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Chapter Fourteen

“Liam, it was heartbreaking. I woke up and my pillow was soaked. Muireanne knew she was going to die, and she gave herself up like a lamb to the slaughterhouse.” Alanna’s voice hissed with anger. “How could she just give up? Why?”

They were sitting in the archive chamber, Deataigh winding his way between her feet. Father Patrick had let them in a few minutes earlier and her cat had leapt from a crack in the wall as his back disappeared down the hall.

“There was no where for her to run. This bishop ruled with as much power as a king. Even the MacCarthy was afraid of him. Look at this journal entry.” Liam pointed to the thin black script.

I have finally bent the heathen King to the will of the church. He will celebrate the feast days as I decree. No more of the pagan ceremonies. No more bonfires at Samhain or Yule. We will have proper church rule.

“Keep reading. This sounds like he’s ready to declare war on the healers and others like them.” Alanna watched as Liam quickly scanned the cramped spidery writing.

“There it is. Finally, a mention of Muireanne’s trial.” Liam continued reading for a few more minutes.

Alanna tapped her foot impatiently but kept her silence. She knew her curly headed friend had a knack for deciphering the bishop’s scrawl.

“Well, was it a mockery of justice?” Alanna asked as Liam pushed away from the table to pace.

“It’s infuriating. All the good she did used against her. All the people who survived, including Torin, accused along with her. What were they to do? Die?” He raked his hands through his curls and sat down beside her.

“So, what happened?”

“He really wanted Muireanne dead. He backed her into a corner. Die or he would kill every single person she had ever helped. His priests brought evidence from the communion closet against peasants, serfs and merchants alike. He stacked the charges and told her she could save them all if she submitted to the church’s decree.”

“Filthy tactics. What was she supposed to do?”

“And worse, he told her he would stop the search for her daughter if she complied. Niamh was the final nail in her coffin, so to speak. We know she wanted her daughter to live at any cost. Especially after the dream you had.” Liam laid his gloved hand on the journal where it lay open. “Here, read this passage.”

I told the witch I would spare her daughter. The maid was gone, and I assume she died as there were large bloody markings near the big oak. I will use Niamh against her and make the bargain for all the other lives. If she admits guilt and burns, the rest will live, and I will have their fear.

“How cruel. For a man of the church, who supposedly believes in a doctrine that preaches caring and kindness, he’s a perverted, insane ass.” Alanna almost shouted.

“Sssh, you’ll bring Father Patrick running. Religion wasn’t about healing and helping back then. It was about fear and control. It was about giving the Pope control over more and more of the known world.” Liam told her.

“At least we know what happened. Poor Niamh.”

Deataigh leapt up into Alanna’s lap, putting his front paws against her shoulder, he rubbed his whiskered face against her cheek. She buried her hands in his ruff, taking comfort in his rumbling purr, as he gave her ease the only way he could. Liam stood and walked behind her to rub her shoulders.

Father Patrick pushed through the door, with a book trolley rolling behind him.

“Hmpf! I see the cat has found his way in here again. I told him the last time he wasn’t welcome.”

“We found Bishop Mathew’s account of the trial. Nothing fair about it, he wanted control of the people, even the King.”

“Aye, the early church was a place for the power hungry. Many of the priests were third and fourth sons, destined for the church because there was nothing else for them. They belonged to powerful noble families from across Europe, and made their presence felt. Often in very ugly shows of fear inspiring executions.”

“Are those more ledgers?” Liam pointed at the over sized leather bound books on the trolley.

“Yes. I found a few more from the appropriate time period. You might find your knight Torin in there. I’ll take the journals and put them back into their storage cabinet.” The priest closed the thick diary after he drew it out from under Alanna’s hand.

Deataigh turned around to stare at the priest. Meowing loudly, he dropped to the floor, his long body stretching so his back paws remained on Alanna’s lap and his front paws touched the floor.

“I’ve never seen a cat that big, at least not a domestic one.” The priest stared back at the gray Maine Coon holding his eyes for long seconds. “If you’re going to find your way in here, then at least make sure you catch a few mice.”

I’ll take them to the altar and leave them there for a proper burial.

Deataigh sat and began to lick his chest. Stretching his back paw forward he cleaned each pad thoroughly before continuing to scrub the side of his face.

Alanna bit her tongue to stop her laughter. It wouldn’t do to give away her cat’s secret. Liam saw her lips twitching and her shoulder’s shaking with suppressed giggles and went to open the door for the priest. When he left without turning around, they held their breath for a minute before bursting into giggles.

“What was so funny? What did your gray monster cat say?” Liam asked.

“He’s going to leave his kills for Father Patrick on the altar. I’ll try to talk him out of it, but I’m sure he’ll continue long after we’re finished our research.”

I hold these men of the cloth responsible for many ills. My memories over the years show bad leadership and contempt for their congregations were more usual than not. I far prefer an honest witch or wizard.

“My thoughts exactly, Deataigh. You’ll like our priest back home, but even now there are many who should be locked in the deepest dungeons available, with rats chewing their toes.”

“Really, Alanna? Father Patrick is a good man, as are the other brothers who help him run the parish,” Liam protested.

“You and I have great men with an honest calling to the church teaching us. What I meant is I prefer an honest witch or wizard to some of the clergy out there. Which is what Deataigh was telling me too.”

“I’ll give you that but let’s go through these ledgers. If we work at it, we should finish before it’s time for dinner

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