The Double Shadow: A Clark Ashton Smith Podcast

Transcription for Episode #4: “Maker of Gargoyles”

Show notes for episode 4

R: Thanks to Nightshade Books we’re very excited to be announcing our first giveaway here on The Double Shadow. Nightshade Books is a publisher of weird, fantastic and horrifying works as well as the collected fantasies of Clark Aston Smith in an excellent five volume edition which is available in print and online as ebooks. What we’re going to be giving away today are four titles, the first is “The Miscellaneous Writings Of Clark Aston Smith”, which is a sort of companion piece to the collected volumes set. There’s a number of things in here which I have not encountered before nor have Tim and Phil so we’re excited about the two copies of that we’re giving away. Then, there’s “The Book Of Cthulhu” which is tales inspired by H.P.Lovecraft and general Cthulhu Mythos stories by such people as Elizabeth Bear, Ramsey Campbell, Laird Barron, David Drake, Thomas Ligotti, W.H.Pugmire, Tim Pratt and a number of others. We’ll be giving away a copy of “Best Horror Of The Year Volume 4” edited by Ellen Datlow with such featured authors as Laird Barron, Brian Hodge, Stephen King, Alison Littlewood, Livia Llewellyn, Peter Straub, Anna Taborska and many others. And finally, we have a copy of Laird Barrons first novel “The Croning” to give away. “The Croning” is perhaps the closest I’ve ever seen to a full length weird fiction novel nowadays. Laird’s short stories are featured in both “Best Horror Of The Year” and “The Book Of Cthulhu” and it’s really an excellent novel. So, how do you win one of these books? Submit you’re one to two sentence synopsis for a “lost” or “unwritten” Averoigne story. You can include werewolves, gargoyles, vampires, lamias, priests. Phil suggests that you find some way to work in a loup Garou or two. If you read a little bit ahead you can pick up on some other interesting ideas for what you could include in your synopsis. We’ll be taking submissions through Twitter, through Facebook, as comments on our Blog, and on our Google+ page. Ideally we’d like one to two sentences within the format and constraints of the media. If you have to do more than one Tweet for your synopsis please make sure to @ us in both of them, and don’t go over two so we can keep track of all the submissions. We’ll be taking submissions from now through June fourteenth. We’ll be giving the books away in two ways, first, as a group we’ll evaluate submissions and pick our favorite, the person will receive “The Miscellaneous Writings Of Clark Aston Smith” and one of the other titles of their choosing. The remaining three books, including another copy of “The Miscellaneous Writings Of Clark Aston Smith”, will be distributed randomly to people who entered. We’ll be displaying the winners and all the other entries on our website after the contest is done, so if you’re looking for a little inspiration to write your own Averoigne story pop by and see what ideas have been put out there.

R: I’m going to start this week off with something I’m hoping we’ll only have to do a few times. Smith’s work is much more sexual than many of his well known weird fiction contemporaries, and sometimes twistedly so. Unfortunately sometimes that twisting takes the form of rape, sexual assault, or other sexual violence. These stories are rare, but we think it’s right to warn our listeners when that happens. If that’s something you prefer to avoid you can just skip the episode and tune in next week. We’d rather you enjoy the podcast then be turned off by something unwarned and traumatic. This week I’m afraid has to be our first warning for a non specific, non graphic, but definite sexual violence. As a note we won’t be warning about necrophilia, kidnapping, etc.; only when the story involves, or seems to involve, rape.

R: I have called up in all my years of sorcery / P: inch by inch, with baleful terror / R: no god nor devil / T: the red moon, ominous and gibbeous / R: no demon nor lich nor shadow / T: had declined above the terraces / P: of the wormy corpses that he dug with his hands from unconsecrated graves / R: and the thing was a streaming ooze of charnal pollution / R: dreaming of conquests / T: It is verily known by few / R: and of vaster necromancies / P: there were people — mostly priests and women, it is told — whom he picked up as they fled / T: It is verily known by few, but is nevertheless an attestable fact / P: and pulled limb from limb as a child might quarter an insect / T, P, R: The Double Shadow — A Clark Ashton Smith Podcast.

T. Hello and welcome to The Double Shadow, a podcast exploring the weird fiction of 20th-century writer Clark Ashton Smith. I’m Tim Mucci.

P. I’m Phil Gelatt.

R. And I’m Ruth du Malinbois.

T: On today’s show we’ll be covering “The Maker Of Gargoyles.” Which I think we we’re all pretty agreed is our favorite one so far.

R: Definitely.

T: “Maker Of Gargoyles” was first printed in “Weird Tales” in August 1932.

R: And it gives us a really good date….

T: yes…

R: …for establishing a chronology of Averoigne because it takes place in 1138, but in 1138 is when the cathedral of Averoigne is finished.

T: Eh… is, is Vyones the, it, it’s the capital of Averoigne right?

R: I’m not sure is it actually spelled out as the capital…

T: Phil, did you want to read the beginning of the story for us?

P: I would love to.

