Speak! You do not speak! Tìbald’s prayer. How dare him? To address the power that should lay him low . . . O’, but He does speak – ‘I will kill and I will make to live: I will strike and I will heal, and from my Hand there is no rescue’. God’s voice is consequence.
“Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi . . .” Père Marin, his back to Tìbald at the chapel altar. Alpha and Omega lit again.
A voice he deigns to hear. What did Tìbald want?
“. . . misere nobis . . .” The magic language.
To force God?
“. . . Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem . . .”
Bend Him to the hand?
“. . . Domine, non sum dignus, et intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea . . .”
As personal Saviour? That Tìbald be not snuffed. Never a flame so want of snuffing.
All this . . . this God, you say. Nothing but weakness. For what I see, I see. And think, I think. And need nothing else.
I . . .
. . . need . . .
. . . nothing else . . .
But a weight on Tìbald’s chest, standing at the Center. Is not Jerusalem the Center? The Nothing loomed. Suffocation. That God do something. It’s coming. In a year. A day. A breath. Appalling. Insidious. When you least expect it. Lucky them who expect it? Who see all light and love, and float to the above? Till the door slams. No, better a tortured ghost roaming the shadows, or in Purgatory’s flame. Better damnation with fellow sinners . . .
“Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam . . .”
Suddenly, Aile’s voice in the middle of his head: ‘And what of me?’
I chose her over You, he said to God. Her face, her body, and You punish me through her. Your voice in her. Your anger in her. Aile no longer, but Your agent . . . How is it we are to each other Your agents? Most unwittingly, and little to our own good, and like Balaam’s ass beaten for it. Us is no more.
An honest prayer . . . for once. Was it? For Tìbald soooo loved the World . . . He loved it. Don’t we all? His appetite bigger than most. Aile would say he’s forever hungry, wolfing down food like a dog without tasting. But he tastes, every flavor alight on the tongue. Voracious . . .
‘Fie. Fie, you’re telling. You’re telling . . . Show!’
Fututus et mori in igni.
“Hopeless,” the abbot had informed Tìbald’s mother when was eight years old, sending him home from Cluny Abbey, expelled. She had wanted him to be a priest. “He is obstinate. Lazy. Incapable to learn.” The abbot said it without cruelty to her utter horror. “No chastisement can cure him. I give him back to you. He’ll do better as a soldier.” Dashed were her plans, and so vexed, beat him. And beat him each day till it vexed her no more —
Père Marin elevated the Host, a progressive thing to do – to show Jesu in physicality – right there. But Tìbald in a silent, screaming storm. We all scream in our brains. God deaf from all the screaming. His is one of constant noise . . . Even so, that Tìbald rear up to cast the nonsense off and know better. What grace in knowing better. Knowing better than what? Ah, intellect – strong as a wall and high as a tower, fortress ‘round the heart. In the end, we’re afraid.
“Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam in vitam aeternam.” Père Marin placed the Bread on Tìbald’s tongue; he could count on his fingers the times he’d received it. And there, God in his very mouth, his insides should quake.
Jesu do something.
He crossed himself.
Jesu do something.
He rose and walked out.
Out in the yard a flat-nosed, ugly man bailed straw off a cart. More serf than villein, his mind in constant weighing: “So much. So much. There’s only so much.” This and that. This and that. Someone’s gain is his loss, and he’d battle over this straw if a sprig more of it went to his neighbor. In all he does, he wrings the last drop. And then fears and honours God so that God will do for him. So came Tìbald in preoccupation and they bumped.
Their eyes met.
By the Blood, their eyes met.
Tìbald kicked him. The villein too shocked to yelp. Tìbald kicked him again to get his voice. But the serf curled up with a hand to fend off Tìbald’s boot. Such conceit, this reticence. It vexed Tìbald, and he kicked again and again, till it vexed him no more.
Now followed the priest and Tìbald caught – within his rights but caught. The battered villein rose; a wiser man would stay down, but hard Flat-Nose had been kicked before. Some kicks unnoticed in the daily course. Tìbald tossed him a ducat. “For your service,” he said. Flat-Nose weighed the coin next to his wrist then nodded. Money rights the wrongs. Flat-Nose will go home to kick his wife and when he’s drunk, she’ll conk him on the head and take the ducat. Père Marin didn’t care, wanting to be home for a drink and to do his wife a favour.
“Ugo!” Tìbald bellowed in agitation.
