Blood, sweat and Lycanthropy

All Rights Reserved ©

Blurb

Genre:
Drama / Horror
Author:
Hayden D. Linder
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
1
Rating:
4.5 2 reviews
Age Limitation:
13+

Trials

Blood, sweat and Lycanthropy

November in Poligny, France. Wet and cold.

As dismall a view as Antoin Barganier’s mood. The coach seemed to bumble it’s way down the road. More than travel. After miles of this. He could not tell if there was something amiss with the wheels. Or if instead, - as he suspected, - the driver simply had a knack for finding every single sink hole in the road.

“The weather does not bode well for our success, Monsieur.” His secretary Alix Caron stated.

Antoin shrugged. “The weather has no say in court, Monsieur Caron.” He replied in an overly formal tone.

He liked being a lawyer. He liked science. Both leaned toward facts. And he enjoyed having a life based on facts. NOT the insane ramblings of villagers. Who see witches and warlocks everywhere they look. All the time thinking: these “powerful” individuals. Who can summon demons with nothing more than a black candle and a satanic prayer. {Have nothing better to do. Than to corrupt their sewing. Or fornicate with their, usually unattractive, always covered in animal shite, daughters.}

“You do not think God makes his wishes known through the weather?”

Antoin sighed and took his gaze from the window to look at the man. He was not much younger than Antoin. But his naivete was palpable.

“I think, God makes the weather to be the weather.” When he saw Alix nod, he returned his attention to the most “English” looking view he’d ever seen in his country.

[Town ahead, Monsieurs!] He heard the coachman yell.

“Must be London.” He muttered.

“I’m sorry, Monsieur?” Alix asked.

He waived the comment away. Soon, they were pulling into the town. Collecting their bags. And getting to the warmth of the local inn. Alix left to make their arrangements. While Antoin went to the bar. To collect a couple of brandy’s for the two of them.

A few minutes later. He saw Alix walking toward their table with a crestfallen expression.

“Bad news? Here? I cannot believe it.” He said.

Alix nodded as he took his seat and his drink. “Monsieurs Burgot and Verdun have confessed to the crime of Lycanthropy.”

“No surprise their.”

“You do not think they did it?”

“A Jewish friend of mine once told me. ’When they hold a knife to your testicles. You will tell them whatever they wish to hear.” Antoin answered.

Alix nodded in thought. “...They have named a third man. A Philibert Montot. And one of their wives, Burgot’s I think, has been arrested as well.”

“This is starting to get out of hand.” Alix nodded in reply. Again. “Did you get the location of the local Magistrate and where they are being held?” Antoin continued.

“I did.” He gulped down his drink and hissed as the burn made its way to his stomach. “I can take you there now. If you wish.” It was Antoin’s turn to nod. As he finished his brandy and stood to leave. “Where do you want to go first?”

“The Magistrates.” He said as he donned his wide brimmed hat and overcoat.

It was a short, wet, cold walk to the Magistrates home. They were let in immediately. Due more to the weather than anything else.

“Monsieurs Barganier and Caron to see the Magistrate. In regards to the Burgot case.” Alix announced to the maid.

She curtsied after taking their coats and hats. Before saying, “Of course. I will inform his Lordship.”

A few minutes later she returned and escorted them to the Magistrates private study. It was a beautiful library. More in keeping with the great houses outside of Paris. To find it in a little town of peasants was surprising. The Magistrates home was nice. But certainly not extravagant enough to anticipate this.

The large mahogany desk was lovely but typical. The roaring fireplace that chased out the cold, was not. The walls filled with overloaded bookshelves. Was not expected. And the few unoccupied walls. Having been painted a bright teal. To clash with the burgundy drapes. While showing painted renditions of greek classical sculptures. Framed in crown molding? That was a pleasant surprise for both men.

They bowed. “My lord.” Antoin stated.

