and the contest begins!
The Convent of Saint-Antoine, France
The field was filled with fire and the screams of the burning. Many cried out at the injustice, shouting their innocence to the uncaring sky. More were simply consumed by the flames, screaming in mindless agony. Smoke rose up to the heavens, eventually carrying souls bound for martyrdom, once the flesh had been cast from bone, the righteous eluding the limbo that snared souls less worthy.
Laurent saw the serfs and lords and clergy surrounding the pillars of the dying through the inside of his own circle of fiery death. Fifty-three of his brother Knights dying in agony, himself soon to be one of them. The heat felt more intense than any in a forge, the breeze that should have cooled, merely fanning it hotter. He pulled back from it, twisting against the ropes that bound him in sheer futility.
There was no escaping this fate, no eluding a torturous death that should not be his. All they had done for Christendom, every act of kindness, each life they had saved in the Holy Land…none of it now mattered. Where Kings and the Pope feared the might of the Temple, not understanding that they only wished to serve and make their way to the true Kingdom, that of God…that was the reason behind this massacre.
Politics. Intrigue. Deception. Fear.
Things that had crossed his path too often growing up in his Father’s household, his Uncle’s court. Things he had tried to leave behind upon joining the Temple. It seemed as though his life had come in a circle, the path that he’d thought he’d chosen, had been that of his Father’s, though well-hidden to Lauent’s knowledge.
The fire caught the branches nearest him and he gasped as how hot it was. Did this give him a preview of eternity? Would he spend it in Hell, unable to relinquish the bitterness in his heart? All around him were calls to God, the other Knights retaining their Faith in the very worst moments of their lives, the last moments of their lives spent in pure pain and pure Faith.
Bitterness twisted deep within, the fire fanning hatred the soured his stomach enough that he retched with it. He spat bile into the flames, coughing it clear of his mouth and then looking directly at the Bishop. Darkness clouded his vision, but Laurent knew not whether it was due to the smoke billowing around him or the mirror of rage within his soul.
Laurent’s eyes clenched shut against the pain as his tunic finally caught fire, scorching into his stomach. His jaw clamped shut as he refused to utter any sound, denying his voice to the cacophony of suffering around him in this field of death.
When at last he had to find release in final words, as the heat melted leather and cloth into skin and his hair caught fire, the words were a whisper. No one would hear them. Not a living soul could possibly make out the curse he uttered over the roar of the inferno that burned him alive as a heretic.
It was unfortunate that he didn’t know about souls that weren’t, quite, alive.
“9-1-1, please state your emergency.”
“They’re dead! Please, I think, there’s blood everywhere, you have to help me!”
“Please stay calm, ma’am, what’s your location?”
“It’s my family, I, they’re dead!”
“Ma’am, what’s your address? Where are you?”