“Dómini,” an answer too readily from the stable; Ugo had been watching, knowing Flat-Nose a cruel sort. That Tìbald kick him more.
“Fetch the dog.”
Flat-Nose, his wrist bought and recovered, returned to bailing straw. Père Marin, satisfied, was eager to move on.
“You’re not dismissed,” Tìbald snapped. “We will ride.”
“I must return to my duties,” the priest insisted.
“To your pig girl.”
“Esmè is my wife.” Marin indignant.
“Wife indeed. It is no longer permitted.”
“It is permitted. Discouraged, but permitted.”
“Is it? That I should know canon law better than my priest.” Theatre for Flat-Nose as they stood Church, State, and Peasanty.
Père Marin folded his arms. “Then you needn’t my instruction. I tax you, dómini. Better I am out of your sight less I be kicked.” Theatre indeed and he headed for the gate.
“Wait,” Tìbald said and a warning glance at Flat-Nose. “We’ll drink before we go. Ale or wine, whichever you prefer.”
At that moment, the Alaunt bounded out from behind the stable and eying Flat-Nose, growled as it’d been taught to growl. Tìbald grabbed its collar. “He don’t like your scent.”
A time later, though by what increments other than the movement between Prime and Tierce could tell, Tìbald and Marin on horseback over the open fields, one bright-eyed and the other benumbed; enlivened Marin had gulped a flagon – so little its touch – and Tìbald, on the other hand, in a dysthymia that fit him like a glove. The hound, in the obtuse world of hounds, nose to the earth, sniffed between patches of dirty snow; its life lived in inches. Sainte Cecilia stirred. Noël coming. Meats in the smokers. Barley brewed to ale. Appetites sharpened: Tìbald – an erection each morning, stiff as a pole – it woke him up and there pretty Aile asleep next to him. But no – him up to observe the Office. ‘Resist the Devil and he will flee.’ The Devil most certainly did not. Tìbald would confess only to burn more brightly, especially this Advent, at Mass no less. A riot in his body – carnality . . . That, and warm crusty bread in thick gravy. And eggs, quail, and hare. Fish! And cheese – the world for cheese! And tankards and tankards of sweet, ripe bier all black and foamy . . . He’d caught Aile the other morning bent over washing her hair with her breasts peaking and was struck – that she wield such power. Turned into a dog, he mounted her. She shoved him away. He threw her over and pushed in. Alright then with her hand thrown up – get it done, and grew wet . . .
What’s this? What’s this! Call the constable! Call the bailiff! Blasphemous image! That he forced her! That she surrendered! . . . And enjoyed it . . . O’ peck and pound forever unequal! Sin! Sin! Mortal Sin! The globe warms---
Then practical Aile off to Confession, did her penance and done – how religion should be – functional. Not so practical – the seigneur, who fasted three days, after which, fetched himself off. A worse sin. Better to have laid with a whore. He fetched himself off again, then gorged on cheese and bread only to have Aile flail him as she accounted for every last store---
And the bites were slow to heal.
“Salvation seems unnatural,” Tìbald pronounced amidst the horses’ clip-clop.
Marin with an impatient breath. “It is dómini. Rebellion is natural.”
A grunt. “Then God made us sinful?”
That Marin not roll his eyes. “He did not, dómini. He created us to choose.”
“Then He’s cruel – to place in us such hunger then thump us when we bite. And ‘God is love’.”
Marin stiffened. “No dómini. God is not love.” And there it hung.
Tìbald cocked his head. “But---”
“I know the verse,” Marin said. “But that is a great untruth. God loves . . . But is not love. God is holiness . . . He is purity and we are not.”
“But Sainte Jean---”
“An impish verse . . . the way men speak it. Too sublime and above our heads. ‘God is love’ which, in the world’s progression, ‘God equals love’ and twists to ‘Love is God’--- Love is love--- ‘If we only but Love’ and there – our salvation. What evils wrought in the act of love. Give me to Drink.”
“You believe that?”
“What I believe does not matter. It is what we are taught.”
“And you adhere to a thing that is not true?”
“I did not say it was not true. I said what I believe does not matter.”
“‘Love is patient.’ ‘Love is kind.’ ‘It is generous.’---” Tìbald, the Norman, killer of men like a dreamy youth, the hot wine had loosened his tongue.
“Love that does not honor God is no love at all whatever its sentiment. It is desire. And all desire is natural.”
Tìbald’s brain hurt. “Maybe I should go on pilgrimage.”
