All Things Are Lights – Day 34 of 200

Her heart turned to molten gold in her chest. Tears streamed down her cheeks.

He held his hand up to her, and she took it.

“I will always be your lady and live for you and love you through eternity. By Love I also swear it.”

Gently she raised him to his feet and held up her arms to him.

His kiss was like a hot coal on her lips.

VI

Roland felt his stomach knotting. Having ridden out of the city through the Saint-Denis Gate, he now was nearly home, and the hurt inside was cutting so deep that he thought it would drive him mad. He repeated again and again the pledge he had just made to Nicolette: I am your true troubadour, now and forever. It felt like a knife stabbing into him.

I do love her, as I have not loved any other — except Diane.

Under his fur-lined mantle he was sweating, despite the bone-deep chill of the January night.

Was my pledge to Nicolette a lie?

No, not now that Diane has vowed herself to God.

He had always believed that a man or a woman could love but one person. For all the years he had loved Diane, he had accepted that as a sacred law of Love. It was the way things should be. But it was not the way they were. Not for him.

What if I had known, that day I saw Nicolette at Chinon, that Diane was still alive? I would have wanted Nicolette just as much, but would not have begun this. There would have been no messages, no song in her garden. But I was sure Diane was dead. There was nothing but a memory of a younger time to check my feelings for Nicolette.

And then, when I found Diane again, I could not have her. I had lost her forever. So at last I wrote again to Nicolette.

But tonight, when Nicolette would have let me make love to her — and how I want her! — I could not go beyond an embrace and a kiss.

Not as long as I still love Diane.

When he had set out, a full moon had hung low above the huddled rooftops of the university town. Now the silver disk was high overhead, and he could discern the small house he had bought two years ago with money he brought with him from Sicily. My little chateau, he thought fondly, with bare poplars and fruit trees rising above its crumbling wall. He especially liked the three-story watchtower, built in the days when Northmen raided Paris. Diane had been living in the circular tower room, her presence here a daily joy and torment.

He saw a dark figure glide through his gate, just under the lower branches of the bare trees, and he reined his palfrey up sharply. A rectangle of yellow light glowed as the shadow entered through the front door, then the front yard was dark again. He felt fear in his chest. De Gobignon? He will get around to you, Nicolette had said. This very night?

He slid down from his horse and hastily tied her to a tree stump before a neighbor’s darkened house. He slipped through the same front gate the figure had entered and then went around to the rear. Noiselessly he opened the back door and stepped quickly inside, his hand hovering near his dagger.

Lucien, the cook, his wife, Adrienne, and their son, Martin, were huddled for warmth around the kitchen fire. They started and stared at him, and Adrienne gave a little cry of surprise and put her hand to her heart. Roland was relieved to see that they, at least, were unharmed.

“Did you hear someone come in at the front?” he asked quietly.

“It was your sister, Messire,” said Lucien. “Madame Diane is in the hall, talking to Master Perrin.”

Roland relaxed. His limbs trembled a little as the tension eased.

But then he realized he did not want to face Diane. Nicolette’s kiss was fresh on his lips, and guilt clawed at his heart. He just wanted to be alone, perhaps to sleep, if he could.

But unless he left again there was no avoiding Diane. He took a deep breath and pushed open the door.

Perrin was seated at the trestle table, facing Diane. His blond head swung around toward Roland when he entered. Diane’s delicate lips curved in a small smile, and Roland’s insides twisted painfully. The lovely face that had delighted him so was now a reproach.

“Go on, tell him,” Diane said to Perrin. She stood straight and tall in her hooded cloak of coarse wool, her feeble protection against the winter’s cold. She had refused the fur-lined cape Roland had offered her, as she had refused his love.

Perrin expelled his breath angrily. “Very well, Madame.” He turned to Roland, his eyes troubled. “I have to whisper it, master. We do not want them to know.” He jerked his head toward the kitchen.

“What the devil is it, Perrin?”

“Madame claims,” Perrin said almost inaudibly, “that she has your permission to preach to secret Cathar meetings right here in Paris.”

Fear constricted Roland’s chest. He could still see the flames at Mont Segur.

True, Diane had warned him that if she took refuge with him in Paris she was going to continue her work among the Cathar faithful. And he worried each time she had quietly slipped out after sunset.

Comments

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

    ScottS-M wrote:

    I do love her, as I have not loved any other — except Diane.

    I was wondering about that.

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