a tale in weekly parts
This story is open for suggested continuations. I will publish here, with links to your own blog, all I receive. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) the next episode of this collaborative tale.
You can see the full story so far at this link.
Although the city wasn’t exactly what you would call crowded, there were still a fair few people around, considering the time of year and awful weather.
Madge immediately noticed the plethora of trinket shops lining the streets, and trotted in and out of them on her new heels, as excited as a 1980s schoolgirl at a Take That concert. The range of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ coming from her amused her son, confused her daughter and frightened her husband; the latter experiencing his worst nightmare – having to remove his credit card from the seldom-opened recesses of his twice-padlocked wallet and blow the dust off it.
In a shop specialising in crystal products, Al said “You can’t buy everything you see, Mother.”
His eyes were misting with fear at the prospect of handing his card to a stranger, a foreign one at that. He looked all around him. No-one in the shop shared his terror. They all seemed so… calm; unnaturally so, he thought. Don’t they know that you can’t trust foreigners? he thought, Especially in tourist-trap shops. They’re likely to disappear round the back of the shop, with your credit card which they will doubtless clone using some highly illegal electronic kit, before bringing it back, having grossly overcharged for some tat that says it was made by local artisans but that everybody knows is churned out in the thousands from some sweat-shop in China or such-like.
“Having a nice time, Dad?” Kr’veth’neq’is asked.
“Lovely thanks,” he lied.
Some fifteen credit card transactions and a little more than an hour later, Kr’veth’neq’is said, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could do with lunch. Any takers?”
“Yes, please,” Xander replied.
“Can we do some more shopping afterwards?” Madge asked.
“Sounds good to me,” Albert said, “the food here is supposed to be very good.”
“Who’s paying?” Al wanted to know.
“My treat,” Kr’veth’neq’is replied, which marginally improved Al’s mood.
The five found a table in the open-air section of a small restaurant, where Kr’veth’neq’is ordered from the luncheon menu in perfect French (of course). After a delicious meal composed of locally sourced ingredients expertly prepared, they relaxed with a shared bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau before stepping out into the streets again.
The waiter appeared with the bill; a touch shy of 150€; placed it in the middle of the table and raised his eyebrows as he looked around.
Kr’veth’neq’is looked at him and smiled. For a moment, both Xander and Albert lost her mental signal that was constantly hovering in the background of their consciousness whenever they were together.
The waiter looked back at her, smiled, mumbled, “Mon plaisir, Mademoiselle,” and, with a flourish, retrieved the bill and tore it up in front of their eyes.
“By heck,” Al said, “I could do with a trick like that!”
They all laughed.
“No more shopping now,” Kr’veth’neq’is said, much to Al’s relief. “Let’s go see the sanctuary.”
“Have you seen those steps?” Al complained, looking at the long, steep staircase leading up to the sanctuary.
“Don’t complain, Dad,” Xander said, “back in the day, the pilgrims had to climb the 216-step Great Stairway on their knees, carrying chains to signify the weight of their sins; and they had to stop after every step to say a ‘Hail Mary’.”
“Bugger that!” Al muttered.
“Indeed,” Albert said. “They didn’t have the benefit of a bitek, either. Back to Jarvis, everyone.”
They trooped back, Madge still looking lustfully, covetously and acquisitively into every souvenir emporium they passed. As soon as the last of them had stepped in to Jarvis and closed the door, it opened again, and they found themselves in a recess at the sanctuary level.
“Let’s go to the Saint Michael chapel, Dad,” Xander suggested, “that’s where I met Henry the Pious eight hundred years ago.” Giggling a little, he added, “I wonder if…”
“You wonder if what?” Albert asked.
“Well,” he said, “while I was talking with Henry, I was idly scratching at the stone bench with my pocket-knife, and kind of carved ‘XG’ into it. Not very big, and I imagine it will have worn off by now, but…”
“You go on in, I’ll stay out here with Chav,” Kr’veth’neq’is offered, “I don’t think they’ll want a dog inside there.”
They entered the chapel. In the corner, a small group of children were gathered, supervised by a man in priest’s garb. The children were taking turns placing pieces of paper over a part of a bench, and rubbing it with charcoal. They heard one of the children asking the priest what it meant.
“Non-one knows for sure,” the priest replied. “It is believed that a pilgrim, probably as long ago as the 12th or 13th century, simply carved these initials in the bench, using a sharp instrument or even a hard stone.”
“And are the initials XC, or XG?” the child asked.
“There is a school of thought,” the priest replied, “that suggests the carving is DX and we are seeing it up-side down. Everything in the church was conducted in Latin in those days, and the carving is possibly an abbreviation of Deus Ex Machina, although it is unlikely that term would have been in use then. There are records of a pilgrim named Xavier Gudmansson visiting from Denmark in 1297; maybe it was he who did it.” Turning to the rest of the children, and raising his voice a little, he added, “Whatever it is, its religious significance is beyond question, and you should give much prayerful thought to what this relic means to your own pilgrimage through life.”
This story remains open for suggested continuations. All I receive will be published here, with links to your own blog. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) episode 30 of this tale.
This story was started in response to Kreative Kue 18, issued on this site on 30 March 2015.