All Things Are Lights – Day 101 of 200

Guido put his hand on Roland’s shoulder and smiled sadly. “I am grateful to you for not asking me to go with you. It would hurt very much to have to refuse you. My heart is with you, though. Please know that.”

Roland sighed. He had, in fact, harbored a faint hope that Guido would offer to come. He had even imagined that somehow with the Templar’s help he might actually rescue Diane.

“I may need quite a lot of silver,” Roland said.

“You deposited the money from the sale of your house with the Templars in Paris as I advised, did you not?” said Guido.

Roland nodded.

“Good,” said Guido. “Now you will see how reliable our Templar banking is. You received a note in return for your coins?”

“Yes,” said Roland with another sigh.

“If you have it now, you need only present it here. I will see that delivery to you is hastened. But you will need more than silver to see you through this. How is your arm? Can you wield a sword?”

“I have been practicing the exercises you taught me with the broadsword. With the left hand, I am adequately skilled. With the right alone, I am about as good as a ten-year-old boy.”

His arms and legs seemed to grow heavier and heavier as he felt their uselessness. He could no more do anything for Diane than he could drive his fist through the wall of this commandery.

He felt as if he were drowning in despair.

“Do you have any idea how I might rescue her?”

“My dear friend, there is no way. Recognize that. Do not delude yourself. And if you are going to die, do it with open eyes. But once you admit there is no hope, you must then ask yourself, why die so pointlessly?”

“There is nothing else I can do. She is there, and it is my fault she is there. I have to go.”

“I have told you many times, we Templars retreat when the odds against us are more than three to one. In Beziers you will be one against thousands. It would be no shame for you to stay away. And since you ask me for advice, that is the best advice I can give you. If you go you will simply be throwing your life away.”

Roland shook his head. No shame to stay away? But this had nothing to do with shame or honor.

He envisioned Diane in the torture chamber. Her beautiful green eyes held his. She called to him over those leagues that Nicolette had just ridden. Abandon her? It would be easier to die than to do that.

“I do not feel I have any choice. You understand that, do you not?”

Guido took Roland’s hand in his powerful grip, and there was deep compassion in his eyes. Wordlessly, Roland returned the pressure. Saint Michel, it is good to have a friend like this.

“I understand you perfectly, Roland,” Guido said. “All I can say to you is, go with grace.”

When Roland returned to his campsite he found Perrin had struck his tent and loaded it on a packhorse. He had saddled Regibet, a deep-chested brown stallion with more speed and endurance than Alezan.

Perrin stood by Regibet’s head. With him were three of Roland’s men. Two were members of the Mad Dogs who had frequented the back room of Guillaume the Bookseller. The third was young Martin.

“We have our own and five spare horses ready to travel, master,” said Perrin. “The rest of our men can take our equipment on to Aigues-Mortes. As for us, we shall have to ride hard. We have only six days to get to Beziers.”

Roland felt an iron ball in his throat. He had never loved Perrin as much as he did at that moment.

But, my God, he thought, I cannot drag these men to their deaths with me. He looked at Martin, so slight his sword nearly dragged on the ground. His parents must be dying of worry as it is. I cannot do this to them.

“Where do you think you are going?” he demanded.

“With you, master,” said Perrin firmly.

Gratitude and guilt mingled in Roland’s breast. These four good men would take on Amalric’s army and the Inquisition out of loyalty to me. I do not deserve it.

“How do you know about Beziers?” He tried to keep his voice stern.

“Madame the countess told me everything while you were at the Templars’ headquarters.” Perrin’s voice was level, and his gaze was steady. “Before she left she bade me look after you.”

“Sire Guido Bruchesi has just said my going to Beziers is certain death. “

“No man can foretell the future. Not even a Templar. Despite what he said, you are going, are you not, master?”


“Then we are going, too.”

Roland felt a warmth in his breast as he gazed into Perrin’s eyes. But he could not allow this. I drove Diane to seek her death in Languedoc, and now I must die. But must these men die, too, fruitlessly, because of me?

“I order you to stay here and wait for me to come back.”

“It is no use, master.” Perrin shook his head. “We have all sworn fealty to you. We are your men, and nothing can change that. Not even an order from you.”

In his hopelessness, in his anguish for Diane, in his grief at having found Nicolette and lost her again, Roland felt as if all his strength had drained away. He could not fight Perrin, too.

I will let them come with me, he thought, but I will find a way to get them out of there before the end.

He turned his face away to hide his tears. Thank God for men like this.

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