“Monsieurs, please.” His Lordship said with a smile. When they rose he continued. “I am not so vapid as to require signs of obeisance.” The older man stated. He was a large man. Who appeared to prefer laughter and merrymaking. He would be a hard man to dislike, Antoin mused. “I am Claude Bauffremont the Marquis de Poligny.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, my lord.” Antoin replied.

The Marquis began to pour two more drinks. “Now, Marie tells me you are here in regards to our case of lycanthropy. Is that correct?” He asked as he handed the glasses to his guests.

“It is, my lord.” Antoin answered. “I have a letter from King Henry. That I am to give to the Magistrate of this case.” He said as he reached into his coat pocket to retrieve the letter.

The Marquis nodded as he extended his hand. “That is me.” He confirmed.

Taking the letter he examined the seal before opening it. Antoin and Alix sipped their liquor as they waited for his Lordship to finish the King’s message. It took several minutes for him to do so. Antoin deduced that he was collecting his thoughts.

When he finally looked at them again. He said, “The King has sent you here because he is worried we may be overzealous in our investigations.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“With all of the arguments between his Majesty and the Church. One would think he would ignore the concerns of a few farmers in the backwoods.”

“I cannot speak for his Majesty. But I suspect it is not so much a concern for these men. As it is a concern for the regularity of the issue. These cases are becoming more and more frequent, my lord.”

“A sign of the Devil’s prevalence in our country perhaps?”

“More a sign of “backwoods” hysteria. I would think, my lord.”

“Hmm.” He replied as he retrieved his glass. “Be that as it may. I will not stand in the way of two of my King’s agents executing their duties.” He held up his drink in toast. When all three had raised their glasses. They drank. “Now, where are you staying?”

“The Hotel Dieu, my lord.” Alix answered.

He nodded in reply. “It is acceptable but my home is nicer. I will have your things moved here.”

“You are too kind.” Antoin answered cautiously.

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! OHhhhh I see that look, Monsieur. Yes. I am wishing to keep an eye on you. That is why I’m having your things moved.”

For his part Alix looked stunned. He had missed what interplay just transpired.

His Lordship went on. “BUT. Look at it this way. You also have the advantage of having me at your disposal. ‘Ready at hand’ if you will. Should any difficulties arise.” He smiled as he toasted Antoin again before drinking.

“Very true, my lord. Merci.” He toasted back with an unconvinced smile of his own.

The Marquis gave a self amused laugh before asking. “You understand, the case is solved. They confessed.” He nodded when he saw Antoin’s nod in reply.

“We heard at the inn.”

“Where do you intend to start?”

“I would first like to see the accused. Then I would like your indulgence while I corroborate their story, my lord.”

The Marquis gave a gentle shrug. “If you need time. Then I have no issue with postponing the executions. How long do you think it will take?”

“I expect it shouldn’t be more than a few days.”

The Marquis nodded. After a few quiet moments. They settled into the comfortable chairs of the den. Before discussing the news from Paris. And other more pleasant subjects.

The rain had increased during their talk. So the rain that Monsieurs Barganier and Caron forced their way through. Was quite substantial. Near the outskirts of town lay the fortification used as a jail. It was here that the four “culprits” were held for execution.

The two men fought their way through the rain. And then, through the very rude jailors of the gate. They were in sour moods an hour later when the Captain of the jail finally deigned to meet with them.

“You are here to see the wolves?” He asked abruptly as he entered.

Antoin looked at him with a cool demeanor. He was a tall, dark man. With one of those hideous kind of mustaches. “We have a letter from the King saying we’d better.” He sneered back.

The Captain proffered his hand for the message. He was not foolish enough to ask ‘why’ it had been opened. He read it. Handed it back. And turned to leave. “Follow me.” Antoin and his secretary obeyed. “I am Captain Gervase, You will follow my orders while you are here or I will have you forcibly removed.” He said all of this to the hall in front of him. The good captain never turned back to see if his audience understood.

