Chapter Nine Troubled Water
The Saints Day dawned sunny and cheerful with sky larks joyously singing and the gentle cooing of a dove floating on the air.
Down in the market place most of the town had collected, some in faith, some in curiosity, some to praise, some to disrupt.
“She is coming.” The carpenter told her husband. “And so is the whole chapter house look.”
The big blacksmith swallowed nervously and quickly ran a cloth over the little alter.
Then he spied the procession coming down from the Abbey.
Leading the way was the proctor carrying the rod with the silver ankh on the top. He lifted it above head height for all to see.
Behind him came Sophia in a glorious green hooded robe with ornate yellow boarders her blond hair free of the usual plaits and tumbling down her back.
Next were the Paladin novices in shinning armour, then the Abbott, Brother Patrik and Sir Alexander followed by the monks and nuns of the chapter house singing a beautiful plane song.
What Knights were available along with the guards provided the escort and to take control of the crowd.
They stopped by the little pulpit.
“Children of God be seated.” The Abbot commanded of them and suddenly it became quite as they obeyed.
Brother Patrik stepped forward.
“Prepare ye to hear the words of our God. Prepare to confess your sins.” He said waving an incense burner over the small pulpit. “Confess your sins in Gods name. Confessi i vostri sins nel nome dei dii.”
The waiting crowd repeated the litany astonished that part of it was spoken in the common tongue.
“Today under this beautiful sky and warmed by the sun we give praise to God for our bounty. Sophia, blessed child, the voice of our Saint, will conduct the Holy Mass for all to hear and more importantly understand.”
Sophia walked up the steps onto her pulpit and began the Mass in the common tongue, her voice carrying clearly over the crowd and warming their hearts.
As the first part of the Mass came to a close hostile mutterings came from a group of lowland clergy and merchants.
“Now before you all, this wondrous child, that has been gifted to us, shall be anointed in Holy Oils and Sacred Waters, to be recognised as Holy in our eyes.”
Sophia knelt as the Abbot dipped his thumb into the pot of Holy Oil and then drew the image of the Holy Ankh on her forehead. He then repeated the gesture using Holy Water.
“May God be your strength in troubled times and your succour in times of peace.” The Abbott smiled down at her. “Rise child and be presented to your people.”
“People of Prey behold your new Holy Sister, Sister Sophia.” Brother Patrik called.
“She’s a witch burn her before she has us all in her thrall!!” A tall cleric burst through the cordon of people and stood squarely in front of Sophia. “You have befuddled their minds so you can conduct sacrilege! You foul our sacred words by speaking them in the common tongue making them base and foul to the taste! You dare to stand above others and pass judgement on them, you a low born child!!”
Tomas moved across and stood in front of Sophia his sword drawn.
The mans eyes grew large and wide.
“You dare to protect this changeling!!”
“That changeling is my sister.” He said quietly in a voice that somehow was heard by all.
“Then you are condemned by your own voice!! Burn them both!” The man was practically screaming.
More voices scattered in the crowed began calling for their deaths while others called out their support for Sophia. The whole affair was turning ugly and could break out into violence at any moment.
Alexander and Patrik readied themselves to spirit her away.
Sophia’s voice stunned everyone into silence.
She stepped off the pulpit, removed her dress and took Tomas’s sword and cut her finger on it.
“Under all of this I am just a girl, see I bleed just like you. What have I to do to convince you of the truth of my words.
Shall I, like our Lord, raise a Lazareth from the dead or maybe turn water into wine, but no, you would see this as a sign of my wickedness.
So tell me sir, what would you have me do to prove to you the honesty of my words?”
The priest in front of her was at a loss for words for a moment.
“Your honeyed words will not charm me witch.” He turned around and lifted his arms wide to the watching crowd. “Shall we suffer a witch to live!”
“I have a solution child, would you face the inquisition?” Pierre was resplendent in his Bishops robes as he pushed through to the front. “The Inquisition will find the truth of the matter. Brother Priest’s take her to the Abbey to be examined.”
“No she will not!” Alexander bellowed adding to the confusion. “I will not subject a child to this torture.”
