Chapter 1. The Defense
Characters tend to be either for or against the quest if they assist it, they are idolized as simply gallant or pure; if they obstruct it they are characterized as simply villainous or cowardly. Hence every typical character … tends to have his moral opposite confronting him, like black and white pieces of a chess game. --Anatomy of Criticism Northrop Frye.
MONTGLANE ABBEY, France spring 1790
A flock of nuns crossed the road, the crisp wimples fluttering about their heads like the wings of large sea birds. As they floated through the large stone gates of the town, chickens and geese scurried out of their path, flapping and splashing through the mud puddles. The nuns moved through the darkening mist that enveloped the valley each morning and, in silent pairs, headed toward the sound of the deep bell that rang out from the hills above them.
They called that spring le Printemps Sanglant, the Bloddy Spring. The cherry trees had bloomed early that year, long before the snows had melted from the high mountain peaks. Their fragile branches bent down to earth with the weight of the wet red blossoms. Some said it was a good omen that they had bloomed so soon, a symbol of rebirth after the long and brutal winter. But then the cold rains had come and froze the blossoms on the bough, leaving the valley buried thick in red blossoms stained with brown streaks of frost. Like a wound congealed with dried blood. And this was said to be another kind of sign.
High above the valley, the Abbey of Montglane rose like an enormous outcropping of rock from the crest of the mountain. The fortress-like structure had remained untouched by the outside world for nearly a thousand years. It was constructed of six or seven layers of wall built one on top of the other. As the original stones eroded over the centuries, new walls were laid outside of old ones, with flying buttresses. The result was brooding architectural melange whose very appearance fed the rumors about the place. They abbey was the oldest church structure standing intact in France, and it bore an ancient curse that was soon to be reawakened.
As the dark-throated bell rang out across the valley, the raining nuns looked up from their labors one bye one, put aside their rakes and hoes, and passed down through the long, symmetrical rows of cherry trees to climb the precipitous road to the abbey.
At the end of the long procession, the two young novices Valentine and Mireille trailed arm in arm, picking their way with muddy boots. They made an odd complement to the orderly line of nuns. The red-haired Mireille with her long legs and broad shoulders looked more like a healthy farm girl than a nun. She wore a heavy butcher's apron over her habit, and red curls strayed from beneath her wimple. Beside her Valentine seemed fragile, though she was nearly as tall. Her pale skin seemed translucent, its fairness accentuated by the cascade of white-blond hair that tumbled about her shoulders. She had stuffed her wimple into the pocket of her habit, and she walked reluctantly beside Mireille, kicking her boots in the mud. …
extracted of the book: The Eight by Katherine Neville.
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