All Things Are Lights – Day 105 of 200

Perrin said, “We will release your bonds if you give us your word you will not try to escape from us.”

“I will give you my word in nothing. I will never give you my word again.”

Perrin sighed. “So be it.”

They helped Roland out to the balcony, where he could watch Diane as the long ritual of the sermo generalis began.

Diane woke to the din of hundreds of shouting voices and blindingly bright light. Something was holding her upright, but not her own strength. Ropes. There were ropes around her. They bit into her torn flesh, hurting her arms, her waist, her thighs.

But these same ropes, she realized, were sparing her some pain by holding her against a thick post so that her weight was not bearing down on her crushed legs.

All was hazy before her. They had done something to her right eye, she could not remember what, and it saw nothing. They had kept her in total darkness so much of the time that her left eye ached and saw only unrecognizable shapes.

Now I remember how I got here. They carried me from the tower to the pile of wood. Somebody started to lift me up, and there was terrible pain, and that was all. I must have fainted again. I have been awake hardly at all for a long time. Weeks, I think.

She began to see a little more clearly. There were people across from her, in chairs before the doorways of the church. The glitter of their gold and jewels, the bright colors of their raiment, hurt her eye. Above the church was a red mass, the conical roof of one of the city towers. It was a terrible effort to hold her head up. How long since she had eaten?

Then she remembered the torture and her surprise that pain could be so bad, that more pain was still possible. Even now she hurt all over. But no, parts of her felt nothing at all.

Thank God I shall be dead soon. If they did nothing more at all to me I would probably die in a little while. Surely my body is ruined past any chance of healing.

Another day of this pain and I would lose my mind.

O Lord, let me die quickly, and let my body be absorbed into the One Light as a raindrop disappears in the sea. Please accept me. I know I have not been good. I should never have wanted to give myself to Roland, that day in Paris, but do not let me be damned for that.

What is that music? Are they really playing music?

Dear God, forgive me for loving Roland. And please, let him be far away from here, and let him find out nothing about it until this is all over.

What a miracle that I managed to keep from saying his name. That I knew I had the power to endure just a little while, and when that little while was past, to endure a little more still. When did I first realize that it did not matter what they did to me — what part of my body they hurt or destroyed? My body is not me, and what I am neither torturers nor any flames can touch. My death today is defeat for them. This fire will burn away the dross that is blended into my being so that nothing is left of me but light.

She heard a voice singing. It was an old Cathar hymn, and she knew the words well:

“I came out of God and the Light,
And now I am exiled from them.
A child of God was I born,
But now I am made to know pain.”

Who is singing? It sounds so beautiful.

After a moment she realized she had been singing. Whether she had sung aloud or only in her mind she did not know.

Suddenly she was in a time and place where the hurting had stopped and she could see with both eyes. She had fallen, she realized, into memory. She found herself in a candle-lit room with whitewashed stone walls. Before her Hugues de Gobignon sat at a table. As always, there were books and rolls of parchment before him. A white figure of Jesus hung twisted against a black wooden cross on the wall. Hugues waved away the guards who had brought her to him.

“You have suffered for a week,” he said.

“I did not know how long it was. “

“It will go on as long as I wish it to.”

Wearily, grateful in a way for this moment of quiet conversation, she said, “I am your prisoner, and you can do as you like with me.”

He raised a finger. “That is not true. You have power over me. I admit it. You can make the torture stop. You know how.”

“No, I do not.”

“Lift the spell.” He turned his face aside. “Restore my manhood.”

Could he actually believe she had used magic upon him when he was trying to rape her?

“There is no spell. If you cannot achieve the” — she hesitated, embarrassed — “the manly state, it is because you believe you cannot. I did nothing. You put this notion into your own head.”

His face was agonized as he looked up at her. “I have tried to cure myself. If my brethren knew of the alchemists and infidel physicians I have gone to, I myself would stand trial for heresy. I have been with five different women, women I had enjoyed many times before. The spell is unbroken.”

“I cannot help you. “

“You are a witch. You have the marks — the green eyes and the red hair. You did this to me. Only you can undo it. I will stop the torturing. I will not ask you again about de Vency. I will even save you from death by fire. Only… help me. Please.”

“You have done this to yourself. Only you can help yourself.”

He slammed his fist down on the table. “Witch! You will suffer and suffer and suffer for this. I will torture you forever, if I have to. I will not kill you until you have cured me.” He stood up and shouted, “Guards!”

They were going to hurt her again. She started whimpering and babbling in fear.

“Oh, no, please do not!”

But they had taken her away.

Her scream brought her back to the present. She found herself again on the pyre tied to the stake.

Why did I not remember Roland instead of that horrible priest?

An indistinct figure in black and white came to the center of the church steps and began to preach.

Sudden terror swept over Diane at the sight of the friar’s robe. Are they going to torture me again? Oh, no, I cannot bear anymore. I am so afraid they will make me say whatever they want me to.

Roland a heretic? Yes, yes, yes! He is a heretic, and he knows where the Holy Grail is, only stop, stop hurting me, please.

But that friar is nowhere near me. He is over on the church steps, and he is only going to preach.

Then they are only going to kill me.

When the sermon was over, the friar — it was Friar Gerard, the one who had been with Hugues at Azille — took up a scroll and began to read aloud the names and sentences.

Why was Hugues not doing this? Diane wondered. She had not heard a word of Gerard’s sermon, but she found herself now able to listen. Gerard named first those who had recanted. She saw them, a large group, perhaps two hundred, gathered at the bottom of the church steps. A huge iron basin that held glowing coals stood beside them, to remind them of what they had escaped. The friar commanded some to make pilgrimages, others to take the cross and join the King’s army at Aigues-Mortes. Some were to lose all of their possessions, some to be imprisoned for long terms, some for life.

“Brothers and sisters! Do not let them enslave your souls along with your bodies. Join us up here and be free of them forever!”

Diane knew the voice. The hoarse cry came from Diane’s right, from a young perfectus named Georges, whose arrest six months ago at Montpellier had been a great sorrow to their church in hiding.

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