Elizabeth was sobbing her heart out as she rushed over to Sophia and gathered her in to her arms.
“You pretended to love me Bishop just to get at my children so you can torture them!” She cried.
“She has been said to have fouled the Holy Scriptures with the common tongue and blasphemed, saying the Holy Lady speaks to her.” Pierre’s true colours where now shown. “I have been chosen as Inquisitor and I will see it done!”
The reaction of the majority of the crowd was a positive one of support for Sophia swiftly drowning out the dissenters.
Again Sophia called for quiet and once more silence fell on the group.
“My people I stand wrongly accused of heresy and worse. I have no defence for these claims for any act I choose to do will only feed the suspicion, rather than dispelling it.” She called.
“You’re our Saint and we know it in our hearts. You need to prove nothing.” The Blacksmith yelled into that watchful silence.
“Dear friend I have no option but to deliver myself into the Bishops hands for examination. But know this Bishop if you hurt those that I love to harm me, I will call upon the Angels on high to right that wrong.” She turned from the crowd and faced the Bishop her hands together ready to be bound. “I am ready my Lord.”
Pierre’s voice softened.
“I have no wish to hurt you my child, I just want to show you what you are doing is wrong. Take her away.”
Alexander made to intervene but was stopped by Brother Patrik.
“It’s to late my friend we have been out manoeuvred.”
“Very well if you wish to test her Bishop, I will allow her to be shown the devices but nothing more.” The Abbott told him quietly. “Six good people stout and true will sit in judgement over the girl. They shall be our jurors. We return to the Abbey at once to put these accusations to bed.”
Just as she was about to be led away Sophia’s head jerked upward.
“I know you are here evil one. I can taste your evil on the air.”
Bernadette was at the back of the crowd and quickly hunched down and dispersed in the breeze.
“We will search you out my brother and I, and destroy you!” Sophia hissed.
“Hush Sophia don’t give them arrows to shoot you with.” Patrik cautioned.
“But she is right Brother I felt it too for a moment.” Alexander said before calling his Knights over and gave them instructions to scour the town for the proprietor of that evil.
Sophia was led into the room where the tools of the inquisition were displayed.
She was made to sit opposite Pierre.
“Sophia confess your sins my child and pledge to follow the doctrine of the church.” He said gently, and to give him his due he did appear to be unhappy with the situation. It was as if he had started a wheel rolling down a hill but could not find anyway to stop it or slow it down as it gained momentum.
“Your Grace I follow most earnestly the churches doctrins and edicts but have we forgotten his words.
‘If two or three gather to speak my words then that is where I shall be and where my church will be also.’ The Abbey is just a building it is the people within that are the church.”
“You speak the word of the Holy Scriptures in the common tongue defiling their sanctity. Can’t you see how this is wrong?”
“Wrong in whose eye’s Your Grace. The Lord bade us, after he had returned from the grave, to go out and speak his words. Did he not give Margaret and the Apostles the gift of speaking in tongues.” She pause and tilted her head as if listening. “And that is all I do. I speak the words of the scripture’s so all can hear and understand.”
“Are you a witch child?” He persisted.
“No your Grace I am a healer.” Her answers were short and in a adult fashion.
The Bishop tied her hands behind her back and then to a pulley system that lowered or raised the crown of candles to the ceiling. She was raised up a short distance off the floor stretching her arms out behind her, her feet barely touching the floor.
She grunted as her shoulders took the strain of her weight. The pain was excruciating.
Even her healing warmth could do little to reduce the pain.
“Are you a witch child?!” He asked again.
“No.” She replied.
“Enough Your Grace. Lower her gently you have had your moment of theatre.” Patrik commanded but Pierre acted as if he hadn’t heard.
“What you are enduring is called stone drop. If I was to drop you and pulled you up suddenly your shoulders would come out of their sockets leaving you crippled. I ask again are you a witch?!”
“No my Lord. I truly hear our Sainted Ladies words.” She replied through gritted teeth.
“I have tested your mother and she is unable to teach you the Holy Words in the common tongue. Who has trained you in the scriptures!?”
“No one my Lord.”