Among the many gargoyles that frowned or leered from the roof of the new-built cathedral of Vyones, two were pre-eminent above the rest by virtue of their fine workmanship and their supreme grotesquery. These two had been wrought by the stone-carver Blaise Reynard, a native of Vyones, who had lately returned from a long sojourn in the cities of Provence, and had secured employment on the cathedral when the three years’ task of its construction and ornamentation was well-nigh completed. In view of the wonderful artistry shown by Reynard, it was regretted by Ambrosius, the archbishop, that it had not been possible to commit the execution of all the gargoyles to this delicate and accomplished workman; but other people, with less liberal tastes than Ambrosius, were heard to express a different opinion.

This opinion, perhaps, was tinged by the personal dislike that had been generally felt toward Reynard in Vyones even from his boyhood; and which had been revived with some virulence on his return. Whether rightly or unjustly, his very physiognomy had always marked him out for public disfavor: he was inordinately dark, with hair and beard of a preternatural bluish-black, and slanting, ill-matched eyes that gave him a sinister and cunning air. His taciturn and saturnine ways were such as a superstitious people would identify with necromantic knowledge or complicity; and there were those who covertly accused him of being in league with Satan; though the accusations were little more than vague, anonymous rumors, even to the end, through lack of veritable evidence.

However, the people who suspected Reynard of diabolic affiliations were wont for awhile to instance the two gargoyles as sufficient proof. No man, they contended, who was so inspired by the Arch-Enemy, could have carven anything so sheerly evil and malignant, could have embodied so consummately in mere stone the living lineaments of the most demoniacal of all the deadly Sins.

The two gargoyles were perched on opposite corners of a high tower of the cathedral. One was a snarling, murderous, cat-headed monster, with retracted lips revealing formidable fangs, and eyes that glared intolerable hatred from beneath ferine brows. This creature had the claws and wings of a griffin, and seemed as if it were poised in readiness to swoop down on the city of Vyones, like a harpy on its prey. Its companion was a horned satyr, with the vans of some great bat such as might roam the nether caverns, with sharp, clenching talons, and a look of Satanically brooding lust, as if it were gloating above the helpless object of its unclean desire. Both figures were complete, even to the hindquarters, and were not mere conventional adjuncts of the roof. One would have expected them to start at any moment from the stone in which they were mortised.

T: So yeah, so there we have the basic set up. We have the newly completed cathedral of Vyones, we have the newly carved gargoyles set on it, carved by, eh, Blaise Reynard, our, I guess, main character?

P: Yeah, he’s definitely the main character but I, I don’t know, eh, if he’s necessarily…

R: He’s somewhat passive…

P: Yeah.

R: …except for his work.

T: And then we have, eh, the introduction to Ambrosius, a lover of art…

P: <snigger>

T: …the archbishop of Vyones.

P: I, eh, Ambrosius and Reynard Blaise, I’m sorry, Blaise Reynard, is it Blaise Reynard or Reynard Blaise?

T/R: Blaise Reynard.

P: Blaise Reynard…

T: Yeah.

P: …are two of my favorite Averoigne characters…

T: Yeah.

P: …in all the stories. Eh. Later I think my actual number one favorite ever Averoigne character is Gaspard Du Nord, but we don’t get to him ’till a little bit later. I, eh… I just feel like Ambrozish, I mean Ambrosius <laugh> the art loving liberal minded archbishop of Vyones is just such an awesome creation. He doesn’t even really say anything in the story…

T: No.

P: …I just love him.

R: And Reynard actually, his name has a special meaning, um, it’s related to the French word fox and it’s part of a set of tales if you think about, um, Chanticleer where he’s an anthropomorphic fox and trickster figure like coyote in Native American legendry and so I’m not sure if Smith was aware of this and was playing off of it but it would seem unlikely that he was unaware of its use in its connotation with fox.

T: Right.

R: Because Reynards character is not really a trickster figure but there is something special and different, more than human about him.

T: Yeah, he’s an amazing stone worker, he returned from Province to come back and live in Vyones, where he is kinda, eh, mistrusted and hated, um, we also learn at the beginning of the story that he, he’s always been in love with the daughter of the taverner, Nicolette Villom.

P: There’s actually a few things in this opening section that I think are really… interesting, like this whole opening section of the story, I mean aside from setting up the gargoyles and aside from setting up Blaise Reynard …

T: <laugh>

P: …eh, like Smith spends a lot of time, not a lot of time, but enough time sort of painting almost a sociological picture of Vyones, like…

T: Right…

P: we learn that Vyones/Vyonese are kind of racist, like they they they don’t like Blaise because he’s dark skinned…

T: Right…

P: … I mean I don’t think he’s necessarily African looking but he’s described as dark skinned.

R: Probably more sallow.

P: Yeah. Um, and then there are these two other passages that I think are kind of, not necessarily hilarious but very clever in their observation of human nature and the Vyonese in general. First is one, um, and it’s in a passage that’s about the gargoyles and like the general man on the streets opinion of the gargoyles and it goes as follows: “Of course, they admitted, a certain amount of grotesquery was requisite in gargoyles; but in this case the allowable bounds had been egregiously overpassed.” <laughs>

R:<laughs>

P: Which I just find hilarious because it’s like and very true of human nature like people I think will often say; “oh, well, that is what it should be but it’s too much that”.

T: Right <laugh>

P: If that, you know, like, it’s … it just seems like a very rounded man on the street observation.

T: Right but they also…

P: Eh..

