The conversation between the crusader and the abbot gnawed at Yven so that his supper refused to settle. William inspired such trust that it was difficult to believe him guilty of an ulterior motive, yet the father was a man of God, representative of His will on earth. What was it about their exchange that bothered him so?
Night had long dethroned the sun and shadows were thick and consuming in the meager-lit hallways. Still, the brothers rose again to their devotions at Vigils, stirring Yven from his slumber. He watched them file out, not a sound made among them save the soft dance of their heavy woolen robes and the scrape of their sandaled shoon against the stone floor. Resting his head back on the buckwheat pillow with the intention of returning to sleep, he was disturbed once again as the crusader rose to follow.
“Monsieur?” he mumbled as he attempted to swing his legs out from the bed.
William gently pushed his shoulder back. “No need to rise, Master Dubois,” he stated in assurance. “I am simply participating in the office.”
Bleary-eyed, Yven didn’t fight it and he sank into the returning nothingness. He didn’t dream, and didn’t stir again until the Prime bells rang. Brushing the sleep from his eyes, he followed William to the chapel and lost himself to the chant as he had before.
“Well, Lad, are you content to remain with the brothers, or are you keen to join me in Beaucaire?” William asked as the morning office concluded.
“I’m with you,” Yven said. He preferred not to be surrounded by strangers absorbed in silence and prayer.
“Very well, let us leave them to their doctrine.”
The trek from the monastery wasn’t long, but the road was still muddy from the recent storm and they walked at a slow pace. The signs of autumn were betrayed in the landscape as greens escaped their leafy homes in scattered progression. The road looped about like a forgotten ribbon, clinging to the grade. The sun, warm upon the travelers, thawed frozen jaws and lulled them into conversation. Yven found his voice and questions uprooted from his mind, eager for answers. “Why question the abbot about the highwaymen? Surely the brothers have no hand in the attacks.”
The answer came as measured as their steps, “Seclusion is a risky lifestyle, especially so for a man devoted to God. It often leads to paranoia, and worse, complacency. His faith will blind him to danger I fear me, and there are wolves among his flock.”
“Are you so sure then that the highwaymen were local? Could they not have been just a roving band of murderous thieves?”
The crusader stopped, flipping his satchel to the other shoulder. “Anything is possible, but consider this: they attacked at night, on foot, under the threat of severe weather.”
“But to risk a city curfew?” Yven countered, remembering the night he violated a town’s curfew accidentally. It wasn’t a pleasant night and his master made certain that the week was equally difficult.
“And on foot when the monastery was a half-day’s ride from the ambush.”
He mumbled grimly as they proceeded forward, “Yes, but the monastery has no curfew. By divine edict, they must remain accessible to all pilgrims seeking sanctuary, no matter the hour. And I’d wager your train was the first they happened upon. I’ve witnessed stranger plans executed.”
Cold fear gripped at his heart as layers of doubt and mystery suddenly evaporated. “Surely we would’ve noticed other guests among the novices.”
“And yet we were not offered rooms as travelers, we are granted beds in the novice hall.”
Yven frowned. Why didn’t the abbot offer them lodgings in the outbuildings? “Because the guest rooms were already occupied?” he queried slowly.
“And there are a number of horses stabled there that have expensive tack,” he said as they approached the imposing gate to Beaucaire. “Hardly fitting for impoverished monks.”
Mulling it over, Yven let his eyes wander the formidable wall, no doubt expertly laid by master freemasons many years ago. Guards were posted at the gate, one with an official-looking badge of office proudly draped across his shoulders. Suddenly, Yven panicked. He never had to handle a checkpoint on his own. He fumbled for his writ of business, unsure if it was even valid anymore.
“State your name and your business please,” the officer commanded.
William responded, “William leSaber, with my charge, young Master Yven Dubois. We seek an audience with the Triviot family. We have news from Acre.”
Yven, relieved, shoved the partially drawn documents hastily into their pouch. He liked the sound of charge. It seemed so much more noble a title than apprentice ever did. He straightened his back and attempted to appear as imposing as his benefactor. He kept pace with him once through the gate, following the directions to the Traviot manor.