All Things Are Lights – Day 50 of 200

Pious hypocrite! Louis’s father wasn’t murdered by heretics.

“The more devious heretics have survived and have hidden themselves. They are more dangerous than ever, sire. The preachers cannot prevail without the help of your knights.”

“What are you suggesting, Amalric?” Louis asked softly.

“If you want me to crusade for you, I will , most gladly. Here in France. Give me the authority, I beg you, sire, to discover and destroy the enemies of the Church and the kingdom, wherever they may be found.”

Louis sat looking thoughtfully at Amalric. Equerries brought platters of venison and rabbit from the serving window and began to carve and distribute the pieces at each table.

Amalric, knowing this could be the turning point of his life, had lost his appetite. But his throat was dry, and he reached for the gold goblet set on the table between himself and Nicolette.

At last the King said, “You are asking for the power to make war on our own people.”

He does not understand, thought Amalric. He’s too monkish for me to talk to. Hugues might be better with him.

“Not our own people, sire. I am talking about the heretic leaders. Many remain in hiding. When you pull a weed, you must get all the roots or it will grow back. The roots of heresy, the hidden leaders, are still there. In league with others who are spreading corrupting ideas throughout the kingdom. University students, guildsmen, troubadours.”

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Nicolette turn to stare at him, but he plunged on. “And I think they are all working for Emperor Frederic, who is the creature of Satan himself.”

If he could get Louis to listen, there would be inquisitorial courts everywhere, not just in Languedoc. Working together, he and Hugues would terrorize the evildoers and cleanse the kingdom. No one would be beyond his reach. Everyone would beg for his favor. Add that to the lands he could gain in a war with Germany, and there would be no limit to what he might achieve. Indeed, one day a member of the house of Gobignon might wear a crown, as his ancestors had.

“All who live in France are my people,” Louis said. “I want to shape this kingdom so that it will be easy for every French man and woman to live as a good Christian.”

“The kingdom must be thoroughly cleansed if you are to reach that goal,” said Amalric.

He was exasperated. He had made his point, and yet Louis’s thoughts seemed to keep wandering off into the realm of the supernatural. Yes, Hugues should be here. A priest can talk to him better than I.

“Indeed there is much to correct,” said Louis. “Before I go on crusade, I intend to undo every injustice I can discover in the land. Not only those committed by the kings who reigned before me, but those committed by me and my officers as well.”

He’s mad, thought Amalric. All those hours of praying have addled his brain.

“Justice also means that more heretics must burn, sire.”

Louis looked pained. “Is my reign to be remembered for nothing but horrors like Mont Segur?”

Amalric felt a pulse pounding in his forehead.

I spent an agonizing year capturing those Bougres, and was almost killed at the end of it by that troubadour, and he dismisses it all as a “horror.” How dare he!

“Not horrors, holy work, my son,” said Blanche.

Amalric’s rage abated a little as he saw the fervent glow in her thin face.

Blanche went on, “I have been told that no bones were found in the field at Mont Segur after the Albigensians were burned. More proof of their ties to the Evil One. The Devil carried off his minions, body and soul.”

“The Cathar credentes probably took the bones as relics,” said Marguerite. “To them those people were holy martyrs.”

Amalric saw loathing in Marguerite’s face as she stared at him, and he felt the heat of anger rising within him again. She, like Louis, thought the mass burning horrible.

“Perhaps the believers did take the bones, Madame,” he said, making his voice sound matter-of-fact to outrage the young queen even more. “We broke camp immediately after our work was done, without bothering to look for bones. I was clearly remiss in not posting a guard. That would have given us a chance to capture more heretics — and their sympathizers.”

Amalric hoped his meaning was clear. Marguerite might be Queen of France, but when she spoke as she just had, she, too, could be suspect. Not that there was any possibility she herself could be a heretic. But these Languedoc people all were tainted with a tolerance for heresy.

“But, in a way, I sympathize with the heretics,” Louis said. “We must feel for them, pray for them. Amalric, I must say no to you. I know you care deeply about the welfare of the kingdom. But I want to put an end to discord, not create more of it.”

“When you sail off to Outremer, sire,” said Amalric, no longer able to keep the anger out of his voice, “you will be offering your unprotected back to your enemies. The enemies of France. The enemies of the Church.”

“I told you I do not think that heresy is any longer a danger,” said Louis. “I will not inflict more misery on my own people. I permit the Inquisition to do its work in France. That is enough.”

“Sire, the Inquisition needs a secular military arm to investigate, arrest, and punish heretics and their sympathizers. I ask you to consider creating such an institution.”

He held his breath. Would this last attempt to reach Louis succeed?

“No,” said Louis with finality. “No, Amalric. Even if I liked the idea, it would divert men from Jerusalem. Forgive me for disappointing you.”

Amalric’s muscles contracted. The effort of controlling himself was like trying to stop a charging war-horse. But he managed it.

“I thank you, sire, for at least hearing my advice.” His voice came out as a hoarse whisper.

“Both of us want what is God’s will for France,” said Louis. “And what of Jerusalem, dear Amalric? You are my sworn vassal, but I would never order you to join the crusade. You must come of your own free will, for the good of your soul.”

Amalric seethed. By Saint Dominic! He dashes all my hopes, and not content with that, he wants to drag me off to the East with him.

“Give me time to think, sire,” said Amalric. “My family has been scattered far and wide for years, in your service and the service of the Church. Nicolette and I will go to join our kinfolk at Chateau Gobignon. There I will discuss this with my family. With your permission.”

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