An Unclean Legacy: “One Hundred Golden Men”

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With apologies: there will be two more episodes, because after editing the ‘final episode’ was longer than Tre Ore.

In the west there is a fire.

Montechristien Gargamel descends the stairs. He looks into the room where six of seven children have gathered. He sees the blood; the wounds; the tears; the stares of horror.

He shakes his head sadly.

He is using a cane. He looks very weak, as he walks.

“Follow,” he says.

He is walking towards the Castle door. Mutely, his children file in behind him.

His lower lip is trembling.

“Father,” Violet says.

“It is only sane,” says Montechristien Gargamel.

His robes make a shuffling sound against his legs.

“Who wouldn’t murder for limitless power?” says Gargamel. “Who wouldn’t do anything, however depraved? However empty? However destructive? Why, even to kill your own siblings—that’s not so much. Perhaps when you hold the little gold men you’ll bring them back from the dead, in a more pleasant form. You could give Manfred bunny ears to lighten his somber appearance. Or teach Tomas the jig.”

There is an uncomfortable silence.

“Are you going to tie up the Devil again?” Violet says.

“No,” says Montechristien Gargamel.

Sophie stops in place. The others walk on for a few moments, then Montechristien turns. He stares at her.

“I’m not going out there,” Sophie says, “if we’re not going to fight.”

“Stupid child,” says Gargamel. “I’m not going to give you to him.”

Sophie hesitates. Then she shrugs, looks up and to the side, and rejoins the group.

“So,” Montechristien says, “Violet. To whom do I give the little gold men?”

“Me,” Violet says, without hesitation.

“Heh,” Montechristien says. “And if not you?”

Violet hesitates. Then she opens her mouth. She starts to say a name. Then she closes it. She opens her mouth again. She starts to say a name. Then she closes it.

“Santrieste?” she offers.

“Are your siblings so bad?”

“That’s not it,” Violet says, uncomfortably.

Montechristien reaches the Castle gates. He opens them. He looks out to the west.

There, amidst the terrible fire, stands a blue essential in a red, red cap. He is dead. His eyes are replaced by crosses. His beard is filthy gray. He is three apples high and animated by an unholy life.

He had never had a name.

He’d only had a title.

So we’ll call his walking corpse something unholy and new.

“Hello, Montechristien,” says old dead Papa Scratch.

In a time of wizards and kings, one name stood above the rest. He was Montechristien Gargamel.

He seized from the mushroom village one hundred of the blue essentials and transformed them into gold. From that time on his power was limitless. He broke the world and repaired it again. He dispensed terrible destinies and powers as if they were the most ordinary of gifts. And as the time of his death approached his children came to his Castle to dispose of the matter of their legacy.

Violet, his eldest and most dear, who had betrayed him before she was even half-grown.
Francescu, the deathless sorcerer, who had turned his back on the affairs of the world.
Manfred, the fallen knight, whose strength was legend and whose spear was magic’s bane.
Tomas the cruel, who had looked in his tenth year upon the face of God.
Christine, the mad sorceress, who wandered the world in her living house.
Sophie the skinchanger, soulless and Devil-tainted, and once the one Montechristien loved best.
Elisabet, the Devil’s child, a creature as much of shadow as of life.

In the hour of the end, each turned their hands against each other, and the halls of Castle Gargamel ran with blood. This is the twenty-seventh installment of the story of that time.

Manfred looks down. His brow furrows.

“You are smaller, sir Devil, than the last time we fought.”

Montechristien coughs, weakly. He holds out his arm to bar Manfred from moving forward.

“This isn’t your fight,” Montechristien says.

“I’m here to free the others,” says old dead Papa Scratch. His head lolls to one side, and he pushes it back up. There’s the scraping sound of broken neckbone against broken neckbone as his head realigns. “I figured, I’d give you a chance, Montechristien, since we’ve been through this before, to give them up now.”

“If I still had an evil cat,” Montechristien says sadly, “he’d leap on you. He was good at scratching.”

He hesitates.

“Do you have someone sneaking into the Castle behind me?” he says. “Or is this going to be one of those things where you throw down an alchemical bomb and rescue them while I’m coughing?”

“Father,” says Sophie, as a gentle reminder. “That’s the Devil.”

“I’ve had people in the Castle forever,” says old dead Papa Scratch.

“Oh?”

“They sit on the shoulders of Manfred and Francescu,” says old dead Papa Scratch. “They crouch on the corpse of Yseult Gargamel. They flit this way and that among the guardian statues and the teeth of the barking dog.”

“Well,” says Montechristien, considering that. “You’ve certainly come out ahead of me in this madcap caper.”

Now Papa Scratch narrows his dead-fish eyes.

“Pardon?” he says.

And Gargamel, ever so creakily, lowers himself onto one knee. He rests his hand under his chin. He says, “It was good, you know. To come back as the one person I couldn’t ever defeat. To come back with the power of a golden eidolon in addition to your own. But if you wanted to beat me, you really should have gone with Yseult.”

“It would have been clever,” the Devil agrees. “But I wouldn’t give you the pleasure of seeing your bitch again.”

And as Montechristien’s face tightens with anger, old dead Papa Scratch gathers himself; and with a bound he flies towards Gargamel’s face, and his hands are claws and his teeth are pointed and there are worms crawling beneath his skin.

Montechristien, with the highly tuned reflexes of a blue essential hunter, catches him.

“Papa,” he says, and he is not speaking to the Devil, but nevertheless the Devil goes still and shuddery in his hand.

“Papa,” says Gargamel, and his voice is broken. “You are not so dead as to allow this abomination to proceed.”

And for a moment the eyes of the thing in Gargamel’s hand are living eyes. For a moment it is not the Devil’s voice that says, “Then let them go. Gargamel, I beg you—”

“They’re gold, Papa. You’re all gold. Gold and dead. Forgive me.”

And the head of the thing in Gargamel’s hand lowers, and its eyes go blank again; and the flames are burning Gargamel’s hand until there is little to it but bone and blackened meat; but there is a blueness that rages through the fire and puts it out and then slowly, slowly, with the infinite reluctance of any power yielding to its death, succumbs to gold.

An Unclean Legacy

“One Hundred Golden Men”

Montechristien straightens.

“Where is Elisabet?” he says.

“Dead, I should hope,” Tomas says.

The glare Montechristien turns on him is terrible; it would inspire legends of devils and of angels; but Tomas simply shrugs.

“I explained to her what she really is,” he says.

And Violet shouts: “Manfred, no!”

For Manfred is in motion.

But it is not Violet but Montechristien who stops Manfred from skewering Tomas; Montechristien who blasts Tomas and Manfred back and hangs them in the air each separate from the other; Montechristien who grinds his teeth together and struggles against his inclination to dance with rage.

“In front of me? You would do this in front of me?”

Manfred does not speak. He simply looks sullen, like a man evaluating whether it’s worth killing his father in order to conduct his other business.

“It doesn’t matter,” says Gargamel.

He lets Manfred and Tomas drop.

“The power of the blue will not hold the Devil away for long,” Montechristien says. “This is expected; I did not plan to live the night.”

He sighs.

“It is time to discuss what we must, the eight of us, discuss.”

“Can you help Elisabet?” Violet asks.

“If she’s alive,” Montechristien says.

Is the legacy of Montechristien Gargamel desirable?

How did Gargamel defeat the blue essentials at last?

These questions, and others, will be answered tomorrow in An Unclean Legacy: “Whoever Can Bear the Weight.”

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Categories: An Unclean Legacy, Hitherby, Legends