The priest silent.
“I’ve never before. Santiago de Compostela – far, but not too far.”
“Not like Jerusalem – the center of the world.”
The bite wounds itched. “I must break these bonds in a place of power.”
O’ that he go, screamed Marin’s posture, but the priest in him spoke: “Do the harder thing, dómini – stay here and honor God by doing good.”
“Doing good? For whom?”
Marin motioned toward the village. “My flock.”
“They are base.”
“‘The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will ye worship the Father.’”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“The Gospel of Sainte Jean, dómini.”
“I know it,” Tìbald said, impatient.
“Then I need not explain.”
“God’s Face.” Tìbald slumped, Sainte Cecilia about his shoulders. “These are no innocents. They’re brutish as me.” That he could say it. “We make each other so. Though I suspect if I left, they will be what they are with no one to blame. On they’d go to harry and squabble and murder one another. If I should die and be gone many years, they’d pull me from my grave to try me, for it’d still be my fault. And after kicking my scat of bones, they remain what they are – miserable . . .”
And it rose.
Tìbald gazed into Marin’s eyes as if searching in a mirror. “Something happened to me.” His voice so lowly. “I cannot name it.”
“What cannot be named has power.”
“It has no name,” Tìbald insisted. “It cannot.”
“‘Cannot’, dómini? All creation begins with words. You very much can name it. Everything of God can be named, even the Devil.”
“This is not of God.” A flush about his neck.
“That cannot be, dómini,” Marin said, strangely overtaken. “All that exists is subject to God.”
“Speak it,” said the priest, “and it will not have power over you.”
“I said, it has no words.”
Marin with a pondering look, a finger to his lips as when hearing Confession.
“You saying it didn’t happen?”
“No . . . Your patience, dómini: you are either right, or you are wrong. But in any case, you’re here and alive. What has changed?”
“What has changed? The whole world has changed!”
Before them, the frozen field with its remnants of barley. How the frost glistened in the same old way, there and gone. “Well, it has changed for you. But the world, in truth, is sadly no different. Best to do nothing.”
Tìbald’s fist to the pommel. “Do nothing? My immortal soul in danger and you say: ‘do nothing’?”
“Our souls are always in danger. Harm is never more wrought than when trying to right the world. It is, in fact, made worse.”
“You say that to me? The seigneur? I can plunge you in hot lead!” He looked back on the village. “I can end them all if they displease me.”
“Yes, dómini, if they violate the law.”
“I am the law.”
“The civil law . . . Subject to canon law.”
Tìbald eyed the priest’s big hands, that they should hold the authority of Peter. “It’s not working,” he said.
“The Office – none of it.” The wine in his head. “I feel twice the devil, praying all hours of the day; the same prayers over and over---”
“By your insistence.”
“Why must salvation be tedious?”
Marin shrugged. “Concupiscence.”
“What should I do?”
“Good works then – for the poor.” Marin said almost gleefully.
Tìbald with an eye roll. O’ – that. Always someone with nothing wanting you to give away what you have.
“Show mercy,” Marin said.
Mercy on the afflicted, good lord. Some alms that we may pray for your protection.
“That will win grace?”
“Grace is not won, dómini. It is bestowed.”
“By the sacraments,” Tìbald said, then thought – look at him, he knows too much.
“Yes, dómini, by the sacraments.”
“But I don’t feel it. Something in me must be false.”
Marin nodded despite himself. “Much . . . But must you feel, dómini?”
“Then how am I to know?”
In the distance, a jingling on the air, like crystals breaking. Heaven’s answer? A trill of pipes. How odd.
“Hear that?” Tìbald said, prickling. “Singing . . . From the forest.”
From La Forêt appeared a singular figure as if just taken form, jumping and twirling, beating a tambourine. Behind him, in the woods, other voices – a plainsong in the vulgar tongue. Figures broke from the trees and fanned out over the field, dancing and singing to high heaven, their breath like smoke. “Come to Jerusalem and meet Me there,” the chorus. And at their center, on a donkey colt, like a scarecrow Jesu, a priest in layers of cast-off cloaks.
“What’s this?” Père Marin taken aback, as if averse to all passion.
In Sainte Cecilia doors and shutters swung open. Villeins stuck out their heads and gaped.
“It’s Little Peter!” cried a woman in her doorway.
“Pierre l’Ermite!” shouted another.
