All Things Are Lights – Day 138 of 200

Roland’s mind spun dizzily. Before his very eyes Guido had turned into a giant or a magician. I thought I knew this man, and I thought I knew the world. Now I find out both are so different I can scarcely believe it.

“We do act to defend ourselves and our friends,” said Guido, “and so may at times strike at powerful enemies. There again Amalric is partly right. Our order has watched over you from the time you were at the court of Frederic, who is also one of our initiates. That is why I took the part I did the night Perrin was attacked, and why I have aided you since then.”

“Frederic?” said Roland, surprised. “But he is not at all like you. He is so — unscrupulous.”

Guido spread his hands. “Many panes — many colors, as I told you. What we have in common is a belief that humanity can be far greater than it is and a hunger for more knowledge of the world around us.”

“I always wondered why you were so quick to befriend me and to go on such an un-monkish adventure as running down highwaymen.”

“We had long been planning to invite you to join our alliance, Roland. Not the Templars, with their vows of poverty and chastity, of course,” he added quickly, with a smile, “but a branch more suited to your temperament. Because of your friendship with King Louis, we had to be very cautious. We had to be absolutely sure of you. Now, because there is so little time, I must speak openly to you.”

The growing light and the noises outside were waking some of the men in the room. Men stumbled over the bodies of others to relieve themselves in the privy corner. They talked in dull, dispirited voices. Guido stood up and drew Roland to the side of the room where the fewest were gathered.

“My friend, there is one thing you must know. Only I, and no one else, can tell you.”

He paused and took Roland’s hand in his own strong grip, his eyes fixed on Roland’s.

“It was I who killed Diane.”

A black curtain swept over Roland’s eyes, and he tottered.

Guido took his arm to steady him.

“You? How?” Roland stammered.

Guido helped him to sit down.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, even though it was an act of love. You do understand that, Roland, do you not? I killed her because it was the only way could help her.”

Roland felt tears burning his eyes and running down his cheeks. He stammered, “Yes — yes — I myself wanted to do it. I thought of it often after I learned that she was captured. But I had not the strength. I loved her too much. Or not enough.”

“You loved her body, and so you could not harm it. She and I knew that she was not her body. How else do you suppose she could have withstood those weeks of torture? How I longed to rescue her from that, but there was no way. I could only save her from the final agony of fire, and only with an arrow. I could not even weep for her as I killed her, for fear the tears would spoil my aim.”

“But how did you ever manage to do it — to kill her and escape?”

“I was with a delegation of Templars in Beziers. Our order has often been criticized for our lack of interest in persecuting heretics. So my brothers and I went to Beziers ostensibly to demonstrate our sympathy for the holy work of Friar Hugues. You might have seen me there, but fortunately you did not. If you had, you would have hated me, and I would not, at that time, have been able to tell you the real reason I came. Count Amalric had stationed all his men in the plaza, leaving many of the towers on the city wall unguarded. I slipped into an empty tower that overlooked the plaza. Afterward, dressed as I was in a Templar’s mantle, I simply let myself appear to be the first one of the pursuers who found the archer’s hiding place, the discoverer of the bow and arrows. I went back to my brother Templars, and half the people who saw me in the tower forgot me in their excitement. We Templars look so much alike with our beards and mantles. The idea that someone from the clerical party on the church steps might have done the killing was so farfetched it occurred to no one. Only Hugues would have had a devious enough mind to think of such a thing, and he, poor fellow, was gone.”

Roland, battered by shock after shock, could only shake his head dazedly. Here he had worried about Guido discovering Diane’s identity, and all along there had been a secret link between them.

But why did he call Hugues a “poor fellow”?

“Surely you are not sorry you killed Hugues, are you?”

The Egyptians were shouting orders at one another in the courtyard, and in the corridors of the house Roland heard the approach of jingling mail and clanking weapons. The sun was fully up now, and Baibars’s cavalry must be attacking what was left of the crusader army. Would he win the victory he expected?

“I do regret killing him,” said Guido. “It was done on an impulse of rage. I could not hold back when I saw him thrusting that torch at her face. My act caused much evil. Amalric’s reprisals killed hundreds and hurt thousands horribly. I could not surrender myself to Amalric, because that would have exposed the order and done even greater harm.”

He paused, and Roland saw tears standing in his dark eyes. His shoulders seemed bent under some great weight.

“Having injured so many innocents, I have a great debt to pay.”

Roland knew that their conversation might be interrupted at any moment. So he asked the question uppermost in his mind.

“Why did you care so much about Diane? Is it because the Cathars are part of this secret alliance you tell me of?”

“Only some Cathars are part of it. Most do not know of it, just as most Templars know nothing of it. Diane was told about it after she survived the massacre at Mont Segur. She became an unknowing link between the Cathars and the Templars. In that chain, I was her superior. I met with her secretly.”

“When you brought Perrin to our house the night he was hurt, did she know who you were?”

“She never knew that her superior and Guido Bruchesi were the same person. I always met her at night and hid my face. I came to know her, though, and love her.”

“You loved her?” Roland stared into the dark eyes.

“Yes, Roland, I loved her.” Guido squeezed Roland’s arm gently. “Pledged to chastity as I am, my love for her was a thing of the spirit. My God, she was a beautiful person! How could anyone with a heart and soul help but love her?”

“Yes — I know —” Roland stammered.

“It was I,” Guido went on, “who insisted, perhaps unwisely, that she remain at your house in Paris when she begged me to let her leave.”

At the reminder of those days in Paris Roland felt a pang of regret so sharp his tears flowed afresh.

Guido said, “She loved you desperately, Roland. She was on the point of breaking her vows and giving herself to you after Nicolette discovered her at your house.”

Yes, she did, Roland thought, remembering that she had said “I love you” to him that day in Paris when they parted forever.

“Then how could she refuse my love?” he asked.

“Saying no to you was the hardest thing she ever did in her life. Perhaps even harder than bearing those weeks of torture. From the time you were boy and girl together, she had never stopped loving you.”

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