I am forever damned!
I turned my back on my home for the last time, and on the village and countryside where all of my dearest memories—before the last few days-- were.
When I became more conscious of where I was, I recognized that I was standing on a mound, not far from my home, facing the sunrise as though paying homage to the rising sun, as Druids and so many religions had done in pagan times, and as some, still did.
I could hear the crackling of the fire in the still air behind me.
I knew nothing of the Aztecs at that time. I am sure now, that they would have identified with me and some of what I had done. It was not in any celebration of life, or as homage to the sun god that I had ripped hearts from chests, as they had done atop their steep pyramids. They'd wielded their stone knives, drawing blood to welcome the rising sun, or for it to set as it always had, by them keeping their alters awash with blood, or to encourage a year of fertility and abundance; all, seemingly reasonable things in their philosophy.
No, I had ripped out mens’ hearts; not for such a noble, if misguided practice, but out of revenge for what had happened to me, and to my family.
As I staggered away from my burning home, a place I had once loved, I ignored the lush greenery that surrounded me; of field after field of crops extending into the distance, the orderly rows of grape vines, and a second crop of hay waiting to be cut.
The crops would not be harvested... the grapes would not be pressed... the hay would not be cut.
I was blind and deaf to everything I had once valued; seeing only blood, rising in brief fountains of satisfaction (for me), and hearing only moans of pain and deep torment, punctuated by screams, as I’d come back once more to one of those I held in such contempt to inflict even deeper wounds, greater pain.
I was deaf to the lowing of cattle that needed to be milked, and to the familiar, rustling flow of the river off to one side of me.
I was in a daze, sticky with blood, and I was ferociously thirsty.
I remembered only some of what I had done. Half of me still remembered, feeling... half of me was trying to forget it already.
All I could think of was Rossignol, my Rossignol.
I had just killed her entire family; had rounded them up one by one in the dead of night and had brought them back to my own ‘Keep’, after burying my own family.
I’d closed my heart; shed no tears before, and I would not do so now. The cold grip of anger still ruled me, though my heart bled for my lost love.
I had become the devil. What was worse, I’d shown no mercy. They had shown my own family none, and they had begun this, for me to finish, and finish it, I had.
I had to get away from this place, something truly terrible had happened, and I had done it. The fragments I remembered were bad enough. I knew that when I rested, all of it would come back to torment me.
As the cold air hit through to me, I became conscious of what I held in my hand; the heart of the last man I had just killed; Rossignol’s father.
I threw it to one side as though it were tainted, and wiped my hand on my already bloody tunic; picking up more blood than I left there.
I stumbled to a spring I knew about, slaked my thirst, unable to avoid drinking the blood tinged water that appeared under me, washed out my clothes and, after resting and plotting a course of action for myself, I left that place forever.
That young man, me, reflected in the riffled water... Guillaume, me, but he was a Guillaume I did not know and did not recognize, covered in blood, bloody face, bloody clothing. Some of it was my own blood from that horrendous head wound inflicted three days earlier, sewn up by an old woman I had sought help from.
I was now an outcast from society.
The church would condemn what I had done. If it ever found out.
They would excommunicate, obliterate, excise, this unchristian abomination from memory and from every record, once they learned what I had done. And they would learn of it. It was just a matter of time; a year, two, three.
I did not turn back to see my burning home, or even that other home across the valley where she had once lived, but strode forward, turning my back on everything I’d loved.
I would wash myself again, in another stream that lay ahead of me, but I would never feel clean again. Life would go on, somehow.
I still had friends. I knew where I could find some help, at least until what I had done was more widely learned; at which time all doors would be closed to me.
And all of this had begun when they... The Chambertins, had assumed, wrongly, that I was dead, killed on the road, six days earlier by their youngest son, after I’d answered a summons from the Church.
The church I had trusted and believed in all of my life.
I knew now for certain, that they had lured me out onto the road to St. Denis on a pretext, so that the Chambertins could kill me. I seemed to an impediment to them completing their plan to kill my family, so I had to be dealt with, first.
They’d known me well; how I could have stopped all of their plans were I at home, despite my youth. I knew how to look after myself.
When country fairs came to our village, I participated in their various feats of strength and of combat, ever since I had been about fifteen years of age.
I’d known Rossignol was watching, cheering me along, but silently, lest her elation at each of my successes was noticed. Though she dared not cheer me on, she'd sat, jubilant, barely able to keep her enthusiasm silent as I’d laid out one brother of hers after another; even those much older than me.