T: …it also seems like they’re, they’re supplementing their opinion of the gargoyles with their already dislike and mistrust of Reynard.

P: Yes, but then this leads into my second tiny little passage that I think is fascinating. Um, it goes like this; “However, with the completion of the cathedral, and in spite of all this adverse criticism, the high-poised gargoyles of Blaise Reynard, like all other details of the building, were soon taken for granted through mere everyday familiarity; and eventually they were almost forgotten.”, which I think is also true of people that…

R: <affirmative hmm>

P: …there can be amazing things and if you see them every day, or amazing or horrible things, if you see them every day suddenly you turn around be like “yeah whatever I’m over it” and don’t even… it’s just not even like you’re “whatever I’m over it” you just cease to see them anymore. Those two passages I think are really, I mean insightful to the Vyonese but also insightful of… eh, I guess mankind in general.

T: And a few passages down it kind of introduces or asks the question, the story asks the question what Reynard himself thinks of the gargoyles and the passage goes like this:

“He would have said, if asked for the reason for his satisfaction, that he was proud of a skillful piece of handiwork. He would not have said, and perhaps would not even have known, that in one of the gargoyles he had imprisoned all his festering rancor, all his answering spleen and hatred toward the people of Vyones, who had always hated him; and had set the image of this rancor to peer venomously down for ever from a lofty place. And perhaps he would not even have dreamt that in the second gargoyle he had somehow expressed his own dour and satyr-like passion for the girl Nicolette — a passion that had brought him back to the detested city of his youth after years of wandering; a passion singularly tenacious of one object, and differing in this regard from the ordinary lusts of a nature so brutal as Reynard’s.”

So I think, I think that passage is really interesting in a storytelling sense because he kind of… this is the point of the story, he kind of gives it to us and says…

R: <affirmative hmm>

T: …this is what’s going on. And we also know that Reynard came back to stay in Vyones because of his unnatural ardor for Nicolette Villom…

R: Yes, and I think this is where I got really sold on the story, not because the gargoyles were encompassing his rage and lust but the fact that he’s such a devoted and consummate artist that it just came out of him and it he’s not even aware of it and he kind of remains unaware of this for most of the story, that really, really sold me on this.

T: Yeah, I know. As readers we know, so we know what’s going on…

R: And I like that too!

T: Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

R: He’s giving us a nod and a wink but he’s not…

T: Exactly.

R: …he’s not pretending like that we don’t know. Because we will figure it out pretty quickly.

P: Do you think this is the only time we’ll encounter a character who Smith could have made into a necromancy and chose not to?

T: I don’t know…

P: Because I…

R: He really likes necromancers.

P: He does, he loves the necromancers and I feel like what, I mean, eh, I think as you’re both saying like one of the best things about this story, and this is maybe an observation for the end of the story is, eh, is that he isn’t really… he hasn’t purposefully made these things like…

T: No…

P: …he has no necromantic abilities like he’s not like <golemist?> he can’t make, he, he’s not aware of his ability to make stone move, um, and he’s in a sense, kinda, just a victim of his own passions and like artistic ability, which is really kinda fascinating.

R: Yeah, I don’t know if I can think of off hand another character like him in <these?> stories.

T: So then, the story goes on to say that at the time, of the story it’s 1138, which we mentioned before, eh, but it also kinda gives a, eh, a portrait of the province of Averoigne in general. That, that on two sides of Vyones is “the great, shadow-haunted forest, a place of equivocal legends, of loups-garous…

R: eh!

T: …and phantoms”. There we go.

R: There we are!

T: Uhuh.

P: I’m telling you…

T: hehe

P: …they’re out there!

T: But, but, basically, eh, Smith goes on to explain that this area is completely and utterly saturated with demons and monsters and here he says;

“Of course, as in all mediaeval towns, there had been occasional instances of alleged sorcery or demoniacal possession; and, once or twice, the perilous temptations of succubi had made their inroads on the pious virtue of Vyones. But this was nothing more than might be expected, in a world where the Devil and his works were always more or less rampant.”

So,

R: It’s still but the town doesn’t have a similar reputation as the forest…

T: No, I think that that’s yeah… that’s what he’s saying is that Vyones is kind of the, the bastion, this is where people go to get away from the demons and the incubi and succubi that…

R: It’s about as good as you’ll get, the occasional succubus and, you know…

T: <laughs>

R: …you just have to live with it.

T: Right.

P: Is, is this… eh… I don’t know if we ever found out or I’m not remembering, em, “The End Of The Story” that well, is this the first time in his, in an actual story that Smith lays out, as much as he ever does, the actual mythology of Averoigne? I mean I feel like it… it, it gets mentioned slightly in last weeks story where, um, Gerard, is kinda remembering that there are these stories about the forest but, it’s not like, it’s not quite at the same level as it’s being laid out here…

T: Yeah…

P: …. I don’t think.

R: No. There wasn’t that much in “End Of The Story” either…

P: Yeah.

R: …we heard a little bit about the chateau but nothing much else.

T: I think this, this is the most purposeful…

P: It… it feels almost like a real statement of, um…

T: He’s building a world.

P: Yeah, exactly, like a real statement of mythology of this place that he now has been in, been writing about for two stories and will go on to write about for many more as we’ll cover…

T: Right.

