The tall figure of the cowled religieux was hurrying down the darkened corridor, the soles of his sandals slapping against the granite flagstones with sharp cracking sounds which one might have believed would rouse the entire abbey from its slumbers. The man held a thick stub of tallow candle in front of him, its flame flickering and dancing in the draughty passageways but providing just enough gloomy illumination to light his way. It reflected on his gaunt features, etching them and distorting them to make his face appear like some nightmarish vision of a demon conjured from hell rather than a servant of God. The figure came to a halt before a stout wooden door and hesitated for a moment. Then he clenched his free hand into a fist and pounded twice upon it before, without waiting for any response, he swung open the round iron latch and entered. Inside, the room was in darkness, for night's mantle still shrouded the abbey. He hesitated on the threshold and held up the candle to illuminate the room. In one corner, a recumbent figure lay on a small bed covered in a blanket. The religieux could tell by the continued heavy, regular breathing, that his knocking and abrupt entry had failed to rouse the room's sole inhabitant. He moved towards the bed, placing his candle on the bedside table. Then he leant forward and shook the shoulder of the sleeper roughly.
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