William knelt in prayer at the statue of the Virgin Mary while the Benedictines were at Vespers, their chant echoing through the cavernous space. As voices intermingled, divorced, and regrouped about him, Yven lost himself in the din, unable to discern which sound belonged to which brother. For a blissful moment, his mind wandered through the tones and away from the bleakness of reality. The rhythm gave order to his chaotic thoughts and with it a sense of purpose. When the chant faded from the memory of the archways, fear drifted into his bones once again. He missed routine and longed to hear the brutal words and the physical sting of his master’s abuse, for it would mean that he was safe from change and his future certain.
After service concluded, a brother guided them to the office of the abbot, a decaying, crooked codger with bright blue eyes and a caring smile. “Now, how can my office serve you?” he asked, his wisp-like voice crackling with the strain of age.
“I am recently come from the Holy Lands with intent to return some items to the Triviot family, Father Abbot,” William stated, leaning forward in his seat. “I was instructed that they resided in Beaucaire and I wondered if you knew where I should begin my search.”
The old man tapped his chin, “Traviot, you say? Their patriarch, Dannel, took ill with fever and as of yet, isn’t recovered. May I assume then, if you are delivering personal effects, that his son Mattieu is…”
William nodded, but offered nothing further.
The color faded from the abbot’s eyes as fast as his smile. “Ah, God have mercy on his soul,” he crossed himself. “We’ll include him in the book of the dead. Brother Xavier will be deeply saddened to learn of his cousin’s death. They were quite close in their youth. The Traviot manor is up the road from the smithy once you are within the town’s defensive gate.”
The crusader didn’t allow silence to cripple their conversation, moving quickly on to other concerns. “I should inform you that we ran into some trouble with highwaymen the morrow yester. They traveled light, and as there was no indication of another camp in the area, I have to assume then that they are local. Their organization also implies that there may be more of them.”
“Quite distressing,” the abbot said, clasping his hands together. “We have been left undisturbed in our solitude. If your suspicions are correct, these fiends must respect the church. Perhaps if they are local as you claim, they do not wish to be recognized by the brothers?”
“Do you have a place to go if violence should find you here? I’m concerned for the safety of your order.” Unease was evident in William’s voice, but Yven thought there was something else driving his inquiry. He wanted to interrupt, to ask why, but he let his question go unspoken. Habit was comforting, and his suspicions remained concealed within his gut.
A tunnel through the wine cellar led to safety, or so the abbot explained hesitantly. “Since our charter, we’ve only seen the need to use it once. Few save our holy brothers remember its existence.”
The soldier nodded, seemingly satisfied, and pushed on with his next request. “We will need lodging for the night, perhaps for the morrow as well. Would it be possible to board here?”
Father Abbot frowned, his wrinkled-face a wash in seriousness, “So long as you do not mind a bed with the novices, or distract them from their office, you may stay until your mission is concluded.”
“That is most agreeable, we thank you,” William said, rising. He offered a few coins from his purse, “For your generosity and your inconvenience, both.”
“This will help a great many people, God bless you.” The old man rose with the caution of his age and shuffled to the door, “We dine simply here and will have supper within the hour. You will join us, I must insist.”
“We will indeed, thank you Father Abbot.” The crusader replied, signaling for Yven to follow.