“What follows is based entirely on a legend based close to my home. It may or may not be entirely true!”
I wrote this story for the following prompts.
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Look-up
Fandango’s One Word Challenge — missed
Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge — The picture above from NaughtyCupcakes at DeviantArt.com.
Legend of the Golden Gates
The man with the long white hair and beard was Friar Filbert Reckitt. He was the parish priest of Hautbois and Coltsfoot. A former Franciscan friar he stood at the pulpit in his long brown cassock like habit. His white cincture belt was adorned with a jewelled rose brooch. It handsomely caught the sunlight through the magnificent stained glass window depicting St Mary in her glory looking down upon the congregation.
Filbert was stood in the chancel of the flint and Roman brick church of St Mary and St Theobald of Hautbois. His strong deep voice echoed throughout the church as began his evening sermon.
His eyes flicked beyond the clergy in the pews to the naïve doors beyond. A cassocked man had come running inside. Even from the far end of the cancel Filbert knew he was the bringer of bad news.
Despite his fears, he would finish his evening prayers for the congregation first. What few there were to pray for anyway. Ever since the dissolution began many feared going to church. It had left so precious few coming to pray with him these days. In his richest voice, he began to recite his favourite prayer.
“Qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.”
As his echoic voice came to an end the congregation repeated the closing word ‘Amen.’ With that, they rose to leave with bows toward the altar from the aisle.
Filbert smiled at the rich and poor as they left in their expensive Kirtle dresses and bonnets or raggedy leather doublets and straw hats. The church was one place where the rich and poor would always mix without incident.
“Thank thee, Friar Filbert. My soul be cleansed now.” Remarked a poor gentleman the friar knew to be Bartholomew. He was wearing his only good leather jerkin coat over bottle green breeches. Even still he was a dirty fellow having been toiling in the fields all day.
“Bless you, my child. Your harvest shall be grand this year,” replied Gilbert drawing a cross over the farmer’s chest.
Bartholomew bowed his head respectfully and scurried away in his worn leather sandals.
Service was over and Filbert could put it off no longer. He set off down the aisle to the naïve door to hear what news awaited him.
Edmund was a former Carmelite friar turned parish clergyman. He kept the books in order at St Marys among other roles he was ordained to do. This night the forty-year-old, tired-looking man scared Filbert in the fretful way he shuffled his feet. His brown eyes were filled with fear above his wiry brown beard. The bottom of his brown habit was coated in mud and he appeared to have been running.
“What is it, Edmund? Pray tell before it is too late,” Filbert asked.
“It- it’s the commissioners,” stuttered the terrified man. Filbert placed his palms together, said a quick prayer with a look up to the ceiling, and shook his head.
“So those pig-bellied, liver-lipped whoresons have finally made it to our country parish, have they?” he remarked with a calmness edged with ire.
Edmund shook his head, it was worse.
“No, then out with it, man.”
“It is not of the dissolution. They ran through the Blackfriars of Broadland City today. It is Commissioner Radulf Gryffen — the Bloody Commissioner. He is here after the golden gates of Hautbois.”
“Then Lord have mercy on our souls. He will learn the heavens gates are not and have never been in the castle.” Filbert crossed his heart and walked into the chancel.
There on the right were the two eight-foot high, two-foot-wide gates of pure gold. Each gate consisted of vertical bars which ran to the majestic arched top. Cherubs sat in gold circlets at eye level and heavily filigreed crosses were set into the lower bars. Beyond them was the shrine of St Theobald. The shrine wasn’t unlike a tomb of marble. Rectangular and detailed with exquisite tracery it was a grand sight to behold. It depicted St Theobald upon horseback, in prayer, and in God’s council upon the façade.
The shrine was on the route of the pilgrims and gave the church great provenance. Below the shrine in a niche was a heavily decorated gold and enamel chest bearing many religious symbols. This was the church’s reliquary; it contained the treasures of the church. Without it, the church would lose its connection to the great deity.
“Filbert, come along. Gryffen will come and bring death to our church,” said Edmund in a cold sweat.
“Indeed, thou know what must be done, my friend,” Filbert replied with a look toward the great arched porch door. He could almost hear the hooves of the commissioner’s horses approaching now.
“Then I go with the gates to the ubi oint ova pen, at once.” Edmund bowed then went to work with the greatest of haste.
At exactly eight o’clock that night he came like the harbinger of death. Upon his black horse, Monarch, he arrived driven by an unstoppable gold lust.
The moonlight glinted upon his and the horse’s armour as he dropped from the saddle to the leafy path. With a deep breath, Radulf Gryffen looked up at the twelfth century round tower and smiled. Here he would find enough gold to make him rich forever, he could already smell it.
To the left and right of Monarch, Owain and Degare arrived and dropped from their steeds.
Degare had brought a wagon to load with ill-gotten gains. He and Owain alone were allowed to follow Gryffen on these treasure hunts. He would trust no other to keep the secret. Of course, they would profit from the plundered wealth as well. At the same time, they were under no illusion that if King Henry VIII found out, he would have them beheaded for treason. That was the penalty for stealing themselves some wealth.
Gryffen nodded to his men and walked to the big oak doors within the south porch. He could see it was a recent addition to a much older church making it that much grander. The big clue was the joints in the grey stone wall. They were lichen free and clean looking, unlike the older structure.
The evil commissioner grinned as he realised this would be the last renovation this church ever saw. He didn’t knock on the door. He raised a sabaton boot and kicked it open. The iron toe split the wood as the door creaked inward.
Nobody was in the chapel of St Theobald but it and the naïve on the other side of the aisle were lit with dozens of candles.
The three men entered the church with a hunger for riches driving them forward. Everyone missed the little dory rowboat heading off from the church’s river landing on the river Bure. It silently headed downstream to the east and disappeared into history.
