From the Journals of Fr. Barnard Saunders
It was inevitable that Bryantt Sands would capture me, and just as inevitable that I would escape.
As I lie on the soft furs of the bed in the tower at South March, my chest pressed to Karissa’s warm back, feeling the breeze sift through the open window, I knew this was too good to last, too good to be true. I wanted revenge. I wanted to smite Bryantt Sands from the world. I wanted to drive the sinners and heathens from the land. And in the same breath, I knew I’d become one of them – lying here, without benefit of marriage, in the bed of a woman for whom I had willingly abandoned everything, even my soul.
I closed my eyes.
I thought I heard a creak on the wooden stairs, but I’d dismissed it. I’d been hyper-vigilant for so long that I was exhausted. I just wanted to sleep. And so I did not realize the devil was at my elbow until the hard end of the musket barrel was pressed into my temple.
“Don’t move a muscle,” Bryantt said, pulling back the hammer. “If you move, you are a dead man.”
I froze. Eyes open, I saw the look of fear on Karissa’s face as she woke up and suddenly realized what was happening. I wanted desperately to reach out for her, calm her, hold her, but I didn’t move. Perhaps I am a coward. Perhaps I didn’t want her to see me die like that. For whatever reason, I didn’t move.
“Gregor, take the Lady Karissa,” Sands said, and that was the first time I realized that Gregor was there as well. He didn’t look happy. In fact, if he could have shot me at that moment, he probably would have. But at least he was going to tend to her, and that was some comfort. I knew I could trust him to be honorable.
“If you move, I will pull this trigger and then I will not have to trouble myself, priest,” Sands said.
Karissa’s eyes widened in horror as she saw the gun pointed to my head. “No! Bryantt! Don’t do it!” she yelled.
“I will not give him the satisfaction, my love,” Bryantt told her.
As Sands pressed the gun tighter to my temple, I moved my lips silently, telling her, “Hush;” telling her, “Go.”
“You kill him and I’ll never be with you!” she screamed.
I swallowed hard. She was going to make this more difficult for all of us. I should have realized that. In all the scenarios I had played out in my head about this moment, I had not taken into consideration her fiery nature.
“Judas, are you betraying the son of man with a kiss?” Gregor asked.
“I can’t go,” Karissa said flatly. “I can’t walk.”
I closed my eyes. I had caned her feet after the night she’d run off to the brothel to get some things. I had been afraid she would be captured. I was trying to teach her a lesson and keep her close. Now, I could see how my actions prevented her from fleeing even this moment.
“It doesn’t matter. Stop it,” Karissa cried. “Bryantt, please, stop it.”
Bryantt turned to Gregor. “Help her,” he ordered.
“Mae Laird, nae worry, I have the lass,” Gregor said in his heavy brogue.
As Gregor took Karissa, Bryantt turned back to me, growling, “Stand up, priest.”
“If you kill him, you’ll live to regret it,” Karissa yelled, but Sands was not listening to her. He was furious.
I slipped slowly from the bed and down to my knees, head bowed, eyes closed, hearing only her sobs and the pounding of my heart. He would do this now, I thought. Once she is out of the building. He will kill me- here and now – and it will be over. I took a deep breath and steadied my nerves. Silently, I began to pray.
I was surprised when he secured me with the ropes and dragged me downstairs, hitched me to his horse and pulled me into North March. Gregor was ahead of us, leading Karissa on a horse. I stumbled, falling now and then, bruising my shoulder, my arm; scraping my face and chest on the dirt and rocks. My hands were bound behind behind me and the sun was hot on my naked back. My bare feet ached from the march, cut and damaged. Sands would have never allowed me shoes, not after he saw what I’d done to Karissa.
As we entered the courtyard to the castle, Bryantt Sands announced our arrival and people ran out to see what was happening. I was, by now, exhausted from the road, bruised, sore, limping. I could barely see straight. I kept glancing at Karissa to see if she was alright, and she kept looking at me with this pain in her eyes that cut me to the quick.
Bryantt instructed that she be taken to his rooms for treatment, but she adamantly refused. He ordered her be taken to the Countess’ room, then, and the Countess, shocked, at first objected. Karissa still refused. It was clear there was going to be a battle of wills between Bryantt Sands and his brothel girl, one that would go beyond the pain of this day.
Baylee offered to take Karissa to the abbey so the sisters could care for her. The thought of the abbey churned in my gut. All that had happened there and all that was lost. I felt the pain of it pass through me, and then it was gone with barely a bitter after taste left behind. I looked up at the old farmer, and even though his face was stone, I could see his eyes smile.
Karissa was having none of it. She screamed angrily. She wanted to go home. Home – the brothel – the place I had tried so desperately to destroy so that she would never go back there again. That’s where she wanted to go and, in the end, that’s where she went.