Capcir Spring - The opening pages - Start to read here

Chapter One

The small settlement, nestling in a wide clearing on the floor of the high valley, was silent after the last activities of the day. The stockade gates were shut and there was no movement in or around the thatched wooden huts inside the boundary of the heavy timber fencing. All was still except for an isolated spiral of smoke drifting up from the glowing cinders of an outdoor earth hearth. The last daylight was sinking above the outline of the distant mountain peaks and the sky, which moments before had been red was turning slowly through purple to blue black.
An owl hooted twice and was almost immediately answered by another from the other side of the valley. And then there was fire. Fire was approaching the stockade from up the valley and down. At first there were just a few torches but all the while their number expanded into a mighty army of individual flames that together brought a flickering orange glow to the leaves of the overhanging trees and even to the night sky itself. From among the mass of torches flaming missiles flew through the night air and almost immediately the roof of one and then another of the thatched huts was alight.
A sudden anguished cry ripped through the darkness as the sleeping villagers were harshly shocked out of their slumbers. More screams filled the night air as people of all ages were kicked awake and ran at first in blind confusion but then, lemming like, together, to find sanctuary in the chapel, the one stone building of the settlement, at the centre of the stockade. The noise and light and fire seemed to be coming at them from all sides. The gates had been broken down and the fiery torches were inside. They were moving closer, advancing slowly, setting aflame all that was in their pathway. Where was safety now? The chapel was crammed full of frightened, trembling bodies. The air was heavy with the smell of fire and sweat and fear.
I too followed the crowds and headed for the chapel. It already seemed full. I could hardly get in. As one of the last to arrive I was standing in the doorway. I could feel the press of bodies cowering behind me but I was facing outwards. The chapel was too small. There were too many people and it was too late to bar the door. They were almost upon us. In the torchlight the approaching faces were gross and distorted. I could see that they were full of rage and hatred.
Then I saw James. There could be no mistake. The same familiar outlines, the gangling gait, the prominent forehead and weak chin. The torchlight deepened the shadows under his sunken eyes giving his face a menacing quality. He was at the front of the crowd. It was James who was leading them on and they were chanting in unison. He was leading the rhythmic chant. I didn't understand the words but I sensed a pure hatred tinged with fear. His face was distorted in an violent grimace of blood lust that I had seen once before. Their anger bit into my flesh as physical pain. In his right hand was a sword. Slowly, with small steps and in time with the chanting they moved ever closer.
Angry men with torches and swords and spears and staves were beside him and a mass of hate filled faces were crowding behind. Their advance inched forward step by step. The cowering mass behind me in the chapel was now screaming. Voices of young and old united in a crescendo of terror, prayer, supplication and fear. And then they were at the door, a few yards from my face. One from the advancing throng threw a flaming torch over my head and it sailed over me into the crowded chapel. I was conscious of a strong pressure from behind as those inside moved to avoid the fiery missile. Bodies pressed against trembling bodies and I was being pushed inevitably towards the enemy. I was being forced forwards. I was being forced to move closer and closer to the raw hatred and the swords and the fire and the certainty of death. Oh God! No! No!
The scream pierced the silence of the Pyrenean mountain valley. It was a sultry day in early May. The sky was a cloudless blue, typical of that region of France. John was hot. He had been walking for several hours and though it was not long since his lunch break, he was again looking for somewhere out of the glaring sun to rest. He was ambling gently down a track that wound into a little wide floored clearing in the valley with some ancient stone ruins. Then there was a scream. It was a sound he remembered vividly. It started quite softly almost as a low pitched, half stifled murmur but it gradually grew louder until a high pitched whine flooded the lightly wooded valley and echoed round the rocks and hills above............................... 

In this novel of about 70,000 words, set in contemporary France, Jean de Beurre brings together insights from psychology, history and theology in a romantic adventure.

You can get your copy to continue reading by clicking HERE if you are in the USA or here if you are in the UK

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