Shabana Chowdhury Ahmed, Belgium
(Belgium is not only known for Chocolates! It has a rich medieval history too. The story teller tells her tale set in Bruges, a beautiful medieval town in the 15th century. It was also known as Little Venice.)
Lucian came from Venice to buy the famous handmade Lace in Bruges for his father’s Bridal gowns shop in Bruges. He found lodgings at the house of his father’s friend.
After he had settled down he went to the Lace Merchant’s showroom to place an order. The merchant told him that it would be ready in two weeks. He returned to his lodgings and planned to visit the city centre in the evening.
As evening fell upon the city of Bruges, Lucian walked down towards the city centre. The beautiful medieval architecture appeared to him as a fairy tale city. He sat down in a Tavern for dinner. The owner introduced himself as Guy as he served Lucian roast meat and wine, which only rich people could afford. Lucian asked Guy where he could buy high quality cheese and wine. Guy replied that the monks at the Augustian monastery made cheese and wine. He could buy them at the monastery. Then Guy narrated the sad story which took place at the monastery a year ago.
The Augustian monastery stood on the banks of the River Reir and across the river stood a nunnery. Monks went to the nunnery to hear confessions. The nuns grew vegetables and baked bread, which they shared with the monks, while the monks made cheese and wine, which was shared with the nuns. Rich families also came to buy the products from the monastery and nunnery. Everything went well till a young monk on a visit to the nunnery saw Hortence Dupont, who was in a waiting period before she took her vows to become a nun. He fell deeply in love with her. He also knew the location of a secret tunnel, which connected the monastery to the nunnery. So one night he secretly went to visit Hortence via the tunnel. He knew that Hortence would be alone in the chapel praying whole night as decreed by the church before she took her final vows. He declared his love for her and asked her to run away with him. She followed him to the tunnel but as she walked, she had second thoughts and stopped walking. She told the monk that she was committed to becoming a nun and started to turn around. He became insanely angry and took a knife from his cloak and stabbed her several times. He then buried her in the soft ground of the tunnel. Next day at the nunnery the nuns looked for Hortence everywhere but she could not be found. The monk began having a guilty conscience. It became so unbearable that he committed suicide, which was a sin in the eyes of the church.
His body was not buried in the monastery but outside the walls in an unmarked grave. Later on the nuns and monks claimed that they saw the ghosts of Hortence and the monk wandering at night. Guy also told Lucian that the next night would be the first death anniversary of the monk and the disappearance of Hortence. Lucian walked back to his lodgings and went to sleep. Next day it rained continually so he stayed at his lodgings. By early evening the sky became clearer, so he decided to visit the monastery. He felt a deep sense of sorrow for the young monk and ill-fated Hortence.
As he reached the monastery gate, dark clouds were gathering in the sky. He rang the huge bell hanging by the door. After a while a monk opened the door and asked him why he had come. Lucian told him that he wanted to purchase wine and cheese. The monk led him to another monk, who was in charge of the wine and cheese cellar. Lucian followed the monk into the cellar and bought a large quantity of cheese and wine. The monk told him his purchase would be delivered the next morning. He made the payment and asked the monk if he could see the secret tunnel between the monastery and the nunnery. The monk was taken aback by Lucian’s request. He hesitated for a moment and asked Lucian not to mention it to anyone else. The monk took Lucian further down the cellar till they came upon a huge iron door. It was never locked, so the monks and nuns would come and go freely specially in winter. They lighted candles and walked into the tunnel. The monk also informed Lucian that the tunnel was also used as an escape route from enemies at the gate.
The midnight bell was ringing loud and clear. Suddenly Lucian felt a chill running down his spine. In the dim light Lucian saw two figures one wore a monk’s cloak and the other a nun’s habit. He moved closer with his lighted candle and saw the monk stabbed the nun several times. Lucian was pertified and stood still. The monk then buried the nun in the soft ground of the tunnel. As the monk was leaving Lucian could move his limbs again but unfortunately his hand touched the ghost. As the ghost disappeared Lucian also walked into the land of shadows never to be seen again.