Historical setting: 602 C.E. The Pilgrim’s path to Luxeuil
We are pressed together into an organic form of hundreds of us like a murmur of blackbirds. Deer and wild boars and even rodents flee the edges of the crowds — with animals escaping deeper into the woods behind us. All these people moving together is surely the reason the more unusual creatures like aurochs are on the move too, as though the forest is afire, every creature is exposed. We’ve seen no dragons or unicorns. Legend and truth still have their boundaries.
The boys can’t even see to the front of the crowd unless they climb onto a rock to see over all the people. We are like an endless flock driven by a distant shepherd only here the smell isn’t wool and sheep dung, it’s the human odor – sharp, not sweet. Greg said when he could see over everyone he saw the great tower of the monastery just ahead.
Some are near enough to hear the chants and they join their voices in the psalms passing the song back through all the people. And here also is the outer circle of vendors. Every temple has its money changers. We could buy fleeces and linens had we not come prepared for our nights sleeping out. And here they sell pigeon feathers, as relics of the birds nesting in the sacred bell-free, and these “magical” feathers are touted as souvenirs of the famous Irish Father whose name means dove. I’ve not heard of any miracles attributed to the feathers though. The miracles these crowds come to receive are in the healing waters of the ancient baths. And for a bit more money than the cost of a feather one can buy a dram of the magical waters of Luxeuil.
Now enough of the sense of the destination wafts back that we can identify that the miasma of random chant becomes the actual singing of the hours. Gabe catches a familiar note and even his child’s voice is tuned to this chaotic sea of song. Greg also knows this psalm well but he is more cautious when plunging into something holy.
A procession of soldiers on horses opens a crevasse in the crowd as they escort a royal litter moving through the masses at the fast walking speed of the men who are shouldering it. Whispers pass through the crowds, “Is it a king?” “Is it the infamous queen herself, Brunhilda?”