“Did Sir Alexander or Brother Patrik put you up to this?” Pierre said suddenly as if trying to catch her out while twisting to watch Patrik.
“That is an insult man. Alexander has called men out for less.” Patrik fumed.
“I am sure he has but not this time I am thinking. The power of the cloister is waning and her appearance amongst us is very opportunistic, very useful.”
He signalled to the two men that controlled the rope. “Lower her gently.”
Sophia was untied and led back to the chair.
“As you can see Mistress Sophia it is well within my power to give you great pain and harm.” He continued.
She smiled at him as Patrik’s extended senses told him that she was healing her pains.
“I am well aware of what you can do your Grace but is my confession worth anything if obtained under duress.” Again her voice and choice of words were adult.
“It is sometimes the only way to get a confession. The tools are not meant to kill only to give pain.”
He crossed to where a metal pyramid stood on a high stool
“With this I can open your private places, your womb, your anus.”
He crossed to a chair of spikes beneath which a fire guttered fitfully.
“The fire heats the spikes burning you. The rack stretches your spine to breaking point.” He picked up several small items off the table and displayed them. “I have thumb screws and nipple clamps, whips and canes. Do I have to show you their affect before you confess?!”
“I confess that I hear our Ladies words in my head telling me what to say and do.” She turned to Patrik. “Holy Brother I felt great evil at the service today an evil that must be sort out and destroyed.”
“Yes I felt it too but do not worry yourself, Sir Alexander knights are interviewing those present as we speak to find it. If it can be found.”
“So you admit to being able to communicate with devils?” Pierre leapt on this seeing it as tantamount to being a confession.
“Feeling the presence of evil is hardly a confession of witchcraft. If it was most of the knights would be joining the child at the table.” Patrik stormed. “Don’t be stupid man!!”
“There may come a time when that could be a possibility.” Pierre replied as he crossed to a brazier of hot coals. He used tong’s to pull out a white hot metal rod. “I could burn you or put out your eyes if I so desired.”
“But you will not your Grace. You know I have no case to answer.” She replied calmly.
“Take the rod in your hand and put it back in the brazier?” Pierre asked calmly a smug smile on his face.
“Sophia don’t. If you carry it and your skin blisters you are guilty as God did not protect you and if you don’t blister then the devil protected you. You are condemned either way.”
Sophia snatched her hand away but Pierre was swifter. He laid the red hot poker against the skin of her arm. She screamed in absolute agony as the rod burnt her skin for all that it was a brief encounter.
Pierre was laughing as he put the bar back into the brazier.
It was at this point that a monk bustled into the room in a state of agitation.
“Brother Patrik an angry crowd is at the doors of the Abbey demanding to be let in. They say they have come to collect mistress Sophia and will not leave until they have seen her.” The monk was obviously shaken. “Lord De Anjou has taken on himself the control of the town and demands for his son’s bride be released.”
“Bishop as can be seen the crowd is far from baying for Sophia’s blood, it is yours they are after.” Patrik said in triumph.
“Send for the Knights they are supposed to protect us..” Pierre was livid. “The examination will continue I will not be interrupted.”
“We Knights Bishop are here to protect Mistress Sophia from your ministrations.” Alexander said leading his arriving Knights and the pupils into the room.
“This is sacrilege. Idolatry at its worst.” Pierre moaned. “Now get out of here and do your job and protect us.”
Sophia stood up the ropes that once bound her fell loose on the floor and the skin on her arm healed.
Pierre watched this with a frightening zeal. As far as he was concerned she had condemned herself.
“I must go to our people and speak with them.” She said.
To Pierre’s horror the clergymen that were assisting him along with the jury came forward and knelt before her to receive her blessings.
“The people have spoken much louder and clearer than the petty mewling in here.” Patrik said. “Tomas lead your sister out to speak to our people. Bishop your work is done. Rest assured that you have done your best and have not been found wanting but Sophia’s divinity shines through. Join us in speaking to the people.”
Pierre nodded as if in a daze and followed the others out. Soon only Brother Patrik remained.
“Why did you let this travesty continue.” He said angrily at the stone Angel standing in a niche. The angels head rose up from its body and slowly began to rotate.