The musty air was permeated with a cold almost spooky feeling. It was so eerie that it caused the hairs on the back of a man’s neck to stand on end.
“Friar Reckitt, where be thou this night. I know thou art here!” Gryffen yelled as he walked loudly into the chancel, his armour clunking with every step.
“Ah, there thou art, Commissioner Gryffen. I’d welcome thou with a blessing. However, since thou hail from the court of Satan, I shall not waste my breath.” Replied Filbert standing proud in his cassock and vestige at the altar. He looked a powerful figure between the two-flaming candelabra behind him.
Gryffen laughed at the remark and stepped into the chancel between the pews. “Owain, Degare, look about for any riches we can own.”
“Thou are festering pig-swill for stealing from the church — my church! Gow will damn you all!” Filbert yelled.
“Friar Reckitt, I come from Hautbois Castle. It is a sad ruin of a place and missing that which I seek.” Gryffen ignored the outburst as he continued on, “In a cottage yonder I learned Squire Bainard built the castle. His family have since run out of money and the castle has rotted away. I also learned it never had golden gates for they have always resided here. Do they not reside here now?” Gryffen stepped purposefully toward the friar with his hand on the sword at his belt.
“Well now, Commissioner. It seems you already know the answer to that.” Filbert remained still at his altar. He wasn’t afraid of this loathsome, bullish bag of guts.
“Thou cheek like a man of power when in fact thou art like the ground I wipe my boots on.” Gryffen sighted the gates and clapped his gauntleted hands.
“You summoned me, Master Radulf,” called Owain at once.
“Indeed, I did friend. Take the gates at once. The reliquary may be behind them,” Gryffen ordered as his removed a gauntlet and ran a hand over the gold bars of the simply wrought gates. He’d expected them to be adorned with religious symbolism. Nevertheless, bars of gold would be worth a fortune in any state.
Filbert stepped down from the altar and walked to a stop opposite the gates. He waited until Owain and Degare began levering the gates out of the hinges before speaking. “How dare thee desecrate my church! Thou filthy hands art like poison upon the holiness of Saint Theobald!”
The three commissioners ignored him as they worked. First the left gate, then the right came down. Owain and Degare wasted little time hoisting the first and taking it to the wagon. With it loaded they returned for the other gate without ever seeing the form of Edmund disappearing into the surrounding oak woodland. He was gleefully grasping a handful of wrought iron bolts.
Inside the church, a storm was brewing between good and evil.
“Friar Reckitt, I know the reliquary for this church lay beneath that awful shrine. Where does it reside now? Do not lie to me now if thou likes his head,” blustered Gryffen realising word of his arrival must have preceded him. Had his arrival been unexpected the reliquary would still be on show below the shrine.
“Look around, spawn of Satan. We are not but a poor country parish church blessed with a beautiful shrine. The only wealth we own is the people who come to pray with us,” Filbert answered disdainfully.
“Enough, Friar! Where be the reliquary?” snapped Gryffen.
Owain and Degare picked up the second gate.
“Boys, there is nothing else here. Be gone. I shall join you at the inn on the road home.”
“Very well, Master Radulf. We’ll see thee at the stroke of midnight for a mug of ale.” Owain bowed and led the way out with the last gate.
“Commissioner Gryffen, are thee to be gone too. It’ll be like a blessing to the land of Hautbois,” said Filbert holding his rosary.
Gryffen waited for the door to shut then lunged at the friar. Lifting him with ease, he drove him back down the chancel into the altar.
“You defied me this night, Friar. I ask thee one last time where is the reliquary?”
“Gone to the bottomless pit like those gates shall soon enough!” replied Filbert with a smile.
The wagon driven by Degare’s horse had gotten all but two hundred yards along the Great Hautbois Road when it happened.
With no bolts holding the wheels in place they dropped loose. The left, bounced into the overgrown weed beds at the side of the gravel road. The wagon teetered, unseating another wheel and then it toppled. The horse whinnied and thrashed about; fighting with the rolling wagon. The harnesses tore into its flanks causing it to rear time and again.
Degare tried in vain to hold on but the horse bucked him from the saddle. The man screamed as he hit the ground with an awful crack. A broken neck would ensure he never stole from the poor and religious again.
The gates glittered in the moonlight as they slid from the wagon and splashed into a black pond, and were never glimpsed again.
In the church, Gryffen was red with anger as he held Filbert upon the altar. “Thou has signed thou own death sentence. I give thee one last chance to tell me where the reliquary lies!” he bellowed.
“Never! For it belongs to god’s followers, not Satan’s!” retorted Filbert fearlessly. He saw Gryffen’s sword gleam in the window as it swished toward the grand ceiling. “Know that thou shall never sleep in peace from this day forward. As I die, I vow to haunt thee and anybody else who tries to take the treasures of Saint Mary and Saint Theobald for themselves. I shall haunt thou and every greedy soul forever!” he screamed moments before the sword passed through him and clinked to a stop on the stone of the altar. That clink would echo through time like the golden gates.
Both in time would fade to nothing more than a local legend. A hidden story that none would believe but a treasure that all would secretly go to search for without success. Maybe it was the ghost of Filbert preventing his gates from being discovered all these long years. Maybe it was simply that Friar Filbert Reckitt had simply outsmarted the world.
Don’t forget Holly Ward investigates, Stolen Treasures is out on Amazon now!
A recent bank robbery. A saddened man. A coded message. Can they all be connected?
Young Sleuth Holly Ward is determined to help the man. It’s not long before she too comes under assault from a group of dangerous individuals. In the face of intimidation, abduction and even murder can Holly solve the clues and catch the criminals before she becomes the next Stolen Treasure?
Thanks for reading my friends.
Have a great day!