He led them down a stone hallway filled with iron barred windows. Retrieved a torch. And then led them through a thick wooden door. Down a stone curveing stairwell. To stop in a deeper, darker, hell hole of a dungeon. The cries and moans of its occupants clear for all to hear. A piercing scream of agony echoed off the walls. Antoin watched as Alix was almost sick.

“Captain? We were told the suspects had already confessed.” He stated - and - waited. Until the good captain nodded in agreement. “Then why are they still being tortured?”

“Have you ever had a pain from a wound? As it heals it will flare up from time to time?”

“Yes.” Antoin nodded.

“Torture is like that. These people are not being tortured at present.” A sinister smile spread across his face. “But the pain likes to make itself known. From time to time… keep an arm’s length between you and the bars at all times.” He finished firmly. The insane smile forgotten. As if a flight of fancy. Brought on by Antoin’s dark surroundings.

The cells lined only the left wall of the hallway. A stonewall ran the length of the right. It was far enough from the bars to prevent any innocent. From stumbling into the clutches of the “fiends” who inhabited these rooms.

The Captain removed his trunchion and banged on the bars of the first cell. “Verdun! You have visitors!”

The lawyers watched. As a broken man drug himself across the floor. Till he was visible in the light of the torches. He only had the use of one arm. His left arm. The rest of him was so obviously broken and mutilated. That words cannot capture the anguish he must have suffered.

Antoin knelt down to be on eye level with him. “Monsieur Verdun. I am Antoin Barganier and this is my assistant Monsieur Caron. We are here to talk to you about the murders you are accused…”

“Yes, my lord! We killed em!” He interrupted. “Ate em up! We did!”

His diatribe continued. Antoin sighed in exasperation. Though it went unnoticed by Michel. As he retold the satanic “horrors” he and his fellow lupine had committed.

When he finally came to an end to his tale. Antoin nodded. “Merci, Monsieur.” He stood and walked to the next cell.

Pierre Burgot was not AS abused. But he was no less as energetic in his full admittance to the horrible acts he and his “packmates” had committed. Madame Burgot was the saddest of the lot. She lacked the strength, or perhaps the courage, to crawl to the front of the cell. Her weeping, however, was heartbreakingly clear to Antoin.

Philibert Montot had a broken jaw. But managed to nod vehemently. Grunting “Yeth! Illed em!” Several times. He grabbed the bars in his enthusiasm. “Illed em! Illed em ull!”

The Captain wrapped his knuckles with his club. “Get back!”

Montot withdrew a few steps. Holding his hand.

Antoin nodded to the man. “Merci, Monsieur Montot.”

They left with the two lawyers shaking their heads in disgust.

“Do you have to be so damnedably cruel to them?” He asked Captain Gervase.

The man studied Antoin a moment before nodding. “I know your type.”

“Do you now?”

“Oui. You think the world is full of people who only want to live their livers in peace. And not harm anyone if they can help it.”

“You disagree?!” Antoin exclaimed with great incredulity.

Gervase nodded. “Most people are decent… But not all.” He shook his head. “When a man finds himself in here. Having gone through what these people have been through. Whether I’m right? And these animals are evil satanic trash. Or you and your city bred decency are correct? And these people are innocent. Does not change that there are hundreds of reasons why a man would reach through those bars to harm you. Either out of fear. Or anger. Or revenge. Or just the ancient human desire to have some control over what is happening.”

He paused for a moment. “My job; is so that when you go back to the King. To report that we are all ignorant, superstitious fools. That you will do so, sound of body.” He motioned with his head toward the front office. “Your things are waiting for you. Good evening.” Then he turned and left.

“Insufferable bastard.” Antoin muttered.

It was late but his Lordship had waited up for them with dinner. The conversation was muted as they ate. None of the three men seemed inclined to break the silence. After supper, Antoin made his excuses and went to bed.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


The next day Antoin was roused from sleep by gentle knocking at his door.

“Oui!” He said from the bed.

“Monsieur? Breakfast is ready.” He heard Marie announce through the door.

