They crouched looking at the spires of the cathedral, remembering back 25 years and more. They remembered when this pride of the city was a menace: a gigantic structure and unstoppable juggernaut, stomping across the landscape. No one knew where it came from. It just appeared one winter, smashing its way across the land, striding with legs made of stone, bellowing incoherent noises made of 10 thousand bells and gongs of 500 different materials. It crushed five towns and countless villages, and the death toll rose to inconvenient levels. Even the lords and ladies started to take an interest, especially when it started to head towards the city.
The barons raised their militias and rode out. They were scattered and splattered.
The knights took it on themselves and, armed only with lance and pennant of their lover’s undergarments, charged to their obliteration.
Mercenaries charged exorbitant sums to set up traps and ruses to lure the animated temple of an unknown god to valleys, rivers and gorges. It ignored them all and lumbered on.
Then at the city walls’ last line of defence, the City Watch sidled out to meet the foe, Captain Judoc at their head.
“So how did you do it?” prompted Bumsit.
“I was sneaky,” said Leafrot.
“No really. I figured that everyone had tried pretty much exactly the same thing: to charge straight at it and hit it with swords. Well how the hell was that ever going to work, I ask you?”
“There were the clever military strategems.”
“Yeah, but we both know those slimy buggers were full of shit. They laid out a fine sounding plan with maps and charts and their flowery language, collected the cash and pissed off.”
Bumsit and Leafrot sat silently in admiration.
“Anyway, defeating the Wandering Temple never interested me. I was more intrigued by what might be inside it. It was, and still is, a great piece of architecture. I mean,” he pointed, “just look at those arches.”
Bumsit nodded, “My Mum still visits and offers prayers every Star fall-Season turn. It’s impressive.”
“Yes it is. Inside and out. But no one knew what inside was like then. And I wanted to be the one to find out because, you know, there was a good chance that a few objects might have worked their way loose in all that stomping.
“So while Judoc and his probably drunken men…”
“The Best and the Finest,” they chimed.
“While they milled about,” said Leafrot, “I got round the back and scaled one of those gargantuan legs and crawled in a back passage.”
“Did it have a back passage?”
“No. Not literally, fool. Mind you,” Leafrot put his head on the side and pondered, “I guess it is now used as a sewer pipe. Anyway, scatological side-tracker, I found my way inside.”
“Impressive?” said Bumsit, imagining the vast wealth.
Leafrot looked down at him. “You’ve been in there yourself. You know that it is.”
Bumsit’s face lit up as though he’d stumbled on the solution to a riddle and found it delightfully simple, “Isn’t it though? The gilded icons; the stained glass; the vaulting arches; the rooms within rooms. My word…”
“And I was alone in that titanic alien artgasm. I started simply and systematically, scouting through the place, marking my way with chalk, pocketing anything that I calculated would have a good resale value.”
The drizzle had eased since they had taken shelter, and the clouds were thinning. A dull glow that hid the mid-Autumn moon became more apparent. Leafrot nodded at the sky and continued his story.
“After about 15 minutes of this looting I came across and odd room that was roughly in the centre of the beast. In the middle of this hexagonal room… yes, I counted the walls,” he said in reply to Bumsit’s accusing stare. “In this room was a central stone pillar, or solid table, or a… what do you call those things?”
“Is it? Could be. Anyway on this stone plinth thing was a golden cushion, and on that cushion was a glowing red ruby the size of an ostrich egg in the shape of a heart.”
“I’ve got it!” said Bumsit. “You pinched the ruby heart and the beast died! I’m right, aren’t I!”
“No. Now shut up.”
Bumsit frowned in concentration and pulled out his pipe and baccy.
“I wanted to,” said Leafrot.
“But I didn’t.”
Bumsit struck flint and lit his pipe.
“As I reached for that gargantuan jewel I heard a noise. It was the most mournful heartbreaking sound I’ve ever heard. It was the sound of a thousand jilted lovers; the cry of despair of a god who’d lost his better half.
“I couldn’t help myself. I was stopped in my tracks, and I said, ‘What’s up, buddy?’”
“Now you’re taking the piss. You never said that,” said Bumsit.
“I did, you know. And my mind was filled with visions and scenes and told me more than words ever could and made me understand why the Wandering Temple had ripped himself out of the ground and had gone wandering.”
Blowing a stream of smoke into the air, Bumsit settled more into his haunches, “And?”
“In his land there was a powerful witch that had enchanted many things; animated many things; imbued life and often reason on many things. This more gargantuan stumbling cathedral had fallen in love with another of his kind. But this other young filly, a spry stalking, proud and shapely building had gone off to explore. And so he pulled himself up and followed. And has been searching ever since.”
“What did you do?”
“I told him that he’d never find her by wandering randomly about the landscape. And anyway, it’s not good romance to chase too hard. And anyway again, since he was so big and impressive and manful he was easier to find than delicate graceful her. So his best bet was to sit still for a while and look around and wait for her to come to him.”
“I thought so, too. And so he crashed his giant stone arse right there and has been waiting ever since. Waiting for some hut enchanted by some weirdo witch called Baba Yaga.”
They sat in silence for a few moments.
“He could start wandering again at any moment,” said Bumsit.
“Yes he could. Which is why I’m glad no one knows I had anything to do with it.”
At that moment the clouds parted, and the moonlight shone through and illuminated a section of the rock wall. And it seemed from that angle that the light and shadow appeared to show a doorway, with lights within.
“Come on, buddy. This is the last known shadow door to the former embassy. The fae know how to run a nighclub,” said Leafrot as he crossed the cobblestones, while the hulking shadow of the Cathedral overshadowed all: waiting, waiting for his lover’s return.