The Sorceress of Averoigne | The Tower of Istarelle (Synopsis)

Clark Ashton Smith

Chapter I. ^The Mistress of Shadows^ [The Sorceress and the Mirror]

Istarelle, the sorceress of Averoigne, reputed to be the daughter of Satan himself, is seated in her tower before a magic mirror. She sees in the mirror a body of armed men accompanied by a priest. Also, a solitary ^horseman^ [knight], coming from another direction. She summons her shadowy familiars, and gives them certain orders. Among those familiars is an exact double of Istarelle herself.

Chapter II. The Quest of the Tower

^Jehan^ [Jacques] de la Foudrage, Marshal of Vyones, with seven men and the young priest Father Jerome, who have come to arrest Istarelle as a notorious witch, are bedeviled and beguiled and misled in myriad ways before they reach her tower. They find the tower surrounded by a bog, in which the priest sprinkles holy water in vain. An untimely darkness overtakes them, in which the men-at-arms flee, leaving the redoubtable Jehan and Jerome, who refuse to abandon their resolve.

Chapter III ^The Recriants^ [The Thralls of Istarelle]

Dawn comes at last; and they find that the bog has returned to solid ground. They are admitted to the tower, and are graciously received by Istarelle. They are so overcome by her charm that they cannot announce their intention of arresting her. In fact, both of them fall overwhelmingly in love with her, and begin to regard each other as rivals. After having their very first interview with Istarelle, a jealous quarrel occurs between them.

Chapter IV. The Thralls of Istarelle

As the guest of the sorceress, forgetful of their duty, they remain in the tower, and are granted interviews, either singly or together, with their hostess. Both press their love upon her, and she seems to encourage both. In their rivalry, they come to actual blows but are separated by the familiars of Istarelle while the witch herself looks on in laughter.

Chapter V. The Disconsolate Knight

Hiérome des Lierres, a rejected lover, comes to the sorceress, to seek her help and advice. He, too, falls in love with her, and is encouraged. He sees nothing, knows nothing of the priest and the marshal.

Chapter VI. The Black Mass

Jehan and Jerome are told that they must embrace Satanism to become really eligible as lovers for Istarelle. They join in the celebration of a Black Mass, at which Lucifer himself appears.

Chapter VII. The Double Rendezvous

Istarelle tells each of them separately that she will come to him the next night, but that knowledge of this must be kept from the other. She visits them both, as they believe. Both fall asleep to awake the next morning in the open forest, with no trace of the tower anywhere. A peasant tells them that the tower is twenty miles away. They confess their experience to each other, and decide that they have been wholly bewitched.

Chapter VIII. (interpolate)

Cardinal Augustine, Father Jerome's religious superior, comes to the tower in search of the missing priest and the marshal. Istarelle denies any knowledge of them. Her word is upheld by the neighboring peasantry, and Augustine goes away baffled. Hiérome, her lover, asks for an explanation.

Chapter IX. The Substance and the Shadow

Hiérome, whose love has been accepted by Istarelle, is shown by her, in the magic mirror, the adventures of Jehan and Jerome, and is told that these things have occurred in a tower of shadow, inhabited by the shadow of herself, which is all that these two have known. Hiérome is not altogether pleased, and wonders, after all this, how he can be sure whether he is with the real Istarelle. She tells him, tantalizingly, that such doubts can never be entirely resolved, in regard to anything.

^xxx^ xxx was added by Smith.
[xxx] xxx was deleted by Smith.

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