P: …which I think make’s it a kinda interesting passage.

T: Yeah, to me it feels like this story, and I think that’s why I like it so much, it feels like this is Smith really settling in to the weird tale, like saying: Oh, I can actually develop and build ideas and not just throw senses at you and give you an ending.

<Tsathoggua grunts in the background>

P: I think settled into Averoigne as a setting as a world he’s created too.

T: Yeah. Yep.

R: <affirmative hmm>

T: So then what happens?

R: Well, that Autumn things start getting kinda bad, um, first, a couple of people are going home um, in November and they are accosted by a flying monster which descends and tears one of them in shreds, but the other one escapes, so fortunately he survived to tell the tale so they know that there’s this flying monster…

T: Right.

R: …that’s eh haunting the people of Averoigne. And then, shortly thereafter… well they, they try to, um, they try to go… they find the body “armed with holy water and aspergillus” and…

T: Mushrooms.

R: …I’m going to have to get this because yeah, there’s… We’re going to have to get a picture of an Aspergillum…

T: Right…

R: … and an Aspergillus and put that in the show notes…

T: Oh that’s a good idea.

R: …because it keeps amusing me every time I see it. So they’ve got the townspeople with torches and staves and halberds, a priest with his stuff and they all go and find the body and it’s just torn apart and everybody’s pretty freaked out and then holding an exorcism in all the public places and Holy water we’ve already got several churches as well as the cathedral so it’s a very clergyish town…

T: Yeah, the “Cathedral city of Vyones”

R: … well, it doesn’t work, because then the people kinda see and hear and they look peer out their windows and they see this guttural growling and they see um, wings, they blot out the stars so it’s flying up over the city and, at this point people just stop going out at night as far as they go.

T: And it’s not even like this could be attributed to, you know like a band of thugs or murderers because, eh, as the story says, because people survive these attacks and the story says: “Those who saw it, and survived, were wont to describe it variously and with much ambiguity; but all agreed in attributing to it the head of a ferocious animal and the wings of a monstrous bird. Some, the most learned in demonology, were fain to identify it with Modo, the spirit of murder;…

P: Hohoho

…and others took it for one of the great lieutenants of Satan, perhaps Amaimon or Alastor, gone mad with exasperation at the impregnable supremacy of Christ in the holy city of Vyones.” Em…

R: I like that they’re blaming it on the cathedral, like…

T: Have either of you guys, just, a little side tracking, have either of you guys read, em, “The Marquis”? By Guy Davis? The, eh, the graphic novel?

R: No.

P: No I haven’t either.

T: This reminds me a lot of that, where there’s this like this Holy warrior fighting demons in this weird kind of proto-french Venetian city.

P: It’s interesting… it reminds me like I love stories about a community, a communal terror…

T: Right…

P: And it reminds me very much of, eh, of China Mieville’s “Perdido Street Station” which is eh, um, if you haven’t read it it’s about a sort of super weird, steam punkyish, city, um, that is in similar fashion, it’s not haunted by um, by murderous gargoyles but it’s haunted by these monsters called “slake moths” that sort of come out of the night and swoop down and take people away and milk/murder them. The book does a great job in sort of portraying a city raked with a kind of unknowable terror and this story um, definitely reminded me of that, I just, I don’t know, I get some kind of, um, kick out of stories that do, I guess like just what I said a communal terror well…

T: Right…

P: And it, the idea that everybody has the same fear and they won’t go out at night and they’re all kinda afraid of the same thing I think is really fun and interesting and upsetting because it’s kind of like how you would be y’know, how you do experience fear, like I’m afraid of the same things my neighbors are, y’know…

T: Right…

P: …has a…

T: …absolutely.

P: …a kinda truth to it.

R: And I like the fact that “the archbishop himself, as well as the subordinate clergy, confessed an inability to cope with the ever-growing horror”

P: What was the Archbishops name? Archbishop, that’s Am…

R: Ambrosius yes.

P: <Laughing> I hear he’s a lover of art.

T: They send an emissary to Rome, to procure water that had been specially sanctified by the Pope, thinking that that would help.

P: Does that mean he peed in it?

T: I think so <laughs>

P: I’m sorry.

T: <laughs>

R: Let’s…

T: Em…

R: …way to alienate all our Catholic audience.

P: What? I didn’t I didn’t what did I, yeah know?

T: That’s blasphemy.

R: Tim, what were you saying they were going to do?

T: Eh, they….

P: I’m Episcopalian, I don’t know how this works!

T: <laughs> None of the kinda holy rituals or religious tacts that they take work, these, this monster keeps attacking.

R: It’s here when he kills the Abbot, which is..

T: Right, when the creature actually bursts into the…

R: Well…

T: …into the cathedral, or is that a little later?

R: …first he kills the Abbot…

T: Right…

R: …while away from the monasteries…

P: Yep.

R: …he goes out at night because he’s administering extreme unctions so he really couldn’t help but being out at night and then they’re having his funeral the next night and his torn body’s lying there in the cathedral, masses are being said, tapirs are being burnt, there’s priests, there’s everything and BAM, “the demon invaded the high nave through the open door, extinguished all the candles with one flap of its sooty wings, and dragged down no less than three of the officiating priests to an unholy death in the darkness.”

