International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year:
the Journal of Chas. Templeton, Esq.
night I had William bring my cot downstairs alongside the fire against
the cold. But what a rude awakening, before dawn and before my people
were abroad, with the banging of a phantom fist upon my shutters.
Catastrophic news: the King executed in the public square by means
of a mechanism while his assassin skulked out of sight in his craven
hutch. The shame of it!
The man was sent
by Gray and had a second encoded message that he whispered close to
my ear for me alone to understand. Gray would come on himself forthwith,
and I should prepare myself for imminent departure for Manton. The man
disappeared like a wraith in the fog and I commanded my bag to be packed
and gave instructions to William for the destruction of my incriminating
The donkey was harnessed and we stood waiting in the snow, he on his
four horny hooves, I stamping in my timber-soled boots. Gray arrived
on a spent horse which he gave to William to keep for the rest of its
useful life and then for meat and glue. My poor servant was speechless
with gratitude and wept in the dawn.
I followed Gray indoors to my library where he began to tear pages from
my library of spell books. I was astonished to find myself excited
titillated even by this sacrilegious proceeding. I asked him
if these incriminating papers might condemn us and he told me without
a glance that he would vaporise them before we were taken. This was
the first I heard of such a feat.
With his cloth bag crammed with crumpled thefts from my finest grimoires,
we emerged and he flew into one of his rare rages. William infuriated
my companion by sinking to his knees and praying gratitude to the false
God for Grays beneficence. I felt, as he bellowed and vituperated
at my uncomprehending man, that the sky darkened and turned back the
imminent sunrise, that the birds ceased in their song. But that may
have been only an impression given by the precocious hour, the cold
and my lack of sleep.
We climbed aboard the cart but my recalcitrant donkey refused to walk
on, remaining insensible to admonishments, threats, cajolements, treats
or violence. I had taken it in payment of a debt, with no great enthusiasm.
Yet still I felt for the beast when Gray drew a dagger from his cloak,
a dagger sheathed in a smooth, polished metal sheath. But instead of
drawing his blade and jabbing the animals stubborn rump, as I
might have done, he called: Cling on, Templeton! and thrust
the cold sheath a hands span into its anus. The donkey leapt into
motion and, by repeated doses, we made excellent time with the animal
All the same, the short day was waning before we came to Manton-supra-Mare.
We went directly to a large church decorated in the Gothic style, inside
and out, massed with superfluous ornament and grotesque sculpture. I
remarked that, by some chance, the great east doors were open. Gray
replied that he had extended his powers ahead of our arrival to cause
this and we bowled in, cart and all.
Stiff and cold from the ride, I eased myself down onto the flagstones
and went to shut the great oak portals. No, not that, he
told me. Well want to see them at their work. He upended
his cloth bag into the font happily dry and searched through
all the torn papers. See who at their work? I asked him,
but received no answer.
Finding the necessary receipt, he let out a great Hah! of
seeming triumph and strode outside. I joined him on the threshold and,
side by side, we looked back through the length of the nave at the far
west window above the altar. Beyond it, the setting sun crept down the
glass, just as the architect had intended. It shone through into the
nave with a magnificence I had not seen since the coronation in the
Hall of Ceremonies when I kissed the kings ring. Now he is gone
I must remember, he is gone.
We are in time, called Gray and held up the leaf of vellum.
Outside the west window, the sun dipped to the horizontal. Through the
red gash in Christs side, a single ray darted towards us like
a focused beam and struck the spell. As it did so, I noticed Grays
lips move though whether to conjure the next extraordinary events
or something more mundane, I will perhaps never know. There was
predictably enough a smell of scorched hide and a few seconds
later the sun disappeared below the level of the windows sill.
I drew breath to speak but Gray hushed me. All at once I heard a scratching
sound, like mice carrying stale bread across a table. Gray pointed to
the roof, well lit by a high, clear full moon. I took two steps back
in the snow and saw at once that the gargoyles were in motion. One after
another, I watched them stretch their grey limbs. As they did so, dust
fell in powdery showers to the ground. Then they came free of their
niches and rain spouts, crossed the lead and huddled in groups, slapping
each other about the shoulders, their ghastly stone mouths hanging wide
in fixed smiles.
The last rays of sun disappeared and the gargoyles perhaps thirty
of them in total began to descend. I flinched, thinking they
might mean us harm, but Gray commanded me to stay. They scrambled to
the ground and raced past us in a grating grey tide. We observed them
disappear in a colony into the bell tower. There was an awful minute
of suspense, during which I saw the ground begin to freeze about my
feet, the powdering of snow congealing to a firm skin of ice. Then they
emerged in a mob, with great coils of bell-rope in their stone hands.
In silent co-operation, they lashed it about the buttresses of the church,
forming themselves up into gangs, five or six to a tug.
I felt a shudder beneath my feet as they strained and the entire edifice
began to move. Come on, called Gray, inside!
I did as I was bid and went straight to the poor donkey that was squealing
and distressed. With a juddering vibration, the gargoyles dragged the
church towards the water's edge and my mind reeled at their inconceivable
labour. We crossed the shallow beach and the teams of gargoyles strode
out into the brine, pulling all the while. I turned to Gray to alert
him that we should drown but, as the thin stone swimming arms pulled
us out into the waves, the open doorway was sealed with a panel of frozen
seawater in which imprisoned fish and seaweed sketched an organic pattern
and the interior became almost dark.
My heightened senses detected a rocking motion and I asked him: Are
we afloat? For the time being, was his only reply.
Then he withdrew to one of the private chapels. It was some moments
before I realised that he was in conference with a face trapped within
the gold frame of an icon.
Though it seemed that, momentarily, we were safe from Parliament, I
had no conception of what our next project might be.
© Greg Mosse March 2009
is a lecturer in Creative Writing and specialises in crime fiction
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