'They will not hurt you,' I tell him softly, and stroke his neck as he whinnies in protest. His coat is cold and soaked from sweat and rain, but underneath the muscles emanate heat. 'You are a fine horse, and they will take you where it is warm and dry, and feed you. You will be treated kindly.'
Would that I should encounter the same.
In that instant, I want to weep, hard and bitter as the rain; hard, so very hard. The stallion senses this and, distressed, increases his pacing. I collect myself and give his wet neck another stroke. My pursuers would say I was casting a spell on the poor animal; but I know it is only the opening of one's heart to another creature, the unspoken sharing of calm - a true calm I must look deep within myself to find. One cannot lie to animals.
I am almost near the end of my journey, but the Goddess has spoken: there is no further use in running.
THE BURNING TIMES
'[Until] a week ago I would have said I had no enemies! I'm a quiet man. I live peacefully. I go about my business honestly. I don't mess with the supernatural.'
'You trade in it.'
'Of course you do. Relics. What are they, if not supernatural?'
'They're not sorcery!'
'They're power,' she said flatly. 'Power can be used for good or ill.'
'Relics are good,' he said angrily. 'They heal.'
'They can harm, too. I've heard of relics that struck down thieves, paralysed evil-doers and smote blasphemers dumb, liars blind, oath-breakers dead. Power works both ways. You trade in the uncanny, Sir Richard, and you deal with powerful folk. Among them is one at least who seeks your harm.'
The first of the Richard Straccan books
On Saturday 26 July 1320 an aristocratic woman in her mid-forties appeared at an Inquisitorial hearing in the Episcopal Palace of the ancient city of Pamiers in Languedoc.
She was twice-widowed, and her married name in 1320 was Béatrice de Lagleize. Thirty years earlier she had become Béatrice de Roquefort, when she married her first husband and became the châtelaine of a Pyrenean hilltop village called Montaillou. Before then she had been Béatrice de Planisolles. It is by her euphonious maiden name that the châteleine of Montaillou is affectionately remembered to this day in Languedoc, and I shall consequently refer to her as Béatrice de Planisolles throughout.
She had been summoned by the Bishop of the see of Pamias, as the city was called in the language of the region, to answer charges of blasphemy, witchcraft, and above all heresy. Her adversary on this summer weekend in the fourteenth century was a Cistercian by the name of Jacques Fournier ...