All Things Are Lights – Day 106 of 200

“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.

“Silence, or I will gag you,” growled an executioner in red hood and tunic who stood with them on the pyre.

“Bless you, brother Georges.” Diane was barely able to speak through her cracked, swollen lips. “You restore my strength.”

“Shut up!” snarled the executioner.

At last the friar addressed those who were to die. As he exhorted them to recant, Diane’s mind wandered. He held up a crucifix, and she thought, I am closer to Jesus on the cross than that man is.

“It is you who should give up your errors,” the young Cathar preacher called out. “It is you who are about to commit an unforgivable crime.”

The executioner’s fist thudded against Georges’s jaw, and the slender man slumped against the ropes that held him to his stake.

Now a glittering personage holding a golden staff — some bishop or other, Diane thought — rose and came forward.

“Since you are unrepentant, I must with sorrow abandon you to the secular authorities for such punishment as they think fit. I recommend that they be merciful and the punishment involve no mutilation of the limbs or shedding of blood.”

A tall man in a purple and gold mantle, wearing a small silver crown, stood up.

Diane’s remaining eye had finally adjusted to the glare in the plaza. This must be Friar Hugues’s terrible brother, Amalric de Gobignon. And there, seated at Amalric’s right, was his countess, Nicolette, the woman Roland loved. Nicolette was too far away for Diane, with her uncertain sight, to make out the expression on her face.

Lord, I hope she has come this day in compassion. Nicolette, my dear, from this day on Roland is entirely yours.

Amalric spoke quickly. His voice was cold, brisk.

“By the power vested in me by Louis, King of the Franks, as his seneschal for Beziers, I hereby sentence you all to die on this twenty-second day of July in the year of our Seigneur twelve hundred and forty-eight. In deference to the request of his excellency the Bishop of Beziers, you shall die by fire.” He sat down.

A movement at the base of the pyre caught her eye. A friar, his white robe billowing, took a torch from one of the executioners, lit it in the brazier, and started to climb one of the ladders.

She recognized Hugues and felt dread as he came up the ladder, closer and closer. She trembled against the ropes that cut into her.

A surprised murmur went through the onlookers. Count Amalric half rose from his chair.

Hugues’s pale face swam through the glare to come close to Diane. She could hear the torch crackling in his hand. His body swayed on the unsteady mass of bundled branches and twigs. His lips quivered, and his eyes glared at her out of dark hollows.

“For the last time, will you not save yourself from this terrible death? Say that Roland de Vency helped you, and you will live.”

Diane whispered hoarsely, “Do you think I want to live any longer, in such pain?”

He came closer still and whispered back, “If you believe so in what you are dying for, then in the name of Jesus Christ, whom we both worship, have mercy on me. Lift the spell.”

What if she simply told him, “The spell is lifted. Your virility is restored.” Would he believe it, and thereby be cured? She was tempted to say the words. But she could not let her last act on Earth be a lie.

“Any kindness I could do for you — in the hope that it would touch your soul — I would do. I cannot help you. It is not in my power. I tell you again, you have done this to yourself. There is no spell. You are perfectly well, in your physical being. Believe that, and you will be cured.”

“You are lying!”‘ he snarled.

His haggard face was a hand’s-breadth away from hers. The torch, a wad of tow soaked in pitch, hissed and popped.

“I can save you from suffering even now. I can have you strangled before we light the pyre. I can even do it with my own hands.”

“Just let me die in peace, will you not?”

He brought the torch close to her face. “Diane, feel this heat. Even if you have borne everything else, you cannot endure a death by fire. If I give the order, the executioners will clear away the faggots around your feet, so that you will not be in the fire but will dangle above it. It will take hours for your body to be consumed. And then long before you die you will lose your faith and beg for the chance to help me, I promise you.”

“Hugues, listen to yourself. Could the worship of a good God make you do all this to a helpless woman? After I am gone, look in your heart, Hugues, for the true God, and you will find Him.”


Hugues turned, and Diane looked down to the foot of the pyre. Count Amalric was standing there.

“Hugues, in God’s name, what are you doing up there?” His voice was urgent, low, just loud enough to carry up to his brother. “You will get nothing from that woman. Come down and let us get on with this.”

Diane closed her eye. Her body felt as if it were already on fire, fevered and filled with pain.

Yes, oh, yes, let me go, please let me depart.

As if in answer to her prayer she saw Roland in her mind.

Ah, thank You, God, for sending me this comfort. How my heart overflows with love. For Roland. For Your spirit. Now I know why Roland spoke of Love as if it were God. Roland’s God is my God, too. All things that are, are lights. And the light shines in each man and each woman.

She heard a scream right beside her.

Against her will, she looked. She beheld Hugues’s face, contorted with terror, his mouth hanging open, his eyes staring down at the long wooden shaft that jutted from his chest.

The torch fell from his dead fingers as he collapsed.

From a great distance Diane heard cries and screams. Count Amalric’s shout, “Hugues!” was a bellow of anguish.

She saw an executioner hurl himself from the pyre to the paving stones.

She heard Georges’s voice reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Flames sprang up around her feet. The heat felt so terrible that she knew only that something was eating away her flesh.

She heard herself screaming. Oh, God, help me, help me, please. Let me think of Roland. Let me think of Bishop Bertran, of my friends of Mont Segur.

I am coming, friends. I am joining you now.

She felt a blow, as if a fist had slammed into her chest. She looked down. There, in the very center of her breast, was an arrow.

She had time to think only, I am free. Forever free.


  1. TurtleReader Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    TurtleReader wrote:

    Fibres of hemp, flax, jute, etc., prepared for spinning
  2. ScottS-M Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    ScottS-M wrote:

    I was expecting her to get rescued til a few pages ago.

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