And with that, the whole of Sainte Cecilia dashed out across the field – like two armies hitting in the center till it be one roiling, boiling mass.
“Look Père,” Tìbald trilled as the ecstatic mob capered. “Little Peter comes, and to us, and in winter!”
Indeed, Père Marin looked.
Renowned Little Peter – holy man, mystic, one of a breed wandering about with some saint in their pocket. The kind one hears about. Where they go, unicorns are seen. And a truth, always a truth – wonderful, dire, prophetic – theretofore unknown till them. Fat men with humble faces very well healed. Villeins gather to them. The damaged. The weak. They excite their wounds. How they hector Mother Church, drawing away the faithful with wonders and promises. And the wretched wanting a piece . . . To the peril of their souls. The synods try and burn the most egregious. But many are fools who rise and fall by their own . . . Not Little Peter. He preached but one truth – the Church’s authority – O’, they’ll keep him ‘round – and the works of Christ – poverty, humility – she could have no better man. ‘Cucu Peter’ some called him; he shamed inadvertently – the elites, the governments, the seigneurs – failures in God’s Kingdom, who in fact had gotten bloody worse. The sign of the time – Mundus seneceus – the Old World passing. The Parousia and the New World at hand and a storm where they intersect. That it’d not already happen: Year 1000 – a thousand years since His birth, Year 1033 – a thousand since His death and resurrection. “‘Viri galilaei quid statis aspicient in caelu hic Jesu qui addsumptus est a vobis in caelum sic veniet quemadodum vidists eum euntem in caelum.’” – “‘Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as you have seen Him going into heaven.’”
But here Little Peter and the dancing throng. Tìbald tingled. He feels. He feels. It was but one thing – the Holy Ghost – the way it seized up. If he could, he would break out in tongues. So rare the agapē – he and the villeins one. How he and the world could abruptly pivot.
He cantered forward with a raised arm. Marin could not help but follow. “Good Father!” Tìbald called.
“Pax vobiscum, good miles,” the little prophet greeted.
“Pax vobiscum. Pax vobiscum, Père!” Tìbald’s heart fluttered. “Honor my house.”
“How generous,” said the little priest, “but what of these dears? I cannot suffer them the cold night while I am warm and dry. Would you shelter all of them?”
“Fret not,” Peter assured. “We’ve not come begging. We’ve come to give. I ask only to collect dung from your bailey and provide us with any other fuel so we may build a great pyre. I will let Our Lord guide your heart to provide anything else.”
“We haven’t the stores.” Tìbald with an anxious look. “But we’ve bread and lentils and onions . . .”
“Bless you.” Peter with a bony finger to a wound on Tìbald’s thigh. It itched and healed, and Peter smiled to continue on.
“Why’s he here?” Père Marin incredulous.
“A shame they don’t flock to you---” Tìbald froze.
At the tail of Peter’s entourage, a bundled wretch not so much with them but at a distance. He skipped, and danced, and sang, though more from mimicry; the words did not snap off his tongue, rather they hovered; he paused when saying the Name so he might not speak it. A begging bowl tied by a leather cord from his belt banged against his thigh, and though a mothy hood hid his features, Tìbald caught a glimpse of his eyes – one black and the other milky white.
“Mother of God,” Tìbald shuddered.
“See him!” Tìbald pointed.
The vagabond halted. Tìbald reeled – the beggar with the Evil Eye.
“See who?” Marin all mystified.
“They’re all beggars---That poor soul at the end of the line?”
“It’s him! The shapeshifter!”
“Impossible, he’s one of Christ’s poor traveling with Little Peter. He sings hymns of praise---”
“It’s him! See how he holds back – an evil spirit attached to their company coming out of the woods.”
“I see nothing evil,” Marin’s voice rising.
“You do not see because you do not know.”
“How can you tell anything from here?”
Tìbald’s wounds screamed.
The man, sighting Tìbald, turned and bolted.
Tìbald’s fist on the reins turned white.
“Consider before you act,” Marin cried, his own blood racing. “Sainte Martin of Tours – a miles like yourself---”
Tìbald whistled. The alaunt perked.
“---who approached such a beggar---”
A jerk of Tìbald’s thumb – get him!
“---the man begged for mercy. He---”
The alaunt sprang. Tìbald and Marin hard behind. The beggar near the lip of the trees, sprinted harder only to be knocked down, the hound taking chunks of him. “Jesu Christi! Jesu Christi!” he shrieked as it chomped and chomped and shook him like a doll.