T: That sentence is amazing. Like…

P: I…

T: …so much happens right there.

P: He totally batmans that funeral…

T: Yep… yes.

P: …in like the worst way possible…

T: <laugh>

P: …it’s absolutely amazing.

R: And this is where they realize that their faith is not gonna help.

P: and then there’s “a deplorable outbreak of human crime” and satanism.

R: Yes!

T: So this… Vyones… you know… they’re kind of, they’re kind of dim, they’ll just go with whatever.

P: Vyones is like what is always going on in my subconscious I think. Like, it’s just always demons flapping through cathedral doors, the rape not so much, but like, eh, these outbursts of like ridiculous satanism and like people panicking, I sort of feel like…

T: Yeah, once, once they um, once everybody’s fairly certain they can’t combat this, this flying death machine more stories start coming out of a second creature.

P: “Then, in the midst of all this pandemoniacal fear and confusion, it was rumored that a second devil had been seen in Vyones; that the murderous fiend was accompanied by a spirit of equal deformity and darkness, whose intentions were those of lechery, and which molested none but women. This creature had frightened several dames and demoiselles and maid-servants into a veritable hysteria by peering through their bedroom windows; and had sidled lasciviously, with uncouth mows and grimaces, and grotesque flappings of its bat-shaped wings, toward others who had occasion to fare from house to house across the nocturnal streets.

However, strange to say, there were no authentic instances in which the chastity of any woman had suffered actual harm from this noisome incubus. Many were approached by it, and were terrified immoderately by the hideousness and lustfulness of its demeanor; but no one was ever touched. Even in that time of horror, both spiritual and corporeal, there were those who made a ribald jest of this singular abstention on the part of the demon, and said it was seeking throughout Vyones for some one whom it had not yet found.”

T: When I reach this part in the story I literally had chills because in the beginning he mentions how the two gargoyles were imbued with these attributes of Reynard, and that the satyr like one was imbued with, eh, an, an uncouth lust for Nicolette, so then there’s this demon searching for a woman…

R: Yeah and the…

T: …who it hasn’t found yet.

R: And I have to say that that to me… that to me is almost scarier than having a demon out there…

T: Absolutely.

R: …just because if it hadn’t like sidled up to me yet and given me the look over and said “no you aren’t the one that I want” and and gone away, then I would be terrified that this… that I was the one it was looking for, if you know if it had checked out some of my friends and…

T: I know <laugh>

R: It, it’s narrowing down on it’s prey…

T: Yeah.

R: …so it’s a hunt, it’s not just a…

P: It’s…

R: …it’s not just “oh murder demon swoops down…

T: Right…

R: …and it reigns death? it’s… this one’s hunting, and that’s…

P: There’s an amazing, like, one-upmanship that Smith does to himself in like these four paragraphs we just went over where it’s like; oh, he kills an abbot, oh, but then he bursts into a church and kills three more priests, but you know what’s even scarier than that? There’s this horrible lust monster that is like peering into people’s windows at night, specifically hunting for this one person, like, it’s an amazing escalation…

T: Yeah.

P: …of really intense and horrific ideas, it’s just really impressive how powerful it is.

T: Yeah. And then the story switches gear.

P: Yep.

T: And then we go back to, eh, Blaise Reynard and his awful sad little life living in, living in a dark alleyway, his rooms are in a dark alleyway near the, eh, tavern. Presumably so he could keep track of Nicollette.

R: And it’s interesting, he, also suffers “the suffocating burden of superstitious terror…

T: Right.

R: …during those nights when the fiendish marauder was hovering above the town”

T: He… leaves his room, and he goes to the tavern. “The autumn nights had been moonless. Now, on the evening that followed the desecration of the cathedral itself by the murderous devil, a new-born crescent was lowering its fragile, sanguine-colored horn beyond the house-tops as Reynard went forth from his lodgings at the accustomed hour. He lost sight of its comforting beam in the high-walled and narrow alley, and shivered with dread as he hastened onward through shadows that were dissipated only by the rare and timid ray from some lofty window. It seemed to him, at each turn and angle, that the gloom was curded by the unclean umbrage of Satanic wings, and might reveal in another instant the gleaming of abhorrent eyes ignited by the everlasting coals of the Pit. When he came forth at the alley’s end, he saw with a start of fresh panic that the crescent moon was blotted out by a cloud that had the semblance of uncouthly arched and pointed vans.

He reached the tavern with a sense of supreme relief, for he had begun to feel a distinct intuition that someone or something was following him, unheard and invisible — a presence that seemed to load the dusk with prodigious menace. He entered, and closed the door behind him very quickly, as if he were shutting it in the face of a dread pursuer.

There were few people in the tavern that evening. The girl Nicolette was serving wine to a mercer’s assistant, one Raoul Coupain, a personable youth and a newcomer in the neighborhood, and she was laughing with what Reynard considered unseemly gayety at the broad jests and amorous sallies of this Raoul. Jean Villom was discussing in a low voice the latest enormities and was drinking fully as much liquor as his customers.

