Had I been seen and recognized?
That was when, as they say, all hell broke loose!
Someone in that Diocese suspected that the Bishop's death was not so clean cut as expected, seeing conspiracies against them at every turn, and they’d needed to find out, 'so lets torture a confession out of a few people'.
The heavy hand of the Holy Inquisition was set in motion by the church to combat heresy. Or so they said. Whatever heresy might mean--questioning authority was usually enough to qualify for that dubious label. The Church had many different interpretations of what, ‘heresy’, actually meant, according to those who would ask their questions; and their methods were different in different countries.
Whatever it was... that fallible and corruptible humans turned their hands to, could be manipulated in a variety of self-serving ways to serve a deeper interest: their own, usually, in their hunt for power, property, influence; and sometimes, just for the sake of envy, vengeance, or that most basic of human drives... lust.
‘Acquisition of property for the church,’ was often one unstated excuse. It could easily become even more personal; to take on a protective role of a beautiful young wife of a much older husband—once he was out of the way.
She would have no choice in that protection, but she would soon find out what it meant for her; what it would cost.
Sometimes it was a time for revenge against a rival, or against someone who might become one.
In short, the inquisition was made for revenge and corruption on a grand scale, as well as to satisfy every known, basic need, of corrupt men.
They unloosed that Inquisition around St. Denis, in an attempt to ‘shake the truth, loose’, (that, was what they said), and to find out if the untimely death of the Bishop had not been the accident it had seemed to be, though... secretly... they were glad he was dead, and could no longer stand in their way or stifle their similar ambitions.
They hoped that someone would come forward to confirm their suspicions, or would be identified by those 'friendly to the Church' for them to ‘examine’, in their usual ways. The innocent and pious had nothing to fear from them.
If any man believed that...?
My anger with the Church had not subsided with the death of the Bishop, but took on new life with them unleashing that demonic force on the long-suffering people, and after what had happened to me.
Over the next few months I took it upon myself to make them regret ever having conspired to remove me and my family from the life we had known, and for separating me from the love of my life.
I had help.
I rained blood down upon the inquisitor, and his retinue, and their guards, whenever I could.
We learned how to strand the travelling emissary far out of his way; to strand him overnight by felling a tree across the road; taking out a bridge, or by making the road so muddy and rocky, that no cart could pass without getting stuck or without damage.
I will not bore you with these deeds.
Over the next few months we intercepted four such parties of inquisitors whom we stranded on roads that wise men never travelled after dark.
Before they knew what was truly about to happen to them, soldiers from the escort tried to free those heavy carts, but were generally unsuccessful, so were usually sent ahead to round up more horses to help pull the cart loose.
They were never seen again; cut down, farther long that same road.
We ran off the heavy horses that pulled the carriages of the questioner, and of his retinue, as they sat inside their protective 'cages', in what little comfort they had, as we cut down those remaining guards or tied them, so that they could watch, helplessly, what we did.
They saw that part of what unfolded after that, and cannot have felt easy about it.
Then, we taught them first-hand about their own methods... one of them... when we built fires under those carriages, after making sure the inquisitor and his minions could not get out.
They had no intention of getting out at first, and becoming victims themselves, as they threatened us. Not at first.
As the smoke built up inside their protective shelters, and as the heat and flames got to them, they then tried to escape but couldn’t. Their anger and desperation could be heard. They promised swift retribution for this.
Their arrogance and anger, soon turned to suggestions of mercy... if we would only.... 'Mercy'; a laughable concept in their agenda. They soon tried other pleas as they finally understood, and felt what was happening to them. I was familiar with the progression of their growing desperation and horror. Their efforts to reach out became more desperately insistent as they felt the flames, in the same way many of their unfortunate victims had.
It was all familiar to me.
Then their pleas turned to screams, real screams as they tried to break out, choking on the smoke, feeling the flames coming up through the floor and setting their clothes on fire.
They knew all about this, having caused enough of it themselves, but seeing it from a new perspective when they were the ones atop those pyres, and feeling the flames.
About then, their horrendous screams fell quiet, one by one, atop their very own, personal, funeral pyres as their carriages crackled and burned, sparks rising in the still night air, along with their souls, rising to heaven, leaving only burning fragments and ashes by the next morning for anyone to find... as well as for the haunting smell of roasting meat.
No one who filed by that place the next day, mourned their passing.
Some of their lives, may have been spared by those deaths.
Those guards who had witnessed that, and thankful that they still lived, soon broke free once we’d gone. They returned to St Denis, wondering if the devil was still after them, and marveling at their escape. They described to their masters, what had happened, leaving nothing out, embellishing where needed... the numbers of attackers that had cut them down... how they had fought to save those they could, before they had been felled themselves... the bodies of their comrades in arms left along the road.
They recounted it over and over again; the ambush; how they had seen their comrades cut down from cover, by volleys of crossbow bolts from the trees; the horses being run off, and then those carriages set on fire, with fires built beneath them. Then the pleadings, followed by the blood-curdling screams.
No doubt they had witnessed similar things many times when it had happened to others, but when it happened to them...? It had hit home.
That happened three more times, before they gave up sending these men to their deaths.
Desertions became more common, and they even had difficulty recruiting anyone in the church for that inquisitorial task, for several years; at least in that region.
They stopped looking for their ‘truth’. It was too dangerous to ask.