Marin there first, forcing the mount between them only to have his horse bit, which bucked and tossed him. “He was Christ!” Marin screamed, curling beneath the stamping hooves. “The beggar was Christ!” The alaunt spinning in the tumult.
Tìbald jumped down and wrenched the hound’s collar. With legs astride, he reared it up, the alaunt twisting and snarling. “Idiot!” he shouted at the priest and punched the dog.
And wild-eyed Marin, huffing and puffing, cried, “He was Christ! The beggar was Christ! Jesu in disguise!”
Tìbald, after a kick to the alaunt’s haunch, rolled the beggar over. A fright face beneath the hood in a pancake of dust and blood. Mouth a gap and breaths heaving. Eyes wide in shock. Not the man. How quick, the Devil. The mob stared. None more than Little Peter.
“Look what you did!” Marin bleated. Tìbald heaved the beggar across his saddle. Blood everywhere. The villeins watched in horror. They took him to the church, Tìbald bent low not to be seen. But how he was seen “Who’s the shapeshifter? Who’s the demon?” At the entrance, Tìbald hoisted him on his shoulder like a sack of meal – a bag of bones all hollow, he weighed nothing, that he might vanish in his rags and Tìbald awake. Indeed, he was awake.
“Now, dómini, you should be afraid – Jesu-in-Disguise came to you.”
Tìbald laid him on the altar. “I thought him the sorcerer.”
“You sicced your dog on Christ.”
“He had the Evil Eye.”
“Evil Eye? Evil Eye? See it in your own reflection.”
“You saw how he capered. Wouldn’t Little Peter’s holiness drive him away?”
“He will not die,” Tìbald declared. “He will not. Water! Bandages! Quick!”
“You’ve no authority here.” Marin curled his anvil fists. “You’ve lost all authority you had. Little Peter will face the murderer of his man. He comes. Now you’ll have your miracle.”
Little Peter crossed the yard.
A clamp on Tìbald’s heart. Flee – to Castel des Bâtons flee – Tìbald the Norman, Killer of Men. Jēsu in disguise – Satan’s chortle. Flee, worm, flee to the keep! Lock the doors! Bar the Judge! Sainte Michele pulls his sword. Feel its heat.
And at the gate – the formidable Aile with Rainald at her back. She split him like an ax – “What-did-you-do?” He charged past her. “What-did-you-do?”
To his chamber and under the bed, but no – the chapel. Why there? Sanctuary! From what? An avenging God? For God must punish . . . What a just God must do; He cannot omit evil. A just God will grind him to dust – that He grind him now . . . O’, grind me now . . . Grind me and be done with it . . . or worse--- Worse? What could be worse?
He would not pray. He’d not pollute the air but punched his head.
What’s that supposed to do? Christ will not have it.
Silence. Potent silence.
He sat and the Hours passed.
Through the window Little Peter thundered, “They slaughter the innocent of Christ. They martyr the poor, who, with heaven’s strength, would dance joyfully to Jerusalem.” His voice like a needle and in Tìbald’s mind the beggar’s face, suddenly transformed – Jesu with hair of white combed wool and bites about his crown from thorns. “To where can we flee from this evil surrounding us when God’s sanctuaries have fallen? How can we ever know how to make amends? How will we ever be able to show the sign of repentance? He is coming, brothers. He is coming soon! Look to the sign of the times! The armies of Satan have massed in the East, rolling over all who bear the title of Christian. It is time to act! We have known that the wolf lies in the forest, but we have let him go because we felt warm in our houses, but he has emerged from the woods and comes for us!”
“In past times you have put your safety in the hands of those who wield the sword. I say to you now: put your faith into the hands of the Lord. Rally to Him and His army of saints; those giants who now walk among the clouds, and invisible millions will swell your ranks when you go to put the infidel down.”
A shout from the villeins and Tìbald out the door. He skulked across the bailey and climbed to the palisade where Rainald and Aile watched. In the village, the villeins ‘round a pyre and Little Peter in silhouette.
“Did the beggar die?” Tìbald asked his brother.
“He did,” Aile spat.
“Little Peter prayed over him,” Rainald said between them.
“What’s he saying?”
“He’s calling for Holy War,” Rainald said.
“Show us the letter,” a voice from the villeins.
“Show us the letter!” they cried.
“On the pagans in the East,” Aile spat again. “Must it always be you?”
