Chapter Twelve. Approaching the first Rapids
The three men sat at the refectory wall each with a goblet of wine in their hands.
“Pierre is still pushing for the resumption of the inquisition and is getting support from quite a few of the church hierarchy. He has even tried to have us examined but thankfully the church would not allow that.” The Abbot looked tired.
“There is a problem.” Patrik said sadly. “Sophia is having difficulty coping and has started cutting herself. I have done all I can to stabilise her but we are maintaining an hourly watch on her.”
“Will she be fit enough to carry out the service today?”
“Yes Father Abbot, she seems calmer when she is working so to speak.”
“How bad is the burn on her arm?” Alexander asked.
“Fully healed my Lord but the whole ordeal has naturally frightened her.”
“What was the idiot trying to prove?” Alexander.
“I would have thought that was obvious, the same thing as us, is she really talking to our Saint?” Patrick worried aloud.
“How are the youngsters?”
“Pretty resilient as all young people are.” Alexander sipped at his chilled wine. “Tomas is proving quite a find. The lad seems to have natural leadership qualities.”
“Hmm yes I suppose he has.” Agreed Patrik. “They have all grown up to be greater than their years.”
Patrik wished he could share the information that the powerful force that sent them to the realms of Heaven and Hell wasn’t owing loyalty to either, but was a separate identity from both the natural forces, but he knew that he could not as it would open to many awkward questions of how he came by that knowledge.
He sat back with a sigh.
“De Anjou has used the public protest to his advantage. He now is in charge of the Militia and the guard. His influence over the town and local farms is almost complete only Goodwoman Elizabeth’s and the Venison’s land still hold out.”
“Why does he want all this land for? It makes no sense?” The Abbott shook his head in disbelief.
“Greed, pure and simple as that. With the control of Prey it will give him great weight at the royal court enough perhaps to undermine and usurp the place of Leonard Pontius the Dauphine’s advisor.” Patrik paused a moment. “Have your Knights had any luck finding out who was the source of the evil that Sophia detected Sir Alexander?”
“No, not yet my good Brother. All of the calling felt it to a greater or lesser degree but that doesn’t help to trace it.” Alexander said a little down cast. “We are interviewing all that were present but everyone was focused on what was happening in front of them so were finding it hard. But where we have had some luck is in finding those that called for Sophie’s blood. A mixture of clerics and laymen. There aren’t that many of them but they are vocal and have considerable power in the Synod and Senate.”
“And Father Pierre is he still agitating the crowd?” The Abbott asked wearily.
“Yes your grace. He is demanding that the Inquisition carries on and he wants to broaden the field to include us. He is saying that Sophia has charmed us in some fashion.” Brother Patrik said angrily. “He is even saying that my bodily distortions are a sign of my evil persona. He has to be stopped before all of the village is put to the inquisition, because he will, just to get back at us. Already women are coming forward to claim that Sophia is affecting them.”
The door opened and one of the old monks entered in some distress.
“What is it brother?” Patrik asked.
“It is the Bishop Brother he has had a hanging tree erected at the edge of the village by Mistress Sophia’s mothers farm.”
“What! If you’ll excuse me gentlemen I will go at once and sort out this stupidity.” Alexander stormed.
“I fear you will be to late my Lord already two bodies swing from its crosstrees.” The look of horror on the men’s faces spoke volumes.
“The Bishop has troopers from the militia of the Papal Nuncio to back him up.” The Brother was beginning to weep. “They are going to come here for Mistress Sophia.”
Alexander got up.
“I’ll get our Knights and set up a defence.” He bowed and made to leave.
“My Lord we may have to give her up just to save the lives of others. Have you considered that?” The Abbott said fearfully.
“Like a lamb to the slaughter. Yes I have considered it and rejected it. I will not let an innocent die for this mans insanity. Do you agree?”
With that he left leaving a fearful pair of monks behind him.
At the entrance Alexander met up with two of his Knights, one was nursing a cut to his forehead.
“There is panic down in the town with many families leaving to get out of the way. Many are coming to us for sanctuary here at the Abbey. The chapel is getting over crowded with frighten people.” The Knight said as his fellow Knight sew the cut together.
“We can’t defend the monastery with the forces we have to hand.”
There was a cough to catch their attention and as one the men turned to face the Blacksmith and a small group of armed citizens.
“My Lord we have experience in fighting and put ourselves under your command.” He said.
“Thank you my friend it may come to that.” He put a hand on the mans shoulder. “Can anyone get a message to Duke De Anjou for aid?”
“No Sir it would be a wasted journey. He has left with his troops for the coast.”
“Right we will withdraw to the old castle on beacon hill and make our stand there.” Alexander said.
