We descended toward something that looked like a crater set apart from the surrounding countryside by yawning ravines and overgrown forests. It proved to be the ruin of a medieval castle, with high walls and thick foundations that extended deep into the earth. Trees grew inside the husks of long-abandoned buildings huddled in the fortress’s shadow. The castle didn’t have a single graceful line or pleasing feature.
In the Real-Time Reading Companion, Deb says that her inspiration for La Pierre came from Château de Murol in the Auvergne. The castle was built in the twelfth century and remains open for visitors today. I was pleased to note that the castle allows dogs. The castle enjoys a good deal of popularity today because they have ongoing “son et lumière” shows designed to show medieval life. Si tu parlais français, there are numerous videos of these shows available via Youtube.
There is drone footage of the castle and its grounds (edited for your dramatic enjoyment) in this video:
If you prefer a guided tour, and speak French, this episode of Suivez le Guide is excellent. From this video, I learned that the castle offers views of over thirty kilometers over the old roads to Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Paris.
I closed my eyes and braced myself for a fall. Instead Satu grabbed my hair and aimed my face into a dark hole. The smell of death rose in a noxious wave, and the ghosts shifted and moaned.
I probably don’t have to tell you that oubliettes are awful; Deb does a fairly thorough job of giving you a fear of them even if you’d never encountered one before. While the primary purpose of an oubliette was psychological torture, some prisons elaborated on the grisly theme of starvation and deprivation with spikes or flooding. The German equivalent is called an angstloch, literally, a “fear hole.” Should you be curious about other horrifying dungeon features, there’s a thorough listicle here.
“As for Diana,” Ysabeau continued smoothly, though her eyes sparked in warning, “if your father were alive, Lucius Sigéric Benoit Christophe Baldwin de Clermont,” he would be out looking for her, witch or not.”
Ah, Baldwin. I like you, dude, but you make it hard sometimes. As we’ve done with Matthew (and will do later with Ysabeau), we’ll take a moment to explore the meaning of Baldwin’s many names:
Lucius, meaning “light,” was popular in Roman times and is the name given to three different popes.
Sigéric is derived from the Old High German “sigu,” for victory. It’s combined with rîcja, which means “powerful, strong, mighty.” It’s the name given to a fifth century king of the Visigoths.
Benoit means “blessed” in the Old French and is similar to the modern name “Benedict.”
Christophe is the French form of Christopher, for “he who holds Christ in his heart.”
Baldwin is also Germanic, combining “bald/bold” and “wine/friend.” It was once very popular in Normandy and Flanders.
I will skim over the involvement of the Knights of Lazarus in world history for the moment and talk a little about Ysabeau and Matthew.
Then there was Ysabeau. Everyone underestimated her except for Philippe, who had called her either “the general” or “my secret weapon.” She missed nothing and had a longer memory than Mnemosyne.
Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of memory and the inventor of languages and words. She was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia and mother to the nine Muses: Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomen, Terpsichore, Erato, Polyhymnia, and Urania.
“In the Cantal the witches would have to answer to Gerbert, so they must be somewhere near the border. Think,” Baldwin’s last drop of patience evaporated. “By the gods, Matthew, you built or designed most of them.”
According to Ysabeau, Matthew began life as a carpenter and became a stone mason. Stonemasonry is one of the world’s earliest trades. In the Middle Ages, stonemasonry developed into a profession with a hierarchy wherein apprentices were indentured to their masters until they paid off their training. The BBC wrote a dense little article on the history of medieval stonemasons in England, which sheds a bit of light on the profession that Matthew adopted in his first adult life. Based on Baldwin’s description, Matthew was likely a master mason during the Middle Ages and would have had the ability to design castles.
There’s a lot of plot on Chapter 31 as Baldwin and Matthew rescue Diana from La Pierre. I’ll leave you with the image Diana conjures of Hector and Fallon, guarding the door like the lions at the New York Public Library. Their names are Patience and Fortitude.
See you tomorrow–improbably–in Madison.