Sunday, November 1, 2015

Adventure 08: Auxerre and the Black Riders: Chapter III

Chapter III: Arrival in Auxerre

       Rector Duquesne                  Boniface                                Bernard
The party arrived in Auxerre late in the afternoon. While Guy, Lucien, and Gaston looked for accommodations at a coaching house in downtown Auxerre, Father Signoret went to the college. Auxerre's college, founded in the second half of the 16th century by Jacques Amyot the bishop of Auxerre, was staffed by members of the Society of Jesus.
At the college, Signoret spoke with Father Duquesne, the rector of the college and the senior Jesuit in Auxerre. Rector Duchesne agreed to arrange a small room at the college where Father Signoret could stay. Signoret told the Rector about his mission. In turn, Duchesne confirmed the stories they had heard about vicious wolves plaguing the countryside around Auxerre. Duchesne discounted any supernatural origin to the wolves as well as the belief of some that the wolves were sent by the Devil as a warning against heretics, though he allowed that the town governor, Noel Meunier Baron de Fressain, had been entirely unsuccessful in killing the wolves. Then he told Signoret of the local rumors about the Black Riders.
“Most of the stories refer to the horsemen’s black helms. The superstitious believe that these black helmed horsemen work for a sorcerer and their victims are sacrificed to the devil. Those who are more fearful than superstitious say that the Black Riders are heretics who have returned to this region to start a new Religious War. There is also a most pernicious rumor, believed by fools and sinners that these black horsemen act at the bidding of our order who, like the mysterious horsemen, also go about garbed all in black. I believe that this slander is spread by heretic preachers who secretly move about the region deluding the credulous and spreading their lies to seduce people from the true church.”
Father Signoret thanked Duchesne for the information then, since the college did not have anywhere to stable his horse, the Jesuit returned to town to arrange stabling for his horse at the inn where the others were staying. His faithful servant Claude would sleep in the stable with the horses. The inn, a coaching house run by a bald, heavyset man named Boniface, was called the Blue Bottle[1]. Talk in the Blue Bottle’s common room mostly concerned the wolves plaguing the area and their effect on the price of food. Several patrons suggested that the wolves were a curse set on the region by Huguenots.
Signoret told the others what he had learned from the College’s Rector, Father Duchesne. Gaston and Lucien decided that from the descriptions of the Black Riders—their identical helms, uniform dress, and heavy weapons—that they were no ordinary bandits. Someone must be recruiting, equipping, and paying them. The four friends decided that the next day, Father Signoret would see what more he could learn at the Jesuit College while Lucien and Gaston would speak with Captain de Maubrant, the commander of the Auxerre town guard to learn what he might know. Then Father Signoret walked back to the Jesuit College.

Meanwhile Claude, who was still hungry after supper, went to the stable where he asked Bernard the stableman, “Is there anywhere here in town to get good food cheap?” Bernard told Claude to come back after eight o’clock that night. So after his master’s departure, Claude returned to the stable and Bernard directed him to the Dog’s Head tavern, a river-side dive where Claude could get all the stew he could eat for less than a sou if he said that Bernard had sent him.
At the Dog’s Head tavern, Claude announced that Bernard had sent him. Almost immediately the cook brought out a bowl of stew. He also bought Claude a mug of wine and chatted with him. Claude happily guzzled the wine, slurped the soup, and told the cook all about his brave master and his mission to look for the Black Riders. The cook went back to the kitchen to get Claude another bowl of soup. After eating this bowl and drinking some more wine Claude became very tired. He put his head down on the table and soon fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning when the four friends gathered at the inn, they discovered that Claude was missing. They questioned the inn keeper and the servants who could tell them nothing. Since Claude was to have slept in the stable, they questioned Bernard the stableman. When questioned Bernard panicked and tried to run, but Gaston halted him saying, “If you run I will blow your brains out with this pistol.” Despite Bernard’s obvious fear, their questions didn’t yield satisfactory answers. Bernard insisted that he knew nothing other than that “Claude left to find some cheap food.”
Signoret threatened to see that the stableman was turned over to the Inquisition for torture. At this, Bernard trembled in fear as he fell to his knees, crying and pleading not to be given to the Inquisition for torture. He told them that he had sent Claude to a place called the sign of the Dog’s Head, a tavern in Auxerre’s Marina district. He said he had an arrangement with someone called Robert to get five livres a head for steering lone travelers to the Dog’s Head. Signoret said they should hang on to Bernard while they searched the Dog’s Head for Claude. “And if you’ve lied to us, I will see that you are broken on the wheel.”
They decided to take Bernard to the Jesuit College for safekeeping. But before they could move him, the watch arrived, called by the innkeeper who had heard Bernard’s cries. They quickly knocked Bernard unconscious and left by the rear door, but they ran right into the watch. Quickly Guy said to his friends in a drunken voice, “Help keep our poor drunken friend here on his feet.” Fooled by Guy’s trick, the guards allow the friends to pass supporting Bernard. They hid Bernard in a cart full of straw that they found and took him to the Jesuit College. The Rector was reluctant to help. He said that the College’s charter did allow him to discipline citizens of the town and he was worried that this greatly exceeded his authority. Father Signoret used his membership in the Jesuit order to persuade the reluctant Rector to keep the stableman locked up in a root cellar for at least a day or two.
Afterward, Gaston asked Signoret if he would really have had Bernard broken on the rack. The Jesuit calmly explained that Bernard was a criminal and that he believed that was the penalty for such crimes.

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[1] French: La Bouteille Bleue

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