All Things Are Lights – Day 107 of 200

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.

Part Two: Outremer

Anno Domini 1249-1250


As he rode, Roland glanced up at the full moon of January, which had lighted his way along the beach all night. He hardly had to guide his mount. The mare, a patient palfrey borrowed from the Templar commandery at Kolossi, trotted steadily over the hard-packed sand, while Roland tried to recall the months that had passed.

He could not remember seeing Diane die. His mind refused to yield up the horrible memory. His first recollection was of riding out through the wide-open gates of Beziers, the screams of the people in the plaza fading behind him. All around them were other people on foot and on horseback, also running as though for their lives. What were they running from?

Later Perrin had told him people were shouting about the arrows that had killed Hugues and Diane. Their fear was not of those arrows, though, but of the wrath of Amalric.

It was Perrin who had led the party back to Aigues-Mortes. Roland had been too sunk in despair even to speak, much less command his little group.

“You are a fool” was the first thing he could remember saying to Perrin. Standing on the deck of a Genoese galley crowded with knights and men, they were waiting to set sail for Cyprus, whence King Louis would be launching his invasion.

To Roland then, anyone who embraced any religion was a fool. Catholicism was monstrous because it murdered people, and Catharism was monstrous because it persuaded people to seek death.

Perrin’s reply had been to quote Saint Paul: “‘There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.'”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that we are all God,” Perrin had insisted. “You, me, Madame Diane, even Friar Hugues. What you saw at Beziers was God returning to God.”

“So you do not mourn Diane? Is that what Catharism has done for you?”

Perrin shook his head sadly, and Roland noticed his red and swollen eyes. The jongleur had indeed been grieving.

“I mourn, master. But my belief comforts me, a little. As I think it would comfort you.”

“I do not believe anything can comfort me,” Roland had answered. “But I do know that at Beziers you tried your best to be my friend. The terrible things I said to you that day — I apologize for them. I was out of my mind with grief. Perhaps I still am, but I want your forgiveness.”

For answer, Perrin had gone over to Roland and thrown his arms around him in a strong embrace.

The crusade had carried him along with it to Cyprus as the tide carries a bit of flotsam. After the three gray weeks of the voyage Perrin had delivered Roland to Guido, with whom he listlessly rode to the fortress of the Templars at Kolossi up the coast from Limassol. There he had discovered that he was not just numb with grief. Like many other crusaders, he had come down with an illness of Outremer that turned his bones and muscles to water.

The Templars saw him through the sickness, and as soon as he was able to stand, Guido proceeded with the cure of his spirit. Work was the treatment — hard training, morning, noon, and night, with sword, bow, and lance, on horseback and on foot.

It hurt. Guido demanded that he use his right arm to hold his shield up, and many were the nights when the throbbing in his shoulder made it impossible to sleep. It hurt to swing heavy swords with his left arm, and yet every few days Guido produced a sword that was heavier still for him to practice with. While his body suffered, his mind remained blank.

Whether he lived or died, he still did not care, but at least he would die fighting well. He became as proficient with his left arm as he had ever been with his right. His chosen weapon now was the saber, which he could wield with one hand. He could not cut through a helmet or a mail shirt with it, but he could strike a dozen blows in the time it took to swing a longsword once, and he could thrust it into vulnerable spots.

In the moments left him between arms practice and sleep he mourned Diane with an enormous grief. The woman he had loved ever since he was a boy was gone, leaving a black place, as if the moon had disappeared.

He wrote verses on the meaninglessness of life, the omnipotence of matter, the indifference of God. He sang his songs for Guido, expecting an argument, but the Templar only shrugged sadly.

Gradually Roland’s mind moved from simple stunned grief to wondering how Diane had been killed. Had the man who fired those arrows wanted to spare her the pain of a death by fire, or was it really his purpose to kill Hugues? And above all, who was it?

After some weeks on Cyprus, he began to think of Nicolette. At first he felt that such thoughts betrayed Diane. But he came to realize that Diane would not feel that way. She had wanted him to be happy with Nicolette.

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