The Height of Absurdity: Hilda’s Abbey 11.9

19 June, 2018 by katelaity

The Height of Absurdity 1

‘I do not need to read the legend because I know what it says,’ I retorted.

Tansy regarded me with astonishment. I must admit to feeling a twinge of delight at that for it is invariably the other way around in almost all our experiences. ‘You know?’

‘Yes, I do, judging by all our adventures to date, I know it says that terrible things lurk here and because you have a very foolhardy friend who delights in madcap shenanigans, you are about to step into something wretched that you will probably regret.’ Doubtless I looked as grumpy as I felt, but it was just too irksome to be dirtying another set of clothing when I had just got clean.

Tansy looked at me gravely. ‘You do not have to take part in this foolish endeavor as you term it. You are only along to be certain that I have accomplished my task, after all.’

I sniffed. It was very tempting. I could adjourn to the nearest public house, sit down with a plate of cheese and some fine ale and enjoy this lovely day even in godforsaken Hartlepool instead of wandering its depths discovering new and probably horrible mysteries.

But I knew I would not.

Tansy, when he was a she, always prevailed upon my better nature. To see this winsome creature fearlessly pursuing all manner of strange things and beastly situations was more than my gentlemanly feelings could endure. ‘I may be allowed to voice my displeasure without becoming a complete turncoat, may I not?’

Tansy grinned. ‘This is true.’

Chambers had decided to ignore all this wrangling and instead was scribbling in his memorandum book a quick translation of the legend carved on the wall. It was of course in Latin. If my schoolmasters had spent more time focused on reading cryptic warnings and less on Caesar and his perishing, endless wars I might well have paid more attention.

I would have also been more prepared for days like this.

‘Well, what does it say?’

Chambers screwed up his face in a way that suggested that he found the words confusing. ‘It seems to suggest that this rivulet is a tributary of Lethe.’

‘Lethe?’ I frowned. ‘Isn’t that Greek?’

‘Well, yes but—’

‘I know it’s written in Latin,’ Tansy said with a chuckle, ‘but they did steal a lot from the Greeks. Is there a Roman equivalent for Lethe?’

‘I don’t think so,’ Chambers said, ruminatively rubbing his cheek. ‘Nothing springs to mind.’

‘There’s a joke in there somewhere,’ I said, ‘Springs…rivers…?’

Tansy shushed me. ‘Then it would be only natural to use the Greek term.’

‘What age do you imagine this to be?’ the Abbess asked, still somewhat perturbed by the discovery of this secret underground chamber. ‘Is this medieval or Roman?’

‘I would guess it to be medieval, maybe 7th or 8th century, but definitely early medieval.’

‘How very curious that they would be referring to pagan myths then,’ Tansy said with a speculative look.

‘The medieval Christians were not as strident as our current batch of Reformers,’ Chambers said, warming to his topic. ‘They did not have the sort of control that a lot of modern scholars imagine. The church could barely get people to show up for confession once a year!’

‘That’s not what our history master taught us,’ I muttered.

‘But what about this tributary?’ the Abbess said, clearly uninterested in our debate of medievalisms. ‘Should we follow the waters? Where will they lead?’

‘Please don’t say to the underworld,’ I begged Tansy.

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