“What about the villagers in the chapel my Lord?” One of the Knights asked.
“They would slow us up but they should be alright as they can claim sanctuary.” Alexander tried to sound confident but he didn’t feel it.
“I fear they would panic my Lord.”
“Very well. Master Blacksmith can you and your men get them to the castle?”
“I’ll try my Lord.” The Blacksmith signalled for them to go.
“Good luck my friend.”
He turned to his Knights.
“Collect all the Knights and get them to the castle as quickly as possible and prepare for their arrival. How many of us are their?”
“Eight my Lord.”
“They will have to do.” Alexander doubted it.
“I fear you have miscounted Sir Justin.” Tomas said as the pupils spread out in a fan behind him. “We are ready to take our place amongst you.”
Alexander’s chest swelled with pride as he ran his eyes over them. Then he noticed someone was missing.
“Where’s De Anjou?”
“We don’t know my Lord, he vanished after breakfast.” Samantha replied.
“We don’t have time to conduct a search. Dam him!!” Alexander ran a tongue over his dry lips. “Get up to the Castle as quickly as you can and prepare for the arrival of the people from the chapel.”
“Yes my Lord.” Tomas said before issuing orders of his own. “Ferret, Bonnyface and Gregory fetch the horses and meet us at the Ladies Chapel’s side door. Samantha go with Sir Alexander to my sisters cell and escort my sister and mother to the castle. Vicktor with me. We’ll find Blacksmith Leon and tell him that we’re going up to the castle to prepare for them that way they won’t get worried if they see us in armour.”
In moments the youngsters had vanished leaving a slightly embarrassed Samantha behind.
Alexander looked down at her and smiled.
“It seems that young Tomas has issued his orders my lady so let us be at it.”
Soon they were at the cell door of Sophia’s room.
“I’m afraid the pair of you have to leave here. We cannot keep you safe here and must take you up to the old castle. Go with this young lady she will take you up there safely.” Alexander said.
“What is happening my Lord?” Sophia asked her eyes registering pain.
“I’m afraid our new Bishop and some of the villagers are baying for your blood My Lady. But have no fear we will protect you.”
“I have no doubt of that my Lord. Will no words of mine quell the crowd?”
“I fear not my Lady anything you say now will only inflame the situation.” Samantha said gently taking Sophia’s hand.” If you will follow me?”
Sophia looked across at Alexander.
“My Lord should we survive these next few hours investigate my Lord De Anjou’s home for the source of the evil, the puppet master.” With that she left with her mother and a nun.
Later on as Alexander reached the castle he was challenged by Bonnyface.
“How are things inside the castle young man?” He asked abruptly.
“Tomas has place the villagers willing to fight at the murder holes.”
Bonnyface pointed at the arrow slits along the way. “Each group has one of us with them to steady them.”
“Go and get them and bring them to me along with my Knights if you please?”
As Alexander entered the castle’s central area he was confronted by Sophia astride her pony talking to the large crowd of seated villagers in front of her. Her armour shone in the dying light.
“You are safe here my friends, my family. Go to your allotted tasks with a clear mind and a good heart in the knowledge that you are doing Our Ladies will and that she watches over us all.”
He watched with tears in his eyes as she dismounted and wandered through the crowd touching shoulders and bestowing blessings and everyone she touched seemed to straighten with greater resolve and pride.
He espied Brother Patrik making his way toward him through the crowd so he dismounted and intercepted him.
“How goes it Brother?”
“Not well, not well at all.” Came the dark reply. “We have physics to aid the ill and injured. We even have a spring of fresh water.”
“Then I can’t see what ails you Brother.”
“Food ails me my Lord. We have only what we could carry and even if we were to introduce rationing it will not last an eight day.”
Alexander shook his head sadly.
“If this foolishness lasts that long we will all be dead anyway.” He clamped a hand over the monks twisted shoulder. “Brave heart my friend.”
Tomas jogged forward to join them the others trailing behind.
“My Lord, Good Brother the Bishop has entered the Abbey looking for us.”
“How do you know this Tomas?” Patrik asked.
“My sister told me and I have no reason to doubt her.” Tomas said puzzled that anyone should question it. “She tells me that there are forty men at arms and a large group of armed villagers from the papal see. I have sent out two fast horsemen to find your Knights at St Etienne and Mont Pulpier and the Rangers under Captain Vernon. I trust I was right to do so?”
“Yes well done lad well thought out. Well my friends the die is cast who knows who will live or die this day but I could not want for better friends beside me.”
Alexander gripped the monks forearm in a friendly grasp.
“To survival my friend.” Patrik said.
“To survival.” Alexander replied.