It’s the strangest thing not to be able to speak with Richard. He was caught hanging around my cottage waiting for a chance to sneak in and see me. This is why Father and Mr. Kempe believe I have been with Richard to make my baby. I could hear Richard limping outside. Richard swore to them that he was concerned about me because of our friendship, but they knew better. Father forbade me to see him, and his father forbade him the same. Mother has taught me how to write a few things and play with small numbers, so it didn’t stop me from scribbling a note to him. I wrote that I had a plan to change everything. To make things right. I wrote that he must destroy the note in the murky lake after reading it. A few weeks ago, someone was sent to the stake for protecting runaway heretics. Like Richard, I actually look forward to the executions. Everyone in our commune is given a break from our labor and made to watch.
With this in mind, I make my way to Dulcitius of Marburg’s house. I should be frightened to confront him, but I’m more excited than anything else. Each step I take toward the inquisitor’s house, my grin grows more wicked.
Every stone under my feet pinches me. My sandals are thin and worn. With each step, the dry brownish-green dirt kicks up and threatens my eyes. The heat of the two suns slowly cuts deep into my shoulders. I rub them gently. It’s nothing compared to my life’s horror—the life father thrust on us. I’m not afraid of these memories anymore. They’ll give me the strength to change my life.
My eyes begin to ache, and I rub them. Despite the painful throb in my head, I see the sprinkle of slender, curvy trees with their naked branches marking my path. Fruit and leaves hardly last on our trees. We are all so desperate to pick every fruit and rip away any leaves in which to wrap around our food for steam cooking over fire pits.
Guards stop near the inquisitor’s door, and I feel as pitiful and miserable as I ever have. A thick man with broad shoulders and filthy hair leers at me. His voice breaks as he speaks.
“What’s wrong with you, little wench?” He grabs his groin and shakes his pockets. “Papa making you earn extra coins before letting you come home for supper?” He snickers at me. “I can help with that.”
This guard doesn’t have any teeth. I shake my head in denial and flinch at the sudden sound of rough footsteps coming near me.
“Dulcitius of Marburg isn’t receiving anyone, girl.” The second guard appears as he invades my personal space to stand in front of me; I instinctively take a few steps back.
I simply bore my eyes into both of them. I must look like a fool. Dirty blond knots for hair, teary green eyes, wearing a bucket of rags with sandals.
“He will receive me.” My voice quivers. I walk past the toothless guard, but he grabs my shoulder. His hand rips open the sunburned skin there. I holler and tear myself away from his grip. I use the pain in my voice to make my declaration more believable. “He will see me. My father is a demon, and if I do not see Dulcitius, our whole village will be cursed!”
The second guard spits on the dirt and walks toward the entrance of the lair. The guard’s eyes widen, then narrow. He turns around, and I follow him inside. I shiver, and I feel dizzy. I don’t want to be anywhere near these two men. I’m not given a choice to sit, so I stand. Slow and heavy footsteps clank loud like the beaten copper bell in the middle of our village square.
I wipe sweat from my eyes with my flimsy sleeve as a cloaked figure comes toward me. The cloaked man is thin. His eyes are wrinkled and somber. Patches of dark curls pepper his balding head. He shouts as if I’m in another room instead of standing right before him. “Who is the heretic?”
“M…My father. He forces sin onto our family and worships the Devil every night.”
The inquisitor looks at me warily. “Why only now is it that you confess this?”
I shoot back, “I am afraid! He has become more and more vicious. At first, he only conversed with demons. Now I believe he is becoming one!”
He motions for the guards to leave the room. I watch as he slithers onto a fancy stool, and his robe flows past his knees, completely covering his feet. “Tell me what you know. I’ll have the three high priests preside over this case.”
I tell him lies of my father’s heresy, making sure to include Mr. Kempe’s partnership in it all. His guards order me to lead them to my home. Father isn’t there, so they follow me to the pub. People turn and stare at us as we walk together. They know death is coming. No sooner do I point out my father than they drag him, arms flailing and lungs wailing, to the town dungeon. Two of the guard’s curse and take off in the direction of Mr. Kempe’s cottage.
I stand and watch until I’m surrounded by silence. Father’s broken sandals are strewn in the dirt. I explain in detail to Mother about the toothless guard because I’m particularly afraid of him. She kisses my forehead, holding me in her comforting arms. She tells Louis that I am the blessing we have been praying for.
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