Peter lifted a box pitted from countless handlings, a thing many times jostled and dropped, and accidently tramped upon; he raised it like the Eucharist. “I slept in a cave after many days of fasting. Aye,” his voice solemnly rose, “fell asleep weeping from constant prayer . . . Christ Jesus appeared to me---”
The villeins gasped.
Tìbald slumped against the wall.
“---He appeared to me Himself . . . in a dream. ‘Go wake my shepherd,’ He said. ‘The wolves are in the pen slaughtering my lambs. Arouse the watchers and repulse the pack that defiles my Holy Sepulcher. Take this---” Peter cradled the box and raised the lid. Out flew a letter, seemingly of its own accord for Peter to catch. They gasped again. “‘---a letter, written by My own Hand! Take it to my Vicar, Urban, tell him to rouse my people, lest I must raise the saints’ bones to do battle for Me!’”
Peter up gazed at Castel des Bâtons. “In who’s service does this miles belong? This murderer of God’s lambs? His earthly prince? Or the Lord of Creation? What will he do? Come down and slaughter me? Come down then. Come down! I am waiting! Come down before these innocents and fall on your knees!”
The villeins turned their ugly faces.
Aile reeled. “You’ve cursed us.”
“Fear not,” Peter cried. “Our Lord will stay his hand. Your miles does only what Our Lord ordains him to do. Even in his sin, Our Lord’s ends are served. As for you, He intends glory--- This day . . . He has come to this village this day--- That you may live! He calls your name! Mark yourselves with the sign of the cross. By this sign you will conquer the heathen as Our Lord conquered sin. Follow me, brothers, to the center of the world in the true army of Christ. Not one led by the experience of arms, but by faith. The Lord disdains these worldly princes. These adulterers. These murderers of women and priests. He needs not their swords.
His victory will be wrought through the pure in heart. Through the humble.”
The villeins roared.
“The Cross! The Cross! Who takes the Cross?”
“I take the Cross!” a villein shouted. “I take it!” another. “Take me, Père, take me!” The moon rose as if lifted by their voices. “The Cross! The Cross! We take the Cross!”
“Tìbald,” Aile cried, “we’re losing them. Do something.”
But he had – he killed Jesu in disguise.
“We are the army of Christ,” declared Little Peter, “which will sweep across the whole of Christendom and down upon the pagans with holy fire! Pope Urban, in Clermont, these three weeks past, has proclaimed a great pilgrimage to free the Holy Land and bring back into the fold our Greek brothers who have estranged themselves from Rome. That will be a war for the nobles, and though it will be strong in arms and vast in men, it will be months before it departs. Their lack of faith will delay them with planning, and tactics, and gathering stores. And what horrors will our Eastern brothers face before that host comes to save them?
“Our army, our people’s army, relies not on this world, but is led on as Israel of old by the invisible God. We need not worry as worldly soldiers do, for it is the Lord Jesu, Himself, who fights our battles.”
Another shout and Aile near panic. “Tìbald!”
“Send me down,” Rainald said. “I’ll curb them.”
Tìbald hugged his knees.
And the villeins raised their voice to high heaven in song. The words. The words. A Latin they did not know, heard time and again from earliest memory. The words themselves did not matter. They sang. How their voices modulated from their deeper and hidden second throats – throats only opened when tapped by the soul, a river of their own no seigneur could take – they may be kicked, beaten about the head, shackled in chains and tortured, but their song was theirs whether be truth or tale. Tale indeed, they lived by tales; when did truth ever unsettle them? Their histories are full of tales. Their complaints and injuries. And how intricate their weavings, hard as chainmail, tender as silk.
“Give them bière!” Aile shouted.
Rainald called down, “Ugo, Fulk, gather the servants and get a cart!”
Aile too scrambled, finding Ysobel and down to the larder. A riot at the gates, peasant voices shaking the walls. Ugo and Fulk rolled up a wagon, the servants rushing with trenchers of bread, wheels of cheeses, hams and smoked fish. Soldiers hoisted barrels of ale and Rainald with a tap and Aile at the center giving commands.
“Sister,” Rainald called, “Are you sure of what you’re doing? This is all we have.” The singing pounded them and Aile aghast.
She pointed at the gate and cried, “They are all we have! They go with the Hermit, who’ll work the land? My husband? And how will they be stopped if they do? Put the dogs on them?”
In stealth and determination, the soldiers infiltrated the crowd, making room for Ugo and Fulk pulling the ladened cart of treasure---