He thanked her and got up to get ready for the day. Breakfast consisted of fruit, beignets and coffee. The day looked to be miserable. But Marie was an excellent cook.

“Planning another visit to the jail today?” The Marquise queried.

“No. Absolutely not.” Antoin replied. “I need to speak with the witnesses.”

His Lordship nodded in reply. “That makes sense.”

“Do you happen to have a copy of the confessions?”

“I do. In my den. You would like to see them? I assume.”

“Oui, my lord. The accused made several statements that sounded odd to me.”

“I can imagine. But ‘odd’ in what way?”

Antoin shrugged. “They claimed to have murdered a multitude of people. But has anyone reported any missing children? Or eviscerated bodies?”

The Marquise shrugged. “No. But the people of Poligny have lived with the belief that we have had a lycanthrope issue for some time now. Even if there were bodies. They would not be inclined to come forward. As it would only antagonize the monsters.”

Antoin smiled. “But surely, now that they have been caught?”

He laughed. “Now? ...Oui! They should be inclined to come forward. I will get the papers for you.” Both Antoin and Alix rose and bowed as the Marquise rose from his chair to leave. “Stop that.” He sighed in mild irritation.

Once Antoin and his secretary read through all four confessions. They borrowed horses from his Lordship and set out for the homes of the neighbors of the accused.

It was a long and painfuly uneventful day. Filled with a total lack of proof. “No.” No one was missing a child. “No.” No one had ever come across a woman eviscerated as she was picking peas. “No.” No one had ever seen anything odd out of Verdun, Burgot or Montot. Though they did think it strange Philibert was involved. Since Verdun was known to hate Montot.

“Yes.” Monsieur Cambre was a drunken liar by nature. Who no one trusted.

“Who is Cambre?” Alix asked.

“Did you not read the report?”

Alix shrugged. “I skimmed it.”

Antoin sighed as they rode home through the rain. “Monsieur Cambre claims he was attacked by a wolf. He managed to wound the beast. And it fled. For some unexplained reason, he followed the blood trail and at its end. He found a wounded Michel Verdun.”

“Ohhhh. So…”

“So, this entire case is crap.” Antoin smiled.

Antoin was so excited by the time he returned that he almost couldn’t contain himself. He managed to get his horse stabled. Stowed his wet things. And quickly made himself presentable for the Marquise. When his Lordship gave him the go ahead. He was like a child who had solved a complicated puzzle for the first time. The words just poured out.

When he finally got it all out. The accuser is a known miscreant. There is no supporting evidence that anyone was ever murdered by a wolf, of any kind, in this region for years. The confessions were obviously given out of a need for the pain to stop. And a few minor points for color.

But the Marquise?

He looked sad. Antoin looked at Alix. As if he could somehow explain. But Alix looked as confused by his Lordship’s demeanor as Antoin.

“What is wrong, my lord?”

“I am sorry.” His lordship sighed. Then shook his head. “The accused will be executed as soon as this hellish rain lets up.” He stated as he glanced out the window.

Antoin was apoplectic. Sputtering incomprehensibly.

Alix cleared his throat. “...You cannot believe they are werewolves?... After what we’ve learned?” There was a tone of horror to his questions.

His lordship looked miserable.

“Gentlemen, I AM sorry... But this is the world we live in.” The Marquise leaned back against his desk for support. “If I release these people. Claiming the charges are preposterous. The Church will come in. Screaming how the ruling class of France will not protect its people. From the evil minions of Lucifer.”

“SO - WHAT!?” Yelled Antoin.

“His majesty has had more than enough fights with the Church, That he can ill afford another.”

“So, innocent people will die?”

The Marquis nodded. “If it safeguards my King’s throne. I will see many innocents die, Better that. Than to suffer the rule of a foreigner in Rome.”

Antoin was shaking his head. “You knew this would be the outcome. You let us traverse the county. Knowing we were wasting our time.”

The Marquis sighed again. “Yes.”

“The King will hear about this!”

