Chapter 9: Love Apples
Late that Night
Greta opened the secret door to her bedroom and ushered Luke inside.
“How went the feast?” asked Luke.
“Dull for the most part,” replied, Greta, “but things heated up at the end. Friedrich drank too much wine and vomited halfway through professing his love for me. Johann started to beat one of my maids with his horsewhip, so I had to send him home. Herr Bergman was caught trying to sneak a barrel of wine off to his carriage. Herr Schwazborg left his wife at home and took Frualine Messer into the bushes. Frau Sudstern took her shoes off and danced on the table and her husband fell off his horse.”
“It sounds like mayhem,” said Luke. “I pray that you are not too worn out to receive me.”
“No,” said Greta, “I have been burning to see you all night.”
“Well then I am happy,” said the preacher, “and look what I have brought us.” Luke reached into his sack and pulled out two large red apples. “The first of the season.”
Greta sat on edge of her bed. It was turned from white hazel, laid with goose down, and covered with satin sheets and woollen blankets. She began by biting off some of the apple to expose its flesh. She then loosened the laces of her gown so that she could slide the love apple into her bosom. She used the apple to wipe up the sweat from under her breasts, then rubbed it under armpits. At length she manouvered the apple between her legs and infused it with her full flavour.
They exchanged apples. Greta bit into hers and savoured the taste of her lover’s fresh sweat.
Bishop Lock released the Devil from Hell and let out a sigh as the Devil shuddered and released his load of angel-blood.
“Why do angels have white blood,” asked Sonia as she rolled on to her back, and began to rub the angel-blood onto her thighs and belly.
“Because their souls are pure,” said Lock as he pulled on his dark blue tights.
“Tell me about the rivers of Hell,” said Sonia, “I have always imagined Hell to be quite a dry place but I have discovered through the rituals you have taught me that, though it has fire, it is quite wet.”
“A common misconception,” said Lock, “the rivers of Hell…”
Sonia started to cry as she raised herself up on the side of the bed.
“Oh child, what’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry,” Sonia dried her eyes on the edge of the bed sheet. “It’s just been so amazing and I couldn’t help but wonder. Have you, have you performed the ritual of Hell on, on other girls?”
“Oh no,” said Lock. “I have always performed the ritual of the Devil alone. I have known of this ritual only in theory. I give thanks to God that I have been allowed to teach it to you.”
Sonia began to sob again but she could not suppress the smile that spread across her face “I give thanks to God for that as well. Lord Bishop?”
Countess Greta von Eisenberg lay on her back, her knees pressed to her breasts, and the soles of her feet pushed against his chest, while he loved her. She had no desire to bare a child to anyone other than her absent lord and husband. A pregnancy would create a scandal that would ruin her, and witches’ remedies for the swelling belly were dangerous. Thus to protect herself during the nightly visits from her lover, Greta employed a special trick taught to her by her family’s old nurse, a piece of pigs bladder stretched around a loop of willow, inserted into her womanly flesh, would capture men’s seed, and it could be removed with a weaving hook.
She felt the ecstasy building inside her constricted body. She cried out as she shuddered and released.
“I think,” Luke whispered, “that I am the happiest man alive. For I feel that I love you more than I love myself.”
Greta laughed softly. “You sound like one of the characters in one of Friedrich’s French romances.”
“but I truly feel it,” said Luke, “since I have found you, everyday feels like a blessing from God.”
“I love you too,” said Greta and she bit his ear. “The black monk arrived at my house today. He was most interesting.”
She felt him pull away from her. He withdrew from the embrace and sat on the edge of the bed. “What did he want?”
“Only to make my acquaintance. He has been to India and further. I insisted he stay here as my guest.”
Luke glanced quickly around the room as if he expected the inquisitor to jump out from any corner.
Greta laughed and sat up in the bed pulling herself over to her lover, kissing his neck. “Do you trust me so little that you think I would have you ambushed while in my arms? Have you forgotten everything that I have told you about my family, about my prayers and wishes? We will expel Lock and take the Church lands. We will print bibles and reform the beliefs of the people. I invited the inquisitor to stay because I do not want him to leave.”
Luke turned to kiss her on the lips then whispered in her ear. “Eisenberg will be the spark, which starts a wildfire that will engulf Christendom. And God will reward the righteous and you shall be a just and saintly queen.”
“Stop it,” Greta withdrew her face from Luke’s searching lips, and playfully slapped his face. “I’m just the ruler of a wealthy little county, I’ll settle for incorporating the Church lands into mine.”
She felt Luke’s hands slide up her thighs, “We should act now. I have many followers among the townsfolk. Some are ready to revolt.”
Greta allowed herself to tumble onto her back. “We must wait, the nobles are not yet certain.”
Sonia lay on her back, watching the candlelight play on the patterns that adorned the bed canopy when she broke into tears again.
“What is it now, my sparrow?” asked Lock.
“Today, I learned that I have gained a sister and that I have lost a brother.” Sonia began to wipe her eyes on the bed sheet. “He was murdered and cut into pieces.” Sonia began to sob. When I heard the news I didn’t really think it hurt me, but the more I think about it the more it does. And I feel so sorry for my poor sister to have her husband taken from her and her father, wrongly accused, is to hang for it. It is all so terrible. I promised her I would ask you for help.”
Lock sat up beside Sonia and put a comforting arm around her. “I shall do all that is in power to remedy the wrong. Tell me of the accused.”
“His name is Heinrich son of Mendel.”
“What!” Lock failed to hide his surprise, “Heinrich son of Mendel is to be hung for murder?”
“You know him?”
“Yes.” Heinrich was the exarlarch of the Jews of Eisenberg, he was their leader and a successful merchant. Lock had sought out Heinrich on a tip from Archbishop of Buda. Lock had expressed his intentions to protect the Jews from persecution and had proposed an arrangement. God’s law prevented the Church from lending money but the emperors law allowed it of the Jews. Lock could make interest from his treasury if he secretly used Jewish agents. Lock had found Heinrich to be learned, and cautious if a little superstitious. He had enjoyed the exalarch’s company and had been looking forward to their next meeting. “You may sleep with peace,” said Lock, “knowing that I shall not let this injustice go unchallenged.”
“And will you find the truth about who killed my brother?” asked Sonia.
“I promise I shall find out the truth, my sparrow, I shall leave no stone unturned.” Lock’s fingers strayed to cross that hung around his neck. “I swear it.”