Battlefront: part six

Posted by ractrose on 5 Nov 2017 in Fiction, Novels

Battlefront: part six

A Figure from the Common Lot






“I, in my time, have never known of a case that conforms to the legend. Yet, as the people have it, Le Sort came to be called the devil’s abode. Those accused of some crime would be tried there by ordeal. That, I think, I need hardly explain.”

“He must stay the night in the ruins, to prove himself innocent?”

La Roche shrugged. “You will suspect the nature of this mystery. The rock gives way at times. The earth opens. It can be quite sudden. The hill has claimed true victims. On the other hand, those who believe in sorcery and vengeful spirits punish themselves. They torment their own minds with fear…and it may be to the death.”

“If I were accused, I would leave at once,” Honoré said. “So, in the morning, I suppose they would say I had gone to the devil.”

La Roche smiled. “But, there it is, they tell this story. A condemned man may, in an earlier day, have been dealt with in this fashion; I have never spoken to anyone who admits seeing it done.”

Paquette’s son laughed suddenly. His father’s guests turned expectant faces. “Some friend of yours, Henri,” Paquette said, “has told you another story.”

“No.” Henri crossed his arms and looked down at the table. “I think it’s funny. Why wouldn’t you walk away?”

Baum answered. Paquette kept silent, but for a moment studied Honoré. “The devil knows his own,” Baum said. “He has work to do if he chooses. They will be placing their guns on Le Sort before the sun rises.”

“And I have come to say,” La Roche told Paquette, “as I have said to all the holdouts, please think of your family. Please leave tonight, while the road is open.”

Paquette stood and crossed to the front wall. He had placed his gun cabinet with an enemy in mind. One forcing entry through the door, or peering through the window, would not see this—that Paquette could both arm himself, and shelter here, in ambush.

“What road is open?” He unlatched the cabinet; inside, three oiled muskets, neatly aligned, glinted in the lamplight. He closed the door. “I have a plan, you needn’t fear. I expect to die tomorrow. It is not,” he returned to the table, and lowered his voice, “that my faith has given way. I believe that our emperor, if only he knew how his people suffer, would open the gates of his palace…he would protect all France beneath his roof, he who so loves the peasants. But, of course, being a great man, he knows nothing of the pains of small men. It is an easy fault to excuse. The attentions of great men have been more, almost, than we can bear. Yes, I would take the road tonight, certainly, as you say; but I fear I might starve on the way to Paris. I might die with my back to the guns, as a coward dies, to no purpose. I would rather die in my own home, and so I will. I do thank you, monsieur le curé.”






Battlefront: part six

More of this piece on Battlefront page
Battlefront: part seven (excerpt)












(2017, Stephanie Foster)


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