“He knows, son.”

“,,,,,,,”

“If the King wanted a different outcome. Then the letter you handed me would have said “Stop.”

Antoin took a seat. “You can’t know that.” He said to the floor.

“Yes, I can.,, As long as the Catholic Church continues to try to usurp his power. There are certain things we -have- to do.”

Alix commented. “Then the only way to stop these trials is to convince the Church they’re ludicrous.”

“Best of luck with that.”

“What do you mean, my lord?” Antoin asked.

“There’s a lot of money in inquisitions.” The lawyers looked horrified. “You never noticed how few serfs are accused of cavorting with the Devil? How it’s always a person of means? Property? And who gets to keep that property once the poor soul is laid to rest?”

“Good God/” Alix uttered.

“Mm… There is more at stake here than a few peasants.” They looked at him. Too stunned by these revelations to be judgmental.

“Why would his majesty send me here? Knowing this?” Antoin was eventually able to squeak out.

“He likes you. And he felt it was time you had a harsh lesson in the politics of France.”

“Did the letter say that?”

The Marquis laughed. “I am an Earl, Antoin. The King and I are on speaking terms.” After several moments of silence. When the Marquis realized they had nothing more to say. “Get some food, boys.” He held up his hands in defense. “I know. You’re not hungry. But you need to eat. THEN you can rest. You did very well on this assignment… I’m just sorry the outcome is so inhumane.”


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


The rain continued for another three days. But on the fourth. When the sun came out. And the children ran happily. Playing in the streets.

The Marquis announced the execution of the four Lycanthropes. A field on the edge of town was prepared for the event.

Antoin and Alix escorted the Marquis and Marie to sit in the Grandstand. Thankfully. The officials were not expected to cheer and applaud the spectacle. The commoners more than made up for their lack of enthusiasm. The somber mood of the Grandstand worked best for the lawyers. As they were only present out of a sense of duty to the damned. Who they felt they had failed.

The minstrels played cheerful tunes. While actors pantomimed the upcoming atrocities that awaited the prisoners. Merchants strolled through hawking their wares. Food and drink mostly. The “fair” atmosphere made the bile rise in Antoin’s throat.

After a nightmarish hour of this debacle. The Marquise motioned for the prisoners to be brought forward. The announcement was made. The crowd was silent.

For a time.

Then, Captain Gervase could be seen. Walking in front of a cart with four people in it. The noise of the crowd returned 100 fold. The victims looked even more miserable in the daylight.

Several priests stood awaiting the condemned at the pyres. Chanting prayers that could not be heard over the din of noise that the spectators made. One priest swung a smoking censer. While the others sprinkled Holy water on the despicable creatures. As they were drug from the cart.

Captain Gervase stood near the Grandstand as the Lupines were secured to their posts. Some of them were speaking or crying. But whatever they said could not be heard over the noise.

“I feel faint.”

It took Antoin a moment to realize that Marie had said that. The Marquise was already leaning toward her. “There is no reason for you to see this.” He said soothingly.

A fleeting thought raced through his mind that he could escort her away. Mostly to get out of this hellish scene. Too soon he heard the Marquis say, “Captain Gervase?” When the captain turned to look. His Lordship motioned him up to the stand.

“Will you escort Marie back to my home? She is feeling a bit faint.”

The Captain nodded. “It would be my pleasure, mademoiselle. I was hoping for an excuse to avoid this site.” He smiled at her.

Several minutes after they left. The Parish Priest looked to the Marquis. To see of he had a speech. The Marquis motioned for the Priest to continue. The Father gave a very eloquent sermon on the temptations of the Devil. And how those temptations led these poor four souls astray. He warned that all should,guard their hearts against selfish and petty desires. Renounce greed. And lust. And the many works of the tempter.

Then the sermon was over. The priests stepped away but continued to pray. And the pyres were lit.

