All Things Are Lights – Day 95 of 200

Friar Gerard and the clerks stared at him, astonished. He ignored them and merely continued to grin triumphantly at Diane.

Does capturing me mean so much to him, Diane wondered, that he no longer wants to continue his work here?

As if he knew her question, Hugues said, “I want you safely within the walls of Beziers, guarded by my brother’s army. Should your misguided brethren attempt to rescue you there, they will surely fail.”

A bright light stabbed at Diane’s eyes. She had been lying in total darkness in a stone room in Beziers for so long that her eyes could not bear light. The straw she lay on smelled of human droppings and urine. Her bones ached from the long ride on muleback, and she was faint with hunger, having not eaten since the morning of her arrest.

She saw Friar Hugues standing in the doorway holding a candle. Fear seized her. Was he going to hurt her now? She drew herself into a hunched sitting position against the wall. He set the candle holder on a ledge and stood facing her, hands folded. Her eyes were so weak that even his white robe was hard for her to look at.

“How did you escape from Mont Segur?” he said suddenly.

She gasped, and now her fear became horror. How could he possibly know that? The realization had been growing in her that her terrors were not over. The worst of all was just now beginning. Dear God, make me strong. She said nothing.

After a moment he said, “What happened to the wealth and the sacred objects of the Cathars that were held in Mont Segur?”

Again she kept silent.

“Where is the Cathar treasure hidden? Where is the vessel that some say is the Holy Grail, stolen by Gnostic heretics at the dawn of Christianity?”

She said nothing.

Hugues said, “Madame, in the lower chambers of this tower are frightful implements. Perhaps you caught a glimpse of them as you were being taken to this room. They will cripple your body and leave you alive, maddened with pain. They will splinter your bones. They will tear your joints. They will pierce your flesh. They will strip your white skin away.”

She willed herself not to listen. But she felt pains shoot through her body in anticipation of the torturers’ instruments. She trembled violently and hugged her knees to keep the tremors from showing.

“Not the least part of your pain,” he said softly, “will be the torment of mind and the shame you will know as your beautiful body, which you have preserved in dignity and chastity, becomes the plaything of the brutes I employ to do this work.” He moistened his lips. “A pity, all of this, because you are very lovely.”

Her stomach knotted painfully, and she felt she might be sick. A whimper rose in her throat, but she choked it down.

“When you go to the stake, Madame Diane,” Hugues continued, “as you surely must, it is possible for us to give you a speedy, merciful death. Or you can roast slowly, taking hours to die, in such agony that you will scream curses on those who taught you your religion.”

She tried to stop her trembling to keep him from seeing that she was afraid, but she knew he was not exaggerating.

He moved closer to her, and she shrank away.

“I would like to spare you this suffering, Diane.” It was the first time he had addressed her so familiarly. There was something insidious in his tone.

“I will not tell you anything,” she said, hearing her voice break.

“When you escaped from Mont Segur, how did you make contact with your superior in Paris?”

Again she was appalled. How did he know of that? Dear God, have they captured him? Even though such prayers were futile in a world ruled by the Adversary, she prayed that her superior’s life — and more important, his work — was safe.

But how did Hugues know so much? Most of those she had contacted in Paris did not even know her name. Ah, but her appearance, that was harder to conceal. And if the friars’ records showed she was not burned at Mont Segur and they knew what she looked like, they could identify her from a description given by an informer in Paris.

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