All Things Are Lights – Day 90 of 200

His face seemed to glow. She was overwhelmed by the sudden beauty of his expression.

His eyes bright, he stepped closer, so that she had to press her hands against his chest to hold him back. Feeling him, a trembling ran through her fingers into her arms.

“But you must not do this to me, Roland,” she hurried on. “You will destroy my soul forever and ever. Even while I live, even living with you, I will be nothing. A ruined thing. Vows broken can never be renewed. For me there can be no forgiveness.”

The happiness faded from his face, and she grieved to see the misery that replaced it.

“There is so much fear in your eyes, Diane. I cannot stand to see such fear. Do you not know that I would never hurt you? That I would never touch you unless you let me?”

He stepped away from her.

But now it was too late. She could no longer stop herself.

She quivered, still feeling the pressure of his hard chest against the palms of her hands. She had to touch him again. She could no longer withstand the hunger for him.

She was going to him.

She moved, closing her eyes, hands reaching out.

She heard heavy steps, and someone was between them. She was so startled she screamed.

She saw Perrin in front of her, his mail-clad back to her, facing Roland. Perrin held his longsword before him, across his chest. She looked past Perrin’s curly head and saw the pain and anger on Roland’s face.

“You would raise your sword against me, Perrin?” he said softly.

“Forgive me, master,” said Perrin, his voice full of misery. “You once charged me to guard this lady with my life.”

“Do you really think I would hurt her? Do you know so little of me?”

Diane was horrified. That Perrin should lift his sword against Roland because of her.

“I am only trying to do what my conscience tells me, master.” Perrin’s voice almost broke.

“You can put up your sword,” Roland said harshly, turning his back on Perrin and Diane. “I had no intention of forcing myself on Madame Diane. I did think that she… Never mind what I thought.”

“I have not forgotten what it is to love, master,” said Perrin quietly, sliding the sword into its scabbard.

“Diane,” said Roland, “I saw the fear in your eyes just now. You said that if you were to love me you would be a ruined thing. I see now that your faith is too strong for my poor words. Forgive my presumption in speaking to you. I will never disturb you again.”

He does not know, Diane thought, torn between anguish and relief, that he had won. But now I am saved. My vow is unbroken.

She held herself rigid. I must not throw away this moment of grace. But she knew that when she was alone she would weep for what she had just lost.

“You, too, must forgive me, Perrin,” said Roland huskily. “You deserve to be jongleur to a much better troubadour.”

Holding himself stiffly, right shoulder higher than the left, Roland walked out toward the garden.

“I will have no other master but you!” Perrin called after him.

“My God, Perrin,” Diane groaned. “What have I done to him? I drove Nicolette away from him. Now I have come between you and him.”

“It is not your fault, Madame,” said Perrin. “Do not reproach yourself. It is the countess breaking with him, and her carrying his child. It has driven him half mad.” He smiled kindly. “Do not think you have come between us, either. I know my master. In a little while I shall go with him to the Left Bank and help him get drunk again like he did last night. It is the only medicine for him just now.”

She heard Perrin only dimly. Her heart was pounding, and her hands were ice cold. Regret tortured her. Will I die wishing I had let Roland take me?

“I think it is best for you to leave this house, Madame,” Perrin said gravely. “I hate to say it. Perhaps our church can find you another refuge in Paris. Leave, if you can, while he and I are gone tonight. As I said, he has been a bit mad ever since he talked to the countess in Beziers.”

“There is more, Perrin,” she said, trying to wipe away her tears with her long blue sleeve. “He just found out that she has given birth to a son. He said to me that his son is the future Count de Gobignon.”

“Dear God! That would be enough to drive him altogether mad. You know that his father is…” Perrin stopped and eyed her narrowly. “Do you know?”

The strangeness of his words momentarily turned her mind from the sorrow in her heart.

“Know what, Perrin?”

“Ah,” he sighed. “You do not know. And perhaps I should not tell you without his permission, but I have started, and this way you will understand him better. You see, his father was the earlier Count de Gobignon. Amalric’s father.”

For a moment Diane’s mind went blank. It made no sense.

“But I know Roland’s whole family. I know his father, Arnaut de Vency. His mother, Dame Adalys.”

“No.” Perrin shook his head. “When my master’s mother was very young, she was seized by Count Stephen de Gobignon and held by him in a castle he had captured. Arnaut de Vency led a band of young men who broke into the castle and sent Count Stephen to his just reward. He rescued my master’s mother, but she was already with child. So Amalric de Gobignon and Roland de Vency are half brothers.”

Diane’s senses reeled. The butcher of Mont Segur, Roland’s half brother? Then Nicolette’s son was actually a Gobignon by blood.

“So you can see how he must hate the Gobignon family,” Perrin went on. “And to think of his son growing up as one of them. A man might almost be better off like me, not able to have children. Yes, that is why he came after you, Madame. A madness.”

No, she thought. Even if that set him in motion, the real reason is that he has never stopped loving me. But Perrin is right, I must get out of his life. I shall tell my superior. Either he will help me get away from here, or I will disobey him and leave. I will not lose my soul for disobeying him, but by staying here I surely will.

“You are right, Perrin,” she said wanly. “I have to leave.”

Did she hear a cry, like the howl of a wounded animal, from a distant part of the garden?

I will not find another place in Paris, though. I will go back to Languedoc, where they need me. They say there are not ten of our preachers left in all of Toulouse and Aquitaine.

Maybe the Inquisition will find me quickly. Life, she thought, is too much pain. Let me die, and let my soul fly up, like a spark, to God.

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