Glowering with jealousy at the presence of Raoul Coupain, whom he suspected of being a favored rival, Reynard seated himself in silence and stared malignly at the flirtatious couple. No one seemed to have noticed his entrance; for Villom went on talking to his cronies without pause or interruption, and Nicolette and her companion were equally oblivious. To his jealous rage, Reynard soon added the resentment of one who feels that he is being deliberately ignored. He began to pound on the table with his heavy fists, to attract attention.” So that kind of gives us an interesting portrait of Reynard, he’s just kinda this creep.

R: Yeah, and of, and of the life that he lives, he’s a creep and he’s a recognized creep cause she seems to, she seems to have that vibe about him.

T: Um, I’m going to pretend that Raoul Coupain was, is the manservant Raoul from the previous story, “A Rendezvous in Averoigne”, and maybe he…

R: <laughs>

P: The more tenuous connections we can make between Averoigne stories the better.

T: <laughs>

P: Do you think that “A Rendezvous in Averoigne” takes place before this or after it, do they mention the cathedral in Rendezvous in Averoigne?

T: No…

R: No, Vyones seems to be an important city and actually, eh, what’s interesting is that the guy that the um, the guy that Gerard the troubadour in that story was staying with was the Comte de la Frênaie…

T: Right…

R: …I believe.

T: …yep.

P: Yeah.

R: And, when Raoul finally gets to place his order he asks for a pitcher of “la Frênaie”…

T: Oh yeah…

R: …so that’s just another local tie in…

T: There you go.

R: Cause he gets in some world building in this story.

P: Yeah la Frënaie comes up, eh, with spectacularly gory results in, eh, our next story “Colossus of Ylourgne” as well.

T: Yeah.

P: It all comes together.

T: OK, so speaking of coming together here’s this creepy Reynard’s smashing his fist on the, eh, on the table, forcing them to pay attention to him. So Nicolette runs over, kinda reluctantly.

R: So, Nicolette served him, but then she just goes right back to, um, flirting with this guy, Raoul, and he starts to try to kiss her and then she, you know, she turns to cuff him “lightly and briskly” but it’s clear to everybody that she’s just flirting and he’s… freaks out a bit and starts to go toward her, at which point her dad and his friends notice and <in fact> “Back to your table, stone-cutter,” he roared belligerently.

T: Yeah <laughing>

P: He… Reynard is just kinda like, eh, I mean what can he do he’s outnumbered, right?

T: Yep.

P: Um, and he sits back down and then he… as the story says he, eh, “inconsequently”, seemingly, remembers “at that moment the dark, ambiguous cloud he had seen across the moon, and the insistent feeling of obscure pursuit while he had traversed the alley”, um, and he’s sort of sitting there stewing staring at this group before him… then the monsters show up, spectacularly.

T: Yeah… bam, flying monster comes in through the window, eh, and I liked, eh, there’s a line here, the murdermonster bursts in and then, eh, there’s a line, after that; “Behind it now, another shadowy flying monster came in through the broken window with a loud flapping of its ribbed and pointed wings. There was something lascivious in the very motion of its flight”. How does that happen? How does something fly lasciviously? <laugh> I think it’s, it’s…

P: Tim, if, if you’re not old enough to know for yourself, I’m not going to spoil you.

T: Exactly, that is exactly something…. <trails off in laugh>

P: I, I have no comment.

T: OK. All right.

P: Well, but hold on, I want to just point out, as, as it related to previous points ’bout Reynard that he… the story makes a point of saying, is just as terrified…

T: Right.

P: …by these things, as, as everybody else. Eh…

R: uh huh.

P: …which is pretty interesting. Like… I just love the idea of him as powerless observer to his own inadvertent creation, I think is really an interesting character… trait.

R: “Reynard, as well as the other men, was petrified by a feeling of astonishment and consternation so extreme as almost to preclude terror. Voiceless and motionless, they beheld the demoniac intrusion; and the consternation of Reynard, in particular, was mingled with an element of unspeakable surprise, together with a dreadful recognizance. But the girl Nicolette, with a mad scream of horror, turned and started to flee across the room.

As if her cry had been the one provocation needed, the two demons swooped upon their victims. One, with a ferocious slash of its outstretched claws, tore open the throat of Jean Villom, who fell with a gurgling, blood-choked groan; and then, in the same fashion, it assailed Raoul Coupain. The other, in the meanwhile, had pursued and overtaken the fleeing girl, and had seized her in its bestial forearms, with the ribbed wings enfolding her like a hellish drapery.

The room was filled by a moaning whirlwind, by a chaos of wild cries and tossing, struggling shadows. Reynard heard the guttural snarling of the murderous monster, muffled by the body of Coupain, whom it was tearing with its teeth; and he heard the lubricous laughter of the incubus, above the shrieks of the hysterically frightened girl. Then the grotesquely flaring tapers went out in a gust of swirling air, and Reynard received a violent blow in the darkness — the blow of some rushing object, perhaps of a passing wing, that was hard and heavy as stone. He fell, and became insensible.”

And, when he wakes up, he’s the only one alive, he and Nicolette, and all the other men in this tavern, not just her dad and Raoul, they’re all dead, and Nicolette is… her gown is torn, and her body is crushed, and she’s moaning feebly and the women are trying to take care of her, um, but she’s not even able to, to understand that they’re there. Eh, everybody’s a little bit curious about Reynard and why he’s alive and pretty much untouched when all the men are dead and the woman might as well be.