The ‘burnt offerings to the god of politics’ writhed and cried out. Antoin could not tell how much of their screaming was from pain. Or the fear of pain soon to come. The fires began to burn heartily. The wood had been soaked in oil. A kindness. If there was such a thing in this mess. The cries of the prisoners fell to silence. Not that anyone present would know, But smoke inhalation suffocated them. Long before the fat of their bodies could cause the fire to birth even higher flames.

When the corpses of the Lupines were nothing more than a blackened husk. The Marquis, Antoin and Felix, finally, left the party.

“I’m going to get drunk.” Antoin announced.

“I should go with you.” Alix commented.

“Not today.” He shook his head. “I would just say something hurtful. That you do not deserve.”

“Be careful.” The Marquis urged.

Antoin nodded.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


He bought several bottles and worked his way through them. Like a man on a mission. It was night. And the rain had returned by the time he made his way home. He had forgotten his hat and overcoat at the Marquis’ house, Not that he cared.

“Watch out there!”

He heard. As a wagon with several men rode passed. It took a moment for his addled mind to put it together. Those were the gravediggers returning from the burial. The werewolves could not be buried in hallowed ground. So they had been placed in a pit outside of town.

Antoin turned to peer into the darkness from where the wagon had come. He stumbled pathetically off in that direction. He wasn’t sure why. He was not called. It wasn’t an urge. He simply felt as if he should apologise to the dead.

He finished the last bottle long before he got to the grave.

As he stood. Drenched in the downpour. He said. “I am sorry… I wish…” He was shaking his head.

Lightning streaked across the sky. Thunder clapped. The wind picked up. But Antoin ignored it all. Alone with his failure.

He went to move his foot but almost tripped. When he looked down ro see what it was that had tripped him. He stumbled back quickly. The clawed hand latched onto the earth and pulled.

Antoin fell backward. Back pedalling as fast as he could. Until he bumped into something. Too afraid to look away as he watched a wolfish man extricate himself from the grave.

YEEEEEAAAH! HEH HEH!” It laughed in a voice too deep to be real.

>NOW< Antoin remembered to scream.

Whatever he’d bumped into lifted him off the ground. Then turned him to face it. “Shut

Up!” Another wolfman said before dropping him to the ground.

Antoin sat there horrified. “It’s true! It’s all true!”

Welllll, some of it is.” It smiled hungrily at him. He could see the other wolfman. With his doglike legs. Lope into view as this one continued. “The bit about us rubbin ointments on ourselves and dancin with a green candle round a fire…

The other laughed. “Ha Ha! Ha! Ha! Like a coven o fuckin witches or some such? Heh.”

The one next to him squatted down to eye level with Antoin. “Yeah. That’s all shit. But you’d be surprised how creative you can get. When a man sticks a red hot poker up your ass.”

“Speakin o which…” The other one hunched and dumped a huge, foul mass of excrement. “Wooo! That’s better. Been holdin that in since they destroyed me backside.

Ya couldn’t a done that over there?

Had to go. How are you keepin it in all prim an proper like?

I shat in the grave. Like any civilized soul.

“You ate those people.” Antoin finally found his voice.

The second lupine licked his lips. “The young ones are the most tender.” He smiled maliciously.

Antoin heard what sounded like a human body being crushed through a gristmill. As the second wolfman morphed into a large wolf. He had an expression of exquisite agony. Until his visage was replaced with that of a canine.

“Where do you come from? How did you get like this?”

The first predator took his long clawed index finger and slit a gash down Antoin’s cheek. Antoin yelled in pain. Covering his cheek with his hand. “Well, it starts with a pure hatred. For all o the fear filled sacks o shit that occupy this world.” He smiled. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, Monsieur Barganier. We have a village full o God fearin Christians to terrorize.

He laughed until his laughter turned into a wolf howl. The site of his body changing. Was accompanied by the same disturbing crunches and pops that his friend had made. The look of euphoric anguish ever present till the end. The dark murderers loped off into the night. Leaving poor Antoin to shiver. In the mud and the rain and his own urine.

The End?


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