Those losses had rankled with them, festered within them. Their ignominious defeats—they had not been used to being bested so easily-- had added yet another layer of resentment to their already bruised and battered feelings against us.
I knew that soon, she, Rossignol rather than my mother, would be the one ministering to my bruises and contusions soon after that in our cave, and she had seen to them most lovingly, seeing to my other obvious needs too, as I lay naked to let her, before we made love again, and then swam.
They were all cherished memories now. The only ones I would ever be left with.
Some days later, after I’d left my home far behind, and as I recovered better from that earlier wound to my head, I learned that the soldiers of the church had indeed come, as I’d expected they would, but they had been too late.
They had waited for the Chambertins to send a message, speaking of their success after they’d killed me on the road that day... which they had heard about... and that the rest of it had also been accomplished.
But they’d not heard back from their servants as they’d expected, so they’d lost time, waiting too long to follow up, and to remove all evidence, and all witnesses, including the Chambertins themselves. All of them, including Rossignol had she been there.
They would pay for that, too.
I’d beaten them to it, but one good thing had come of it. They believed that I was dead, and I wanted to keep it that way if I could, and they would know nothing of Rossignol.
All they learned from the dispersed villagers, and from the few women of that Chambertin family that they did eventually find, was that their men had fled one night some days earlier, as though pursued by the devil himself, and they were nowhere to be found.
I had indeed looked like the devil himself that night after I’d rounded up their men, and told the women to leave. They'd left, fearing for their own lives.
For their own protection, they’d lied to those soldiers. Maybe. It was hard to know what people chose to believe.
It had been a lie that they told easily, after I’d warned them what was coming next. They were not sure they could believe me, but they’d had too much to protect of their own at that moment; the only things of any value left that would be left to them... their children...who still lived, and they wanted it to stay that way, so they told those soldiers nothing of me or what I had done.
They may have realized by then, as those soldiers had ridden into the community, obviously ready to kill; burn; raze... all who lived there and had survived... that I had been right to warn them. I had saved their lives and those of their children by telling them to go, so they at least had that to thank me for, amidst all of the other that they cursed me for in the same breath.
I had been a bloody sight even then, for them to see, and an unexpected sight at that. Fortunately, I had been convincing, and they had believed me. I was so bloody, they may not even have recognized me for who I was, so that was one good thing.
Anyone seeing me at that moment, covered in blood, with it dripping from my face and hair, with older blood from previous days caked hard on me, would have been shocked and horrified, and they would rapidly have quit that place in fear of their lives. The devil had taken their men, and he might come back for them. Their fear had been obvious. Their horror had been believable, and infectious, even to the superstitious soldiers.
When those soldiers returned to St. Denis with that story of the devil, the Church had not believed them. They were sent out again, to search more widely afield.
My estate was left in ashes, still smoldering, so they could believe that part of their contract with the Chambertins had been achieved... but for them to disappear too? It was hard to believe they would not have claimed their promised reward... even if it had been death... but the Chambertins did not know the church as I then did, and they hadn’t known that.
Search as they might, those soldiers found nothing to report back to their overlords.
The church did not like to leave such loose ends that might come back to discomfort them. They continued searching, fearful of what they might find growing, once the seeds of the devil had been sown.
All, had disappeared by then, and the blood and all traces of my own family had been washed away by the rains or carried off by the wild animals.
By then, I was days away from that bloody memory.
The soldiers searched the countryside for miles about, finding nothing of either the Chambertins, or of my own family (though they did not expect to find any of my family alive), and with no one who dared... or was inclined... to tell them of what they knew... if they knew anything.
No one knew anything.
Maybe they had been pursued by the devil for what they had done or had thought to do.
Retreat... regroup... report what they had heard.
The powers of the church had been helpless to ‘correct’ anything by then, but they would ensure that that area for miles around would be cleared of all habitations, spreading the rumor that the dreaded plague had returned, and that the place was cursed.
That rumor did it. Those who had not left already, went then, with that word... ‘Plague!’, lending wings to their heels, and spawning horror, deep in their hearts.
As much as I knew that I had to turn my back on all of that and leave, forever, I had not yet finished.
There was that one loose end in the church. The one who had started all of this.
The Chambertins were dead, but the one who’d put them up to it within the church, still lived.
He, should also die before I could begin to feel safe again.