T: He has no idea. He… leaves, he runs out, pushing his way through the crowd. So then he… he just feels awful, and he runs….

P: But do you think, I’m sorry, do you think in this moment he, he realizes what’s happened right? I mean…

R: Yes, he has that moment of realization.

P: He says, “the secret of that which he knew was locked in the seething pit of his tortured and devil-ridden soul” I mean I feel like when he wakes up he pretty much understands, even though he’s not able to articulate it, what… what who the culprits of this…

T: Well I don’t know…

P: …thing.

T: … well, yeah, I guess so, I guess there’s something…

P: I don’t know, that’s how I read that sentence, I don’t know, maybe, maybe it happens later…

R: He did recognize them, and this almost, like, I almost want to say at this point he kinda becomes a hero character?

T: Yeah…

R: Once he’s realized…

P: Yeah…

R: …what’s happened. He’s creepy, he’s got all these things inside him he shouldn’t have, but when he realizes what, what the gargoyles are doing…

T: Right, cause it even says “heedless of his own possible peril” and then he goes to his workshop and grabs a heavy hammer.

P: I just want to say I’m happy that Smith avoids the temptation of Blaise carrying the hammer with him through the whole story…

T: Right…

P: …and the gargoyles seeing it and being like “hey, why don’t you put that hammer down?”

R: <laugh>

P: …and he’s like “no, I’m going to hold on to it…

T: <laugh>

P: …cause I gotta kill three vipers with it” and they’re like “Oh, that’s fine, just keep it with you” and then, y’know, that’s all.

T: Yeah, it showed incredible restraint on his part.

P: Yeah, exactly <laughing>.

T: So yeah, so he grabs his hammer, by “half-conscious compulsion” he… I, see, this is why I think that he’s either denying it to himself, that he knows what’s going on, and he’s just kinda acting because he knows if he thinks about it it’ll.. he won’t do it but he…

P: I mean, I, I feel like he knows it…

T: Yeah…

P: …but he’s going to seek confirmation.

R: uh hum.

T: He heads to the cathedral; “In the chill and livid light of sunless morning, he emerged on the roof; and leaning perilously from the verge, he examined the carven figures. He felt no surprise, only the hideous confirmation of a fear too ghastly to be named, when he saw that the teeth and claws of the malign, cat-headed griffin were stained with darkening blood; and that shreds of apple-green cloth were hanging from the talons of the lustful, bat-winged satyr.

It seemed to Reynard, in the dim ashen light, that a look of unspeakable triumph, of intolerable irony, was imprinted on the face of this latter creature. He stared at it with fearful and agonizing fascination, while impotent rage, abhorrence, and repentance deeper than that of the damned arose within him in a smothering flood. He was hardly aware that he had raised the iron hammer and had struck wildly at the satyr’s horned profile, till he heard the sullen, angry clang of impact, and found that he was tottering on the edge of the roof to retain his balance.

The furious blow had merely chipped the features of the gargoyle, and had not wiped away the malignant lust and exultation. Again Reynard raised the heavy hammer.

It fell on empty air; for, even as he struck, the stone-carver felt himself lifted and drawn backward by something that sank into his flesh like many separate knives. He staggered helplessly, his feet slipped, and then he was lying on the granite verge, with his head and shoulders over the dark, deserted street.

Half swooning, and sick with pain, he saw above him the other gargoyle, the claws of whose right foreleg were firmly embedded in his shoulder. They tore deeper, as if with a dreadful clenching. The monster seemed to tower like some fabulous beast above its prey; and he felt himself slipping dizzily across the cathedral gutter, with the gargoyle twisting and turning as if to resume its normal position over the gulf. Its slow, inexorable movement seemed to be part of his vertigo. The very tower was tilting and revolving beneath him in some unnatural nightmare fashion.

Dimly, in a daze of fear and agony, Reynard saw the remorseless tiger-face bending toward him with its horrid teeth laid bare in an eternal rictus of diabolic hate. Somehow, he had retained the hammer. With an instinctive impulse to defend himself, he struck at the gargoyle, whose cruel features seemed to approach him like something seen in the ultimate madness and distortion of delirium.

Even as he struck, the vertiginous turning movement continued, and he felt the talons dragging him outward on empty air. In his cramped, recumbent position, the blow fell short of the hateful face and came down with a dull clangor on the foreleg whose curving talons were fixed in his shoulder like meat-hooks. The clangor ended in a sharp cracking sound; and the leaning gargoyle vanished from Reynard’s vision as he fell. He saw nothing more, except the dark mass of the cathedral tower, that seemed to soar away from him and to rush upward unbelievably in the livid, starless heavens to which the belated sun had not yet risen.”

So he falls. He goes to fight them.

R: And he kinda loses.

T: Yeah.

P: He totally loses.

T: He should have lost.

P: But should he have? I, I don’t know that I think he’s guilty of anything.

R: Well, he’s guilty of being a creep but yeah he hasn’t actually done anything himself and when he found out what was going on he tried to right it so…

P: Exactly, and has been noted in the story earlier as being hated for the most baseless of reasons, I mean he’s just kinda a loser <laugh>

R: Well, I mean unless obviously enough they recognized within him that evil that could somehow breath his emotions into inanimate objects. Maybe everybody in Vyones was right all along.

