This story begins in a city of bones. In the alleyways of the dead. In & around the silent & eerie boulevards, promenades and Impasses of the French town of Carcasonne, a place inhabited by tombs & stone angels of death that guard the entrance to the town, & the loitering ghosts, spectres & poltergeists of those people long forgotten before they were even dead and buried in their cold, snow- glazed graves of brilliant white marble.
Carcasonne, was a place of beauty, tranquillity in its snowy palatial surroundings but something had changed, the town was now somewhat gloomy but for no particular reason, you just got the feeling that something had tipped the balance of good and evil in this misguided town. The town itself, medieval in age, sits on the side of a small hill alongside the River Aude, but on the far bank, to the east of the town stands the small village of Bastide. Scale the steep hill just to the east of the town to the Saint. Vincent cemetery and look south.
In the centre of Carcasonne you witness the dilapidated biscuit coloured battlements of the fortress on the horizon, of which in the foreground you can see the Pyrenees. On the outskirts of Carcasonne is the medieval wall that would have protected the town from French Revolutionary armies all those years ago. The fifth of February arrived. A passage of time that I will never forget ensued. Before the brass bells of the church struck twelve, I began to feel my body urging me to return to the scene of action. Ali??is followed on horseback as I rode off into the misty, moonlit night.
I instinctively concealed my horse within the tall pine tree lined forest, from which you could see the castle’s formidable presence in all of its biscuit coloured glory. This forest, was one of considerable volume, and among the peasants of the village of Bastide was known as ‘the forest of hysteria’, this was due to the number of disappearances that had befallen villagers in that very forest. This had given the peasants a sense of hysteria when it came to discussing the forest. The night was one of faultless beauty, the moon was calm and shone through the wispy clouds.
Moonbeams shone upon the ancient towers of the battlements in the centre of Carcasonne, ; shed upon their summits an ethereal silver glow. However, all in the night was still, although this is a clichi??, you could have heard a pin drop. The distant shrieks ; barks of animals frolicking in the forest under the cover of the night. However the sound dominating over all others was that of a snowy owl precariously perched on the western tower of the battlements. The owl looked wary as though something had unnerved it. Perhaps it could sense a malevolent presence emanating from the room on whose window ledge it was perched.
Due to this I peered up towards the owl ; noticed that it was perched by the ledge of the ‘haunted chamber’. It was called this because back in the day(as I’ve been told) during the French revolution the influential figure of Pierre Joseph Cambon was brutally slaughtered by order of King Louis XV, within that very chamber as he slept. The legend was that he swore revenge on King Louis’ descendants saying that terrible things would occur if they ever returned to the castle ; consequently, as the legend goes, he prowls the castle ; its battlements at night trying to find a descendant to exact his revenge on.
Suddenly a faint noise came to my attention, I began to quiver thinking ‘what on God’s earth is that? ‘ Then from the mist appeared Ali??is. My heart began to flood with warmth & comfort at the known face of her. ‘My love, you gave me an awful fright! ‘ ‘My apologies, my lord. ‘ But the noise still continued: ‘What can occasion that noise? Any ideas Ali??is? ‘ ‘A stranger, although not the normal common stranger, he seemed to have an air of distinction about him. He passed through the town today on his way to the castle. He is reported to be the nephew of the new proprietor of the castle, Baron Dixonnierre.
The cathedral bell sounded, announcing the coming of midnight ; a new day. About ten more minutes passed, lamps were beginning to pass through the corridors, then going out, one by one. The heavy wooden doors by the front gate slammed shut. The baron’s chamber was on the far side of the castle to the north. I trembled with fear, again a noise, a noise that I couldn’t distinguish, a sort of wailing. Then it came to me. As the legend said, the ghost of Pierre Joseph Cambon would prowl the castle at night trying to find a descendant of King Louis XV to exact his revenge on.
Then something else came to me, Baron Dixonnierre was a far, but true descendant of King Louis XV. Consequently I rushed round to the window of the baron’s room, waiting, waiting for IT to happen. Agitated by this remembrance of this possibly grave fact of Louis ancestry, I kept my eyes constantly fixed upon the window of the room in which the baron slept, unbeknown to him the peril at which he had put himself in by becoming the new owner of then castle and its battlements. However I was still hoping that the event would occur!
This fact scared me! , why, why did I want it to happen? Another noise disturbed the tranquillity of the night, the large iron gates were being unbarred but who by? In the faint glimmer of a slowly burning candle I distinguished the loyal figure of Frederick, the porter of the great castle. He pulled the portal- doors ajar, and retired to his quarters. The final few light within the castle faded, and at last the building was wrapped in darkness. Except for one thing. A wispy glow glided through the castle.
It was the ghost, searching, searching for its prey. I moved myself to a better viewpoint, one at the top of the small hill. I sat on the broken ridge of this hill, and was surrounded by fox dens and rabbit warrens. The stillness and tranquillity of this moment seemed to make time stand still, at least that’s how it made me feel. This scene inspired me with pleasing ideas and thoughts of what a lovely view it must be on a sunny summer’s day. The castle stood full in my sight and formed an object both equally awful and picturesque.
Its wall were being stroked by the moons silver beams, its old and slightly dilapidated turrets seemed to reach for the sky, whilst seeming to frown upon the land that they frown upon. Its lofty battlements, overgrown with climbing ivy, and the folding gates lengthening in honour of the paranormal inhabitant. These occurrences and sights however did not distract me from witnessing with impatience, the slow passing of time. I approached the castle with caution, and began to slowly pacing round the castle and its battlements. A few wry glimmers of light entered the chamber of the baron.
I observed them with the feeling of bitter sweet death looming in the air. I was still gazing upon these glimmers of light, when I perceived a feint figure appear near the window, and the curtain was then drawn shut to conceal the figure and the lamp that burnt on the bedside table. Half- past struck, then three- quarters struck! My mind was transfixed, and my heart beating fast with hope and expectation. The clock struck ‘ONE’ and the ringing of the bell echoed around the castle. 5 minutes passed and unexpectedly, the light, yet again appeared. I was now close to the tower.
The window wasn’t awfully far from the ground, but I saw the light, again moving around the room and, as earlier the light disappeared along a corridor towards the other side of the castle. Occasional gleams of brightness darted from the staircase windows, as the ‘lovely’ ghost passed along them. I traced the light through the hall. It reached the portal and I beheld Joseph Pierre Cambon’s ghost pass through the folding gates of it. He appeared exactly as the legend had entailed: Tall, handsome, long black wavy locks, a shirt stained in blood and a pair of riding boots. Also, he held in his hands, a dagger and a lamp.
He advanced to the spot on which I stood. But, for some strange reason went straight through me and headed towards the chamber of Baron Dixonnierre. I followed, although at a distance the ghost. It burst into the room of the Baron, and instantaneously plunged the dagger which he held through the Barons chest! ‘Arrrrghhhhhhhhhhhh’ the Baron screamed, I could already tell that there was no hope for him, the life drained from his eyes and his skin began to turn a ghostly white. I decided that this was enough, I couldn’t take in any more of this horrific sight. A man dying in his own bed. I thought ‘where can I go?
Anywhere, anywhere away from here! ‘ my conscience answered. I decided to follow my conscience’s advice. I ran, ran as fast as I could out of the castle, to the forest again. My horse stood in the same spot where I had left it earlier, I jumped onto the saddle and rode off into the night, out towards the eastern side of Carcasonne. I managed to repress the images and memories of that night. The news of the Barons death echoed around the town the next day. The legend was over, Cambon had gained his revenge, all was well and the town of Carcasonne bathed in the bright sunshine again and forever would remain peaceful.