I came up with this short fiction as my Christmas present to you all, while taking a much needed break from my endless researching of the Merovingians. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it for you…
The Discombobulation Effect
The entire town was gathered in the square forced to attend on pain of death by Raymond VI – the Count of Toulouse, in his capacity as the leader of the Albegensian Crusade, appointed to the task by Pope Innocent III.
At the square’s centre stood three stone pillars, set in a triangular formation. Around them a wooden stage had been constructed by the Count’s mercenaries, with faggots of oil soaked wood stacked beneath it.
The crowd parted when Raymond and his entourage arrived on horseback accompanying a small carriage bearing the Papal insignia. Adalberto, an elderly monk had been sent by the Pope with the blessing of Dominic Guzman, the founder of the Dominican order, to minister to the Count’s religious devotions, and to root out what the Pope and his college of cardinals considered to be heretics in this part of Europe.
The Cathars throughout the Languedoc region completely rejected the corruption of the Catholic hierarchy, reminiscent of the behaviour of ancient Rome’s former emperors and senators. They preferred to be far away from the influence of Rome here in the solitude of the mountains of Southern France.
The monk was protected by a contingent of the Count’s mercenaries wherever he went. He alighted from the carriage and made his way towards the pillars. He inspected the chains and manacles attached to them as well as the stage and faggots. Satisfied, he commanded, “bring forth the heretics!” No one dared protest. To do so meant that the Pope’s Inquisitor would force them to join the three Parfaits who were about to die.
While they were being taken to the place of execution, no one took any notice of a young monk in his black habit, standing in the deep shadows on the eastern side of the square while the Sun beat down on the scene in front of him. His dark eyes missed nothing. From where he stood with his cowl covering his head and face and his arms folded across his chest, with his hands thrust deep into the voluminous sleeves of his habit, he watched everything going on and the faces of everyone in the town square.
As the time of the Parfait’s execution drew near, the mood of the assembled townsfolk changed from one of fear to resentment towards the Count and the Dominican Inquisitor. No one living here considered the Cathar’s religious beliefs heretical in the least.
Once the Parfaits were manacled, Adalberto cleared his throat to read out the trumped up charges against the pious leaders of what the Pope decreed was a heretical sect. Earlier, when his legate Pierre de Castelnau was murdered, Innocent III finally had the excuse he had been looking for to wage an unjustified holy crusade against the Cathars, ostensibly as a favour to the French rulers for their continued support of the Catholic church, but in reality because the Cathar doctrine was spreading far and wide across Europe, much to the Catholic Church’s great dismay. The fact that Pierre had been killed by someone other than a Cathar sympathiser mattered not…
From where he stood, the young monk’s hidden fingers flexed in anticipation of what was about to happen, deep inside the sleeves of his habit. Having read out the charges, Adalberto briefly look towards Raymond. The Count nodded his assent to the monk who then took a burning brand from one of the mercenaries and threw it at the faggots.
Before the flames had fully taken hold, terror and panic seized everyone assembled there. Both Raymond and Adalberto rose into the air before briefly being dashed against the buildings surrounding the square, before their unconscious bodies headed for the pillars. The majority of the town’s citizens had already fled in every direction together with the mercenaries. While the Count and the Inquisitor were still hovering in mid-air, a handful of the citizens released the three Parfaits and spirited them away to safety.
The young monk’s fingers continued to work unseen like an expert puppeteer as one by one he lowered both men onto the stage. As if by magic their hands and feet were held fast when the manacles miraculously closed themselves around their wrists and ankles, moments before the fire finally took hold.
With the last agonising cry uttered by both the Count and the aging Inquisitor, the young man quietly left the square, content that his plan to free his fellow Parfaits was successful…
PS – If you don’t know what discombobulate means after reading this story – look it up!!!
That’s yer lot for now folks…