks up at the dizzying height of the belfry.  “I climbed those steps often during my brief and checkered career as an altar-boy.  This is the best hiding place between us and the chimes.”

“What of Julien?  Where will he hide?”

Pierre sighs.  “In a place I told him to avoid.”

Meanwhile, the clerk and the priest climb the torturous, winding steps into the belfry, having a similar conversation.  “Now, ‘tis quite possible that the ‘belfry’ means merely the base thereof…“ hisses Julien.

Bruyant is unnaturally calm.  “Nay.  We have him in a trap of his own baiting here.  There can be no easy way out.”

Julien’s expression is grim.  “Remember, my friend, we needest no Thomas a Becket here in Vyones.”  He stops at a window.  “And I must depart thee.  Pierre assures me that this is the highest section of roof adjoining the bell tower.”

“Be careful,” says Bruyant, extending a hand.

“Likewise,” says Julien, gripping the hand before squirming through the window onto the roof.

Now alone, Bruyant climbs the final convolutions of the staircase to the tower’s apex.  There, he is disappointed to find the area empty.  On each side is a large window, whose shutters cannot keep out the occasional bluster of the winds.  In the center is the tremendous tarnished bell, suspended over a gap in the floor.  Above it is the groined vault, in the corners of which hang disconsolate bats and the remnants of desultory arachnid weaving.

The moment is anticlimactic.  The priest had expected some manner of foe with whom he might engage, a fiend in human form whose appearance presaged a struggle of apocalyptic proportions.  He sits down, cross-legged, on the stone floor, removes a crucifix and a flask of holy water from a small sack, and sets them next to him.  He finally takes up a small psalter, and begins reading.  “Dominus reget me et nihil mihi deerit…”

Julien, who is cutting a thick cheese, shifts slightly on the slick tiles, only to gasp and grab at the roof’s peak.  His knife skitters against the tiles in rapid succession, nearly hits a pawless gargoyle, and flies off the edge.  The clerk listens for a long moment.  He does not hear it hit the ground.

The clerk rolls his eyes upwards, only to be splashed in the face.  Thunder rolls, and a light sprinkle makes the roof glisten even more brightly.  Julien mutters to himself, wondering if he should crawl back inside and give up on werewolves and curious meetings in cathedrals of dubious safety.

But what is this?  What beetles up the side of the tower, circling around the edge to the slight gap in the shutter on his side?

Grasping the sill in one hand, Julien loosens the blade in its sheath.  “Bruyant!  Ware the -“

Thunder crashes.

Bruyant leaps upright, dropping the psalter.  Though he cannot remember grabbing them, the holy water and crucifix are in his hands.

Standing before him, in a dark traveling cloak, is Breschau.  On his breast gleams the golden cross, set with amber.

“Thou art -“ gasps Bruyant.

“Beast.”  Breschau smiles, in what seems to be a paternal manner.

“Thou art an evil man.”  Bruyant speaks loudly, both out of fear and in hope that the others will hear him.  “Thou hath slain the innocent, and kept the guilty from the grace of God’s forgiveness.”

“Hardly.”  Breschau walks back toward the sill.  “Wolf of God brings more men into fold of Christ than thousand mealy-mouthed shepherds.”

The priest steps backward, putting the edge of the bell between them.  “I knew ‘twas not Conrad in that alley!”

“Convincing Conrad that he was beast was necessity.”  Breschau turns his back and walks to the sill, where he opens a small bag where Bruyant cannot see it.  “Conrad hunts beast if he is not convinced beast is him.  With few suggestions, and tale from my homeland, he was easy to convince.”

Bruyant attempts to peer around him, while keeping the lip of the bell as a barrier.  “What tale is that?”

Breschau mutters something under his breath and turns.  In his hands, he bears a chalice, brimming with wine.

“It is old tale,” he says.  “In Livonia, we speak of werewolves of ancient brotherhood.  They meet in courtyard of old castle, to fight against witches who destroy crops and bring illness.  It is great honor to join them, and when one grows old or ill… or, perhaps, is revealed by actions of men who do not know good he does… he may speak words over wine and pass blessing on to another.”

He steps forward.  “I see thee, Bruyant.  I watch thee ever since I come to Vyones.  I sense thy good nature and faith, and I sense anger unchecked.  I do not ask for forgiveness, or approval for actions.  Instead, I offer great gift, to be used as thou findeth fit.”

He holds forth the chalice.  “Drink, Bruyant le Grand, and remember me!”

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Published in: on December 8, 2008 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  

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