P: Maybe, I don’t, I don’t think that’s the case though. I’m sure they just don’t like him cause he has darker skiing then they do. And that made him into a overly passionate, overly malignant, but very talented, artist.

R: And…

T: It’s very, eh, so is that what this story is about? Oh wait, let’s finish this up first.

P: “It was the archbishop Ambrosius, on his way to early Mass, who found the shattered body of Reynard lying face downward in the square. Ambrosius crossed himself in startled horror at the sight; and the, when he saw the object that was still clinging to Reynard’s shoulder, he repeated the gesture with a more than pious promptness.

He bent down to examine the thing. With the infallible memory of a true art-lover, he recognized it at once. Then, through the same clearness of recollection, he saw that the stone foreleg, whose claws were so deeply buried in Reynard’s flesh, had somehow undergone a most unnatural alteration. The paw, as he remembered it, should have been slightly bent and relaxed; but now it was stiffly outthrust and elongated, as if, like the paw of a living limb, it had reached for something, or had dragged a heavy burden with its ferine talons.”

Let’s just give a round of applause for archbishop Ambrosius using his appreciation of art, a true art lover, <clapping ensues> to somehow solve, or at least understand the mystery of the gargoyles.

T: He’s Awesome.

P: I love him.

T: Suck it William of Baskerville.

R: And I find it interesting…

P: He’s like a proto William of Baskerville.

T: Yeah, he is.

R: I find it interesting that, um, we don’t hear any more of the story so apparently with his death he ended whatever tie they had to his anger and to his lust, a tie that made them come to the place where he was, even though he doesn’t destroy them and thus emerge a hero who’s learned his lesson and stuff. He did repent of what he’d done, um, says that and then that he gave his life then eventually to save the town. I like that about this story and this character that y’know isn’t entirely evil.

T: It’s kinda like, um, it’s kinda like a Frankensteinish story, except he didn’t…

P: Yeah, I think it is, yeah.

T: … yeah, he didn’t set out to create life, he just was doing his art, but there’s something about him.

P: I feel like he’s really ultimately only guilty of being too good an artist…

R: Yeah.

P: …like he just felt too much and he just put too much into his gargoyles.

T: So is that, is that what this story is saying? Is that “Treat Artists Right”.

P: I, I don’t like to put morals on stories <laugh>. I do want to ask the question, at the very very start of the story they mention that, eh, art loving liberal minded archbishop Ambrosius regretted that he wasn’t able to hire Blaise to make the rest of the gargoyles…

R: uh hum.

P: …which leads me to wonder like what, what, like Blaise’s sloth gargoyle would have been like…

T: Oh my gosh.

P: ‘Cause essentially what, this is hatred and lust right? So he probably would have made gargoyles for the other seven deadly sins and I… I just wanna…

R: I think sloth likely just would not have been really helpful.

P: And those would have been absolutely horrible… <descends into laughter>

T: And what would they have done? Would they have just…

R: Shows up at the tavern…

P: Sloth would, yeah, sloth would’ve like, yeah, gotten up and moved an inch every night…

T: <laughs> Right.

R: <laugh>

P: …but never really gotten off the, off the, eh, …

R: They would have eventually been like “huh”.

T: There would have just been, yeah, a gargoyle traveling from ledge to ledge, for years, and no one really knowing why.

P: <laughs> I think, um, we should keep, I really feel like that the moving gargoyles are mentioned in a later Averoigne story, but maybe I’m just misremembering.

R: Um, we can keep our eye out for gargoyles.

P: Yeah.

R: Do we want to go on to the next bit

P: I don’t know why, I feel like we… I don’t have any more wrap up to say, except that I just think this is… of the… what is this our fourth story?

R: Um, our third story.

P: Our third story, it’s definitely the best of the ones that we read so far, and I think it’s definitely one of my favorites of all the Averoigne stories though we’re definitely getting some, um, maybe it’s in my top three, I don’t know, it’s hard to say.

T: It’s definitely one of my favorites. Mainly because of the, the literary trick he uses of giving us the ending in like the second page, so it kinda lend, lends an overall tension to the entire thing. I mean, if he just left that ’til the end, that these were his, his own sins animated, I don’t think it would have had the same impact, cause we would have seen it coming already.

R: Yeah, we would have definitely.

T: So yeah, that was “The Maker Of Gargoyles”. Thanks, so much, for listening everybody who’s subscribed.

R: And thanks again to Nightshade Books…

T: Yes.

R: …um, they publish some excellent works of Clark Ashton Smith.

T: So, this has been The Double Shadow, a Clark Ashton Smith podcast. Join us in our next episode when we discuss the first half of “The Colossus of Yblublublublah”

P: It’s Ylournge, I think it’s Ylourgne <Phil says yee-lorn>

R: I think so too.

T: Alright, thank you for listening, bye.

<outro music>

R: <laughing> So you’re not going to redo that one?

P: <also laughing>

T: Look, one-take-Tim, that’s my name <laughs>

<Laughing all round>

Show notes for episode 4

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Reddit! Share on Tumblr