Monday, September 19, 2011

Troubled journey (5): Murdered!

Pierrelatte (Dauphiné), night of 24th August 1713

Claire Baizanville's steps echoed smoothly on the wooden stairs while she followed Marquis de Vilana to the rooms they'd just been assigned. The staircase our characters took was attached to the spacious dining room, so that their irruption had managed to reduce the noisy militiamen in there to a deep silence, while watched Claire with greedy eyes. She kept a deliberately calculated pace, ignoring the lewd comments softly exchanged after her.

Once in her room, Claire inspected it routinely seeking possible escape routes. Good, the window was practicable enough. Vilana's room was next to hers, although there was no straight communication between them. That wasn't that good. She was still inspecting when some steps in the corridor got her attention. Someone knocked at the door of the room in front of theirs -the one of Brother Vincent, perhaps. She carefully brought her ear to the door. Some intense discussion in French language, in a low voice however:

-I do insist, brother: I don't believe it wise...

-Don't worry, Beaujeu. Monsieur Villars is undoubtedly a honest, intelligent man, who will appreciate the purpose of our mission. And if I'm right, they're going to share our route. This is, as said before, a happy coincidence.

The rest of conversation became inaudible to her. However, it had been interesting enough. That Brother Vincent had kept Vilana's masquerade as Monsieur Villars. That could mean either a routinely habit for a man who was accustomed to secrecies, or a deliberate will to keep hidden the Catalan diplomat's identity.

A little later, Marquis de Vilana smoothly knocked at her door, to take her to the reserved dining room where the expected meeting with the monks was to be held. On their way downstairs again, they crossed the youngest of the monks, a boy whose name was Adrien. For the strong Catalan accent in the few words she'd heard from him so far, Claire guessed the boy was from Roussillon county.

"A really intriguing coincidence", she agreed to herself. The young monk discretely saluted them, and continued upstairs.

When Claire and Vilana were about to get in the main dining room, a sudden exclamation of horror make them rush upstairs again. Brother Adrien was standing under the lintel of Brother Vincent's room, his face frozen in a terrified expression,ceaselessly signing up. Claire was the first to react and with rapid strides got into the room, followed by the Marquis, whose heart unbridled with terrible omens. The sight at their eyes couldn't be worse: the venerable monk was lying on the floor his eyes wide open, with a rictus of infinite surprise on face, while his life dripped away through a deep cut crossing his throat. The brown-and-white habit soaked in his own blood, and an ominous reddish stain spread inexorably over the floor.

Claire hurried to try and stop the bleeding, despite the wound was evidently fatal. And so Brother Vincent died. For a moment, the room was plunged into a strange calm while the girl stood up again with bloody hands and clothing. Vilana slowly knelt down beside the corpse. Instinctively, his hand traced the old man face to close his eyes for the last time, and then his gaze was fixed on a medal the monk had around the neck. He delicately took the amulet and rubbed it with the fingers, to clean it from blood. As expected, it showed at the obverse a religious image -albeit an unmistakable one to him, a Catalan. It was the image of La Moreneta -that is, Our Lady of Montserrat.

"Not any coincidence. By no means", Claire thought, still dazed.

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