“I am sorry that you think we were tardy but it is difficult to influence a group of people without them noticing. And remember we are just as interested in finding out who she is communicating with as you.”
“But it is not an evil source surely?”
“No it is not, as far as we can tell, but she isn’t communicating with any of our court. She is right though about a source of evil manifest on your plain. Go and join the others before you are missed.” The Angel spoke gently as her head rotated. “But heed this gentle brother she and her brother have a greater role to play in all this. Protect them as best you can.”
The Angel turned to stone once more as Patrik hurried out of the doorway and tried to run down the corridor to join the others.
When he arrived he was surprised to find that they had only just reached there themselves as if time had been played with.
Alexander opened the door and stepped outside before the mass of people and bellowed as loud as he could.
“Silence! Move back away from the doors and Mistress Sophia will come out to speak to you.” His words had an immediate effect. Silence fell instantly and with shuffling feet they moved back from the door.
Sophia followed the Knight and stood before them in her dishevelled state.
A moan of disbelief and anger floated across the crowd.
“Today I have been examined by the Bishop and my peers and found to have no cause to answer for.” She smiled beatifically down at the crowd. “Do not blame your Bishop for my hurts for he did what he thought was right. Know that I have no permanent hurts and that your support gives me succour.”
“We of the Abbey believe she is gifted to us by God to preach his words.” The Abbot said gently as he joined them. “Go back to your lives my friends she is quite safe.”
With smiles the crowd slowly dispersed leaving just the Blacksmith Leon and his wife, Bella, still remaining.
“Yes my friends can I help you?” Patrik asked.
“I have a brother up in Alsace who could look after all three of them. It will be a safe haven for them.” He said hesitantly.
Sophia looked down on them with gentle warmth.
“Thank you my brother but I have much to do here before I can rest.” She laid a hand on their shoulders. “You are blessed in our Ladies name.”
With that they returned to the abbeys cool interior.
On the De Anjou’s estate things were not so calm.
“What did you think you were doing at the market square? You were nearly exposed!!” De Anjou raged.
“I needed to be nearby to affect some of the crowd and I admit I underestimated both her and the effect she caused.” The demon said sultrily. “But we were able to use the turmoil it caused to our advantage. You have taken up the reigns of power, you yourself are now head of the council of elders.”
“Yes I am but the paladins are searching for you as we speak. If you are found here everything we have achieved will be gone.”
“Can you not use the council to halt the paladins search?”
The creature writhed seductively on the bed.
“You know that I can’t. It would throw suspicion on me, a suspicion I can not afford to have so I had to be seen backing their search.” De Anjou paced the room angrily. “What have you done to stop the girl? She is too dangerous to allow to prosper if she is not under my control.”
“I have magnified the voice she hears in her head. It should drive her insane with time.”
“Is that all?”
“I can not do more for fear of alerting her of my presence, already she is suffering.”
“It is to late for that now she has detected you at the market.”
“Very well I will create a situation that will effect her greatly. I will attack her brother and mother.”
“Do you think that wise with the knight’s so close?”
“Very well I shall hold my hand for awhile and then strike at the boy.” She smiled evilly at the thought. “Soon they shall undergo their night watch, their vigil. Try and find out more, my Lord?”
Elizabeth entered Sophia’s cell to find her daughter soaked in blood from long cuts on her arms.
She stood there in shock for a few moments.
“Mother it is our Lady she is shouting at me but I can’t hear her words. So many voices please make it stop.” Sophia was weeping, sobbing her heart out. “Please my Lady let me rest.”
Elizabeth rushed over only to stop as her daughter looked up at her from under her brows an twisted smile on her lips.
“There is evil here and I will find it and kill it.”
As she watched Elizabeth saw the wounds on Sophia arms seal themselves and heal.
“Yes my Lady.” She said a faraway look in her eyes. “Do not worry yourself mother I am well as you can see. I will sleep now I think.”
Hesitantly she took her daughter into her arms.
“We will protect you my baby.”
At the door of the cell Patrik watched with a worried frown and fear in his heart.